Inter Press ServiceClimate Change – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:26:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 “Black Soils” – Excessive Use of Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury…http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/black-soils-excessive-use-arsenic-cadmium-lead-mercury/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=black-soils-excessive-use-arsenic-cadmium-lead-mercury http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/black-soils-excessive-use-arsenic-cadmium-lead-mercury/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:52:30 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151021 Soils are polluted due mostly to human activities that leave excess chemicals in soils used to grow food, the United Nations reports. Excess nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and cut crop productivity, ultimately putting pressure on arable land, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) […]

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Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

Soils are polluted due mostly to human activities that leave excess chemicals in soils used to grow food, the United Nations reports.

Excess nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and cut crop productivity, ultimately putting pressure on arable land, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 23 June informed. “When they enter the food chain, such pollutants also pose risks to food security, water resources, rural livelihoods and human health.“

The issue took centre stage at the Fifth Plenary Assembly (PA) of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) held at FAO headquarters in Rome this week.

“Soil pollution is an emerging problem, but, because it comes in so many forms, the only way we can reduce knowledge gaps and promote sustainable soil management is to intensify global collaboration and build reliable scientific evidence,” said Ronald Vargas, a FAO soils officer and Secretary of the GSP.

“Combating soil pollution and pursuing sustainable soil management is essential for addressing climate change,” said for his part Rattan Lal, President of the International Union of Soil Sciences, in his keynote address to the Plenary Assembly.

Soil pollution is mostly caused by human activities that leave excess chemicals like nitrogen, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in soils used to grow food

Degraded soils after flooding in Pakistan. Floods are an important transportation vehicle for soil pollutants. Credit: FAO

Tackling human-caused problems through sustainable practices will mean “more change will happen between now and 2050 than during the 12 millennia since the onset of agriculture,” he added.

The GSP Plenary Assembly is a unique, neutral and multi-stakeholder platform to discuss global soil issues, to learn from good practices, and to deliberate on actions to secure healthy soils for an effective provision of ecosystem services and food for all,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources. “Action at the country level is the new frontier.”

The Plenary Assembly endorsed three new initiatives aimed at facilitating information exchange: the Global Soil Information System; the Global Network of Soil Laboratories, set up to coordinate and standardize measurement across countries; and the International Network of Black Soils, launched to increase knowledge about the world’s most fertile agricultural soils, which are also known for their high carbon content.

Soil Pollution Under Scrutiny

Around one-third of the world’s soils are degraded, due mostly to unsustainable soil management practices. Tens of billions of tonnes of soil are lost to farming each year and one cause is soil pollution, which in some countries affects as much as one-fifth of all croplands, the UN specialised agency reports.

The term soil pollution refers to the presence in soils of chemicals that are either out of place or at higher-than-normal concentrations. Such contamination may be produced by mining and industrial activity or by sewer and waste mismanagement.

In some cases, FAO adds, pollutants are spread over large areas by wind and rain. Agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides – and even antibiotics contained in animal manure – are also major potential pollutants and pose special challenges due to the fast-changing chemical formulas employed.

Soil pollution is mostly caused by human activities that leave excess chemicals like nitrogen, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in soils used to grow food

Farmers unload soil in Sri Lanka. Credit: FAO

“Soil pollution is an insidious risk because it is harder to observe than some other soil degradation processes, such as erosion. The hazards posed depend on how soil properties affect the behaviour of chemicals and the speed with which they enter ecosystems.”

The diversity of contaminants and soil types, and the ways they interact, make soil surveys to identify dangers difficult and expensive, according to FAO.

Black Soils

Although commonly referred to in national soil classifications, “black soils” are far from uniform. The new International Network of Black Soils defines them as containing at least 25 centimetres of humus and with soil organic carbon content above 2 per cent; by this definition they cover about 916 million hectares, or 7 per cent of the world’s ice-free land surface.

Around one-quarter of black soils are the classic “Chernozem” type, with a humus layer of more than 1 metre; these are found in the breadbasket steppe regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and in the former prairies of North America, the UN agency adds.

The International Network of Black Soils aims to promote the conservation and long-term productivity of black soils by producing analytic reports and serving as a platform for knowledge sharing and technical cooperation.

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The World Is Burninghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-world-is-burning/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-world-is-burning http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-world-is-burning/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:23:33 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151014 Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements. In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the […]

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A view of rusted, abandoned ships in Muynak, Uzebkistan, a former port city whose population has declined precipitously with the rapid recession of the Aral Sea. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements.

In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported, adding that the heat-waves have arrived unusually early.

At the same time, average global surface temperatures over land and sea are the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Europe

In Portugal, extremely high temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius contributed to the severity of the devastating, fast-moving weekend wildfires that ripped through the country’s forested Pedrógão Grande region, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) north-east of Lisbon, leaving dozens dead and more injured.

WMO on 20 June also reported that Portugal is not the only European country experiencing the effects of the extreme weather, as neighbouring Spain – which had its warmest spring in over 50 years – and France, have seen record-breaking temperatures. France is expected to continue see afternoon temperatures more than 10 degrees above the average for this time of year.

Meantime in Spain, spring (from 1 March to 31 May 2017) has been extremely warm, with an average temperature of 15.4 ° C, which is 1.7 ° C above the average of this term (reference period 1981-2010), the UN specialised body informs. Many other parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, also witnessed above average temperatures into the low to mid 30°s.

United States

On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is also experiencing record or near-record heat, WMO reported. In parts of the desert southwest and into California, temperatures have hovered near a blistering 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).

Media reports on 20 June suggested that some plane traffic was halted in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport in Arizona because it was too hot to fly. The flight cancellations came amidst of one of the hottest days in the past 30 years of record keeping in the US state.

Near record-to-record heat has also been reported in the desert South West US and into California, with highs near 120°F (49°C) in places. More than 29 million Californians were under an excessive heat warning or advisory at the weekend. Phoenix recorded 118°C (47.8°C) on 19 June. A number of flights to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport were reportedly cancelled because it was too hot to fly.

And the so-called Death Valley National Park, California, issued warnings to visitors to expect high temperatures of 100°F to over 120°F (38°C to over 49°C). Death Valley holds the world record for the highest temperature, 56.7°C recorded in 1913.

Herders collect water with camels at one of the few remaining water points in drought-affected Bandarero village, Moyale County, Kenya. Credit: Rita Maingi/ OCHA

North Africa, Middle East and Asia

Meantime, temperature in United Arab Emirates topped 50°C on 17 May, while in the centre of Iran’s Kuzestan province in the South-East of the country, neighbouring Iraq, temperatures reached 50°C on 15 June, said the UN specialised agency.

The heat-wave in Morocco peaked on 17 May, when there was a new reported record of 42.9°C Larach Station in northern Morocco.

The high June temperatures follow above average temperatures in parts of the world at the end of May. The town of Turbat in South-Western Pakistan reported a temperature of 54°C. WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54°C temperature recorded in Kuwait last July.

Unprecedented Record of Displacements

Meanwhile, the world has marked New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Second. Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) informed in its report Global Trends, released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

Such an unprecedented high records of human displacements is not only due to conflicts. In fact, advancing droughts and desertification also lay behind this “tsunami” of displaced persons both out of their own countries and in their own homelands.

On this, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, alerted that by 2025 –that’s in less than 8 years from today– 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami” of climate refugees and migrants. See The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, reminded that the world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees. Neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration, but they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify on-going conflicts, Barbut explained. See: Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?

An Urgent, Potentially Irreversible Threat

In Parallel, the United Nations leading agency in the fields of agriculture has issued numerous warnings on the huge impacts that droughts have on agriculture and food security, with poor rural communities among the most hit victims.

As a ways to help mitigate the effects of the on-going heat waves, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 20 June signed with WMO an agreement to deepen cooperation to respond to climate variability and climate change, “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies, natural ecosystems and food security.”

Through this joint work, the two organisations will work on strengthening agro-meteorological services and making them more accessible to farmers and fishers; improve global and region-specific monitoring for early warning and response to high-impact events like droughts.

The agreement was signed on June 19 by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas on the sidelines of an international seminar on drought organised by Iran, the Netherlands, and FAO in Rome.

“Saving livelihoods means saving lives – this is what building resilience is all about,” said Graziano da Silva.
Recalling the 2011 drought in Somalia that saw over 250,000 people perish from hunger, he said, “People die because they are not prepared to face the impacts of the drought – because their livelihoods are not resilient enough.”

“For years, the focus has been responding to droughts when they happen, rushing to provide emergency assistance and to keep people alive,” he said, noting that while “of course, that is important,” investing in preparedness and resilience is essential.

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Children Now More Than Half of the 65 Million Displacedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-now-half-65-million-displaced http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:47:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150981 Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world. “We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to […]

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Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Of this figure, almost 23 million are refugees while over 40 million are displaced within their own countries. Approximately two-thirds of refugees have been displaced for generations.

Despite the slight decrease in displacement in the last year, the numbers are still “depressing” and “unacceptable,” Kelley told IPS.

“Each individual number really reflects a deep level of human loss and trouble and is experienced every minute and every second of every day,” she stated.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

However, the biggest new concern is now South Sudan where renewed conflict and food insecurity is driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

At the end of 2016, 3.3 million South Sudanese were displaced, equivalent to one in four people, and the figures have only continued to rise in 2017.

Kelley particularly pointed to the disturbing rise in displaced children around the world. Though children comprise of 30 percent of the world’s population, they disproportionately make up over 50 percent of refugees.

Over 66 percent of South Sudanese refugees alone are children.

Meanwhile, over 75,000 unaccompanied or separated children applied for asylum, a figure that is assumed to be an underestimate.

“I really ask you to pause and think about your own children or your nieces or your nephews and then think about the journeys that refugees take across conflict areas, across deserts, climbing mountains, giving their lives to unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers. And imagine those journeys of children without their parents or without adult accompaniment—then they arrive, and they are alone,” Kelley said.

The majority of displacements continue to be borne by developing countries which host almost 85 percent of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Such refugee influxes cause additional stress to low and middle income countries which already lack the necessary resources for their own citizens.

Uganda, where 37 percent live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, is now the largest refugee-hosting nation in Africa with over 1 million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi.

Already unable to provide adequate health services and other public goods to its citizens, Uganda’s resources have become increasingly stretched.

Despite the bleak picture and severe imbalance in global responsibility sharing, there has been little action or progress in the issue of displacement.

In 2016, a little over 40 percent of UNHCR’s budget was left unfunded, impeding the agency’s ability to meet refugees’ needs including relief items, shelter, and education.

