Inter Press Service » Biodiversity News and Views from the Global South Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:56:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming? Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

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

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

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

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

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

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

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

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

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

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

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

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African Fisheries Plundered by Foreign Fleets Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:24:12 +0000 Christopher Pala Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

By Christopher Pala
WASHINGTON, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

In 2011, Dyhia Belhabib was a volunteer in the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver when she was asked to participate in the Sea Around Us’s project to determine how much fish had been taken out of the world’s oceans since 1950 in order to better avoid depleting the remaining populations of fish.

Belhabib had studied fisheries science in her native Algeria, so she was initially asked to oversee the Algeria component. She ended up leading the research in 24 countries. And though she was an expert and an African, over the next five years, the world of African fisheries took her from surprise to surprise, many of them disquieting, just like Voltaire’s Candide. And echoing Pangloss, who repeats “All is for the best in the best of possible worlds” to a Candide dismayed at the state of the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization insisted the world catch was “practically stable.”

“The most depressing thing for me was the realization that African countries got no benefit at all from all the foreign fleets,” she said. “In fact, the fishing communities suffered a lot, and in most places, the only people who made money were the government officials who sold the fishing licenses.”

The study found that the global catch was 40 percent higher than the FAO reported and is falling at three times the agency’s rate. But under this picture of decline, Belhabib uncovered a dazzling array of cheating methods that highlighted the low priority most governments place on fisheries management – and implicitly on the health of the people who depend on the sea for most of their animal protein.

When Belhabib started with Algeria, she was puzzled to see that the government reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that between 2001 and 2006, it had fished 2,000 tons of bluefin tuna on average, and yet reported to the FAO that it had caught almost none. Belhabib discovered that for once, the FAO’s zero catch was not a metaphor for “We have no data,” as the study found in many countries. In fact, undeterred by the fact the Algerian fishermen didn’t know how to fish tuna with long-line vessels, the government had simply bought some boats and sold their quotas to countries that did, notably Japan and Italy.

The next country she tackled was Morocco, which took over the Western Sahara in 1975 over the objections of its nomadic people and the international community. The territory has unusually rich waters and two-thirds of Morocco’s catch comes from there. The study estimated the local value of the catch since 1950 at 100 billion dollars, but since it was almost entirely sold in Europe at twice the price, the real value of the catch was 200 billion dollars.

Had the Moroccan government insisted that foreign fleets pay 20 percent of that value, as the EU claims it does today in Morocco (in fact, the study found it pays 5 percent), it could have received a revenue stream of one billion dollars a year, which, had it gone entirely to the Western Sahara, would have doubled the GDP per capita of 2,500 dollars a year for its 500,000 people. Under the current agreement, the EU pays 180 million dollars for access to all of Morocco’s waters, or 120 million dollars for access to the Western Sahara’s waters. How much actually goes to the territory is unclear. Other nations pay far less.

Mauritania has a fleet of locally flagged Russian and Chinese large trawlers that haul in whole schools of small blue-water fish called sardinella. The coast is studded with idle processing plants built to turn them into fish meal, which is used as animal feed. Belhabib discovered that the ships were reporting to the government only a tiny fraction of their actual haul – some of it illegally taken from neighboring countries and selling the rest for higher prices in Europe. “The authorities had no idea,” she said. “They thought their fleet were landing and reporting their whole catch.”

In Senegal, which unlike Mauritania has a strong tradition of fishing, President Macky Sall expelled the Russians in 2012 because their ships had depleted the populations of sardinella, infuriating many Senegalese. “The Russians just got licenses in Guinea Bissau and went back to Senegal and continued to fish, though not as much,” Belhabib said.

The Senegal reconstruction also documented how the European bottom-trawlers severely depleted the country’s near-shore. As population pressure increased demand for cheap fish, the number of artisanal fishermen soared, and many went to work up the coast in Mauritania, where few people fish. But a conflict in 1989 with Mauritania resulted in the expulsion of thousands of Senegalese fishermen, even as the industrial fleets were increasing their catch off both countries, most of it stolen.

Out of desperation, hundreds of Senegalese fishermen and dozens of canoes over the past decade have been boarding Korean and Portuguese converted trawlers that drop them off near the coasts of other countries. There, they illegally drop baited hooks into underwater canyons out of the reach of bottom trawlers where large, high-value fish can still be taken. These spots, marine biologists say, have served as marine reserves, places where coveted, overfished species could reproduce unhindered – and are now being depleted too, pushing the stocks closer to collapse.

Belhabib’s team also discovered to her horror that subsidized European Union fleets had flocked to the waters of countries weakened by civil war, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia, increasing their stolen catch when the people needed cheap protein most.

They found that South Africa made no attempt to control or even report the extensive fishery in the rich waters off its Namibian colony; in 1969, for example, 4.8 million tons of fish worth 6.2 million dollars were caught, but only 13 tons were reported to the FAO. Today, Namibia has the best-managed fishery in Africa after effectively banning foreign-flagged fleets

Finally, examinations of illegal fishing determined that Spain, whose seafood consumption is double the European average, steals more fish than any other nation, followed by China and Japan.

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The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rights Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

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‘What Can We Do for You?’ Aid Projects Pour Into Myanmar Thu, 09 Jun 2016 16:25:06 +0000 Guy Dinmore Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

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

By Guy Dinmore
YANGON, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, enthusiasm is running high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Polynesian Voyagers Bring Messages of Hope to UN on World Oceans Day Wed, 08 Jun 2016 03:58:04 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands

Polynesian voyagers who have sailed the world by canoe using ancient navigation skills will bring pledges they collected along the way to the UN on Wednesday as part of World Oceans Day celebrations.

