Inter Press Service » Environment http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 03 Dec 2016 11:53:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Initial Global Effects of Trump Even Before Taking Officehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/initial-global-effects-of-trump-even-before-taking-office/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=initial-global-effects-of-trump-even-before-taking-office http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/initial-global-effects-of-trump-even-before-taking-office/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2016 13:56:36 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147937 Credit: Bigstock

Credit: Bigstock

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Nov 24 2016 (IPS)

Even before taking office, President-Elect Donald Trump and the policies he promised during his campaign are already having a worldwide impact in at least three areas —  global finance, trade and climate change.

If his election is described as an earthquake, the aftershocks are now being felt.

Global funds are starting to move out of many developing countries, reducing the value of their currencies and causing great economic uncertainty.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) looks like it will fade away, as Trump has said he would give notice of the US withdrawing from the pact on his first day of office.

Earlier, President Obama, seeing the signs on the wall, gave up on efforts to give it a final push through Congress.

And delegates meeting at the two-week annual UN climate conference that ended in Marakesh on 19 November were all speculating whether a President Trump would carry out his campaign threat to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement and what then would happen to future international climate action.

Trump has since softened his stand, telling the New York Times on 22 November that he has “an open mind” on the Paris agreement.  But he has also indicated he won’t follow through on the Obama administration’s domestic measures to reduce Greenhouse gases.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

These are only some of initial effects in anticipation of a Trump presidency.   As the President Elect  begins to fill in his cabinet positions, the world also wondered what is in store with regard to new US policies on immigration, the UN, the Middle East, Asia and even NATO.

The first concrete real-world effect was on currencies and the flow of funds in developing countries. Equities and currencies in many countries in Asia and elsewhere have taken a hit since the Trump election victory.

The US dollar has strengthened significantly in expectations that Trump will embark on massive spending on infrastructure, thus increasing expectations of inflationary pressures and of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates earlier than expected.

Many billions of dollars of funds that had moved to emerging economies in search for higher yield are returning to the now-attractive USA, and this reverse flow is expected to continue or increase.

This can cause volatility and havoc in many emerging economies, in the wake of an exit of a sizable portion of the hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign funds.

Many developing countries are vulnerable as foreign funds in recent years have increased their ownership of their government bonds denominated in domestic currencies, and there is also higher participation of foreigners in their stock markets.

This makes them even more susceptible to high outflows of capital, and to the weakening of their currency levels, making it more difficult to service external debt.   The lesson from the boom-bust financial cycle is that what comes in as short-term funds will most likely move out when conditions change.

On the TPP, the effects of the US elections came swiftly. The US Congress must ratify the TPP for it to come into effect and the last opportunity is during the “lame duck” session before Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

But immediately after the elections, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell Dougall announced there would be no vote on the TPP during this year.

Sensing there is no hope for a TPP bill to succeed, Obama signaled he would give up the effort.  As Obama is the true, and often lonely, champion of the TPP, while Trump had pledged to kill it during his campaign, there is almost no prospect for the TPP to be ratified in the US.

Many billions of dollars of funds that had moved to emerging economies in search for higher yield are returning to the now-attractive USA, and this reverse flow is expected to continue or increase
At the recent summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation held in Lima, leaders of the TPP countries, including Obama, were holding on to the possibility that Trump on taking office would change his mind on the TPP.

After all, President Bill Clinton pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) though he opposed it before becoming President and Obama had signed the TPP although he too had earlier been against such agreements.

However, Trump dashed hopes that he too would do an about-turn when he announced on 20 November that on his first day as President he would issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the TPP which he called a “potential disaster.”

Without the US on board the TPP cannot survive, as at least six countries with 85% of the combined GDP of all the 13 TPP countries need to ratify the agreement for it to come into effect.

The near-certain death of the TPP is due not so much to Trump as to the public mood in the US that has become so strongly against such trade agreements that it was unlikely there would be enough votes to get it through the Congress, whoever won the election.

A larger issue is what overall trade policy Trump will adopt.  It is almost certain that the other big agreement, the US-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment  Partnership (TTIP), will also cease negotiations.

And NAFTA may be re-negotiated, as this was a Trump campaign promise, though no one knows the parametres of such a re-negotiation.

Trump has also vowed to slap on huge tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.  Doing so would be against basic World Trade Organisation rules, so Trump might have to discard his campaign threats – or else hell will break loose at the WTO.

In any case, the future of the WTO’s negotiating agenda will have to await the unveiling of President Trump’s overall trade policy.

Thus the Trump presidency will have a huge impact on the future of the multilateral trading system as well as on bilateral trade agreements.

Even more is at stake in climate change, widely described as the biggest crisis facing the world.  During the campaign, Trump described climate change as a hoax and vowed to pull the US out from the Paris Agreement, which Obama had joined with other countries to ratify and which came into force in record time on 4 November.

There was a sombre mood at the UN Climate Change Convention conference in Morocco that ended 19 November.  Delegates and activists alike speculated in the corridors on what would happen if the US leaves the Paris Agreement or even the Convention altogether.

French President Francois Hollande told the conference that “the United States, the second largest greenhouse gas emitter, must respect the commitments it has undertaken,” stressing that the agreement was “irreversible”.

If the US leaves the Paris Agreement, the effects could be disastrous.  When the US under President George W. Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, it didn’t have an immediate effect on other countries.

But by 2011, Japan, Russia and Canada had also either pulled out of the protocol or refused to participate in its second commitment period, and the protocol is now hardly operational.  There are legitimate concerns the same fate may befall on a Paris Agreement without the US.

Freed from the commitment the US made under the agreement to cut its Greenhouse Gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, a Trump administration might more easily un-do Obama’s executive orders and the Environment Protection Agency rules to cut emissions from existing power plants.

A ray of hope was lit on this depressing scenario at least temporarily when Trump told journalists at the New York Times that “I have an open mind on it”, when asked about the Paris agreement.

The chances of Trump becoming a climate co-operant if not exactly a champion are not however bright.  He has announced that his choice for EPA head is Myron Ebelle, known for his skeptical views on the “myths of climate change.”

And one of his priorities on assuming office would be to pump more oil and gas and restore the coal industry.  Reversing Obama’s climate change regulations are expected to follow.

If the US remains in the Paris Agreement, the other countries will struggle with it to try to hold it to its commitments.  And at some point, if it is clear it no longer believes in meeting its pledged targets, it may decide to leave, or to weaken the agreement to accommodate its new position.

Unless there is a change of heart when Trump becomes President, these are the gloomy prospects on climate change cooperation.  We may be back to the pre-Obama days when the US under Bush was in denial of the need to act on climate change either domestically or internationally.

This time the situation is much more serious, as the next few years constitute the last window of opportunity for action to prevent a global climate change catastrophe.

These three aftershocks after the election earthquake are quick signs that confirm that not only Americans but the world at large are in for uncertain and uncomfortable times ahead.

We are in for a roller coaster ride, and the world as well as the world order may never be the same again.

 

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The Potential Cost of U.S. Climate Inactionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-potential-cost-of-u-s-climate-inaction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-potential-cost-of-u-s-climate-inaction http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-potential-cost-of-u-s-climate-inaction/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2016 05:19:32 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147925 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-potential-cost-of-u-s-climate-inaction/feed/ 0 Battle of the Desert (and III): UNCCD ‘s Louise Baker on The Silk Roadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-and-iii-unccd-s-louise-baker-on-the-silk-road/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-and-iii-unccd-s-louise-baker-on-the-silk-road http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-and-iii-unccd-s-louise-baker-on-the-silk-road/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2016 17:58:12 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147895 Louise Baker

Louise Baker

By Baher Kamal
BONN / ROME, Nov 23 2016 (IPS)

Marking this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification last June, the United Nations announced the launch of a China-United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Belt and Road Joint Action initiative to curb Desertification along the Silk Road.

UNCCD is the key United Nations legal framework to combat desertification. IPS interviews Louise Baker, Coordinator External Relations, Policy and Advocacy Unit, UNCCD about the current effects of drought in the countries, which are expected to benefit from this initiative?

Drought is a complex natural hazard that causes more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster. Its socio-economic and environmental impacts are severe and far-reaching, Baker states.

“Desertification and land degradation cause poverty and hunger. In turn, these can lead to massive environmental damage and natural resource scarcity that sometimes ends with conflict. It certainly hinders sustainable development.”

She then explains that there are 24 types of ecosystem services in the world. 15 are in decline. Desertification and land degradation are major stress factors. Many countries along the Belt and Road are highly vulnerable to both drought and desertification, and are facing social, economic and political stresses.

Asked for specific examples, Baker cites the case of Uzbekistan: 73.6 per cent of the population live in areas affected by drought.

Droughts have reduced the country’s water flow by 35-40 per cent below the average…crop yield losses range from 42 to 75 per cent… wetland ecosystems are degraded and up to 80 per cent of the lakes are drying out.

The risk of ground water salinization is growing, says Baker, and adds: Iran often suffers from severe drought and has problems with sand and dust storms. A 1991 drought cost Iran 1.25 billion dollars, and a 2001 drought cost 7.5 billion dollars.

Climate Change

“Droughts will become more frequent, severe and widespread as a result of climate change, “ she explains. The Belt and Road Joint Action Initiative is a way of managing the land better, mitigating the effects of drought and promoting green economic growth. “That should lead to more equitable economic and social development.”

Credit: 2013 UNCCD Photo contest Xiaoyun Zheng

Credit: 2013 UNCCD Photo contest Xiaoyun Zheng

Asked what is the new joint initiative all about? How long will it be? How many years it will take to be completed? And how much will it cost and who will fund it? Louise Baker responds: “The joint action initiative involves the 23 countries located along the Silk Road. The long term vision is to protect and use natural resources rationally and to promote the development of a green economy in areas affected by land degradation and desertification.”

The countries, she explains, will work together to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15 on land, in particular SDG target 15.3. That is about achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030.

“Land degradation neutrality is about maintaining a balance in the amount of healthy and productive land that every country has available by sustainably managing every hectare of productive land and by rehabilitating an equal amount of already degraded land.”

The partners have laid out a framework for actions in five areas.

First, managing the entire ecosystem so that the plants and animals are not negatively affected by land degradation and they are able to adapt to climate change.

Second, developing a sustainable green economy based on local resources, for instance, using traditional agricultural practices and promoting solar and wind energy.

Third, protecting important natural and man-made infrastructure by using sustainable land and water management for river and lake basins.

Fourth, acting on drought through early warning, preparedness, mitigation and enhancing the capacities for emergency response, controlling dust and sand storms at their areas of origin and controlling shifting sand dunes.

Lastly, all world heritage sites located along the Belt and Road will benefit through measures to strengthen the conservation, protection or restoration of the ecosystems around them.

The Initiative emphasizes joint contributions and shared benefits. “Each country will develop its own activities, estimate the costs of developing social and green industries in the Belt and contribute to the initiative based on their own capacity. China’s State Administrative of Forest will coordinate and collect the data and activities under the initiative.”

IPS then asks Baker why is it called “The Silk Road Economic Belt”? which starts from China and runs to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean via Central and West Asia, geographically linking the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe?

The Silk Roads

The Silk Roads were important routes for trade and cultural exchanges in human history. For millennia the roads linked the four ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India with those of Greece and Rome. The Silk Road strengthened open trade and development, exchanged of knowledge and culture. The concept is built on all these ideas, Louis Baker responds.

Credit: 2009 UNCCD Photo contest Jason Lee

Credit: 2009 UNCCD Photo contest Jason Lee

But the fertile lands along the Silk Roads has become degraded as a result of conflict, over exploitation and unsustainable human activity leading to serious and wide spread desertification, she adds.

“To complement the vision of “Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”, which was launched in 2013 by the Chinese Government, the joint action initiative focuses on the “ecological civilization” of the route.”

