Inter Press Service » Biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net Journalism and Communication for Global Change Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:25:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Turtles Change Migration Routes Due to Climate Change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/turtles-change-migration-routes-due-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turtles-change-migration-routes-due-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/turtles-change-migration-routes-due-climate-change/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:46:20 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133660 The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle has few sanctuaries left in the world, and this is one of them. But in 2012 only 53 nests were counted on the beaches of this national park in Costa Rica. And there is an enemy that conservation efforts can’t fight: the beaches themselves are shrinking. For centuries, the […]

The post Turtles Change Migration Routes Due to Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Waves and high tides are eating away at the beaches in Costa Rica’s Cahuita National Park, where the vegetation is uprooted and washed into the sea. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

Waves and high tides are eating away at the beaches in Costa Rica’s Cahuita National Park, where the vegetation is uprooted and washed into the sea. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK, Costa Rica , Apr 14 2014 (IPS)

The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle has few sanctuaries left in the world, and this is one of them. But in 2012 only 53 nests were counted on the beaches of this national park in Costa Rica. And there is an enemy that conservation efforts can’t fight: the beaches themselves are shrinking.

For centuries, the over eight km of beaches in Cahuita have provided a nesting ground for four species of sea turtle: the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).

But the erosion of the sand and the rising sea level have reduced the size of their breeding grounds and the number of turtles who come to lay their eggs in this national park in the southeast Costa Rican province of Limón after migrating across the Caribbean sea.

“Many turtles now go to the beaches outside the park, in places we have no control over, which makes them more vulnerable,” the park administrator Mario Cerdas told IPS.

In the three years he has run the park, Cerdas has seen a drop in the numbers of turtles coming to nest.

The Cahuita National Park covers 1,100 hectares of land on a swampy peninsula and 23,000 hectares of ocean, including the country’s most important coral reef.

It was created in 1970 as a national monument, and in 1978 was declared a park to protect the fragile ecosystems.

The turtles’ change of destination, to beaches outside the park, is not the only concern. In sea turtles, gender is determined by the temperature of the sand on the nesting beaches, with cool beaches producing more males and warm beaches more females.

As a result of climate change, heat is increasing in Central America, which means that more females than males are born.

“This could be acceptable for the population up to a certain point, but if the gender ratio gap becomes too big, there could be problems,” said Borja Heredia, a scientist with the secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

And this is just one of hundreds of cases where climate change is affecting migratory species.

Drought in Africa is hindering the journey that millions of birds undertake every year across the Sahara desert; polar bears are finding it more and more difficult to find food; and global warming has modified the migratory routes of the monarch butterfly.

Scientists and government officials from around the world met Apr. 9-11 in Guácimo, Limón to study these effects and find solutions.

The workshop was organised by a CMS working group on climate change, made up of experts from more than 20 countries.

“What we are looking at is how to tackle climate change and the impact on migrant species, and that can be whales, it can be turtles, it can be birds, it can be invertebrates,” Colin Galbraith, head of the working group, and the CMS Conference of Parties appointed councillor for climate change, told IPS.

The team is to deliver a report in early May to the 120 states parties to the Convention. In June, the CMS’s scientific committee will evaluate it. After that, the next step would be to receive the approval of the Conference of the Parties in November in Quito, Ecuador.

Because climate change is expected to bring different changes to different regions, protecting species that migrate through the various regions presents an unprecedented challenge.

Manmade national borders do not mean anything to animals, which is why the CMS aims to create an international system of conservation areas to protect them on their migratory routes.

Galbraith told IPS that the report will focus on three main areas.

“Pulling information together and putting it into a plan to develop information and data sharing; how can we adapt to climate change but then also how can we help different countries build capacity; and how can we communicate this to the wider world,” said the head of the working group.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed the fragility of the world’s ecosystems to global warming, in the second volume of its 5th Assessment Report on Climate Change, which focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

In coastal zones, the rising sea level is endangering habitats like coral reefs, wetlands and nesting beaches.

In Cahuita, for example, up to one-quarter of the beaches have been lost in 15 years, according to Cerdas. During the last high tide event, the water reached the park ranger’s wooden house, which is located 100 metres from the high tide line.

“Migratory animals face many of the same challenges that humans do: having to choose when to travel, what route to take, where to eat and rest, and how long to stay before returning home,” CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers wrote in a column published by IPS.

“Unfortunately, these choices that are seemingly so trivial for humans are life-or-death decisions for migratory animals,” he added.

The report by the working group that met last week in Costa Rica will also be taken into consideration by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, in an effort to generate multidisciplinary knowledge.

“The different environment-related conventions have to start to look each other in the eye and work together more, cooperating with resources and research,” said Max Andrade, head of the public policy unit in the under-secretariat on climate change in Ecuador’s environment ministry.

Ecuador will seek to put a spotlight on global warming, as host to the next Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP11), Andrade said.

The decision to create the working group on climate change was reached at the last meeting, held in Norway three years ago.

The post Turtles Change Migration Routes Due to Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/turtles-change-migration-routes-due-climate-change/feed/ 0
Whales Find Good Company http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/whales-find-good-company/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whales-find-good-company http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/whales-find-good-company/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 06:51:40 +0000 Lowana Veal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133634 Posters with the words “Do you know who caught your seafood?” are now appearing on buses, trains and other venues in Boston. They are part of a campaign organised by a coalition of U.S. environmental groups called Whales Need Us, to draw attention to the links between Icelandic whalers and fish sold in the U.S. […]

The post Whales Find Good Company appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Workers start to dismember a fin whale at the whaling station in Hvalfjordur, about 45 km north of Reykjavik. Credit: Lowana Veal/IPS.

Workers start to dismember a fin whale at the whaling station in Hvalfjordur, about 45 km north of Reykjavik. Credit: Lowana Veal/IPS.

By Lowana Veal
REYKJAVIK, Apr 14 2014 (IPS)

Posters with the words “Do you know who caught your seafood?” are now appearing on buses, trains and other venues in Boston. They are part of a campaign organised by a coalition of U.S. environmental groups called Whales Need Us, to draw attention to the links between Icelandic whalers and fish sold in the U.S.

A picture of a whale appears on the poster, together with the name of the website where those interested can find more information.“The campaign has contacted retailers, wholesalers and the food service industry across the U.S. to let them know that American consumers do not want to buy seafood from whalers."

The groups decided to focus on Boston because the launch of the campaign mid-March coincided with the opening of the North American Seafood Expo at the Boston Convention Centre.  Supporters picketed the stall of HB Grandi, one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, asking onlookers to stop trading with the company because of its links with whaling.

The expo is the largest seafood trade event in North America.

At the start of the protest, fish consumers were requested to ask their local food retailers and restaurants to verify that their seafood products did not come from a source linked to Icelandic whaling.

“The campaign has contacted retailers, wholesalers and the food service industry across the U.S. to let them know that American consumers do not want to buy seafood from whalers, and asking for their help,” says Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute, one of the organisations behind the Whales Need Us campaign.

On Mar. 18, the last day of the three-day expo, Canadian-U.S. seafood company High Liner Foods (HLF) announced it would discontinue trading with HB Grandi because of its whaling connections. It had been trading with the Icelandic company since October 2013.

Since the end of the expo, U.S. companies Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market have severed ties with Rhode Island-based Legacy Seafoods, another company that imports substantial quantities of fish from HB Grandi.

HLF say they do not have any existing contracts outstanding with HB Grandi, and are committed not to enter into any new contracts with them until they have fully divested their involvement and interest in whaling.

“Even though HLF’s policy is strict on not doing business with suppliers directly involved in whaling, it has nothing to do with individuals or shareholders of HB Grandi. We have no control over the ownership of privately or publicly owned companies in HLF’s supplier base,” Elvar Einarsson from High Liner’s procurement division tells IPS.

At the end of 2011, High Liner bought Icelandic Group’s U.S. and Asian operations. Icelandic Group also agreed to a seven-year licensing agreement with HLF for the use of the Icelandic Seafood brand in North American countries until 2018.

“For HLF the marketing and sales of seafood from Iceland under the brand Icelandic Seafood is an important part of our business. There will be no change on HLF’s procurement from its other Icelandic suppliers and hopefully HB Grandi’s circumstances will change so they will be able to become one of HLF’s suppliers again,” says Einarsson.

Last September, Kristjan Loftsson from the whaling company Hvalur increased his family’s shares in HB Grandi from 10.2 percent to 14.9 percent. On the HB Grandi website, Loftsson is listed as chairman of the board.

At the time, there was obviously some concern over the repercussions that this could have. The fishing website Undercurrent reported “an Icelandic industry player” as saying: “Hvalur is Iceland’s only whaling company, and it’s increasingly a controversial activity. It’s obviously a risk to a company selling wild fish that their ownership is closely connected to whaling.”

Vilhjalmur Vilhjalmsson, CEO for HB Grandi, has stated publicly that he will not speak to the press on the company’s trade with High Liner Foods. In a short press release issued by his company, he is quoted as saying: “We agree with the government’s policy on sensible utilisation of natural resources and have nothing to do with what operations individual shareholders choose to practise or not practise.”

But Millward emphasises that they are not trying to attack Icelandic fisheries as such. “The campaign is in no way meant as an attack on Iceland’s economy and is geared only at those companies linked to the Hvalur whaling company,” she says.

In 2011, President Barack Obama issued diplomatic sanctions on Iceland as part of the Pelly Amendment. The Whales Need Us coalition has once again made use of this.

“The campaign has also urged the public to contact President Obama, and ask that he take targeted action against Icelandic companies connected to whaling by invoking the Pelly Amendment, a tool promulgated by the U.S. Congress as a means of compelling compliance with international conservation treaties,” Millward told IPS.

To an extent, this policy worked. Obama has said that he would invoke the Pelly Amendment and instigate a number of measures aimed at Iceland. But once again, these measures appear to be diplomatic rather than trade sanctions, although they are more extensive than before.

Coincidentally, Icelandic Social Democratic MP Sigridur Ingibjorg Ingadottir has just put forward a parliamentary proposal that calls for an investigation into the economic and trade repercussions for Iceland of whaling.

“The investigation will take into account both minke whales and fin whales,” she told IPS. “Are we prepared to sacrifice more for less, when there is growing opposition to whaling and Iceland is catching more whales than are deemed sustainable by the IWC [International Whaling Commission]?”

The IWC says that the annual sustainable catch for fin whales in the North Atlantic is 46, whereas Iceland has set a quota of 154.

Meanwhile, Loftsson and other Hvalur employees are becoming increasingly sensitive to outside criticism and have now removed the company phone numbers from ja.is, the Internet listing of Icelandic phone numbers.

The post Whales Find Good Company appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/whales-find-good-company/feed/ 0
Indigenous Leaders Targeted in Battle to Protect Forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/indigenous-leaders-targeted-battle-protect-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-leaders-targeted-battle-protect-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/indigenous-leaders-targeted-battle-protect-forests/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:45:22 +0000 Michelle Tullo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133548 Indigenous leaders are warning of increased violence in the fight to save their dwindling forests and ecosystems from extractive companies. Indigenous representatives and environmental activists from Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas met over the weekend here to commemorate those leading community fights against extractive industries. The conference, called Chico Vive, honoured Chico Mendes, a […]

The post Indigenous Leaders Targeted in Battle to Protect Forests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The open wounds of the Amazon. Credit:Rolly Valdivia/IPS

The open wounds of the Amazon. Credit:Rolly Valdivia/IPS

By Michelle Tullo
WASHINGTON, Apr 9 2014 (IPS)

Indigenous leaders are warning of increased violence in the fight to save their dwindling forests and ecosystems from extractive companies.

Indigenous representatives and environmental activists from Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas met over the weekend here to commemorate those leading community fights against extractive industries. The conference, called Chico Vive, honoured Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber-tapper killed in 1988 for fighting to save the Amazon.“Right now in our territory we can’t drink the water because it’s so contaminated from the hydrocarbons from the oil and gas industry." -- Chief Liz Logan of the Fort Nelson First Nation in BC, Canada

The gathering also recognised leaders who are continuing that legacy today.

“His struggle, to which he gave his life, did not end with his death – on the contrary,” John Knox, the United Nations independent expert on human rights and the environment, said at the conference. “But it continues to claim the lives of others who fight for human rights and environmental protection.”

A 2012 report by Global Witness, a watchdog and activist group, estimates that over 711 people – activists, journalists and community members – had been killed defending their land-based rights over the previous decade.

Those gathered at this weekend’s conference discussed not only those have been killed, injured or jailed. They also shared some success stories.

“In 2002, there was an Argentinean oil company trying to drill in our area. Some of our people opposed this, and they were thrown in jail,” Franco Viteri, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, told IPS.

“However, we fought their imprisonment and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in our favour. Thus, our town was able to reclaim the land and keep the oil company out.”

Motivated by oil exploration-related devastation in the north, Ecuadorian communities in the south are continuing to fight to defend their territory. Viteri says some communities have now been successful in doing so for a quarter-century.

But he cautions that this fight is not over, particularly as the Ecuadorian government flip-flops on its own policy stance.

“The discourse of [President Rafael] Correa is very environmentalist, but in a practical way it is totally false,” he says. “The government is taking the oil because they receive money from China, which needs oil.”

China has significantly increased its focus on Latin America in recent years. According to a briefing paper by Amazon Watch, a nonprofit that works to protect the rainforest and rights of its indigenous inhabitants, “in 2013 China bought nearly 90% of Ecuador’s oil and provided an estimated 61% of its external financing.”

The little dance

Many others at the conference had likewise already seen negative impacts due to extractives exploration and development in their community.

“We have oil and gas, mines, we have forestry, we have agriculture, and we have hydroelectric dams,” Chief Liz Logan of the Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia, Canada, told IPS.

“Right now in our territory we can’t drink the water because it’s so contaminated from the hydrocarbons from the oil and gas industry … The rates of cancer in our community are skyrocketing and we wonder why. But no one wants to look at this, because it might mean that what [extractives companies] are doing is affecting us and the animals.”

Logan described the work of protecting the community as a “little dance”: first they bring the government to court when they do not implement previous agreements, then they have to ensure that the government actually implements what the court orders.

