Inter Press ServiceWater & Sanitation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 16 Feb 2018 23:35:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Efficient Water Management in Central Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/efficient-water-management-central-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=efficient-water-management-central-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/efficient-water-management-central-asia/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 14:56:16 +0000 Soumya Balasubramanya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154241 Soumya Balasubramanya, Researcher in Environmental Economics at the International Water Management Institute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can Drought Be Prevented? Slovakia Aims to Tryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try/#respond Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:01:01 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153960 A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said. The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to […]

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Danube border between Hungary and Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Danube border between Hungary and Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Jan 22 2018 (IPS)

A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said.

The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to be approved by the Slovak government this Spring, includes a range of measures which, unlike many plans for drought, is proactive and focuses on prevention and mitigation instead of reacting to drought once it has occurred.Southern Slovakia’s climate is rapidly becoming closer to that of northern Italy or Spain.

Richard Muller, Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe at the Global Water Partnership, an international network of organisations working to promote sustainable management and development of water resources, helped draft the plan.

He told IPS: “A few of the measures in this plan have been adopted in other countries as part of climate change adaptation, but Slovakia is the first country in the region to have this kind of action plan to combat drought.

“It is a landmark plan…other countries could look at this and be inspired and say, yes, this is something we should copy.”

The focus of the plan is on preventive measures in a number of areas, specifically agriculture and forestry, urban landscape, water management, research and environmental education.

The measures involve projects to modernise irrigation systems and change forest structure towards better climate change resilience as well as rainwater harvesting, tree planting, development of green spaces, green and vertical roofs and rainwater infiltration in urban landscapes.

It also covers water management, dealing with preparatory work for reconstruction of smaller reservoirs of water and green infrastructure, including wetlands restoration.

There is also a crisis plan to supply water to different sectors of national economy during prolonged drought while it also involves programmes for public education and raising awareness of drought and water scarcity.

Together, these measures should, Muller explained, mean that even if and when there are long, dry spells, there will be some mitigation of the effects.

“Other countries have plans for drought, but in some, such as the USA, measures are related to dealing with drought after the event. But the Slovak plan is focused on prevention and action beforehand,” he said.

Strbske Pleso lake in the High Tatras in Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Strbske Pleso lake in the High Tatras in Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Slovakia, like many other countries around the world, has seen an increased frequency of extreme weather events in recent years, including record heat and drought.

Last year, some parts of the country saw the driest first half of the year in over six decades while there was a very severe drought during 2015 when there were 23 days classified as super-tropical, i.e. with maximum temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius. This was compared to a maximum of five such days per year in years prior to 1990.

Similar droughts have been experienced across the wider central European region – in the Czech Republic conditions in last year’s drought were particularly severe with serious water shortages reported – and intergovernmental talks on drought, other extreme weather events and the environment have taken place over the last year.

The Slovak plan has already drawn interest from other governments, being praised by officials at a meeting last November of the Visegrad Four group – a political alliance of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic – in Budapest.

As the plan is focused on prevention, its effectiveness during times of drought may not be immediately noticed by many. But even when there is no drought, it has the potential to effect a positive change.

“Some of the measures in the plan will improve people’s quality of life, for instance in towns and villages, through things like rainwater harvesting, tree planting, the development of green spaces, vertical and ‘green’ roofs and rainwater infiltration” explained Muller.

But while the adoption of the plan has been welcomed and it seems set to benefit Slovaks even in times when there is no drought, the need for it at all highlights growing concerns over the rapid changes in the country’s climate and what they could mean for its water supplies and use.

Slovakia has a relative wealth of groundwater sources due its specific geology and, historically, droughts have been infrequent and water shortages rare.

But the drought in 2015, which was the worst in more than 100 years, was, largely, what prompted the Slovak government to begin work on the action plan – “the government wants to be prepared if it happens again,” said Muller. And the drought last year only reinforced its determination to push on with it.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the plan in November last year, Environment Minister Laszlo Solymos said: “If anyone has had doubts about global warming, this summer has offered a lot of opportunities to eliminate them. You just had to look into wells in the Zahorie area or talk to farmers. Slovakia isn’t spared from drought.”

More frequent and intense droughts are almost certain in the future, climatologists predict, as the climate in Slovakia changes.

Local climatologists agree that Slovakia’s climate zones are pushing northward and that southern Slovakia’s climate is rapidly becoming closer to that of northern Italy or Spain.

According to the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, the average annual air temperature in Slovakia rose 1 degree Celsius between 1991-2014 compared to 1961-1990.

With these higher temperatures comes not just greater demand for water but a higher risk of more frequent, intense and widespread drought. Indeed, official data from the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute shows that in the last three years some part of Slovakia has been affected by drought.

Speaking to the Slovak daily newspaper Hospdarske noviny this month (JAN), Milan Lapin, a climatologist at the University of Comenius in Bratislava, said: “Since we expect that in the future there won’t be greater rainfall in Slovakia, the country will be drier, there will be more frequent drought with dramatic consequences and we’ll have serious problems with water.”

Muller admits that the current action plan may not be enough if worst-case scenarios of climate change come to pass and extra measures might be needed decades in the future.

“We might need new, innovative technology and large-scale infrastructure for water retention and distribution.”

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PPPs Likely to Undermine Public Health Commitmentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/ppps-likely-undermine-public-health-commitments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ppps-likely-undermine-public-health-commitments http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/ppps-likely-undermine-public-health-commitments/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 08:50:30 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153905 The United Nations Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being touted in financial circles as offering huge investment opportunities requiring trillions of dollars. In 67 low- and middle-income countries, achieving SDG 3 — healthy lives and well-being for all, at all ages — is estimated to require new investments increasing over time, […]

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Capacity-building support for developing countries to safeguard the public interest in terms of public health and especially, to ensure that no one is left behind, is essential. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR , Jan 17 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being touted in financial circles as offering huge investment opportunities requiring trillions of dollars. In 67 low- and middle-income countries, achieving SDG 3 — healthy lives and well-being for all, at all ages — is estimated to require new investments increasing over time, from an initial $134 billion annually to $371 billion yearly by 2030, according to recent estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in The Lancet.

Selling PPPs
Deprived of fiscal and aid resources, none of these governments can finance such investments alone. The United Nations Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing estimated in 2014 that annual global savings (both public and private sources) were around US$22 trillion, while global financial assets were around US$218 trillion.

The third International Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in mid-2015 recommended ‘blended finance’ as well as other public private partnerships (PPPs) to pool public and private resources and expertise to achieve the SDGs. Development finance institutions (DFIs), particularly the World Bank, are the main cheerleaders for these magic bullets.

Sensing the new opportunity for mega profits, the private sector has embraced the SDGs. The World Economic Forum now actively promotes PPPs with DEVEX, a private-sector driven network of development experts. A recent DEVEX opinion claims that PPPs can unlock billions for health financing. It invokes some philanthropy driven global partnership success stories — such as the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiatives (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria — to claim that national level PPPs will have similar results.

A managed equipment services (MES) arrangement with GE Healthcare in Kenya is also cited as a success story, ignoring criticisms. For example, Dr. Elly Nyaim, head of the Kenya Medical Association, has pointed out that MES has not addressed basic problems of Kenya’s health system, such as inappropriate training and non-payment of salaries to frontline health workers, encouraging emigration of well-trained health professionals to developed countries, further worsening Kenya’s already difficult health dilemmas.

It should be obvious to all that private sector participation in the development process is hardly novel, having long contributed to investments, growth and innovation. Not-for-profit civil society organisations (CSOs), especially faith-based ones, have also been significant for decades in education and health. Thus, in many developing countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia, health and education outcomes are much better than what public expenditure alone could fund.

False claims
However, PPPs have a long and chequered history, especially in terms of ensuring access and equity, typically undermining the SDG’s overarching principle of “leaving no one behind”, including the SDG and WHO promise of universal health care. Also, partnerships with for-profit private entities have rarely yielded better fiscal outcomes, both in terms of finance and value for money (VfM).

Misleading claims regarding benefits and costs have been invoked to justify PPPs. Most claimed benefits of health PPPs do not stand up to critical scrutiny. As a policy tool, they are a typically inferior option to respond to infrastructure shortfalls in the face of budgetary constraints by moving expenditures off-budget and transferring costs to future governments as well as consumers and taxpayers.

Typically driven by political choices rather than real economic considerations, PPP incurred debt and risk are generally higher than for government borrowing and procurement. PPPs also appear to have limited innovation and raised transactions costs. PPP hospital building quality is not necessarily better, while facilities management services have generally reduced VfM compared to non-PPP hospitals. Underfunding and higher PPP costs lead to cuts in service provision to reduce deficits, harming public health.

Healthcare PPPs in low- and middle-income countries have raised concerns about: competition with other health programmes for funding, causing inefficiencies and wasting resources; discrepancies in costs and benefits between partners typically favouring the private sector; incompatibility with national health strategies; poor government negotiating positions vis-à-vis powerful pharmaceutical and other healthcare service companies from donor countries.

Perverted priorities

Rich and powerful private partners often reshape governmental and state-owned enterprise priorities and strategies, and redirect national health policies to better serve commercial interests and considerations. For example, relying on antiretroviral drugs from PPPs has resulted in conflicts with national authorities, generic suppliers and consumer interests, which have undermined health progress. Donor-funded PPPs are typically unsustainable, eventually harming national health strategies, policies, capacities and capabilities.

PPPs may divert domestic resources from national priorities, and thus undermine public health due to financial constraints they cause. Such redirection of investment exacerbates health disparities, adversely affecting vulnerable groups. Health workers often prefer to work for better funded foreign programmes, undermining the public sector.

PPPs can thus lead governments to abdicate their responsibilities for promoting and protecting citizens’ health. Partnership arrangements with the private sector are not subject to public oversight. Therefore, selecting private partners, setting targets and formulating operating guidelines are not transparent, they only aid in creating more scope for corruption.

PPPs are certainly not magic bullets to achieve the SDGs. While PPPs can mobilize private finance, this can also be achieved at lower cost through government borrowing. Instead of uncritically promoting blended finance and PPPs, the international community should provide capacity building support to developing countries to safeguard the public interest, especially equity, access and public health, to ensure that no one is left behind.

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40% of India’s Thermal Power Plants in Water-Scarce Areas, Threatening Shutdownshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/40-indias-thermal-power-plants-water-scarce-areas-threatening-shutdowns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=40-indias-thermal-power-plants-water-scarce-areas-threatening-shutdowns http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/40-indias-thermal-power-plants-water-scarce-areas-threatening-shutdowns/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 06:57:25 +0000 Tianyi Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153902 Tianyi Luo, World Resources Institute

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Tuticorin thermal power station. Credit: Begoon/Wikimedia Commons Water shortages are hurting India’s ability to produce power.

By Tianyi Luo
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 17 2018 (IPS)

New WRI research finds that 40 percent of the country’s thermal power plants are located in areas facing high water stress, a problem since these plants use water for cooling. Scarce water is already hampering electricity generation in these regions—14 of India’s 20 largest thermal utilities experienced at least one shutdown due to water shortages between 2013-2016, costing the companies $1.4 billion.

It’s an issue that’s only poised to worsen unless the country takes action—70 percent of India’s thermal power plants will face high water stress by 2030 thanks to climate change and increased demands from other sectors.

