Inter Press ServiceBiodiversity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 23 Jun 2017 05:39:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Latin America’s Rural Exodus Undermines Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/latin-americas-rural-exodus-undermines-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-americas-rural-exodus-undermines-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/latin-americas-rural-exodus-undermines-food-security/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:15:51 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150934 This article forms part of special IPS coverage for the World Day to Combat Desertification, celebrated June 17.

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In Latin America and the Caribbean a number of factors contribute to soil degradation and to a rural exodus that compromises food security

Livestock seek shade on a small farm in the arid centre of the northern Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, where men are forced to migrate to cities or to seek seasonal work in more fertile regions, fleeing from drought and poverty. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

In Latin America and the Caribbean, which account for 12 per cent of the planet’s arable land, and one-third of its fresh water reserves, a number of factors contribute to soil degradation and to a rural exodus that compromises food security in a not-so-unlikely future.

These figures, and the warning, emerge from studies carried out by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ahead of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, celebrated on June 17. This year’s theme is “Our land. Our home. Our Future,” highlighting the link between desertification and rural migration, which is driven by the loss of productive land to desertification.

Over the past 50 years, the agricultural area in Latin America increased from 561 to 741 million hectares, with a greater expansion in South America, from 441 to 607 million hectares. This growth led to intensive use of inputs, degradation of the soil and water, a reduction of biodiversity, and deforestation.

Fourteen per cent of the world soil degradation occurs in this region, and it is worst in Mesoamerica (southern Mexico and Central America), where it affects 26 per cent of the land, compared to 14 per cent in South America.“This vicious circle has to do with the historical backwardness of Latin American rural areas, where vulnerability to climatic phenomena aggravate other factors that drive people to migrate, due to the lack of opportunities and because what used to be their main economic activity, agriculture, no longer allows them to survive with dignity,” Saramago said from FAO’s regional office. -- André Saramago

“As the soil degrades, the capacity for food production declines, jeopardising food security,” explained FAO forestry officer Jorge Meza from the organisation’s regional office in Santiago, Chile.

According to Meza, soil degradation depends on factors such as the extent and severity of the degradation, weather conditions, the economic conditions of the affected populations and the country’s level of development.

He told IPS that the first reaction of people trying to survive is intensifying the already excessive exploitation of the most accessible natural resources.

The second step they take, he said, is selling everything they have, such as machinery, to meet monetary needs for education and healthcare, or to put food on the table.

“The third is the fast increase in rural migration: adult men or young people of both sexes migrate seasonally or for several years to other regions in the country (especially to cities) or abroad, looking for work. These survival strategies tend to generate a breakdown of the community and sometimes of the family,” he added.

“The outlook for the future is that as climate change advances and rural populations, particularly vulnerable ones, fail to become more resilient, these figures could significantly increase,” warned the FAO expert.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), some 28.4 million Latin Americans live outside the countries where they were born, nearly 4.8 per cent of the total population of 599 million people.

Central America is the area with the most migration, with nearly 15 million migrants, who represent 9.7 per cent of the total population of 161 million people.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) defines “environmental migrants” as people or groups who are forced or choose to leave their communities due to sudden or gradual shifts in their environment that affect their livelihoods.

But for André Saramago, a FAO consultant on rural development, rural migration has multiple causes such as poverty, a lack of opportunities and, in some cases, such as the countries that make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America – Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – soaring rates of violence crime.

And these elements are now compounded by the vulnerability of homes to phenomena aggravated by climate change, such as increasingly intense and frequent droughts, he told IPS.

“This vicious circle has to do with the historical backwardness of Latin American rural areas, where vulnerability to climatic phenomena aggravate other factors that drive people to migrate, due to the lack of opportunities and because what used to be their main economic activity, agriculture, no longer allows them to survive with dignity,” Saramago said from FAO’s regional office.

According to the expert, reverting this phenomenon requires comprehensive responses, to manage land in a sustainable manner, preventing degradation and promoting recovery. He said, however, that this would not be enough to combat rural migration.

“Strategic investment in rural areas is key, in order to generate public assets that enable farmers, particularly small-scale family farmers, to overcome longstanding limitations,” he said.

These are the tools, he said, “to reverse the vicious circle; it is crucial to recover and rethink the concept of rural development, where the joint elaboration of policies and the capacity to tackle the problem in a multidisciplinary and multisectoral manner are key.”

For his part, Meza said that one of these actions is improving the management and distribution of water. Over the last three decades, water use has doubled in the region – a much faster increase than the global rate. The agricultural sector, and particularly irrigation farming, represents 70 per cent of water use.

“From a social perspective, rural poverty is also reflected in a lack of access to water and land. Poor farmers have less access to land and water, they farm land with poor quality soil that are highly vulnerable to degradation. Forty per cent of the world’s most degraded land are in areas with high poverty rates,” he said.

The expert noted that there are numerous experiences that combine production and preservation of biodiversity, particularly indigenous and traditional agrifood systems, as well as management of shared resources and protection of natural resources, which provide a methodology and systematisation of practices and approaches.

Norberto Ovando, president of the Friends of the National Parks of Argentina Association and a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, described some of the experiences in his country, where 70 per cent of the territory is threatened by desertification.

Eighty per cent of Argentina’s territory is dedicated to agricultural, livestock and forestry activities. Erosion is most acute and critical in arid and semi-arid areas that make up two-thirds of the territory, where the fall in productivity translates into a decline in living conditions and displacement of the local population.

“Currently many farmers in the world and in Argentina are using the drip irrigation system, which should be replicated around the world, and governments should adopt it as a state policy, assisting farmers with soft loans for installing it. With this system, up to 50 per cent of water can be saved, compared to the traditional system,” the environmental consultant told IPS.

Novando also said that the system of production of clean, varied and productive food, known as integrated polyculture agricultural-livestock-fish farming, currently widespread in Asia, should be adopted in the region.

“Public policies that promote support for family farming and that promote rural employment are essential,” he added.

“It could be said that in Latin America and the Caribbean hunger is not a problem of production, but of access to food. For this reason, food security is related to overcoming poverty and inequality,” he said.

“Effective management of migration due to environmental causes is indispensable in order to ensure human security, health and wellbeing and to facilitate sustainable development,” he concluded.

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Genetic Engineering Lobbyist’s Trumpian Methodshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/genetic-engineering-lobbyists-trumpian-methods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=genetic-engineering-lobbyists-trumpian-methods http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/genetic-engineering-lobbyists-trumpian-methods/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:05:51 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150862 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

To her credit, Dr Mahaletchumy has pioneered and promoted science journalism in Malaysia. This is indeed commendable in the face of the recent resurgence of obscurantism of various types, both traditional and modern.

But she has done herself, journalism and science a great disservice by using her position of influence to lobby for her faith in genetic engineering, promoting another obscurantism in the guise of science. In her blatantly polemical GE advocacy, she uses caricature and rhetoric to misrepresent and defame those she disagrees with.

She accuses us of “spreading flawed arguments and inaccurate information”, “demonising private industry”, and making “a number of sweeping statements with inaccuracies about lower yield gains with genetically engineered crops, higher usage of herbicides, decline in crop and (sic) biodiversity, rising pest resistance, carcinogenicity of glyphosate, and increase in corporate power”.

To be sure, our article was never intended for a scientific journal, but rather for IPS readers to appreciate the implications of recent research. It nevertheless provided links to relevant research for those interested, which she chose to ignore while accusing us of lying (‘false news’) in Trumpian fashion.

Most importantly, she does not directly refute any of our arguments or the evidence that the increased output from non-GE crops has exceeded the productivity growth of GE crops due to, among others, the rise of pesticide resistance – our main argument. Nor does she bother to refute the mounting evidence of greater farmer reliance on commercial agrochemicals, especially herbicides.

GE advocates cannot have it both ways. One cannot insist that only GE can increase output and productivity as well as improve farmers’ net incomes and the environment without offering or citing systematic evidence, and simply reject inconvenient evidence to the contrary.

Dr Mahaletchumy fails to actually quote anything we actually wrote or to show how the sources we use are wrong. Her effort to discredit us resorts to innuendo and insinuation. While accusing us of selective citation, she has little hesitation to do what she condemns, citing only one person, Graham Brookes, not once, but twice, to make her case.

Instead of creating false news, as she claims we did, inter alia, we relied on and provided links to the US National Academy of Sciences report on Genetically Engineered Crops. The report provides an authoritative review of the now very considerable and diverse research on related issues. While the encyclopaedic volume admittedly includes a bland summary, the report itself offers a richly textured survey of evidence from many peer-reviewed studies.

She also refuses to recognize that most people go hungry in the world because they cannot afford access to the food they need and not because there is not enough food grown in the world.

Meanwhile, government and philanthropic funding of public research and development has declined while private corporate interests have been promoting GE, not exactly for charitable reasons.

We draw conclusions which other science journalists have also drawn, but instead of critically addressing our arguments, she lumps us together with GE critics, and invokes the same arguments and sources of the heavily corporate funded GE lobby.

Let me be very clear. We are keen supporters of technological progress, including biotechnology. And as we made clear, genetic modification is as old as nature itself. Unlike GE opponents, we remain open-minded about it.

Dr Mahaletchumy is correct that there continues to be some debate over whether glyphosates are carcinogenic. This is partly why we insist on adherence to long established scientific ethics, including the ‘precautionary’ principle.

But one cannot go ‘authority shopping’ — by dismissing the World Health Organization when it is inconvenient, and citing any body saying otherwise, especially when its authority is not relevant — as she does.

We have previously shown how misleading research findings funded by the US Sugar Foundation had damaging consequences for world health for half a century.

We are also concerned about the unintended consequences of scientific progress. For example, the excessive use of cheap antibiotics for both humans and animals has generated antibiotic-resistant bacteria for every class of antibiotics, with annual mortality rates due to antibiotic resistant diseases expected to rise exponentially to ten million by mid-century.

One wonders why a journalist resorts to fraudulent misrepresentation in the cause of any advocacy, or in this case, to deceptively insist that her faith that GE is the only way forward is irrefutable science.

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Inside UAE’s Quest to Reducing Food Wastehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/inside-uaes-quest-to-reducing-food-waste/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-uaes-quest-to-reducing-food-waste http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/inside-uaes-quest-to-reducing-food-waste/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 12:20:50 +0000 Rabiya Shabeeh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150835 The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is working on taking strides forward on climate change mitigation that are reflected by the establishment of the federal ministry of climate change, it’s commitment to develop a national climate change plan, and its ratification to the Paris Agreement in 2015, which pledged not to just keep warming ‘well below […]

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Poland wastes at least 8.9 million tonnes of food every year. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu / IPS

By Rabiya Shabeeh
ABU DHABI, Jun 9 2017 (IPS)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is working on taking strides forward on climate change mitigation that are reflected by the establishment of the federal ministry of climate change, it’s commitment to develop a national climate change plan, and its ratification to the Paris Agreement in 2015, which pledged not to just keep warming ‘well below 2C’, but also to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit warming to 1.5C by 2018.

Several researches including one carried out by Daniel Mitchell and others at Oxford University states the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees will be marginal in annual average temperatures but would have a significant impact on reducing the probability of destructive weather events like floods, droughts, and heat waves.

Even without the additional threat posed by climate change, the price spikes of the global food crisis of 2008 exposed interlinked vulnerabilities associated with agricultural productivity and international food trade markets.

Those researches show that with an increase of greater than 1.5 in global temperatures, current challenges of soil destruction, inadequate water supply, and stagnant mono-cultured crop yields will be further exacerbated and are likely to lead to reduced crop productivity in food-exporting countries and increase food insecurity around the world.

The UAE has one of the highest rates of food waste in the world with an estimated 3.27 million tons of food, worth almost $4 billion, going into landfills every year, says a new report by the Emirates Environmental Group.

Food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 giga-tonnes of GHG emissions per year, making it the world’s third largest emitter – surpassed only by China and the United States- according to figures recently released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The UAE is a country that is heavily dependent on food imports – 87 per cent of the UAE’s food supply is imported and dependent on international trade flow, according to a report released earlier this year.

The report, “UAE Climate Change: Risks and Resilience”, released in March by the Emirates Wildlife Society and World Wildlife Fund, shows that under the adverse impacts of climate change, recurrent retail food prices in the UAE will spike and/or result in the need for substantial food subsidies in the long term.

“Households throughout the seven emirates that have annual incomes at the lower end of the national range could find themselves in a position where they would be subject to spending a growing share of limited household budgets for food,” states the report.

As part of its climate change plan, the government is now encouraging efforts, both at macro and micro levels, to tackle the issue of food waste – with aims set to recycle food by 75 per cent in the next four years.