Refugee plans continue to be underfunded, including South Sudan’s regional refugee response plan which is currently 15 percent funded.

Though 189,000 people were resettled in 2016 and a total of 37 countries are now providing resettlement places, both of which represent increases from the previous year, the number of available resettlement spots are still “disappointingly small” relative to refugee flows, Kelley said, urging for new approaches in displacement response.

In addition to highlighting the need for conflict prevention and mitigation, Kelley noted the need for more resettlement places, opportunities for family reunification, education scholars, and work exchange programmes in order to broaden the possibilities for refugees embarking on dangerous journeys due to consequences beyond their control.

She pointed to the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as a “positive” and comprehensive response framework to assist both refugees and the communities in which they live.

Adopted in 2016, the Declaration also tasks UNHCR with developing a global compact for safe, regular, and orderly migration which is undergoing negotiations in order for adoption by 2018.

Kelley also looked to action and engagement closer to home by individuals themselves, stating: “We can’t see these figures and sit back and say there’s nothing I can do.”

“We can volunteer, we can contribute, we can donate, we can educate, we can advise ourselves, we can try to build bridges within our own communities that seem to be widening day by day,” she concluded.

World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th to commemorate, raise awareness of, and mobilize action for the millions of refugees around the world.

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New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Secondhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:25:15 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150974 Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported. The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at […]

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After three days on the road, South Sudanese refugees arrive at the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp in Ethiopia. Credit: UNHCR/Diana Diaz

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

The report Global Trends, which as been released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20, marks a jump of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, urging “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving crisis.”

Grandi also called for properly protecting and caring for the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers – who currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively.

The Biggest Refugee Producer

According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighbouring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

However, in 2016, South Sudan became “the biggest new factor” when peace efforts broke down in July resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year.

Source: Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2016 report. Credit: UNHCR

Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five in her 30s, described how soldiers set fire to her village and she had to run for her life with her own five children and five others of relatives killed in the conflict.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” she told UNHCR staff during an interview at a temporary way station in Ethiopia.

In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of the year, in what is known as the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

Youngest Faces of War

About half of the refugee population last year were children younger than 18 years of age, according the report. This is in contrast to the fact that children make up only about 31 per cent of the total world population.

Among its findings, the report noted that some 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. These include youngsters like Tareq, 16, who dodged armed combatants to walk out of Syria into neighbouring Turkey.

“There was no future where we lived,” he told UNHCR. “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children like me, and they send them to war, and they get killed. I wanted to study.”

South Sudanese refugees spend the night at a way station in Gimbi, Ethiopia while en route to the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp. Credit: UNHCR/Dina Diaz

Seeking Refuge in Poor Countries

Developing countries are hosting the majority of the world’s refugees, UNHCR reported.

About 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

“This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict,” the UN agency said.

In addition, the figure “illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported,” UNHCR said, warning that the absence can create instability in the host countries.

Fleeing War, Disasters, Persecution

With a record 65.6 million people last year forcibly uprooted from their homes by violence and persecution, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on June 20 called on the international community to provide support and solidarity.

“We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” the Secretary-General said in his video message for World Refugee Day.

He noted that more people than ever in our lifetimes are fleeing war, disasters and persecution.

“Hardship, separation, death,” Guterres said, recalling nightmare stories heard from refugees and displaced persons, whose number rose 300,000 since the end of 2015.

Despite the hardships of fleeing with nothing, “they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world,” Guterres said. “They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity.”

The UN chief said it is “so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.”

According to the report, about 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

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Asia-Pacific: Farming Rice and Fish Together to Reduce Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 06:26:40 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150968 Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in a number of Asian countries for many centuries—even for more than 1000 years in some Chinese areas, the United Nations reports. With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider […]

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The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

FAO promotes advancements of innovative agro-aquaculture systems to enhance blue growth in Asia-Pacific. CREDIT: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/BANGKOK, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in a number of Asian countries for many centuries—even for more than 1000 years in some Chinese areas, the United Nations reports.

With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider choice of fish species and rice varieties, the rice-fish farming system can play a significant role in poverty reduction and improving food and nutrition security, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A prime example of this successful practice is found in Honghe County of China’s Yunnan Province.

Rural and Indigenous Communities

On this, Matthias Halwart, Senior Officer and Outreach Coordinator of FAO’s Sustainable Agriculture Programme, says that agriculture, integrated with fish farming, supports rural and indigenous communities and can significantly help countries address the challenges of poverty alleviation as well as improved food and nutrition security.

The five criteria that must be met for GIAHS accreditation:

1. Contributes to food and livelihood security,

2. Endowed with biodiversity and ecosystem functions,

3. Maintains knowledge & management systems of natural resources,

4. Cultures, value-systems and social organisations supported,

5. Features remarkable landscapes, land and water resources management.

SOURCE: FAO

“The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Halwart also pointed out that there is scope for a wider adoption of rice-fish systems in the region and beyond, while noting that the UN specialised agency was partnering with China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative and through its FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme to support countries on their path towards more sustainable agricultural systems.

Agro-Aquaculture

A group of agro-aquaculture experts from seven Asian countries attending a recent FAO regional workshop on innovative integrated agro-aquaculture in Asia, recently visited the rice-fish farming systems in the terraced rice field in Honghe, where fish is integrated in rice paddy to achieve higher yield and better quality of rice topping with fish as an additional commodity.

“As a result, the value of the combined output has tripled,” the Bangkok-based FAO regional office for Asia and the Pacific informs.

Honghe is a mountainous area where more than 85 per cent of inhabitants are the indigenous ethnic group called “Hani” and who are traditional rice growers in the terraced rice paddy. The county has been identified in the country’s list of poverty reduction areas.

The Freshwater Fisheries Research Center (FFRC) in Wuxi of China, which is an FAO Reference Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture, has provided technical support and backstopping to Honghe on the rice-fish farming system and set up an experimental station.

The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in some Asian countries for many centuries. Credit: FAO

The experts from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, and Viet Nam said they were convinced that the experience of Honghe could be replicated in their respective countries to help the local farmers in their fight against hunger and to improve their livelihoods and reduce poverty.

The group further recommended that FAO set up a rice-fish farming demonstration village in Honghe to showcase their experiences and good practices.

Xu Pao, a professor and Director of FFRC, stressed the importance of cooperation among the countries concerned to share experiences and expressed a willingness to continue providing technical support and assistance for the technology transfer on rice-fish farming, not only to farmers in Honghe but nationally and internationally.

The experts participating in the workshop and site visit noted the importance of using scarce resources efficiently and manage to grow nutritious and safe food with a minimum of potentially harmful chemicals, says FAO.

They also concluded that promoting an enabling policy environment and providing necessary technical expertise are critical elements in developing their business plans.

The group agreed to continue collaborating and to develop a regional strategy for upscaling the rice-fish farming systems through a regional technical cooperation programme, supported by various funding sources, through south-south cooperation.

At present, 26 sites in 6 countries (1 site in Bangladesh, 11 sites in China, 3 sites in India, 8 sites in Japan, 1 site in Philippines and 2 sites in Republic of Korea) are designated as GIAHS in Asia and the Pacific region.

More than 1000 Ago in China

In some Chinese areas, farmers combine rice farming with aquaculture, quite literally growing fish in their flooded paddy fields. The rice paddies offer protection and organic food for the fish, while the fish soften the soil and provide nutrients and oxygen for the rice crop, the UN specialised body tells in its report: Growing rice and fish – together a Chinese tradition for 1000 years.

The method proved to have several additional advantages. For instance, the fish also eat insects and weeds maintaining a perfect ecological balance that improves biodiversity while limiting problems caused by insects and plant diseases.

“This ancient farming system has been designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by FAO, making Qingtian County famous for something other than emigration, and now well-known for an agricultural system that has stood the test of time and remains in harmony with nature.”

New is not always better. “It turns out that our traditional fish-rice farming method is now seen by the world as a 1 000-year-old treasure,” says Wu, a participant and beneficiary of growing rice and fish–together, according to the report.

“People were so amazed by the beauty and wonder of the rice-fish culture system that our village has become the focus of international attention.” As Wu’s village became famous, many city dwellers and some foreigners began arriving for holidays.

Wu, like many other villagers, recognised that this proud and ancient agricultural tradition was about to improve their 21st century livelihoods. “I seized the opportunity to open the first locally owned and operated restaurant in Longxian village,” says Wu. “I began selling fish produced from the rice fields.”

In order to take full advantage of the new GIAHS designation, government experts helped the villagers plan for conservation and expansion. “We formed a special team and we became much more conscious of the importance of native/local plant resources conservation and environmental protection,” says Wu.

“Today, many species of birds, like egrets, which had disappeared for years, are once again seen flying around this area.”

Today the entire village is benefiting from the conservation of its agricultural heritage. The fish produced in the paddy fields of Longxian village that once sold for 20 Yuan (2.5 dollars) per kilogramme, today sell for 120 Yuan (19 dollars).

“There are now five restaurants run by farmers in the village,” adds Wu, “and there is no shortage of customers.” Last year the village received more than 100 000 tourists.

The persistence of traditional farming through the centuries is living proof of a successful indigenous agricultural strategy and a tribute to the “creativity” of small farmers throughout the developing world, according to the UN specialised agency.

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Africa: Drought and Jobless, Hopeless Youth, Fertile Grounds for Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 06:27:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150944 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

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

By IPS World Desk
ROME/OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Ignoring the plight of jobless young people in sub-Saharan Africa is a recipe for political instability and global insecurity, warned a high-level symposium of Africa’s interior, environment and foreign affairs ministers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The high-level symposium, which was held ahead of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17, stressed that Africa’s heavy reliance on the natural resource base for livelihoods is a challenge, and its mismanagement increases household risks and amplifies the vulnerability of millions of people.

This was the first time high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries met jointly to find solutions to Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men.“Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.” Monique Barbut

Participating ministers called for support to create land-based jobs in the rural areas to ward off the temptation for the most disillusioned to take up alternative but dangerous sources of income.

They called for the identification of sites where tenure or access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable at-risk-groups.

The high-ranking officials also called for partnerships to create 2 million secure land-based jobs through rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.

As well, they called for investment in rural infrastructure, rehabilitation tools and skills development and prioritisation of job creation in unstable and insecure areas.