Billions of Tons of Freshwater, Consumed

Thermal power—power that relies on fuels like coal, natural gas and nuclear energy—provides India with 83 percent of its total electricity. While these power plants fail to disclose how much water they’re using in their operations, WRI developed a new methodology using satellite images and other data to calculate their water use.

What’s the Difference Between Water Withdrawal and Consumption?

Water withdrawal: The total amount of water that is diverted from a water source (e.g. surface water, groundwater) for use.

Water consumption: The portion of water that is not returned to the original source after being withdrawn.

Much of the water withdrawn by plants is returned to the lakes and ponds from which it came, but a lot is also consumed, and not returned to its original source. We found that almost 90 percent of India’s thermal power generation depends on freshwater for cooling, and the industry is only growing thirstier.

Thanks to increased energy demand and the growing popularity of freshwater-recirculating plants, which consume the most water of any thermal plant, freshwater consumption from Indian thermal utilities grew by 43 percent from 2011-2016, from 1.5 to 2.1 billion cubic meters a year.

To put this in perspective, India’s total domestic water consumption in 2010 was about 7.5 billion cubic meters, according to the Aqueduct Global Water Risk Atlas. That means power plants drank about 20 percent as much water as India’s 1.3 billion citizens use for washing dishes, bathing, drinking and more.

40 Percent of Thirsty Plants Are in Water-Stressed Areas

More than a third of India’s freshwater-dependent plants are located in areas of high or extremely high water stress. These plants have, on average, a 21 percent lower utilization rate than their counterparts located in low or medium water-stress regions—lack of water simply prevents them from running at full capacity.

Even when controlling the comparison analysis by unit age, fuel type and plant capacity, the observation was always the same: Plants in low- and medium-stress areas are more able to realize their power output potential than those in high water-stress areas.

Scarce Water Dries Up Revenue

There are practical and financial implications of power plants’ thirst. Between 2013 and 2016, India’s thermal plants failed to meet their daily electricity generation targets 61 percent of the time due to forced power plant outages.

The reasons ranged from equipment failure to fuel shortages. Water shortages were the fifth-largest reason for all forced outages—the largest environmental reason.

In 2016 alone, water shortages cost India about 14 terawatt-hours of potential thermal power generation, canceling out more than 20 percent of the growth in the country’s total electricity generation from 2015.

The Way Forward

As India develops, water competition will continue to grow and climate change will likely disrupt predictable water supply. Thermal utilities will become even more vulnerable to water shortages, power outages and lost revenue.

But there’s a better path forward: Upgrading cooling systems, improving plant efficiency, and ultimately shifting toward water-free renewables like solar photovoltaics and wind can all curb water risks to power generation.

It’s worth noting that the government of India already has plans in place that give reason for hope, such as the notification on power plant water withdrawal limits and the “40/60” renewable energy development plan. If these ambitious policies are enacted and enforced, our estimates show that India will save 12.4 billion cubic meters of freshwater from being withdrawn by power plants. That’s a year’s worth of showers for 120 million people – more than live in the Philippines.

But change won’t happen overnight. Even with proactive policies in place, the key lies in their implementation. In the coming years, the Indian government, utility companies and international investors all have a role to play in making the power sector more resilient to water risks.

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Excerpt:

Tianyi Luo, World Resources Institute

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Policy Support Gap for “Climate-Smart” Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/policy-support-gap-climate-smart-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=policy-support-gap-climate-smart-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/policy-support-gap-climate-smart-agriculture/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 01:11:26 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153791 Conditioned that ploughing is the sure way to produce crops, Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima surprised himself by trying a different method. He planted cowpea seeds directly without tilling the land. It worked. The new method tripled Zvomarima’s cowpea yield when many farmers did not harvest a crop following the El Nino-induced drought which affected more […]

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Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima (centre) and family members admiring their cowpea crop in Shamva District, planted using conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima (centre) and family members admiring their cowpea crop in Shamva District, planted using conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

Conditioned that ploughing is the sure way to produce crops, Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima surprised himself by trying a different method. He planted cowpea seeds directly without tilling the land. It worked.

The new method tripled Zvomarima’s cowpea yield when many farmers did not harvest a crop following the El Nino-induced drought which affected more than 40 million people in Southern Africa.Some of the technologies that more farmers need include access to resilient seeds and livestock breeds, timely weather information and weather index insurance.

Zvomarima from Shamva District, 120 km northwest of Harare, adopted the water-saving method known as ‘no till farming’. This is part of the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and approaches developed and promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This model of climate-smart agriculture seeks to sustainably increase productivity and incomes while helping farmers adapt to and become more resilient to the effects of climate change. CSA practices also aim to reduce and remove agriculture’s greenhouse gases emissions, where possible.

With policies, CSA practices pay

“Policymakers have a role to play in climate-smart agro-technological innovation; the researchers suggest traditional supply-side measures and equivalent demand-side measures (such as tax breaks) could reduce cost and increase return on investment for users,” said Dr. Federica Matteoli, project Manager at FAO Climate Change and Environment Division in Rome.

She shared a case study of Italy’s embrace of CSA at the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2017. Matteoli said policies need to be compatible with CSA objectives and their ability to boost the development and adoption of CSA technological innovation.

Italy was currently at the forefront of promoting research and developing scientifically supported policies related to climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, Matteoli said. At the same time the country was promoting the application of the principles of CSA to locally building resilience throughout the food system.

Matteoli said cooperation and knowledge sharing can promote an enabling policy environment at national and local level in promoting CSA. Italy has promoted conservation agriculture, no tillage practices, climate-smart production systems and knowledge transfer which have collectively been called the Italian Blue Agriculture.

For an enabling environment to promote CSA, potential users must be engaged with earlier in the innovation process, ensuring sharing of information and linkage with universities, technical bodies and national institutions. In addition, there is need for appropriate education programmes and awareness campaigns and the identification of knowledge needs for CSA and priority areas for intervention using consultative and participatory approaches, Matteoli said.

CSA adoption down, time to scale up

Researchers say CSA techniques are effective but there is urgency to quickly spread out the practices, innovations and technologies as climate change threaten agriculture productivity. Some of the technologies that more farmers need include access to resilient seeds and livestock breeds, timely weather information and weather index insurance.

Scaling up CSA needs bold and inclusive policies which are still lacking several decades after CSA approaches were introduced. Researchers and development actors argue that alternative farming methods have been proven to help farmers cope with weather variability and still harvest crops even in poor rainfall.

Another Zimbabwean farmer, Fungisai Masanga (44) saved 150 dollars in labour in the last season after adopting conservation agriculture, another approach of climate smart agriculture. She intercropped maize with nitrogen fixing cowpeas, pigeon pea and lablab.

“This system has allowed us to have more crops in the same field,” says Masanga, a mother of five children. “We have harvested some of the cowpeas which my family has enjoyed and we are soon to harvest maize too, all from the small field where we did not have to plough.”

Zimbabwe has a national investment framework which has recognized CA as a sustainable agriculture intervention and as a tool in climate change adaptation. Promoters of conservation agriculture laud it for saving soil moisture, enabling farmers to plant crops earlier and produce more yield and income in 2-5 cropping seasons.

However, mass adoption of these production changing innovations is not happening across Southern Africa, much to the chagrin of scientists. One reason being the promotion of manual CA systems to farmers, competition for crop residues with livestock, lack of access to appropriate machinery, and increased need for weed control in the first cropping seasons after conversion.

Many innovative climate-smart agriculture practices have been developed in Africa with the capacity to increase productivity and build resilience. These are largely unknown and therefore not adopted, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) found in a 2015 study.

Dr. Christian Thierfelder from CIMMYT explains the multiple benefits of ‘climate-smart agriculture’, in conservation agriculture plots with a maize-cowpea intercropping system outside Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Dr. Christian Thierfelder from CIMMYT explains the multiple benefits of ‘climate-smart agriculture’, in conservation agriculture plots with a maize-cowpea intercropping system outside Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Agriculture on the global agenda

Several countries who signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 have included agriculture as both an adaptation and mitigation strategy on climate change in their national development plans and climate-related strategies including the Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

The United Nations recently agreed to discuss issues related to agriculture, paving the way for the promotion of CSA approaches such as heat adapted crops and weather index insurance for crops and inputs.

This actually means that if one has policy that supports climate smart technologies then one needs to tackle a wide range of policy issues, says Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Campbell cites improving the regulatory framework for index-based insurance, enhancing the ICT regulations so they can foster the spread of mobile phones and connectivity and enhancing the business operating framework so that private sector can function easily.

“Scaling up is crucially dependent on government, providing an enabling policy environment for farmers and business,” Campbell told IPS. “Research also needs to be changed, to be much more connected to the end-users of stakeholders – research must be directed to the issues that stakeholders see as priorities.”

Show us the money

Food security is an urgent priority but agriculture has been the poor cousin when it comes to investment both in research and innovations compared to other sectors. Campbell predicts a slow process in agriculture investment.

“Agriculture is also to blame – the sector lags behind in terms of its excitement around innovation – when one thinks of climate smart solutions, the public think of electric cars, wind energy,” he said, adding that, “Agriculture needs to up its game on innovation and communicating about the exciting things that are indeed happening in agricultural innovation.”

Upping agriculture’s game needs money, which the sector does not have.  Global costs of adaptation in the agricultural sector have been estimated at 7 billion dollars per year to 12.6 billion per year but only. 2.5 percent of public climate finance goes to agriculture. The majority of the needs for finance will have to be derived from private sources, making it imperative to get markets in agriculture working in Africa, currently a net food importer spending more than 50 billion dollars annually.

“Without a conducive policy environment, we cannot achieve much,” argues Oluyede Ajayi, Senior Programme Coordinator of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an ACP-EU institution based in The Netherlands, which has just launched a 1.5 million Euro regional project to help more than 150,000 smallholder farmers in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe address the impacts of climate change.

Stable and clear CSA policies matter in attracting public investment in public goods such as weather stations, data quality and training, Ajayi says while highlighting the need by researchers and development workers to effectively engage in CSA policies by understanding the political process, and identify policy champions and shapers that could help in policy engagement.

“We need to create an enabling policy environment with government and private sectors cooperating in order to upscale CSA,” said Ajayi. “We have to make sure that within policies, we emphasize empowering women and youths.”

The challenge to science and policy makers is how to bring the science/policy nexus and to directly bear on accelerating and expanding the evolution, adaptation and uptake of climate smart farming practices, Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), who gave a keynote address at the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in South Africa last November.

According to the Malabo Montpellier Panel – a group of international agriculture experts guiding policy choices on food and nutritional security in Africa – examples and innovations in climate smart agriculture have multiple benefits. For example, agroforestry helps to diversify the produce of farms, improves soil quality and enhances resilience. Solar irrigation enables smallholder farmers to increase their yields without contributing to emissions while the use of stress tolerant seed varieties counter climate change, are more nutritious and are often more pest and disease resistant.

Climate Smart Agriculture not smart?

The concept of ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ was originally developed by the FAO and the World Bank, claiming that “triple wins” in agriculture could be achieved in mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions), adaptation (supporting crops to grow in changing climate conditions), and increasing crop yields. The FAO views CSA as an approach for developing agricultural strategies for food security under climate change.