Food security occurred as the third most resonant topic at the 2017 World Government Summit held earlier this year in Dubai, where thousands of government leaders and international policy experts gathered to discuss global policies to harness innovation and technology.

Experts at the summit pointed out that governments alone are not up to the task of preventing global food shortages and combating climate change and that policy makers, the private sector, and individuals, each within their scope, must come together to work on combatting food waste.

“We need to work together to find creative ways to address food waste through the implementation of innovative technology, through awareness, and through changes in individual behaviors,” said Dr Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE minister of climate change and the environment, at the summit.

One such initiative, the recently launched UAE Food Bank, has started facilitating the redistribution of excess food from hotels to low income households, via hubs housed in repurposed containers in partnership with local charities.

On average, the global hospitality industry wastes at least a quarter of all of the food they purchase, according to the UK based Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP).

Over 30 hotels in the UAE have now incorporated a program that Winnow Solutions, an analytical tool that helps chefs reduce food waste by measuring how much leftover food is being thrown out daily and then analyzing the data to provide information on wastage patterns that can then help reduce waste.

One of the first hotels to have adapted to the technology, Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre Hotel & Residences, reportedly reduced its food waste by almost 70 per cent in a few months, leading to annual savings of $20,000.

Hina Kamal, a food research analyst at Al Ain University, believes that the reduction in the knowledge gap on the issue amongst consumers will create a major stride in combatting the issue and lessening unnecessary strains on, both, their wallets and the environment.

“Did you know, for example, that you don’t have to store eggs in the fridge in the UAE climate? Or that stacking vegetables one on top of another results in fungus faster? People don’t normally know these things and this needs to change,” said Kamal.

Many environmental activists and bloggers are now working on campaign, #zerowasteuae, to share their personal experiences of working on achieving a zero-waste lifestyle, as well as to build awareness and encourage others to follow suit.

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More Plastic than Fish or How Politicians Help Ocean Destructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:55:29 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150831 World’s oceans are dangerously exposed to at least three major threats: climate change; the sharp degradation of marine biodiversity, and politicians. These simply encourage the destruction of oceans by subsidising over-fishing and turning a blind eye on illegal captures. See what happens. While it is feared that at current trends there will be more plastic […]

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A school of Moorish Idols cruise over the coral reef, Ha’apai, Tonga. Credit: UNEP GRID Arendal/Glenn Edney

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 9 2017 (IPS)

World’s oceans are dangerously exposed to at least three major threats: climate change; the sharp degradation of marine biodiversity, and politicians. These simply encourage the destruction of oceans by subsidising over-fishing and turning a blind eye on illegal captures. See what happens.

While it is feared that at current trends there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 –with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in world’s oceans– harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars, according to United Nations.

“If you consider that the total export of fish and seafood products is 146 billion dollars, we are talking about that of each 5 dollars in fish products, 1 dollar is subsidized,” David Vivas of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) warned ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference held on June 5-9.

A Race to the Bottom

So it’s not a small amount. People are paying very expensively for a fish, continued Vivas, adding that people pay it by the dish and with their taxes.“Almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years.” Graziano da Silva.

This financial motivation creates “a race to the bottom” as fleets compete against each other to harvest increasing amounts of fish –at a time when seafood is already a scarce resource, said the expert, while explaining that subsidies “create incentives to deplete resources faster than if there weren’t the subsidies.”

The facts are just shocking: the international community is harvesting fish at unsustainable biological levels, according to UNCTAD.

“The Mediterranean Sea is about 70 per cent exploited; the Black Sea 90 per cent.”

Roughly 56 per cent of all fish products come from wild harvest, with the remaining amount farmed, according to figures cited by the UN.

“The demand remains quite strong, mainly from the head Asian region. Hence countries are not only going to New York to consider, issuing a political signal,” said UNCTAD’s Lucas Assunçao in reference to The Ocean Conference, “they are very concerned about this considerable market.”

Illegal Fishing

In addition to fishery subsidies, the UN trade agency has been focusing in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and access to markets.

“Not all countries participate equally,” Assunçao said of the nearly 150 billion dollars market for fish and marine products. “[The oceans are] a global common good that is not benefitting all countries that have coasts in equitable ways.”

“Oceans are continuing to warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Warm water coral reefs are already under pressure and 90 per cent would suffer significant risk from global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius.” Credit: UNEP/Jerker Tamelander

“Oceans are continuing to warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Warm water coral reefs are already under pressure and 90 per cent would suffer significant risk from global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius.” Credit: UNEP/Jerker Tamelander

Here, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) informs that annually, the worth of fish caught by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing methods is estimated at 10 – 23 billion dollars.

This, as well as the governments subsidies that encourage over-fishing while not making enough efforts to prevent illegal fishing, explain the fact that currently fishing vessels around the world have reached 4.6 million.

Oceans offer both challenges and solutions to the world’s Sustainable Development Agenda, and managing them more carefully is essential for global food security today and tomorrow as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said at the Oceans Conference.

Three Billion People Rely on Fish

More than three billion people rely on fish for critical animal protein, while 300 million people depend on marine fisheries, the vast majority being linked to small-scale fisheries that are the backbone of marine and coastal social and ecosystems in many developing countries, he on June 8 added.

“Unsustainability poses many risks and a heavy price,” said Graziano da Silva. “Today many fisheries around the world are characterised by excessive fishing effort, low productivity and inadequate profitability.”

That exacerbates pressures that have led to almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years, he said. Annual fishery production would increase by around 20 per cent –worth an extra 32 billion dollars each year– if partners collaborate to rebuild overfished stocks, he added.

FAO is playing a leading role in pursuing a core target of Sustainable Development Goal 14, which calls for ending the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing by 2020.

The IUU fishing accounts for up to 26 million tonnes of fish a year, one-sixth of all the fish caught at sea and worth 23 billion dollars. It also directly undermines efforts to make sure marine resources are sustainably used.

How to Crack Down on Illegal Fishing

International efforts to crack down on IUU fishing made a major step forward in 2016, when the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) entered into legal force. The international treaty brokered by FAO now has nearly 50 parties, including the European Union, Indonesia, the United States of America and – soon – Japan as well as many Small Island Developing States.

Fisherman in Timor Leste casts net in the water to catch small fish. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Fisherman in Timor Leste casts net in the water to catch small fish. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

The PSMA gives new powers to port officials to verify that any visiting ship is abiding by all relevant fishing rules – including having the proper permits, respecting quotas and avoiding at-risk species.

The treaty also requires parties to support effective implementation by making sure all parties have the technical capacity to fulfil their obligations. FAO has already devoted more than 1.5 million dollars to this effort, which Graziano da Silva described as “seed money” while awaiting voluntary contributions from donors.

“IUU fishing activities are a threat to marine life and impede the development and prosperity of vulnerable countries and must be completely stopped,” for his part said Sven Erik Bucht, the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, who announced officially Sweden’s contribution of 5.4 million dollars to FAO to combat IUU fishing. Alongside with Fiji, Sweden has promoted and co-chaired the Oceans Conference.

The funding will also help support this UN specialised body’s on-going work on what to do about discarded fishing gear –which constitutes both ocean rubbish as well as killing fish– and on the Global Record on Fishing Vessels, a platform aimed at providing essential and transparent information to those in charge of fisheries management.

The UN specialised agency is also leading work on Catch Documentation Schemes that enables fish to be tracked from source to shop – something consumers increasingly want. And, through its Blue Growth Initiative, the agency is also strongly focused on promoting sustainable development among coastal fishing communities in general.

What Is Overfishing Is All About?

Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , one of the world’s leading conservation organisation.

“Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.”

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world, WWF adds. “For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

According to WWF, more than 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them.”

Meanwhile, UN concerned agencies –FAO; UNCTAD and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)– have announced their commitment to cutting harmful fishing subsidies. The issue is “complicated and thorny,” they said. The commitment likely involves requesting countries to provide information on what subsidies they provide and prohibiting those that contribute to overfishing, as well as potentially giving differential treatment to developing countries.

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The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-relentless-march-of-drought-that-horseman-of-the-apocalypse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-relentless-march-of-drought-that-horseman-of-the-apocalypse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-relentless-march-of-drought-that-horseman-of-the-apocalypse/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 05:49:38 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150782 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

By 2025 –that’s in less than 8 years from today– 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami” of climate refugees and migrants.

No wonder then that a major United Nations Convention calls drought ‘one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.’ See what the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says in this regard.

By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent. As populations increase, especially in dry-land areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded, the Bonn-based Convention secretariat warns.“The world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees.” Monique Barbut.

Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century, it underlines, adding that drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts.

To mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought, explains UNCCD.

“Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster.”

Drought, Water Scarcity and Refugees

On this, Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, reminds that the world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees.

Neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration, but they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify on-going conflicts, she explains.

“Converging factors like political tension, weak institutions, economic marginalisation, lack of social safety nets or group rivalries create the conditions that make people unable to cope. The continuous drought and water scarcity from 2006 to 2010 in Syria is a recent well-known example.”

Credit: UNCCD

Credit: UNCCD

Displacing 135 Million People by 2045?

According to Convention, the geo-political and security challenges the world faces are complex, but a better implementing good land management practices can simultaneously help populations adapt to climate change and build resilience to drought; reduce the risk of forced migration and conflict over dwindling natural resources and secure sustainable agricultural and energy production.

“Land truly is the glue that holds our societies together. Reversing the effects of land degradation and desertification through sustainable land management (SLM) is not only achievable; it is the logical, cost-effective next step for national and international development agendas…”

UNCCD informs that 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain. “We cannot afford to keep degrading land when we are expected to increase food production by 70 per cent by 2050 to feed the entire world population.”

“Sustainable intensification of food production, with fewer inputs, that avoids further deforestation and cropland expansion into vulnerable areas should be a priority for action for policy makers, investors and smallholder farmers.”

Meantime, the Convention’s secretariat reports that the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main fresh water store.

“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.”

Credit: UNCCD

Credit: UNCCD

National Security, Migration

With up to 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources, the exposure of more and more poor people to water scarcity and hunger opens the door to the failure of fragile states and regional conflicts, according to UNCCD.

“Non-state actor groups are increasingly taking advantage of large cross-border migration flows and abandoned lands. Where natural assets including land are poorly managed, violence might become the dominant means of resource control, forcing natural resource assets out of the hands of legitimate government.”

The number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.

Here, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification reminds that behind these numbers is the links between migration and development challenges, in particular, the consequences of environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty and the importance of addressing the push and pull factors, and the root causes of irregular migration.

Losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices, it adds and explains that in rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.

“Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 per vent of our economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture. Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

Improving yields and land productivity will allow the time to increase food security and income of the users of the land and the poorest farmers, the UNCCD recommends. “This in turn stabilises the income of the rural population and avoids unnecessary movement of people.”

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification works with partners such as the International Organization for Migration to address the challenges arising from land degradation, large-scale population movements and their consequences, while aiming to demonstrate how the international community could leverage the skills and capacities of migrants along with the remittances, sent home by migrants, to build resilience.

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Re-Connect with Nature Now… Before It Is Too Late!http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/re-connect-with-nature-now-before-it-is-too-late/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=re-connect-with-nature-now-before-it-is-too-late http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/re-connect-with-nature-now-before-it-is-too-late/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 04:25:20 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150729 Now that president Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of the world’s largest polluter in history—the United States, from the Paris Accord, perhaps one of the most specific warnings is what a United Nations independent expert on rights and the environment has just said: “We should be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic […]

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World Environment Day 2017

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 5 2017 (IPS)

Now that president Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of the world’s largest polluter in history—the United States, from the Paris Accord, perhaps one of the most specific warnings is what a United Nations independent expert on rights and the environment has just said: “We should be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic human rights without a healthy environment.”

Speaking in Geneva ahead of the World Environment Day on Monday 5 June, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John H. Knox, said “We should all be alarmed at the accelerating loss of biodiversity on which healthy ecosystems depend.”

We depend on healthy natural ecosystems for so much – nutrition, shelter, clothing, the very water we drink and the air we breathe, Knox reminded. “And yet, natural forest area continues to decline, marine ecosystems are increasingly under siege, and estimated populations of vertebrate animals have declined by more than half since 1970.”

Many scientists fear that we are at the outset of the sixth global extinction of species around the world, the first in over 60 million years, noted this professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United State.

“States have reached agreements to combat the causes of biodiversity loss, which include habitat destruction, over-exploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change, Knox recalled, “But the same States are woefully failing to meet their commitments to reverse these disturbing trends.”.