Land Locked, Vulnerable to Drought and Desertification

Despite a rich history, many countries along the Belt and Road, such as those in central Asia and the Middle East, are land locked and vulnerable to drought, desertification and other challenges. This Joint Initiative can help unlock some of the potential that is often hindered by location and environmental degradation.

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said through solidarity and engagement, China “has brought millions of people out of poverty through massive scale land restoration efforts.” Baker explains how.

“The restoration of the Loess plateau and the massive tree planting initiative in the Three North Regions Shelterbelts Development Project are two well-known large-scale landscape restoration initiatives focused on degraded ecosystems,” Baer answers.

The national plan to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation, Dust and Sand Storm Prevention Project in Northern China, is another initiative that not only benefits the people of China, but countries such as South Korea and the United States that are in the path of these dust storms. “These and other initiatives have also benefited land users directly.”

Baker further explains that in the arid and semi-arid regions, China is taking measures to change to better irrigation and land use patterns and is introducing more drought tolerant plant varieties. Rural villagers and farmers get zero-interest loans to adopt these new methods.

They are also compensated for limiting their herd sizes in order to avoid overgrazing. Providing steady incomes, as an incentive to conserve the environment, can go a long way to help poor households.

“For the future, China is also developing new technologies to support land users to reduce water consumption and use waste water. It has set up the Green Silk Road Fund to encourage the restoration, rehabilitation of degraded land along the Silk Road.”

Rural people will benefit from these changes, including through the jobs created by private sector companies that invest along the Silk Road in response to the Initiative, she adds.

To IPS question: What is the share of the region involved in this Initiative, in the fact that, globally, more than 2 billion hectares of the terrestrial ecosystems are degraded, with nearly 170 countries affected by land degradation and drought?, Baker says:

“In 2012, it was estimated that 2 billion hectares of land was degraded globally,” adding that there are about 500 million hectares of that is former – now abandoned agricultural land – that could be restored quickly and cost-effectively.This is far better than degrading 4-6 million hectares of new land each year to meet the growing global demand for food up to 2050.”

Nearly One Fifth of China, Affected By Drought and Desertification

Nearly 20 per cent of China is affected by drought and desertification, Baker explains. “On average, China has recovered 2,424 km2 (240,000 ha) of desertified and degraded land every year for the last consecutive 10 years. That is about 2.5 million hectares. At least, 10 million hectares more could be restored in China. This would be a significant contribution to global efforts.”

Through knowledge sharing under the Road and Belt Joint Action Initiative, China is helping countries that are affected by drought to be more prepared.

“I believe the success of this initiative will motivate more countries to rehabilitate and restore their land. It will certainly increase the resilience of local people, the UNCCD senior official concludes.

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Coal Mine Threatens Ecological Paradise in Chile’s Patagonia Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-mine-threatens-ecological-paradise-in-chiles-patagonia-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-mine-threatens-ecological-paradise-in-chiles-patagonia-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-mine-threatens-ecological-paradise-in-chiles-patagonia-region/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:50:18 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147877 Humpback whales and dolphins are part of the rich habitat of the Otway gulf, in the Magellan Strait, near the Invierno mine on Riesco Island in the southern Chilean wilderness region of Patagonia. Credit: José Antonio de Pablo/ Riesco Island Alert

Humpback whales and dolphins are part of the rich habitat of the Otway gulf, in the Magellan Strait, near the Invierno mine on Riesco Island in the southern Chilean wilderness region of Patagonia. Credit: José Antonio de Pablo/ Riesco Island Alert

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Nov 22 2016 (IPS)

An open-pit coal mine in the southern island of Riesco, a paradise of biological diversity in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness region, is a reflection of the weakness of the country’s environmental laws, which are criticised by local residents, activists, scientists and lawmakers.

Riesco, the country’s fourth-largest island, at the southern tip of South America, and the waters around it, is home to many species, such as the humpback whale, four kinds of dolphins, elephant seals and penguins, 24 species of land mammals and 136 birds.

“I will not leave. But I see the drastic changes,” a worried Gregor Stipicic, one of the island’s 150 inhabitants, told IPS by telephone from Riesco.

Gregor, 36, is the youngest of three Stipicic siblings who own a 750-hectare farm where they raise about 6,000 sheep, which are now threatened by dynamite explosions.

Gregor, a surgeon by profession, has been living on the farm since 2006, when he took charge after the death of his father. His grandfather, a Croatian immigrant, arrived to the island in 1956, drawn by its fertile soils.

Riesco Island is 5,000-sq-km in size and is 3,000 km south of Santiago, in Magallanes, the country’s southernmost province.

The local inhabitants live and work on 30 farms, which mainly raise sheep.

One-third of the island’s territory is within the Alacalufes National Reserve, one of the largest in Chile, covering 2.6 million hectares of wilderness that forms part of the country’s protected areas.

The “mina invierno” or winter mine, the largest open-pit coal mine in the country, belongs to the Riesco Island Mining Company, owned by the Chilean companies Copec and Ultramar, which invested 600 million dollars in the mine, and have four other deposits on the island, so far inactive.

The aim is to exploit, for 12 years, reserves of 73 million tons of sub-bituminous coal, of low calorific value and high heavy metal content. The coal is sold to the Huasco, Tocopilla, Mejillones and Ventanas thermoelectric plants in north and central Chile, and exported to China, India, Brazil and other countries.

The steady decline in international coal prices affected the company’s plans, which temporarily decreased production and cut its payroll.

Lengas (Nothofagus pumilio) and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus antarctica) seen on Riesco Island, in Chile’s Patagonia wilderness region, which is threatened by coal mining. Credit: Claudio Magallanes Velazco/Riesco Island Alert

Lengas (Nothofagus pumilio) and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus antarctica) seen on Riesco Island, in Chile’s Patagonia wilderness region, which is threatened by coal mining. Credit: Claudio Magallanes Velazco/Riesco Island Alert

To open the Invierno mine, 400 hectares of native woodland were cut, a lake was dried up, and the functioning of the water in the surrounding area was modified. It currently has three sterile waste dumps, each one 60 mts high.

“Everything is becoming polluted. Some 1,500 hectares of land will be directly affected, including 500 metres of open pit which has already reached 100 of the projected 180 metres in depth,” said Ana Stipicic, spokesperson for the social and ecological movement Riesco Island Alert.

“The last report on pollution we made was on the impact on the Chorrillo Invierno Dos River. Now we learned that the Cañadón and Chorrillo Los Coipos Rivers were also polluted. There are settling ponds to remove matter from wastewater, but they don’t work,” the activist, who is Gregor’s sister, told IPS in Santiago.

She said that the rivers affected a wetland and “along the shore there are enormous pieces of coal. The mining port and the crushers that crush the mineral throw charcoal into the sea. Nobody has studied this.”

Ana Stipicic said particles in the air “fall on the surrounding grazing lands, woods and water bodies where there is rich fauna.” She added that the mining activity “has caused huge movements of wildlife, from woodpeckers to huemul deer and capybara.”

Biologist Juan Capella, from the Yubarta Foundation, complained that the shipping of coal through the Otway gulf, the Gerónimo channel and the Magellan Strait has affected humpback whales and dolphins that live in this area, where the Francisco Coloane Marine Park is located.

“There are reported cases of collisions of cargo ships with whales. The more coal that is transported and the heavier the ship traffic in such a narrow channel, the higher the chances of collisions and deaths of whales. The latest recorded case occurred in March, when a ship ran into a whale and killed it,” he told IPS from Punta Arenas, capital of Magallanes province.

Map of the location of coal mines on Riesco Island at the southern tip of Chile. Credit: Riesco Island Alert

Map of the location of coal mines on Riesco Island at the southern tip of Chile. Credit: Riesco Island Alert

Climate specialist Nicolás Butorovic said that during the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Invierno mine, “we proved that the modelling was wrong with respect to settleable particulate matter. They predicted 60 micrograms per day while the stations measured up to 158.”

The company had stated that it would not use dynamite explosions since they sought sustainable mining. It also claimed that winds in the area averaged 39 kilometres per hour when in fact they can reach up to more than 180 kilometres per hour.

Fernando Dougnac, head of the organisation of environmentalist lawyers FIMA, filed legal action which brought the explosions to a halt.

Dougnac told IPS in Santiago that in his legal presentation he included veterinary records from the year 1998, showing that during breeding season, sheep are highly susceptible to noise, to the point that workers are asked to stay out of the areas where the sheep are mating or raising young.

“We expect the explosions to be stopped during those months. The Invierno mine needs to cut operating costs, so they will insist on making detonations the four times a week that they are allowed,” said Ana Stipicic.

The national director of Greenpeace Chile, Matías Asún, told IPS that the mining company “deceived the population and disregarded the regulations to later be allowed to use dynamite explosions.”

In his opinion “Chile’s environmental authority operates on the basis of economic and commercial criteria. Their official discourse is not the protection of the environment but the protection of investment and the environment.”

He said “it is anachronistic that in a country where renewable energies are experiencing remarkable growth at a global scale and coal is in decline, on top of the many territorial conflicts generated, a subsidy is granted violating de facto environmental regulations and the commitments that the own company made to the community.”

“Riesco Island is not sustainable without cutting costs with environmental impacts,” he stressed.

Independent legislator for Magallanes province Gabriel Boric told IPS that the company presented the coal mining project in a fragmented manner to obtain approval.

“That a project be allowed to be presented by parts, so that its environmental impact cannot be assessed integrally, is one of the main weaknesses of our environmental protection system, which must be remedied by means of reforms,” he said.

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Climate Finance for Farmers Key to Avert One Billion Hungryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:05:43 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147864 The arid region of Settat, 200 kms northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

The arid region of Settat, 200 kms northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
MARRAKECH, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

With climate change posing growing threats to smallholder farmers, experts working around the issues of agriculture and food security say it is more critical than ever to implement locally appropriate solutions to help them adapt to changing rainfall patterns.

Most countries consider agriculture a priority when it comes to their plans to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2 degrees C. In line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement, 95 percent of all countries included agriculture in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient." -- Martial Bernoux of FAO

“The climate is changing. We don’t have rains that we used to have in the past. In the last decade, we had two consecutive years of intense drought and we lost all the production. The animals all died because they had no water,” Ahmed Khiat, 68, a small farmer in the Moroccan community of Souaka, told IPS.

Khiat comes from a long line of farmers. Born and raised in the arid region of Settat located some 200 km northeast of Marrakech, he has cultivated the land his whole life, growing maize, lentils and other vegetables, as well as raising sheep. But the family tradition was not passed to his nine sons and daughters, who all migrated to the cities in search for jobs.

In the past, he said, farmers were able to get 90 percent of their income from agriculture — now it’s half that. “They don’t work anymore in the field,” Khiat about his sons. “The work here is very seasonal. I prefer they have a permanent job in the city.”

Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat, who has struggled with drought but benefitted from a direct seeding program that promotes resilience to climate change. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat, who has struggled with drought but benefitted from a direct seeding program that promotes resilience to climate change. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Agriculture is an important part of the Moroccan economy, contributing 15 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 23 percent to its exports. Around 45 percent of Morocco’s population lives in rural areas and depends mainly on agriculture for their income, Mohamed Boughlala, an economist at the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) in Morocco, told IPS.

Seventy percent of the people in the countryside live in poverty. Unemployment is common among youth and around 80 percent of farmers are illiterate. Khiat, for example, says he does not know how to spell his own name.

The impacts of climate change are already visible in Morocco, said Boughlala. The proportion of dry years has increased fourfold as surface water availability decreased by 35 percent. Climate change particularly affects smallholders who depend on low-input and rain-fed agriculture, like the communities in Settat.