Others discussed possible solutions to stop the destruction of ecosystems, and what is at stake for the communities living in them. The link between local land conflicts and global climate change consistently reappeared throughout many of the discussions.

“My community is made up of small-scale farmers and pastoralists who depend on cattle to live. For them, a cow is everything and to have the land to graze is everything,” said Godfrey Massay, an activist leader from the Land Rights Institute in Tanzania.

“These people are constantly threatened by large-scale investors who try to take away their land. But they are far more threatened by climate change, which is also affecting their livelihood.”

Andrew Miller of Amazon Watch described the case of the contentious Belo Monte dam in Brazil, which is currently under construction. Local communities oppose the dam because those upstream would be flooded and those downstream would suddenly find their river’s waters severely reduced.

“People are fighting battles on local levels, but they are also emblematic of global trends and they are also related to a lot of the climate things going on,” Miller told IPS. “[Hydroelectric] dams, for example, are sold as clean energy, but they generate a lot of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.”

According to Miller, one value of large gatherings such as this weekend’s conference is allowing participants to see the similarities between experiences and struggles around the world, despite often different cultural, political and environmental contexts.

“In each case there are things that are very specific to them,” Miller said. “But I think we are also going to see some trends in terms of governments and other actors cracking down and trying to limit the political space, the ability for these folks to be effective in their work and to have a broader impact on policy.”

Yet activists like Viteri, from Ecuador, remain determined to protect their land.

“We care for the forest as a living thing because it gives us everything – life, shade, food, water, agriculture,” Viteri said. “It also makes us rich, even if it is a different kind of richness. This is why we fight.”

The post Indigenous Leaders Targeted in Battle to Protect Forests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/indigenous-leaders-targeted-battle-protect-forests/feed/ 0
OP-ED: Climate Change May Affect Your Travel Plans – and Those of Millions of Animals http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-climate-change-may-affect-travel-plans-millions-animals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-climate-change-may-affect-travel-plans-millions-animals http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-climate-change-may-affect-travel-plans-millions-animals/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:36:53 +0000 Dr. Bradnee Chambers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133546 In this column, Dr. Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme's Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, describes the effects that climate change-related extreme weather events will have on the travels plans of both people and animals.

The post OP-ED: Climate Change May Affect Your Travel Plans – and Those of Millions of Animals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Hawksbill turtle, Komodo, Indo-Pacific. Credit: Courtesy of Image Broker/Robert Harding

Hawksbill turtle, Komodo, Indo-Pacific. Credit: Courtesy of Image Broker/Robert Harding

By Bradnee Chambers
SAN JOSÉ, Apr 9 2014 (IPS)

There are few experiences more frustrating than a delay in travel plans caused by bad weather. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this may be something we will have to get used to in the future.

In March 2014, the IPCC released the 5th assessment of the impacts, adaptation strategies, and vulnerabilities related to global climate change. The report makes it clear that travelling in the future will become more of an ordeal.

Extreme weather events related to climate change, such as heat waves, storms and coastal flooding, are predicted to increase in frequency with only a 1°C increase in average global temperature – and current trends indicate even higher rises in average temperature. Besides the more serious effects, this is a recipe for more travel delays, larger numbers of travellers stranded and a greater overall risk associated with travelling.

And the news gets worse if your destination involves beaches or coral reefs.

As more ice melts from the polar regions, the world’s oceans creep higher. Coastal regions and low-lying areas could suffer from submergence, flooding, erosion of coastlines and beaches, and saltwater pollution of the drinking water supply.

At sea, normally colourful corals are experiencing “bleaching” or turning white as a stress response to changes in the water itself. Carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, is dissolving into the world’s oceans, making them more acidic.

These changes are problematic for human communities. But people aren’t the only global travellers affected by climate change.

Nobody knows this better than the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which is dedicated, as its name indicates, to conserving international migratory species.

Migratory animals face many of the same challenges that humans do: having to choose when to travel, what route to take, where to eat and rest, and how long to stay before returning home. Unfortunately, these choices that are seemingly so trivial for humans are life-or-death decisions for migratory animals.

Migratory animals are potent symbols of our shared natural heritage, with their migrations often spanning continents. With warmer, wetter winters, migratory birds in Europe will be forced to migrate to breeding grounds earlier or face population declines, shrinking ranges, and the worst possible outcome: extinction.

The Monarch Butterfly undertakes an impressive migration spanning multiple generations, traversing vast distances across the North American continent. Climate change is transforming the current wintering habitats of this butterfly in Central America, making it more prone to wet freezes resulting in catastrophic mortality events.

Severe droughts, meanwhile, threaten one of the greatest migrations in the world, involving hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and other animals travelling across the Serengeti Plains of Africa.

In the world’s oceans, the planet’s largest fish species, the Whale Shark, is also threatened by climate change. Changes in global ocean temperatures and chemistry may cause declines in the numbers of this species in the future.

In marine turtles gender is determined by sand temperature on the nesting beaches, with cool beaches producing more males and warm beaches more females. Increasing sand temperatures mean that more females than males are born, thus affecting the optimal gender ratios. 

In light of these concerns, the Convention on Migratory Species is holding a workshop with national representatives and scientists in Limón, Costa Rica Apr. 9-11, 2014.

The goal of the meeting is to develop a Programme of Work on climate change and migratory species, addressing the need for monitoring, conservation, and adaptation strategies that accommodate the unique needs of migratory animals in the face of climate change.

The results of the workshop will be presented to the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS which will take place in Quito, Ecuador, Nov. 4-9.

Professor Colin Galbraith, the CMS Scientific Councillor for Climate Change, said: “The workshop has confirmed that climate change is one of the most important threats to migratory species and the ecosystems on which they depend. Participants have stressed the need for urgent international actions to address the complex threats from climate change. It is encouraging to see delegates from around the world working together to outline a Programme of Work for countries in the CMS to combat the effects of climate change on migratory animals.”

The prospect of having to sit even longer in airport terminals is doubtless frustrating for poor weary human travellers, but it pales into insignificance when compared to the ever worsening odds that migratory species are facing in their struggle for survival.

Climate change is a complex and daunting problem. The plans to reduce our impact on climate are important and so are the plans to mitigate the damage we’ve already done. Hopefully, through cooperation and active effort, we can conserve the beauty of travel and our travelling animals for future generations to come.

The post OP-ED: Climate Change May Affect Your Travel Plans – and Those of Millions of Animals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-climate-change-may-affect-travel-plans-millions-animals/feed/ 0
U.N. Aims at Treaty to Protect Marine Biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-n-aims-treaty-protect-marine-biodiversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-aims-treaty-protect-marine-biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-n-aims-treaty-protect-marine-biodiversity/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 21:03:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133406 At a political level, when the United Nations speaks of a “high seas alliance”, it is probably a coalition of countries battling modern piracy in the Indian Ocean. But at the environmental level, the High Seas Alliance (HSA) is a partnership of more than 27 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), plus the International Union for the Conservation […]

The post U.N. Aims at Treaty to Protect Marine Biodiversity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Yellow fish swarm Australia's Ningaloo reef. Around 80 percent of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, over exploited or significantly depleted. Credit: Angelo DeSantis/cc by 2.0

Yellow fish swarm Australia's Ningaloo reef. Around 80 percent of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, over exploited or significantly depleted. Credit: Angelo DeSantis/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 3 2014 (IPS)

At a political level, when the United Nations speaks of a “high seas alliance”, it is probably a coalition of countries battling modern piracy in the Indian Ocean.

But at the environmental level, the High Seas Alliance (HSA) is a partnership of more than 27 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), plus the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), fighting for the preservation of marine biodiversity.

As a U.N. working group discusses a proposed “international mechanism” for the protection of oceans, the HSA says high seas and the international seabed area, which make up about 45 percent of the surface of the planet, “are brimming with biodiveristy and vital resources.”

But they are under increasing pressure from threats such as overfishing, habitat destruction and the impacts of climate change.

The HSA has expressed its strong support for negotiations to develop a new agreement to establish a legal regime to safeguard biodiversity in the high seas.

Fisheries at the Tipping Point

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), cited by Greenpeace International, around 80 percent of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, over exploited or significantly depleted.

Some species have already been fished to commercial extinction; many more are on the verge.

And according to the World Bank, the lost economic benefits due to overfishing are estimated to be in the order of 50 billion dollars annually.

The value of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) on the other hand is currently estimated to amount to 10-23.5 billion dollars per year.

The deep ocean seafloor has also become the new frontier for major corporations with mining technology, promising lucrative returns, but not counting the impacts of such a destructive activity on other sectors, ecosystem services and coastal communities.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace says, the impacts of climate change are causing dead zones in the ocean, increasing temperatures and causing acidification.

Any such treaty or convention will be a new implementing agreement under the 1994 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Working Group, which is expected to conclude its four-day meeting Friday, says it is at a critical juncture of its work, and discussions are expected to continue into the future.

“The next three meetings present a clear opportunity to try and overcome remaining differences and to crystallise the areas of convergence into concrete action,” U.N. Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares said in his opening remarks Monday.

Sofia Tsenikli, senior advisor on Oceans Policy at Greenpeace International, told IPS, “Our oceans are in peril and in need of urgent protection.”

Faced with multiple threats, including climate change, ocean acidification and overfishing, the oceans can only provide livelihoods in the future if governments establish a global network of ocean sanctuaries today, she added.

“It’s simply scandalous that still less than one percent of the high seas is protected,” Tsenikli said.

She said governments must listen to the call by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and act urgently to protect marine life in the oceans by setting up a U.N. high seas biodiversity agreement.

On Monday, Ban said, “If we are to fully benefit from the oceans, we must reverse the degradation of the marine environment due to pollution, overexploitation and acidification.”

He urged all nations to work towards that end, including by joining and implementing the existing UNCLOS.

As of last year, 165 of the 193 member states have joined UNCLOS.

Friedrich Wulf, international biodiversity campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe, told IPS, “I can say the open sea is an area of dispute and is a major obstacle for designating the 40 percent protected areas target” – called for by the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – “and that this area is not feasible under this convention.”

“The issue has now been moved to the rather old UNCLOS but was quite heavily debated and I am not sure UNCLOS covers it well,” he said.

“So I think a new effort to have a U.N. regulation is very helpful. I don’t think it will be possible to reach Aichi target 6 on marine biodiversity without it, as there is a legislative gap in the open sea,” he added.

Aichi targets were adopted at a conference in Aichi, Japan, back in 2010.

Target 6 reads: By 2020, all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

At the June 2012 Rio+20 conference on the environment in Brazil, member states made a commitment to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction on an urgent basis.

“Healthy, productive and resilient oceans, rich in marine biodiversity, have a significant role to play in sustainable development as they contribute to the health, food security and livelihoods of millions of people around the world,” the meeting concluded.

The Working Group says it will present its recommendations on the scope, parametres and feasibility of the instrument to the General Assembly to enable it to make a decision before the end of its 69th session, in September 2015.

The meetings are being co-chaired by the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, Ambassador Palitha T. B. Kohona, and the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Liesbeth Lijnzaad.

The post U.N. Aims at Treaty to Protect Marine Biodiversity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-n-aims-treaty-protect-marine-biodiversity/feed/ 1
Look Who’s Helping Olive Ridley http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/look-whos-helping-olive-ridley/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=look-whos-helping-olive-ridley http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/look-whos-helping-olive-ridley/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:36:11 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133251 When Olive Ridley sea turtles nest on the beach in his village, little Warthy Raju can barely wait for the millions of hatchlings, with their three-inch shells and thumb-sized heads, to scramble out. Instead of heading for the sea, many disoriented baby turtles move landwards. Raju, all of 12 years old, plays knight in shining […]

The post Look Who’s Helping Olive Ridley appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Disoriented by land illuminations, landward straying Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings are collected by the community and released safely into the sea. Credit: Bivash Pandav/IPS.

Disoriented by land illuminations, landward straying Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings are collected by the community and released safely into the sea. Credit: Bivash Pandav/IPS.

By Manipadma Jena
GANJAM, India, Mar 27 2014 (IPS)

When Olive Ridley sea turtles nest on the beach in his village, little Warthy Raju can barely wait for the millions of hatchlings, with their three-inch shells and thumb-sized heads, to scramble out.

Instead of heading for the sea, many disoriented baby turtles move landwards. Raju, all of 12 years old, plays knight in shining armour, snatching them away from the clutches of death in bucketfuls – at least 30 buckets each day – and gently pours them into the receding waves.

Despite cheek-by-jowl proximity with over 6,000 people in three fishing villages, the 4.5-kilometre-long Rushikulya river mouth rookery in eastern India’s Odisha state has become a steady favourite of the nesting Ridley.Despite their own livelihoods being at stake, local communities still favour turtle conservation.

Rushikulya hosted about 300,000 of the total 694,000 Olive Ridley turtles that nested in Odisha in 2013. In February this year, though nesting unexpectedly halted after just two days, 25,000 turtles nested here and none at the other two rookeries in the state.

Community conservation efforts are being credited for the increasing mass nesting at Rushikulya.

“Community presence, instead of becoming a major deterrent, has emerged as the Ridley’s strongest support over the last 10 years,” Mangaraj Panda of the United Artists’ Association, which is involved in community conservation efforts, told IPS.

India’s eastern coastal state of Odisha each year hosts nearly half of the world’s and 90 percent of India’s nesting Olive Ridley turtles, categorised as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The only other major mass nesting beaches in the world are in Pacific Mexico and Costa Rica.

In Odisha, the Ridley nests in three major groups off the Indian Ocean – on the Rushikulya, Gahirmatha and Devi coasts. The last two are inside protected wildlife sanctuaries.

“By November, our men sight turtles congregating five kilometres offshore. By peak winter, pregnant females approach closer. We know it’s time to clean their nesting site,” 45-year-old Pari Behera, a fisherwoman, told IPS in Purunabandh village.

Rushikulya’s fisherwomen’s collectives lead turtle conservation efforts. With the help of local school students, they clear the site of discarded fishnets, glass, hard plastic pieces, branches and polythene bags.

