Inter Press ServiceBiodiversity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:09:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:39:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152613 With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main […]

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"Oceans: our allies against climate change. How marine ecosystems help preserve our world." Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main buffer against climate change.

The 30 countries – all members of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s #CleanSeas campaign – account for about 40 per cent of the world’s coastlines–they are drawing up laws, establishing marine reserves, banning plastic bags and gathering up the waste choking their beaches and reefs.

Five ways the oceans help fight climate change and its effects:


1. Trapping carbon: Mangroves, coral reefs, salt marshes and sea-grasses make up just 1 per cent of the ocean’s seabed, but they contain between 50-70 per cent of the carbon stored in the oceans.
- Like forests, marine ecosystems take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and trap them, some of it for thousands of years. As such, these ecosystems are known as “blue carbon sinks.”

2. Reducing coastal erosion: Overtime, waves carry away sediment from the shore. When this happens more quickly or forcefully, for example because of large storms, it has the potential of causing major damage to homes and coastal infrastructure.
- Sea grasses may look like our grass fields on land, but they are actually flowering plants that live in the salty environments of the sea floor and help hold sediment in place. Salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs also help in slowing erosion and protecting shorelines.

3. Protecting marine life and biodiversity: Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 per cent of the world's ocean surface, yet they provide a home for at least 25 per cent of all marine biodiversity. Often popular tourist attractions, coral reefs are the least secret of the ocean’s secret weapons. They draw people in to observe the wealth of marine life that they host.
- However, coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are increasingly strained by human activity. Careless tourism, water pollution, overfishing, rising temperature and acidity are all damaging these ecosystems, sometimes beyond repair.

4. Forming barriers to storms: Mangroves, salt-tolerant shrubs or small trees that grow in saline water of coastal areas, create barriers to destructive waves and hold sediments in place with their underwater root systems. This protects coastal communities in times of cyclones or other tropical storms.
- In fact, scientists concluded that mangroves could have reduced the damages caused by the 2008 Nargis cyclone in Myanmar, where parts of the coastline had lost up to 50 per cent of its mangrove cover.

5. Slowing down destructive waves: Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Salt marshes are well-known for protecting the coast from soil erosion.
- However, they are also an effective defence against storm surges and devastating waves. Salt marshes can reduce wave sizes by up to 20 per cent.
- As the waves move through and around these marshes, the vegetation quells the force of the water and buffers the effects of these waves on coastal communities, FAO reports, adding that once viewed as wastelands, salt marshes can rival tropical rainforests in terms of biologically productive habitats, as they serve as nurseries and refuges for a wide variety of marine life.

SOURCE: FAO’s Guide to the Ocean

The populous nations of East and South-East Asia account for most of the plastic trash entering the global ocean, UNEP reports, adding that in order to address this menace at its source, Indonesia has pledged to reduce its generation of plastic trash by 70 per cent by 2030, while the Philippines plans new laws targeting single-use plastics.

Human Addiction To Plastic Bags

Humanity’s unhealthy addiction to throwaway plastics bags is a particular target, the UN environment agency warns, while informing that countries including Kenya, France, Jordan, Madagascar and the Maldives have committed to banning plastic bags or restricting consumers to re-usable versions for which they have to pay. See: Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

“Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption – a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.”

According to UNEP, Belgium and Brazil, for instance, are both working on national action plans to curb marine pollution. Costa Rica has embarked on a five-year strategy to improve waste management that includes a push to reduce the use of plastics.

Eight Billion Tonnes of Plastic… A Year

The flow of pollution means detritus such as drink bottles and flip-flops as well as tiny plastic fragments including micro-beads used in cosmetics are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle, the UN specialised body informs.

“Humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and we are adding it to the ocean at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year,” UNEP warns, adding that as well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

It also harms tourist destinations and provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases including dengue and Zika.

The #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution. See also: UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4 to 6 December.

Forming barriers to storms. Credit: FAO


The Main Buffer against Climate Change

Another UN agency reminds that while it is well known that forests, especially rainforests, are key allies in the fight against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions, oceans are the earth’s main buffer against it.

In fact, about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that we emit actually gets absorbed by the oceans, as does over 90 per cent of the extra heat produced by human-induced climate change, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

“However, oceans are also one of the most affected by it.”

According to the Rome-based UN agency, human activities are resulting in acidification and increasing water temperatures that are changing our oceans and the plant and animal life within them.

More Plastic than Fish?

The UN estimates that 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 the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars.

Coral reefs and coastal environments in tropical regions, including mangroves and salt marshes, are in particular danger, warns the UN food and agriculture agency.

“These ecosystems store much of the carbon, which then remains in the oceans for hundreds of years, and are thus one of our “allies” against climate change.”

However, since the 1940s, over 30 per cent of mangroves, close to 25 per cent of salt marshes and over 30 per cent of sea-grass meadows have been lost.

“Right when we need them the most, we are losing these crucial ecosystems.”


UN #CleanSeas campaign aims to combat marine plastic litter

Did You Know That…

FAO tells some key facts about the oceans:

— The ocean has it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the colourless to the iridescent, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet.

— The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and provides 99 per cent of the living space for life. It is a fascinating, but often little explored place.

— The ocean affects us in many different ways. It provides us with an important source of food and other natural resources. It influences our climate and weather, provides us with space for recreation and gives us inspiration for stories, artwork and music.

— The list of benefits we get from the ocean is almost endless! But we are also affecting the ocean.

— Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

— Our waste is found in massive floating garbage patches and plastics have been found from the arctic to the bottom of the deepest places in the ocean.

— Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

— Coastal development is destroying and degrading important marine habitats. Even recreation is known to impact marine habitats and species.

— We need a clean and healthy ocean to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near it.

Now you know! It would good to also remember that humankind managed to survive over millions and millions of years… without plastic!

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The Shifting Dynamics of Rhino Horn Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:22:39 +0000 Julian Rademeyer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152176 Julian Rademeyer is Project Leader TRAFFIC, the wild life trade monitoring network

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White Rhino at sanctuary in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Credit: Jennifer McKellar/IPS

By Julian Rademeyer
PRETORIA, South Africa , Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

Recent raids in South Africa have uncovered disturbing evidence of the changing dynamics of rhino horn trafficking from Africa to Asia.

On 12 June 2017, police raided a house in the Johannesburg suburb of Cyrildene and discovered a home workshop where rhino horn was being processed into beads, bracelets, bangles and other commodities. A quantity of drugs, ammunition and bones – believe to be lion bones – were also found. Two Chinese citizens and a Thai woman were arrested at the scene.

“Pendants, Powder and Pathways*—A rapid assessment of smuggling routes and techniques used in the illicit trade in African rhino horn”, a new report by TRAFFIC, released September 18, documents a number of recent cases in which police have discovered rhino horn processed into jewellery. Bags of rhino horn powder have also been found.

The cases are particularly worrying: they signify an apparent shift in the modus operandi of the organized criminals trafficking horn. Prior to these cases, seizures have typically comprised whole horns, or ones simply cut into two or more pieces. Cutting tusks into smaller items may make sense if you are attempting to try and conceal them in order to smuggle them to the other side of the planet, but the implications are potentially far more serious.

In China, TRAFFIC’s routine monitoring of e-commerce sites has found a number of instances of rhino horns beads, bangles and other items for sale, and while the rhino horn powder—the by-product of rhino horn processing—may well be sold for medicinal usage, it appears rhino horn trafficking is morphing into a luxury product trade.

Similarly, investigations by the Wildlife Justice Commission in the village of Nhi Khe, a traditional craft village 20km south of Hanoi, Viet Nam, found “clear and irrefutable evidence of an industrial-scale crime hub” where rhino horn bracelets, beads and bangles were manufactured, primarily for Chinese buyers.

Over the past decade, more than 7,100 rhinos have been killed for their horns in. South Africa, home to 79% of Africa’s last remaining rhinos, is the centre of the storm, suffering 91% of the continent’s known poaching losses in 2016.

Facilitated by resilient, highly-adaptive criminal networks and endemic corruption in many countries along the illicit supply chain, demand for rhino horn is driven by consumers in Asia, with Viet Nam and China identified as the dominant end use markets and the implications of a newly emerging and potentially vast market for luxury products, and the poaching-fuelling demand are indeed serious.

Enforcement authorities in South Africa are already struggling to cope with the traffickers who exploit weaknesses in border controls and law enforcement capacity constraints to provide a steady supply of rhino horn to Asian black markets. Their routes span multiple airports, borders and legal jurisdictions, taking advantage of fragmented law enforcement responses that are hamstrung by bureaucracy, insufficient international co-operation and corruption.

It is estimated that between 2010 and June 2017, at least 2,149 rhino horns, weighing more than five tonnes, were seized by law enforcement agencies globally. This is a fraction of the estimated 37.04 tonnes of rhino horn obtained from the 6,661 rhinos officially reported to have been killed by poachers in Africa between 2010 and 2016 and doubtless entering illegal trade.

While efforts to detect and deter criminals have been hampered by a lack of international co-operation, the new aspects of horn trafficking pose yet further complexity: along the trade routes between Africa and Asia, enforcement officers are focused solely on detecting horns or pieces of horns and nobody is really on the lookout for rhino horn products.

Smuggling methods are infinitely versatile, limited only by imagination and opportunity. As new smuggling methods are identified by law enforcement agencies, trafficking networks adapt and refine their tactics, finding new methods of concealment and new weaknesses to exploit.

The smugglers’ efforts are sometimes crude; wrapping horns in aluminium foil, smearing them with toothpaste and shampoo to hide the smell of decay, or coating them in wax. Over time, more sophisticated methods have emerged; horns disguised as curios and toys, hidden in bags of cashew nuts, wine boxes and consignments of wood, or concealed in imitation electronic and machine parts. Circuitous transit routes, luggage drops and exchanges are used to confuse the trail.

