Inter Press ServiceEnvironment – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 16 Feb 2018 23:35:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Village Savings: Helping Small Farmers Weather Climate Shockshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/village-savings-helping-small-farmers-weather-climate-shocks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=village-savings-helping-small-farmers-weather-climate-shocks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/village-savings-helping-small-farmers-weather-climate-shocks/#respond Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:01:45 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154293 In the past, Lameck Sibukale only knew savings in the form of rearing chickens, goats and more importantly, cattle—a long cherished cultural heritage of the Tonga-speaking people of southern Zambia. But thanks to a village savings scheme, the 78-year-old from Nachibanga village in Pemba district is now part of this growing financial inclusion crusade, bringing […]

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Zambian Farmer Lameck Sibukale showcasing his newly acquired ox, which he bought using earnings from a savings group. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Zambian Farmer Lameck Sibukale showcasing his newly acquired ox, which he bought using earnings from a savings group. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
LUSAKA, Zambia, Feb 14 2018 (IPS)

In the past, Lameck Sibukale only knew savings in the form of rearing chickens, goats and more importantly, cattle—a long cherished cultural heritage of the Tonga-speaking people of southern Zambia.

But thanks to a village savings scheme, the 78-year-old from Nachibanga village in Pemba district is now part of this growing financial inclusion crusade, bringing some fresh air to the functionality of the village economy.

“How I wish I was introduced to this concept earlier,” Sibukale told IPS. “This is a fantastic idea for us villagers who are far from formal banks, especially at a time like now when we need to save in case of crop failure, which has become common as a result of poor rainfall.”

Saving just over 200 dollars, Sibukale earned over 500 dollars from a portfolio of 2,100 dollars, which the 25-member group saved in eight months.

Using the farmers’ club concept, up to 25 members come together and form a solidarity group. The group meets on either a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis to save (buying shares at a stipulated price) based on their financial capabilities. The money is banked in a box whose keys are kept by two or three people for purposes of transparency. For financial sustainability, members are encouraged to borrow and pay back at an agreed minimal interest rate.

While there are several organisations championing savings for the majority unbanked rural population, Sibukale and his group are part of the World Food Programme (WFP)’s R4 rural resilience initiative.

Integrated solutions for emerging climate complications

One African proverb states: “If the rhythm is changing, so must the dance steps,” implying the need to develop new strategies to deal with emerging complex challenges such as climate change, which is compromising food, nutrition and income security—three key elements at the core of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 and 2, aimed at ending poverty and hunger.

Therefore, as climate change is already complicating global food systems, development actors are also looking to integrated approaches to sustain productivity and production especially for the over 500 million smallholder farmers who produce much of the world’s food.

For WFP, ending hunger will not be possible without increasing smallholder farmers’ productivity. Thus, according to Jennifer Bitonde, WFP Zambia Director, “R4 is one of the pro-smallholder farmer approaches adopted where food assistance is defined not as old-style food aid handouts, but rather as a comprehensive range of instruments, activities, and platforms that together empower vulnerable and food insecure people and communities to access nutritious food.”

In support of national efforts to boost productivity and strengthen farmers’ food and income security amidst climate shocks, R4 deploys a set of four risk management strategies integrated through the project, which combines risk reduction (improved resource management), risk transfer (insurance), prudent risk taking (microcredit), and risk reserves (savings).

According to Allan Mulando, head of Disaster Risk Management and Vulnerability Assessment at WFP Zambia, the idea is to support farmers with several layers of protection across the value chain starting from production up to market access.

“In addition to conservation agriculture, insurance and microcredit, savings groups are specifically put in place to pool together financial resources which act as a buffer against short term needs, especially in times of shocks such as droughts and floods which usually lead to crop failure, ultimately affecting the normal livelihood pattern of the people,” explains Mulando.

And this is exactly what happened to farmer Sibukale. Last season, he lost one of his oxen, which negatively affected his tillage activities through reduced animal draft power. “I am happy that I joined this group where I’ve earned enough to replace it,” he said, proudly pointing at his newly acquired ox.

Supporting improved productivity

Whereas conservation agriculture and weather insurance are two layers of protection to support improved productivity, Sibukale believes savings are an added incentive.

He told IPS how he managed to pay for his children’s school fees, bought farming implements and inputs (fertilizer, seed and a ripper), helping him to increase the area under conservation agriculture, an exercise he says “would not have been possible without the money I earned from the savings group.”

And Milimo Haluma, a member of Silekwa savings group of Sikwale village, testifies to improved productivity. Haluma says before now, he found it difficult to buy inputs for himself.

“But now, with savings, I am able to purchase inputs on time,” Haluma said. “Due to timely input purchase, my productivity has improved. Last season, I was able to produce 3.75 tons of maize on the same size of land where I’ve been producing an average of 1.5 tons in the past seasons.”

Haluma, whose savings group is looking for external financial support to grow their portfolio, adds that with the incentive of weather insurance, farmers are finding it easy to save the little they earn. “Insurance is providing us a peace of mind to buy shares in our savings groups for we know that we are covered in case of crop failure resulting from poor rainfall,” he says.

Global support for up scaling financial services

Based on such positive strides, weather insurance and other related financial services for farmers’ adaptation to climate change have become topical issues at the highest global decision making levels. For instance, at COP 23, a global partnership to provide more financial protection against climate risks—‘InsuResilience’ moved into higher ambition phase.

The Initiative, which was launched in 2015 by the G7 group of nations under the German Presidency, aims at providing insurance to 400 more million poor and vulnerable people by 2020, and increase the resilience of developing countries against the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. It brings together G20 and V20 nations—the most vulnerable nations including Island states.

“The Global Partnership is a practical response to the needs of those who suffer loss because of climate change,” said the COP23 President and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Meanwhile, Thomas Silberhorn, German’s Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, announced support for the new global partnership of 125 million dollars as part of the launch.

This follows the £30 million commitment made by the UK Government in July 2017, via its Centre for Global Disaster Protection. The initiative supports data and risk analysis, technical assistance and capacity building according to countries’ needs and priorities in terms of concrete risk finance and insurance solutions.

Commenting on the initiative, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change, said: “This new and higher ambition initiative represents one, shinning, example of what can be delivered when progressive governments, civil society and the private sector join hands with creativity and determination to provide solutions.”

The most recent example of support was in September 2017, when more than 55 million dollars was paid out to ten Caribbean countries within just 14 days after hurricanes Irma and Maria had wreaked disaster on the islands.

In Zambia, InsuResilience supports the NWK Agri-Services  cotton company, which offers direct weather and life insurance to small contract farmers. In 2015, some 52,000 farmers decided to buy insurance. Following a major drought in 2016, more than 23,000 farmers received payments.

And based on lessons from the R4 model which WFP has been piloting in Zambia since 2014, the Zambian government has this farming season incorporated weather insurance in its Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) E-voucher programme, which has also allocated 20 percent for legume inputs aimed at encouraging crop diversification, an inbuilt resilience measure promoting improved soil fertility and income for farmers.

“We are also saying let us support the farmers on the e-voucher to grow more than maize,” said Dora Siliya, Minister of Agriculture. “So we as government give 170 dollars, while the farmer makes a contribution of 40 dollars. And for the first time this year, from this money, 10 dollars is going to be Weather Index Insurance.”

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Efficient Water Management in Central Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/efficient-water-management-central-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=efficient-water-management-central-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/efficient-water-management-central-asia/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 14:56:16 +0000 Soumya Balasubramanya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154241 Soumya Balasubramanya, Researcher in Environmental Economics at the International Water Management Institute

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The Head of a Water Users' Association (WUA) in southern Tajikistan meets cotton farmers to discuss irrigation requirements. Credit: IWMI/Neil Palmer

By Soumya Balasubramanya
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, Feb 9 2018 (IPS)

In Tajikistan and other countries of Central Asia, local water user associations have proved vital for efficient irrigation management, and reasonably prolonged training is the key for enabling the associations to perform well.

As new challenges emerge, such as male outmigration, the training must be expanded, reaching women especially — a lesson that is important for this region and beyond.

Central Asia’s arid climate leaves little margin for error in the management of water for crop production, which depends almost entirely on irrigation. Farmers and society as a whole know all too well that shortfalls can have unacceptably high costs.

A prolonged civil war in Tajikistan during the post-Soviet period and the break-up of large collectives into thousands of private or dekhan farms led to major disruptions in irrigation management. This caused a sharp drop in the production of cotton, which has been a mainstay of Tajikistan’s agricultural economy since Soviet times.

In the aftermath of this crisis, it was clear that the problem is not so much one of water infrastructure but of water governance — the system by which decisions are made and tasks performed. Previously, Russian experts had handled all of these.

With their departure, irrigation departments were unable to cope with the complex demands of providing water to thousands of dekhan farms, using the extensive network of irrigation canals that had been developed to serve the collective farms.

In an effort to address this problem, the government of Tajikistan implemented reforms, centering on the creation of water user associations, with support from USAID and other donor organizations. The idea was to empower rural people who have a direct stake in irrigation management.

One obvious challenge was how to cultivate the habits of local participatory decision-making in a country where for decades irrigation and the entire economy had been managed from the top down.

The solution proved to be intensive training in the various duties and functions of the water user associations, from handling their finances and membership to managing and maintaining irrigation infrastructure as well as resolving conflicts.

Research carried out recently by a team from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) underlines several features of the training that are critical for its success now and in the future. These results were based on detailed household surveys and economic analysis of the performance of hundreds of farms in southern Tajikistan.

An especially decisive factor in the training proved, logically, to be the amount of time dedicated to it. Associations set up with USAID support involved training with a duration over twice that of training provided under government initiatives, using essentially the same content.

As previously seen in neighboring countries, farmers who received training for a longer time were more likely to pay membership fees, sign a water contract and attend association meetings. They were also more inclined to view the associations as transparent, accountable, responsive and fair.

More training for water user associations is essential, as they face new challenges in an economy undergoing profound transformations. One factor complicating their work is the out-migration of male laborers, mainly to Russia.

In our study, the share of dehkan farms operated by females increased from 11 percent in 2014 to 18 percent in 2016, and these were less likely to pay membership fees, sign a water contract and attend association meetings. Dehkan farms have historically been operated by males and previous training has consequently targeted them.

As more women operate farms, training programs that also reach them should increase the share of members that participate and cooperate with their water user associations.

Expanded training offers a way to link water user associations more effectively with government organizations, enhancing the performance of both.

District irrigation departments receive information from the water user associations on members’ anticipated water use, and this better enables them to plan and coordinate in response to competing needs. Training that improves the quality and timeliness of this information exchange should help improve the delivery of irrigation services.

Quantitative evidence on the positive effect of longer training for water user associations provides a powerful argument for getting one of the main success factors right.