Illegal Poaching, Logging and Fishing

He also reminded that nearly one third of natural and mixed World Heritage sites reportedly suffer from illegal poaching, logging and fishing, which have driven endangered species to the brink of extinction and threatened the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them.

“The extinction of species and the loss of microbial diversity undermines our rights to life and health by destroying potential sources for new medicines and weakening human immunity. Reduced variety, yield and security of fisheries and agriculture endangers our right to food. Nature’s weakened ability to filter, regulate and store water threatens the right of access to clean and safe water.”

The UN independent expert strongly emphasised that biodiversity and human rights are “interlinked and interdependent,” and States have obligations to protect both.

World must urgently up action to cut a further 25 [er cent from predicted 2030 emissions—UNEP. Cerdit: UNEP

World must urgently up action to cut a further 25 [er cent from predicted 2030 emissions—UNEP. Cerdit: UNEP


No Biodiversity, No Food Security, No Nutrition

For its part, the UN leading agency in the fields of food and agriculture underlines that biodiversity is “essential” for food security and nutrition.

Thousands of interconnected species make up a vital web of biodiversity within the ecosystems upon which global food production depends, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

With the erosion of biodiversity, it warns, humankind loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change. Achieving food security for all is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of biodiversity.

On this, the UN agency provides some key facts.

For instance, that of the 8 800 animal breeds known, 7 per cent are extinct and 17 per cent are at risk of extinction. And that of the over 80 000 tree species, less than 1 per cent have been studied for potential use.

Also that fish provide 20 per vent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Only ten species provide about 30 per cent of marine capture fisheries and ten species provide about 50 per vent of aquaculture production.

Meantime, over 80 per cent of the human diet is provided by plants. And only five cereal crops provide 60 per cent of energy intake

Land Is Finite

In parallel, a major UN convention has been focusing on land, “which is finite in quantity.” Competing demands for its goods and services are increasing pressures on land resources in virtually every country, warns the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

A changing climate, population growth, and economic globalisation are driving land use change and poor land management practices at all scales, it explains, adding that for the most part, these changes and practices will continue to degrade the “real” current and future value of our land resources, including soil, water and biodiversity.

“Now is the time to recognise the biophysical limits to land productivity and the need to restore multi-functionality in both our natural and production landscapes. Evidence strongly suggests the need to act in the short term to avoid potentially irreversible negative outcomes in the medium to long term.”

On this, the Bonn-based Convention secretariat informs that its Global Land Outlook (GLO) presents a strategic vision to transform the way we think about, value, use and manage our land resources while planning for a more resilient and sustainable future.

The GLO first edition is the new flagship publication of the UNCCD, akin to the CBD’s Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) and the United Nations Environment Programme- UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO).

“It is a strategic communications platform and publication that demonstrates the central importance of land quality to human well-being, assesses current trends in land conversion, degradation and loss, identifies the driving factors and analyses the impacts, provides scenarios for future challenges and opportunities.”

Bringing together a diverse group of international experts and partners, UNCCD informs that GLO addresses the future challenges for the management and restoration of land resources in the context of sustainable development, including: food, water and energy security; climate change and biodiversity conservation; urban, peri-urban and infrastructure development; Land tenure, governance and gender; and migration, conflict and human security.

Connecting with nature makes us guardians of our planet. For Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, closeness to nature helps us see the need to protect it. Credit: UNEP

Connecting with nature makes us guardians of our planet. For Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, closeness to nature helps us see the need to protect it. Credit: UNEP

“The loss in both the quality and quantity of healthy and productive land resources is an immediate global concern, especially in developing countries and those with a high proportion of fragile and vulnerable dry lands.”

These are some of the key reasons why ‘Connecting People to Nature’ –the theme of World Environment Day 2017– highlights the vast benefits, from food security and improved health to water supply and climatic stability, that natural systems and clean environments provide to humanity.

But there are more reasons.

Mental Health, Stress, Depression

Many studies show that time spent in green spaces counters mental health problems such as stress and depression. Affecting 350 million people, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, the United Nations informs.

For instance, in Japan, the health benefits of forests have prompted some local governments to promote ‘forest therapy.’ Research shows time in the woods can boost the immune system, including against cancer, according to the UN.

“Urban green space is a key weapon in the fight against obesity: an estimated 3.2 million premature deaths in 2012 can be attributed to lack of physical activity.”

More and more cities are planting trees to mitigate air pollution, the world’s largest single environmental health risk: 6.5 million people die each year due to everyday exposure to poor air quality.

Otherwise, the world body reminds that the use of plants in traditional medicine dates back to the beginning of human civilisation and that herbal medicine has clearly recognisable therapeutic effects and plays an important role in primary health care in many developing countries. Common painkillers and anti-malarial treatments as well as drugs used to treat cancer; heart conditions and high blood pressure are derived from plants.

Still need more reasons to connect –or rather re-connect—with Nature?

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Asia: 260 Million Indigenous Peoples Marginalised, Discriminatedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/asia-260-million-indigenous-peoples-marginalised-discriminated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-260-million-indigenous-peoples-marginalised-discriminated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/asia-260-million-indigenous-peoples-marginalised-discriminated/#respond Fri, 26 May 2017 17:27:58 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150611 Asia is home to the largest number of indigenous peoples on Earth, with an estimated 260 million of a total of 370 million original inhabitants worldwide. In spite of their huge number-equaling half of the combined population of Europe– they are often victims of discrimination and denial of their rights. With its 4.4 billion inhabitants, […]

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Indigenous women join protests for land rights in Asia. Credit: IWGIA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 26 2017 (IPS)

Asia is home to the largest number of indigenous peoples on Earth, with an estimated 260 million of a total of 370 million original inhabitants worldwide. In spite of their huge number-equaling half of the combined population of Europe– they are often victims of discrimination and denial of their rights.

With its 4.4 billion inhabitants, Asia is, in fact, one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world. “Indigenous peoples live in all the Asian countries,” said to IPS Signe Leth, Senior Advisor on women and land rights in Asia at the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

However, Asian indigenous peoples face problems such as denial of self-determination, the loss of control over their land and natural resources, discrimination and marginalisation, heavy assimilation pressure and violent repression by state security forces, she explained.

Signe Leth

Signe Leth

“Several countries have legislations that to some extent protect the rights of indigenous peoples, like the Philippines, India and Nepal, Signe Leth said.

“These rights are, however, systematically watered down, often simply ignored or overruled.”

Asked about the Asian indigenous peoples knowledge and their contribution as custodians and protectors of nature, the IWGIA’s expert explained to IPS that they fight against forest degradation, protect biodiversity, and lead a sustainable life with respect for the surrounding nature.

“However, they are often fighting highly powerful forces trying to exploit their areas – even paying for it with their lives.”

The Copenhagen-based IWGIA on 25 April launched its report “The Indigenous World 2017,” which focuses on the state of indigenous peoples worldwide, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The IWGIA report, elaboration of which counted on over 70 contributors from all over the world, was released during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting (24 April—5 May).

India’s “Scheduled Tribes”

In India, 461 ethnic groups are recognised as “Scheduled Tribes.” They are considered to be India’s indigenous peoples, according to IWGIA‘s independent authors.

In mainland India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis, which literally means indigenous peoples. With an estimated population of 84.3 million, they comprise 8.2 per cent of the country’s total population.

“There are, however, many more ethnic groups that would qualify for Scheduled Tribe status but which are not officially recognized. Estimates of the total number of tribal groups are as high as 635.”

The largest concentrations of indigenous peoples are found in the seven states of North-East India, and the so-called “central tribal belt” stretching from Rajasthan to West Bengal, according to the IWGIA Indian chapter’s independent authors.

“India has a long history of indigenous peoples’ movements aimed at asserting their rights”.

This Asian giant has several laws and constitutional provisions, such as the Fifth Schedule for mainland India and the Sixth Schedule for certain areas of North-East India, which recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-governance.

“The laws aimed at protecting indigenous peoples have, however, numerous shortcomings and their implementation is far from satisfactory.”

The International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs also reminds that the Indian government voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the UN General Assembly in 2007.

“However, it does not consider the concept of “indigenous peoples”, and thus the UNDRIP, applicable to India.”

“Indigenous Peoples” in China

Meanwhile, China officially proclaims itself a unified country with a multiple ethnic make-up, and all ethnic groups are considered equal before the law, IWGIA notes quoting the independent authors of this chapter on China, adding that besides the Han Chinese majority, the government recognises 55 ethnic minority peoples within its borders.

According to China’s sixth national census of 2010, the population of ethnic minorities is 113,792,211 persons, or 8.49 per cent of the country’s total population.

“However, there are still “unrecognised ethnic groups” in China numbering a total of 734,438 persons (2000 census figure), according to the Copenhagen-based Group. Most of them live in China’s South-West regions of Guizhou, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet.”

The officially recognised ethnic minority groups have rights protected by the Constitution, remind the IWGIA China chapter’s independent authors, explaining that this includes establishing ethnic autonomous regions, setting up their own local administrative governance and the right to practise their own language and culture.

“Ethnic autonomous regions” constitute around 60 per vent of China’s land area.

The Term “Indigenous Peoples”

Anyway, IWGIA clarifies, the Chinese (PRC) government does not recognise the term “indigenous peoples”, and representatives of China’s ethnic minorities have not readily identified themselves as indigenous peoples, and have rarely participated in international meetings related to indigenous peoples’ issues, say the independent authors of the IWGIA’s chapter on China.

“It has therefore not been clearly established which of China’s ethnic minority groups are to be considered indigenous peoples.”

“The Chinese government voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) but, prior to its adoption, had already officially stated that there were no indigenous peoples in China, which means that, in their eyes, the UNDRIP does not apply to China.

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Climate Change Has Changed the Geography of Honduras’ Caribbean Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/climate-change-has-changed-the-geography-of-honduras-caribbean-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-has-changed-the-geography-of-honduras-caribbean-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/climate-change-has-changed-the-geography-of-honduras-caribbean-coast/#respond Mon, 15 May 2017 23:07:27 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150427 In Balfate, a rural municipality that includes fishing villages and small farms along Honduras’ Caribbean coast, the effects of climate change are already felt on its famous scenery and beaches. The sea is relentlessly approaching the houses, while the ecosystem is deteriorating. “What was it like before? There used to be a coconut palm plantation […]

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The sea is encroaching fast in the coastal area of Balfate, along Honduras’ Caribbean Coast, where natural barriers are disappearing and the sea is advancing many metres inland. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

The sea is encroaching fast in the coastal area of Balfate, along Honduras’ Caribbean Coast, where natural barriers are disappearing and the sea is advancing many metres inland. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

By Thelma Mejía
BALFATE, Honduras, May 15 2017 (IPS)

In Balfate, a rural municipality that includes fishing villages and small farms along Honduras’ Caribbean coast, the effects of climate change are already felt on its famous scenery and beaches. The sea is relentlessly approaching the houses, while the ecosystem is deteriorating.

“What was it like before? There used to be a coconut palm plantation before the beach, and a forest with howler monkeys. Today there are no palm trees and the howler monkeys have left,” environmental activist Hugo Galeano, who has been working in the area for over three decades, told IPS.

“Where the beach is now, which used to be 200 metres inland, there used to be a thick palm tree plantation and a beautiful forest. Today the geography has changed, the sea has swallowed up much of the vegetation and is getting closer and closer to the houses. The effects of climate change are palpable,” he said.

Galeano coordinates the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (SGP) in Honduras, and is one of the top experts on climate change in the country. He also promotes climate change mitigation and reforestation projects, as well as community integration with environmentally friendly practices, in low-income areas.

In the near future, this majestic tree will no longer be part of the scenery and a natural barrier protecting one of the beaches in Balfate, on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

In the near future, this majestic tree will no longer be part of the scenery and a natural barrier protecting one of the beaches in Balfate, on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

The municipality of Balfate, with an area of 332 square kilometres and a population of about 14,000, is one of the localities in the Caribbean department of Colón that makes up the coastal corridor where the impact of climate change has most altered the local residents’ way of life.

Other communities in vulnerable corridor are Río Coco, Lucinda, Río Esteban and Santa Fe. In these places, the sea, according to local residents, “is advancing and the trees are falling, because they can’t resist the force of the water, since the natural protective barriers have disappeared.”

This is how Julián Jiménez, a 58-year-old fisherman, described to IPS the situation in Río Coco. He said his community used to be 350 metres from the sea, but now “the houses are at the edge of the beach.”

Río Coco, a village in the municipality of Balfate is increasingly near the sea. Located in the central part of the Caribbean coast of this Central American country, it is a strategic hub for transportation by sea to islands and other remote areas.