“The studies we did here we found that between 1980 to 2016, we lost 100mm of rainfall. The average rainfall before 1980 was around 427 mm per year and from 1981 to 2016 the average is only 327 mm per year. This means that we lost 100 mm between the two periods. If we show them there is a technology so you can improve the yield, reduce the risk and the cost of production, we can improve small farmers’ livelihoods,” stressed Boughlala.

In 2015, families who used conventional ploughing methods had zero yield. But the farmers who applied so-called “direct seeding” had an increase of 30 percent. Direct seeding is a technology for growing cereals without disturbing the soil through tillage, i.e. without ploughing. With this technique, the scarce rainfall infiltrates the soil and is retained near the roots of the crop, which results in higher yields compared to traditional seeding. Soil erosion is reduced and labour costs go down.

Direct seeding had been tested in Morocco by INRA as a way to increase resilience to climate change. Morocco piloted this technology with financial support of a 4.3-million-dollar grant from the Special Climate Change Fund of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – designed to strengthen the capacity of institutions and farmers to integrate climate change adaptation measures in projects which are implemented under the Plan Maroc Vert, or the green plan addressing Moroccan’s agricultural needs.

Khiat was one of the 2,500 small farmers benefitted by the direct seeding for cereals in 2011. Facilities like GEF and the Green Climate Fund will be key for African farmers to access financial resources to cope with global warming.

However, the African continent — home to 25 percent of the developing world’s population — receives only 5 percent of public and private climate funds. Although it contributes very little to greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is likely the most vulnerable to the climate impacts.

The need to protect African agriculture in the face of climate change was addressed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) with the Global Climate Action Agenda on Nov. 17. The one-day event at the Climate Summit aimed to boost concerted efforts to cut emissions, help vulnerable nations adapt and build a sustainable future.

“We need to find new sources of funding for farmers. Climate change brings back the uncertainty of food insecurity in the world. We project that we may be soon see one billion hungry people in the world if we don’t act strongly to tackle climate change. In the COP22, we saw agriculture regaining the necessary importance,” José Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IPS.

Solutions should be designed and implemented locally, stressed the natural resources officer with the Climate Change Mitigation Unit at FAO, Martial Bernoux. “Our number one objective is to achieve food security and fight poverty,” he told IPS.

“What is more perturbing to small farmers is the scarcity of water and the unstable cycle that changes the rainfall regime. The frequency of climatic events increased and farmers have no time to be resilient and no ability to adapt. It is necessary to work with microcredit mechanisms to help them,” said Bernoux.

When climate change is added to the food security equation, local solutions become more complex, he said. “We need to hear the communities’ demands, their deficiencies and potentialities to improve, like establishing an early warning system to inform farmers some days in advance when the rain is coming so they can prepare the land. If they lose this opportunity, it could be fatal for the yield.”

Agriculture is an overarching issue that affects nearly all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including food security, zero poverty, resilience and adaptation, argued Bernoux.

“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient,” he said. “By working with agriculture you connect with all the other SDGs.”

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Climate: Strong Commitment and New Global Action on Water Scarcityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-strong-commitment-and-new-global-action-on-water-scarcity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-strong-commitment-and-new-global-action-on-water-scarcity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-strong-commitment-and-new-global-action-on-water-scarcity/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 05:08:34 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147858 A farmer transporting hay to Tera weekly market, Tera, Bajirga, Niger. Credit: FAO

A farmer transporting hay to Tera weekly market, Tera, Bajirga, Niger. Credit: FAO

By IPS Correspondents
MARRAKESH, Morocco, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

“No country, irrespective of its size or strength, is immune from the impacts of climate change, and no country can afford to tackle the climate challenge alone.”

With this warning, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, commented on the final conclusions reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) –which was held in Marrakech, Morocco on Nov. 7-18– to move forward on the implementation of the Paris Agreement that entered into force November 4.

In the Marrakech Action Proclamation, State Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) affirmed their strong “commitment” to the “full implementation” of the Paris Agreement.

They also welcomed the “extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide,” as of Friday 18 November, 111 countries have ratified the Agreement.

Last December at the previous Conference, known as COP 21, 196 Parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement, so-named after the French capital where it was approved.

It aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. "Water scarcity - already a major global issue - will intensify with climate change and pressures linked to population growth," FAO

“This momentum is irreversible – it is being driven not only by governments, but by science, business and global action of all types at all levels,” adds the Marrakech Proclamation.

“Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum, together, moving forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts, thereby benefiting and supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Negotiations between State-Parties concluded on Nov. 18 night. Governments set a rapid deadline of 2018 to complete the rulebook for “operationalizing” the Paris Agreement to ensure confidence, cooperation and its success over the years and decades to come.

In the Marrakech Proclamation, developed country reaffirmed their 100 billion dollars mobilisation goal per year by 2020 to support climate action by developing countries. All countries also called on all non-state actors to join them “for immediate and ambitious action and mobilisation, building on their important achievements.”

On Nov.17, the Conference launched the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Agenda to further scale up cooperative efforts in which businesses, sub-national and local governments and civil society team up with national governments to promote low-emission and resilient development.

“Scale up Action, Rapidly”

“The world must rapidly move to scale up actions and ambitions on climate change,” said for his part José Graziano da Silva, Director-General the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) during the Marrakech summit.

Southern Madagascar has been hit by consecutive droughts. Credit: FAO

Southern Madagascar has been hit by consecutive droughts. Credit: FAO

Speaking on Nov. 16 at a high-level action day on agriculture and food security, he noted that climate change impacts on agriculture – including crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, land and water – are already undermining global efforts to assure food security and nutrition.

“And the rural poor are the most affected.”

With over 90 per cent of countries referring to the important role of agriculture in their national plans to adapt to and mitigate climate change, Graziano da Silva stressed, “it is time to invest in sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture as a fundamental part of the climate solution.”

Although agriculture contributes to nearly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, it is a fundamental part of the solution to boost resilience and combat climate change impacts – especially in developing countries where agriculture is often the backbone of the economy.

Boosting agriculture can reduce malnutrition and poverty, create economic opportunities, and generate faster, fairer growth especially for young people. Sustainable agriculture also improves the management of natural resources such as water; conserves biodiversity and ecosystem services; and increases carbon sequestration while easing the pressures that drive deforestation.

“We have to transform agriculture to make it more productive and more resilient at the same time. This transformation will help to address, at the same time, the triple threat of hunger, poverty and climate change,” Graziano da Silva said. “Countries are recognizing this potential with unprecedented commitments.”

Scaling up international flows of climate finance and unlocking additional investment in adaptation in agricultural sectors is needed to give traction to the action, he added.

Water Scarcity, the Big Challenge

In a bid to tackle the impact of global water scarcity, FAO on Nov. 18 launched the Global Framework for Action to Cope with Water Scarcity in Agriculture in the Context of Climate Change.

Water scarcity – already a major global issue – will intensify with climate change and pressures linked to population growth.

“From California to China’s eastern provinces and from Jordan to the southern tip of Africa, an estimated four billion people – almost two-thirds of the global population – live with severe water shortages for at least some of the time.” Water scarcity “is one of the main challenges for sustainable agriculture,” Graziano da Silva said.

At another high-profile side event, he hailed the timely launch of the Initiative in Favor for the Adaptation of African Agriculture, which is the Kingdom of Morocco’s flagship programme and has been endorsed by 27 countries so far.

The so-called Triple A “will drive action in precisely the areas we need to transform the agriculture sectors” – sustainable land and soil management, better water management and comprehensive climate risk management – and FAO will collaborate strongly to scale up the initiative.

“That will require larger climate finance flows for adaptation, and for agriculture in particular, Graziano da Silva added, noting that currently only two per cent of climate finance is being directed at the agriculture sector. “That is extremely low, and quite below our needs,” he said.

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Battle of the Desert (II): A ‘Great Green Wall for Africa’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa/#comments Sun, 20 Nov 2016 07:39:46 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147849 Tera, Bajirga, Niger - Women at work for preparing the field for the next rainy season by escaving mid-moon dams to save water. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Tera, Bajirga, Niger - Women at work for preparing the field for the next rainy season by escaving mid-moon dams to save water. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2016 (IPS)

Desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change, food insecurity, poverty, loss of biodiversity, forced migration and conflicts, are some of the key challenges facing Africa—a giant continent home to 1,2 billion people living in 54 countries.

And they are huge challenges indeed, in particular affecting Africa’s vulnerable drylands. Just think that the drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people, i.e. slightly less than half of the entire population of the continent.

Nora Berrahmouni

Nora Berrahmouni

Such rapidly deteriorating situation, which has been exacerbated by climate change and its growing impact, has mobilised more than 20 African countries around the Sahara (North, East and West), international organisations, research institutes, civil society and grassroots organisations, to build together what has been called: The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) or simply Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW).

On this, Nora Berrahmouni, Forestry Officer (Drylands) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), tells IPS in an interview that the GGW core area (focus area for intervention identified) is about 780 million hectares.

What is this Wall all about? “Africa’s Great Green Wall, the so-called “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI)” is a Pan African initiative, established and endorsed by the African Union in 2007 and it is Africa’s flagship initiative to combat the effects of climate change, desertification, food insecurity and poverty.”"Drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people"-- FAO

Here, Berrahmouni clarifies that the so-called Great Green Wall initiative “is not a line or a wall of trees across the desert. The “Wall” is a metaphor to express solidarity between countries and partners, a mosaic of sustainable land management and restoration interventions.”

Regardless of its name, the plan aims at promoting:

• Long-term solutions to the pressing challenges of desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change,

• Integrated interventions tackling the multiple challenges affecting the lives of millions of people in the Sahel and Sahara, including restoration of production systems, development of rural production and sustainable development hubs,

• And an urgent call to development actors and policy makers to invest more on long term solutions for the sustainable development of drylands in the Sahel and Sahara.

Asked about specific examples, these are “sustainable management of natural resources, including soils, water, forests, rangelands; promotion of sustainable rural production systems in agriculture, pastoralism and forestry, as well as sustainable production, processing and marketing of agricultural products and forest goods and services, says Berrahmouni.

Other examples include the diversification of economic activities through rural production centres, to stimulate job creation and offer income generation activities, in particular for youth and women, and to spread knowledge exchange about the causes of desertification and the best ways to combat and prevent it.

FAO is a key partner of the African Union and of its member states in implementing this initiative. Indeed, for FAO, this is a “game changer in addressing poverty eradication, ending hunger and boosting food and nutrition security in the continent,” the Algerian expert explains.

Djibo, Burkina Faso - Planting seeds and seedlings. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Planting seeds and seedlings. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

From 2010 to 2013, FAO focused on supporting the African Union Commission and 13 member countries to put in place an enabling environment for the implementation of the GGWSSI. These countries are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.

With funding from the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme and the European Union (EU), this leading UN body in the field of food and agriculture has developed and implemented successfully two complementary projects.

These projects have lead to: the preparation and validation of national action plans and strategies for the implementation of the initiative in 13 countries; the development and validation of Regional Harmonized Strategy, ensuring that all stakeholders involved in the implementation of work towards a common and shared vision, objectives and results, and to put in place a community of practice for the effective implementation of Africa’s Great Green Wall.

Berrahmouni tells IPS that since July 2014 and with the support of European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretariat, FAO is implementing with partners a project called “Action Against Desertification” in support of the implementation of the Great Green Wall in 6 countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal) and South-South Cooperation in ACP countries.

On November 16, FAO presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco (7-18 November), a groundbreaking map of restoration opportunities along Africa’s Great Green Wall. at the UN climate change conference.

Announcing that there are 10 million hectares a year in need of restoration along the Great Green Wall, it informs that restoration needs along Africa’s drylands have been mapped and quantified for the first time.

The map is based on collection and analysis of crucial land-use information to boost action in Africa’s Great Green Wall to increase the resilience of people and landscapes to climate change.

