Inter Press ServiceBiodiversity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:23:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 DR Congo’s Mai-Ndombe Forest ‘Savaged’ As Landless Communities Strugglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:10:51 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155317 Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally […]

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The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
INONGO, Democratic Republic of Congo, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally cut from the Mai-Ndombe forest, an area of 10 million hectares, which has some trees measuring between 35 and 45 meters.“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest." --Marine Gauthier

Destined for overseas export

“We witness this kind of spectacle every day, whereby tons and tons of logs and timber find their way to the capital either via the Congo River or by road, where they will eventually be shipped overseas, or just sold to the black market,” environment activist Prosper Ngobila told IPS.

Mbo, the truck driver who brought the load, confirmed: “This stock and others that are already gone to the capital are destined for overseas export. I’m only a transporter, but I understand that the owner of this business is a very powerful man, almost untouchable.”

Thousands of logs cut from trees 20 meters in height are currently lying in the Mai-Ndombe forest waiting to be hauled off, while thousands more have been left there to rot for years, Ngobila added.

“It’s shocking to say the least,” he said.

Rich in natural resources

The forests of Mai-Ndombe (“black water” in Lingala) are rich in rare and precious woods (red wood, black wood, blue wood, tola, kambala, lifake, among others). It is also home to about 7,500 bonobos, an endangered primate and the closest cousin to humans of all species, sharing 98 percent of our genes, according to the WWF.

The forests constitute a vital platform providing livelihoods for some 73,000 indigenous individuals, mostly Batwa (Pygmies), who live here alongside the province’s 1.8 million population, many of whom with no secure land rights.

Recent studies also have revealed that the province – and indeed the forests – boasts significant reserves of diamond, oil, nickel, copper and coal, and vast quantities of uranium lying deep inside the Lake Mai-Ndombe.

Efforts to save the forests

The WWF and many environmental experts, who deplore the gradual destruction and degradation of these forests for their precious wood and for the benefit of agriculture, continue to plead and lobby for their protection.

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change.

In an effort to save these precious forests, the World Bank in 2016 approved DRC’s REDD+ programmes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fight forest’s deforestation and degradation, which it would fund to the tune of 90 million dollars annually.

The projects, which are currently estimated at 20, have since transformed the Mai-Ndombe Province into a testing ground for international climate schemes. And as part of the projects, indigenous and other local people caring for the forests and depending on them for their livelihoods were supposed to be rewarded for their efforts.

Flaws and fiasco

However, Marine Gauthier, a Paris-based expert who authored a report on the sorry state of the Mai-Ndombe forest, seems to have found serious flaws in these ambitious programmes.

The report, released a few days before the International Day of Forests on March 21 by the Rights and Resources’ Initiative (RRI)), cited weak recognition of communities’ land rights, and recommended that key prerequisites should be addressed before any other REDD+ funds are invested.

In the interim, it said, REDD+ investments should be put on hold.

Gauthier, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stop the funding from doing more damage to the people of the forest, told IPS in the aftermath of the report’s release, “In DRC and more specifically in the Mai-Ndombe, the history of natural resources management has always been done at the expense of local communities.

“Industrial logging concessions have been granted on their traditional lands without their consent and destroyed their environment without any form of compensation, and protected areas have been established on their lands prohibiting them to access to the forest where they hunt, gather, conduct traditional rituals, hence severing them from their livelihood and culture – again, without their consent.”

Struggle for landless peasants

Under the DRC’s 2014 Forest Code, indigenous people and local communities have the legal right to own forest covering an area of up to 50,000 hectares.

Thirteen communities in the territories of Mushie and Bolobo in the Mai-Ndombe province have since asked for formal title of a total of 65,308 hectares of land, reports said, adding that only 300 hectares have been legally recognised for each community – a total of only 3,900 hectares.

Alfred Mputu, a 56-year-old small scale forest farmer who is among the people still waiting for a formal title, told IPS: “I have been working and living in this land for decades, but as long as I don’t have a formal title that gives me the right to own it, I wouldn’t say it belongs to me.

“What if the government decides to sell it to foreign companies or to some rich and powerful people? Where will we go to live?”

The consequences of these communities living in and around these forests with no secured land rights could be dire, according to experts.

Zachary Donnenfeld, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher for African futures and innovation, told IPS: “They could have their land sold out from under them by the government, likely to a private multinational company.

“Even if they are allowed to stay on their land, the environmental degradation caused by this industry could cause a noticeable deterioration in the quality of life for people in the area.”

Pretoria-based Donnenfeld added: “My guess is that the government is more interested in selling these resources to multinationals than it in seeing it benefit the community.

“To be fair, the government could be trying to sort out competing claims among the local groups. There could have been some overlap, for example communities bidding for the best land, and the government could be deciding what’s fair based on historical use or something. That said, my guess is that communities won’t get most of this land – at least in a secured land rights sense.”

Poverty and conflicts

Gauthier pointed out that these situations create poverty and conflicts between project implementers and communities, as well as between communities.

“Instead, when communities get secured land rights and are empowered to manage their lands themselves, studies show that it is the best way to protect the forest and even more efficient than government-managed protected areas.

“REDD+ opens the door to more land-grabbing by external stakeholders appealed by carbon benefits. Local communities’ land rights should be recognised through existing legal possibilities such as local community forest concessions so that they can keep protecting the forest, hence achieving REDD+ objectives.”

Gauthier said if their land rights are not secured, they can get evicted, as has already happened elsewhere in the country, such as South Kivu in the Kahuzi Biega National Park where 6,000 pygmies were expelled.

“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest, when enabling them to live in and protect the forest as they have always done is the best way to keep these forests standing.”

Many observers say situations such as these impact negatively on the most vulnerable – women and children – who are already bearing the brunt of a country torn apart by dictatorship, economic mismanagement, corruption and two decades of armed conflict.

Chouchouna Losale, vice-coordinator of the Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the DRC, told IPS that a humanitarian crisis has ensued in the Mai-Ndombe Province after the savannahs donated to women were ‘given’ to an industrial logging company.

“There are now cases of malnutrition in the area,” Losale said.

The Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development advocates for the recognition of rights and competence of women in general, and aboriginal women in particular, in the Congolese provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Equateur.

“I urge the government to advance the process of land reform in order to provide the country with a clear land policy protecting forest-dependent communities,” Losale said, adding that proper consultation with communities should be done to avoid conflict.

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Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155243 The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their […]

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Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure a building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

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Drowning for Progress in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drowning-progress-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 22:57:27 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155226 Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.” This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the […]

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The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
KBAL ROMEAS, Cambodia, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.”

This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the first time. Ever since, the road to Kbal Romeas sinks a little deeper under the slow waves every day."Beware of the branches above your head," the guide says. "The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees."

According to the level gauge on the road, the water behind the concrete barrage has risen up to 75 meters, higher than the intended 68 meters. Nobody knows why, and the government doesn’t provide any information.

Three sturdy men are unloading planks from a canoe. The houses of flood refugees are being dismantled in order to sell the wood.

The village is a world away from Phnom Penh. In Cambodia’s capital, saffron-robed monks are tapping on their smartphones and purple Rolls Royces are negotiating hectic traffic. But 450 kilometers to the north, Kbal Romeas is hidden deeply in the jungle. Here no shops, restaurants or traffic lights are to be found. And for a few months now, no roads either.

I’m undertaking the journey with Vibol. He is studying in the provincial capital and returns home often. “My parents are having a hard time since our village is flooded. The government wants us to leave, but we will never do that,” he says.

The expansive forests of Stung Treng – a province as large as Lebanon with barely 120,000 inhabitants – are the home of the Bunong, the ethnic minority to which Vibol belongs. Their way of life has been in sync with nature for 2,000 years, while they’ve been fiercely resisting modern influences from outside. But the small community now risks being washed away, quite literally.

Concrete vs. water

A few kilometers from the village, a gigantic wall towers over the trees. The ‘Lower Sesan II’ (LS2) dam is a powerful symbol for the economic growth of Southeast Asia, but also for man-made disasters. In September the gates were closed, thus creating a lake that soon will expand over 360 square kilometers, the size of Dublin. The livelihood of a unique culture will be wiped out.

The ten-year-old son of my guide navigates the canoe that will bring me to Kbal Romeas. Skillfully, he avoids crashing into the trees of the submerged forest. “Beware of the branches above your head,” his father says. “The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees.” There’s a shorter way to get to to the village, via dry land, but that’s not an option for a foreign journalist. The army closed off the whole area. No snoopers allowed.

I have to take the long detour over water, a surreal two-hour trip through a drowned jungle.

“The trees still bear fruit, but soon they will die,” the guide says. There is also less fish and the water has become undrinkable. Since the dam unhinged their lives, the Bunong have to pay for water and fish. But money is an alien concept for animist forest dwellers who are used to living in complete harmony with nature.

My canoe floats gently into the main street of the village. Thanks to their stilts, the typical Cambodian dwellings are still dry, even if the road lays one meter beneath the water’s surface. It is dead quiet. Until some children appear in doorways. “Soë-se-dei!” “Hello!”

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

About 250 people still live in the flooded village of Kbal Romeas; about half of the original population. I clamber from the canoe into a house. The lady of the house offers me some rice and spiced pork.

“We used to have everything we need here. But since the water started rising, we have to go to the market,” says Srang Lanh, 49. She has the face of someone who has lived a hard life.

“During the dry season it takes us about three hours to get there. In the rainy season we can’t use the road at all.”

The government has built a new village, on higher ground. “But we do not intend to move,” says Vibol. “The Buddhist Cambodians don’t understand our religion. We can’t leave our cemetery.” He wants to show me the graveyard. Small corrugated iron roofs are barely above the water. They used to give shade to the late loved ones.

I ask the former cemetery supervisor how many people are buried here beneath the flood tide. His reacts emotionally. “Thousands! Everyone who has ever lived in Kbal Romeas is buried here.”

Every day another grave disappears into the tidal wave of progress coming from this Chinese dam. “The spirits of our ancestors can’t leave here. To abandon them would be a disgrace,” says Vibol. The Bunong believe they are protected by the ancestors. Leaving means disaster.

In Kbal Romeas, the cursed dam is called ‘Kromhun’, the Company. The Chinese group Hydrolancang invested 800 million dollars in the LS2 dam and will be operating it for the next 30 years. Theoretically speaking, a dam producing 400 megawatts might seem a good idea, as this country lives in the dark. Three quarters of the Cambodian villages are not connected to the electrical grid.

However, Kbal Romeas will never see one single watt of the Kromhun. Ninety percent of the electricity in Cambodia goes to capital city Phnom Penh and is used for air conditioners, neon publicity signs and garment factories.

Noah’s Ark

There’s a little ceremony for the visitor, the first foreigner since the army shut this area down in July. Ta Uot is the most important guardian spirit of Kbal Romeas. His temple is nothing more than a hut on poles, now surrounded by water. But since the patriarch told the Bunong through his visions where his shrine has to be put, it cannot be moved.

In the temple are some holy branches and rocks; from their canoes the attendees throw grains of rice towards them while they say prayers in the old Bunong language. They inform Ta Uot about the visit of a foreigner. They also mention the latest water level. A newly born child is being blessed. In spite of the upcoming flood, this is a lively village with a simple shed as a spiritual Noah’s ark.

Set Nhal, 89, has been living here his whole life. He remembers the French colonists, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese soldiers who came to chase away the genocidal regime. And now the Chinese. “We were always confident that the French and the communists would leave one day. But the Chinese will never go away; this dam will stay where it is,” he says.

Meng Heng, an activist of the outlawed NGO Mother Nature, knows Kbal Romeas very well. “The government succeeded in hiding a catastrophe,” he says. “As a result of the LS2-dam, one tenth of the fish population will disappear. The dam disrupts critical breeding migration routes for fish and the fish will become extinct.”

Not just a trifle, as 70 million people depend on the Mekong for their daily needs. As we speak, 200 dams are in use, being built or in preparation. LS2-dam is only one of them.
For the Bunong, a day in ancient times is as important as yesterday. But their days are numbered. Once the rainy season will start, in June, Kbal Romeas will be history.

After dark, a motorbike takes me back to the rest of the world, using a last scrap of dry land. The jungle is black as soot and the bouncing moto passes by a deserted army checkpoint, unmanned at night.

I’m dropped off at a gas station, an oasis of neon lights where they promise me there will be a bus soon. I ask Vibol if I can do something for him when I’m back in Phnom Penh.

“No one knows what’s happening here,” he says. “Tell our story.”

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A Breath of Fresh Air in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/breath-fresh-air-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breath-fresh-air-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/breath-fresh-air-india/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 00:44:02 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154898 With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an […]

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Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Mar 20 2018 (IPS)

With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an interview that the GGGI was prepared to support the Indian government to explore energy alternatives and improve the country’s growth model.

India is not yet a member country of the GGGI but is recognised as a partner, says Rijsberman. He points to the fact that GGGI has had small but successful projects running in India such as a collaboration to get India’s first electric buses running in Bangalore city.

“The electric buses are an example of how local level innovation can yield positive results in energy efficiency,” said Rijsberman. “The success of this project is in line with India’s Intended  Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) commitments to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

GGGI’s recognition of the potential for expanding its activity in India can be seen in the fact that  the organization has been recruiting top managerial talent for its India country office.