To get to Balfate you have to travel along a partly unpaved road for nearly eight hours from Tegucigalpa, even though the distance is only around 300 km. To reach Río Coco takes another hour, through areas where the drug trafficking mafias have a lot of power.

Jiménez has no doubts that “what we are experiencing is due to climate change, global warming and the melting of glaciers, since it affects the sea, and that is what we tell the community. For the past decade we have been raising awareness, but there is still much to be done.”

The geography of Balfate, a land of famous landscapes in Honduras’ Caribbean region, has changed drastically from three decades ago, due to encroachment by the sea, according to local residents. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

The geography of Balfate, a land of famous landscapes in Honduras’ Caribbean region, has changed drastically from three decades ago, due to encroachment by the sea, according to local residents. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

“We are also guilty, because instead of protecting we destroy. Today we have problems with water and even with the fish catches. With some kinds of fish, like the common snook, there are hardly any left, and we also are having trouble finding shrimp,” he said.

“It is hard for people to understand, but everything is connected. This is irreversible,” said Jiménez, who is the coordinator of the association of water administration boards in the coastal areas of Balfate and the neighbouring municipality of Santa Fe.

Not only Colón is facing problems along the coast, but also the four departments – of the country’s 18 – with coasts on the Caribbean, the country’s eastern border.

In the northern department of Cortés, the areas of Omoa, Barra del Motagua and Cuyamelito, which make up the basin of the Motagua River, near the border with Guatemala, are experiencing similar phenomena.

In these areas on the gulf of Honduras, fishers have also reported a substantial decline inT fish catches and yields, José Eduardo Peralta, from the Coastal Sea Project of the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mines, told IPS.

“The sea here has encroached more on the beach, and on productive land, than in other coastal areas. With regard to fishing, there are problems with the capture of lobster and jellyfish; the latter has not been caught for over a year and a half, save for one capture reported a month ago in the area of Mosquitia,“ in the Caribbean, he said in his office in Tegucigalpa.

This tree on one of the beaches in Balfate could fall in a matter of six months, due to the force of the waves which works against its roots, as part of the encroachment of the sea. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

This tree on one of the beaches in Balfate could fall in a matter of six months, due to the force of the waves which works against its roots, as part of the encroachment of the sea. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Galeano to IPS

Peralta said the government is concerned about the effects of climate change, because they could reach dramatic levels in a few years.

The sea, he said, is rising and “swallowing up land, and we are also losing biodiversity due to the change in water temperatures and the acidification of the water.”

In line with Jiménez, Peralta said that “the sea currents are rapidly shifting, and the current should not shift overnight, the changes should take between 24 and 36 hours, but it’s not like that anymore. This is called climate change.”

Honduras is considered by international bodies as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate impacts, as it is on the route of the hurricanes and due to the internal pressures that affect the wetlands, such as deforestation and large-scale African oil palm plantations, which have a direct effect on water scarcity.

Ecologist Galeano said official figures show that in wetland areas, there are approximately two hectares of African oil palms per one of mangroves. He said it was important to pay attention to this phenomenon, because the unchecked spread of the plantations will sooner or later have an impact on the local ecosystems.

On Mar. 9, Environment Minister José Antonio Galdames launched the Climate Agenda, which outlines a National Plan for Climate Change Adaptation for the country, whose implementation recently began to be mapped out.

Among the measures to be carried out under the plan, Galdames underscored in his conversation with IPS a project of integral management of the Motagua River basin, which will include reforestation, management of agroforestry systems and diversification of livelihoods at the productive systems level.

Hurricane Mitch, which caused incalculable economic losses and left over 5,000 people dead and 8,000 missing in 1998, tragically revealed Honduras’ vulnerability. Two decades later, the climate impact is felt particularly in the Caribbean coastal area, which was already hit particularly hard by the catastrophe.

According to the United Nations, 66.5 percent of households in this country of 8.4 million people are poor.

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The Very Survival of Africa’s Indigenous Peoples ‘Seriously Threatened’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 06:19:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150257 The cultures and very survival of indigenous peoples in Africa are seriously threatened. They are ignored, neglected and fall victims of land grabbing and land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other forms of business operations. These are some of the key findings of a major report “The Indigenous World 2017,” on the state […]

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The Indigenous World 2017. Credit: IWGIA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 3 2017 (IPS)

The cultures and very survival of indigenous peoples in Africa are seriously threatened. They are ignored, neglected and fall victims of land grabbing and land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other forms of business operations.

These are some of the key findings of a major report “The Indigenous World 2017,” on the state of indigenous peoples worldwide, issued on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The report, launched on 25 April by the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGI) during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting (24 April—5 May), emphasises that in spite of progress, there are still major challenges facing indigenous peoples in Africa.

Africa is home to an estimated 50 million indigenous peoples, that’s around 13 per cent of the total of 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide. They live in all regions of Africa, with large concentrations in North Africa where the Amazigh people live. In West Africa, there are large pastoralist populations in countries like Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon etc.

There are also large concentrations of indigenous peoples in East Africa with big pastoralist populations in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Hunter-gatherers are found in many countries in central and Southern Africa, though they are smaller in numbers than the pastoralist groups.

In several African states, explains IWGIA, “indigenous peoples are yet to be recognised as such.” Arguments of all Africans being indigenous or that the concept “indigenous peoples” is divisive and unconstitutional are persistently expressed in political statements and continue to shape policies of a number of African countries.

Large-scale dispossessions of indigenous peoples’ lands remain a significant challenge in several African states, says the report, adding that the global drive for raw materials, agro-business and building major infrastructure projects are pushing indigenous peoples to their last boundaries.

A recent African Commission’s report on extractive industries and indigenous peoples reveals the negative impact several mining, agro business and logging projects are having on indigenous peoples’ land rights and access to natural resources, according to IWGIA.

In several cases, tensions with indigenous peoples have led to open conflicts, including loss of lives. In this regard, the African Commission has sent urgent appeals to a number of African governments on serious human rights violations affecting indigenous peoples.

Forced Evictions, Human Eights Violations

Marianne Wiben Jensen

Marianne Wiben Jensen

Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’ senior advisor on Africa and Land Rights, told IPS that Africa’s indigenous peoples are victims of land grabbing and other forms of land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other business operations.

“This leads to forced evictions and other forms of serious human rights violations,“ she said, adding that indigenous peoples in Africa are “marginalised economically and politically and are only to a very limited extent participating in decision-making processes.”

“So they have very limited possibilities of voicing their perspectives and priorities and influencing their own futures,” Wiben Jensen warned, explaining that they typically live in marginalised and remote areas with very limited and bad social infrastructure.

The issue of extractive industries is once again a recurrent and overarching theme in the Indigenous world. Numerous examples show that both states and industries are repeatedly ignoring the key principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Mega infrastructure projects, investments in extractive industries and large-scale agriculture are increasingly posing a threat to the everyday life of indigenous peoples and their ability to maintain their land, livelihood and culture.

At the same time, Wiben Jensen added, indigenous peoples in Africa have proven to be very resilient, and despite the many problems they face and the lack of support they receive from their governments, they are still there and manage to survive in often very harsh environments based on their unique indigenous knowledge of the nature and the natural resources.

“All this is happening amidst an alarming rate of violence and discrimination of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders around the world.”

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes - they want to be heard and respected. Credit: IWGIA

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes – they want to be heard and respected. Credit: IWGIA

Violence against Indigenous Women, Girls

Wiben Jensen also warned that violence against indigenous women and girls continues to feature several indigenous communities in Africa, including harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early or forced marriage and inaccessibility of good standards on reproductive rights.

Overall, one could put African states into three categories as far as the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights is concerned.

First, some African states that have fully endorsed the concept “indigenous peoples in Africa” and have moved on to adopt legal or policy frameworks aimed at addressing the concerned communities’ particular human rights situation. “These states are still small in number but their potential impact is immense.”

Second, some African states recognise and are willing to redress the historical injustices and marginalisation suffered by certain sections of their national populations that self-identify as indigenous peoples, “but remain uncomfortable with the term “indigenous peoples” and therefore prefer using alternative concepts in their laws or policies.”

Third, there are African states that continue to contest the existence of indigenous peoples in the continent or the relevance of the concept in Africa. There are numerous reasons for this denial, including a misunderstanding of what the concept “indigenous peoples in Africa” means.

The Forgotten Peoples, Reported

The Indigenous World 2017 is IWGIA’s 30th report on the status of indigenous peoples and comes in a special edition on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide and a comprehensive overview of the main global trends and developments affecting indigenous peoples during 2016. It contains 59 detailed country reports and 12 articles on defining global processes in a total of 651 pages.

It also highlights that despite some encouraging national achievements, the country reports in this year’s edition continue to illustrate the great pressures facing indigenous communities at the local level.

Over 70 experts, indigenous activists and scholars have contributed to the Indigenous World 2017, which has been published with support from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Danida, Denmark’s development cooperation.

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Caribbean Rolls Out Plans to Reduce Climate Change Hazardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-rolls-out-plans-to-reduce-climate-change-hazards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-rolls-out-plans-to-reduce-climate-change-hazards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-rolls-out-plans-to-reduce-climate-change-hazards/#respond Sun, 30 Apr 2017 13:48:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150228 Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”. Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction […]

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Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 30 2017 (IPS)

Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin." --Dr. Mark Bynoe

“We recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

The conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with UNISDR marked the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). The Framework is a 15-year, voluntary non-binding agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt . . . will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years,” Glasser said.

The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but will be among the most severely impacted.

The region is already experiencing its impacts with more frequent extreme weather events such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean, extreme drought across the region with severe consequences in several countries; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010.

Inaction for the Caribbean region is very costly. An economic analysis focused on three areas – increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure – revealed damages could cost the region 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

At the Montreal conference, Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. He said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.

“We’ve recognised that in the old days, our fore parents…had to deal with flood conditions and they survived them very well. There were simple things in terms of how they pulled their beds and other valuables out of the flood space in the house in particular. This contributed to their surviving the storms with minimal loss,” Jackson said.

“That knowledge of having to face those adverse conditions and surviving them and coping through them and being able to bounce back to where they were before, that was evident in our society in the past. It has subsequently disappeared.”

CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Agency was established in 1991 with primary responsibility for the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.

Another regional agency, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is collaborating with other agencies on the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).

The CRMI aims to provide a platform for sharing the experiences and lessons learned between different sectors across the Caribbean in order to facilitate improved disaster risk reduction.

“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin because to the extent we are able to enhance disaster risk reduction we are also beginning to adapt to climate change,” Dr. Mark Bynoe, the CCCCC’s senior environment and resource economist said.

He explained that there are a range of activities carried out specifically in terms of climate adaptation that will also have a disaster risk reduction element.

“We are looking at enhancing water security within a number of our small island states. One of the things we are focusing on there is largely to produce quality water through the use of reverse osmosis systems but we’re utilizing a renewable energy source. So, on the one hand we are also addressing adaptation and mitigation.”

Meantime, CCCCC’s Deputy Executive Director Dr. Ulric Trotz said the agency is rolling out a series of training workshops in 10 countries to share training tools that were developed with the aim of assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions. These include the Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model/ Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (SMASH), and the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO).

The training will target key personnel whose focus are in areas of agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning or disaster risk reduction.

“The CARIWIG [Caribbean Weather Impacts Group] tool is a critical tool in that it more or less localizes the projection so that for instance, you can actually look at climate projections for the future in a watershed in St. Kitts and Nevis. It localizes that information and it makes it much more relevant to the local circumstance,” said Dr. Trotz.

Training and application of the tools will allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, and rainfall and temperature changes. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the various countries.

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Caribbean Scientists Work to Limit Climate Impact on Marine Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-scientists-work-to-limit-climate-impact-on-marine-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-scientists-work-to-limit-climate-impact-on-marine-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-scientists-work-to-limit-climate-impact-on-marine-environment/#respond Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:50:01 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150210 Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry. While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare […]

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In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.

While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.As the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further.

In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.

“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.

The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.

In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.

In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that ,he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.

In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector. 


“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.

The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.

But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.

In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.

Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.

In the coming weeks the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.

Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.

But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.

The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsavles to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.

On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.

Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.

Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.

Scientists say that protecting the parrot is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.

And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.

The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs Keith Nichols pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.

“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said.