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New Fund Aims to Help Build Resilience to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/new-fund-aims-to-help-build-resilience-to-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-fund-aims-to-help-build-resilience-to-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/new-fund-aims-to-help-build-resilience-to-climate-change/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 17:15:59 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147844 Mary Robinson, the U.N. special envoy on El Niño and Climate. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Mary Robinson, the U.N. special envoy on El Niño and Climate. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
MARRAKECH, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

The world has been too slow in responding to climate events such as El Niño and La Niña, and those who are the “least responsible are the ones suffering most”, Mary Robinson, the special envoy on El Niño and Climate, told IPS at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22).

The first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), Robinson was appointed earlier this year by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the new mandate involving climate change and El Niño."I’ve seen a window into a ‘new normal’ and it is very serious." -- Mary Robinson

During the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Robinson strongly advocated for engaging community-led solutions and for incorporating gender equality and women’s participation in the climate talks.

“Global warming is accelerating too much and it is being aggravated by El Niño and La Niña. They do not have to become a humanitarian disaster, but people have now been left to cope for themselves…I think we were too slow in many instances and this has become a humanitarian disaster for the 60 million people who are food insecure and suffering from droughts,” she said.

El Niño has been directly associated with droughts and floods in many parts of the world that have severely impacted millions of livelihoods. A warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific waters, the phenomenon occurs on average every three to seven years and sea surface temperatures across the Pacific can warm more than 1 degree C.

El Niño is a natural occurrence, but scientists believe it is becoming more intense as a result of global warming.

How El Niño interacts with climate change is not 100 percent clear, but many of the countries that are now experiencing El Niño are also vulnerable to climate variations. According to Robinson, El Niño and its climate-linked emergencies are a threat to human security and, therefore, a threat to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) announced in September 2015 as the 2030 Agenda replacing the Millennium Development Goals.

“I have gone to Central America to the dry corridor in Honduras and have seen women crying because there is no water and they feel very neglected. They feel they are left behind and that nobody seems to know about them. I saw in Ethiopia severely malnourished children, it could affect them for life in terms of being stunted. The same thing in southern Africa. I feel I’ve seen a window into a ‘new normal’ and it is very serious. We need to understand the urgency of taking the necessary steps,” Robinson said.

Drought and flooding associated with El Niño created enormous problems across East Africa, Southern Africa, Central America and the Pacific. Ethiopia, where Robinson has visited earlier this year, is experiencing its worst drought in half a century. One million children in Eastern and Southern Africa alone are acutely malnourished.

It is very likely that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, with global temperatures even higher than the record-breaking temperatures in 2015, according to an assessment released at the COP22 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Preliminary data shows that 2016’s global temperatures are approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures spiked in the early months of the year because of the powerful El Niño event.

These long-term changes in the climate have exacerbated social, humanitarian and environmental pressures. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees pointed that in 2015, more than 19 million new displacements were associated with weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries, more than twice as many as for conflict and violence.

“We need a much more concerted response and fund preparedness. If we have a very strategic early warning system, we can deal with the problem much more effectively. Building resilience in communities is the absolute key. We need to invest in support for building resilience now rather than having a huge humanitarian disaster,” stressed Robinson.

On Nov. 17, during the COP22 in Marrakech, the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) – a coalition led by France, Australia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Japan and Canada launched at the Paris climate change negotiations in 2015 – announced a new goal to mobilise more than 30 million dollars by July 2017 and 100 million by 2020.

The international partnership aims to strengthen risk information and early warning systems in vulnerable countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and small island developing states in the Pacific. The idea is to leverage financing to protect populations exposed to extreme climate events.

There will be a special focus on women, who are particularly vulnerable to climate menaces but are the protagonists in building resilience. “Now we’ve moved from the Paris negotiations to implementation on the ground. Building resilience is key and it must be done in a way that is gender sensitive with full account of gender equality and also human rights. We must recognize the role of women as agents for change in their communities,” Robinson emphasised.

The number of climate-related disasters has more than doubled over the past 40 years, said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“This initiative will help reduce the impact of these events on low and middle-income countries which suffer the most,” he said.

José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IPS, “We can see already in Africa the impact of climate change that is undermining our efforts to bring food security for all. Take the example of El Niño that has affected all of Africa in the last two years. Countries that had made fantastic progress like Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania and Madagascar are now suffering hunger again. Countries that have eradicated hunger are back to face it again. We need to adapt.”

Climate change has different impacts on men and women, girls and boys, told IPS Edith Ofwona, the senior program specialist at International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

“Gender is critical. We must recognise it is not about women alone,” she said. “[But] women are important because they provide the largest labour force, mainly in the agricultural sector. It is important to appreciate the differences in the impacts, the needs in terms of response. There is need for balance, affirmative action and ensuring all social groups are taken into consideration.”

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Battle of the Desert (I): To Fight or to Flee?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 14:50:45 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147841 The dry Sahelian semidesertic region around Tera, Niger. The proteins, vitamins, and micronutrients consumed in fish captured during the rainy seasons can make a major difference to the lives of these vulnerable rural communities, particularly if the fish can be dried and properly stored to be consumed throughout the year. Credit: FAO

The dry Sahelian semidesertic region around Tera, Niger. The proteins, vitamins, and micronutrients consumed in fish captured during the rainy seasons can make a major difference to the lives of these vulnerable rural communities, particularly if the fish can be dried and properly stored to be consumed throughout the year. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

To fight or to flee? These are the stark choices Maria, a single mother from the Bangalala midlands of Tanzania, faces repeatedly.

“After the rains failed for a few years, some neighbours claimed our trees were drawing too much water from the ground. We cut them down. Our harvests fell. My mother closed her stall at the local market. That is when my father and I moved from the midlands to the Ruvu Mferejini river valley.”

Maria, whose dramatic story has been told by the United Nations organization leading in combating desertification, goes on to say: “My brother quit school to help the family. He went to find work but he does not earn enough. My mother stayed in Bangalala so that my daughter could go to school because there are no schools in the valley.”

“But where we moved to, my crop also failed last year. That is why early this year I moved yet again, but I left my father behind. I hope to farm here much longer, as I am sure the people I left behind with my father will have to move too. But when will this moving end? I cannot afford it anymore.”

This is not an isolated case–Maria is in the same situation that women in Darfur, Mali, Chad or Afghanistan were in before local conflicts over water or land turned into civil wars, sexual violence or genocide, reports the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Nor is this situation unique to sub-Saharan Africa where half a billion inhabitants are rural, a majority lives off the land and desertification is a constant threat to their livelihoods,” it alerts in its report Desertification, the Invisible Frontline.“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.” UNCCD

According to the Bonn-based UNCCD, more than 1.5 billion people in the world depend on degrading land, and 74 per cent of them, like Maria, are poor.

Desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, says this international legal framework for tackling desertification, land degradation and drought, 169 of its 194 Parties have declared they are affected by desertification.

The consequences are dire. “As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

The effects of desertification are increasingly felt globally as victims turn into refugees, internally displaced people and forced migrants or they turn to radicalisation, extremism or resource-driven wars for survival, UNCCD continues.

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.’

Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.

UP to 30% of World’s Land Affected by Desertification

For its part, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that desertification currently affects approximately twenty-five to thirty per cent of the world’s land surface area. About 1,2 billion people in at least 100 states are at risk.

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Seedlings are put in place before the planting.  Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Seedlings are put in place before the planting. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Over 42 billion dollars in lost productivity or human support occurs each year on account of it. According to UNEP, the global rate of desertification is increasing, although the local rates vary by region.

“Africa, with around sixty-six per cent of its land either desert or drylands, is particularly affected by desertification. Already, a number of large-scale famines have occurred in the Sahelian region, resulting in migration of people towards more hospitable lands.”

Desertification occurs mainly through over-cropping, over-grazing, improper irrigation practices, and deforestation. These activities arise from poor land management, which, in turn, stems from the socio-economic conditions in which the farmers live.

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, gives specific figures.

“Globally, only 7.8 billion hectares of land are suitable for food production. About 2 billion hectares are already degraded, and of these 500 million hectares have been totally abandoned. These lands could be restored to fertility for future use.”

With 99.7 per cent of our food calories coming from the land –Barbut underlines– land degradation is a threat to our food security. But its effects are especially harsh for the poorest people who rely directly on the land for survival – food, employment and water. When their lands cannot produce any more, they have little choice but to migrate or fight over what little is left.

“Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy,” Barbut wrote on IPS.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 per cent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product, she added.

“Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild. Or simply leave.”

According to Barbut, “It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.”

Food Insecurity Triggering Riots

In 2008, food insecurity triggered riots in over 30 countries, ccording to the UNCCD. But it is rural communities like those of Bangalala, who depend on rainfed agriculture that contribute to global food security.

The livelihoods of over 2 billion people worldwide depend on 500 million small-scale farmers. Drylands, which make up nearly 34 per cent of the land mass and are a major source of food security especially for the poor, are being degraded day-by-day, it adds.

“Desertification does not always lead to conflict. But it is an amplifier of displacement, forced migration, radicalisation, extremism and violence.”

The US National Security Strategy refers to climate change as a key global challenge that will lead to conflicts over refugees and resources, suffering from drought and famine, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of land across the globe, it reminds.

Therefore, “investing in practical solutions that transform lives and reduce the vulnerability of communities like Maria’s would be cheaper and work better than investing in walls, wars and relief.”

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Coal Entrenches Poverty, Drives Climate Change: Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-entrenches-poverty-drives-climate-change-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-entrenches-poverty-drives-climate-change-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-entrenches-poverty-drives-climate-change-report/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 05:22:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147837 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-entrenches-poverty-drives-climate-change-report/feed/ 1 Mideast: ‘Climate Change Will Make a Difficult Situation Much Worse’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/mideast-climate-change-will-make-a-difficult-situation-much-worse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-climate-change-will-make-a-difficult-situation-much-worse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/mideast-climate-change-will-make-a-difficult-situation-much-worse/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:56:31 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147822 Men from the Koloma IDP camp in Goz Beida, Eastern Chad, build a shelter for a generator that the community has purchased in order to pump water through a water system built by Oxfam and handed over to the IDP committee in 2012. Credit: OCHA/Pierre Peron

Men from the Koloma IDP camp in Goz Beida, Eastern Chad, build a shelter for a generator that the community has purchased in order to pump water through a water system built by Oxfam and handed over to the IDP committee in 2012. Credit: OCHA/Pierre Peron

By IPS Correspondents
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

“Climate change will make a difficult situation much worse, and will affect millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa region,” World Bank MENA Vice-President Hafez Ghanem stated at the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco on 7-18 November.

Aware of their vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have begun taking action to confront the phenomenon and today, several highlighted their initiatives at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco, known as COP 22.

Agriculture in the MENA region is especially vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation. As global temperatures rise, they will rise even faster in MENA, causing more frequent and severe droughts.

The 2015 drought in Morocco destroyed more than half the wheat harvest and led to a 1.5 per cent drop in the country’s Gross Domestic Output.

During a panel discussion on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Initiative on Climate Resilience at COP 22 on November 11, Saudi Arabia’s Chief Climate Negotiator, Khalid Abuleif, said that the region “is going to see a lot of challenges from an ecosystem point of view and from a socio-economic point of view.” The challenge is not only about reducing gas emissions but also about raising “our resilience.”

Abuleif stressed that as Saudi Arabia is diversifying its economy, any new sector will be put under regulations that will address sustainability and climate resilience.

He added that his country is focusing especially on water management, “making sure we are using water in a sustainable manner,” and on the protection of coastal zones.

Tunisia has announced a 41 per cent emission reduction by 2030. Most importantly, 13 per cent will be based on national efforts, while the rest will come from support provided by the international community.

Country Flags outside the UN COP22 venue in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: UNFCCC

Country Flags outside the UN COP22 venue in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: UNFCCC


A week after COP 22 concludes, Tunisia will host an international investment conference (29-30 November) to mobilize 2.4 billion dollars, 40 per cent of which will be allocated to projects pertaining to the ‘green economy,’ with a focus on renewable energy.

