Inter Press ServiceWomen & Climate Change – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:01:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 When Women Have Land Rights, the Tide Begins to Turnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:01:08 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150836 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management.  Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

Legal protections for indigenous and rural women to own and manage property are inadequate or missing in 30 low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report from Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

This finding, now quantified, means that much of the recent progress that indigenous and local communities have gained in acquiring legal recognition of their commonly held territory could be built on shaky ground.

“Generally speaking, international legal protections for indigenous and rural women’s tenure rights have yet to be reflected in the national laws that regulate women’s daily interactions with community forests,” Stephanie Keene, Tenure Analyst for the RRI, a global coalition working for forest land and resources rights of indigenous and local communities, told IPS via an email interview.

Together these 30 countries contain three-quarters of the developing world’s forests, which remain critical to mitigate global warming and natural disasters, including droughts and land degradation.

In South Asia, distress migration owing to climate events and particularly droughts is high, as over three-quarters of the population is dependent on agriculture, out of which more than half are subsistence farmers depending on rains for irrigation.

“For many indigenous people, it is the women who are the food producers and who manage their customary lands and forests. Safeguarding their rights will cement the rights of their communities to collectively own the lands and forests they have protected and depended on for generations.” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Indigenous and local communities in the ten analyzed Asian countries provide the most consistent recognition of women’s community-level inheritance rights. However, this regional observation is not seen in India and Nepal, where inadequate laws concerning inheritance and community-level dispute resolution cause women’s forest rights to be particularly vulnerable,” Keene told IPS of the RRI study.

“None of the 5 legal frameworks analyzed in Nepal address community-level inheritance or dispute resolution. Although India’s Forest Rights Act does recognize the inheritability of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ land, the specific rights of women to community-level inheritance and dispute resolution are not explicitly acknowledged. Inheritance in India may be regulated by civil, religious or personal laws, some of which fail to explicitly guarantee equal inheritance rights for wives and daughters,” Keene added.

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Pointing out challenges behind the huge gaps in women’s land rights under international laws and rights recognized by South Asian governments, Madhu Sarin, who was involved in drafting of India’s Forest Rights Act and now pushes for its implementation, told IPS, “Where governments have ratified international conventions, they do in principle agree to make national laws compatible with them. However, there remains a huge gap between such commitments and their translation into practice. Firstly, most governments don’t have mechanisms or binding requirements in place for ensuring such compatibility.”

“Further, the intended beneficiaries of gender-just laws remain unorganised and unaware about them,” she added.

Women’s land rights, recurring droughts and creeping desertification

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one way to address droughts that cause more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster, and to halt desertification – the silent, invisible crisis that threatens one-third of global land area – is to bring about pressing legal reforms to establish gender parity in farm and forest land ownership and  its management.

“Poor rural women in developing countries are critical to the survival of their families. Fertile land is their lifeline. But the number of people negatively affected by land degradation is growing rapidly. Crop failures, water scarcity and the migration of traditional crops are damaging rural livelihoods. Action to halt the loss of more fertile land must focus on households. At this level, land use is based on the roles assigned to men and women. This is where the tide can begin to turn,” says Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, in its 2017 study.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture alone would increase yields on women’s farms by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, the study quotes the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as saying.

Why the gender gap must close in farm and forest rights

The reality on the ground is, however, not even close to approaching this gender parity so essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 5 which connect directly with land rights.

Climate change is ushering in new population dynamics. As men’s out-migration from indigenous and local communities continues to rise due to fall in land productivity, population growth and increasing outside opportunities for wage-labor, more women are left behind as de facto land managers, assuming even greater responsibilities in communities and households.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow. The percentage of female-led households is increasing in half of the world’s 15 largest countries by population, including India and Pakistan.

Although there is no updated data on the growth of women-led households, the policy research group International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in its 2014 study found that from 2000 to 2010, slightly less than half of the world’s urban population growth could be ascribed to migration. The contribution of migration is considerably higher in Asia, it found, where urbanisation is almost 60 percent and is expected to continue growing, although at a declining rate.”

“Unless women have equal standing in all laws governing indigenous lands, their communities stand on fragile ground,” cautioned Tauli-Corpuz.

Without legal protections for women, community lands are vulnerable to theft and exploitation that threatens the world’s tropical forests that form a critical bulwark against climate change, as well as efforts to eradicate poverty among rural communities.

With the increasing onslaught of large industries on community lands worldwide, tenure rights of women are fundamental to their continued cultural identity and natural resource governance, according to the RRI study.

“When women’s rights to access, use, and control community forests and resources are insecure, and especially when women’s right to meaningfully participate in community-level governance decisions is not respected, their ability to fulfill substantial economic and cultural responsibilities are compromised, causing entire families and communities to suffer,” said Keene.

Moreover, several studies have established that women are differently and disproportionately affected by community-level shocks such as climate change, natural disasters, conflict and large-scale land acquisitions, further underscoring  the fortification of women’s land rights an urgent priority.

With growing feminization of farming as men out-migrate, and the rise in women’s education, gender-inequitable tenure practices cannot be sustained over time, the RRI study concludes. But achieving gender equity in land rights will call for tremendous political will and societal change, particularly in patriarchal South Asia, researchers said.

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Indigenous Women: The Frontline Protectors of the Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-women-the-frontline-protectors-of-the-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-women-the-frontline-protectors-of-the-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-women-the-frontline-protectors-of-the-environment/#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:23:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150174 Indigenous women, while experiencing the first and worst effects of climate change globally, are often in the frontline in struggles to protect the environment. A forum organized by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) brought together indigenous women from around the world to discuss the effects of climate change in their communities and […]

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The Bhumia tribal community practices sustainable forestry: these women returning from the forest carry baskets of painstakingly gathered tree bark and dried cow dung for manure. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The Bhumia tribal community practices sustainable forestry: these women returning from the forest carry baskets of painstakingly gathered tree bark and dried cow dung for manure. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2017 (IPS)

Indigenous women, while experiencing the first and worst effects of climate change globally, are often in the frontline in struggles to protect the environment.

A forum organized by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) brought together indigenous women from around the world to discuss the effects of climate change in their communities and their work towards sustainable solutions.

“This forum is very much dedicated to frontline communities around climate change issues…we really wanted to take the time to visibilise women’s leadership and their calls for action,” said WECAN’s Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake.

She added that indigenous women are “drawing a red line to protect and defend mother earth, all species, and the very web of life itself.”

Among the forum’s participants was Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network Lucy Mulenkei who works with indigenous communities in Kenya on sustainable Development.

She told told IPS how Kenyan indigenous women are bearing the brunt of climate change, stating: “We have been experiencing a lot of prolonged droughts…so it leaves women with added workload [because] getting water is a problem, you have to go father.”

In February, the Kenyan Government declared a national drought emergency which has doubled the number of food-insecure people, increased the rate of malnutrition to emergency levels, and left millions without access to safe water.

Because of climate change, the country also experiences heavy rains which lead to floods, impacting indigenous communities as a whole, Mulenkei said.

Such extreme weather is largely attributed to the fossil fuel industry whose greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to global warming. The United States is responsible for almost 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the top emitters.

Despite being over 8,000 miles away from Kenya, Mulenkei told IPS that “whatever you do from far away impacts us here.”

The fossil fuel industry is also impacting indigenous communities within the U.S. through its mega infrastructure projects.

“You cannot imagine how much things changed when the oil came,” Kandi Mossett, Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser, said in reference to the discovery of oil in the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota.

“The air is being poisoned, the water is being destroyed,” she continued.

Mossett is among the frontline indigenous women in the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which garnered international attention in 2016 after thousands of protestors were met with violence by security forces.

She told IPS that indigenous communities are disproportionately targeted for such projects. “You don’t see a frack well in Hollywood or in the White House lawn. You see it in low-income, minority populations.”

Women return from fetching water after the water in their homes was cut off during the water rationing. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

Women return from fetching water after the water in their homes was cut off during the water rationing. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

Mossett highlighted the importance of consent prior to the approval of such development projects as cited in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adding that neither the company or government officials did as such in the case of DAPL.