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New Generation Rallies to Climate Cause in Trinidadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/new-generation-rallies-to-climate-cause-in-trinidad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-generation-rallies-to-climate-cause-in-trinidad http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/new-generation-rallies-to-climate-cause-in-trinidad/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:28:20 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150167 As two environmental activist groups in Trinidad and Tobago powered by young volunteers prepare to ramp up their climate change and sustainability activism, they are also contemplating their own sustainability and how they can become viable over the long-term. IAMovement and New Fire Festival both began their environmental activism in earnest less than three years […]

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Marchers form a heart shape at the 2015 climate marc, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, organised by youth activists from IAMovement. Credit: IAMovement

Marchers form a heart shape at the 2015 climate march, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, organised by youth activists from IAMovement. Credit: IAMovement

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Apr 26 2017 (IPS)

As two environmental activist groups in Trinidad and Tobago powered by young volunteers prepare to ramp up their climate change and sustainability activism, they are also contemplating their own sustainability and how they can become viable over the long-term.

IAMovement and New Fire Festival both began their environmental activism in earnest less than three years ago.“Young people are really inspired by the festival and they got involved willingly, just to be a part of it because there is a feeling that it is needed.” --Gerry Williams

IAMovement captured the Trinidadian public’s imagination with its climate change march in 2014 and the iconic heart shape formed by 150 marchers who joined them, an emblem reprised by the 450 who joined IAMovement in 2015 in the country’s capital city of Port-of-Spain for the march that coincided with COP21 in Paris.

For the group’s first event in 2014, timed to coincide with the rallies being held worldwide during UN climate talks in New York, “people came, interested, but not sure what to expect. But from the beginning the conversation was very positive about what we can do and the solutions available to us,” said IAMovement’s Managing Director Jonathan Barcant.

New Fire Festival, run by the NGO T&T Bridge Initiative, began its engagement with climate change activism in 2016 with the launch of an ecologically sustainable music festival that emphasises reducing, reusing, and sustaining. This followed a successful run as organisers of an underground music festival designed to give more exposure to talented but marginalised artists and musicians.

Founder of New Fire Festival, Gerry Williams said, “We decided we needed to do something a bit more impactful…It’s more than just an entertainment event. It is based on the transformational festival model.”

Since their launch, both organisations are seeing more and more young people rallying to their side and offering to work as volunteers. “We have had about 50 volunteers over the last three years, and we have a growing list of people who are interested [in volunteering],” Barcant said.

Williams likewise said, “It’s really a small team of people who came together to make it happen. This generation is basically expecting, hoping, longing for something new to happen on our landscape. Many people said they had always dreamed of doing something like this or being part of it. A lot of it is volunteer work.

“Young people are really inspired by the festival and they got involved willingly, just to be a part of it because there is a feeling that it is needed.”

This groundswell of support has incited New Fire Festival and IAMovement to want to move their organisations to another level, as they make ever more ambitious plans to engage with climate change activism and environmental sustainability issues. But to ensure the long-term viability of their organisations and their plans, they are interested in providing proper remuneration to those who work on their projects.

“One reason we are restructuring is because we got so many requests to volunteer now, that I can finally say we have the capacity to do so,” Barcant said. IAMovement operates “as a full grassroots non-profit. This is the first year we are getting real funding where we can pay a project coordinator.

“As young people giving more and more of ourselves we need to look at sustainable growth if we are going to keep growing. As the demands grow, as more and more work is required of us, we need to be paid as well.” He said the plan was to “have people with full salaries to coordinate projects. Up to now it has been totally voluntary.”

In similar vein, Williams of New Fire Festival observed, “I do not get a salary from the organisation or from New Fire Festival. This year we have only managed to break even to cover our costs. Last year, we had to dip into our pockets.

“Because it is a non-profit, even when the festival is eventually earning profits we will have an obligation to treat with that money a certain way. It’s not that we can pocket it or give to shareholders,” he said. For this reason, the NGO behind New Fire Festival is preparing to launch a for-profit enterprise using discarded shipping pallets to make fine furniture.

IAMovement is raising revenue through donations on its Web site, funding from European embassies operating in Trinidad and Tobago, grants from multinational agencies, as well as crowdfunding to cover the cost of its environmental projects. The organisers of New Fire Festival are also interested in launching a business that would green events for event organisers.

The year has begun on a high note for both organisations. IAMovement is in the process of hosting a series of 40 climate talks at schools and other venues, where their low-budget film on climate change, entitled “Small Change”, will be shown.

The film was shown at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival last year and will be screened at other festivals, including the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, described as “one of the world’s largest and most influential festivals for emerging filmmakers.” It was created by IAMovement member, 23-year-old Dylon Quesnel.

The film presents IAMovement’s argument that Trinidad and Tobago can derive major social and economic benefits by moving away from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy and care of the environment.

IAMovement will also be planting the country’s first edible roof on the Ministry of Education building, which was designed to accommodate such a project.

New Fire Festival concluded the second edition of its annual festival early in April. The festival was held in the lush surroundings of Santa Cruz in Trinidad’s famous Northern Range and attracted approximately 2,000 paying visitors, nearly three times the attendance in 2016, its first year.

At the festival, visitors were given access to workshops on eco-sustainability topics. They were also discouraged from entering the festival with disposable water bottles. “We do our best to avoid disposables. Even where we use disposable items they are compost-type items,” Williams said.

“Consumption is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. We have to alter our consumption habits,” he said. “We hope that the festival will be an inspiring experience to all…that outside of the festival and having fun they will incorporate some of it into their lives.”

Thirty-two-year-old Sasha Belton, who attended IAMovement’s climate talk and film showing at MovieTowne in March, said, “It definitely raised awareness, made you realise how much you take for granted…It inspired me to be more aware of my own actions and how you should be [environmentally responsible] recycling and sharing information with others.”

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“Imagine a World Where the Worst-Case Scenarios Have Been Realized”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 00:01:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150052 The tiny island-nation of Antigua and Barbuda has made an impassioned plea for support from the international community to deal with the devastating impacts of climate change. Urging “further action”, Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph said the Paris Climate Agreement must become the cornerstone of advancing the socio-economic development of countries. “One area of approach that […]

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Picturesque Antigua and Barbuda says its “natural beauty” is what is being fought for in the war on climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Picturesque Antigua and Barbuda says its “natural beauty” is what is being fought for in the war on climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Apr 20 2017 (IPS)

The tiny island-nation of Antigua and Barbuda has made an impassioned plea for support from the international community to deal with the devastating impacts of climate change.

Urging “further action”, Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph said the Paris Climate Agreement must become the cornerstone of advancing the socio-economic development of countries.“When I see long lines of vehicles trying to escape the storm by heading over state lines or crossing internationial boundaries, I always wonder what they would do if they lived here." --Foreign Minister Charles Fernandez

“One area of approach that we have undertaken in Antigua and Barbuda, that I believe would be beneficial amongst other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and developing countries, is for those of us with more advanced institutions to seek to be of assistance to other countries,” Joseph told IPS.

“I would like to encourage other countries, which have strong institutions, to take up the challenge in not only seeing how to combat climate change locally and nationally but, where possible, taking regional and global approaches.”

The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November last year, brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.

Its central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees C.

Earlier this month Antigua and Barbuda hosted the 16th meeting of countries participating in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action.

The Dialogue is an informal space “open to countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive, and legally binding regime in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and committed, domestically, to becoming or remaining low carbon economies.”

It aims to “discuss openly and constructively the reasoning behind each others’ positions, exploring areas of convergence and potential areas of joint action.” It is one of the few groups within the UN climate negotiations that brings together negotiators from the global North and South.

Joseph told delegates that “as a nation, we have a lot to lose” and he urged them to ensure that the Paris Agreement serves the future of all nations and becomes the cornerstone of advancing economically, socially and otherwise.

“Imagine a world where white sandy beaches and coral reefs like the ones just off these shores become a rarity. Where glaciers and snow covered mountain tops might be limited to postcard memories. Where droughts, storms, famines and epidemics can become more intense and more common. Where the worst-case scenarios of climate change have been realised. And with this grave image of what is at stake for humanity in our minds, let us earnestly collaborate to ensure that such horrors never come to pass,” Joseph said.

His colleague, Charles Fernandez, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said as a member of the SIDS, Antigua and Barbuda’s “natural beauty” is what is being fought for.

“Sometimes I watch how larger and richer countries react to the approach of a major hurricane,” he told IPS.

“When I see long lines of vehicles trying to escape the storm by heading over state lines or crossing international boundaries, I always wonder what they would do if they lived here. We small islanders have to be ready to bunker down and bear it; and when it’s over, dust off and pick up the pieces.

“It is for this reason, that for those of us who live on small islands, climate change is an existential threat to our survival and way of life. It is for this reason that so many of us have signed on and begun work on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For this reason, that we place our faith in the international community to find aggressive solutions to climate change together,” Fernandez added.

The Cartagena Dialogue is one mechanism through which countries look beyond their self-identified commitments toward establishing an ambitious new and binding agreement on climate change.

Joseph said the establishing of such a regime will require the coming together of many and various minds on an impressive list of complex issues.

“From the promotion and access of appropriate technologies that will help nations pursue economic development while mitigating greenhouse gas production, to ensuring that other strategies such as public awareness, education, finance, sector specific targets and national limits — all deserve our keenest consideration toward achieving our goals,” he said.

“Here in Antigua and Barbuda, the government is in the process of developing regulations to further guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, this will only be one in a series of vital steps needed to put Antigua and Barbuda on a progressive path to deal with climate change. We are aggressively pursuing accreditation to the various mechanisms and hope that our experiences both in the accreditation process and implementation will serve as examples and best practices for other SIDS and developing countries to further their own actions against climate change.”

Antigua and Barbuda is the first and currently the only country in the Eastern Caribbean to have achieved accreditation to the Adaptation Fund.

“We have decided as a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to use this status not only for our own advancement but also toward the advancement of fellow members of the sub-region by allowing ourselves to serve as a regional implementing entity, improving their access to the financial mechanisms,” Joseph said.

Last September, Antigua and Barbuda joined more than two dozen countries to ratify the Paris Agreement on Global Climate Change.

The Paris Agreement was opened for signatures on April 22, 2016, and will remain open to Parties of the UNFCCC until April 21, 2017.

The Paris Agreement becomes international law based on a dual “trigger” – when 55 Parties have ratified the Agreement, and 55 percent of the goal of emissions are covered by the Parties.

While the Paris Agreement wasn’t expected to enter into force until 2020, countries including Antigua and Barbuda have been demonstrating leadership to address the global threat of climate change, and reduce emissions to meet the target of less than 1.5 degrees C increase in global average temperatures.

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“The Ocean Is Not a Dumping Ground”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-ocean-is-not-a-dumping-ground/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-ocean-is-not-a-dumping-ground http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-ocean-is-not-a-dumping-ground/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 00:02:21 +0000 Nasseem Ackbarally http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150029 Nasseem Ackbarally interviews the President of Mauritius, AMEENAH GURIB-FAKIM

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President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Nasseem Ackbarally
PORT-LOUIS, Mauritius, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

An internationally renowned scientist, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became Mauritius’s sixth president on June 5, 2015 – and one of the few Muslim women heads of state in the world.

Her nomination constituted a major event in the island’s quest for greater gender parity and women’s empowerment, giving a higher profile to women in the public and democratic sphere of Mauritius.

Gurib-Fakim started her career in 1987 as a lecturer at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius. She was one of the leading figures in local academia with a reputation far beyond the Indian Ocean before she accepted the post of president.

She has also served in different capacities in numerous local, regional and international organizations. Gurib-Fakim has lectured extensively and authored or co-edited 26 books and numerous academic articles on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

In this exclusive interview with IPS, President Gurib-Fakim urged world leaders to save our oceans, noting that this critical ecosystem impacts millions of livelihoods, particularly for small island-states and coastal communities.

This June, the United Nations will convene a high-level Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development at U.N. Headquarters in New York.

Human activity has already left a huge footprint on the world’s oceans, Gurib-Fakim notes. “We have always assumed that the ocean is a dumping ground – which it is not.”

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: How would you rate the oceans in terms of importance in the context of sustainable development?

A: The ocean space occupies 70 percent of the world’s surface and it still remains unknown. There is no doubt that ocean space impacts livelihood, especially for islands and coastal communities. Several countries in the South-West Indian Ocean, for example, rely heavily on fishing to sustain livelihoods. In 2013, fish accounted for 17 percent of the world population’s intake of animal protein and 6.7 percent of all protein consumed. Coral-reef fish species also represent an important source of protein.

With more than 60 percent of the world’s economic output taking place near coastlines and in some African countries, the ocean economy contributes 25 percent of the revenues and over 30 percent of export revenues. It is becoming increasingly clear the enormous potential of our oceans.

Q: Do you think that the objectives of the World Ocean Summit can still reverse the decline in the health of our ocean for people, planet and prosperity?