In Morocco, to meet the country’s commitments on climate action, the “Bank Al Maghrib” (Central Bank of Morocco) recently unveiled the road map of the Moroccan financial sector in climate financing.

The country has also taken steps to adapt its agriculture, with better water management and more climate-resistant crops, while also lowering its emissions by eliminating most energy subsidies and with the construction of the large solar plant in Ouarzazate, World Bank senior official Hafez Ghanem noted.

“This is the kind of comprehensive climate action we will support across the region, with a special focus on the poorest and most vulnerable,” he added.

The World Bank Group announced on November 15 a new plan to ramp up support for countries in the MENA region by nearly doubling the portion of Bank financing dedicated to climate action, taking it to around 1.5 billion dollars per year by 2020.

The plan focuses on four priorities: food and water security; sustainable cities adapted to new climate conditions; the transition to low-carbon energy; and the protection of the poorest that are most exposed to the impacts of climate change.

The Marrakech Conference follows the adoption by 196 UNFCCC States Parties last December, of the Paris Agreement, so-named after the French capital where it was approved, which aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Agreement entered into force in time for COP 22, which has been under way since 7 November. Before the meeting wraps up on18 November, parties hope to define the rules of implementation of the Paris Agreement and establish a viable plan to provide financial support to developing countries to support climate action.

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Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights on Southern Africa’s Sea Floorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 11:23:49 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147811 President Jacob Zuma answers questions at the National Council of Provinces on Oct. 25, 2016. During the session, he said Operation Phakisa helped drive investments worth R17 billion toward ocean-based aspects of the economy since 2014. Courtesy: Republic of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma answers questions at the National Council of Provinces on Oct. 25, 2016. During the session, he said Operation Phakisa helped drive investments worth R17 billion toward ocean-based aspects of the economy since 2014. Courtesy: Republic of South Africa

By Mark Olalde
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search far and wide for new sources. Companies identified phosphate deposits on the ocean floor and are fighting for mining rights around the world.

Countries in southern Africa have the potential to set an international precedent by allowing the first offshore mining operations. South Africa specifically is one of the first countries on the continent to begin legislating its marine economy to promote sustainable development, and questions surround mining’s place in this new economy.While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear.

From April 2007 to August 2008, the price of phosphate, a necessary ingredient in fertilizer, increased nearly 950 percent, in part due to the idea that phosphate production had peaked and would begin diminishing. Before prices came back down, prospectors had already begun looking for deep sea phosphate reserves around the world.

Since then, the fledgling seabed phosphate industry has found minimal success. While several operations are proposed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Mexico rejected attempts at offshore phosphate mining in their territory.

This means southern African reserves – created in part by currents carrying phosphate-rich water from Antarctica – are the new center of debate.

Namibia owns identified seabed phosphate deposits, and the country has recently flip-flopped about whether to allow mining. A moratorium was in place since 2013, but in September the environmental minister made the controversial decision to grant the necessary licenses. Since then, public outcry forced him to set those aside.

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

The former general project manager of Namibian Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd, a company that applied to mine in Namibia, told IPS that environmental groups and fisheries proved to be a loud and organised opposition. He predicted the debate in South Africa would be just as difficult for mining companies to win with no precedent for such mining.

Adnan Awad, director of the non-profit International Ocean Institute’s African region, said, “There is generally this anticipation that South African processes for mining and for the policy around some of these activities are setting a bit of a precedent and a bit of a model for how it can be pursued in other areas.”

Three companies, Green Flash Trading 251 (Pty) Ltd, Green Flash 257 (Pty) Ltd and Diamond Fields International Ltd., hold prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, roughly 10 percent, of the country’s marine exclusive economic zone.

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document

The law firm Steyn Kinnear Inc. represents both Green Flash 251 and Green Flash 257. “Currently it does not seem as if there is going to be any progress, and there is definitely not going to be any mining right application,” Wynand Venter, an attorney at the firm, said, calling the project “uneconomical.”

Venter said the Green Flash companies received drill samples, which showed current prices could not sustain seabed phosphate mining.

This leaves Diamond Fields as the only remaining player in South African waters. The company announced in a January 2014 press release that it received a 47,468 square kilometer prospecting right to search for phosphate.

According to information the company published summarising its environmental management plan, prospecting would use seismic testing to determine the benthic, or seafloor, geology. If mining commenced, it would take place on the seafloor between 180 and 500 meters below the surface.

“A vital and indisputable link exists between phosphate rock and world food supply,” the company stated, citing dwindling phosphate reserves.

Diamond Fields did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Environmentalists argue that not only would phosphate mining destroy marine ecosystems, but it would also lead to continued overuse of fertilizers and associated pollution. They call for increased research into phosphate recapture technology instead of mining.

“We could actually be solving the problem of too much phosphates in our water and recapturing it. Instead we’re going to destroy our ocean ecosystems,” John Duncan of WWF-SA said.

The act of offshore mining requires a vessel called a trailing suction hopper dredger, which takes up seafloor sediment and sends waste back into the water column.

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

“It amounts to a kind of bulldozer that operates on the seabed and excavates sediment down to a depth of two or three meters. Where it operates, it’s like opencast mining on land. It removes the entire substrate. That substrate become unavailable to fisheries for many years, if not forever,” Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, said.

In addition to direct habitat destruction, environmentalists argue the plume of sediment released into the ocean could spread out to smother additional areas and harm wildlife.

Mining opponents also worry offshore mining would negatively impact food production and economic growth.

Several thousand subsistence farmers live along South Africa’s coast, and the country’s large-scale fishing industry produces around 600,000 metric tonnes of catch per year.

“[Mining] may lead to large areas becoming deserts for the fish populations that were there. If they don’t die off, they won’t find food there, and they’ll probably migrate out of those areas,” Augustyn said.

While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear. There are no published estimates for job creation, but Namibian Marine Phosphate’s proposal said it would lead to 176 new jobs, not all of them local.

“The benefits are not coming back to the greater South African community,” Awad said. “African countries generally have been quite poor at negotiating the benefits through multinational companies’ exploitation of coastal resources.”

South Africa is one of only three African nations – along with Namibia and Seychelles – implementing marine spatial planning. This growing movement toward organised marine economies balances competing uses such as oil exploration, marine protected areas and fisheries. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs, DEA, published a draft Marine Spatial Planning Bill, the first step toward creating marine-specific legislation.

According to government predictions, a properly managed marine economy could add more than 12.5 billion dollars to South Africa’s GDP by 2033. What part mining will play in that remains to be seen.

“Internationally the off-shore exploration for hard minerals is on the increase and it is to be expected that the exploitation of South Africa’s non-living marine resources will also increase,” the DEA’s draft framework said.

Neither the Department of Mineral Resources nor the DEA responded to repeated requests for comment.

Mark Olalde’s mining investigations are financially supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Fund for Environmental Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Additional support for this story was provided by #MineAlert and Code for Africa.

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SDGs: Making the Universal Agenda Truly Universalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/sdgs-making-the-universal-agenda-truly-universal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sdgs-making-the-universal-agenda-truly-universal http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/sdgs-making-the-universal-agenda-truly-universal/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 09:22:34 +0000 Paloma Duran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147808

Paloma Durán is Director of the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund).

By Paloma Durán
NEW YORK, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

One of the key features of the 2030 Agenda which the United Nations and member states identified in the lead up to the SDG agreement was the principle of universality.

Courtesy of Paloma Durán/UNDP

Courtesy of Paloma Durán/UNDP

After managing to get the pivotal agreement on the global framework for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon last year, it is now critical to continue this momentum and understand the opportunities and challenges it creates for the private sector as partners in sustainable development efforts.

Building on our interest to tip the scales and generate greater private sector engagement, the UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund) in collaboration with its Private Sector Advisory Group and the Global Compact examined these questions through a new report, Universality and the SDGs: A Business Perspective. The report, launched last week highlights varied perspectives from both large and small companies working to understand the commonality of the new development agenda.

Universality in this context is defined by the UN as “applicable to all countries, while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development that respect national policies and principles.” Thus the notion of Universality also envisions that everyone has a role to play in development and poverty alleviation efforts framing the development agenda.

The business community has, and continues to be deemed an important partner for us, serving as a critical economic engine and multiplier to catalyze economic and social development programs in our 23 joint programs around the world. The task at hand is to now reinforce this commitment and ensure that companies of all sizes and sectors are properly aware of the new SDGs.

To this end, the outcomes of the report were based on a year-long series of workshops and dialogues and reflected input from over 100 firms across a variety of regions and industry sectors. These findings stemming from countless interviews and in-depth questions were not unexpected and mainly in-line with our experience at the SDG Fund. We found that companies were keen to address the new set of goals which they viewed as critical to their core business activities, but many firms still struggled to fully understand the depth of the goals.

The report also mirrored some of our unique experience working with the private sector. For example, while many firms are already working in areas linked to the SDGs, this work is not always associated with the same “UN” or development language. In fact, many companies articulate the “global goals” using other mechanisms, including using other metrics or reporting based on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) indicators or other industry standards.

The new report offers some other useful findings. First, companies both small and large are increasingly aware of the concept of the SDGs, but many firms did not fully grasp the intricacies of the SDGs in context of their work or internal operations.

In addition, although many companies find a clear and added value to framing sustainability initiatives through the SDGs which provide a unified set of globally accepted principles–many companies are still accustomed to working within the confines of their philanthropic and CSR programs.

Despite a strong willingness to embrace the SDGs, many companies are exploring how to best integrate the SDGs into their work. But perhaps the most compelling case for the SDG Fund’s continued efforts to engage companies in a “co-design, co-invest and co-implement policy” is that the private sector remains eager to work on global challenges.

Companies continue to express their desire to be brought into the process to build innovative and robust multi-stakeholder partnerships at the local level and very often with UN partners.

Undoubtedly, with the one-year anniversary of the 2030 agenda approaching in January, this new report reminds us that the UN can and should play a more active role in educating and informing companies on the “universal” dimensions of the SDGs.

It is also important to continue to translate the new agenda into language and simplified reporting metrics that are palatable for businesses of all sizes – all of which means greater education on how companies can integrate the SDGs in their value chains, disseminate accessible resources and tools to promote learning, and support implementation and alignment across sectors.

In the end, the universality principle embedded in the SDGs provides a clear invitation for action and alignment to advance the new development agenda.

We hope to continue to raise public awareness and foster the much needed dialogue and advocacy required to encourage business to support the SDGs. In addition, our report highlights additional information on the ongoing work of the SDG Fund, including Private Sector Advisory Group case studies that continue to build the case for greater engagement in development, especially across sectors and with welcome actors like the private sector.

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Thriving Rural Communities Is a Recipe for Healthy Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/thriving-rural-communities-is-a-recipe-for-healthy-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thriving-rural-communities-is-a-recipe-for-healthy-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/thriving-rural-communities-is-a-recipe-for-healthy-cities/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:00:24 +0000 Josefina Stubbs and David Lewis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147796 Josefina Stubbs is candidate for President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). She has served in IFAD as Associate Vice-President of Strategy and Knowledge from 2014 - 2016 and as Director of Latin America and the Caribbean from 2008 - 2014.

David Lewis is Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research interests include international development policy and rural development.]]>
Karachi's slums interfere with planning. Credit: Muhammad Arshad/IPS

Karachi's slums interfere with planning. Credit: Muhammad Arshad/IPS

By Josefina Stubbs and David Lewis
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic and LONDON, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

As the dust has settled on Habitat III and the summit in Quito, Ecuador, we now have a clear vision and a concrete road map for how to transform our cities into inclusive, safer and more productive environments. The New Urban Agenda comes at a propitious time. Urbanization is growing at a fast pace, particularly in developing countries, where the urban population is expected to double by 2050. In South Asia alone, the urban population grew by 130 million between 2001 and 2011, according to recent World Bank study. Another 250 million are expected to join them by 2030.