The added complication of seeking out small commodities makes the task of detection even harder. To counteract the newly emerging threat, enforcement agencies need more resources, while it is also vital that investigations do not stop at seizures of illicit wildlife products. Rather, seizures should be regarded as a first step in broader, targeted investigations focusing on the networks and key individuals facilitating the trafficking of rhino horn and other wildlife products.

Unless such measures are taken, the already troubled future for Africa’s rhinos looks bleaker than ever.

*Pendants, Powder and Pathways was produced by TRAFFIC under a project aiming to Reduce Trade Threats to Africa’s Wild Species and Ecosystems. The project is funded by Arcadia—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

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Fisheries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific – Immense Opportunities, Critical Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/fisheries-africa-caribbean-pacific-iimmense-opportunities-critical-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fisheries-africa-caribbean-pacific-iimmense-opportunities-critical-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/fisheries-africa-caribbean-pacific-iimmense-opportunities-critical-challenges/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 17:41:43 +0000 Viwanou Gnassounou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152059 Viwanou Gnassounou is ACP Assistant Secretary General for Sustainable Economic Development & Trade

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Fisheries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific – Immense Opportunities, Critical Challenges

Fisher folk in Palau’s waters. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

By Viwanou Gnassounou
BRUXELLES, Sep 13 2017 (IPS)

Fish is big business. The latest figures show that more than 165 million tonnes of fish are either captured or harvested in a year, with each person consuming more than 20kg of fish annually, according to the world average. Roughly US$ 140 billion worth of fish is traded globally per annum, with millions of people relying on jobs in fishing and fish-farming, not to mention the seafood industry which involves processing, transport, retail and restaurants.

The fisheries and aquaculture sector is also crucial to reducing poverty and eliminating hunger. This is particularly true for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, the vast majority of which are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). ACP countries export as much as $US 5.3billion annually, with fisheries products making up half the total value of traded commodities in some countries.

Yet despite its undeniable importance, the sector faces severe challenges.

For a start, nearly a third of the world’s assessed fish stocks are overfished, undercutting nature’s ability to give high yields in the long term. Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and overcapacity of fishing fleets are two of the biggest culprits, with IUU haemorrhaging billions in revenue for ACP states. In West Africa alone, more than €1 billion is lost each year due to IUU fishing while in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, IUU claims at least €470 million annually, with actual lost revenue to Pacific Island countries around €140 million. Such losses hurt countries’ efforts to cut poverty and sustain growth.

ACP’s share of world fisheries trade remains minimal, although its regions are home to some of the world’s most iconic and productive maritime zones. Trade barriers hinder competitiveness, as local producers struggle to attain the high product standards demanded by international markets.
At the same time, ACP’s share of world fisheries trade remains minimal, although its regions are home to some of the world’s most iconic and productive maritime zones. Trade barriers hinder competitiveness, as local producers struggle to attain the high product standards demanded by international markets. Poor infrastructure holds back economic gains, whether it involves lack of access to aquaculture production zones, or lack of facilities to store or process fish in order to add value to products. Meanwhile, WTO rules, such as rules of origin, make it hard to take advantage of breaks given to vulnerable countries.

Environmental degradation is also a global challenge due to pollution, overfishing, and climate change. In the Caribbean for example, where more than 70% of the population lives along the coast, nearly two thirds of coral reefs are threatened by human activities, while a third is threatened by coastal development and pollution from inland sources. Climate change effects such as sea surface warming, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and extreme weather events all lead to habitat destruction, diminished fish stocks and damaged ecosystems.

Such grave and crosscutting challenges cannot be tackled by a country on its own.

Given the shared nature of fisheries resources and the similarity of the challenges, it is clear that solutions must come through regional and international cooperation. That is why government ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture in ACP countries are convening a major meeting in the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau from the 18th to 21st of September.

Ministers and senior officials from across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific will put their heads together to generate joint approaches to ensure the sustainable development of some of ACP’s most precious resources. The meeting follows momentous steps already taken an the global level, such as the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – including SDG 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources; the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; and the FAO Port State Measures Agreement.

In Nassau, ministers will take stock of the ACP Strategic Plan for Action for Fisheries and Aquaculture, set out in five priority axes: Effective Management for Sustainable Fisheries; Promoting Optimal Returns from Fisheries Trade; Supporting Food Security in ACP Countries; Developing Aquaculture; and Maintaining the Environment. The focus will be on bolstering high level shared commitments, sharing national or regional best practices and seeking consensus on priority issues that need multilateral action.

Promising opportunities for the sector will be examined, seeking to unlock the potential of the ‘blue economy’. The blue economy promotes economic growth, social inclusion, and better livelihoods, while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans and coastal areas. At the meeting, the ACP Secretariat will launch the “Intra-ACP Blue Growth Initiative for Fisheries and Aquaculture”, aimed at boosting private sector productivity and competitiveness of fisheries and aquaculture value chains in ACP countries and regions.

Fisheries and aquaculture are critical for poverty eradication and sustainable development in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. But a joint approach amongst the various countries – including active South-South cooperation – is needed to tackle shared challenges.

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Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:26:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152040 Pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capital, warns a new United Nations report. Consumption of the earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the […]

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The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capital, warns a new United Nations report.

Consumption of the earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the planet’s land now severely degraded, adds the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) new report, launched on 12 September in Ordos, China during the Convention’s 13th summit (6-16 September 2017).

“Each year, we lose 15 billion trees and 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil,” the UNCCD’s report The Global Land Outlook (GLO) says, adding that a significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss."Land degradation also triggers competition for scarce resources, which can lead to migration and insecurity while exacerbating access and income inequalities."

In basic terms, there is increasing competition between the demand for goods and services that benefit people, like food, water, and energy, and the need to protect other ecosystem services that regulate and support all life on Earth, according to new publication.

At the same time, terrestrial biodiversity underpins all of these services and underwrites the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, such as the rights to a healthy life, nutritious food, clean water, and cultural identity, adds the report. And a significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss.

The report provides some key facts: from 1998 to 2013, approximately 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface showed persistent declining trends in productivity, apparent in 20 per cent of cropland, 16 per cent of forest land, 19 per cent of grassland, and 27 per cent of rangeland.

These trends are “especially alarming” in the face of the increased demand for land-intensive crops and livestock.”

More Land Degradation, More Climate Change

Land degradation contributes to climate change and increases the vulnerability of millions of people, especially the poor, women, and children, says UNCCD, adding that current management practises in the land-use sector are responsible for about 25 per cent of the world’s greenhouses gases, while land degradation is both a cause and a result of poverty.

“Over 1.3 billion people, mostly in the developing countries, are trapped on degrading agricultural land, exposed to climate stress, and therefore excluded from wider infrastructure and economic development.”

Land degradation also triggers competition for scarce resources, which can lead to migration and insecurity while exacerbating access and income inequalities, the report warns.

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

“Soil erosion, desertification, and water scarcity all contribute to societal stress and breakdown. In this regard, land degradation can be considered a ‘threat amplifier’, especially when it slowly reduces people’s ability to use the land for food production and water storage or undermines other vital ecosystem services. “

High Temperature, Water Scarcity

Meanwhile, higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased water scarcity due to climate change will alter the suitability of vast regions for food production and human habitation, according to the report.

“The mass extinction of flora and fauna, including the loss of crop wild relatives and keystone species that hold ecosystems together, further jeopardises resilience and adaptive capacity, particularly for the rural poor who depend most on the land for their basic needs and livelihoods.”

Our food system, UNCCD warns, has put the focus on short-term production and profit rather than long-term environmental sustainability.


Monocultures, Genetically Modified Crops

The modern agricultural system has resulted in huge increases in productivity, holding off the risk of famine in many parts of the world but, at the same time, is based on monocultures, genetically modified crops, and the intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides that undermine long-term sustainability, it adds.

And here are some of the consequences: food production accounts for 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals and 80 per cent of deforestation, while soil, the basis for global food security, is being contaminated, degraded, and eroded in many areas, resulting in long-term declines in productivity.

In parallel, small-scale farmers, the backbone of rural livelihoods and food production for millennia, are under immense strain from land degradation, insecure tenure, and a globalised food system that favours concentrated, large-scale, and highly mechanised agribusiness.

This widening gulf between production and consumption, and ensuing levels of food loss/waste, further accelerates the rate of land use change, land degradation and deforestation, warns the UN Convention.

Credit: UNCCD

Global Challenges

Speaking at the launch of the report, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said, “Land degradation and drought are global challenges and intimately linked to most, if not all aspects of human security and well-being – food security, employment and migration, in particular.”

“As the ready supply of healthy and productive land dries up and the population grows, competition is intensifying, for land within countries and globally. As the competition increases, there are winners and losers.

No Land, No Civilisation

According the Convention, land is an essential building block of civilisation yet its contribution to our quality of life is perceived and valued in starkly different and often incompatible ways.

A minority has grown rich from the unsustainable use and large-scale exploitation of land resources with related conflicts intensifying in many countries, UNCCD states.

“Our ability to manage trade-offs at a landscape scale will ultimately decide the future of land resources – soil, water, and biodiversity – and determine success or failure in delivering poverty reduction, food and water security, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

A Bit of History

Except for some regions in Europe, human use of land before the mid-1700s was insignificant when compared with contemporary changes in the Earth’s ecosystems, UNCCD notes, adding that the notion of a limitless, human-dominated world was embraced and reinforced by scientific advances.

“Populations abruptly gained access to what seemed to be an unlimited stock of natural capital, where land was seen as a free gift of nature.”

The scenario analysis carried out for this Outlook examines a range of possible futures and projects increasing tension between the need to increase food and energy production, and continuing declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services.

From a regional perspective, these scenarios predict that sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa will face the greatest challenges due to a mix of factors, including high population growth, low per capita GDP, limited options for agricultural expansion, increased water stress, and high biodiversity losses.

