Inter Press ServiceWater & Sanitation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:36:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:55:54 +0000 Tim Wainwright http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153067 Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive at WaterAid

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Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equality

Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Tim Wainwright
LONDON, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

This weekend marks World Toilet Day (November 19)– and the news is disheartening. One in three people are still waiting for a toilet; still having to face the indignity and often fear of relieving themselves in the open or using unsafe or unhygienic toilets.

It is frustrating that the headline statistics have not made greater progress two years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), when having a toilet is such a fundamental boost to gender equality, as well as health, education and economic opportunity.

Tim Wainwright, CEO, WaterAid UK

In ‘Out of Order: State of the World’s Toilets 2017’, WaterAid’s annual analysis based on WHO-Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) data, we show that Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.

Being denied access to safe, private toilets is particularly dangerous for women and girls, impacting on their health and education, and exposing them to an increased risk of harassment and even attack.

There have been some improvements. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of people defecating in the open globally dropped from 1.2 billion (20% of the world’s population) to 892 million (12%). India is making incredible strides with its Clean India Mission, progress that has not yet been fully captured in the JMP data. In Ethiopia, the number of people defecating in the open has dropped from nearly 80% in 2000 to 27% today – a tremendous step towards the goal of safe sanitation for all.

However, change is not happening fast enough.

The 10 worst countries for access to basic sanitation are all in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress has been abysmally slow. In 2000, 75% of people lacked access to even basic toilets; by 2015, this had only dropped to 72%.

Population growth and the huge numbers of people moving to cities where services can’t keep up means sanitation is falling behind; the number of people practising open defecation in the region has actually increased.

Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.
Nigeria is among the countries where open defecation is increasing and is No. 3 in the world’s worst countries for the number of people without toilets. This comes at a heavy price: A WaterAid survey revealed one in five women in Lagos have experienced harassment or been physically threatened or assaulted when going for open defecation or using shared latrines. Anecdotal evidence suggests the problem may be underreported.

Rahab, 20, lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Abuja, where there are no decent toilets.

She said: “We go to the toilet in the bush. It is risky as there are snakes, and I have also experienced some attacks from boys. It is not safe early in the morning or in the night as you can meet anyone. They drink alcohol and will touch you and if you don’t like it, they will force you. If I see men when I go to the toilet, I go back home and hold it in.”

Imagine every time you need the toilet you are frightened. And what scares you is not only the threats you can see – any community without decent toilets is contaminated with human waste.

Diarrhoeal diseases linked to dirty water and poor sanitation and hygiene claim the lives of 289,000 children under 5 each year, while repeated bouts of diarrhoea contribute to malnutrition and stunting, causing impaired development and weakened immune systems.

Women who have suffered stunting are more likely to experience obstructions when giving birth. Poor sanitation and hygiene also increase the risk of infection during and after childbirth, with sepsis accounting for over one in ten of maternal deaths worldwide.

Girls are more likely to miss classes while on their periods when their schools don’t have private toilets, and the same goes for female workers in factories that don’t have decent facilities. None of this is acceptable and so much is preventable.

The world promised that by 2030 everyone will have a safe toilet, but at the current rate of progress, even the moment when everyone basic provision will be decades after that. Next summer, leaders will review progress on Goal 6 to ensure universal access to water and sanitation. As countries prepare for this, there needs to be a dramatic step change in ambition and action.

It is a no-brainer. For every $1 spent on water and sanitation, $4 is returned in increased productivity as less time is lost through sickness. We need governments and donors to acknowledge the importance of sanitation and make the urgent long-term investments needed.

Girls and women should feed into the decision making process to make sure the services meet their needs whatever their age or physical ability. And the issue of sanitation must be taken out of its cubicle – the health, education and business sector must realise that providing safe, accessible toilets to all within their premises is non-negotiable.

Only then girls and women be able to fully participate in their communities, enjoying the health, education and gender equality premiums brought by just being able to use a safe toilet.

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Girls in Afghanistan—and Everywhere Else—Need Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:04:55 +0000 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153051 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing are senior women’s rights researchers at Human Rights Watch.

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Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

By Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing
LONDON/WASHINGTON DC, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“I never come here, just because of boys,” Atifa says, pointing at the door of the stall. “They’re opening the door.” Atifa, a sixth grader in Kabul, Afghanistan, attends a school of 650 girls. Since they study in tents in a vacant lot, the only toilets the girls have access to are on the far side of the boys’ school next door. The school is one of a very few for girls in the area, so some students walk over an hour each way to get there.

The toilets in the boys’ school consist of two separate blocks of pit toilets with four stalls per block. Both blocks are used by the boys, none of the stalls have locking doors, and none are reserved for  the girls’ use. On the day Atifa showed Human Rights Watch around, the floors were awash with urine and feces.

The school’s only water point—for drinking, handwashing, and any other uses— is a several-minute walk down a hill. Girls using the toilets have to cope with sexual harassment from male students on the way there, and boys trying to open the stall doors while girls are using the toilet.

When we interviewed girls, parents, and experts about this situation for a new report they said  that lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. Sixty  percent of schools here do not have toilets, 85 percent of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.

Lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. 60% of schools here do not have toilets, 85% of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.
Lack of access to clean, safe, private toilets is a major barrier around the world to girls like Atifa, and it’s an issue that disproportionately affects girls. No child should have to attend a school without toilets. But put bluntly, where toilets are not available it is easier–and more socially accepted–for boys to urinate outside than for girls, even in countries with far less strict views on girls’ behavior than Afghanistan.

When girls reach puberty and begin menstruation, the problem becomes even worse. Without privacy in the toilets, somewhere to dispose of waste or clean reusable hygiene materials, and running water in close proximity to toilets, girls face great difficulty managing menstrual hygiene. This leads many girls to stay home during their periods, and as these absences accumulate, they fall behind on their studies, suffer poor academic achievement, and are at increased risk of dropping out completely.

Countries around the world have recognized the need to reach universal coverage for sanitation—put simply people should be able to use a safe, hygienic toilet wherever they are—home, work, the hospital, and, yes, at school. As part of the global sustainable development goals– the 17 goals agreed upon by the United Nations in 2015 as part of a new sustainable development agenda– governments have set ambitious targets to end open defecation and achieve universal access to basic sanitation services by 2030.

Such a clarion call is nearly herculean. Six out of every 10 people in the world lack safely managed sanitation. That is 4.5 billion people. Given these numbers, it is easy to conclude a safe toilet is a privilege of the rich and urban, not a universal right.

 

 

Today is World Toilet Day. An odd thing to celebrate, perhaps. Yet, given those numbers it’s easy to see why we should stop and consider the humble toilet and all the benefits it provides to those who have access to it. For starters, those of us who can use the toilet and wash our hands are at reduced risk of the diarrheal diseases that claim the lives of more than 350,000 children a year.

But sanitation is more than just a privilege or a tool to prevent disease. It is a fundamental human right, one that can  enable people to realize other rights—like the right to health. For girls like Atifa, a simple, safe and private toilet can be essential to putting education within reach.

Governments will face many competing demands as they work to try to reach universal coverage by 2030. In the crush of priorities, there is a grave risk that the most marginalized and vulnerable will be left behind. In Afghanistan and in places around the world where girls have to fight and struggle to receive a basic education, toilets in school for girls should  not be lost in the shuffle.

 

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On Gender Day at Climate Meet, Some Progress, Many Hurdleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:42:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153031 “Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj. Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of […]

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Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj.

Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it." --indigenous leader Lina Gualinga

Established in 2009, the WGC is an umbrella group of 27 organizations working to make women’s voices and rights central to the ongoing discussions within the UNFCCC and the climate discussions known as COP23 in Bonn.

On Tuesday, as the COP observed Gender Day – a day specifically dedicated to address gender issues in climate change and celebrate women’s climate action – UNFCCC had just accepted the Gender Action Plan, a roadmap to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment in all its discussions and actions.  For WGC and other women leaders attending the COP, this is a clear indication of progress on the gender front.

“For the first time ever, we are going to adopt a Gender Action Plan. It’s very good and over one year, it will be a matter of implementing it. So that’s where we are,” said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Climate Change.

Gender Action Plan: The main points

The creation of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) was agreed upon by the countries at last year’s conference (COP22) in Morocco. All over the world, women face higher climate risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change. Yet they are often left out of the picture when decisions on climate action are made.

The aim of the GAP is to ensure that women can influence climate change decisions, and that women and men are represented equally in all aspects of the UNFCCC as a way to increase its effectiveness.

The GAP is made of five key goals that are crucial for improving the quality of life for women worldwide, as well as ensuring their representation in climate policy. These range from increasing knowledge and capacities of women and men to full, equal and meaningful participation of women in national delegations, including women from grassroots organizations, local and indigenous peoples and women from Small Island Developing States.

In brief, the five goals are:

  • Gender-responsive climate policy including gender budgeting
  • Increased availability of sex and gender disaggregated data and analysis at all levels
  • Gender balance in all aspects of climate change policy including all levels of UNFCCC.
  • 100% gender-responsive climate finance
  • 100% gender responsive approach in technology transfer and development.

The adopted draft, however, is a much watered-down version of the draft GAP that the GEC submitted. It has omitted several of the demands, especially on including indigenous women and women human rights defenders in the climate action plan.

“I would have expected a much-expressed acknowledgement of the participation, the voices and the knowledge of the indigenous and local women. We worked very hard to get that in, but it’s not there as much as I would have liked,” said Robinson, before adding that the adoption of the GAP, nonetheless, is “definitely some progress.”

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Omission leads to disappointment

Not everyone, however, is taking the omissions in the GAP quietly. At Tuesday noon, representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia gathered at Bula zone 1 – where the negotiations are taking place and held a protest.

“We are here because we want to tell the parties that women human rights defenders are legitimate and critical actors not only in SDG 5, but all the SDGs including combating climate change and all areas of 2030 agenda and Paris Agreement,” said a protester as others nodded in silence, their mouth sealed with black tape.

Prior to the protest, however, Lina Gualinga, an indigenous leader from the Kichwa tribe in Ecuador shared some details of how women environmental activists feel.

“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it. So, very few women can actually be here and be part of the COP,” she said.

“In the meantime, the language of the negotiations is drafted and shaped leaving no room to address our concerns. For example, what is sustainable development? For us, it’s nothing but clean water, fresh air, fertile land. Is that reflected in the language of the COP?” she asked.

No access to climate finance

Besides the continuous disappointment over human rights and indigenous issues, accessing finance has emerged as the biggest hurdle for women climate leaders. According to Robinson, the number of women who are getting climate finance is shockingly small.