Frank Rijsberman. Credit: GGGI

“For us, it is a bit of restart in India trying to position GGGI well at a time when the Indian government clearly wants to have more leadership internationally and project its own cleantech or green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.

So far, the successes have not been on the scale of what India is capable of, says Rijsberman. “In other countries we sit with ministries — the ministry of planning and investment in Vietnam and Laos for instance — and help with national green growth strategy or in the next five-year plan.

“Last year, said Rijsberman, “we helped member countries get 500 million dollars’ worth of green and climate finance – we’ve had no such breakthrough in India.”

Still, Rijsberman finds encouraging the “growing concern over deteriorating air quality and other things that is convincing citizens and politicians that the quality of growth really matters — we are looking at what GGGI can do to help the Indian government shift to a model of growth that is cleaner and more sustainable.”

India has experience in increasing the share of renewable energy in its overall energy mix and GGGI is keen to work with the government, particularly the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA), to share India’s expertise, and knowhow with other developing countries facing similar developmental challenges

“India has wonderful experiences that can be shared with countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and in other cases we could help share experiences from other countries that could support India’s green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.  

It has not all been smooth sailing though. Last year, Rijsberman said, GGGI had worked with the MNRE to find a combination of financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and other sources to improve India’s small and medium industries. “In the end we could not get the seal of approval from the environment ministry — so it has got a bit stuck.”

An important international finance mechanism, the GCF is  mandated to support developing countries to access international climate finance by developing projects to achieve renewable energy targets.

India country representative for GGGI, Shantanu Gotmare, said the project has not actually been shelved and is still in process. “We haven’t given it up yet,” said Gotmare, a career bureaucrat who has taken a break from government work to lead the GGGI in India.

Gotmare explained that much of GGGI’s work, so far, has been with provincial governments like those of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab states. “We have developed comprehensive green growth strategies and supported these state governments in adopting integrated analytical approaches to assess green growth challenges and prioritise opportunities in energy, water, agriculture and forestry.

“We supported these three state governments in implementing specific green growth opportunities by formulating detailed project proposals, policy implementation roadmaps, and capacity building initiatives,” Gotmare said.

The plan for the immediate future is to scale up GGGI’s programmatic activities to launch green growth interventions at the national level.

“Our aim is to support the government to deliver on its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ambition by helping to develop policy frameworks, mobilising domestic and international climate finance and helping to introduce clean technologies and finally to create and share green growth knowledge and best practices,” Gotmare said.

There is an immediate opportunity to finance off-grid energy (OGE) access to millions of households in India that have limited or no access to electricity. GGGI is designing an innovative finance mechanism to support the government’s goal of ‘electricity for all’.

“This is a plan that is expected to simultaneously achieve social, economic and environmental  benefits,” Gotmare said.

According to Gotmare, as India’s citizens demand more power, it is a challenge for the government to make sure that there are energy options that are cleaner than the traditional coal or diesel-fired power plants. “This is precisely where GGGI comes in,” he said.

GGGI’s experience, says Rijsberman, allows it to work closely with the government to rapidly ramp up India’s electrification plans in a clean and sustainable way and use solar solutions to extend electrification services to India’s most marginalised households.

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Biodiversity and Land Degradation: New Expert Insightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/biodiversity-land-degradation-new-expert-insights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-land-degradation-new-expert-insights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/biodiversity-land-degradation-new-expert-insights/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2018 09:02:34 +0000 Emma Archer Van Garderen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154752 Emma Archer Van Garderen, Co-chair of the IPBES Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Africa, is Chief Researcher in natural resources and the environment at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa. A geographer by training, her research-focus is on drylands.

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By Emma Archer Van Garderen
PRETORIA, South Africa, Mar 12 2018 (IPS)

This month, five landmark expert assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will be considered by Governments for final approval in Medellín, Colombia.

Four of the assessment reports present the best-available and most recent evidence about biodiversity and ecosystem services in the world’s major regions, including Africa. The fifth assessment report describes the state of global land degradation and restoration.

At the request of IPBES’ 128 member Governments, these assessments were initiated to better inform decisions about sustainable development.

The Africa assessment, over the past three years, involved extensive work by more than 100 leading experts from 32 countries. Scheduled for release on Friday 23 March is the report’s summary for policymakers, which includes:

* The main findings about the status of Africa’s significant natural assets and projections to 2050.
* Findings about how Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystem services are changing, and why. Critical here is the consideration of both negative findings (such as biodiversity loss and fragmentation) and positive findings (for example, where progress is being made, and how we can learn from such examples).
* Findings about how Africa is faring with respect to internationally-agreed targets, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The report also evaluates our chances to achieve these targets under a range of different policy and action scenarios.
* Options for policy and action.

Important to note that the IPBES reports are designed to be policy relevant, rather than policy prescriptive. In other words, our role is to consider key findings and then discuss the range of available options, including evidence for and against the effectiveness and potential of different types of responses.

Likewise in the IPBES land degradation and restoration assessment report (being launched Monday 26 March), having laid out key findings, we consider available response options, including evidence for and against certain choices.

Healthy soils and ecosystems are vital to agriculture, sustainable rural livelihoods and to many other aspects of human well-being. The findings in these assessments are likely to concern all African countries and Governments.

Realizing the potential role of these assessments in better decision-making will require commitment throughout the science-policy community. We will be working hard to ensure that the findings of the assessments reach decision makers in Governments, business, the not for profit sector and communities – to raise and support understanding of the nuances and implications of our findings.

We hope that, in turn, Governments will work closely with us — unpacking the implications of our findings for their priorities and their people, and engaging in further dialogue around these messages, which are so important to ensure African well-being today and tomorrow, as well as responding with concrete actions in the interests of both people and planet.

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Excerpt:

Emma Archer Van Garderen, Co-chair of the IPBES Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Africa, is Chief Researcher in natural resources and the environment at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa. A geographer by training, her research-focus is on drylands.

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Legal Africa-Asia Wildlife Trade Gets a Look inhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/legal-africa-asia-wildlife-trade-gets-look/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legal-africa-asia-wildlife-trade-gets-look http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/legal-africa-asia-wildlife-trade-gets-look/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2018 14:37:07 +0000 Willow Outhwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154706 Willow Outhwaite is Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network*

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Mother and baby rhinoceros in Tigertops Wildlife Sanctuary, Nepal. The unrestricted exploitation of wildlife has led to the disappearance of many animal species at an alarming rate, destroying earth's biological diversity and upsetting the ecological balance. Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac

Mother and baby rhinoceros in Tigertops Wildlife Sanctuary, Nepal. The unrestricted exploitation of wildlife has led to the disappearance of many animal species at an alarming rate, destroying earth's biological diversity and upsetting the ecological balance. Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac

By Willow Outhwaite
CAMBRIDGE, UK, Mar 8 2018 (IPS)

In recent years, the focus on wildlife trade between Africa and Asia has been almost exclusively on poaching of iconic mammals and the smuggling of their parts.

Meanwhile, the vast, legal trade in wildlife has received scant attention, despite its many potential positive impacts, such as providing support to livelihoods and sustainable income for local communities.

A new TRAFFIC study released this week attempts to restore some of the balance in attention to wildlife trade issues through an examination of the trade in wildlife sourced in Africa and traded to Asia. It endeavours to shed light on legal trade trends, the diversity of species and countries involved, and new patterns emerging.

The data used was all publicly accessible, as information provided by Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on trade in species listed within the Convention.

The analysis was made possible thanks to the generous support of Arcadia—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It revealed more than 1.3-million live animals and plants, 1.5-million skins and two thousand tonnes of meat were exported between 2006 to 2015 from 40 countries and a disputed territory in Africa, to 17 countries and territories in East and Southeast Asia.

There was a remarkable diversity: some 975 different taxa in all and among the trade patterns identified were the rising number of live animal and plant exports and the increased sourcing of species from captive breeding operations: from 42% in 2006 to a peak of 66% in 2013.

The analysis found evidence of newly emerging trade in hippo teeth from Malawi; a rise in European Eel exports from North Africa, mostly to South Korea in response to a European ban; and the abrupt start of trade in some 44,575 Mistletoe Cacti and related species exported from Kenya and Tanzania that began in 2015.

Some of the wildlife traded in the largest quantities were species that receive little political attention within CITES, notably Leopard Tortoises, more than 80% of which, some 183,328 animals, were exported by Zambia, and Ball Pythons, with Ghana (93,168 animals) and Togo (37,661) the leading exporters and Hong Kong the dominant importer of both.

Nile Crocodiles dominated skin exports with some 1.4 million skins, mostly sourced from ranching operations, although Namibia topped the table for mammal skin exports, predominately those of Cape Fur Seals, with some 108,272 traded to seven countries and territories in Asia. Perhaps surprisingly, some 11,285 African Elephant skins were exported, primarily from Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The latter country was Africa’s largest exporter of live birds, mammals and plants. The first category was dominated by some 40,635 Grey Parrots and 35,201 Sun Parakeets: neither species is native to the country but captive-bred there. Unsurprisingly, given its historic connections to bird trade, Singapore imported most live birds.

Live amphibians were exclusively exported by Madagascar, with Japan the major importer, while just three species accounted for all the reported meat exports: Nile Crocodile, European Eel and Cape Fur Seal.

The above are examples of the remarkable insights into the hugely complex international trade in endangered species taking place daily. They illustrate how data can be used to improve our understanding of CITES trade dynamics, highlighting the major commodities, species and countries involved.

Analysis can also serve as an important early warning tool for monitoring species in trade, to detect emerging trends and potential threats such as overharvesting or the movement of potentially invasive species.

Meanwhile, we are living in an era of “big data”, which offers many exciting opportunities for the use of such information to support conservation aims. But to make the most of these opportunities, we need to ensure people have the skills to carry out relevant analyses, using tools such as the recently launched DETECT IT tool for fisheries data (https://detect.trade/).

However, perhaps the most critical skill needed is that of the national CITES Authorities who decide what levels of trade are considered sustainable—how many plants or animals that can be harvested and exported, so the population as a whole does not decline.

Known technically as non-detriment findings (NDF), they should underpin every transaction analysed in this latest study. Without an NDF, CITES export permits cannot be granted or quotas set, yet determining NDFs is far from straightforward.

Again, help is at hand (https://cites.org/eng/prog/ndf/index.php), but the sheer scale of trade in wildlife between Africa and Asia places a considerable burden on national CITES Authorities.

To enable them to carry out their vital role as accurately and efficiently as possible is in the best interests of conservation for all wildlife species in international trade and the benefits to people such trade can bring.

*Eastward Bound: Analysis of CITES-listed flora and fauna exports from Africa to East and Southeast Asia is available from: www.traffic.org/storage/TRAFFIC-Africa-Asia-report.pdf

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Excerpt:

Willow Outhwaite is Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network*

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Costa Rica Studies Its Land, to Keep from Losing Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/costa-rica-studies-land-keep-losing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-studies-land-keep-losing http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/costa-rica-studies-land-keep-losing/#respond Wed, 28 Feb 2018 01:45:39 +0000 DANIEL SALAZAR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154535 Donald Vásquez points to the soil on a farm located in one of the most degraded basins on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica. Below, where he points with his index finger, there is a huge layer of white earth, with dozens of bare coffee plants struggling to produce beans in the next harvest. […]

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Donald Vásquez shows how the land has been degraded in an area of coffee plantations on the slopes of Berlin, one of the towns in the Barranca-Jesús María river basin in western Costa Rica. Farmers in the area, with the support of experts, have built terraces and channels to curb erosion. Credit: Miriett Ábrego / IPS

Donald Vásquez shows how the land has been degraded in an area of coffee plantations on the slopes of Berlin, one of the towns in the Barranca-Jesús María river basin in western Costa Rica. Farmers in the area, with the support of experts, have built terraces and channels to curb erosion. Credit: Miriett Ábrego / IPS

By Daniel Salazar
SAN JOSE , Feb 28 2018 (IPS)

Donald Vásquez points to the soil on a farm located in one of the most degraded basins on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica. Below, where he points with his index finger, there is a huge layer of white earth, with dozens of bare coffee plants struggling to produce beans in the next harvest.

“This used to be a cloud forest, a rainforest 60 years ago. Now the soil looks like this. From a productive point of view, this has practically died,” Vàsquez, who is taking part in several initiatives aimed at restoring the soil in the Barranca River-Jesús María River basin, where land degradation is already impacting farmers, told IPS.

Vásquez lives in one of the towns in the basin, about 60 km from San José, to the west of the Costa Rican Central Valley, within an area at about 1,500 m above sea level dedicated mainly to coffee growing.“Here we lament it when a tropical forest is cut down, we know that’ a terrible thing. But a tropical forest can regenerate in 60, 80 years. When you lose the soil, recovering it can sometimes take up to 200 years.” – Óscar Lucke

His concern is not about something that is a minor issue in Central America. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) estimated in its Global Land Outlook (GLO) report, published in 2017, that degraded lands account for over a fifth of forest and agricultural lands in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the Costa Rican Advisory Commission on Land Degradation (Cadeti), established by the government, and in which Vásquez takes part, degradation is already happening in more than a tenth of the territory of Costa Rica, making it more necessary than ever to meet the goal of achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030.

