Inter Press Service » Environment http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:14:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Post-War Truth and Justice Still Elusive in Bougainvillehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/post-war-truth-and-justice-still-elusive-in-bougainville/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-war-truth-and-justice-still-elusive-in-bougainville http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/post-war-truth-and-justice-still-elusive-in-bougainville/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:24:25 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145886 Buildings gutted and scarred by the Bougainville civil war are still visible in the main central town of Arawa. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Buildings gutted and scarred by the Bougainville civil war are still visible in the main central town of Arawa. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
ARAWA, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Jun 30 2016 (IPS)

Almost every family in the islands of Bougainville, an autonomous region of about 300,000 people in the Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has a story to tell of death and suffering during the decade long civil war (1989-1998), known as ‘the Crisis.’

Yet fifteen years after the 2001 peace agreement, there is no accurate information about the scale of atrocities which occurred to inform ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts being supported by the government and international donors. Now members of civil society and grassroots communities are concerned that lack of truth telling and transitional justice is hindering durable reconciliation.

“I believe there should be a truth telling program here and I think the timing is right,” Helen Hakena, Director of the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, a local non-government organisation, told IPS.

“It is nearly twenty years [since the conflict] and some people have moved on with their lives, while there are others who have just cut off all sense of belonging because they are still hurting.”

Bernard Unabali, Catholic Bishop of Bougainville, concurs. “Truth is absolutely necessary, there is no doubt it is an absolutely necessary thing for peace and justice,” he declared.“People have been accused of killing others during the Crisis and that has carried on in the form of recent killings." -- Rosemary Dekaung

In these tropical rainforest covered islands it is estimated that around 20,000 people, or 10 percent of the population at the time, lost their lives and 60,000 were displaced as the Papua New Guinean military and armed revolutionary groups fought for territorial control. The conflict erupted in 1989 after indigenous landowners, outraged at loss of customary land, environmental devastation and socioeconomic inequality associated with the Rio Tinto majority-owned Panguna copper mine in Central Bougainville, launched a successful campaign to shut it down.

“There is a lot to be done on truth telling. When we talk about the Crisis-related problems our ideas are all mangled together and we are just talking on the surface, not really uprooting what is beneath, what really happened,” said Barbara Tanne, Executive Officer of the Bougainville Women’s Federation in the capital, Buka.

Judicial and non-judicial forms of truth and justice are widely perceived by experts as essential for post-war reconciliation. The wisdom is that if a violent past is left unaddressed, trauma, social divisions and mistrust will remain and fester into further forms of conflict.

Failure to address wartime abuses in Bougainville is considered a factor in resurgent payback and sorcery-related violence, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports. A study of 1,743 people in Bougainville published last year by the UNDP revealed that one in five men had engaged in sorcery-related violence, while one in two men and one in four women had been witnesses.

Rosemary Dekaung believes that recent witchcraft killings in her rural community of Domakungwida, Central Bougainville, have their origins in the Crisis.

“People have been accused of killing others during the Crisis and that has carried on in the form of recent killings,” she said.

Stephanie Elizah, the Bougainville Government’s Acting Director of Peace, said that transitional justice is a sensitive topic with the ex-combatants due to the partial amnesty period which was agreed to apply only to the period of 1988 to 1995. However, she admits that many reconciliations taking place are not addressing the extent of grievances.

“From feedback from communities that have gone through reconciliation we know that it has not truly addressed a lot of the issues that individuals have….the victims, the perpetrators, those who have been involved in some form of injustice to the next human being; some of them have been allowed to just go and be forgotten,” Elizah said.

International law endorses the rights of any person who has suffered atrocities to know the truth of events, to know the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives and see justice done.

In 2014 the Bougainville Government introduced a new missing persons policy, which aims to assist families locate and retrieve the remains of loved ones who disappeared during the Crisis, but excludes compensation or bringing perpetrators to justice.

It is yet to be implemented with three years to go before Bougainville plans a referendum on Independence in 2019.

“A truth commission must be established so people can tell the truth before they make their choice for the political future of Bougainville. Because when we decide our choice, problems associated with the conflict must be addressed,” Alex Amon Jr, President of the Suir Youth Federation, North Bougainville, declared.

Hakena believes there are repercussions if transitional justice doesn’t occur.

“It is happening now. Elderly people are passing on their negative experiences to their sons, who have not experienced that, and who will continue to hate the perpetrator’s family. Years later some of these kids will not know why they hate those people and there will be repercussions,” she elaborated.

The government is planning a review of its peace and security framework this year during which there will be an opportunity to explore people’s views on transitional justice, Elizah said.

The benefits of establishing a truth commission include a state-endorsed public platform for everyone to have their stories heard, give testimony of human rights abuses for possible further investigation and for recommendations to be made on legal and institutional reforms.

At the grassroots, people also point to the immense potential of implementing more widely customary processes of truth telling that have been used for generations.

“We do have traditional ceremonies where everybody comes together, the perpetrators and the victims and all others who are affected and they will thrash and throw out everything. That is very much like a truth commission, where, in the end, they say this is what we did,” Rosemary Moses at the Bougainville Women’s Federation in Arawa said.

Unabali agreed that durable peace should be built first on traditional truth telling mechanisms, which had widespread legitimacy in the minds of individuals and communities, even if a truth commission was also considered.

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Biogas Brings Heat and Light to Pakistan’s Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145856 Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
FAISALABAD, Pakistan, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Nabela Zainab no longer chokes and coughs when she cooks a meal, thanks to the new biogas-fueled two-burner stove in her kitchen.

Zainab, 38, from Faisalabad, a town 360 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is among the beneficiaries of a flagship pilot biogas project to free poor households and farmers of their dependence on wood, cattle dung and diesel fuel for cooking needs and running irrigation pumps.

She got the biogas unit, worth 400 dollars, at a 50 percent subsidised rate from the NGO Rural Support Programme Network under the latter’s five-year Pakistan Domestic Biogas Programme (PDBP).

In the past, Zainab had to collect wood from a distant forest three times a week and carry it home balanced on her head.

“Getting rid of that routine is a life-changing experience,” she told IPS.

The four-cubic-meter biogas plant requires the dung of three buffalos every day to meet the energy needs of a four-member family, including cooking, heating, washing and bathing for 24 hours.

It saves nearly 160 kg of fuelwood a day, worth 20 to 25 dollars every month for a four-member family.

The wife of a smallholder vegetable farmer, Zainab says she has suffered from a cough and sore eyes for the last 20 years. “We have no access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not feasible either for us poor. However, we had no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung cakes or fuelwood,” she said.

Last January, cattle farmer Amir Nawaz installed a biogas plant of eight-cubic-meter capacity at a cost of 700 dollars under the PDBP. He got subsidy of nearly 300 dollars.

“I am now saving nearly 60 dollars a month that I used to spend on LPG,” he told IPS.

His plant is fueled by the dung of his six buffalos — enough to meet household gas needs for cooking and heating.

Nawaz also uses biogas to power wall-mounted lamps in his house at night, saving another 15 dollars a month.

“Above all, this has helped our children do schoolwork and for me to finish up the household chores in the evening hours,” Nawaz’s wife, Shaista Bano, said with a smile.

As many as 5,360 biogas plants of varying sizes have been installed in 12 districts of Punjab province over five years (2009-2015), ridding nearly 43,000 people of exposure to smoke from wood and kerosene.

Nearby, 500 large biogas plants of the 25-cubic-meter capacity each have also been introduced in all 12 districts of Punjab province under the PBDP, namely: Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara.

Such plants provide gas for a family of 10 for cooking, heating and running irrigation pumps for six hours daily.

Rab Nawaz bought one of these large plants for 1,700 dollars. PBDP provided him a subsidy of 400 dollars as part of its biogas promotion in the area.

“I use the dung of 18 buffalos to produce nearly 40 cubic meters of gas every day to run my diesel-turned-biogas-run irrigation pump for six hours and cooking stove for three times a day,” he told IPS, while shoveling out his cattle pen in Sargodha.

The father of three says that after eliminating diesel — which is damaging to the environment and health, as well as expensive — he saves 10-12 dollars daily.

As a part of sustainability of the biogas programme, 50 local biogas construction companies have been set up. International technical experts trained nearly 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of the biogas units.

Initiated in 2009 by the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Programme – Pakistan (NRSP-Pakistan), PBDP was financed by the Netherlands Embassy in Pakistan and technical support was extended by Winrock International and SNV (Netherlands-based nongovernmental development organisations).

