Inter Press ServiceBiodiversity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Feb 2019 15:26:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Mining Grabs Up Land, Deals Blow to Agriculture in Central Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/mining-grabs-land-deals-blow-agriculture-central-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mining-grabs-land-deals-blow-agriculture-central-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/mining-grabs-land-deals-blow-agriculture-central-america/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 08:26:14 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160185 Like an octopus, metals mining has been spreading its tentacles throughout Central America and dealing a blow to the region’s agriculture and natural ecosystems, according to affected villagers, activists and a new report on the problem. “Where the mining company is operating was land that peasants leased to plant corn and beans, our staple crops. […]

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Q&A: Suriname’s President Champions Preserving the World’s Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-surinames-president-champions-preserving-worlds-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-surinames-president-champions-preserving-worlds-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-surinames-president-champions-preserving-worlds-forests/#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2019 11:02:58 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160151 IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DESIRE DELANO BOUTERSE, president of Suriname.

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Suriname’s President, Desiré Delano Bouterse, who this week gathered the High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation nations in Paramaribo for a major conference to discuss the way forward. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 15 2019 (IPS)

At the Bonn Climate Conference in 2017, Suriname announced its aspirations to maintain its forest coverage at 93 percent of the land area.

For Suriname and other High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations, maintaining forest coverage is their contribution to saving the planet from the effects of climate change, something they did not cause.

But HFLD nations have faced a challenge finding a development model that balances their national interests while continuing to deliver eco-services to the world. They say the valuable contribution of especially HFLD developing countries to the climate change challenge is not reflected in climate finance.

These countries – which also include, among others: Panama, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Belize, Gabon, Guyana, Bhutan, Zambia, and French Guiana – now have a champion at the forefront of their cause.

He is Suriname’s President, Desiré Delano Bouterse, who this week gathered the HFLD nations in Paramaribo for a major conference to discuss the way forward.

The three-day conference ended with countries adopting the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation.

“The declaration is one of significance,” Bouterse told IPS in an interview.

“What I want to communicate to the world community is that we should first and foremost note that our planet is in danger and that it calls for common action.”

Bouterse said HFLD developing countries have set themselves on a new path, and that Suriname takes its new assignment very seriously and pledges its dedication.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Mr. President, what was your vision when this conference was being conceptualised?

Desiré Delano Bouters (DDB): It’s more than 30 years that we are facing this issue, and what we have looked at is that countries that are facing the issue of high forestry have difficulties getting financial opportunities. So that is basically the main reason for the conference.

We have forest cover of approximately 94.6 percent. Our commitment to the world is that we will maintain a forest cover of 93 percent. That is a commitment we made.

What we know is that there is a contention between the interest and will to maintain the forest cover, on the one hand. On the other hand are the development challenges with scarce financial resources. Thirdly is the difficult to access financial opportunities. So, what has to happen is that the world community has to understand this commitment and seek a mechanism for easier accessibility to financial mechanisms so that we can therefore get training, we can get capacity building – access to finances in order to maintain this commitment. So, it’s crucial to get that access.

IPS: We have seen so many declarations made before, is there a reason to be optimistic about the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation?

DDB: Yes, there have been declarations but here’s what I think is necessary coming out of this process. There is a need for precise scientific research which will allow us a truthful picture of what we can be given for the offer we make; so that there is a very precise calculation so to speak, so that we don’t estimate but rather know what the value is of the offer we have made.

IPS: What does this declaration mean in terms of financial resources and also benefits to the people of Suriname and other HFLD nations?

DDB: Firstly, the declaration is one of significance, such that we have gathered as like-minded countries to basically face the coming challenges together and therefore approach the world community with one voice in order to overcome the hurdle that we commonly face. And so you should see the declaration in that sense, that we have brought the many heads of countries with similarities together to get mileage out of what we offer.

IPS: You have been charged with championing this cause on behalf of the HFLD nations – You are speaking directly to the international community, what message are you sending right now?

DDB: What I want to communicate to the world community is that we should first and foremost note that our planet is in danger and that it calls for common action. If we neglect coming together to address this danger, we may face a very tragic situation which will then leave our planet worse than we have met it for our children and their children.

IPS: Now that you have adopted the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration, what is the next step?

DDB: Firstly, what we have to do or know is that the group of countries have identified Suriname as the leader to communicate what we have agreed upon in this conference and as such we have to use each international opportunity to let the world know what we have agreed upon and what we are expecting from them.

We have to, from a common position, reason. We have to reason from a common position and therefore we should approach our position, not from a point of view that the other developed countries should take the lead. No, we should look at it from our point of view.

You should see it as this, politically and economically, being in the Caribbean and South America, we should approach it from a common and joint position. Let me give an example. When you look at CARICOM, even if it’s the United States, CARICOM works together as one. It’s the same when it comes to China, Canada, India or even Europe. Why? Because we’re joined together. We have a common strategy. So, when you’re alone, it’s very difficult. But when you have your structure, they will take you more seriously. That’s why I give the example of CARICOM. There are different, small nations but the big countries – if it’s Russia or India – everybody wants to talk with the 14 CARICOM countries.

IPS: Is there a role for the youth in all of this?

DDB: Yes, we have in our portfolio in CARICOM, the inclusion of the youth, this is something we are proud of. What we have seen here today is that young people have stepped up to the plate and they have made their voices heard. However, I’m also of the belief that we should make the space and give them the opportunity to assume leadership so that they can learn and make errors, but at the same time don’t make the same mistake that we as leaders have made; because before you know it, it’s their turn to be leaders. It is therefore important to allow them that experience so that they can be part of the process.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DESIRE DELANO BOUTERSE, president of Suriname.

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‘Today, We Declare Our Love to Our Forests and Ecosystems’http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/today-declare-love-forests-ecosystems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=today-declare-love-forests-ecosystems http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/today-declare-love-forests-ecosystems/#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2019 10:10:15 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160143 High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations ended a major conference in Suriname on Thursday, with the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation. Krutu—an indigenous Surinamese word—means a gathering of significance or a gathering of high dignitaries, resulting in something that is workable. “It is with great joy that I […]

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Yldiz Deborah Pollack-Beighle said the adoption of the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation declaration represents a commitment that no longer would HFLD nations be the ones producing the solution to climate change and global warming without the required financial assistance. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 15 2019 (IPS)

High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations ended a major conference in Suriname on Thursday, with the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation.

Krutu—an indigenous Surinamese word—means a gathering of significance or a gathering of high dignitaries, resulting in something that is workable.

“It is with great joy that I announce the adoption of the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation,” Suriname’s President Desiré Delano Bouterse said.

“The adoption of this document is important to jointly continue our efforts and focus on practical results, as it enables us to increase our cooperation at relevant international and multilateral mechanisms.”

In the declaration, HFLD nations made several pledges, among them: to raise international recognition of the significant contribution that HFLD developing countries provide to the global response to climate change by enabling their forests to serve as vital carbon sinks, and look to the international community to provide adequate financial support to help maintain this treasure.

For HFLD developing countries, nature and development are intrinsically connected, Bouterse said, adding they were all confronted with the threats from unsustainable activities, while attempting to plan a sustainable development.

Bouterse said the challenge for these nations had been to find a development model that balances their national interests while continuing to deliver eco-services to the world.

“I look forward to a united voice and innovative models that will shape our mutual interests. Suriname is honoured to have received the mandate to bring the HFLD developing countries’ effort to the international fora. We take this assignment very seriously and pledge our dedication,” the Suriname president said.

“We, as HFLD developing countries, have set ourselves on a new path. We offer to all of our friends and collaborators the Krutu of Paramaribo to lead the way.”

Suriname was the first country that reserved vast amount of its land mass—11 percent—for conservation purposes, when it established the Central Suriname Nature Reserve in 1998.

Bouterse said at that time Suriname had manoeuvred itself into a difficult position because almost half of its land was handed over to logging companies in the early 90s.

However, he said that the strategic establishment of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, with a total area of 1.6 million hectares, put an immediate halt to these activities.

“This decision was specifically taken for protection reasons. A decision without even having the foresight of what this Nature Reserve’s intrinsic value would be in the years to come,” he said.

“Now, 20 years later, we owe it to ourselves to evaluate and question the impacts of this decision. Are the ecosystems in the Nature Reserve intact or enhanced as originally intended?

“Do the conservation efforts contribute to our economic development? Do we invest enough in our own capacity to be a player on the world environment stage? Do we make sufficient use of available multilateral funds and financial mechanisms? And, to what extent does our fellow Surinamese man or woman benefit from having a Nature Reserve that comprises 11 percent of their land?”

Meanwhile, Bouterse said Suriname will improve its legislation, align policies to their aspirations and improve even further.

“It is with great satisfaction that I announce that Suriname has deposited the instrument of ratification to the Paris Agreement on Feb. 13. We look to the international community to assist us with appropriate financial instruments, technology and training, for only together we can attain our common objectives.”

With the Declaration being adopted on Valentine’s Day, Panama’s Vice Minister for the Ministry of Environment Yamil Sanchez said, “Today we declare our love to our forests and ecosystems.”

Suriname’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Yldiz Deborah Pollack-Beighle said the declaration represents a commitment that HFLD nations no longer will be the ones producing a solution to climate change and global warming without the required financial assistance.

“The conversation needs to change, and it should be that we should be paid for maintain or our forests,” Pollack-Beighle told IPS.

“It was not an easy conversation, but we’ve had a breakthrough and the breakthrough resulted in the fact that we will be leaving this conference with this document.”

She said at the end of the day, it’s the people of HFLD nations that will benefit from the three days of talks.

The Krutu Declaration will result in tangible benefits for the communities that are living and are resident in these forested areas, Pollack-Beighle said, adding that the countries as a whole will also benefit.

“For Suriname, we need to arrive at the point where we will no longer have to beg for the fact that we have presented the world with a solution, but we will be sought out and provided with opportunities that are existing,” she said.

“We are leaving here with a commitment that needs to translate itself in such a way that . . . we see significant changes immediately after this conference.

“Suriname has been given the role of advocate and champion to make sure that this declaration finds its way at the highest level of the global agenda, bilateral agendas, but also the regional agenda,” Pollack-Beighle added.

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Q&A: What of the Carbon Neutral Countries?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-carbon-neutral-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-carbon-neutral-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-carbon-neutral-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 11:56:00 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160137 IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DR. ARMSTRONG ALEXIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname.

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Dr. Armstrong Alexis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname tells IPS High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations need support as they continue to protect their forests. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 14 2019 (IPS)

As High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations meet in Suriname at a major conference, it is obvious that the decision made by these countries to preserve their forests has been a difficult but good one.

“It is a choice that governments have to make to determine whether they want to continue being custodians of the environment or whether they want to pursue interests related only to economic advancement and economic growth,” Dr. Armstrong Alexis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname, tells IPS in an interview.

The UNDP and the U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) have been instrumental in the coming together of the group of countries under the HFLD umbrella.

Both U.N. bodies have supported countries with the design and implementation of national policies and measures to reduce deforestation and manage forests sustainably, hence contributing to the mitigation of climate change and advancing sustainable development.

Forests provide a dwelling and livelihood for over a billion people—including many indigenous peoples. They also host the largest share the world’s biodiversity and provide essential ecosystem services, such as water and carbon storage, which play significant roles in mitigating climate change.

Deforestation and forest degradation, which still continue in many countries at high rates, contribute severely to climate change, currently representing about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Amid this, Alexis says HFLD countries need support as they continue to protect their forests.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

For a long time Suriname has maintained 93 percent forest cover of total land area which has been providing multiple benefits to the global community, in particular, combatting climate change for current and future generations. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Can you give a brief synopsis of the work of the UNDP in Suriname?

Armstrong Alexis (AA): The UNDP is a partner in development in Suriname. We specifically focus on resources. We cover a whole spectrum of issues around climate change, renewable energy, the reduction of fossil fuels and adaptation and mitigation measures. We also focus on the issue of forests.

IPS: Why is this meeting important for Suriname, and what was the UNDP’s role in collaborating with the HFLD nations?

AA: Suriname is the most forested country on earth. Approximately 93 percent of the land mass of Suriname is covered by pristine Amazonian forests. So, with 93 percent forest cover, Suriname has traditionally, for centuries, been a custodian of its forests and have preserved its forests while at the same time achieving significant development targets for its people.

Given the role of forests as they relate to climate change and in particular the sequestration of carbon, Suriname genuinely believes, and the science will back that up, that Suriname in fact is a carbon negative country. It stores a lot more carbon than it emits. And there are a number of other countries in the world that the U.N. has defined as Heavily Forested Low Deforestation countries. These are countries that are more than 50 percent covered by forests and at the same time they have the deforestation rate which is way below the international average which I think is .02 percent of deforestation per annum.

These countries have come together through a collaborative effort supported by the UNDP and the UN-DESA.