The concept of LDN is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

Costa Rica is one of the countries in the region that devotes the greatest effort to meeting that goal. There is a need for more indicators and budget, but those dedicated to the matter, such as Vásquez, are already working on several initiatives to prevent the loss of more land.

“Here we lament it when a tropical forest is cut down, we know that’ a terrible thing. But a tropical forest can regenerate in 60, 80 years. When you lose the soil, recovering it can sometimes take up to 200 years,” Óscar Lucke, a consultant on land degradation neutrality and a retired professor who is a representative of civil society in Cadeti, told IPS.

“We are working to protect that wealth of biodiversity and all the services we need that are in the soil,” he explained.

It was not until 2015 that the UNCCD agreed to set national goals to stabilise the planet’s soils. But in Costa Rica Cadeti was already working on the issue since 1998, through coordinated work among different government and academic bodies.

For this reason, this Central American country of 4.9 million people became one of the 10 pilot sites in the world to implement LDN, and the only one in Latin America.

In April 2017, the government reinforced the strategy with a decree that coordinates the different agencies involved in that objective and, in addition, designated Cadeti as the body within the Ministry of Environment and Energy to advise all public institutions in how to move towards that goal.

Assessing the land

Several indicators are used to measure neutrality in land use.

According to the 2017 Scientific Conceptual Framework for LDN, countries must observe the evolution of three key elements: forest cover, productivity and soil organic carbon. So far, Costa Rica only has information on the first indicator, and is working to obtain the others this year, with important progress made so far.

In fact, between 2000 and 2015, Costa Rica went from 47 percent to 54 percent of forest cover, while all other Central American countries have proportionally cut their forest covers, according to a study released in December by the State of the Nation of Costa Rica, an interdisciplinary body of experts.

The first State of the Environment Report, published Feb. 20, prepared by the Costa Rican government, notes that the country increased its forest area by 112,000 hectares between 2010 and 2013 (currently it has more than three million hectares of forest), an increase of almost the same amount as the reduction in crops and pastureland, which amounted to 114,000 hectares.

“That is very positive. In general, the more covered the soil is, the better, but protection guidelines have to be implemented in the areas that clearly cannot be covered with trees, because crops have to be planted to grow food,” said Carlos Henríquez, director of the University of Costa Rica’s Agricultural Research Centre, and an expert in soil fertility.

He told IPS it is necessary to implement protection practices to try to maintain the resource in a sustainable way, because the increase in forest cover does not mean that farmers always use their land well.

For example, the cultivation of pineapple (questioned because of its link with soil erosion and the high use of agrochemicals) has increased fivefold since 2000, according to the annual report of the State of the Nation.

For that reason, the government is working on generating carbon maps and productivity maps to identify the most degraded areas of the country.

According to forest engineer Adriana Aguilar, the national focal point for the UNCCD, and an official in the National System of Conservation Areas, an agreement is also being hammered out between the government and the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GIZ), aimed at identifying key actors and model projects, and capturing resources for them.

“That is a goal for this year, so that from 2019 we can report on that basis. By defining these indicators, applying the panel, finishing our action plan and implementing this decree, we are moving towards achieving that goal,” she told IPS.

There are already several initiatives to work with farmers in the areas that, according to estimates, could have the most degraded soils in the country.

“Degrading the land is very easy. To recover them is the difficult thing. Farmers do not have resources for this and there are crops, such as coffee, that already have very low productivity,” said Renato Jiménez, another member of Cadeti, which for the past six years has carried out more than a hundred projects on farms in the most degraded areas of the country.

For example, in the Barranca-Jesús María river basin, farmers and experts from the government and civil society have created channels and terraces to prevent water from washing away their crops and nutrients, and have extracted healthy bacteria from the forest to use in their plants.

For Vásquez, who operates in the area, that is key because with climate change the rains in Costa Rica seem to be increasing in intensity and decreasing in frequency.

“The idea is for river flows to not build up so much speed or destroy the soil so much. I believe that if people see the positive results, and notice that coffee production is increasing, other neighbours will copy it, because production here has been dropping,” he said.

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Women on the Front Lines of Halting Deforestationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/women-front-lines-halting-deforestation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-front-lines-halting-deforestation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/women-front-lines-halting-deforestation/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 23:41:49 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154051 In Zimbabwe, the bulk of rural communities and urban poor still get their energy supplies from the forests, leading to deforestation and land degradation. The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) 2016 review on forest policies in the country found that fuel wood accounted for over 60 percent of the total energy supply, whilst 96 percent […]

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Judith Ncube, the chairperson of the Vusanani Cooperative in Plumtree, Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga

By Sally Nyakanyanga
PLUMTREE, Zimbabwe, Jan 29 2018 (IPS)

In Zimbabwe, the bulk of rural communities and urban poor still get their energy supplies from the forests, leading to deforestation and land degradation.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) 2016 review on forest policies in the country found that fuel wood accounted for over 60 percent of the total energy supply, whilst 96 percent of rural communities rely on wood for cooking and heating.

At the same time, livelihoods are shaped by the availability of forest resources, especially in rural areas.

In Mlomwe village, Plumtree, Judith Ncube (54), along with nine other women, derives her livelihood from the marula tree through processing the nuts into oil, butter and skin care ingredients or cosmetic products.

Plumtree is in ecological region 5 in Zimbabwe, one of the areas at risk of desertification if the situation is not curbed. It is among the country’s drylands, receiving little rainfall and experiencing periodic drought.

But members of the Vusanani women’s group now support their families while in turn helping to protect the forests.

“Our livelihoods as women in this community have improved greatly, and we no longer depend on our husbands for our daily survival,” says Ncube, who is the chairperson of the cooperative.

Women are at the forefront of conserving forestry as their husbands have long gone to South Africa seeking greener pastures. Zimbabwe’s high unemployment rate forced many to flee the country, leaving women with the double burden of meeting the daily needs of their families. Some husbands don’t return, whilst some return after a year or two. Currently, most people are pinning their hopes on the new administration led by President Emerson Mnangagwa, who has promised to revive the economy following the ouster of Robert Mugabe.

Ncube and her team formed Vusanani Cooperative in 2010 through support from various development partners. They now have processing equipment to grind marula nuts into different products.

The Vusanani Cooperative, which process 40 litres of oil every week, buys the raw marula nuts from the Mlomwe community. They buy the kernels at a dollar a cup, with 20 cups producing a litre of oil. They then sell a litre of marula oil for 26 dollars, with marula butter going for a dollar.

The Marula tree is found in hot, dry land areas, an excellent source of supplementary nutrition and provides income for rural people living in this region.

Former Practical Action Officer Reckson Mutengarufu, who is based in the area, said people in the community used to cut down the marula tree to make stools, pestle and pestle stick for use in their homes.

“Things have improved now as villagers can only cut down the marula tree after consulting the village head. We have since trained people on sustainable forest management and the benefits of planting trees in their homes and fields,” Mutengarufu said.

Some members have undergone a capacity building training in South Africa through the Forest Forces project sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Practical Action, an international development charity.

Margaret Ndhlovu (57), a founding member of the group and mother of ten children, managed to travel to South Africa to undergo training under the program. This enabled her to meet and interact with South African farmers in the marula processing trade.

“This was an experience of a lifetime, as I learnt during the trip in South Africa how other female farmers are processing marula fruit into various end products such bicarbonate of soda, okra or marula beer,” Ndhlovu told IPS.

The Sustainable Development Goal 15 provides for combating of desertification, reverse of land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Agricultural expansion and tobacco curing, inadequate land use planning, infrastructural development and human settlements in both urban and rural areas, uncontrolled veld fires, illegal gold panning, elephant damage and climate change have all been cited as major factors that impede sustainable forestry management.

According to the United Nations, about 12 million hectares of land are lost globally to desertification every year, with land degradation posing a significant threat to food security.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, has helped the country’s Environmental Management Agency (EMA) work with various stakeholders to address the situation especially in dry regions. EMA is a government body that oversees environmental issues in the country.

David Phiri, the FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, told IPS how FAO is implementing other projects such as beekeeping and extraction of oil from trees including the baobab.

“FAO is promoting sustainable harvesting and value addition of non-timber forest products and use of appropriate post-harvest technologies which include metallic silos, improved granaries and hermetically sealed bags so as to minimize losses,” Phiri said.

For the women of Vusanani Cooperative, they have long-term plans. By 2020, they want to expand their small marula processing business into a large manufacturing plant. They have since registered a company to enable them to operate as a formal business entity.

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Indigenous Peoples & Local Communities Vital to the Global Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:52:29 +0000 Katie Reytar and Peter Veit http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154016 Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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Indigenous groups and local communities occupy about half the world's land, but hold legal rights to only a fraction of it. Credit: Michele Solmi/Flickr

By Katie Reytar and Peter Veit
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous Peoples and local communities are some of the best environmental stewards. Their livelihoods and cultures depend on forests, clean water and other natural resources, so they have strong incentives to sustainably manage their lands.

LandMark, the first global platform to provide maps of land held by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, last month released new carbon storage, tree cover loss, natural resource concessions, dam locations and other data layers that shed light on the environment in which these lands exist. Now anyone, anywhere can view and analyze indigenous and local communities’ environmental contributions and identify threats to specific lands.

Five maps illustrate just how critical indigenous and community lands are to the planet:

1) Indigenous Peoples and communities hold a considerable amount of the world’s land.

More than 50 percent of the world’s land is community land, collectively held by Indigenous Peoples and other local communities and managed primarily under customary tenure arrangements. The map below shows indigenous land in orange and community land in blue across Amazonia, with the darker colors indicating lands documented with a title or land certificate. Community land is found on all continents of the world, except Antarctica, with Africa having more than any other continent.

However, Indigenous Peoples and other communities hold legal rights to only a fraction of the lands they occupy; even less of their land is formally registered and documented with the government. This makes community land vulnerable to being taken by governments, corporations and other powerful elites.

2) Tenure-secure indigenous lands often have lower deforestation rates than other areas.

Rapid deforestation accounted for 80 percent of Bolivia’s total annual carbon emissions from 2000-2010, and forest loss isn’t slowing down. Farmers and cattle ranchers are clearing more and more forests, especially in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province (shown in map below), where soy production is booming.

However, deforestation is significantly lower within formally recognized indigenous-held lands. A recent WRI report found that in Bolivia, deforestation rates are 2.8 times lower within “tenure-secure” indigenous lands — lands that are legally recognized by the government and protected from external threats and competing claims — than outside of them.

By giving indigenous groups legal rights to the lands they occupy, Bolivia could avoid 8-12 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, equivalent to taking more than 1.7 million vehicles off the road.

These benefits extend beyond Bolivia and across the Amazon — average annual deforestation rates inside tenured indigenous forestlands were 2-3 times lower than outside of them from 2000 to 2012. Securing these lands would generate billions of dollars in climate, environment and economic benefits over the next 20 years.

3) Indigenous Peoples manage some of the richest carbon stocks in the world.

Research shows that indigenous and community lands store about 25 percent of the world’s aboveground carbon, making these lands critically important in the global fight to curb climate change. For instance, the Ikahalans in the Philippines have protected their ancestral forests for generations.

LandMark’s new carbon storage analysis tool estimates that the trees in the Ikahalan’s domain (outlined in blue in the map below) holds nearly 3 million tonnes of carbon, with an average of 96 tonnes per hectare across their entire territory. The total carbon stored in their lands is equivalent to the yearly greenhouse gas emissions from 2.3 million passenger vehicles.

By providing this data, LandMark can help communities like the Ikahalan access additional sources of income through forest conservation programs like REDD+ or carbon accounting and sequestration projects.

4) Dams are flooding indigenous and community lands.

Around the world, dams and hydropower projects have flooded collectively held lands, including homesteads, family farms, burial grounds and sacred sites. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, more than 80 large dams are currently under construction.

The map above focuses on the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Rondônia, showing projects that threaten to harm rivers, destroy forests and create significant hardships for Indigenous Peoples. In these two states, 20 large dams are under construction, 86 are operational and an additional 224 dams are either inventoried or planned.

5) Natural resource concessions are a growing threat to indigenous and community lands.

Mining for precious metals such as gold, copper and zinc is among the most widespread threat to indigenous lands, particularly in the Amazon. In Peru alone, the government has granted some 55,000 mining and exploration concessions that cover more than 18.5 million hectares, about 15 percent of the country. The map below shows the indigenous Santiago de Chocorvos land, which has 95 concessions on it. Illegal mining, not illustrated on the map, also runs rampant and threatens local communities across Peru.

The short-term profits of mineral extraction usually spell long-term hardship for Indigenous Peoples and communities; companies clear forests and pollute waterways, leaving little left to support traditional livelihoods. Titling of community lands and the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which gives communities a powerful voice in all decisions affecting their lands, is paramount for preventing the widespread loss of critical ecosystems.