“The biogas programme aimed to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. To that extent, the main actors at the supply side of the sector are private Biogas Construction Enterprises (BCEs) providing biogas construction and after sales services to households. At the demand side of the sector, Rural Support Programmes organized under the RSPN will be the main implementing partners, but will also include NGOs, farmers’ organizations and dairy organizations,” NRSP CEO Shandana Khan told IPS.

“The 5,600 biogas plants are now saving nearly 13,000 tons of fuelwood burning worth two million dollars and 169,600 liters of kerosene oil for night lamp use,” she said.

“Implemented at a total cost of around 3.3 million dollars, the biogas plants have helped reduce the average three to four hours a woman spent collecting fuel-wood and cooking daily. These women now get enough time for socialization, economic activity and health is returning to households thanks to the biogas plants… which provide instant gas for cooking, healing and dishwashing,” she said.

More significantly, the programme is helping avoid nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, she calculated.

At present around 18 percent of households in Pakistan, mostly in urban areas, have access to natural gas. Over 80 percent of rural people rely on biomass (wood, cattle dung, dried straw, etc) for cooking, heating and other household chores, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

Chairman of the AEDB Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “It is unviable for the large number of rural households to have access to piped natural gas. However, biogas offer a promising and viable solution to meet energy needs of the households in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of over 180 million cattle heads.”

He argued that some 80 million cattle and buffaloes and an estimated 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million poultry birds in the country can also provide sufficient raw material for substantial production of biogas.

“This way, the biogas can be tapped to cope with a range of health, environmental and health and economic benefits,” he stressed.

Pakistan is home to over 160 million head of cattle (buffalo, cow, camel, donkey, goat and lamb). The dung of these livestock can feed five million biogas plants of varying sizes, according to energy experts at the National University of Science and Technology (Islamabad) and Faisalabad Agriculture University (Punjab province).

This can help plug the yawning gas supply gap. According to government figures, 73 percent of 200 million people (a majority of them in rural areas) have no access to piped natural gas. Such people rely on LPG gas cylinders and fuelwood.

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Toward a More Reflective Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/toward-a-more-reflective-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toward-a-more-reflective-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/toward-a-more-reflective-planet/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 19:07:47 +0000 David Keith and Gernot Wagner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145841 By David Keith and Gernot Wagner
Jun 27 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The last time the atmosphere held as much carbon dioxide as it does today was about three million years ago – a time when sea levels were 10-30 meters higher than they are now. Climate models have long struggled to duplicate those large fluctuations in sea levels – until now. Indeed, for the first time, a high-quality model of Antarctic ice and climate has been able to simulate these large swings. That is smart science, but it brings devastating news.

sustainable_0_The new model shows that melting in Antarctica alone could increase global sea levels by as much as one meter (3.2 feet) by the end of this century – well above prior estimates. Worse, it suggests that even extraordinary success at cutting emissions would not save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, locking in eventual sea-level increases of more than five meters. As little as one meter could put at risk entire cities, from Miami to Mumbai, and cause enormous economic disruption.

We need to turn down the heat – and fast. To this end, albedo modification – a kind of geoengineering intended to cool the planet by increasing the reflectivity of the earth’s atmosphere – holds tremendous promise.

Injecting synthetic aerosols that reflect sunlight into the stratosphere, for example, could help counter the warming caused by greenhouse gases. The mechanism is similar to wearing a white shirt in the summer: white reflects sunlight and cools what is underneath, whereas darker colors absorb sunlight and heat.

To be sure, even in the best-case scenario, solar geoengineering alone could not ‘stabilise the worlds climate. For that, we must both stop pumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere and learn how to remove what is already there. That is why emissions cuts should receive the lion’s share of resources devoted to combating climate change.

But, as the recent study shows, emissions cuts alone cannot save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and prevent a drastic sea-level rise. If they are pursued in conjunction with moderate albedo modification, however, there is a chance of halting rising temperatures, helping to keep the world under 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the more ambitious target agreed at the Paris climate talks last December. (It should be noted that, given carbon-cycle feedbacks, such as the thawing of permafrost, there is a chance that the world would face a 1.5 degree Celcius rise, even if emissions were eliminated today.)

Most of the world’s state-of-the-art climate models have explored albedo modification, and each of them has found that the process does have the potential to mitigate climate change. Beyond limiting total warming, it can help to check the rise in peak temperatures, decreasing the risk of destructive heat waves. And it seems to be particularly effective at reducing extreme rainfall, which holds profound implications for minimizing flood damage.

Albedo modification remains uncertain and risky, owing partly to a dearth of organized research into the subject. And, in fact, albedo modification would undoubtedly make some things worse. But there is not a single climate model run that shows that a moderate intervention would make any region worse off overall. Moreover, the large potential upside, measured in trillions of dollars, contrasts with low direct costs – in the single-digit billions for full-scale deployment. In fact, albedo modification is so cheap that direct costs will not be the deciding issue. Instead, it is a risk-risk trade-off – one that will require more research to assess.

Given the lack of knowledge, no sensible person would push for deploying albedo modification today. But it would make no sense to ignore its potential. After all, no one would argue that we should abandon research on a promising cancer drug because it is unproven.

The US National Academy of Sciences first called attention to what it then described as “climate modification” in a 1983 report. It recommended careful research in 1992 and again in 2015. Major environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council support careful, small-scale research. Yet no such program exists.

One reason for this is concern about the diversion of resources from other approaches. And, of course, there are tradeoffs. But the US, for example, has an annual climate science budget of around $3 billion. An exploratory solar geoengineering program, costing only a few tens of millions of dollars per year, is entirely feasible.

A larger obstacle to progress is fear that more attention to geoengineering solutions would sap motivation to cut emissions. Maybe so, but it would be barking mad to take up smoking simply because an experimental cancer treatment showed some promise on a lab rat. And, in fact, it is conceivable that a concerted effort to advance research on albedo modification could spur action to cut emissions, much like a graphic look at the side effects of chemotherapy prompts some to stop smoking.

Whichever reaction prevails, the moral imperative to explore a technology that can protect the poorest and most vulnerable this century would seem to trump amorphous concerns that doing so could weaken the incentive to pursue solutions that would largely benefit future generations.

China has initiated a limited research program on albedo modification. The US has not. Given that albedo modification is the kind of technology that necessitates an open, transparent, and international research effort – precisely the kind of effort in which the US excels – this is a serious failing.

The US government should take the lead now in researching albedo modification. Even if the result was that albedo modification does not work, the dividends of such research would be enormous, owing to the added pressure to cut emissions. And if it turned out to be successful, the social, environmental, and economic returns would be tremendous.

David Keith is a climate scientist and professor of applied physics in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Gernot Wagner is an economist and research associate at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-author of the book Climate Shock.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2016. www.project-syndicate.org

(Exclusive to The Daily Star)

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

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

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

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

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

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

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

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

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

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

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

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

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Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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African Fisheries Plundered by Foreign Fleetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:24:12 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145753 Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

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

By Christopher Pala
WASHINGTON, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aquaculture Meets Agriculture on Bangladesh’s Low-Lying Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:25:31 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145746 Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

A continuous influx of sea water is threatening agriculture and food security in vast coastal areas of Bangladesh, but farmers are finding ways to adapt, like cultivating fish and crops at the same time.

The coastal and offshore areas of this low-lying, densely populated country include tidal estuaries and river floodplains in the south along the Bay of Bengal. Here the arable land is about 30 percent of the total available in the country.

In a recent study, experts observed that salinity intrusion due to reduction of freshwater flow from upstream, salinization of groundwater and fluctuation of soil salinity are major concerns and could seriously hamper country’s food production.

According to salinity survey findings, salinity monitoring information, and interpretation of Land and Soil Resource Utilization Guides, about one million hectares, or about 70 percent of cultivated lands of the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh, are affected by various degrees of soil salinity.

It is already predicted that if the current trend of climate change continues, rice production could fall by 10 percent and wheat by 30 percent.

Dr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury, principal scientific officer of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute or BARI, told IPS, “We are indeed greatly concerned by the loss of arable land in the coastal areas that is already happening and the future from the past trends looks bleak.”

Dr. Chowdhury explained that salinity in the coastal regions has a direct relation with temperature. If the temperature rises, the soil loses moisture and the salt from tidal or storm surges becomes concentrated, which results in crops wilting or dying – a phenomenon that is is already widely evident.