The Solution

These are the real facts. The big question is if this self-destructive trend can be reversed? The answer is yes, or at least that losses could be minimised.

On this, Monique Barbut said that the GLO report suggests, “It is in all our interests to step back and rethink how we are managing the pressures and the competition.”

“The Outlook presents a vision for transforming the way in which we use and manage land because we are all decision-makers and our choices can make a difference – even small steps matter,” she further added.

For his part, UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner stated, “Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk.”

They include many of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, he said, adding that achieving land degradation neutrality can provide a healthy and productive life for all on Earth, including water and food security.

The Global Land Outlook shows that “each of us can in fact make a difference.”

Can Mother Nature recover? The answer is a clear yes. Perhaps it would suffice that politicians pay more attention to real human real needs than promoting weapons deals — and that the big business helps replenish the world’s natural capital.

Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)

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Europe, New Border of Africa’s ‘Great Desert’ – The Saharahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 03:57:31 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151910 With the highest temperatures on record and unprecedented heat waves hitting Europe this year, Africa’s ‘Great Desert’, the Sahara, is set continue its relentless march on the Southern European countries until it occupies more than 30 per cent of Spain just three decades from now. The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth, covering […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

With the highest temperatures on record and unprecedented heat waves hitting Europe this year, Africa’s ‘Great Desert’, the Sahara, is set continue its relentless march on the Southern European countries until it occupies more than 30 per cent of Spain just three decades from now.

The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth, covering more than 9,000 square kilometres, comparable to the surface of China or the United States. Called originally in Arabic “Al Sahara Al Kubra’ (the Great Desert), it comprises much of North Africa, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan.


Land Degradation Neutrality – UNCCD

It stretches from the Red Sea in the West and the Mediterranean in the North to the Atlantic Ocean in the West, including 10 countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia.

For its part, the European Union’s RECARE project (Preventing and Remediating degradation of soil in Europe through Land Care), estimates that 20 per cent of all Europe’s land surface is already subject to erosion rates above 10,000 hectares per year, while soil sealing (the permanent covering of soil with an impermeable material) leads to the loss of more than 1,000 sq km of productive land each year.

The European Union also reports that between 1990 and 2000, at least 275 hectares of soil were lost per day in the EU, amounting to 1,000 sq km per year. Between 2000 and 2006, the EU average loss increased by 3 per cent, but by 14 per cent in Ireland and Cyprus, and by 15 per cent in Spain.

Africa

Meantime, Africa is prey to a steady process of advancing droughts and desertification, posing one of the most pressing challenges facing the 54 African countries, home to more than 1.2 billion people.

Right now, two-thirds of Africa is already desert or dry-lands. While this land is vital for agriculture and food production, nearly three-fourths of it is estimated to be degraded.

Asia

In a parallel process, desertification manifests itself in many different forms across the vast region of Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations reports. Out of a total land area of 4.3 billion hectares reaching from the Mediterranean coast to the shores of the Pacific, Asia contains some 1.7 billion hectares of arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid land.

Land degradation varies across the region. There are expanding deserts in China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, encroaching sand dunes in Syria, steeply eroded mountain slopes of Nepal, and deforested and in Laos and overgrazed in central Asia counties. In terms of the number of people affected by desertification and drought, Asia is the most severely affected continent.


#UNCCDCOP13: 6-16 September 2017, Ordos, China

In 2015, Asia-Pacific continued to be the world’s most disaster-prone region. Some 160 disasters were reported in the region, accounting for 47 per cent of the world’s 344 disasters.

The region bore the brunt of large-scale catastrophic disasters with over 16,000 fatalities — more than a two-fold increase since 2014. South Asia accounted for a staggering 64 per cent of total global fatalities — the majority was attributed to the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April, which caused 8,790 deaths.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Meanwhile, Latin America and the Caribbean are home to some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems in the world, according to the World Resources Institute’s report The Restoration Diagnostic.

The region holds about half of the world’s tropical forests, and more than 30 per cent of its mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians.

But despite the region’s ecological importance, more than 200 million hectares of land has been completely deforested or degraded in the past century, an area the size of Mexico.

Summit in China

These are just some of the facts that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will put before the eyes of world leaders during the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) in Ordos, China (6 -16 September 2017).

The Convention will also highlight to political leaders, decision makers, experts and civil society organisations participating in COP13 the fact that Africa is severely affected by frequent droughts, which have been particularly severe in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

And that the consequences are there: widespread poverty, hard socio-economic conditions, and many people dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

For many African countries, says UNCCD, fighting land degradation and desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are prerequisites for economic growth and social progress.

But not all news is bad news. In fact, increasing sustainable land management (SLM) and building resilience to drought in Africa can have profound positive impacts that reach from the local to the global level.

The UNCCD has elaborated ways how to achieve this vital objective thought its Regional Implementation Annex for Africa, which outlines an approach for addressing desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) on the African continent.

Work in Progress

Meanwhile, progress is underway. All African countries are Parties to the UNCCD and most of have developed and submitted National Action Programmes (NAPs). Also in order to facilitate cooperation on issues related to land degradation, African countries have created five Sub-Regional Action Programmes (SRAPs) and a Regional Action Programme (RAP).

The RAPs compose six thematic programme networks (TPNs) that concern integrated water management; agro-forestry; soil conservation; rangeland management; ecological monitoring and early warning systems; new and renewable energy sources and technologies, and sustainable agricultural farming systems.

Since the adoption of the UNCCD’s 10-Year Strategy, the sub-regional entities have begun aligning their action programmes to it, particularly the North, Central and Western African programmes. The other two sub-regions have already benefited from training by the UNCCD on how to align their programmes to the Strategy.

Similar actions to mitigate, halt and prevent the widespread process of advancing droughts and desertification are being implemented in all other impacted regions, and further efforts will be required. Not an easy task for decision-makers in this COP 13 in Ordos, China.

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Protecting Africa’s Drylands Key to the Continent’s Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/protecting-africas-drylands-key-continents-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protecting-africas-drylands-key-continents-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/protecting-africas-drylands-key-continents-future/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 12:43:51 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151832 Africa’s population continues to grow, putting intense pressure on available land for agricultural purposes and life-supporting ecosystem services even as the scenario is compounded by the adverse impacts of climate change. But the adoption of land degradation neutrality (LDN) measures is helping ensure food and water security, and contributing to sustainable socioeconomic development and wellbeing, […]

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The impacts of fire and ecosystem fragmentation on a community can be devastating. Credit: Cheikh Mbow/ICRAF/Flickr

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

Africa’s population continues to grow, putting intense pressure on available land for agricultural purposes and life-supporting ecosystem services even as the scenario is compounded by the adverse impacts of climate change.

But the adoption of land degradation neutrality (LDN) measures is helping ensure food and water security, and contributing to sustainable socioeconomic development and wellbeing, especially for Eastern African countries that face immense challenges.With over half of sub-Saharan Africa consisting of arid and semi-arid lands, the livelihoods of over 400 million people who inhabit these areas are at risk.

LDN will also help to achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Vision 2063, launched in 2013 a strategic framework for the socioeconomic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.

According to Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, a report by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and others, land degradation and desertification are among the world’s greatest environmental challenges. It is estimated that desertification affects approximately 33 per cent of the global land surface. Over the past 40 years, erosion has rendered close to one-third of the world’s arable land unproductive.

Africa is the most exposed, with desertification affecting around 45 per cent of the continent’s land area, out of which 55 per cent is at high or very high risk of further degradation. Dry lands are particularly affected by land degradation and with over 50 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa being arid and semi-arid lands, the livelihoods of over 400 million who inhabit these areas are at risk.

In an interview with IPS, Ermias Betemariam, a land health scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) with research interest in land degradation, landscape ecology, restoration ecology, soil carbon dynamics and spatial science, said that increasing population is an important driver of the rising demand for natural resources and the ecosystem services they provide, including food and energy.

“Africa, in particular, faces the critical challenge of its population continuing to grow at a rapid rate while natural resources, arable, grazing, forest lands, and water resources become increasingly scarce and degraded,” he said.

Betemariam noted that food is mostly produced by small-scale farmers who may not have the resources, or be in an enabling economic and policy environment, to close the “yield gap” between current and potential yields.

Hence the increase in food needs of the rising population in Africa has been met by expanding agriculture into new lands which are often marginal, semi-arid zones that are climatically risky for agriculture – changing the local landscape, economy and society.

Such change in land use has been recorded as a major cause of land degradation in Africa.

Betemariam explained that achieving SDG 15.3 (a land degradation neutral world by 2030) is critical for Sub-Saharan African countries. LDN is about maintaining and improving the productivity of land resources by sustainably managing and restoring soil, water and biodiversity assets, while at the same time contributing to poverty reduction, food and water security, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

UNCCD says that so far 110 countries have committed to set LDN targets. The Secretariat and the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD are supporting governments in this process, including the definition of national baselines, targets and associated measures to achieve LDN by 2030 through the LDN Target Setting Programme (TSP).

“LDN is a target that can be implemented at local, national and even regional scales,” Betemariam told IPS. “At the heart of LDN are Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices that help close yield gaps and enhance the resilience of land resources and communities that directly depend on them while avoiding further degradation.”

For example, he cited the farmer-managed natural resources in Niger and livestock enclosure management and soil conservation at the Konso Cultural Landscape in Ethiopia which is registered by UNESCO.

Oliver Wasonga, a dryland ecology and pastoral livelihoods specialist at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, says there is little investment in sustainable land management, especially in the drylands, and yet many communities living in rural Africa increasingly lose their livelihoods due to loss of land productivity resulting from land degradation.

Wasonga told IPS that land degradation costs Africa about 65 billion dollars annually, around five per cent of its gross domestic product. Globally, the cost of land degradation is estimated at about 295 billion dollars annually.

Investment in restoration of degraded land is critical in enhancing household food and income security, he said, especially for the majority of Africa’s rural populace that relies almost entirely on natural resources for their livelihoods.