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Excerpt:

Soumya Balasubramanya, Researcher in Environmental Economics at the International Water Management Institute

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GGGI Eyes Expanding Role in Triggering Pro-poor Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gggi-eyes-expanding-role-triggering-pro-poor-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gggi-eyes-expanding-role-triggering-pro-poor-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gggi-eyes-expanding-role-triggering-pro-poor-green-growth/#comments Fri, 09 Feb 2018 13:42:54 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154231 Green used to be the color of money. Now it’s the word we use to mean actions that don’t hurt perhaps even help the environment.  Moving from paper currency to the world we live in is progress! The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is playing a growing role in spreading the word. Today, it’s not […]

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GGGI eyes expanding role in triggering pro-poor green growth

A wind farm in Curacao. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Feb 9 2018 (IPS)

Green used to be the color of money. Now it’s the word we use to mean actions that don’t hurt perhaps even help the environment.  Moving from paper currency to the world we live in is progress!

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is playing a growing role in spreading the word. Today, it’s not so much pay to play as it is, to borrow from a popular television advertisement, “no green, no party.”

Long term economic growth will need to connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Linking these all together into a paradigm to lift people out of poverty is understood as the best and most sustainable pathway to a future of advancing economic growth.

It’s great news that more and more people understand that environmental factors are not a burden to be shouldered or shirked but an opportunity to be seized. A major industrialist speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year noted that going green is actually about the bottom line and the biggest business opportunity of the century.

Long term economic growth will need to connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Linking these all together into a paradigm to lift people out of poverty is understood as the best and most sustainable pathway to a future of advancing economic growth.

GGGI has for some time emphasized that the goal of inclusive growth catalyzes a host of potential actions – particularly regarding the broad factors related to climate change.

This year it signed a contribution agreement with Italy’s Environment Ministry to help Rwanda implement the carbon strategy pledged during the Paris climate agreement. GGGI will use the funds from Rome to provide technical assistance to increase resilience and adaptation to climate change in a country with one of the most go-green strategies in Africa. GGGI will use the fresh funds to provide technical and implementation support to Kigali, where it has been engaged for several years now.

These are important times in the region. The African Development Bank expects rapid economic growth in many countries, topping 8% this year in Ethiopia.

GGGI’s view is that rapid growth doesn’t just allow for the funding of a pro-poor go-green agenda, but allows for economic transformation that will allow that agenda to accelerate and proliferate on its own. Today it is particularly focused on working with developing and emerging countries to design and deliver programs and services that demonstrate new pathways towards these widely shared goals.

 

GGGI eyes expanding role in triggering pro-poor green growth

Photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

It’s an effort to create a best-practises factory, as achieving impacts that set precedents that can propel themselves was instrumental in the history of South Korea, where GGGI is based and which moved from aid recipient to important donor.

That’s a reason why GGGI’s on-the-ground efforts are closely linked to partnerships with governments. In 2016, it facilitated the adoption of 14 green growth policies in 10 countries.

Areas for intervention are vast, and there is particular need for crafting interventions that grasp how policies intersect. For example, GGGI has a project to contribute to green job creation in Cambodia’s manufacturing sector, a goal that will require measures to lower urban air and water pollution levels, handle waste and traffic congestion in order to bear fruit.

In Rwanda, GGGI is also focused on a national plan to make sure the green agenda is implemented in six secondary cities, not just the capital. In Vanuatu, GGGI is working with national energy authorities setting up a National Green Energy Fund with the primary target of achieving 100 percent rural electrification, using renewable energy in rural areas.

Some 30 policies in more than a dozen countries have been rolled out in the past two years.

 

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Humanitarian Response Plan for Spreading Crisis in Nigeriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/humanitarian-response-plan-spreading-crisis-nigeria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-response-plan-spreading-crisis-nigeria http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/humanitarian-response-plan-spreading-crisis-nigeria/#respond Thu, 08 Feb 2018 18:06:17 +0000 Edward Kallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154227 Edward Kallon is the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria

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The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for north-east Nigeria demonstrates the commitment of the international community to the people of Nigeria

Humanitarian crisis in nigeria. Credit: UNHCR/Romain Desclous

By Edward Kallon
ABUJA, Nigeria, Feb 8 2018 (IPS)

The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for north-east Nigeria demonstrates the commitment of the international community to the people of Nigeria. It is also a clear and positive indication of the strong and continued partnership between us – the international humanitarian community – and the Government of Nigeria.

As we know, the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s north-east, that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, is one of the most severe in the world today. It is also now in its ninth year. This crisis is a protection crisis first and foremost that has also evolved into a food security and nutrition crisis.

7.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance this year in the worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. These are people who have been displaced and are living in camps or host communities, people who have returned home to nothing, and people living in other areas that are hard to reach for humanitarians.

6.1 million of these people are being targeted for humanitarian assistance in the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan by 60 organisations, including UN agencies and international and national NGOs. This humanitarian assistance ranges from food, protection, water, shelter and sanitation, to medicine, education and agricultural support, and will be delivered to vulnerable women, children and men across the three states.

These figures, and those that you find in the documents, have been arrived at after meticulous and thorough consultation with all humanitarian partners, including the Government of Nigeria.


The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s north-east, that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, is one of the most severe in the world today. It is also now in its ninth year. This crisis is a protection crisis first and foremost that has also evolved into a food security and nutrition crisis

The aim in 2018 is to build on the humanitarian work carried out in previous years and we have three strategic objectives. The first is to provide life-saving emergency assistance to the most vulnerable people in conflict-affected areas, ensuring that assistance is timely and to-scale.

The second is to ensure that all assistance promotes the protection, safety and dignity of affected people, and is provided equitably to women, girls, men and boys. The third is to help people kick-start their lives again and also reconstruct the foundations of their lives so that they are better prepared to face future crises.

This includes the 1.3 million people who have returned home, but also includes those who have decided to stay where they are and try and rebuild their lives. While nothing should undermine the commitment to principled humanitarian action, there is a shared moral imperative to sustainably reduce people’s dependence on humanitarian aid and support self-reliance.

This year, we, a community of 60 organisations working to implement the HRP, will aim to provide food assistance, including through improved agriculture, to 3.7 million people. Because grave violations of human rights continue to take place daily, we aim to support 2.7 million vulnerable women, children and men with protection services. Medical care is also a priority and will be provided to 5.1 million people.

Many children and pregnant and nursing women are malnourished as a result of the crisis, and nutritional supplements and support will be given to 2.7 million of them. In many locations, access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities remains a big problem: we will aim to support 2.7 million people in need of those basic services. We will provide shelter and basic household items to 1.3 million persons living in camps or host communities.

About 2.2 million children and teachers will be supported through education assistance, including through the provision of safe spaces for learning, school supplies and teacher trainings. Finally, for longer-term impact, 2.7 million people will be supported in accessing basic public services and restarting their lives.

And all of the above interventions will be guided, every day, by the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

Last year, the humanitarian community provided life-saving assistance to 5.6 million people. Several successes were achieved. Notably, the number of food insecure people was reduced from 5.1 million to 3.9 million. A cholera outbreak was contained through the innovative use of an oral cholera vaccine. 1.3 million farmers were assisted to help improve agricultural production.

And thousands of children were supported to go to school, against all odds. These results – which are just examples of the many positive results that I have myself witnessed in many areas of the north-east – can be attributed to strong coordination, extensive engagement and generous funding.

Despite these achievements, many challenges remain as the conflict and population movements continue. Prior to the crisis, the region was already mired by chronic development challenges. Humanitarian assistance has stopped people from slipping further below emergency thresholds, but it has not addressed underlying vulnerabilities and problems. In the absence of a political solution, the crisis will continue through 2018.

While a robust and improved humanitarian response will be essential – especially in hardest-hit Borno State – the protracted nature of the crisis creates new needs which require longer-term assistance. For the 1.6 million who are displaced from their homes, and the communities that host them, we need to find durable solutions. This requires longer planning horizons, more strategic interventions and flexible, longer-term funding.

The 2018 HRP is, therefore, underpinned by a multi-year strategy that demonstrates a commitment by the international humanitarian community to align with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the Buhari Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Partnership Framework. It is a step towards strengthening the humanitarian, development and peace nexus, in line with the New Way of Working and commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016.

Capacity building for local partners and government counterparts will also be prioritized to strengthen national response mechanisms. We aim to promote what we call localization of the response, which means investing in the institutional capacities of local and national responders, including national NGOs and local government.

Gender-sensitive programming will also be strengthened. Finally, we remain accountable at all times to the people we serve and we will be making a concerted effort throughout the year to systematically communicate with and listen to the communities.

Access to target populations is obviously a pivotal part of the implementation of the Humanitarian Response Plan this year, as 930,000 people are estimated to be in areas that are hard to reach for humanitarian organisations due to insecurity or the threat of insecurity. We will be working this year to advocate for improved access, and we are also aiming to obtain safety assurances for the delivery of aid in hard-to-reach areas.

In 2017, donors funded the plan very generously. The $1 billion appeal was 70 per cent funded by the end of the year – representing more than $740 million, a staggering amount that actually meant that Nigeria was one of the best funded appeals globally.

The donor commitment was extraordinarily impressive, and one of the most remarkable I have seen in my career. The total donated to the humanitarian response last year, including HRP and non-HRP interventions, reached $945 million.

We have also committed this year to including any carry-over from last year, so as to be entirely transparent when it comes to funding. The carry-over from the 2017 HRP to the 2018 HRP will be an estimated $196 million.

This means that this sum has already effectively been raised and allocated to the 2018 HRP. We estimate however that most of the carry-over will be exhausted in the first quarter of the year, and I call upon donor representatives to start pledging resources to the 2018 HRP.

While we are aware that other large-scale crises also require donor attention, it is essential to continue this positive momentum and build on the results we achieved last year. Should we fail to meet our targets, it could undermine the progress made to date and ultimately impact our ability to save lives.

As Humanitarian Coordinator my call to all of you, as government, as donors, as Member States, as operational partners, as members of the press and civil society, is to continue the outstanding work of recent years. I count on you for your continued support to the people of north-east Nigeria. Let us work together to save lives today and also restore stability to the region, end the crisis and save lives tomorrow.

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Excerpt:

Edward Kallon is the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria

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Gaza Health Sector on Verge of Collapsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 07:21:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154213 UN agencies have sounded the alarm on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the devastating repercussions of the ongoing fuel shortages. UN agencies have appealed for donor support as emergency fuel for critical facilities in Gaza are due to run out in 10 days. In a meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres […]

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GAZA, Gaza City. Queuing in hope of fuel. Credit: Mohammed Omer / IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2018 (IPS)

UN agencies have sounded the alarm on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the devastating repercussions of the ongoing fuel shortages.

UN agencies have appealed for donor support as emergency fuel for critical facilities in Gaza are due to run out in 10 days.

In a meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that Gaza is a “constant humanitarian emergency.”

“Gaza remains squeezed by crippling closures…two million Palestinians are struggling everyday with crumbling infrastructure, an electricity crisis, a lack of basic services,” he said.