“The latest figures by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows that only 2 percent of the finance is going to women in the grassroots and southern groups. Only 2 percent! Its tiny. And yet that is where an awful lot of climate work is taking place, where women are trying to make themselves resilient,” Robinson said.

There are three simple ways to solve this, she said:  One, increase local funding. Two, simplify the process to access climate. And three, train women in new, green technologies.

Citing the example of the Barefoot College in India –  a government funded and NGO-run institution that trains women from developing countries in solar technologies before they become “Solar Mamas” or solar entrepreneurs – Robinson said that trainings like this are a great way to include women in climate action at the local level.

“This not only builds their capacity to be more climate resilient, but also helps them become economically empowered,” she said, before admitting that more such initiatives would require more direct funding by local institutions.

Numbers still missing

White the central debate is on mainstreaming gender in the core process of negotiations, some also want to draw attention to the low representation of women in the conference. At the 2015 Paris summit, just over 38 percent of national delegations were women, with Peru, Hungary, Lesotho, Italy and Kiribati among the most balanced delegations and Mauritius, Yemen, Afghanistan and Oman the least.

This year, some countries such as Turkey, Poland and Fiji have 50 percent female delegates while three countries – Latvia, Albania and Guyana – have sent all-female delegations. But the average percentage of female negotiators at country delegations is still 38. Several countries, including Somalia, Eritrea and Uzbekistan, did not include a single women in their delegations.

Noelene Nabulivou, an activist from Fiji, said that it’s time to seriously fill the gender gap at the conference.

“If we are asking for equal opportunity, why can’t we ask for equal participation?” asked Nabulivou.

Meanwhile, Kalyani Raj thinks that quotas could limit the potential scope. “We want a balance, but at the same time, why limit ourselves to a mere 50 percent? It could be anything!” said Raj.

The first report to evaluate the progress on the implementation of the Gender Action Plan will be presented in November 2019.

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152989 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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Economic Development vs. Climate Action: Rebutting Deniers and Wafflershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 23:38:10 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152985 As negotiators meet in Bonn to put together a deal to implement the Paris Agreement, John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, stressed that economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation are not ‘either-or’ but must be pursued together. Addressing science journalists a week […]

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U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump’s visit to Asia. As the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has shown huge growth in clean energy and its emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement NDC commitment. Credit: Public Domain

U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump’s visit to Asia. As the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has shown huge growth in clean energy and its emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement NDC commitment. Credit: Public Domain

By Friday Phiri
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Nov 12 2017 (IPS)

As negotiators meet in Bonn to put together a deal to implement the Paris Agreement, John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, stressed that economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation are not ‘either-or’ but must be pursued together.

Addressing science journalists a week before the Bonn climate talks, Professor Holdren said among climate change skeptics, “wafflers’ are the most dangerous, because their arguments to postpone aggressive climate action now in favor of economic progress has the potential to increasingly influence debate and government policy.”

According to Professor Holdren, the wafflers claim to favor research and development on better technologies so emissions reductions can be made more cheaply in the future, and further argue for accelerating economic progress in developing countries as the best way to reduce their vulnerability as well as counting on adaptation as needed.“The idea that society cannot afford to address climate change is wildly wrong.” --Prof. John Holdren

However, it is ironic, he says, that the current US administration “with climate deniers and wafflers occupying top positions” are cutting support for the same approaches they propose.

“Of course, the deniers and the wafflers in the top positions in the Trump administration are, with surpassing cynicism, busy cutting support for all of these approaches,” he said, referencing the numerous reversals that the Trump administration has made even to the ‘win-win’ adaptation-preparedness resilience measures adopted under Obama.

Apart from drastic domestic spending cuts to climate related programmes, President Trump earlier this year decided to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement—a move that has left the global community wondering what’s next.

Africa’s Dismay

Despite its negligent contribution to global emissions, Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change—already suffering droughts, floods, affecting the predominantly rain-fed agricultural productivity and production. And Professor Holdren’s address titled: Why the Wafflers are Wrong—Addressing Climate Change is Urgent—and a Bargain delivered to the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) in San Francisco, California, held 26-30th October 2017, is music to the ears of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) who have been pushing urgent climate action at the UNFCCC negotiating table.

According to Professor Seth Osafo of AGN, “The slow progress by developed country parties towards reaching the US$100 billion goal of joint annual mobilization by 2020 is not in Africa’s interest.”

And in the words of Emphraim Mwepya Shitima, Chief Environmental and Natural Resources Officer at Zambia’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the developing country community needs financial resources now more than ever. “We are at a critical stage where we need all the financial resources we can get to effectively implement our NDC which is off course now in sync with the recently launched Seventh National Development Plan running up to 2021,” he told delegates at a COP23 preparatory meeting.

With the US pullout meaning the loss of a major financial contributor, there are fears that the resource mobilization process might even get slower. Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a consortium of African civil society organisations, is also concerned and is pushing for industrialised countries to set more ambitious goals in terms of their emission cuts.

“Coming from the region that suffers the most due to climate change, we have watched with utter dismay President Trump’s continued efforts at dismantling the former President’s Barrack Obama’s climate legacy, and wish to reiterate that this is the time to classify the global community into two: those for the people and planet, and those for Trump and profit,” says Mwenda.

He questioned the presence of the official US delegation, saying it may be a bad influence on other states that are already reluctant to take serious action on climate change. “The US withdraws from the Paris Agreement, yet they still want to show that they can negotiate the implementation framework,” complained Mwenda, “That’s why we are calling in delegates here to sign our petition to kick Trump and his government out of these negotiations…” 

Scientifically, climate change is a serious complex issue—it requires well-developed research systems especially on how it impacts different sectors of development, or at least in the spirit of the WCSJ2017 theme, to bridge science and societies. Unfortunately, as compared to the developed world, Africa’s scientific research and development still lags behind such that most often than not, it relies on the developed world for data, a concern that South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor raised during a session on Who will do Science at the WCSJ2017.

Pandor believes private companies which drive scientific innovations in the developed world must stop seeing the developing world just as a mass clientele—where research and development is done just for corporate interests and not for the benefit of the people.

“A number of private companies only have commercial relationships but do not have innovation relationships with the developing world; so the nature of partnerships between my continent Africa and other parts of the developing world must change,” she said. “If we are to do science in the 21st century…the way we perceive Africa and scientists in Africa has to fundamentally alter.”

She further lamented the sidelining of women in science whom she said are doing a lot of tremendous work, and her plea is for Africa to embrace and give space to women scientists amidst the challenge of climate change in a continent that contributes less than 4 percent to global emissions. “The next generation of scientists must be women—and black people have to be a part of that.”

The High Cost of Inaction

Agreing that research and development are important steps in tackling climate change, Professor Holdren, who is former Assistant to President Obama for Science & Technology, argues that even if implemented, the wafflers’ favoured economic approaches would be grossly inadequate because while clean energy is essential to provide options for the next stage of deep emissions reductions, the global community needs to be reducing now with the available technologies.

He says climate change is already causing serious harm around the world with increases in floods, drought, wildfires, heat waves, coral bleaching, among others, all of which are “plausibly linked to climate change by theory, models, and observed ‘fingerprints’; most growing faster than projected”.

The global community has three options: mitigation, adaptation – or suffering. Therefore, minimizing the amount of suffering in the mix can only be achieved by doing a lot of mitigation and a lot of adaptation.

“Mitigation alone won’t work because climate change is already occurring and can’t be stopped quickly. And adaptation alone won’t work because adaptation gets costlier and less effective as climate change grows. We need enough mitigation to avoid the unmanageable, enough adaptation to manage the unavoidable,” he adds.

In arguing for adaptation specifically, Professor Holdren believes that many adaptation measures would make economic sense even if the climate were not changing because there have always been heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, powerful storms, crop pests, and outbreaks of vector-born disease, and society has always suffered from being underprepared.

Additionally, he says, virtually all reputable studies suggest that the economic damages from not adequately addressing climate change would far exceed the costs of adequately addressing it.

“The idea that society cannot afford to address climate change is wildly wrong,” he said, calling for urgent climate action now and not later

COP22 produced the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action which called for all to go further and faster in delivering climate action before 2020. The global community now eagerly awaits COP23 Bonn declaration.

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Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-edged Sword against Climate Change and Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:41:58 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152923 As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020. While achieving this goal requires […]

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Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.“My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed." --farmer Damiano Malambo

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

The bad season that farmer Malambo refers to was characterized by El Nino, which affected agricultural production for most African countries, especially in the Southern African region, leaving millions of people without food. But as the case was with farmer Malambo, CA farmers thrived amidst these tough conditions as the CASU project discovered in its snap assessment.

“CA has proved to be more profitable than conventional agriculture”, says Precious Nkandu Chitembwe, FAO Country Communications Officer. “In seasons when other farmers have struggled, we have seen our CA farmers emerging with excellent results”, she adds, pointing out that the promotion of legumes and a ready market has improved household nutrition and income security for the farmers involved in CA.

And farmer Malambo is a living testimony. “In the last two seasons, I have doubled my cattle herd from 30 to 60, I have bought two vehicles and my overall annual production has increased from about 150 to 350 by 50kg bags.

“I am particularly happy with the introduction of easy to grow cash crops such as cowpeas and soybeans which are not only money spinners but also nutritious for my family—see how healthy this boy is from soya-porridge,” says Malambo pointing at his eight-year-old grandchild.

While Zambia boasts a stable food security position since the introduction of government farmer input subsidies in early 2000s, the country’s record on nutrition leaves much to be desired. Hence, the recent ranking of the country in the top ten hungriest countries in the world on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) may not come as a surprise, as the most recent Zambia Demographic and Health survey shows that 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, adding that progress made since 2000 is threatened, emphasising the need to establish resilience for communities at risk of disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

It is worth noting that Zambia has recognized the challenges of nutrition and has put in place several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign—an integrated approach to address stunting by tackling both direct and indirect causes of under-nutrition. Unlike the standalone strategies of the past, the 1000 Most Critical Days campaign brings together all key Ministries and stakeholders of which the Ministry of Agriculture is a key stakeholder and entry point.

And the implementation of CA, of which crop diversification is a key principle, is one of the Ministry’s contributions to the overall objective of fighting under-nutrition. As alluded to by farmer Malambo, promotion of crops such as soy beans and cowpeas among other food legumes is critical to achieving household nutrition security.

“With a known high demand for good nutrition in the country, especially for rural populations, soybean and other food legumes offer an opportunity to meet this demand—from soybean comes soy milk which is as competitive as animal milk in terms of nutrition, use in the confectionary industry and other numerous value addition options at household level for nutritional diversity,” explains Turnbull Chama, Technical Assistant, Climate Change component at the FAO Country Office.