“This is more so for the millions of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who inhabit the dry lands of Africa that form more than 40 per cent of the continent’s land surface. Any attempt to attain LDN is therefore key to achieving both poverty reduction and development goals,” said Wasonga.

He said there is a need to create a platform to showcase success stories that may motivate land users, decision makers, development agencies, and private investors to act better. And also to reward individuals, communities, and institutions for their outstanding efforts towards a LDN continent as an incentive to engage and invest in sustainable land management (SLM) practices.

Investment in SLM provides opportunities for not only enhancing the current productivity of land, but also offers solutions that go beyond technological approaches by including aspects of social participation and policy dialogue.

Levis Kavagi, Africa Coordinator, Ecosystems and Biodiversity at the United Nations Environment Programme, said SLM ensures that maximisation of benefits from land resources do not cause ecological damage, economic risks and social disparity. The approach combines maintaining and enhancing condition of land which is still in good health, as well as restoration of the already degraded land.

However, the success of any SLM programmes is dependent upon the governance system. A governance system that recognises and integrates customary institutions and practices is shown to yield better results than statutory interventions.

“African governments need to develop policies that promote SLM and specifically those aimed at restoration of degraded lands. There is need for ‘win-win’ approaches with multiple short- and long-term benefits in combating land degradation, as well as restoring or maintaining ecosystem functions and services, thereby contributing to sustainable livelihoods and rural development,” said Kavagi.

Involvement of land users and communities is key to success of any attempt to promote SLM and restoration of degraded lands, he stressed. Such approaches should seek integration of low-cost customary institutions and practices that are familiar to the communities as a way of decentralizing governance.

There is also a need to sensitize and motivate the private sector to invest in SLM. Payment for ecosystem services should be promoted as way of giving incentive to the communities to use land in a sustainable manner, he concluded.

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Building Climate Resilience in Coastal Communities of the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/building-climate-resilience-coastal-communities-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-climate-resilience-coastal-communities-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/building-climate-resilience-coastal-communities-caribbean/#comments Thu, 24 Aug 2017 00:01:12 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151733 Ceylon Clayton is trying to revive a sea moss growing project he and friends started a few years ago to supplement their dwindling earnings as fishermen. This time, he has sought the support of outsiders and fishermen from neighbouring communities to expand the operations and the ‘unofficial’ fishing sanctuary. Clayton is leading a group of […]

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When seaweed thrives, fishing in and around Little Bay, Jamaica also improves. This alternative livelihoods project is one of many that make up the 14 coastal protection projects being implemented across the region by the 5Cs. Here, Ceylon Clayton carries a crate of seaweed. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
NEGRIL, Jamaica, Aug 24 2017 (IPS)

Ceylon Clayton is trying to revive a sea moss growing project he and friends started a few years ago to supplement their dwindling earnings as fishermen.

This time, he has sought the support of outsiders and fishermen from neighbouring communities to expand the operations and the ‘unofficial’ fishing sanctuary. Clayton is leading a group of ten fishers from the Little Bay community in Westmoreland, Jamaica, who have big dreams of turning the tiny fishing village into the largest sea moss producer on the island.To protect their ‘nursery’ and preserve the recovery, the fishermen took turns patrolling the bay, but two years ago, they ran out of money.

He is also one of the many thousands of fishers in the Caribbean who are part of an industry that, along with other ecosystem services, earns around 2 billion dollars a year, but which experts say is already fully developed or over-exploited.

The men began farming seaweed because they could no longer support their families fishing on the narrow Negril shelf, and they lacked the equipment needed to fish in deeper waters, he said.

As Clayton tells it, not long after they began enforcing a ‘no fishing’ zone, they were both surprised and pleased that within two and a half years, there was a noticeable increase in the number and size of lobsters being caught.

“When we were harvesting the sea moss we noticed that there were lots of young lobsters, shrimp and juvenile fish in the roots. They were eating there and the big fish were also coming back into the bay to eat the small fish,” Clayton told members of a delegation from the German Development Bank (KfW), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also called 5Cs and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who came to visit the site in May.

To protect their ‘nursery’ and preserve the recovery, the fishermen took turns patrolling the bay, but two years ago, they ran out of money.

“We didn’t have the markets,” Clayton said, noting there were limited markets for unprocessed seaweed and not enough money to support the patrols.

The seaweed is thriving and teeming with marine life; fishing in around Little Bay and the neighbouring villages has also improved, Clayton said. Now he, his wife (also a fisher) and eight friends want to build on that success and believe the climate change adaptation project being implemented by the 5Cs is their best chance at success. They’ve recruited other fishers, the local school and shopkeepers.

Showing off the variety of juvenile marine animals, including baby eels, seahorses, octopi, reef fish and shrimp hiding among the seaweed, the 30 plus-years veteran fisherman explained that the experiment had shown the community the success that could come from growing, processing and effectively marketing the product. The bonus, he said, would be the benefits that come from making the bay off-limits for fishing.

This alternative livelihoods project is one of many that make up the 14 coastal protection projects being implemented across the region by the 5Cs. Aptly named the Coastal Protection for Climate Change Adaptation (CPCCA) in Small Island States in the Caribbean Project because of its focus, it is being implemented with technical support from IUCN and a €12.9 million in grant funding from the KfW.

“The project seeks to minimise the adverse impacts from climate change by restoring the protective services offered by natural eco-systems like coastal mangrove forests and coral reefs in some areas, while restoring and building man-made structures such as groynes and revetments in others,” the IUCN Technical consultant Robert Kerr said in an email. Aside from Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are also beneficiaries under the project.

The Caribbean is heavily dependent on tourism and other marine services, industries that the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) last report indicate are expected to be heavily impacted by climate change. Most if not all states depend on the fisheries and the regional tourism industry – which grew from four million visitors in 1970 to an estimated 25 million visitors today – earns an estimated 25 billion dollars in revenue and supports about six million jobs.

The findings of the IPCC’s report is further strengthened by that of the Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card (2017) which stated: “The seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat from coral bleaching, ocean acidification, rising sea temperature, and storms.”

“The project is a demonstration of Germany’s commitment to assisting the region’s vulnerable communities to withstand the impacts of climate change,” said Dr. Jens Mackensen KfW’s head of Agriculture and Natural Resources Division for Latin America and Caribbean.

All the Jamaican projects are in protected areas, and are managed by a mix of non-governmental organisations (ngos), academic and local government organisations. The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) is managing the seaweed project and two other components – to reduce the flow of sewage into the wetlands and install mooring buoys and markers to regulate use of the sea – that focus on strengthening the ecosystem and improving the climate resilience of the Negril Marine Protected area.

The University of the West Indies’ Centre for Marine Sciences is managing the East Portland Fish Sanctuary project; the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation works in the Portland Bight area and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), a quasi-government agency is managing infrastructure work on the Closed Habour Beach also called Dump Up beach in the Montego Bay area.

Clayton’s plan to include a processing plant at the local school and a marketing network in the small business community has impressed 5C’s executive director Dr. Kenrick Leslie and McKensen.

Sea moss is a common ingredient in energy tonics that target men, the locals explain. In addition WMC’s project manager Simone Williams said, “The projects aim to protect and rehabilitate the degraded fisheries habitat and ecosystems of Orange Bay, streamline usage of the marine areas and improve quality of discharge into marine areas.”

In Portland Bight, an area inhabited by more than 10,000 people, and one of the most vulnerable, C-CAM is working to improve awareness, build resilience through eco-systems based adaptation, conservation and the diversification of livelihoods. Important, CCAM Executive Director Ingrid Parchment said, because most of the people here rely on fisheries. The area supports some 4,000 fishers – 300 boats from five fishing beaches. They have in the past suffered severe flooding from storm surges, which have in recent times become more frequent.

And in the tourist town of Montego Bay, the UDC is undertaking structural work to repair a groyne that will protect the largest public beach in the city – Dump-up or Closed Harbour Beach. Works here will halt the erosion of the main beach as well as two adjacent beaches (Gun Point and Walter Fletcher) and protect the livelihoods of many who make their living along the coast. When complete the structure will form the backbone of further development for the city.

UWI’s Alligator Head Marine Lab is spearheading a project to reinforce protection of vulnerable seaside and fishing communities, along the eastern coast of Portland, a parish locals often say has been neglected but with links to James Bond creator, Ian Fleming it has great potential as a tourism destination.

Here, over six square kilometres of coastline is being rehabilitated through wetlands and reef rehabilitation; the establishment of alternative livelihood projects; renewable technologies and actions to reduce greenhouse gases and strengthen climate resilience.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the CPCCA is helping the Ministry of Works to rehabilitate the Sandy Bay Community, and the coastal Windward Highway where storm damage has caused loss of housing, livelihoods and recreational space, Kerr said.

The local census data puts unemployment in Sandy Bay as the country’s highest and, as Kerr noted, “With the highest reported level of poverty at 55 per cent, the Sandy Bay Community cannot afford these losses.”

CPCCA is well on its way and will end in 2018, by that time, Leslie noted beneficiaries would be well on their way to achieving their and the project’s goal.

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What Does “Climate-Smart Agriculture” Really Mean? New Tool Breaks It Downhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 23:20:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151680 A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products. This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides […]

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The base for a water catchment tank. Faced with severe droughts, many farmers in the Caribbean have found it necessary to set up catchment areas to harvest water whenever it rains. Credit: CDB

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products.

This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change.“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture...all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers." --Steve Maximay

Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.”

He said each category is further subdivided, so resource conservation includes the use of land, water, nutrients and labour. Energy use includes its use in power, lighting, input manufacture and transportation. Safety revolves around production operations, harvesting, storage and utilization.

Biodiversity support examines land clearing, off-site agrochemical impact, limited introduction of invasive species, and ecosystem services impact. Greenhouse gas reduction involves enteric fermentation (gas produced in the stomach of cattle and other animals that chew their cud), soil management, fossil fuel reduction and manure/waste management.