A woman at a public water tank in a Bangalore slum. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

A woman at a public water tank in a Bangalore slum. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

But to lead to lasting change and prosperity for all, investments in cities must come hand in hand with massive transformation of rural areas to bring them up to par, if not to make them more attractive than cities. The exponential growth of cities is by and large the result of a growing divide between urban and rural realities, where the endemic lack of basic services and jobs drive rural people away from their rural communities and into cities. In the rush to engage with the challenges of urbanization we cannot afford to lose sight of the rural.

Rural communities are no longer isolated from the rest of the world. Young people all have smartphones with an Internet connection. They know that there are places that offer better services, better jobs and a better life than the one they can hope for back home.

As young women and men leave rural areas in large numbers, they leave the very communities that they should be strengthening and shaping, abandoning their friends, families and culture. They migrate to larger cities in search of work and of a better future, but without formal education or skills, many are confined to the fringes of the society to which they aspire. The exodus of young people threatens the fabric of rural societies and exacerbates the problems the New Urban Agenda is designed to tackle: precarious and insalubrious housing, joblessness, insecurity and overpopulation.

Kisenyi slum, in Uganda’s capital Kampala is believed to be home to a large portion of the country’s almost 12,000 Somali immigrants. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Kisenyi slum, in Uganda’s capital Kampala is believed to be home to a large portion of the country’s almost 12,000 Somali immigrants. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

People migrate when their choices at home are limited. By investing in people’s skills and knowledge, rural business development, technical assistance and by providing financial support, connectivity, quality roads, health services, electricity and connectivity, we can widen people’s options and reduce the pressure on urban areas. I have seen this happen in countries where the creation of a decentralized university network increased the number of highly educated youth in rural communities and contributed to transforming once abandoned rural centers into bustling rural towns. I have seen this happen in communities where small investments in business development and access to financial services allowed rural entrepreneurs to start viable business activities, generating income for their families, jobs for their neighbors and services for their community.

There is another reason why thriving rural areas are essential to the prosperity of urban centers. Smallholder farmers and fisher folk are the primary producers of food in most of the developing world. In Asia, Africa and in the Caribbean, they produce up to 90 per cent of the food people eat every day. As urban populations grow, there will be a need to step up the quantity and the quality of food produced by rural communities. Fresh produce will need to get to the markets faster and in better conditions, and farmers will have to be paid fairer prices for their products to be able to make investments to improve production, safeguard the environment, and build resilience to a changing climate.

Children in a slum in Peru.  Courtesy of La República/IPS

Children in a slum in Peru. Courtesy of La República/IPS

Rural and urban communities are highly dependent on each other for sustainable growth. We live in one, interconnected world where inequalities between people, regions and countries drive more and more people out of their communities and into cities in search of a better life. By improving the living conditions of poor rural people and giving them opportunities for growth, we can reduce the pressure on large metropolises and create more balanced, prosperous societies.

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Why Kenya’s Engagement with the UN Is a Big Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/why-kenyas-engagement-with-the-un-is-a-big-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-kenyas-engagement-with-the-un-is-a-big-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/why-kenyas-engagement-with-the-un-is-a-big-deal/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2016 17:27:41 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147799 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.]]> The President meets Mrs Jumwa Kabibu who after 50 years of misery underwent a successful UN supported fistula surgery. Photo Credit: Newton/UNIC

The President meets Mrs Jumwa Kabibu who after 50 years of misery underwent a successful UN supported fistula surgery. Photo Credit: Newton/UNIC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 2016 (IPS)

President Uhuru Kenyatta warmly welcomed dozens of U.N Agencies, development partners and senior Government officials to the State House on 02 November 2016 to discuss the joint development plan from 2014 – 2018.

He is perhaps the only head of state in Africa to take on this responsibility personally and believes in the transformational power of the Government-UN partnership to address national priorities for sustainable development. (Speech/audio)

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) is a critical document that guides government and U.N, partnership, ensuring the UN system is fit for purpose and contributes effectively to national development priorities.

The framework is nurturing a partnership grounded in dialogue and learning, leading to concrete action and progress. Important progress has been made in areas like HIV/AIDS, clean water, energy, food security, and the environment during the past 2 years of this UNDAF(PDF document).

“I am impressed by the progress achieved since our last meeting in August, 2015. It is truly encouraging to see the Vision turn to Action,” he said during this year’s review.

He was alluding to progress resulting from a joint Government-UN approach to addressing issues such as poverty and various vulnerabilities; progress coming from commitment to joining up efforts and pooling respective expertise and resources to make an impact on Kenyans.

Testimonials abound regarding this impact. (Watch UNDAF video). They include a 70 year-old lady who received treatment after suffering fistula for 50 years; matatu (public transport vehicle) owners who have improved the terms and conditions of matatu drivers and conductors as per international labour and a women’s community group bordering the Amboseli National Park who are part of conservation efforts through livelihood programmes.

The UNDAF has leveraged the devolved system of government with tremendous results in some counties. The innovative Governments of Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Program on Peace and Socio-economic Development supported by the UN has potential of being replicated in other parts of the world.

These are the kind of stories coming out of the UNDAF review process, whose emphasis is on accountability for results. The stories tell of impact across most of the major pillars of the country’s Vision 2030, which also overlap with UN priorities such as peace, security, and poverty reduction.

The UNDAF in Kenya is recognized by the UN Development Group as a best practice in creating an alliance shaped by common interests and shared purpose, and bounded by clear principles that encourage autonomy and synergy.

The Framework was developed according to UN Delivering as One principles (DaO) aimed at ensuring Government ownership, demonstrated through UNDAF’s full alignment to Government priorities and planning cycles, and internal coherence among UN agencies and programmes operating in Kenya.

The partners have also been able to jointly recognize and agree on the national, regional and global realities that should inform their interventions. For instance, both the Government of Kenya and the UN are aware of Kenya’s looming youth bulge with 1 million young people joining the work force annually and the need to turn it into a demographic dividend, lest it turn into a demographic disaster.

“We must focus on our youth and provide alternatives to crime, violent extremism and despondency,” the President said during the review.

Kenya is on a journey to realizing Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. The UNDAF has demonstrated that it presents the best opportunity for powering the implementation of Kenya’s development agenda. Kenya’s engagement with the United Nations Country Team and indeed all development partners brought together under a solid framework is therefore a plus for the people of Kenya.

The UN and Government must not relent in pursuing more gains. New realities are bringing about new threats to social and economic development, calling for new approaches, but also creating new opportunities for collaboration.

These new approaches may for instance involve deepening private-public partnerships to engage a third force – private companies – that have unique innovation and implementation capabilities. This engagement can only develop better and more integrated solutions to important national challenges. (RC Speech Audio)

Ultimately, this framework is not about the UN or the Government or non-state actors, but is aimed at achieving a transformation in the lives of every Kenyan and ensuring that “no one is left behind”.

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Convincing Investors to Unlock Africa’s Green Energy Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/convincing-investors-to-unlock-africas-green-energy-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=convincing-investors-to-unlock-africas-green-energy-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/convincing-investors-to-unlock-africas-green-energy-potential/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2016 11:07:15 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147785 Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), speaking at the COP22 in Marrakesh. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), speaking at the COP22 in Marrakesh. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MARRAKECH, Nov 16 2016 (IPS)

Lowering investment risks in African countries is key to achieving a climate-resilient development pathway on the continent, say experts here at the U.N.-sponsored Climate Conference.

Mustapha Bakkaoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), says his country’s renewable energy revolution would not have been possible if multilateral partners such as the African Development Bank had not come on board to act as guarantors for a massive solar energy project, tipped to be one of a kind in Africa.Renewable energy has been identified as a key driver for Africa’s economic growth prospects, but requires multi-million-dollar investments which cannot be done by public financing alone.

The multi-billion-dollar solar power complex, located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Ouarzazate, is expected to produce 580 MW at peak when finished, and is hailed as a model for other African countries to follow.

“Africa has legitimate energy needs, and development of Africa will happen through mobilisation of energy resources,” Bakkaoury told IPS at COP 22 after a roundtable discussion on de-risking investment in realising groundbreaking renewable energy projects.

Bakkauory believes it is possible for Africa to develop its energy sector while respecting the environment. “What we say is that there is no fatality between having energy resources and respect towards the environment, and Africa has abundant resources to do this through its key partner—the African Development Bank,” he said, noting the instrumental role of Africa’s premier multilateral financier to renewable energy in Africa.

And in affirming its continued commitment to universal access to energy for Africa, Alex Rugamba, AfDB Director for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, told IPS that “the Bank’s commitment has shifted gear as it has now a fully-fledged vice presidency dedicated to Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth.”

Rugamba added that the Bank has learnt valuable lessons from various initiatives it is already supporting, and knows what is required to move forward with the initiatives without many challenges.

Renewable energy has been identified as a key driver for Africa’s economic growth prospects, but requires multi-million-dollar investments which cannot be done by public financing alone.

Private sector involvement is required to drive this agenda, a point underscored by World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, Laura Tuck.

“Private sector cannot be ignored because the money they have is more than what is available under public financing,” she says.

But the risk is believed to be too high for private investors to off-load their money into Africa’s renewables, a relatively new investment portfolio with a lot of uncertainties. German Parliament State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn says the highest risk in Africa is politically related.

“It’s not about economic risks alone, but also political risks,” said Silberhorn. “You don’t need to convince German investors about solar energy because they already know that it works, what they need is reliability on the political environment and sustainability of their investments.”

Silberhorn, who gave an example of a multi-million-dollar project in Kenya currently on hold due to political interference, added that ways to reduce political risks should be devised for Africa to benefit from private sector investments in renewables.

But even as risk factors abound, World Bank’s Tuck believes there is hope for Africa, citing Zambia, where record cheap solar energy has been recorded.

“Through a competitive bidding process, we have in Zambia under the Bank’s ‘Scaling Solar’ program, recorded the cheapest price at 6.02 cents per KWh,” she said, heralding it as a model to follow in de-risking climate investments for Africa’s growth.

And in keeping with the objective of universal energy for all, experts note the need to ensure that the end users are not exploited at the expense of investors.

“While the state should not interfere in this business model to work, modalities have to be put in place to ensure that the people for which energy is needed, afford it, otherwise, the project becomes useless,” said MASEN’s Bakkaoury.

Following up on this key aspect and responding to the political risk question, Simon Ngure of KenGen Kenya proposes a key principle to minimise political interference—involvement of the local communities.

“If you involve the local communities from the onset, regardless of whether governments change, the projects succeed because the people will have seen the benefits already,” said Ngure, who also noted policy restructuring as another key component to de-risk climate investments.

Agreed that de-risking investment is a crucial component, small grants are another issue that the African Union Commission’s implementing Agency, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), believes could unlock the continent’s challenge of access to climate financing.

NEPAD Director of Programmes Estherine Fotabong told IPS that it was for this reason that the agency established the NEPAD Climate Change Fund to strengthen the resilience of African countries by building national, sub-regional and continental capacity.

“One of the objectives of the fund is to support concrete action for communities on the ground, but most importantly, to help with capacity building of member states to be able to leverage financing from complicated climate financial regimes,” said Fotabong, citing ECOWAS which she said used the funding to leverage financing from the Green Climate Fund, one of the financing regimes under the UNFCCC.

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Trump’s Threat on Multilateral Treaties Keeps UN Guessinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trumps-threat-on-multilateral-treaties-keeps-un-guessing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-threat-on-multilateral-treaties-keeps-un-guessing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trumps-threat-on-multilateral-treaties-keeps-un-guessing/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:15:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147764

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

At the height of the US Presidential campaign in early 2015, Republican nominee Donald Trump made a rash of public pronouncements — some threatening internationally-agreed UN conventions– which set off political reverberations throughout the United Nations.