While CA is a proven approach to climate resilience in agricultural production for food and nutrition security, its adoption has not been without hitches. According to a study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture in Zambia are still very low.

The study, which used data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, found that only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/14 season. The report notes, however, that social factors, such as belief in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

But for the Southern Province Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Nyambe, CA adoption should not be measured in a generic manner.

“The package for conservation agriculture is huge, if you measure all components as a package, adoption is low but if you looked at the issues of tillage or land preparation, you will find that the adoption rates are very high,” he says. “So, that’s why sometimes you hear of stories of poor adoption because there are several factors that determine the adoption of various principles within the package of conservation agriculture.”

Agreeing with these sentiments, Douty Chibamba, a lecturer at the University of Zambia Department of Geography and Environmental studies, offers this advice.

“It would be thus important for future policies and donor projects to allow flexibility in CA packaging because farmers make decisions to adopt or not based on individual components of CA and not CA as a package,” says Chibamba, who is also chairperson of the Advisory and Approvals committee of the Zambia Civil Society Environment Fund phase two, funded by the Finnish Embassy and managed by Panos Institute Southern Africa under its (CBNRM) forum.

This year’s World Food Day was themed around investing in food security and rural development to change the future of migration—which has over the years been proved to be as a result of the former. And FAO Country Representative George Okechi stresses that his organization is committed to supporting Zambia in rural development and food security to reduce rural-urban drift.

“With our expertise and experience, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, we continue providing policy support to ensure that farmers get desired services for rural development,” says Okechi.

“We are also keen to help farmers cope with effects of climate change which make people make a move from rural areas to urban cities in search of opportunities,” he added, in apparent reference to Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives that FAO is implementing in Zambia, among which is CASU.

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Why Water, Soap and Toilets are Keys to Ending Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/water-soap-toilets-keys-ending-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-soap-toilets-keys-ending-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/water-soap-toilets-keys-ending-malnutrition/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 08:04:54 +0000 Tim Wainwright http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152895 Tim Wainwright is CEO of WaterAid

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Student, was given hygiene education in school and told his family what he had learnt, Ta Ngi Primary School, Pursat, Cambodia. Credit: WaterAid/ Laura Summerton

By Tim Wainwright
LONDON, Nov 6 2017 (IPS)

I started work this morning feeling disillusioned. A report had hit my desk that painted a very bleak picture of the state of the world’s health – and for a moment I was over-whelmed by just how much work there was left to do. Then I regrouped – and began making plans.

The Global Nutrition report revealed that despite all of the hard work that’s gone into improving the world’s health, malnutrition remains a serious problem in almost every nation in the world. Some 815 million people go to bed hungry – almost forty million more than in 2015.

And one in five pre-school age children are under-developed, or stunted, because of malnourishment in the first 1,000 days of their life – that’s 155 million children whose brains and bodies are damaged forever.

In some parts of the world the situation is even more dire. Almost half of India’s youngest children are stunted – the life chances of half of a generation damaged even before their first day at school.

And with 613 million women of child-bearing age worldwide suffering from anaemia, one of the largest causes of birth complications, the cycle of malnutrition seems doomed to repeat itself.

The frustrating truth is that despite all best efforts, we are losing the war against malnutrition. And the reason is very simple – we’re fighting the wrong enemy.
Strange as it sounds, giving people more, or even better, food isn’t always enough to keep them well nourished.

That’s because up to half of the malnutrition faced by the world’s under-nourished people isn’t so just because they lack food. It’s because they suffer from chronic infection and illness, from dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

One-third of the world’s population doesn’t have access to a decent private toilet, and another 844 million are without clean water – and so diarrhoeal diseases like cholera are quickly spread. Such diseases are responsible for the deaths of 800 children every single day. However, chronic diarrhoea worm infestations, and other infections, can also prevent the absorption of nutrients from food. Even a full belly cannot protect from malnutrition, if your body can’t absorb the nutrients it’s given.

That’s why the world needs to rethink its approach to malnutrition, because the status quo just isn’t going to get the job done. If we want to ensure children’s futures aren’t damaged before their lives have even really begun, then governments, policy-makers and donors need to stop thinking of malnutrition as something that can be stopped with food alone, and start making clean water and toilets a priority.

Through WaterAid’s work we can identify progress in embracing this way of thinking. As the Global Nutrition Report highlights, in Cambodia, where stunting affects one in three of its youngest residents, the government and their partners are improving access to clean water and toilets and treating water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, development and health as inter-related challenges, not as completely separate issues handled by different departments.

If we are to have any chance of meeting the Global Goal to end malnutrition by 2030, and to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and decent toilets, then others need to adopt this approach, and bolster it with political leadership and funding.

Malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, but it is also an opportunity to do better. Addressing malnutrition while serving those who are hardest to reach with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene would be among the greatest advancements in modern history.

Economists estimate that for every £1 spent on improved water and sanitation, £4 results in improved productivity; for every £1 spent on improved nutrition, £16 of economic gains result. The ripple effects of achieving both would lead to better health and education, and increased prosperity for millions.

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Locals Learn to Live in Harmony with Drought in Brazil’s Semi-arid Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/locals-learn-live-harmony-drought-brazils-semiarid-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=locals-learn-live-harmony-drought-brazils-semiarid-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/locals-learn-live-harmony-drought-brazils-semiarid-region/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 20:37:39 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152861 Irrigated green fields of vineyards and monoculture crops coexist in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast with dry plains dotted with flowering cacti and native crops traditionally planted by the locals. Two models of development in struggle, with very different fruits. On his 17-hectare farm in Canudos, in the state of Bahia, João Afonso Almeida grows vegetables, sorghum, […]

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João Afonso stands amidst his watermelons and other forage plants on his farm in the municipality of Canudos, in the state of Bahia, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Thanks to water and soil management techniques, the droughts are not so hard on him, his crops or his animals. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

João Afonso stands amidst his watermelons and other forage plants on his farm in the municipality of Canudos, in the state of Bahia, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Thanks to water and soil management techniques, the droughts are not so hard on him, his crops or his animals. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CANUDOS, Brazil, Nov 2 2017 (IPS)

Irrigated green fields of vineyards and monoculture crops coexist in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast with dry plains dotted with flowering cacti and native crops traditionally planted by the locals. Two models of development in struggle, with very different fruits.

On his 17-hectare farm in Canudos, in the state of Bahia, João Afonso Almeida grows vegetables, sorghum, passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), palm trees, citrus and forage plants.

Between the rows, cactus plants grow to feed his goats and sheep, such as guandú (Cajanus cajan), wild watermelon, leucaena and mandacurú (Cereus jamacaru)."What we have done is simply to read nature. Observing how plants can survive for eight months without rain, and how animals adapt to drought, and drawing conclusions for how people should do things. It is not about technology or books. It is simply observation of nature applied to human action.” -- Harold Schistek

The earth is dry and dusty in the Caatinga, an ecosystem exclusive to Brazil’s semiarid region, where droughts can last for years, alternating with periods of annual rainfall of 200 to 800 mm, along with high evaporation rates.

But thanks to simple rainwater harvesting techniques, Almeida has managed to live harmoniously with the local ecosystem.

“This is a water harvesting ‘calçadão’ (embankment),” he told IPS, showing a tank installed with the help of the Regional Institute for Appropriate Small Farming (IRPAA), which is part of the Networking in Brazil’s Semiarid Region (ASA) movement, along with another 3,000 social organisations.

“The water goes to the tank-calçadão that has a capacity to store 52,000 litres. We use it to water the garden. It provides an income for the families,” he added.

For domestic consumption, he has a 16,000-litre tank that collects rainwater from the roof of his house through gutters and pipes.

ASA has installed one million tanks for family consumption and 250,000 for small agricultural facilities in the semiarid Northeast.

Almeida uses an “enxurrada” (flow) tank, and an irrigation system for his citrus trees, which through a narrow pipe irrigates the roots without wasting water. He also opted for plants native to the Caatinga that adapt naturally to the local climate and soil conditions.

“Production has improved a great deal, we work less and have better results. And we also conserve the Caatinga ecosystem. I believed in this, while many people did not, and thank God because we sleep well even though we’ve already had three years of drought,” he said.

In the past, droughts used to kill in this region. Between 1979 and 1983, drought caused up to one million deaths, and drove a mass exodus to large cities due to thirst and hunger.

“The farm used to be far from any source of water. We had to walk two to three kilometers, setting out early with buckets,” he recalled.

The droughts did not end but they no longer produce deaths among the peasants of Brazil’s semiarid Northeast, a region that is home to some 23 million of Brazil’s 208 million people.

This was thanks to the strategy of “coexistence with the semiarid”, promoted by ASA, in contrast with the historical policies of the “drought industry”, which exploited the tragedy, charging high prices for water or exchanging it for votes, distributing water in tanker trucks.

Part of the extensive vineyards of the Especial Fruit company in the São Francisco River valley, where irrigation projects have made it possible to grow fruit on a large scale for export, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

Part of the extensive vineyards of the Especial Fruit company in the São Francisco River valley, where irrigation projects have made it possible to grow fruit on a large scale for export, in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

“Coexistence with the semiarid ecosystem is something completely natural that actually people around the world have done in relation to their climates. The Eskimos coexist with the icy Arctic climate, the Tuareg (nomads of the Sahara desert) coexist with the desert climate,” the president of the IRPAA, Harold Schistek, told IPS in his office in the city of Juazeiro, in the Northeast state of Bahía.

“What we have done is simply to read nature. Observing how plants can survive for eight months without rain, and how animals adapt to drought, and drawing conclusions for how people should do things. It is not about technology or books. It is simply observation of nature applied to human action,” he explained.

The “coexistence” is based on respecting the ecosystem and reviving traditional agricultural practices.

The basic principle is to store up in preparation for drought – everything from water to native seeds, and fodder for goats and sheep, the most resistant species.

The fruits are seen in the Cooperative of Farming Families from Canudos and Curaçá (Coopercuc), made up of about 250 families from those municipalities in the state of Bahía.

Coopercuc, which Almeida is a member of, has an industrial plant in Uauá, where they make jellies and jams with fruits of the Caaatinga, such as umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and passion fruit, with pulps processed in mini-factories run by the cooperative members.

“We’re not only concerned with making a profit but also with the sustainable use of the raw materials of the Caatinga. For example, the harvest of the ombú (Phytolacca dioica) used to be done in a very harmful way, swinging the tree to make the fruit fall,” Coopercuc vice-president José Edimilson Alves told IPS.

Now, he said, “we instruct the members of the cooperative to collect the fruit by hand, and to avoid breaking the branches. We also do not allow native wood or living plants to be extracted.”