The symposium examined the threats connected to sustainability, stability and security, namely, conflicts linked to access to degrading natural resources, instability due to unemployment of rural youth and insecurity and the risk of the radicalization triggered by social and economic marginalization and exposure to extremist groups.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

A young person helps out in his family farm in Gitaramaka village, Karusi Province, Burundi. Today’s generation of young people aged 15 to 24 is the largest in history. Governments around the world face the challenge of providing young people with jobs and opportunities that safeguard their futures. Credit: ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

Presidents Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger stressed that drought, food insecurity, water scarcity, unemployment, hopelessness about the future and poverty are fertile grounds for extremism, and a sign of insecurity, instability and unsustainability.

Two days earlier, more than 400 civil society representatives from African participated in their World Day observance, also in Ouagadougou, and organised by Spong, a local non-governmental organisation, to prepare for the International Summit of Non-State Actors titled, Desertif’actions 2017, to be held on 27 and 28 June 2017 in Strasbourg, France, which will be dedicated to land degradation and climate change, bringing together 300 stakeholders from 50 countries.

The outcomes of the Strasbourg Summit will be presented to the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held in Ordos, China, in September 2017, and the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.

“Frustrations Will Boil over with More Migration and More Conflict”

According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, more than 375 million young people will enter Africa’s job market over the next 15 years, of whom 200 million be living in the rural areas.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

FAO makes massive strides in famine prevention programme in Somalia. Credit: FAO

“Millions of rural young people face an uncertain future due to the lack of decent rural jobs and continuous loss of livelihoods due to land degradation and falling yields…Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.”

The challenge is bigger than just a matter of a million young African’s attempting to make the move towards Europe over the course of a year, she said, adding that the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation and desertification pressures in the next two decades.

“Imagine what could happen if each of you committed to rehabilitate 100,000 hectares of land in your respective countries… If young people in Africa were given the chance to bring that natural capital back to life and into production… With the right type of investments in land, rural infrastructure and skills development, the future in your region can be bright.”

During the celebrations, Barbut announced the two winners of the prestigious Land for Life Award: Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from South Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India.

The Land for Life China award was given to Ms Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

The winners show that restoration of degraded land can halt distress migration that is driven by unproductive land resources, Barbut said. “Families and communities are transformed and become more resilient towards climate change when job opportunities are created.”

The 1st African Action Summit by Heads of State and Government held in Marrakesh in 2016 launched the Sustainability, Stability and Security initiative – the 3S Initiative – with a commitment to speed up the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands as a means to create jobs for rural youth.

According to Batio Bassiere, Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, his country, on average, loses 360,000 hectares of land to degradation every year, with significant impacts on 85 per cent of the population that lives off agriculture and pastoral activities.

As stated in the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Our Land, Our Home, Our Future must be preserved against all forms of degradation or desertification, said the minister.

Burkina Faso is now among the 110 countries that to-date have committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of land degradation neutrality by 2030, he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. It promotes good land stewardship, and its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UNCCD, the end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

“By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.”

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Africa Could Help Feed the World – If Its Fertile Land Doesn’t Vanishhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 21:59:48 +0000 Younouss Youn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150931 The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land. Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch […]

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The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré spoke on behalf of his peers Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita of Mali and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger at the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, June 2017. Credit: Younouss Youn/IPS

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré spoke on behalf of his peers Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita of Mali and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger at the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, June 2017. Credit: Younouss Youn/IPS

By Younouss Youn
OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land.

Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch Kaboré from Burkina Faso. The Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut also attended the event.Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands, and nearly 75 percent of agricultural land is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

According to the UNCCD, two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, but nearly 75 percent is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

The region is also affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly devastating in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

“Degraded lands is not an inevitable fate. Restoration is still possible. However, what will be more difficult is to feed 10 billion human beings in 30 years. The only place where there are still lands to do that is Africa. We need these lands to feed the whole planet. Therefore restoring lands is assuring food security for the whole planet,” said Barbut.

The high-level meeting that gathered 400 experts from around the world ended in the Call from Ouagadougou, urging citizens and governments to tackle desertification by restoring ten million hectares of land and by creating two million green jobs for youth, women and migrants.

“By 2050, the African population will double to two billion people,” Barbut noted. “I fear that as the population depends up to 80 percent on natural resources for their livelihoods, those resources will vanish given the great pressure on them.”

She added that young people emerging from this demographic growth will need decent jobs.

“In the next 15 years, 375 million young people will be entering the job market in Africa. Two hundred million of them will live in rural areas and 60 million will be obliged to leave those areas because of the pressure on natural resources.”

According to UNCCD, it is critical to enact policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land, as there are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned.

Talking specifically about Burkina Faso, which hosted the celebration, Batio Nestor Bassiere, the minister in charge of environmental issues, said, “From 2002 to 2013, 5.16 million hectares, 19 percent of the country’s territory, has been degraded by desertification.”

The situation is similar in most African countries. That’s why “it’s nonsense to sit and watch that happening without acting, given that the means for action are available,” said Barbut.

The Call from Ouagadougou comes from a common willingness to save the planet and Africa particularly from desertification. Gathered to discuss the topic “Our land, our house, our future,” linked to the fulfillment of the 3S Initiative (sustainability, stability, and security in Africa), the Call from Ouagadougou also invites African countries to create conditions for the development of new job opportunities by targeting the places where the access to land can be reinforced and land rights secured for vulnerable populations.

Development partners and other actors have also been called on to give their contributions. They were invited to help African countries to invest in rural infrastructure, land restoration, and the development of skills in chosen areas and among those facing migration and social risks.

For that, the UN agency in charge of the fight against desertification and its partners can rely on the firm support of the three heads of state who came for this 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification.

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré let the audience know that they are all “engaged to promote regional and global partnerships to find funds for investment in lands restoration and long term land management, wherever they will have opportunities to speak.”

Representing the African Union, Ahmed Elmekaa, Director, African Union/SAFGRAD, said drawing attention to the resolutions of desertification, land degradation and drought and on climate change are at the top of the African Union’s environmental agenda.

Taking advantage of the celebration, the national authorities gave the name of the very first executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hama Arba Diallo, to a street of the capital Ouagadougou. Experts from many countries also had the opportunity to visit sites showing the experience of Burkina Faso in combating desertification.

At a dinner ceremony held immediately following the closure of the ceremony, the UNCCD announced the winners of the Land for Life Award, Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India. The Land for Life China award was given to Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

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BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:35:54 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150924 With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations. The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, […]

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BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030

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

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations.

The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), form an important economic block, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on June 16 reported.

They account for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 20 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Together, they produce more than one-third of global cereal production. Last year, Russia became the largest wheat exporter in the world.

“The BRICS countries play an important political role in the international arena. Developing countries around the world look to your successes in economic development over the past few decades as an example to follow,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during the 7th Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, in Nanjing, China.

“Your experiences provide a path that can help us all meet our global collective commitments, namely those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and the Paris climate accord.”

Kadiresan pointed out that, despite trends towards urbanization, poverty in the world today is primarily rural. As a result, accelerating rural development will be key to achieving the SDGs.

“The question is how can we do this? Our experiences in countries in different parts of the world have shown that it can best be done through a combination of agricultural growth and targeted social protection, but also through growth in the rural nonfarm economy,” she said.

“Agriculture can be a driver of sustained and inclusive rural growth. In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy.”

Equally important is that all the tools, approaches and technologies developed “must be useful and accessible to poor family farmers in developing countries” so that they can increase production and productivity.

BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have strong agricultural research systems. Credit: FAO


BRICS Strong in Agricultural Research

Achieving agricultural growth would also require investments in research and development, and the BRICS countries could play a leading role in this, as all five countries have strong agricultural research systems that are working on many of the challenges faced by developing countries, such as feeding a growing population in a sustainable way, according to FAO.

“Biotechnology would also play a key role in these advances, as would agro-ecological approaches. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on cutting-edge research.”

Information and Communication Technologies are becoming more widespread by the day, and they offer a promising approach to address many of the challenges smallholders face with regard to information on prices, weather forecasts, vaccines, financial services, and much more.

Agricultural Growth Not Enough

Agricultural growth, as important as it is, cannot eradicate hunger and poverty all by itself – social protection programmes can also play a key role in rural development, the UN specialised body says.

These programmes have important poverty reduction and health benefits, and can also strengthen the confidence of family farmers, encouraging them to become more entrepreneurial, it explains. “Brazil’s Fome Zero and India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are global references in this regard.”

Kadiresan stressed that it is important not to overlook the key role played by the rural non-farm economy in fostering rural development.

“As economies transform, most farm households obtain significant income from activities other than farming. The income from these activities provides not only a higher standard of living, but also a more stable one in many cases. Governments play a key role in encouraging this transformation by investing in rural health and education,” she said.

“While these investments are typically not within the Ministry of Agriculture’s mandate, we must support such investments, as they are in the interest of our rural constituents. Where would any of us be today without the opportunities provided by our former teachers and a strong educational system?”

International trade could also serve as an effective instrument in promoting food security and act as an adaptation tool to climate change. When an inevitable bad harvest occurs, as it does in every country at some stage, timely imports can help to rebalance the domestic food economy.

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IFAD’s President Houngbo Calls for Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Poverty-Free Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:26:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150919 Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo. Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation. Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict. One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, […]

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Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to IFAD's new president Gilbert Houngbo

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo's first official visit to Uganda where he met with small holder farmers in financial saving groups. Credit: IFAD

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo.

Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation.

Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict.

One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, and many risk slipping back into poverty.

A former Prime Minister of Togo, Houngbo entered IFAD’s presidency at a time of extreme suffering around the world. Though the global picture seems bleak, Houngbo remains optimistic and highlights the importance of long-term investments and development in agriculture in rural areas.

Though often neglected, rural areas are home to 80 percent of the world. Such areas are also responsible for most countries’ agriculture, and small farms in particular account for up to 80 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

Agriculture is therefore often the main route out of poverty and food insecurity for rural people, and focus on it will allow for progress in the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, climate change is among the challenges that stand in the way.

As World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought approaches, IPS spoke to Houngbo briefly about the ambitious goals and increasingly complex challenges to make hunger and poverty things of the past.

Q: How realistic is it to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030? Is this feasible? If not, why? What are or what could be some of the obstacles in trying to achieve those goals?

A: I’m maybe the wrong person to ask this question because I’m always really optimistic. When we started 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), everybody said that nothing there was realistic. Yet, we know that a lot has been achieved.

I do believe it is doable. Yes, it is very challenging. The point for me is not to say there is no more famine—that can happen as much as it is contained and eradicated quickly and that too is a challenge.

The most important thing for us to increase our chances to achieve the goal by 2030 is to make sure that one, we focus on long-term investment. Second, we also deal with the governance and the leadership dimension to minimize the risk of civil unrest—that’s the nexus of the common famine and the man-made crises.

