Inter Press Service » Water & Sanitation http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Aquaculture Meets Agriculture on Bangladesh’s Low-Lying Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:25:31 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145746 Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/feed/ 0
Building Africa’s Energy Grid Can Be Green, Smart and Affordablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:24:55 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145650 A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/feed/ 0
Drought Dries Up Money from Honeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-dries-up-money-from-honey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 13:14:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145631 Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More honey, more money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A drought of many things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/feed/ 1
Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:34:01 +0000 Katrin Glatzel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145621 Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building a Knowledge Economy

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

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

Sustainably intensifying agriculture

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

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

Providing climate information services

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

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

Now is the time to act

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/feed/ 0
Seeds for Supper as Drought Intensifies in South Madagascarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 11:18:10 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145619 Farmers are in despair at the drought crisis in Southern Madagascar, where at least 1.14 million people are food insecure. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/feed/ 0
Bougainville Women Turn Around Lives of ‘Lost Generation’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 12:08:20 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145600 Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/feed/ 0
Water Scarcity Could Impact West Asian Credit Ratingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 23:50:43 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145574 By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Water scarcity, conflict and refugee exodus is the strongest megatrend in West Asia, indicating the status of current trends and how these factors may shape the future, according to UN Environment Programme’s sixth Global Environment Outlook – GEO-6 Regional Assessment for West Asia released May 2016.

Families travel in search of water. Credit: Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Families travel in search of water. Credit: Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Only 4 out of 12 countries in West Asia remain above the water scarcity limit of 1,000 cubic metres per person per year, the minimum limit viable for human population, the assessment warns.

“Water shortage potentially could have more impact on sovereign credit ratings than natural catastrophes as water scarcity conditions are slow onset impacting larger societies,” Moritz Kraemer, Managing Director of S&P Global Ratings told IPS adding, “water scarcity, migration and conflict has yet not been factored into the Environmental Risk Integration in Sovereign Credit Analysis (ERISC) but certainly we need to.”

The ERISC aims to help financial institutions to integrate environmental risks in their overall risk assessments and investment decisions by identifying and quantifying how they can affect countries’ economic performance and thereby their cost of credit in the sovereign debt market.

The analysis premise is that sovereign credit risk can be materially affected by environmental risks such as climate change, water scarcity, ecosystem degradation and deforestation.

“So far we do not have sufficient liquid data on the potential economic implications of water shortage or change in rainfall patterns to be able to simulate numerically what the outcome would be, but we know countries with big water problems will have repercussions well beyond their boundaries, triggering migratory movements to start with. Europe is an example,” Kraemer said.

West Asia has a significant geopolitical location linking three continents Asia, Europe and Africa.

“Jordan in 2013 was the world’s fourth most water-scarce country but within just two years by 2015, it’s status deteriorated to second place, when hundreds of thousands Syrian and Yemen refugees migrated into Jordan,” Carl Bruch, legal expert on armed conflict and the environment, climate change, and water rights at Washington DC-based Environmental Law Institute (ELI) told IPS, illustrating impacts of migration on a natural resources and economy.

“Many of the economies with water problems that we have rated such as Jordan and Morocco have low credit ratings already, so part of their vulnerability has already been baked in like, though not explicitly. Still more research needs to be done,” Kraemer told IPS on the sidelines of the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi where world’s environment ministers gathered to take action on the 2030 agenda for sustainable development last week of May.

Political, social coupling with environmental issues trigger migration and conflict

“There is a tight coupling between political and social issues around displacement, but why people ultimately decide to move is often due to environmental problems, increasingly now due to water scarcity recurring very much in West Asia,” Jacqueline McGlade, UNEP’s chief scientist and Director of early warning and assessment division, told IPS.

Land degradation, desertification and scarcity of renewable water resources are currently Western Asia region’s most critical challenges as rolling conflicts damage environment and human health denting the region’s ability to produce enough food to meet the growing population’s needs especially in the Mashriq sub-region ( includes Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories , Syria; and Yemen of West Asia), according to GEO-6 which offers a policy vision and good governance outlook over the next 25 years.

Increasing water demand resulting in diminishing per-person availability, West Asia now faces deteriorating water quality because of groundwater overexploitation, seawater intrusion, depletion and salinization of aquifers, and rising pumping costs. The region has already surpassed its natural capacity to meet its own food and water demand.

Water, land resource degradation and conflict in a vicious cycle

While peace, security and environment are the region’s topmost priority, the vicious cycle of land degradation leading to, and resulting from conflict, can prevent people from returning home and normalizing life (and economy), Daria Mokhnacheva , migration, environment and climate change specialist at International Organisation for Migration (IOM) told IPS.

“The majority of refugees from conflicts in Iraq will not be able to return home to normalize life even if they want to, without clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance planted in what used to be their farms. Clearing of mines and can take decades,” Mokhnacheva said.

Moreover although Iraq has the largest area of available farmland in the region, it suffers the most from soil salinity and wind erosion; 97 percent of its total area is arid, desertification affects 39 per cent of the country’s surface area with an additional 54 per cent under threat according to GEO-6.

“Traditional farmers and herders can lag in temporary camps for years and these if based in water-scarce or drought-prone areas, may drive multiple displacements. Migration to urban areas destroys their lifestyles, customs and livelihoods completely, increasing vulnerability. Camped long-term, girls and women become traffickers’ targets and girls as young as nine years of age are forced into marriage to reduce household’s pressure on food,” she said.

Early identification of water scarcity and migration hotspots critical for conflict prevention

“We have evidence from West Asia that the transition from the rural to the urban starts to sow the seeds of displacement which ultimately can lead to conflict,” McGlade said.

“So the real issue for environmental governance is can we detect early enough the conditions under which either food or water security is likely to fail, can we identify these ‘hotspots’ to take preventive action so that people do not leave the lands that already supports them,” she said.

“We are already seeing three million people from Syria and Yemen on the move towards the borders of Jordan. Could this exodus have been prevented?” she added.

“We need to integrate migration and environmental research with that of social vulnerability to identify hotspots early,” Mokhnacheva of IOM said, adding, “We also need to improve very local evidence to inform migration policies that can respond to actual need.”

Poor governance of natural resource also responsible for conflict

“Poor governance is a deep-rooted problem we have picked up throughout GEO-6 assessments. The other fundamental cues for resource conflict are lack of access and inequality. Conflict can arise from multiplicity of lack of access, whether to justice or to resources themselves,” McGlade said.

“Climate change causes stress on societies but these impacts by themselves do not necessarily indicate water wars in future. How the government institutions, civil society and international community respond to that stress and address the different interests, greatly influences whether a country will cope or whether it will degrade into tensions, disputes and ultimately into conflict,” Bruch said.

“For instance, both Lebanon and Syria experienced precipitation changes that stressed their respective economies. Why then did Syria alone plunge into conflict?” Bruch added.