The cooperative sells its products, free of agrochemicals, to large Brazilian cities and has exported to France and Austria.

“This proposal shows that it is possible to live, and with a good quality of life, in the semiarid region,” said Alves.

This reality exists in the 200,000-hectare fruit-growing area of the São Francisco River valley, located between the municipalities of Petrolina (state of Pernambuco) and Juazeiro. Government incentives and irrigation techniques favoured the installation of agribusiness in the area.

According to the State Development Company of the Valleys of São Francisco and Parnaíba, fruit growers in the area generate over 800 million dollars a year, and provide about 100,000 jobs.

“It is estimated that this use of irrigation represents 80 percent of all uses of the basin. But we have to consider that the collection of water for these projects promotes the economic and social development of our region by generating employment and revenues, through the export of fresh and canned fruit to Europe and the United States,” explained the company’s manager, Joselito Menezes.

The company Especial Fruit, which has about 3,000 hectares in the valley and 2,200 workers, produces thousands of tons of grapes and mangos every year, which are exported mostly to the United States, Argentina and Chile, along with a smaller volume of melons, for the local market.

“All the irrigation is done with the drip system, since good management of water is very important due to the limitations of water resources,” the company’s president Suemi Koshiyama told IPS.

He explained that “The furrow irrigation system only takes advantage of 40 percent of the water, and spray irrigation makes use of 60 percent, compared to 85 percent for drip irrigation.”

“The region that has the least water is the one that uses the most. Thousands of litres are used to produce crops, so when the region exports it is also exporting water and minerals from the soil, especially with sugarcane,” said Moacir dos Santos, an expert at the IRPAA.

“In a region with very little water and fertile soil, we have to question the validity of this. The scarce water should be used to produce food, in a sustainable manner,” he told IPS.

According to ASA, one and a half million farm families have only 4.2 percent of the arable land in the semiarid region, while 1.3 percent of the agro-industrial farms of over 1,000 hectares occupy 38 percent of the lands.

“Family farmers produce the food. Agribusiness produces commodities. And although it has a strong impact on the trade balance, at a local level, family farming actually supplies the economy,” dos Santos said.

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Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:58:24 +0000 Peter Vos http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152825 Peter Vos is Global Sector Lead Water, Global Green Growth Institute

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Renewable energy sources are not available to every country, never mind their still high capital and installation costs, which can be restraining factors

Credit: Bigstock

By Peter Vos
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Sustainable water supply is imperative for economic growth, but so often gets side-lined in the rush for development. The unanticipated consequence is a global economy that is increasingly stunted by water resource challenges, with worldwide predictions suggesting that global water demand will increase by approximately 75% more than global water supply in the next 30 years!

For most of Africa, economic development, urbanisation and food security have traditionally been linked by a strong but delicate bond, with poor management of national resources threatening to destroy this balance. In Ethiopia, extreme hydrological variability (climate change) has also been a key impediment to sustainable water management, resulting in periods of severe drought for this ‘Water tower of Africa’. The Government of Ethiopia has set ambitious targets for broad-based economic growth in its Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II), with the ambition of becoming a lower middle-income country by 2025. These targets will heavily depend on and impact available freshwater sources. As a result, water efficiency increase and water conservation are now increasingly seen as critical for ensuring future water resources.

Based on the premise of ‘increased water efficiency’ as opposed to ‘increased water resources’, key policy and investment specialists from both the public and private sector gathered in Addis Ababa on 17 October to discuss Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region, as part of the Global Green Growth Week 2017. Co-moderated by Peter Vos (Global Water Sector Lead of the Global Green Growth Institute) and Kitty van der Heijden (Director of Africa and Europe of the World Resource Institute), the session attracted some 70 actors and stakeholders from the local and international water sector. Featuring six distinguished panellists, the primary question reiterated throughout the session was what are the main impediments to sustainable water management, and what innovative tools can be used to solve these?

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 1

 

The audience set the scene on the current water situation in their region, with 77% saying that they were very worried that the lack of water resources could impact economic growth (Figure 1). However, 84% also said that access to clean, reliable water resources has improved over the past 10 years (Figure 2), shining a positive light on the situation. This optimism was echoed by panellist H.E. Dr. Mary Kitutu (Minister of State for Environment of Uganda) and keynote speaker Tesfaye Fichala (Special Assistant to the Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity of Ethiopia), who gave examples of large scale reforestation and wetland restoration success stories in Uganda, and the positive impacts of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) to date. Sustainable water management, particularly at the energy-water nexus, is essential for both Ethiopia and Uganda who aim to become middle income countries in the next 10 years.

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 2

 

Most participants agreed that sustainable water management is primarily a function of the government, with research institutions, civil society and the private sector also having a prominent role (Figure 3). Panellist Joy Busolo (Kenya representative of the 2030 Water Resources Group) stressed the importance for collective action and collaboration, as “the private sector has a role to play in terms of innovative financial mechanisms, and a main priority for 2030 WRG is to crowd more private sector finance”. Panellist Tafese Refera (Director of Public Affairs and Communication of Coca Cola Sabco) shared similar sentiments, stating that water is a major worry for Coca Cola, and increasing the sustainability of water resources is a major concern. In the last two decades, four of the seven boreholes drilled in Ethiopia have completely dried up, and local bottling companies are committed to financially investing a large portion of their profits to sustainable water practices. He stated that it is not simply a case of raising the cost of water, as “by raising costs, we are ultimately marginalising the poor”. Panellist Khalid Bomba (CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, ATA) added that from his experience, ownership by local communities is far more important than putting a price tag on water, as local communities will ensure that water use is sustainable.

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 3

 

Both the audience and panellists agreed that effective water policies is one of the most influential tools for promoting sustainable water management. Panellists Khalid Bomba and Dr. Gete Eshetu (Director of the Water and Land Resource Centre, WLRC, Addis Ababa University) stressed the importance of evidence-based policy interventions as a powerful tool for change. An abundance of data is available, but is often scattered and not always easily translated into practical application. “Ensuring that the knowledge base and available data is fully robust, and that decision-makers have access to it and know what to do with it”, is a key challenge that Khalid Bomba has identified for his organisation. In a region where the agriculture sector accounts for more than 70% of water demand, many organisations focus on quantifying water sustainability, with the ATA having mapped 70% of the shallow groundwater, and the WLRC addressing the challenges of land degradation and associated poverty in Ethiopia and the eastern Nile sub-region, to name just a few.

Ethiopia will undoubtedly be confronted by numerous water challenges on its path to economic transformation, but this session serves as a reminder to the wealth of ideas and opportunities that that can arise from collaboration. ‘Accessible data, awareness on all levels, sustainable investments, political willingness, policy coherence, multi-sectoral partnerships, involvement of the private sector, water fees, and land restoration’ are some of the suggested solutions that could guide Ethiopia on a path to sustainable water management.

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Impending Drought? There’s an App for That – Or Should Behttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impending-drought-theres-app http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/#comments Mon, 30 Oct 2017 20:48:34 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152807 Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. […]

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A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 percent.Drought-prone regions also run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Likewise, drought caused as a result of climate change, a complex global phenomenon with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is causing more deaths and displacing more people than any other natural disaster.

UNCCD told IPS that extreme and erratic weather events such as droughts, flash floods, hurricanes, and typhoons increase food insecurity. For instance, droughts create food shortages. Flashfloods erode fertile soil. These phenomena degrade the land, reducing its capacity to absorb and store water, in turn, its productivity.

Therefore, the continent needs a paradigm shift that would lead to the effective mitigation and resilience to the effects of climate change.

For example, implementing early warning systems and new technologies by metrological agencies, use of cell phones to share climate information with local communities, the creation of climate maps and deployment of drones to collect climate data.

“Comprehensive early warning systems would help countries to analyze drought risk, to monitor and predict the location and intensity of an upcoming drought, to alert and communicate in time to the authorities, media and vulnerable communities and to inform affected populations what options or courses of action they can take to pre-empt or reduce the potential impact of an oncoming drought,” said UNCCD.

According to UNCCD, adopting smart tech strategies would help Africa to address the drought challenges in many ways, depending on the action strategy and the technology and its application. For herders and pastoralists in the African drylands, for example, smart techs/mobile applications would help increase the security of pastoral zones by guiding them to the nearest water resources so as to ensure year-round access to grazing and water.

Moreover, it would support them to create networks as they arrive in unfamiliar communities, helping them gather relevant information related to their livestock as well as access to emergency management and weather.

According to the Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience report, while drought is a global phenomenon, the impacts are more severe in developing countries where coping capacities are limited.

In sub-Saharan Africa, drought causes significant food insecurity and famine. It has crippled countries from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe and affected as many as 36 million people in the region.

Drought in sub-Saharan Africa is also associated with social unrest, local conflict, and forced migration. Drought-prone regions run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Nicholas Sitko, Programme Coordinator, Agricultural Development Economics Divisions at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and an expert in rural development with extensive experience in Africa, told IPS that much needs to be done in Africa, where large shares of the population rely directly on agriculture production or indirectly on agriculture.

When farmers have knowledge of impending climate events, they can select more appropriate seed types or crop varieties, or can shift their investments and labor to other activities that are less prone to the climate shock.

“This is really critical for building resilience to climate change. The use of new forecasting models coupled with ICT that can link this information to policymakers and farmers provides new opportunities for adaptation than existed just a few years ago. Yet, they still remain fairly limited in scope and need to be scaled out to more users,” said Sitko.

He noted that there is already a range of on-the-shelf farm practices that can help farmers improve and stabilize yields in the context of climate change, but what is appropriate for a farmer varies considerably by climate region and their economic conditions.

FAO is working with the World Meteorological Organization to better respond to climate variability and climate change on the basis of better and more readily accessible data.

Speaking at a G7 Agriculture Ministers meeting on Oct. 14, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted that some 75 countries mainly in Africa, and many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), do not have the capacity to translate the weather data, including longer-term forecasts, data into information for farmers.

“There is an urgent need to take the data which is available globally and to translate it to the ground level,” he said.

Florence Atieno, a smallholder farmer from Western Kenya, would welcome technology that enabled farmers to obtain accurate scientific information on when to plant, to assess the mineral deficiencies in the soil to purchase the right fertilizers, to access knowledge about improved farming techniques and to negotiate better prices for their crop.

She told IPS not all people, systems, regions and sectors are equally vulnerable to drought, stressing that it was important to combine forecasts with detailed knowledge of how landscapes and societies respond to the lack of rain. That knowledge is then turned into an early intervention.

“Africa needs to understand who is vulnerable and why, as well as the processes that contribute to vulnerability in order to assess the risk profiles of vulnerable regions and population groups,” said Atieno.