A Fight for Legal Recognition and Tenure Security

Maps are a powerful tool for making visible the lands that Indigenous Peoples and local communities hold. LandMark shows the dynamic environment in which these lands exist – both the benefits that they provide when land rights are secure, as well as the mounting pressures that threaten rural livelihoods and the planet. These communities and their advocates can use the platform to help protect indigenous land rights, negotiate fair payments for land use, and participate in decisions that affect their lands and livelihoods.

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Excerpt:

Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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Biodiversity and Food Security: the Dual Focus of the World Potato Congresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:36:44 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153999 Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for […]

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Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for humanity.

The hosting of the 10th World Potato Congress between May 27 and 31, in the ancient city of Cuzco, the centre of what was the Inca empire in the south of the Peruvian Andes, is a recognition of Peru as the main supplier of the potatoes, since it has the largest amount of germplasm in the world, and great commercial potential.

“Peru has 3,500 potato varieties of the 5,000 existing in the world. Culturally potatoes are a way of life, a feeling, a mystique. From the point of view of commercial production, hosting the congress is an opportunity to show the world new products such as flours, flakes, liqueurs and fresh potatoes,” engineer Jesus Caldas, director of management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), which leads the Organising Committee of the world congress, told IPS.“The designation of Peru as host of the congress is important; the scientific community involved in the global innovation of potato production will return to the source of its origin and diversity, which is key for food security." -- Gonzalo Tejada

Held for the first time in 1993, this technical-scientific congress is held every three years, and for the first time will be hosted by a Latin American country.

Under the theme “Returning to the origin for a better future” and promoted by the World Potato Congress (WPC), the tenth edition will reflect onbiodiversity, food security and business.

“The designation of Peru as host of the congress is important; the scientific community involved in the global innovation of potato production will return to the source of its origin and diversity, which is key for food security,” Gonzalo Tejada, national coordinator of Projects of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a member of the Organising Committee of the congress, told IPS.

The potato was domesticated about 8,000 years ago in the Peruvian highlands, in the region of El Puno, shared with Bolivia. After the arrival of the Spanish to this part of the continent at the end of the 16th century, they introduced the plant to their country, and from there it spread throughout Europe, becoming a staple food product.

The non-governmental Lima-based International Potato Centre (CIP) indicates that the tuber, which has significant nutritional properties, is today the third most important crop on the planet after rice and wheat, and that more than one billion people who eat potatoes on a regular basis consume an estimated annual production of 374 million tons.

The CIP reports that the total cultivated area of potatoes exceeds 19 million hectares in 156 countries. “The biggest consumption is by industries that use potatoes for frying, in starch or in liqueurs like vodka, which involves production by large transnational companies,” said FAO’s Tejada.

Jesús Caldas, director of Management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian state entity that leads the Organising Committee of the 10th World Potato Congress, is photographed in his office next to the promotional posters for the event that will take place in the city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Jesús Caldas, director of Management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian state entity that leads the Organising Committee of the 10th World Potato Congress, is photographed in his office next to the promotional posters for the event that will take place in the city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

In most countries, he explained, production is concentrated in extensive agriculture carried out by large companies. This is not the case of Peru and its Andean neighbors Bolivia and Ecuador, where ancestral practices have been kept alive, making it possible to conserve the native species that constitute the basis of the crop’s biodiversity.

But these crops face the impacts of climate change, lack of technology and narrow profit margins, among other problems.

Josefina Baca, a 42-year-old farmer, plants potatoes more than 3,100 meters above sea level in Huaro, a town 43 km from the city of Cuzco. She says the heat is more intense than in the past, and is worried by how variable the rainy season is now.

“I am always coming to my farm and I work with devotion, but the climate changes are spoiling the crops: if the frost falls prematurely it ruins everything. Or sometimes there is no rain and we lose the crops. I farm organically, without chemicals, but we need support to protect our seeds, our biodiversity,” she told IPS.

 A farmer picks potatoes on community land in the high Andean region of Huancavelica, the area of Peru with the most native varieties of potatoes. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS


A farmer picks potatoes on community land in the high Andean region of Huancavelica, the area of Peru with the most native varieties of potatoes. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Moisés Quispe, executive director of the National Association of Agroecological Producers (ANPE), which represents 12,000 native potato growers, especially in the centre and south of the Andes range, told IPS that climate change is a serious threat to rural people.

Quispe, who is a farmer and guardian of seeds in his area, explained that they are at a disadvantage in the neoliberal market because due to the lack of political will there is no promotion of small-scale agricultural development that produces the native potato in all its wide variety.

“From one hectare, you can obtain 60 tons of conventional potatoes, but only 15 at the most of native potatoes, because they are grown with no tillage, just manual labour, without machines, because the wild terrain where these potatoes grow do not allow it,” he explained.

He added that the production system entails crop rotation, natural soil fertilisation, clean water irrigation, permanent pest and disease control and seed selection.

“This demands more labour, it raises the costs of small-scale production by potato growers, but we do not get a fair price,” he said.

Native potatoes, which draw three times the price of the most commercial and conventional varieties, are species of diverse textures, shapes and colours that are produced in high areas and adapted since time immemorial to climatic adversity. They have been conserved based on the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peasant families and without using chemical elements.

ANPE’s Quispe stresses that Peru as a country of conservation of plant genetic resources which has helped to prevent hunger in different parts of the world, but regrets the lack of recognition of the rights of the small farmers who make it possible to conserve the native potatoes year after year, for generations.

He demanded a differentiated public policy that promotes in situ conservation based on the integration of local knowledge. “The law says that all seeds must be certified but we do not agree, the peasants have the potato as their father, brother, great-grandfather have inherited it, they cannot try to monopolise the seeds because they are a common good,” he argued.

Currently the country leads the production of potatoes in Latin America with 4.6 million tons per year, while per capita consumption is 85 kg a year. But greater volume is required to take on the commercial challenges.

INIA’s Caldas recognises the need to adopt public policies to increase potato productivity, and calls for greater resources for research, promotion of agriculture and seed certification.

In his view, the fact that of the 320,000 hectares of potatoes grown in the country, only 0.4 percent of the seeds used are certified is a disadvantage that contributes to low crop yields.

Miguel Ordinola stands in front of the Lima headquarters of the International Potato Centre, a non-governmental scientific body that is part of the Organising Committee of the World Potato Congress, which will be hosted in the Peruvian city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Miguel Ordinola stands in front of the Lima headquarters of the International Potato Centre, a non-governmental scientific body that is part of the Organising Committee of the World Potato Congress, which will be hosted in the Peruvian city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

He also cited factors such as the lack of irrigation infrastructure, dependence on rainfall and limited knowledge about fertilisation. “There is ancestral knowledge but there is a lack of technical support,” the official said.

Miguel Ordinola, representative of the CIP in the Organising Committee of the Congress, said the meeting will offer opportunities to present global advances in research that will benefit small farmers.

“Studies have been carried out by the CIP together with American and European universities on how we are adapting to the conditions brought on by climate change. One of the hypotheses to be proved is that native varieties are being planted at higher altitudes, that with the increase in temperatures farmers are seeking higher altitudes,” where temperatures are lower, he told IPS.

During the 10th Congress, the progress made in scientific research will be seen in the field, in the Potato Park and in the visit to the Andenes Station, the only one in the world that researches Inca and pre-Inca “andenes” or platforms – step-like terraces dug into the slope of a hillside for agricultural purposes.

Ordinola said Peru and its Andean neighbours have great commercial potential to develop, to which this world congress will contribute.

“Peru got to be host because it is a centre of biodiversity for the world, which means many of the problems facing potato crops can find a solution through research in the Peruvian and regional context,” he said.

The world meeting will gather some 1,000 people from the scientific, academic, business and peasant farming communities. Of the participants, 60 percent will come from Latin American countries.

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Argentina’s Law on Forests Is Good, But Lacks Enforcementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentinas-law-forests-good-lacks-enforcement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-law-forests-good-lacks-enforcement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentinas-law-forests-good-lacks-enforcement/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:52:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153918 Never in the parliamentary history of Argentina had something similar happened: one and a half million people in 2007 signed a petition asking the Senate to pass a law to reduce deforestation. The law was quickly approved, and promulgated on Dec. 26 of that year. But 10 years later, it has left a bittersweet taste. […]

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A 2017 demonstration in the capital of the province of Córdoba, Argentina, against government plans for laxer zoning and land-use management, which would have favoured deforestation, successfully blocked the initiative. Credit: Sebastián Salguero / Greenpeace

A 2017 demonstration in the capital of the province of Córdoba, Argentina, against government plans for laxer zoning and land-use management, which would have favoured deforestation, successfully blocked the initiative. Credit: Sebastián Salguero / Greenpeace

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

Never in the parliamentary history of Argentina had something similar happened: one and a half million people in 2007 signed a petition asking the Senate to pass a law to reduce deforestation. The law was quickly approved, and promulgated on Dec. 26 of that year. But 10 years later, it has left a bittersweet taste.

Researchers and environmental organisations admit that the law had positive impacts and slowed down the destruction of the country’s native forests, caused to a large extent by the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

But they warn that deforestation continues in areas where it is banned, and that the national government has shown a strong lack of interest in enforcing the law, reflected in the lack of funds necessary to finance conservation policies.

“The most positive aspect of the law was that it brought visibility to the problems of indigenous and peasant communities, and society began to look with critical eyes on agricultural activity, which had always been identified as a positive factor, as Argentina is a country that depends on agro-exports,” José Volante, who has a PhD in agricultural sciences, told IPS.

“The expansion of the agricultural frontier entails the concentration of production in a few hands, advanced technology, little employment and expulsion of rural dwellers. The forest law was aimed at curtailing that model, and put on the table another approach that allows the incorporation of more people and is more socially and environmentally friendly,” added Volante, a researcher at the Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in Salta.

Salta, in the northwest of the country, is one of the provinces that is crucial from the point of view of deforestation. A portion of the province forms part of the Gran Chaco, a vast arid subtropical region of low forests and savannas that extends into Paraguay and Bolivia, which in the last few decades has been experiencing a process called “pampanisation”.

Pampanisation is a local term given to the expansion of agriculture and livestock farming into areas near the pampas, the region of fertile grassland in central Argentina and Uruguay, driven by advances in biotechnology and favourable international commodity prices.

The area sown in Argentina went from 15 million hectares to more than double that in about 30 years. And the Chaco forests have been precisely the main victim, since not only agriculture has expanded there, but also livestock farming, which is often displaced from fertile areas to make room for crops.

More than half of that sown area is currently planted in genetically modified soy, resistant to herbicides, which was allowed into the market by the government in 1996. Since then it has boomed, pushing wheat and corn to second place, thanks to higher profitability.

Salta lost 415,000 hectares of native forest between 2002 and 2006, according to official data, but the process accelerated in 2007, when it was made public that the National Congress was close to passing a law that would place severe restrictions on the possibility of provincial governments to authorise logging and clear-cut activities.

According to global environmental watchdog Greenpeace, in 2007, Salta convened public hearings to authorise the clearing of 425,958 hectares of forest, a figure more than five times higher than the previous year, and which far exceeded the average annual deforestation in the entire country.

“Precisely the flurry of deforestation permits that provinces like Salta granted during 2007 is the best proof that the forestry law was seen as a tool for actually changing things,” Juan Carlos Villalonga, a lawmaker from the ruling Cambiemos alliance, told IPS.

“And to some extent it was, because although it seemed impossible, the deforestation rate in Argentina began to fall. We went from an average of approximately 300,000 annual hectares to 200,000 in 2016,” he added.

Villalonga entered into politics from Greenpeace, one of the approximately 30 organisations that in the second half of 2007, with an intense publicity campaign, achieved the feat of collecting a million and a half signatures to urge the Senate to pass the law protecting the forests.

The law had already been passed by the lower house, but it was bogged down by resistance from senators who saw it as an obstacle to productive development in their provinces.

Thanks to the grassroots pressure, the senators had no choice but to approve the law, against a backdrop of a national deforestation rate six times higher than the world average, according to a report by the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN).

But despite the entry into force of the law, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranked Argentina among the countries with the largest forest area lost between 2010 and 2015. The list also includes countries in Africa and Asia and three in South America: Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Law 26,631 was an extraordinary case of participation by civil society in public policy, and today is an important tool for this country to meet its international commitments, in the fight against climate change and for the conservation of biodiversity.

The law recognises the environmental services provided by forests and instructs the provinces to carry out land-use planning and zoning in their forested areas, according to three categories.

Red areas are those of high conservation value that should not be transformed; yellow ones have medium value and can be used for sustainable activities; and green ones have low conservation value and can be transformed.

Argentina’s 23 provinces have already completed this process for a total of about 54 million hectares of forest, approximately 19 percent of the country’s land area.

In the face of rumors circulating recently in Argentina’s environmental circles, the national director of Forestry, Juan Pedro Cano, told IPS that the government does not intend to propose changing the law.

“On the contrary, we consider it a very positive law and we are working to improve its implementation,” Cano said.

“We have already created a trust fund to ensure that the national budget funds allocated to the Fund for the compensation of landowners who preserve their forests cannot be reassigned to other needs of the State, as happened in other years,” he added.

That fund should is to 0.3 percent of the national budget, according to the law, but the funds allocated to it have never come close to reaching that level, with a worrying downward trend seen in recent years, warned the FARN report.