“Unfortunately there is no legal framework to pin institutional responsibility for forced migration,” said Mokhnacheva.

Good governance implies that issues such as conflict resolution, food, water and energy are examined in a holistic framework,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP.

“The Gulf countries can invest around water scarcity, creating artificial, energy-intensive, expensive water but most countries including those in West Asia or the Sahel and Burkina Faso have very little resilience, economic or environmental,” Kraemer said.

Environmental governance could be the key to a nation’s access to international credit and investment in the near future, experts said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings/feed/ 1
‘What Can We Do for You?’ Aid Projects Pour Into Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 16:25:06 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145525 Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

By Guy Dinmore
YANGON, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

International aid agencies, big and small, are beating a path to Myanmar, relishing the prospect of launching projects in a nation of 51 million people tentatively emerging from more than five decades of military rule.

Nay Pyi Taw, the grandiose but forlorn capital built in the dry-zone interior by the military junta 10 years ago, is starting to see flights filled with prospective aid workers, diplomats and businesses coming to lobby newly appointed ministers. Predictably, the elected civilian government, which took office in late March, is already under strain. Some ministries are still in the throes of reorganising following major reshuffles and mergers aimed at cutting costs.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate who is de facto head of government while barred by the constitution from holding the presidency, has a reputation among established aid workers in Yangon for harbouring considerable scepticism towards the development world. But a recent meeting with heads of UN agencies went well, with participants saying they were pleasantly surprised to be listened to and not receive a lecture.

Her scepticism is justified on some fronts. The aid effort during the past five years of quasi civilian rule was disjointed and often wasteful. Rents were driven up in Yangon and the private sector lost qualified staff to higher paying NGOs, even if it was good news for the bars and restaurants that open weekly.

Not all blame can be laid at the foot of the aid world, however. For example, international de-mining organisations have not been able to clear a single landmine over the past four years, despite Myanmar being one of the world’s most mined countries. But this is because the military and the ethnic armed groups locked in decades-long civil wars have failed to reach necessary agreements.

However, the military, known as the Tatmadaw, still holds powerful levers, including control of three key ministries. This poses a risk to prospective development partners as not all aid projects will be able to go ahead, even if the civilian side of the government agrees.

Still, enthusiasm is running high.

“A new era is starting with a lot of economic development and a new government that puts environment on the agenda, opening up a lot of opportunities,” Marion van Schaik, senior policy advisor for water and environment for the Dutch foreign ministry, told a workshop in Yangon this week held by the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“We need to help Myanmar get on the road of sustainable development,” she said.

Men build a fishing boat on a beach in Myanmar's Rakhine State. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Men build a fishing boat on a beach in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Rather than following the top-down approach of bigger agencies, IUCN Netherlands held the three-day workshop with Myanmar Environmental Rehabilitation-Conservation Network (MERN), an alliance of 21 local NGOs, to analyse development needs. The primary aim was to identify one or two “landscapes” where projects would focus on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations in public advocacy and lobbying.

This would include training for CSOs in dealing with the private sector, understanding financial flows and making such decisions as whether to “dialogue” with concerned businesses or resort to the courts – a risky undertaking in Myanmar where corruption in the judiciary is widespread.

Professor Kyaw Tint, chairman of MERN and a former director general of the Myanmar Forest Department, said in his opening address that the network aimed to be a strong voice on environmental issues promoting public awareness.

Speaking to IPS, the retired civil servant who worked under the former military junta said he was confident the new government would be staffed with more competent experts rather than being packed with military personnel as in the past. He particularly welcomed the commitment to tackling widespread corruption.

Carl Koenigel, senior expert on ecosystems and climate for IUCN Netherlands, said the Myanmar program known as “Shared Resources, Joint Solutions” in partnership with WWF Netherlands, was financed under the Dialogue and Dissent program of the Dutch foreign ministry, with funding of one million euros over five years. The aim is to safeguard “international public goods” in food security, water provisioning and climate change resilience.

IUCN Netherlands has similar projects in 16 countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Mining, dams and agri-business were a focus of the first day of discussions as participants sought to identify geographical areas and issues where projects could have the best chance of success. A points-based ranking system was used with groups allocating marks under various headings, including climate change impact, biodiversity loss, risks to water and food supplies, and the consequences of such sectors as mining, infrastructure and agri-business.

Given conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups around the country’s diverse frontier regions, part of the conversation focused on whether goals were achievable in such a context, and at what risk.

Kachin State in Myanmar’s far north is home to some 100,000 civilians living in IDP camps since renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army erupted in 2011. The stakes are high in the resource-rich state. The township of Hpakant boasts the most valuable jade mines in Asia that have devastated the environment while producing revenues worth billions of dollars a year, although a relatively small proportion reaches government coffers.

China’s multi-billion-dollar project to build the giant Myitsone hydro-power project, suspended by the previous military-backed government, hangs over the future of Kachin, with the new government under Chinese pressure to restart work, despite concerns to the environment and the danger of further fuelling ethnic conflict. Pollution of waterways through gold mining, deforestation due to illegal logging, opium poppy cultivation and rampant drug abuse, plus expanding agribusiness complete the picture.

With the KIA regarded as an illegal armed group, formal dealings under areas it controls could result in prosecution under Myanmar’s “unlawful association” law. This means in effect that many foreign aid agencies may find themselves confined to working in government-controlled territory.

Similar concerns were expressed over the difficulties of working in the western state of Rakhine, where the minority Muslim community of some one million people lives under government-enforced segregation from the Buddhist majority, with limited freedom of movement and access to public services.

The first day of discussions narrowed a shortlist of possible “landscapes” to working within Kachin State, the southern delta area of Ayeyarwady (linked to Kachin by the Irrawaddy river), and the far southern region of Thanintharyi. The latter is one of the most bio-diverse areas in southeast Asia, but threatened by mining and major infrastructure projects, including a planned Chinese oil refinery, a deep-sea port backed by Japan and the development of trans-Asian highways linking to Thailand and beyond. The expansion of agribusiness through companies linked to the former military regime, particularly in rubber and palm oil, has also resulted in extensive deforestation.

Despite its relatively small budget, IUCN Netherlands points to the possibility of bringing about meaningful change through well targeted advocacy, citing the example of a project in Cambodia linked to the drafting of a new forestry law with nationwide implications. Projects in Myanmar should avoid being a “drop in the ocean”, Koenigel said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/feed/ 0
Asia-Pacific Region Aims at Hunger-Free Goal by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 14:26:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145523 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

The Asia Pacific region – home to two of the world’s most populous countries – faces major food security challenges.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), both China and India are not only two of the world’s biggest producers of food but also the world’s biggest consumers.

Dr. Mahfuz Ahmed

Dr. Mahfuz Ahmed

Collectively, the Asia & Pacific region is one of the lowest-scoring regions for food security, coming ahead of only sub-Saharan Africa.