The voyagers sailed the Hōkūle‘a canoe to New York to deliver the pledges from countries and communities committed to doing their part to help save the world’s oceans to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator told IPS that they were inspired to collect the declarations after Ban sailed with them in Apia, Samoa in the Summer of 2014.

“He gave us this bottle (capped) with his own handwritten note of his pledge to work with the membership of the UN (for) the betterment of the ocean,” said Thompson.

Thompson is master navigator of the Hōkūle‘a canoe. The voyagers uses the ancient traditions of Polynesian navigation to travel the oceans without technical instruments, knowledge which almost became extinct, but has been revived through decades of training.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Hōkūle‘a has recently returned from a 37-month voyage covering about 50,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean.

“We are sailing on the belief that there are millions of people that are working for kindness and caring and compassion for the earth even though we’re not connected,” said Thompson. “We just want our voyaging canoe and our community to (be) part of that movement.”

The Hōkūle‘a canoe was launched 41 years ago, the first of its kind launched in over 600 years, says Thompson.

“It was our vehicle to allow us to explore and rediscover our ancient traditions primarily in voyaging and in navigation.”

“It was a reconnection not just to our culture, and to our tradition, and to our ancestors, but also reconnection back to the Pacific Islanders.”

Over that time, he says the voyagers have seen many changes in the oceans and peoples of the region.

“We’ve been witness to watching shifting change, not only in what’s been happening to the oceans physically, but what’s been happening to the relationship between islanders and the ocean in the biggest ocean, that’s the Pacific.”

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976." -- Nainoa Thompson.

During this time, Thompson says that he has observed increasing awareness around the Pacific of the science of the negative impacts on the oceans such as climate change and acidification.

“I think part of the solution to figure out how to protect the oceans is going to really require a meshing and a coming together of both science and technology with indigenous knowledge — those people who have lived and known these islands for generations and thousands of years.”

Thompson says that he has personally learnt a lot from his own teacher, who he described as the only known master navigator.

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976.”

Thompson describes Piailug, who came from a tiny island called Satawal in Micronesia, as “a window into the ancient world and the ancient oceans.”

Satawal is “only a mile and quarter long and half mile wide,” yet the people who live there have a phenomonal “knowledge of the oceans, and of the stars, and the heavens, and the atmosphere, and the winds, and the clouds, and the sea life, and the sea birds,” said Thompson.

“We were lucky to have (Piailug), he changed the whole world view from another native group that was losing language and culture to a whole new world where we were the greatest navigators.”

“He came back and trained us for 30 years.”

“In that process we tried to understand really the importance of listening to your elders and spending time and trying to protect and preserve their knowledge of the ocean because it was getting so lost so quickly.”

“Extinction of cultural values and cultural lifestyles are happening everywhere so Mau singlehandedly shifted that whole mindset.”

“Back in 1975 there were no canoes, there were no voyages, there were no navigators. In Polynesia now there’s about 2500 active sailors,” said Thompson.

He added that learning the navigation skills helped his generation to better understand the oceans.

“The thing about the navigation is it forces it you to do two things: to observe and secondly to understand nature.”

Thompson says that his generation now has a responsibility to share this knowledge with the children of Hawaii and the world.

He says that there is also a need “to move education towards catching up with the real core issues that our children need to know.”

“The worldwide voyage is a relationship between those who are exploring, those who are learning, those who are bringing things back and getting it embedded into schools.”

The President of the University of Hawaii sailed with the Hōkūle‘a from Washington DC, to New York, and the Superintendent of the Hawaiian public schools system will also be joining the Hōkūle‘a at the UN on World Oceans Day.

Thompson said that ensuring that the knowledge was shared with Hawaii’s students was important because in the past that knowledge had been lost when it was banned from schools.

“The problem of why we know so little of native people is because it wasn’t taught in schools and Hawaiian culture, language and geneology was outlawed by policy by public and private schools back a hundred years ago.”

“The way to change that is really to change what you teach in schools.”

The voyagers plan to share the knowledge they collect of people who are doing great things to protect the oceans with the children of Hawaii.

Many of these examples also include school children, such as is the case with oyster farming in New York.

“New York was considered the largest oyster population in the world, the indigenous people lived directly off the sea food, that’s all they needed.”

However eventually the water became so polluted that the oyster larvae couldn’t survive, but more recently some New York schools have begun breeding the oysters themselves.

“The equation is that if you plant reefs of oysters, if you get a billion oysters you can filter the harbour in three days,” said Thompson.

New York restaurants have now got involved, and Thompson described the program as an example of how the economy and environment can work together for the better.

“That’s an equation that Hawaii needs to figure out, and that’s an equation that the world needs to figure out, but it’s happening in very special places.”

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Coral Reef Tourism in Danger as Reefs Struggle to Adapt to Warming Tue, 07 Jun 2016 15:51:00 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 0 World Oceans Day – A Death Sea Called Mediterranean Mon, 06 Jun 2016 12:18:08 +0000 Baher Kamal Credit: World Oceans Day

Credit: World Oceans Day

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 6 2016 (IPS)

While the United Nations identifies 17 major regional seas in its planning, the Mediterranean is perhaps the most dramatic case as it has gone from being the so-called cradle of civilization to be a cemetery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants. And it is most probably also the most polluted water basin the whole world. See this report.

The Mediterranean covers a surface of 2,5 million square kilometres and is surrounded by 22 countries, which together share a coastline of 46,000 kilometres, and are home to around 480 million people across three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.

But it is also a sort of a huge salty lake, being a semi-enclosed sea with only two tiny points of contact with open oceans-the Suez Canal in the East and the Gibraltar Straits in the West.

This implies that its waters need between 80 years and 150 years to be renewed as a result of its contact with open oceans, according to the Athens-based UN Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Actions Plan (UNEP/MAP).

In other words, a drop of polluted water remains there, circulating for a whole century on average.