But the long-term investment and scaling up what has been working really well is important. And I was hoping that with innovation, not only in technology, but among the small-scale or smallholder [farmers] we are focusing on—by adopting much more climate smart agricultural techniques and with innovation, it’s really doable.

Yes, the population is increasing. We need to increase food production by 60 percent by 2050. You have to see that as an opportunity for the smallholders to also increase [yields] and make money. Productivity for me and innovation is really the source.

Q: Would information and communication technologies (ICTs) be helping rural development in terms of food production?

A: Not only food production but also food transformation and access and the linkage to the food system. And to the market at the national level, regional level, or international level.

So we need to also look at agriculture not just as producing food but also business, as a way for the smallholders, for the rural citizens to earn in their daily lives a decent income, so that they don’t feel like they need to move to the city or move out of the country. So we are also talking about a rural transformation.

Q: Do you think advances in ICTs could threaten farmers because of the mechanization of certain jobs?

A: No, I don’t think so.

A couple of year ago a report issued not by IFAD but by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) demonstrated very clearly that yes there will be some jobs that will be lost in some sectors, but also when you think about the jobs that will be created, the net result is a positive. So we should not see that as an issue.

To the contrary, I do not think that commercial farms will ever replace the smallholder farms. In Africa, in Asia today, the smallholders are responsible for 80 percent of the [food] production. What we need to do is to bring technology that will help productivity and that will help with quick access to capital, access to the markets. By bringing that technology, coupled with what I call a rural transformation, then we will make it.

In other words, when you bring the technology here today, in a lot of low-income countries, agriculture contributes 25-35 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) compared to most advanced economies where agriculture will contribute maybe 5 percent or 2 percent of the GDP.

So it’s true that over time, you will also expect the low-income countries’ agricultural contributions to decrease. That’s why people worry that there will be unemployment. But on the contrary, if you are doing the rural transformation instead of being at the production level, they might be at the transformation level or there may also be a vocational training in other domains yet remain at the rural level.

Q: Do you think that the United States’ announcement to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a setback? How are member states strategizing with IFAD to advance climate mitigation and adaptation?

A: First of all, we need to respect the decisions made by member states, whether it be the U.S. or any other country. I want to be very clear that we have to respect their decisions.

Secondly, our plan integrating climate-smart agriculture in our assistance to rural areas is very high on the agenda of all our member states. Obviously, I am concerned about the possible impact on the Green Climate Fund, and therefore the ability of the smallholders to access that financing.

I hope that one way or the other, the international community will find a way to overcome this new challenge.

Q: Do you have a message for the upcoming World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought?

A: For me, it is important that we start really thinking about the techniques that will help us in embedding climate-smart agriculture.

In Africa, for example, it is really affordable and basic irrigation systems and the use of climate or drought-resistant seeds and so forth—that will really help. But really it’s the irrigation dimension that I would like to encourage, to find ways to make it affordable, particularly in Africa because compared to Asia, Africa is very, very much behind.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a UN specialised agency which invests in rural areas of developing countries to help eradicate poverty and hunger.

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Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edgehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:55:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150897 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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FAO massive famine-prevention campaign in Somalia--12 million animals treated so far against livestock diseases and illness. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Another famine in former European colonies in Africa and another time in its Eastern region, with Ethiopia and Somalia among the major victims of drought and made-made climate disasters mainly caused by US and European multinational business.

While an estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions, in the specific case of Somalia, the United Nations reports that 3.2 million people—that’s one third of its estimated 11 million inhabitants, are now on a ‘hunger knife-edge.’

Meanwhile, more than six million people are affected, of whom only about three million have been reached with food rations.

Key Numbers

· Animals provided with life-sustaining care so far: 12.3 million

· People supported by those animals: 1.8 million pastoralists

· Approximate cost of each FAO treatment per animal: $0.40

· Cost to a pastoralist to replace one dead animal: $40

· Cumulative value of prevented livestock losses so far: $492 million

SOURCE: FAO

“The humanitarian crisis has deteriorated more rapidly than was originally projected,” the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Raisedon Zenenga, few weeks ago told the Council in New York.

People Are Dying. Survivor, Forced to Migrate

“People are dying and need protection, particularly women and children, as drought conditions force them to migrate from rural areas to town, and as sexual violence increases in displacement camps.”

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate.

Over the next few decades, worldwide, close to 135 million people are at risk of being permanently displaced by desertification and land degradation, says Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“If they don’t migrate, the young and unemployed are also at more risk of falling victim to extremist groups that exploit and recruit the disillusioned and vulnerable, “ added Barbut in her message on the occasion of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17.

They are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from increasing global demand and wider sustained economic growth. In fact, the economic losses they suffer and growing inequalities they perceive means many people feel they are being left behind, Barbut said.

“They look for a route out. Migration is well-trodden path. People have always migrated, on a temporary basis, to survive when times are tough. The ambitious often chose to move for a better job and a brighter future.”

Famine-prevention: The livestock protection campaign is vital for vulnerable pastoralists who rely on their animals to survive. Credit: FAO

One in every five youth, aged 15-24 years, for example is willing to migrate to another country, she noted, adding that youth in poorer countries are even more willing to migrate for a chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

“It is becoming clear though that the element of hope and choice in migration is increasingly missing. Once, migration was temporary or ambitious. Now, it is often permanent and distressed.”

Saving Animals Saves Human Lives, Livelihoods

In parallel, concerned United Nations agencies have been strongly mobilised to help mitigate the new famine facing African countries. One of them, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has been pushing forward with a massive campaign that has so far treated more than 12 million animals in less than three months.

The objective is to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families who rely on their livestock’s meat and milk for survival. By mid-July, the UN specialised body will have reached 22 million animals, benefiting over 3 million people.

“Saving animals saves human lives and livelihoods. When animals are weakened by drought, they stop producing milk or die which means people go hungry and families are pushed out of self-reliance,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Somalia.

Worsening drought conditions have left hundreds of thousands of Somalis facing severe food and water shortages. Credit: OCHA Somalia

Around 3.2 million people in Somalia are on a hunger knife-edge, the agency reports, adding that the majority live in rural areas and livestock such as goats, camels, sheep and cattle are their main source of food and income.

“What we have heard again and again from displaced people in camps is that when they lost their animals, everything collapsed. It is a steep, long climb for them to get back on their feet again. We have stepped up our response to reach families before that happens,” added Trenchard. “Livelihoods are their best defence against famine”.

In Somalia, 6.7 million people face acute hunger as threat of famine persists, according to a FAO new assessment.

The UN agency is deploying 150 veterinary teams across Somalia to treat goats and sheep as well as cattle and camels – up to 270,000 animals each day. The teams are made up of local Somali veterinary professionals.

Simple, Cost-Effective Care

Livestock badly weakened by the lack of feed and water are highly susceptible to illnesses and parasites but are too weak to withstand vaccination, the specialised organisation reports.

As part of an integrated response program to improve the conditions of livestock, animals are treated with multivitamin boosters, medicines that kill off internal and external parasites, deworming, and other treatments to fight respiratory infections.

The simple and cost-effective care being provided by the FAO vet teams is reinforcing animals’ coping capacity and keeping them alive and productive. (See Key Numbers Box).

Meanwhile, through its Famine Prevention and Drought Response Plan, the UN specialised body is delivering large-scale, strategic combinations of assistance to prevent famine in Somalia.

In addition to livestock treatments, this includes giving rural families cash for food purchases, helping communities rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure, and providing farmers with vouchers for locally-sourced seeds along with tractor services that reduce their labour burden.

Any serious reaction from Africa’s former colonisers?

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The High Price of Desertification: 23 Hectares of Land a Minutehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-high-price-of-desertification-23-hectares-of-land-a-minute/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-high-price-of-desertification-23-hectares-of-land-a-minute http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-high-price-of-desertification-23-hectares-of-land-a-minute/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 12:28:53 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150885 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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12 million hectares of arable land are lost to drought and desertification annually, while 1.5 billion people are affected in over 100 countries

Farmer Margaret Gauti Mpofu adds manure to her vegetable crops in a field on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Urban farmer Margaret Gauti Mpofu would do anything to protect the productivity of her land. Healthy soil means she is assured of harvest and enough food and income to look after her family.

Each morning, Mpofu, 54, treks to her 5,000-square-metre plot in Hyde Park, about 20 km west of the city of Bulawayo. With a 20-litre plastic bucket filled with cow manure in hand, Mpofu expertly scoops the compost and sprinkles a handful besides thriving leaf vegetables and onions planted in rows across the length of the field, which is irrigated with treated waste water.Mpofu’s act of feeding the land is minuscule in fighting the big problem of land degradation. But replicated by many farmers on a large scale, it can restore the productivity of arable land.

“I should not be doing this,” Mpofu tells IPS pointing to furrows on her field left by floodwater running down the slope during irrigation. “The soil is losing fertility each time we irrigate because the water flows fast, taking valuable topsoil with it. I have to constantly add manure to improve fertility in the soil and this also improves my yields.”

Mpofu’s act of feeding the land is minuscule in fighting the big problem of land degradation. But replicated by many farmers on a large scale, it can restore the productivity of arable land, today threatened by desertification and degradation.

While desertification does include the encroachment of sand dunes on productive land, unsustainable farming practices such as slash and burn methods in land clearing, incorrect irrigation, water erosion, overgrazing – which removes grass cover and erodes topsoil – as well as climate change are also major contributors to desertification.

Desertification is on the march.  Many people are going hungry because degraded lands affects agriculture, a key source of livelihood and food in much of Africa. More than 2.6 billion people live off agriculture in the world. More than half of agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

It gets worse. The UN body says 12 million hectares of arable land, enough to grow 20 tonnes of grain, are lost to drought and desertification annually, while 1.5 billion people are affected in over 100 countries. Halting land degradation has become an urgent global imperative.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that by 2030 Africa will lose two-thirds of its arable land if the march of desertification — the spread of arid, desert-like areas of land — is not stopped.

Deserting homes thanks to desertification

Though not new, desertification has serious economic and development implications, especially for Africa. The economic costs of desertification and land degradation are estimated at 490 billion dollars per year, but sustainable land management can help generate up to 1.4 trillion dollars of economic benefits, says the UNCCD, which this year marks the 2017 World Day to Combat Desertification under the theme, “The land is our home, our future.”

This year the WDCD is focusing on the link between land degradation and migration and how local communities can build resilience to several development challenges through sustainable management practices.