However, this low overall score disguises striking differences between wealthy and underdeveloped nations of the region.

If the top five countries within the region — Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and South Korea — were considered separately, that region would rank second globally, says ADB.

By contrast, poor countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Cambodia have some of the highest levels of food insecurity seen around the world.

A three-day food security forum, scheduled to take place June 22-24 at the ADB headquarters in Manila, is billed as a key platform for all stakeholders to exchange knowledge and build partnerships for an innovative strategy for a hunger-free Asia Pacific by 2030.

Dr. Mahfuz Ahmed, Technical Adviser, Rural Development and Food Security, at ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department told IPS that while many of the economies in the Asia and Pacific region are evolving from low-income to middle-income countries, the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world are still found in the region. “And they face new challenges to produce and access more nutritious and safe food for its growing populations.”

He pointed out that climate change, and economic and demographic transformations will have a major influence on the future of food in the region.

Shrinking natural resources, degrading environments, climate change and disaster risks, financing gaps, poor logistics and infrastructure deficits are among the major constraints to realize the objectives of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

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

In a concept paper released ahead of the upcoming forum, ADB says Asia Pacific accounts for 61 percent of the world’s total population, and with three countries, China, India and Indonesia, jointly accounting for 40 percent of the world’s population.

Total population of the region is estimated at 4.4 billion in 2015 and projected to increase to 5.2 billion by 2050.

First, in order to feed these 0.8 billion additional people by 2050, food production has to increase. Secondly, with the increase of total population, the demographic composition will also change to an inverse-pyramid shape, including the farming community.

As a result, says ADB, the agriculture sector may suffer from shortage of labour and food security may be at risk unless less labor-intensive technology is not introduced in the sector.

The nature of the food security challenge in the Asia Pacific region cannot be fully understood just by the current context which is constantly changing. Overall food security in the region will become increasingly complex due to various emerging challenges.

These challenges, says ADB, can be broadly categorized into three groups; (i) population growth, and changes in demographic and economic structures, (ii) changes in composition of crop market, and (iii) climate change and natural disaster.

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute, told IPS Asia-Pacific is still the region with the largest number of hungry people in the world.

For the largest Asian countries such as China, India or Indonesia, food sovereignty has been upheld has an overarching principle as seen during the 2008 food price crisis when countries regulated food prices and food supply, including export bans of food commodities, widely criticized by the proponents of free trade, notably international financial institutions, he noted.

Indonesia was for instance successful in preventing the transmission of high food prices to domestic markets.

He said the price of rice actually decreased in Indonesia in 2008 while it was escalating in the rest of the world thanks to public interventions to prevent this transmission with a mix of trade facilitation policies (cutting import tariffs or negotiating with importers) and trade restrictions or regulations (such as export bans, use of public stocks, price control, and anti-speculation measures).

However, said Mousseau, a number of Asian governments pursue today policies that seriously threaten the food security and the well being of the poorest people, domestically and abroad, as seen with the forced displacement of hundreds of millions of farmers in China, the land grabbing and corporatization of agriculture in India, the grabbing of land in Africa by Indian companies, or the plundering of natural resources in Pacific Islands and Africa by Malaysia or Indonesia.

John Coonrod, Executive Vice President at Hunger Project, told IPS his Project has strong chapters working on food and nutrition security in South Asia.

In those regions, the biggest obstacle continues to be gender discrimination and the patriarchal mindset which gives rise to it.

Social norms continue to have women and girls eat last and least, and marrying too young – giving rise to the perpetuation of a cycle of malnutrition, he pointed out.

The same mindset marginalizes “women’s priorities” such as WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), early childhood education and health care which are critical to nutrition security.

Coonrod said top-down agricultural policies favor nutrition-poor food grains rather than nutrition-rich crops such as fruits and vegetables, giving rise to the “enigma” that nutrition goes down as production goes up.

Meanwhile, global food security continues to be threatened by several factors. According to the German Renewable Energy Agency, 44 percent of food grains are currently used as food for human beings, 35 percent as animal feed, 6.0 percent as input for biofuel and the rest as “other uses.”

The most important question, says ADB, is how the increased use of grains for biofuels is going to affect the food security in the Asia-Pacific region.

And most importantly, each dimension of food security is going to be affected by climate change.

According to ADB, there is evidence of prominent increases in the intensity and/or frequency of many extreme events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, prolonged dry spells, intense rainfall, tornadoes, snow avalanches, thunderstorms, and severe dust storms in the region.

Furthermore, the region is highly subject to natural hazards. Such impacts pose additional risks for already vulnerable communities striving to ensure adequate food.

The Asia Pacific region accounted for 91 percent of the world’s total death and 49 percent of the world’s total damage due to natural disasters in the last century.

“Therefore, climate change poses a serious and additional threat to poor farmers and rural communities in the region who live in remote, marginal areas such as mountains, drylands and deserts; areas with limited natural resources, communication and transportation networks and weak institutions”.

In particular, argues ADB, different climate models indicate temperature increase in the Asia/Pacific region by about 0.5-2°C by 2030 and 1-7°C by 2070. Temperatures are expected to increase more rapidly in the arid areas of northern Pakistan and India and western China.

ADB points out that it’s unwavering commitment to promote food security in the Asia Pacific region is reflected in its funding of hundreds of agriculture and natural resources projects.

The main objective of the forum is to provide a platform for all, including partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners to discuss strategic visions, share experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.

The specific objectives of the forum are: to facilitate knowledge exchange and dissemination among relevant stakeholders leading to implementable actions and strategy; (b) to showcase some state-of-the-art agricultural technologies and products, and (c) to facilitate partnership and networking to work together to promote food security in the Asia Pacific region.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030/feed/ 0
New Protocol Aims to Cut Trillion-Dollar Food Waste Billhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/new-protocol-aims-to-cut-trillion-dollar-food-waste-bill/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-protocol-aims-to-cut-trillion-dollar-food-waste-bill http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/new-protocol-aims-to-cut-trillion-dollar-food-waste-bill/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:27:07 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145502 Tsering Dorji works on his farm in western Bhutan’s Satsam village. Due to inadequate transportation and marketing opportunities, he loses half of what he produces every rainy season. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Tsering Dorji works on his farm in western Bhutan’s Satsam village. Due to inadequate transportation and marketing opportunities, he loses half of what he produces every rainy season. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
COPENHAGEN, Jun 8 2016 (IPS)

Four years ago, 27-year-old Tsering Dorji of western Bhutan’s Satsam village took to organic vegetable farming. Since then, thanks to composted manure and organic pesticide, the soil health of his farm has improved, and the yield has increased manifold.