“These subdivisions (four each in the five categories) are the basis of the 20 questions that comprise the C-SAC tool,” Maximay explained.

“The manual provides a means of scoring each aspect on a five-point scale. If the cumulative score for the project is less than 40 it is deemed non-compliant and not a truly climate smart agriculture activity. C-SAC further grades in terms of degree of compliance wherein a score of 40-49 points is level 1, (50-59) level 2, (60 -69) level 3, (70-79) level 4, and (80-100) being the highest degree of compliance at level 5.

“It is structured with due cognizance of concerns about how the global climate change funds will be disbursed,” he added.

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

Mainstreaming CSA requires critical stocktaking of ongoing and promising practices for the future, and of institutional and financial enablers for CSA adoption.

Maximay said C-SAC is meant to be a prioritizing tool with a holistic interpretation of the perceived benefits of climate-smart agriculture.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture…all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

“C-SAC will provide bankers and project managers with an easy to use tool to ensure funded projects really comply with a broad interpretation of climate smart agriculture.”

Maximay said C-SAC incorporates major categories of compliance and provides a replicable analysis matrix using scalar approaches to convert qualitative assessments into a numeric compliance scale.

“The rapid qualitative analysis at the core of C-SAC depends on interrelated science-based guidelines honed from peer reviewed, field-tested practices and operations,” Maximay explained.

“Climate-smart agriculture often amalgamates activities geared towards adaptation and mitigation. The proliferation of projects claiming to fit the climate smart agriculture designation has highlighted the need for an auditing and certification scheme. One adaptation or mitigation feature may not be enough to qualify an agricultural operation as being climate-smart. Consequently, a more holistic perspective can lead to a determination of the level of compliance with respect to climate-smart agriculture.

“C-SAC provides that holistic perspective based on a structured qualitative assessment of key components,” Maximay added.

The scientist notes that in the midst of increased opportunities for the use of global climate funds, it behooves policymakers and financiers to ensure projects are not crafted in a unidimensional manner.

He added that small farmers in Small Island Developing States are particularly vulnerable and their needs must be met by projects that are holistic in design and implementation.

Over the years, agriculture organisations in the Caribbean have been providing funding to set up climate-smart farms as demonstrations to show farmers examples of ecological practices that they can use to combat many of the conditions that arise due to the heavy rainfall and drought conditions experienced in the region.

Maximay was among the first agricultural scientists addressing climate change concerns during the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC).

A plant pathologist by training, he has been a secondary school teacher, development banker, researcher, World Bank-certified training manager, university lecturer, Caribbean Development Bank consultant and entrepreneur.

Maximay managed the first Business Development Office in a Science Faculty within the University of the West Indies. With more than thirty years’ experience in the agricultural, education, health, financial and environmental sectors, he has also worked on development projects for major regional and international agencies.

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This Is How Indigenous Peoples Help Curb Gas Emissions, End Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:55:42 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151639 A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations. Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and […]

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Indigenous Peoples can provide answers to food insecurity and climate change challenges. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations.

Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Constituting only 5 per cent of the world population, indigenous peoples nevertheless are vital stewards of the environment. Traditional indigenous territories encompass 22 per cent of the world’s land surface, but 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. “

According to this Rome-based UN specialised body, indigenous peoples ways of life and their livelihoods can teach us a lot about preserving natural resources, growing food in sustainable ways and living in harmony with nature.

“Mobilising the expertise that originates from this heritage and these historical legacies is important for addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture today and in the future,” it added on 9 August on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

According to FAO, here are 6 of the many ways in which Indigenous Peoples are helping the world combat climate change:

1. Their Traditional Agricultural Practices Are Resilient to Climate Change

Throughout the centuries, indigenous peoples have developed agricultural techniques that are adapted to extreme environments, like the high altitudes of the Andes, the dry grasslands of Kenya or the extreme cold of northern Canada.

These time-tested techniques, like terracing that stops soil erosion or floating gardens that make use of flooded fields, mean that they are well-suited for the increasingly intense weather events and temperature changes brought on by climate change.

2. They Conserve and Restore Forests and Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples see themselves as connected to nature and as part of the same system as the environment in which they live. Natural resources are considered shared property and are respected as such.

By protecting natural resources, like forests and rivers, many indigenous communities help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

3. Indigenous Foods Expand and Diversify Diets

The world currently relies very heavily on a small set of staple crops. Wheat, rice, potatoes and maize represent 50 per cent of daily calories consumed. With nutritious, native crops like quinoa, oca and moringa, the food systems of indigenous peoples can help the rest of humanity expand its narrow food base.

4. Indigenous Foods are Resilient to Climate Change

Because many indigenous peoples live in extreme environments, they have chosen crops that have also had to adapt.

Indigenous peoples often grow native species of crops that are better adapted to local contexts and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding, or other extreme conditions.

Used more widely in farming, these crops could help build the resilience of farms now facing a changing, more extreme climate.

5. Indigenous Territories hold 80 Per Cent of the World’s Biodiversity

Preserving biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. The genetic pool for plants and animal species is found in forests, rivers and lakes and pastures.

Living naturally sustainable lives, indigenous peoples preserve these spaces, helping to uphold the biodiversity of the plants and animals in nature.

6. Indigenous Peoples’ Lifestyles Are Locally Adapted and Respectful of Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples have adapted their lifestyles to fit into and respect their environments. In mountains, indigenous peoples’ systems preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and reduce the risk of disasters.

In rangelands, indigenous pastoralist communities manage cattle grazing and cropping in sustainable ways that preserve rangeland biodiversity. In the Amazon, ecosystems improve when indigenous people inhabit them.

FAO considers indigenous peoples as “invaluable partners” in eradicating hunger and in providing solutions to climate change.

“We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food security and nutrition without seeking help from and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”

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One Earth: Why the World Needs Indigenous Communities to Steward Their Landshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands/#comments Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:41:07 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151603 This article is part of special IPS coverage for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9.

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An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
BHUBANESWAR, India, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

“Showing them a picture-book crow, I intone ‘kaak’ in Bengali, the State language. While others repeat in chorus, the tribal Santhali first-graders respond with a blank look. They know the crow only as ‘koyo’. They’ll happily roll out glass marbles to count but ask them how many they counted, they remain silent because in their mother tongue, one is mit, two is bariah – very different sounding from the Bengali ek and du.”

Teacher Ramakrushna Bhadra faced a formidable challenge at the rural Hatrasulganj Santhal primary school in India’s eastern West Bengal state, until he decided to learn the tribal language himself.Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million people.

For Santhals, the largest tribal community in West Bengal, Bengali is a foreign tongue. Hence at school, the new entrants learnt nothing, lost interest, dropped out of classes and joined their parents in seasonal migration. Generational illiteracy has only perpetuated the poverty cycle.

India even passed a law declaring education as a constitutional right for all children 6 to 14 years old, and to reduce the drop-out rate of ethnic minorities, it provided for mother-tongue primary education and set up free residential schools in tribal pockets.

With a precarious demographic total of around 8,000, and a female literacy rate of 3 percent, the Dongria Kondh tribal community in neighbouring Odisha state has an exclusive girls-only free residential school in Rayagada district set up by the government in 2008. While enrolling and retaining the girls demands continued effort, teachers say older girls who have been in the school for some years have now distanced themselves from their roots, viewing their unique traditional costume and hair-dress as embarrassing.

Retaining unique indigenous cultures, their traditional knowledge systems and sustainable management of natural resources, even while aiding them to access, choose and prioritize from the development pathway so that they are not left behind, has been a challenge for governments around the world.

Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million.

Central to this challenge and offering the closest solution is granting their right to customary land and the resources within it.

Their ancestral land and natural resources have a fundamental importance in their livelihood, ways and of life, culture and religion and, in fact, in their collective physical and cultural survival as communities.

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community's remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community’s remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The government has several specific programmes for indigenous communities such as in education, livelihoods, quotas in educational institutions and jobs, and food security at huge funding expense, whose aim has been to bridge the conspicuous economic gap between them and the mainstream population.

“Poor implementation of existing schemes in the tribal regions has meant that not only poverty

continues at exceptionally high levels in these regions, but the decline in poverty has been much slower here than in the entire country,” according to an earlier national report by the Planning Commission, now Niti Aayog.

Discrimination, official apathy, and insensitivity to tribal ways of life, rampant corruption, denial of justice and human dignity, and political marginalization has led to entrenchment of left-wing extremism is several tribal regions in India.

In India, most of the indigenous groups live in deep natural forests that sit atop rich deposits of iron, bauxite, chromites, coal and other minerals. The government and corporate miners want to get their hands on as much of this as possible.

But the Indian Constitution has given powers of self-governance and autonomy to tribal communities over their habitat, where the village council holds the last word in decisions, even over government’s, on the use of its resources, specifically in the context of the Forests Rights Act 2006 and the Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.

Still, this power of the village council has been subverted time and again by government agencies and corporate, as numerous studies and reports have established.

Lack of clear recognition and protection of indigenous people’s land rights and natural resources especially forests, is today the root cause of conflict and unrest around a majority of infrastructure and mining projects, resulting in time over run, aborted project with losses running into billions of dollars.

While the ethnic groups have become somewhat more aware, India’s apex court has been keenly monitoring their land and forest rights implementation. This has made a tremendous difference in the last decade. The issue continues to be on the boil as civil society organizations, both local and international keep the debate open and protest ongoing.

Until the 2011 census, more than half of the total indigenous population in India had left home to live in urban areas, completely alien to their nature-loving lives and livelihoods. Poverty, project-related displacement and loss of livelihoods from denied access to land and forests are the main causes for migration.