But the global civil society organization, ActionAid, says there is confusion on the meaning and benefits of climate smart agriculture.

A number of industrialised countries (the US in particular), along with a number of agribusiness corporations, are now the most enthusiastic promoters of the concept, ActionAid says.

“But increasingly civil society and farmer organisations express concerns that the term can be used to green-wash industrial agricultural practices that will harm future food production, said ActionAid in briefing.

ActionAid contends that some governments and NGOs also worry that pressure to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture will translate into obligations for developing countries’ food systems to take on an unfair mitigation burden. They point out that their agricultural systems have contributed the least to the problem, but that mitigation obligations could limit their ability to effectively adapt to the climate challenges ahead.

“Ultimately, there are no means to ensure that ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ is actually smart for the climate, for agriculture, or for farmers,” says ActionAid.

While there is debate on the benefits and constraints of climate smart agriculture technologies, its techniques such as conservation agriculture have improved the productivity for farmers like Zvomarima.

“CA has produced good results for me and as I apply its methods more, I am convinced my crop yields can only get better.”

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Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:01:09 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153753 Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute. The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was […]

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The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
PERIYAKULAM/ADIGAMA, Jan 5 2018 (IPS)

Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute.

The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was over 1,300 dollars in the red when he decided to move out of his village and look for work in nearby towns.

“What am I to do? There is no work in our village, all the fields have dried up, everyone is moving out looking for work,” Gunathileka told IPS.

He was left to work in construction sites and tobacco fields for a daily wage of about five dollars. When jobs became scarcer, his wife joined the search for casual work. The couple, who have been supporting their family off casual work for the last four months, is unsure whether they will ever return to farming despite the drought easing.

Gunathileka is not alone. Disasters, manmade and natural, are increasingly forcing agriculture-based income earners, especially small farmers, out of their villages and into cities looking for work.

In the village of Adigama, in the same district, government officials suspect that between 150 and 200 villagers, mainly youth, have left looking for work in the last two years. Sisira Kumara, the main government administrative officer in the village, said that the migration has been prompted by harvest losses.

“There was no substantial rain between October of 2016 and November 2017. Three harvests have been lost. Unlike in the past, now you cannot rely on rain patterns which in turn makes agriculture a very risky affair,” he said.

“In Sri Lanka, poverty, unemployment, lack of livelihood options and recurring climate shocks impact the food security of many families, resulting in migration to find secure livelihoods,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last year in a joint communiqué with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate World Food Day.

Women, particularly single breadwinners, have been left vulnerable in Sri Lanka’s poverty-stricken former northern war zone. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women, particularly single breadwinners, have been left vulnerable in Sri Lanka’s poverty-stricken former northern war zone. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Climate shocks have been severe in Sri Lanka in the past few years. In 2017, a drought affected over two million people and floods impacted an additional 500,000. The vital paddy harvest was the lowest in over a decade, falling 40 percent compared to the year before. The UN has termed the 2017 drought as the worst in 40 years..

According to M.W, Weerakoon, additional secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, paddy farmers have to work throughout the year just to stay above the poverty line. He estimates that a paddy farmer needs to cultivate 2.6 acres without a break just to make the 116 dollars (Rs 17,760) needed monthly for a family of four to remain above the poverty line.

“That is not possible with the unpredictable rains, so farmers are moving out,” he said. Around 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21million are internal migrants, according to government statistics, and experts like Weerakoon say that this movement is heightened by climate shocks.

Staying in their native villages and continuing to farm pushes victims further into a debt trap. Last August, when the drought was at its peak, a WFP survey found that the family debt of those surveyed had risen by 50 percent compared to a year back. And as formal lenders like banks shy away from lending to them, these farmers tend to seek the help of informal lenders.

Human-made disasters are also pushing the poor out of their homes to seek jobs elsewhere. In Sri Lanka’s North and East, ravaged by a deadly civil war till 2009, high poverty rates are forcing vulnerable segments of society like war widows to seek work elsewhere.

In the Northern Province where the war was at its worst, female unemployment rates are almost twice the national rate of 7 percent, at 13.8 percent. There is no data available for single female-headed households of which there are at least 58,000 out of the provincial total of 250,000.

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar, a 52-year-old war widow from the North, spent three harrowing months in Oman after being duped by job agents. Credit: Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar family

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar, a 52-year-old war widow from the North, spent three harrowing months in Oman after being duped by job agents. Credit: Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar family

Last year, the Association for Friendship and Love (AFRIEL), a civic group based in the province, located 15 women stuck in Muscat, Oman, after being sent there by job agents. At least four were from the war zone and none had been paid for months and were being moved around the Omani capital daily working in odd jobs.

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar a 54-year-old war widow who was part of the group, said that they were being sent for casual work by the job agents to recoup costs. “All of us could not work in the households due to various issues, so for three months we kept doing odd jobs, so that the agents made their money,” she said. The group was finally brought back to Sri Lanka after the government intervened.

AFRIEL head Ravidra de Silva told IPS that women like Nesemalhar were among the most vulnerable due to almost zero chances of jobs in their villages. “So they will take any chance that is offered to them. What we need are long-haul policies that target vulnerable communities.”

Unfortunately, there have been few such interventions since the war’s conclusion.

The IOM office in Colombo said that climate-driven migration was fueled by complex and diverse set of drivers and required multi-dimensional risk assessments and interventions.

Government official Weerakoon said that one of the main ambitions of the government in 2018 was to increase the planted extent of paddy and other crops. The government also plans to introduce measures to increase value addition among farmers who remain by and large bulk suppliers of raw produce.

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The Political Responsibility in the Collapse of Our Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/political-responsibility-collapse-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-responsibility-collapse-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/political-responsibility-collapse-planet/#comments Wed, 27 Dec 2017 20:47:28 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153685 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 27 2017 (IPS)

On 20 December, Europe’s 28 Ministers of Environment met in Brussels, to discuss the plan for reducing emissions prepared by the Commission, to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change. Well, it is now clear that we have lost the battle in keeping the planet as we have known it. Now, of course, this can be considered a personal opinion of mine, devoid of objectivity.

Therefore I will bring a lot of data, history and facts, to make it concrete. Data and facts have good value: they focus any debate, while ideas do not. So those who do not like facts, please stop reading here. You will escape a boring article, as probably all of mine are, because I am not looking to entertain, but to create awareness. If you stop reading, you will also lose a chance to know our sad destiny.

As common in politics now, interests have won over values and vision. The ministers decided (with some resistance from Denmark and Portugal), to reduce Europe’s commitment. This is going in the Trump direction, who left the Paris Agreement, to privilege American interests, without any attention to the planet. So, Europe is just following.

Of course, those alive now will not pay any price: the next generations will be the victims of a world more and more inhospitable. Few of the people who made to Paris in 2015, solemn engagements in the name of all humankind to save the planet, will be alive 30 years from now, when the change will become irreversible. And it will be also clear that humans are the only animals who do not defend nor protect their habitat.

While we talk on how to reduce the use of fossils, we are doing the opposite. At this very moment, we spend 10 million dollars per minute, to subsidize the fossils industry. Just counting direct subsidies, they are between 775 billion dollars to 1 trillion, according to the UN

First of all, the Paris’ Agreement was adopted by the 195 participating countries, of which 171 have already subscribed to the treaty, in just two years. Which is fine, except that the treaty is just a collection of good wishes, without any concrete engagement.

To start with, it does not set up specific and verifiable engagements. Every country will set its own targets, and will be responsible for its implementation. It is like to ask all citizens of a country to decide how much taxes they want to pay, and leave to them to comply, without any possible sanction.

Europe engaged in Paris in 2015, to reach 27% of renewable energies (by scaling down the use of fossils), fixing a target of 20% for 2020. Well, from 27%, it went down to 24.3%. In addition, the ministers decided to keep subsidies for the fossils industry, until 2030 instead of 2020, as planned. And while the proposal of the Commission was that fossils plants would lose subsidies if they did not cut their emissions to 500 grams of CO2 per ton by 2020, the ministers extended subsidies until 2025.

Finally, the Commission proposed to cut biofuels (fuels made with products for human consumption, like palm oil) to 3.8%. Well, the ministers, in spite of all their declarations about the fight against hunger in the world, decided to double that, at 7%.

Now let us go back to the real flaw of the Paris Agreement. Scientists took two decades to conclude with certitude that climate change is caused by human activities, despite a strong and well financed fight by the coal and fuel industry, to say otherwise.

The International Panel on Climate Change, is an organization under the auspices of the UN, whose members are 194 countries, but its strength comes from the more than 2.000 scientists from 154 countries who work together on climate. It took them from 1988, (when the IPCC was established), to 2013, to reach a definitive conclusion: the only way to stop the planet deteriorating more rapidly, emissions should not exceed 1.5 centigrade over what was the Earth’ temperature in 1850.

In other words, our planet is deteriorating already, and we cannot revert that. We have emitted too much gas and pollution, that are at work already. But by halting this process, we can stabilize it, but never cancel what we did cause, at least for thousands of years.

The Industrial revolution is considered to start in 1746, when industrial mills replaced individual weavers. But it started in great scale in the second half of the 19th century, with the second industrial revolution.

This involved the use of science in the production, by inventing engines, railways, creating factories, and other means of industrial production. We started to register temperatures in 1850, when this was done with thermometers.

So, we can see how coal, fossils and other fuels started to interact with the atmosphere. What the scientists concluded was that if we went over 1,5 centigrade of the 1.850’s temperature, we would irreversibly cross a red line: we will not be able to change the trend, and climate will be out of control, with very dramatic consequences for the planet.

Roberto Savio

Paris conference is a final act of a process who started in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, with the Conference on Environment and Development, where two leaders have now passe away, Boutros Boutros Ghali and Maurice Strong, ran the first summit of heads of state on the issue of environment.

Incidentally, it is worth remembering that Strong, a man who spent all his life to make environment a central issue, did open up the conference for the first time to representatives of civil society, beyond governmental delegations. Over 20.000 organizations, academicians, activist come to Rio, starting the creation of a global civil society recognized by the international community.

In 1997, as a result of Rio Conference, the Kyoto Treaty was adopted, with the aim to reduce emissions. The results show that during the nearly two decades bringing to Paris, the results are very modest. Coal went from 45,05% in 1950, to 28.64 in 2016, also because of new technologies, but petrol increased from19.46, to 33.91 and renewables were a negligible reality.

So, Paris was left with a very urgent task, after having lost already two decades. And according to the World Bank, in 2014 , there are 1,017 billion people without electricity, with Africa where only 20% of people has access to electricity. For all these people we should provide renewable energy, to avoid a dramatic increase of emissions.

Paris was supposed to be really a global agreement, unlike Tokyo. So, to bring as many countries as possible on board, it is a little known dirty secret that the UN decided to put as a goal not the very tight 1,5 centigrade as a target, but a more palatable 2 centigrade. But unfortunately, the consensus is that we have already passed the 1.5 centigrade. And the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), has estimated that the engagements taken by the countries in Paris, if not changed, will bring us to 6 centigrade, an increase that according to the scientific community would make a large part of the earth inhabitable.