Dr. Chowdhury stressed adaptation measures and crop management, since at this point, climate change “cannot be avoided, but we have to live with it.”

Salinity in Bangladesh, one of the countries worst affected by decades of sea level rise, causes an unfavorable environment that restricts normal crop production throughout the year. The freshly deposited alluviums from upstream in the coastal areas of Bangladesh become saline as it comes in contact with the sea water and continues to be inundated during high tides and ingress of sea water through creeks.

A study found that the affected area increased from 8,330 square km in 1973 to 10,560 square km in 2009, according to the Soil Resource Development Institute in 2010.

Despite efforts to increase resilience, climate challenges continue to result in large economic losses, retarding economic growth and slowing progress in reducing poverty.

To confront the challenges, farming communities in the coastal areas that always relied on traditional agricultural practices are now shifting to research-based farming technology that promises better and safer food production.

The chief of BARI, Dr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Mondal, who describes climate change as a tragedy, told IPS, “At BARI, we are concentrating on developing agriculture practices towards adaptation to the extreme weathers, particularly in the coastal regions.”

Recognizing the adaptation strategies, BARI, blessed with years of research, has successfully introduced best farming practices in coastal regions. One is called the Sarjan model and is now very popular.

A leading NGO in Bangladesh, the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), which has over 35 years of experience working mostly in coastal areas, has played a key role in supporting farmers with adaptive measures.

During a recent visit to an island district of Bhola, this correspondent witnessed how COAST in collaboration with the local agriculture department has introduced the farming model that is making huge positive impacts.

Mohammad Jahirul Islam, a senior COAST official in Char Fasson, a remote coastal region barely 30 cms above sea level, told IPS, “The traditional agricultural practices are threatened, largely due to salt water intrusion. High salt concentration is toxic to plants and we are now forced to seek alternative ways of growing crops.”

The Coastal Integrated Technology Extension Programme (CITEP) being implemented by COAST in Char Fasson has been helping farmers since 2003 with alternative farming practices to improve crop production in the face of climate change.

As part of its capacity-building programmes, CITEP encourages farmers to use the Sarjan model of long raised rows of soil about one metre wide and 90 cm high for cultivating varieties of vegetables. The trenches between the rows are filled with water into which various types of fish are released for maturing. The water for irrigating the plants comes from nearby lakes filled with freshwater drawn from the Meghna River.

The advantage of using Sarjan model is that it protects cropland from inundation during storm surges, tidal waves and flash flooding and avoids high salinity.

CITEP project coordinator in Char Fasson, Mizanur Rahman, told IPS, “These lowlands, hardly 25 kms from the sea at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, are prone to tidal waves and storm surges during the seasons. So the recent farming models introduced here have been designed to protect the crops.”

According to Sadek Hossain, a veteran farmer who is already benefitting from the Sarjan model, said it “is safer and gives risk-free crops as the spaces between the crops allow more sunlight exposure and also has far less pest attacks.”

The new farming practice has turned out to be very popular in Char Fasson, where over 9,000 farmers are now using the model. Many farmers have also formed self-help groups where members benefit from sharing each others’ experiences.

Manzurul Islam, a local official of the government’s agriculture department in Char Fasson, told IPS, “At the beginning, the challenges were huge because farmers refused to adapt to the new model. Realising the benefits farmers are now convinced.”

Losses of crops on flat lands are disastrous. Mohammad Joynal recalls how tidal waves three years ago destroyed huge crops. “We were helpless when the crops were inundated on about 5,500 hectares of flat land. The sea water inundation for four months caused all crops to wilt and eventually rot,” said a dishearten face of Joynal.

Hundreds of farmers have been trained using demonstration crop fields on the adaptation techniques. “We have many different models developed to grow crops at different levels of salinity which are already proven successes,” said BARI Director General Dr. Mondol.

Sea level rise is already evident in coastal Bangladesh. Projections show that 97 percent of coastal areas and over 40 million people living in coastal Bangladesh are vulnerable to multiple climate change hazards.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) for 2014, which evaluated the sensitivity of populations, the physical exposure of countries, and governmental capacity to adapt to climate change over the following 30 years, ranks Bangladesh as the number one economy in the world at risk to climate change.

Globally, emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere are growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, according to a joint publication by COAST and the Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) on ‘Climate Change Impact and Disaster Vulnerabilities in the Coastal Areas of Bangladesh’.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Trust and one of the authors of the joint publication, told IPS, “The impacts of climate change with time would become more acute hitting right at the core of our economy – agriculture on which over 70 percent of our rural population rely on.”

Rezaul, well known for his contributions to development in the coastal regions, added, “We acted early considering the harsh realities of extreme weathers. Introducing the Sarjan model is one of many which we have successfully implemented, building capacities of the local farmers.”

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The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What is Missing on the Global Health Front?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:54:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145722 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The last World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva (23-28 May) discussed the manifold global health crises that require urgent attention, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues. We are currently facing many global health related challenges, and as such multiple actions must be taken urgently to prevent these crises from boiling over.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event and this year 3,500 delegates from 194 countries took part, including Health Ministers of most countries. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan gave an overview of some of the successes and further work needed on the global health front.

The good news includes 19,000 fewer children dying every day, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured, and the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, with over 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000. As a result, aid for health is now far more effective, and the issue of health has become an investment for stable and equitable societies, not just a drain on resources.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can develop very quickly. There is a dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, which the world is currently not prepared to cope with. Dr. Chan gave three examples of the emerging global health emergencies: climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and the rise of chronic-communicable diseases as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Many of the issues addressed are largely anthropogenic, created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power economies, medicines for treating chronic conditions are more profitable than a short course of antibiotics, and highly processed foods provide longer term profit than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Unchecked, these emergencies will eventually reach a tipping point and become irreversible and as regards antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill.” On moving ahead, Dr. Chan highlighted universal health coverage as an essential aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the ultimate expression of fairness that ensures no one is left behind, and to provide comprehensive care for all.

A question however, was not covered by Dr Chan in her speech; how can some governments- especially in underdeveloped countries, obtain enough funds to finance the idealistic goal of providing healthcare for their citizens?

The Assembly agreed that WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling it to provide rapid, consistent, and comprehensive support to countries and communities facing or recovering from various emergencies, disease outbreaks, disasters or conflicts.

The WHO has produced a new paper to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools to counter the threat of a global increase in antimicrobial resistance. The Secretariat has made quite a lot of progress, but action on the ground is still slow, in the Asia-Pacific region so far, only six countries have completed their national plans and another five have plans that are being developed.

WHO assistant Director-General, Keiji Fukuda said that focus in the upcoming year will include: making progress on the Global Action Plan (established in 2015), further developing the global stewardship framework, and involving political leaders by meeting in the United Nations headquarters in New York in September.

There were two issues on childhood nutrition that highlighted the need to put health concerns above corporate interests. The first of these issues was childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under 5 years were affected by being overweight or obese, and 48% of them lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended the promotion of healthier foods, reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. It proposed more effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.

On the second issue, the Assembly welcomed WHO guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. According to the guidelines, to support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks” targeted for babies aged 6 months to 3 years should be regulated in the same manner as infant formula for babies below 6 months.

On access to medicines and vaccines, the WHA agreed on measures to address the global shortage of medicines and vaccines, including monitoring supply and demand, improving procurement systems and improving affordability through voluntary or compulsory licensing of high-priced medicines.

An interesting and well-attended side event was organised by India on behalf of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines. After remarks from the health ministers of these, the main speaker, American law professor Frederick Abbott, spoke about why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could make it very difficult for the TPPA members to have access to affordable medicines.

His warning was complemented by the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé who estimated that the annual cost of treating 15 million AIDS patients could increase from US$2 to US$150 billion without the availability of generic drugs, costing about US$10,000 per patient annually.

Air pollution and the use of chemicals were other important environmental issues highlighted by the Assembly. Every year, 8 million deaths are attributed to air pollution – 4.3 million indoor and 3.7 million due to outdoor air pollution. The Assembly has also welcomed a new WHO roadmap to respond to the adverse health effects of increasing air pollution.

Since 1.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by exposure to extremely harmful chemicals, among them lead and various pesticides. WHA would like to ensure that the use and production of chemicals is regulated to minimize adverse health and environmental effects by 2020. Some agreed actions include the transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data, and exchanging good practices to manage chemicals and waste between cooperating countries. WHO will develop a roadmap to meet the 2020 goals and the associated SDG targets.