In Kadaraguma village high in the hills of Rayagada, 66-year-old Kone Wadaka is looking for an heiress to pass on her confidential wealth of medicinal knowledge in forest plants. The oral knowledge of generations was passed down from her father, a tribal healer of a Dongria Kondh clan. Accompanying him as a teenager for days before the sun was up, Wadaka learnt to identify leaves and roots that could prevent conception, alleviate fits and seizures, heal wounds, and subdue pain. Herself unmarried, a young girl she had set her mind on to relay the family knowledge has moved on to school.

As the forest moves further away from their villages, and trees are cut, to be replaced by commercial timber plantations, Wadaka is afraid if she does not find someone suitable soon, the invaluable knowledge might die with her. It saddens her that her people will lose something that was theirs for generations.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, whose key larger goal remains building inclusive societies, seeks to empowerment of indigenous people through secure tenure rights to land, parity in education and vocational training, doubling of small-holding agricultural productivity and income and encourages States to include indigenous leaders in subsequent reviews of country progress towards the goals.

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Climate Scientists Use Forecasting Tools to Protect Caribbean Ways of Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-scientists-use-forecasting-tools-protect-caribbean-ways-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-scientists-use-forecasting-tools-protect-caribbean-ways-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-scientists-use-forecasting-tools-protect-caribbean-ways-life/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 00:01:50 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151576 Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses […]

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The remains of abandoned shade houses that one farmer attempted to build to protect his crops from the effects of climate change in Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

The remains of abandoned shade houses that one farmer attempted to build to protect his crops from the effects of climate change in Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses were incurred due to crop failures and wild fires caused by the exceptionally dry conditions.

In neighbouring Cuba, the reputation of the Centre for Atmospheric Physics at the Institute for Meteorology (INSMET) is built on the development of tools that “provide reliable and timely climate and weather information” that enables the nation to prepare for extreme rainfall and drought conditions as well as for hurricanes.“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software." --INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot

Regional scientists believe the extended dry periods are one of several signs of climate change, now being experienced across the region. Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) – known regionally as the Five Cs – believes climate change is threatening the “Caribbean’s ways of life”.

Dr Trotz noted, “Some countries in the Caribbean like Barbados and Antigua are inherently water scarce. It is expected that climate change will exacerbate this already critical situation. We have seen in recent times the occurrence of extended droughts across the Caribbean, a phenomenon that is expected to occur more frequently in the future.

“Droughts have serious implications across all sectors – the water, health, agriculture, tourism -and already we are seeing the disastrous effects of extended droughts throughout the Caribbean especially in the agriculture sector, on economies, livelihoods and the wellbeing of the Caribbean population,” he said.

With major industries like fisheries, tourism and agriculture already impacted, the region continues to look for options. Both the Cuban and Jamaican experiences with forecasting tools means their use should be replicated across the Caribbean, Central and South America as scientists look for ways to battle increasingly high temperatures and low rainfall which have ravaged the agricultural sector and killed corals across the region.

Charged with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s mandate to coordinate the region’s response to climate change, the ‘Five Cs’ has been seeking financial support investigating and pooling regional resources to help countries cope with the expected impacts since its birth in 2004. These days, they are introducing and training regional planners in the application and use of a suite of tools that will help leaders make their countries climate-ready.

St Lucian government officers becoming familiar with tools at a recent workshop in St Lucia. As part of the training, they will use the tools to assess planned developments and weather conditions over six months to provide data and information which could be used for a variety of projects. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

St Lucian government officers becoming familiar with tools at a recent workshop in St Lucia. As part of the training, they will use the tools to assess planned developments and weather conditions over six months to provide data and information which could be used for a variety of projects. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

The experts believe that preparing the region to deal with climate change must include data collection and the widespread use of variability, predictability and planning tools that will guide development that mitigate the impacts of extreme climatic conditions.

The recent Caribbean Marine Climate Report card reflects the findings of the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, pointing to the need for countries to ramp up their adaptation strategies. Both highlight the many significant risks climate change is expected to bring to regional economies that depend heavily on eco-systems based industries; where major infrastructure are located along the coasts and where populations are mainly poor.

The report points to the threats to biodiversity from coral bleaching; rising sea temperature and more intense storms which could destroy the region’s economy, and in some cases inundate entire communities.

The tools not only allow the users to generate country specific forecast information, they allow Met Officers, Disaster Managers and other critical personnel to assess likely impacts of climatic and extreme weather events on sectors such as health, agriculture and tourism; on critical infrastructure and installations as well as on vulnerable populations.

Training is being rolled out under the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) in countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CCAP was designed to build on both USAID’s Regional Development Cooperative Strategy which addresses development challenges in the countries in that part of the region, as well as the CCCCC’s Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to a Changing Climate and its associated Implementation Plan, which have been endorsed by the Heads of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Regional experts and government officers working in agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning and disaster risk reduction from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are being taught to use a variety of tools.

The program aims to build resilience in the development initiatives of the countries as they tackle climate change-induced challenges, which are already being experienced by countries of the region.

At a recent workshop in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, trainees were confident that the tools could become critical to their developmental goals. St Lucian metrological forecaster Glen Antoinne, believes the tools could be “useful for St Lucia because they are directly related to our ability to forecast any changes in the climate”.

He looks forward to his government’s adoption of, in particular, the weather tools to  “support the climatology department in looking at trends, forecasting droughts and to help them to determine when to take action in policy planning and disaster management”.

The tools work by allowing researchers and other development specialists to use a range of climatic data to generate scientific information and carry out analysis on the likely impacts in the individual countries of the region. They are open source, to remove the need for similar expensive products being used in developed world, but effective, said INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot.

“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software,” he said.

“The more countries use the data, the more information that is available for countries and region to use,” Morlot continued, pointing out that the data is used to generate the information that then feeds into the decision making process.

CCAP also includes activities aimed at the expansion of the Coral Reef Early Warning System for the installation of data gathering buoys in five countries in the Eastern Caribbean providing data which, among other things will be used for ecological forecasts on coral bleaching and other marine events.

The project also provides for the strengthening of the hydro meteorological measurement systems in participating countries. This will allow for better monitoring of present day weather parameters and for generating data to feed into the climate models and other tools.

Among the tools being rolled out under the project are the Caribbean Assessment Regional DROught (CARiDRO) tool; the Caribbean Weather Generator, and the Tropical Storm Model which were designed to help experts to develop scenarios of future climate at any given location and to use these to more accurately forecast the impacts, and inform mitigating actions.

There are accompanying web portals and data sets that were developed and are being introduced to help countries to enhance their ability to reduce the risks of climate change to natural assets and populations in their development activities.

These online resources are designed to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Their integration into national planning agendas across the region is being facilitated through regional and country workshops to ensure effective decision-making while improving climate knowledge and action.

“The resulting information will help leaders make informed decisions based on the projections and forecasting of likely levels of impact on their infrastructure and economies,” Lavina Alexander from St Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development noted, pointing to that country’s recent experiences with hurricanes and extreme rainfall events.

As one of the tool designers, Morlot believes that by providing free access to the tools, the project is ensuring that “more countries will begin to collect and use the data, providing regional scientists with the ability to make more accurate forecasts of the region’s climate.”

Putting all the information and tools in one place where it is accessible by all will be good for the region, he said.

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Climate Change Brings Migration from the Dry Corridor to Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 07:20:34 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151516 If the impact of drought and poverty in the municipalities of the so-called Dry Corridor in Nicaragua continues pushing the agricultural frontier towards the Caribbean coast, by the year 2050 this area will have lost all its forests and nature reserves, experts predict. Denis Meléndez, facilitator of the National Board for Risk Management, told IPS […]

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Peasant farmers on a farm in the town of Sébaco, in the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa, part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, where this year rains have been generous, after years of drought. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

Peasant farmers on a farm in the town of Sébaco, in the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa, part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, where this year rains have been generous, after years of drought. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MATAGALPA, Nicaragua, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

If the impact of drought and poverty in the municipalities of the so-called Dry Corridor in Nicaragua continues pushing the agricultural frontier towards the Caribbean coast, by the year 2050 this area will have lost all its forests and nature reserves, experts predict.

Denis Meléndez, facilitator of the National Board for Risk Management, told IPS that annually between 70,000 and 75,000 hectares of forests are lost in Nicaragua’s northern region and along the Caribbean coast, according to research carried out by this non-governmental organisation that monitors the government’s environmental record.

This phenomenon, he explained, occurs mainly due to the impact of climate change in the Dry Corridor, a vast area that comprises 37 municipalities in central and northern Nicaragua, which begins in the west, at the border with Honduras, and ends in the departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega, bordering the eastern North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN).“They are peasant farmers who are unaware that most of the land in the Caribbean is most suitable for forestry,and they cut the trees, burn the grasslands, plant crops and breed livestock, destroying the ecosystem.” -- Denis Meléndez

The Dry Corridor in Central America is an arid strip of lowlands that runs along the Pacific coast through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

In this Central American eco-region, which is home to 10.5 million people, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the cyclical droughts have been aggravated by climate change and the gradual devastation of natural resources by the local populations.

In Nicaragua, it encompasses areas near the RACCN, a territory of over 33,000 square kilometres, with a population mostly belonging to the indigenous Miskito people, and which has the biggest forest reserve in Nicaragua and Central America: Bosawas.

From these generally dry territories, said Meléndez, there has been an invasion of farmers to the RACCN – many of them mestizos or people of mixed-race heritage, who the native inhabitants pejoratively refer to as “colonists“ – fleeing the rigours of climate change, who have settled in indigenous areas in this Caribbean region.

“They are peasant farmers who are unaware that most of the land in the Caribbean is most suitable for forestry,and they cut the trees, burn the grasslands, plant crops and breed livestock, destroying the ecosystem,“ Meléndez complained.

He said that if the loss of forests continues at the current pace, by 2050 the Dry Corridor will reach all the way to the Caribbean coast.