“Consultation is not consent,” she told attendees.

Indigenous communities are facing similar issues as the economy and companies shift to renewable energy.

In Kenya, indigenous communities are seeing the construction of renewable energy projects on their land and without their consent, including the Ngong Hills and Kipeto wind power projects on Maasai territory.

“I feel neglected, I feel marginalized, I feel isolated,” Mulenkei told IPS regarding the lack of consent and consultation of indigenous groups on such projects, adding that the projects would be beneficial if only they were participatory.

Indigenous peoples at times face more extreme violations in the increasingly green economy including the displacement of Maasai communities following the expansion of geothermal energy production in Kenya. In Honduras, indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres was shot and killed in her home in March 2016 after opposing the development of a hydroelectric dam.

According to a report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, five out of 50 renewable energy companies reported that they are committed to following UNDRIP.

Both Mossett and Mulenkei stressed the need to respect indigenous rights as a whole and urged for human rights-based collective actions to protect the environment.

“We have to do nonviolent direct actions on the ground and we have to take back the power in our communities because nobody is going to do it for us,” Mossett stated.

The Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights, and Communities forum was hosted in parallel to the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII) being held from 24 April to 5 May at the UN Headquarters in New York.

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Barefoot Solar Warriors Take On Gender Injustice and Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 02:05:19 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149284 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year's International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Engineer Magan Kawar (wearing pink), who left school after third grade, teaches a class of international students in solar technology. Kawar has trained 900 women from over 20 countries. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Engineer Magan Kawar (wearing pink), who left school after third grade, teaches a class of international students in solar technology. Kawar has trained 900 women from over 20 countries. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
TILONIA, India, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

On a summer morning in 2008, Magan Kawar decided to leave her village for a job. The very next day, her parents-in-law excommunicated her.

“They were very angry,” says the 52-year-old mother of two from Bhawani Khera village of Rajasthan’s Ajmer, a district 400 kms west of New Delhi."The world over, the lives of women are the same – there are too many challenges, but together, we can help each other rewrite our stories.” --Magan Kawar

“Women never stepped out of the home alone. To go outside of the village and work in an office alongside men was a disgrace. My parents-in-law said I had brought upon them that disgrace.”

But even as angry relatives and shocked neighbors watched in utter dismay, Kawar traveled to Tilonia, a village an hour away. Here, along with her husband, she became a technician at a rural innovation centre. As the world shut its doors behind her, her husband assured her: “Everything would be alright one day.”

Eight years later, Kawar who never studied beyond the third grade, is one of India’s top renewable energy experts. She is a lead instructor at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, a unique innovation and training centre where rural women from across India and the world are trained in solar technologies.

A college for barefoot engineers

The Barefoot College of Tilonia was established four decades ago by Bunker Roy, a visionary educationist and environmentalist who envisoned a place where women with little or no formal education could learn livelihood skills and play a leadership role in their communities.

The skills taught here are many, including sewing, welding and carpentry, among others, but the flagship programme of the college is a six-month biannual course in solar technology.

The course accepts women of 35 years and older, mostly from economically or socially underprivileged communities living in areas that have no electricity. There are two separate learning centres for Indian and international trainees who are called ‘Solar Mamas.’

Each of the Solar Mamas is selected by her own community and sent to the college by their respective governments where they are provided a fellowship by the government of India. It covers their cost of their stay at the college campus, including food and accommodation.

Currently, there are 30 Solar Mamas from 13 countries of Asia and Africa, including India, Myanmar, Syria, Mali, Sierra Leone and Botswana. The latest group is slated to graduate on Mar. 15 – the day they will receive 700 dollars as a stipend for the six months they spent here. For many, this is also an amount they can use as seed money to start a business in their home country.

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make the circuit for a solar lantern. Oraon, who is not able to read or write, will soon become a Solar Mama - a barefoot solar engineer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make the circuit for a solar lantern. Oraon, who is not able to read or write, will soon become a Solar Mama – a barefoot solar engineer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Learning through sign language

On the final Sunday of February, a group of local youths graduated from the Barefoot College after learning some livelihood skills. At their graduation ceremony, each of the students was presented with a solar lantern – made by the women solar technicians of the college.

The circuit of the lantern is complex, with dozens of minuscule electronic chips assembled on a 4-inch long plate. To teach this complex technology to the trainees when neither teacher nor student speak English or share a common language may seem extremely daunting to others, but the barefoot instructors have their own innovative methodology.

Explains Magan Kawar, “We first make a list of the most important parts and equipment and begin by making each trainee learn by heart the names. That is essential. After that, we communicate by pointing at a part, signs and actions. For example, I will take a circuit plate, point at a part and say, ‘press’. Or, I will then take a cable from the power testing machine, touch this to the plate, show it to the trainees and say, ’power testing’. They follow suit.”

There are no certificates awarded to the graduates, but then, this college is not a place that upholds formal educational norms. Instead, it practices a “very, very simple” method that champions imparting education that “truly empowers,” says Bunker Roy, who is also the director of the college.

“Imagine a woman who never traveled out of her village. Can’t read or write. Takes a flight and travels for 19 hours…comes to a strange country, strange food, strange language and in six months, she becomes a solar engineer using sign language. She knows more about solar engineering than a college graduate. What can be more exhilarating than this?” asks Roy.

Women from local villages in India with solar lanterns made by Solar Mamas of the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women from local villages in India with solar lanterns made by Solar Mamas of the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Honing climate leadership skills

Elizabeth Halauafu, 42, is from Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean which considered is the third most vulnerable country on earth to rising sea levels from climate change. Despite its high vulnerability, however, the country has been slow in adopting climate adaptation measures, including renewable energy.

But as Tonga finally wakes up to play a stronger role in climate action, Bayes could become one of the pioneers in rural solar technology thanks to her training at the Barefoot College.

“I have already learned about solar installations. I can build a circuit, assemble and repair solar lights. Once I return to Tonga, I will be happy to join a job that will allow me to use my skills. I and my husband may also start a solar venture,” says Bayes, before recalling that when she returns home, the season of oceanic storms will begin when electricity will be scarce.

A place to share, forget and rise above

Solar Mamas Hala Naseef and and Azhar Sarhan are from Damascus. The government may try to show Damascus as an oasis in an otherwise war-torn Syria, but the ground realities are different: there are frequent power outrage and everyone lives in fear of a total collapse of the grid. Solar technology is not very popular, but could soon become the only source of power if the war does not end soon, says the duo.

It has been a long journey from Damascus to the Barefoot College for both Sarhan and Naseef, but both are quick to point out that the past five months, despite daunting odds, have been a very enriching experience.

“I miss home and the food…but to see other women who have come from difficult places, we forget our own struggle,“ says Naseef.

Lila Devi Gujjar, who teaches alongside Magan Kawar, says that most of their trainees come from conflict zones and carry a ‘burden of pain.”

“Many of them are survivors of abuse, violence and are broken in spirit. But here they find a way to forget their past and get new hope to rebuild their lives,” says Gujjar.

Kawar shares the story of Chantal, one of her recent trainees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was raped several times in her home country. “It was her first escape from the violence. She first cried for days, then just immersed herself in learning. Somehow, she found our informal learning environment very soothing.

“And we also realized that the world over, the lives of women are the same – there are too many challenges, but together, we can help each other rewrite our stories,” says Kawar, who wrote her own story a few years ago by sending her two children to universities and inviting her parents-in-law to visit the Barefoot College.

“They came, saw me teaching and my mother-in-law said, ‘But it is just women educating each other!’ That day, she welcomed me back into the family,” says the barefoot engineer with a smile.