The number of international migrants worldwide has grown from 222 million in 2010 to 244 million in 2015, according to the United Nations. The UNCCD says behind these numbers are links between migration and development challenges, in particular, the consequences of environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty.

“Migration is high on the political agenda all over the world as some rural communities feel left behind and others flee their lands,” Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said in a public statement ahead of the global observation of the WDCD.

“The problem [of migration] signals a growing sense of hopelessness due to the lack of choice or loss of livelihoods. And yet productive land is a timeless tool for creating wealth. This year, let us engage in a campaign to re-invest in rural lands and unleash their massive job-creating potential, from Burkina Faso, Chile and China, to Italy, Mexico, Ukraine and St. Lucia.”

Barbut said more than 100 of the 169 countries affected by desertification or drought are setting national targets to curb a runaway land degradation by the year 2030.

“Investing in the land will create local jobs and give households and communities a fighting chance to live, which will, in turn, strengthen national security and our future prospects for sustainability,” said Barbut.

The 17th of June was designated by the United Nations as the World Day to Combat Desertification to raise public awareness about the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought and to promote the implementation of the UNCCD in countries experiencing serious drought and desertification, particularly in Africa.

Loss of land , loss of livelihoods

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit identified desertification together with climate change and biodiversity loss as the greatest challenges to sustainable development. The UNCCD was established to galvanize global efforts to maintain and restore land and soil productivity while mitigating the effects of droughts in the semi-arid and dry sub humid areas where some 2 billion people depend on the ecosystem there.

In May 2017, a high-level event on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought held at the UN headquarters and organized by the Permanent Mission of Qatar, Iceland and Namibia together with the office of the President of the General Assembly underlined Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as a catalyst in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 15 emphasizes the protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable forest management, combating desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

“More than half of the world’s agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, and the deterioration of dry lands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares of land,” Ambassador Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, told the high level meeting, citing the drought and famine which affected millions of people across Africa.

Last year, many countries in Southern Africa declared a drought disaster. The Southern Africa Development Community launched a 2.4-billion-dollar food and humanitarian aid appeal for 40 million people affected by a drought that was the worst in more than 30 years.

With food demand expected to grow by 50 percent to 2030, there will be greater demand for land, leading to even more deforestation and environmental degradation if global action is not taken to restore the productivity of degraded lands.

The UNCCD is promoting a land degradation neutral world by 2030. It has set the Target 15.3 to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

Achieving SDG target 15.3 would empower women and girls who mostly bear the brunt of desertification, land degradation and drought, and also contribute to ending poverty and ensuring food security, said the Group of Friends on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought co-chaired by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland and Ambassador Neville Gertze of Namibia.

Land is finite but restoring it is not

The world cannot grow new land but there is good news. Degraded land can be restored.  Burkina Faso, which is hosting the official global events to mark the 2017 WDCD, has shown the way.

The West African nation, one of the early signatories to the UNCCD, has since the early 1980s been rehabilitating degraded land by building on our traditional techniques such as the Zaï and  adopting new techniques that work such as farmer managed natural regeneration.

“We are hosting the global observance on 17 June because we want to show the world, what we have achieved and is possible in order to inspire everyone into action,” Batio Bassiere, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, said in a statement.

Innovative farmer Yacouba Sawadogo from northwestern Burkina Faso is credited with using an old practice known as ‘zai’ in which holes are dug into hard ground and filled with compost where seeds are planted.  During the rainy season the holes catch water and retain moisture and nutrients for the seeds during the dry season.

Within 30 years, Sawadogo has turned a degraded area into a 15-hectare forest with several tree species in a country where overgrazing and over-farming had led to soil erosion and drying.

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Global Coalition Calls for Withdrawal of SDGs Progress Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-coalition-calls-for-withdrawal-of-sdgs-progress-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-coalition-calls-for-withdrawal-of-sdgs-progress-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-coalition-calls-for-withdrawal-of-sdgs-progress-report/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 12:32:20 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150882 A report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fails to capture the the true picture of water challenges and the UN must withdraw it, said a global civil society coalition. The civil society coalition End Water Poverty (EWP) criticised the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the globally agreed SDGs, stating that it lacks understanding and […]

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Clean drinking water is available to no more than half of Asia’s population. Water is fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2017 (IPS)

A report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fails to capture the the true picture of water challenges and the UN must withdraw it, said a global civil society coalition.

The civil society coalition End Water Poverty (EWP) criticised the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the globally agreed SDGs, stating that it lacks understanding and analysis of goal 6, which aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

“Such reports should not be done in haste…they must report based on agreed indicators not outdated ones,” said EWP’s International Campaign Coordinator Al-hassan Adam, noting that the terminology and measures used in report reflect the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rather than the SDGs which are “poles apart.”

The report, which was recently submitted to the General Assembly, states that over 90 percent of the world’s population used improved drinking water sources in 2015 while over two-thirds of the world’s population used improved sanitation facilities.

However, improved water supply does not indicate whether water and sanitation is directly accessible and safely managed, current measures of progress for the SDGs.

Currently, if a young girl has to travel 30 minutes to and from to fetch water, putting her at risk of sexual assault and increasing the likelihood of poor school participation and attendance due to exhaustion from traveling back and forth for water, water supply is considered improved.

However, the SDGs should have transformed this scenario as progress is calculated based on water supply that is within a household and available for 24 hours.

“But in 2017, a report takes into consideration the 30 minutes this young girl has to travel to fetch water and views is as progress. This is not considered progress under the initial agreement and in the eyes of the young girl, nothing has changed,” Adam told IPS.

“At a time where we have set global goals for positive changes, we must not go backwards, but only forward,” he continued.

The measure of improved water supply also fails to assess water quality, including whether it is free from fecal or chemical contamination.

The report also notes progress in the implementation of national water management plans in 2012 as well as procedures to engage local communities in numerous countries. What is not included, however, is the quality and level of such plans and participation.

EWP noted that such language has negative global implications as it allows governments to neglect the provision of adequate services to their citizens.

“In December 2015, we all celebrated when the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda were agreed, for the people and the planet…unfortunately, the latest progress report shows that we might be sleep-walking into 2030 without any substantial gains made,” they stated.

The coalition urged the UN to withdraw the current report and to amend its content with accurate data and indicators on the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation as agreed upon in the SDGs.

“To reach the Sustainable Development Goals, we cannot continue to do business as usual. The UN should direct us all towards the right path through accurate reporting on the progress and failures of the SDGs” Adam concluded.

EWP is a coalition of water, sanitation, and hygiene organisations from around the world including Action Against Hunger, Care International, and Oxfam.

According to the UN, global demand for fresh water is predicted to grow by more than 40 percent by 2050 and at least a quarter of the world’s population will live in countries with a chronic or recurrent lack of clean water.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the consequences of growing water shortages around the world, telling the Security Council: “Water, peace, and security are inextricably linked. Without effective management of our water resources, we risk intensified disputes between communities and sectors and increased tensions among nations.”

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Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:31:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150865 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate. In the specific case of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA), such an obliged choice implies the additional risk to turn peoples into easy prey to extremist, terrorist groups.

This quick conclusion does not come out of the blue–the MENA region, which is home to around 400 million people, is one of the world’s most impacted areas by drought and fast advancing desertification.

The situation is such that several scientific researches have been handling the scary scenario that the MENA region may become inhabitable in very few decades from now, even as soon as 2040.

On this, study-based reports are bold clear. See for instance: New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitable. And Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?

The international community is set to mark this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, under the theme: “Our Land. Our Home. Our Future.” The Day will precisely examine the important link between land degradation and migration.

The WDCD is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

What Desertification Is All About?

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, according to the United Nations.

“Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.”

Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk, the world body reports. “These people include many of the world‘s poorest, most marginalized and politically weak citizens.”

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

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

The World Day to Combat Desertification is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality (LDN) is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels,” according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty are causes of migration and development challenges.”

In fact, the Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat timely reminds that in just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.

Drought, the Big Unknown

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster, says the UN Convention secretariat.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Meanwhile, UNCCD reports that the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent by the year 2050. As populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded. Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.

“Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts.”

Ten Times Less Available Fresh Water

Per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average, the United Nations has recently warned. Moreover, higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.

Add to this that the region’s fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world, and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations leading agency in the field of food and agriculture.

Moreover, 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adds.

On this, UNCCD says that to mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought.

“Action on mitigating the effects of drought should be implemented considering comprehensive drought early warning and monitoring systems, vulnerability and risk assessment, upstream-downstream water uses, the link between water and land use; livelihood diversification strategies for drought affected people, etc. For example, addressing land degradation upstream improves access to water on site and downstream.”

The health of land is critical in the search for sustainable solutions to water resource provision and management, the UN Convention secretariat informs. “It is essential for countries to be proactive (rather than reactive); be coordinated at regional level (in addition to the country level actions); holistic and multi-sectoral (rather than silos) and to treat drought as a ‘constant risk’ (rather than a ‘crisis’).”

The global observance of #2017WDCD will be on 15 June in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Day will be hosted by le Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Economie Verte et du Changement Climatique.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

Its 195 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation. Its secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.

As the dynamics of land, climate and biodiversity are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.

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Heavy Toll of Disrupted Farming, Higher Prices and Displaced Livelihoodshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/heavy-toll-of-disrupted-farming-higher-prices-and-displaced-livelihoods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heavy-toll-of-disrupted-farming-higher-prices-and-displaced-livelihoods http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/heavy-toll-of-disrupted-farming-higher-prices-and-displaced-livelihoods/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 16:09:45 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150849 Large agricultural harvests in some regions of the world are buoying global food supply conditions, but protracted fighting and unrest are increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry elsewhere, according to a United Nations new report. Some 37 countries, 28 of which are in Africa, require external assistance for food, according to the new […]

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Pastoralists in Somalia. Actions to promote food security can help crisis-prevention, mitigate its impacts and promote post-crisis recovery and healing. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Large agricultural harvests in some regions of the world are buoying global food supply conditions, but protracted fighting and unrest are increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry elsewhere, according to a United Nations new report.

Some 37 countries, 28 of which are in Africa, require external assistance for food, according to the new edition of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

Civil conflict continues to be a main driver of severe food insecurity, having triggered famine conditions in South Sudan and put populations in Yemen and northern Nigeria at high risk of localised famine, it informs, adding that adverse weather conditions are exacerbating the threat of famine in Somalia.

Refugees from civil strife in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Central African Republic are putting additional pressure on local food supplies in host communities, the report notes, while providing detailed information the following situation in a group of countries.