 

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Kashmir’s Farmland Plowed Under in Wave of Urbanizationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/kashmir-farmland-plowed-wave-urbanization/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kashmir-farmland-plowed-wave-urbanization http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/kashmir-farmland-plowed-wave-urbanization/#comments Sun, 29 Oct 2017 00:17:29 +0000 Umar Manzoor Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152782 In central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, 40-year-old Javaid Ahmad Hurra remembers vividly how his small hamlet used to be lush and green when he was a child. It is now subtly turning into a concrete jungle, with cement structures dominating the scenery. Walking past new houses under construction, Javaid says the entire place was once filled […]

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New construction goes on unabated in central Kashmir’s Shalteng area where people have given up farming and are selling their lands for development. Credit: Umer Asif/IPS

By Umar Manzoor Shah
SRINAGAR, India, Oct 29 2017 (IPS)

In central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, 40-year-old Javaid Ahmad Hurra remembers vividly how his small hamlet used to be lush and green when he was a child. It is now subtly turning into a concrete jungle, with cement structures dominating the scenery.

Walking past new houses under construction, Javaid says the entire place was once filled with vast paddy fields. “Now, residential colonies have been built and no one is sowing crops anymore,” he told IPS."The easiest way to earn money for the farming community in Kashmir is to sell land or convert it into a concrete commercial structure.” --Ghulam Nabi Dar

Javaid is not alone in witnessing ruthless urbanisation in places that used to be the agricultural hubs of India’s northern state, Jammu and Kashmir. According to the state policy document on land use, due to rapid urbanisation and unplanned land use, the landlocked Kashmir Valley is losing a majority of its cultivable lands.

The December 2016 report says that every year, the Kashmir Valley is losing an average of 1,375 hectares of agricultural land due to rapid construction of commercial infrastructure, brick kilns, residential colonies and shopping complexes.

According to the department of agriculture in Kashmir, within the past 16 years, the region has lost 22,000 hectares of agriculture land. The survey conducted by the department reveals that farmland dwindled from 163,000 hectares in 1996 to 141,000 hectares in 2012.

Kashmir is a hilly state and its net area (in the Indian part) is 101,387 sq kms. Its population per the 2011 census is 12.5 million. The forest cover of the state is 20 percent of its total geographical area and the density is 124 people per sq km.

Agriculture plays a prominent role in the economy of this Himalayan region, with around 70 percent of its total population living in rural areas, and who are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.

According to Mir Yasir Ahmad, a researcher at the University of Kashmir, the shrinking of agricultural land can be attributed to rapid urbanisation and the unplanned emergence of residential colonies in paddy fields.

“The government isn’t taking any serious measures to preserve the agricultural lands here, due to which the concrete structures are coming up places that used to be vast paddy fields some 10 or 20 years ago,” Ahmad told IPS.

According to the state’s 2016 economic survey, the local production of food grains has not keep pace with demand, and yields of principal crops like rice, maize, and wheat have not grown over the years.

“Moreover, the scope for increasing net area sown is very limited and landholding is shrinking due to a continuous breakdown of the joint family system, growing urbanization and population explosion,” it says.

It concludes by warning that the state is facing a deficit in agricultural production and food grains are being imported from other regions of India.

Javaid Ahmad Hurra at his small orchard in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal area. Credit: Umer Asif/IPS

Javaid Ahmad Hurra at his small orchard in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal area. Credit: Umer Asif/IPS

Yasir Ahmad says the situation on the ground is even worse than the government reports describe. He says independent surveys have revealed that the net area sown in Kashmir at present is a mere 7 percent, and the cultivable land in the state has shrunk to 30 percent.

Ghulam Nabi Dar, a farmer from North Kashmir’s Baramulla, told IPS that the basic reason for the shrinking of the agricultural lands in the valley is the desperation of farmers.

“There is no market for the rice crops in Kashmir and the government isn’t providing the irrigation facilities as it should to the farmers. The easiest way to earn money for the farming community in Kashmir is to sell land or convert it into a concrete commercial structure,” Dar said.

According to a recent survey conducted this year by the University of Agricultural Sciences, urbanisation and rapid construction on paddy fields has hit the region’s agriculture sector hard.

The contribution of agriculture to region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined 11 percent in 12 years. The survey reveals that during the fiscal year 2004-5, agriculture contributed 28 percent to Kashmir’s GDP. Now its contribution has dipped to a mere 17 percent.

According to the survey, the conversion of agricultural lands into residential colonies and commercial complexes has resulted in a sharp decline in jobs. The workforce employed in the agriculture sector of Kashmir has declined from 85 percent in 1961 to 28 percent at present.

Javaid Ahmad Hurra, a fruit grower from central Kashmir, says climate change in Kashmir has also had a major impact. He says unseasonable rainfall and belated snowfall has been hitting the sector hard and the people associated with the business have incurred losses every year.

Javaid has a small orchard of two hectares where he grows apples and sells the fruit to dealers. He used to work paddy land, but shifted from agriculture to horticulture in hopes of turning a profit. However, according to Javaid, his earnings have been low over the past five years and he too is planning to sell land to start some other business.

Last year, the Kashmir Valley witnessed a prolonged dry spell during the peak winter months. The level of rivers fell, causing scarcity of water and hydroelectricity in the region.

According to the advocacy group Action Aid’s 2007 report on climate change in Kashmir, average temperatures in the region have shown a rise of 1.45 C., while in the Jammu region, the rise is 2.32 C.

Javaid says this March, unseasonal snowfall caused heavy losses to the farming community of Kashmir, which was already reeling under the crises due to five month long violent protests of 2016 and devastating floods of 2014.

“The farmers are now seeing an easy way to earn money. They sell a hectare of land every year and live a life of comfort. Why would we want to incur losses and gain nothing?” said Javaid.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is actively pursuing its vision for sustainable agriculture production systems across the globe and focuses on ways to ensure the transition to sustainable practices. The FAO focuses on managing ecological, social and economic risks associated with agricultural sector production systems, including pests, diseases and climate change.

It is also working on identifying and enhancing the role of ecosystem services, particularly in terms of their effects on resource use efficiency and response to risks, as well as their contribution to environmental conservation; and facilitating access to needed information and technologies.

For Ghulam Nabi Dar, a farmer from central Kashmir’s Budgam, still holds out hope the sector can be revived.

“We need a proper market for agriculture and also we need to have a proper irrigation system in place, which at present is missing. If an international agency would come forward and introduce the latest technologies and strategies, the sector would get a new life,” Dar told IPS.

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Biotechnology Part of the Solution to Africa’s Food Insecurity, Scientists Sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/biotechnology-part-solution-africas-food-insecurity-scientists-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biotechnology-part-solution-africas-food-insecurity-scientists-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/biotechnology-part-solution-africas-food-insecurity-scientists-say/#comments Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:23:21 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152431 A growing number of African countries are increasingly becoming food insecure as delayed and insufficient rainfall, as well as crop damaging pests such as the ongoing outbreak of the fall armyworm, cause the most severe maize crisis in the last decade. Experts have warned that as weather patterns become even more erratic and important crops […]

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Reduced and insufficient rainfall as well as crop-damaging pests threaten to cripple the very backbone of African economies. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Reduced and insufficient rainfall as well as crop-damaging pests threaten to cripple the very backbone of African economies. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

A growing number of African countries are increasingly becoming food insecure as delayed and insufficient rainfall, as well as crop damaging pests such as the ongoing outbreak of the fall armyworm, cause the most severe maize crisis in the last decade.

Experts have warned that as weather patterns become even more erratic and important crops such as maize are unable to resist the fall armyworm infestation, there will not be enough food on the table."Even as we push for biotechnology, there is a need for regulations that guarantee the protection and safety of people and the environment." --Hilda Mukui, an agriculturalist and conservationist in Kenya

Confirming that indeed a severe food crisis looms while at the same time calling for immediate and sufficient responses, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) 2017 World Food Day theme is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”

Over 17 million people in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda have reached emergency food insecurity levels, according to the UN agency.

“Maize is an important food crop in many African countries and the inability of local varieties to withstand the growing threats from the fall armyworm which can destroy an entire crop in a matter of weeks raises significant concerns,” Hilda Mukui, an agriculturalist and conservationist in Kenya, told IPS.

“Due to its migratory nature, the pest can move across borders as is the case in Kenya where the fall armyworm migrated from Uganda and has so far been spotted in Kenya’s nine counties in Western, Rift Valley and parts of the Coastal agricultural areas,” she said.

FAO continues to issue warnings over the fall armyworm, expressing concerns that most countries are ill-prepared to handle the threat.

David Phiri, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, says that this is “a new threat in Southern Africa and we are very concerned with the emergence, intensity and spread of the pest. It is only a matter of time before most of the region will be affected.”

The UN agency has confirmed that the pest has destroyed at least 17,000 hectares of maize fields in Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Across Africa, an estimated 330,000 hectares have been destroyed.

“To understand the magnitude of this destruction, the average maize yield for small scale farmers in many African countries is between 1.2 and 1.5 tons per hectare,” Dr George Keya, the national coordinator of the of the Arid and Semi-arid lands Agricultural Productivity Research Project, told IPS.

FAO statistics show that Africa’s largest producers of maize, including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa, are all grappling with the fall armyworm outbreak.

Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture notes that the maize stalk borer or the African armyworm – which is different from the fall armyworm – cost farmers at least 25 million dollars annually in missed produce and is concerned that additional threats from the vicious Fall Armyworms will cripple maize production.

FAO and the government of Nigeria in September 2017 signed a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) agreement as part of a concerted joint effort to manage the spread of the fall armyworm across the country.

According to experts, sectors such as the poultry industry that relies heavily on maize to produce poultry feed have also been affected.

Within this context, scientists are now pushing African governments to embrace biotechnology to address the many threats that are currently facing the agricultural sector and leading to the alarming food insecurity.

According to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a genetically modified variety of maize has shown significant resistance to the fall armyworm.

Based on results from the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize trials in Uganda, scientists are convinced that there is an immediate and sufficient solution to the fall armyworm.

Although chemical sprays can control the pest, scientists are adamant that the Bt maize is the most effective solution to the armyworm menace.

Experts say that the Bt maize has been genetically modified to produce Bt protein, an insecticide that kills certain pests.

Consequently, a growing list of African countries have approved field testing of genetically modified crops as a way to achieve food security using scientific innovations.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) which is a public-private crop breeding initiative to assist farmers in managing the risk of drought and stem borers across Africa, is currently undertaking Bt maize trials in Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and recently concluded trials in South Africa to find a solution to the fall armyworm invasion.