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How a Spring Revival Scheme in India’s Sikkim Is Defeating Droughtshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/how-a-spring-revival-scheme-in-indias-sikkim-is-defeating-droughts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-a-spring-revival-scheme-in-indias-sikkim-is-defeating-droughts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/how-a-spring-revival-scheme-in-indias-sikkim-is-defeating-droughts/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 13:48:07 +0000 Athar Parvaiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148759 Bina Sharma, a member of the Melli Dhara Gram Panchayat Unit in the southern part of India’s northeastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, is a relieved woman. For the past three years, Sharma said, she has received hardly any complaints from villagers about water disputes. “Until a few years back, our springs were staying almost dry […]

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Women are always hit hardest by water scarcity as they have to travel longer distances to fetch water, which increases their workload and compromises their ability to perform other essential and livelihood functions. Credit: Pem Norbhu

Women are always hit hardest by water scarcity as they have to travel longer distances to fetch water, which increases their workload and compromises their ability to perform other essential and livelihood functions. Credit: Pem Norbhu

By Athar Parvaiz
GANGTOK, India, Feb 1 2017 (IPS)

Bina Sharma, a member of the Melli Dhara Gram Panchayat Unit in the southern part of India’s northeastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, is a relieved woman.

For the past three years, Sharma said, she has received hardly any complaints from villagers about water disputes.Before the village’s water crisis subsided, students of the local Nelligumpa Secondary School had to regularly take two litres of water from their homes to the school.

“Until a few years back, our springs were staying almost dry for five months from December to April. During those months I often used to get complaints from the villagers against their fellow villagers as they would fight for water,” Sharma told IPS.

People in most parts of the mountainous Sikkim, and those in other mountainous areas across the region, use spring water for their personal consumption, kitchen gardens, farms, cattle and poultry. According to Sikkim First, an economic and political journal, about 80 per cent of Sikkim’s rural households depend on springs for drinking water and irrigation.

From experts in Gangtok to laymen in the far-off villages, everyone agrees that erratic rains and frequent droughts have resulted in the drying up of springs in many parts of the state, especially in south. Some say that the problem became worse after the 2011 earthquake in Sikkim.

Many studies, including the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, have reported changes in precipitation and temperature in the Himalayan region in recent years, but the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) says there is a major need for more research on Himalayan precipitation processes, as most studies have excluded the Himalayan region due to the region’s extreme, complex topography and lack of adequate rain-gauge data.

Adapting to changes, the Sikkim way

Thankfully, Sharma said, the water security scheme of Sikkim’s rural development department for recharging the springs “seems to be working in our village” since it was started in 2012. “We get water all year round now,” she said.

According to the people and the government officials in Sikkim, hundreds of springs and the lakes in Sikkim have been drying up, especially from November to May in recent years. This has compelled the government to think of a scheme to revive the drying springs and lakes by artificially recharging the springs.

The brain behind devising this innovative scheme is Sandeep Thambe, an Indian Forest Service officer with a mechanical engineering background who has also carried out extensive research on water and environmental issues in Sikkim and is currently a professor at the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIMF), Bhopal.

Hari Maya Pradhan, a woman who lives alone in her home in Melli Dhara, said that she had decided to give up rearing poultry and cattle as a livelihood option because she had to endure so many hardships to access water. “But now I feel a lot better after the villagers worked hard and dug up the ponds [which help in recharging the springs],” Pradhan, who has two cows and a small poultry unit, told IPS.

Before the village’s water crisis subsided, students of the local Nelligumpa Secondary School had to regularly take two litres of water from their homes to the school.

“Many times we protested and were preparing to take all our students to Gangtok to stage a protest demonstration. But our woes got automatically addressed when our springs started producing water in the dry season as well,” said Norbhu Tshering, the school in-charge.

Connected to nature    

In almost all parts of Sikkim, people directly connect plastic pipes to the small springs spread above their habitations to avail the natural water supply. But in the south and western parts of Sikkim, getting water from the springs all through the season has become impossible for more than a decade.

In 2009, this prompted Tambe, who then served in the Sikkim government’s Rural Development Department, to start the Dhara Vikas (or Spring Development) programme for reviving and maintaining the drying springs and lakes particularly in southern and western parts of the state.

The scheme was later launched under the centrally sponsored Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), with technical support from other government agencies and organisations like WWF (India) and People’s Science Institute Dehradun.

According to Tambe, the core thrust of Dhara Vikas is to catch the surface runoff water and use it to recharge groundwater sources after identifying the specific recharge areas of springs accurately through scientific methods by digging staggered contour trenches and percolation pits.

“With increasing population, degrading health of watersheds and impacts of climate change, the lean period discharge of these springs is rapidly declining,” Tambe said, adding that artificial recharging has thankfully shown encouraging results.

He said that less than 15 per cent of the rainwater, as has been estimated in various studies, is able to percolate down to recharge the springs, while the remaining flows down as runoff often causing floods.

“Hence, a need was felt to enhance the contribution of that rainwater in ground water recharge, thereby contributing to rural water security,” Tambe told IPS.

Women, Tambe said, are always hit hardest by water scarcity as they have to travel longer distances to fetch water, which increases their workload and compromises their ability to perform other essential and livelihood functions. Reduced access to water, he said, also impacts health, hygiene, and sanitation.

Sarika Pradhan of Sikkim’s Rural Development Department said that 51 springs and four lakes in 20 drought-prone Gram Panchayats of Sikkim have been revived so far as the rural development department has mapped 704 springs in the village spring atlas, which provides information about all the mapped springs.

Her colleague, Subash Dhakal, said that trenches and percolation pits have been dug over an area of 637 hectares under MGNREGA for reviving these springs and lakes with an average cost of 250,000 rupees (USD 3,787) per spring.

*Research for this story was supported by a grant through The Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) in collaboration with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) Media Fellowships in Environmental Conservation, 2016.

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Farmer Field Schools Help Women Lead on Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/farmer-field-schools-help-women-lead-on-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmer-field-schools-help-women-lead-on-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/farmer-field-schools-help-women-lead-on-climate-change/#respond Fri, 27 Jan 2017 11:35:15 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148696 Discussions around climate change have largely ignored how men and women are affected by climate change differently, instead choosing to highlight the extreme and unpredictable weather patterns or decreases in agricultural productivity. Women constitute 56 percent of Ugandan farmers and provide more than 70 percent of agricultural production, nutrition and food security at the household […]

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Mercy Ssekide from Uganda’s Mabende District working together with her husband on their farm. Credit: FAO

Mercy Ssekide from Uganda’s Mabende District working together with her husband on their farm. Credit: FAO

By Sally Nyakanyanga
KAMPALA, Uganda, Jan 27 2017 (IPS)

Discussions around climate change have largely ignored how men and women are affected by climate change differently, instead choosing to highlight the extreme and unpredictable weather patterns or decreases in agricultural productivity.

Women constitute 56 percent of Ugandan farmers and provide more than 70 percent of agricultural production, nutrition and food security at the household level, according to the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET). However, despite the fact that women do most of the farm work, they only own 16 percent of the arable land in the country.Cognizant of women’s labour burden and time poverty, FAO ensures that all project activities are gender inclusive and participatory.

Stella Tereka, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) focal person on gender and climate change, says that discriminatory cultural practices that tend to favor men have limited women’s ownership and control over key productive resources in the country — a factor also exacerbating women’s vulnerability to climate change.

“The intensive labour burdens on women, especially the unpaid care work in the household, has resulted in women having less time to practice the learning, knowledge and skills gained from groups in their farming activities,” Tereka told IPS.

Winnie Masiko, the gender and climate change negotiator for Uganda at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), noted the lack of clear guidelines to incorporate gender in climate change projects.

“We need to develop a Gender and Climate Change Strategic Plan,” says Masiko.

The Ugandan Land Policy of 2013 grants women and men equal rights to own and co-own land, but this is not always the reality on the ground. Masiko says initiatives should focus on addressing embedded structural imbalances in order to bridge the gender gap, understand women and men’s varying needs, and pave the way for effective adaptation to climate change.

Edidah Ampaire, coordinator for Uganda’s Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation project, says that women’s rights and contributions are extremely constrained, especially in rural areas, and that little is being done by government particularly through policy to address the imbalance.