As part of his campaign rhetoric, he denounced climate change as a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy; vowed to bar political refugees; restrict migrants by building a wall across the Mexican border; recommended banning Muslims from entering the country; threatened to undermine reproductive rights; and dismantle the nuclear agreement signed by Iran and six of the world’s major powers: the US, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, plus the European Union (EU).

All of Trump’s proposed moves were mostly in defiance of UN conventions or multilateral agreements – including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the Climate Change Agreement which came into force November 4 — and may have had a lasting negative impact on the world body.

But less than a week after his electoral victory on November 8, this time it was President-designate Donald Trump backtracking on some of his own proposals while keeping the UN grounded in a political guessing game.

UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters November14: ”We’ll have to wait and see what the new administration is like once it enters into office.  We have been making aware to all world leaders the problems that could arise if we do not go ahead and deliver on the commitments made in Paris (on the Climate Change agreement).”

Haq said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who briefly spoke with Trump on the phone last week to congratulate him, believes the US Government has played a valuable leadership role so far in recent months in terms of helping the international community move forward towards the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement and “we need to go ahead with that”

As part of his campaign rhetoric, he denounced climate change as a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy; vowed to bar political refugees; restrict migrants by building a wall across the Mexican border; recommended banning Muslims from entering the country; threatened to undermine reproductive rights; and dismantle the nuclear agreement signed by Iran and six of the world’s major powers: the US, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, plus the European Union (EU)
“Any effort to divert from that course of action could actually be disastrous for all human life centuries down the line or even in the coming decades.  So we really need to consider what we do very carefully.”

Responding to a question on a proposal to restrict refugees into the US, Haq said: “We want all nations to be able to share responsibility for treating refugees fairly.  We’re witnessing the largest population of refugees since the Second World War.  It’s a very huge challenge, and we need all the nations of the world to be able to step up to that.  And we continue to expect that of every nation. “

Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, told IPS Trump will have a hard time walking away from all multilateral treaties.

“His government will still have to operate within the parameters of the US State and its history. This is not a coup against the State.”

Prashad pointed out that Trump has already had to walk back on several of his pledges — the Muslim ban, the wall against Mexico (much of it of course already exists), even deportations (Obama has already deported two million people during his presidency; Trump has now reduced his number from 11 million to 2-3 million).

Trump will find that if he tears up the Iran deal, he will have no partners in Europe who will follow him to a new sanctions regime. Even here, he will isolate the United States.

The US State will put pressure on the Trump government to hold back on some of these exaggerations, said Prashad, a former Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut (2013-2014), and who has written extensively on Middle Eastern politics, development economics, North-South relations and current events.

To be fair, he said, the US has barely acknowledged the climate negotiations, in fact playing the role of diluter of the more reasonable positions taken in Copenhagen in 2009, and Paris in 2015.

“Would Trump be worse than the status quo? The Congress was already in the hands of the climate deniers. He is merely reflecting their views,” said Prashad, the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (2012) and The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007).

Ian Williams, a former UN correspondent for The Nation and currently for The Tribune, told IPS another part of the mystery is how serious Trump was with his anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican prejudice.

“We know he has no qualms about selling apartments to tasteless Arab sheiks, nor any particular prejudice about employing undocumented immigrants who will work for less. If we are lucky, his oratorical bigotry was just oratorical expedience to rouse the crowds.”

And to offset his anti-Muslim rhetoric, earlier this year he pledge to make Israel pay for its weapons! One suspects — or rather hopes— that there will be a lot of words being eaten in the first 100 days of his reign as he confronts the realities of law and government.

Williams said Trump has shown few signs of ideological fetishism. He voices his prejudices freely – and obviously delights in the enthusiasm for them from the crowds.

“Perhaps fortunately for the United Nations, the black helicopter crowd no longer dominates Republican discourse and Trump, the real estate magnate knows that the UN is good for property values.”

“However, that ideological vacuum could be dangerous since he has surrounded himself with a mix of prejudiced sycophants and ideologues – think of Rudi Giuliani or John Bolton or above all Myron Ebell, the potential demolition man for the Paris climate change agreements. The idea of Rick Grennell as the UN Ambassador, for example, does not inspire hope”, said Williams,

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS the positions Trump has staked out on domestic policies are extremely ominous.

“Inside the United States, he has promised the use of federal government power to assault basic human rights, undermining civil liberties while stoking hatred toward people of color and undocumented immigrants. His election as president is a tragedy for the USA.”

As for his articulated inclinations toward foreign policy, said Solomon, Trump has provided murky and often contradictory notions. He is clearly ignorant of world affairs and history, preferring to rely on simplistic and nationalistic nostrums.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauds during a High-level Event on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauds during a High-level Event on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“We cannot anticipate a supportive stance from President Trump toward the United Nations or international agreements — on the contrary, his hostility to the Paris climate agreement is based on the ignorant denial of human-caused climate change, while his scorn for the Iran nuclear deal is dangerous nonsense.”

At the same time, Trump has often expressed skepticism or outright opposition to military interventions by the U.S. government for regime change.

“What remains to be seen is whether he will actually implement a real shift in Washington’s approach of invasions and air wars that has done such damage in several countries since 2001, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Syria.”

Trump has so far surrounded himself with militaristic and nationalistic advisers on foreign policy, who support the kind of interventions that Trump has sometimes directly criticized, Solomon declared.

“Trump’s attitude toward Russia could, if sustained during his presidency, provide a welcome shift from the bellicose policies that have increasingly gripped the Obama administration.”

While President-elect Trump is making the leaders of many NATO member countries nervous right now, his refusal to continue an aggressive tone toward the Kremlin could pay positive dividends in reducing tensions between Washington and Moscow.

This could also have a very healthy effect on Europe, said Solomon, author of the book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”

However, points out Williams, Trump is an unpredictable puzzle. He does not share the neoconservative urge to reshape the world, and ”has set himself against foreign engagements, but in the end I suspect the seductions of power will tempt him to talk loudly and carry a big stick on the world stage.”

“But his massive ego and manifest lack of self-confidence suggest that other leaders can flatter him in the direction of sanity.”

Trump was probably very pleased that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called him. And his arrogance will probably prevent his more toxic advisors from bullying him into stands he does not approve of, said Williams a former President of the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA).

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 

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Climate Change, A Goat Farmer’s Gainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:14:43 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147763 Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
KWAZULU NATAL PROVINCE, South Africa, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

Bongekile Ndimande’s family lost more 30 head of cattle to a ravaging drought last season, but a herd of goats survived and is now her bank on four legs.

In money value, the drought deprived Ndimande of more than 21,000 dollars. Each goat would be worth an average of 714 dollars if they had survived in the dry, hot and rocky environment in her village of Ncunjana in the KwaZulu Natal Province, which has been stalked by a drought that swept across Southern Africa.Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They're also easier for women to herd.

More than 40 million people are in need of food following one of the worst droughts ever in the region, with the Southern African Development Community launching a 2.8-billion-dollar emergency aid appeal.

Smallholder farmers in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province have shifted to goat production to adapt to climate change. Their fortitude could be a success story for African agriculture in need of transformation to produce more food to feed more people but with fewer resources.

Livestock farmers like Ndimande are making good of a bad situation. They need help to cope with worsening extreme weather events which have led to increased food, nutrition and income security in many parts of Africa.

Science, innovation and technology

Adapting agriculture to climate change and climate financing are pressing issues at the seminal 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 22) which opened this week in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Morocco – already setting the pace in implementing the global deal to fight climate change through innovative projects – has unveiled the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), a 30-billion-dollar initiative to transform and adapt African agriculture.

The transformation of the agricultural sectors in addressing climate change is essential to tackling hunger and poverty, José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, said in a message in the run-up to the COP 22 following the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4. Agricultural sectors are uniquely positioned to drive sustainable development through climate-smart sustainable agriculture approaches, da Silva emphasised.

Almost all African countries have included agriculture in their climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), highlighting the grave risk that climate change poses both to food security and economic growth on the continent, said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Science, innovation and technology will be at the core of adaption in African agriculture, he said.

According to the African Development Bank, 315 to 400 billion dollars will be needed in the next decade to implement the continent’s agricultural transformation agenda.

Harnessing technology is one of many solutions in addressing the impacts of climate change if smallholder farmers are to sustainably produce food, while rearing livestock. The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) – which has launched a regional project to improve farmer’s access to technologies to lift them out of hunger and poverty – has identified diversifying livestock-based livelihoods as one of four proven solutions that cereal and livestock farmers in Southern Africa can adopt to transit to climate-resilient agriculture.

Goat fortunes

Swapping cattle for goats has allowed Ndimande to grow her flock from 30 goats three years ago to 57 goats and 15 kids. Last year, she sold six goats at an average price of 67 dollars each and invested the proceeds in a new three-bedroom tile and brick house.

Ndimande is one of several farmers in KwaZulu Natal Province who, through training in goat management under a collaborative agribusiness and Community Animal Health Worker project, are helping transform livestock farming.

The Mdukatshani Rural Development Project is a 5-million-dollar partnership between the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Heifer International South Africa to double goat production by developing 7,000 female commercial farmers and creating over 600 jobs for the youth in KwaZulu Natal Province.

In addition, the project seeks to create 270 micro-businesses and generate 7.1 million dollars in revenue within five years.

“Goats have given me food and income because I am able to sell them within a short space of time unlike cattle,” Ndimande told IPS, explaining that better livestock management skills have improved her flock.

Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They’re also easier for women to herd, said Rauri Alcock, a director of the Mdukatshani Rural Development Project.

“Women are our priority attention because they are in charge in many households and are the vulnerable people we are trying to get to, so goats, women, global warming come together very well,” Alcock told IPS during a tour of agribusiness project organised jointly by CTA and the Southern Africa Confederation of Agriculture Unions (SACAU) for livestock farmers from across Southern Africa.

Alcock explains that Mdukatshani Rural Development Project’s main entry point has been helping farmers avoiding kids’ deaths in their flocks. Despite being productive, the high mortality of kids at weaning lowers productivity for a farmer to be able to start selling their goats.

“Goats are an adaptation strategy as we talk about climate change. We see that male farmers who have had cattle and lost them are now moving towards keeping goats because goats are actually more resilient and better animals for a harsh changing environment,” said Alcock.

Another farmer, Sikhumbuzo Ndawonde (46), a former steel factory worker in Johannesburg until he was retrenched, has supported his family through keeping goats even though he does not eat them.

“I never eat any goat meat but I love keeping them because I get good income from them besides being able to have a goat for traditional ceremonies. They are now my job,” said Ndawonde, who has a flock of 33 goats and sells at least 10 goats each year.

Climate change has winder implications for livestock keepers in Southern Africa but with management, this is a route to sustainable livelihoods, says Sikhalazo Dube, a livestock specialist and the Southern Africa regional Representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

“One of the challenges caused by elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere is increase in the woody component of the vegetation. Goats as largely browsers are best suited to reduce bush encroachment and in the process benefit nutritionally,” said Dube, adding that in declining feed availability due to drought, keeping goats is ideal.

Small stock can be produced in small areas and require less feed, making them ideal for women and youth who are often landless or not supported to own land to use as an entry point for income generation and Small Medium Scale Enterprises, Dube said.

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Actions Needed Urgently to Tackle Air Pollution – Part 2http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/actions-needed-urgently-to-tackle-air-pollution-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=actions-needed-urgently-to-tackle-air-pollution-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/actions-needed-urgently-to-tackle-air-pollution-part-2/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2016 09:38:24 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147746 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva. ]]> Panoramic view of a neighbourhood in southern Mexico City, with buildings semi-hidden by air pollution. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Panoramic view of a neighbourhood in southern Mexico City, with buildings semi-hidden by air pollution. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Nov 14 2016 (IPS)

As evidence mounts on the threats posed by air pollution to both human health and the environment, action must be urgently taken to address this problem.  