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation confirms that on a scale of one to nine, based on the Bt maize trials in Uganda, the damage from the armyworm was three for the Bt genetically modified variety and six on the local checks or the popularly grown varieties.

Similarly, Bt maize trials in Mozambique have shown that on a scale of one to nine, the damage was on 1.5 on Bt maize and seven on popularly grown varieties.

“These results are very promising and it is important that African countries review their biosafety rules and regulations so that science can rescue farmers from the many threats facing the agricultural sector,” Mukui explains.

In Africa, there are strict restrictions that bar scientists from exploring biotechnology solutions to boost crop yields.

According to Mukui, only four countries – South Africa, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Egypt – have commercialized genetically modified crops, while 19 countries have established biosafety regulatory systems, four countries are developing regulatory systems, 21 countries are a work in progress, and 10 have no National Biosafety Frameworks.

Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and more recently Kenya are among the countries that have approved GM crop trials after the Kenya Biosafety Authority granted approval for limited release of insect resistant Bt maize for trials.

As Africa’s small-scale farmers face uncertain times as extreme climate conditions, crop failure, an influx of pests and diseases threaten to cripple the agricultural sector, experts say that there is sufficient capacity, technology and science to build resilience and cushion farmers against such threats.

“But even as we push for biotechnology, there is a need for regulations that guarantee the protection and safety of people and the environment,” Mukui cautions.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Joining Forces to Improve Lives in Honduran Shantytownshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/joining-forces-improve-lives-honduran-shantytowns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joining-forces-improve-lives-honduran-shantytowns http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/joining-forces-improve-lives-honduran-shantytowns/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 19:27:49 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152374 On the north side of the Honduran capital, nine poor neighbourhoods are rewriting their future, amidst the violence and insecurity that plague them as “hot spots” ruled by “maras” or gangs. IPS toured one of the shantytowns – known in Honduras as “colonias” – to get an up-close view of a project of urban development […]

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Rainwater Harvesting Improves Lives in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rainwater-harvesting-improves-lives-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rainwater-harvesting-improves-lives-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rainwater-harvesting-improves-lives-el-salvador/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:33:52 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152354 Filling a jug with water to supply her household needs used to be an ordeal for Salvadoran villager Corina Canjura, because it meant walking several kilometers to the river, which took up a great deal of time, or else paying for water. But an innovative project of rainwater harvesting has changed her life. “Now we […]

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Corina Canjura loads a jug of water that she has just filled, thanks to a system of rainwater collection located on the ground next to her house, which also supplies another 12 families in the village of Los Corvera in the municipality of Tepetitán, in the central Salvadoran department of San Vicente. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Corina Canjura loads a jug of water that she has just filled, thanks to a system of rainwater collection located on the ground next to her house, which also supplies another 12 families in the village of Los Corvera in the municipality of Tepetitán, in the central Salvadoran department of San Vicente. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
TEPETITÁN, El Salvador, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

Filling a jug with water to supply her household needs used to be an ordeal for Salvadoran villager Corina Canjura, because it meant walking several kilometers to the river, which took up a great deal of time, or else paying for water.

But an innovative project of rainwater harvesting has changed her life.

“Now we just pump, fill the tank and we have water ready to use,” said the 30-year-old woman from the village of Los Corvera, in the rural municipality of Tepetitán, in El Salvador’s central department of San Vicente.

In this village, 13 families benefit from a system that collects the rainwater that falls on the roof of Canjura’s house, which is then channeled through a pipe into a huge polyethylene bag, with a capacity of 25,000 liters.

From there, it is manually pumped into a tank with a faucet used by all of the families.

“Since it has rained a lot, the bag is always full, which is a joy for us,” Canjura told IPS, while carrying a jug on her head which she had just filled."We are the ones who do the housework and have to go looking for water... we are the ones who worry and suffer to find it for our families." -- Lorena Ramirez

The initiative, launched in February 2017, is being promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP), which, together with Australian aid and the Ford Foundation, have provided funds to get it going, while local organisations and governments have given operational support.

The system´s technology was developed by the consortium Mexichem Amanco, which entered into the market of polyethylene membranes used as waterproof barriers in civil engineering works, sanitary landfills, and artificial lagoons for aquaculture, among other uses.

In 2013, GWP Central America had already promoted a water harvesting project in southern Honduras in communities suffering from drought, and this project is being replicated in El Salvador’s Jiboa Valley.

In this small country of 6.4 million people, eight rainwater harvesting systems have been installed so far in seven municipalities in the Jiboa valley in San Vicente. There is one in each municipality, except for Jerusalen, located in the department of La Paz, where two systems have been installed.

Of the 323 families identified as having problems of access to water in rural communities in these municipalities, 100 are benefiting directly from the project, conceived of as a pilot plan that would offer lessons for its expansion to other areas.

Participation by local women has been vital to the implementation of the project, taking advantage of the fact that they already have a strong presence in the communities through the Network of Women Entrepreneurs of the Jiboa Valley.

“We are the ones who do the housework and have to go looking for water… we are the ones who worry and suffer to find it for our families,” said 43-year-old Lorena Ramirez.

Ramirez shared her experience with IPS during a meeting on the country’s water situation, held on Sept. 21 in San Vicente, the capital of the department.

Women from rural communities in the Jiboa Valley debate at a forum in San Vicente, in central El Salvador, about the impact of water scarcity in that ecoregion. They are the main drivers of the installation in their villages of a system of rainwater harvesting, which has improved the living conditions of the participating families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Women from rural communities in the Jiboa Valley debate at a forum in San Vicente, in central El Salvador, about the impact of water scarcity in that ecoregion. They are the main drivers of the installation in their villages of a system of rainwater harvesting, which has improved the living conditions of the participating families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

She is originally from Hacienda Nuevo Oriente, a village of 400 people, located in the jurisdiction of Verapaz, also in the department of San Vicente. There, another 15 families are benefiting from the harvesting of rainwater.

Ramírez, a homemaker who has a kitchen garden, added that, before the arrival of the project, the families of the village had to look for water in the ravines to wash clothes and for other necessities.

The water they used to drink was fetched from a spring located a kilometer away, but they had to get up very early, otherwise it would be empty. “We drank from that spring,” she said.

During the May to October rainy season there is no problem keeping the polyethylene bag full, Ramirez said. But during the dry season, they will have to establish a mechanism for using the resource wisely.

It is estimated that the 25,000 liters stored in the bag are equivalent to five tanker trucks, and can supply a family for 15 days to one month, depending on the use, although each system installed in El Salvador is intended for 15 families.

“We can’t say this completely meets the needs of those 15 families; this is for filling a couple of jugs for drinking water and to use for basic things,” she stressed.

And when the water runs out in the summer, the participating municipalities have committed to sending tanker trucks and keep the bags filled, so there will always be water.

The basic idea is that the harvested water is exclusively for drinking, so the families involved in the program have received a filter to make it potable.

The University of El Salvador will provide equipment and scientific personnel to measure the quality of the water that has been purified, said Marta Alfaro, mayor of Jerusalen, one of the municipalities participating in the programme.

One of these systems is currently being installed in the Jerusalen neighborhood of El Progreso, and another in the village of Veracruz.

“We want to keep installing more systems, it’s not so costly, but the thing is that this year it was not included in the budget,” Alfaro told IPS.

For the next year her administration will include in the budget the installation of 10 systems in 10 other communities.

Each system costs around 1,400 dollars, Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation, told IPS.

The plan to harvest rainwater is “a short-term solution for rural communities, instead of installing water pipes connected to the national grid or other mechanisms, which would be for the medium and long term,” added Chanta, who is also a volunteer at the Water Youth Network, an independent space promoted by GWP Central America.

And with the already visible climate change effects, this effort “has the potential to be an alternative for the adaptation to climate change impacts,” she said.

Jorge García, of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ Water Fund, told IPS that one of the main goals of the water plan is to store water in large reservoirs, to address the problem of scarcity.

The plan would cost about 1.2 billion dollars, he said.

“This pilot project in the Jiboa Valley will set a precedent that can be replicated,” he said.

And while the water collected is primarily for drinking, Lorena Ramírez, from Hacienda Nueva Oriente, said that because in the rainy season the bag fills up quickly and must be drained, she plans to capture that surplus in a small well and use it in her garden.

“That way I use it to cover our main needs and irrigate my milpa (traditional corn crop) and my crops of beans, tomatoes and green beans, and without affecting the other 14 families,” she concluded.

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The Tuxá Indigenous Paradise, Submerged under Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/#respond Sat, 30 Sep 2017 21:43:52 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152296 The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir. […]

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Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RODELAS, Brazil, Sep 30 2017 (IPS)

The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir.

Dorinha Tuxá, one of the leaders of this native community, which currently has between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants, sings on the shore of what they still call “river”, although now it is an 828-sq-km reservoir, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, along the border with the state of Bahia, to the south.

While singing the song dedicated to their “sacred” river and smoking her “maraku”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, she looks dreamily at the waters where the “Widow’s Island” was submerged, one of several that sprinkled the lower course of the São Francisco River, and on which the members of her community used to live.“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone." -- Manoel Jurum Afé

“This song is to ask our community for unity, because in this struggle we are asking for the strength of our ancestors to help us recover our territory. A landless indigenous person is a naked indigenous person. We are asking our ancestors to bless us in this battle and protect our warriors,” she told IPS.

The hydroelectric plant, with a capacity of 1,480 megawatts, is one of eight installed by the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (CHESF), whose operations are centered on that river which runs across much of the Brazilian Northeast region: 2,914 km from its source in the center of the country to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast.

After the flood, the Tuxá people were relocated to three municipalities. Some were settled in Nova Rodelas, a hamlet in the rural municipality of Rodelas, in the state of Bahia, where Dorinha Tuxá lives.

After a 19-year legal battle, the 442 relocated Tuxá families finally received compensation from the CHESF. But they are still waiting for the 4,000 hectares that were agreed upon when they were displaced, and which must be handed over to them by state agencies.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone,” Tuxá chief Manoel Jurum Afé told IPS.

The new village is very different from the community where they used to live on their island.

Only the soccer field, where children play, retains the shape of traditional indigenous Tuxá constructions.

But the elders strive to transmit their collective memory to the young, such as Luiza de Oliveira, who was baptized with the indigenous name of Aluna Flexia Tuxá.

She is studying law to continue her people’s struggle for land and rights. Her mother, like many other Tuxá women, also played an important role as chief, or community leader.

“It was as if they lived in a paradise. They had no need to beg the government like they have to do now. They used to plant everything, beans, cassava. They lived together in complete harmony. They talk about it with nostalgia. It was a paradise that came to an end when it was flooded,” she said.