A controversial issue that has taken two years of negotiations was how WHO should cooperate with non-state actors. The WHA finally adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which provides WHO with policies and procedures to engage with NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

On the one hand, there is the aim to strengthen WHO’s engagement with non-state stakeholders. On the other hand, there is the need for WHO to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise when corporations and their foundations, associations and lobbies wield large and undue influence if they are allowed to get too close to WHO. Many NGOs and several developing countries are concerned about how this corporate influence is undermining WHO’s public health responsibilities, and that FENSA will worsen rather than reverse this trend.

On the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, the Assembly agreed to prioritize universal health coverage; to work with actors outside the health sector to address the social, economic and environmental causes of health problems, including antimicrobial resistance; to expand efforts to address poor maternal and child health, infectious diseases in developing countries; and to put a greater focus on equity within and between countries.

The WHA also adopted many other resolutions on international health regulations including; tobacco control, road traffic deaths and injuries, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, Mycetoma, integrated health services, the health workforce, the Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and healthy ageing.

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Asia’s Rising Prosperity, Climate Change Taking Toll on Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 10:15:24 +0000 Graham J. Dwyer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145718 If production stagnates, caloric availability declines & child malnutrition rises to 20% in Asia-Pacific. Credit: ADB

If production stagnates, caloric availability declines & child malnutrition rises to 20% in Asia-Pacific. Credit: ADB

By Graham J. Dwyer
MANILA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

Asia’s economic growth over the last decade has been relentless, bringing with it a rising population and an influx of people from the countryside to the cities in search of prosperity. These trends are not expected to abate.

By 2025, the total population of Asia and the Pacific region should reach about 4.4 billion. And over the next 40 years, Asia’s urban population is projected to increase from 1.9 billion to 3.2 billion.

In another significant trend, the middle income population will also grow to about 2 billion by 2050. Such demographic shifts bring benefits, but many problems also—whether providing jobs, services, or a clean environment.

Asia and Pacific is home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million - Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB's Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security
The accompanying rising incomes and rapid urbanization bring about other less obvious pressures, such changes in dietary preferences, which cause a shift toward more land and water intensive meats and foodstuffs.

Food conundrum: increase production, avoid waste

Without a significant increase in food production above current trends, declines in caloric availability and an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20% are anticipated.

“Asia and Pacific is home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million,” says Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB’s Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security.

“The region faces new challenges to produce and access more nutritious and safe food for its growing populations. Thus, achieving food security for all, now and into the future, is at the core of the post-2015 development agenda.”

In this regard, climate change and disaster risks, financing gaps, poor logistics and infrastructure deficits are among the other major constraints to realize the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

For example, projections to 2050 for Asia and the Pacific show that with temperatures rising, yields of rice, wheat, and soybeans may decline by 14 per cent-20 [er cent, 32 per cent-44 per cent, and 9%-18%, respectively.

Meanwhile, post-harvest losses account for about 30 per cent of the total harvest in the Asia and Pacific region.

About 42 per cent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 per cent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, and market facilities, as well as a lack of post-harvest-facilities such as pack-houses and cool and dry storage facilities; lack of dedicated transport systems for food; and poor quality bulk packaging that result in spillage and damage.

Safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all

It is against this backdrop that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting a Food Security Forum on June 22-24. Taking the theme Safe, Nutritious, and Affordable Food for All to echo the inclusive nature of global food security goals, the forum will tackle transformations, trends, and future direction from food production to consumption.

At the event, partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners will discuss strategies, and share experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.

Sessions will tackle such major topics as the region’s agriculture transformation challenges, value chains in agribusiness, safe quality and nutrition in food, and a farmers’ roundtable. Books on Water-Saving Rice Technologies in South Asia and Improving Logistics for Perishable Agricultural Products in the People’s Republic of China will be launched.

Apart from the panels, network and partnership events, the forum will also feature a TechnoShow showcasing innovative, clever, and/or state-of-the art agricultural and food processing technologies.

Working for food security

ADB has committed 2 billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific. ADB work recognizes the significant role of smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, connectivity, and value chains in advancing the food security agenda and will prioritize business approaches for sustainable and inclusive agriculture.

But this is not ignoring the need for increased productivity and reduced food losses as well as enhanced food safety, quality and nutrition to meet the growing and evolving demands of the population, while ensuring the improved management and resilience of natural resources and ecosystems.

“ADB’s support to agriculture and natural resources in the future will emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies, for which partnership building, experiential learning and knowledge sharing will be crucial,” said Mr. Ahmed.

“To this end, the Food Security Forum aims to be a platform to exchange knowledge and work together for safe, nutritious and affordable food for all.”

 

 

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Grim News from Cape Grim puts ​Australians on Alerthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%e2%80%8baustralians-on-alert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%25e2%2580%258baustralians-on-alert http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%e2%80%8baustralians-on-alert/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 20:23:50 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145711 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%e2%80%8baustralians-on-alert/feed/ 0 Building Africa’s Energy Grid Can Be Green, Smart and Affordablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:24:55 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145650 A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Jun 16 2016 (IPS)

It’s just after two p.m. on a sunny Saturday and 51-year-old Moses Kasoka is seated outside the grass-thatched hut which serves both as his kitchen and bedroom.

Physically challenged since birth, Kasoka has but one option for survival—begging. But he thinks life would have been different had he been connected to electricity. “I know what electricity can do, especially for people in my condition,” he says.

“With power, I would have been rearing poultry for income generation,” says Kasoka, who is among the estimated 645 million Africans lacking access to electricity, hindering their economic potential.

“As you can see, I sleep beside an open fire every night, which serves for both lighting and additional warmth in the night,” adds Kasoka, inviting this reporter into his humble home.

But while Kasoka remains in wishful mode, a kilometer away is Phinelia Hamangaba, manager at Pemba District Dairy milk collection centre, who is now accustomed to having an alternative plan in case of power interruptions, as the cooperative does not have a stand-by generator.

Phinelia has daily responsibility for ensuring that 1,060 litres of milk supplied by over a hundred farmers does not ferment before it is collected by Parmalat Zambia, with which they have a contract.

“Electricity is our major challenge, but in most cases, we get prior information of an impending power interruption, so we prepare,” says the young entrepreneur. “But when we have the worst case scenario, farmers understand that in business, there is profit and loss,” she explains, adding that they are called to collect back their fermented milk.

Moses Kasoka sits in his wheelchair outside his grass-thatched hut in Pemba, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Moses Kasoka sits in his wheelchair outside his grass-thatched hut in Pemba, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

The cooperative is just one of several small-scale industries struggling with country-wide power rationing. Due to poor rainfall in the past two seasons, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants.

According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report, Zambia’s power deficit might take years to correct, especially at the 1,080MW Kariba North Bank power plant where power stations on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River are believed to have consumed far more than their allotted water over the course of 2015 and into early 2016.

The report highlights that in February, the reservoir at Kariba Dam fell to only 1.5 meters above the level that would necessitate a full shutdown of the plant. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full as of late March, compared to 49 percent last year. And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant—neither of which are a certainty.

This scenario is just but one example of Africa’s energy and climate change nexus, highlighting how poor energy access hinders economic progress, both at individual and societal levels.

And as the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries, but also in need of energy to support the economic ambitions of its poverty-stricken people, Africa’s temptation to take an easy route through carbon-intensive energy systems is high.

“We are tired of poverty and lack of access to energy, so we need to deal with both of them at the same time, and to specifically deal with poverty, we need energy to power industries,” remarked Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the 2016 African Development Bank Annual meetings in Lusaka, adding that renewables can only meet part of the need.

But former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan believes Africa can develop using a different route. “African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets,” says Annan, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP).

In its 2015 report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, the APP outlines Africa’s alternative, without using the carbon-intensive systems now driving economic growth, which have taken the world to the current tipping point. And Africa is therefore being asked to lead the transition to avert an impending disaster.

The report recommends Africa’s leaders use climate change as an incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. In the words of the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, “For Africa, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If Africa focuses on smart choices, it can win investments in the next few decades in climate resilient and low emission development pathways.”

But is the financing mechanism good enough for Africa’s green growth? The APP notes that the current financing architecture does not meet the demands, and that the call for Africa’s leadership does not negate the role of international cooperation, which has over the years been a clarion call from African leaders—to be provided with finance and reliable technology.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mourns the vague nature of the Paris agreement in relation to technology transfer for Africa. “The agreement vaguely talks about technologies without being clear on what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions,” reads part of the civil society’s analysis of the Paris agreement.