Over six nights in mid-February, thousands of the reptilians, two feet long, weighing 50 kg, crowd ashore to dig their earthen-pot shaped nests, laying 110 to 180 eggs each.

Mesh nettings are embedded along 2.3 km to protect the hatchlings from straying landward as they are disoriented by illumination.

“Round-the-clock vigil inside the barricade keeps wild dogs, cats, hyenas and jackals from digging up eggs,” said 27-year-old Madu Shankar Rao in Gokharakuda village. Volunteers of the international non-profit World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and forest guards help.

The IUCN indicates a globally declining population trend for the Olive Ridley due to trawl fishing, destruction of habitat and global warming. However, India’s environment and forests ministry reports no such decline.

Nesting numbers in Odisha have in fact been rising over the last 10 years, according to an extensive 2013 survey by WWF. Nesting surged from 35,000 in 2002 to 460,000 in 2006, and to its highest ever at 720,000 in 2011.

Since 2004, the Odisha government’s annual fishing ban from November to May to protect the Olive Ridley has reduced their incidental mortality by half. This ban is for traditional fishermen as well as trawlers.

But threats persist.

“Even today, late in the night, the sea in the no-fishing zone looks like a mini township; trawlers are on business as usual,” Panda said.

Bivash Pandav, acknowledged as a global authority on Odisha’s Olive Ridley and a senior researcher at the Wildlife Institute of India, the environment ministry’s key conservation advisory institute, told IPS: “That Rushikulya hosts an extremely large number of turtles does not mean all is well here.”

Discontent has been simmering among fishermen ever since the seven-month ban was imposed.

“This remains a most tangled issue confronting fishermen and the state fisheries administration,” a key fisheries official told IPS, requesting anonymity. In early January, coastguards shot dead a fisherman who was flouting the ban.

In Podampeta, the richest of rookery villages, fisherman Babaji Ramaya told IPS, “Our kitchen fires don’t burn if we do not go fishing. The sea is our farmland and the fish our grain; what will our children eat?”

Podampeta’s brick houses sport bright glazed tile exteriors. Young fishermen flaunt smart phones. “Without an equivalent income, how can we give up fishing?” asked Ramaya.

Fishing families have up to three men each earning 200 dollars a month. Women earn 100 dollars preparing and selling dried fish.

While they have traditionally used wooden boats and nets that do not harm the turtles, with fierce competition from trawlers and a growing fishing population, they are increasingly switching to motor boats with propellers and advanced fishing gear. Besides, many do not observe the ban.

“All we request them to do is not use nets for 15 days annually – when gravid females come near the shore, nest and depart, and again when millions of hatchlings are outbound,” said Michael Peters, who heads WWF-Odisha.

Many admit that traditional methods of fishing do not harm the Olive Ridley. “The fishing ban should explicitly be for trawling, mechanised gill netting and long lining,” Pandav told IPS.

Despite their own livelihoods being at stake, local communities still favour turtle conservation.

“Proper resource mobilisation can make Rushikulya an ideal community reserve in India,” Pandav said, reiterating a decade-old community demand.

Community reserves, corresponding to IUCN’s Category VI protected areas, are granted when wildlife habitats are in private hands, making closed area protection unfeasible. It’s the community that administers the ecology and sustains livelihoods.

The Odisha government has tentatively explored the area’s ecotourism potential, webcasting Rushikulya’s nesting this year. But conservationists believe this could pose another threat.

“Bottom trawlers, unplanned beach development, including ports, lighting from coastal and defence infrastructure, erosion-control casuarina plantations and tourism can become major hurdles to turtle safe nesting,” Pandav cautioned.

The post Look Who’s Helping Olive Ridley appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/look-whos-helping-olive-ridley/feed/ 0
Carbon-Cutting Initiative May Harm Indigenous Communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/carbon-cutting-initiative-may-harm-indigenous-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=carbon-cutting-initiative-may-harm-indigenous-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/carbon-cutting-initiative-may-harm-indigenous-communities/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 23:35:29 +0000 Bryant Harris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133131 Civil society and advocacy groups are warning that a prominent carbon-reduction initiative, aimed at curbing global emissions, is undermining land tenure rights for indigenous communities, putting their livelihoods at risk. On Wednesday, an international dialogue here focused on the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation Plus (REDD+) programme, overseen primarily by the United Nations and […]

The post Carbon-Cutting Initiative May Harm Indigenous Communities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
U.S. Native American leader Tom Goldtooth. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

U.S. Native American leader Tom Goldtooth. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Bryant Harris
WASHINGTON, Mar 20 2014 (IPS)

Civil society and advocacy groups are warning that a prominent carbon-reduction initiative, aimed at curbing global emissions, is undermining land tenure rights for indigenous communities, putting their livelihoods at risk.

On Wednesday, an international dialogue here focused on the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation Plus (REDD+) programme, overseen primarily by the United Nations and World Bank.“As the carbon in living trees becomes another marketable commodity, the deck is loaded against forest peoples." -- Arvind Khare

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a coalition of organisations focused on land tenure and policy reforms, presented new research highlighting the lack of legal protection and safeguards for indigenous communities living in forests.

“As the carbon in living trees becomes another marketable commodity, the deck is loaded against forest peoples and presents an opening for an unprecedented carbon grab by governments and investors,” said Arvind Khare, RRI’s executive director.

“Every other natural-resource investment on the international stage has disenfranchised indigenous peoples and local communities, but we were hoping REDD would deliver a different outcome. Their rights to their forests may be few and far between, but their rights to the carbon in the forests are non-existent.”

REDD+ provides a series of financial incentives and rewards for developing countries to reduce their carbon emissions resulting from deforestation.

The World Bank plays an active role in REDD+ through its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the Forest Investment Programme (FIP), both of which are designed to encourage better forest conservation and stewardship.

However, watchdog groups say Latin American, African and Asian indigenous communities living in forests have yet to receive any REDD+ revenue streams from their respective governments.

“There has been no transfer of funds to the [indigenous] communities through the governmental REDD processes,” Khare told IPS. “And therefore, in most of these countries … no money has been transferred to the communities through these two major bodies [REDD+ and FCPF], which are actually piloting REDD in the world.”

RRI’s new research, which examines 23 countries, finds that only Mexico and Guatemala have laws meant to clarify tenure rights over carbon. Meanwhile, none of the countries have a legal framework or institutions in place to determine who receives REDD+ benefits for carbon emission reductions.

One-eighth the deforestation

In order to ensure that indigenous communities receive an appropriate share of the financial benefits from REDD+, many of the participants at Wednesday’s dialogue called on the programme’s overseers to explicitly link carbon rights with land tenure rights.

“Tenure must be a centrepiece of REDD …That recognition of local rights is essential to the viability of carbon markets,” said Alexandre Corriveau-Bourque, a tenure analyst at RRI.

“These observations are based not only on moral or legal grounds but on a growing body of academic literature demonstrating that communities with secure tenure have proven that they promote the permanence of forest carbon” – essentially, preventing deforestation – “often achieving better outcomes than state-protected areas.”

For instance, in areas of the Amazon where the land ownership rights of indigenous communities are respected and legally protected, the rate of deforestation is only one-eighth of the level in areas not under indigenous control.

When land tenure rights are not clearly recognised or legally protected, however, the potential for violent conflict, state repression and heightened deforestation increases.

“It’s also clear that insecure, unclear and unrecognised community tenure rights can lead to conflict and deforesting activities,” Corriveau-Bourque continued. “If governments decide that carbon is a public good and claim exclusive state ownership, as many have with mineral resources … it will add another layer of contestation and conflict in an already crowded field.”

In 2002, New Zealand declared state ownership of its carbon supplies, which actually resulted in an increase in deforestation. As a result, the government has since reformed the law to adapt a policy that gives communities and individuals more freedom to engage in the carbon trade.

According to RRI, 15 of the 21 countries with national planning documents for REDD+ noted that a major cause of deforestation and forest degradation was the absence of clear tenure policies.

Misattributed blame

In addition to the lack of clear land tenure rights, some analysts believe that the implementation of REDD+ will be detrimental to indigenous people as governments seek to misattribute and direct blame for deforestation towards local communities, rather than on the corporate interests operating in fragile forest ecosystems.

“The message coming from forest peoples is that they are being pressed from both sides,” Tom Griffiths, a coordinator with the Forest Peoples Programme, an advocacy group, told IPS.

“On the one hand, their forests are being given out without their knowledge and agreement to foreign companies for agricultural development and oil extraction. And on the other, they’re being pressed by these same climate initiatives, which are actually limiting their access to the forest.”

Griffiths suggested that the industrial sector is largely responsible for driving deforestation in many countries, but that subsistence farmers and poor people often get the blame.

He also notes that some analysts have characterised traditional rotational farming as “slash and burn” agriculture.

“There’s a deep prejudice in forest policymaking, and indeed the forest profession, against so-called slash and burn agriculture,” said Griffiths. “In fact, there’s a large amount of science to show that, with the right conditions, it is a fully sustainable form of land use and in fact can even enrich forest ecosystems.

“We’re very concerned that some of these REDD policies, forest climate policies, are not paying adequate attention to these obligations to protect customary rights to land and crucial customary systems or ways of using the land.”

Earlier this month, indigenous groups from around the world held an international conference on deforestation and local rights in Palangka Raya, Indonesia.

In addition to singling out agribusiness, infrastructure as well as mineral and energy extraction, they called for a halt to “green economy” projects, which they argued prohibit forest peoples’ “fundamental rights”.

In a declaration, the conference organisers directly criticized REDD+ both for its lack of progress on emissions reduction and for the restrictions it imposes on the rights of indigenous forest peoples to use their land.

“Global efforts promoted by agencies like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), [REDD+] and the World Bank to address deforestation through market mechanisms are failing,” states the communiqué.

“Not just because viable markets have not emerged, but because these efforts fail to take account of the multiple values of forests and, despite standards to the contrary, in practice are failing to respect our internationally recognised human rights.”

Furthermore, the declaration indicated that organisations collaborating on initiatives like REDD+ have implemented development programmes that have themselves contributed to deforestation:

“Contradictorily, many of these same agencies are promoting the take-over of our peoples’ land and territories through their support for imposed development schemes, thereby further undermining national and global initiatives aimed at protecting forests.”

The post Carbon-Cutting Initiative May Harm Indigenous Communities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/carbon-cutting-initiative-may-harm-indigenous-communities/feed/ 0
OP-ED: Protect Elephants and Gorillas to Sustain Our Forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/op-ed-protect-elephants-gorillas-sustain-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-protect-elephants-gorillas-sustain-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/op-ed-protect-elephants-gorillas-sustain-forests/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:56:07 +0000 Dr. Bradnee Chambers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133102 With Mar. 21 designated by the United Nations as the “International Day of Forests and the Tree”, Bradnee Chambers, the executive secretary of the U.N. Environment Programme Convention on Migratory Species, explains why he sees forest and species conservation as two sides of the same coin.

The post OP-ED: Protect Elephants and Gorillas to Sustain Our Forests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Forest elephants have been described by conservationists as gardeners of the forest. Credit: Richard Ruggiero/USFWS/CC by 2.0

Forest elephants have been described by conservationists as gardeners of the forest. Credit: Richard Ruggiero/USFWS/CC by 2.0

By Bradnee Chambers
BONN, Mar 20 2014 (IPS)

Of the endangered species listed for protection under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) a great many are forest dwellers – West African elephants, gorillas, bats and many birds.  

And it is not simply a case of the animals depending on the forest for food and suitable habitat to breed and raise their young — the forest often depends on the animals too.

Conservationist and CMS ambassador Ian Redmond describes elephants and gorillas as “gardeners of the forest”. Elephants provide an invaluable service by uprooting trees, thereby making holes on the jungle canopy which allows light to reach plants closer to the ground and encourages their growth.Forest ecosystems, the most biodiverse of all terrestrial habitats, are often very finely balanced.

Gorillas eat fruit and the seeds pass through their digestive tract to be deposited as fertiliser. Tropical fruit bats also play an important role in the pollination of plants.

Forest ecosystems, the most biodiverse of all terrestrial habitats, are often very finely balanced. The more diverse, the more robust they are and the better they are at doing what we want – and need them – to do.

While usually many species perform the same function, the removal of a top predator, pollinator or seed disperser can set off a chain reaction, with far-reaching consequences.

A reduction in the forest’s resilience, increasing the likelihood of further species loss, can impinge on its ability to provide the ecosystem services, such as water purification and the production of oxygen upon which human well-being depends. The livelihoods of as much as a fifth of the world’s population are directly linked to forests, which also provide a home for 300 million people.

The presence (or absence) of an animal as significant as elephants can have huge effects on the character of the habitat, as has been demonstrated by comparing two similar forest landscapes in Uganda.

Douglas Sheil and Agus Salim Center for International Forestry Research, Jakarta, Indonesia found in 2004 that the patterns of succession and regeneration in Budungo forest, which has no elephants, are totally different from those in Rabongo forest. Both forests are in Uganda where there exists a large elephant population.

It has been estimated that approaching one sixth of all greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to deforestation and forest degradation.  

A similar proportion of human-generated carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere by forests acting as “carbon sinks” through sequestration. Tropical forests also help to cool the planet as large quantities of water evaporate forming clouds that reflect sunlight away from the surface.

Dr. Bradnee Chambers says many endangered migratory species cannot do without forests; and the forests need the migratory species. Courtesy: Francisco Rilla / CMS

Dr. Bradnee Chambers says many endangered migratory species cannot do without forests; and the forests need the migratory species. Courtesy: Francisco Rilla / CMS

Eco-tourism is a booming business worth billions of dollars a year and wildlife watching forms a significant part of the sector. Sensitively managed, all players reap the benefits – the tourist gets the “close to nature” experience, employment opportunities are created in the local economy and the animals are seen as a valuable asset, not as an irrelevance, nuisance or a threat and therefore worth protecting.

Visitors are prepared to pay fees of 750 dollars to see the mountain gorillas of the Virunga National Park in Rwanda, where 10 groups of the reclusive animals have now been habituated to human visits. The visits are conducted under strict conditions: no more than eight tourists at any time; no noise; no approaching the animals; no litter; and, given the gorillas’ susceptibility to human diseases, no participants who are visibly ill.