IPS visited several rural towns in the northern department of Matagalpa, where four of the 37 municipalities of the Corridor are located: San Isidro, Terrabona, Ciudad Darío and Sébaco.

In Sébaco, the rains have been generous since the rainy season started in May, which made the farmers forget the hardships of the past years.

There is green everywhere, and enthusiasm in the agricultural areas, which between 2013 and early 2016 suffered loss after loss in their crops due to the drought.

“The weather has been nice this year, it had been a long time since we enjoyed this rainwater which is a blessing from God,” 67-year-old Arístides Silva told IPS.

Silva and other farmers in Sébaco and neighbouring localities do not like to talk about the displacement towards other communities near the Caribbean coast, “to avoid conflicts.“

A good winter or rainy season this year in the tropical areas in northern Nicaragua curbed migration towards the neighbouring Northern Caribbean Region by farmers who use the slash-and-burn method, devastating to the forests. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

A good winter or rainy season this year in the tropical areas in northern Nicaragua curbed migration towards the neighbouring Northern Caribbean Region by farmers who use the slash-and-burn method, devastating to the forests. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

“I know two or three families who have gone to the coast to work, but because the landowners want them because we know how to make the land produce. We don’t go there to invade other people’s land,“ said Agenor Sánchez, who grows vegetables in Sébaco, on land leased from a relative.

But like Meléndez, human rights, social and environmental organisations emphasise the magnitude of the displacement of people from the Dry Corridor to Caribbean coastal areas since 2005.

Ecologist Jaime Incer Barquero, a former environment minister, told IPS that this is not a new problem. “For 40 years I have been warning about the ecological disaster of the Dry Corridor and the Caribbean, but the authorities haven’t paid attention to me,“ he complained.

The scientist pointed out that the shifting of the agricultural frontier from the Dry Corridor to the Caribbean forest and its coastal ecosystems threatens the sources of water that supply over 300,000 indigenous people in the area, because when the trees in the forest are cut, water is not absorbed by the soil, leading to runoff and landslides.

“There are thousands of ‘colonists’ devastating the biosphere reserve in Bosawas, which is the last big lung in Central America, and it is endangered,”

Abdel García, climate change officer at the non-governmental Humboldt Centre, told IPS that during the nearly four years of drought that affected the country, the risk of environmental devastation extended beyond the Dry Corridor towards the Caribbean.

He believes the expansion of the Dry Corridor farming practices towards the Caribbean region is a serious problem, since the soil along the coast is less productive and cannot withstand the traditional crops grown in the Corridor.

While the soils of the Corridor stay fertile for up to 20 years, in the Caribbean the soil, which is more suited to forestry, is sometimes fertile for just two or three years.

That drives farmers to encroach on the forest in order to keep planting, using their traditional slash-and-burn method.

According to García, the expansion of the Corridor would impact on the Caribbean coastal ecosystems and put pressure on protected areas, such as Bosawas.

The environmentalist said the Caribbean region is already facing environmental problems similar to those in the Corridor, such as changes in rainfall regimes, an increase in winds, and the penetration of sea water in coastal areas that used to be covered by dense pine forests or mangroves that have been cut down over the last 10 years.

The climate monitoring carried out by the Humboldt Centre, one of the most reputable institutions and the most proactive in overseeing and defending the environment in the country, found that the average rainfall in the Corridor fell from 1,000 to 1,400 millimetres per square metre to half that in 2015.

The migration of farmers from the Corridor, where about 500,000 people live, towards the Caribbean is also having on impact on human rights, since the Caribbean regions are by law state-protected territories, and the encroachment by outsiders has led to abuse and violence between indigenous people and ‘colonists’.

María Luisa Acosta, head of the Legal Aid Centre for Indigenous Peoples, has denounced this violence before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In her view, the growing number of outsiders moving into the Caribbean region is part of a business involving major interests, promoted and supported by government agencies to exploit the natural resources in the indigenous lands along the Caribbean with impunity.

For its part, the government officially denies that there is conflict generated by the influx of outsiders in the RACCN, but is taking measures to reinforce food security in the Dry Corridor, in an attempt to curb migration towards the Caribbean.

Of Nicaragua’s population of 6.2 million people, 29.6 per cent live in poverty and 8.3 per cent in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank’s latest update, from April.

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Tobago Gears Up to Fight Sargassum Invasionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion/#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 00:01:35 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151421 As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that […]

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Sargassum inundates a beach on Barbados. Credit: H. Oxenford/Mission Blue

Sargassum inundates a beach on Barbados. Credit: H. Oxenford/Mission Blue

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 25 2017 (IPS)

As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that will alert islanders to imminent invasions so they can take defensive action.

The Deputy Director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Dr. Rahanna Juman, told IPS, “After the 2015 sargassum event, the IMA got stakeholders together and developed a sargassum response plan. We looked at some sort of early warning mechanism [using satellites]. We know that it comes off of the South American mainland. If we know when it is coming and we can forecast which part of the coast it is going to land, we can inform the relevant regional authority so they can put things in place.A particularly heart-rending consequence of the sargassum invasions has been the devastation it causes to turtle nesting sites on the island.

“We have this network set up. We got the Met Services to provide an idea of where [the sargassum] is going to land,” she said.

The 2010-2015 State of the Marine Environment (SOME) report, released in May this year by the IMA, states, “Sargassum invasion of Trinidad and Tobago’s beaches is a relatively novel phenomenon for which we have been largely unprepared for in the past. However, with climate change causing continuous warming of the oceans, it appears that future events are likely.”

The country experienced massive onslaughts of sargassum, a type of seaweed, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, and some again this year. “Sargassum is a natural phenomenon,” said Dr. Juman, but it was the quantity of the seaweed that stunned the public during these years.

The consequences for Tobago’s tourism industry have been debilitating.

A director on the board of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Environment Tobago and the Association of Tobago Dive Operators, Wendy Austin, told IPS the first major event for the Tobago tourism industry was in 2015. “People were cancelling their bookings. Visitors were having to move, particularly from the north end of the island. Speyside had it very bad and the smell was awful. The restaurants had to close because people were not coming out to eat.” As the sargassum rotted, it emitted a nauseating stench.

“This year we have been hit fairly hard once again,” Austin added. “Recommendations have been put forward to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) as to how the situation can be handled environmentally so that tourism would then have fewer problems. However, there is no money to put these recommendations into action.”

The THA reportedly spent approximately 500,000 dollars during one year to clear up the decaying sargassum.

Apart from the tourism industry taking a hit, the country’s marine environment has also been adversely affected .

A particularly heart-rending consequence of the sargassum invasions has been the devastation it causes to turtle nesting sites on the island. The SOME report notes, “Ecologically, both adult and juvenile sea turtles can become entangled in the thick masses.”

Dr. Juman said hatchlings making their way out to sea from Tobago’s shores in 2015 got caught in the mass of sargassum, as well as many leaving the beaches of Trinidad in the northeast after they were hatched. Local media reports earlier this year expressed fears that turtle hatchlings would die because of becoming entangled in the masses of sargassum that washed ashore in April.

Further, “sargassum can smother your coral reef and seagrass, and they can bring in organisms that are not native to [Tobago], so that can have a negative impact on the native species,” said Dr. Juman, who is a wetlands ecologist.

The SOME report notes that the seagrasses which the sargassum destroyed off southwest Tobago are important for the marine environment since they “stabilize bottom sediments, slow current flow, prevent erosion, and filter suspended nutrients and solids from coastal waters.”

In response to this phenomenon, as well as other threats caused by climate change to the nation’s coastlines, the Trinidad and Tobago government has established as a priority of its new Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy the objective of maintaining “the diversity, health and productivity of coastal and marine processes and ecosystems”.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning Marie Hinds said via e-mail that this objective, the eighth one listed under the ICZM policy, incorporates tackling the sargassum problem.

She said achieving the objective would involve implementing a “programme to manage/control the introduction of alien invasive species into the coastal and marine zones.”

Establishment of an ICZM policy was a requirement of the Inter-American Development Bank for Trinidad and Tobago to access funding to deal with climate change, Hinds added. The ICZM policy will facilitate coordination and cooperation between civil society, government and the private sector in addressing the impacts of climate change.

However, there is still relatively little research data on which to base decision-making and management of the sargassum problem because it is such a new phenomenon, said Dr. Juman.

Among the proposals for disposing of the sargassum is to transform it into a biogas. But, “if you are going to invest in some sort of industry…you have to have a known quantity, you need to know how much, you need to have a consistent supply.

“You also need research to quantify such an industry’s impact on the fishing and shipping industry, as well as tourism. We do not have that kind of data,” said Dr. Juman. “Having the research and knowing how to treat with it so we can be proactive not reactive,” she said, was important for the IMA in finding solutions to the sargassum problem.

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Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast Pools Efforts Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 03:18:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151406 Jonathan Barrantes walks between the rows of shoots, naming one by one each species in the tree nursery that he manages, in the south of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastal region. There are fruit trees, ceibas that will take decades to grow to full size. and timber species for forestry plantations. The tree nursery run by […]

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Communities Step Up to Help Save Jamaica’s Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/communities-step-help-save-jamaicas-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=communities-step-help-save-jamaicas-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/communities-step-help-save-jamaicas-forests/#respond Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:22:32 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151252 According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 31.1 percent or about 337,000 hectares of Jamaica is forested. Of this, 26.1 percent or 88,000 is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. But between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost an average of 400 hectares or 0.12 percent of […]

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In an effort to halt deforestation in Jamaica, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica has signed grants with 13 community-based organisations in 5 parishes

Jamaica is the most biodiverse island in the Caribbean with more than 8,000 recorded species of plants and animals and 3,500 marine species. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jul 12 2017 (IPS)

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 31.1 percent or about 337,000 hectares of Jamaica is forested. Of this, 26.1 percent or 88,000 is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest.