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Central America Weakens Forest Shield Against Future Droughtshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-weakens-forest-shield-future-droughts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-weakens-forest-shield-future-droughts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-weakens-forest-shield-future-droughts/#respond Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:55:22 +0000 DANIEL SALAZAR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153692 Jazziel Baca lives in the municipality of Esquías, in western Honduras, one of the areas hardest hit by the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), which damaged almost 500,000 hectares of forest in that Central American country between 2013 and 2015. Supposedly, the pest that was destroying the pines would stop spreading with the rains, but […]

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Costa Rica increased its forest cover, but some wetlands and areas in the north of the country have been affected by deforestation and drought. The high use of agrochemicals and fertilisers in agro-industrial activities and logging in neighboring lands damaged the Palo Verde wetland and the surrounding forests. Credit: Miriet Abrego / IPS

Costa Rica increased its forest cover, but some wetlands and areas in the north of the country have been affected by deforestation and drought. The high use of agrochemicals and fertilisers in agro-industrial activities and logging in neighboring lands damaged the Palo Verde wetland and the surrounding forests. Credit: Miriet Abrego / IPS

By Daniel Salazar
SAN JOSE, Dec 31 2017 (IPS)

Jazziel Baca lives in the municipality of Esquías, in western Honduras, one of the areas hardest hit by the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), which damaged almost 500,000 hectares of forest in that Central American country between 2013 and 2015.

Supposedly, the pest that was destroying the pines would stop spreading with the rains, but the rainy season came and there was no rain. He told IPS that apart from fewer trees, his town also has less water, the soil has eroded and some of the neighboring communities face drought.

This is not the only problem causing them to run out of water.

In Honduras, forest coverage shrank by almost a third, from 57 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2015, explained by an increase of monoculture, extractive projects, livestock production and shifting cultivation. It is the Central American country with the greatest decline in forest cover, in a region where all of the countries, with the exception of Costa Rica, are destroying their forests.The Tapantí National Park, east of San José, has more than 50,000 hectares of forest. Costa Rica is the only one in Central America that has increased its forest cover in the last 15 years. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

According to the State of the Region Programme, the 2017 environmental statistics published this month, since 2000 Central America has lost forest cover and wetlands, vital to the preservation of aquifers, which coincided with a widespread regional increase in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

It is not good news, said Alberto Mora, the State of the Region research coordinator, who noted that the region could have 68 departments or provinces suffering severe aridity towards the end of the century, compared to fewer than 20 today.

Mora also stressed that demand for drinking water could grow by 1,600 percent by the year 2100, according to the study prepared by the State of the Nation of Costa Rica, an interdisciplinary body of experts funded by the country’s public universities.

“This greatly exacerbates the impacts of global warming and rising temperatures, on ecosystems and their species. It is really a serious problem in Central America,” he told IPS.

Fewer trees, less food

Baca, an environmental engineer active in the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth, explained that farmers are moving higher up the mountains, because the soil they used to farm is no longer fertile. Using the slash-and-burn technique, they grow their staple foods.

But also, he said, “we have very long droughts and, without rainy seasons, the peasant farmers can’t plant their food crops, which gives rise to emergency situations in terms of food security.”

To the west of Honduras, in neighboring Guatemala, losses are also reported in forest cover. In 2000, 39 percent of the territory was covered by trees; that proportion had fallen to 33 percent by 2015.

The Tapantí National Park, east of San José, has more than 50,000 hectares of forest. Costa Rica is the only one in Central America that has increased its forest cover in the last 15 years. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

The Tapantí National Park, east of San José, has more than 50,000 hectares of forest. Costa Rica is the only one in Central America that has increased its forest cover in the last 15 years. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

Although fewer and fewer hectares of forest are cut down in that country, the problem persists and continues to generate serious food security challenges.

Agricultural engineer Ogden Rodas, coordinator of FAO’s Forest and Farm Facility in that country, explained to IPS from Guatemala City that the loss of forests is affecting Guatemala’s ability to obtain food in multiple ways.

Currently, he said, peasant and indigenous communities have less food from seeds, roots, fruits or leaves and fewer jobs, which were previously generated in activities such as weeding and pruning.

Their ability to put food on their tables is also affected, as the destruction of the forest cover impacts on the water cycles, affecting irrigated agriculture.

Rodas believes that her country needs to strengthen governance, the management of agribusiness crops such as sugar cane and African oil palm, to create alternatives for forest-dwelling communities and develop strategies for the sustainable use of firewood, a problem common to the entire region.

In Honduras, another FAO specialist, René Acosta, told IPS from Tegucigalpa that the government has committed to reforesting up to one million hectares by 2030, but the task will only be possible if it is coordinated with all the actors involved, and incentives and ecotourism business capabilities are generated.

Costa Rica increases its forest cover

The forest cover in Central America decreased from 46 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2015.
Forest cover shrank from 32 to 26 percent in Nicaragua, from 66 to 62 percent in Panama, and from 16 to 13 percent in El Salvador.

The exception was Costa Rica where more than half (54 percent) of the land is covered by trees, compared to 47 percent 15 years ago.

Pieter Van Lierop, subregional forestry officer and team leader of the FAO Natural Resources, Risk Management and Climate Change Group in Costa Rica, explained that there are many factors driving this process.

The progress made is due, he said, “in part to the priority put in this country on its forest policy.”

“Another factor is the structural changes in agriculture, which have reduced the pressure to convert forests into agricultural land and have led to an increase in the area covered by secondary forests and to legal controls to prevent the change from natural forest to other uses for the land,” he said.

Some sustainable practices contribute to this increase in forested areas in the country.

For example, there has been a programme of payment for environmental services in place for two decades, financed by a tax on fossil fuels, among other sources.

The State pays the equivalent of 300 dollars every five years for each privately-owned hectare of protected forest and 1,128 dollars to owners who wish to create a secondary forest on their farms.

“What have we gained with this? That many more people come to see the forests,” said Gilmar Navarrrete, one of the heads of the programme of the.National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO).

“Hurricane Otto also hit recently: if we didn’t have the forest cover we have, the impact would have been very serious,” he told IPS.

There are other programmes in place. Lourdes Salazar works in Paquera, Lepanto and Cóbano, in northwest Costa Rica, with 83 farmers in a programme financed by the non-governmental Fundecooperación and supported by other public institutions.

“We work together with farmers because we want them to adapt to climate change, establish improved pastures, and change their mentality. We want them to let fruit trees grow, as well as timber trees for shade, which will also help them produce more,” the agricultural engineer told IPS.

Salazar takes part in a 10 million dollar project which aims to impact 400 farms around five hectares in size, which each farmer must reforest while raising cattle and pigs and growing organic produce.

“The farmers themselves say it’s more beneficial. If there was only one tree in a pasture all the cows would huddle there. Why not leave more trees? They have been learning that they produce more when they implement this type of practices,” said Salazar.

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Long Maligned for Deforestation, Charcoal Emerges from the Shadowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 22:42:33 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153608 “We have various financial obligations that push us to charcoal making. Top on the list is farming inputs and school fees,” explains Arclay Moonga, a charcoal producer and chairperson of the recently formed Choma District Charcoal Association in Southern Zambia. His statement validates a popular belief among the locals here that charcoal is their own […]

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Tree seedlings at a nursery in Zambia, where charcoal production is worsening deforestation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Tree seedlings at a nursery in Zambia, where charcoal production is worsening deforestation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
CHOMA, Zambia, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

“We have various financial obligations that push us to charcoal making. Top on the list is farming inputs and school fees,” explains Arclay Moonga, a charcoal producer and chairperson of the recently formed Choma District Charcoal Association in Southern Zambia.

His statement validates a popular belief among the locals here that charcoal is their own version of Automated Teller Machines, or ATMs.In a society where charcoal production and the associated trade are mostly illegal, organising producer and trader groups has proven challenging.

Due to high demand, charcoal offers guaranteed cash income, adds 47-year-old Moonga. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Forestry and Farm Facility (FFF) programme, this belief captures one of the main challenges to forests in Zambia, where small-scale farmers and charcoal producers have long been seen as the main reasons behind the country’s increasing deforestation and forest degradation problems.

In a country where forest land accounts for 59 percent of the total area, boasting at least 220 tree species, containing 3,178 million square meters as growing stock, 2.74 billion tons of biomass, and 1.34 billion tons of carbon, the deforestation rate is alarmingly high, currently at 276,021 hectares per year.

Based on the results from the Integrated Land Use Assessment (ILLUA II), Southern province is ranked the third least forested and regenerated area after the Copperbelt and Lusaka. The resultant effects of forest loss have impacted negatively on livelihoods.

“You may agree with me that some experiences like having some rivers that flowed throughout the year becoming seasonal, depletion of firewood sources in nearby places and water shortages are a common challenge causing some women to travel long distances to fetch these basic requirements for domestic use,” observed Daglous Ngimbu, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Southern Province.

Ngimbu told IPS that government is concerned that a province known for its contribution to agriculture is witnessing increased charcoal production, with a worrying trend where even food tree species such as Uapaka Kirkiana, locally known as Masuku, are not being spared by charcoal producers.

These are some of the key challenges that the FFF programme is addressing. A partnership launched in September 2012 between FAO, IIED and IUCN, and AgriCord, its Steering Committee is formed by members affiliated with forest producers, community forestry, indigenous peoples’ organizations, the international research community, business development service provider organizations, private sector, government, and donors.

In addressing the challenges, the FFF is using a unique approach—encouraging sustainable production of charcoal through increased support for collaboration between the Forest Department and the agricultural sector to improve smallholder producer organisations’ technical capacity, and strengthening of enterprise development.

But in a society where charcoal production and the associated trade are mostly illegal, organising producer and trader groups has proven challenging.

“I am reliably informed that it was not easy to bring charcoal producers together and start working with the forest department on various initiatives,” said FAO Country Representative, George Okech during a signing ceremony of a 15,000-dollar grant with the first ever Charcoal Association in Zambia—Choma Charcoal Association, comprising producers, transporters and traders among other stakeholders.

“The Forest and Farm Facility programme believes that organising the producers into groups is the first step to build capacity for sustainable utilisation of forest resources and improve business opportunities for the rural poor people who depend on these forests resources for their lives,” Okech said.

The grant is meant to support the Association in mobilisation of charcoal producers and institutional growth, demonstration of low cost and efficient technologies to produce charcoal that reduce waste of forest materials and to increase participation of members in sustainable forest management activities.

As a platform for capacity building and policy dialogue, Okech said the Charcoal Association is receiving additional support through the Forest Department, which has been given 52,960 dollars for tree nursery growers and other women’s groups related to basket-making activities.

For long-term policy support, “FAO through this facility has also supported the Forest department to develop a new charcoal regulation which is in draft, that will require charcoal producers to form Associations before licenses are provided,” he told IPS.

Interestingly, this bottom-up approach has brought on board and improved key stakeholders’ participation at the local level—the local councils and traditional leadership. The formation of the Charcoal Association was debated and voted for in the full council meeting, giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless charcoal business players.

With this development, their views will now be carried along all the way through to the highest national development decision-making level and mainstreamed into policies and implementation strategies.

“While the people of Choma largely depend on agriculture for livelihoods, the council is aware of climate change which is having a negative impact on agriculture, and we are alive to the fact that forests play a key role in the whole ecosystem,” noted Javen Simoloka, Mayor of Choma municipality.

“That’s why the full council voted for the formation of the Charcoal Association to strengthen community participation and ensure that their views are carried along in the management of forest resources.”

When His Royal Highness Chief Cooma heard this idea for the first time, his initial reaction was skepticism.

“I have a strict policy on conservation of forests in my chiefdom, regulating tree-cutting activities. Therefore, I was worried to hear that higher authorities had allowed for the formation of such a charcoal Association, which to me, was like giving a license for destruction of trees,” he said.

“But I am grateful that Charcoal Associations are not about indiscriminate cutting of trees,” he added with a sigh of relief, as he showcased portions of an indigenous regenerated and exotic forest reserve surrounding his palace.

It is also a relief for Moonga. “Even when we dully paid for licenses, we usually stayed away from government activities out of fear. Most of our members would move their products in the night just because of the perception that all charcoal trading was illegal,” lamented Moonga.

“But now I know that we have been empowered. Personally, as a producer for over 20 years, no one can intimidate me on prices anymore, I am free to bargain with traders and sell publicly as opposed to the past when I would sometimes be forced to sale at give-away prices for fear of being caught by authorities.”

For a country where over 70 percent of the population depends on biomass energy – charcoal and wood fuel – adopting such a community-friendly approach to forest management, formalizing what has over the years been considered illegal, could prove to be the difference between environmental degradation and sustainability.

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Money Talks at One Planet Summit in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:27:17 +0000 Paris Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153552 As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table. The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors […]

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Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

By Paris Correspondent
PARIS, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table.

The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors responded to the call from French President Emmanuel Macron for urgent action.Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

“We’re not going fast enough,” Macron said at the Dec. 12 summit, which he co-convened with the United Nations and the World Bank. “Some countries present will see their territories disappear. We all have to move forward… The time is now.”