Dorinha Tuxá, a leader of the native Tuxá people, sings to her sacred river and smokes her "marakú", a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, to ask her ancestors to help them get the lands which were promised to them when they were evicted from their island to make way for a dam in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

Dorinha Tuxá, a leader of the native Tuxá people, sings to her sacred river and smokes her “marakú”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, to ask her ancestors to help them get the lands which were promised to them when they were evicted from their island to make way for a dam in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

After three decades of living with other local people, the Tuxás stopped wearing their native clothes, although for special occasions and rituals they put on their “cocares” (traditional feather headdresses).

They welcomed IPS with a “toré” – a collective dance open to outsiders. Another religious ceremony, “the particular”, is reserved for members of the community. That is how they honour the “enchanted”, their spirits or reincarnated ancestors.

But they are also Catholics and very devoted to Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Rodelas, which was named after Captain Francisco Rodelas, considered the first chief who fought alongside the Portuguese against the Dutch occupation of northeast Brazil in the 17th century.

Armando Apaká Caramuru Tuxá is a “pajé” – guardian of the Tuxá traditions.

“The waters covered the land where our ancestors lived. Many times I saw my grandfather sitting at the foot of a jua (Ziziphus joazeiro, a tree typical of the eco-region of the semi-arid Northeast), there on the island talking to them up there (in the sky),” he said.

“We lost all that. That place which was sacred to us was submerged under water,” he said, sadly.

The Tuxá people, who for centuries were fishermen, hunters, gatherers and farmers, practically gave up their subsistence crops in their new location.

Some bought small parcels of land and grow cash crops, such as coconuts.

“We need to improve our quality of life. Before we used to live on what we produced from agriculture and fishing. Today that is not possible, so we want to return to agriculture, and to do that we need our land,” Chief Uilton Tuxá told IPS.

In 2014, a decree declared some 4,392 hectares of land an “area of social interest” in order to expropriate it and transfer it to the Tuxá people.

In June of this year, they won a lawsuit in a federal court, which ruled that the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) had three months to create a working group to begin the demarcation process. It also set
a new compensation to be paid to the Tuxá people.

But distrustful of the state bureaucracy and the courts, the Tuxá people decided to occupy Surubabel, the area near their village, on the banks of the reservoir, which was expropriated in order for it to be demarcated in their favor, but this never happened.

They began to build a new village there, in what they call “the recovery” of their lands.

“The occupation of this land by us, the Tuxá people, represents the rekindling of the flame of our identity as an indigenous people native to this riverbank. We were already here, since the beginning of the colonization process, even in the 16th century when the first catechists arrived,” argued Uilton Tuxá.

“We want to build this small village for the government to fulfill its obligations and the order to delimit our territory,” he said.

During the week they have other activities. They are public employees or work on their plots of land. But on Saturdays they load their tools in their vehicles and build their houses in the traditional way.

“Nowadays a lot of land in this sacred territory of the Tuxás is being invaded by non-indigenous people and also by indigenous people from other ethnic groups,” chief Xirlene Liliana Xurichana Tuxá told IPS.

“We were the first indigenous people from the Northeast to be recognized and we are the last to have the right to our land. This is just the beginning. If the justice system does not grant us our right to continue the dialogue, we will adopt forceful measures, we will mobilise. We are tired of being the good guys,” she warned, speaking as a community leader.

Meanwhile, the small portion of their ancestral land that was not submerged, and the land they occupy now, are threatened by new megaprojects.

These lands were left in the middle of two canals, on the north axis of the diversion of the São Francisco River, a project that is still under construction, which is to supply 12 million people with water.

“The Tuxá people have suffered impacts, above and beyond the dam. There is also the diversion of the river and the possibility that they might build a nuclear plant will also affect us,” said Uilton Tuxá, smoking his marakú during a break.

They say the marakú attracts protective forces. And this time they hope these forces will help them to get the land promised to them when their ancestral land was taken away, and that they will not lose it again to new megaprojects.

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UN Report Falls Short on Humanitarian Crisis Around Lake Chadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:09:30 +0000 Florian Krampe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152187 Dr Florian Krampe is a Researcher, Climate & Risk Project, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

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Fishing boats, Lake Chad. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS

By Florian Krampe
STOCKHOLKM, Sweden, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

It is encouraging to see that the United Nations Security Council is beginning to acknowledge the transboundary dimensions of fragility and conflict, as demonstrated by its newly launched Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin region. The report, which was presented in the Security Council on 13 September 2017, emphasizes the need for regional responses and enhanced cooperation of different UN and humanitarian agencies as an important step to addressing the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

However, while a regional response to address the regional security challenge is desirable, the report would have been stronger if it had highlighted the underlying environmental contributions of the region’s fragility.

Multiple stressors converge in the Lake Chad region, which lies at the southern end of the Sahara desert. In the region around the lake–which borders Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria–unemployment, poverty and conflict interact with environmental change and degradation. The mismanagement of water resources, for instance in form of increased water withdrawal for irrigation from the lake’s tributaries, as well as prolonged severe droughts, have contributed to a 90 per cent shrinking of Lake Chad in the past 40 years.

In addition, the ongoing insurgency by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria further exaggerates the reduction of livelihood security for communities in the region. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), the conflict with Boko Haram has caused over 10 000 deaths between 2009 and 2016.

The military interventions of the Multinational Joint Task Force and armed forces of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria achieved a sizeable reduction in Boko Haram’s activities. Nonetheless, according to the newly published report: “From April to June 2017, 246 attacks were recorded, resulting in the deaths of 225 civilians.’

The ongoing insurgency and the continued shrinking of Lake Chad, which is the main source of livelihood for millions of inhabitants, is causing a massive humanitarian crisis and intensifies the fragile security situation and increased cross-border displacement of populations.

The Report of the Secretary-General points out: ‘Some 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region currently need humanitarian assistance, including 8.5 million in Nigeria.’ According to the report, 7.2 million people currently suffer severe food insecurity, of which 4.7 million are located in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.

The food and water insecurities caused by environmental change and mismanagement have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Although there is a lack of consistent monitoring around Lake Chad, the available data clearly indicates that the region has experience significant environmental changes.

For every year since 2000, the annual temperature anomaly, based on the 1961 to 1990 average temperature, was continuously above 1°C. Research agrees that environmental degradation—and especially the predicted impacts of climate change—will further exacerbate these pressures on the states and societies around Lake Chad.

During the 2017 Stockholm Forum, experts from the region outlined the complex dependencies of local livelihoods on natural resources, in particular the Lake Chad ecosystem, and how important ecological factors are to understanding and addressing the regions vulnerability and fragility.

As Sweden’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, pointed out during the Security Council debate on 13 September: ‘The effects of climate change and its links to the stability and security are evident. We cannot hide from this reality if we want to truly address the challenges in the region. The lack of follow-up in this area in the Secretary-General’s report once again underlines the need for improved risk assessments and risk management strategies by the UN, as clearly highlighted by the Security Council in Resolution 2349 (2017): ‘The Council must remain alert to the threats to stability as a result of the adverse effects of climate change.”

By acknowledging the adverse effect of climate change in the Lake Chad Basin region, the UN report should have emphasized the inevitable pathways for addressing the current crisis. Managing natural resources sustainably is one of the key factors to achieving regional stabilization, reducing people’s vulnerability, increasing resilience and thereby thwarting the fertile grounds for insurgent group recruitment.

This is only possible when the UN Security Council and other peacebuilding agencies begin to integrate the linkages of environmental, social, and political issues in their peacebuilding efforts in the Lake Chad Basin.

About Resolution 2349:
At the end of March 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously issued a Resolution 2349 against terrorism and human rights violations in the Lake Chad Basin. It recognized the role of climate change in exacerbating human insecurity—particularly around food insecurity and livelihood vulnerabilities—which are linked to the Basin’s complex conflicts: ‘the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes among other factors on the stability of the Region’.

The resolution was initiated by the Security Council member states’ travel to the Lake Chad region earlier in 2017. The resolution tasked the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to provide an assessment of the situation. A direct mention of climate and environmental change is absent in the newly published report.

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Bangladesh Needs to Shore up Its Flood Defencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 12:14:27 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152154 Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country with floods hitting almost every year, leaving a trail of destruction despite having early warning systems. Now experts say it is time for the delta nation to think more seriously about how to deal with the recurring onslaughts of floods more effectively by strengthening its flood defence. The recent severe […]

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

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country with floods hitting almost every year, leaving a trail of destruction despite having early warning systems. Now experts say it is time for the delta nation to think more seriously about how to deal with the recurring onslaughts of floods more effectively by strengthening its flood defence.

The recent severe floods in the country have killed over 140 people and displaced nearly 8 million and damaged some 100,000 houses. It also caused colossal damages to crops, forcing the government to go for the import of huge rice. Many flood-affected families in temporary shelters in the country’s northwest are still hesitating to return to their homes as hunger looms large.

On August 28 last, the Food Minister Quamrul Islam informed the country’s cabinet that 2 million tonnes of rice and wheat need to be imported to keep the market stable until January next year as the same amount of rice has been damaged by the floods in haor areas, creating an ‘unusual situation’ in the rice market.

The government has already started importing rice. Over 600,000 metric tonnes (mts) of rice have been imported from India under private arrangement, 250,000 mts from Vietnam. Besides, a process is underway to import 250,000 mts from Cambodia.

More than 5.7 million people in 27 districts have been affected while crops on 468,000 hectares damaged in the floods, according to government data.

The United Nations has said long-term food supplies are at risk in Bangladesh with so much farmland now ruined by floods.

Now experts say Bangladesh must take the flood issue more seriously as it is affected by climate change.

While talking to IPS, AKM Saiful Islam, a professor of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said, “As a flood vulnerable country, Bangladesh should take this issue much more seriously than the past. Due to global warming and climate change, flood peak magnitude will be much higher in the future (at the end of the century) with respect the historic peak floods.”

These humble homes, located on a ‘char’ in northern Bangladesh, were half-submerged by severe floods in August that left many river island-dwellers homeless. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS


He says human interventions in natural river systems, and the changes in the land-use pattern of their catchments make the hill slope steeper, and Bangladesh rivers are now carrying large amounts of sediments than ever before, causing frequent and destructive floods. “Urbanisation generates more runoff while encroachment of wetlands and embankment confine flood water inside the river channel which raises the flood peak. Moreover, excess sediments raise the bed level and further exacerbate the flood conditions,” Saiful added.

Citing a recent study of Buet conducted under a collaborative research project entitled ‘High-End Climate Impact and Extremes (HELIX)’ funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013, he says the floods in the Brahmaputra river basin of having 100-year return periods will carry more than 10%, 17%, and 24% more discharge during the 2020s (2011-2040), 2050s (2041-2070) and 2080s (2071-2100) than the pre-industrial periods (1851-1880).