We’ve brought these countries together because they all have a common purpose, they all have a common story and they all are working towards finding common solutions to ensure that there is:

  1. Recognition of the fact that these countries have traditionally maintained their forests and have not destroyed the forests in the name of development;
  2. Given the relevance of trees and forests to combatting climate change, that these are actually the countries that provide a good example and the best opportunity for serving the earth with high forest cover.

IPS: What is the way forward for the protection of forests?

AA: In every country where there are forests there are activities that result in two things – deforestation, where the trees are cut down and usually not replaced; and you also have what it called forest degradation where the forest is not totally destroyed but it is not as thick, it does not have as many trees and sometimes the trees are much younger for many different reasons, including timber production. So, you might be degrading the quality of the forest but not necessarily deforesting in total.

Those countries that form the HFLD have made commitments with the international community that they will continue to pursue their development objectives without necessarily destroying their forests. And destroying here means either deforestation or degradation.

It’s a challenge because in Suriname for example, the small-scale gold mining sector is the largest driver of deforestation—not timber production, not palm oil as in some countries, and not infrastructure.

IPS: So, what do you say to a country that has gold in the soil? That they should not mine that gold?

AA: It’s difficult to say that to a country when the economy depends on it. How do you say to a country don’t produce timber when the economy of the country depends on it?

There are ways and means of doing it [small-scale mining or timber production] in a sustainable way. There are ways and means of ensuring that in granting concessions whether it be for timber production or small-scale gold mining, that you take into consideration means and approaches for rehabilitation.

You have to take into consideration the biodiversity and the sensitivity of some of those forests and whether or not you value more the biodiversity of that area or the few dollars that you can make by destroying that area’s forests and extracting the gold and extracting the timer.

So, conscious decisions have to be made by governments and our role as UNDP is to provide the government with the policy options, which usually is supported by sound scientific research and data to indicate to them what their real options are and how they can integrate those options in the decisions that they make.

So, it is a difficult choice indeed, but it is a choice that governments have to make to determine whether they want to continue being custodians of the environment or whether they want to pursue interests related only to economic advancement and economic growth.

So far, they’ve done a good job at it. One of the areas that I want to emphasise is that a lot of this work cannot be done by the countries alone, because if you think about it, the market for the timber is not Suriname. The market for the gold is not Suriname.

Usually the companies that come into those countries to do the extractives, they are not even local companies. They are big multinational companies. A country like Suriname or Guyana—those countries cannot take on this mammoth task alone. They need the support of the international community, they need the support of agencies like the U.N., they need the support of the funds that have been established like the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the Adaptation Fund, and they need the support of the bilateral donors and the countries that have traditionally invested in protecting the forests.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DR. ARMSTRONG ALEXIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname.

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Q&A: We Are Helping the World Mitigate Climate Change, Now it’s Time to Help Ushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-helping-world-mitigate-climate-change-now-time-help-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-helping-world-mitigate-climate-change-now-time-help-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-helping-world-mitigate-climate-change-now-time-help-us/#respond Wed, 13 Feb 2019 11:56:02 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160118 The Caribbean nation of Suriname may be one of the most forested countries in the world, with some 93 percent of the country’s surface area being covered in forests, but it is also the most threatened as it struggles with the impacts of climate change. Suriname, which has a population of just over half a […]

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Winston Lackin, Suriname’s Ambassador for the Environment, told IPS that developed countries need to step up and have a conversation with countries like his, as they are experiencing the brunt of climate change impact while their own greenhouse gas emissions are negligible. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 13 2019 (IPS)

The Caribbean nation of Suriname may be one of the most forested countries in the world, with some 93 percent of the country’s surface area being covered in forests, but it is also the most threatened as it struggles with the impacts of climate change.

Suriname, which has a population of just over half a million, holds its forests as “a central component of its economic, social and cultural life,” according to REDD +.

But the low-lying nation, which is one of a few countries in the world to be classified as a High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) country, has faced various impacts of climate change which includes increased temperatures, drought and sea level rise. Some 75 percent of Suriname’s people live along its low-lying coast and according to a USAID report on the Caribbean, the “anticipated sea level rise of 17 to 44 centimetres by 2050, combined with greater risk of flooding due to increased tropical storm strength, will put significant stress on infrastructure and population centres.” 

Winston Lackin, Ambassador for the Environment for Suriname, told IPS that developed countries need to step up and have a conversation with countries like his, as they are experiencing the brunt of climate change impact while their own greenhouse gas emissions are negligible.

Lackin spoke to IPS on the sidelines of a major international conference on climate financing for High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries, which Suriname is hosting.

“So, if business as usual continues in the industrial world we will face serious problems even when we are maintaining our forests. But we took the decision that the forest, the environment is in the first place our responsibility. It’s our life, it’s our survival. So, that’s why we commit ourselves to that,” he said.

The objectives of the conference are to strengthen cooperation, collaboration and exchange of knowledge and experience among HFLD countries. It also aims to develop joint strategies and positions to help HFLD countries maintain their intact forests and preserve forest cover, and make international communities more aware of the significant global importance these countries and their productive landscapes play in combating climate change.

Lackin said it was import to preserve and maintain forests and usage in a sustainable way that would guarantee they remained sustainable for future generations. He added that it is important that “a healthy forest, ecosystem, biodiversity, water supply, food security, job creation is in place and maintained.”

Excerpts of the interview follow: 

Inter Press Service (IPS): What issues, if any, do you have with the Paris Climate Agreement and its link to forests?

Winston Lackin (WL): The Paris Agreement is focusing, in our view, too much on mitigation for HFLD countries. We are not part of that. We are a carbon negative country. So, we feel that the focus of the Paris Agreement is too much on mitigation and less on adaptation. Adaptation is our issue because adaptation would guarantee us that the lands are okay, that we can continue with agriculture.

We should do smart agriculture, there are technologies for that, but adaptation is our real challenge. Since, for example, we are a continental country we’re not in the group of the SIDS [Small Island Developing Nations] but still we have challenges when it comes to adaptation. We feel that the Paris Agreement should focus a little bit more on adaptation and direct more finance to adaptation in our specific case, which is the case for most of the HFLD countries.

IPS: So, what are the specific challenges faced by your country as a result of climate change?

WL: The first one that we are facing is access to finance. What we are seeing happening as a result of climate change in certain parts of Suriname, especially the western part, we see the line where salted water was in the beginning, it’s moving further. So, the very important productive area where we have our rice and banana crops, is in danger. We’ve seen that in the interior of Suriname where our indigenous people have their crops, problems with the soil—it is too dry, or they have flooding. They are having serious problems in guaranteeing the food supply. So, we see this affecting directly our people and their environment.

What we are trying to do all the time is to get access to climate finance, but it has been very difficult, too complicated.

They have classified us as one of the middle-income countries, which creates more problems for us to get access to concessional loans. That’s why we thought [that it is] time that we have a new kind of discussion.

We are contributing to the mitigation of the negative effects of climate change, which are not caused by us and still when we look at our social, economic development that we have to guarantee people, we cannot meet our obligations because of a lack of finance.

The money that we don’t have for agriculture, education and health; we are forced now to put into coastal defence. We don’t feel that this is right. We have a feeling that we are being punished by behaving well, so we want to change that.

IPS: What role should the developed countries play in assisting your country and also the SIDS?

WL: The message we are bringing is that if I am helping you by making sure that my forests . . . are contributing to mitigation of the negative effects, now it’s time for you to help me take care of my sustainable development and make sure that what I need comes to me.

I’m helping you, it’s time for you to help me in a different way. We feel that there is too much red tape for countries like Suriname to get finance – the resources we need. And we are feeling the results of the actions which incidentally are not taken by us. We are not part of the making of that.

IPS: Are the HFLD countries speaking with one voice or is there need for a more unified approach?

WL: That is one of the things that we are looking at this conference. And I am happy about the reaction that we received [assurance] from the director of the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] Patricia Espinosa that the outcome of this conference will be part of next steps discussions in the international fora when it comes to the environment.

We feel that the HFLD countries deserve another kind of treatment because of the role they are playing. We are looking also to connect more with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations to create a platform within the structure of the United Nations that when these issues are discussed that we are there in a group.

There are 33 HFLD developing countries where like 24 percent of forests in the world is located in these countries. So, the contribution that we are making is enormous and it is time that we have a louder voice; that we join forces, that we have these durable partnerships to call the attention of the world to access to finance for the challenges that the HFLD developing countries are facing.

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Our Forests Provide the World With Oxygen But We Need More Climate Change Finance – HFLD Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/forests-provide-world-oxygen-need-climate-change-finance-hfld-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-provide-world-oxygen-need-climate-change-finance-hfld-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/forests-provide-world-oxygen-need-climate-change-finance-hfld-countries/#respond Wed, 13 Feb 2019 10:03:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160114 Suriname, the most forested country in the world, is this week hosting a major international conference on climate financing for High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries. Among other things, the Feb. 12 to 14 conference aims to make the international community more aware of the significant global importance of HFLD countries and the […]

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Vice President of Suriname, Michael Ashwin Adhin, addressed delegates during the opening of the conference of a major international conference on climate financing for High-Forest Cover, Low-Deforestation (HFLD) countries. Courtesy: Desmond Brown

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 13 2019 (IPS)

Suriname, the most forested country in the world, is this week hosting a major international conference on climate financing for High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries.

Among other things, the Feb. 12 to 14 conference aims to make the international community more aware of the significant global importance of HFLD countries and the role their productive landscapes play in combatting climate change.

HFLD countries also include, among others: Panama, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Belize, Gabon, Guyana, Bhutan, Zambia, and French Guiana.

This conference also aims to strengthen the payment structure for ecosystem services that will be used to advance sustainable development, while mitigating the risk of forest destruction and biodiversity loss.

“Forests bring pleasure to our lives. Next to culture and leisure, it provides us with, among other things, food, timber, clean air and oxygen. But [it] also has important benefits such as mitigation and the adaptation to climate change,” Suriname’s Vice President, Michael Ashwin Adhin, said at the opening of the conference.

“I would like to stress the fact that Suriname has long maintained 93 percent forest cover of its total land area which has been providing multiple benefits to the global community, in particular, combatting climate change for current and future generations.”

Adhin said climate change and sea level rise presents huge threats to the Caribbean nationa low-lying coastal state where more than 75 percent of the population and the majority of its economic and social infrastructure is located along the coast.

“We are faced with finding remedies to these problems which we did not cause. We are aware of the similarity of the situation for many other countries,” he said.

Adhin reiterated Suriname’s aspirations to maintain a High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation rate. He noted that based on the country’s record, they feel obliged to champion this cause on international and multi-level agendas.

“We have taken the initiative for this conference as we recognise that together as HFLD countries we can stand stronger and create a critical mass, leading a movement for recognition of our contribution to the global community and cooperate to increase the debt contribution while we enjoy equitable and sustainable economic growth,” he said.

But he admits that “the challenges are huge,” especially with regards to the mobilisation of financial and other resources.

For a long time Suriname has maintained 93 percent forest cover of total land area which has been providing multiple benefits to the global community, in particular, combatting climate change for current and future generations. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Winston Lackin, Suriname’s Ambassador for the Environment, said the government took the decision two years ago to commit to maintaining its position of being the most forested country in the world, and to continue being one of the few carbon negative countries in the world.

“When we committed ourselves in November 2017 at the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] meeting in Bonn, we also said that we will not be in a position to do this alone, we would need technical cooperation, expertise, financial support, durable partnership, and political will at the national level but also at the international level,” Lackin told IPS.

“We know that 30 percent of the land area of the world is covered by forests. From this 30 percent, nearly a quarter is in the HFLD developing countries. And when we know the value and role of forests when it comes to mitigation and adaptation and the added effects of climate change, then we feel that it is time for a different kind of discussion when it comes to accessing finance.”

Pointing out that only eight percent of international financial resources has been directed to HFLD developing countries in the last decade, Lackin said one cannot expect these developing countries to meet their commitments when it comes to the Paris Agreement. The goals of the Paris Agreement include boosting adaptation and limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2°C.

He said a very important fact is that the HFLD countries have been contributing to the mitigation of the negative effects of climate change even before the existence of the climate change conferences.

He said these countries were facing serious problems to meet their daily economic and social development challenges, while at the same time being the victims of the negative effects which were not of their making.

Lackin said the expectation is that the conference will help Suriname and other HFLD countries meet the challenges, facilitate access to financial resources, meet their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in 2020 when the Paris Agreement is enforced, countries should be able to meet their ambitions.

“I’m convinced that this conference will help us, will guide us to the next step. The environment is not only our life, it is our survival,” he told IPS.

“We have an obligation to leave a world behind for the youth, for the next generation. So, it is our common responsibility, the joint responsibility of us all.”

Meanwhile, Shantanu Mukherjee, Chief at the Policy Analysis Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Suriname conference has the full support of the U.N.

He said the conference is the fruit of close collaboration between the Suriname’s government and multiple entities of the U.N. family. He added that the conference is very timely because latest research clearly shows that HFLD countries contribute significantly to the health of the planet but unfortunately also constitute a major gap in climate finance. This, he said, is something which has been overlooked for many years.