In fact, in the last four years we had the hottest summers since 1850. And in 2017 we have the highest record of emissions in history, because they have reached 41.5 gigatons. Of those, 90% comes from activities related to human actions, while renewables (cost for which has now become competitive with fossils), still cover only 18% of the energy consumed in the world. And now let us move to another important dirty secret.

While we talk on how to reduce the use of fossils, we are doing the opposite. At this very moment, we spend 10 million dollars per minute, to subsidize the fossils industry.

Just counting direct subsidies, they are between 775 billion dollars to 1 trillion, according to the UN. The official figure just in the G20 is 444 billion. But then, the International Monetary Fund accepted the economists’ view that subsidies are not only cash: it is the use of the earth and society, like destruction of soil, use of water, political tariffs (the so-called externalities, the cost which exists but are external to the budget of the companies).

If we do that, we reach the staggering amount of 5.3 trillion: they were 4.9 trillion in 2013. That is 6.5% of the global Gross National Product…and that is what it costs to governments, society and earth, to use fossils.

That was nowhere in in the news media. Few know the strength of the fossils industry. Trump wants to reopen the mines, not only because that brings him votes by those who lost an obsolete job, but because the fossils industry is a strong backer of the Republican party.

The billionaire Koch brothers, the largest owners of coal mines in the US, have declared that they have spent 800 million dollars in the last electoral campaign. Someone might say: these things happen in the US but according to the respected Transparency International, there are over 40.000 lobbyists in Europe, working to exercise political influence.

The Corporate Europe Observatory, which studies the financial sector, found out that it spends just in Brussels 120 million a year, and employs 1.700 lobbyists. It found that they lobbied against regulations, with more than 700 organizations, which outnumbered trade unions and civil society organizations, by a factor of seven.

The power of the fossils industry explains why in 2009 governments helped the sector with 557 billion dollars, and only 43 to 46 billion dollars to all renewable industry (International Energy Agency estimates).

It is clear that citizens have no idea that a part of their money is going to keep alive, with good profits, a sector which is well aware that they are key in the destruction of our planet.

A sector that knows well that they are now emitting 400 particles of CO2 per million, when the red line was considered 350 particles PM. But people do not know, and this is a spectacular feast of hypocrisy that goes on.

The UN, in 2015, conducted an extensive poll, with the participation of 9.7 million people. They were asked to choose as their priorities six themes out of 16. The first of the themes presented was climate change. Well, the first one chosen, with 6.5 million of preferences, was “a good education”. The second and third, with over 5 million of preferences, were “a better health system”, and “better opportunities for work”. The last of the 16 themes, with less than 2 million, was the “climate change. “And this was also in the preferences of the least developed countries, who are going to be the major victims of climate change.

The 4.3 millions poorest participants, from the least developed countries, put again education first (3 million preferences); climate change was last, with 561.000 votes…Not even in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, islands which could disappear, climate change was at the first place. This is an ample proof that people do not realize where we are: at a threshold of the survival of our planet, as we have known it for several thousand years.

So, if citizens are not aware, and therefore not concerned, why should the politicians be? The answer is because they are elected by citizens to represent their interests, and they can make more informed decisions.How does this ring in your ears? With lobbyist all over fighting for interests, what can be well sold as jobs and stability?

 

Holstein cows in a feedlot. Credit: Bigstock

 

And now, let us bring a last dirty secret, to show how far we are from really addressing the control of our climate. In addition to what we said, there is a very important issue, that has even been discussed in Paris: the agreements are entirely about the reduction of emissions by the fossils’ industry. Other emissions have been left entirely out.

Now, a new documentary, the Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, produced by Leonardo di Caprio, has ordered several data presented by vegans, on the impact of animals in the climate change. They are considered somehow exaggerated. But their dimensions are so big, that they add anyhow another nail to our coffin.

Animals emit not CO2, but methane which is at least 25 % more damaging than C02. There is recognition by the UN, that while all means of transportation, from cars to planes, contribute to 13% of emissions, cows do with 18%…

And the real problem is the use of water, a key theme that we have no way to address in this article. Water is considered even by military strategist to be soon the cause of conflicts, as petrol has been for a long time.

One pound of beef uses 2.500 gallons of water. That means that a hamburger is the equivalent of two months of showers…! And to have 1 gallon of milk, you need 100 gallons of water. And people worldwide, use one tenth of what cows need.

Cattle uses 33% of all water, 45% of the earth, and are the cause of 91% of the Amazon deforestation. They also produce waste 130 times more than human beings. Pig raising in the Netherlands is creating serious problems because theirs waste acidity is reducing usable land. And consumption of meat is increasing in Asia and Africa, very fast,it is considered a mark of reaching the choices of rich societies.

Beside this serious impact on the planet, there is also a strong paradox of sustainability for our human population. We are now 7.5 billion people, and we will reach soon 9 billion. The total food production worldwide could feed 13 to 14 billion people. Of this a considerable part goes wasted, and does not reach people (theme for an article by itself). But the food for animals could feed 6 billion people.

And we have one billion people starving. This is proof how far we are from using resources rationally for the people living on earth. We have enough resources for everybody, but we cannot administer them rationally. The number of obese has reached the number of those starving.

The logical solution in this situation would be to reach an agreement on a global governance, in the interest of the planet of humankind. Well, we are going in the opposite direction. The international system is besieged by nationalism, who make increasingly impossible to reach meaningful solutions.

 

Globally, 75 percent of coral reefs are under threat from overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and acidification of the seas due to climate change. Credit: Bigstock

 

Let us conclude with a last example: overfishing. Its now two decades that the World Trade Organization (which is not part of the UN, and was built against the UN) tries to reach an agreement on over- fishing with mega nets, who scoop up an enormous quantity of fishe: 2.7 trillion, of which they keep only one fifth, and they throw back four fifth.

Well, at the last WTO conference on the 13 December in Buenos Aires, governments were again not able to reach an agreement on how to limit illicit fishing. Big fishes are now down at 10% of 1970.And we are exploiting one third of all stocks.

It is estimated that illegal fishing puts between 10 billion and 23 billion on the black market, according to a study by 17 specialized agencies, with a full list of names. And again, governments spend 20 billion per year to finance the increase of their fishing industry…another example of how interest win on the common good.

I think now we have enough data, to realize the inability of governments to take seriously their responsibilities, because they have the necessary information to know that we are going toward a disaster.

In a normal world, Trump’s declaration that Climate control is a Chinese hoax, and it is invented against the interest of United States, should have caused more global emotion.

Also, because while Trump’s internal policies are an American question, climate is affecting all the 7.5 billion in the planet, and Trump was elected by less than a quarter of eligible voters: nearly 63 million. Too little to take decisions which affect all humankind.

And now European ministers are following, as a proverb says, money speaks and ideas murmur.. And there are many who are preparing to speculate on climate change. Now that we have lost 70% of the ice of the North Pole, the maritime industry is gearing to use the Northern Route, which will cut cost and time by a 17%.

And the British wine industry, since the warming of the planet, is increasing production by 5% each year. The vineyards planted in Kent or Sussex, with a calcar soil, are now bought from producers of Champagne, who plan to move there. The UK is already producing 5 million bottles of wine and sparkling wines, which are all sold. This Christmas, local sparkling wine will exceed champagnes, caves, prosecco and other traditional Christmas drinks.

We have all seen, at no avail, the increase of hurricanes and storms, also in Europe, and a record spread of wildfires. The UN estimates that at least 800 million people will be displaced by climate change making uninhabitable several parts of the world. Where they will go? Not to the United States or Europe, where they are seen as invaders.

We forget that the Syrian crisis came after four years of drought (1996-2000) which displaced over a million peasants to the towns. The ensuing discontent fuelled the war, with now 400.000 dead and six million refugees.

When citizens will awake to the damages, it will be too late. Scientists think that it will become clearly evident after thirty years. So why do we worry now ? That is a problem for the next generation, and companies will continue to make money until the last minute, with complicity of governments and their support,so, let us ride the climate change tide.

Let us buy a good bottle of British champagne, let us drink it on a luxury cruise line over the Pole, and let the orchestra play, as they did in the Titanic until the last minute!

The post The Political Responsibility in the Collapse of Our Planet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Central America Hashes Out Agenda for Sustainable Use of Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-hashes-agenda-sustainable-use-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-hashes-agenda-sustainable-use-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-hashes-agenda-sustainable-use-water/#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 22:02:35 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153673 The countries of Central America are striving to define a plan to promote the sustainable use of water, a crucial need in a region that is already suffering the impacts of climate change. This effort has materialised in Central America’s Water Agenda, the draft of which was agreed in November, in Tegucigalpa, by the governments […]

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A child fills his jug with water at a community tap in Los Pinos, in the municipality of Tacuba, in the western Salvadoran department of Ahuachapán. Access to piped water is still a problem in many rural communities in Central America. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

A child fills his jug with water at a community tap in Los Pinos, in the municipality of Tacuba, in the western Salvadoran department of Ahuachapán. Access to piped water is still a problem in many rural communities in Central America. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Dec 21 2017 (IPS)

The countries of Central America are striving to define a plan to promote the sustainable use of water, a crucial need in a region that is already suffering the impacts of climate change.

This effort has materialised in Central America’s Water Agenda, the draft of which was agreed in November, in Tegucigalpa, by the governments of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, along with the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation the Dominican Republic.

These countries form part of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the economic and political organisation of Central American countries, since December 1991, where they are working to address the issue of water with a regional and sustainable perspective."In the region there has been no political instrument to establish a common agenda on water issues, which is why this effort has been made: to generate a space for coordination among the environment ministers, who are responsible for the management of water.” -- Fabiola Tábora

The document is expected to be approved at a regional meeting to be held in February in Santo Domingo, according to Central American officials and experts interviewed by IPS.

“We saw that it was convenient for us to work on a plan, a sort of agenda, that would give expression to the issue of the integral management of the resource,” Salvador Nieto, executive director of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), told IPS.

This is the SICA agency made up of the environment ministers of the eight countries, focused on coordinating efforts to collectively preserve the region’s ecosystems.

And water is a vitally important issue for the 50.6 million Central Americans, especially farmers who have lost their crops due to a lack or excess of rainfall, as a result of climate change.

“All the studies recognise the vulnerability of the region, and point out that the most severe impacts of climate change for Central America will be because of the water issue,” Nieto added.

He said that although reports show that there will be intense storms, they also warn that in the medium term the main problem will be a shortage of water throughout the region.

In 2014, drought caused some 650 million dollars in losses in agriculture, hydroelectric power generation and drinking water, according to the study Situation of Water Resources in Central America: Towards Integrated Management, published in March by the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

However, the region has good water availability, because Central American countries use less than 10 percent of their available resources, points out the August edition of Entre-aguas, a report by the regional office of the GWP, an international network of organisations involved in the question of the management of water resources.

The problem, the report says, is the irregular temporal and geographical distribution of precipitation, and the scarce mechanisms of water storage and regulation.

That limits an optimal and efficient use of water, which leads to basins with problems of water scarcity in the dry season.

The GWP report adds that, due to the high climate variability associated with climate change, the concentration of rainfall in certain regions or in certain periods and droughts in others, affects the quantity and quality of water available.