A:  This Summit brings on board all the stakeholders involved with ocean issues. This summit is also a pledging conference as funding always remains a thorny issue and yet there is urgency in data collection on several areas of the ocean ecosystems. It provides the policymaker and the researcher a holistic picture of what the ocean stands for and will hopefully change the narrative on the need to reverse the decline of the health of our ocean space.

Climate change remains a big component as acidification of the waters as well as rise in temperatures will affect both the flora and fauna.

We must always be mindful to the fact that humans have had a huge footprint in the health of our oceans as we have always assumed that the ocean is dumping ground. It is NOT. There are within the ocean space, very fragile ecosystems that can be destroyed by small increases in acidity or temperatures.

Q: As an Ocean State, Mauritius does not seem to have given due consideration to the importance of our oceans in terms of an environmental asset. How would this Ocean Summit help to change our mindset?

A: Mauritius has a very small landmass, we have a very huge space of 2.2 million km and I think what the ocean summit helps us to do is to bring back to the fore these multiple challenges or opportunities that the ocean as an entity presents to the economy of Mauritius. As I said, one of the areas will be sustainable fishery, which can be flagged into the economy. Mauritius and in the South West Indian Ocean fisheries are threatened, with up to 30 percent of the fish stock over-exploited or depleted and 40 percent fully exploited. The poor management of this sector has amounted to an annual loss of about USD 225 million.

However, the ocean is not only fish, it is also sustainable tourism as well as renewable energy, including wave energy, amongst others.

Q:  The health of our oceans is critical for the survival of humanity. We have seen that despite all the international conferences and commitments, all the ecosystems of our planet are collapsing one after the other. How will this conference help to change things globally, but equally locally?

A:  For me, the ocean cannot and should not be taken as a dumping ground or a carbon sink. We should also take stock of effluents coming from the rivers as all the runoffs eventually end up in the sea.  Plastic pollution is also a very big issue because we know that a lot of damage is being done to wildlife because of un-recycled plastic. These conferences help us to see visually the impact of these polluting activities. They also bring live images, testimonies from people who have first-hand experiences. They help to change the mindset of people. They also try to bring people to think differently, sustainably.  We need to change the way people do business, the way people look at the ocean, we need to have a completely fresh look at these.

Q: Climate change is a major challenge for the survival of humanity, and we have seen that the United States of America has started to back-pedal on climate change agreements. How do you perceive this change of policy from a major carbon dioxide producer?

A:  To me, climate change is the biggest threat to humanity because it will impact not only on the ocean but also all the ecosystems on earth. It will impact the loss of many species; already 17,000 are threatened and when these species disappear, they reduce the resilience of our ecosystem. I always say biodiversity underpins life on earth and it also in the ocean as well. This balance in the oceans ecosystem is very very fragile.

So, any change, even half a degree increase in temperature of the water, is not sustained by the animals living out there and they will disappear and that is a thing that we do not want to envisage. Now, some countries want to backpedal on climate change agreements, it’s very unfortunate because many countries have fought very very hard to contain emissions. Large economies like India have started a global alliance on renewal energy, China has also made pledges, but it would be unfortunate that any country pulls out of this agreement because we are not talking about the short term but about the long term and for the larger good of humanity.

For those countries that feel that they still need fossil fuels to grow the economy, green technologies have shown that it is possible to sustain growth with same. It is proven and I don’t think people have to shy away from the fact that by disinvesting in fossil fuels their economy will still progress. Clean energy is the answer.

Q: What are your hopes and expectations for the ocean summit?

A: The hope is that those who made pledges deliver on them. We are not too far off the tipping point, but I think all is not lost. We need to act fast and deliver on results as well as on commitments. Our future depends on it.

Q: Nearly two years into your term as President of the Republic of Mauritius, how do you perceive the question of gender equality in Mauritius, and are things are improving?

A: Post-independence Mauritius had a very low per capita income of around 200 USD. Several decisions had been taken since then to ensure the well being of the people and one such decision was to make education free for all in 1976. Education is an enabler and ensures social mobility of people. At that moment in time, parents did not have to make choices of whether to educate their sons or daughters.

Over 40 years down the line we have seen the transformation that this decision has had. The percentage of women in many professional spheres has increased. The medical, judiciary, teaching professions have more than their fair share of women’s representation. We may be weak in terms of percentage at board levels or in politics but I think that it is work in progress. My message is very clear on this issue… any country that wants to make progress cannot afford to ignore 52 percent of its workforce and talents.

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Climate Impact on Caribbean Coral Reefs May Be Mitigated If…http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-impact-on-caribbean-coral-reefs-may-be-mitigated-if/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-impact-on-caribbean-coral-reefs-may-be-mitigated-if http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-impact-on-caribbean-coral-reefs-may-be-mitigated-if/#respond Fri, 14 Apr 2017 14:43:51 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149978 A few dozen metres from the Caribbean beach of Puerto Vargas, where you can barely see the white foam of the waves breaking offshore, is the coral reef that is the central figure of the ocean front of the Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica. Puerto Vargas is known for the shrinking of its once […]

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Cahuita National Park, on Costa Rica's eastern Caribbean coast, is suffering a process of coastal erosion which is shrinking its beaches, while the coral reefs underwater are also feeling the impact of climate change. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

Cahuita National Park, on Costa Rica's eastern Caribbean coast, is suffering a process of coastal erosion which is shrinking its beaches, while the coral reefs underwater are also feeling the impact of climate change. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
CAHUITA, Costa Rica, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

A few dozen metres from the Caribbean beach of Puerto Vargas, where you can barely see the white foam of the waves breaking offshore, is the coral reef that is the central figure of the ocean front of the Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica.

Puerto Vargas is known for the shrinking of its once long beach, as a result of erosion. The coast has lost dozens of metres in a matter of a few years, which has had an effect on tourists and on the nesting of sea turtles that used to come to lay their eggs.

Just as the beaches have been affected, there have been effects under water, in this area of the eastern province of Limón, which runs along the the country’s Caribbean coast from north to south.“We can test which corals are more resistant to the future conditions and that way we can create stronger ecosystems based on survivors that will tolerate the conditions that lie ahead.” -- Dave Vaughan

“The impact of the rise in sea level and changes in temperatures also affect the coral ecosystems,” Patricia Madrigal, Costa Rica’s vice minister of environment, told IPS.

The waters of the Caribbean sea are particularly fertile for corals, but the warming of the waters and acidification due to climate change threaten to wipe out these ecosystems, which serve as environmental and economic drivers for coastal regions.

The most visible effect is the coral bleaching phenomenon, which is a clear symptom that corals are sick. This happens when corals experience stress and expel a photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues, producing oxygen in a symbiotic relationship. The algae are responsible for the colors of coral reefs, so when they are expelled, the reefs turn white, and the coral is destined to die.
According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2015, there is clear evidence that 80 per cent of coral reefs in the Caribbean have bleached, and 40 per cent died during a critical period in 2005.

This is a recurring phenomenon all over the world. The report projected that 75 per cent of coral reefs in the world would suffer severe bleaching by the middle of this century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

The coral reefs in the Caribbean make up about seven per cent of the world’s total, but play a key role in the economies of many coastal communities in the region.

The conservation of coral reefs goes beyond defending biodiversity. Coral reefs provide a living to nearly one billion people, offer protection by buffering coastal communities against storms and heavy swells, and bring in billions of dollars a year from tourism and fishing.

Because of this, experts from Costa Rica and the rest of the Caribbean region are calling for a halt to activities that cause global warming, such as the use of fossil fuels, and for research into how to restore coral reefs.

However, Caribbean countries should also think about reducing pollution, said biologist Lenin Corrales, head of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre´s (CATIE) Environmental Modeling Laboratory.

A reef in an underwater mountain area in Coiba National Park, Panama. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

A reef in an underwater mountain area in Coiba National Park, Panama. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

“How do you maintain the resilience of coral reefs? By not dumping sediments or agrochemicals on them. A sick coral reef is more easily going to suffer other problems,” Corrales told IPS at CATIE´s headquarters.

This argument is well-known in badly managed coastal areas: marine ecosystems suffer because of human activities on land and poor health makes them more vulnerable to other ailments.

In fact, an academic study published in 2012 showed that coral degradation along Panama’s Caribbean coast began before global warming gained momentum in the last few decades. Researchers blame deforestation and overfishing.

In terms of preparing for climate change, this means a step back: it is not possible to protect against future global warming ecosystems that the countries of the region have been undermining for decades.

The sediments as a result of deforestation or poor agricultural practices prevent the growth of corals, while overfishing affects certain species key to controlling algae that infest the reefs.

“Many of the fish that are eaten in the Caribbean are herbivorous and are the ones that control the populations of macroalgae that damage the coral,” said Corrales.

“With the herbivorous fish gone, in addition to the higher temperatures, the algae have a heyday,” said the expert.

A report published in 2014 by several organisations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), notes that the absence of crucial herbivorous fish such as the parrotfish jeopardises the region’s coral reefs.

How long will these undersea riches last? No one knows for sure. All scenarios project severe impacts in the following decades, after many reefs suffered critical damage from the 2015 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather phenomenon.

That is why experts such as Corrales warn that far from expecting an increase of one to two degrees Celsius as some scenarios project, fast changes in temperature should be considered, such as those associated with El Niño.

“People think that biodiversity is not going to die until the climate changes; but really biodiversity, and in this case coral reefs, are already suffering from thermal stress,” said the biologist.

When a coral reef spends 12 weeks with temperatures one degree higher than usual, it can suffer irreversible processes, he pointed out.
As the average sea level rises, it is more likely for the threshold to be reached, but even before that point it is also dangerous for coral. Stopping global warming does not guarantee a future for coral reefs, but it does give them better opportunities.

A possible way forward is being developed by the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Summerland Key, in the U.S. state of Florida, where researchers are growing corals in controlled environments to later reintroduce them in the ocean, as is done with seedlings from a greenhouse in reforestation efforts.

“We can actually test to see which would have a given resistance to future conditions and in that way build a stronger ecosystem of survivors for what the next years might bring,” Dave Vaughan, the head of the lab, told IPS in an interview by phone.

The team headed by Vaughan reintroduced 20,000 small corals to degraded areas of the reefs, in a process that will accelerate the recovery of these ecosystems.

In 2015, the lab received an investment of 5.1 million dollars to make Vaughan´s ambition possible: reintroducing one million coral fragments in the next five to ten years.

However, Vaughan himself admits that this is a mitigation measure to buy time. The real task to fight against climate change is reducing the emissions that cause the greenhouse effect.

“Coral restoration can give us a 10, 50 or 100 years head start, but eventually if the oceans continue to raise in temperature, there’s not too much hope,” he said.

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G77 Calls for Access & Benefit-Sharing of Marine Genetic Resourceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/g77-calls-for-access-benefit-sharing-of-marine-genetic-resources-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g77-calls-for-access-benefit-sharing-of-marine-genetic-resources-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/g77-calls-for-access-benefit-sharing-of-marine-genetic-resources-2/#comments Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:00:08 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149951 The Group of 77 has strongly underlined the significance of marine genetic resources (MGRs) to the economies of developing nations. Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Luis Ona Garces of the Ecuadorean Mission to the UN told a meeting of the Preparatory Committee that the Group reaffirms the importance of […]

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By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2017 (IPS)

The Group of 77 has strongly underlined the significance of marine genetic resources (MGRs) to the economies of developing nations.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Luis Ona Garces of the Ecuadorean Mission to the UN told a meeting of the Preparatory Committee that the Group reaffirms the importance of access and benefit sharing of marine genetic resources and reiterates that the principle of common heritage of mankind must underpin the new regime governing MGRs of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

“Given its crosscutting nature, the principle should be at the core of the new instrument,” he added

The common heritage of mankind provides the legal foundation for a fair and equitable regime of conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Over the course of the past sessions, he said, the Group has continued to emphasize that marine biodiversity represents a potential, in terms of economic prosperity, and a challenge, in terms of conservation and global food security, for humanity as a whole.

“However, the ability and capacity of countries to benefit from the potential, and to address such challenges, is not equal, creating a situation in which some access, exploit and benefit from these resources without the concomitant obligation to share the benefits. It is important to work in a provision that define access and benefit sharing obligations and overall compliance,” he added.

“We are of the view that the benefits should be both monetary and nonmonetary. The non-monetary benefits should comprise of access to all forms of resources, data and related knowledge, transfer of technology and capacity building as well as facilitation of marine scientific research on MGRs of areas beyond national jurisdiction”.

The Group, he pointed out, “was also open to discuss the different modalities of monetary benefits on the basis– but would not be limited– to those mentioned in our written submission, which would make their sharing of benefit most effective and responsive to the protection and preservation of marine environment, and the needs and interests regarding marine scientific research as well as the development opportunities of the developing countries, including future generations.”