Add to this that of its total population, nearly 1 in 3 inhabitant–or over 160 million—are permanent residents in urban centres situated along its coasts. And that some 180 millions tourists visit its shores annually, this making a total of some 340 million people concentrated in the coastal area during the peak holiday seasons.

Result: millions of people dumping in the Mediterranean their domestic and urban solid and liquid wastes. The problem becomes more evident if you consider that up to few years ago, over 40 per cent of coastal urban centres lacked sewage treatment facilities, and 80 per cent of waste water was disposed off in the sea untreated, according to UNEP/MAP.

20.000 Tonnes of Petrol Per Year

Then come industrial activities as a key source of pollution, mainly from the chemical, petro-chemical and metallurgy sectors. Just some examples:

— Some 60 refineries dump into the sea nearly 20.000 tonnes of petrol/year;

— Chemical products used in agriculture generate runoffs containing pesticides, nitrates and phosphates,

— Other industries such as the treatment of wastes and solvent generation, surface treatment of metals, production of paper, paints and plastics, dyeing, printing and tanneries, bring more pollution to the sea.

Maritime Traffic

But the Mediterranean sea is also under pressure from intense maritime activities: with 30 per cent of all international sea-borne trade by volume originating from or directed to its ports or passing through its waters, and nearly 25 per cent of the world’s sea-transported oil transiting it, maritime traffic and sea-based pollution are among the key causes of pollution of this sea.

A fisheries worker unloading the morning's catch. Credit: FAO

A fisheries worker unloading the morning’s catch. Credit: FAO

Just consider that an estimated 2,000 merchant vessels of over 100 tonnes are at sea at any given moment, with a total of 200,000 crossing the Mediterranean annually.

But it is not only about pollution produced by such a heavy maritime traffic. In fact, it is estimated that 50 per cent of all goods carried at sea around the world are dangerous to some degree.

The point is that some of the hazardous and noxious chemicals are far more dangerous than oil, although the quantities of these products transported by sea in the Mediterranean are only a fraction of the volume of oil carried by tankers.

On the other hand, operational oil pollution from ships include a variety of discharges of oil and oily mixtures that are generated on board. These include oil discharges into the sea, comprising oily ballast waters, tank washing residues, fuel oil sludge and bilge discharges.

Marine Litter

Now UNEP/MAP has just launched its new updated Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean, within the framework of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), held last month in Nairobi.

Marine litter has been confirmed as a critical issue in the Mediterranean, exacerbated by the basin’s limited hydrological exchanges with other oceans, as well as pressures from its densely-populated coasts, highly-developed tourism, along with the impacts of 30 percent of the world’s maritime traffic transiting the Mediterranean sea and additional inputs of litter from rivers and heavily urbanised areas.

Marine litter and microplastics. Credit: UNEP

Marine litter and microplastics. Credit: UNEP

Compared to the 2008 assessment, this updated report provides data on waste and plastic inputs to the sea for each Mediterranean country and specifies the most important sources of litter, changes in their composition and transport patterns presenting updated results of modelling and provides a comprehensive review of existing data for the four compartments of the marine environment (beaches, surface, seabed, and ingested litter).

It also provides original data and information on micro-plastics, on derelict fishing gear and their impact and details the general reduction measures, especially those that are important for the Mediterranean Sea.

World Oceans Day

All the above might be lost in the ocean of information related to this year’s World Ocean Day, marked on June 8.

According to a United Nations report, world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.

“Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.”

Marking the World Oceans Day, the UN has underlined facts and figures:

— Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume;

— Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods;

— Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at 3 trillion dollars per year or about 5 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product;

— Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.

— Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.

— Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein.

— Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.

— Subsidies for fishing contribute to the rapid depletion of many fish species and prevent efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate 50 billion dollars less per year than they could.

— As much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.

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Mega Dams Remain Controversial Source of Energy Mon, 06 Jun 2016 03:04:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 0 Wildlife Trafficking Needs to Be a Policy Priority in Asia Pacific Before It Is Too Late Sun, 05 Jun 2016 06:34:49 +0000 Isabelle Louis and Jeremy Douglas Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director, United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific]]>

Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director, United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific

By Isabelle Louis and Jeremy Douglas
BANGKOK, Jun 5 2016 (IPS)

This year’s World Environment Day on June 5 puts the spotlight on the illegal trade in wildlife. The problem has particular significance in Asia, which is the destination for most of the ivory taken from 20,000 to 25,000 elephants and the horns of more than 1,200 rhinos killed in Africa every year. Demand in the region is driven by fast growing middle and upper classes with an appetite for exotic pets, décor, food and fashion.

While several iconic species including rhinos, tigers and elephants are now in decline, with some populations pushed to the brink of extinction, it is actually less known species such as pangolins, turtles and reptiles that are most frequently smuggled across borders and consumed in the region. And although it is difficult to obtain an accurate valuation of the regional wildlife trade, it is known that prices of some species are subject to speculation – often driven by proximity to extinction – and that the profits made by organised crime are significant.

Despite a variety of national and international instruments to counter the problem, transnational criminal groups have been able to circumvent regulations and to launder illegally sourced wildlife into legal markets. This often happens through fraud, advanced smuggling techniques, or more simply with corruption. The size of some recent seizures – several tonnes of ivory were intercepted over the past few years in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam– and the variety of nationalities of the couriers arrested leaves no doubt about the organised and transnational nature of wildlife trafficking.

We are paying a heavy price. The illegal wildlife trade undermines our ability to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted last year. Ivory from a poached elephant is worth about US$21,000 a kilogram while a living elephant can generate more than US$1.6 million in economic activity. The illegal wildlife trade also has serious negative impacts on biodiversity, leading to the extinction of species and damage to habitat. The environmental impact of the illegal wildlife trade also goes beyond the immediate detrimental effects on target species, and can result in the spread of diseases or introduction of invasive species when live animals are moved across international borders.