Fabiola Tábora, the executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) office in Central America, takes part in one of the preparatory meetings for the World Water Forum, which will be held in Brasilia in March 2018. Credit: GWP Central America

Fabiola Tábora, the executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) office in Central America, takes part in one of the preparatory meetings for the World Water Forum, which will be held in Brasilia in March 2018. Credit: GWP Central America

In 2014, 17 percent of Central America’s total population, some 7.8 million people, did not have drinking water in their homes, according to the World Bank.

In this sense, the Agenda seeks to ensure water availability for present and future generations, but also to establish actions to face extreme climate events.

This situation in Central America, a region constantly affected by climate phenomena, convinced the political elites to take action not only in their countries, but at a regional level.

For example, droughts “generate more political will (in the governments of the region) to promote these instruments, and to reach agreements in presidential summits to draft a work agenda,” the executive secretary of the GWP for Central America, Fabiola Tábora, told IPS.

The GWP has been working with the CCAD to promote the strengthening of governance of water resources in Central America.

“In the region there has been no political instrument to establish a common agenda on water issues, which is why this effort has been made: to generate a space for coordination among the environment ministers, who are responsible for the management of water,” Tábora said, from the GWP regional office in Tegucigalpa.

The Agenda emerges from the effort to establish integrated management of water resources, one of the objectives contained in the CCAD Regional Environmental Framework Strategy, approved in February 2015 by the environment ministers of the region.

This integrated management, from which the Agenda arises, contemplates addressing key areas, such as the promotion of governance systems for the sustainable use of water, which involves actions, for example, to generate and share data and experiences regarding the problems involving water.

“The development of knowledge about water resources is through research, monitoring, or establishing measuring stations and sharing information, a recurrent need in all the countries of Central America,” José Miguel Zeledón, water director in Costa Rica’s Environment and Energy Ministry, told IPS.

He stressed that “we have to make progress in assessing the water situation, because our countries lack information, in order to know what water resources we have, what state they are in and how we can distribute them.”

Another strategic area is the development of instruments for the integrated management of international water bodies, which involves the promotion of a political dialogue at the highest level on protocols, agreements or successful model agreements on the subject.

“The implementation of the Agenda would bring benefits because many communities with water problems are in shared or transboundary basins, and that is why a main focus is to work on the question of international water bodies,” Silvia Larios, an expert on water in El Salvador’s Environment Ministry, told IPS.

Of the river basins in Central America, 23 are transboundary, covering approximately 191,449 square km (37 percent of the Central American territory), and the region has 18 transboundary aquifer systems, according to the GWP.

The GWP also emphasises the importance of promoting technology exchange, as there are communities that cannot be supplied with traditional systems, or cannot properly manage their wastewater, but will have to look for other technical options.

Larios stressed that the Agenda seeks both to reduce conflicts over the use of water resources and to guarantee availability. She also recognises access to water as a human right, to guarantee the supply to communities.

The GWP’s Tábora said that Central America has made progress in water coverage and infrastructure development, but that there is still a gap between rural and urban areas.

“Rural areas continue to be but on the back burner,” she said. Of Central America’s total population, 58 percent lives in urban areas, according to the GWP study.

Also, added Tábora, water quality has been neglected, both in cities and in rural areas.

Addressing the challenges related to water, she said, necessitates an understanding that solutions have inherent political actions, such as the enactment of water laws, given that the resource is linked to economic interests.

To set the Agenda into motion, its operational plan has yet to be implemented, alliances have to be built with various organisations and its funding must be organised and managed by the regional cooperation mechanisms.

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Long Maligned for Deforestation, Charcoal Emerges from the Shadowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 22:42:33 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153608 “We have various financial obligations that push us to charcoal making. Top on the list is farming inputs and school fees,” explains Arclay Moonga, a charcoal producer and chairperson of the recently formed Choma District Charcoal Association in Southern Zambia. His statement validates a popular belief among the locals here that charcoal is their own […]

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Tree seedlings at a nursery in Zambia, where charcoal production is worsening deforestation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Tree seedlings at a nursery in Zambia, where charcoal production is worsening deforestation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
CHOMA, Zambia, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

“We have various financial obligations that push us to charcoal making. Top on the list is farming inputs and school fees,” explains Arclay Moonga, a charcoal producer and chairperson of the recently formed Choma District Charcoal Association in Southern Zambia.

His statement validates a popular belief among the locals here that charcoal is their own version of Automated Teller Machines, or ATMs.In a society where charcoal production and the associated trade are mostly illegal, organising producer and trader groups has proven challenging.

Due to high demand, charcoal offers guaranteed cash income, adds 47-year-old Moonga. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Forestry and Farm Facility (FFF) programme, this belief captures one of the main challenges to forests in Zambia, where small-scale farmers and charcoal producers have long been seen as the main reasons behind the country’s increasing deforestation and forest degradation problems.

In a country where forest land accounts for 59 percent of the total area, boasting at least 220 tree species, containing 3,178 million square meters as growing stock, 2.74 billion tons of biomass, and 1.34 billion tons of carbon, the deforestation rate is alarmingly high, currently at 276,021 hectares per year.

Based on the results from the Integrated Land Use Assessment (ILLUA II), Southern province is ranked the third least forested and regenerated area after the Copperbelt and Lusaka. The resultant effects of forest loss have impacted negatively on livelihoods.

“You may agree with me that some experiences like having some rivers that flowed throughout the year becoming seasonal, depletion of firewood sources in nearby places and water shortages are a common challenge causing some women to travel long distances to fetch these basic requirements for domestic use,” observed Daglous Ngimbu, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Southern Province.

Ngimbu told IPS that government is concerned that a province known for its contribution to agriculture is witnessing increased charcoal production, with a worrying trend where even food tree species such as Uapaka Kirkiana, locally known as Masuku, are not being spared by charcoal producers.

These are some of the key challenges that the FFF programme is addressing. A partnership launched in September 2012 between FAO, IIED and IUCN, and AgriCord, its Steering Committee is formed by members affiliated with forest producers, community forestry, indigenous peoples’ organizations, the international research community, business development service provider organizations, private sector, government, and donors.

In addressing the challenges, the FFF is using a unique approach—encouraging sustainable production of charcoal through increased support for collaboration between the Forest Department and the agricultural sector to improve smallholder producer organisations’ technical capacity, and strengthening of enterprise development.

But in a society where charcoal production and the associated trade are mostly illegal, organising producer and trader groups has proven challenging.

“I am reliably informed that it was not easy to bring charcoal producers together and start working with the forest department on various initiatives,” said FAO Country Representative, George Okech during a signing ceremony of a 15,000-dollar grant with the first ever Charcoal Association in Zambia—Choma Charcoal Association, comprising producers, transporters and traders among other stakeholders.

“The Forest and Farm Facility programme believes that organising the producers into groups is the first step to build capacity for sustainable utilisation of forest resources and improve business opportunities for the rural poor people who depend on these forests resources for their lives,” Okech said.

The grant is meant to support the Association in mobilisation of charcoal producers and institutional growth, demonstration of low cost and efficient technologies to produce charcoal that reduce waste of forest materials and to increase participation of members in sustainable forest management activities.

As a platform for capacity building and policy dialogue, Okech said the Charcoal Association is receiving additional support through the Forest Department, which has been given 52,960 dollars for tree nursery growers and other women’s groups related to basket-making activities.

For long-term policy support, “FAO through this facility has also supported the Forest department to develop a new charcoal regulation which is in draft, that will require charcoal producers to form Associations before licenses are provided,” he told IPS.

Interestingly, this bottom-up approach has brought on board and improved key stakeholders’ participation at the local level—the local councils and traditional leadership. The formation of the Charcoal Association was debated and voted for in the full council meeting, giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless charcoal business players.

With this development, their views will now be carried along all the way through to the highest national development decision-making level and mainstreamed into policies and implementation strategies.

“While the people of Choma largely depend on agriculture for livelihoods, the council is aware of climate change which is having a negative impact on agriculture, and we are alive to the fact that forests play a key role in the whole ecosystem,” noted Javen Simoloka, Mayor of Choma municipality.

“That’s why the full council voted for the formation of the Charcoal Association to strengthen community participation and ensure that their views are carried along in the management of forest resources.”

When His Royal Highness Chief Cooma heard this idea for the first time, his initial reaction was skepticism.

“I have a strict policy on conservation of forests in my chiefdom, regulating tree-cutting activities. Therefore, I was worried to hear that higher authorities had allowed for the formation of such a charcoal Association, which to me, was like giving a license for destruction of trees,” he said.

“But I am grateful that Charcoal Associations are not about indiscriminate cutting of trees,” he added with a sigh of relief, as he showcased portions of an indigenous regenerated and exotic forest reserve surrounding his palace.

It is also a relief for Moonga. “Even when we dully paid for licenses, we usually stayed away from government activities out of fear. Most of our members would move their products in the night just because of the perception that all charcoal trading was illegal,” lamented Moonga.

“But now I know that we have been empowered. Personally, as a producer for over 20 years, no one can intimidate me on prices anymore, I am free to bargain with traders and sell publicly as opposed to the past when I would sometimes be forced to sale at give-away prices for fear of being caught by authorities.”

For a country where over 70 percent of the population depends on biomass energy – charcoal and wood fuel – adopting such a community-friendly approach to forest management, formalizing what has over the years been considered illegal, could prove to be the difference between environmental degradation and sustainability.

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Water, Water Everywhere, Costs More Than You Might Thinkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/water-water-everywhere-costs-might-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-water-everywhere-costs-might-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/water-water-everywhere-costs-might-think/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 17:46:01 +0000 Daniel Waldron and Zehra Shabbir http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153601 Daniel Waldron & Zehra Shabbir of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), housed at the World Bank, is a global partnership of more than 30 leading organizations.

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Credit: Water.org

By Daniel Waldron and Zehra Shabbir
WASHINTON DC, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

Without reliable access to water, human beings cannot survive. Yet 3 out of 10 people do not have a safely managed water supply, and 6 out of 10 lack safely managed sanitation. Over 2 billion people drank water that was fecally contaminated in 2015, and the World Bank estimates that the annual cost of poor sanitation is in excess of $260 billion annually.

The technologies that can address these shortages are not complicated, but their upfront cost remains unaffordable to many low-income families. In Indonesia, for example, connection to piped water systems averages $150, while a flush toilet can cost around $250. For comparison, 11 percent of Indonesians live on less than $27 per month.

Microfinance offers an affordable, accessible remedy to these market barriers, but water and sanitation are not traditional targets for microcredit. Loans for water supply and sanitation (WSS) improvements require technical knowledge that many financial institutions lack, and the improved water or sanitation facilities do not usually generate cash flows that repay the loan.

WSS loans often produce economic impacts, but they are more diffuse, easier seen in aggregate: the child that does not fall ill, the hours not spent walking to a well. Yet as we have seen with the financing of solar products, there may be room for a broader role in financing assets that improve quality of life and alleviate human misery. By that standard, WSS loans are incredibly sound investments.

Early successes in water supply and sanitation credit

The nonprofit Water.org is one of the global leaders in facilitating WSS investments through its global WaterCredit program. WaterCredit programs are often set up as tri-parte arrangements. A prospective borrower applies for a loan to install a toilet, buy a water tank, or finance a piped water connection (among other uses).