French multinational insurance company AXA announced that it plans to have 12 billion euros in green investments by 2020 and that it would divest 2.4 billion euros from certain coal-company activities.

Meanwhile the World Bank Group (WBG) highlighted its funding of projects in India for street lighting; in West Africa to tackle “coastal erosion, flooding and climate change adaptation”; in Indonesia regarding geothermal-power development; and with the Global Covenant of Mayors in a new “Cities Resilience Programme” (CRP).

“Over the next three years, the CRP will leverage $4.5 billion in World Bank loans to catalyze billions in public and private capital for technical assistance, project co-financing and credit enhancement,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

He said that the programme would essentially “act as an investment banker for cities to structure programs to address their vulnerabilities to climate change”.

Kim also announced that the World Bank would not be financing upstream oil and gas after 2019, but that in “exceptional circumstances”, consideration would be given to such financing in the “poorest countries” where there is a clear benefit in terms of “energy access for the poor”.

The bank said it was on track to meet its target of 28 percent of its lending going to climate action by 2020.

With these and other announcements, the One Planet Summit, held two years after the signing of the landmark Paris Agreement, aimed to add momentum to the push for adequate financing of climate adaptation and mitigation, said some observers, while others termed it a public-relations exercise.

The summit brought together heads of state, local government representatives, non-governmental organizations – and schoolchildren. Journalists were out in force, alongside United Nations delegations, at the Seine Musicale venue, an imposing new arts centre on an island in the river Seine, just outside Paris.

Government leaders arrived by boat with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Macron and Kim, the co-convenors, for a packed afternoon of panel discussions and speeches, following morning events.

“Technological progress has already revealed the falsehood that responding to climate change is bad for the economy,” said Guterres. “Finance could be, should be and will be a decisive factor.”

Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

Caribbean representatives announced the launch of a 8-billion-dollar investment plan to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone”. The bodies involved include the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and private groups, forming a “Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition”.

The goal is to find a way “to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments”, the Caribbean Development Bank said.

Juvenel Moȉse, Haiti’s president and a participant at the summit, spoke of the vulnerability of the region, emphasizing that all the islands are suffering from the impacts of climate change. He said that Haiti was in a “very fragile zone”.

American actor Sean Penn, also present, said he had got involved in helping Haiti to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, and he said more financing was needed.

“I call on all those gathered to stand with Haiti,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Canada and the World Bank Group said they would support small island developing states to expand their renewable-energy infrastructure to achieve greater access to energy and to decrease pollution.

In side events around the summit, groups such as the International Development Finance Club (which groups 23 international, national and regional development banks from across the world), highlighted their “green financial flows”.

The group said that in 2016, IDFC members made new commitments representing 173 billion dollars in finance, an increase of 30 billion from 2015.

The eve of the summit, Dec. 11, was titled Climate Finance Day, and it was also the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), told journalists that the long years of negotiations had provided a framework in which all sectors of society could take action, as governments “cannot do it alone”.

She said there was a growing sense of urgency, especially after recent extreme weather events that had seen some communities “losing everything they have built throughout their lives”. More support was needed for adaptation, she and other officials noted.

At the summit, the Agence Française de Développement – an IDFC member — signed accords with Mauritius, Niger, Tunisia and the Comoros – as part of the agency’s Adapt’Action Facility.

With financing of 30 million euros over four years, Adapt’Action seeks to “accompany 15 developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement regarding adaptation,” the agency stated.

An official from Niger spoke compellingly of problems that included desertification. The country has been cited as an example of France not doing enough for its former colonies, and political analysts question whether that will change under Macron.

The European Union meanwhile said that its External Investment Plan (EIP) is set to mobilise some 44 billion euros to “partner countries in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood” by 2020.

Among its goals, the EIP aims to “contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals while tackling some of the root causes of migration,” according to the EU.

Regarding Asia and the Pacific, officials at the summit said action by countries in the region were “encouraging”. Heads of state included the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Fiji, who spoke of their climate initiatives. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the country was among the first emerging states to offer a green bond.

The international nature of the summit made the U.S. absence even more noticeable. As U.S. President Donald Trump had announced earlier this year that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, he was not invited, French officials said.

Other American climate figures were present, however, such as businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bloomberg said that around the world, businesses were taking “responsible” action because investors want to put their money in environmentally friendly companies.

Still, for some NGOs, not enough is being done, and the summit was more of what they had heard before.

“If governments and business are sincere in their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, they would cease their financing of dirty and harmful energy projects around the world and would instead accept their responsibility for providing public finance to address climate change instead of letting business dictate the agenda,” said Meena Raman of Third World Network.

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Build Back Better: The Tiny Island of Dominica Faces New Climate Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 19:33:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153318 McCarthy Marie has been living in the Fond Cani community, a few kilometres east of the Dominica capital Roseau, for 38 years. The 68-year-old economist moved to the area in 1979 following the decimation of the island by Hurricane David. But even though David was such a destructive hurricane, Marie told IPS that when Hurricane […]

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The island nation of Dominica, once know as a modern-day Garden of Eden, was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The island nation of Dominica, once know as a modern-day Garden of Eden, was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

McCarthy Marie has been living in the Fond Cani community, a few kilometres east of the Dominica capital Roseau, for 38 years. The 68-year-old economist moved to the area in 1979 following the decimation of the island by Hurricane David.

But even though David was such a destructive hurricane, Marie told IPS that when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, islanders witnessed something they had never seen before.“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of 224 percent of their GDP this year?” --Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

“The entire city of Roseau was completely flooded,” Marie told IPS. “There is a major river flowing through the centre of the city. The river rose pretty quickly and that was compounded by the fact that we have five bridges crossing the river and a couple of those bridges, especially those we built more recently, were definitely built too low so they presented a barrier to the river and prevented the water from flowing into the sea as it would otherwise have done.”

Hurricane Maria, a category five storm with sustained winds reaching 180 miles an hour, battered the Caribbean nation for several hours between Sep. 18-19. It left 27 people dead and as many missing, and nearly 90 percent of the structures on the island damaged or destroyed.

Marie said Dominicans have been talking a lot about climate change for quite some time, but the island was not fully prepared for its impacts.

And while Dominicans in general have not been building with monster hurricanes like Maria in mind, Marie said he took an extraordinary step following his experience with Hurricane David.

“I prepared for hurricanes by building my hurricane bunker in 1989 when I built my house. When the storm [Maria] started to get serious, we went into the bunker and we stayed there for the duration of the storm,” he said.

“I have been seeing more and more buildings going up that have concrete roofs but it’s not the standard by far. The usual standard is a house made of concrete and steel with a timber roof. So, most of the houses, the damage they suffered was that the timber roof got taken off and then water got inside the house and damaged all their stuff.

“We need to build houses that can withstand the wind, but the wind is not so much of a big problem. Our big problem is dealing with the amount of water and flooding that we are going to have,” Marie explained.

Like Marie, Bernard Wiltshire, who is a former attorney general here, believes Dominica is big on talk about climate change but the rhetoric does not translate into tangible action on building resilience.

He cited the level of devastation in several countries in the Caribbean over the last hurricane season.

“We certainly did not act fast enough in Dominica, we know that. And from looking at what happened in Puerto Rico and in Antigua and Barbuda, I didn’t see any evidence that we have really come to grips with what is required to make us more resilient in the face of those conditions that are going to confront us,” Wiltshire said.

“It brings us to the question how do we make ourselves more resilient, what do we do? I would say we have to look not just to the question of making buildings stronger and more rigid, but we also have to look at ways in which the community is made more resilient; our pattern of production and consumption, we’ve got really to reorient our society to eliminate the causes that prevent those communities from being able to withstand the effects of these disasters.”

Dominica acts as a microcosm of the climate change threat to the world, and the island’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has called for millions of dollars of assistance so the country can build the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of 224 percent of their GDP this year?” asked Skerrit.

“We have been put on the front line by others. We were the guardians of nature, 60 percent of Dominica is covered by protected rain forests and has been so long before climate change,” he said.

The island’s Gross Domestic Product has been decimated, wiped out due to severe damage to the agriculture, tourism and housing sectors.

It is the second consecutive year that all 72,000 people living on Dominica have been affected by disasters.

Skerrit is convinced that the only way to reduce the number of people affected by future severe weather is to build back better to a standard that can withstand the rainfall, wind intensity and degree of storm surge which they can now expect from tropical storms in the age of climate change.

As Dominica seeks to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation, Skerrit said they cannot do this alone and need international cooperation.

But Wiltshire said Caribbean countries must shoulder some of the blame for climate change.

“I don’t want us in the Caribbean simply to point fingers at the bigger countries and completely ignore our own role. There is a problem I think, in our islands, if not causing climate change, in contributing to the degree of damage that is actually done, the severity of these disasters,” Wiltshire said.

“In Dominica for example, one of the most obvious things was the deluge of debris from the hillsides, from the interior of the country, carried by the rivers down to the coast. It is up there where we have unplanned use of the land, building of roads, the construction of houses without a proper planning regime. So, we ourselves have a role to play in this where for example we are giving away our wetlands and draining them for hotel construction,” he added.

Head of the Caribbean Climate Group Professor Michael Taylor said climate change is happening now and Caribbean residents no longer have the luxury to see it as an isolated event or a future threat.

“I think the first thing that we have to think about is how in the Caribbean are we really perceiving climate change and not necessarily only at the government level but at the individual level, at the community level,” he said.

“Do we perceive climate change as something that is an event or are we beginning to recognise that climate change for us in the Caribbean is a developmental issue? We have to begin to see that climate change is interwoven into every aspect of our lives and it impacts us daily. It’s where you get your water from, the quality of your roads. Until we begin to realise that climate change is interwoven into life then we will always be almost with our foot on the backburner, always trying to catch up.

“We do have resource constraints within the region, we do have other pressing issues which sometimes tend to cloud over both at the community level going right up to the government level, but I think climate has put itself on the forefront of the agenda and that said, we need now to mainstream climate into the very short-term planning and at all levels of community going right up through government and even regional entities,” Taylor added. 

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Indigenous People, Guardians of Threatened Forests in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:33:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153313 Indigenous peoples, recognised as the best guardians of the world’s forests, are losing some battles in Brazil in the face of intensified pressure from the expansion of agriculture, mining and electricity generation. The Brazilian indigenous lands (TI), called “reserves” or “reservations” in other countries, are the most protected in the Amazon rainforest. They cover 22.3 […]

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Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO , Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, recognised as the best guardians of the world’s forests, are losing some battles in Brazil in the face of intensified pressure from the expansion of agriculture, mining and electricity generation.

The Brazilian indigenous lands (TI), called “reserves” or “reservations” in other countries, are the most protected in the Amazon rainforest. They cover 22.3 percent of the territory and the deforested portion represented just 1.6 percent of the total deforestation in the region up to 2016, according to the non-governmental Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA)."They are destroying our culture, our consciousness and our economy by destroying our forests, which we defend because they are our life and our wisdom." -- Almir Narayamoga Suruí

The conservation units, under state protection for research, limited sustainable use or as biological reserves, suffered much higher losses, although deforestation has declined drastically in recent years.

The expansion of these two preservation instruments would be decisive for Brazil to fulfill its nationally intended determined contribution to the mitigation of climate change: to reduce greenhouse gases by 43 percent as of 2030, based on 2005 emissions, which totalled just over 2 billion tons.

But deforestation in indigenous reserves demarcated in the Amazon increased 32 percent in August 2016 to July 2017, compared to the previous period, while throughout the Amazon region, made up of nine states, there was a 16 percent reduction.

It is little in absolute terms, but it has other dramatic effects.

“They are destroying our culture, our consciousness and our economy by destroying our forests, which we defend because they are our life and our wisdom,” protested Almir Narayamoga Suruí, a leader of the Suruí people in the September Seven TI, where nearly 1,400 indigenous people live, in northwestern Brazil.

The destruction is caused by loggers and “garimpeiros” or informal miners of gold and diamonds that have invaded the Suruí land since the beginning of 2016.

The complaints and information offered by the indigenous people have not obtained any answers from the government, said Almir Suruí, who became internationally known, as of 2007, for using Google Earth technology to monitor indigenous lands with the aim of preventing invasions and deforestation.

“It’s a good alliance, we have access to a tool that facilitates and allows us to have key information. But the government is not cooperating,” he said in a conversation with IPS.

Deforestation due to the expansion of livestock farming dominates the landscape near Alta Floresta, a southeastern gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Deforestation due to the expansion of livestock farming dominates the landscape near Alta Floresta, a southeastern gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

His suspicion is that government corruption, widely revealed in the last three years through investigations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, weakens the government agencies that should fight the invasion of indigenous lands: the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and the National Indian Foundation (Funai).

This is also dividing his people, with some of its members “co-opted” by loggers and “garimpeiros” to facilitate the illegal exploitation of natural resources, Suruí lamented.

The special rapporteur speaks

Indigenous peoples will be among the main victims of climate change, although their way of life practically does not contribute to the environmental crisis, but rather to solutions, according to the United Nations special rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

In addition to the fact that many of them live in localities subject to extreme weather events, some projects pointed out as solutions, because they reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, directly affect indigenous life, as is the case of biofuels and hydroelectric power plants, which impact their territories.