“Gender inequalities are rife in farming communities, putting women at a disadvantage,” says Ampaire.

Tereka stressed that promoting gender equality is at the core of FAO programmes and the U.N. agency has made deliberate efforts to ensure the inclusion of women in all their programs.

“It’s imperative that women get empowered and take part in decision-making at all levels – this way we can see them contributing effectively to the development of their family and nations,” Tereka said.

Through the Farmer’s Field School (FFS) methodology, “commonly known as schools without walls”, FAO has enabled both men and women with a common goal to receive training, share ideas, learn from each other through observation and experimentation in their own context. On average the FFS have about 60 percent women farmers participating.

Proscovia Nakibuye, a cattle farmer in Nakasongola district, said the FFS has taught her effective strategies to cope with climate change. “We have been taught good livestock keeping and to plant pastures,” says Nakibuye.

“Farmer Field School offers space for hands-on group learning, enhancing skills for critical analysis and improved decision making by local people,” Tereka explained. “FFS activities are field-based, and include experimentation to solve problems, reflecting a specific local context.

“Participants learn how to improve their agronomic skills through experimenting, observing, analysing and replicating on their own fields, contributing to improved production and livelihoods, The FFS process enhances individual, household and community empowerment and social cohesion.”

Nakibuye and her husband are seeing major changes both in their household and farming activities. “Before, my children were not going to school but now through increased sales of milk, I can afford a decent education for my children,” she said.

FAO has also utilized the Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) – a community based tool that enables women and men to plan the future they want and take action against barriers, including societal norms that inhibit gender equality and justice.

Mercy Ssekide, a farmer in Mubende District, joined the Balyejjusa FFS. “If you don’t cooperate with your family, the farming won’t be successful – that’s why I had to encourage my husband to join the FFS in order for us to work as a team,” she says.

“We are trained and encouraged to work hard to handle climate change and in order to meet our household needs. During off season we grow tomatoes and earn some money as locals and traders come and buy from us,” says Mercy’s husband.

Together, as a family, they have diversified and ventured into poultry, goat and pig rearing, and kitchen gardening. The Ssekide family are now deciding as a team on the use of their income — and are able to afford giving their two children a university education.

FAO, with funding from European Union, is implementing the Global Climate Change Project in the central cattle corridor in the districts of Luwero, Nakasangola, Nakaseke, Mubende , Sembabule and Kiboga.

Cognizant of women’s labour burden and time poverty, FAO ensures that all project activities are gender inclusive and participatory – particularly adjusting meeting/learning time to ensure women are involved and benefit from the skills and knowledge on climate smart agriculture.

Tereka believes that with an increasingly unpredictable climate, skills development in climate smart agriculture is critical. She urged the Ugandan government to revamp its agricultural extension system to be more gender-responsive, in order for farmers – especially women to – effectively put to good use the inputs being distributed by government under Operation Wealth Creation.

The FFS methodology is now being implemented in 90 countries with 4 million farmers across the globe having improved their skills and adjusted positively to the effects of climate change.

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A Women’s March on the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/a-womens-march-on-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-womens-march-on-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/a-womens-march-on-the-world/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:27:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148588 Just one day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands of women are expected to attend one of the largest demonstrations in history for gender equality. Starting out as a social media post by a handful of concerned women, the Women’s March on Washington quickly transformed, amassing over 400 supporting organisations representing […]

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Participants in the 2015 New York March for Gender Equality and Women's Rights. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Participants in the 2015 New York March for Gender Equality and Women's Rights. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jan 20 2017 (IPS)

Just one day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands of women are expected to attend one of the largest demonstrations in history for gender equality.

Starting out as a social media post by a handful of concerned women, the Women’s March on Washington quickly transformed, amassing over 400 supporting organisations representing a range of issues including affordable and accessible healthcare, gender-based violence, and racial equality.

“It’s a great show of strength and solidarity about how much women’s rights matter—and women’s rights don’t always take the front page headlines,” Nisha Varia, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division told IPS.

Despite the variety of agendas being put forth for the march, the underlying message is that women’s rights are human rights, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Margaret Huang told IPS.

“All people must be treated equally and with respect to their rights, no matter who is in positions of authority and who has been elected,” she said.

Organisers and partners have stressed that the march is not anti-Trump, but rather is one that is concerned about the current and future state of women’s rights.

“It’s not just about one President or one candidate, there’s a much bigger banner that we are marching for…our rights should not be subject to the whims of an election,” Kelly Baden, Center for Reproductive Rights’ Interim Senior Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy told IPS.

The health system also risks returning to a time when many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

“It’s about women, not Trump,” she continued.

The rhetoric used during the election is among the concerns for marchers as it reflects a troubling future for women’s rights.

During his campaign, President-elect Trump made a series of sexist remarks from calling Fox News host Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” to footage showing him boasting of sexual assault. Though Trump downplayed his remarks as “locker room talk,” his rhetoric is now being reflected in more practical terms through cabinet nominations.

Huang pointed to nominee for Attorney-General Jeff Sessions who has a long and problematic record on women’s rights including voting against the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act, rejecting anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and opposing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 which addresses pay discrimination.

During her confirmation hearing, Nominee for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wouldn’t say if she would uphold title IX which requires universities to act on sexual assault on campuses.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

The new administration has also recently announced cuts to the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Grants, which distribute funds to organisations working to end sexual assault and domestic violence.

“There is no question that we’re going to have some challenges in terms of increasing protections for women’s rights over the next few years,” said Huang to IPS.

Meanwhile, Varia pointed to other hard fought gains that risk being overturned including the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, which U.S. Congress is currently working to repeal, provides health coverage to almost 20 million Americans by prohibiting insurers from denying insurance plans due to pre-existing conditions and by providing subsidies to low-income families to purchase coverage.

If repealed, access to reproductive services such as contraception and even information will become limited. The health system also risks returning to a time when many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

“Denying women access to the types of insurers or availability of clinics that can help them get pre-natal checks and can help them control their fertility by having access to contraception—these are all the type of holistic care that needs to be made available,” Varia said.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where the number of women dying as a result of child birth is increasing, Varia noted.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American women. This constitutes the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, closer in numbers to Mexico and Egypt than Italy and Japan, according to World Bank statistics.

A UN Working Group also expressed their dismay over restrictive health legislation, adding that the U.S. is falling behind international standards.

Though the ACA repeal and potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, another key reproductive services provider, threatens all women, some communities are especially in danger.

Francis Madi, a marcher and Long Island Regional Outreach Associate for the New York Immigration Coalition, told IPS that immigrant and undocumented immigrant women face additional barriers in accessing health care.

Most state and federal forms of coverage such as the ACA prohibits providing government-subsidised insurance to anyone who cannot prove a legal immigration status. Even for those who can, insurance is still hard or too expensive to acquire, making programs like Planned Parenthood essential.

“I can’t even do my job as an organiser asking for immigrant rights if I’m not able to access the services I need to live here,” Madi told IPS.

Madi highlighted the opportunity the march brings in working together through a range of issues and identities.

“I’m going because as a woman and an immigrant and an undocumented immigrant as well…it’s very important to attend this march to show we can work together on our issues,” she told IPS.

“If we don’t organize with each other, we can’t really achieve true change,” she continued.

In its policy platform, organisers of the Women’s March on Washington also stressed the importance of diversity, inclusion and intersectionality in women’s rights.

“Our liberation is bound in each other’s,” they said.

This includes not only women in the U.S., but across the world.

“There’s definitely going to be an international voice in this, not just U.S. activists,” Huang told IPS.

Marching alongside women in Washington D.C. on January 21st will be women in nearly 60 other countries participating in sister marches from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to Australia.

“Women are concerned that a loss of a champion in the U.S. government will have significant impacts in other countries,” Huang said. Of particular concern is the reinstatement of the “global gag rule” which stipulates that foreign organisations receiving any U.S. family planning funding cannot provide information or perform abortions, even with funding from other sources. The U.S. does not fund these services itself.