At the global level, the Paris Agreement that came into force on 10 November aims to get countries to significantly reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and to better cope with climate change.

In May 2016, Health Ministers approved a global “roadmap” to address air pollution at the World Health Assembly.  And the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, adopted in 2015, contain accompanying targets for reducing air pollution.

But much more needs to be done, especially at the national level, to seriously tackle this crisis.

The adverse health effects of air pollution have been growing worse with a 8% increase from 2008 to 2013 in deaths globally caused by urban air pollution, according to World Health Organisation data. Although the situation has improved in developed countries, it has deteriorated in most developing countries.

Countering air pollution should thus be a top priority. What should be done?   First, more details and data should be collected in all countries, through improvements in monitoring air pollution and its adverse health effects.

Second, a public education campaign is needed to make the public more aware of the dangers of air pollution so they can take actions to prevent the pollution and to avoid being exposed.

Third, and most important, the causes of the pollution must be identified and action plans drawn up to eliminate or reduce the factors these sources.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Outdoor air pollution is caused by transport vehicles that emit pollutants, coal-fired power plants, industrial factories, burning of wastes and fires in forest and agricultural areas.  Indoor pollution is mainly caused by the use of fuels that are based on wood and coal.

Besides the direct effects on human health, the pollution is also a major cause of global warming, which in turn also affects health.

It is thus doubly important to tackle these causes.  Actions should include the following:

  • Reduce vehicle emissions through better energy-efficiency and air-pollution standards for vehicles and control of private transport.
  • Give priority to public transport and promote clean transport such as railways, bicycles and walkways
  • Phase out of coal powered plants, shift to clean modes of power generation, and promote renewable energy
  • Impose strict air pollution controls in industry and phase in clean low-emissions technologies.
  • Promote energy efficiency in the design of buildings.
  • Phase out the use of wood and charcoal as household fuels used in traditional stoves, and replace them with safe and efficient stoves.
  • Reduce waste through recycling and reuse, introduce alternatives to open incineration of solid waste and stop the open burning of household wastes.
  • Stop the burning of forests, mangroves and in agriculture; this is the most important to prevent the South-east Asian “haze.”
  • Take measures so as to adhere to the WHO guidelines for outdoor and indoor air pollution. (The WHO guideline for particulate matter (PM) outdoor pollution is 10 microgram per cubic meter annual mean for particles below the size of 2.5 microns in diameter, and 20 microgram for particles below 10 microns in size).

Drastically reducing air pollution would be tackling the world’s biggest health and environmental problems, as air pollution is the major source of deaths and diseases, as well as the main cause of climate change
Air pollution reduction measures should become part of wider health and environmental strategies and be given priority and resources in the country’s development plans.

The problem must also be given the global attention it deserves.  In May 2016, the World Health Assembly for the first time adopted a road map to tackle air pollution and its causes. (WHA Document A69/18;  6 May 2016).  The four-point road map calls on the health sector to:

  • Expand the knowledge base on air pollution, its health effects and effectiveness of policies;
  • Increase monitoring of air pollution locally and assess the health impacts of its sources;
  • Take on a leadership role in national policies to respond to air pollution and at the global level;
  • Build its own capacity to influence policy and decision making processes to take joint action on air pollution and health.

The UN’s Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by world leaders in September 2015, also has goals and targets relevant to air pollution.   These include goals and associated targets relevant to health (Goal 3); cities (Goal 11) and household energy (Goal 7).   The three indicators most relevant to air pollution are:

  • SDG Indicator 3.9.1 for goal 3 on health (mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution);
  • SDG Indicator 11.6.2 for goal 11 on cities (annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (PM) in cities; and
  • SDG Indicator 7.1.2 for goal 7 on energy (proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technologies).

Cutting down on air pollution, which is closely related to emissions of Greenhouse Gases, is one the major actions (if not the very top action) countries are expected to take to fight climate change, and thus most relevant to the implementation of the Paris Agreement of the UN Climate Change Convention adopted in December 2015.

Indeed, drastically reducing air pollution would be tackling the world’s biggest health and environmental problems, as air pollution is the major source of deaths and diseases, as well as the main cause of climate change.

Action plans on air pollution are thus urgently needed at both national and global levels.

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”

We are only at the starting phase of understanding the huge health problem that air pollution causes.  We have however been made conscious of the grave crisis that it has caused to the environment.

While the actions needed are quite clear, getting them implemented will be an immense challenge, as the causes of air pollution are presently so embedded in modern lifestyles and economic structures.

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Reflections on Trump Electionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/reflections-on-trump-election/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reflections-on-trump-election http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/reflections-on-trump-election/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2016 07:14:40 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147744 By Roberto Savio
CUZCO, Peru, Nov 14 2016 (IPS)

From the city of Cuzco, where the Inca culture was subjugated by the Spanish conqueror, I am watching how the world inexorably leads to a different measure of history. And given the impossibility of drafting a complete analysis, these are some of my scattered observations.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

But first we need to make an introduction. In any country of the world, Hillary Clinton would have won the elections after obtaining the greater number of votes. The United States, however, does not have a democratic Constitution.

And while the Americans consider themselves the “only democracy in the world” (George W. Bush, speech to the U.S. Congress at his inauguration), it should be noted that the US Constitution is a vestige of the past. See why …

When the different states emerged victorious from the War of Independence against England and decided to unite in the United States, the smaller states feared being subjected to the greatest. That was how a guaranteed commitment was invented.

And so, the Senate, as the main organ of the legal system, is composed of two senators for each state. Thus Wyoming, which has 800,000 voters, has two senators, just like California that has 27 million.

The president is elected by “electoral votes” which are given to each state based on similar considerations. Thus, Al Gore, who had won the majority of votes, lost the elections to George W. Bush by electoral votes (aided by the Republican Supreme Court that gave Florida to Bush).

This time the same thing happened: in the less developed states voting Republican (with the exception of Texas and a few others), the majority of the Senate can be obtained by adding the 26 states with less population and development, thus prevailing over the population of 24 states that are industrialised.

But there are other anti-democratic rules in the US Constitution, such as the fact that when a senator dies, it is the governor who names his or her replacement. Thus, a Republican governor can appoint a Republican senator, even if the dead one were Democratic …

Let us now return to observations

The first observation is the fact that practically all observers, polls, and the media (with very few the exceptions) gave Clinton as the winner, this being a signal of the gap between the system and reality.

The same thing happened with the Brexit, with the Austrian elections, and in the the Philippines …

The explanation is simple: we frequent our friends, a society is made up of parallel concentric circles, and we believe that the observation of a university professor has more value than that of an unemployed worker. Therefore, we do not have a complete view of the society in which we live.

Now the second observation. The victims of the economic and social process created by the vision of a self-destructive capitalism that rewards very few while frustrating the hopes of many, are far more numerous than those who do not. And they are victims who see every day examples of corruption, waste and wealth, this leading them to have passions, not opinions.

After spending 4 trillion dollars (according to the most modest estimates) to save the banks (which still have 800 billion toxic assets), the priority is of keeping looking after the financial sector instead of the social expenses that are publicly considered unproductive, is seen differently by those who are inside and others who are outside.

They (the victims) are also aware of the fact that banks, in the crisis of 2008 (which we has not gone yet) have paid fines worth 280 billion dollars (not counting the Deutsche Bank pending 14.5 billion).

The fact that the total subsidies for youth employment in OECD countries is just over 20 billion dollars, while the European Central Bank gives 80 billion a month to the banking system (which do not pass into the productive system but is invested in the financial sector), certainly does not help young people to feel part of Europe.

Who has heard, in the political debate, the terms solidarity, social justice, participation, equity?

Is there somewhere in politics, a debate about how to increase employment that is threatened by the use of robots, which will constitute 40 per cent of industrial production in 20 years?

Or how corruption is increasingly perceived by citizens, and urgently needs to be addressed? Or on whether those who voted for Brexit and Trump can feel represented or not?

This leads to the third observation. Politics is now subject to finance, devoid of visions and ideals that were discarded for the purpose of ideologies.

It should not be overlooked that the number of citizens who say that the left and right have disappeared, has reached unprecedented rates. Politics, as a reaction, closes like an oyster and becomes increasingly self-referential.

Who is the citizen who sees in a party a space of participation and expression, apart from those who are inside, as was the case in the times of the youth of the parties? This decline in participation is a serious element of the crisis of democracy.

At the same time, it is clear in the eyes of all, who are the Le Pen, the Farage, the Salvini, etc. It is clear to all that nationalism, populism and xenophobia are returning. These are the classic indicators of the crisis. The thirties are a chapter to remember …

Will politics have the ability to find its way, ideals and visions, where listening to citizens be part of a common design? There is not much time left …

Now the fourth observation. We now have the president of the world leader, the United States, who clearly states that they are not interested in the world except to the extent that it serves American interests.

Multilateralism, from the European Union to the United Nations, has been in a growing crisis since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in 1981 declared that they do not believe in international cooperation and that each country should stand on its own.

This line continued with ups and downs, but with a continuous trend. It is no secret that when it came to electing new UN Secretary-General, the question of the President of the United States was: who is the weakest one of all?

President Barack Obama tried to reverse this trend. But his people (rather, a part of this that no one had seen so far) do not see it this way.

Do not forget that the same battle was made by Bernie Sanders, who won 10 million votes. If he had been able to run, we would have seen how the Americans would go to judge two ways– one of which is to declare oneself socialist represents a novelty as radical as that of having chosen Trump. This happens in a country where the term socialist is like declaring oneself an alien to the United States, and dangerous.

Now we have the country-leader completely heterogeneous with respect to the existing international relations. Will Europe learn how to hear its own voice? If it does not do it now, when then will it be able to do it? Will international cooperation, multilateralism, and development plans be given a space again?

The fifth observation is a banality. The Chinese use the word crisis also in the sense of opportunity. We are going to have, at least four years, (Putin, Grillo, Le Pen …) a government for an unpredictable moment. Trump is a politician of viscera not of brain–the classic incarnation of what is called an unpredictable politician.

But above all, he does not listen to advice. He is also a prisoner of his own electorate. Certainly, the system will try to harness him as it can. But it happens that all the cards we know are now in the air.

This also means that it is possible to make innovative policies, which the previous rusty framework did not allow. Also because it would be difficult to see what common policy Trump may have, with May, with Farage or the AFD …

The populist parties have never been able to create a common policy, for example in the European Parliament. They only have common enemies, but no homogeneous alternative plans. So, now that the cards are in the air, there would be a space to invent and build upon.

But this can not be done without recognising that we are in a political and democratic crisis, a crisis of society and perspectives, which, if not assumed and metabolised by the political class in power, will see a successive collapse of the system, and that the current crisis (which will not be solved by populism nor nationalism) will end up making any governance impossible.

Here, I feel compelled to add one last point. For those who have worked throughout their lives to create awareness and participation—the civil society was the force that rebalanced the crisis of values and policies.

If there is an issue that civil society has defended since its birth, this is gender. One difference between a young person today and my generation is that the issue of women did not exist then, while young people today are fully aware of it.

It is an issue that is present in the media, in politics, in culture, in organisations, from industry to business, from politics to administrative and cultural.

Well, after all what Trump has said and done on the issue of women, reactivating a machismo barracks that were already considered unacceptable … after the declarations and demonstrations of all women’s organisations in the artistic, cultural and economic sectors… 53 per cent of American women voted for Trump.

This percentage is not far from that of the male electorate. It happened in Italy with Silvio Berlusconi, that organiser of parties with minors who spoke openly of the woman like an object of use, so much that his wife had to leave him.

This vote is a blow to all civil society, and for all those who compromise because they are convinced that creating awareness is possible a better world. We have lost a major battle, and the war is now much more difficult.

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