In her reports and presentations, Tauli-Corpuz repeatedly calls for compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Labour Organization Convention N° 169, to give indigenous people greater participation in decisions that affect them, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

“It is in fact what divided the Suruí people, some of their leaders were involved in the theft of timber with the support of Funai,” said Ivaneide Bandeira, project coordinator of the Kanindé Association for Ethno-Environmental Defence, a non-governmental organisation based in Porto Velho, capital of the northwestern state of Rondônia.

“And the Uru-ue-wau-wau people are facing an even worse situation,” she told IPS.

They are a small community, which has shrunk as a result of massacres and epidemics brought by the invaders in the last four decades, and is now suffering the invasion of thousands of farmers trying to illegally take possession of lands in the reserve west of the Suruís, in Rondônia.

“In Brazil, the TI’s play an important role in curbing the advance of deforestation and in preserving biodiversity, complementing the National Conservation Unit System,” philosopher Marcio Santilli, founder of the ISA, where he coordinates the Politics and Law programme, told IPS.

But some of these lands in the Amazon suffer greater deforestation, given “the intensity of the nearby territorial occupation, the execution of major works, the presence of roads, agricultural expansion fronts and mining or logging activity,” said Santilli, who presided over Funai in 1995-1996.

“That generates an unfavourable correlation of forces”, which exceeds “the capacity of organisation and territorial control of the indigenous people to discourage and even repel invasions,” he explained.

“Targeted actions on some 10 especially affected TI’s, with efficient inspections by government oversight bodies, would reduce deforestation, he suggested. In Brazil there are currently 462 TI’s.

This is what has been happening in general in the Amazon since last year, “through permanent actions by environmental authorities in areas of deforestation pressure”, such as the vicinity of the BR163 highway, a route for transporting soy for export in the Amazon, said Santilli.

Indigenous people are the eyes of the fight against deforestation even outside their reserves, all the sources interviewed agreed. Their information was decisive in guiding the Ríos Voladores Operation through which the police and the Public Prosecutor’s office dismantled a gang that occupied public lands for logging in the Amazon state of Pará.

“The elimination of forests in the surrounding areas have impacts within, such as the drying up of rivers that cross indigenous land and attracting fires,” said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon).

Controlled burns, a traditional form of deforestation, have multiplied and have become more destructive in the Amazon, given the greater frequency and intensity of droughts. More flammable material accumulates and forests are more vulnerable, after the drop in rainfall in 2010, 2016 and this year.

This is added to another debilitating trend in the Amazon: increased forest degradation, caused by the droughts, timber extraction and other phenomena that reduce forest density, Barreto told IPS.

Last year the forest degradation rate reached a record and last October there was an increase of 2,400 percent over the same month of 2016, growing from 297 square km per month to 7,421, according to data from the Deforestation Alert System, created by Imazon.

“The degradation in one month exceeded the deforestation for the whole year. That impoverishes the forests biologically while the fires affect the health of animals and humans with the smoke. Brazil is not prepared to face this phenomenon, which requires strong local prevention measures,” said Barreto.

Restoring forests, mainly at the sources of rivers and along the banks, is a way to mitigate part of the damage, a technique used by the Xingu Seed Network, an initiative of the ISA launched in 2007 along the upper section of the highly deforested basin of the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest.

In addition to supplying companies and institutions involved in reforestation, it generates income for the approximately 450 mainly indigenous collectors of seeds, plays a role in environmental education, and brings together different actors, such as farmers and landowners, said Rodrigo Junqueira, promoter of the Network and coordinator of the ISA Xingu Programme.

“I learned a lot about trees, life and the importance of nature, in addition to earning money as head of the ‘seed bank’” in Nova Xavantina, 19-year-old student Milene Alves, in the state of Mato Grosso, told IPS.

Her father, a fisherman, “overcame depression” and her mother, a homemaker, changed her life, both by devoting themselves to the collection of seeds, said Alves, who chose to study biology at the university after her experience.

All this is crucial for the future of climate change. Nearly 24 percent of the carbon stored on the earth’s surface is in the tropical forests in indigenous and communal lands, according to the international World Resources Institute.

According to the 2010 census, the indigenous population in Brazil is 897,000, which is 0.45 percent of the country’s total population, while the TI’s cover 1.17 million square km, equivalent to 13.8 percent of the country’s territory, but encompassed mostly in areas especially vulnerable to temperature rises.

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji Dec. 4-8 for International Civil Society Week.

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Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-price-put-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 13:10:24 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153280 IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviews the Executive Director of United Nations Environment ERIK SOLHEIM ahead of the Dec. 4-6 3rd UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, where 193 member states will discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI/NEW DELHI, Dec 1 2017 (IPS)

“Political resolve is the key for succeeding in our fight against oceans pollution,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, who is leading hands-on the organisation’s global campaign to clean up seas and oceans of plastic litter, agricultural run‑off and chemical dumping, told IPS.

“It’s about building capacity for strong environmental governance and bolstering political leadership on these issues,” said Solheim, who previously served as Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development.“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line."

“One of the big changes has been an understanding of the issue (of marine pollution) and a realization that we are facing an extremely serious problem. As a result, we’re starting to see a range of initiatives,” he said.

“On the community level, there are people like Afroz Shah and Mumbai’s Versova Beach clean-up team, for example. They’re really doing an amazing job of drawing attention to the problem.

“Then we’re seeing the “private sector begin to take serious action,” he said. “For example, Dell is changing its packaging. Certain big national and international chains are changing their practices – for example by using paper instead of plastic, or cutting out plastic straws.

“Then we have government action, which is crucial. Certain countries have banned microplastics, some have banned plastic bags. Kenya, Rwanda and Bangladesh, for example, are recognised global leaders on plastic pollution,” he added.

“This points to a growing understanding of the marine litter problem and a resolve to take concrete action. Ultimately, the problem of marine litter is upstream. We need industries to change. We need people to exercise their power as consumers,” Solheim said.

In what Joachim Spangenberg of Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environment Research called the “political economy” of pollution, where vested-interest lobbies profit by externalizing costs of production and discharging unwanted waste into the environment, anti-plastic law-makers are up against a global plastic industry worth 654 billion dollars by 2020. Dow Chemicals, Du Pont, BASF, ExxonMobil, and Bayer are key players invested in the sector.

But Spangenberg too says that heads of government have great power to address this “political economy” of pollution.

Oceans are the new economic frontier, but ill health eating into its potential

Between 2010 and 2030 on a business‑as‑usual scenario, the ocean economy could double its global value added to 3 trillion dollars and provide 40 million jobs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) major 2016 study said.

Ocean is the new economic frontier, it said, its growth driven by traditional and emerging ocean-based industries, marine food, energy, transport, minerals, medicines, tourism and innovations.

But OECD warns the oceans’ undermined health would cut into its full growth potential.

“We need governments to make polluters pay, and to ensure we work harder on recycling, reuse and waste management. The solution is stopping the waste ending up in the ocean in the first place,” Solheim told Inter Press Service.

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Pollution from plastic waste in oceans is costing 8 billion dollars

“Pollution from plastic waste being dumped in the ocean is costing the world at least 8 billion dollars every year, but this estimate is certain to be an underestimate when we factor in the cumulative, long-term consequences,” said the UNEP chief.

Between 4.8 million tonnes and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year, 80 percent of it from land sources due to inadequate waste management.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, plastic production is increasing 4-5 percent annually.

Plastic pollution is everywhere; even a tiny uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean far from human contact had 18 tonnes of plastic washed up on it. Plastic waste was found at 36,000 feet in depth – the deepest spot in the ocean in the Mariana trench, he points out.

Plastic aside, land-based sources pump in the maximum waste and pollutants into oceans and coastal waters, mostly through rivers. Farming, food and agro-industry, fisheries and aquaculture, oil and energy sector, waste, wastewater, packaging sector, extractives and pharmaceuticals are major sources.

In coastal regions where 37 percent of the global population lives, these pollutants can stunt neurological development, cause heart and kidney disease, cancer, sterility and hormonal disruption.

Among the little know impacts on marine creatures, ingestion of microplastics (size less than 5 mm) by fish can affect female fertility and grow reproductive tissue in male fish causing their feminization. Chemicals in plastic cause thyroid disorder in whales, physiological stress, liver cancer, and endocrine dysfunction, says UNEP’s 2017 pollution report.

“Then of course we have to look at waste to the economy of plastics being produced, used for a few seconds or minutes and then dumped,” Solheim said.

Why are many law-makers still dragging their feet on strong anti-plastic policies?

Environmental activists say regulating marine pollution needs bold and several restrictive, unpopular policies that on which elected law makers are seen to be dragging their feet.

“It’s a case of presenting environmental action in a positive, constructive way. We need to stop looking at it as a cost or sacrifice, but as an opportunity, a win for health, benefits for the economy and for the planet,” Solheim counters the critics.

The Kenyan government recently banned single-use plastic bags. “There were inevitably complaints from some manufacturers, but we have to consider what the benefits are from making the switch to more sustainable packaging.

“There are business opportunities. There are benefits to tourism, as nobody wants to go on a safari and see plastic bags blowing across the savannah, or spend a holiday on beaches littered with plastic. There are benefits to the food chain too. We’ve seen cows whose stomachs were filled with plastic,” he added.

Actions don’t need to be unpopular. For example, “does any country have a policy to throw rubbish into the sea?” “Certainly not! If that was a real policy, people would be justifiably furious.” he said. But that is what has happened, in the absence of strong policies.

“For too long, the relationship between prosperity and environment has been seen as a trade-off. Tackling pollution was considered an unwelcome cost on industry and a handicap to economic growth,” Solheim says in his ‘Vision for a Pollution-free Planet,’ in the run-up to the UN Environment Assembly. “(But) it’s now clear that sustainable development is the only form of development that makes sense, including in financial and economic terms,” he adds.

“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line. It’s cheaper to prevent pollution now than clean up in the future,” he told Inter Press Service.

“That’s the message we really need to get across, so that governments can feel inspired and emboldened to take action.

“After that, what price do we put on our oceans? They sustain human life in such a way that surely we need to look at the oceans as priceless,” Solheim said.

“We have to look at pollution as a factor alongside climate change and over-fishing. We have to look at oceans as interconnected,” Solheim said.

Keeping marine litter high on national environmental policy agendas of the 193 member nations, pollution is the focus of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly 4-6 December at the UN headquarters of Nairobi.

The UN Environment Assembly is attended by 193 member states, heads of state, environment ministers, CEOs of multinational companies, NASA scientists, NGOs, environmental activists, and celebrities to discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

The post Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviews the Executive Director of United Nations Environment ERIK SOLHEIM ahead of the Dec. 4-6 3rd UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, where 193 member states will discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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Combating Climate Change? Combat Land Degradation, Says UNCCD Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief/#respond Fri, 24 Nov 2017 19:26:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153194 Land restoration is not a “glamorous subject even when you give all the numbers,” admits Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD). But she also stresses that by 2050, the world population will reach 10 billion. To feed that extra 2.4 billion, current food production would need to be […]

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Women restore degraded land in southern India under a government-funded program. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women restore degraded land in southern India under a government-funded program. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 24 2017 (IPS)

Land restoration is not a “glamorous subject even when you give all the numbers,” admits Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD). But she also stresses that by 2050, the world population will reach 10 billion. To feed that extra 2.4 billion, current food production would need to be increased by 75 percent.

By 2045, there will be 130 million people who migrated because of desertification, and out of them, 60 million will come from south of the Sahel and Africa.

“To do that, we will have to add, from now to 2050, 4 million acres of new land every year. So unless urgent action is taken to restore degraded land, the world is looking at an acute food-insecure future,” she told IPS in a special interview on the sidelines of the recently concluded UN Climate Conference – COP23 in Bonn.

Land vs energy: a popularity game?

At the conference where ideas, actions, innovations and resources were brought in the open to design a roadmap to tackle climate change, the discussions were dominated by ending coal, producing renewable energy and making green technologies more accessible. Land was an issue largely ignored, except by some indigenous peoples’ groups who stressed the need to maintain soil fertility.

But Barbut asserts that land is indeed integral to climate actions and policies taken both at the UN and at the national level. “In the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or what countries will do to cut carbon emissions] they have submitted, more than 140 countries have said that land was part of their solution or their problem in terms of climate change,” she points out.

One of the countries is India, where an estimated 30 percent of total land is already degraded. According to a 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) titled “World Day to Combat Desertification”, the degrading area has increased over 0.5 per cent to 29.3 million hectares in the past decade. Desertification also increased by 1.16 million hectares (m ha) and stood at 82.64 m ha during 2011-13, says the report.

As a signatory to the UNCCD, India has committed to combat desertification and land degradation and become land degradation neutral by 2030. In simple terms, this means having a balanced proportion of land loss and land gain.

However, though an ambitious goal, this is seldom talked about by the officials. In sharp contrast, India’s other environmental actions, especially the Solar Mission which aims to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, is widely lauded.

Anand Kumar, the secretary of India’s Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, is quick to point out that the International Solar Alliance – a group of 44 countries committed to produce 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy – has promised investments of 1 trillion dollars by 2030.