The policy not only restricts basic right to speech, but analysis shows that it has harmed the health of low-income women by limiting access to family planning services.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest family planning bilateral donor.

Though the march is important symbolic act of solidarity, it is just the first step.

“We are also part of a bigger movement—we need to come together and be in solidarity on Saturday and then we need to keep doing the hard work [during[ the long days and months and years of organising that we have ahead of us,” Baden said.

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No Climate Justice without Gender Justice – the Marrakech Pacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact/#respond Tue, 15 Nov 2016 13:26:44 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147768 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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Credit: Hari Gopal Gorkhali/IPS

Credit: Hari Gopal Gorkhali/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
MARRAKESH, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

The historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change last year is a breakthrough commitment to respect, promote and consider gender equality and women’s empowerment obligations while taking climate change action. It also committed to gender-responsive adaptation and capacity building. A year later, with the Agreement entered into force on 4 November, vigorous efforts are being made at COP 22 in Marrakech to make sure that gender equality is systematically integrated into all aspects of the implementation of the Agreement.

Both gender equality and climate change champions around the globe are meeting here in Marrakesh to transform the climate change agenda into one that recognizes the rights, priorities and capacities of women and girls and harnesses their talent and leadership for effective climate proofing and response.

Yesterday, on 14 November 2016, Parties adopted a decision on gender and climate change which extends the 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender. The decision is far-reaching in that, for the first time, climate decision-makers supported the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all areas of work of the Convention — mitigation, adaptation, finance, capacity-building, technology development and transfer, loss and damage. Now, it is incumbent upon Parties to register in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) commitments to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

A breakthrough in operationalizing gender-responsive climate policy and action was achieved, as the decision mandates the development of a gender action plan that will propose priority areas and concrete activities for gender-responsive climate action across the various work areas of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The decision also strengthens efforts to promote the participation of women in the UNFCCC process, including in bodies established under the Convention. It enhances accountability by requesting regular reporting from constituted bodies and financial mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) on how they are working to promote gender equality in their work.

The global agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and arrest global warming is about more than just tackling climate change. Of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  SDG-13 “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” is closely linked to SDG-5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, recognizing gender equality both as a means and an end to effective climate action is a must. Moreover, the co-benefits of climate action and gender equality also positively and simultaneously address other SDGs – on poverty eradication, health, education, economic growth, sustainable energy, water and sanitation, full and productive employment and decent work, sustainable cities, just and peaceful societies, among others. For example, UN Women launched its Global Flagship Programme on Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy in partnership with the Government of India, the Department for International Development DFID of the UK and UNEP, which has a benefit multiplier effect. When linking efforts to achieve gender equality to climate action, we can effectively respond to the tragedy of climate change by helping to mitigate impacts and build resilient, inclusive societies.

Lakshmi PuriThe impacts of climate change range from health threats, resources constraints, loss of livelihoods, displacement, forced migration and conflicts, energy, income and time poverty and food insecurity to reduced access to infrastructure and essential services. They all have disproportionate impacts on women and girls. Climate change impacts also exacerbate the existing inequalities, discrimination, heavy burden of care and domestic work and violence that women face in their daily lives. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, the inadequate sanitary facilities and lighting in the overcrowded camps contributed to the high instances of night attacks on women. The hardship and suffering for women and girls walking millions of miles for endless of hours to fetch water, fuel and food in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia is unconscionable and has a high opportunity cost to them and to society and the economy.

Even without much support and validation, women have been on the front lines of adaptation and mitigation. They have been formidable climate change activists, working in families, communities and economies to fend off the effects of extreme weather events and build resilience. Women have pioneered inclusive and sustainable initiatives. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in Benin has been key in the fight against energy poverty while economically empowering women in their local communities.  It is an example of women led resilience building. Similarly, the leadership of CEO Ms. Wandee Khunchornyakong has allowed the Solar Power Company Group, Thailand’s largest solar power generation company, to successfully unlock private financing for photovoltaic capacity, provide clean energy jobs for women, and lead the country on a low-carbon growth path. Women are also demonstrating leadership in science, technology, and innovation, as well as developing and applying protective, resilient and adaptive technologies to deal with flooding, heat, water management and promoting local indigenous practices and traditional knowledge.

Yet, the consistent unequal participation of women and men in decision-making processes has meant rights and contributions of women are not adequately considered in disaster preparations and response plans, leading to further marginalization and greater risks. A 2015 study covering 881 environmental sector ministries from 193 countries found only 12 per cent of the ministers were women. Women account for only 20 to 25 per cent of the workforce in renewable energy. The low representation of women in positions of power and influence has been one of the factors for the slow progress in the formulation and implementation of gender-responsive climate policies and strategies. Gender-based discrimination in all its forms must be eliminated with the utmost urgency.

The successful implementation of the actions under the extended work programme will require significantly increased targeted resources. Although the GCF has promoted a gender-sensitive approach from the outset, the existing resources to finance climate actions rarely ensure access to climate finance for programmes that are led by or have women as beneficiaries. This must change and both GEF and GCF must provide transformative and significantly scaled up financing for specific programs that aim at gender and climate justice together.

UN Women has been working with Parties and other stakeholders to strengthen understanding and the systematic integration of a gender perspective in climate policies and actions. In doing so, it is crucial for Parties to set concrete goals and targets in order to ensure the full, equal and effective participation of women in climate policy making and programme implementation at national, regional and global levels.

A paradigm shift is happening. This represents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the co-benefits between gender equality and climate action, putting gender equality considerations and the voice and agency of women and girls at the centre of all climate management efforts and investments. We will thereby leave no one behind and do justice to people, planet and the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

 

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Climate Change, A Goat Farmer’s Gainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/#respond Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:14:43 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147763 Bongekile Ndimande’s family lost more 30 head of cattle to a ravaging drought last season, but a herd of goats survived and is now her bank on four legs. In money value, the drought deprived Ndimande of more than 21,000 dollars. Each goat would be worth an average of 714 dollars if they had survived […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science, innovation and technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goat fortunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To Effectively Combat Climate Change, Involve Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/to-effectively-combat-climate-change-involve-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=to-effectively-combat-climate-change-involve-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/to-effectively-combat-climate-change-involve-women/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 16:33:52 +0000 Esther Ngumbi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147158 Esther Ngumbi is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University in Alabama. She serves as a 2015 Clinton Global University (CGI U) Mentor for Agriculture and is a 2015 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

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Photo courtesy of Esther Ngumbi.

By Esther Ngumbi
ATLANTA, Georgia, Sep 30 2016 (IPS)

London’s Waterloo Bridge over the River Thames is famously known as the “Ladies Bridge,” for it was built largely by women during the height of World War II.  On another continent, women fighting a different war have built an equally remarkable structure: a 3,300-meter anti-salt dyke constructed by a women’s association in Senegal to reclaim land affected by rising levels of salt water.

These women are on the front-line of the fight against climate change, and their ingenuity and resolve resulted in a singular victory. The project allowed the revitalization of rice-growing activities and the re-generation of natural vegetation over 1,500 hectares, and benefiting over 5,000 people in Senegal.Women are a minority on every major committee of the United Nations’ own top climate change decision making group.

Yet, women continue to be excluded from climate change solutions for agriculture.  A look at United Nations report on female representations in main climate change decision bodies shows that women are a minority on every major committee of the United Nations’ own top climate change decision making group. For example, women hold only 6 percent of positions in the Advisory Board of the Climate Technology Centre and Network. At the same time, women smallholder farmers have limited access to agricultural training, credit, seeds, and inputs – all of which are essential for the development and adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.

Most affected by climate change are the world’s 1.3 billion poor people, the majority of whom are subsistence farmers, women and their families. Furthermore, women make up an average of 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce and produce as much as 90 percent of the food supply in African countries, where they are also mainly responsible for providing water and fuel for their families.  All this makes them exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Not only does women’s disempowerment prevent us from understanding the true extent to which climate change is disrupting the way of life for our most at-risk communities, it also perpetuates the antiquated narrative that women are victims, rather than agents, of change.