In this sense, a clearinghouse mechanism could be established and a protocol or code of conduct or guidelines could be developed within the said mechanism in order to ensure environmental protection compliance and ensure transparency in the use of marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction, he declared.

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Fishing Village Fights Iron Mine in Northern Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fishing-village-fights-iron-mine-in-northern-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fishing-village-fights-iron-mine-in-northern-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fishing-village-fights-iron-mine-in-northern-chile/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:09:39 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149913 In Punta de Choros, a hidden cove on Chile’s Pacific coast, some 900 fishers do not yet dare celebrate the decision by regional authorities to deny the Dominga port mining project a permit due to environmental reasons. The fishers, from the northern region of Coquimbo, are afraid that the government will unblock the project, in […]

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Punta de Choros, a picturesque cove in northern Chile, has become a major tourist draw, and the number of restaurants, lodgings and whale-watching boat tours has climbed. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Punta de Choros, a picturesque cove in northern Chile, has become a major tourist draw, and the number of restaurants, lodgings and whale-watching boat tours has climbed. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
LA HIGUERA, Chile, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

In Punta de Choros, a hidden cove on Chile’s Pacific coast, some 900 fishers do not yet dare celebrate the decision by regional authorities to deny the Dominga port mining project a permit due to environmental reasons.

The fishers, from the northern region of Coquimbo, are afraid that the government will unblock the project, in which the Chilean company Andes Iron planned to invest 2.5 billion dollars for the extraction of iron ore, promising 9,800 jobs in the building phase and 1,400 in the production phase.

The project would affect several nature reserves, and the local fishers also question the effects from the traffic of cargo ships and from a desalination plant.“More than a political problem, what we have here is a problem with the environmental assessment. There were a series of irregularities and that means that the impacts on one of the world’s 36 top biodiversity hotspots cannot be assessed.” -- Liesbeth Van der Meer

And as they said in interviews with IPS, they also doubt that the cabinet of ministers will uphold the decision by the regional environmental authorities, who rejected the plan for the Dominga mine, controlled by the Délano family.

Andes Iron will file an appeal this month to the cabinet – which will reach the final decision – asserting the positive aspects of the project, which is to extract 12 million tons a year of iron concentrate and other 150,000 tons of copper concentrate.

The 10,000-hectare project would involve an open-pit mine with a useful life of 26.5 years, a plant and a tailing disposal facility. It would also require a port to export the minerals to China, Japan and other markets.

“It is an area rich in benthic resources (bottom dwellers) and in algae and microorganisms. We want the mining project to be redesigned. Development is needed, especially in a poor area like this, but it has to be well done,” geographer and park ranger Paulina Correa, head of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, told IPS.

“We have low-impact tourism here. Many people make a living from this and protect it. We want development that protects the environment,” said Correa, lamenting that the mining project has divided the community between those who make a living from fishing and tourism, and those who live in the foothills of the Andes mountains.

Punta Choros has an official permanent population of 238, but that figure is multiplied by ten during tourist season, with the influx of workers employed by a dozen restaurants and lodgings that cater to the tourists drawn by the spectacular beaches, whale watching and traditional seafood cuisine.

The project was initially approved by the Coquimbo regional environmental authority, which stated that the mine complied with “the applicable environmental regulations,” and that the company “had corrected any errors, omissions and inaccuracies.”

Oscar Rebolledo, deputy director of the Coquimbo environmental authority, said “the measures proposed (by the company) take responsibility for the effects and circumstances” that may result from the mining project.

Signs against the Dominga iron mine are seen all over Punta de Choros, where fishers point to the growing catches, nature reserves crucial to the planet’s biodiversity, and the presence of large marine mammals, to argue against the extractive project in this village in northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Signs against the Dominga iron mine are seen all over Punta de Choros, where fishers point to the growing catches, nature reserves crucial to the planet’s biodiversity, and the presence of large marine mammals, to argue against the extractive project in this village in northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

But Coquimbo Governor Claudio Ibáñez disagreed, and on Mar. 9 cast the vote that broke the tie between six regional secretariats, rejecting the project.

“What the company proposes in terms of environmental reparations or redress is inadequate to properly ensure the right to live in an environment free of pollution, the protection of the environment, the conservation of nature and the preservation of the environmental heritage,” said Ibañez, explaining his decisive vote.

He said he was aware that Dominga represents “an important possibility for economic and social development,” but added that he is just as aware that “we are putting at risk one of the world’s most important nature reserves and the habitat of dozens of species.”

Local fisherman and diver Josué Ramos, a member of the Los Choros fishing association, began making a living harvesting surf clams (Mesodesma donacium) in 1996. He told IPS that in 2000 the clam became locally extinct, and two years later a restocking programme started to be implemented.

World biodiversity hotspot
The area where the open-pit mining project is to be developed includes the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, created in the year 1990 to protect this species (Spheniscus humboldti), which is listed as vulnerable. The reserve is home to 80 per cent of the species’ entire population.

The area is also home to other endangered species: the Peruvian diving petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii), a seabird that can dive 80 metres deep, and mammals such as the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) and the rare marine otter (Lontra felina). The reserve includes three islands where several species of threatened endemic flora grow, which are under protection due to the fragility of the ecosystem.

Also in the area is the Choros-Damas Island Marine Reserve, with 49 species of flowers, including the yellow añañuca (Rhodophiala bagnoldii). Near the Chañaral island, whale watchers in the summertime see bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus).

“Just 10,000 clams, of the 100,000 that were projected, were restocked. But 14 years later, the effort had produced results. Today there is an 18-km beach with a 10-km productive area, and the clams are expanding,” he said.

“The year 2015 was the first year they started harvesting while simultaneously studying and monitoring the biomass. We extracted 670 tons and from a management area controlled by local people 95 tons were harvested. In 2016, the number increased to 832 tons in the main area and my trade association extracted 156 tons,” said Ramos.

“With the awareness that has been generated, we have obtained better results in the management areas, the seabeds to which the state gave us exclusive access to use and protect. Along 30 km of coastline, there are six management areas, which represent 70 per cent of the production of benthic resources in the region,” he said.

Ramos is opposed to Dominga because “they overexploit, export and then the prices rule. To obtain a ton of iron ore, which currently fetches 52 dollars, they leave 100 tons of tailings with chemical compounds. We harvest a ton of clams for 1.5 million dollars, and we only lift the sand, we don’t change it in any way.”

The local fisherman has “no expectation” that the cabinet will uphold the local environmental authority’s rejection of Dominga and believes that “the cursed progress” is going to prevail.

“Two ministers that vote have already resigned,” he added, in reference to the recent resignations of the ministers of transport, Andrés Gomez Lobos, and the environment, Pablo Badenier.

On Mar. 30, representatives of Andes Iron met with a dozen shepherds in the Casa Dominga, in the municipality of La Higuera. Although the meeting was closed, IPS saw the minutes.

“We are going to fight with everything we have. There is injustice here and we are not going to give in,” a representative of the company told the shepherds, who are in favour of the mine, and who took turns reporting on their interviews with local radio stations to discuss the positive aspects of the project.

At the end of the meeting, Omar Alfaro, with the La Higuera association of shepherds, told IPS that thanks to a framework agreement, “the Dominga project would improve the productive sectors, and when the mine closed down, we would be left with greater development in activities like agriculture, shepherding and fishing.”

Alfaro took part in a community meeting where the framework agreement was signed, which commits the company to pay “a minimum of 1.3 billion and a maximum of 2.6 billion pesos (between two and four million dollars) a year for projects, once the mine starts producing,” he said.

The agreement includes “the genetic improvement of livestock and the possibility of reforesting and recovering the native forest, deteriorated by prolonged droughts,” he said.

About the water the mine will use, Alfaro said that “a hydrogeologist explained the situation to us” stating that Dominga “is going to re-inject water into the same river basin.”

“We are hopeful that our institutions will be respected. I believe the project is important for the country, and the cabinet has a huge opportunity to revert and organise the technical instruments that have been used by the environmental institutions,” Iván Garrido, general manager of the Dominga project, told the online newspaper Pulso.

He urged the cabinet “to assess the report” by the Coquimbo environmental authority, which was favourable to the company.

Liesbeth Van der Meer, executive director of the non-governmental organisation Océana Chile, believes that the project will be rejected in the end.

“More than a political problem, what we have here is a problem with the environmental assessment. There were a series of irregularities and that means that the impacts on one of the world’s 36 top biodiversity hotspots cannot be assessed,” she told IPS.

If Dominga is approved, it will amount to “a crime against our natural heritage,” she said.

Van der Meer said he hoped “that not all development in Chile will be extractivist,” and called for respect for fishers and tourist operators in Punta de Choros, where the number of visitors soared from 900 in 1998 to 50,000 in 2016.

Mining is crucial to the Chilean economy and attracts more than one-third of all foreign investment, in a country that is the leading world producer of copper and other minerals, such as rhenium, lithium and iodine, as well as an important producer of several other minerals.

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Microbes, New Weapon Against Agricultural Pests in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 11:24:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149879 Microscopic soil organisms could be an environmentally friendly way to control crop pests and diseases and even protect agriculture against the impacts of climate change, a leading researcher says. Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases like the invasive South America fall armyworm (FAW), tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have […]

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A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

Microscopic soil organisms could be an environmentally friendly way to control crop pests and diseases and even protect agriculture against the impacts of climate change, a leading researcher says.

Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases like the invasive South America fall armyworm (FAW), tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have cost the agriculture sector millions of dollars in crop damage.“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests." --Dr. Christian Thierfelder

“Research from our labs at Auburn University has shown a great potential in microbes for helping fight pests- and we have done some research on fall army worm that are pests in turf grass,” said Dr. Esther Ngumbi, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the Auburn University in Alabama, United States.

Ngumbi’s research has looked at how beneficial soil microbes help recruit natural enemies.

Microbes are tiny organisms like bacteria and fungi that interact with the soil and plants. Though not widely appreciated in much of Africa, Ngumbi said microbial formulations have been found to improve plant growth and protect crops from insects, drought and other climate-related extremes.

Researchers also say microbes can help preserve the environment threatened by growing reliance on chemical solutions in fighting crop and livestock trans-boundary pests and diseases. Pesticides pose a threat to food safety, human and ecological health, necessitating the promotion of non-chemical alternatives to handling pests.

Researchers at Auburn University have worked on beneficial soil bacteria/microbes, specifically plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). The soil dwelling bacteria that colonize plant roots have beneficial effects of increasing plant growth and enhancing the ability of plants to fight off herbivorous insect pests such as the beet armyworm-Spodoptera exigua and the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda to which they have a direct toxic effect.

First reported in Sao Tome and Principe in January 2016, the crop-eating pest has affected thousands of hectares of crops in Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to date. The pest which is difficult to control with one type of pesticide can cause extensive crop damage of up to 73 percent in the field. It also attacks non-cereal crops including potato, groundnut, spinach, tomato, cabbage, soybeans, cotton and tobacco.

In Brazil the fall armyworms have a cost of 600 million dollars a year to control.

Dr. Christian Thierfelder, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Southern Africa Regional Office, says poor identification of the pest delayed response to the outbreak in November 2016 because the pest has never been encountered before in Southern Africa.

“Everyone was classifying it [FAW] as a stalk borer or the American bollworm but they were all wrong. This new pest has now been identified as the fall armyworm and people started extensively using pesticides – some of them not yet registered,” Thierfelder told IPS.

“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests. This affects the environment and also birds who feed on caterpillars making it important to focus more on alternative ways through biological solutions such as Integrated Pest Management, crop diversification and intercropping.”

The use of IPM has been recommended to deal with insect pests. Integrated pest management is an approach that seeks to minimize and rationalize the use of chemicals.

The approach promotes the use of safer alternatives to pesticides like biocontrol and cultural practices. These include resistant cultivars to control insect pests and diseases, crop rotation and diversification at the plot and landscape, monitoring of insect pests using pheromone traps and seed treatment with beneficial soil rhizobacteria to reduce soil and foliar diseases.

Thierfelder said during extensive field tours in southern Africa, he observed less damage in early planted maize fields under conservation agriculture, intercropped with pigeonpeas or cowpeas and with some trees nearby.

“Here the attack of the fall armyworm was minimal,” said Thierfelder. “This shows that nature can help us in biological pest control as predators can hide in those diversified landscapes and control the pest.”

FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for southern Africa, David Phiri, says the fall army worm has threatened food security in the region because it is new and exposed the need to investment in surveillance systems.