“The crucial role that forests in HFLDs play in storing carbon as well as providing food, water, shelter and livelihoods to tens of millions of people is now at stake,” Mukherjee told IPS.

“If this gap is not addressed soon, developing HFLDs may be forced to be in the unfortunate position of choosing between their global role in combatting climate change on the one hand and their legitimate development aspirations of their people on the other. Many are already in dire need of financial support to pave their roads towards a green and more sustainable future in which none are left behind.”

Mukherjee said the conference follows on the very latest scientific discoveries on the important contribution of forests in HFLDs in combatting climate change and that it comes at the beginning of a year replete with milestones and international discussions on climate change.

“The message which delegates of HFLDs present here wish to convey to the world is theirs to craft. But whatever the contents may be, the U.N. fully stands with countries in their commitment to both the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. We will do our utmost to bring the messages coming out of this conference to all of the climate-related events and other development meetings that are coming up,” he added.

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Q&A: The Nature of Value vs the Value of Naturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-nature-value-vs-value-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-nature-value-vs-value-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-nature-value-vs-value-nature/#respond Mon, 04 Feb 2019 10:04:29 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159961 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage interviews UNAI PASCUAL, one of the co-chairs of Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

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Grazing rhino picks out grass from thorny, pink-flowered mimosa weed. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is collecting perspectives from science to indigenous knowledge in a new assessment on the many values of nature. Credit:Ranjita Biswas/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 4 2019 (IPS)

Humans have long had a varied and complicated relationship with nature—from its aesthetic value to its economic value to its protective value. What if you could measure and analyse these values? One group is trying to do just that.

Over 150 years ago, philosopher Henry David Thoreau highlighted humankind’s responsibility to respect and care for nature.

“Every creature is better alive than dead; men, moose, and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it,” he wrote in an essay.

At that very same moment in history, the Second Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution were at its peak in Europe and the United States, contributing to the depletion of natural resources and pollution that societies are dealing with today.

Now, rates of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and greenhouse gas emissions have dramatically increased, threatening the future of societies.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), desertification, caused by the degradation of soil and land, is affecting one-third of the Earth’s land surface. The issue already affects 250 million people across the world, and it threatens an additional one billion people who depend on land for their needs.

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) aims to bring these vast, and sometimes seemingly conflicting, perspectives from science to indigenous knowledge in a new assessment on the many values of nature, helping create a vision on how to work towards a more prosperous, sustainable future.

IPS spoke to Unai Pascual, one of the co-chairs of IPBES’ new assessment, on the importance of understanding the complex issue.

IPS (Inter Press Service): What exactly are the values of nature?

Unai Pascual (UP): There are many values because people understand values in different ways. If you talk to a philosopher, they would tell you what values are from a philosophical standpoint like moral and ethical values. If you talk to an economist, they would talk to you about economic values and the values of things reflected in the market.

One of the objectives of the assessment is to provide a clear framework that can conceptually guide anything related to how people measure and articulate those values and… how those values influence decision making and policies, and governance in general.

How we take care of nature and how we exploit it have to do with the underlying values that we have about nature and the meaning we provide to these values in every day life.

IPS: Why was this issue chosen as part of the assessment, and why is it important to examine these values?

UP: We need this assessment to understand the connection between how we perceive nature, the way we interact with it, and the quality of life of people.

Those policies, norms, and habits of people are based on the underlying values that we all hold as individuals and as a society. We need to understand those values in order to understand how we set up those institutions which, at the end of the day, are the ones which are going to determine the fate of nature and how we perceive how nature affects our quality of life.

Understanding the role of these social norms and policies are at the heart of what IPBES is about. IPBES recognises that we need to understand those in order to really connect the dots—connect nature and human well-being.

It is necessary to connect the way we value nature with the future of nature and therefore the future of human wellbeing.

IPS: 2018 saw a number of big reports on climate change and land degradation from IPCC, UNEP, and even IPBES. Will this new assessment be similar, and supplement these reports?

UP: Yes, the values assessment is a methodological one in spirit. The idea is that any assessment that will follow after the values assessment will be able to reflect on issues around values in ways that has not been possible before.

And so far, IPBES has tried to provide coherence around values since its inception. The assessment of values provides a great opportunity for IPBES and other platforms to see the importance of recognising different types of values about nature and ways to bring them into decision making.

This is a sort of conceptual and methodological pillar which will inform many scientific efforts within IPBES and outside IPBES as well.

IPS: What do you expect to find, and how will the research be undertaken? Does this involve talking to communities around the world, including indigenous communities?

UP: We are going to find a way to integrate and provide a coherent picture around the different understandings about values. This is of critical importance because otherwise the scientific community will continue talking about values but each community will understand that in a different way.

If we don’t have coherence, we are not going to be able to move forward and to design policies that respect those different ways of valuing nature.

We will [also] find the connections that have not been explicitly addressed by the scientific community about how values explicitly or implicitly affect decision making with regards to nature be it through policy, consumption choices by consumers, production means by producers… that is, connecting values with governance and human behaviour.

Those values are dynamic, they change over time…Those can affect policies and goals of society and individuals and therefore change how we use nature or how we connect to issues such as climate change and land degradation.

What we are going to try to portray as well is how the future of humankind, of different societies’ institutions and governments, would have to be transformed with regard to the values and how we put them in practice in changing people’s behaviour towards more sustainable and just futures.
We need to build the capacity of the scientific community and the public at large to connect our diversity of values and the sustainability challenges of humankind.

Another knowledge system which is at the heart of IPBES is that of indigenous and local communities. It is very important to understand how they perceive and relate with nature. Their approach to connecting to nature is fundamentally different from many Western societies. We know that much of the biodiversity that underpins the health of the planet is taken care of and managed by indigenous communities.

It is critical to bring their perspectives, knowledge systems, and values into the assessment.

This is a big challenge on how to bridge both the scientific and the indigenous knowledge systems and bring them in a way that both are recognised as being vital for understanding the role of values in society and how this can impact the future of the planet.

Q: How could the international community use this assessment once completed?

UP: This could be a resource for many years to come. I hope that it will clarify the different types of values that exist in society so that different perspectives on values are recognised and accepted as being legitimate.

As scientists, we provide information and knowledge about how nature and human well-being are connected. We should take into consideration that there are different pathways and different perspectives on those connections because there are different ways of relating to nature. Such diversity is important to be respected and nurtured in the quest for sustainability.

That’s a call for the scientific community whenever we do assessments or systemise knowledge to connect the state of the planet in terms of its various environmental dimensions from climate change to land degradation to biodiversity loss…when they try to connect this to human beings, the vector that connects them are values.

We hope that policymakers or decision makers can make better decisions in the quest for sustainability by taking into account these different, legitimate perspectives on the values of and about nature.

*Interview was edited for clarity and length

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage interviews UNAI PASCUAL, one of the co-chairs of Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

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Billions of Dollars Available for Reducing and Reversing Land Degradationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/billions-dollars-available-reducing-reversing-land-degradation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=billions-dollars-available-reducing-reversing-land-degradation http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/billions-dollars-available-reducing-reversing-land-degradation/#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 09:05:57 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159888 The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has debunked the notion that there is no funding available for countries to prevent, reduce or reverse land degradation. UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut says there are millions of dollars available for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) projects that are based on sound scientific guidelines and human rights […]

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When St. Vincent was hit hard by flooding and landslides in recent years, it was blamed on climate change and deforestation. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jan 30 2019 (IPS)

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has debunked the notion that there is no funding available for countries to prevent, reduce or reverse land degradation.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut says there are millions of dollars available for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) projects that are based on sound scientific guidelines and human rights principles, as set out in the Convention’s Scientific Conceptual Framework for LDN.

The LDN concept represents a paradigm shift in land management policies and practices by providing a framework to counterbalance the expected loss of productive land with the recovery of degraded areas.

To date, more than 100 countries have embarked on national processes to set and implement voluntary LDN targets as part of their contribution to the third target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 (life on land).

“We have about 125 countries which have decided to set what we call their LDN targets. But we are difference from many other conventions. We have decided to also follow up on the implementation,” Barbut told IPS. She was speaking to IPS at the 17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation (CRIC17) of the UNCCD which opened in the Guyana capital on Monday, Jan. 28

“We have said targets are not enough. We would like now for the countries to go for what we call the transformative projects. This is where the funding discussion comes up because those transformative projects are usually large scale. We are not taking about pilot projects of 200,000 dollars here and there.”

The Executive Secretary said countries can rest assured that if they want to go into major projects, UNCCD will finance the pre-feasibility exercise.

She explained that “major projects” are which cost a minimum of 5 million dollars and can run into hundreds of millions of dollars. She pointed to China and India as examples where large scale transformative projects have been implemented.

“Nobody can say that the funding is not available. None of those transformative projects is yet at a stage that we are going for the funding outside,” Barbut said.

“I have been, prior to this position, the CEO of the GEF (Global Environmental Facility) which is the largest funding mechanism of the world; and I am going to tell you something which might surprise you. The lack of funding is never a problem. The problem is to get the right project. If you have a good project, I can tell you that the funding is always available.”

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Monique Barbut says t says there are millions of dollars available for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) projects. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Barbut said UNCCD wants to help countries identify and build projects, as well as help them go for the funding at a later stage “to all those big international multilateral and bilateral institutions.”

“To give you an example, we are working with Burkina Faso in Africa. They have decided to transform 3,000 of the 5,000 villages that they have into what we call eco-villages. By doing that, they will restore two million hectares of degraded land and they will give jobs to almost one million people,” she said.

“This project is going to be between 150 million to 300 million dollars and I have no doubt that we will raise funds because it’s going to be done in a way that donors will accept.”

“Many developing countries say there is no funding, I am saying no. The project that you are presenting are not right or rightly presented to attract the donors. Our job is to help you to make them attractive enough,” Barbut added.

She cited the Gambia as another example where the necessary political will was demonstrated when the entire government, including the president, decided to go for a very large-scale project and put their full GEF allocation into it.

“It means, already, we have about 12 million dollars secured. Just by doing that, showing the world that they were willing to put their full allocation into that, we have already got IFAD, a big global multi-lateral financial institution which has said, we’re ready to add 45 million dollars,” Barbut explained.

“So, without even yet having the project being designed, we know that we have about 55 million dollars for that project that we are going to set up in the Gambia.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Richard Byron-Cox, action programme alignment and capacity building officer at UNCCD, also said that funding is available, but he said Caribbean countries have several problems.

The first of these problems, he said, is that in the Caribbean, most people are not trained to deal with the ramifications of applying for these funds.

“Sorry to say this, but some of these funds they have such a bureaucratic procedure and our people are not trained as to how you prepare projects and how you beat that bureaucracy,” he told IPS.

“The second problem is that we are not interested. We really don’t go out and look for it. In other words, it is there for the taking but we are not aggressive towards it.”

Additionally, the Guyanese national said that until recently, Caribbean countries always thought that their problem was only climate change and so their only focus was on climate change and getting money for it.

But Byron-Cox said there was yet another problem which Caribbean countries faced.

“A lot of those who give us money never really want to give us money for land. They would prefer to give you some money to build a hospital because when you build a hospital, everything comes from the donor abroad – the windows, the doors, the toilet and the engineers who build it. So, they give you 10 million dollars and the 10 million dollars goes back to them,” he explained.

“Outside of that, whenever anything breaks in the hospital or if you need new machinery you have to go back to them again. So, at the end of the day they gave you 10 million dollars but they end up getting 20 million dollars.”

Byron-Cox said because Caribbean countries know that donors are not usually willing to give money for land, they do not bother to ask.

He said the time has come for governments in the Caribbean to appoint an environmental overseer who covers the entirety of the environment in each country.

“One of the roles of this environmental czar would be to find the necessary resources. If we had a regional approach where the expertise is shared it might be easier to tackle this question,” Byron-Cox said.

“I have no doubt that the funding can be found. It is there and if we go searching for it, we can get it. It is there, we have to go out there and aggressively look for it.”

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The Silent, Invisible Crisis Destabilising Communities Could be a Subject of Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/silent-invisible-crisis-destabilising-communities-subject-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=silent-invisible-crisis-destabilising-communities-subject-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/silent-invisible-crisis-destabilising-communities-subject-hope/#respond Tue, 29 Jan 2019 14:12:47 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159861 New data show that globally two billion hectares of land—roughly twice the size of China—have been degraded. And of this amount, 500 million hectares are abandoned agricultural lands.  The 17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation (CRIC17) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened in the Guyana capital on […]

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Zainab Samo, along with her son and daughter, planting a lemon seedling on her farm in Oan village in Pakistan’s southern desert district of Tharparkar, to fight desert’s advance. New data shows that globally two billion hectares of land—roughly twice the size of China—have been degraded. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jan 29 2019 (IPS)

New data show that globally two billion hectares of land—roughly twice the size of China—have been degraded. And of this amount, 500 million hectares are abandoned agricultural lands. 

The 17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation (CRIC17) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened in the Guyana capital on Monday, Jan. 28, with the release of this staggering data in relation to land degradation and desertification.