But, as seen in Senegal, women bring novel perspectives and solutions to the fight against climate change. Furthermore, studies have found that women in leadership improve organizations’ financial performance, strengthen the organizational climate, increase corporate social responsibility and reputation, leverage talent and enhance innovation and collective intelligence.  Therefore, across every level of society, women’s leadership in addressing climate change must be supported.

While there are signs of change—including the recently announced appointment of Patricia Espinosa as Executive Secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—much remains to be done, whether in the Board room or on the threshing floor.

Small-scale women farmers must beassisted with tools, technologies and other resources to effectively deal with the changing climate. These include portable modern stoves that do not require large amounts of firewood and biogas digesters that can turn waste from animals into gas for cooking.

Water conservation technologies, such as micro-dams, rain storage systems,  and drip irrigation technologies that  grow more crop per drop are a prerequisite for dealing with more variable rainfall. Such climate-smart agriculture techniques could potentially allow small-scale women farmers to grow crops and feed their families throughout the year and avoid the “hungry season.”

When women gain access to such resources and tools on a large scale, whole communities and regions can benefit. In India, for example, the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group and the Women’s Earth Alliance launched a yearlong India Women, Food Security, and Climate Change Training program.  Through this program, women were trained on a wide array of conservation agricultural practices including agroforestry, conservation tillage and mixed farming. These practices strengthen resilience of the land base to extreme events, broaden sources of livelihoods, and have positive implications for climate change adaptation.

As a result of the initiative, over 5,000 women were trained and over 6,000 trees were grown. The trainees were further tasked with implementing what they had learned. Many of the 5,000 trained women launched their own small-scale agribusinesses and continued to be leaders in the fight against climate change, reaching out to more than 750,000 people.

Another example is the work of late Nobel Prize winner Prof. Wangari Maathai. Through the greenbelt movement, she empowered women to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, and provide food and firewood. Since its inception, the organization has planted over 51 million trees, helping to protect Kenya’s forests. This program not only addresses climate change, but it also creates jobs for women while improving water and food security.

Efforts towards empowering women with tools and resources to fight climate change must be intensified and accelerated at local, national and regional levels.  Echoing the words of former President of Finland Tarja Halonen: “Women are powerful agents whose knowledge skills and innovative ideas support the efforts to combat climate change.” Including women in top decision-making organs on issues of climate change and empowering them on ground to take action is essential, and will surely facilitate a more stable and prosperous planet.

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Time for a Woman to Lead the UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/time-for-a-woman-to-lead-the-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-for-a-woman-to-lead-the-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/time-for-a-woman-to-lead-the-un/#respond Wed, 17 Aug 2016 02:25:11 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146579 Judging by the latest polls it now seems more likely that the United States will have a female President in 2016, than the United Nations will have a female Secretary-General. Despite widespread support for the next UN Secretary-General to be a woman, female candidates have not fared as well as men in the first two so-called […]

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Candidates for Secretary-General debate in the UN General Assembly hall. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2016 (IPS)

Judging by the latest polls it now seems more likely that the United States will have a female President in 2016, than the United Nations will have a female Secretary-General.

Despite widespread support for the next UN Secretary-General to be a woman, female candidates have not fared as well as men in the first two so-called straw polls of UN Security Council members.

However the campaign received a small boost from UN Secretary -General Ban Ki-Moon this week when he told an Associated Press Journalist in California it is “high time” for a woman to hold his job.

Unfortunately Ban’s support may come too late for the five female candidates who remain in the race.

By custom, the 15 members of the Security Council select their preferred candidate, with the five permanent members China, France, Russia the United Kingdom and the United States yielding the additional power to veto candidates they dislike.

The most recent straw poll confirmed that former Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Guterres is easily the most popular candidate, with 11 Security Council members encouraging him to continue his campaign.

Of the top four candidates, the only woman is Susana Malcorra, the current Foreign Minister of Argentina and former Chef de Cabinet to the Executive Office at the United Nations, with eight encourages and 6 discourages.

“The straw polls continue to reflect the deep seated male bias embedded in the UN and its member states, in spite of their claims to work for gender equality and women's empowerment." -- Charlotte Bunch.

It is difficult to tell exactly which candidate will prevail, since the leaked results of the straw polls do not specify who voted for who. Even Guterres’ seemingly safe position could be undermined if one or both of the two discourages he received were from veto-wielding permanent members.

Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director and Senior Scholar at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University told IPS that she welcomed Ban’s comments “as it is definitely past time when the UN should have a woman as Secretary-General.”

“It has been disappointing that after many countries gave lip service to this idea, the votes have not followed their words,” added Bunch, who is also a core committee member of the Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General.

“And they cannot say that there are not qualified women available,” she added. “The list of 12 (candidates) included half (6) women – a historic first.”

Five women, and 11 candidates in total, now remain, after Vesna Pusnic of Croatia withdrew when she placed last in the first straw poll.

“Several of these women have served as heads of UN agencies and departments as well as in prominent positions in government, and are clearly as qualified as the men on the list,” said Bunch.

They include Irina Bokova, of Bulgaria who is currently Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Administrator of the UN Development Programme alongside Malcorra. Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, who led the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to the successful adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015, is also one of the candidates.

“The straw polls continue to reflect the deep seated male bias embedded in the UN and its member states, in spite of their claims to work for gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Bunch.

Jessica Neuwirth, Director of Donor Direct Action and founder of Equality Now, which first launched a campaign for election of a woman Secretary-General in 1996 told IPS that she “couldn’t agree more” with Ban’s comments.

“Women make up more than half the world’s population and should be represented equally at all levels of the UN.”

Men have now led the UN for over 70 years, with women’s leadership only made incremental gains, despite decades of campaigning to increase gender equality at the higher levels.

“In Beijing in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference in Women governments undertook to ensure the inclusion of women at the highest levels of decision-making in the UN secretariat,” said Neuwirth.

“More than 20 years later we are still waiting for implementation of this commitment,” she said. “It’s long overdue.”

Neuwirth also expressed disappointment that women hadn’t fared better in the straw polls.

“As a group they did better in the public debates than they did in the straw polls,” she said.

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Water Security Critical for World Fastest-Growing Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-security-critical-for-world-fastest-growing-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-security-critical-for-world-fastest-growing-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-security-critical-for-world-fastest-growing-economy/#respond Tue, 24 May 2016 17:36:42 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145277 Lack of water management and limited access to data risk hindering Myanmar’s economic growth, making water security a top priority of the new government. Climate change and increased urbanisation, along with earthquakes, cyclones, periodic flooding and major drought, require an urgent infrastructural upgrade if the country is to undergo a successful integration into the global […]

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

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

By an IPS Correspondent
YANGON, Myanmar, May 24 2016 (IPS)

Lack of water management and limited access to data risk hindering Myanmar’s economic growth, making water security a top priority of the new government.

Climate change and increased urbanisation, along with earthquakes, cyclones, periodic flooding and major drought, require an urgent infrastructural upgrade if the country is to undergo a successful integration into the global economy after five decades of economic isolation under military rule.

“Water resources are abundant in Myanmar. However, we need to manage it properly to get adequate and clean water,” said Yangon regional government chief minister U Phyo Min Thein, attending a high-level roundtable on water security organised by Stockholm-based facilitator Global Water Partnership on May 24 in Yangon.

According to IMF data, Myanmar is the fastest growing economy in the world, following an easing of sanctions in 2011, when the military handed power to a semi-civilian reformist government.

“Water security is a priority for the new government,” said Myanmar’s deputy minister of Transport and Communication U Kyaw Myo.

The challenges inherited by the now de facto leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi, however, are enormous. An expected industrial development and urbanisation boom are only going to make more urgent the need for efficient water management solutions in one of the most challenging areas of South Asia.