During the 1990s the mountain gorilla numbers rose by 17 percent, with the greatest increase amongst those groups habituated to tourists and researchers. Without gorilla watching and the associated conservation efforts it is probable that the mountain gorilla subspecies would not have survived.

Instead it is estimated that today there might now be as many as 1,000 Mountain gorillas – still too few for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to regard them as anything more secure than critically endangered. The outlook is less rosy for the more numerous lowland gorilla subspecies, which are seeing their habitat destroyed by logging and conversion to agriculture and which are hunted for bushmeat, with some of the traumatised, orphaned young ending up in the exotic pet trade.

The baby animals certainly look appealing and generally gorillas are characterised by their gentle demeanour, but they do not stay young and cute for long. They are totally unsuited for domestication with a two-metre adult male weighing in at over 200 kgs.

Many endangered migratory species cannot do without forests; and the forests need the migratory species.

Humans need both as they contribute to a healthy environment, a benign climate, a sustainable economy and to a shared natural heritage that enriches our live in ways that cannot be expressed in monetary terms.

The post OP-ED: Protect Elephants and Gorillas to Sustain Our Forests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/op-ed-protect-elephants-gorillas-sustain-forests/feed/ 0
Fight Brews over Wild vs. Hatchery Salmon in U.S. Northwest http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/fight-brews-wild-vs-farmed-salmon-u-s-northwest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-brews-wild-vs-farmed-salmon-u-s-northwest http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/fight-brews-wild-vs-farmed-salmon-u-s-northwest/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 18:23:20 +0000 Michelle Tolson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133047 Built in 1909, Bonneville Fish Hatchery is one of the oldest and largest in the Columbia River Basin, located in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The hatchery annually produces over 11 million young fall Chinook salmon, three million coho eggs and 500,000 young steelhead for a number of rivers in the basin as part of an […]

The post Fight Brews over Wild vs. Hatchery Salmon in U.S. Northwest appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Bonneville Dam’s fish ladders allow Chinook salmon to migrate freely. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

Bonneville Dam’s fish ladders allow Chinook salmon to migrate freely. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

By Michelle Tolson
PORTLAND, Oregon, Mar 18 2014 (IPS)

Built in 1909, Bonneville Fish Hatchery is one of the oldest and largest in the Columbia River Basin, located in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The hatchery annually produces over 11 million young fall Chinook salmon, three million coho eggs and 500,000 young steelhead for a number of rivers in the basin as part of an agreement under the 1938 Mitchell Act.“It’s amazing. We have a healthy population of wild and ‘natural origin’ fish." -- Paul Hoffarth

This was designed to mitigate the loss of habitat from the numerous hydropower projects built along the Columbia Basin in the 1930s to provide cheap power and aid in river navigation.

Development came at a severe cost to the previously prolific wild salmon and steelhead runs, estimated at 16 million, that sustained regional Native American tribes as the fish returned from the ocean.

After over a century of steadily declining migrations, resulting in 13 threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead species with returns averaging 600,000, things might be looking up. An estimated 1.2 million of the Chinook salmon species alone crossed the Bonneville Dam fish ladders during the fall 2013 migration.

Caroline Looney-Hunt of the Yakama Nation tells IPS she has been a tribal fisherwoman for over 40 years, since age 12.

“I was the only girl fishing with my three younger brothers and my cousin and stepdad, who was also my uncle,” she said.  According to tradition, when a brother dies, the surviving brother will raise his children.

When her father died at age 35, her mother and 10 siblings faced a crisis but survived through fishing the Columbia. A tribal treaty with the U.S. government allows the Yakama, Warm Springs, Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes special fishing rights on the Columbia.

The tribes have been an important part of the recent restoration of salmon migrations, according to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission (CRITFC). All four tribes in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon have implemented, with the help of hired biologists, successful hatchery programmes that have restored low and previously extinct salmon and steelhead runs.

Stuart Ellis, a biologist at CRITFC, tells IPS there are three types of hatcheries under the Mitchell Act.

Production hatcheries tend to be the largest, like Bonneville, and are designed to mitigate the loss of salmon for commercial and sports fisheries and tribes, while restoration ones aim to repopulate extinct and threatened runs with wild salmon.

The third method combines restoration with production, which is what the tribes prefer.

Yet some critics believe that hatcheries represent yet another threat to wild salmon. Lawsuits have been filed over hatcheries on Washington’s Elwha River, where dams were recently decommissioned, and hatcheries on Oregon’s McKenzie River and Sandy River in the Columbia Basin.

The lawsuits cite the Endangered Species Act to access the courts to change how hatcheries are utilised.

In 2007, the century-old 22-megawatt Bull Run Hydropower project was decommissioned to support restoration of the Sandy River, but the Native Fish Society says Sandy River hatchery salmon supplied by the Bonneville site out-compete wild fish.

Bill Bakke, director of science and conservation for the Native Fish Society, tells IPS the NOAA government fisheries “don’t have a conservation mission. They are producing a huge amount of fish.”

According to the Mar. 14 ruling, the lawsuit has resulted in reducing Sandy hatchery releases from one million down to almost 500,000 fish, short of the target but a partial victory.

Mike Matylewich, fisheries manager for CRITFC, tells IPS “that project is a fisheries mitigation project which has the concrete to concrete hatchery structure.”

“The Native Fish Society would like to see the fish spawning in the river… [and their] remedy would be to shut down the programme,” he said. “The tribes would also like to see fish spawning in the river. [They] have advocated for integrated hatchery programmes that utilise wild fish in the brood stock so that the characteristics of the hatchery fish are as similar to the wild fish as possible.”

“The Nez Perce tribe has had a lot of success with their Snake River [Columbia tributary] fall Chinook program,” Sara Thompson, Public Information Officer for CRITC tells IPS. “That is a supplementation programme designed to put spawning fish on the spawning grounds. They had 56,000 adult fall Chinook go over the granite dam.”

While expensive, these programmes have a proven success rate of restoration.

“[These are] emergency cases and necessary,” explains Bakke, of restoration hatcheries for extinct salmon runs. “You will suffer a lower reproduction success but you don’t have a choice.” He contrasts this with larger hatcheries from state run projects. “What are their financial returns?”

For instance, state-run Entiat Hatchery in Washington had famously low returns for spring Chinook, with a harvest cost per fish at 68,000 dollars, according to a 2002 IEAB audit.

In 1990, only one spring Chinook was harvested, bringing costs for that fish to 800,000 dollars – the yearly cost of the programme. It was eventually phased out due to low returns and perceived risks to wild populations.

Ellis and Matylewich say things have improved since that report. Hanford Reach, former nuclear facility turned wildlife reserve, has become the largest spawning ground for wild fall Chinook in the entire basin and some hatchery-reared fish successfully spawn there as well.

Located east of Bonneville, the reserve has the longest stretch of undammed habitat along the Columbia.

Paul Hoffarth of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages the area, tells IPS “It’s amazing. We have a healthy population of wild and ‘natural origin’ fish. We tend to refer to fish now as ‘natural origin’ as this may be more accurate.

“A natural origin fish spawns in the wild and has strong physical characteristics, referred to as ‘fitness.’ Our fall Chinook are 80-90 percentage natural origin.”

He concedes a minority of naturally spawning fish were initially raised at nearby restoration hatcheries which don’t mark the fins, meaning commercial fishers will release them as if they were wild.

Starting in mid-March, juveniles have been emerging from the spawning gravel. They will stay at the site for 90 days until their ocean migration in the summer.

Back on the Yakama Reservation, Looney-Hunt says fishing is her only livelihood. Though she has experienced a lot of hardship, she says, “The last three years have been pretty good.” She processed 40 crates of fish one day.

Ellis and Matylewich are also keen to point out that hatcheries also provide much needed work to the region.

In her 54 years on the Yakama Reservation, the tribal fisherwoman has faced early deaths in her family due to accidents and alcoholism and is justifiably proud of her 15 years of sobriety.

“If I’m going to die, it’s probably going to be in the Columbia. We say ‘if you take from the river, it will take from you.’ The community has lost several fishermen to the Columbia but it has also been their lifeline. The next fishing season, which starts in May for the tribes, is predicted to be even better.”

The post Fight Brews over Wild vs. Hatchery Salmon in U.S. Northwest appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/fight-brews-wild-vs-farmed-salmon-u-s-northwest/feed/ 0
Heavy Rainfall Washing Out Honey Production http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/heavy-rainfall-washing-honey-production/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heavy-rainfall-washing-honey-production http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/heavy-rainfall-washing-honey-production/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:49:47 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132744 Allan Williams, 32, is an agriculture extension officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But as a trained apiculturist, he has also been involved in beekeeping as a hobby for the past seven years. He has seen beekeeping grow significantly since 2006, as stakeholders became increasingly aware of its importance to the agricultural sector, and […]

The post Heavy Rainfall Washing Out Honey Production appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Vincentian Allan Williams has been a beekeeper for the past seven years. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Vincentian Allan Williams has been a beekeeper for the past seven years. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
DUMBARTON, St. Vincent, Mar 12 2014 (IPS)

Allan Williams, 32, is an agriculture extension officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But as a trained apiculturist, he has also been involved in beekeeping as a hobby for the past seven years.

He has seen beekeeping grow significantly since 2006, as stakeholders became increasingly aware of its importance to the agricultural sector, and thus an important contributor to economic growth and development.What’s happening in the Caribbean should not be confused with colony collapse disorder (CCD).

But today, Williams is worried. Honey production has declined tremendously over the past few years and he blames the changing climate as one of the main causes.

He said unfavourable climatic conditions, such as continued heavy rainfall, reduce the honeybees’ access to nectar and pollen, weakening the colonies, which do not have enough food.

“This threat was very evident over the past decade, occurring exceptionally so in 2009, 2010 and 2013. The weather as you know is very unpredictable and it has definitely affected the production of honey for the last two years, but last year was the most destructive in terms of harvesting,” Williams told IPS.

“Climate change is evident as we see with the unpredictability of the rainfall and the flash flooding in very unusual times of the year.”

Last December, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was among three Eastern Caribbean countries (the other two being Dominica and St Lucia) affected by a slow-moving, low-level trough which dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain, killing at least 13 people, destroying agricultural farms and other infrastructure.

“Most farmers, from what I understand, did not suffer destruction of their hives but they suffered from the torrential rain,” Williams told IPS.

Beehives on a farm in Antigua increase pollination and crop yields. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Beehives on a farm in Antigua increase pollination and crop yields. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

He explained that when there is continuous rainfall “the bees are not able to go out and forage on trees where they could get food, so that really reduced our production and I was really affected by it. For two years we suffered a very unusual rainfall pattern.

“In April, the middle of the dry season, we had continuous rainfall for about three or four days and that impacted out production and we are seeing drier spells in the rainy season so there is a shift in the honey flow season when farmers can harvest,” Williams told IPS.

He said it used to be from February to May and even April, but “we are not able to harvest anything. That kind of change of our weather pattern is due to climate change.”

With just a dozen hives, Williams said that he harvests an average of 30 gallons of honey per year. This figure increases to 40 gallons in a “good year”.

Local honey retails for an average price of 100 dollars a gallon, slightly less than the imported product.

The apiculture industry here, which primarily deals with the production and sale of honey, is now valued at 76,600 dollars. The sector is recovering from an all-time low in 2006, when the honeybee population was almost wiped out by the ferocious Varroa Mite.

Over the last three years, the sector produced more than 1,000 gallons of honey from 477 colonies across the country.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines currently has 54 beekeepers recorded in its database, including nine women.

Rupert Lay, a water resources specialist with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), says climate change has begun to cause difficulties for bee farmers not only in St. Vincent but throughout the Caribbean.

“An interesting indicator occurring currently is the little to no production of honey in the region,” said Lay, who is participating in the USAID-funded Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) project that is being implemented by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

“This can be linked to the unpredictable weather patterns affecting farmer’s beehive colonies and thus honey production,” he told IPS.

“These events are disrupting farmers’ livelihoods which in turn affect adversely the fabric of society and livelihoods, including education. A farmer’s stress can be recognised by his or her children, thus creating worry which leads to decreased attention spans in the classroom manifesting in poor performance,” Lay added.

Williams pointed out that what’s happening in the Caribbean should not be confused with colony collapse disorder (CCD), a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honeybee colony abruptly disappear.

While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names, the syndrome was renamed CCD in late 2006 in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honeybee colonies in North America.

Colony collapse is significant economically because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by honeybees.

According to the Agriculture and Consumption Protection Department of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, the value of global crops with honeybees’ pollination was estimated to be close to 200 billion dollars in 2005.

Williams listed other constraints to the development of the apiculture industry as the lack of appropriate sites for apiary establishment; exotic pests and invasive species; lack of equipment; aerial spraying and lack of staff in the apiculture unit.

For Ricky Narine, a beekeeper in Barbados, the toughest challenge right now is saving the bees.

“We are trying to save the bees. A lot of people out there are using a lot of chemicals that are killing them and they don’t realise that without bees the environment is going to suffer. As much as you tell them they still do it,” he said.

“They can call us or use something safer. There are a lot of different insecticides that you can use that are bee friendly. They might be a dollar or two more but they are bee friendly and will not kill the bees.”

The post Heavy Rainfall Washing Out Honey Production appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/heavy-rainfall-washing-honey-production/feed/ 0
Mars Latest to Announce “No Deforestation” Palm Oil Pledge http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/mars-latest-announce-deforestation-palm-oil-pledge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mars-latest-announce-deforestation-palm-oil-pledge http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/mars-latest-announce-deforestation-palm-oil-pledge/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 23:01:43 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132637 The multinational food giant Mars, Inc. unveiled Monday a new set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that its palm oil supply lines are completely traceable and sustainable by next year. Global demand for palm oil has increased substantially in recent years, for use in both foods and household goods. Yet the industry, overwhelmingly centred in […]

The post Mars Latest to Announce “No Deforestation” Palm Oil Pledge appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Mar 10 2014 (IPS)

The multinational food giant Mars, Inc. unveiled Monday a new set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that its palm oil supply lines are completely traceable and sustainable by next year.