Fuel shortages are threatening Gaza’s hospitals and sanitation services that rely on backup generators to maintain operations.

If the energy supply is not replenished, at risk are emergency and diagnostic services such as x-rays, intensive care units, and operating theaters. Over 100 sewage pools, desalination plants, and solid waste collection capacity are also in jeopardy, said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Hospitals have already begun to close. Without funding, more service providers will be forced to suspend operations over the coming weeks, and the situation will deteriorate dramatically, with potential impacts on the entire population,” said OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Roberto Valent.

“We cannot allow this to happen,” he added.

So far, 16 hospitals and health centers have suspended operations.

Hospitals such as the al-Durra children’s hospital were forced to drastically reduce services due to the lack of fuel.

WHO said that Best Hanoun hospital only has its Emergency Department functioning at minimal capacity and estimates its reserve fuel will only last until mid-March.

In 2018, approximately 6.5 million dollars is required to provide 7.7 million liters of emer-gency fuel.

“This is the bare minimum needed to save off a collapse of services,” OCHA said in its ap-peal.

For the full functioning of basic facilities, 10 million dollars is needed per year.

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to face challenges in coping with the influx of trauma pa-tients.

According to WHO, 40 percent of the supply of essential drugs has been depleted, including drugs used in emergency departments and other critical units.

The UN Country Team in Palestine has predicted that Gaza will become unlivable by 2020 unless action is taken to improve basic services and infrastructure.

“Immediate donor support is urgent to ensure that vulnerable Palestinians in Gaza can access life-saving health, water, and sanitation services,” Valent said.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is occurring in the wake of the United States funding cuts to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

Approximately 65 million dollars has been withheld from the agency which serves over five million refugees with healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance in the Middle Eastern region.

Guterres expressed concern over the move, stating: “At stake is the human security, rights, and dignity of the five million Palestine refugees across the Middle East. But also at stake is the stability of the entire region which may be affected if UNRWA is unable to continue to provide vital services.”

Though it began in 2006, the energy crisis worsened in 2017 following a dispute between Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza over the funding and taxation of fuel and Israel’s subsequent move to reduce its electricity supply to the territories.

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Three Opportunities for Humanitarians in 2018http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/three-opportunities-humanitarians-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-opportunities-humanitarians-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/three-opportunities-humanitarians-2018/#respond Tue, 06 Feb 2018 16:19:16 +0000 Larissa Fast http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154208 Larissa Fast is a Senior Research Fellow at the Humanitarian Policy Group/Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London and a former Fulbright-Schuman scholar.

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A child from drought-stricken southern Somalia who survived the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: IPS

By Larissa Fast
LONDON, Feb 6 2018 (IPS)

As 2018 begins, the challenges of humanitarian crises are momentous. Humanitarians are responding to large-scale emergencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Rohingya refugees are seeking protection in Bangladesh and the threat of famine and armed conflict looms in Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia. The number of refugees now reaches 22.5 million.

Many states including India, Turkey, Myanmar, and Pakistan have enacted legislation to restrict the work of or even expel aid agencies. This makes an effective response even harder.

With the United States making or threatening cuts to their support of the United Nations (UN) and Pakistan uncertainty in the political realm is spilling over into discussions about assistance.

These challenges are complex and, in the midst of access constraints and heightened needs, overcoming them will require creativity. But there are reasons for optimism. Here are three key opportunities to increase humanitarian effectiveness in 2018.

1. More locally-led and contextual responses

The chorus of voices advocating the value of and need for locally-led humanitarian response is growing, and local, national and regional actors are increasing in strength and profile.

Local humanitarianism is already happening all over the world, in various shapes and sizes. The Humanitarian Leadership Academy and British Red Cross recently released case studies of 10 local humanitarian organisations leading or managing responses to refugee movements, natural disasters, conflict and environmental crises.

Other initiatives have documented what it would take to achieve a localised humanitarian ecosystem in the Pacific, and the opportunities and challenges that arose from a locally-led response to the 2016 cyclone in the Fiji Islands.

Debates over the ‘localisation marker’ to track funding going ‘as directly as possible’ to local organisations illustrate that we still have a long way to go but the strength of consensus around the idea, if not the details, represents a significant opportunity.

If we are to exploit this opportunity, we must remember to pay attention to power dynamics and remain open to alternative perspectives.

2. The role of data, technology and evidence

Quantitative and qualitative data are crucial in humanitarian response, whether in the form of the 3Ws (who does what, where?) or as information for affected communities.

Humanitarian agencies are deploying technology to improve aid delivery and using data to improve our analysis of humanitarian crises. The new Centre for Humanitarian Data aims to increase the quality and use of data throughout the humanitarian community.

A recent US Institute of Peace report points to the transformative potential of renewable energy technologies in South Sudan, where humanitarian actors could use solar energy instead of diesel fuel.

Despite their potential, however, data and technology are not a cure all, nor a panacea. We cannot forget the crucial importance of data protection, particularly given recent news of security issues and potential risks to beneficiary data. There is still room for progress in documenting humanitarian evidence.

Yet data, technology and evidence all represent opportunities to foster change in the humanitarian sector. We can start with not getting distracted by the latest and greatest toy, and by collecting only what we need to support effective response.

3. Reforming humanitarianism

System reform is a longstanding challenge that has stymied many a humanitarian. How should we promote lasting and profound change in a sector that is prone to repeating the mistakes of the past? Previous reforms, such as the implementation of the UN cluster system after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, have been incremental and delivered mixed results.

Yet creative new models and approaches are appearing, many drawing inspiration from outside the humanitarian sector. An upcoming report from the Humanitarian Policy Group will detail a series of alternatives: from a networked approach allowing aid recipients and providers – whether international, local or individual – to interact directly based on collaboration rather than control, to a cooperative, social economy model that uses humanitarian supply chains to generate economic opportunities for communities in crisis situations.

Approaches such as the fledgling United Against Inhumanity campaign, more closely resemble social movements. This campaign aims to address issues including the inhumanity of strategies that maximize human suffering and the failure of political actors – including the UN Security Council – to prevent or resolve armed conflict.

Finally, there is cash. As the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers observed, providing cash in emergencies offers transformational opportunities; whether related to efficiency and effectiveness in addressing needs, or to reform of the humanitarian sector as a whole.

Together, these opportunities represent a vision of an inclusive humanitarian sector galvanizing enthusiasm from a broad set of actors.

Maintaining optimism in the face of overwhelming suffering and need is difficult. The challenges facing the sector are significant, but we must not yield to pessimism or overlook the progress that is happening, in big and small ways, right in front of us.

It is precisely this progress that can encourage us to solve the challenges ahead.

The post Three Opportunities for Humanitarians in 2018 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Larissa Fast is a Senior Research Fellow at the Humanitarian Policy Group/Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London and a former Fulbright-Schuman scholar.

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China, Once the Final Resting Place for Half the World’s Trash, Bans Waste Productshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/china-final-resting-place-half-worlds-trash-bans-waste-products/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-final-resting-place-half-worlds-trash-bans-waste-products http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/china-final-resting-place-half-worlds-trash-bans-waste-products/#respond Tue, 06 Feb 2018 07:20:30 +0000 Shyama Ramani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154204 Shyama V. Ramani is a Professorial Fellow at the Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT), a research and training institute of United Nations University.

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China, Once the Final Resting Place for Half the World’s Trash, Bans Waste Products

Scavenger birds pick a dump site in Dhaka. UN Photo/Kibae Park

By Shyama V. Ramani
MAASTRICHT, Netherlands, Feb 6 2018 (IPS)

China, once the final resting place for half the world’s trash, has just banned the import of certain plastic, paper and textile waste. Western countries are scrambling to shift ‘the problem’ elsewhere – but there could be another way. They could invest more in the circular economy, which would also help them achieve the 2030 Agenda. But what exactly is the circular economy?

Sustainable development refers to a process of economic growth and development, whereby the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. It is widely acknowledged that the present volumes and forms of economic activities pose a serious threat to sustainability.

Persistent deterioration of natural resources, greater contamination of air, water and soil, diminishing biodiversity, emergence of new types of pathogens, climate change and heightened fragility of human health (even when longevity is increased) are being noted.

Though the solutions to address such challenges are far from obvious, it is accepted that production and consumption patterns geared uniquely to maximise economic growth are very unlikely to be sustainable.

Till recently, economic policies for growth were aligned with the ‘linear economy model’, wherein ‘waste’ was accepted as a negative element generated by production and consumption patterns geared to maximise economic growth. Here, the focus was uniquely on how to handle the waste once produced, in the most economical manner.

Worldwide, the perspective is moving away from the ‘linear economy model’ and towards a ‘circular economy’ enlarging the focus to cover the entire sequence of production and consumption activities that generates the waste required to be disposed. Under the circular economy model, the objective is to explore production and consumption patterns that minimise waste production without sacrificing firm profit or economic growth of countries.

Moreover, waste is not destined to be simply disposed, but also recycled to serve as raw materials for new production or energy. In other words, the circular economy aims to be regenerative by design, with minimum production of waste that cannot be recycled and maximal usage of products over time, along with optimal reuse, optimal refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling of products and materials.

Improved solid waste management to transition towards a circular economy is also essential to the global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed upon by the 193 member states of the United Nations (see Table).

 

 

Worldwide, the perspective is moving away from the ‘linear economy model’ and towards a ‘circular economy’ enlarging the focus to cover the entire sequence of production and consumption activities that generates the waste required to be disposed. Under the circular economy model, the objective is to explore production and consumption patterns that minimise waste production without sacrificing firm profit or economic growth of countries.

Links between improved Solid Waste Management and the SDGs

Goal 1: No Poverty: Employment generation in the waste collection, transportation, segregation and recycling industries

Goal 2: Zero Hunger: Reduced food waste, composting of bio-degradable waste for growing food

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being: Less disease caused by open dumping and burning

Goal 4: Quality Education: Teaching to respect and preserve environment and observe hygiene

Goal 5: Gender Equality: Improve lot of women in all aspects of waste management

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation: Safe solid waste management includes treatment of human waste as well and protects water from contamination

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy: Bio-energy from bio-degradable waste

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Waste management is one of the world’s largest industries and conditions of work in this industry in developing countries must be improved

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Innovation in terms of collection infrastructure, collection and recycling platforms and in recycling is required.

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities: The poor usually bear the maximum burden of negative externalities generated by poor waste management as they are vulnerable. Furthermore, those working in the garbage industry and/or living near as they are more likely to be among the poorest. Their conditions of life must be improved.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: Healthy and resilient cities

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: Nudging strategies are necessary to bring about changes in behavioural routines for success of SWM targets.