However, other proponents argue for home solutions. According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood.

But what would it take to expand power generation and finance energy for all? The African Development Bank believes a marginal increase in energy investment could solve the problem.

“Africa collects 545 billion dollars a year in terms of tax revenues. If you put ten percent of that to electricity, problem is solved. Second, share of the GDP going to energy sector in Africa is 0.49 percent. If you raise that to 3.4 percent, you generate 51 billion dollars straight away. So which means African countries have to put their money where their mouth is, invest in the energy sector,” says AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, who also highlights the importance of halting illicit capital flows out Africa, costing the continent around 60 billion dollars a year.

While Kasoka in Southern Zambia’s remote town awaits electricity , the country’s Scaling Solar programme, driving the energy diversification agenda, may just be what would light up his dream of rearing poultry. According to President Edgar Lungu, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.

With the world at the tipping point, Africa will have to beat the odds of climate change to develop. Desmond Tutu summarises what is at stake this way: “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow. As a matter of urgency we must begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy.

“This requires fundamentally rethinking our economic systems, to put them on a sustainable and more equitable footing,” the South African Nobel Laureate says in the APP 2015 report.

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Soil Degradation Threatens Nutrition in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 17:32:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145637 Las Canoas Lake in the town of Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon affects Nicaragua, leaving local residents without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

Las Canoas Lake in the town of Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon affects Nicaragua, leaving local residents without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

Curbing soil degradation is essential for ecological sustainability and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Everyone knows how important water is, but not everyone understands that soil is not just what we walk on, it’s what provides us with food, fiber and building materials, and it is where water is retained and atmospheric carbon is stored,” said Pilar Román at the regional office of the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

More than 68 percent of the soil in South America is currently affected by erosion: 100 million hectares of land have been degraded as a result of deforestation and 70 million have been over-grazed.

For example, desertification plagues 55 percent of Brazil’s Northeast region – whose nearly 1.6 million sq km represent 18 percent of the national territory – affecting a large part of the staple food crops, such as maize and beans.

In Argentina, Mexico and Paraguay, over half of the territory suffers problems linked to degradation and desertification. And in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, between 27 and 43 percent of the territory faces desertification.

An especially serious case is Bolivia, where six million people, or 77 percent of the population, live in degraded areas.

The situation is not much different in Central America. According to the 2014 Soil Atlas of Latin America and the Caribbean produced by the EUROCLIMA program, erosion affects 75 percent of the land in El Salvador, while in Guatemala 12 percent is threatened by desertification.

FAO stresses that as much as 95 percent of the food consumed worldwide comes from the soil, and 33 percent of global soils are degraded.

In Africa, 80 percent of land is moderately to severely eroded, and another 10 percent suffers from slight erosion.

To alert the global population about the dangers posed by desertification and soil degradation, the world celebrates the World Day to Combat Desertification on Jun. 17, under the theme this year of “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People”.

“Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on the occasion of the international day this year.

Román, with the FAO regional office’s technical support for South American subregional coordination, told IPS that there are close links between poverty, desertification and land degradation.

“Numerous studies show that the poorest and most vulnerable communities have the worst access to inputs. A poor community has access to less fertile land, and more limited access to seeds, water, productive resources, agricultural machinery and incentives,” she said.

Terraces built by Atacameño indigenous people in the village of Caspana, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This age-old farming technique represents local adaptation to the climate and arid soil to guarantee the food supply for Andean highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Terraces built by Atacameño indigenous people in the village of Caspana, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This age-old farming technique represents local adaptation to the climate and arid soil to guarantee the food supply for Andean highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

“In these poor communities, the most vulnerable are women, who have fewer land titles and more restricted access to economic incentives, and indigenous people.

“There is a direct correlation in that direction and vice versa: degraded soil will push a community to migrate and will generate conflicts over a limited resource,” she said in an interview in the FAO regional office in Santiago.

One example is Chile, where 49 percent of the land suffers from moderate to severe erosion and 62 percent faces desertification.

To address this severe problem, the authorities updated a land degradation map, with the aim of designing and implementing strategic climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

The map was updated using meteorological and bioclimatic data from the last 60 years, as well as physiographical, socioeconomic and environmental indicators, and statistics on natural resources.

Efraín Duarte, an expert with Sud-Austral, a private consultancy, who is the author of the updated map, told IPS that “the main direct causes of desertification, land degradation and drought at a national level are deforestation, degradation of forests, forest fires and processes arising from land-use changes.”

“The impact of climate change” should also be factored in, he said.

According to several studies, at least 25 percent of the rainfall shortage during the current drought in Chile, which has dragged on for nearly five years, is attributable to human-induced climate change, said Duarte.

He also cited indirect causes: “Inadequate public policies for oversight, regularisation and fomenting of ‘vegetational’ resources (forests, bushes and undergrowth), combined with rural poverty, low levels of knowledge, and a lack of societal appreciation of plant resources.”

Using the updated map, the government designed a national strategy focused on supporting the recovery and protection of native forests and plants adapted to desert conditions, and on fomenting reforestation and revegetation.

According to Duarte, “Chile could carry out early mitigation actions focused on fighting deforestation, forest degradation, excessive extraction of forest products, forest fires, over-grazing, over-use of land and unsustainable land use, and lastly, the employment of technologies inappropriate for fragile ecosystems.”

The expert said the fight against desertification is a shared responsibility at the national and international levels.

Román concurred and proposed that the prevention of soil degradation should be carried out “in a holistic manner, based on adequate information and training and awareness-raising among communities and decision-making agents on protection of the soil.”

Also important in this effort are agricultural production, avoiding the use of bad practices that prioritise short-term results, and pressure on land, he added.

For FAO, sustainable agricultural production practices would make it possible to produce 58 percent more food, besides protecting the soil for future generations.

Prevention not only consists of applying techniques in the countryside, but also making efforts at the level of government and legal instruments, and working with the communities, said Román.

While the ideal is to prevent degradation and desertification, there have been successful initiatives in the recovery of desertified areas.

In Costa Rica, for example, the two main causes of degradation were reduced between 1990 and 2000, when the area affected by deforestation shrank from 22,000 to 8,000 hectares, while the area affected by forest fires shrank from 7,103 to 1,322 hectares.

Román underlined that, as a form of mitigation, it is important to diversify and expand the range of foods consumed, as potatoes, rice, wheat and maize – just four of the 30,000 edible plants that have been identified – currently represent 60 percent of all food that is eaten.

“On one hand, monoculture plantations of these plants are one of the factors of soil degradation, and on the other hand, a diet based on carbohydrates from these plants generates malnutrition,” she said.

Edited by Estrella Gutierrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Drought Dries Up Money from Honeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-dries-up-money-from-honey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 13:14:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145631 Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

“It is everything” is how smallholder farmer Nyovane Ndlovu describes beekeeping, which has long been an alternative sweet source of income for drought-beaten farmers in Zimbabwe.

A drought worsened by the El Nino phenomenon – which has now eased – led to a write-off of crops in many parts of Zimbabwe and across the Southern Africa region where more than 28 million people will need food aid this year. More than four million people need assistance in Zimbabwe, which has made an international appeal for 1.6 billion dollars to cover grain and other food needs. The drought, the worst in 30 years, has destroyed crops and livestock.

Ndlovu, 57, from a village in the Lupane District, a dry area prone to drought and hunger, is one of the country’s growing number of honey heroes, using forest resources to cope with a changing climate and complement his farming income.

But even beekeeping has not been immune to the latest severe drought , and many farmers who have depended on honey to make ends meet are reporting major losses this year.“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food." -- Nyovane Ndlovu

“Honey is my food and my children love it because they know each time I harvest they never go hungry,” says Ndlovu, who trained in beekeeping more than 10 years ago.

Beekeeping, practiced by more than 16,000 farmers in Zimbabwe, generally complements maize and grain crops. Last season, Ndlovu harvested a tonne of maize and 0.5 tonnes of sorghum, low numbers even for a drought year.

“Even in times of drought I have realized something from the field, especially small grains, but this past season has been terrible for many farmers,” says Ndlovu, who won a scotch cart and a plough in 2012 for emerging as the top farmer in an agriculture competition. “I turned to beekeeping when I realized the benefits. The proceeds from my honey sales have allowed me to pay school fees for my children and cover other household needs. I am getting more from honey than I do from cropping.”