Dorji, once a subsistence farmer, now has about 60 bags of surplus food every two months to sell and earn a profit.  But come the rainy season and he still loses thousands of rupees carrying his produce to markets that are miles away.

“Vegetables like radish, carrot and cucumber often break and tomatoes get squashed when I transport them. So I have to either sell them for [the deeply discounted price of ] 5-10 rupees a kg or just throw them away. This is very a hard time for me,” Dorji told IPS.

The young farmer is not alone. The world over, but especially in developing countries, farmers lose millions of dollars due to food loss. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the total bill for food loss and food waste is a whooping 940 billion dollars a year.

The scenario could, however, change significantly in coming years courtesy of a new global mechanism called the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard. Launched at the 4th Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) a two-day conference held in Copenhagen from June 6-7, this is a protocol to map the extent and the reasons for food loss and food waste across the world.

The conference, which brought together governments, investors, corporations, NGOs and research organisations, termed it a great ‘breakthrough” – one that could lead to effective control and prevention of global food loss and food waste.

“The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and the food industry, alleviate the pressure on natural resources and contribute to realising the ambitious goals set out in the SDGs, “said Christian Jensen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Denmark, launching the protocol.

The Global Green Growth Forum, a two-day conference in Copenhagen June 6-7, 2016, on attaining green growth in business, in alignment with the SDGs. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The Global Green Growth Forum, a two-day conference in Copenhagen June 6-7, 2016, on attaining green growth in business, in alignment with the SDGs. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The protocol

The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW) has been developed jointly by the Consumer Goods Forum, the FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Specific guidelines for how the standard will instruct countries and companies to measure their food waste are still being drafted, but the protocol includes three components.

The first is that the standard includes modular definitions of food waste that change based on what an entity’s end goal is — so if a country is interested in curbing food waste to fight food insecurity, its definition of food waste will be different than a country looking to curb food waste to fight climate change.

Secondly, the standard includes diverse quantification options, which will allow a country or company with fewer financial or technical resources to obtain a general picture of their food loss and waste.

And finally, the standard is meant to be flexible enough to evolve over time, as understanding of food waste, quantification methods, and available data improves.

Sustainable Development Goal 12.3

Food loss and waste has significant economic, social, and environmental consequences. According to the FAO, a third of the food produced in the world is lost while transporting it from where it is produced to where it is eaten, even as 800 million people remain malnourished.

In short, food loss increases hunger. The lost and wasted food also consumes about one quarter of all water used by agriculture and, in terms of land use, uses cropland area the size of China, besides generating about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addresses this he global food challenge by seeking to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

The FLW Protocol can help steer the movement forward, say UN officials. According to Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the protocol could not only help understand just how much food is “not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action”.

The protocol has also triggered the interest of business leaders like the world’s largest food company, Nestle. “What gets measured can be managed. At Nestle, we will definitely benefit significantly by using the standard to help us address our own food loss and waste,” said Michiel Kernkamp, Nestle Nordic Market chief.

Benefiting the poorest growers

But can the FLW protocol benefit the smallest and the poorest of the food producers in the developing countries who lack modern technology, innovation, and regular finance and are surrounded by multiple climate vulnerabilities such as flood, drought, salinity and other natural disasters?

“Yes,” says Khalid Bomba, CEO of Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency.

The protocol, by identifying the pockets of food loss, can highlight the areas that need urgent intervention, he says.

“For ordinary proof producers, food loss happens for a number of reasons such as lack of innovative tools, improved seeds, market opportunity and climate change. The new protocol can be a tool to find out how much losses are happening due to each of these reasons. Once this data is collected, it can be shared with the NGOs and the business communities. Accordingly, they can decide how and where they want to intervene and what solutions they want to apply.”

Bomba, however, cautions that the protocol should not be mistaken for a solution. “This protocol in itself cannot end food loss. It is just a tool to understand the problem better and find the appropriate solution.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/new-protocol-aims-to-cut-trillion-dollar-food-waste-bill/feed/ 0
Polynesian Voyagers Bring Messages of Hope to UN on World Oceans Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 03:58:04 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145499 The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2016 (IPS)

Polynesian voyagers who have sailed the world by canoe using ancient navigation skills will bring pledges they collected along the way to the UN on Wednesday as part of World Oceans Day celebrations.

The voyagers sailed the Hōkūle‘a canoe to New York to deliver the pledges from countries and communities committed to doing their part to help save the world’s oceans to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator told IPS that they were inspired to collect the declarations after Ban sailed with them in Apia, Samoa in the Summer of 2014.

“He gave us this bottle (capped) with his own handwritten note of his pledge to work with the membership of the UN (for) the betterment of the ocean,” said Thompson.

Thompson is master navigator of the Hōkūle‘a canoe. The voyagers uses the ancient traditions of Polynesian navigation to travel the oceans without technical instruments, knowledge which almost became extinct, but has been revived through decades of training.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Hōkūle‘a has recently returned from a 37-month voyage covering about 50,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean.

“We are sailing on the belief that there are millions of people that are working for kindness and caring and compassion for the earth even though we’re not connected,” said Thompson. “We just want our voyaging canoe and our community to (be) part of that movement.”

The Hōkūle‘a canoe was launched 41 years ago, the first of its kind launched in over 600 years, says Thompson.

“It was our vehicle to allow us to explore and rediscover our ancient traditions primarily in voyaging and in navigation.”

“It was a reconnection not just to our culture, and to our tradition, and to our ancestors, but also reconnection back to the Pacific Islanders.”

Over that time, he says the voyagers have seen many changes in the oceans and peoples of the region.

“We’ve been witness to watching shifting change, not only in what’s been happening to the oceans physically, but what’s been happening to the relationship between islanders and the ocean in the biggest ocean, that’s the Pacific.”

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976." -- Nainoa Thompson.

During this time, Thompson says that he has observed increasing awareness around the Pacific of the science of the negative impacts on the oceans such as climate change and acidification.

“I think part of the solution to figure out how to protect the oceans is going to really require a meshing and a coming together of both science and technology with indigenous knowledge — those people who have lived and known these islands for generations and thousands of years.”

Thompson says that he has personally learnt a lot from his own teacher, who he described as the only known master navigator.

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976.”

Thompson describes Piailug, who came from a tiny island called Satawal in Micronesia, as “a window into the ancient world and the ancient oceans.”

Satawal is “only a mile and quarter long and half mile wide,” yet the people who live there have a phenomonal “knowledge of the oceans, and of the stars, and the heavens, and the atmosphere, and the winds, and the clouds, and the sea life, and the sea birds,” said Thompson.

“We were lucky to have (Piailug), he changed the whole world view from another native group that was losing language and culture to a whole new world where we were the greatest navigators.”

“He came back and trained us for 30 years.”

“In that process we tried to understand really the importance of listening to your elders and spending time and trying to protect and preserve their knowledge of the ocean because it was getting so lost so quickly.”