Goal 13: Climate Action: Reduced methane and Carbon dioxide generation

Goal 14: Life Below Water: Less plastic in the oceans and in the bodies of sea-life

Goal 15: Life on Land: Less rubbish on the streets and in the bodies of stray dogs, pigs and cows in developing countries and better environment for all living organisms.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Governance for safe waste management and safe working conditions for those working in the waste industry

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals: A variety of consortia will be initiated between actors in the formal and informal economies

Source: Adapted from https://wasteaid.org.uk/waste-sustainable-development-goals/

For developing and emerging market countries, transitioning to a circular economy is extremely daunting for at least four reasons.

First, they have the enormous challenge of building capabilities in municipalities to ensure safe and efficient systems of collection and treatment of household and industrial waste.

Second, public spaces are often considered to be the responsibility of the state, making indiscriminate littering the behavioural norm. But, this culture obviously cannot be sustained, and therefore behavioural change has to be nudged. Indeed, no government in the world can keep public spaces clean without the full cooperation of its citizens.

Third, since 1 January 2018, China, the world’s largest importer of waste, has decreed that it will no longer be the garbage dump of Western countries. Its ban on imports of 24 types of waste, notably household waste plastics, unsorted waste paper and waste textiles is causing pile-ups in Western countries, which are now turning to other major waste acceptors like Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Finally, they have to grapple with severe resource constraints, capability gaps and heavy poverty burdens.

Given such challenges, how can developing and emerging market countries aim to catch-up with high income countries in terms of industrial, scientific, technological and innovative capabilities, under, and still attempt to transition to a circular economy?

The answer is far from evident, but this multi-headed hydra, re-growing a new head whenever one is chopped off, has to be tackled, in order to not miss out on key dimensions of sustainable development.

To contribute to this Herculean task in a humble measure, we will be holding a workshop at UNU-MERIT specifically dedicated to this topic in June 2018. The need of the hour is to explore how technologies, innovations, policy designs, governance platforms, stakeholder engagements and nudge strategies can be mobilised for the optimal management of solid waste globally.

The post China, Once the Final Resting Place for Half the World’s Trash, Bans Waste Products appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Shyama V. Ramani is a Professorial Fellow at the Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT), a research and training institute of United Nations University.

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UN Refugee Agency Calls for Aid and Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 15:35:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154190 As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. “The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic […]

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South Sudanese refugee new arrivals wait in the registration tent at the Imvepi Refugee Settlement in Arua, northern Uganda. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.

“The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic proportions,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“The conflict is purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation. They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” he continued.

Now in its fifth year, the conflict in South Sudan has displaced 1 in 3 of the country’s population with over 2 million fleeing the nation.

The number of refugees is projected to surpass the 3 million mark by the end of 2018, making South Sudan Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide.

On Jan. 30, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also launched an appeal for 103.7 million dollars this year to provide lifesaving relief assistance, support recovery and migration of people affected by conflict in South Sudan.

The insecurity and violence, which erupted in 2013, has also fueled famine conditions and a humanitarian crisis which has left seven million people in need of assistance.

“As civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis, experiencing violence and displacement, timely and effective humanitarian assistance is critical,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission William Barriga.

“IOM remains committed to responding to these needs and reaching the most vulnerable, wherever they are,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNHCR launched a 3.2-billion-dollar appeal to help both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who have fled to neighboring countries such as Uganda.

South Sudanese twins, Jacob and Simon, meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, at Kakuma, Kenya. The boys walked for 21 days to reach the camp and are traumatised by the killing of their father and eldest brother. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin

Grandi lauded Uganda’s “open border” policy which has welcomed almost 500 refugees per day.

“Uganda has the most progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world,” he said.

Uganda is now home to the largest refugee population in Africa, many of whom are from South Sudan.

Grandi noted that refugees often received portions of land to grow food, were allowed to work and access education, health, and judicial services.

However, if the conflict continues unabated, Uganda could end up hosting another quarter million refugees more and further strain on already limited resources.

“Please make peace,” Grandi appealed to warring parties while visiting refugee camps in Uganda.

“We can’t subject these people once again to exile, to suffering. We can’t always take for granted the generosity of the Ugandan people…everybody told me this morning, as in the past, ‘If there is peace I will go back, because this is where I belong. It’s my country.’”

Almost 90 percent of those displaced are women and children and nearly 65 percent are under the age of 18. Women have reported cases of sexual violence and other forms of violence including the abduction of children.

However, the South Sudanese refugee response program only received 33 percent of required funds in 2017.

“For as long as the people of South Sudan await peace, the world must come to their aid,” Grandi said.

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Business Unusual will Drive Africa’s Quest to achieve Health Care for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 08:33:11 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Radhika Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154176 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Kenya. Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) pledged his full support for the delivery of universal healthcare within the next five years, one of the pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Action plan. Credit: State House

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Radhika Shah
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s quest for health continues to be held back by a combination of factors such as natural disasters and pandemics, prevailing high rates of communicable and rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, sedentary lifestyles, road accidents and greater population mobility.

With the region accounting for approximately a quarter of the world’s disease burden and just 3 percent of its doctors, it is difficult to be optimistic about the future.

Every year for example one million people in Kenya, fall into poverty and stay poor due to a catastrophic health shock. Nearly 11 million Africans fall into poverty due to high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, even as the continent is expected to provide access to essential health services, medicines and vaccines for all its citizens by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed on globally.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has prioritised universal health coverage (UHC) for all in his second term.

It is obvious that to achieve UHC, more resources will not only have to be mobilized for the health sector, new partnerships must also be forged, such as the one between United Nations, Government of Kenya and technology company Philips, to improve access to health care in hard to reach communities. New models of blended financing and impact investing need to take up the slack to address the scarce resources, which must also be used more efficiently and effectively.

The Better Business Better World Africa Report shows how challenges in the delivery of health care can be turned around into large business opportunities with a potential value of US$259 billion and could create over 16 million jobs in Africa by 2030.

More 21st century partnerships that connect the dots between innovators, health systems and patients are critical to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage by 2030. Credit: UNDP

Innovation Tech could be a game-changer in diagnostics, health information, supply chain management, health financing, and even remote tele-surgery performed by robotic arms.

Few frontiers provide greater potential for African countries to achieve UHC than information technology. “Just as mobile payments have transformed Kenyan markets, I think innovations in the health sector— from machine learning algorithms that help diagnose disorders, to digitized prescriptions that make drugs more affordable— could have a transformative impact on health, quality of life, and the efficiency of our investments in healthcare,” says Dr. Temina Madon Executive Director for the Center for Effective Global Action at U.C. Berkeley.

A crucial enabling factor is the continent’s impressive mobile penetration profile. Africa is getting more and more interconnected. With prices falling, smartphone penetration more than doubled between 2014 and 2016. By 2020, smartphone adoption on the continent is expected to surpass 50 percent, meaning that technology will be well placed to open up health systems to the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Increasing penetration and scaling of private, public-private and community insurance schemes could transform access to better healthcare, especially if the right insurance mechanisms, including forms of micro-insurance, are put in place. Digital solutions such as Kenya’s M-Tiba could play an important role in the realization of UHC.

Google researchers have trained image recognition algorithms to auto-detect signs of diabetes related eye disease by analysing retinas which could help prevent blindness.

Stanford University innovators are creating a cell phone based mosquito monitoring platform for anyone to submit a mosquito buzz – producing the most detailed global map of mosquito distribution that can help prevent mosquito borne diseases.

Drones, as those of Zipline, are revolutionizing supply chain management systems in Rwanda and Tanzania, drastically reducing the time of delivery of blood at the facility when patients are in need and at risk of dying.

With the ubiquity of smartphones and a shortage of specialist doctors, calling or texting a physician for a consultation and to obtain a prescription can be done in a flash, literally. With ICT prices dropping, telemedicine will be more than a niche application of cutting-edge tech; it could be the future norm of medicine.

Dashboard systems will help policy makers and implementing agencies monitor progress of programmes and identify areas in need of improvement. Likewise, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can provide geographically-referenced data to help in identifying relationships, patterns and trends in diseases.

Taken together, these innovations will ensure that each building block and therewith entire health systems can be strengthened and that resources mobilised in the health sector are used more efficiently and effectively.

Fortunately, these innovations are already in existence, albeit many of them at pilot-level implementation stages. Countries need to identify tools that are available in the market, especially those that are based on open source software that allow for adaptation, and take them to scale. The price of failing to take up such opportunities will be a slower march towards economic progress, as families continue to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow to meet the cost of health care.

A demographic dividend looms in Africa, and countries need to capitalize on the employment opportunities offered by the health sector while strengthening their health systems. A young army of community health workers who are tech savvy and can reach the last mile, could offset the chronic shortage of doctors and nurses through task-shifting.

One of the steps in the right direction is Kenya’s move to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities. Credit: Clinton Foundation

UNDP’s Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner has underscored the importance of multi-sectoral partnerships as a vehicle to attain UHC. Such partnerships he says, “are key in connecting players nationally and globally, across sectors and silos to drive progress on UHC”.

This is exactly what innovative Platforms such as the SDG partnership Platform in Kenya are beginning to catalyse – harnessing global tech innovations and intellectual firepower to serve the continent’s populations with public-private investments to achieve Universal Health Care for basic human dignity and as a springboard for greater economic growth.

And Kenya can lead the way in achieving Universal Health Coverage.

The post Business Unusual will Drive Africa’s Quest to achieve Health Care for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Kenya. Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

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Climate Change is Hurting Children the Most: Here is How to Protect Themhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/climate-change-is-hurting-children-the-most-here-is-how-to-protect-them/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-is-hurting-children-the-most-here-is-how-to-protect-them http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/climate-change-is-hurting-children-the-most-here-is-how-to-protect-them/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 22:09:22 +0000 Esther Ngumbi and Sam Dindi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154163 Esther Ngumbi is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Auburn University's College of Agriculture and a Food Security Fellow with Aspen Institute's New Voices Fellowship.

Sam Dindi works in the field of tourism and wildlife management in Kenya

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The premises of a school inundated by floodwater in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Esther Ngumbi and Sam Dindi
Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

In the United States, the 21 young people who are plaintiffs in the case Juliana v. United States will soon make their case against the government for failing to take action against climate change. Similar lawsuits have been filed in countries including Portugal, India, and Pakistan.

And in the 2017 Bonn climate change conference, a 12-year-old Fijian boy whose village had completely been devastated by cyclone linked to climate change, addressed negotiators and urged them to find solutions to the changing climate.

Sadly, these children are outliers and millions of their peers in other parts of the world, including children from sub-Saharan African countries, will never have the chance to tell the world how climate change harms them. All too often, children are the unseen victims of climate change.

Policy makers and development organizations agree and have documented evidence that when properly implemented school feeding programs serve as incentives for children to attend and stay at school. And because they are not hungry, children can focus on their studies resulting in better performance.

According to UNICEF in 2017, 175,000 children were not attending primary and pre-primary school as a result of the food shortage in 10 counties and a further 1.2 million children in Kenya were in need of education assistance.