If approved, the money either disburses directly from the financial institution to the contractor, generally a local artisan, or to the client, who then use it to buy or build the WSS product they need.
The ideal option for the financial institution is to deliver the loan capital straight to the vendor, which reduces the credit risk of funds being diverted to other uses.

This is more easily written than done, of course. As you might expect, most financial institutions lack technical expertise in the requirements of latrine construction or indoor piping. Management is often unaware of the benefits and needs assistance in structuring a loan product, staff require training on the features of WSS loans, and credit officers may need to deliver very different sales pitches.

In Tanzania, for example, a WSS program ran into difficulties when loan officers were embarrassed to discuss clients’ toilets. Financial institutions also benefit from established relationships with third parties who can offer capacity-building support for WSS lending.

This is where Water.org comes in. By partnering with financial institutions, Water.org offers technical and financial support, helping these institutions overcome barriers to WSS microfinance and demonstrating the impact that such loans can have.

This is not a limited engagement. A deep, long-term relationship is often needed to build financial institutions’ capacity, but the sustained effort can produce dividends.

Water.org has helped catalyze $602 million in WSS finance to 1.9 million borrowers in 11 markets. In India, Grameen Koota has been perhaps the most successful adopter, issuing almost 600,000 home improvement loans in the last four years, with upwards of $144 million lent in 2016 alone. In 2015, repayment rates across WaterCredit providers exceeded 99 percent.

Credit: Water.org

The case for digital finance in the water sector

Since WaterCredit loans are so small ($311 on average), there is an urgent need to bring costs down for long-term sustainability. In India, for example, Water.org provides a “smart subsidy” to partner financial institutions, with 78 percent reporting a profit on the WSS lending. But 50 percent of these institutions reported that their WSS lending would be unprofitable without the subsidy, highlighting the need to reduce costs.

Digitizing water credit will be crucial to overcoming this challenge. By lowering costs related to loan application processing, disbursement and repayment, WSS-specific digital credit can enable microfinance institutions and larger banks to finance important household improvements while still maintaining robust quality assurance.

Water.org has already experimented with digital loan repayment in Cambodia, where borrowers used the mobile transfer service WING. In Kenya, with more mature digital credit options already available, extensive work was done with Equity Bank to digitize their existing Maji loan, creating an easier-to-use, more profitable product that leveraged the existing Equitel platform and mobile app.

Unfortunately, the interest rate cap imposed in 2016 has — at least temporarily — scuttled those plans, although the loan remains available in-branch. Despite the lack of a fully digital WSS loan to date, the case for digitizing water credit remains strong, and in fact many digital loans are already being used for these purposes.

Water.org commissioned a loan utilization study in Kenya that focused on undifferentiated digital Equity Bank loans issued from October 2015 to March 2017. The study found that over 21,000 loans (3 percent of total), amounting to $2.2 million, were used on water and sanitation products and services, indicating a sizeable latent demand.

Digital water loans linked to vendors and products will hopefully lead to even better outcomes for the households, although it’s also possible that undifferentiated loans will allow consumers to allocate more efficiently. Either way, digital credit appears likely to take water and sanitation lending mainstream, helping millions to live cleaner, healthier lives.

The post Water, Water Everywhere, Costs More Than You Might Think appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daniel Waldron & Zehra Shabbir of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), housed at the World Bank, is a global partnership of more than 30 leading organizations.

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Money Talks at One Planet Summit in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:27:17 +0000 Paris Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153552 As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table. The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors […]

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Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

By Paris Correspondent
PARIS, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table.

The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors responded to the call from French President Emmanuel Macron for urgent action.Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

“We’re not going fast enough,” Macron said at the Dec. 12 summit, which he co-convened with the United Nations and the World Bank. “Some countries present will see their territories disappear. We all have to move forward… The time is now.”

French multinational insurance company AXA announced that it plans to have 12 billion euros in green investments by 2020 and that it would divest 2.4 billion euros from certain coal-company activities.

Meanwhile the World Bank Group (WBG) highlighted its funding of projects in India for street lighting; in West Africa to tackle “coastal erosion, flooding and climate change adaptation”; in Indonesia regarding geothermal-power development; and with the Global Covenant of Mayors in a new “Cities Resilience Programme” (CRP).

“Over the next three years, the CRP will leverage $4.5 billion in World Bank loans to catalyze billions in public and private capital for technical assistance, project co-financing and credit enhancement,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

He said that the programme would essentially “act as an investment banker for cities to structure programs to address their vulnerabilities to climate change”.

Kim also announced that the World Bank would not be financing upstream oil and gas after 2019, but that in “exceptional circumstances”, consideration would be given to such financing in the “poorest countries” where there is a clear benefit in terms of “energy access for the poor”.

The bank said it was on track to meet its target of 28 percent of its lending going to climate action by 2020.

With these and other announcements, the One Planet Summit, held two years after the signing of the landmark Paris Agreement, aimed to add momentum to the push for adequate financing of climate adaptation and mitigation, said some observers, while others termed it a public-relations exercise.

The summit brought together heads of state, local government representatives, non-governmental organizations – and schoolchildren. Journalists were out in force, alongside United Nations delegations, at the Seine Musicale venue, an imposing new arts centre on an island in the river Seine, just outside Paris.

Government leaders arrived by boat with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Macron and Kim, the co-convenors, for a packed afternoon of panel discussions and speeches, following morning events.

“Technological progress has already revealed the falsehood that responding to climate change is bad for the economy,” said Guterres. “Finance could be, should be and will be a decisive factor.”

Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

Caribbean representatives announced the launch of a 8-billion-dollar investment plan to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone”. The bodies involved include the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and private groups, forming a “Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition”.

The goal is to find a way “to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments”, the Caribbean Development Bank said.

Juvenel Moȉse, Haiti’s president and a participant at the summit, spoke of the vulnerability of the region, emphasizing that all the islands are suffering from the impacts of climate change. He said that Haiti was in a “very fragile zone”.

American actor Sean Penn, also present, said he had got involved in helping Haiti to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, and he said more financing was needed.

“I call on all those gathered to stand with Haiti,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Canada and the World Bank Group said they would support small island developing states to expand their renewable-energy infrastructure to achieve greater access to energy and to decrease pollution.

In side events around the summit, groups such as the International Development Finance Club (which groups 23 international, national and regional development banks from across the world), highlighted their “green financial flows”.

The group said that in 2016, IDFC members made new commitments representing 173 billion dollars in finance, an increase of 30 billion from 2015.

The eve of the summit, Dec. 11, was titled Climate Finance Day, and it was also the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), told journalists that the long years of negotiations had provided a framework in which all sectors of society could take action, as governments “cannot do it alone”.

She said there was a growing sense of urgency, especially after recent extreme weather events that had seen some communities “losing everything they have built throughout their lives”. More support was needed for adaptation, she and other officials noted.

At the summit, the Agence Française de Développement – an IDFC member — signed accords with Mauritius, Niger, Tunisia and the Comoros – as part of the agency’s Adapt’Action Facility.

With financing of 30 million euros over four years, Adapt’Action seeks to “accompany 15 developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement regarding adaptation,” the agency stated.

An official from Niger spoke compellingly of problems that included desertification. The country has been cited as an example of France not doing enough for its former colonies, and political analysts question whether that will change under Macron.

The European Union meanwhile said that its External Investment Plan (EIP) is set to mobilise some 44 billion euros to “partner countries in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood” by 2020.

Among its goals, the EIP aims to “contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals while tackling some of the root causes of migration,” according to the EU.

Regarding Asia and the Pacific, officials at the summit said action by countries in the region were “encouraging”. Heads of state included the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Fiji, who spoke of their climate initiatives. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the country was among the first emerging states to offer a green bond.

The international nature of the summit made the U.S. absence even more noticeable. As U.S. President Donald Trump had announced earlier this year that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, he was not invited, French officials said.

Other American climate figures were present, however, such as businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bloomberg said that around the world, businesses were taking “responsible” action because investors want to put their money in environmentally friendly companies.

Still, for some NGOs, not enough is being done, and the summit was more of what they had heard before.

“If governments and business are sincere in their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, they would cease their financing of dirty and harmful energy projects around the world and would instead accept their responsibility for providing public finance to address climate change instead of letting business dictate the agenda,” said Meena Raman of Third World Network.

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Build Back Better: The Tiny Island of Dominica Faces New Climate Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 19:33:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153318 McCarthy Marie has been living in the Fond Cani community, a few kilometres east of the Dominica capital Roseau, for 38 years. The 68-year-old economist moved to the area in 1979 following the decimation of the island by Hurricane David. But even though David was such a destructive hurricane, Marie told IPS that when Hurricane […]

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The island nation of Dominica, once know as a modern-day Garden of Eden, was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The island nation of Dominica, once know as a modern-day Garden of Eden, was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

McCarthy Marie has been living in the Fond Cani community, a few kilometres east of the Dominica capital Roseau, for 38 years. The 68-year-old economist moved to the area in 1979 following the decimation of the island by Hurricane David.

But even though David was such a destructive hurricane, Marie told IPS that when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, islanders witnessed something they had never seen before.“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of 224 percent of their GDP this year?” --Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

“The entire city of Roseau was completely flooded,” Marie told IPS. “There is a major river flowing through the centre of the city. The river rose pretty quickly and that was compounded by the fact that we have five bridges crossing the river and a couple of those bridges, especially those we built more recently, were definitely built too low so they presented a barrier to the river and prevented the water from flowing into the sea as it would otherwise have done.”

Hurricane Maria, a category five storm with sustained winds reaching 180 miles an hour, battered the Caribbean nation for several hours between Sep. 18-19. It left 27 people dead and as many missing, and nearly 90 percent of the structures on the island damaged or destroyed.

Marie said Dominicans have been talking a lot about climate change for quite some time, but the island was not fully prepared for its impacts.

And while Dominicans in general have not been building with monster hurricanes like Maria in mind, Marie said he took an extraordinary step following his experience with Hurricane David.

“I prepared for hurricanes by building my hurricane bunker in 1989 when I built my house. When the storm [Maria] started to get serious, we went into the bunker and we stayed there for the duration of the storm,” he said.

“I have been seeing more and more buildings going up that have concrete roofs but it’s not the standard by far. The usual standard is a house made of concrete and steel with a timber roof. So, most of the houses, the damage they suffered was that the timber roof got taken off and then water got inside the house and damaged all their stuff.

“We need to build houses that can withstand the wind, but the wind is not so much of a big problem. Our big problem is dealing with the amount of water and flooding that we are going to have,” Marie explained.

Like Marie, Bernard Wiltshire, who is a former attorney general here, believes Dominica is big on talk about climate change but the rhetoric does not translate into tangible action on building resilience.

He cited the level of devastation in several countries in the Caribbean over the last hurricane season.

“We certainly did not act fast enough in Dominica, we know that. And from looking at what happened in Puerto Rico and in Antigua and Barbuda, I didn’t see any evidence that we have really come to grips with what is required to make us more resilient in the face of those conditions that are going to confront us,” Wiltshire said.

“It brings us to the question how do we make ourselves more resilient, what do we do? I would say we have to look not just to the question of making buildings stronger and more rigid, but we also have to look at ways in which the community is made more resilient; our pattern of production and consumption, we’ve got really to reorient our society to eliminate the causes that prevent those communities from being able to withstand the effects of these disasters.”