Water in Myanmar is plentiful, but regional and seasonal differences are so striking that the country covers the whole range of threats posed by water insecurity: flooding in the delta’s numerous rivers, flash floods in the mountains and Dry Zone, droughts and deadly cyclones. Malnutrition and illnesses are the first consequences.

Safe drinking water is also limited. Groundwater sources are highly unexploited, but those available are often saline or contaminated, mainly by natural arsenic. Villages rely extensively on open air communal ponds to collect fresh water during the rainy season. These, however, dry out quickly during the summer.

“It is important to activate stakeholders and trigger a snowball effect at this stage,” said Global Water Partnership chair Alice Bouman. It is equally important, she said, to act only once all parties have been involved and listened to. “The emphasis has to go in particular to the so-called intrinsic indigenous knowledge: only locals have a long understanding of their environment and can help to avoid expensive mistakes.”

Action should focus on how to avert disasters in the first place, not just react afterwards – that was the message coming from the Japanese and the Dutch officials sharing their countries’ knowledge at the conference.

“Investments should happen in advance and go in the direction of disaster reduction, by building better for example, or consider climate change adaptation in time,” said Japan’s vice minister of Land, infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Koji Ikeuchi.

However, said Myanmar Water Think Tank secretary Khin Ni Ni Thein, money is currently not enough. “First we need to build trust between communities and the government. It becomes easier to access to international donors when there is this connection,” she said. “But it is also important that communities pay for the service, to guarantee the structure.”

Informative statistics but also topographical data that would support reforms are scarce in Myanmar. This is partly due to poor infrastructure and fragmented institutions, with up to six ministries in charge of water issues. But the limited access is primarily a consequence of the military still being in charge of three key ministers, including Defence, and reluctant to handover precise topographical information.

The high-level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals was held less than two months after the government was sworn in. Speakers from Korea, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands stressed how new policies should refer to the framework of the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. Among these are no poverty, food security, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation and also gender equality.

“A lack of gender perspective is systemic to the region and many countries. We should always target an indicator, such as water and land laws, from a gender perspective. Some women, for example, cannot interact with the institutions without a male presence, [despite the fact that it’s the women in most societies who take care of the water],” said Kenza Robinson, from the UN’s department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Poverty is especially evident in rural areas. According to a 2014 census, 70 percent of the 51.5 million population live in the countryside. Life expectancy is one of the lowest of the entire ASEAN region and much of this is due to water and food security, impacting also on child and maternal mortality.

Over 40 percent of houses in rural areas are made of bamboo, with only 15 percent using electricity for lightening. A third of households in the country use water from “unimproved” water sources. A quarter of the population has no flush toilet.

“Water access is essential to economic development and effective water management requires sound institutions,” concluded Jennifer Sara, global water practice director at the World Bank.

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Justice for Berta Caceres Incomplete Without Land Rights: UN Rapporteurhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/#respond Fri, 13 May 2016 21:44:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145113 The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. All around the world, indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one indigenous person […]

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UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2016 (IPS)

The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

All around the world, indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one indigenous person was killed almost every week in 2015 because of their environmental activism, 40 percent of the total 116 people killed for environmental activism that year.

“We shouldn’t forget that the death of Berta is because of the protest that she had against the destruction of the territory of her people,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS in a recent interview.

Caceres, who was murdered at the beginning of March, had long known her life was in danger. She experienced violence and intimidation as a leader of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco who protested the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on their traditional lands.

“A very crucial part of the problems that indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Caceres’ activism received international recognition, including through the prestigious 2015 Goldman Prize, however the was not enough to protect her.

“She knew she was going to die, she had even written her own obituary”, said Tauli-Corpuz who met with Caceres during a visit to Honduras in 2015.

Four men were arrested in relation to Caceres death earlier this week.

While Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the arrests she said that justice would not be clear until after the trial, and that real justice was about more than the criminal proceedings for Caceres’ murder.

“We cannot rest on our laurels to say the whole thing is finished because that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is this whole issue about the dam still being there.”

Tauli-Corpuz has witnessed accounts of violence against many other indigenous activists around the world, in her role as a rapporteur appointed by but independent from the United Nations.

Their experiences have startling similarity, too often indigenous peoples are subjected to rape, murder and kidnap, when they stand in the way of access to lands or natural resources.

“You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz also said that a look at the bigger picture reveals the increasingly international nature of the problems experienced by indigenous peoples worldwide.

“A very crucial part of the problems that indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries,” she said.

“You see a situation where the state is meant to be the main duty bearer for protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, but at the same time you see investors having strong rights being protected and that is really where a lot of conflicts come up,” she said.

In Guatemala, Tauli-Corpuz says that 50 indigenous women are still waiting for justice after their husbands were murdered and their lands taken in 1982.

“(Their) husbands were killed by the military because they were demanding the rights to their lands then (the military) took the women (to) the military camps and raped them and made them sexual slaves.”

Tauli-Corpuz said that the women were brave enough to take their case to the courts but had to cover their faces because they were still being harassed by the military. When Tauli-Corpuz recently asked the women what they would like to happen if they won their case, they said that they would like their land back. After 33 years, their lands have yet to be returned.

Tauli-Corpuz also noted that for indigenous peoples justice is incomplete if their lands are protected but they are denied access to them.

“(The land) is the source of their identities, their cultures and their livelihoods,” she said. If the forest is preserved but people are kicked off their lands, “than that’s a another problem that has to be prevented at all costs.”

In other cases, indigenous peoples are forced off their lands when their food sources are destroyed.

For example said Tauli-Corpuz a major dam being built in the Amazon is not only destroying the forest but also means that there are no longer any fish in the rivers for the indigenous people who rely on them.

Tauli-Corpuz said that it is important to remember that indigenous peoples are contributing to climate change solutions by continuing their traditional ways of forest and ecosystem management.

Tauli-Corpuz has first-hand experience as an indigenous activist and environmental defender. As a leader of the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines she helped successfully protest the construction of the Chico River Hydroelectric dam in the 1970s.

She notes that these hydropower projects shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a climate change solution because they destroy forests and produce methane, which is more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon.

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Farmers Can Weather Climate Change – With Financinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/#respond Fri, 06 May 2016 18:27:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145012 Merian Kalala, a farmer in Solwezi, capital of the North-Western Province of Zambia, knows firsthand that climate change is posing massive problems for agricultural productivity. With its negative effects already being felt through floods, droughts, early frosts and increased incidences of pests and diseases, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an increase in […]

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Indian Women Worst Hit by Water Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/#respond Tue, 03 May 2016 10:30:48 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144938 A staggering 330 million Indians, making up a quarter of the country’s population (or roughly the entire population of the United States), are currently reeling under the effects of a severe drought, resulting in an acute drinking water shortage and agricultural distress. State governments are resorting to emergency measures like rushing water trains carrying billions […]

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Women “Water Friends” Script a Success Storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/women-water-friends-script-a-success-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-water-friends-script-a-success-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/women-water-friends-script-a-success-story/#respond Tue, 08 Mar 2016 07:49:55 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144112 Prema Bai, 58, bends her head and pushes hard her wheelchair on the village road. In the early afternoon, the village of Mamna appears almost deserted although it is home to 742 families and is located in Uttar Pradesh – India’s largest and most populated state. Thanks to a severe drought, every man and woman […]

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The Empowerment of Women Will Be Central to Realising Sustainable Global Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/the-empowerment-of-women-will-be-central-to-realising-sustainable-global-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-empowerment-of-women-will-be-central-to-realising-sustainable-global-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/the-empowerment-of-women-will-be-central-to-realising-sustainable-global-development/#comments Fri, 04 Mar 2016 16:28:45 +0000 Mary Robinson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144079 Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland,(1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 to 2002).

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Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland,(1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 to 2002).

By Mary Robinson
DUBLIN, Mar 4 2016 (IPS)

“Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” – the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day serves as a timely reminder that, despite incremental progress of recent years and the ambition of the new global development agenda, we must redouble efforts to achieve a world underpinned by gender equality. All women must be empowered to realise their full and equal rights. But what does it actually mean to step it up for gender equality?