In a landmark resolution last year the United Nations General Assembly called on countries to declare the illegal wildlife trade a serious criminal offence. Discussions at the second United Nations Environment Assembly that has just taken place in Kenya May 23-27 reaffirmed the urgency of stepping up efforts to combat wildlife crime through concrete actions at the national level and through expanded international cooperation. There are also signs that leaders in this region have started recognise the significance of the problem – the last ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime added trafficking in wildlife and timber to the list of priority transnational crimes for the region to address. Given the size of the market for wildlife in Asia it is important that political statements in the region are followed up with concrete actions, and that the illegal wildlife trade is treated as a serious organised crime like drug trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, terrorism, and arms smuggling.

Addressing the illegal trade in wildlife will require collective coordinated action, working across source, transit and destination countries, in the most strategic hotspots across the supply chain. It is important to shift the focus of the criminal justice response from couriers and poachers to trade controllers and corrupt facilitators. Legal loopholes need to be closed and laws and penalties made tougher in conjunction with anti-corruption provisions. And hopefully greater public awareness will bring pressure to bear on governments to enforce laws.

As we mark World Environment Day, the United Nations is calling on everyone to stop wildlife trafficking. Everyone has a role to play from lawmakers, community leaders, police and customs officers, prosecutors and judges, to businesses and average citizens. We urge you to join us in calling for zero tolerance. Wildlife trafficking needs to be stopped.

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Closing the Gaps in Fight Against Wildlife Trafficking in Latin America Thu, 02 Jun 2016 16:57:46 +0000 Emilio Godoy Because of their biological wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean are a source and destination of trafficked species. In the photo, trafficked parrots in a cage after being seized. Credit: World Animal Protection

Because of their biological wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean are a source and destination of trafficked species. In the photo, trafficked parrots in a cage after being seized. Credit: World Animal Protection

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 2 2016 (IPS)

Although it violates the international conventions that regulate the wildlife trade, it is possible to go online and find websites to buy, for example, axolotl salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum) or spiny softshell turtles (Trionyx spiniferus).

These websites reflect new trends in the trafficking of plant and animal species, which help fuel the smuggling of wildlife and form part of the ‘Deep Web’, made up of pages that search engines cannot find.

Despite the magnitude of the damage to biodiversity, Latin America and the Caribbean have made scant progress in fighting wildlife trafficking. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, celebrated on Jun. 5, is Go Wild for Life.“People have to be taught that they should not purchase wild animals or plants. That would be enough to cut down trafficking to sustainable levels.” -- Juan Carlos Cantú

Because of their biological wealth, Mexico, Central America and the Amazon rainforest – which is shared by Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela – are the main sources of trafficked plant and animal species in the region.

“Latin America represents significant criminal activity, because there are several countries considered megadiverse, which makes this region highly vulnerable to trafficking,” Roberto Vieto, with World Animal Protection, told IPS.

Vieto, who is wildlife campaigns officer for Latin America at the London-based international animal welfare organisation, said wildlife trafficking has seen a resurgence in the region, driven by online trade.

The World Wildlife Crime Report, published May 26 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela headed the region in terms of seizures of trafficked wildlife in the 2004-2015 period.

This region accounted for 15 percent of global seizures, while North America represented 46 percent, the Asia-Pacific region 24 percent, Europe 14 percent and Africa one percent.

The seizures indicate that the main destinations for reptiles, mammals and birds trafficked from this region are the United States, Europe, and more recently, China.

UNODC reports that some 7,000 species have been discovered in seizures worldwide. And the European Union reported in February that wildlife trafficking generates anywhere between 8.9 and 22.25 billion dollars a year. That makes it one of the four main transnational criminal activities, along with drug, weapon and people trafficking.

Smuggling, forgery of documents, and the mixture of legal and illegal products are the favorite techniques used by traffickers of wild species. In the photo are small birds in tin cans and a cage, discovered during a seizure in Brazil. Credit: World Animal Protection

Smuggling, forgery of documents, and the mixture of legal and illegal products are the favorite techniques used by traffickers of wild species. In the photo are small birds in tin cans and a cage, discovered during a seizure in Brazil. Credit: World Animal Protection

Wildlife seizures are an indicator of the scale of the phenomenon. To cite just one example, authorities in Mexico seized more than 200,000 specimens between 2007 and 2011 and arrested 294 suspects.

Part of the SDGs

The elimination of wildlife trafficking forms part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), number 15 is dedicated to protecting ecosystems, and target number seven is “Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products.”

“The problem is very serious,” said Juan Carlos Cantú, the representative in Mexico of the U.S.-based Defenders of Wildlife. “For certain species, trafficking is the only threat they face. International trafficking is focused on endemic species, the rarest ones, the ones that are the most threatened by extinction.”

In Latin America, there are legal vacuums, and laws against wildlife trafficking are not always adequately enforced.

One illustration of this: in its first “National report on the traffick of wild animals”, published in 2014, the Brazilian organisation Renctas concluded that more than one million caimans – related to alligators – are poached every year in wilderness areas in Brazil, and their hides are taken to neighbouring countries for processing and export.

In 2015, Defenders of Wildlife stated in its report “Combating Wildlife Trafficking from Latin America to the United States” that the five most frequently seized animals in the region are queen conches, sea turtles, caimans, crocodiles and iguanas.

The lucrative Chinese market poses an enormous threat to species like the totoaba, sea cucumbers and sharks. The capture of the totoaba, a fish that is endemic to the Gulf of California in northwest Mexico, whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, is a death sentence for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a rare species of porpoise only found in the same area.