“Extinction of cultural values and cultural lifestyles are happening everywhere so Mau singlehandedly shifted that whole mindset.”

“Back in 1975 there were no canoes, there were no voyages, there were no navigators. In Polynesia now there’s about 2500 active sailors,” said Thompson.

He added that learning the navigation skills helped his generation to better understand the oceans.

“The thing about the navigation is it forces it you to do two things: to observe and secondly to understand nature.”

Thompson says that his generation now has a responsibility to share this knowledge with the children of Hawaii and the world.

He says that there is also a need “to move education towards catching up with the real core issues that our children need to know.”

“The worldwide voyage is a relationship between those who are exploring, those who are learning, those who are bringing things back and getting it embedded into schools.”

The President of the University of Hawaii sailed with the Hōkūle‘a from Washington DC, to New York, and the Superintendent of the Hawaiian public schools system will also be joining the Hōkūle‘a at the UN on World Oceans Day.

Thompson said that ensuring that the knowledge was shared with Hawaii’s students was important because in the past that knowledge had been lost when it was banned from schools.

“The problem of why we know so little of native people is because it wasn’t taught in schools and Hawaiian culture, language and geneology was outlawed by policy by public and private schools back a hundred years ago.”

“The way to change that is really to change what you teach in schools.”

The voyagers plan to share the knowledge they collect of people who are doing great things to protect the oceans with the children of Hawaii.

Many of these examples also include school children, such as is the case with oyster farming in New York.

“New York was considered the largest oyster population in the world, the indigenous people lived directly off the sea food, that’s all they needed.”

However eventually the water became so polluted that the oyster larvae couldn’t survive, but more recently some New York schools have begun breeding the oysters themselves.

“The equation is that if you plant reefs of oysters, if you get a billion oysters you can filter the harbour in three days,” said Thompson.

New York restaurants have now got involved, and Thompson described the program as an example of how the economy and environment can work together for the better.

“That’s an equation that Hawaii needs to figure out, and that’s an equation that the world needs to figure out, but it’s happening in very special places.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/feed/ 0
Coral Reef Tourism in Danger as Reefs Struggle to Adapt to Warminghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 15:51:00 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145490 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/feed/ 0 Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2016 15:34:24 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145470 Owing to demographic drivers, countries are going to become more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, says William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Owing to demographic drivers, countries are going to become more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, says William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 6 2016 (IPS)

Climate change is now adding new layers of complexity to the nexus between migration and the environment.

Coastal populations are at particular risk as a global rise in temperature of between 1.1 and 3.1 degrees C would increase the mean sea level by 0.36 to 0.73 meters by 2100, adversely impacting low-lying areas with submergence, flooding, erosion, and saltwater intrusion, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

But even before such catastrophes strike, the 660 to 820 million people who depend on a fishing livelihood – more so subsistence-based traditional fisher families who already find catches sharply dwindling due to over-fishing – will have no option but to abandon both home and occupation and move.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing at 11-26 million tonnes of fish each year, worth between 10 billion and 23 billion dollars, causing depletion of fish stocks, price increase and loss of livelihoods for fishermen.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

William Lacy Swing, Director General of IOM, spoke with IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena at the second UN Environmental Assembly May 23-27 in Nairobi where 174 countries focused on environmental implementation of the work that would achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: What are today the other drivers of coastal migration besides environmental crises and depleting fish stocks?

A: Political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today. We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue. We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.

If we add to that climate change events like Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines, and the Haiti earthquake, there would be another additional group.

We do not know how many of these natural disasters are climate related, but increasingly we are paying attention to climate change. After the Paris talks it is more evident that we must figure in adaptation strategies, especially in places like Bangladesh and the Pacific Islands, so people can avoid and prepare for the natural disasters.

Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, was saying they were fearful they would lose some of their 33 atolls. They are already purchasing land in neighbouring Fiji for their people to migrate. This is the kind of adaptation action we need to take.

Q. How do you see the picture of global coastal migration by 2030 and subsequently by 2050? What are the approximate numbers of coastal people that are on the move today? From which countries are the maximum movements being seen?

A: Coastal migration is starting already but it is very hard to be exact as there is no good data to be able to forecast accurately. We do not know. But it is clearly going to figure heavily in the future. And it’s going to happen both in the low-lying islands in the Pacific [and] the Caribbean, and in those countries where people build houses very close to the shore and have floods every year as in Bangladesh. Also, we have to look out for places prone to earthquakes. Philippines officials were talking to me last week about preparing for a major earthquake that could happen anytime.

We have to have an adaptation policy. The more adaptation you have, the less mitigation you need. The more you prepare the less you have to lose.

Q. Are increasing incidences of conflict over depleting resources being reported within coastal communities or with other groups such as large fishing operators?

A: It is quite clear that we will have more and more conflicts over shortages of food and water that are going to be exacerbated by climate change. Certainly, if coastal stretches have been over-fished for years, there is going to be conflict.
But it may not be just conflict that occurs. In Indonesia for instance, IOM worked hard to evacuate hundreds of fishermen who had been kept for years in human slavery in the fishing industry. With the help of the Indonesian government we freed them, counseled them and got them back to normal life.

Q: Even while migration is increasingly being recognized as a critical global issue, the absence of strong policies on migration is often attributed to insufficient studies and hard data by migration experts. Has there been any improvement in this status after Syria, West Asia, East Africa migration crises?

A: IOM has undertaken several initiatives to support better policies. We just established a Global Data Analysis Centre in Berlin. We are in partnership with a number of leading agencies like Gallop World Poll, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) the research arm of The Economist Group. We are looking for other partners as we see large gaps in the data base.

While a lot of data we have is spotty, a lot of it inaccurate, we however have enough already to know which are the driving forces for migration today and in the future, including demographic drivers. We have an aging population in the industrialized countries that are in need of workers at all skill levels. And we have a very large youthful population in the global south that needs jobs.

Our forecast is that countries are going to become almost inevitably more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious.
If this is going to work, economies are going to merge then it appears a pretty straightforward future scenario. But the problem is that more national migration policies are out-of-date, they have not kept up with technology. So we keep running into problems where we could in fact turn adversities into opportunities.

Q: What could be some mitigation, adaptation or preventive actions and policies affected countries should undertake? Which countries are already taking action?

A: Even if it is difficult to single out countries to mention as they are all members of IOM, Canada for instance took in 25,000 Syrian refugees earlier in the year. Several Asian countries like Thailand are providing migrants access to free public services because if this is denied you have unhealthy population living amongst you. There are other examples of proactive action being taken by countries but more is needed.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration/feed/ 0
World Oceans Day – A Death Sea Called Mediterraneanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2016 12:18:08 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145459 Credit: World Oceans Day

Credit: World Oceans Day

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 6 2016 (IPS)

While the United Nations identifies 17 major regional seas in its planning, the Mediterranean is perhaps the most dramatic case as it has gone from being the so-called cradle of civilization to be a cemetery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants. And it is most probably also the most polluted water basin the whole world. See this report.