The report further states that more than 100,000 children aged less than five years need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. In Malawi and Mozambique  and Madagascar, with little or no food to feed the families and income to pay for the girls school fees, parents have been forced to marry off young girls as young as 13 years to ease of the pressure from the family.

In Bangladesh, rising sea levels and flooding linked to climate change is reported to be destroying children’s futures with tens of millions of children and their families at risk of losing their homes, land and livelihoods.

Despite being directly affected by climate change, children’s plight is not addressed by the major stakeholders in the climate change negotiations including the UNFCCC, World Bank, African Development Bank Africa Climate Change Fund and country government climate mitigation plans.

Further, even though they were invited to attend and organize events at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings, established institutions, organizations and leaders see them as observers rather than collaborators.

As a matter of fact, many of the climate change adaptation and resilience programs in Africa and the global world rarely dedicate sections to think through about the plight of children. An in-depth look at recently launched initiatives by United Nations Development Programme, African Development Bank Group, World Meteorological Organization, the Government of Uganda, the Government of Malawi — an initiative to be funded by The World Bank and African Development Bank, the Government of Kenya, the Government of Sierra Leone reveals that many of these plans and initiatives fail to include and highlight the unique challenges climate change imposes on children.

Further, they do not have any detailed mitigation strategies to reduce the impact climate change has on these vulnerable group. And when mentioned, children are lumped together with women.

If we condemn our children to a life of poverty because they never got an education, or because they were married early due to climate change, where will our future scientists, doctors, educators, lawyers, and accountants come from? Clearly the world needs to do more: Governments and all stakeholders advocating for climate change need to put children first.

 

Meals provide an added incentive for parents to send their children to school. Credit: FAO

 

How?

First and foremost, climate policies documents must clearly state how they will mitigate the impact of climate change on children. At the same time, national governments and policy formulators need to come up with well thought out climate change strategies, adaptation and resilience programs to help reduce the impact climate change has on children.

Secondly, to help address school dropouts, child marriages and other impacts of climate change, schools in developing countries or other countries heavily impacted by climate change should introduce school feeding programs. The UN World Food program must be applauded for their efforts to ensure children stay at school through their school feeding programs.

However, it is time for the UNFCCC, World Bank and all other climate stakeholders and African countries to invest in school feeding programs as part of strategies to help children mitigate the impact of climate change.

Indeed, policy makers and development organizations agree and have documented evidence that when properly implemented school feeding programs serve as incentives for children to attend and stay at school. And because they are not hungry, children can focus on their studies resulting in better performance.

Furthermore, school feeding program would help remove a heavy burden on parents who cite the inability to feed their children as one of the reasons why they marry off the girls.

Thirdly, we must ensure that schools-the place where many children spend their time have access to sustainable clean water supplies. The impacts associated with lack of clean water especially to children are dire; hence providing schools with water should be made a priority.

A systemic review of over forty peer reviewed studies showed that access to water in schools helped increase girl child school attendance and positively impacted children’s health.

World leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, continue to demonstrate leadership in the fight against climate change and stakeholders including  UNFCC, African Development Bank, The World Bank should consider rolling out a special initiative that addresses the plight of children. Children are the stewards of the future and we must protect them against the harsh consequences of a changing climate.

The post Climate Change is Hurting Children the Most: Here is How to Protect Them appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Esther Ngumbi is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Auburn University's College of Agriculture and a Food Security Fellow with Aspen Institute's New Voices Fellowship.

Sam Dindi works in the field of tourism and wildlife management in Kenya

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Impact of Climate Change on Karachi May be One of Pakistan’s Biggest Threatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/impact-climate-change-karachi-may-one-pakistans-biggest-threats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impact-climate-change-karachi-may-one-pakistans-biggest-threats http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/impact-climate-change-karachi-may-one-pakistans-biggest-threats/#comments Fri, 02 Feb 2018 12:35:07 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154138 Historically a small fishing village, Karachi has now turned into Pakistan’s biggest commerce and industrial center that generates about half of the country’s tax revenue. The city also accounts for at least 42 per cent of its total gross domestic product (GDP), houses its stock exchange, central bank, and the headquarters of most banks, along […]

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The impact of climate change. Credit: UN Photo/WFP/Amjad Jamal

By Rabiya Jaffery
KARACHI, Pakistan, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

Historically a small fishing village, Karachi has now turned into Pakistan’s biggest commerce and industrial center that generates about half of the country’s tax revenue.

The city also accounts for at least 42 per cent of its total gross domestic product (GDP), houses its stock exchange, central bank, and the headquarters of most banks, along with major foreign multinational corporations.

The former capital has an ethnically and religiously diverse population that exceeds 17 million, and according to a 2015 report by Express Tribune, a million people from other cities and rural areas migrate there every three years due to its high employment opportunities.

According to World Wildlife Federation (WWF-Pakistan), an increasing proportion of these migrants include those that have been displaced due to an increase in catastrophic floods caused by melting glaciers or those that have been impacted by the rising droughts in the warmer regions.

German Watch, a German think-tank in its recent Global Climate Risk Index 2016 report listed Pakistan number five in the list of top 10 countries most affected by climate change.

Karachi, Pakistan’s main portal city is also far from immune to the impacts of global rising temperatures.

In fact, urban cities – such as Karachi – are usually more susceptible to heat waves due to a phenomena knows as the “heat island effect” which causes temperatures to be 5-8 °C higher than the countryside.

“Deforestation, miles of asphalt roads and vertical building structures increase heat absorption and limit air circulation,” says Zainub AlRustamani, a sustainable urban planning consultant and architect.

“The vehicular and industrial emissions as well as the increased energy consumption of an unchecked growing population in poorly planned yet densely populated settlements also factor in.”

In 2015, the severe heat wave that struck Southern Pakistan had temperatures as high as 49 °C and in Karachi alone claimed the lives of almost 1,200 people, according to local newspapers – a first in the country’s recent history.
Karachi is also close to the Indus River Delta, where the Indus flows into the Arabian Sea.

Due to rising sea levels, the delta is now almost at-level with the Arabian Sea.

“This threatens the stability of the ecosystem because it leads to land erosion and increases the salinity of creeks flowing from the Indus,” says Dr Amir Inam of Pakistan’s Institute of Oceanography.

Sea intrusion increases temporary and permanent flooding to large land areas, which limits fresh water supplies and food security, he adds. This also creates an inhospitable environment for aquatic creatures and mangrove trees that depend on fresh water.

In fact, the area of Pakistan that is covered by mangrove forests has decreased from 400,000 hectares in 1945 to 70,000 hectares, according to a report by Climate Change News, due partly to the rising sea levels and partly to land grabbing. Some 205 acres had been razed to make way for several coal-fired power plants.

The repercussions of the upset in the balance of the ecosystem are vast. According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), these mangrove trees play a critical role in buffering the coastline from erosion caused by waves and storms.

“Mangrove trees cannot stop cyclones and tsunamis. But they do act as the first line of defense against these natural calamities, minimizing their damage,” adds Dr. Inam.

With the mangroves gone, the Karachi coastline has become more prone to natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis.

While no major tsunami has struck Karachi since 1945, a drill stimulating a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean conducted by United Nations warned that the tsunami waves could reach Karachi in just one and a half hours and “wipe out the entire city”.

So far, no tangible evacuation plan exists to prepare the city’s residents in case of an emergency.

An additional strain to Karachi’s stability is the Port Qasim Power Project, part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor program, currently in development along the coastline of the Arabian Sea.

Though created to alleviate Pakistan’s energy crisis, the project has wreaked havoc on the lives of people in close proximity to it, and damaged one of Pakistan’s most critical ecosystems that many living along the coastal belt replied on, to farm and fish.

These changes have already displaced as many as 80 percent of the five million Pakistanis who once lived along the banks of the Delta.

Policy making on climate change have so far lagged in the country and the first major bill to “fast-track measures needed to implement actions on the ground” was passed just last year.

Measures had been passed earlier address climate change, but most have been little implemented, critics charge.

“The Pakistani government must prioritize its response to climate change in order to mitigate environmental threats and prevent future calamities,” says Sarfaraz Khan, an environmental activist based in Pakistan.

And much like the government, the Pakistani public finds it difficult to prioritize climate change when the average citizen is deprived of life’s most basic necessities and the immediate and clear hazards to livelihood trump long-term, still somewhat largely invisible threats.

However, this perception is changing as global warming starts to impact everyday life.

In 2007-2008, a Gallup poll found that only 34 percent of Pakistanis were aware of climate change, and only 24 percent considered it a serious threat but by 2015, Pakistan had joined a list by Pew Research Center of the top 19 countries where the majority of the population now considers climate change a top global threat.

“For decades, Pakistan has struggled to manage urgent crises, ranging from infrastructure woes to terrorism,” adds Khan. “There is no downplaying the severity of those threats but, at the same time, it is vital to acknowledge that another potentially devastating danger lurks in the shadows.”

Karachi was named among the least safe cities of the world in a 2017 report of 60 cities published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Only five cities across the globe were placed above Karachi in the category of deaths from natural disasters.
Annually, more than four people among one million lost their life in Karachi due to natural disasters.

If actions are not taken to combat the impact of climate change, environmental factors will continue to worsen the political and economic instability in Pakistan and one of their biggest threats, in the long term, is the stabilization of Karachi, the country’s economic backbone.

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Iraq’s Toxic Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iraqs-toxic-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:33:08 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154135 In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste. Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment. Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste.

Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment.

Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to conflict for decades, in recent years it has been exacerbated due to the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

“Wherever ISIS has been there has been huge environmental destruction and with that have come potentially major health threats to the public,” says Wim Zwijnenburg, a lead researcher at the dutch not-for profit, PAX.

Over the past two years, PAX has used public satellite images, social media and first-hand field research to track the environmental damage and the subsequent risk to public health in the northern parts of Iraq.

The findings are outlined in the report, ‘Living Under a Black Sky: Conflict Pollution and Environmental Health Concerns in Iraq.’

The report focuses heavily on ISIS’s destruction of oil refineries which were a signature move in their ‘scorched earth’ strategy.

In 2014, the group took control of the Qayyarah oil field and the Baiji Oil refinery, the latter being the nation’s largest, producing more than a third of Iraq’s domestic oil production. In both cases, Iraqi forces retook the facilities, but not before ISIS set fire to oil wells as they retreated.

“When we were there, there were burning oil slicks still flowing from oil wells,” Zwijnenburg said about his visit to the Qayyarah region last year. “I wanted to walk around to see more but had to wear a gas mask, you could already feel how the smoke affected young lungs.”

“We saw lakes that were full of solidified crude oil, that had spilt form the wells, and there were white sheep covered in black soot. It was surreal and apocalyptic.”

In each of these attacks, the threat to public health is substantial.