Lupane District located 172km North West of Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo is home to more than 90,000 people, many who get by through limited cropping and extensive cattle rearing. The area is also home to state-owned indigenous hardwood forests, on which communities depend for fuel and food.

More honey, more money

Ndlovu has more than 20 Kenya Top Bar hives and two Langstroth hives – considered the best technology for apiculture because they give a higher production and quality honey. In a good season Ndlovu earns more than 500 dollars from honey sales. He even has his own label, Maguswini Honey, which he plans to commercialize once his honey has received a standard mark. A 375ml bottle of honey sells for four dollars in the village but five dollars when he delivers it to customers in Bulawayo and beyond.

Last year, Ndlovu and his neighbours, who belong to Bumbanani, a 30-member local beekeepers association, sold 900 dollars worth of honey within three days of exhibiting at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, an annual business showcase hosted in the city of Bulawayo. This year, they did not even make half the amount because they harvested less honey because of the drought.

“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food and the water was also scarce and the hives did not have a lot of honey,” Ndlovu told IPS.

Another farmer, Nqobani Sibanda from Gomoza village in Ward 12 in Lupane, this year harvested one 20-litre bucket of honey compared to 60 litres last year.

“This year the flowers withered early and we think the bees did not have enough food, hence the honey harvest was low. I have four hives and each hive can give me up to 20 litres of honey on a good season and I can get 300 dollars or more, but not this year,” Sibanda said.

Development researcher with the Institute of Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Everson Ndlovu, told IPS that income-generating projects such as beekeeping are an easy way for farmers to earn extra income in times of poor or no harvests and these projects can be up scaled into viable commercial enterprises.

“There is need for more training in business management, linking such small scale businesses to the market and business associations to get them properly registered and empowered,” said Ndlovu adding that, “the impact of drought has made it strategic for smallholder farmers to diversity their livelihoods but they need to receive weather information on time and in a manner they understand for them to make right decisions.”

Honey is traded globally and last year’s sales of natural honey were worth 2.3 billion dollars, according the World Top Exports website that tracks key exports. The sales were led by Europe with 35.2 percent of international honey sales, with Africa accounting for just 0.4 percent of the exports.

Bees which provide honey, propolis, Queen Jelly and beeswax among other products, help boost food security for some two billion smallholder farmers worldwide at no cost, a February 2016 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found. The FAO has called for the protection of bees and insects that play a vital role of pollination thereby sustainably increasing food supply. However, climate change is affecting global bee colonies.

A drought of many things

“Farmers have been affected by the drought and beekeeping was not spared, as seen by the low amount of honey they realized this year compared to last year in Lupane, a dry area,” said Clifford Maunze, a beekeeping trainer and Project Officer with Environment Africa under the Forestry Forces Programme supported by the FAO.

“We have trained farmers on beekeeping and helped them counteract the effects of the drought by planting more trees that bees like such as Moringa Oleifera, commonly known as the drumstick tree, which flowers constantly and have promoted the development of homestead orchard where they can have citrus trees to provide forage for the bees,” Maunze said.

Environment Africa, working with the Department of Agriculture Extension Services (Agritex), has trained 1,382 farmers in Lupane District and over 800 in Hwange District on beekeeping under a programme started in 2011. Lupane was chosen for apiculture projects because of its indigenous forests, some of which are threatened by expanding agricultural land, veld fires and deforestation.

“While the drought has affected farmers in Lupane, apiculture is the way to go providing income and jobs because it is cost-effective,” Maunze said.

In drier regions like Matabeleland North Province, farmers can harvest honey twice a season and with at least five hives a farmer can get 100 litres of honey. This can be even more in regions with higher rainfall and forage, where farmers can harvest up to four times a season.

Figures from the national statistical agency Zimstats and Agritex show that Zimbabwe produces over 427,000 kg of honey annually against a local demand of 447,000 kg. The deficit of nearly 20,000 metric tonnes is made up through imports, a situation that farmers like Ndlovu are seeking to change through intensive investment in apiculture.

Zimbabwe is aiming to raise honey production to a target 500,000 litres by 2018, according to Zim-Asset, a national strategy to revive the country’s battered economy, currently facing a cash crisis.

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Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:34:01 +0000 Katrin Glatzel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145621 Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

By Dr. Katrin Glatzel
KIGALI, Rwanda, Jun 14 2016 (IPS)

After over a year of extreme weather changes across the world, causing destruction to homes and lives, 2015-16 El Niño has now come to an end.

This recent El Niño – probably the strongest on record along with the along with those in 1997-1998 and 1982-83– has yet again shown us just how vulnerable we, let alone the poorest of the poor, are to dramatic changes in the climate and other extreme weather events.

Across southern Africa El Niño has led to the extreme drought affecting this year’s crop. Worst affected by poor rains are Malawi, where almost three million people are facing hunger, and Madagascar and Zimbabwe, where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of substantial crop failure.

However, El Niño is not the only manifestation of climate change. Mean temperatures across Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, possibly reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels, and rainfall will change, almost invariably for the worst.

In the face of this, African governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth in order to meet the food demands of a rapidly expanding population and a growing middle class. To achieve this exact challenge, African Union nations signed the Malabo Declaration in 2014, committing themselves to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025.

However, according to a new briefing paper out today from the Montpellier Panel, the agricultural growth and food security goals as set out by the Malabo Declaration have underemphasised the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Montpellier Panel concludes that food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart.

Smallholder farmers will require more support than ever to withstand the challenges and threats posed by climate change while at the same time enabling them to continue to improve their livelihoods and help achieve an agricultural transformation. In this process it will be important that governments do not fail to mainstream smallholder resilience across their policies and strategies, to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, despite the increasing number and intensity of droughts, heat waves or flash floods.

The Montpellier Panel argues that climate-smart agriculture, which serves the triple purpose of increasing production, adapting to climate change and reducing agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, needs to be integrated into countries’ National Agriculture Investment Plans and become a more explicit part of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.

Across Africa we are starting to see signs of progress to remove some of the barriers to implementing successful climate change strategies at national and local levels.  These projects and agriculture interventions are scalable and provide important lessons for strengthening political leadership, triggering technological innovations, improving risk mitigation and above all building the capacity of a next generation of agricultural scientists, farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs. The Montpellier Panel has outlined several strategies that have shown particular success.

Building a Knowledge Economy

A “knowledge economy” improves the scientific capacities of both individuals and institutions, supported by financial incentives and better infrastructure. A good example is the “Global Change System Analysis, Research and Training” (START) programme, that promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change across 26 countries in Africa.

START provides research grants and fellowships, facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues and develops curricula. This opens up opportunities for scientists and development professionals, young people and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the threats posed by climate change.

Sustainably intensifying agriculture

Agriculture production that will simultaneously improve food security and natural resources such as soil and water quality will be key for African countries to achieve the goal of doubling agriculture productivity by 2025. Adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI) practices in combination has the potential to increase agricultural production while improving soil fertility, reducing GHG emissions and environmental degradation and making smallholders more resilient to climate change or other weather stresses and shocks.

Drip irrigation technologies such as bucket drip kits help deliver water to crops effectively with far less effort than hand-watering and for a minimal cost compared to irrigation. In Kenya, through the support of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, the use of the drip kit is spreading rapidly and farmers reported profits of US$80-200 with a single bucket kit, depending on the type of vegetable.

Providing climate information services

Risk mitigation tools, such as providing reliable climate information services, insurance policies that pay out to farmers following extreme climate events and social safety net programmes that pay vulnerable households to contribute to public works can boost community resilience. Since 2011 the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency and the the Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Sénégal, an association of 82 community-based radio stations, have been collaborating to develop climate information services that benefit smallholder farmers.

A pilot project was implemented in Kaffrine and by 2015, the project had scaled-up to the rest of the country. Four different types of CI form the basis of advice provided to farmers through SMS and radio: seasonal, 10-day, daily and instant weather forecasts, that allow farmers to adjust their farming practices. In 2014, over 740,000 farm households across Senegal benefitted from these services.

Now is the time to act

While international and continental processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, COP21 and the Malabo Declaration are crucial for aligning core development objectives and goals, there is often a disconnect between the levels of commitment and implementation on the ground. Now is an opportune time to act. Governments inevitably have many concurrent and often conflicting commitments and hence require clear goals that chart a way forward to deliver on the Malabo Declaration.