“We know also that every year we destroy totally, 12 million hectares of land. So, clearly all those lands that we destroy we have a potential for restoration,” UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut told IPS. It’s for this reason that Barbut said that land degradation and desertification is “a subject of hope.”

Desertification is the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture.

UNCCD says desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, and more should be done to combat it, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.

But unlike the finality that comes with the loss of biodiversity, Barbut said humans get second chances when it comes to land degradation and desertification.

“When you have lost a species, you have lost a species. Land does not work like that, and can be restored, everywhere, in every single country,” she told IPS.

“So, it’s not just a subject of depression like many other subjects on the environment. The more you restore land, the better a number of things to come.”

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Monique Barbut says new data show that globally, two billion hectares of land have been degraded. But unlike the finality that comes with the loss of biodiversity, Barbut said humans gets second chances when it comes to land degradation and desertification. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

She pointed to China’s Loess Plateau—the biggest programme of land restoration in the word that can be referred to as an example of what is possible.

“They restored in one go, 400 million hectares of land and transformed it into an agroforestry programme,” Barbut said.

“This programme has helped [uplift] out of poverty, 6.7 million people. Secondly, we have seen now that the rain patterns have changed. Where there was no rain before, rain is coming back, so there are many positive impacts of land restoration.”

The new data also show that there is a direct link between land restoration and the reduction in the number of people living in poverty in rural areas.

Barbut said the data show a 27 percent decline in the number of people in rural communities living in poverty.

“This is a positive signal,” she said, while noting that at the same time urban poverty is increasing.

“That’s something interesting to note, that instead of sending people to cities, you better restore the land, make sure they can live on the land.”

Barbut said the data show that the main human causes of land degradation are deforestation, overgrazing and improper soil management.

There are also other indirect human causes like population pressure, land tenure, bad governance and lack of education.

The Caribbean has its own example of desertification with one scientist telling IPS that Haiti is the Caribbean’s desert.

Dr. Richard Byron-Cox, action programme alignment and capacity building officer at UNCCD, said more than 100 years ago, Haiti had the best soils and was also the Caribbean’s leading producer sugarcane.

“As you know, Haiti is one of two countries on the island of Hispaniola. When you fly over Hispaniola, one part is green, and the other part is brown. Why? Because one has desertification, that’s Haiti,” Byron-Cox told IPS.

“That same country, 150 years ago, had the best soils in the entire Caribbean. Today it is a desert. Desertification has nothing to do with natural deserts. So, when you talk about combatting desertification, this does not include natural deserts, it’s good land becoming bad.”

In addition to deforestation, devastating floods and landslides have left bare many areas in Haiti which were once covered with forests.

In 2013, World Vision Australia carried out a scoping mission to examine the potential for natural regeneration of forests through Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). This was inspired by the success of a similar programme in Ethiopia, developed under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The CDM allows for reforestation projects to earn credits (Certified Emission Reductions or CER’s) for each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent sequestered or absorbed by the forest.

Joseph Harmon, Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency in Guyana says when it comes to sustainable use of land and other resources, Guyana aspires to be a success story and example for fellow countries and parties. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Desertification was also on the mind of Guyana’s Minister of State Joseph Harmon, as he welcomed representatives from 135 countries to the capital for CRIC 17.

In his speech at the opening, he told a packed hall at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre that in its implementation of the UNCCD Guyana aspires to be a success story and example for fellow countries and parties.

“While Guyana’s context may not be seen as extreme to be considered ‘desertification,’ the impact of land degradation is being taken into consideration as we plan and strategise for the sustainable use of our land resources.”

He later told IPS that Guyana is deeply conscious land represents a link between people and the environment and that it connects economic, social, cultural and geographical spheres.

“Guyana is fully committed to the protection and conservation of its natural patrimony, including its land resources. Our record of environmental protection and conservation of land and its resources provides a global model for good practice,” Harmon told IPS.

“Guyana endorses and fully support UNCCD’s vision which is to support the development and implementation of national and regional policies, programmes and measures to prevent, control and reverse desertification and land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.”

Guyana has finalised its Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme and its aligned national plan to combat land degradation.

Harmon said they have also operationalised the Sustainable Land Development and Management project, which seeks to establish an enabling environment for promoting sustainable and climate-resilient land development, management and reclamation in support of Guyana’s Green State trajectory.

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Desertification, Land Degradation and Climate Change Go Hand in Handhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/desertification-land-degradation-climate-change-go-hand-hand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=desertification-land-degradation-climate-change-go-hand-hand http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/desertification-land-degradation-climate-change-go-hand-hand/#respond Mon, 28 Jan 2019 09:59:46 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159843 The link between desertification, land degradation and climate change is among several issues occupying the attention of the 197 Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) for the next three days. Guyana, a member-country of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), is hosting the 17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation […]

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The planet is losing 12 million hectares of prime land yearly due to degradation. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jan 28 2019 (IPS)

The link between desertification, land degradation and climate change is among several issues occupying the attention of the 197 Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) for the next three days.

Guyana, a member-country of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), is hosting the 17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation of the UNCCD (CRIC 17) from Jan. 28 to 30. It’s the first meeting of a subsidiary body of UNCCD to be held in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Troy Torrington, director of multilateral and global affairs within the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the meeting is an important one for the Caribbean as it will highlight the role of land in combatting the climate challenge.

“It is critical that we place greater emphasis on land if we are going to be successful in meeting the global climate challenge,” Torrington told IPS.

“In fact, land has several important contributions to the climate. One of the foremost of those is in terms of the sequestering of carbon. The sequestration of carbon enriches the land . . . and with good land use planning, management and practices, you can in fact significantly advance the solutions to the global climate challenge.”

Troy Torrington, director of multilateral and global affairs within the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says in order to be successful in meeting the global climate challenge, greater emphasis must be placed on land. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

In 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, where the Nordic country agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. It was the first time a developed country, conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions, had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.

Under the initiative, developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), Guyana was able continue logging as long as biodiversity is protected.

Melchiade Bukuru, chief at the UNCCD New York liaison office agrees with Torrington on the issue of sequestration, noting that carbon, which once belonged to and serves as a fertiliser in the soil, is a polluter in the air.

He said that in order to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), some 500 million acres of degraded land must be reclaimed and made fertile once more.

“Unless we harness the capacity of our soil to sequester carbon, to bring back the carbon where it belongs, we will not be able to achieve even the UNFCCC goal of 2° C,” Bukuru said. UNFCCC or the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is a global intergovernmental treaty formed to address climate change. The Conference of Parties (COP), the highest-decision making body of the Convention, meets annually to discuss progress and adopt new decision in combating climate change. 

At COP21 the Paris Agreement was formed, which committed to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5° C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

Bukuru said land degradation also remains a major challenge for countries, adding that each year, the planet is losing 12 million hectares of prime land due to degradation.

Meteorologist with the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) Dr. Andrea Sealy (right), says severe Sahara dust episodes significantly affect air quality especially in Eastern Caribbean countries. Sealy shakes hands with Melchiade Bukuru, chief at the UNCCD New York liaison office (left). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Meanwhile, the issue of sand and dust storms will also come up for discussion. Dr. Andrea Sealy, a meteorologist with the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), said severe Sahara dust episodes significantly affect air quality, especially in Eastern Caribbean countries.

“If you have a lot of dust, it also compromises solar panels. Once the solar panels are covered with dust, the amount of radiation they absorb is decreased. So that’s another issue we would need to look at because in the region we are very dependent on solar energy and we will be becoming more dependent as well,” Sealy told IPS.

“There are also issues with the marine ecosystems with dust affecting them. It’s possible the dust could be affecting terrestrial ecosystems. I know for sure studies have been done on the Amazon where it shows to have a positive effect on the soil. In terms of the marine ecosystems though, there are negative effects because you get the algae blooms.”

With several countries experiencing periods of extreme drought in recent years, Guyana’s lands and surveys commissioner Trevor Benn said land and water are inextricably linked.

He pointed to neighbouring Barbados. Benn explained that the island nation is running out of water, but he added that some people fail to see the link between land use and water scarcity.

“I believe if Barbados begins to look more seriously at how they utilise the land, what type of cultivation [they do], what type of infrastructure they put where, you will see that the issues relating to water may subside,” Benn said.

“The importance of land cannot be overstated. It is the pinnacle of everything we do.”

According to the UNCCD, CRIC 17 will review the first global assessment of land degradation based on Earth observation data reported by governments. The assessment, which was conducted by reporting countries using a harmonised approach, shows the trends in land degradation between 2000 to 2015 based on data provided by 145 of the 197 countries that are party to the Convention.

The assessment is expected to provide a baseline for assessing progress in the reduction or reversal of land degradation globally, going forward. It will also contribute to country efforts to achieve LDN, which is Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3.

CRIC 17 will also conduct interactive dialogues on three related emerging issues – the gender action plan as a tool to improve the living conditions of the people affected by land degradation; new and innovative sources to finance initiatives to combat land degradation; and the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal target on land degradation neutrality, for which the Convention plays a lead role.

At the end of the session, CRIC 17 will propose recommendations that will be considered by its governing body, COP.

CRIC meets once in between the sessions of the COP to review country reports submitted in compliance with the COP decisions.

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Q&A: 17 Percent of the Problem, but 30 Percent of the Solutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-17-percent-problem-30-percent-solution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-17-percent-problem-30-percent-solution http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-17-percent-problem-30-percent-solution/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 10:46:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159697 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage interviews United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Coordinator of Freshwater, Land, and Climate Branch TIM CHRISTOPHERSEN

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If forest loss continues at the current rate, it will be impossible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius as pledged in the Paris Agreement. Credit: José Garth Medina/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2019 (IPS)

From expansive evergreen forests to lush tropical forests, the Earth’s forests are disappearing on a massive scale. While deforestation poses a significant problem to the environment and climate, trees also offer a solution.

After a series of eye-opening reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) were published in 2018, it was clear that international action is more urgent than ever to reduce emissions and conserve the environment.

Deforestation and forest degradation account for approximately 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.

Tropical deforestation alone accounts for 8 percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. If it were a country, it would be the world’s third-biggest emitter, just behind China and the United States of America.

In fact, according to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the land-use sector represents between 25 to 30 percent of total global emissions.

If such forest loss continues at the current rate, it will be impossible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius as pledged in the Paris Agreement.

While forests represent a quarter of all planned emissions reductions under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, there is still a long way to go to fulfil these goals.

The United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) is among the international groups working to reverse deforestation. It supports countries’ REDD+ processes, a mechanism established to promote conservation and sustainable management of forests.

IPS spoke with UNEP’s Coordinator of Freshwater, Land, and Climate Branch Tim Christophersen about the issues and solutions surrounding deforestation. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What is the current state of deforestation globally?

Tim Christophersen: The rate of deforestation has slowed since 2000 globally. At some point, it had even slowed by about 50 percent. We still have a lot of deforestation—it’s just that the rate has gone down so that’s partially good news.

The good news side is we see a lot of restoration and reemergence of forests on deforested land. But often those forests of course cannot replace the biodiversity or ecosystem values that they once had.

The bad news is that in some countries, deforestation has accelerated.

This picture is mixed but it is not all gloom and doom.

IPS: Where have you seen improvements and what cases are most concerning to you? 

TC: In general, the picture is quite positive in Europe where forest area is increasing by a million hectares per year.

In Asia and the Pacific, the picture is quite mixed with China investing heavily in restoration and planting millions of hectares of new forests and other countries such as Myanmar where the pace of deforestation is accelerating.

Recently, an area of concern is of course Brazil with changes in leadership there that will probably weaken protections of the Amazon rainforest. We expect they might not be able to keep their positive track record that they had especially in the years between 2007-2012 where deforestation of the Amazon dropped by 70 percent.

IPS: What has UN-REDD and REDD+’s role in this issue? What are some successful case studies or stories that REDD had a direct role in? 

TC: REDD has, for example, put the issue of indigenous rights front and center to the entire debate about forests and land use.

That is largely thanks to the strong role of indigenous communities in the climate discussions and the strong safeguards that were part of the REDD+ package. So these safeguards have triggered, also across other infrastructure projects, the knowledge and awareness of indigenous communities that they have rights, that they can determine national resource use within their jurisdictions—that was not so much the case before.

For example in Panama, we have worked together with indigenous communities to map forest cover and priority areas for REDD+ investments. In Ecuador, indigenous communities have been involved from the start in the design of the REDD+ framework.

There are [also] other potential buyers that are out there and willing to invest in verified and clearly demonstrated reductions in deforestation.

We have not seen the amount of funding flow into REDD+ that we had anticipated to date but it is picking up now. We also hope that more countries will come online with their emissions reductions that they properly verify with the UNFCC process.

The issue is that land use and forests are about 30 percent of the climate problem and solution—it is a problem that can be turned into a solution. It is currently causing 25 percent of emissions and it could absorb as much as one-third of all the emission sequestration that we need.

But it has only received about 3 percent of climate finance so there’s a huge mismatch between the opportunity that natural solutions provide and the funding that goes into it.