The Mediterranean covers a surface of 2,5 million square kilometres and is surrounded by 22 countries, which together share a coastline of 46,000 kilometres, and are home to around 480 million people across three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.

But it is also a sort of a huge salty lake, being a semi-enclosed sea with only two tiny points of contact with open oceans-the Suez Canal in the East and the Gibraltar Straits in the West.

This implies that its waters need between 80 years and 150 years to be renewed as a result of its contact with open oceans, according to the Athens-based UN Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Actions Plan (UNEP/MAP).

In other words, a drop of polluted water remains there, circulating for a whole century on average.

Add to this that of its total population, nearly 1 in 3 inhabitant–or over 160 million—are permanent residents in urban centres situated along its coasts. And that some 180 millions tourists visit its shores annually, this making a total of some 340 million people concentrated in the coastal area during the peak holiday seasons.

Result: millions of people dumping in the Mediterranean their domestic and urban solid and liquid wastes. The problem becomes more evident if you consider that up to few years ago, over 40 per cent of coastal urban centres lacked sewage treatment facilities, and 80 per cent of waste water was disposed off in the sea untreated, according to UNEP/MAP.

20.000 Tonnes of Petrol Per Year

Then come industrial activities as a key source of pollution, mainly from the chemical, petro-chemical and metallurgy sectors. Just some examples:

— Some 60 refineries dump into the sea nearly 20.000 tonnes of petrol/year;

— Chemical products used in agriculture generate runoffs containing pesticides, nitrates and phosphates,

— Other industries such as the treatment of wastes and solvent generation, surface treatment of metals, production of paper, paints and plastics, dyeing, printing and tanneries, bring more pollution to the sea.

Maritime Traffic

But the Mediterranean sea is also under pressure from intense maritime activities: with 30 per cent of all international sea-borne trade by volume originating from or directed to its ports or passing through its waters, and nearly 25 per cent of the world’s sea-transported oil transiting it, maritime traffic and sea-based pollution are among the key causes of pollution of this sea.

A fisheries worker unloading the morning's catch. Credit: FAO

A fisheries worker unloading the morning’s catch. Credit: FAO


Just consider that an estimated 2,000 merchant vessels of over 100 tonnes are at sea at any given moment, with a total of 200,000 crossing the Mediterranean annually.

But it is not only about pollution produced by such a heavy maritime traffic. In fact, it is estimated that 50 per cent of all goods carried at sea around the world are dangerous to some degree.

The point is that some of the hazardous and noxious chemicals are far more dangerous than oil, although the quantities of these products transported by sea in the Mediterranean are only a fraction of the volume of oil carried by tankers.

On the other hand, operational oil pollution from ships include a variety of discharges of oil and oily mixtures that are generated on board. These include oil discharges into the sea, comprising oily ballast waters, tank washing residues, fuel oil sludge and bilge discharges.

Marine Litter

Now UNEP/MAP has just launched its new updated Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean, within the framework of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), held last month in Nairobi.

Marine litter has been confirmed as a critical issue in the Mediterranean, exacerbated by the basin’s limited hydrological exchanges with other oceans, as well as pressures from its densely-populated coasts, highly-developed tourism, along with the impacts of 30 percent of the world’s maritime traffic transiting the Mediterranean sea and additional inputs of litter from rivers and heavily urbanised areas.

Marine litter and microplastics. Credit: UNEP

Marine litter and microplastics. Credit: UNEP

Compared to the 2008 assessment, this updated report provides data on waste and plastic inputs to the sea for each Mediterranean country and specifies the most important sources of litter, changes in their composition and transport patterns presenting updated results of modelling and provides a comprehensive review of existing data for the four compartments of the marine environment (beaches, surface, seabed, and ingested litter).

It also provides original data and information on micro-plastics, on derelict fishing gear and their impact and details the general reduction measures, especially those that are important for the Mediterranean Sea.

World Oceans Day

All the above might be lost in the ocean of information related to this year’s World Ocean Day, marked on June 8.

According to a United Nations report, world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.

“Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.”

Marking the World Oceans Day, the UN has underlined facts and figures:

— Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume;

— Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods;

— Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at 3 trillion dollars per year or about 5 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product;

— Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.

— Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.

— Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein.

— Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.

— Subsidies for fishing contribute to the rapid depletion of many fish species and prevent efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate 50 billion dollars less per year than they could.

— As much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/world-oceans-day-a-death-sea-called-mediterranean/feed/ 1
What Lies Ahead for Oceans, Seas and Marine Resourceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-lies-ahead-for-oceans-seas-and-marine-resources/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-lies-ahead-for-oceans-seas-and-marine-resources http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-lies-ahead-for-oceans-seas-and-marine-resources/#comments Sun, 05 Jun 2016 18:03:46 +0000 Andrew Hudson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145450 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-lies-ahead-for-oceans-seas-and-marine-resources/feed/ 0 Mea Culpahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mea-culpa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mea-culpa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mea-culpa/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 21:36:25 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145435 By Faisal Bari
Jun 3 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Some reports suggest that more than 150 infants have died in Sindh`s Tharparkar district since January of this year alone. However, officials of the government of Sindh`s health department have said that 140 is the fatality toll for children under five years since October last year. Either way, does this not come close to the number of children who were martyred in the gruesome attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar?

Most of the reports have been saying that Tharparkar had less than average rainfall last year and the dearth of water, combined with some shortage of food and medicines and other healthcare facilities have been the main cause behind the deaths.

Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, in his work on the Great Bengal Famine, has shown that even at that time, a period of drought and severe grain shortages, it was not the scarcity of grain that had caused the famine and led to the death of thousands of people. It was the intransigence of the colonial government, its lack of care for the locals and the absence of any accountability mechanism that would hold the colonial masters responsible for the welfare of the people of Bengal that had led to the disaster.

There were grain stores in Bengal and in other parts of the country. The colonial administration did not release these stores to ameliorate and address the shortage. The Bengali population did not have the cash or the capital to buy the grain from the open marl(et as the price of grain, given the shortages, had spiked. It was the lack of purchasing power combined with the colonial government`s lack of willingness to address the problem that caused the deaths of thousands and more.

Is the problem any different in Tharparkar? We do not have any water shortages, at least to date, in the rest of the country. We do not have much of a water shortage even in other districts of Sindh. Wedo not have food shortages in other parts of the country. We do not really have a shortage of medicines, doctors and other medical personnel in most other parts of the country. Why should a shortage of these things exist in Thar? Most large cities, be it Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad or Rawalpindi, do not produce enough food for their own consumption. They do not produce enough milk locally either. In some cases, even the underground sources of water under these cities are not enough. In each of these, cases we transport food, milk and water from the rest of the country to these cities. The population of the cities gives money for not only the food, it also pays the transport cost included in the price of these items. Those who buy these goods are those who are able to afford them.