The 15 success stories discussed in the Montpellier Panel’s briefing paper highlight just some examples that help Africa’s agriculture thrive. As the backbone of African economies, accounting for as much as 40% of total export earnings and employing 60 – 90% of the labour force, agriculture is the sector that will accelerate growth and transform Africa’s economies.

With the targets of the Malabo Declaration aimed at 2025 – five years before the SDGs – Africa can now seize the moment and lead the way on the shared agenda of sustainable agricultural development and green economic growth.

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Seeds for Supper as Drought Intensifies in South Madagascarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 11:18:10 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145619 Farmers are in despair at the drought crisis in Southern Madagascar, where at least 1.14 million people are food insecure. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Farmers are in despair at the drought crisis in Southern Madagascar, where at least 1.14 million people are food insecure. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
BEKILY, Madagascar, Jun 14 2016 (IPS)

Havasoa Philomene did not have any maize when the harvesting season kicked off at the end of May since like many in the Greater South of Madagascar, she had already boiled and eaten all her seeds due to the ongoing drought.

Here, thousands of children are living on wild cactus fruits in spite of the severe constipation that they cause, but in the face of the most severe drought witnessed yet, Malagasy people have resorted to desperate measures just to survive.

“We received maize seeds in January in preparation for the planting season but most of us had eaten all the seeds within three weeks because there is nothing else to eat,” says the 53-year-old mother of seven.

She lives in Besakoa Commune in the district of Bekily, Androy region, one of the most affected in the South of Madagascar.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that an estimated 45,000 people in Bekily alone are affected, which is nearly half of the population here.

Humanitarian agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimate that 1.14 million people lack enough food in the seven districts of Southern Madagascar, accounting for at least 80 percent of the rural population.

The United Nations World Food Programme now says that besides Androy, other regions, including Amboassary, are experiencing a drought crisis and many poor households have resulted to selling small animals and their own clothes, as well as kitchenware, in desperate attempts to cope.

After the USAID’s Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance through The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) organised an emergency response in January to provide at least 4,000 households in eight communes in the districts of Bekily and Betroka with maize seeds, many families had devoured them in less than three weeks.

Philomene told IPS that “the seeds should have been planted in February but people are very hungry.”

Due to disastrous crop production in the last harvesting season, many farmers did not produce enough seeds for the February planting season, hence the need for humanitarian agencies to meet the seed deficit.

Farmers like Rasoanandeasana Emillienne say that this is the driest rainy season in 35 years.

“I have never experienced this kind of hunger. We are taking one day at a time because who knows what will happen if the rains do not return,” says the mother of four.

Although the drought situation has been ongoing since 2013, experts such as Shalom Laison, programme director at ADRA Madagascar, says that at least 80 percent of crops from the May-June harvest are expected to fail.

The Southern part of Madagascar is the poorest, with USAID estimates showing that 90 percent of the population earns less than two dollars a day.

According to Willem Van Milink, a food security expert with the World Food Programme, “Of the one million people affected across the Southern region, 665,000 people are severely food insecure and in need of emergency food support.”

Against this backdrop, the U.S. ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome (FAO, IFAD and WFP), David Lane, has urged the government to declare the drought an emergency as an appeal to draw attention to the ongoing crisis.

Ambassador Lane says that though the larger Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states are making plans to declare an emergency situation in 13 countries in the southern region, including Madagascar, “the government of Madagascar needs to make an appeal for help.”

“Climate change is getting more and more volatile but the world does not know what is happening in Southern Madagascar and this region is indicative of what is happening in a growing number of countries in Southern Africa,” he told IPS during his May 16-21 visit to Madagascar.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), these adverse weather conditions have reduced crop production in other Southern African nations where an estimated 14 million people face hunger in countries including Southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa.

Thousands of households are living precarious lives in the regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana in Southern Madagascar  because they are unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs through September due to the current El Niño event, which has translated into a pronounced dry spell.

“An appeal is very important to show that the drought is longer than usual, hence the need for urgent but also more sustainable solutions,” says USAID’s Dina Esposito.

The ongoing situation is different from chronic malnutrition, she stressed. “This is about a lack of food and not just about micronutrients and people are therefore much too thin for their age.”

She says that the problem with a slow onset disaster like a drought as compared to a fast onset disaster like a cyclone – also common in the South – is to determine when to draw the line and declare the situation critical.

Esposito warns that the worst is yet to come since food insecurity is expected to escalate in terms of severity and magnitude in the next lean season from December 2016 to February 2017.

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Political Contests Must not Push Kenya Over the Precipice Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/political-contests-must-not-push-kenya-over-the-precipice-again/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-contests-must-not-push-kenya-over-the-precipice-again http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/political-contests-must-not-push-kenya-over-the-precipice-again/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:50:05 +0000 Francis Ole Kaparo and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145617 Dr. Francis Ole Kaparo, the former Speaker of the National assembly of Kenya, is the Chairperson, National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). Siddharth Chatterjee, (@sidchat1) is the United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya.]]> Protesters along a Kenyan street. Elections should not mean destroying every gain made over the previous years. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Protesters along a Kenyan street. Elections should not mean destroying every gain made over the previous years. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Dr. Francis Ole Kaparo and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 2016 (IPS)

Kenyans, and friends of Kenya, are once again hoping that the five-yearly ritual of elections will not take the form of widespread ethnic violence and destruction of property. However, recent intransigent positions over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) are a cause for apprehension and concern.

The social and economic effects of the 2007 election dispute are still being felt, and key sectors of the economy, including tourism, are still struggling. The violence had also left its scar on the survivors in the form of anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Statistics on sexual and gender-based violence show that whenever election-related violent conflict occurs, it is the innocent women and children who suffer most.

As a development partner of Kenya, and guided by the core values of respect for human rights, diversity, equality and inclusion, the United Nations (UN) family is determined to do all it can to help prevent a recurrence of violence and conflict.

The UN in Kenya is currently supporting institutions to deliver a free, fair and peaceful election, with an eye on the welfare of the most vulnerable populations. It recognizes the adverse effects of violence on the poor, especially women and children, and believes that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peacefully assemble, is critical to fostering democracy and dialogue.

Through the current electoral support project entitled Strengthening Electoral Processes in Kenya (SEPK), supported by the European Union (EU), the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UN is supporting institutional strengthening, professional development, procurement and the use of information and communication technology for the 2017 elections.

The UN is also working with various stakeholders such as the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), faith-based organizations, and civil society groups towards peace building, conflict prevention, and on early-warning and response mechanisms.

These investments will only yield fruit if there is a genuine desire to carry out a peaceful election. For those seeking elective office, the elections must not be a zero-sum game, and the welfare of the country must supersede individual gain.

Kenyans must start believing that elections do not mean destroying every gain made over the previous five years, and that political contestation is possible without violence. The youth must decide to carve out a better future for themselves and say no to politicians who misuse their energy and enthusiasm.

It must not be lost on them that the heaviest toll from election violence is always on the poor youth, most of whom are already affected by lack of opportunities and have little hope of coming out of poverty.

These young populations provide a demographic edge for economic prosperity, but they are also a powder keg, especially when political self-interests clash, that ignites violence and lawlessness. Today, there is no greater need than that of investing in their future in order to stay the country from degenerating into chaos whenever elections approach.

Kenya has made significant of strides in attracting foreign direct investment. For instance, the Tenth World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference that was held in Kenya last year cemented Kenya’s global significance and reinforced the belief that Kenya is open for business. However, a politically charged and polarized environment does not bode well for a conducive environment that attracts new investors, while at the same encouraging the old ones to stay put.

With Kenya hosting several high-level meetings in the coming months; such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on 17-22 July 2016; Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) on 27-28 August 2016 – the first time the conference is being held outside Japan – and the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) 28 November – 1 December 2016; the political violence will not help the country’s image – that of a stable destination that attracts tourists and investors. Kenya must continue to gain the confidence of the international community by demonstrating that it can handle the demands of democratic space.

Efforts that are being made to ensure that Kenya has a peaceful, credible, free and fair election, such as the recent formation of the parliamentary joint select committee to unlock the IEBC impasse, are a welcome step. The work being done by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to ensure a peaceful, harmonious and integrated society should be supported by all.

While ultimately it is the people of Kenya who will chart the course that the country takes through the institutions they have put in place, the UN will continue to remind the leaders of sides of the political spectrum of Kenya, of their obligation to the poor and vulnerable.