But between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost an average of 400 hectares or 0.12 percent of forest per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost 2.3 percent of its forest cover, or around 8,000 hectares.“Our forests produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis while reducing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contribute to global warming and climate change." --Allison Rangolan McFarlane

Deforestation is a crucial factor in global climate change which results from a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere due to deforestation, mainly the cutting and burning of forests, every year.

Over 30 million acres of forests and woodlands are lost every year due to deforestation; and the continued cutting down of forests, the main tool to diminish CO2 build up, is expected dramatically change the climate over the next decades.

In an effort to conserve the island’s forests, the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has turned to communities throughout the island. On July 3, the EFJ signed grants with 13 community-based organisations in five parishes, in support of Jamaica’s forests. The grants total 672,000 dollars and were allocated under the EFJ’s Forest Conservation Fund (FCF).

“Deforestation is an issue. It often takes place as a part of agricultural practices, for example ‘slash and burn’ where fires are used to clear land which is then used for agricultural purposes,” EFJ’s Chief Technical Director Allison Rangolan McFarlane told IPS.

“Trees are also sometimes cut to make charcoal which is used for fuel, to make fish pots, for lumber, etc. Sometimes deforestation occurs because of construction, for example housing or roadways, or industrial activities such as mining.

“Our coastal forests (mangroves) are also affected.  Deforestation has the potential to reduce water quality, increase soil erosion, reduce biological diversity and further impact the watershed,” Rangolan McFarlane added.

She said the consequences as it relates to climate change are just as serious.

“Deforestation does play a role in climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; carbon dioxide is one example of a greenhouse gas. Deforestation reduces the number of trees available to absorb carbon dioxide,” the EFJ official told IPS.

“Additionally, the carbon stored in a living tree is also released into the atmosphere once it is felled. The greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere contribute to global warming which in turn contributes to climate change.

“Our forests produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis while reducing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contribute to global warming and climate change,” she added.

Group photo of grantee representatives awarded funds to halt deforestation by the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ). Credit: EFJ

Group photo of grantee representatives awarded funds to halt deforestation by the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ). Credit: EFJ

Stressing the importance of forests to Jamaica, she said the Caribbean nation obtains many products or materials and generate by-products such as food, medicines and cosmetics from them.

She said the forests can also provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for individuals and communities.

“They provide shade and are an integral part of our water cycle and supply. Forests protect our watersheds, and reduce soil erosion and siltation in our water as the tree roots hold the soil in place, and their canopies help to reduce the force of the rain drops on the soil; this allows water to gradually percolate or seep into the ground and recharge the aquifers from which we obtain water,” Rangolan McFarlane explained.

“Forests also provide homes for many plants and animals many of which play many important roles in various ecosystems; for example, Jamaica’s mangrove forests are important nursery areas for many fish and other species. They are very important recreational areas some of which are historically and culturally significant,” she added.

EFJ Chairman Professor Dale Webber said 33 proposals from non-governmental organisations were considered and the FCF projects funded followed at least one of four required themes: alternative livelihoods, especially in buffer zone communities; watershed conservation; natural disaster risk reduction in coastal communities; and reforestation.

The largest single grant of 195,000 dollars to the Lions Club of Mona is in support of a long-term project focusing on sustainable forest management and climate change mitigation through reforestation and research in the Blue and John Crow Mountain Forest Reserve.

Apiculture (beekeeping), eco-tourism and agroforestry programmes will receive funding as alternative means of employment, including three beekeeping projects in the parish of Clarendon.

Several organisations are planning local workshops to sensitize community members on the importance of forest conservation. Local forest restoration will also be a feature of projects in Portland (mangrove restoration) and in Cockpit Country (Trelawny).

“Be sure that the work you are doing has impact,” Professor Webber told the grantees. “We want to help you make a difference in your communities.”

Meantime, Rangolan McFarlane said the partnerships with community based organisations, non-governmental organisations, and others are expected to generate many different results.

Each project/programme addresses the concerns identified by the implementing organisation in the area in which they will work. Some projects/programmes will provide sustainable livelihood opportunities, for example, bee-keeping, to reduce some of the unsustainable environmental practices in some areas such as slash and burn agriculture and charcoal burning.

Others incorporate various types of training, including sustainable livelihoods and project management, public awareness and education activities and disaster risk reduction including erosion control via reforestation and other activities.

“We expect that the results will lead to better environmental and social conditions in the communities in which the projects are implemented, and that the capacities of the implementing communities, organisations, and individuals will also be enhanced,” Rangolan McFarlane said.

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Caribbean Seeks to Climate-Proof Tourism Industryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/caribbean-seeks-climate-proof-tourism-industry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-seeks-climate-proof-tourism-industry http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/caribbean-seeks-climate-proof-tourism-industry/#respond Fri, 30 Jun 2017 12:01:24 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151121 The tourism industry is the key economic driver and largest provider of jobs in the Caribbean after the public sector. Caribbean tourism broke new ground in 2016, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time and once again growing faster than the global average. Visitor expenditures also hit a new high, growing by an estimated […]

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CTO Secretary-General Hugh Riley (left) and CDB President Dr. Warren Smith share a light moment during the signing of a partnership agreement at CDB headquarters. Credit: CDB

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 30 2017 (IPS)

The tourism industry is the key economic driver and largest provider of jobs in the Caribbean after the public sector. Caribbean tourism broke new ground in 2016, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time and once again growing faster than the global average.

Visitor expenditures also hit a new high, growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent to reach 35.5 billion dollars. And the the outlook for 2017 remains rosy, with expected increases of 2.5 and 3.5 percent in long-stay arrivals and between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 percent in cruise passenger arrivals.A 460,000-euro grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will increase the tourism sector’s resilience to natural hazards and climate-related risks.

But tourism officials say Caribbean islands are significantly affected by drastic changes in weather conditions and they fear climate change could have a devastating impact on the industry.

They note that the Caribbean tourism sector faces significant future threats related to both competitiveness and climate change impacts. And for a region so heavily dependent on coastal- and marine-related tourism attractions, adaptation and resilience are critical issues facing Caribbean tourism.

“The impact of more severe hurricanes and the destruction of our most valued tourism assets, our beaches and coral reefs, and the damage to our infrastructure threaten to reverse the developmental gains that we have made,” Dominican Senator Francine Baron said.

“Our efforts to attain the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations cannot be achieved without dealing with the causes of climate change.”

Baron, who serves as Dominica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, made the comments as she addressed a forum on the issue of climate change at the general assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Mexico recently.

In the face of these threats, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean’s tourism development agency, has received a much-needed boost with a 460,000-euro grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to implement a project to increase the Caribbean tourism sector’s resilience to natural hazards and climate related risks.

“Global climate change and its impacts, including the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, pose a significant risk to the Caribbean region and threaten the sustainability of Caribbean tourism,” the CTO’s Secretary General Hugh Riley said.

“The CTO is pleased to have the support of the CDB to implement this project which will contribute to enhancing the resiliency, sustainability and competitiveness of the region’s tourism sector. Mainstreaming climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk management (DRM) strategies in tourism development and planning is our duty to our member countries.”

The CDB/CTO partnership was formalized at a signing ceremony held on June 22 at CDB’s headquarters in Barbados.

Speaking at the event, CDB President Dr. Warren Smith noted that the tourism sector makes an enormous contribution to the region’s socioeconomic development.

“Tourism generates high levels of employment, foreign direct investment and foreign exchange for our borrowing member countries and, given its multi-sectoral nature, it is a very effective tool for promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction,” Dr. Smith said.

“However, maintaining this critical role calls for adequate safeguards to be erected against the enormous threats that climate change and natural hazards pose to the sustainability of our region.”

Funding is being provided under the African Caribbean Pacific-European Union-Caribbean Development Bank-Natural Disaster Risk Management in CARIFORUM Countries programme, which aims to reduce vulnerability to long-term impacts of natural hazards, including the potential impacts of climate change, thereby achieving national and regional sustainable development and poverty reduction goals in those countries.

During the 19-month project implementation period, the CTO will support the region’s tourism entities with policy formulation, the promotion of best practices in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, and the development of tools to enhance the tourism sector’s knowledge and awareness of disaster risk reduction strategies and the potential impacts of climate variability and climate change (CVC).

A training component will also be included to strengthen the ability of public and private sector tourism stakeholders to undertake adequate mitigation and adaptation actions to CVC. The CTO secretariat will also benefit from institutional strengthening to help provide technical assistance and ongoing support for tourism-related climate services.

The project is in keeping with 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly.

At the CDB’s Annual Board of Directors meeting held in Turks and Caicos Islands last month, Governors noted the acute environmental vulnerability of the Region and urged CDB to continue to play an important role in helping its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) build resilience.

Smith said CDB’s commitment to this role was evidenced during the meeting, at which CDB signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the second Climate Action Line of Credit (CALC).

“This will facilitate increased climate proofing of critical infrastructure in the Caribbean. The Line of Credit for Euro 100 million is the largest single loan made by EIB in our region. We are very encouraged by the strong statement of confidence in CDB that this line represents,” he said.

Eligible investments under the Climate Action Framework Loan II include climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, road transport, water infrastructure and community-level physical and social infrastructure that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“We are delighted to be signing this new climate action loan with CDB, which is the result of a fruitful partnership that lasts for almost four decades, to support new projects in the Caribbean,” said Pim Van Ballekom, EIB Vice President.

“This partnership is currently supporting CDB’s efforts to mainstream climate action to help its borrowing member countries (BMCs), which are all considered Small Island Developing States, to adequately tackle risks related to climate change. Caribbean countries face economic and social challenges which must be addressed whilst ensuring resilience to climate change,” he added.

To date, CDB has committed the total resources under the ongoing Climate Action Line of Credit (50 million euro), for nine projects. This co-financing is associated with total project financing of approximately 191 million dollars (from CDB loans/grants, EIB CALC, counterpart and other sources of financing).

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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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