Global demand for palm oil has increased substantially in recent years, for use in both foods and household goods. Yet the industry, overwhelmingly centred in Malaysia and Indonesia, has been rife with environmental and labour problems."This isn’t an activist-led commitment. They’re doing it because they want to do it." -- Bastien Sachet

Recent months, however, have seen a cascade of major reform commitments from both palm oil suppliers and well-known consumer brands such as Mars.

“Rapid expansion of palm oil plantations continues to threaten environmentally sensitive areas of tropical rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands, as well as the rights of communities that depend on them for their livelihoods,” Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer at Mars, best known as the maker of M&Ms and other candies, said Monday.

“We believe that these additional measures will not only help build a genuinely sustainable pipeline for Mars, but will also help accelerate change across the industry by encouraging our suppliers to only source from companies whose plantations and farms are responsibly run.”

Under the new guidelines, Mars will require that all of its suppliers have in place sourcing plans that are both fully sustainable and fully traceable by the end of this year, to be implemented by the end of 2015. The company, headquartered just outside of Washington, is also instituting a “no deforestation” pledge for its palm oil supply as well as its sourcing of paper pulp, soy and beef.

“Four years ago, Nestle decided to go for full traceability and no deforestation, but at the time that decision was seen as very niche because it was being pushed by environmental activists,” Bastien Sachet, director of the Forest Trust, a global watchdog group that focuses on responsible products and whose newest member is Mars, told IPS.

“The great thing about Mars, particularly in their push against deforestation across commodities, is that this isn’t an activist-led commitment. They’re doing it because they want to do it, which means that they see what’s happening.”

Workers on Bugala Island work to clear the rainforest to make way for an expanding palm tree plantation. Palm oil production is one of Uganda's rising industries. Credit: Will Boase/IPS

Workers on Bugala Island work to clear the rainforest to make way for an expanding palm tree plantation. Palm oil production is one of Uganda’s rising industries. Credit: Will Boase/IPS

In this, Sachet refers to a growing trend from both palm oil supply companies and major consumer brands to recognise that previous industry certification efforts to clean up palm oil supply lines have been relatively ineffective. Ensuring the traceability of palm oil, on the other hand, turns this certification model upside-down.

“Over the last four years, the general public, industry and the brands have struggled to make progress on sustainability with the tool of certification. Meanwhile, we saw forests being trashed in Malaysia and Indonesia, a process that’s also beginning in Africa,” Sachet says.

“But now they’re realising that certification is not the only way to go. Instead, we can get traceability first, figure out where it’s coming from and then figure out what’s happening around its production. Eventually we can incentivise those guys who are doing well with more market share – and penalise those that aren’t.”

While much of the industry is currently based in Southeast Asia, many observers point to looming problems in Africa, where land is starting to be snapped up by speculators. Yet Sachet says the new policies being put in place by the global food industry could be laying the grounds for finding a balance between development and conservation throughout the palm oil industry.

Half the supply

A voluntary certification process for responsible palm oil production, known as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), has been in effect for a decade, and most of the major users of palm products do abide by its guidelines. Yet it’s become increasingly clear that RSPO certification has been unable to halt the industry’s mass deforestation and destruction of endangered habitat.

Mars’s Parkin notes that his company “recognised that even though we have already implemented a 100% certified supply of palm oil, this is not enough.”

Other major brands have made similar realisations in recent months, including Unilever, Hershey, Kellogg and L’Oreal. Perhaps more critically, this trend has now included some of the largest global palm oil suppliers, including Wilmar (in December) and Golden Agri Resources (GAR, just last week).

Wilmar alone accounts for more than 40 percent of the global palm oil supply. Altogether, companies controlling a bit more than half of that supply have now committed to having their products be deforestation free by 2015.

As recently as the middle of last year, that figure was zero.

“There has been progress and I definitely think we’re on the right track, though there’s still a long way to go,” Calen May-Tobin, lead analyst for the TropicalForest and Climate Initiative at the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC), a watchdog group here, told IPS.

“It’s also important to remember that these are still just public commitments. The action happens when these commitments get turned into policies and are actually implemented.

Last week, UCS released a scorecard that rated palm oil-related sustainability progress by the packaged food, fast food and personal care industries. May-Tobin, who was a co-author on the new report, notes that much of the new public pressure has been aimed at the packaged-food companies.

“On the one hand, it’s clear that when consumers speak up, these companies listen. On the other hand, I think the report’s major finding was how poorly the fast-food sector did,” May-Tobin says.

“Further, there are still a number of other large traders that now need to follow Wilmar and GAR’s example. We think the consumer companies are equally key in helping drive the traders, as the average consumer doesn’t necessarily know who Bungee or Cargill is, but they know Hershey and Mars.”

Advocacy groups are using the recent momentum to urge holdout companies to unveil their own commitments. Greenpeace, the group widely credited with pushing Nestle to make its landmark pledges in 2010, is currently focusing on the U.S. consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G).

“Mars joins a growing list of companies … that are finally promising forest-friendly products to their consumers. It shows that global public pressure is working, and is leaving P&G, which refuses to clean up their supply chains, increasingly isolated,” Areeba Hamid, forest campaigner at Greenpeace International, said Monday.

“P&G is relying on a certification scheme that has failed to prevent rainforest destruction in the habitat of endangered orangutans, or help reduce man-made fires like the ones that covered Singapore in smog last summer. It’s time P&G finally becomes proud sponsors of rainforests and commits to No Deforestation.”

The post Mars Latest to Announce “No Deforestation” Palm Oil Pledge appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/mars-latest-announce-deforestation-palm-oil-pledge/feed/ 0
Sun Shines on Forest Women http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/sun-shines-forest-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-shines-forest-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/sun-shines-forest-women/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 08:13:17 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132514 Chintapakka Jambulamma, 34, looks admiringly at a solar dryer. It’s the prized possession of the Advitalli Tribal Women’s Co-operative Society- a collective of women entrepreneurs that she leads. She opens up a drawer in the dryer, scoops out a handful of the medicinal plant Kalmegh and exclaims, “Look, it’s drying so fast.” Around her, women […]

The post Sun Shines on Forest Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Forest women in Anantagiri forest in the south-east of India check out their solar dryer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS.

Forest women in Anantagiri forest in the south-east of India check out their solar dryer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS.

By Stella Paul
ANANATAGIRI, India, Mar 7 2014 (IPS)

Chintapakka Jambulamma, 34, looks admiringly at a solar dryer. It’s the prized possession of the Advitalli Tribal Women’s Co-operative Society- a collective of women entrepreneurs that she leads.

She opens up a drawer in the dryer, scoops out a handful of the medicinal plant Kalmegh and exclaims, “Look, it’s drying so fast.”“We work hard, gather good quality herbs and seeds. Our life depends on this money. Why should we settle for less?”

Around her, women from the co-operative break into laughter.  The women are from the Koya and Konds tribes in the Eastern Ghat mountains of southern India. The forest has always been their home and their source of sustenance. Now, these women are tapping the sun that shines through it.

The solar dryer has four panels attached. It was installed two years ago by the Kovel Foundation – a non-profit group that helps forest tribes defend their rights and improve their livelihood.

The dryer – one of the two such machines installed by the foundation so far, cost about a million rupees (17,000 dollars)  says Krishna Rao, director of the foundation.

The investment has been worth it, he says, because the women are using it to run a business sustainably. “There are 2,500 women from 20 villages in the cooperative. None of them have studied beyond the junior school. Yet, they know how to run a business well,” Rao tells IPS.

“They are organised and work well as a team. Also, they are learning how to collect the roots, leaves and fruits without harming the mother plant, so that their resources don’t run dry.”

The forests of this region yield more than 700 non-timber forest products that include leaves, edible herbs, medicinal plants, fungi, seeds and roots. Most popular among them are honey, gum, Amla (Indian gooseberry), Tendu leaves, Mahua flowers and soap nuts.

Koyas and Konds have made a living for centuries off such forest products.  Penikala Ishwaramma, 23, is one of the herb gatherers. On a good day she gathers 20-25 kg of herbs. This year there is a bumper growth of the kalmegh herb in the forest, and Ishwaramma has gathered 116 kg of it.

The forest department buys much of this produce – 25 products must be sold to the department alone. But tribal people find the department’s procurement process slow and its prices lower than the market price. The forest department pays 45 rupees for a kilogram of gooseberry, while the existing market price is more than 60 rupees (about a dollar).

It’s this disappointment with government prices that drove the women to build their own collective business of selling forest products. Within two years, they are close to earning the 200,000 rupees (3,300 dollars) the Kovel Foundation loaned them.

The foundation had also provided basic entrepreneurial skill-building. Every day women like Ishwaramma bring their bounty directly to the cooperative where the managing team weighs and buys them, paying much higher than the government rate.

“We work hard, gather good quality herbs and seeds, “ says Ishwaramma. “Our life depends on this money. Why should we settle for less?”

But making a profit for the cooperative depends on producing good quality herbs quickly and efficiently – a difficult task as the women lack proper infrastructure to store or dry their produce. In addition, forests villages are very vulnerable to extreme weather, especially cyclonic storms.

According to the Disaster Management department of Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, the area has witnessed over 60 cyclones in the past 40 years, and the frequency is rising.

Using solar energy to dry their herbs has helped the women minimise risks of damage. In 2013, their forest was hit by five big cyclones – Mahasen. Phailin, Helen, Lehar and Madi. Yet the group didn’t lose much of their produce.

“Before a storm approaches, we try to dry as much of the herbs as possible and quickly pack them,” says Jambulamma. “We no longer need to leave them in the courtyard to dry.”

With drying and packaging no longer under weather, the group is now focusing on building a network of regular buyers, which would help them break even.

Bhagya Lakshmi, programme manager at the Kovel Foundation which connects the women with herbal product manufacturers, agrees. “They have already got their first big client which is a Bangalore-based herbal pharmaceutical company called Natural Remedies Private Limited. Currently, they are buying kalmegh in bulk quantity. We are trying to find more firms who will buy other products from them.”

Besides establishing a clientele, the women are planning to upgrade their technology. Krupa Shanti heads five forest villages in the area. Shanti says she is proud of the women’s cooperative and would like to see it grow bigger.

The government has installed a solar photo voltaic station at a nearby school that can convert and store solar power. Shanti is lobbying authorities to install one such station in her village.

“The government has so many welfare schemes. But for forest women like us, the best scheme is one that will help us become economically independent. If the government installs a solar charging station in each of our villages, we can expand this business and change our future.”

The post Sun Shines on Forest Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/sun-shines-forest-women/feed/ 1
Kerala Throttling its Golden Goose http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/kerala-throttling-golden-goose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kerala-throttling-golden-goose http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/kerala-throttling-golden-goose/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 12:49:50 +0000 Keya Acharya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132445 Farming, tourism, poor fishing practices along with misdirected policies are muddying the famous backwaters of Kerala, one of India’s best known holiday destinations. Nowhere is this misuse more visible than in and around the 95-km-long Vembanad Lake. Bearing the brunt are small fishing communities which are caught between dwindling fish catch, worsening water quality and […]

The post Kerala Throttling its Golden Goose appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Vembanad lake in Kerala is the lifeline for over a million people. Credit: Samson Alapuzha/IPS.

Vembanad lake in Kerala is the lifeline for over a million people. Credit: Samson Alapuzha/IPS.

By Keya Acharya
ALAPPUZHA, (India), Mar 6 2014 (IPS)

Farming, tourism, poor fishing practices along with misdirected policies are muddying the famous backwaters of Kerala, one of India’s best known holiday destinations. Nowhere is this misuse more visible than in and around the 95-km-long Vembanad Lake.

Bearing the brunt are small fishing communities which are caught between dwindling fish catch, worsening water quality and the usurpation of banks – traditionally used as fish-landing points – by tourism operators.The lack of a mix of saline and freshwater, vital to fish breeding, has affected fish species.

“Until about eight to 10 years ago, I would collect this amount in just two-three hours,” says fisherman Ashokan, pointing to a mound of black clams in his canoe-like boat. “Now I work the whole day to procure it,” he tells IPS.

Kerala’s backwaters, a tourist hotspot, are made up of a 1,500-km waterway network of canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers that run parallel to the Arabian Sea and are fed by both saline and fresh water, contributing to a unique ecosystem. Many areas in these wetlands are below sea level, allowing sea water to flow inwards.

Major towns and cities dot the backwaters, such as the historic port city of Alleppey, now called Alappuzha, where the Maharaja of Travancore oversaw the building of canal waterways in the 18th century.

At the heart of this entire ecosystem is the Vembanad wetland area, spread over 36,500 hectares and fed by six large rivers and seawater. It is a lifeline for over 1.6 million people living on the lake’s banks.

More than 150 species of fish are found in Vembanad Lake. The Horadandia atukorali fish is found only around Pathrimanal island in the lake. The ecological significance of Vembanad’s rich biodiversity has made it the country’s largest Ramsar site, meant to accord protection for conservation.

But being a Ramsar site has not brought any protection for Vembanad Lake so far.

The waters of the lake are now divided by the Thanneermukkom barrage, built in 1975 to shut out saltwater ingress into fields in a bid to promote double cropping of paddy in areas surrounding the lake.

The lake’s sea water ingress traditionally helped flush out waste while containing flood waters. The lack of a mix of saline and freshwater, vital to fish breeding, has affected fish species.

“Prawns spawn at the mouth of the estuary and baby shrimps are carried inwards into the lake with tidal sea waters, but they are now trapped, unable to flow inwards because of the barrage,” T.D. Jojo from the Ashoka Trust for Ecology and Environment (ATREE) tells IPS.

Chemicals from reclaimed farmlands, illegally discharged effluents from tourism houseboats and lakeside industries such as coconut husk retting have contributed to significant pollution in the lake.

The Thanneermukkom barrage, built on the narrowest part of the lake’s width, closes its gates each year from Dec. 15 to Mar. 31, and this has proved to be long enough to hamper fish breeding and also cause decomposition of nutrients in the lake.

As fishing stocks have decreased, fishermen have begun using methods that harm fishlings. Over-fishing is now a problem in Vembanad.