Some 5.5 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in South Sudan, where maize and sorghum prices are now four times higher than in April 2016.

In Somalia, about 3.2 million people are in need of food and agricultural emergency assistance, while in Yemen the figure is as high as 17 million.

In northern Nigeria, disruption caused by the conflict has left 7.1 million people facing acute food insecurity in the affected areas, with even more deemed to be in less dire but still “stressed” conditions.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

A homestead in Al Hudaydah, once an important food-producing part of Yemen and now at risk of famine. Credit: FAO

A homestead in Al Hudaydah, once an important food-producing part of Yemen and now at risk of famine. Credit: FAO



Southern Africa Rebounds, East Africa Parched

While worldwide cereal output is near record levels, production outcomes are mixed across the globe. South America is expected to post strong increases, led by Brazil and Argentina, according to the new report.

Regional production in Southern Africa is expected to jump by almost 45 per cent compared to 2016 when crops were affected by El Niño, with record maize harvests forecast in South Africa and Zambia, FAO reports.

This should help reducing food insecurity in several countries such as Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The overall food supply situation in the Sahel region is also satisfactory after two consecutive years of bumper crops, the report notes.

East Africa, however, has suffered from insufficient rainfall at the start of the 2017 season, fall armyworm infestations and local conflicts, adds the report.

“As a result, a record 26.5 million people in the sub-region are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and the situation could be aggravated further in the coming months as the lean season peaks. An estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions.”

Moreover, the UN specialised agency informs that cereal domestic prices reached exceptionally high levels in May, with the local cost of maize jumping by as much as 65 per cent this year in parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the report noted.

A severe drought in Sri Lanka, followed by heavy rains and local flooding in late May, will likely reduce the country’s paddy production by nearly a third compared to the average; a joint FAO/World Food Programme (WFP) Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission was fielded in March 2017 to assess the drought impact and the results are expected to be released next week.

Cereal output in the 54 Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries is set to rise by 1.3 per cent this year to 480 million tonnes, due to a strong performance in India and the rebound in Southern African countries, according to FAO’s forecasts.

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When Women Have Land Rights, the Tide Begins to Turnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:01:08 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150836 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management.  Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

Legal protections for indigenous and rural women to own and manage property are inadequate or missing in 30 low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report from Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

This finding, now quantified, means that much of the recent progress that indigenous and local communities have gained in acquiring legal recognition of their commonly held territory could be built on shaky ground.

“Generally speaking, international legal protections for indigenous and rural women’s tenure rights have yet to be reflected in the national laws that regulate women’s daily interactions with community forests,” Stephanie Keene, Tenure Analyst for the RRI, a global coalition working for forest land and resources rights of indigenous and local communities, told IPS via an email interview.

Together these 30 countries contain three-quarters of the developing world’s forests, which remain critical to mitigate global warming and natural disasters, including droughts and land degradation.

In South Asia, distress migration owing to climate events and particularly droughts is high, as over three-quarters of the population is dependent on agriculture, out of which more than half are subsistence farmers depending on rains for irrigation.

“For many indigenous people, it is the women who are the food producers and who manage their customary lands and forests. Safeguarding their rights will cement the rights of their communities to collectively own the lands and forests they have protected and depended on for generations.” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Indigenous and local communities in the ten analyzed Asian countries provide the most consistent recognition of women’s community-level inheritance rights. However, this regional observation is not seen in India and Nepal, where inadequate laws concerning inheritance and community-level dispute resolution cause women’s forest rights to be particularly vulnerable,” Keene told IPS of the RRI study.

“None of the 5 legal frameworks analyzed in Nepal address community-level inheritance or dispute resolution. Although India’s Forest Rights Act does recognize the inheritability of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ land, the specific rights of women to community-level inheritance and dispute resolution are not explicitly acknowledged. Inheritance in India may be regulated by civil, religious or personal laws, some of which fail to explicitly guarantee equal inheritance rights for wives and daughters,” Keene added.

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Pointing out challenges behind the huge gaps in women’s land rights under international laws and rights recognized by South Asian governments, Madhu Sarin, who was involved in drafting of India’s Forest Rights Act and now pushes for its implementation, told IPS, “Where governments have ratified international conventions, they do in principle agree to make national laws compatible with them. However, there remains a huge gap between such commitments and their translation into practice. Firstly, most governments don’t have mechanisms or binding requirements in place for ensuring such compatibility.”

“Further, the intended beneficiaries of gender-just laws remain unorganised and unaware about them,” she added.

Women’s land rights, recurring droughts and creeping desertification

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one way to address droughts that cause more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster, and to halt desertification – the silent, invisible crisis that threatens one-third of global land area – is to bring about pressing legal reforms to establish gender parity in farm and forest land ownership and  its management.

“Poor rural women in developing countries are critical to the survival of their families. Fertile land is their lifeline. But the number of people negatively affected by land degradation is growing rapidly. Crop failures, water scarcity and the migration of traditional crops are damaging rural livelihoods. Action to halt the loss of more fertile land must focus on households. At this level, land use is based on the roles assigned to men and women. This is where the tide can begin to turn,” says Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, in its 2017 study.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture alone would increase yields on women’s farms by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, the study quotes the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as saying.

Why the gender gap must close in farm and forest rights

The reality on the ground is, however, not even close to approaching this gender parity so essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 5 which connect directly with land rights.

Climate change is ushering in new population dynamics. As men’s out-migration from indigenous and local communities continues to rise due to fall in land productivity, population growth and increasing outside opportunities for wage-labor, more women are left behind as de facto land managers, assuming even greater responsibilities in communities and households.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow. The percentage of female-led households is increasing in half of the world’s 15 largest countries by population, including India and Pakistan.

Although there is no updated data on the growth of women-led households, the policy research group International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in its 2014 study found that from 2000 to 2010, slightly less than half of the world’s urban population growth could be ascribed to migration. The contribution of migration is considerably higher in Asia, it found, where urbanisation is almost 60 percent and is expected to continue growing, although at a declining rate.”

“Unless women have equal standing in all laws governing indigenous lands, their communities stand on fragile ground,” cautioned Tauli-Corpuz.

Without legal protections for women, community lands are vulnerable to theft and exploitation that threatens the world’s tropical forests that form a critical bulwark against climate change, as well as efforts to eradicate poverty among rural communities.

With the increasing onslaught of large industries on community lands worldwide, tenure rights of women are fundamental to their continued cultural identity and natural resource governance, according to the RRI study.

“When women’s rights to access, use, and control community forests and resources are insecure, and especially when women’s right to meaningfully participate in community-level governance decisions is not respected, their ability to fulfill substantial economic and cultural responsibilities are compromised, causing entire families and communities to suffer,” said Keene.

Moreover, several studies have established that women are differently and disproportionately affected by community-level shocks such as climate change, natural disasters, conflict and large-scale land acquisitions, further underscoring  the fortification of women’s land rights an urgent priority.

With growing feminization of farming as men out-migrate, and the rise in women’s education, gender-inequitable tenure practices cannot be sustained over time, the RRI study concludes. But achieving gender equity in land rights will call for tremendous political will and societal change, particularly in patriarchal South Asia, researchers said.

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More Plastic than Fish or How Politicians Help Ocean Destructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:55:29 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150831 World’s oceans are dangerously exposed to at least three major threats: climate change; the sharp degradation of marine biodiversity, and politicians. These simply encourage the destruction of oceans by subsidising over-fishing and turning a blind eye on illegal captures. See what happens. While it is feared that at current trends there will be more plastic […]

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A school of Moorish Idols cruise over the coral reef, Ha’apai, Tonga. Credit: UNEP GRID Arendal/Glenn Edney

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 9 2017 (IPS)

World’s oceans are dangerously exposed to at least three major threats: climate change; the sharp degradation of marine biodiversity, and politicians. These simply encourage the destruction of oceans by subsidising over-fishing and turning a blind eye on illegal captures. See what happens.

While it is feared that at current trends there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 –with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in world’s oceans– harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars, according to United Nations.

“If you consider that the total export of fish and seafood products is 146 billion dollars, we are talking about that of each 5 dollars in fish products, 1 dollar is subsidized,” David Vivas of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) warned ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference held on June 5-9.

A Race to the Bottom

So it’s not a small amount. People are paying very expensively for a fish, continued Vivas, adding that people pay it by the dish and with their taxes.“Almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years.” Graziano da Silva.

This financial motivation creates “a race to the bottom” as fleets compete against each other to harvest increasing amounts of fish –at a time when seafood is already a scarce resource, said the expert, while explaining that subsidies “create incentives to deplete resources faster than if there weren’t the subsidies.”

The facts are just shocking: the international community is harvesting fish at unsustainable biological levels, according to UNCTAD.

“The Mediterranean Sea is about 70 per cent exploited; the Black Sea 90 per cent.”

Roughly 56 per cent of all fish products come from wild harvest, with the remaining amount farmed, according to figures cited by the UN.

“The demand remains quite strong, mainly from the head Asian region. Hence countries are not only going to New York to consider, issuing a political signal,” said UNCTAD’s Lucas Assunçao in reference to The Ocean Conference, “they are very concerned about this considerable market.”

Illegal Fishing

In addition to fishery subsidies, the UN trade agency has been focusing in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and access to markets.

“Not all countries participate equally,” Assunçao said of the nearly 150 billion dollars market for fish and marine products. “[The oceans are] a global common good that is not benefitting all countries that have coasts in equitable ways.”

“Oceans are continuing to warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Warm water coral reefs are already under pressure and 90 per cent would suffer significant risk from global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius.” Credit: UNEP/Jerker Tamelander

“Oceans are continuing to warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Warm water coral reefs are already under pressure and 90 per cent would suffer significant risk from global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius.” Credit: UNEP/Jerker Tamelander

Here, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) informs that annually, the worth of fish caught by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing methods is estimated at 10 – 23 billion dollars.

This, as well as the governments subsidies that encourage over-fishing while not making enough efforts to prevent illegal fishing, explain the fact that currently fishing vessels around the world have reached 4.6 million.

Oceans offer both challenges and solutions to the world’s Sustainable Development Agenda, and managing them more carefully is essential for global food security today and tomorrow as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said at the Oceans Conference.

Three Billion People Rely on Fish

More than three billion people rely on fish for critical animal protein, while 300 million people depend on marine fisheries, the vast majority being linked to small-scale fisheries that are the backbone of marine and coastal social and ecosystems in many developing countries, he on June 8 added.

“Unsustainability poses many risks and a heavy price,” said Graziano da Silva. “Today many fisheries around the world are characterised by excessive fishing effort, low productivity and inadequate profitability.”