“The fires (from these oil wells) have burnt for months, releasing huge amounts of toxic residue into the air that people in the area – some people haven’t left, some can’t leave, some are returning – those people are inhaling this toxic air,” Zwijnenburg told IPS.

In the case of the Qayyarah, the Iraqi oil ministry estimates that about 20,000 cubic meters may have been released into the environment and haven’t been cleaned up yet.

In April 2017, the PAX team in conjunction with the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) conducted a survey with over twenty women from affected local communities about their concerns over the oil pollution in Qayyarah.

One of the participants voiced her worry for inter-generational health consequences.

“Locals have been suffering from burns, deformations and countless disability cases. Human genes are also affected due to the use of chemical weapons and the burning of oil wells and military remnants. The gene mutations will result in having more birth defects.”

Aside from oil pollution, the PAX report also highlighted the human health risks from what it called ‘urban damage’. That is, the dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals realized from damaged industrial sites and abandoned weapons facilities.

There has been extensive PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination in Mosul, due to damage to the city’s electricity network. Similarly, the city has recorded extensive sulphur contamination, from when ISIS bombed a 50,000 ton stockpile of the toxin. That attack released some 6 million tons of the substance into the air, leaving 20 people dead and hundreds hospitalized.

These other pollutant concerns are not surprising, as even before the ISIS conflict, Iraq was named the world’s most contaminated country.

It continues to see high levels of radiation and other toxic substances flow into its environment – all left over from previous conflicts such as the Gulf War.

So the question now is, how to clean up the region?

In a statement to IPS, Dr. Zaid Noori, an ambassador of Iraq in Nairobi, admitted that “Iraq is an environmental disaster” and that the Iraqi government needs help in cleaning up affected areas.

“The Government is doing all it can to remedy the situation, but due to the great amount of damage, pollution and contamination Iraq is seeking support and assistance from the international community and UN agencies to ensure clean and habitable environment to civilians in the liberated areas,” the statement read.

The PAX report similarly noted that Iraq would not likely be able to clean up the pollution and manage health fallouts alone.

“It really needs to be an international effort,” says Zwijnenburg. “We should have States pledging and proving funding and expertise to relevant UN organizations such an UN Environment, UN Habitat and UNDP – all of who are working with the Iraqi government.”

Currently, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is concentrating much of its efforts in Mosul, cleaning up ‘urban damage’.

There is no current international effort to clean up the regions oil pollution.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, told IPS that it is regrettable that environmental recovery work is not taken more seriously in reconstruction efforts.

“If environmental recovery work is built into the wider reconstruction effort – which it should be – recovery can and will happen in Iraq,” he says. “Now is the time for donors to make that investment, because we can’t afford to push it to one side.”

Zwijnenburg agrees. “Environment disasters like this are not always the top priority in recovery,” he says.

“The people living here know that and they’re concerned that as the fires die down, as time passes, that that their cause will be forgotten.”

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Climate-Related Disasters Cost Nearly $400 Billion in 2017http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/climate-related-disasters-cost-nearly-400-billion-2017/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-related-disasters-cost-nearly-400-billion-2017 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/climate-related-disasters-cost-nearly-400-billion-2017/#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 17:32:28 +0000 Amina Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154103 Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, addressing the Investor Summit on Climate Risk

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Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, addressing the Investor Summit on Climate Risk

By Amina J. Mohammed
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 31 2018 (IPS)

I am pleased to be with you at this important and timely summit on climate risk and to discuss the opportunities that are there for us to seize through decisive climate action.

Amina J. Mohammed

The destructive force of climate change has been underscored by the recent spate of tragic disasters across the world.

2017 ties 2011 for the highest number of billion-dollar disasters for a single year.

The direct economic cost last year of predominantly climate-related disasters, from the Caribbean and southern United States, to Southeast Asia and the Pacific, are estimated at nearly $400 billion dollars.

While the news media is transfixed by the short-lived impact of a storm, recovery periods lose the media’s interest. The long running pain and economic devastation of droughts and floods are often pushed to the edges of our consciousness over the immediacy of a hurricane or a cyclone.

What unites us, is that those who are less well off, have less ability to recover and rebuild. Those who do not have strong social bonds in a community or communities on the edge of society, are less resilient. The human costs of failing to address climate risks are immense, perhaps immeasurable.

But today, we need to focus on measurable risks, most of all to the economy and the global financial system, and to you as key business actors and partners to address this growing barrier to sustainable development.

You are here today because you have assessed that climate risks impact the bottom line, your investment portfolio. Climate risks impact business models and the integrity of the pensions and savings systems. I also hope you are here because you may conclude that without addressing this dilemma, climate change poses a systemic macroeconomic risk and a risk to the financial system itself.

I would like to focus my comments today on three areas where I want to urge you to move forward with greater ambition.

First – urgency.

Many of you here today have pledged to align your investment portfolios towards a below 2-degree scenario, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

I welcome Climate Action 100, which involves many of you, and its focus on leveraging the collective power of investors with combined assets of $27 trillion dollars to accelerate the de-carbonisation of the world’s most carbon-intensive, publicly listed companies.

Here in New York City, a few weeks ago, Mayor de Blasio announced plans to divest New York City’s five pension funds from $5 billion dollars in fossil fuel investments out of a total of $189 billion. Divesting from carbon intensive assets and aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement is a complex realignment.

Your voices need to be clear with regulators, central bankers, finance ministers, board rooms and C-suites for the gathering momentum to continue to gather pace and to become a truly global phenomenon.

Second, consistency.

While we see divestment from fossil fuel assets at more than five trillion dollars, last year, the global community invested another $825 billion in fossil fuel use. Once again, your voice and the actions you take will speed the pace with which countries improve the consistency and alignment of their approach from their domestic policies, to the behavior of their national development banks, to their export credit guarantee agencies, to the regulation of their sovereign investment funds, public pension funds and their reaction to moves for transparency.

Which brings me to the third point – transparency.

The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Risk Disclosure exemplifies the potential for mixing pragmatism and values-alignment in collaborative and innovative approaches for ambitious progress and a sustainable future.

I am pleased to see so many companies announcing that they will adopt its principles. I am also pleased to see governments beginning to enshrine its approach in legislation.

But it will be you in this room that reward those that are transparent about their risks and the measures they will use to manage them, and those who can address comprehensively how they will address their future business in a 2 degree climate scenario.

It is only when we have greater transparency that we will be better able to understand the contours of climate risk and then be able to engage all stakeholders in how to best manage that risk, especially those, that sometimes rightfully fear that they will be left behind.

The vehicle for the transformation we need is the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement lays a foundation for some of the most ambitious, cooperative action ever conceived in the history of our global community. Governments are building on this foundation, with more than 170 countries having ratified the agreement.

Their responsibility is to shape the conditions that will make it easier for you to act – for you to make responsible decisions that support global action on climate change. NDCs will provide an entry point at country level to invest in Climate Action

Today, there are more than 1,200 pieces of climate legislation across more than 60 countries, a clear policy signal of the direction of travel.

Thirteen per cent of global GDP is already covered by some kind of carbon price, and this will increase rapidly as China’s national carbon market is rolled out, the Americas grow their cooperation and Europe takes measures to make its pricing more effective.

Moving rapidly towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient future also requires action on the way finance itself works.

Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, has argued that to address climate goals we need to “build a new financial system — one that delivers sustainable investment flows”.

We fully concur with him.

Fixing finance is not a new agenda, but the need to align financial flows with climate-friendly outcomes makes it all the more urgent.

China’s State Council has adopted a set of 35 recommendations by seven ministries to ‘green’ the country’s financial system, the most ambitious commitment of its kind. Challenging the finance system to be bold needs joint action by policy makers, regulators and the market.

In conclusion, finance is key to invest in the future.

Together we need to shape and guide financial systems, regulations and measures to be fit for this purpose.

There cannot be one grand plan. This we know. But there needs to be one grand ambition.

We can scale up through the actions of many, and by working together. Ambition means a concrete commitment to change course, represented through visible action.

Ambition means continuous experimentation and innovation, rapid feedback and learning, and pushing the boundaries for scale in line with this commitment.

Ambition means acceptance that solutions will come from diverse places, institutions and people, working together.

In September 2019, as we move forward, the Secretary-General has signalled that he will bring together heads of state and government, key stakeholders, including you in the room to ensure that ambition is sufficiently calibrated for 2020 and beyond.

Time is against us and I ask that you bring with you all the partners that can make the Paris Agreement a reality.

The United Nations will continue to play its many roles in catalysing finance to address climate and other development challenges; and to do this not just at global level, but also at regional, and very important, at the country level.

Globally, we can convene the actors that together can make a difference; bring our deep working knowledge of country contexts across the world; continue our core work on peace and security and humanitarian action to de-conflict and de-risk environments; and work in close partnership on the ground as we support countries to take the actions that will bend the emissions curve and transform growth and development pathways towards a peaceful and sustainable future

Today we have the opportunity to show each other and the world, that we hear and will respond to the urgent call for Climate Action by ensuring we each play our role in redirecting finance towards our common ambition in securing a world that leaves no one behind.

The post Climate-Related Disasters Cost Nearly $400 Billion in 2017 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, addressing the Investor Summit on Climate Risk

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Create “Sponge Cities” to Tackle Worsening Floodshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/create-sponge-cities-tackle-worsening-floods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=create-sponge-cities-tackle-worsening-floods http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/create-sponge-cities-tackle-worsening-floods/#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 16:26:18 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154099 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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Create “sponge cities” to tackle worsening floods - Downpours flood the streets of Dhaka. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Downpours flood the streets of Dhaka. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Malaysia, Jan 31 2018 (IPS)

With floods now causing more damage more frequently around the world, it is time to counter their effects by turning our towns into “Sponge Cities”, a recent trend popularised by China to absorb rainwater through permeable roads and pavements, parks, rooftop gardens and other green spaces.

Floods causing huge loss of lives, homes and other property have increased significantly in many parts of the world.  This is attributed to more intense rainfall resulting from climate change.  But manmade factors, especially urbanisation and the chopping of forests and trees are also to blame.

So far the Chinese cities have received over US$12 billion for sponge projects. The central government funds 15-20% of costs, the rest is funded by local governments and private developers. The expenses of the sponge city initiative is not insignificant. But it is less than the estimated US$100 billion of direct economic losses due to floods in China in 2011-2014, plus the human lives lost.

Scenes of the havoc caused by flooding, such as swollen rivers bursting their banks, and roads, houses, prominent buildings and motorcars submerged in water can now be seen frequently around the world.

Ordinary members of the public, who are the main victims, and policy makers alike, are now looking at the causes and searching for solutions to urban flash floods.

In Penang, Malaysia, flash floods have been occurring recently with unprecedented frequency and intensity, with three major incidents in seven months last year.

Recently I attended an interesting dialogue on the floods between civil society groups and local government officials.