“We’ve already observed that the 2017 floods broke the historic record crossing the danger levels in several stations of many tributaries of the Brahmaputra-Jamuna river systems such as Bahdurabad in Jamuna, Mohadevepur in Atrai, Badarganj in Jamuneswari, Kurigram in Dharala and Dalia in the Teesta. Due to sea level rise, the flood conditions might be prolonged in the future. As the water holding capacity of the atmosphere will be increasing with the rise of temperature, it is expected that more intense rainfall and flooding will be observed in the South Asia in the future under the changing climate,” he said.

Bangladesh has its own flood forecasting system. At present, Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) of Bangladesh Water Development Board providing five days’ deterministic flood forecast and early warnings. Early warning messages were delivered by FFWC through email, SMS, website, fax to the concerned Ministries and government organizations like the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Deputy Commissioners offices and Department of Agricultural Extensions. DDM has a role to disseminate flood warnings to the district, upazila (sub-district) and union levels through the heads of respective disaster management committees.

The current forecasting system is helpful in some ways, said Prof Saiful. He, however, stated that there is scope to improve this system and make the early warning user-friendly to the flood vulnerable communities.

The flood forecasting and early warning, he said, can be improved in a number of ways:
Establishing a High Computing National Centers like National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the USA composed of both meteorologist and hydrologist as an Independent Entity of the government; the signing of hydro-met data sharing protocol during flood season with neighboring countries; developing basin-wise flood forecast modeling including China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan; and developing a community-based early warning system in which warnings will be provided in a language which local people can understand.

Echoing Prof Islam, Mohammad Harun Ar Rashid, Deputy Secretary, Management and Information Monitoring (MIM) said, “Bangladesh has to think seriously about the long-term strategy regarding floods. Its flood control programme has been so far dominated by the embankment approach. According to this approach, it’s necessary to cordon off areas in order to protect them from flooding. Therefore, under this approach, the goal of flood control gets transmitted into that of flood-prevention.”

A classic example of this approach, he said, the Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Demra project, popularly known as DND project. Under this project, a tract of flood plain with Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Demra has been cordoned off from the adjoining Buriganga and Shitalkhya rivers by constructing embankments.

Aiming to deal with the worsening situation, the government in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has chalked out a six-year Climate Resilient Community Development (CRCD) project in the country’s northwest region with a greater focus on building flood defences for rural communities.

The potential range of interventions of the project include early warning about floods; strengthening community preparedness about floods and climate change by providing information; temporary floods shelter for people and livestock during severe floods, improving productivity and diversity of crops within the limits of quality of soil.

The project also looks for the construction of pre-fabricated modular houses so that they can easily be disassembled and transported; other public structure such as schools and markets can be built in similar fashion, construction of climate resilient rural roads both all-weather and submersible depending on specific locations; developing planned markets, providing irrigation services; promoting public-private investment when issues of natural disasters and connectivity issues are resolved.

With 230 rivers flowing over the country into the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is a delta of about 144,000 sq. km. of area and most part of which is low-lying plain land made up of alluvial soil with hills in the southeastern and northeastern parts. Its main rivers are the Padma, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna.

As a world leader in adapting to living with floods, it is time for Bangladesh also explore some newer technologies developed in other parts of the world to shore up their flood defences. “There is a need to think about a long-term solution to it for building a more resilient Bangladesh,” says Prof Saiful.

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Cholera in North-Eastern Nigeria: An Endemic Outbreakhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/cholera-north-eastern-nigeria-endemic-outbreak/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cholera-north-eastern-nigeria-endemic-outbreak http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/cholera-north-eastern-nigeria-endemic-outbreak/#respond Wed, 06 Sep 2017 20:12:22 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151955 A recent cholera outbreak in North-Eastern Nigeria has resulted in at least 186 suspected cases and 14 deaths as of Sep. 1, according to Borno State’s Ministry of Health. The outbreak, which coincided with this year’s annual World Water Week, occurred in Muna Garage, a camp sheltering an estimated 44,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on […]

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Nurse treats cholera victims. Credit: IPS

By Lindah Mogeni
NEW YORK, Sep 6 2017 (IPS)

A recent cholera outbreak in North-Eastern Nigeria has resulted in at least 186 suspected cases and 14 deaths as of Sep. 1, according to Borno State’s Ministry of Health.

The outbreak, which coincided with this year’s annual World Water Week, occurred in Muna Garage, a camp sheltering an estimated 44,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno state, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A rapid response to the outbreak by Borno State’s Ministry of Health, along with WHO and other humanitarian partners, is underway.

The response includes, but is not limited to, establishing cholera treatment centers, distributing statewide diarrheal disease kits, increasing risk awareness and community outreach, initiating oral cholera vaccination campaigns in the camp’s affected areas and training health workers on cholera infection, prevention and control (IPC).

Cholera outbreaks are endemic in North-Eastern Nigeria. According to an overview in the Pan-African Medical Journal, such endemic outbreaks are prone to occur in conflict-affected areas where civil unrest has disrupted public sanitation services.

Borno State is one of Boko Haram’s strongholds.

Boko Haram terrorists have damaged or destroyed 75 percent of the water and sanitation infrastructure in North-Eastern Nigeria, leaving about 3.6 million people without the most basic water services, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Most Northern states in Nigeria rely on hand dug wells and contaminated ponds as sources of drinking water. A cholera outbreak occurs when untreated diarrhea from cholera patients gets into the water supplies, according to the Pan-African Medical Journal overview.

“When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow,” said UNICEF’s Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Sanjay Wijesekera, on Aug. 30.

The best preventive measures against cholera include basic hygiene and sanitation practices as well as access to clean water, according to WHO’s assessment. This ties in with the sixth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to “ensure water and sanitation for all” by 2030.

Steps towards achieving this goal involve ‘not just keeping up with cases’ but also implementing programs to ‘prevent further spread and early detection of cholera’, according to WHO.

Significantly, cholera outbreaks in North-Eastern Nigeria have occurred prior to the dawn of Boko Haram in 2002.

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Towards a Resource Efficient and Pollution Free Asia-Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 10:31:46 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151906 Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

By Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim
BANGKOK, Thailand, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Senior government officials from across Asia and the Pacific will meet in Bangkok this week for the first-ever Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment. The high-level meeting is co-convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and UN Environment and is a unique opportunity for the region’s environment leaders to discuss how they can work together towards a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific.

Shamshad Akhtar

At the core of the meeting is the question: how can we use our resources more efficiently to continue to grow our economies in a manner that does not tax our natural environment or generate pollution affecting public health and ecosystem health. There is certainly much room for improvement to make in this area.

Resources such as fossil fuels, biomass, metals and minerals are essential to build economies. However, the region’s resource efficiency has regressed in recent years. Asia is unfortunately the least resource efficient region in the world. In 2015, we used one third more materials to produce each unit of GDP than in 1990. Developing countries use five times as many resources per dollar of GDP in comparison to rest of the world and10 times more than industrialized countries in the region. This inefficiency of resource use results into wastage and pollution further affecting the natural resources and public health which are the basic elements for ensuring sustainable economic growth.

As the speed and scale of economic growth continues to accelerate across the region, pollution has become a critical area for action. While the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 per cent of adults and children who are impacted by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries. Asia and the Pacific produces more chemicals and waste than any other region in the world and accounts for the bulk – 25 out of 30 – of cities with highest levels of PM 2.5, the tiny atmospheric particulate matter that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. More than 80 per cent of our rivers are heavily polluted while five of the top land-based ocean plastic sources are from countries in our region. Estimates put the cost of marine pollution to regional economies at a staggering US$1.3 billion.

Erik Solheim

If left unattended, these trends threaten to up end hard-won economic gains and hamper human development. But while these challenges appear intractable, the region has tremendous strengths and opportunities to draw from. Many countries hold solid track records of successful economic transformation. The capacity for promoting environmental sustainability as an integral pillar of sustainable development must now be developed across all countries in the region

There are some profound changes underway in Asia and the Pacific. The region is experiencing the largest rural to urban migration in history. Developing these new urban areas with resource-efficient buildings, waste water and solid waste management systems can do much to advance this agenda. Advancing the “sharing economy” might mean we have better utilization of assets such as vehicles, houses or other assets, greatly reducing material inputs and pollution. The widespread move to renewable energy should rein in fossil fuel use. And advances in recycling, materials technology, 3D printing and manufacturing could also support greater resource circularity.

Moving to green technologies and eco innovation offer economic and employment opportunities. Renewable energy provided jobs for 9.8 million people worldwide in 2016. Waste can be converted into economic opportunities, including jobs. In Cebu City– the second-largest city in the Philippines, concerted Solid Waste Management has borne fruit: waste has been reduced by 30 per cent in 2012; treatment of organic waste in neigbourhoods has led to lower transportation costs and longer use period in landfills. The poor have largely benefited from hundreds of jobs that have been created.

At the policy level, it is vital that resource efficiency and pollution prevention targets are integrated into national development agendas, and targeted legal and regulatory measures to enforce resource efficiency standards should be established. For example, the Government of China has instituted a national system of legislation, rules and regulations that led to the adoption of a compulsory national cleaner production audit system that has been in place for more than 10 years. The direct economic benefits from this system is estimated to be more than $3 billion annually.

Further, we need an urgent reform of financial instruments. Too little capital is supporting the transition to green and resource efficient economy – major portion of current investments is still in high-carbon and resource-intensive, polluting economies. Polluter pay principle and environmental externalities are not yet fully integrated into pricing mechanisms and investment models. The availability of innovative financing mechanisms and integrated evaluation methods are important for upscaling and replicating resource-efficient practices. For example, the large-scale promotion of biogas plants in Viet Nam was made possible by harnessing global climate finance funds. Several countries in the region area are already emerging as leaders in the development of comprehensive, systemic approaches that embed sustainable finance at the heart of financial market development, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and we should draw from the positive lessons learned from these experiences.

Resource efficiency and pollution prevention must be recognized as an important target for action by science, technological and innovation systems. This is important for the ongoing development of technology, and for scaling up technologies. Research shows that developing countries could cut their annual energy demand by more than half, from 3.4 percent to 1.4 percent, over the next 12 years. This would leave energy consumption some 22 percent lower than it would otherwise have been – an abatement equivalent to the entire energy consumption in China today.

We need to move to a more resource efficient and pollution free growth path that supports and promotes healthy environments. The cost of inaction for managing resources efficiently and preventing pollution is too high and a threat to economies, livelihoods and health across the region.

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