That exacerbates pressures that have led to almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years, he said. Annual fishery production would increase by around 20 per cent –worth an extra 32 billion dollars each year– if partners collaborate to rebuild overfished stocks, he added.

FAO is playing a leading role in pursuing a core target of Sustainable Development Goal 14, which calls for ending the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing by 2020.

The IUU fishing accounts for up to 26 million tonnes of fish a year, one-sixth of all the fish caught at sea and worth 23 billion dollars. It also directly undermines efforts to make sure marine resources are sustainably used.

How to Crack Down on Illegal Fishing

International efforts to crack down on IUU fishing made a major step forward in 2016, when the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) entered into legal force. The international treaty brokered by FAO now has nearly 50 parties, including the European Union, Indonesia, the United States of America and – soon – Japan as well as many Small Island Developing States.

Fisherman in Timor Leste casts net in the water to catch small fish. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Fisherman in Timor Leste casts net in the water to catch small fish. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

The PSMA gives new powers to port officials to verify that any visiting ship is abiding by all relevant fishing rules – including having the proper permits, respecting quotas and avoiding at-risk species.

The treaty also requires parties to support effective implementation by making sure all parties have the technical capacity to fulfil their obligations. FAO has already devoted more than 1.5 million dollars to this effort, which Graziano da Silva described as “seed money” while awaiting voluntary contributions from donors.

“IUU fishing activities are a threat to marine life and impede the development and prosperity of vulnerable countries and must be completely stopped,” for his part said Sven Erik Bucht, the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, who announced officially Sweden’s contribution of 5.4 million dollars to FAO to combat IUU fishing. Alongside with Fiji, Sweden has promoted and co-chaired the Oceans Conference.

The funding will also help support this UN specialised body’s on-going work on what to do about discarded fishing gear –which constitutes both ocean rubbish as well as killing fish– and on the Global Record on Fishing Vessels, a platform aimed at providing essential and transparent information to those in charge of fisheries management.

The UN specialised agency is also leading work on Catch Documentation Schemes that enables fish to be tracked from source to shop – something consumers increasingly want. And, through its Blue Growth Initiative, the agency is also strongly focused on promoting sustainable development among coastal fishing communities in general.

What Is Overfishing Is All About?

Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , one of the world’s leading conservation organisation.

“Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.”

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world, WWF adds. “For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

According to WWF, more than 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them.”

Meanwhile, UN concerned agencies –FAO; UNCTAD and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)– have announced their commitment to cutting harmful fishing subsidies. The issue is “complicated and thorny,” they said. The commitment likely involves requesting countries to provide information on what subsidies they provide and prohibiting those that contribute to overfishing, as well as potentially giving differential treatment to developing countries.

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The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-relentless-march-of-drought-that-horseman-of-the-apocalypse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-relentless-march-of-drought-that-horseman-of-the-apocalypse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-relentless-march-of-drought-that-horseman-of-the-apocalypse/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 05:49:38 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150782 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

By 2025 –that’s in less than 8 years from today– 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami” of climate refugees and migrants.

No wonder then that a major United Nations Convention calls drought ‘one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.’ See what the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says in this regard.

By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent. As populations increase, especially in dry-land areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded, the Bonn-based Convention secretariat warns.“The world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees.” Monique Barbut.

Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century, it underlines, adding that drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts.

To mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought, explains UNCCD.

“Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster.”

Drought, Water Scarcity and Refugees

On this, Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, reminds that the world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees.

Neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration, but they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify on-going conflicts, she explains.

“Converging factors like political tension, weak institutions, economic marginalisation, lack of social safety nets or group rivalries create the conditions that make people unable to cope. The continuous drought and water scarcity from 2006 to 2010 in Syria is a recent well-known example.”

Credit: UNCCD

Credit: UNCCD

Displacing 135 Million People by 2045?

According to Convention, the geo-political and security challenges the world faces are complex, but a better implementing good land management practices can simultaneously help populations adapt to climate change and build resilience to drought; reduce the risk of forced migration and conflict over dwindling natural resources and secure sustainable agricultural and energy production.

“Land truly is the glue that holds our societies together. Reversing the effects of land degradation and desertification through sustainable land management (SLM) is not only achievable; it is the logical, cost-effective next step for national and international development agendas…”

UNCCD informs that 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain. “We cannot afford to keep degrading land when we are expected to increase food production by 70 per cent by 2050 to feed the entire world population.”

“Sustainable intensification of food production, with fewer inputs, that avoids further deforestation and cropland expansion into vulnerable areas should be a priority for action for policy makers, investors and smallholder farmers.”

Meantime, the Convention’s secretariat reports that the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main fresh water store.

“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.”

Credit: UNCCD

Credit: UNCCD

National Security, Migration

With up to 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources, the exposure of more and more poor people to water scarcity and hunger opens the door to the failure of fragile states and regional conflicts, according to UNCCD.

“Non-state actor groups are increasingly taking advantage of large cross-border migration flows and abandoned lands. Where natural assets including land are poorly managed, violence might become the dominant means of resource control, forcing natural resource assets out of the hands of legitimate government.”

The number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.

Here, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification reminds that behind these numbers is the links between migration and development challenges, in particular, the consequences of environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty and the importance of addressing the push and pull factors, and the root causes of irregular migration.

Losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices, it adds and explains that in rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.

“Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 per vent of our economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture. Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

Improving yields and land productivity will allow the time to increase food security and income of the users of the land and the poorest farmers, the UNCCD recommends. “This in turn stabilises the income of the rural population and avoids unnecessary movement of people.”

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification works with partners such as the International Organization for Migration to address the challenges arising from land degradation, large-scale population movements and their consequences, while aiming to demonstrate how the international community could leverage the skills and capacities of migrants along with the remittances, sent home by migrants, to build resilience.

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Saving the Oceans, Saving the Future: Officials Tackle Marine Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/saving-the-oceans-saving-the-future-officials-tackle-marine-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saving-the-oceans-saving-the-future-officials-tackle-marine-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/saving-the-oceans-saving-the-future-officials-tackle-marine-pollution/#respond Tue, 06 Jun 2017 08:36:27 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150763 The oceans’ health is only getting worse and the cycle of decline must be reversed, said representatives at the opening of a high-level UN conference. Approximately 5,000 representatives from governments, civil society, and the private sector from around the world have gathered at the UN for its first ever Ocean Conference, a high-level meeting which […]

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Opening Ceremony of UN Ocean Conference. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 6 2017 (IPS)

The oceans’ health is only getting worse and the cycle of decline must be reversed, said representatives at the opening of a high-level UN conference.

Approximately 5,000 representatives from governments, civil society, and the private sector from around the world have gathered at the UN for its first ever Ocean Conference, a high-level meeting which aims to address and mobilize action to improve the state of oceans.

“The health of our oceans and seas are inextricably linked with the health of our planet and all life on earth,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the full General Assembly hall.

However, the oceans are under threat as a result of human activity.

“We are here on behalf of humanity to restore the sustainability, balance, and respect in our relationship with our primal mother, the source of all life, the ocean,” said President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly Peter Thomson.

“The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways,” he added.

Among the pressing issues to be addressed during the conference is marine pollution, and much of this pollution is from plastic.

Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tons are currently floating in the world’s oceans, a figure that may be an underestimate. More than 80 percent of such plastic waste in oceans comes from land.

Because of ocean currents, this trash accumulates in what is known as “ocean garbage patches,” located in virtually every ocean in the world. The largest such patch is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California which is estimated to be around 1 million square kilometers.

This has contributed to the massive piles of trash that have washed upon the shores of the isolated and once pristine Henderson Island in the South Pacific. A recent study found that the UNESCO world heritage site is covered with over 38 million pieces of trash, making it the most densely polluted place in the world. Researchers found discarded fishing nets, toy soldiers, and hardhats.

“It is inexcusable that humanity tips the equivalent of a large garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day. We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean that is defiling nature in so many tragic ways,” Thomson told conference attendees.

And plastic that ends up in the ocean does not solely float harmlessly, but rather have real, long-term implications on animal and human health.

Oceans and Peoples’ Health as One

Animals, which often find themselves entangled in trash, have also been seen to be ingesting plastic with deadly consequences.

In a dialogue on marine pollution on the first day of the conference, Norwegian Minister of Climate Vidar Helgesen pointed to the case of a goose-beaked whale which beached on Norway’s cost earlier this year and was found with nothing but 30 plastic bags in its stomach.

Plastics also release toxins when ingested which have found to be damaging the reproductive health of many fish species.

Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)’s Director General Kosi Latu noted that plastic was found in 97 percent of fish species studied in the Pacific alone.

WEF predicts there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if such trends in ocean pollution continue.

Evidence also shows that people are consuming plastics by eating seafood.

After purchasing fish from markets in Indonesia and the U.S., researchers found that 1 in 4 fish had plastic in their guts. European researchers estimated that Europeans could be eating 11,000 microplastics every year through seafood.

Though the impacts are still uncertain, studies have shown that plastic ingested by humans could be toxic and can increase the risk of health problems such as cancer.

A Call for Action

Representatives have therefore urged for action to prevent and reduce marine pollution during the conference.

Already, countries have outlined commitments to combat the issue.

Indonesia has vowed to reduce 70 percent of its marine litter by 2025 while Thailand has established a pollution management plan that comprises of encouraging eco-friendly substitute for plastic materials and implementing a 3Rs strategy of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The lack of strong policies and infrastructure on waste management have largely contributed to ocean pollution. For instance, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally, allowing millions of tons of plastic to end up in landfills and oceans each year.

“Without effective recycling, I don’t think we will be able to solve the problem,” said Latu.

The Ocean Conservancy also found that Indonesia and Thailand are among the top five plastic-polluting nations in the world.

Other countries such as Austria have committed to reducing plastic bag use while Sweden introduced a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics. More than 600 commitments have been received.

Civil society groups have also promised to take action including the Dutch foundation Ocean Cleanup which has developed a cost-effective net system that could clean up 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years.

Though there is no one size fits all solution, conference participants agree on one thing: we must act now if we want a secure future on this planet.

“This is the year that we cease to steal from the future of our grandchildren,” said Thomson.

Guterres highlighted the long history of people’s relationship to the ocean as a call for action, stating: “The Swedes were sailing around the Baltic Sea and as far away as present-day Istanbul 7,300 years ago. Fijians were sailing canoes at record speeds and for record distances around the Pacific well before that. A Japanese creation myth tells of how the archipelagos formed from seawater, and Inuit creation myths is central on Sedna, the goddess of the sea. The sea indeed belongs to all of us.”