Why is it hard for the government or private businesses to transport goods and services into Tharparkar if they are available in the rest of the country? The answer seems very obvious. The child deaths in Tharparkar are a result ofgovernancefailure.If there is a water shortage, why is the government of Sindh or the government of Pakistan, not making arrangements to have more water being transported to Tharparkar? If there is a food shortage, it seems easy enough to move food to Tharparkar. The same should be the case with medicines and medical personnel.

It might well be the case that the people of Tharparkar are not able to pay for the cost of the transported commodities. But why should this be seen as a problem? The government of Sindh and the federal government can easily offer a special package to Tharparkar for the duration of the drought. If we can spend billions on F-16s, corridors, motorways and underpasses, what is the problem in spending a few billions on the poor children of Tharparkar? Blame games have been played between Sindh government and the federal government as to whoseresponsibility the children of Thar are. Neither can escape blame irrespective of what the 18th Amendment and other legal provisions might say. If a child dies in Tharparkar, all levels of government are culpable.

But the 150 odd deaths show that the governance system in the country is broken. If it is poor children dying in a backward district, no one cares, and no one is held accountable. Is this any different to what happened in the colonial times? The citizens of the country can also not escape blame. We have failed to bring more pressure to bear on the provincial and federal governments to address the issue. And if governance systems are not worl(ing, we should, as citizens, have organised more of an effort to get help to the children and their families in Tharparkar. Each one of us is to be blamed. As part of humanity, as part of the citizenry, the people of Tharparkar have rights over us. They have the right to be treated as equal citizens, and they have equal rights to a life of dignity as well. We, each one of us, have denied them these rights. We have not lived up to our obligations.

Most of the families who have been suffering in Tharparkar are poor. Does poverty mean they have no rights? Does it mean that the state, provincial and federal, can ignore them with impunity? Do the poor have fewer rights? Do they not deserve a life of dignity? Can the citizens of Pakistan ignore the plight of the people of Tharparkar? As human beings, as moral beings and as citizens of the same country, we should be worrying about what is happening in Tharparkar and we should be putting pressure on our government to do more, and organising ourselves better, as citizens, to help those in needin Tharparkar.m The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mea-culpa/feed/ 0
Battered by Storms, Sri Lanka Rethinks Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 13:58:43 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145403 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security/feed/ 0 Malawi’s Drought Leaves Millions High and Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:27:22 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145335 Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares nsima in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares nsima in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

By Charity Chimungu Phiri
BLANTYRE, May 27 2016 (IPS)

It’s Saturday, market day at the popular Bvumbwe market in Thyolo district. About 40 kilometers away in Chiradzulu district, a vegetable vendor and mother of five, Esnart Nthawa, 35, has woken up at three a.m. to prepare for the journey to the market.

The day before, she went about her village buying tomatoes and okra from farmers, which she has safely packed in her dengu (woven basket).

Now she’s just waiting for a hired bicycle to take her and her merchandise to the bus station, where she will catch a minibus to Bvumbwe market. This way, her goods reach the market quicker and safer. Afterwards, she and her colleagues will pack their baskets and walk back home.

“We walk for at least three hours…our bodies have just gotten used to it because we have no choice. If I don’t do this, then my children will suffer. As I am talking to you now, they are waiting for me to bring them food,” Nthawa told IPS.

“I will buy a basin of maize there at the maize mill and have it processed into flour for nsima [a thick porridge that is Malawi’s staple food]. That’s the only meal they will eat today,” she said.

Nthawa added: “Last harvest we only realised two bags of maize as you know the weather was bad. That maize has now run out, we are living day by day…eating what we can manage to source for that day.”

Nthawa’s story resonates with many Malawians today. Almost half of the country’s population is facing hunger this year due to no or low harvests, resulting from the effects of El Nino which hit most parts of the southern and northern regions late last year.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda said in Parliament on May 25 that 8.4 million Malawians will be food insecure during the 2016/2017 season.

His statement clearly contradicts President Peter Mutharika, who on Friday said in his State of the Nation Address that 2.8 million people faced hunger.

The new high figure follows a World Food Programme Rapid assessment which said over eight million Malawians will be food insecure this year due to the effects of El Nino. Destructive floods in the north have compounded the country’s woes, causing the president to declare a state of emergency in April.

With the drought also affecting Zimbabwe and other countries in southern Africa, an estimated 28 million people are now going hungry.

In order to deal with the crisis, Agriculture Minister Chaponda says the government has “laid out a plan to import about one million metric tons of white maize to fill the food gap”. The authorities project that at least 1,290,000 metric tons of maize are needed to deal with the food crisis, out of which 790,000 metric tons will be distributed to those heavily affected by the drought starting from April 2016 to March 2017.

The government also plans to intensify irrigation on commercial and smallholder farms, with an aim of increasing maize production at the national level. Officials say 18 million dollars is needed to carry out these measures.“There’s too much politicisation and overreliance on maize as a crop for consumption." -- Chairperson of the Right to Food Network Billy Mayaya

In the meantime, food prices continue to rise daily as the national currency, the Kwacha, continues to depreciate, forcing poor farming families to reduce their number of meals per day or sell their property in order to cope with the situation. A bag of maize which normally sells for seven dollars now costs 15 dollars.

As usual, children have been hardest hit by the situation. The latest statistics on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) show a 100 percent increase from December 2015 to January 2016, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF says it recorded more than 4,300 cases of severe malnutrition in the month of January alone this year, double the number recorded in December 2015.

Dr. Queen Dube, a pediatrician at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – the main government referral hospital in southern Malawi – affirmed to IPS that there has been an increase in the number of malnutrition cases at the hospital.

“At the moment, we have about 15 children admitted at our Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit…they have Marasmus, where they’re very thin or wasted, while others have Kwashiorkor, where the body is swollen. In other cases, the children have a combination of the two. These children suffer greatly from diarrheal diseases,” said Dube.

She added that the hospital offers these children therapeutic feeding of special types of milk and chiponde (fortified peanut butter) for a determined period of time, until they pick up in weight and improve in general body appearance.

“They are also given treatment for any underlying illness which they might have. Additionally, we also provide counseling to the mothers and guardians on proper nutrition so that when they get back home they can utilize the very little foods they have to prepare nutritious meals for their children,” she explained.

Rights activists say it is high time the authorities started taking on board recommendations on how to make Malawi food secure made by independent groups such as the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee-MVAC, which said 2.8 million people faced hunger in 2015.

Chairperson of the Right to Food Network Billy Mayaya told IPS: “There’s too much politicisation and overreliance on maize as a crop for consumption. The government needs to use the data from MVAC as well as consider the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) and modalities to bring it to fruition.