Dominica acts as a microcosm of the climate change threat to the world, and the island’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has called for millions of dollars of assistance so the country can build the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of 224 percent of their GDP this year?” asked Skerrit.

“We have been put on the front line by others. We were the guardians of nature, 60 percent of Dominica is covered by protected rain forests and has been so long before climate change,” he said.

The island’s Gross Domestic Product has been decimated, wiped out due to severe damage to the agriculture, tourism and housing sectors.

It is the second consecutive year that all 72,000 people living on Dominica have been affected by disasters.

Skerrit is convinced that the only way to reduce the number of people affected by future severe weather is to build back better to a standard that can withstand the rainfall, wind intensity and degree of storm surge which they can now expect from tropical storms in the age of climate change.

As Dominica seeks to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation, Skerrit said they cannot do this alone and need international cooperation.

But Wiltshire said Caribbean countries must shoulder some of the blame for climate change.

“I don’t want us in the Caribbean simply to point fingers at the bigger countries and completely ignore our own role. There is a problem I think, in our islands, if not causing climate change, in contributing to the degree of damage that is actually done, the severity of these disasters,” Wiltshire said.

“In Dominica for example, one of the most obvious things was the deluge of debris from the hillsides, from the interior of the country, carried by the rivers down to the coast. It is up there where we have unplanned use of the land, building of roads, the construction of houses without a proper planning regime. So, we ourselves have a role to play in this where for example we are giving away our wetlands and draining them for hotel construction,” he added.

Head of the Caribbean Climate Group Professor Michael Taylor said climate change is happening now and Caribbean residents no longer have the luxury to see it as an isolated event or a future threat.

“I think the first thing that we have to think about is how in the Caribbean are we really perceiving climate change and not necessarily only at the government level but at the individual level, at the community level,” he said.

“Do we perceive climate change as something that is an event or are we beginning to recognise that climate change for us in the Caribbean is a developmental issue? We have to begin to see that climate change is interwoven into every aspect of our lives and it impacts us daily. It’s where you get your water from, the quality of your roads. Until we begin to realise that climate change is interwoven into life then we will always be almost with our foot on the backburner, always trying to catch up.

“We do have resource constraints within the region, we do have other pressing issues which sometimes tend to cloud over both at the community level going right up to the government level, but I think climate has put itself on the forefront of the agenda and that said, we need now to mainstream climate into the very short-term planning and at all levels of community going right up through government and even regional entities,” Taylor added. 

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Empowering Women Improves Communities, Ensures Success for Generationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 15:31:59 +0000 Becky Heeley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153294 At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects […]

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Credit: IFAD

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects in these countries have ambitious goals for a more egalitarian future. To date these projects have successfully provided women with decision-making opportunities, skill training, and increased autonomy through the development of their own livelihoods.

Morocco’s Country Programme Manager, Naoufel Telahigue, summed up the greatest overall effect best; “Rural women have become a symbol of will.”

With empowerment comes greater individual and collective confidence, influence, and overall happiness which contributes to the vitality of households and communities. There is still much to be achieved, however these projects have yielded numerous positive results worthy of the utmost praise.

Mozambique’s Rural Markets Promotion Programme empowered women to join farmer organizations where they now have equal membership as men. Women have increased their revenue by connecting to markets and even becoming community leaders.

Throughout homes in Mozambique women and men are rewriting embedded household gender roles through the Gender Action Learning System (GALS).

Men are not only warming to the idea of sharing women’s domestic workloads, they are seeing the benefits, Mario Quissico, Gender focal point, PROMER, explained, “It is very exciting hearing men say, we are happy because harmony at home has increased. We are working as a family, we are contributing to activities which we thought were for women.”

Vital to women’s security in Bangladesh, especially after the recent resettlement on the coastal islands, is the Char Development and Settlement Project’s initiative for women and men to own equal amounts of land.

The Deputy Team Leader of the project, Md. Bazlul Karim, clarified that even women without husbands are protected, “50% goes to the woman and 50% to the man. If there is a single woman who is the head of a family she will get 100% of the land.”

In Colombia , Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities Programme: Trust and Opportunity or TOP believes that empowering women is absolutely essential to the country’s peace. They are helping poor, vulnerable women who are heads of households by providing training and incentives to create their own incomes. Some have even embraced the male-typical endeavor of raising livestock.

Morocco’s Agricultural Value Chain Development Project in Mountain Zones of AL-Haouz Province have encouraged women to get training in businesses with local products like wool, olives, and apples. Coined the “two-sheep initiative,” women have started their own businesses by acquiring two sheep.

There is also a focus on female-run small businesses in Mauritania where the Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro supports women’s micro projects.

Easier access to drinking water has also been a vital part in improving the lives of women and reducing poverty. With fresh water closer, women save as many as five hours each day which they can instead use to earn money.

All of these projects are combating gender inequality and have given women the ability to make decisions and take positions of power in families and communities. These advancements positively influence entire societies.

The Coordinator of Mauritani’s project, Ahmed Ould Amar, emphasized, “We are reaching 281 villages and working with 19,000 households. This is quite huge, so obviously when you are working at this type of scale you have economic, social, and organizational impacts on society.”

Not only have these projects been working tirelessly from the ground up and in turn improving gender equality in society, they are securing it for future generations.

Young people in Colombia are being protected by the project’s encouragement of entrepreneurial women to work with young people and include them in their empowerment.

According to Ahmed Ould Amar, young women are being heard in Mauritania, “We’ve got this diagnosis process at field level that always includes a group of young people and women so we can hear what their problems are.”

A school, which also ingeniously acts as a shelter from cyclones, has been created in Bangladesh and many young girls are being educated for the first time.

In Mozambique women who were previously illiterate are being taught to read. They can perform previously impossible tasks such as understanding forms at the hospital so they can help their children flourish.

While women have begun generating income in Morocco, young girls have been able to remain in school. Some have even gone on to University.

In all five of these countries, women are taking on leadership positions and becoming role models for younger generations. The freshly ingrained demand for gender equality and a belief that the empowerment of women ensures a more stable present and successful future allows for young girls to grow up into vibrant women who improve society.

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Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-price-put-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 13:10:24 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153280 IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviews the Executive Director of United Nations Environment ERIK SOLHEIM ahead of the Dec. 4-6 3rd UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, where 193 member states will discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI/NEW DELHI, Dec 1 2017 (IPS)

“Political resolve is the key for succeeding in our fight against oceans pollution,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, who is leading hands-on the organisation’s global campaign to clean up seas and oceans of plastic litter, agricultural run‑off and chemical dumping, told IPS.

“It’s about building capacity for strong environmental governance and bolstering political leadership on these issues,” said Solheim, who previously served as Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development.“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line."

“One of the big changes has been an understanding of the issue (of marine pollution) and a realization that we are facing an extremely serious problem. As a result, we’re starting to see a range of initiatives,” he said.

“On the community level, there are people like Afroz Shah and Mumbai’s Versova Beach clean-up team, for example. They’re really doing an amazing job of drawing attention to the problem.

“Then we’re seeing the “private sector begin to take serious action,” he said. “For example, Dell is changing its packaging. Certain big national and international chains are changing their practices – for example by using paper instead of plastic, or cutting out plastic straws.

“Then we have government action, which is crucial. Certain countries have banned microplastics, some have banned plastic bags. Kenya, Rwanda and Bangladesh, for example, are recognised global leaders on plastic pollution,” he added.

“This points to a growing understanding of the marine litter problem and a resolve to take concrete action. Ultimately, the problem of marine litter is upstream. We need industries to change. We need people to exercise their power as consumers,” Solheim said.

In what Joachim Spangenberg of Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environment Research called the “political economy” of pollution, where vested-interest lobbies profit by externalizing costs of production and discharging unwanted waste into the environment, anti-plastic law-makers are up against a global plastic industry worth 654 billion dollars by 2020. Dow Chemicals, Du Pont, BASF, ExxonMobil, and Bayer are key players invested in the sector.

But Spangenberg too says that heads of government have great power to address this “political economy” of pollution.

Oceans are the new economic frontier, but ill health eating into its potential

Between 2010 and 2030 on a business‑as‑usual scenario, the ocean economy could double its global value added to 3 trillion dollars and provide 40 million jobs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) major 2016 study said.

Ocean is the new economic frontier, it said, its growth driven by traditional and emerging ocean-based industries, marine food, energy, transport, minerals, medicines, tourism and innovations.

But OECD warns the oceans’ undermined health would cut into its full growth potential.

“We need governments to make polluters pay, and to ensure we work harder on recycling, reuse and waste management. The solution is stopping the waste ending up in the ocean in the first place,” Solheim told Inter Press Service.

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Pollution from plastic waste in oceans is costing 8 billion dollars

“Pollution from plastic waste being dumped in the ocean is costing the world at least 8 billion dollars every year, but this estimate is certain to be an underestimate when we factor in the cumulative, long-term consequences,” said the UNEP chief.

Between 4.8 million tonnes and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year, 80 percent of it from land sources due to inadequate waste management.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, plastic production is increasing 4-5 percent annually.

Plastic pollution is everywhere; even a tiny uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean far from human contact had 18 tonnes of plastic washed up on it. Plastic waste was found at 36,000 feet in depth – the deepest spot in the ocean in the Mariana trench, he points out.

Plastic aside, land-based sources pump in the maximum waste and pollutants into oceans and coastal waters, mostly through rivers. Farming, food and agro-industry, fisheries and aquaculture, oil and energy sector, waste, wastewater, packaging sector, extractives and pharmaceuticals are major sources.

In coastal regions where 37 percent of the global population lives, these pollutants can stunt neurological development, cause heart and kidney disease, cancer, sterility and hormonal disruption.

Among the little know impacts on marine creatures, ingestion of microplastics (size less than 5 mm) by fish can affect female fertility and grow reproductive tissue in male fish causing their feminization. Chemicals in plastic cause thyroid disorder in whales, physiological stress, liver cancer, and endocrine dysfunction, says UNEP’s 2017 pollution report.

“Then of course we have to look at waste to the economy of plastics being produced, used for a few seconds or minutes and then dumped,” Solheim said.

Why are many law-makers still dragging their feet on strong anti-plastic policies?

Environmental activists say regulating marine pollution needs bold and several restrictive, unpopular policies that on which elected law makers are seen to be dragging their feet.

“It’s a case of presenting environmental action in a positive, constructive way. We need to stop looking at it as a cost or sacrifice, but as an opportunity, a win for health, benefits for the economy and for the planet,” Solheim counters the critics.

The Kenyan government recently banned single-use plastic bags. “There were inevitably complaints from some manufacturers, but we have to consider what the benefits are from making the switch to more sustainable packaging.

“There are business opportunities. There are benefits to tourism, as nobody wants to go on a safari and see plastic bags blowing across the savannah, or spend a holiday on beaches littered with plastic. There are benefits to the food chain too. We’ve seen cows whose stomachs were filled with plastic,” he added.

Actions don’t need to be unpopular. For example, “does any country have a policy to throw rubbish into the sea?” “Certainly not! If that was a real policy, people would be justifiably furious.” he said. But that is what has happened, in the absence of strong policies.