Traffickers often use legal documents to hide illegal activities or forged permits to smuggle specimens. As UNODC notes, certain markets are especially vulnerable to the infiltration of illegally sourced or trafficked wildlife.

In the photo, an inspector from Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency carries a box of parrots seized in a 2011 operation against the trafficking of protected species of birds. Credit: PROFEPA

In the photo, an inspector from Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency carries a box of parrots seized in a 2011 operation against the trafficking of protected species of birds. Credit: PROFEPA

Smugglers and their clients take advantage of legal gaps in the region. For example, in Brazil it is illegal to sell wild animals, but it is legal to own them if they were raised in captivity.

Requests for protection

For the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Johannesburg Sep. 24-Oct. 5, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras asked for the inclusion of four kinds of lizards from the Abronia genus in Appendix I – species for which CITES prohibits international trade.

In one illustrative case, Mexico asked for the inclusion of 13 species of rosewood (Dalbergia calderonii) in Apendix II - species in which trade must be controlled – to protect the tree from logging for timber.

Sharks are the perfect illustration of incoherent and contradictory regulations and laws. Most Latin American nations allow them to be sold, but ban their capture for the purpose of removal of their fins, which are in high demand in Asia and provide an incentive to blur the distinction between the legal and illegal markets.

The global gendarme

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in effect since 1975, regulates more than 5,600 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants from overexploitation through international trade, in accordance with the degree of risk of extinction.

But the millions of species that aren’t covered by CITES can be illegally bred and raised and internationally traded.

Furthermore, national markets are also outside of the reach of the convention, if it cannot be proved that specimens or products have crossed international borders, in contravention of CITES.

In the case of Latin America, since at least 2010 most of the countries have not presented their biennial reports to CITES on how they are implementing the convention, despite the importance of oversight and monitoring in the fight against trafficking.

That gap is going to close, because in its annual meeting in Geneva in February, the CITES Standing Committee decided that its member states must provide statistical information every year on seizures, which will go into an annual report, the first of which will be published in October 2017.

Vieto and Cantú agree on the importance of raising public awareness so that people understand they must not buy wild animals. “Educational campaigns are needed to reduce the consumption of products, step up enforcement of existing regulations and laws, and bolster international cooperation,” to fill in gaps at a local level, said Vieto.

For Cantú, the key is reducing demand. “People have to be taught that they should not purchase wild animals or plants. That would be enough to cut down trafficking to sustainable levels,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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New International Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing Fri, 27 May 2016 16:27:29 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 0 Natural Capital Investment Key to Africa’s Development Mon, 23 May 2016 17:49:31 +0000 Busani Bafana 0 Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentina Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Why Mainstreaming Biodiversity Is the Call for the Day Mon, 23 May 2016 14:42:01 +0000 Reza Khan Photo: bludedotpost

Photo: bludedotpost

By Reza Khan
May 23 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

We have become familiar with the term biodiversity today due to the Convention of Biological Diversity [CBD] that was accepted by the UN Council on December 29, 1993, after which many nations, including Bangladesh, started becoming its signatories. As biodiversity is the foundation of life and is essential for the services provided by ecosystems, this year’s theme of the International Biodiversity Day is “Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods.”

Although Bangladesh is considered to be very rich in biodiversity, this scene seemed to have changed a lot since the 1950s. Nevertheless, if we reflect on the recorded biodiversity elements of the country, the list is still quite huge. For instance, the world total of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, crustaceans and butterflies is 131,859 species, where India has 8,376 or 6.35 percent of the world species and Bangladesh is blessed with 2,242 species or 1.7 percent of the world.

In addition, we have quite a large tally of plant species. The world total of plants is around 465,668 species; India has 47,513 of that number or 10.20 percent, while we have 6,759 plant species or 14.23 percent of Indian flora, as recognised by our Department of Environment’s (DoE) report to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2015. However, at present these species seem to subsist only on paper; in fact, some of these species – which used to exist in the hundreds or even thousands in the country – only have a handful of their members still existing in Bangladesh. Moreover, some major species have already become extinct.

Bangladesh is one of the first countries to have signed almost all the protocols, treaties, conventions, etc., related to the biodiversity of the country. The country has been a pioneer in banning polybag use, promulgation of the Wildlife Act, Fisheries Act, Forest Act, Environment Act and several others that apparently help conserve the environment, thereby helping to prevent wide scale abuse against our existing biodiveristy.

While we can be thankful for these laws, I believe that these Acts mostly exist only on paper. In fact, some corrupt government officials and political touts often exploit these laws to harass people at the grassroots in the name of implementing these rules and regulations, while the real culprits who force labourers and downtrodden workers of fields to break the law, continue to operate with impunity. Only formulating Acts therefore does little to empower people at the grassroots, as nothing much is done to support them in their daily quest for livelihood.

Let’s take the ban of polybags for example. While this is a laudable initiative, instead of fining grocers or small store owners for using them, factories that produce polybags should be penalised. Moreover, we need to find cheaper alternatives for polybags which would encourage producers, vendors and users to stop using them, before enforcing a complete ban that is often disregarded by the concerned parties.

The jhatka ilish ban again looks great on paper. In practice, however, this appears to be a somewhat misguided initiative, as it will not work in its entirety unless all middlemen are removed, and fishermen get 100 percent subsidies given to them that will ensure that they do not breach the ban during jhatka season.

A recent example of a law that needs to be adjusted for better enforcement is the use of jute bags instead of polybags for commercial purposes. The government, unfortunately, failed to ensure the supply of jute bags to establishments responsible for packing rice, paddy, wheat or other grains. Thus, it makes little sense for law enforcers to punish grocers or wholesalers who do not use jute packaging, while companies, mills and factories that refuse to use jute bags mostly go unchecked and unpunished.