The globally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes goal 14 which stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. Within the goal is a target to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.

The Ocean Conference, organised by Sweden and Fiji from 5-9 June at the UN Headquarters in New York, will address ways to implement goal 14 and its targets.

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Charting a Course to a Blue Commonwealthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/charting-a-course-to-a-blue-commonwealth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=charting-a-course-to-a-blue-commonwealth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/charting-a-course-to-a-blue-commonwealth/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 10:53:48 +0000 Patricia Scotland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150739 Patricia Scotland is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations

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Patricia Scotland is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations

By Patricia Scotland
LONDON, Jun 5 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Ocean Conference offers an historic opportunity to safeguard the ocean environment and support small island and vulnerable developing coastal states, who depend on the seas for national economic growth and sustainable development.

Patricia Scotland

Patricia Scotland

This summit is about navigating a course to deliver on the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, in particular Goal 14 to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.” As we set our eyes on this goal, it is worth considering what the oceans mean to coastal communities.

Forty-five of the Commonwealth’s 52 member counties are ocean states, including most of the world’s small island developing states. For our member countries, the sea is a precious ecosystem, and also deeply rooted in traditional culture. It also provides jobs and immense potential economic opportunity – Vanuatu for instance has a maritime territory 56 times greater than its terrestrial footprint.

The whole Commonwealth family is immensely proud of Fiji, which has the special privilege of being co-chair of the Ocean Conference alongside Sweden. The commitment shown by Fiji’s Prime Minister, J.V. Bainimarama, is testament to the Pacific region’s leadership and advocacy on oceans.

Pacific countries, and in particular its small island developing states, have in recent years agreed powerful joint declarations on the sustainable use and management of the ocean. These have had a direct impact on influencing national policies to manage access to their waters while setting vital conservation limits.

A forthcoming Commonwealth Secretariat publication, ‘A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050’, takes a closer look at some of the region’s innovative approaches on ocean governance, as well as a host of related issues from health to climate change and migration. The study follows on from a similar report in the Caribbean published last year which provided a stark warning for policy-makers.

Our research concludes that while there is much opportunity to be gained from the oceans, these states face a great many challenges, including commercial competition for marine resources and the impact of climate change. Rising populations, limited national capacity and investment and inadequate fiscal and revenue management also bring huge pressures.

Spurred on by leaders in the Pacific and Caribbean who understand these threats better than anyone, Commonwealth heads of government were early pioneers of the ‘blue economy’ concept. Applying to ocean governance the Commonwealth’s shared values – the commitment to democracy, good governance, equity and sustainability – this ‘Blue Commonwealth’ approach aims to help countries unlock economic value from the ocean while also conserving and protecting the marine environment.

At the Commonwealth Secretariat, we help our member states to better manage and protect against threats such as pollution and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. We offer help so countries can claim their maritime territory, and advise on managing offshore renewables, petroleum and deep-sea mining. We help our peoples to unlock the value of the sea in a sustainable manner while ensuring the equitable distribution of its benefits.

This ‘whole-ocean’ approach to economic development recognises the linkages between terrestrial and marine resources. It is an integrated ‘regenerative’ model which can best respond to sectoral and national interests in a way that suits day to day life.

The magnitude of the threat from climate change and rising sea levels, especially for those whose endowment or stage of development renders them less resilient, makes it incumbent upon us to shift from mere adaptation and mitigation towards approaches capable of transforming climate change into a window of opportunity.

This week’s Ocean Conference in New York, June 5-9, offers the chance to build on the hope offered by Sustainable Development Goal 14 to make good on our commitment to conserve and sustainably use the oceans. We need no less than a paradigm shift to move from ‘explore and exploit’ to ‘sustain and be sustained by’.

Most of all, we need to listen to communities who have been custodians of the seas for centuries and who have much wisdom to share. As one of the Pacific’s most influential scholars, Epeli Hau’ofa, once said, “no people on Earth are more suited to be guardians of the world’s largest ocean than those for whom it has been home for generations.”

On Tuesday 6 June 2015, Fiji Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama, co-chair of the conference, joins Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at a ‘A Blue Commonwealth’, a high-level roundtable hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Seychelles. Find out more: thecommonwealth.org/oceanconference

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Re-Connect with Nature Now… Before It Is Too Late!http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/re-connect-with-nature-now-before-it-is-too-late/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=re-connect-with-nature-now-before-it-is-too-late http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/re-connect-with-nature-now-before-it-is-too-late/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 04:25:20 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150729 Now that president Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of the world’s largest polluter in history—the United States, from the Paris Accord, perhaps one of the most specific warnings is what a United Nations independent expert on rights and the environment has just said: “We should be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic […]

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World Environment Day 2017

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 5 2017 (IPS)

Now that president Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of the world’s largest polluter in history—the United States, from the Paris Accord, perhaps one of the most specific warnings is what a United Nations independent expert on rights and the environment has just said: “We should be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic human rights without a healthy environment.”

Speaking in Geneva ahead of the World Environment Day on Monday 5 June, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John H. Knox, said “We should all be alarmed at the accelerating loss of biodiversity on which healthy ecosystems depend.”

We depend on healthy natural ecosystems for so much – nutrition, shelter, clothing, the very water we drink and the air we breathe, Knox reminded. “And yet, natural forest area continues to decline, marine ecosystems are increasingly under siege, and estimated populations of vertebrate animals have declined by more than half since 1970.”

Many scientists fear that we are at the outset of the sixth global extinction of species around the world, the first in over 60 million years, noted this professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United State.

“States have reached agreements to combat the causes of biodiversity loss, which include habitat destruction, over-exploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change, Knox recalled, “But the same States are woefully failing to meet their commitments to reverse these disturbing trends.”.

Illegal Poaching, Logging and Fishing

He also reminded that nearly one third of natural and mixed World Heritage sites reportedly suffer from illegal poaching, logging and fishing, which have driven endangered species to the brink of extinction and threatened the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them.

“The extinction of species and the loss of microbial diversity undermines our rights to life and health by destroying potential sources for new medicines and weakening human immunity. Reduced variety, yield and security of fisheries and agriculture endangers our right to food. Nature’s weakened ability to filter, regulate and store water threatens the right of access to clean and safe water.”

The UN independent expert strongly emphasised that biodiversity and human rights are “interlinked and interdependent,” and States have obligations to protect both.

World must urgently up action to cut a further 25 [er cent from predicted 2030 emissions—UNEP. Cerdit: UNEP

World must urgently up action to cut a further 25 [er cent from predicted 2030 emissions—UNEP. Cerdit: UNEP


No Biodiversity, No Food Security, No Nutrition

For its part, the UN leading agency in the fields of food and agriculture underlines that biodiversity is “essential” for food security and nutrition.

Thousands of interconnected species make up a vital web of biodiversity within the ecosystems upon which global food production depends, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

With the erosion of biodiversity, it warns, humankind loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change. Achieving food security for all is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of biodiversity.

On this, the UN agency provides some key facts.

For instance, that of the 8 800 animal breeds known, 7 per cent are extinct and 17 per cent are at risk of extinction. And that of the over 80 000 tree species, less than 1 per cent have been studied for potential use.

Also that fish provide 20 per vent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Only ten species provide about 30 per cent of marine capture fisheries and ten species provide about 50 per vent of aquaculture production.

Meantime, over 80 per cent of the human diet is provided by plants. And only five cereal crops provide 60 per cent of energy intake

Land Is Finite

In parallel, a major UN convention has been focusing on land, “which is finite in quantity.” Competing demands for its goods and services are increasing pressures on land resources in virtually every country, warns the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

A changing climate, population growth, and economic globalisation are driving land use change and poor land management practices at all scales, it explains, adding that for the most part, these changes and practices will continue to degrade the “real” current and future value of our land resources, including soil, water and biodiversity.

“Now is the time to recognise the biophysical limits to land productivity and the need to restore multi-functionality in both our natural and production landscapes. Evidence strongly suggests the need to act in the short term to avoid potentially irreversible negative outcomes in the medium to long term.”

On this, the Bonn-based Convention secretariat informs that its Global Land Outlook (GLO) presents a strategic vision to transform the way we think about, value, use and manage our land resources while planning for a more resilient and sustainable future.

The GLO first edition is the new flagship publication of the UNCCD, akin to the CBD’s Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) and the United Nations Environment Programme- UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO).

“It is a strategic communications platform and publication that demonstrates the central importance of land quality to human well-being, assesses current trends in land conversion, degradation and loss, identifies the driving factors and analyses the impacts, provides scenarios for future challenges and opportunities.”

Bringing together a diverse group of international experts and partners, UNCCD informs that GLO addresses the future challenges for the management and restoration of land resources in the context of sustainable development, including: food, water and energy security; climate change and biodiversity conservation; urban, peri-urban and infrastructure development; Land tenure, governance and gender; and migration, conflict and human security.

Connecting with nature makes us guardians of our planet. For Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, closeness to nature helps us see the need to protect it. Credit: UNEP

Connecting with nature makes us guardians of our planet. For Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, closeness to nature helps us see the need to protect it. Credit: UNEP

“The loss in both the quality and quantity of healthy and productive land resources is an immediate global concern, especially in developing countries and those with a high proportion of fragile and vulnerable dry lands.”

These are some of the key reasons why ‘Connecting People to Nature’ –the theme of World Environment Day 2017– highlights the vast benefits, from food security and improved health to water supply and climatic stability, that natural systems and clean environments provide to humanity.

But there are more reasons.

Mental Health, Stress, Depression

Many studies show that time spent in green spaces counters mental health problems such as stress and depression. Affecting 350 million people, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, the United Nations informs.

For instance, in Japan, the health benefits of forests have prompted some local governments to promote ‘forest therapy.’ Research shows time in the woods can boost the immune system, including against cancer, according to the UN.

“Urban green space is a key weapon in the fight against obesity: an estimated 3.2 million premature deaths in 2012 can be attributed to lack of physical activity.”

More and more cities are planting trees to mitigate air pollution, the world’s largest single environmental health risk: 6.5 million people die each year due to everyday exposure to poor air quality.

Otherwise, the world body reminds that the use of plants in traditional medicine dates back to the beginning of human civilisation and that herbal medicine has clearly recognisable therapeutic effects and plays an important role in primary health care in many developing countries. Common painkillers and anti-malarial treatments as well as drugs used to treat cancer; heart conditions and high blood pressure are derived from plants.

Still need more reasons to connect –or rather re-connect—with Nature?

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