As the official election campaign period approaches, we must choose the dove of fraternity and mutual concession over the hawk of belligerence and mutually destruction.

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Bougainville Women Turn Around Lives of ‘Lost Generation’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 12:08:20 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145600 Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
HAKO, Buka Island, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea , Jun 13 2016 (IPS)

Finding a sense of identity and purpose, as well as employment are some of the challenges facing youths in post-conflict Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands.

They have been labelled the ‘lost generation’ due to their risk of being marginalised after missing out on education during the Bougainville civil war (1989-1998), known locally as the ‘Crisis’.

But in Hako constituency, where an estimated 30,000 people live in villages along the north coast of Buka Island, North Bougainville, a local women’s community services organisation refuses to see the younger generation as anything other than a source of optimism and hope.

“They are our future leaders and our future generation, so we really value the youths,” Dorcas Gano, president of the Hako Women’s Collective (HWC) told IPS.“There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened." -- Gregory Tagu, who was in fifth grade when the war broke out.

Youth comprise about 60 percent of Bougainville’s estimated population of 300,000, which has doubled since the 1990s. The women’s collective firmly believes that peace and prosperity in years to come depends on empowering young men and women in these rainforest-covered islands to cope with the challenges of today with a sense of direction.

One challenge, according to Gregory Tagu, a youth from Kohea village, is the psychological transition to a world without war.

“Nowadays, youths struggle to improve their lives and find a job because they are traumatised. During the Crisis, young people grew up with arms and knives and even today they go to school, church and walk around the village with knives,” Tagu explained.

Tens of thousands of children were affected by the decade-long conflict, which erupted after demands for compensation for environmental damage and inequity by landowners living in the vicinity of the Panguna copper mine in the mountains of central Bougainville were unmet. The mine, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, a British-Australian multinational, opened in 1969 and was operated by its Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, until it was shut down in 1989 by revolutionary forces.

The conflict raged on for another eight years after the Papua New Guinea Government blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and the national armed forces and rebel groups battled for control of the region.

Many children were denied an education when schools were burnt down and teachers fled. They suffered when health services were decimated, some became child soldiers and many witnessed severe human rights abuses.

Tagu was in fifth grade when the war broke out. “There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened,” he recalled.

Trauma is believed to contribute to what women identify as a youth sub-culture today involving alcohol, substance abuse and petty crime, which is inhibiting some to participate in positive development.

They believe that one of the building blocks to integrating youths back into a peaceful society is making them aware of their human rights.

In a village meeting house about 20-30 young men and women, aged from early teens to late thirties, gather in a circle as local singer Tasha Kabano performs a song about violence against women. Then Anna Sapur, an experienced village court magistrate, takes the floor to speak about what constitutes human rights abuses and the entitlement of men, women and children to lives free of injustice and physical violations. Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect were key topics in the vigorous debate which followed.

But social integration for this age group also depends on economic participation. Despite 15 years of peace and better access to schools, completing education is still a challenge for many. An estimated 90 percent of students leave before the end of Grade 10 with reasons including exam failure and inability to meet costs.

“There are plenty of young people who cannot read and write, so we really need to train them in adult literacy,” Elizabeth Ngosi, an HWC member from Tuhus village declared, adding that currently they don’t have access to this training.

Similar to other small Pacific Island economies, only a few people secure formal sector jobs in Bougainville while the vast majority survive in the informal economy.

At the regional level, Justin Borgia, Secretary for the Department of Community Development, said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government is keen to see a long-term approach to integrating youths through formal education and informal life skills training. District Youth Councils with government assistance have identified development priorities including economic opportunities, improving local governance and rule of law.

In Hako, women are particularly concerned for the 70 percent of early school leavers who are unemployed and in 2007 the collective conducted their first skills training program. More than 400 youths were instructed in 30 different trade and technical skills, creative visual and music art, accountancy, leadership, health, sport, law and justice and public speaking.

Two-thirds of those who participated were successful in finding employment, Gano claims.

“Some of them have work and some have started their own small businesses….Some are carpenters now and have their own small contracts building houses back in the villages,” she said.

Tuition in public speaking was of particular value to Gregory Tagu.

“I have no CV or reference, but with my public speaking skills I was able to tell people about my experience and this helped me to get work,” Tagu said. Now he works as a truck driver for a commercial business and a technical officer for the Hako Media Unit, a village-based media resource set up after an Australian non-government organisation, Pacific Black Box, provided digital media training to local youths.

Equipping young people with skills and confidence is helping to shape a new future here and further afield. HWC’s president is particularly proud that some from the village have gone on to take up youth leadership positions in other parts of Bougainville, including the current President of the Bougainville Youth Federation.

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Politics of Numbershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/politics-of-numbers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=politics-of-numbers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/politics-of-numbers/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 14:54:40 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145586 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 10 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16 reminds us of our ticking population bomb.

We are told that today the country`s population stands at 195.4 million 3.7m more than it was the previous year. We have regressed.

The population growth rate stands at 1.89pc in 2016. It dropped to 1.49pc in 1960-2003.

Yet few express serious concern about the threat we face from our rapidly growing numbers that are undermining our national economy and destroying our social structures.

Many myths have been propagated to camouflage the official apathy vis-à-vis the population sector. Thus, it is said that there is population resistance to family planning on religious grounds. Another myth goes that people are ignorant of birth control and prefer large families.

These myths have been exploded by the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey of 2007 and 2014 which established that only a handful of women cited religion as a factor in their failure to limit pregnancies.

As for ignorance, practically all women questioned knew of at least one or more contraceptive methods. It cannot be disputed that irrespective of the views expressed from the pulpit women are now ready to plan their families. According to the two demographic surveys, there is also a substantial unmet need. That means there is a big chunk of the reproductive age female population 40 pc according to some estimates who want to limit their family size but cannot.

Then why are we failing in this sector? Of course, there is the usual absence of political will, ineptitude and corruption that marks the government`s working in the social sectors.

Policies are there but implementation is not.

The number and performance of population welfare centres that were set up to provide access to contraceptive services leave much to be desired. Media reports indicate that they are either non-existent or non-functional in many remote areas. Poor performance of official service institutions impacts mainly on the underprivileged, the worst sufferers. This is visible in the large family size of the poor.

There is a lot of focus on awareness-raising and research when the key issue to be addressedis thatofeasy access tocontraceptive services for potential acceptors. It is a pity that many who do not want more children cannot avert births because family planning services are beyond their reach.

There is also the need to integrate the population sector with the health system. This was suggested many years ago by Dr Nafis Sadik, the first executive director of the UN Population Fund, to the Pakistan government. But for reasons not known, Islamabad could never understand why a holistic approach was needed for a successful familyplanning programme.

Another aspect that has been ignored is the need to focus intensely on the status of women.

It seems that the progress made by the feminist activists in the 1980s and 1990s in empowering women has been pushed back. With daughters held in low esteem, family planning has suffered a setback. Parental preference for a male child remains pronounced.

Itappears thatithasbeenlefttoahandful of NGOs to sustain Pakistan`s population programme. The biggest of them is RahnumaFPAP, the oldest organisation in the field.

Having been launched in 1953 when Pakistan did not even have an official population programme, it has an impressive delivery network of 10 family health hospitals, 10 mobile service units and thousands of clinics. It has created referral mechanisms with a number of government and private clinics and practitioners and thus claims to cover an area of 77,910 square kilometres and a population of 12.5m.

Rahnuma`s dynamic and committed president, Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, tells me that her organisation has made all its programmesholistic and integrated. She herself is a staunch advocate of family planning and agrees that low esteem for women is a deterrent to progress in this sector.

HANDS is another large NGO that was launchedin 1979 with the mission of improving health and education, with a focus on mother and child and reproductive health. It claims an outreach of 25m people in 42,000 villages. Its Marvi model involving community-based health workers visiting women in their homes was conceptualised in 2007. HANDS claims that it is making an impact.

But can NGOs with their limited resources and capacity achieve what is essentially the government`s responsibility? Mahtab Rashdi complains that `visible political commitment from the provincial governments is yet to be seen`. She specifically identifies Punjab, Pakistan`s most populous province, where the government`s family planning programme `reaches only 17pc of people in the reproductive age`.

This leaves one wondering if family planning also has a political dimension as the census that has been blocked since 2008. After all, doesn`t a big population translate into a big constituency? That is a political bonus in a country where ethnicity determines electoral results.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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