It goes without saying that tanneries which continue to operate within the city, hawkers and vendors selling their wares on footpaths and overpasses, illegal occupiers of temporary structures and land grabbers hinder environment conservation efforts. However, it will be difficult to stop their illegal activities until they are hit hard at the root. The best way to ensure that they stop polluting and encroaching our environment would be to apprehend them before they even have the chance to carry out their nefarious activities.

If we look at climate change, Bangladesh has promulgated all Acts, and placed the suggested rules and regulations to oblige the international authorities’ protocols on this issue. Funds have been given and supposedly used to conserve biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change. However, the actual scenario seems to be a little different from what appears on paper. While committees are formed, and officers, teachers and project directors are employed to make people aware of climate change, there is little development in areas which are most vulnerable to climate change risks.

At the grassroots and in remote villages, people are still unaware of the benefits – both economic and environmental – of biodiversity conservation or climate change mitigation. Fishermen at the Sundarbans, for example, continue their harmful pursuit of catching shrimp larvae just as they used to about a decade ago, killing millions of other fish eggs and larvae on a daily basis in the process. These discarded and unused fish are extremely important for commercial fishery and aquatic biodiversity. It’s unfortunate that due to these activities, the Sunderbans is gradually turning into a fish desert.

This continues to occur despite the fact that millions have been reportedly spent from biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation funds to provide alternative livelihood options to these impoverished, vulnerable people. In fact, people of the Sunderbans have even lost their fear of wild animals like tigers or snakes while fishing for fish eggs and larvae, thanks to the pressures of earning a livelihood for their family and dependents.

In conclusion, I would like to stress on the importance of a bottom-up approach in the discussions of conserving biodiversity, instead of continuing the top-down approach that is currently followed by the government, NGOs and donor agencies while formulating and implementing projects. It is only then that we can ensure that our environment is protected but not at the cost of people’s livelihoods.

The writer is an eminent ornithologist and Specialist in Wildlife and Zoo Management of Dubai Zoo.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Bangladesh’s Urban Slums Swell with Climate Migrants Mon, 23 May 2016 11:34:55 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz stands with one of his children in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came here a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but has found only grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

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

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, May 23 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Species Loss, the Migration Hiding in Plain Sight Mon, 23 May 2016 09:34:48 +0000 Monique Barbut The author is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification]]>

The author is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

By Monique Barbut
BONN, May 23 2016 (IPS)

Two months ago, I was in Agadez, a city in the middle of the famous Ténéré Desert of Niger. Agadez has become a major transit point on a hazardous journey for the hundreds and thousands of desperate people from all over West Africa trying to make it to the Mediterranean coast every year.

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

The loss of productive land and unpredictability of the rainy seasons has left many Sahelians with far too few options. Their livelihoods are under threat. When communities that are culturally nomadic and that practice seasonal migration as a coping mechanism resort to permanent migration and abandon the land, it signals an unfolding crisis.

Migration has become the ‘hot potato’ issue of our times. Alongside it, hidden in plain sight, is another threat that closely reflects this same abandonment dynamic. Plants and animals are also moving from their native homes to other parts of the world. A recent example is the mosquito carrying the deadly Zika virus. In a relatively short time, it has migrated from South to North America, and is now threatening to reach Europe.

The transformation occurring in ecosystems as a result of climate change, as plant and animal species selectively find new habitats, is difficult to fathom or explain to the public. It will be even harder to contain it.

The rate at which plant and animal life is migrating signals deepening trouble in the systems that support life on Earth – land, water, plants, climate, etc. Species migration, like human migration, has an impact in the new locations, but also in their places of origin.

An assessment in 2012 of the impacts of the ragweed species in Europe, for instance, shows it poses a risk to human health and agriculture. In future, more people may suffer allergies and maize, potato and sugar beet farmers, among many others, may be fighting a new weed.

On the other end is the predicted loss of food crops such as maize, beans, bananas and finger millet from much of sub-Saharan Africa. The loss of these crops, which are widely consumed in the region, could lead to new types of hunger crises.

Human migration is guided by reason and choice, and can be managed, even reversed, with the right policy incentives. For instance, if land is restored people may return. However, areas that are abandoned by humans are depopulated and eventually collapse and die for lack of investment.

By contrast, the migration of biodiversity is irreversible beyond a certain threshold. It is almost impossible to recover plants and animals that have become extinct or have migrated due to ecosystem change. Areas that are abandoned by species eventually die for lack of ecosystem services.

The forces driving species migration are strikingly similar to those driving people in West Africa’s Sahel region towards Agadez.

According to the local people, the forces driving their migration North are: land that is no longer productive; droughts and flash floods that are stripping much of the fertile top soil from the land; and population pressure in some of the most fertile areas of West Africa.

Climate change impacts, such as droughts that transform the local vegetation, the emergence of dust in new areas and migration of plants that are swept by floods, are some of the forces behind species migration and the disappearance of native species.

The damage already done to the climate system makes the transformation of ecosystems almost inevitable. Restoring degraded lands is the last hope we have to keep ecosystems functioning at the level they are in today. That window of opportunity, however, is closing fast.

That is why, in observing the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May, we must celebrate the countries leading the way in mainstreaming the biodiversity that has sustained us and our livelihoods for millennia.

Let’s celebrate and recognize the 90 countries that are setting national targets to restore degraded lands in order to ensure the fertile lands in use by 2030 stays stable and, in turn, sustains species and ecosystems.

Many of these are the poorest countries and communities of the world. But they have chosen to share their labor, knowledge and limited finances to maintain the integrity of an Earth that we all share.

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Indigenous Peoples Inclusion at United Nations Incomplete Fri, 20 May 2016 17:44:57 +0000 Aruna Dutt Guests at an indigenous cultural event during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit: Aruna Dutt/IPS.