ATREE scientists have been working the last six years to conserve the ecology of the lake. “We now have 13 lake protection groups, trained to check water quality in the lake,” says Dr. Priyadarsanan Dharmarajan, team leader of the ATREE Vembanad conservation project.

Fishers, whose complaints on the lake’s deteriorating health were not taken seriously for years, now feel vindicated by data that shows low salinity and high acidity corresponding exactly to the shutting of the barrage gates.

“We want both saline and freshwater for farming and fishing, so we have asked for the barrage to be opened a little earlier,” says Murlidharan, member of a joint farmer-fishing forum and a fisherman for 30 years.

But the forum has small farmers whose voices are not heard by rich farming interests.

“Our primary concern is paddy. It is not possible to open the Thanneermukkom barrage a little earlier,” district collector N. Padmakumar, Alappuzha’s top administrative official, tells IPS. “The ratio of farmers to fishermen is 10 to one. Whose interest should I protect?”

He is also short of answers on the ecological degradation of Vembanad. “It (degradation) has happened historically. I don’t have a magic wand to make things right. There should be political will on the part of the government to do something.”

The resorts on the lake’s banks blame the houseboats for the pollution, but the houseboat owners deny this. “Houseboats don’t pose a problem for the lake,” says operator Dilip Kumar.

He also tries to sweep aside allegations of declining fish catch. “You can get prawns as big as this (pointing from his fingers down to his elbow) for 80 rupees (1.15 dollars) a kilogram,” he says.

 

The post Kerala Throttling its Golden Goose appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/kerala-throttling-golden-goose/feed/ 1
U.S. Farmers Report Widespread GM Crop Contamination http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/farmers-address-u-s-data-gap-gm-crop-contamination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-address-u-s-data-gap-gm-crop-contamination http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/farmers-address-u-s-data-gap-gm-crop-contamination/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 22:50:46 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132399 A third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced problems in their fields due to the nearby use of genetically modified crops, and over half of those growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GMO contamination. Of U.S. farmers that took part in a new survey, the results of which were released on […]

The post U.S. Farmers Report Widespread GM Crop Contamination appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The past year has seen multiple state-level legislative attempts to label or ban GM products. Credit: Bigstock

The past year has seen multiple state-level legislative attempts to label or ban GM products. Credit: Bigstock

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Mar 3 2014 (IPS)

A third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced problems in their fields due to the nearby use of genetically modified crops, and over half of those growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GMO contamination.

Of U.S. farmers that took part in a new survey, the results of which were released on Monday, more than 80 percent reported being concerned over the impact of genetically modified (GM) crops on their farms, with some 60 percent saying they’re “very concerned”."USDA has been extremely lax and, in our opinion, that’s due to the excessive influence of the biotech industry in political circles.” -- Organic farmer Oren Holle

The findings come as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken the unusual step of extending the public comment period for a controversial study on how GM and non-GM crops can “coexist”. During a major review in 2011-12, the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) concluded that it lacked sufficient data to decide on the extent to which GM contamination was happening in the United States, or to estimate the related costs incurred by organic and other non-GM farmers.

The AC21 recommendations came out in November 2012 and were criticised for being weighted in favour of industry. Critics have subsequently seized on the USDA’s decision to revisit those conclusions, and the new study, produced by an association of organic farmers and Food & Water Watch, a Washington advocacy group, aims to fill the committee’s professed gaps.

“The USDA said they didn’t have this data, but all they had to do was ask,” Oren Holle, a farmer in the midwestern state of Kansas and president of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), which assisted in the new study’s production, told IPS.

“Our very strong feeling is that the introduction and propagation of the genetically modified products that are coming out under patent at this point have not had the regulatory oversight that they should have, and need to involve a far broader section of stakeholders. USDA has been extremely lax and, in our opinion, that’s due to the excessive influence of the biotech industry in political circles.”

Misplaced responsibility

While GM crop use has expanded exponentially across the globe over the past two decades, nowhere has this growth been more significant than in the United States. While just one percent of corn and seven percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. came from GM seeds during the mid-1990s, by last year both of those numbers had risen to above 90 percent.

In the new study, nearly half of the farmers polled said they did not believe that GM and non-GM crops could ever “coexist”, while more than two-thirds said that “good stewardship” is insufficient to address contamination.

“The USDA’s focus on coexistence and crop insurance is misplaced,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said Monday, referring to an AC21 recommendation that GM contamination problems be dealt with through a federal insurance scheme set up to lessen the impact of natural disasters.

“The department must recognise the harm that is already being done to organic and non-GMO farmers and put the responsibility squarely where it belongs – with the biotech companies … Now USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem.”

Even as contamination reports continue to grow, the U.S. government’s most recent response, drawn from the AC21 recommendations, has been to encourage “good stewardship” practices and communication between neighbouring farmers. Yet non-GM farmers say that, in practice, this has meant substantial outlays of both time and money in order to safeguard their crops – and virtually no corresponding responsibility on the part of farmers using genetically modified crops.

Beyond regular testing and certification requirements, U.S. farmers are required to set aside a substantial buffer zone around their fields to guard against GM contamination. Averaging around five acres, this buffer zone alone costs farmers anywhere from 2,500 to 20,000 dollars a year in lost income, according to the new survey.

Other farmers resort to waiting to plant their crops until after their neighbours’ GM crops have pollinated. Yet this delay, too, imposes a financial burden of several thousand dollars per year.

“I’m getting tired of maintaining these miles of buffers,” one farmer wrote in response to the new survey, complaining about the heavy use of herbicides typically associated with GM crops. “How about the guy that sprays up to the fence be liable for the damage that is done?”

Old playbook

OFARM’s Holle says the findings on just how much farmers are paying to avoid GM contamination took him by surprise. Of this imbalance, he says U.S. regulators are continuing to play out of an “old playbook”.

“There’s been a lot of new technology introduced in agriculture over the past 50 years. But there’s always been a point of law that, whatever happens on my side of the fence, I’m still responsible for how it might affect my neighbour,” Holle notes.

“GMOs take away that neighbour-to-neighbour relationship, however, as the ways in which unintended presence occurs is a completely different set of concerns from other new technologies. For that reason, they need a completely different set of rules.”

While Holle says the USDA has been slow in recognising this new reality, he’s guardedly optimistic that a regulatory rethink is now taking place.

“This additional comment period, I think, points out that they were paying some attention to the initial comments that came in,” he says.

“It does appear that they’re taking a step back. It’s our hope that our efforts have at least gained some traction in recognition that all is not well and that they, perhaps, need to do some re-evaluation.”

Against what he says is an onslaught of lobbying by the biotech industry, Holle says the voice of non-GM farmers has strengthened largely through newfound consumer demand. The past year alone has seen multiple state-level legislative attempts to label or ban GM products, while stores have acted unilaterally.

On Monday, the United States’ two largest grocery chains indicated that they would not sell genetically modified salmon, a product currently being weighed by regulators here. Some 9,000 stores countrywide have reportedly made similar pledges.

“At least 35 other species of genetically engineered fish are currently under development,” Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group, stated Monday. The “decision on this genetically engineered salmon application will set a precedent for other genetically engineered fish and animals … to enter the global food market.”

According to a 2013 poll, 93 percent of U.S. respondents want GE ingredients or products to be labelled, despite strident pushback by industry.

The post U.S. Farmers Report Widespread GM Crop Contamination appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/farmers-address-u-s-data-gap-gm-crop-contamination/feed/ 43
Predatory Lionfish Decimating Caribbean Reefs http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/predatory-lionfish-prove-elusive-menu-item/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=predatory-lionfish-prove-elusive-menu-item http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/predatory-lionfish-prove-elusive-menu-item/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:23:57 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132238 The lionfish, with its striking russet and white stripes and huge venomous outrigger fins, wasn’t hard to spot under a coral reef in 15 feet of clear water. Nor was it a challenge to spear it. As I approached and brought the point of my Hawaiian sling to within a foot of it, it simply […]

The post Predatory Lionfish Decimating Caribbean Reefs appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Handling lionfish requires special care: some of their fins are tipped with venom that make even the slightest puncture extremely painful, though not fatal. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

Handling lionfish requires special care: some of their fins are tipped with venom that make even the slightest puncture extremely painful, though not fatal. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

By Christopher Pala
NASSAU, The Bahamas, Feb 28 2014 (IPS)

The lionfish, with its striking russet and white stripes and huge venomous outrigger fins, wasn’t hard to spot under a coral reef in 15 feet of clear water. Nor was it a challenge to spear it.

As I approached and brought the point of my Hawaiian sling to within a foot of it, it simply looked back, utterly fearless until I pierced it and brought it back to the surface.“They’re everywhere now. It’s a doomsday scenario.” -- Pericles Maillis

Within a half-hour, we had caught four of these gorgeous one-pound fish, and the fillets made excellent eating that night.

But the arrival of a tasty, abundant and easy-to-shoot fish on the Caribbean’s much-depleted coral reefs is anything but good news. A recent scientific paper brought new detail to previous studies, showing that a year after colonising a reef, lionfish reduced the number of native fish by about half.

“They’ll eat just about anything they can swallow and almost nothing eats them,” said principal author Stephanie Green of Oregon State University. That’s why they’re so easy to catch, she explained.

However tasty they may be, only a miniscule fraction of the invaders has been removed, while their numbers continue to grow exponentially, reaching densities never seen in the Pacific, their native habitat.

This suggests the lionfish, believed to have been introduced to the Atlantic coast by aquarium lovers in the 1980s, will likely wipe out most Caribbean reef fish in a decade or two, scientists agree. As a result, many corals that depend on herbivore fish will die and eventually turn to rubble, making shorelines more vulnerable to waves just as global warming is lifting sea levels.

As he steered his boat back to shore, my host, a Bahamian lawyer of Greek descent named Pericles Maillis, balefully contemplated our catch and said, “They’re everywhere now. It’s a doomsday scenario.”

Maillis, a lifelong fisherman, conservationist and a former president of the Bahamas National Trust, has been trying to promote a commercial fishery in The Bahamas, but the fish, first spotted here in 2004, has become nearly ubiquitous since 2010. And shooting it while scuba diving is still banned.

His pessimism is not unwarranted. Scientists from the southern Caribbean are reporting seeing densities of lionfish that until a couple of years ago were only documented in The Bahamas, the fish’s jumping off point from Florida into the Caribbean.

In the Atlantic, their range now covers 3.3 million square kilometres. They can reach densities hundreds of times higher than in their native range, for reasons that remain a mystery. “Something is controlling their abundance,” says Mark Hixon of the University of Hawaii. “We’re guessing a small predator that’s absent in the Atlantic is targeting baby lions, but we have no idea what it is.”

In addition to adult little reef fish, the lionfish swallow virtually all species of bigger fish when they appear on the reef as bite-sized juveniles.

Isabelle Côté of Simon Fraser University said that today, when she surveys reefs in the Bahamas, where she does most of her research, “you can see there are a lot fewer little fish than there used to be just four years ago.”

No so for the larger predators like snappers and groupers that are the mainstay of the local fishermen’s reef catch. A stroll along Nassau’s fishing docks confirms what scientists have observed: despite the explosion in the number of lionfish, the decades-old slow decline in the numbers of large predators has not accelerated – yet.

Because they take years to mature, it will take a while for the generation of juveniles that’s being gobbled up now to fail to replace the current adults, who are too large to be lionfish prey.

At Nassau’s waterside fish market, where a “Me? Worry?” mood prevailed, fisherman Carson Colmar, 45, said he’s not seen any significant drop in his catch of reef fish and lobsters. He started spearing lionfish simply because they’re so easy and abundant. “I sell 50 a week,” he said. “I’d catch more if I could sell them.” The fillets sell for eight dollars a pound, compared to twelve dollars for grouper or snapper.

One problem is that handling lionfish requires special care: some of their fins are tipped with venom that make even the slightest puncture extremely painful, though not fatal. So local people, already taken aback by their unusual appearance, often believe that the flesh may be poisonous too, which it is not. That, fishermen complain, limits demand.

In the United States, the notion that this lethal predator could be controlled by becoming dinner for the ultimate predator, homo sapiens, has received wide coverage. Lad Akins, the founder of REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, who has been working on lionfish control for nearly a decade, noted that the commercial take of lionfish in Florida, where REEF is based, quintupled in just a year to 6.1 tonnes in 2012.

“It’s growing fast, but we don’t know yet if it’s putting a dent in the lionfish population,” says Akins, who is based in Key Largo. Scientists said the strategy of “eat them to beat them” has failed to have any overall effect and is unlikely to do so because spearing lionfish is too time-consuming to be profitable.

So far the only documented successes have come from recreational diving companies, which are literally defending their turf. Seeing how the colourful reef fish that underpin the businesses could soon be gone, they have started methodically exterminating the invaders from their regular dive sites.

In Bonaire, a diving mecca the Dutch West Indies, the first lionfish was caught in 2009, and within two years they were proliferating, according to Fadilah Ali of the University of Southampton. But some 300 volunteers were given special spears, more than 10,000 lionfish were killed and soon their density dropped in the areas favoured by divers. “Today, on a typical dive, you’ll see very few or no lionfish,” she said.

Green of Oregon State said some reefs might survive if the recreational divers go beyond the reefs favoured by their clients, which tend to have many different species but few juveniles. To protect the young fish, they would have to eliminate lionfish from shallow areas around mangroves, which serve as nurseries, she said.

The post Predatory Lionfish Decimating Caribbean Reefs appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/predatory-lionfish-prove-elusive-menu-item/feed/ 2
Indoor Mini-Farms to Beat Climate Change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/indoor-food-gardens-beat-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indoor-food-gardens-beat-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/indoor-food-gardens-beat-climate-change/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 18:29:31 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132201 Industrial engineer Ancel Bhagwandeen thinks that growing your food indoors is a great way to protect crops from the stresses of climate change. So he developed a hydroponic system that “leverages the nanoclimates in houses so that the house effectively protects the produce the same way it protects us,” he says. Bhagwandeen told IPS that […]

The post Indoor Mini-Farms to Beat Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Ancel Bhagwandeen with his hydroponic unit for growing vegetables indoors. The unit makes use of smart electronics. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

Ancel Bhagwandeen with his hydroponic unit for growing vegetables indoors. The unit makes use of smart electronics. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 27 2014 (IPS)

Industrial engineer Ancel Bhagwandeen thinks that growing your food indoors is a great way to protect crops from the stresses of climate change. So he developed a hydroponic system that “leverages the nanoclimates in houses so that the house effectively protects the produce the same way it protects us,” he says.