Calling for greater diversity in the traditional diet, he said, “These plans can be effected as long as there‘s a sustained political will.”

In his state of the nation address on May 20, President Mutharika said the Green Belt Initiative was still his government’s priority “in order to increase productivity of selected high value crops.

“I am therefore pleased to report that construction of the irrigation infrastructure and the sugarcane factory in Salima district has been completed…the government has an ongoing Land Management Contract with Malawi Mangoes Limited where land has been provided for the production of bananas and mangoes,” he said.

In addition, the president said the government plans to increase rice production for both consumption and export, as well as make the tobacco industry vibrant again. Malawi mainly relies on tobacco for its foreign exchange earnings.

In February, President Mutharika made an international appeal for assistance, following which development partners including Britain and Japan provided over 35 million dollars. The government also obtained 80 million dollars from the World Bank for the Emergency Floods Recovery Project.

The U.S. government has been the first to respond to the latest crisis, providing the Malawian government with 55 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the struggle for survival continues for poor Malawian families such as Esnart Nthawa’s. Her children are still eating one meal a day, as those in power continue to meet to strategize on the crisis over fancy dinners in expensive hotels.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/feed/ 0
A Disaster-in-Waitinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-disaster-in-waiting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-disaster-in-waiting http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-disaster-in-waiting/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 15:51:01 +0000 Shamsuddoza Sajen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145322 www.worldtravelserver.com

www.worldtravelserver.com

By Shamsuddoza Sajen
May 26 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

In a recent interview with BBC, India’s minister of water resources Uma Bharti unveiled her government’s massive plan to divert major rivers including the Ganges and Brahmaputra. According to the Guardian, the project is just waiting for a rubber stamp from the environment ministry of India. While we do not want to be alarmists, it is hard to ignore the fact that, if implemented, the project will rob Bangladesh, a riverine country, of her very lifelines.

The project involves channeling water away from the east and south of India to the drought-prone areas in the north and west through rerouting major river courses. This means digging canals everywhere to link rivers defying the ecology of the rivers. Bangladesh has been formed as the greatest deltaic plain at the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers and their tributaries. So any diversion of the natural flow of the rivers will be like redrawing the geography of the area.

The project is based on an overestimation: diverting water from where it is surplus to dry areas. Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) told the BBC, “There has been no scientific study yet on which places have more water and which ones less”. In the dry season there is hardly enough water in the rivers to meet the minimum demands of the river-adjacent areas. Where is the surplus water for diversion? A ruling BJP member Murli Manohar Joshi aptly said that the plan would be like transferring wealth “from one beggar to another beggar.”

What basically goes wrong with the concept of the project is that it sees a river only as a source of water, not as an entire ecosystem. Any intervention in the ecosystem affects the whole community and wildlife dependent on the river. Thakkar accused the Indian water authority of disregarding this very fact. According to SANDRP, 1.5 million people will be displaced and 104,000 hectares of prime forested land will be submerged while the effects on other life forms are unpredictable. On our side, we are clueless because our water ministry does not have any substantial study on the possible consequences of the river linking plan. When asked about his reaction to this unilateral move by India, the state minister for water resources urged the Indian government, in his habitural manner, “to take Bangladesh’s water needs into consideration”. It seems our government was not even aware of the progress of the project that could spell disaster for Bangladesh.

India’s reply to Bangladesh’s concerns is equally vague: “We don’t have the details, but we will ensure Bangladesh gets its share of water too”, said a statement issued by water resources ministry of India. Such patronising rhetoric is hardly reassuring. We have learnt enough from the experience of the Farakka Dam which was built to divert water from Ganges to Hugli River. The reduction in water flow has proved disastrous for Bangladesh including the loss of fish species, the drying of Padma’s distributaries, increased saltwater intrusion from the Bay of Bengal, and damage to the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans.

This unilateral move by India is a clear violation of the basic tenet of all the international regulations regarding water bodies i.e. no withdrawal from commonly shared water body without mutual agreement. The provisions of the Ganges Treaty unequivocally expressed resolve of both sides to solve the water sharing issue through mutual consultations and negotiations, and not to do anything detrimental to either side, specially the lower riparian.

But we also failed to raise or even hint at the issue of India’s grand design which, if ever implemented, would create consequences, equal to half a dozen Farakka dams combined together, strangling the existence of Bangladesh. Does it reflect our overall apathy towards our rivers? Our rivers are dying of thirst due to rampant encroachment and pollution. We couldn’t care less. It seems we are more interested in politicising the water issue rather than protecting our water sources, upon which our lives depend.

The writer is Sr. Editorial Assistant at The Daily Star. E-mail: sajen1986@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-disaster-in-waiting/feed/ 0
Water Woes Put a Damper on Myanmar’s Surging Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:10:46 +0000 Sara Perria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145291 People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

By Sara Perria
HTITA, Myanmar, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The central plains of Myanmar, bordered by mountains on the west and east, include the only semi-arid region in South East Asia – the Dry Zone, home to some 10 million people. This 13 percent of Myanmar’s territory sums up the challenges that the country faces with respect to water security: an uneven geographical and seasonal distribution of this natural resource, the increasing unpredictability of rain patterns due to climate change, and a lack of water management strategies to cope with extreme weather conditions.

Using water resources more wisely is critical, according to NGOs and institutional actors like the Global Water Partnership, which organized a high-level roundtable on water security issues in Yangon on May 24. UN data shows that only about five percent of the country’s potential water resources are being utilised, mostly by the agricultural sector. At the same time, growing urbanisation and the integration of Myanmar into the global economy after five decades of military dictatorship are enhancing demand.

The new government of the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi now faces the major challenge of delivering solutions to support the country’s rapid economic growth.

 

A hydroponic greenhouse allows farmers in Myanmar’s Dry Zone to grow vegetable saving up to 90 percent of water. The project is promoted by NGO Terres Des Hommes using technology developed by the University of Bologna and involves over 40 villages. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A hydroponic greenhouse allows farmers in Myanmar’s Dry Zone to grow vegetable saving up to 90 percent of water. The project is promoted by NGO Terres Des Hommes using technology developed by the University of Bologna and involves over 40 villages. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

A water carrier in Myanmar's Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A water carrier in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

The arid village of Htita, in Bago region, Myanmar. The artificial ponds traditionally used to collect water are empty at the end of the dry season. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

The arid village of Htita, in Bago region, Myanmar. The artificial ponds traditionally used to collect water are empty at the end of the dry season. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Members of Myanmar's Htee Tan village community. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Members of Myanmar’s Htee Tan village community. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

A temporary water tank in Myanmar's Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A temporary water tank in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Speakers at the high level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on May 24, 2016. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Speakers at the high level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on May 24, 2016. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/feed/ 0