Guests at an indigenous cultural event during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit: Aruna Dutt/IPS.

By Aruna Dutt

The United Nations Indigenous Forum is one of the UN’s most culturally diverse bodies yet its inclusion within the overall UN system remains limited.

“Thousands of people who come to the forum throughout the years do not have the opportunity to express their concerns,” said Alvaro Esteban Pop Ac, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, here Thursday.

Over 1,000 Indigenous people from all over the world came here for the 15th session of the  Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held from May 9-20.

“The demand by indigenous peoples is to have a new category as observer,” said Joan Carling, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Carling said that while indigenous people are not states or NGOs, according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they “have the right to self-determination.”

“The main aim of the resolution is to really ensure that effective participation of indigenous peoples is afforded in the UN system.”

“We need to be able to participate in decision-making processes in the UN  to be able to express our specific conditions and our aspirations as peoples. That deserves the space at the highest level,” she said.

“We are contributing to the resolution of conflict, we are contributing to sustainable development, we are contributing to the cultural diversity of the world which benefits everyone, but these contributions are not being recognized and protected," -- Joan Carling

The contributions that Indigenous peoples are making, to areas such as peace and environmental protection, are not reflected in their level of participation at the UN.

“We are contributing to the resolution of conflict, we are contributing to sustainable development, we are contributing to the cultural diversity of the world which benefits everyone, but these contributions are not being recognized and protected,” said Carling.

“The issue of conflicts and the issue of injustice will continue because decisions are being undertaken at global level where we don’t have any participation, that is the thing that we want to rectify,” she added.

Indigenous peoples still cannot make recommendations directly to Security Council, only through the Economic and Social Council.

Carling, an indigenous activist from Cordillera in the Philippines, said that the situation of Indigenous women in particular should be addressed by the 15-member UN Security Council, arguably the most powerful organ within the UN system.

Violence against Indigenous women was a major theme of the 2016 forum.

Throughout history, Pop Ac said, “Indigenous women have lead indigenous dialogue. Women play a key role in keeping the community together. We promote our issues through women,” said Pop Ac.

He pointed to Northeast India, where there is a heavy presence of more than 70 armed groups and 500, 000 military troops, which have been related to the rampant sexual abuse and trafficking of indigenous women.

Jacob Bryan Aki from Peace Child International-Hawaii and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement was one of the young Indigenous people who participated in the forum.

“We come here, we learn, and the work doesn’t stop,” said Aki.  “The two weeks we have here sets us up for the rest of the year, to go back home, to work with our family and our communities, to take the opportunities we have had here to those who do not. These messages need to be heard from youth.”

“We are the next generation of leaders and scholars,” said Aki. “It is very important for us to engage in this international level because in 10-20 years we are going to be thrust into these leadership roles and this is preparation to lead and learn how to make this world a better place for our people.”

With over 5000 different cultures and an estimated 7000 different languages, Indigenous peoples represent much of the world’s cultural diversity.

Yet despite their cultural differences Indigenous peoples – who make up five percent of the world’s overall population – have many shared experiences.

“The first criteria which defines an indigenous peoples, is a peoples that have survived colonization,” said Pop Ac.

“Humanity needs a different logic and ethic in defining wealth” Pop Ac added.

“It is human greed which is destroying the environment.”

Indigenous peoples are the “guardians of life” and are working to protect their environments, he said.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

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Bees and Silkworms Spin Gold for Ethiopia’s Rural Youth Mon, 16 May 2016 11:30:41 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni Mulunesh Ena is part of an existing project supported by icipe, working with five other women in her community near Arba Minch to raise silkworms. She then sells the cocoons to a large cooperative in Arba Minch where she earns 70-100 Ethiopian birr per KG (approximately $3-5 US). On the racks in front of her, silkworms are eating castor leaves. Credit: Brendan Bannon, The MasterCard Foundation/IPS

Mulunesh Ena is part of an existing project supported by icipe, working with five other women in her community near Arba Minch to raise silkworms. She then sells the cocoons to a large cooperative in Arba Minch where she earns 70-100 Ethiopian birr per KG (approximately $3-5 US). On the racks in front of her, silkworms are eating castor leaves. Credit: Brendan Bannon, The MasterCard Foundation/IPS

By Munyaradzi Makoni
ADDIS ABABA, May 16 2016 (IPS)

Beekeeping and silkworm farming have long been critical cogs of Ethiopian life, providing food, jobs and much needed income.

According to some scholarly research, beekeeping is an ancient tradition dating back to Ethiopia’s early history – between 3500 and 3000 B.C.

Collecting and selling honey and other bee products produced in homes and home gardens is common throughout the country.

Meanwhile, silk production or sericulture is a growing industry in Ethiopia and it offers a solution for the government’s quest for ways to expand the textile industry.  But both practices have never been fully exploited to directly benefit young people.

Alemayehu Konde Koira, Youth Livelihoods Program, senior manager with The MasterCard Foundation, views it as a huge opportunity.

“With relevant and adequate support, honey and silk production and engagement across their respective value chain could be key sectors of opportunity for young people,” he said.

The result has been combining expertise on insects with funding to empower youth in Ethiopia.

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology known as icipe with over 20 years of experience in implementing beekeeping and silk farming enterprises in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regions has been matched with the MasterCard Foundation’s commitment of more than 31 million dollars in financial inclusion towards youth employment and education initiatives in Ethiopia since 2010.

Earlier this year, the two organisations announced a 10.35-million-dollar (about 220 million Ethiopian birr) five-year Young Entrepreneurs in Honey and Silk farming initiative aimed at creating employment opportunities for young people through beekeeping and silkworm farming.

The project leaders said they will mainly focus on peri-urban and rural youth who face a variety of constraints to ensuring sustainable livelihoods and decent incomes. Women will also be employed by the project.