Bhagwandeen told IPS that his hydroponic project was also developed “to leverage the growth of the urban landscape and high-density housing, so that by growing your own food at home, you mitigate the cost of food prices.”

The hydroponic unit can also run on solar energy. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

The hydroponic unit can also run on solar energy. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

Hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil using mineral nutrients in water, is increasingly considered a viable means to ensure food security in light of climate change.

His project is one of several being considered for further development by the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC), headquartered in Jamaica.

The newly launched CCIC, which is funded mainly by the World Bank and the government of Canada, seeks to  fund innovative projects that will “change the way we live, work and build to suit a changing climate,” said Everton Hanson, the CCIC’s CEO.

A first step to developing such projects is through Proof of Concept (POC) funding, which makes available grants from 25,000 to 50,000 dollars to successful applicants to “help the entrepreneur to finance those costs that are related to proving that the idea can work,” said Hanson.

Among the items that POC funding will cover are prototype development such as design, testing, and field trials; market testing; raw materials and consumables necessary to achieve proof of concept; and costs related to applications for intellectual property rights in the Caribbean.

A POC competition is now open that will run until the end of March. “After that date the applications will be evaluated. We are looking for ideas that can be commercialised and the plan is to select the best ideas,” Hanson said.

The CCIC, which is jointly managed by the Scientific Research Council in Jamaica and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute in Trinidad and Tobago, is seeking projects that focus on water management, resource use efficiency, energy efficiency, solar energy, and sustainable agribusiness.

Bhagwandeen entered the POC competition in hopes of securing a grant, because “this POC funding would help in terms of market testing,” he explained.

The 48-year-old engineer says he wishes to build dozens of model units and “distribute them in various areas, then monitor the operations and take feedback from users.” He said he would be testing for usability and reliability, as well as looking for feedback on just how much light is needed and the best locations in a house or building for situating his model.

“I would then take the feedback, and any issues that come up I can refine before going into mass marketing,” he said.

Bhagwandeen’s model would enable homeowners to grow leafy vegetables, including herbs, lettuce and tomatoes, inside their home or apartment, with minimal expense and time.

The model uses smart electronics, meaning that 100 units can run on the same energy as a 60-watt light bulb, he said. So it differs from typical hydroponics systems that consume a great deal of energy, he added. His model can also run on the energy provided by its own small solar panel and can work both indoors and outdoors.

Bhagawandeen said his model’s design is premised on the fact that “our future as a people is based more and more on city living and in order for that to be sustainable, we need to have city farming at a family level.”

A U.N. report says that “the population living in urban areas is projected to gain 2.6 billion, passing from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2050.” Most of that urban growth will be concentrated in the cities and towns of the world’s less developed regions.

To meet the challenges of climate change adaptation, the CCIC “will support Caribbean entrepreneurs involved in developing locally appropriate solutions to climate change.”

Bhagwandeen said that support from organisations like the CCIC is critical for climate change entrepreneurs. “From the Caribbean perspective, especially Trinidad and Tobago, we are a heavily consumer-focused society. One of the negatives of Trinidad’s oil wealth is that we are not accustomed to developing technology for ourselves. We buy it.

“We are a society of traders and distributors and there is very little support for innovators and entrepreneurs.”

He said access to markets and investors poses a serious challenge for regional innovators like himself, who typically have to rely on bootstrapping to get their business off the ground.

Typically, he said, regional innovators have to make small quantities of an item, sell those items, and then use the funds to make incrementally larger quantities. “So that if you get an order for 500 units, you cannot fulfill that order,” he said.

Fourteen Caribbean states are involved in CCIC: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Caribbean CCIC is one of eight being developed across the world.

The post Indoor Mini-Farms to Beat Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/indoor-food-gardens-beat-climate-change/feed/ 0
Website Gives Real-Time Snapshot of Deforestation http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/website-gives-real-time-snapshot-deforestation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=website-gives-real-time-snapshot-deforestation http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/website-gives-real-time-snapshot-deforestation/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 01:27:55 +0000 Bryant Harris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131862 A new website launched Thursday will allow governments, businesses, civil society and private citizens to monitor near real-time loss and gain in forest cover in every country around the world. On Thursday, the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank here, together with Google and more than 40 other partners launched an early version of a […]

The post Website Gives Real-Time Snapshot of Deforestation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The data from GFW will provide details about the operations of large corporate suppliers, some of whom engage in illegal timber harvesting. Credit: Crustmania/ CC by 2.0

The data from GFW will provide details about the operations of large corporate suppliers, some of whom engage in illegal timber harvesting. Credit: Crustmania/ CC by 2.0

By Bryant Harris
WASHINGTON, Feb 21 2014 (IPS)

A new website launched Thursday will allow governments, businesses, civil society and private citizens to monitor near real-time loss and gain in forest cover in every country around the world.

On Thursday, the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank here, together with Google and more than 40 other partners launched an early version of a project they’re calling Global Forest Watch.“You can’t solve problems that you can’t see." -- Rajiv Shah

U.S., Norwegian and Mexican government officials also attended the launch, alongside academics, businesspeople, civil society representatives and indigenous rights advocates.

“To be able to point to this tool, to look at data, is really, really important,” Kerri-Ann Jones, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, told IPS.

“President [Barack] Obama’s administration is committed to science-based policy, and when you can have real-time data and you can talk about changes on the ground … it’s going to have a very profound effect on our policy dialogue with partners around the world.”

Global Forest Watch (GFW) uses satellite technology from the U.S. government as well as “cloud computing” power donated by Google to provide close-range satellite imagery on tree-cover gain and loss. Currently, GFW provides monthly updates at a resolution of up to 500 metres, as well as yearly updates at a resolution as close as 30 metres.

Because GFW is free and publicly accessible, its partnering organisations hope it will enable private individuals to act as “citizen scientists”, able to exert public pressure on governments and businesses to implement eco-friendly policies and sustainable timber harvesting.

GFW can provide users with alerts via e-mail and text in multiple languages. It is also designed to allow users to upload and share its images over social networks, which organisers hope will help concerned citizens form advocacy groups.

Multiple governments and NGOs funded the project. Norway contributed 10 million dollars in funding while USAID, the U.S. bureau charged with administering foreign aid, donated 5.5 million. Additionally, the United Kingdom and the Global Environment Facility, an international conservation group, each put forth five million dollars.

Changing business

The data from GFW will provide details about the operations of large corporate suppliers, some of whom engage in illegal timber harvesting.

On Thursday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah noted that the data will shed light on these suppliers and allow his agency to work with foreign businesses to lessen the effects of deforestation in highly susceptible areas.

“You can’t solve problems that you can’t see,” Shah told IPS. “And now that we can see where deforestation is happening as it links into these specific supply chains, we will also target our programming and our funding to those communities to reduce the level of deforestation that’s taking place in the areas where it’s most acute.”

In addition to lumber, foreign suppliers often rely on rainforests to procure goods like palm oil, a popular additive in processed snack food.

report from the Rainforest Action Network, an advocacy group, found that the Kellogg Company, a U.S. food manufacturer, relies on palm oil suppliers whose activities contribute to widespread destruction of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests, severely threatening their indigenous inhabitants and endangered species like orang-utans.

In the face of public criticism, Kellogg announced on Feb. 14 that it would strengthen its standards for its palm oil suppliers to ensure more sustainable harvesting practices.

Palm oil also happens to be one of the industries that the U.S. government is targeting in its fight against deforestation.

“We have a goal that is precise and focused: ending tropical deforestation in palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper,” said USAID Administrator Shah.

Indonesia is particularly susceptible to deforestation, both for its palm oil and other natural resources. On Wednesday, an Indonesian court sentenced a police officer to two years in prison and a 4,000-dollar fine for illegal logging.

However, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a watchdog group, argued that the sentence was too light as the court acquitted the officer of laundering 127 million dollars, some of which is thought to be connected to the illegal timber shipments. The EIA believes this serves as evidence of Indonesia’s reluctance to take on corruption and illicit activity in the forestry sector.

On Thursday, a demonstration of the GFW website revealed illegal encroachment on protected rainforest land in Indonesia in addition to a national park in Cote d’Ivoire.

“[Indigenous communities] can see exactly what’s happening when and where, and perhaps even take a guess at who might be doing it,” said the WRI’s Nigel Sizer during the presentation. “So this supports dramatic improvements in enforcement and awareness across the world.”

Some companies, such as Unilever and Nestle, have already committed to deforestation-free supply chains, and say they plan to use GFW to help identify suppliers who do not comply with their policies.

“Global Forest Watch is a major step forward and to have data in near real-time is absolutely new,” said Duncan Pollard, a Nestle official. “It is going to change the way we do business.”

Two hectares per person

As demand for goods such as palm oil has expanded, their procurement has contributed to the drastic increase in the rate of global deforestation over the past century.

Although the rate has slowed considerably over the past 10 years due to local and international preservation efforts, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that the world still lost an estimated 2.3 million square kilometres of forest between 2000 and 2012. That is the equivalent of losing 50 football fields a day, or an area roughly the size of Costa Rica every year.

“The first forest assessment done globally was done in 1923,” the FAO’s Ken MacDicken said Thursday. “At that time, there were 10 hectares per person of forest in the world. As of 2010, there are about two hectares per person.”

Scientists have shown that rapid rates of deforestation have profound impacts on the accessibility of food, medicine and water, as well as on biodiversity and global climate change.

“Trees and forests have brought joy, have brought food, have brought water and have brought life throughout the world,” Andrew Steer, WRI’s president, said at Thursday’s unveiling.

“Forests are home to more than half of all species in the world. Forests provide employment and water for over a billion people. Forests sequester 45 percent of all of the carbon in the world, so [they] play a central role in our challenge against climate change.”

The post Website Gives Real-Time Snapshot of Deforestation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/website-gives-real-time-snapshot-deforestation/feed/ 0
Website Welcomes Wildlife Trafficking Whistleblowers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/website-welcomes-wildlife-trafficking-whistleblowers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=website-welcomes-wildlife-trafficking-whistleblowers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/website-welcomes-wildlife-trafficking-whistleblowers/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 23:57:11 +0000 Ramy Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131414 A group of international organisations fighting illicit wildlife trafficking has unveiled a new website aimed at assisting whistleblowers who want to aid in the fight against wildlife crimes. WildLeaks, the first platform of its kind, is an online portal where its creators say whistleblowers can safely and anonymously reveal information on wildlife crimes. Globally, this […]

The post Website Welcomes Wildlife Trafficking Whistleblowers appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Elephants in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

Elephants in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

By Ramy Srour
WASHINGTON, Feb 10 2014 (IPS)

A group of international organisations fighting illicit wildlife trafficking has unveiled a new website aimed at assisting whistleblowers who want to aid in the fight against wildlife crimes.

WildLeaks, the first platform of its kind, is an online portal where its creators say whistleblowers can safely and anonymously reveal information on wildlife crimes. Globally, this illegal trade is thought to be worth over 17 billion dollars a year, some of which is thought to be helping finance terrorism, particularly in Africa.“We encourage whistleblowers to use the completely anonymous process, especially if they live in oppressive regimes." -- Andrea Crosta

Officially launched on Feb. 6, WildLeaks is funded by the U.S.-based Elephant Action League (EAL) and run by a group of former law enforcement officers, journalists and environmental NGOs across five continents.

“The goal of WildLeaks is to facilitate the arrest and the prosecution of traffickers, corrupt government individuals, and anyone behind wildlife and forest crime,” Andrea Crosta, EAL’s co-founder and the central figure behind the WildLeaks initiative, told IPS.

Any individual who witnesses a wildlife crime or possesses any type of related information – documents, files, images or videos – can use the website to transmit that information to WildLeaks, using either of two routes of varying strength encryption.

The completely anonymous encryption route makes use of ‘Tor’ technology – more commonly known as the ‘Dark Net’ – and does not disclose the sender’s IP address or any other information.

“We encourage whistleblowers to use the completely anonymous process,” Crosta said, “especially if they live in oppressive regimes where communication is not free and where local governments themselves may actually be engaging in wildlife crime.”

The name of the new initiative is meant to resemble that of WikiLeaks, the group that has drawn much public attention over the last few years by disclosing secret U.S. government documents. But the WildLeaks initiative is designed to be substantially different from its namesake.

“First of all, we’re not after government or military documents,” Crosta said. “And second, while WikiLeaks tends to share everything with the media right away, for us that’s only the last option.”

Once WildLeaks receives any leaked information, the individuals and organisations behind the project will first assess its accuracy and reliability. Thereafter, WildLeaks will try to forward the findings to law enforcement agencies such as Interpol or to trusted government authorities.

However, if governments will not cooperate, the last option would be a leak to the media.

“It’s important to underscore that our goal is to work side by side with law enforcement agencies across the globe,” Crosta said. “We want to create a bridge between the public and law enforcement.”

Initial response to the new project has been positive.

“We strongly encourage anyone with information about wildlife crimes to report them to the appropriate law enforcement agency,” a spokesperson with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the country’s largest animal protection organisation, told IPS when asked about the WildLeaks initiative.

Global momentum

The launch of WildLeaks comes only days before a major international anti-wildlife crime conference kicks off in London, on Feb. 11. Hosted by the British government, the conference will bring together key actors in the global wildlife community to craft a global response to the illicit killing and trading of wildlife and forests.

The movement against wildlife crimes has gathered a lot of momentum in recent months. Last week, the French government publicly crushed three tonnes of illegal ivory, the first European country to publicly destroy illegal ivory.

Last month, the Chinese government also publicly destroyed a large quantity of illegal ivory, and the U.S. government took a similar action last November.

Activists have generally welcomed the new global momentum.

Peter Knights, the executive director of WildAid, an advocacy group here, welcomed the Chinese government’s public crush.