IPS: Over the last year including during the recent COP, many have brought up and discussed nature-based solutions. What are these, and what could such solutions look like on the ground? 

TC: Nature-based solutions are solutions to climate change or other challenges we face where we use the power of nature to restore or improve ecosystem services.

An example would be using forests for flood prevention or purification of drinking water for cities. This is quite widespread in fact but it is not always recognised. About one-third of all major cities in developing countries receive their drinking water from forested watersheds.

If we lose those forests, that would have detrimental impacts on a lot of people’s drinking water supply. It can often be cheaper or at least more cost-effective for cities, provinces or nations to invest in keeping and restoring their forests rather than other solutions for water purification or drinking water supply.

Another example that is often cited is the role of mangroves in storm protection in coastal areas. Again, this can be cheaper to invest in planting and conserving mangroves than building sea walls or other grey infrastructure projects that we have to increasingly invest in for climate adaptation.

IPS: There are many initiatives around the world that involve planting trees as a way to address climate change and land degradation and many have received mixed reviews in terms of its usefulness. Is it enough just to plant trees?

TC: Planting trees is never enough because trees are a bit like children—it’s not enough to put the in the world, you also have to make sure they grow up properly. That’s often overlooked that you cannot just plant trees and then leave them to their fate.

Because often the reasons for landscape degradation, for example overgrazing, will very quickly eliminate any trees that you plant. So it’s more about a longer-term, better natural resource management.

Planting trees can be one activity in a longer process of restoring degraded forests and landscapes.

There are other ecosystems that are also very important—peatlands, wetlands—but forests and trees will play a major role in the next decade. I am convinced there will be more and more investments into this area because if trees are planted and properly looked after, it is a huge opportunity for us to get back onto the 2 degree target in the Paris Agreement.

IPS: Since the planet is still growing in terms of population size and food needs, is there a way to reconcile development and land restoration? And do wealthier countries or even corporations have a responsibility to help with land restoration?

TC: Absolutely. I would even say land restoration on a significant scale is our only option to reconcile the need for increasing food production and meeting the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well most notable goal 13 on climate action.

Without restoration, we are probably not going to achieve the Paris Agreement. That part of nature-based solutions, massive investments in ecosystem restoration is absolutely essential and we see that more and more corporations are recognising that.

The aviation industry is one of those potential buyers with their carbon reduction offset scheme which is called CORSIA.

It certainly is an option to channel financing for forest protection but there are of course limits as to how much emissions we can realistically offset.

Offsets are absolutely no replacement for very drastic, highly ambitious emission mitigation measures. We have to very drastically and quickly reduce industrial emissions.

Offsets can maybe tip the balance in favour of offsetting only those emissions that can otherwise not be reduced or avoided but they are not a replacement for strong action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all industrial sectors including agriculture.

The biggest part of corporate interest we see in restoration is from large agri commodity investors and food systems companies because they want to secure their supply chains and that’s quite encouraging.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage interviews United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Coordinator of Freshwater, Land, and Climate Branch TIM CHRISTOPHERSEN

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Turning Mangrove Trees into Sustainable Assets for Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/turning-mangrove-trees-sustainable-assets-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turning-mangrove-trees-sustainable-assets-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/turning-mangrove-trees-sustainable-assets-myanmar/#respond Mon, 07 Jan 2019 14:22:38 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159520 In 2015, Worldview International Foundation began a mangrove restoration project, planting saplings of the trees on about 121 hectares of land in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region. In this video, Aung Aung Myint tells IPS when the mangrove restoration began and elaborates on the main species that have been planted. Originally, Myint says, the condition of the soil […]

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By Stella Paul
SHWE THAUNG YAN, Myanmar, Jan 7 2019 (IPS)

In 2015, Worldview International Foundation began a mangrove restoration project, planting saplings of the trees on about 121 hectares of land in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region.

In this video, Aung Aung Myint tells IPS when the mangrove restoration began and elaborates on the main species that have been planted. Originally, Myint says, the condition of the soil was concerning, but has increased over the years.

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Sprouting Mangroves Restore Hopes in Coastal Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/sprouting-mangroves-restore-hopes-coastal-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sprouting-mangroves-restore-hopes-coastal-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/sprouting-mangroves-restore-hopes-coastal-myanmar/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 11:19:28 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159479 Htay Aung is having a moment. The 63-year-old retired professor of Marine Science sits at the foot of a Buddha statue atop a hill on Shwe Thaung Yan sub township, in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region, almost in meditation. Below him, a vast thicket of mangrove glistens in the gold of a setting sun. For Aung, this stretch of […]

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Young planters stand guard by mangrove forest in Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
SHWE THAUNG YAN, Myanmar, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

Htay Aung is having a moment. The 63-year-old retired professor of Marine Science sits at the foot of a Buddha statue atop a hill on Shwe Thaung Yan sub township, in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region, almost in meditation. Below him, a vast thicket of mangrove glistens in the gold of a setting sun. For Aung, this stretch of mangroves—known as the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park—is a symbol of joy, hope and all things good.

“We gave three years of hard work in planting these trees. Now they are growing tall. Soon, they will be the biggest assets of our people,” he says, pointing at the forest and the tiny dot of houses that appear in the horizon.

The restored mangrove forest in Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Mangroves in Myanmar
This mangrove forest is spread across an area of 2,557 square kilometres (km)—almost the size of Luxembourg.

However, in most places, the density is wafer thin thanks to rampant clearing of the mangroves for space to breed shrimps and for firewood etc. According to a recent study by Pierre Taillerdat, Massimo Lupascu and Daniel Friess, Myanmar loses about 21 square km of its mangrove forests each year.

Shwe Thaung Yan, about 185 km north west of Yangon, once had a severely degraded forest where 75 percent of its mangroves had been destroyed.

Then the story changed.

In 2015, just before the rains came, a motley crowd of a few hundred men, women and youths from the fishing villages, wearing shinny plastic gumboots and carrying sling sacks filled with mangrove saplings, gathered along the muddy swamp in Myagi—one of the three villages under Shwe Thaung Yan.

For several hours a day, they planted the saplings in the muddy soil made fertile and nutrient rich by regular tides.
By October of that year, they had planted over 700,000 trees on three square km of land.

Since then, the plantation drive has taken place each year. By the end of October 2018, the community planted six million trees in three villages of under Shew Thaung Yan, covering 9 square km of land—an area over four times bigger than the city of Monaco.

Leading the planters from the front, besides Aung were U BoNi and Aung Aung Myint, experts in mangrove research and costal ecosystems restoration. The three are currently associated with Worldview International Foundation (WIF)—a Norwegian charity co-founded by Arne Fjortoft, a former journalist turned politician and a renowned environmentalist.

“We used the satellite images, studied the images meticulously and created a map that shows the exact patches in the mangrove forest that had gone bare. We shared this information with the villagers. We also marked the areas and divided the planters in several groups and assigned each group a certain area,” BoNi tells IPS.

Before the plantation started, WIF entered into an active partnership with Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and two of the country’s leading educational institutions, Myeik and Pathein universities. The land area for planting mangroves—over 7 square km in all—was provided by Pathein University, which is also involved in studying marine science along the coast of Shwe Thaung Yan.

Worldview International Foundation (WIF) signboard by a mangrove forest in Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Mitigating Climate Change
Mangroves make up only 0.7 percent of the world’s forests, but they have the potential to store about 2.5 times as much CO2 as humans produce globally each year. A 2017 study estimated that the total amount of carbon held in the world’s mangroves was around 4.2 billion tonnes. If this whole amount were released as CO2, it would be equivalent to the annual emissions of China and the United States put together.

Another study said that Myanmar’s mangroves — which is 3 percent of global mangrove forests, shows “huge (blue carbon) potential if conservation can prevent further emissions from their loss and encourage future carbon sequestration through restoration.” So, blue carbon mitigation at the national scale “is well aligned with the Paris Agreement and associated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for some nations,” the study says.

Cameron Keith Richards, professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, visited Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in 2016 to evaluate the mangrove restoration and its blue carbon stock. In his validation report, which helped the project qualify for selling its carbon stocks, Richards summarised the project saying that it was “reasonably assumed to represent an overall 4.3 million tons of C02 within a 20-year lifecycle of the current trees and additional trees to be planted in the project.”

The mangrove project has opened ways for alternative livelihoods and skill-building opportunities for the community. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Community Development
Shew Thaung Yan is primarily a fishing sub township where catching and selling of fish remain the source of sustenance for its nearly 11,000-strong community.

However, the mangrove project has opened ways for alternative livelihoods and skill-building opportunities for the community: during the monsoon when there is little or no fishing in the sea, the community members earn wages by planting mangrove saplings in the forests around them.

Women of the village have also started a clam farming collective–a first for the community. The collective which presently has 55 members, is running from a site that was earlier used as a nursery for growing mangrove saplings. The women visit the mangrove forest where they collect clams and bring it back to the farm where each of them have a 6 to 10 ft enclosure that are regularly flooded by the tidal waves. The clams have been “sowed’ into the slushy farm soil, where they will thrive and grow fat, feeding on the nutrients brought by the tides.

This is a zero-investment livelihood initiative that promises local women a good earning opportunity, explains Shwe Sandar Oo, the coordinator of the farming project. “The land is free, the clams are free and we have already connected them to buyers,” she tells IPS. The buyers, she says, are hoteliers in Chaung Tha, a beach town popular among domestic and foreign tourists. Big, fleshy clams are high in demand among the tourists and usually fetch half a dollar each.

Clam farmer Thein Thein Sein is full of happiness as she looks upon her zero-investment clam farm in Myagi village of Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Thein Thein Nwe, one of the clam farmers says that it’s the zero-investment that drew her to the collective. Earlier this year, Nwe’s eldest daughter dropped out of school at grade 10, after she failed to pass her grade 10 tests. With the income she earns from her clam farm, the 42-year-old fisherwoman now hopes to send her daughter to a private coach, so she could retake the tests.

Many in the village of Maygi have received clean cookstoves and solar lamps provided by WIF. The village has a media centre where school-going children of the village are learning various skills including basic computer operations, photography and embroidery. Run by WIF, the centre offers scholarship girl students who are promising but too poor to afford tuition fees.

Way to the Future
As 2019 begins, the planters in Shwe Thaung Yan are gearing up to plant two billion trees–their biggest plantation drive to date. Once finished, restoration drive of Shwe Thaung Yan would be complete and the restored forest would store 300 million tonnes of CO2, Uboni says. “After this, we are going to Yangon Division and also the delta division. So, in the new year, we will go to Bago and Mon state to plant mangrove,” he announces.

Aung, on the other hand, is more focused on the underwater marine life, especially conserving the seagrass and the coral bed both of which are available in the sea around Shwe Thaung Yan.

“The seagrass can stock much more blue carbon than the land trees or mangrove. It is also what feeds Dugong or sea cow—a critically endangered sea mammal. So, with the help of WIF and Pathein University, we now aim is to build a marine sanctuary around Shwe Thaung Yan,” he says.

The idea has received the approval of Daw Si Si Hla Bu, the rector of Pathein University. “I want to see our university making significant contribution to coastal ecosystem restoration,” Hla Bu tells IPS.

Arne Fjortoft tells IPS that the funding for the proposed marine sanctuary could be raised from selling off the carbon stock of mangrove forests. For Fjortoft, however, the mangrove restoration, vocational trainings, clam farming and marine life conservation are all part of a big, single picture: “The final goal here is to help bring sustainable development for 12 million people of the country’s coastal communities. And that’s the future we are hoping to see.”

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Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 20:48:52 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159473 “I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.” These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal […]

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The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
IXTLÁN DE JUÁREZ, Mexico, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

“I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.”

These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal Lands Commissariat, in the municipality of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the state of Oaxaca, some 840 km south of Mexico City, told IPS.

Forest habitats are precisely one of the best natural mechanisms for mitigating climatic change, but at the same time they face the consequences, such as rising temperatures, variations in rainfall regimes and the spread of pests.

The ecoregion where La Trinidad is located, the Sierra Juárez mountains, is well aware of this. Since 2017 it has been facing an outbreak of the pine sawfly, which eats the needles of the pine tree, the most common species in this area of central Oaxaca. Local organisations estimate that some 10,000 hectares are at risk from this pest.

Ruíz explained that 106 of his community’s 805 hectares have been damaged. La Trinidad has a traditional Mexican system of government for collectively-owned and worked land, which is different from an “eijido” because the land here cannot be sold.

In September, “we applied aerial fumigation” of a biopesticide and now “we will use handpumps,” said the community leader, one of those attending the celebration in Ixtlan this month of the 35 years of struggle against the private forest concessions that were once predominant here. The struggle gave rise to community-managed forests like this one.

La Trinidad, made up of 291 community members and their families, has a permit to annually extract 5,000 cubic metres of wood during an eight-year management plan, in effect since 2014.

These undertakings exemplify the development of Mexican community forestry, considered a global model, for its success in generating social, economic and environmental benefits.