At the same time, I came across several articles on the concept of “Sponge City.”   Most of them were on how China is turning 30 of its flood-prone urban areas into “sponge cities” in order to prevent floods and retain rain water.

The Chinese plan big and fast.  It launched the sponge city project only in 2015, but they target that 70% of rainwater will be retained in 80% of urban areas by 2020.

The “sponge city” concept will likely spread rapidly as key to the global efforts on climate change adaptation, with the goal of reducing the impact of increased rainfall and floods.

The sponge figured prominently at the NGO-government dialogue in Penang. Malaysian scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng introduced it when explaining the causes of the recent months’ big floods.

She contrasted what happened previously with the present situation when rain falls.  In the past, 50% of the rain seeped through the natural ground cover (trees, grass, etc) into the ground, there is 10% water runoff (to rivers and drains) and 40% evapotranspiration (water goes back to the atmosphere).

The natural ground cover acts as a sponge to absorb the rainwater which infiltrates the soil, and prevents the water from becoming flash floods.

Presently, due to urbanisation, the green spaces have been paved over with concrete and only 15% of the rainwater infiltrates to the soil, while the runoff has expanded to 55% and evapotranspiration is 30% of the total. The sponge now absorbs only 15% of the rainwater compared to the previous 50%.

Dr Kam quoted the highly respected former Penang Water Authority general manager Kam U-Tee as saying that the October 2008 Penang floods were caused by conversion of the valleys into “concrete aprons that do not retain water which immediately flows into streams causing flash floods even with only moderate rainfall.”

 

Create “sponge cities” to tackle worsening floods

Drainage systems in Mozambique’s capital Maputo struggle to cope with rivers flowing into the city and high rainfall that leave streets flooded. Credit:Johannes Myburgh/IPS

 

Given this analysis, a key part of tackling flood woes is to reverse the loss of the sponge.  In recent decades, Malaysia, like most other developing countries, has seen the conversion of a lot of farms, parks, grass areas and trees into “concrete jungles” of roads, houses, commercial buildings and car-parks.

With urbanisation resulting in hotter temperatures, deforestation and floods, there should now be high sensitivity of policy makers and urban planners to the valuable environmental and economic roles of trees, gardens, parks, fields and grass-lands.

Having towns filled with trees and gardens, and integrating this as a priority in urban planning, should not be only be an aesthetic goal, but recognised as a vital part of economic and social development.

This is where the concept and practice of “sponge cities” comes in.  An internet search on this term will find many recent news reports applauding the Chinese initiative to counter its floods and increase its water security by building up the natural cover or sponge in its cities.

In 2010, landslides from flooding killed 700 people in three-quarters of China’s provinces and last year rains flooded Southern China, destroying homes and killing around 60 people.

In 2015, China launched the Sponge City initiative which now covers 30 cities, including Shanghai, Xiamen and Wuhan.  The target: by 2020, 80% of its urban areas will absorb and re-use 70% of rainwater.

The many types of projects include:

  • Constructing permeable roads that enable water to infiltrate into the ground;
  • Replacing totally concrete pavements on roads and parks to make them permeable;
  • Building wetlands to absorb and store rainwater;
  • Constructing rooftop gardens (for example, 4.3 mil square feet of these throughout Shanghai)
  • Plant trees along streets, in public squares and gardens
  • Build community gardens and parks to expand green spaces.
  • Construct manmade lakes and preserve agricultural land to hold water.

“In the natural environment, most precipitation infiltrates the ground or is received by surface water, but this is disrupted when there are large-scale hard pavements,”  said Wen Mdei Dubbelaar, water management director at China Arcadis, giving a rationale for the sponge city concept, in words similar to Dr. Kam’s.

“Now only about 20-30% of rainwater infiltrates the ground in urban areas so it breaks the natural water circulation and causes water logging and surface water pollution,” said Wen in an interview with The Guardian (London).

In Shanghai’s Lingang district, the streets are built with permeable pavements, there are rain gardens filled with soil and plants, buildings feature green rooftops and water tanks, and a manmade lake controls water flows, reports the Guardian.

Prof Hui Li at Tongji University said the first thing to do is to preserve or restore natural waterways as that is the natural way to reduce flooding risk.  In Wuhan, the problem is that a lot of small rivers were filled in during building.  But Lingang still has agriculture land and a lake to hold more water during heavy rain.

What about the cost factor?  So far the Chinese cities have received over US$12 billion for sponge projects. The central government funds 15-20% of costs, the rest is funded by local governments and private developers.

The expenses of the sponge city initiative is not insignificant.  But it is less than the estimated US$100 billion of direct economic losses due to floods in China in 2011-2014, plus the human lives lost.

Other countries besides China have also adopted the sponge city idea. For example, the German capital Berlin is also aiming to become a sponge city. It plans to build vertical forests of trees and plants attached to apartment blocks, among other projects.

Sponge cities are the way to go for the future.  They will be seen to make both environmental and economic sense, as well as improve social conditions, especially as floods get worse due to climate change.  Governments in developing countries should consider this option seriously.

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Excerpt:

Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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Why Humanitarian Assistance Needs Rigorous Evaluationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/humanitarian-assistance-needs-rigorous-evaluation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-assistance-needs-rigorous-evaluation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/humanitarian-assistance-needs-rigorous-evaluation/#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 16:13:42 +0000 Anastasia Aladysheva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154097 Dr Anastasia Aladysheva is a Senior Researcher with the Peace and Development Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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Residents of the camp of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) receive food rations distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with an international non-governmental organization, CARITAS. North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: Flickr/UN Photo/Marie Frechon.

By Dr Anastasia Aladysheva
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan 31 2018 (IPS)

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), the number of people in need of humanitarian aid in 2017 rose to 141.1 million and they were located in 37 countries.

The Global Humanitarian Appeal stood at nearly $13 billion as of November 2017, which represented 58 per cent of the total fund target set for humanitarian assistance. The gap between the appeal target and funds raised, however, has been widening in recent years (Figure 1), as has the number of people affected by disasters—both natural and human-induced (Figure 2).

The least funded countries towards their targets in 2017 were Senegal, which had 18 per cent of its target funded, primarily for projects in the food security and nutrition sector; and Peru, which was 18.5 per cent funded, primarily for water and sanitation projects.

The best covered country in terms of funding was Afghanistan, where 70 per cent of funding requirements were met by donors, which included 100 per cent of the funding needs identified for food security and agriculture.

Gross domestic product in these countries lags behind the world’s average: in Afghanistan it was just US$ 561 GDP per capita in 2016, in Senegal the figure was US$ 958 and in Peru US$ 6045.

When disaster strikes, most efforts are directed at coordination and the first essential relief work (providing water, food, medicine and shelter). In the first 72 hours following the disaster, UNOCHA sends skilled first response staff to start coordinating assistance efforts between the government, and local and international actors.

Many disasters are characterized as ‘sudden onset’, meaning that they abruptly disrupt basic services and infrastructure and must be addressed quickly by a multiplicity of actors in order to save lives. However, even in such situations, when a complex and immediate response is required, evaluations of humanitarian assistance are important.


Figure 1: Trends in response plan requirements/appeal funding and total raised. Notes: The percentage labels shown in each bar represent the global appeal coverage for each year. Amounts shown for 2017 are figures for the year to November. Source: data from FTS.

In addition to the monitoring and evaluation efforts already in place in many international organizations, which track whether aid reaches the intended beneficiaries, the methodology set out below—adapted from evaluations used to assess development programmes—might help to answer similar questions in the humanitarian aid sphere:

• What is the magnitude of the impact of aid?
• What are the impacts of aid provided by a particular agency?
• How sustainable are these impacts?
• What amount of assistance is needed and at what frequency should it be delivered?
• Did certain groups within the affected population benefit more than others? If so, in what ways and to what extent were their livelihoods improved?
• Were there any unintended or negative consequences?
• Could aid be delivered in a more cost-effective way?

Since one of the international criticisms of humanitarian assistance is its lack of sustainability, addressing these questions in the recovery and resilience phases, which follow the relief phase in the three to six months after the disaster strikes, is especially important.

The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 is one example of aid that failed to prevent an outbreak of cholera, which affected 6 per cent of the population over two years. In Nepal, two years after the 2015 disaster, 70 per cent of the affected population are still living in temporary shelters. Recurring drought in Somalia continues to bring hunger to vulnerable populations despite international efforts to tackle the hunger crisis year after year.


Figure 2: Number of disasters and people affected, 1970–2016. Source: EM-DAT Emergency Events Database, Université Catholique de Louvain—CRED.

Consider, for example, the provision of supplementary nutrition to impoverished households with young children during a food crisis. There are several ways to provide this nutrition: food delivery, food vouchers or cash. There are also several channels of distribution, for example by distributing the assistance to the head of household or directly to the mother of the young children.

What is the most effective way to provide the nutrition assistance given the particular country context? If providing assistance to the head of household leads to the optimal distribution of resources across all household members, this is the optimal solution.

If, however, in contexts where the head of household is nearly always male, it leads to an unequal distribution of resources by limiting access by young children and women, then providing it to mothers may benefit the disadvantaged members of the household.

Providing assistance directly to a woman rather than a man, however, could put a woman at risk in the most male-dominated societies. Famine is not always about there not being enough food. Providing food vouchers or cash in the absence of functioning food markets, however, will not be an effective solution. An impact evaluation helps to answer some of these questions.

What is the magnitude of the impact of aid?
To be able to understand the process of how joint humanitarian efforts affect selected nutritional and health outcomes, nutritional, health and other data should be collected, ideally both before and after the assistance is distributed at the individual, household and community levels.

What are the impacts of aid provided by a particular agency? To answer this question, it is important to define an identification strategy that is able to attribute impact to a particular intervention. First, it is desirable to have a comparable ‘sample’ to which it was not possible to provide an intervention, or which received an intervention at a later stage, to compare with the intervention group that received assistance.

Having a control group helps to eliminate parallel ‘shocks’ that may influence both groups at the same time and which are not due to the intervention. To guarantee fair allocation and comparability, both samples must be selected on a random basis before the intervention—in a randomized control trial.

In a humanitarian context, however, it is often the case that large areas or a large number of the population are affected (a high co-variability problem), or there would be ethical considerations around the agency delaying assistance any longer than necessary.

Therefore, withholding assistance from a certain group of the population could not be considered. However, when resources are limited, or the intervention has potential side-effects as in public health programmes, random selection could still be considered. The impact is the difference between the intervention group and the comparison group before and after the programme (see Table 1).


Table 1: Estimating impact

Another solution would be to start evaluating the programme after the intervention. In such cases, the evaluation team must rely on existing data available on the community before the disaster.

How sustainable are these impacts? In this case, researchers return to collect additional waves of data at a later stage (medium to long term). The nature of the intervention defines the timeline of the evaluation. In the case of nutritional programmes, the research team may come back after six months, one year or even longer, depending on the scale of the programme and the availability of resources.