“We do not have ready-made control mechanisms for the fall armyworm and we worry that pesticides used indiscriminately might actually contribute to environmental damage and also contribute to pesticide resistance,” Phiri said.

He added that, “We need to take the issue of monitoring and surveillance very seriously. Historically FAO has been trying to inform and convince governments that they should try to monitor as a matter of course not just monitor when there is a threat because they might be pests and disease coming into the region.”

According to the 2017 FAO report “The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges,” public investment is required to catalyze and support private investment. Investment in R&D has to be associated with the development of infrastructure and services to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases; including trans-boundary ones and mechanisms that help reduce risks.

Rob Vos, Director of FAO’s Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division and one of the authors of the report, told IPS that the threats posed by biological invasions and outbreaks of existing trans-boundary pests highlight the importance of investing in agricultural research to rapidly respond to threats.

“The nature of trans boundary pests requires management on an international scale with countries coordinating their efforts. FAW is a highly mobile pest. The threat it poses to maize production and food security in Africa is not confined to individual countries but affects the entire region,” Vos said.

“Successful management of recurrent and new threats such as FAW is likely to be best achieved through collaboration among governments and international and national organizations.”

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How a Devastating Hurricane Led to St. Vincent’s First Sustainability Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school/#comments Thu, 30 Mar 2017 00:02:08 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149709 In the 1980s, an institution for troubled Danish youth and a vocational school for Vincentians was built in Richmond Vale, an agricultural district on the northwestern tip of St. Vincent. It was hoped that spending time at Richmond Vale Academy would help the Danish youth to see the world from a different perspective. However, for […]

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Director of Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent Stina Herberg explains how compost is produced using vegetation, cardboard, and animal droppings. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Director of Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent Stina Herberg explains how compost is produced using vegetation, cardboard, and animal droppings. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 30 2017 (IPS)

In the 1980s, an institution for troubled Danish youth and a vocational school for Vincentians was built in Richmond Vale, an agricultural district on the northwestern tip of St. Vincent.

It was hoped that spending time at Richmond Vale Academy would help the Danish youth to see the world from a different perspective. However, for a number of reasons, the concept didn’t pan out, the school closed and a farm was developed in its place.“It was both emotional and scary to hear these huge trees drop...That was a very big eye-opener for me.” --Stina Herberg, director of Richmond Vale Academy

In 2000, the first attempts were made to re-start the academy, which has been in full operation since 2007. Today, Richmond Vale Academy attracts young people from around the world who are troubled by poverty and what is going on with the Earth’s climate and want to do something about it.

The not-for-profit institution had previously focused mainly on poverty alleviation, with an emphasis on service in Africa. However, in 2010, Hurricane Tomas — the latest recorded tropical cyclone on a calendar year to strike the Windward Islands — passed to the north of St. Vincent, where the academy is located, and St. Lucia.

“That was a very big eye-opener for me,” Stina Herberg, director of Richmond Vale Academy, told IPS. “We were, of course, very worried but that was my very first meeting with climate change, I would say.”

The storm, which impacted St. Vincent on Oct. 30, left hundreds of homes without roofs, and, in addition to significant damage to homes and public infrastructure, destroyed about 90 per cent of banana cultivation, then an important crop for the local economy.

At Richmond Vale Academy, Herberg, her staff and their students listened as the tropical cyclone destroyed huge, decades-old trees. “It was both emotional and scary to hear these huge trees drop: you would hear it, like you put matches up and they just came down.”

The academy’s banana cultivation, which had taken three years to get to the point where it met the standards necessary for exportation to England, was also ruined.

“Three years of work was destroyed in seven hours,” Herberg said of the impact on the academy, adding, “but for other farmers, it was their lifetime’s work.

“So that caused us to ask a lot of questions. Yes, there were always hurricanes, but why are they more frequent? So it set us off to do a lot more research about climate change, about pollution, and we got a lot of eye-opening experiences.”

The research led to the St. Vincent Climate Compliance Conference 2012-2021, which aims to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines one of the first nations to become “climate compliant”.

The programme brings together local students as well as students from Europe, North America, South America, other parts of the Caribbean and Asia for programmes of one, three or six months duration, in which they learn about global warming, its causes and consequences.

The programme offers firsthand knowledge, as students can go directly into the nearby communities such as the village of Fitz Hughes or the town of Chateaubelair to see the impact on housing, public infrastructure, and the physical environment of severe weather events resulting from climate change.

However, the major focus of the programme is on “climate compliance”, which might be more frequently referred to as adaptation measures.

“Because if you going to talk about getting ready for climate change, if you are not doing it yourself, if you are going to tell people ‘I think it is a good idea to go organic. It is good for the soil, to plant trees’ — if you are not doing it for yourself, when you are speaking to other people it will be less effective,” Herberg said.

The academy has developed models and used its own farm to demonstrate ways in which the population can move away from carbon-based fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

For example, the academy set up a bio-gas facility that shows that mixing 1.5 kilogrammes of kitchen waste with 50 litres of water can produce fuel for five hours a day in a country where liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is the main fuel used for cooking.

“It is suitable as a model that can be used by families in villages,” Herberg said of the academy’s biogas facility.

“We cannot make hydropower plants, we cannot build geothermal power plants. Governments have a variety of plans for that, so we have to see what can we do. We are promoting solar, and also the biogas,” she said, adding that Richmond Vale Academy has secured funding to set up five biogas facilities in western St. Vincent.

“So, it mitigates because it is a renewable gas and you can produce it yourself. You don’t need transport from China or Venezuela or from the United States or wherever.”

The biogas production process results in slurry that can be used as fertilizer. “The important thing is that people know there are alternatives. I don’t think we can get everybody on biogas. I doubt that. But what is important is that we open up and say these are the options,” Herberg explains.

While potable water is almost always available on St. Vincent Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a water-stressed country as there are no rivers and no municipal supply of water in the Grenadines, an archipelago.

However, even on St. Vincent Island, with its rivers, streams, and springs, the dry season, which runs from December to May, can be especially punishing for farmers, only 7 per cent of whom have irrigation.

Richmond Vale Academy has developed a system for collecting rainwater for washing, showers, and toilets. The excess water from this system collects in a reservoir and is used for irrigation. Small fish are placed in the catchment to prevent mosquitos from breeding in it.

Further, the academy has, over the years, phased out chemical fertilizers from its farm. In explaining the link between organic farming and mitigating against climate change, Herberg tells IPS that as the climate changes, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is expected to have more periods without rain, and when the rains come, they are expected to be heavier over shorter periods.

Most of the nation’s farmers are still engaged in mono-cropping and use chemical fertilizer in their production. “The chemicals break down the soil structure, so it gets sandy, it gets dry, so then when you get some rain and the rain is heavier, it just washes away the soil,” Herberg said, adding that this leads to flooding and landslides.

“So, the way that we are farming, it is very dangerous for the future. If you look at the big picture of biodiversity, the planet’s biodiversity is what’s keeping the temperature [stable]. If you take away the biodiversity by making cities, chopping down the rainforest, whatever we decide to do to change the balance of nature, we cannot maintain a stable temperature,” she said.

She also spoke about deforestation to convert lands to agricultural and houses use. “We need to have trees that will give us shade, we need to have trees to shelter us from the heavy rains, so the farming has to change for us to get ready to live with climate change. We have to change the way we farm. Monocropping has no future.”

An important part of any discussion about adapting to climate change is the extent to which actions that have proven successful can be multiplied and scaled up.

“I’m quite optimistic and I think that St. Vincent, as it is a small country, it is easy to get around. There is consensus that we need to be more sustainable and go organic and focus on renewable energy. And I actually think that it is going to happen: that we are going to get geothermal energy, improve our hydro stations and then more people will get on to solar. So we will be one of the first countries in the Caribbean that will be nearly everything on renewable energy within a very reasonable time – maybe 10 years,” Herberg predicted.

She added that while Costa Rica is ahead of the region, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a good example in the 15-member Caribbean Community of what can be done to adapt to and mitigate against climate change. “We are not ahead in organic agriculture yet,” she said, but added that there are “some outstanding examples”.

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The Indigenous ‘People of Wildlife’ Know How to Protect Naturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature/#respond Fri, 10 Mar 2017 07:33:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149356 In the northern part of Mount Kenya, there is an indigenous community — the Il Lakipiak Maasai (“People of Wildlife”) — which owns and operates the only community-owned rhino sanctuary in the country. They have managed to alleviate the human-wildlife conflicts that arise in the area due to the intrusion of wild animals searching for […]

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The cultures of indigenous peoples traditionally involve the sound management of wildlife. A Maasai pastoralist holding a pregnant ewe in Narok, Kenya. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 10 2017 (IPS)

In the northern part of Mount Kenya, there is an indigenous community — the Il Lakipiak Maasai (“People of Wildlife”) — which owns and operates the only community-owned rhino sanctuary in the country.

They have managed to alleviate the human-wildlife conflicts that arise in the area due to the intrusion of wild animals searching for water, prey and pasture during drought.

And they achieved this by reducing bush-cutting to ensure more fodder for wildlife on their lands. Through this conservation strategy, indigenous peoples have demonstrated that they can coexist harmoniously with wildlife while supporting their own pastoral lives and cultures.

No wonder, for thousands and thousands of years, the Earth’s original peoples have faced hard challenges, yet they managed to survive and conserve their natural environment.

They still do so in spite of modern humans who have been systematically abusing their rights, stripping their lands, confining them to reserves, and disdain their ancestral cultures and knowledge.

Now, following recent trends, the international scientific and development community has been further recognising the invaluable role of the indigenous peoples when it comes to facing one of the most dangerous challenges of modern times: the extinction of biological diversity.

Active involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity. An indigenous tarsier holding onto a tree branch in Bilar, Philippines. Credit: FAO

Active involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity. An indigenous tarsier holding onto a tree branch in Bilar, Philippines. Credit: FAO

For instance, the United Nations says that actively involving indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity and ensuring sustainable rural livelihoods.

The urgent challenges that the world faces in maintaining biodiversity worldwide require that indigenous peoples are empowered to act at the national level with assistance from the international community, on March 3 said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the occasion of World Wildlife Day.

“The cultures of indigenous peoples and local communities involve the stewardship of wildlife. They simply cannot imagine their life divorced from nature and their interest in the sustainable use of resources is strong,” said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

Empowerment of these groups combined with their knowledge and long-term planning skills is essential to ensure the survival of future generations – of both humans and wildlife, Müller added.

The relationship between humans and wildlife is highlighted in a new edition of FAO’s quarterly forestry publication Unasylva, which is jointly produced by the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, comprising 14 international organisations.

It cites several case studies from various countries to illustrate how indigenous peoples can optimize the benefits for their livelihoods while also safeguarding wildlife, provided they are given the rights to make their own decisions in the territories they inhabit.

Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Human-wildlife conflicts have become more frequent and severe particularly in Africa, due to increasing competition for land in previously wild and uninhabited areas, Unasylva noted.

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

“This is often the result of human population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, and growing pressure for access to land, such as expansion of transport routes, agriculture and industries. More specifically, the publication stresses that in central and southern Africa, wildlife and people will continue to share landscapes and resources with conflicts likely to worsen unless actions are taken.”

FAO, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and other partners have developed the first Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) toolbox, which has helped a local community in Gabon’s Cristal Mount National Park.

It explains that local farmers in this area were particularly frustrated by the fact that animals such as cane rats, roan antelopes, bush pigs and elephants were destroying their entire crops, and thus threatening their livelihoods. At the same time, laws prohibited these farmers from taking action by hunting the protected animals either for meat or to protect their crops.

Anyway, when it comes to underlining the essential role of indigenous people in protecting Nature, FAO is no exception.

In fact, other major conservations organisations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), notes that “indigenous and traditional peoples have often been unfairly affected by conservation policies and practices, which have failed to fully understand the rights and roles of indigenous peoples in the management, use and conservation of biodiversity.”

In line with numerous international instruments, several IUCN resolutions emphasise indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and natural resources on which they have traditionally subsisted.

These resolutions stress the need to enhance participation of indigenous peoples in all conservation initiatives and policy developments that affect them. Furthermore, they recognise that indigenous peoples possess a unique body of knowledge relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Another leading environmental organisation fully agrees.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) recognises the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ participation as well as the valuable inputs that these holders of traditional knowledge – gained through trans-generational experiences, observations and transmission – can contribute to sustainable ecosystem management and development.

“Their close relationship and dependency on functioning ecosystems have made many Indigenous Peoples extremely vulnerable to changes and damages in the environment. Logging, mining activities, pollution and climate change all pose increasing threats to indigenous livelihoods and their survival.”

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