In 2016, Mexico, the second-largest country in Latin America, with 1.96 million square kilometres (196 million hectares), had 20.3 million hectares of temperate forest, 850,000 hectares of mesophilic mountain forest, 50.2 million hectares of scrubland, 7.9 million hectares of grasslands, 11.5 million hectares of rainforest and 1.4 million hectares of other vegetation, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry lists 4,886 forest communities and ejidos, of which some 2,100 commercially exploit the forests.

But only seven million hectares, in the hands of some 600 communities, operate with a management and conservation plan, a requirement for obtaining approval for the harvesting programmes promoted by the state-run National Forestry Commission.

Mexico’s timber production totals seven million cubic metres annually, of which Oaxaca in the south contributes just under seven percent.

Forest ecosystems provide water to urban areas, regulate the water cycle, provide food, and capture carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas responsible for global warming, among other ecological services, according to scientific studies.

As a result, in the face of the threats posed by climate change, forests require public policies that generate better economic incentives, offer legal certainty about land tenure, expand markets and increase productivity, say silviculture organisations and experts.

Ixtlan, which means “place of threads or fibers” in the Zapotec language and where 600 hectares have been damaged, has undertaken the fight against pests by experimenting with five species of pine in the community nursery.

“In November and December, we do seed selection. We want faster-growing, pest-resistant species. We are confident that the new species will be more resistant,” explained Sergio Ruiz, forestry advisor for the community enterprise Santo Tomás Ixtlán Forest Union.

The community of Ixtlán, also in the municipality of the same name, owns 19,125 hectares, of which 30 percent is used for forestry.

Its activities also include ecotourism, a gas station, a shop, a furniture factory and a water bottling plant. In 2018, the community nursery provided 360,000 seedlings, 100,000 of which went to reforestation while the other 260,000 were donated to nearby communities. The hope is to create a seed orchard.

A study under preparation by the state-run Technical University of Sierra Juárez analyses climatic factors such as temperature, moisture and soil conditions in Ixtlán.

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In 2015, Mexico emitted 683 million tons of CO2, making it the second largest polluter in the region after Brazil. Of that total, 20 million tons came from the loss of forest lands.

This Latin American country adopted its own goal of zero deforestation by 2030, a real challenge when average annual logging represents 200,867 hectares lost between 2011 and 2016, according to estimates by the Superior Audit of the Federation, the Mexican government comptroller’s office.

Other sites in the Sierra Juarez mountains are also exposed to climate change, although their height above sea level temporarily protects them from insects. Such is the case in the municipality of San Juan Evangelista, where silviculturists are preparing to adapt their forests to the phenomenon.

“It is important to clean up the forest, because it takes away combustion power and the risk of pests. In addition, managed forests allow more carbon sequestration than unmanaged forests. They can help prevent climate change from accelerating,” Filemón Manzano, technical adviser to the forestry community in that municipality, told IPS.

Analco, which means “on the other side of the river” in Nahuatl, consists of 150 community members, the owners of 1,600 hectares, of which 1,000 are covered by forests and 430 of which are exploited. The community operates a nursery for 3,000 seedlings.

Manzano and academics from the state-run Postgraduate College of Agricultural Sciences are preparing research on CO2 absorption by managed forests, estimated at five tons per year per managed hectare.

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Mexico pledged to reduce, by 2030, up to 14 million tons of annual CO2 emissions from land use, land use change and forestry, by promoting sustainable forest management, increasing productivity in forests and jungles and promoting forest plantations.

But the outlays needed to implement mitigation measures would total 11.789 billion dollars up to that year, at a cost of 53 dollars per ton of CO2. Zero deforestation would require 7.923 billion dollars and sustainable forest management would require 3.861 billion dollars.

In July, the Mexican forestry sector proposed a long-term policy, greater investment, an adequate legal framework, strengthening community forest management, community participation in the design of measures and a link to climate change, as part of the “Forests with people, forests forever” campaign.

Rogelio Ruiz called for more support to better care for the ecosystem and thus reap more benefits.

The study “Toward a Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands”, published in September by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington-based global network of 15 partners, estimated that Mexican community forests trap 2.8 million tons of CO2.

Manzano called for more forest management. “We want to show how managed forests contribute to the conservation of the planet. It’s going to be important to have more resistant species and create a good mix of species,” he said.

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Overfishing Threatens Malawi’s Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 17:38:12 +0000 Mabvuto Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159420 Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most. The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 […]

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Judith Twaili shows where she used to dry the fish catch when business was better. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

By Mabvuto Banda
MANGOCHI, Malawi, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most.

The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 percent out of the almost 1,000 species of fish in the lake can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development estimates that fishing contributes about four percent to Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), and that it employs about 300,000 people.

However, that is probably not the case now because fish stocks in the lake have been dwindling over the years due to over-fishing and women are the hardest hit.

Judith Kananji’s life-changing story tells it all. Kananji who is from a fishing family in Micesi Village Traditional Authority Mponda, in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, says she has in the meantime stopped purchasing fish because the trade is no longer lucrative compared to in previous years.

“The problem is that the fish is no longer found in abundance and it’s only the small fish available at the moment and it’s expensive. Unlike before we were having bigger fish which was easy to make profits. This time around it is hard to purchase small fish to sell at a higher price,” she told IPS.

“About 8 years ago, I used to make a good profit from capital of about MK100, 000 (137 dollars). But now it is even impossible to make profits with a working capital of MK800, 000 (1,095 dollars),” she said.

According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), protocol report, “Years ago, it was the norm to catch about 5,000 fish a day, but now, fishers catch about one-fifth of that, or even as less as a mere 300 fish a day.”

Kananji said that the increase of fishing vessels on the lake has negatively contributed to depleting fish levels because there is stiff competition among the fishermen, which is leading to overfishing.

But SADC also said, “The rapid drop in Lake Malawi’s water levels, driven by population growth, climate change and deforestation, is threatening its flora and fauna species with extinction.”

Kananji said: “Sadly it is us women who buy fish from fishermen who have been pushed out of business because fishermen in most cases raise their prices to meet operating costs whenever there is a small catch.”

“This works to our disadvantage because fish prices at the market are always low,” she added.

Just like Kananji, Chrissy Mbatata received a loan from a micro finance lending institution popularly known as village bank to bank roll her fish selling business.

Mbatata is, however, in more trouble. She is currently struggling to settle the loan.

“Initially it was easy for me to pay the loan and support my family because I was making good money. Now it is even hard to break even. Fish is not available and I don’t know where the money to pay back the loan and support my family will come from,” Mbatata told IPS.

The dwindling fish is not only affecting businesses but also the protein intake in a country where the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund says around 46 percent of children under five are stunted, 21 percent are underweight, and four percent are wasted and Micronutrient deficiencies are common.

“Chambo [the famous local fish] used to be the cheapest source of protein for us but now it’s now a luxury we only can afford at month-ends. Imagine a single fish going at K1 800 (2.4 dollars)?” said Angela Malajira, a widow of four from Lilongwe’s Area 23 suburb.

To reverse the trend government and fishing communities have found sustainable ways to harness the industry by setting up some rules and empower chiefs to implement them.

Every year, the government prohibits fishing on the lake from the month of November to December 31 to allow breeding to take place.

Interestingly this has been well received, without any resistance, from fishing communities because they understand the importance of increasing the fish levels in the lake.

Instead the communities have formulated their own bylaws outlawing fishing from November to March —  extending the fishing for 5 months.

Vice Chairperson for Makanjira Beach Village Committee Malufu Shaibu said the fishing communities agree that fishing on the lake should shut down for a long time because it has shown that the move can help to improve fish levels on lake.

He explained that during the past five months, assessment has shown that there are more fish species and volume that have started to be seen on the lake as opposed to when the lake was closed for two months
only.

“We want the lake to be closed for six months. We are glad that now we have a lot of fish due to the prolonged time of breeding which we gave the fish,” said Shaibu.

“Our children will now be able to see fish the way we saw them. The benefits for closing the lake for a long time are more than the disadvantage.”

But Shaibu, like Kananji, complained that commercial fishermen are derailing their efforts to improve fish stocks.

Mangochi District Fisheries Officer Thomas Nyasulu said that an office they are working with the newly revived Fisheries Association of Malawi to rein in on big commercial fishermen on the lake.
He said closing the lake for a long period of time would make their work more easy and fulfilling.

“It is good that the fishermen are suggesting this move. It can really help a lot. On regulating the commercial fishermen, we are working with fisheries association of Malawi in making sure that all big fishermen are following their fishing grounds,” said Nyasulu.

The bylaws are working. In April this year a 40-year-old man was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of K800,000 (1,095 dollars) or in default serve 60 months imprisonment with hard labour for fishing on the lake when had closed contravening the  fisheries conservation and Management Act.

The Magistrate Court sentenced Kennedy Fatchi of Makawa Village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponda in the district after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Police prosecutor Maxwell Mwaluka told the court that on March 4, 2018 the chiefs working with the Fisheries Inspectorate in the district came across a commercial fishing company on the lake fishing.

He said the team seized the fishing materials and the convict was charged with three counts which he pleaded guilty to.

“This is the only way we can go back to having more fish in our lake which would inadvertently improve our lives,” said Kananji.

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Ghana’s Contribution to Plastic Waste Can Be Reduced with the Right Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ghanas-contribution-plastic-waste-can-reduced-right-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-contribution-plastic-waste-can-reduced-right-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ghanas-contribution-plastic-waste-can-reduced-right-investment/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 07:32:22 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159388 Twelve-year-old Naa Adjeley lives in Glefe, a waterlogged area that is one of the biggest slums along the west coast of Accra, Ghana. The sixth grade student, his parents and three siblings use 30 single-use plastic bags per day for breakfast. When they finish eating the balls of ‘kenkey’, fried mackerel, and pepper sauce, the […]

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About 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually of which about 73 percent of this effectively ends up as waste. Credit: Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
ACCRA, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

Twelve-year-old Naa Adjeley lives in Glefe, a waterlogged area that is one of the biggest slums along the west coast of Accra, Ghana. The sixth grade student, his parents and three siblings use 30 single-use plastic bags per day for breakfast.

When they finish eating the balls of ‘kenkey’, fried mackerel, and pepper sauce, the plastic bags that the food was individually wrapped in are dumped into the river that runs through the slum, eventually ending up in the ocean, which lies a mere 50 metres from their home.

In one month, this family alone contributes over 900 pieces of single-use plastics to the five trillion pieces of microplastic in the ocean. This is because their community of over 1,500 households, which sits on a wetlands, does not have a waste disposal system.

So assuming that their neighbours also dump their waste into the river and that they consume similar amounts of plastics per day, this means they add over 1.3 million pieces of single-use plastics to the sea each month.

The situation is the same in all the other settlements that are close to degraded lagoons around the ocean.

To date, Accra has some 265 informal settlementss, including Chorkor, James town, Osu, Labadi, Teshie, Korlegonor, Opetequaye, Agege and Old Fadama.

With all of these being in different stages of development, according to a recent study by the People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements (PD) Ghana, a non-governmental organisation. Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Chair of the Ghana National Biodiversity Committee, recalls that 10 years ago food was packaged with leaves and women went to the market with woven baskets or cotton bags.

“Now because of civilisation, every food item or prepared food bought in this country is first wrapped in a single-use plastic and then is kept in plastic carrier bags. If Accra has a population of over 2.6 million and everyone uses a single plastic every day, just calculate how much plastic waste is generated per day,” he told IPS.

About 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually, of which 73 percent effectively ends up as waste, while only 19 percent is re-used, according to the country’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Sadly, less than 0.1 percent of the waste is recycled, meaning all the plastic waste generated ends up in the environment.

John Pwamang, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, is worried about the discharge of plastics into the various lagoons, and ultimately in the sea. “The reckless manner in which we throw away waste has become the most insidious threat to the ocean today,” he told IPS.

“We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are fast reaching the point where there will literally be more plastics in the sea than fish. Our fishermen will agree with me as they already are experiencing it. They always have more plastics than fish in their trawls. I am inclined to believe that the situation in Ghana may be more dire than it would appear,” he said.

Dr Kofi Okyere, a Senior Lecturer at the Cape Coast University, says lagoons are home to diverse species. There are 90 lagoons and 10 estuaries with their associated marshes and mangrove swamps along Ghana’s 550-km coastline stretch.

“Although I cannot put precise statistical figures, most of the lagoons, especially those located in urban areas, have been heavily polluted within the last decade or two. The pollutants are largely domestic and industrial effluent discharge, sewage, plastics, aerosol cans and other solid wastes, and heavy metal contaminants (lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) from industrial activities,” he told IPS.

Nelson Boateng, Chief Executive Director of Nelplast Ghana Limited, is one of a group of people and companies that are finding alternative uses for plastic waste. He is holding a paving brick made from recycled plastic. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

However, while a large number of Ghanaians are still using plastic, and discarding it, there are a few people and organisations that are putting the plastic to better use.

Nelson Boateng, Chief Executive Director of Nelplast Ghana limited, began moulding and creating pavement blocks from plastic in 2015.

The company uses 70 percent sand and 30 percent plastic to manufacture the pavement blocks, but the ratio of the two materials changes depending on the kind of pavement project.