What amount of assistance is needed and at what frequency should it be delivered? An impact evaluation team should perform rigorous statistical analyses using the data collected. It is therefore important to ensure that the data contains full information on the outcome indicators that the implementation team was aiming to improve, such as health indicators, the dietary diversity of all household members, and so on.

Questions specific to the intervention should be formulated—and if possible piloted in advance—in a such a way that it is possible to learn detailed lessons about the impact of the programme.

Did certain groups within the affected population become better off than others? If so, in what ways and to what extent were their livelihoods improved? The most vulnerable are usually hit the hardest by disasters. Together with the implementation team, the impact evaluation team should help to identify the intervention target group. During humanitarian emergencies, it is important that data on displacement and an existing census or similar data are accessible to the research team.

Were there any unintended or negative consequences? When providing household-targeted interventions, it is essential to understand how resources are redistributed among all members of the households and whether certain groups have restricted access. Therefore, even though this requires more financial resources, surveying all household members is essential.

Could aid be delivered in a more cost-effective way? Impact evaluations using randomized control trials can and have helped to identify the type of assistance—providing in-kind food, food vouchers or cash—that is most efficient or appropriate—in terms of both cost and effectiveness—for the target population and the conditions on the ground.

The implementation and research team should identify the needs of the population and the context in which the intervention will take place before the intervention starts, using interviews during field visits and desk research.

To summarize, all the nuances of the intervention must be considered in order to be able to design an impact evaluation. Therefore, the implementation and impact evaluation teams should synergize to guarantee that all the available information is accessible to both.

The main advantage of a rigorous impact evaluation is that it contains a set of components that have been tested in many development programmes and that in combination can help to tease out unbiased impacts.

Some methodologies—such as randomized control trials—are flexible enough to be adjusted to the humanitarian context and complement the existing monitoring and evaluation methodologies of humanitarian agencies. The key recommendations to humanitarian agencies are therefore:

• Learn about where disasters may unfold and where assistance may be most required. Many natural disasters happen in the same geographic areas. Collect comprehensive data on the populations and local environments likely to be affected that will be useful in times of disaster.

• Prepare and design impact evaluations in advance that are specific to the types of intervention the agency conducts.

• As the climate changes, it is highly likely that the number and scale of disasters will grow in the coming years. The need for humanitarian assistance is therefore also likely to increase. This creates an urgency to ensure that humanitarian aid is spent in the most effective and efficient way.

The post Why Humanitarian Assistance Needs Rigorous Evaluation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr Anastasia Aladysheva is a Senior Researcher with the Peace and Development Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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How Natural Disasters Undermine Schoolinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/natural-disasters-undermine-schooling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-disasters-undermine-schooling http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/natural-disasters-undermine-schooling/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 13:55:40 +0000 Erica Chuang and Jessie Pinchoff http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154060 Erica Chuang is Study Coordinator/Data Analyst -Population Council, Jessie Pinchoff is
Associate, Population Council & Stephanie Psaki is Deputy Director, GIRL Center - Population Council

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Kids work side-by-side at a temporary school for those displaced by floods in eastern Nepal. Many children experience trauma, fear or other psychological impacts of natural disasters, but few receive the necessary treatment. Credit: IPS

By Erica Chuang and Jessie Pinchoff & Stephanie Psaki
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 30 2018 (IPS)

In 2010, heavy monsoons led to devastating floods in Pakistan that destroyed 11,000 schools. Thousands of additional schools had to be used as community shelters, preventing them from operating as classrooms. In the immediate aftermath of climate-related events such as this, damage to schools and infrastructure often interrupt a child’s education.

This is even more devastating in countries and communities where access to educational resources is already strained. Following damage, repairs to schools and infrastructure tend to be slow and delayed.

Research has shown an overall reduction in educational attainment, lower academic performance, and higher rates of absenteeism among children who have experienced climate shocks.

After these events, children may also miss school due to sickness (e.g., malnutrition during drought, or increased rates of diarrheal disease after floods), injury, or displacement. In the long run, this may reduce lifetime earnings when these children reach adulthood.

A recently published Brookings brief highlights the ways that increasing girls’ education can make them agents of change in the pursuit of more equitable climate action. Given the opportunity, girls can be powerful agents of change—and this is one area where their leadership will be sorely needed in the near future.

But while more education for girls may help make them, their families, and their communities more resilient in the face of natural disasters, the reverse is also true: these disasters are threatening gains made in girls’ education.

Climate events disproportionately affect vulnerable students, particularly adolescent girls. This pattern is particularly alarming, as evidence suggests that climate-related shocks (cyclones, flash floods, wildfires) and stresses (drought, for example) are increasing in frequency and intensity.

Due to the potentially profound consequences of climate events on education, researchers and policymakers are increasingly focusing their attention on this link, and its implications.

For example, at the Population Council, we are using satellite imagery and remotely sensed data to measure climate shocks and stresses. We are linking these data with information about where people live, including those who are most vulnerable, and where education is most likely to be disrupted.

Detailed information about where climate events occur, who is at risk, and why, is essential for policymakers and school officials to take actions that minimize lost school time. These risks are particularly acute for adolescent girls, who have a short window of opportunity to get back to school before they are forced to take a different path—including marriage or migration for work.

Climate shocks such as cyclones and floods are acute and often challenging to plan for. Building maps and models identifying high-risk areas can be useful as countries and communities develop strategies for emergency response and resilience building.

Take two districts in Bangladesh where the Population Council is working to delay child marriage, which has been linked to environmental shocks and is likely to derail education for girls.

Our analyses show that 45 out of 96 secondary schools are in high flood risk areas (depicted in map below). Using this information, schools and communities can develop action plans to prevent education disruption following climate shocks, such as running double shifts at unaffected schools temporarily.

Linking surveys from the schools and students in their catchment area with satellite imagery of flood risk can help us better understand which schools close and under what conditions. We can also learn how communities respond or adapt to challenges, the effects on educational attainment, and the risk of child marriage.

With climate-related stresses, such as drought, the effects look to be less immediate or direct when compared to shocks, but they often have significant long-term implications. Droughts destabilize the income of poorer households, many of whom are reliant on agriculture for income.

As a result, households may pull children out of school early to have them work in the formal labor market or within the household. Evidence from India, for example, shows that households in areas with high variability in agricultural production may send their daughters to get married in areas with less risk as a way to protect against household income and food shortages.

As the risk of climate events increases globally, policymakers and practitioners must integrate information about climate risks and their potential impacts with efforts to promote girls’ education. National officials or international bodies may be able to identify communities at high risk of disruption by using information about communities most affected by climate events.

Additionally, short-term support for families with school-age children, especially girls, is needed and may reduce the risk of more permanent schooling disruptions.

The relationship between girls’ education and climate events is complex, but work to understand the risks and best practices is growing. But for girls to lead resilience-building efforts in their families and communities—both now and in the future—we must ensure that climate events do not derail their education and, therefore, their opportunities.

The post How Natural Disasters Undermine Schooling appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Erica Chuang is Study Coordinator/Data Analyst -Population Council, Jessie Pinchoff is
Associate, Population Council & Stephanie Psaki is Deputy Director, GIRL Center - Population Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Renewed Partnership to End Hunger in Africa by 2025http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/renewed-partnership-end-hunger-africa-2025/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renewed-partnership-end-hunger-africa-2025 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/renewed-partnership-end-hunger-africa-2025/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:31:12 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154035 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressing a high-level event at the 30th African Union summit in Ethiopia

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Two and a half million people in the Central African Republic (CAR) are facing hunger. Credit: WFP/Bruno Djoye

By António Guterres
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan 29 2018 (IPS)

After a period of prolonged decline, world hunger is on the rise. Africa has the highest rates of hunger in the world, and they are increasing. Agricultural and livestock productivity in Africa is under threat. This is largely due to conflict and climate change.

Hunger, food insecurity and poverty are closely linked. Sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth is vital to achieve both SDG1 on poverty and SDG2 on hunger, and also influences many other Goals. This means adopting national agricultural policies and investment plans that focus not only on agricultural sector development, but on poverty, hunger and resilience to climate change.

Climatic shocks, environmental degradation, crop and livestock price collapse and conflict are all interlinked. Climate change adaptation should be promoted as an integral part of conflict prevention, with special attention to sustainable agriculture and pastoralist and semi-pastoralist livelihoods.

It is important to highlight that the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in countries affected by conflict. Hunger is almost twice as high in conflict-affected countries with a protracted crisis. Stronger commitment by governments, the African Union and the United Nations is needed to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development also as instrument to fight hunger.

During conflicts and protracted crises, we still need to assist people most at risk of hunger and malnutrition and support them to build more resilient livelihoods. That means preventive interventions to break the link between food insecurity and conflict, such as shielding consumers and producers from food price shocks through price stabilization measures and social protection interventions.

Over time, by helping vulnerable households manage risks better, social protection can support investments in livelihoods that enhance people’s resilience to future threats and crises.

To build and sustain peace and address hunger and poverty, we need community-based approaches that build social cohesion and the capacity of local institutions and actors. Improved governance that can deliver equitable services is essential.

Social protection is needed to complement development efforts. The poor need to be helped from the poverty trap and given the tools to ensure they do not slide back.

Gender equality is also essential and will help us accelerate progress towards achieving food security and nutrition. Women represent 60 per cent of the agricultural workforce in parts of Africa and make crucial contributions to food production, food processing and marketing. Improving women’s social and economic status within their households and communities has a direct impact on food security and nutrition, in particular on child nutrition.

While much of the effort of development partners is on developing policies and programmes, too little attention is given to mobilizing resources and investment on implementation and capacity building.

It is important that international cooperation is brought to bear under the framework of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and that developed countries not only meet the Official Development Assistance (ODA) targets but that they allocate adequate levels of resources for sustainable agriculture.

Many countries in Africa have increased agricultural expenditures, but only five countries have met the 10 per cent target of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.

Most National Agriculture Investment Plans are not fully implemented. Governments and development partners need to significantly increase their resource allocation and improve targeting of hunger and poverty eradication initiatives.

Governments need to create conditions for much greater investment by the private sector in enterprises that can generate benefits for the poor and the food-insecure. Market inefficiencies remain a primary handicap for farmers. Infrastructure is often lacking to ease access to local markets, and regional market integration is insufficient.

Finally, all stakeholders need to be accountable for commitments. That means generating and sharing data and information on policy and institutional changes, resource allocations and investments, and progress on SDG1 and SDG2 and related national and regional goals and targets.

The post Renewed Partnership to End Hunger in Africa by 2025 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressing a high-level event at the 30th African Union summit in Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Dams are flooding indigenous and community lands.

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

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

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

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

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

A Fight for Legal Recognition and Tenure Security

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

The post Indigenous Peoples & Local Communities Vital to the Global Environment appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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

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

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

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Biodiversity and Food Security: the Dual Focus of the World Potato Congress appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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