“The opportunity exists for harnessing the not often exploited potential of honey and silk-based value-added products through income-generating enterprises owned and run by Ethiopian youth,” icipe Director General Segenet Kelemu told IPS.

She said this will enable youths to establish and grow their own businesses.

Kelemu said honey and silk production business activities have the potential to provide a wide range of economic contributions, mainly income generation from marketing honey and its by-products (beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, propolis, bee colonies, and bee venom) and the creation of non-gender-biased employment opportunities.

“Ethiopian honey production is characterised by the widespread use of traditional technology resulting in relatively low honey supply and poor quality of honey harvested when compared to the potential honey yields and quality gains associated with modern beehives,” she said.

According to Kelemu, modern beehives yield around 20kg of high quality honey as compared to 6-8 kg of yields from traditional beehives.

“Silkworm rearing, on the other hand, is a new agrobusiness technology in Ethiopia and on various occasions has been targeted as a tool for employment creation and poverty reduction,” she said.

The Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs and other government departments will select the youth between 18 and 24 years of age who have completed a grade 10 education from the East and West Gojjam of Ethiopia’s Amhara region and Gamo Gofa in the Southern Nations.

“It’s a project that applies research and technology for the benefit of young people and communities,” Koira told IPS.

He said young entrepreneurs will receive starter kits and equipment that include modern beehives, honey processors, silkworm rearing trays and silk yarn spinning wheels to get their businesses started.

Koira said the project design combines technical skills in production, processing and marketing across the honey and silk value chains, as well as life skills, including entrepreneurship, leadership, interpersonal and communication, business development, and access to financial education and services.

Importantly, the project will create links to local, regional and international markets, he said, adding young entrepreneurs will make the best uses of innovative technologies and acquire tools and resources to develop their own enterprises.

Koira anticipates the project will create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for 12,500 young people in beekeeping and silk farming in Ethiopia for youths out of school and earning an income of less than two dollars day.

He said it’s expected that an additional 25,000 people involved in the value chain will benefit from the project.

Beekeeping has the potential to generate positive externalities such as ecosystem services through pollination by bees for several food crops within the project region, which will increase the yields of agricultural production thus enhancing food security for the local farming community, added Kelemu.

“This project has the potential to benefit 80,000 households indirectly from pollination services,” she said.

On the other hand, Kelemu said, the bee and silk enterprises established by the youth are expected to generate income and hence support the household food security.

“This will be instrumental, especially in overcoming food insecurity when economic factors are a fundamental cause of food insecurity,” she said.

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Justice for Berta Caceres Incomplete Without Land Rights: UN Rapporteur Fri, 13 May 2016 21:44:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands

The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

All around the world, Indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one Indigenous person was killed almost every week in 2015 because of their environmental activism, 40 percent of the total 116 people killed for environmental activism.

“We shouldn’t forget that the death of Berta is because of the protest that she had against the destruction of the territory of her people,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS in a recent interview.

Caceres, who was murdered at the beginning of March, had long known her life was in danger. She experienced violence and intimidation as a leader of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco who protested the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on their traditional lands.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Caceres activism received international recognition, including through the 2015 Goldman Prize, however this was not enough to protect her.

She knew she was going to die, she had even written her own obituary, said Tauli-Corpuz who met with Caceres during a visit to Honduras in 2015.

Four men were arrested in relation to Caceres death earlier this week.

While Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the arrests she said that justice would not be clear until after the trial, and that real justice was about more than the criminal proceedings for Caceres murder.

“We cannot rest on our laurels to say the whole thing is finished because that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is this whole issue about the dam still being there.”

Tauli-Corpuz has witnessed accounts of violence against many other Indigenous activists around the world, in her role as Special Rapporteur.

Their experiences have startling similarity, Indigenous peoples are subjected to rape, murder and kidnap, whenever they stand in the way of access to lands or natural resources.

“You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz also said that a look at the bigger picture reveals the increasingly international nature of the problems experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries,” she said.

“You see a situation where the state is meant to be the main duty bearer for protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, but at the same time you see investors having strong rights being protected and that is really where a lot of conflicts come up,” she said.

In Guatemala, Tauli-Corpuz says that 50 Indigenous women are still waiting for justice after their husbands were murdered and their lands taken in 1982.

“(Their) husbands were killed by the military because they were demanding the rights to their lands then (the military) took the women (to) the military camps and raped them and made them sexual slaves,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the women were brave enough to take their case to the courts but had to cover their faces because they were still being harassed by the military.

She said that when she recently asked the women what they would like if they won their case, they said that they would like their land back. After 33 years, their lands have never been returned.

Tauli-Corpuz also noted that for Indigenous peoples justice is incomplete if their lands are protected but they are denied access to them.

“(The land) is the source of their identities, their cultures and their livelihoods,” she said. If the forest is preserved but people are kicked off their lands, “than that’s a another problem that has to be prevented at all costs.”

In other cases, Indigenous peoples are forced off their lands when their food sources are destroyed.

For example said Tauli-Corpuz a major dam being built in the Amazon is not only destroying the forest but also means that there are no longer any fish in the rivers for the Indigenous people who rely on them.

Tauli-Corpuz said that it is important to remember that Indigenous peoples are contributing to climate change and environmental solutions by continuing their traditional ways of forest and ecosystem management.

Tauli-Corpuz has first-hand experience as an Indigenous activist and environmental defender. As a leader of the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines she helped successfully protest the construction of the Chico River Hydroelectric dam in the 1970s.

She notes that dams shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a climate change solution because they destroy forests and produce methane which is more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon.

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Fund Launched to Help Mountain People Face Climate Change Threat Wed, 11 May 2016 21:59:34 +0000 Aruna Dutt 0