Walking IPS through the process in an interview, he explains the plastic waste is mixed with sand and taken through a melting process, and then the pavement slab is ready.

“So far we have paved many important areas, including residential areas, the premises of the Action Chapel, the frontage of Ghana’s Ministry of Environment Science, Technology and Innovation and some walkways in the country.”

“The advantage of plastic pavement blocks compared to the conventional cement blocks is that it is 30 percent cheaper, it does not break, there is no green algae growth, it does not fade. A square metre of our plastic paves cost GHC 33 (6.9 dollars) while the concrete cost 98 (20.20 dollars) I am doing this because I love the environment and I did all this on my own to beat plastic,” he said.

Currently, Boateng is recycling 2,000 kilos of plastic waste, but his factory, which is situated on a one-acre piece of land at the Ashaiman Municipal Assembly, has the capacity to produce 200,000 plastic pavement blocks.

Of the over 500 waste pickers who sell plastics to Boateng, 60 percent are women who depend on this as their livelihood. With the price of a kilo being 10 US cents women make a minimum of 10.40 dollars per sale.

Ashietey Okaiko, 34, a single mother and plastic picker of Nelplast Ghana limited, confirmed to IPS that she earns 31 dollars on average per sale, and that is what she uses to take care of her family.

“Because people now know that plastic waste is valuable, many women who are now employed are picking plastics. The company needs support to be able to buy more because sometimes when we send it they do not buy,” she says.

Boateng stated that pickers could collect up to the tune of 10,000 kilograms a day, saying, “I feel bad telling them I cannot pay due to financial constraints.”

Similar to Boateng’s innovation is the efforts of the Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises (GRIPE), an industry-led coalition under the auspices of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), a non-governmental organisation, that is manufacturing modified building blocks out of plastic.

The initiative, carried out in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is pending certification by the Ghana Standard Authority for commercial use.

Ama Amoah, Regional Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager at Nestle, a leading member of GRIPE, told IPS that the group has done community and schools education and awareness campaigns on proper waste management practices for plastics.

There are also other innovators such as Seth Quansah, who runs Alchemy Alternative Energy, which is converting plastic waste and tires through internationally approved and environmentally sound processes into hydrocarbon energy, mainly diesel-grade fuels.

Through the Ghana Climate Innovations Centre, and Denmark and the Netherlands through the World Bank, Quansah has received mentorship and is preparing to expand the company.

Ghana’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Ken Ofori Atta, says the Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) is in the process of finalising a new National Plastic Waste Policy, which will focus on strategies to promote reduction, reuse, and recycling.

But Helen La Trobe, an environmental volunteer in Ghana, tells IPS, “African industry should seek innovative approaches to reduce plastic use and plastic waste in all its forms by replacing plastic with other innovative products and reducing, reusing and recycling where replacing is not currently possible.”

She also wants the government to provide adequate public rubbish bins at trotro stops (bus stops) and markets to have these frequently emptied.

She says plastic is indestructible and breaks into smaller and smaller parts, called microplastics, but it takes more than 500 years to completely disappear. 

According to Trobe, microplastics and microbeads, tiny polyethylene plastic added to health and beauty products such as some skin cleansers and toothpaste, absorb toxins and industrial chemicals from the environment. As fish and other marine life ingest tiny pieces of plastic, the toxins and chemicals enter their tissue and then the food chain, which ultimately affect humans.  

While Boateng does not believe that production of plastic is a problem, but that authorities need to support innovators and there is a need for a behavioural change, he adds, “The more the support, the cleaner the environment. If we are serious of ridding the country and the sea of plastics this is the way forward. When people go to the beach to clean up, the waste ends ups in the land field site, which is still in the environment.”

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Investors Turn Kenya’s Troublesome Invasive Water Hyacinth into Cheap Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 Benson Rioba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159315 Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area. But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it. The presence […]

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Water hyacinth is a weed and if not controlled on Lake Victoria, experts are concerned that the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent. Courtesy: CC by 2.0/Madeira Botanic Garden

By Benson Rioba
KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.

But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.

The presence of water hyacinth on the lake is concerning. Late last year, Margaret Kidany, one of the people involved in conserving Lake Victoria’s beaches, said the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent if the weed is not controlled. If it is not eliminated, it will kill the livelihoods of thousands of households that rely on the lake for an income.

However, the Centre for Innovation Science and Technology in Africa, founded by former chemistry teacher Richard Arwa, is making the best out of the invasive water hyacinth.

Funded in its start-up stages by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the innovation company, which employs six people and serves 560 households, manufactures ethanol from the weed. This is proving a cheaper source of clean fuel for many of the locals while at the same time preserving the lake.

The process they use is a simple one.

The centre hires locals to harvest the hyacinth from Lake Victoria before transporting it to their workshop for processing. Once at the workshop, the hyacinth is pretreated to remove microorganisms that might compete with the enzymes during processing.

The hyacinth is then dried and chopped into smaller pieces to reduce the surface area for efficient processing. The dried hyacinth is then mixed with water, acids and enzymes in tight closed tanks for fermentation.

After fermentation the mixture is subjected to high temperatures (80 degrees Celsius), producing ethanol and carbon dioxide and methane as final products.

“This was part of a science congress project for secondary schools and it won accolades throughout the country and we, together with my students, decided to actualise the project,” says Arwa.

Arwa is still a chemistry teacher even though he started the institution in 2016.

He adds that they initially tried to produce beverage alcohol from the hyacinth but the project was not viable. According to Arwa, alcohol requires numerous purification processes to make it consumable. In addition the taxes on the product are high.

So it is less costly to make ethanol. Arwa says the company produces 100 litres daily.

The amount is considerable for their factory, and it is sold to 560 households in Yala in Kisumu city. Arwa tells IPS that they always run out of stock.

Lyne Ondula, a mother from Yala, in Kisumu county, is a happy customer.

“Hyacinth fuel burns slower than the usual kerosene I use and doesn’t produce smoke and soot while cooking like firewood or kerosene. To me it’s much cheaper and cleaner to use, no more coughing in my kitchen when preparing food,” she tells IPS.

Ondula says a litre of ethanol retails at 70 Kenyan shillings and lasts four days. That is in marked contrast to the higher cost of kerosene, which currently retails at a national average of 100 Kenyan shillings, and lasts only two days. She says she also used to buy charcoal which was quite expensive, retailing at 100 Kenyan shilling per a 15-kilogram tin, which only lasted hours. So now she only uses ethanol, which she pre-orders.

It is a cleaner option for this East African nation that is still heavily reliant on charcoal, kerosene and firewood as a source of energy. According to a market and policy analysis by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, while “LPG has penetrated Nairobi and higher-income households; bio-ethanol can be an attractive clean fuel for lower income households.”

Ondula’s sentiments were echoed by Sylvester Oduor, another resident from Yala in Kisumu County. He adds that ethanol fuel also produces more heat compared to charcoal when cooking.

Philip Odhiambo, energy and climate change coordinator at the WWF, says such innovations are key in harnessing the untapped opportunities of water bodies.

“There is a need to turn environmental challenges to create wealth and opportunities especially in creating jobs for our many unemployed youth,” says Odhiambo. He adds that the ethanol processing project is a viable way of managing green waste that has been a challenge in the country for a long time.

Odhiambo adds that the world is shifting towards clean, cheap energy and says there is a need to embrace creativity and tap into the energy potential of water bodies, besides the traditional sources of energy.

In addition, unlike other clean fuels, bio-ethanol can be produced domestically over time and could spur industrial growth in the sector “while delivering positive social and economic benefits,” says the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety report.

However, Arwa says accessing the initial capital of 50,000 dollars was a challenge as many financial institutions turned him away for lack of collateral. In the end he had to rely on donors like WWF to finance the project. The chemistry teacher adds that financial institutions did not have faith in the venture and were not ready to invest in the idea.

The immediate goal for the company is to expand production to 600 litres per day.

But Arwa has a five-year expansion plan that includes moving the small factory, which is about 40 kilometres away from Lake Victoria, closer to the lake to reduce costs. He hopes that once relocated, and with the support of partners, they will eventually be able to produce 10,000- 25,000 litres per day.

Arwa adds that he is looking for strategic investment partners to help in scaling up the ethanol project, reiterating that there is a huge untapped market for the product. “I usually feel bad when customers come to purchase ethanol but we turn them away. At the moment we cannot satisfy the demand,” he says.

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Local Communities in Mexico Question Benefits of Mayan Trainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 22:43:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159298 “If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico. Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in […]

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The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

“If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico.

Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP), told IPS that they lack detailed information about the megaproject, one of the high-profile initiatives promised during his campaign by the new leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his acronym AMLO.

“It’s not clear to us. We don’t know about the project,” said Euán, who also questioned the benefits promised by the president, who was sworn in on Dec. 1, for the local population, as well as the mechanisms for participation in the project and the threats it poses to the environment."They are violating our indigenous rights. We don't agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don't see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses." -- Miguel Ku

“What will be the benefit for the local community members, for the craftswomen? As ecotourism communities, will we be able to promote our businesses and goods?” said the spokeswoman for the Community Tourism Network of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, one of the states in southeastern Mexico that share the Yucatan Peninsula, on the Atlantic coast, with 1.5 million inhabitants.

The network, launched in 2014, brings together 11 community organisations from three municipalities of Quintana Roo and offers ecotourism and cultural tours in the area, its main economic activity.

In the municipality of FCP, home to just over 81,000 people, there are 84 ejidos,areas of communal land used for agriculture, where community members own and farm their own plots, which can also be sold.

One of them, of the same name as the municipality, FCP, covering 47,000 hectares and belonging to 250 “ejidatarios” or members, manages the ejidal reserves Síijil Noh Há (“where the water flows,” in the Mayan language) and Much’KananK’aax (“let’s take care of the forest together”).

Euán’s doubts are shared by thousands of inhabitants of the peninsula, which receives almost seven million tourists every year.

IPS travelled a stretch of the preliminary TM route through Quintana Roo and the neighboring state of Campeche and noted the general lack of detailed information about the project and its possible ecological, social and cultural consequences in a region with high levels of poverty and social marginalisation.

The government’s National Tourism Fund (Fonatur) is promoting the project, at a cost of between 6.2 and 7.8 billion dollars. The plan is for it to start operating in 2022, with 15 stations along 1,525 kilometers in 41 municipalities in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.

The locomotives will run on biodiesel -possibly made from palm oil- and the trains are projected to move about three million passengers annually, in addition to cargo.

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The new government argues that the project will boost the region’s socioeconomic development, foster social inclusion and job creation, safeguard indigenous cultures, protect the peninsula’s Protected Natural Areas (PNA), and strengthen the tourism industry.

Ancient ecosystems

The railway will cut through the heart of the Mayan jungle, an ecosystem that formed the base of the Mayan empire that dominated the entire Mesoamerican region – southern Mexico and Central America – from the 8th century until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

This is the most important rainforest in Latin America after the Amazon region and a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

The region belongs to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor consisting of habitats running from southern Mexico to Panama, the southernmost of the seven Central American countries, and is home to about 10 percent of the world’s known species.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, shared by the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, there are 25 PNAs, with a total area of 8.5 million hectares.

In fact, two TM stations will be contiguous to the 725,000-hectare Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the 650,000-hectare Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

“What’s going to happen? We don’t know the route, we don’t have information. We have to study this closely,” Luís Tamay, the indigenous president of the Commissariat of Common Assets of the Nuevo Becal ejido in the municipality of Calakmul, in Campeche, told IPS.

Like Euán, Tamay fears the arrival of crowds of tourists, for which Calakmul “is not prepared; this is a high-impact project” for a municipality of just over 28,000 people.

Nuevo Becal has 84 landowners, covers 52,800 hectares and carries out six projects of timber exploitation, agroforestry, seeds and environmental conservation.

Although the TM will not pass through the immediate vicinity of Nuevo Becal, the megaproject will have impacts on the area.

In Calakmul, the government will carry out technical and environmental impact studies in 2019, with the idea of starting construction the following year in the locality.

To build the railway network, the government must negotiate with the ejidatarios, who own most of the land in the five states along the planned railway, as there are 385 in Campeche, 279 in Quintana Roo and 737 in Yucatán.

The government has already asked for 30 hectares in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido to build a station, as a contribution to the project, which was first proposed in 2007 by the then governor of Yucatan, Yvonne Ortega, who projected the Transpeninsular Rapid Train in 2007.
Shortly after taking office in December 2012, AMLO’s predecessor, conservative Enrique Peña Nieto, adopted it as a national plan to connect the region. But public spending cutbacks in 2015 put the project on hold.

To the original project which will be added more than 300 kilometers of rundown railroads that functioned between 1905 and 1957, first for military transport and then also for passenger traffic.

On Nov. 24-25, before AMLO took office, his team obtained support for the railway network, along with a new refinery in the state of Tabasco and the execution of other projects, during a National Consultation on 10 Priority Social Programmes.

But this support, in a consultation that was only carried out in certain localities through a process that was not very representative, did not appease the criticism of the TM in the region.