“For too long, the relationship between prosperity and environment has been seen as a trade-off. Tackling pollution was considered an unwelcome cost on industry and a handicap to economic growth,” Solheim says in his ‘Vision for a Pollution-free Planet,’ in the run-up to the UN Environment Assembly. “(But) it’s now clear that sustainable development is the only form of development that makes sense, including in financial and economic terms,” he adds.

“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line. It’s cheaper to prevent pollution now than clean up in the future,” he told Inter Press Service.

“That’s the message we really need to get across, so that governments can feel inspired and emboldened to take action.

“After that, what price do we put on our oceans? They sustain human life in such a way that surely we need to look at the oceans as priceless,” Solheim said.

“We have to look at pollution as a factor alongside climate change and over-fishing. We have to look at oceans as interconnected,” Solheim said.

Keeping marine litter high on national environmental policy agendas of the 193 member nations, pollution is the focus of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly 4-6 December at the UN headquarters of Nairobi.

The UN Environment Assembly is attended by 193 member states, heads of state, environment ministers, CEOs of multinational companies, NASA scientists, NGOs, environmental activists, and celebrities to discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

The post Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviews the Executive Director of United Nations Environment ERIK SOLHEIM ahead of the Dec. 4-6 3rd UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, where 193 member states will discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

The post Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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“Ambition & Action” Needed to End Open Defecationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ambition-action-needed-end-open-defecation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ambition-action-needed-end-open-defecation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ambition-action-needed-end-open-defecation/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 20:46:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153212 What would life be like without access to a toilet? What if our waste was not properly disposed of? For those in the developed world, such questions are hard to fathom, but for 2.3 billion people around the world it’s a reality. Without access to a toilet many are forced to defecate in the open, […]

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“Ambition & Action” Needed to End Open Defecation

Women village councilors in Penakota, a village in southeast India, go out into a field to relieve themselves, as there are no toilets in their workplace. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 27 2017 (IPS)

What would life be like without access to a toilet? What if our waste was not properly disposed of?

For those in the developed world, such questions are hard to fathom, but for 2.3 billion people around the world it’s a reality. Without access to a toilet many are forced to defecate in the open, significantly increasing the changes of spreading diseases.

The sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG’s) include a pledge that aims to provide everyone with access to toilets and improved sanitation services by 2030.

“It is possible to reach these targets, we all share the vision of the SDG 6 and we know there has been considerable progress made already.”

“However, meeting the target will require a step-change in our ambition and action,” says WaterAid UK’s Tim Wainwright.

So far progress has been made. According to the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF, in the last 15 years alone, some 371 million people moved out of open defecation – about 25 million people per year.

With improved access to toilets and sanitation systems that properly manage waste, WHO estimate that up to 842,000 deaths could be avoided each year.
Improvements such as this have been in part due to the efforts of agencies such as UNICEF and charities like Water Aid. Both are committed to helping end open defecation, a practice carried out by as many as 900 million people around the world.

Open defecation is defined as the act of eliminating waste in the open – whether it be on the street, behind bushes or near running water.

The poor sanitary practice has been linked to spreading disease including, but not limited to:  cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Unsurprisingly, nations where the practice is most prevalent are also the countries that report the highest rates of child mortality per year.

“It contributes to a health crisis which claims the lives of 289,000 children under five each year, from diarrhea diseases directly linked to dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene,” Wainwright told IPS.

Wainwright stressed that ending the practice would involve more than just implementing toilets.

He said that “behavioral change through education” is needed to ensure that people become accustom to using toilets.

But improving global sanitation and meeting SDG 6 doesn’t end there. After all, even when there is a toilet – what happens to the waste?

It was this question that was given a platform when the United Nations marked World Toilet day earlier this month.

Addressing a roundtable conference to mark the day, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed focused on the full sanitation cycle, emphasizing safe disposal of waste and waste-water.

“Some systems provide treatment and safe disposal in situ, while others are connected to a sewer.  But for many onsite sanitation systems, there is a need for safe emptying and transport.”

“Pit latrines and septic tanks need to be regularly emptied and the waste taken to a treatment facility.”

“For billions of people, such proper sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective.”

Indeed, according to WHO, only 39 percent of the global population has access to sanitation service that safely removes their waste.

UNICEF and WHO have been keeping track of global sanitation and hygiene improvements since 1990 through their ‘Joint Monitoring Program’ (JPM).

A spokesperson for UNICEF told IPS: “SDG6 represents an opportunity to shape a much healthier world and we are tracking progress towards its ambitious targets, through the JPM.

“It (the JPM) aims to capture progressive improvements in global sanitation systems. It tracks through sanitation ladders, places with no sanitation services at all – which is open defecation – through to basic sanitation, to safely managed sanitation.”

With improved access to toilets and sanitation systems that properly manage waste, WHO estimate that up to 842,000 deaths could be avoided each year.

When discussing other outcomes of improved services, Water Aid’s Wainwright, stressed that one of the biggest outcomes would be improved lives for women and girls.

“There is a gender element to all of this. We know the impact of not having good sanitation is often worse for women and girls,” said Wainwright.

“For example, they are more likely to be subject to harassment or assault if they have to find a place outdoors to relieve themselves; they are more likely to bear the burden of walking long distances to collect water… and adolescent girls are more likely to miss school if there aren’t safe, private places in which to care for themselves during menstruation.”

Fortunately, SDG 6 acknowledges these issues by striving to ensure “adequate and equitable sanitation” whilst “paying attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”

A commitment to vulnerable groups is something that sets the SDG’s apart from the Millennium Development Goals, which were more generalise in its sanitations goals when they are were eventually added to the original MDG’s in 2002.

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Combating Climate Change? Combat Land Degradation, Says UNCCD Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief/#respond Fri, 24 Nov 2017 19:26:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153194 Land restoration is not a “glamorous subject even when you give all the numbers,” admits Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD). But she also stresses that by 2050, the world population will reach 10 billion. To feed that extra 2.4 billion, current food production would need to be […]

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Women restore degraded land in southern India under a government-funded program. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women restore degraded land in southern India under a government-funded program. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 24 2017 (IPS)

Land restoration is not a “glamorous subject even when you give all the numbers,” admits Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD). But she also stresses that by 2050, the world population will reach 10 billion. To feed that extra 2.4 billion, current food production would need to be increased by 75 percent.

By 2045, there will be 130 million people who migrated because of desertification, and out of them, 60 million will come from south of the Sahel and Africa.

“To do that, we will have to add, from now to 2050, 4 million acres of new land every year. So unless urgent action is taken to restore degraded land, the world is looking at an acute food-insecure future,” she told IPS in a special interview on the sidelines of the recently concluded UN Climate Conference – COP23 in Bonn.

Land vs energy: a popularity game?

At the conference where ideas, actions, innovations and resources were brought in the open to design a roadmap to tackle climate change, the discussions were dominated by ending coal, producing renewable energy and making green technologies more accessible. Land was an issue largely ignored, except by some indigenous peoples’ groups who stressed the need to maintain soil fertility.

But Barbut asserts that land is indeed integral to climate actions and policies taken both at the UN and at the national level. “In the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or what countries will do to cut carbon emissions] they have submitted, more than 140 countries have said that land was part of their solution or their problem in terms of climate change,” she points out.

One of the countries is India, where an estimated 30 percent of total land is already degraded. According to a 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) titled “World Day to Combat Desertification”, the degrading area has increased over 0.5 per cent to 29.3 million hectares in the past decade. Desertification also increased by 1.16 million hectares (m ha) and stood at 82.64 m ha during 2011-13, says the report.

As a signatory to the UNCCD, India has committed to combat desertification and land degradation and become land degradation neutral by 2030. In simple terms, this means having a balanced proportion of land loss and land gain.

However, though an ambitious goal, this is seldom talked about by the officials. In sharp contrast, India’s other environmental actions, especially the Solar Mission which aims to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, is widely lauded.

Anand Kumar, the secretary of India’s Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, is quick to point out that the International Solar Alliance – a group of 44 countries committed to produce 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy – has promised investments of 1 trillion dollars by 2030.

No land restoration initiatives are likely to garner that kind of private investment, admits Barbut, as the job is more labor intensive. “Even the most degraded land can be restored with a small investment of 300 dollars per hectare. So, what is needed is not a large sum of money, but lots of manual labour. So perhaps there is not a lot of scope for huge investment and large profits,” she says.

However, at the same time, she shared some good news: the UNCCD, in collaboration with Mirova, the governments of France, Luxembourg, Norway, and the Rockefeller Foundation, has launched a special fund for restoring degraded land and fighting desertification. Named the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund, this new finance vehicle was launched on September 12 this year, during the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) of the UNCCD in Ordos, China.

“We have launched the biggest land impact fund. It is managed by Natistix. It is a public-private fund. By the beginning of next year, we hope to have about 300 million dollars of capitalization of the fund,” Barbut says.

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Land and Women’s Rights

The connection between the environment and women’s rights is an integral one, says Barbut. “Whether it’s drought, land degradation or desertification, women suffer more than others. In fact, they not only suffer from the consequences of drought or desertification, but also from the fact that in most cases women do not have rights to land,” she says, before sharing some experiences from Africa where plots of degraded land were restored, but because women did not have rights to the land, they could not stake their claim.

One such example is in the Mboula region of Senegal, where the regional government allocated tracts of land to women’s groups for collective farming. The initiative has been a big success as the women’s collective managed to grow more food than expected. As a result, the women now have received training to venture into growing crops for market, besides their own consumption.

Similarly, in Eastern Uganda, the government started a new initiative with women who had no ownership over their land. They have been trained in marketing, managing a collective that cultivates arable land that was once degraded, but is now restored. Besides supporting these local initiatives at the country level, UNCCD is also mainstreaming gender equality in its own policies and actions.

“We now have a Gender Policy Framework and it’s the most advanced framework all the UN Conventions and which we will apply in particular to all the transformative projects,” Barbut explains.

Land and Climate Change

According to Barbut, climate change’s effects on land are becoming more and more of a global problem, with major social and political consequences. She mentions the recent droughts witnessed by France, Canada and successive droughts in the US, and also points out the recent exodus of people from drought and desertification in the global south.

“If you see all the migrants coming to Europe, 100 percent of them – not 90 percent but 100 percent – are coming from drylands. There are also migration and radicalism linked to land degradation and desertification. For example, in the drylands of Africa, where desertification is happening, we are seeing food riots and then we are seeing Al Qaeda,” she says, pointing to a study published by UNCCD that explores these links.

Citing another study by the British Government’s Defence Ministry, Barbut says that “by 2045, there will be 130 million people who migrated because of desertification, and out of them, 60 million will come from south of the Sahel and Africa.”

But all is not hopeless. Barbut shared her vision of a food-secure future and a clear way to achieve that goal: “By 2050, we will need millions of hectares of new lands to grow 75 percent extra food. Today we are taking new land from forests and wetlands. At the same time, on this planet, you have 2 billion hectares of degraded land. Among this, 500 million are abandoned agricultural land. If we restored 300 million of these 2 billion hectares of land, we can ensure food security for all by 2050.”

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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.

The post Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive at WaterAid

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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.

 

The post Girls in Afghanistan—and Everywhere Else—Need Toilets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing are senior women’s rights researchers at Human Rights Watch.

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