“Every great journey starts with one small step. This is a very important first step from China and it should be encouraged,” Knights told IPS in an interview.

Today, the profits from illegal wildlife trafficking are widely believed to be larger than the trafficking of small arms, gold, diamonds and oil. The illegal trade of tiger skins and ivory tusks has led to the estimated death of over 50,000 elephants a year and to an estimated population of fewer than 3,500 wild tigers across Asia, the Environmental Investigation Agency reports.

Last month, the Washington-based Stimson Centre released a report in which it showed evidence of the strong links between wildlife poaching and the financing of international terrorism.

“There is very strong evidence today that groups in the Central African Republic, in Somalia, and in the DRC are heavily involved in poaching,” Varun Vira, an analyst with C4ADS, a security firm here, told reporters at the launch of the report last month.

Activists and analysts alike believe that one of the largest terrorist organisations on the African continent, Al Shabaab, funds much of its activity through the illegal trade of ivory.

The Obama administration, too, has taken some steps toward fighting illegal trafficking in wildlife products. In July 2013, the U.S. president signed the Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, committing to assist “those governments in anti-wildlife trafficking activities when requested by foreign nations experiencing trafficking of protected wildlife.”

Obama has tasked several U.S. government agencies and departments with the enforcement of the new directive, including the Departments of Defence, Treasury, Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

 

The post Website Welcomes Wildlife Trafficking Whistleblowers appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/website-welcomes-wildlife-trafficking-whistleblowers/feed/ 0
Resistance Over GMOs as South Africa Pushes Biotechnology http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/resistance-gmos-south-africa-pushes-biotechnology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resistance-gmos-south-africa-pushes-biotechnology http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/resistance-gmos-south-africa-pushes-biotechnology/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 17:17:43 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=130807 On a family farm tucked between the rolling hills of Masopane, 40 km outside of South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, 35-year-old Sophie Mabhena is dreaming big about her crop of genetically modified (GM) maize. “This is my dream and I know that I am contributing to food security in South Africa,” she told IPS. Debate is […]

The post Resistance Over GMOs as South Africa Pushes Biotechnology appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
While Sophie Mabhena may be embracing the South African government’s policy to implement biotechnology in farming by growing genetically modified maize, anti-GM experts caution that this does not necessarily lead to food security. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

While Sophie Mabhena may be embracing the South African government’s policy to implement biotechnology in farming by growing genetically modified maize, anti-GM experts caution that this does not necessarily lead to food security. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
MASOPANE, South Africa, Jan 27 2014 (IPS)

On a family farm tucked between the rolling hills of Masopane, 40 km outside of South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, 35-year-old Sophie Mabhena is dreaming big about her crop of genetically modified (GM) maize.

“This is my dream and I know that I am contributing to food security in South Africa,” she told IPS.

Debate is raging here over the government’s policy to promote the cultivation of GM crops.

This month, South Africa launched a new bio-economy strategy, which the government says will boost public access to food security, better health care, jobs and environmental protection.

The new policy promotes multi-sector partnerships and increased public awareness on the benefits of biotechnology – including the use of GM crops.

Mabhena is growing GM maize on part of her family’s 385-hectare Onverwaght Farm because she says the transgenic maize has saved her 218 dollars a season in dealing with pests and weeds.

“Growing stack maize has reduced my costs in terms of pesticides and labour, but the major benefits are the good yields and income from growing this improved variety of maize,” Mabhena said from Onverwaght Farm where, this season, she expects to harvest up to seven tonnes of maize per hectare.

In-built insect resistance (Bt) maize has been grown in South Africa for the last 15 years, but not without opposition from anti-GM activists.

The benefits of GM maize that Mabhena speaks of are not shared by Haidee Swanby, research and outreach officer at the Africa Centre for Biosafety (ACB), which has been on the forefront of spirited campaigns against GM food in South Africa.

Swanby said that GM technology fits into a concentrated farming system, which requires large volumes based on economies of scale, but does not provide livelihoods or healthy, accessible food for ordinary South Africans.

“We need to take a step back and look at our food system in its entirety and decide what system is equitable, environmentally sound and will provide nutritious food for all,” Swanby told IPS.

“The system in which genetically modified organisms [GMOs] fit can’t do that. Apart from the technological failure – for example, the development of resistant and super weeds – adopting this technology leads to the concentration of power, money, land in the hands of the very few and does not necessarily lead to food security.”

Swanby said it was deeply ironic that controversial research on GM maize by Professor Gilles Eric Seralini from France’s University of Caen was ripped apart by regulators, while approvals to allow GMOs in the South African food system have been based on what she calls “un-peer reviewed science that is very scant on detail.”

A 2012 study by Seralini and his research team linked GM maize to cancer. The study has since been dismissed for failing to meet scientific standards by the European Food Safety Authority, a body responsible for reviewing the use and authorisation of GMOs.

“Very rarely do we see information on how many animals were used, for how long, what they were fed and a full analysis of the results. Why has Monsanto’s [an agricultural company and manufacturer of GM maize] research not been submitted to the same kind of scrutiny as Seralini?”

ACB’s recent report, “Africa Bullied to Grow Defective Bt Maize: The Failure of Monsanto’s MON810 Maize in South Africa”, states that Monsanto’s Bt maize failed hopelessly in South Africa as a result of massive insect resistance only 15 years after its introduction into commercial agriculture.

“Today, 24 percent of South Africans go to bed hungry … but the biotech industry has habitually used yield as an indicator of success and this is too narrow and very misleading,” Swanby said.

The ACB argues that the safety of stacking genes is a new area of science whose long-term sustainability remained questionable and states that Bt technology was approved in South Africa before regulatory authorities had the capacity to properly regulate it.

But Dr. Nompumelelo Obokoh, chief executive officer of AfricaBio, a biotechnology association based in Pretoria, told IPS that the GMO Act was passed in 1997 and before then GM crops were regulated under the Agricultural Pests Act.

“Farmers are business people. If it is so difficult or unprofitable to grow Bt maize why is almost 90 percent of our maize based on biotechnology? Surely, if South African farmers found GM maize so difficult to manage why haven’t they rushed back to the old maize varieties of the past?” asked Obokoh.

In 2011 and 2012, 2.3 million hectares and 2.9 million hectares, respectively, of GM crops were grown in South Africa by both small-scale and commercial farmers.

“Food security is a prime right and biotechnology offers one of the many available solutions,” Obokoh said. “While South Africa is without doubt food secure as a country, we still suffer from food insecurity at household level because of high costs of food and poor incomes. This is where biotechnology is complementing and not competing against conventional farming.”

Anti-GM activist and the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, Jeffrey Smith, told IPS via email that bundling herbicide-tolerant GM crops with herbicide use was in conflict with farming. He cited the diversion of much-needed research dollars into development of expensive GMOs and away from more appropriate technologies

“The GMO advocates have also promoted the myth that crop productivity, by itself, can eradicate hunger,” said Smith, arguing that key international reports over the last 15 years describe how economics and distribution are more fundamental to solving this problem.

However, in November the African Science Academies urged African governments to invest heavily on biotechnology, declaring that biotechnology-enhanced tools and products can help Africa break the cycle of hunger, malnutrition and underdevelopment.

The post Resistance Over GMOs as South Africa Pushes Biotechnology appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/resistance-gmos-south-africa-pushes-biotechnology/feed/ 2
Kenya’s Scorched Earth Removal of Forest’s Indigenous http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/kenyas-scorched-earth-removal-forests-indigenous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-scorched-earth-removal-forests-indigenous http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/kenyas-scorched-earth-removal-forests-indigenous/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 11:59:09 +0000 Matthew Newsome http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=130708 Kenyan government security forces are forcefully evicting thousands of people, including the indigenous Sengwer tribe, from the Embobut forest in western Kenya by burning homes and possessions in an effort to promote forest conservation, safeguard urban water access and “remove squatters”. “The Kenya Forest Guard is burning homes and belongings in the Embobut forest area. […]

The post Kenya’s Scorched Earth Removal of Forest’s Indigenous appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A torched Sengwer home in western Kenya’s Embobut forest. The indigenous Sengwer tribe are being forcibly removed from the area as part of the government’s attempt to preserve one of the country’s water towers. Courtesy: Justin Kenrick/Forest Peoples Programme

A torched Sengwer home in western Kenya’s Embobut forest. The indigenous Sengwer tribe are being forcibly removed from the area as part of the government’s attempt to preserve one of the country’s water towers. Courtesy: Justin Kenrick/Forest Peoples Programme

By Matthew Newsome
NAIROBI, Jan 24 2014 (IPS)

Kenyan government security forces are forcefully evicting thousands of people, including the indigenous Sengwer tribe, from the Embobut forest in western Kenya by burning homes and possessions in an effort to promote forest conservation, safeguard urban water access and “remove squatters”.

“The Kenya Forest Guard is burning homes and belongings in the Embobut forest area. They are threatening [people] with AK-47 guns. Gunfire has caused chaos as families run to hide in the mountain forest,” Yator Kiptum, a member of the Sengwer community, told IPS.

The Sengwer people, a traditional hunter-gatherer society estimated to have a population of only 15,000, have inhabited the forest area for hundreds of years and regard the Embobut forest area as their ancestral home."It is through such actions that whole cultures, languages and histories die." -- Tom Lomax, Forest Peoples Programme

International human rights organisations are condemning the Kenyan government for undermining the tribe’s constitutional entitlement to free, prior and informed consent to the evictions and for illegally breaking international agreements on conservation and human rights.

“Crucially, the constitution states that ancestral land and the land occupied by traditionally hunter-gatherer groups such as the Sengwer is ‘community land’ owned by that community. None of these legal provisions are being respected by the government of Kenya in the recent evictions of the Sengwer from Embobut forest,” Tom Lomax, a legal expert with the Forest Peoples Programme, an international NGO that promotes forest peoples’ rights, told IPS.

Despite the government declaring conservation as its reason for the community’s eviction, its actions break official commitments to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which require the state to protect and preserve traditional communities and their adaptive practices that have helped maintain the forest area.

Lomax maintains that the conservation of biodiversity or ecosystems in compliance with CBD commitments cannot justify evictions of indigenous communities by armed troops and the burning of houses.

“These evictions are unlawful under Kenya’s constitution and under its international legal commitments. The strong connection of the Sengwer to the Cherangany Hills forests [where the Embobut forest lies] means that their very physical and cultural survival as a people is at stake in these evictions,” Lomax said.

“It is through such actions that whole cultures, languages and histories die. Sengwer ancestors are buried in Embobut forest, and their sacred places and livelihoods are there. They have nowhere else to go,” he added.

However, despite protests from the Sengwer community about their forced removal, the principal secretary in the ministry of environment, water and natural resources, Richard Lesiyampe, said in a public statement on Jan. 7 that “people were moving out of the forest willingly.”

“The reason of telling people to move out of the forest was meant to conserve one of the Kenya’s water towers and no one is being forced out but are moving willingly,” he said in the statement.

Over the last 20 years regional landslides and election violence have created a large number of Internally Displaced Persons who have inundated the Embobut forest in the Cherangani Hills.

The Sengwer community have found themselves conflated with the settlers and labelled as “squatters” by the government despite an injunction secured at the High Court in Eldoret forbidding evictions until the issue of community rights to their land is settled.

The Kenyan government has pledged 400,000 shillings (about 4,600 dollars) as compensation to each evicted family. However, the Sengwer community have refused to take money in exchange for their land and burnt possessions.

The World Bank (WB) is being investigated by its own inspection panel after the Sengwer community complained in January 2013 that the WB-funded Natural Resource Management Project was responsible for redrawing the borders of the Cherangani forest reserves.

This redrawing of the borders led to the Kenyan government evicting, without consultation, community members found on the inside of the forest reserve. The government has invoked the WB redrawn boundaries to legitimise forced evictions from 2007 to 2011 and in 2013.

“While the main culprit here is the Kenyan government, the World Bank must also be held accountable. It financed a project that redrew the boundaries of the forest reserve without consulting the Sengwer,” Freddie Weyman, Africa campaigner at Survival International, told IPS.

“Some families therefore suddenly found themselves living inside the reserve and subject to eviction. This is now the seventh time authorities have torched houses in Embobut in the seven years since the project began. Can the World Bank guarantee that its loan did not facilitate these evictions?” Weyman asked.

International conservationists reject the Kenyan government’s stance that a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle is incompatible with the goals of conservation and forest protection.

Instead, they say, environmental conservation is best achieved by supporting indigenous communities who have experience of preserving their habitat and resources.

Liz Alden Wily, research fellow at the Rights and Resources Institute, told IPS that this is a “battle between conservation and particularly the colonial inherited mode of fortress conservation where everybody has to be removed for the forest to become pristine, to modern approaches which utilise occupying communities as the conservators.

“Around Africa and the world, the latter strategy is beginning to get a grip,” she said.

“These areas are the residue left of their ancient territories. [The] Ogiek, Aakuu, or Sengwer, are people who live essentially by forest hunting, honey gathering [some have 80 hives], and some small numbers of livestock and small farms. They have a different commitment to the forest. Consider, for example an Ogiek honey gatherer, dependent on his hives. Would he burn the forest or clear the forest and lose his livelihood?” Wily said.

Since the 1970s Kenyan authorities have made repeated efforts to forcibly evict the Sengwer from the forest for resettlement in other areas.

The “Fortress Conservation” approach that involves evicting indigenous communities rather than consulting and supporting them is increasingly discredited as counterproductive.

Instead, the ‘New Conservation Paradigm’ promotes an approach to conservation that supports ancestral communities to continue protecting their forests and biodiversity.

“Rather than returning the area to ‘pristine’ forest, it actually does just the opposite as profit-making plantations and agriculture replace the biodiversity of the indigenous forest. Far from protecting ‘pristine’ forest, this approach uses ‘conservation’ as its excuse to first evict the indigenous inhabitants before destroying the indigenous forest,” Justin Kenrick from Forest Peoples Programme told IPS.

The post Kenya’s Scorched Earth Removal of Forest’s Indigenous appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/kenyas-scorched-earth-removal-forests-indigenous/feed/ 2