No land restoration initiatives are likely to garner that kind of private investment, admits Barbut, as the job is more labor intensive. “Even the most degraded land can be restored with a small investment of 300 dollars per hectare. So, what is needed is not a large sum of money, but lots of manual labour. So perhaps there is not a lot of scope for huge investment and large profits,” she says.

However, at the same time, she shared some good news: the UNCCD, in collaboration with Mirova, the governments of France, Luxembourg, Norway, and the Rockefeller Foundation, has launched a special fund for restoring degraded land and fighting desertification. Named the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund, this new finance vehicle was launched on September 12 this year, during the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) of the UNCCD in Ordos, China.

“We have launched the biggest land impact fund. It is managed by Natistix. It is a public-private fund. By the beginning of next year, we hope to have about 300 million dollars of capitalization of the fund,” Barbut says.

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Land and Women’s Rights

The connection between the environment and women’s rights is an integral one, says Barbut. “Whether it’s drought, land degradation or desertification, women suffer more than others. In fact, they not only suffer from the consequences of drought or desertification, but also from the fact that in most cases women do not have rights to land,” she says, before sharing some experiences from Africa where plots of degraded land were restored, but because women did not have rights to the land, they could not stake their claim.

One such example is in the Mboula region of Senegal, where the regional government allocated tracts of land to women’s groups for collective farming. The initiative has been a big success as the women’s collective managed to grow more food than expected. As a result, the women now have received training to venture into growing crops for market, besides their own consumption.

Similarly, in Eastern Uganda, the government started a new initiative with women who had no ownership over their land. They have been trained in marketing, managing a collective that cultivates arable land that was once degraded, but is now restored. Besides supporting these local initiatives at the country level, UNCCD is also mainstreaming gender equality in its own policies and actions.

“We now have a Gender Policy Framework and it’s the most advanced framework all the UN Conventions and which we will apply in particular to all the transformative projects,” Barbut explains.

Land and Climate Change

According to Barbut, climate change’s effects on land are becoming more and more of a global problem, with major social and political consequences. She mentions the recent droughts witnessed by France, Canada and successive droughts in the US, and also points out the recent exodus of people from drought and desertification in the global south.

“If you see all the migrants coming to Europe, 100 percent of them – not 90 percent but 100 percent – are coming from drylands. There are also migration and radicalism linked to land degradation and desertification. For example, in the drylands of Africa, where desertification is happening, we are seeing food riots and then we are seeing Al Qaeda,” she says, pointing to a study published by UNCCD that explores these links.

Citing another study by the British Government’s Defence Ministry, Barbut says that “by 2045, there will be 130 million people who migrated because of desertification, and out of them, 60 million will come from south of the Sahel and Africa.”

But all is not hopeless. Barbut shared her vision of a food-secure future and a clear way to achieve that goal: “By 2050, we will need millions of hectares of new lands to grow 75 percent extra food. Today we are taking new land from forests and wetlands. At the same time, on this planet, you have 2 billion hectares of degraded land. Among this, 500 million are abandoned agricultural land. If we restored 300 million of these 2 billion hectares of land, we can ensure food security for all by 2050.”

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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SLIDESHOW: Two Models of Development in Struggle Coexist in Brazil’s Semi-arid Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/slideshow-two-models-development-struggle-coexist-brazils-semi-arid-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slideshow-two-models-development-struggle-coexist-brazils-semi-arid-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/slideshow-two-models-development-struggle-coexist-brazils-semi-arid-region/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 15:21:22 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153494 Irrigated green fields of vineyards and monoculture crops coexist in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast with dry plains dotted with flowering cacti and native crops traditionally planted by the locals. Two models of development in struggle, with very different fruits. On his 17-hectare farm in Canudos, in the state of Bahia, João Afonso Almeida grows vegetables, sorghum, […]

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Thanks to simple rainwater harvesting techniques, Almeida has managed to live harmoniously with the local ecosystem. “This is a water harvesting ‘calçadão’ (embankment), the water goes to the tank-calçadão that has a capacity to store 52,000 litres. We use it to water the garden. It provides an income for the families,”

Thanks to simple rainwater harvesting techniques, Almeida has managed to live harmoniously with the local ecosystem. “This is a water harvesting ‘calçadão’ (embankment), the water goes to the tank-calçadão that has a capacity to store 52,000 litres. We use it to water the garden. It provides an income for the families,”

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CANUDOS, Brazil, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

Irrigated green fields of vineyards and monoculture crops coexist in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast with dry plains dotted with flowering cacti and native crops traditionally planted by the locals. Two models of development in struggle, with very different fruits.

On his 17-hectare farm in Canudos, in the state of Bahia, João Afonso Almeida grows vegetables, sorghum, passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), palm trees, citrus and forage plants.

 

João Afonso stands amidst his watermelons and other forage plants on his farm in the municipality of Canudos, in the state of Bahia, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Thanks to water and soil management techniques, the droughts are not so hard on him, his crops or his animals. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

João Afonso stands amidst his watermelons and other forage plants on his farm in the municipality of Canudos, in the state of Bahia, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Thanks to water and soil management techniques, the droughts are not so hard on him, his crops or his animals. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

 

Between the rows, cactus plants grow to feed his goats and sheep, such as guandú (Cajanus cajan), wild watermelon, leucaena and mandacurú (Cereus jamacaru).

 

The earth is dry and dusty in the Caatinga, an ecosystem exclusive to Brazil’s semiarid region, where droughts can last for years, alternating with periods of annual rainfall of 200 to 800 mm, along with high evaporation rates.

The earth is dry and dusty in the Caatinga, an ecosystem exclusive to Brazil’s semiarid region, where droughts can last for years, alternating with periods of annual rainfall of 200 to 800 mm, along with high evaporation rates.

 

But thanks to simple rainwater harvesting techniques, Almeida has managed to live harmoniously with the local ecosystem.

“This is a water harvesting ‘calçadão’ (embankment),” he told IPS, showing a tank installed with the help of the Regional Institute for Appropriate Small Farming (IRPAA), which is part of the Networking in Brazil’s Semiarid Region (ASA) movement, along with another 3,000 social organisations.

“The water goes to the tank-calçadão that has a capacity to store 52,000 litres. We use it to water the garden. It provides an income for the families,” he added.

For domestic consumption, he has a 16,000-litre tank that collects rainwater from the roof of his house through gutters and pipes.

 

ASA has installed one million tanks for family consumption and 250,000 for small agricultural facilities in the semiarid Northeast.

ASA has installed one million tanks for family consumption and 250,000 for small agricultural facilities in the semiarid Northeast.

 

Almeida uses an “enxurrada” (flow) tank, and an irrigation system for his citrus trees, which through a narrow pipe irrigates the roots without wasting water. He also opted for plants native to the Caatinga that adapt naturally to the local climate and soil conditions.

“Production has improved a great deal, we work less and have better results. And we also conserve the Caatinga ecosystem. I believed in this, while many people did not, and thank God because we sleep well even though we’ve already had three years of drought,” he said.

In the past, droughts used to kill in this region. Between 1979 and 1983, drought caused up to one million deaths, and drove a mass exodus to large cities due to thirst and hunger.

 

Part of the extensive vineyards of the Especial Fruit company in the São Francisco River valley, where irrigation projects have made it possible to grow fruit on a large scale for export, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

Part of the extensive vineyards of the Especial Fruit company in the São Francisco River valley, where irrigation projects have made it possible to grow fruit on a large scale for export, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

 

“The farm used to be far from any source of water. We had to walk two to three kilometers, setting out early with buckets,” he recalled.

The droughts did not end but they no longer produce deaths among the peasants of Brazil’s semiarid Northeast, a region that is home to some 23 million of Brazil’s 208 million people.

This was thanks to the strategy of “coexistence with the semiarid”, promoted by ASA, in contrast with the historical policies of the “drought industry”, which exploited the tragedy, charging high prices for water or exchanging it for votes, distributing water in tanker trucks.

 

Thanks to simple rainwater harvesting techniques, Almeida has managed to live harmoniously with the local ecosystem. “This is a water harvesting ‘calçadão’ (embankment), the water goes to the tank-calçadão that has a capacity to store 52,000 litres. We use it to water the garden. It provides an income for the families,”

Thanks to simple rainwater harvesting techniques, Almeida has managed to live harmoniously with the local ecosystem. “This is a water harvesting ‘calçadão’ (embankment), the water goes to the tank-calçadão that has a capacity to store 52,000 litres. We use it to water the garden. It provides an income for the families” Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

 

“Coexistence with the semiarid ecosystem is something completely natural that actually people around the world have done in relation to their climates. The Eskimos coexist with the icy Arctic climate, the Tuareg (nomads of the Sahara desert) coexist with the desert climate,” the president of the IRPAA, Harold Schistek, told IPS in his office in the city of Juazeiro, in the Northeast state of Bahía.

“What we have done is simply to read nature. Observing how plants can survive for eight months without rain, and how animals adapt to drought, and drawing conclusions for how people should do things. It is not about technology or books. It is simply observation of nature applied to human action,” he explained.

The “coexistence” is based on respecting the ecosystem and reviving traditional agricultural practices.

The basic principle is to store up in preparation for drought – everything from water to native seeds, and fodder for goats and sheep, the most resistant species.

The fruits are seen in the Cooperative of Farming Families from Canudos and Curaçá (Coopercuc), made up of about 250 families from those municipalities in the state of Bahía.

 

Almeida uses an “enxurrada” (flow) tank, and an irrigation system for his citrus trees, which through a narrow pipe irrigates the roots without wasting water. He also opted for plants native to the Caatinga that adapt naturally to the local climate and soil conditions.

Almeida uses an “enxurrada” (flow) tank, and an irrigation system for his citrus trees, which through a narrow pipe irrigates the roots without wasting water. He also opted for plants native to the Caatinga that adapt naturally to the local climate and soil conditions. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

 

“We’re not only concerned with making a profit but also with the sustainable use of the raw materials of the Caatinga. For example, the harvest of the ombú (Phytolacca dioica) used to be done in a very harmful way, swinging the tree to make the fruit fall,” Coopercuc vice-president José Edimilson Alves told IPS.

Now, he said, “we instruct the members of the cooperative to collect the fruit by hand, and to avoid breaking the branches. We also do not allow native wood or living plants to be extracted.”

 

Coopercuc, which Almeida is a member of, has an industrial plant in Uauá, where they make jellies and jams with fruits of the Caaatinga, such as umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and passion fruit, with pulps processed in mini-factories run by the cooperative members.

Coopercuc, which Almeida is a member of, has an industrial plant in Uauá, where they make jellies and jams with fruits of the Caaatinga, such as umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and passion fruit, with pulps processed in mini-factories run by the cooperative members.

 

The cooperative sells its products, free of agrochemicals, to large Brazilian cities and has exported to France and Austria.

“This proposal shows that it is possible to live, and with a good quality of life, in the semiarid region,” said Alves.

 

Coopercuc vice-president José Edimilson Alves. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

Coopercuc vice-president José Edimilson Alves. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

 

This reality exists in the 200,000-hectare fruit-growing area of the São Francisco River valley, located between the municipalities of Petrolina (state of Pernambuco) and Juazeiro. Government incentives and irrigation techniques favoured the installation of agribusiness in the area.

According to the State Development Company of the Valleys of São Francisco and Parnaíba, fruit growers in the area generate over 800 million dollars a year, and provide about 100,000 jobs.

“It is estimated that this use of irrigation represents 80 percent of all uses of the basin. But we have to consider that the collection of water for these projects promotes the economic and social development of our region by generating employment and revenues, through the export of fresh and canned fruit to Europe and the United States,” explained the company’s manager, Joselito Menezes.

 

The company Especial Fruit, which has about 3,000 hectares in the valley and 2,200 workers, produces thousands of tons of grapes and mangos every year, which are exported mostly to the United States, Argentina and Chile, along with a smaller volume of melons, for the local market.

The company Especial Fruit, which has about 3,000 hectares in the valley and 2,200 workers, produces thousands of tons of grapes and mangos every year, which are exported mostly to the United States, Argentina and Chile, along with a smaller volume of melons, for the local market.

 

“All the irrigation is done with the drip system, since good management of water is very important due to the limitations of water resources,” the company’s president Suemi Koshiyama told IPS.

He explained that “The furrow irrigation system only takes advantage of 40 percent of the water, and spray irrigation makes use of 60 percent, compared to 85 percent for drip irrigation.”

“The region that has the least water is the one that uses the most. Thousands of litres are used to produce crops, so when the region exports it is also exporting water and minerals from the soil, especially with sugarcane,” said Moacir dos Santos, an expert at the IRPAA.

“In a region with very little water and fertile soil, we have to question the validity of this. The scarce water should be used to produce food, in a sustainable manner,” he told IPS.

According to ASA, one and a half million farm families have only 4.2 percent of the arable land in the semiarid region, while 1.3 percent of the agro-industrial farms of over 1,000 hectares occupy 38 percent of the lands.

“Family farmers produce the food. Agribusiness produces commodities. And although it has a strong impact on the trade balance, at a local level, family farming actually supplies the economy,” dos Santos said.

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