On Nov. 15, a group of academics asked López Obrador to stop the works because of their ecological, social, cultural and archaeological impacts.

Three days later, a collective of indigenous organisations rejected the project, demanded respect for their forests and jungles, and called for free, prior, informed and culturally appropriate consultation.

“They are violating our indigenous rights. We don’t agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don’t see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses” in the sector, Miguel Ku, representative of the Network of Environmental Service Producers, told IPS.

This organization brings together 3,756 ejidatarios from 33 agrarian communities in the municipality of José María Morelos, and three more in the municipality of FCP, all of which are in Quintana Roo. Together, they own 257,000 hectares that are used for forestry, agriculture, beekeeping and livestock.

Local organisations are seeking another socioeconomic model. “We have shown that conservation allows for good development. We have natural resources, let us take advantage of them, that’s how we can support ourselves,” said Tamay.

Ku protested what he called a repeat of what has happened with previous projects. “We are sick and tired of others taking the benefits even though we own the land. The government could do something else. We want the ejidos to develop their own projects,” he said.

But López Obrador appears to be in a hurry to move forward with the Mayan Train, and on Dec. 16 he laid the first stone in the city of Palenque, Chiapas, without waiting for Fonatur to present the environmental impact assessment to the environment ministry.

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Negotiating for Naturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/negotiating-for-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=negotiating-for-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/negotiating-for-nature/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:59:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159252 Wildlife is being wiped out in an unprecedented rate, and it’s our fault. But a new deal could provide a new pathway forward. Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people in order to accelerate and integrate action between […]

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Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people. South Africa’s white rhinoceros recovered from near-extinction thanks to intense conservation efforts. Credit: Kanya D’Almeida/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife is being wiped out in an unprecedented rate, and it’s our fault. But a new deal could provide a new pathway forward.

Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people in order to accelerate and integrate action between three core areas: biodiversity, land degradation, and climate change.

“The trends are shocking. We are facing a decline which is unprecedented and its accelerating,” WWF’s Director General Marco Lambertini told IPS.

“This is a global issue. Almost no country is completely exempt,” he added.

And it’s not just the iconic species like pandas, elephants, and tigers, he noted.

According the WWF’s recent Living Planet report, populations of vertebrate species have declined by 60 percent around the world in just 40 years.

Freshwater species alone faced a decline of over 80 percent.

Such population declines were especially prominent in South and Central America, where there is 89 percent less wildlife than in 1970.

Among the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss are directly linked to human activities, namely land conversion and overexploitation.

Over 40 percent of the world’s land has been converted or set aside for agriculture alone.

The Amazon, which is home to over 10 percent of the world’s species, has seen deforestation and habitat conversion to make way for agricultural activities such as cattle ranching and soy cultivation.

Though there has been some efforts to halt and reverse such harmful activities, 20 percent of the Amazon disappeared in just 50 years.

In Indonesia, primates are facing a heightened risk of extinction as forests are destroyed to produce palm oil.

“Food production is the single most important driver of wild habitat loss…very few people realise the connection between the food that they eat and the impact it is having on wildlife and wild habitats in the world,” Lambertini said.

But it doesn’t stop there.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), unsustainable land management, which encompasses many modern crop and livestock practices, is causing soil and land degradation thus contributing to both desertification and further biodiversity loss.

“With our current trends in production, urbanisation, and environmental degradation, we are losing and wasting too much land,” said UNCCD’s Executive Secretary Monique Barbut in the group’s Global Land Outlook report.

“We are losing our connection with the earth. We are losing too quickly the water, soil, and biodiversity that support all life,” she added.

Lambertini echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “There’s not going to be a prosperous, healthy, happy, just future for us in a degraded planet.”

Finding Common Ground

UNCCD is one of three conventions that were established during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Its sister conventions include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Though significant as separate frameworks, Lambertini highlighted the need for more integration between the three conventions as the three issues are interconnected.

“We are calling for a new deal for nature…that really recognises those interdependencies and that they need to be integrated—land degradation, climate change, and nature conservation,” he said.

The Executive Secretaries of the three conventions also recognised the intersectionality of the three issues during the U.N. climate change conference in 2017, calling for the establishment of a project preparation facility.

The facility would help promote an coordinated action towards the convention’s common issues and finance large-scale multi-disciplinary projects.

However, little has been mentioned of it since.

Similar to the Paris climate accord, the proposed “new deal for nature and people” would ramp up the international community’s efforts through ambitious goals and targets to halt biodiversity loss and protect and restore nature.

Unlike the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the end date of the biodiversity-related targets under the SDGs is in 2020 and it is expected that many countries will not come close to reaching the targets given current trends.

The new deal for nature would therefore be a post-2020 framework, helping governments to keep up, if not raise, their efforts.

A recent U.N. Biodiversity Conference agreed to begin a preparatory process, marking a first step towards a new framework. However, WWF noted that ambition was weak.

“The world needs to wake up to the risks of biodiversity loss. All stakeholders; business, government and people, need to act now if we are to have any hope of creating a sustainable future for all and a New Deal for Nature and People in 2020,” Lambertini said.

“For this to happen, we need a cohesive vision and strong political will – something [Conference of the Parties 14] has unfortunately lacked,” he added.

The Value of Nature

The Living Planet Index calculated that nature provides services worth $125 trillion annually while also providing us with fresh air, clean water, food, and medicine.

Wildlife play an essential role, and can even help restore and conserve land.

“We often forget that these creatures are fundamental to maintaining ecosystems like forests, oceans, wetlands, grasslands and make services that are fundamental to us,” Lambertini told IPS.

“There is a huge link between biodiversity and their ecosystems…and our fight against climate change,” he added.

For instance, approximately 87 percent of all flowering plant species are pollinated by animals, and crops that are partially pollinated by animals account for 35 percent of global food production.

Primates also help disperse seeds and pollen, helping maintain tropical rainforests which are play a crucial role in global rainfall patterns and carbon emissions reduction.

During the recent U.N. climate change conference in Poland, many looked to natural climate solutions including forests which help cut emissions by up to 30 percent.

WWF is urging all stakeholders to come together to deliver on a comprehensive framework to help protect the environment by the next U.N. biodiversity conference set to take place in China in 2020.

“It’s time to stop taking nature for granted—we are depending on nature more than nature depends on us,” Lambertini said.

“Don’t leave nature and environmental conservation and climate change as an afterthought, they have to be driving the thinking and the planning at the policy level as much as the economic level,” he concluded.

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Middle Eastern Countries Can Overcome Pressing Challenges By Developing a Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/middle-eastern-countries-can-overcome-pressing-challenges-developing-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-eastern-countries-can-overcome-pressing-challenges-developing-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/middle-eastern-countries-can-overcome-pressing-challenges-developing-blue-economy/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:17:17 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159082 The Blue Economy is becoming an ‘El Dorado’, a new frontier for traditionally arid and water-stressed nations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to Christian Averous, Vice President of Plan Bleu, one of the Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan developed under the United Environment Regional Seas Programme. But against […]

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Aquaponics, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, is revolutionising the way of conceiving food supply in many MENA countries. This dated picture shows fish pools in Palestine. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Dec 7 2018 (IPS)

The Blue Economy is becoming an ‘El Dorado’, a new frontier for traditionally arid and water-stressed nations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to Christian Averous, Vice President of Plan Bleu, one of the Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan developed under the United Environment Regional Seas Programme.

But against the backdrop of the enormous potential represented by the Blue Economy, there are numerous challenges and critical issues that the region faces. Overfishing, water scarcity, highly salty waters, climate change, high evaporation rates, the oil industry and pollution are just some of things that place at risk the development and conservation of marine and aquatic resources in the MENA region.

In addition, rapid population growth throughout the region complicates things. According to the U.S.-based Population Reference Bureau, “MENA experienced the highest rate of population growth of any region in the world over the past century” and is growing at a current rate of 2 percent per year. It’s the second-highest growth rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa, the organisation says.

Population growth leads to an increased demand for fish as a food source and this, combined with poor regulations and rapacious fishing practices, ultimately leads to an overall decline in marine populations. Eventually it compromises the survival status of the Red Sea coral reef, which is already highly threatened by pollution, unsustainable tourism and climate change, (even though corals in this region proved to be resistant to global warming).

The MENA region has also had to cope with poor management of water resources, with agriculture using 85 percent of freshwater. Available freshwater in the region is mainly underground and its non-renewable stocks are being depleted, warns the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Over the last four decades, the availability of freshwater in the MENA region has decreased by 40 percent and will probably decrease by 50 percent by 2050. The consequences could be disastrous in terms of food security, rural livelihoods and economies.

The Blue Economy: a way to overcome challenges and boost development?

“It is very important to promote an ocean-based economy in today’s world, as governments struggle for economic growth, [particularly] in the MENA region as well as in the whole Mediterranean region and in the Gulf countries,” Averous tells IPS. 

This means that countries in the region should not only seek to preserve aquatic and marine resources, but should also invest in these same resources to foster a process of economic development and growth through them.

Farmed Tilapia on sale in a Cairo supermarket. Local farmers from Egypt, Algeria and Oman participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours, visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms, and learnt new skills and techniques from each other. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

But best practices across the region are demonstrating just how much these countries believe in the enormous potential of the Blue Economy. One example is aquaponics, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors that is revolutionising the food supply in many MENA countries. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture — the practice of fish farming and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water without soil).

“While hydroponics still uses some chemical fertilisers to grow plants, with aquaponics, the fish themselves, through their excrements, fertilise the water allowing plants to grow,” Valerio Crespi, Aquaculture Officer in FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department in Rome, tells IPS.

Egypt, Algeria and Oman recently embarked on a cooperation project promoted by FAO, where local farmers participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours where they visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms and learnt new skills and techniques from each other.

“It was a good experience,” says Basem Hashim, an Egyptian farmer and consultant for the General Authority of Fish Resources Development, a movement which tries to shape new ideas and actions for agriculture and food in Egypt.

Basem took part in the study tours organised by FAO and thanks to that experience was able to outline and understand the most pressing challenges for the farming communities in the region.

“We know the importance of using water properly and of improving production [not only in terms of quantity, but] also in terms of quality,” he tells IPS. “At the same time, I think there is still not enough awareness in Egypt in terms of water scarcity, pollution and waste, even though the government is working with associations to raise awareness and transfer experiences.”

“The study tours were a clear example of successful South-South Cooperation,” says Crespi. “The ultimate goal, which is what we are working on right now, is to draft a road map to outline the best practices to best use water in these areas where water is scarce. In the three countries we have created national teams that have produced three technical reports that will be the basis of the road map.”

Aquaponics is an incredible innovation also because it allows these communities to have, thanks to the fish that are raised in those structures, a source of protein that would otherwise be poorly available if not nonexistent in some of these countries.

“In addition, with the same use of resources,” says Basem, “we also have fruits and vegetables. This is what the future looks like.”

Tere are other countries in the region are known for their best practices in the Blue Economy, particularly in the aquaculture sector:

  • Iran has long-standing experience with rice-fish farming, which is currently estimated by experts to be practiced in 10 percent of all rice fields in the country, on a total area of between 50,000 to 72,000 hectares.
  • Lebanon has been practicing aquaculture for many decades and in 2017 total fishery production from marine capture fisheries and aquaculture were 3,608 and 1,225 tonnes, respectively.
  • Fish farmers in Israel are developing innovative technologies and breeding methods which are revolutionising their industry. The excellence of Israeli technology is not used alone in breeding in the country but is also appreciated and exported all over the world.

Coastal and marine tourism

According to Plan Bleu, in the past 20 years the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of the tourism sector has increased by 60 percent in Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean region is the world’s leading tourism destination. International tourist arrivals have grown from 58 million in 1970 to nearly 324 million in 2015. It is also among the most frequented areas by cruise ships in the world, with some 27 million passengers visiting the area by 2013. Therefore tourism has been a positive economic asset for the region. 

But as surprising as it may be, it is not so much industrial pollution that represents the greatest damage to the marine environment, but tourism that has a huge negative impact on the region.

Tourism is in fact one of the main threats to ecosystems in the area. Indeed, locals confirm that industries and cruises operating, for example, in the Red Sea are subject to harsh regulations but the main threat to the environment is posed by waste disposal, especially of plastic, and by the enormous water footprint that each tourist leaves behind.

Perspectives about the future

The Middle East certainly has many challenges to face in terms of scarcity of natural resources and food security. For this reason the economy based on maritime sectors in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East represents a crucial potential for the economic development.

“We do not have any ‘miraculous’ innovation. We simply have some technologies that, if associated to traditional methods, can stimulate a process of sustainable development, which is a key factor for those countries struggling for finding enough natural resources,” says Crespi.

“Moreover,” he adds, “promoting a policy of implementation of Blue Economy, could reduce the rural exodus of these populations from the countryside to the cities, or even the exodus across the Mediterranean to get to Europe, risking their lives often for not finding the much desired job and economic prosperity.”

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world gathered to learn how to build a blue economy.

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