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

For me, this requires targeted approaches to ensure that all women have a voice in the formulation of decisions that impact upon their lives. This is particularly important when it comes to facilitating the engagement of grassroots women. To realise the “leave no-one behind” approach called for in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the commitment “to reach the furthest behind first”, grassroots women must be recognised as key actors in global sustainable development.

Grassroots women around the world hold a wealth of knowledge which we will need to manage the impacts of climate change and accelerate sustainable development. However, in order to properly value this knowledge and put it to use, women must be allowed to participate meaningfully in the design, planning and implementation of policies and programmes that impact on their lives. Ensuring women’s voices are heard and their needs acted uponis central to advancing climate justice.

The impacts of climate change are different for women and men.

Grassroots women are more likely to bear the greater burden in the face of climate change, particularly in situations of poverty. Climate change exacerbates existing patterns of inequality, including gender inequality. Grassroots women have limited access to productive resources; restricted mobility and little voice in decision makingleave them highly vulnerable to climate change. Climate policy, to be effective, must understand these underlying inequalities in order to address the different ways in which climate effects grassroots women.

Enabling the meaningful participation of women is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. The global development sector has learned, sometimes the hard way, that programmes designed for vulnerable communities, without engaging with the women of the community, rarely achieve their desired outcomes. This important lesson is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goal 5 https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) which includes a target to: ‘Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life’. This need is particularly acute in the case of grassroots women. Unfortunately, the importance of including women in decision making and promoting women’s leadership is less well understood by the climate regime. Yet the majority of those on the front lines of poverty and climate change are women.

Some progress has made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In 2012 the Parties to the Convention adopted the Doha Miracle (Decision 23/CP.18), a decision to enhance the participation of women in climate change negotiations.Parties will review progress against the ambition this decision at COP 22 in November. When they do, however, they will see that only slight gains have been made in terms of equality of representation at negotiations. For instance, the latest UNFCCC Gender Composition Report highlights that only 36% of delegates were women at COP 20, and this figure drops to 26% when considering heads of delegations. In Lima Parties agreed to commence the Lima work programme on gender, a two year exploration of the gender dimensions of climate change and the Paris Agreement on climate change recognises the need for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

These are all signs of progress, but a lot more needs to be done to be done in order for women’s voices to be thoroughly included in the formation of climate action. A key next step is investment in training and capacity building for grassroots women in order to enable full and effective participation. This is captured in SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) which includes a target which calls on States to promote capacity building mechanisms in small island developing states and least developed countries to assist women, youth and local and marginalised communities to take part in climate change-related planning and management. Operationalising this target will be critical to achieving a harmonised and people centred approach to both the sustainable development agenda and the new climate agreement.

In 2015, the global community laid a foundation upon which we can build a safer world with opportunity for all. In concluding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, world leaders signalled a willingness to change course – to leave behind the unequal and unsustainable traditional development models and move towards a future free from poverty and want, with abundant clean energy and a healthy environment.

In 2016 we begin to plan and implement these two ambitious, universal international processes; we must ensure that women’s voices, and human rights, inform our actions. Grassrootswomen must not be seen simply as passive recipients of climate assistance. They are key actors in achieving their right to development. By acknowledging grassroots women as agents of change within their communities, valuing their knowledge and building their capacity to adapt, decision makers can develop sustainable, long term climate solutions at a local level which will strengthen whole communities.

As we “step it up for gender equality”, I call on all those in positions of influence to provide the platforms for grassroots women to speak to for themselves. Listening to, and valuing,theirknowledge and experiencewill help to shape progresstowards 2030 that is good for people, the planet and gender equality.

(End)

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Sargassum and Climate Change in the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/sargassum-and-climate-change-in-the-carribean-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sargassum-and-climate-change-in-the-carribean-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/sargassum-and-climate-change-in-the-carribean-2/#comments Fri, 11 Dec 2015 23:26:28 +0000 Guillermo Fuentes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143313 When the habitants of Puerto Morelos saw their white beaches turn brown, they felt they needed to take urgent action for their community. Given the limited effectiveness of the response, they organized themselves to clean public beaches, but the situation got worse. The summer of 2015 will be remembered by chroniclers of Puerto Morelos, Quintana […]

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Tons of foul sargassum algae stormed the Caribbean coast, damaging activities on many levels. Credit: Guillermo Fuentes

By Guillermo Fuentes
PUERTO MORELOS, MEXICO, Dec 11 2015 (IPS)

When the habitants of Puerto Morelos saw their white beaches turn brown, they felt they needed to take urgent action for their community. Given the limited effectiveness of the response, they organized themselves to clean public beaches, but the situation got worse.

The summer of 2015 will be remembered by chroniclers of Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, in the Mexican Mayan Riviera as one of the worst in the city’s climate history, affecting the shores as well as local economies and regional dependent coastal marine ecosystems.

This summer, according to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration US (NOAA), we had the highest rates of temperature recorded in land and ocean surfaces on the planet in the last 135 years.

And if that was not enough, tons of sargassum algae stormed the Caribbean coast, turning the shores brown and emitting a foul odor (hydrogen sulphide) due to the decomposition of the algae, causing the cancellation of hundreds of domestic and international flights and reservations at hotels, bringing loss of economic benefit and permanent and temporary jobs in the region.

The Caribbean has always had sargassum in their coasts, this algae derives its name from Portuguese navigators since the clusters of algae is very similar to a type of grape that grows in Portugal called sargaço. The algae is found in the Atlantic Ocean region, on the north-Equatorial and east coast of Africa.

At sea, this algae forms a valuable ecosystem, it supports ocean food webs, provides special shelter and fodder for juvenile turtles, commercially important species and young infants of different endangered species. And on the coasts, in moderate amounts, it provides power to shorebirds because it attracts insects, prevents erosion of beaches and fertilizes the plants in the coastal dune.

This algae is transported by ocean currents through the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico; it also arrives by currents coming from South America. Usually, the currents that reach the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico are the same.

But this year, according to University of Galveston (Texas) researchers, a change in ocean currents due to increased sea temperatures affected the distribution of sargassum sending tons of algae to the Caribbean coasts.

Another hypothesis raised by Brian Lapointe, an expert in sargassum by the Florida Atlantic University in the US, is that pollution nutrients generated by human activities and industrial agriculture, are discharged into the sea by the Mississippi river, adding nutrients to the sea that are used by this macro-algae.

Throughout the history of Quintana Roo, Puerto Morelos has been characterized by its coral reef as one of the world’s largest barrier, and is also known for being a banner of conservation and scientific research in the state of Quintana Roo.

Population and authorities tried to clean the beaches but the situation continued to deteriorate since the tractor-collectors were a risk for the turtle nesting area. Authorities therefore banned tractors, and the community decided to take action on the matter.

On August 4 of this year, a citizen forum entitled: ”Implementation of actions to enjoy clean beaches in Puerto Morelos” was led by Velázquez Olimán, hydrogeologist and director of the Center for Research and Innovation for Sustainable Development, Guadalupe.

Six proposals offering a solution to the problem of managing sargassum were received and submitted during the event. This forum intended to implement mechanisms and actions that contribute to a comprehensive solution for managing sargassum on the beaches, promoting a different alternative to the one envisaged by the authorities (deposit sargassum in sascaberas).

The hydrogeologist Guadalupe Velazquez explains that “it has been observed that if the kelp is extracted before his arrival to the coast and is continuously collected, this can be taken in advantage in a more efficient and less expensive way, since there would be no need to sift the sand, preventing coastal erosion.”

The massive arrival of sargassum caused heavy economic losses and serious consequences for the quantity, quality and location of employment. The Government, in an attempt to mitigate the situation, drew on federal funding for temporary employment program (PET). However, residents affirm that because of the lack of transparency in the management of resources, the effectiveness and duration of the initiative decreased, creating distrust and discontent among the population.

It is important to publicize, promote, invest and replicate innovative projects such as the “Implementation of actions to enjoy clean beaches in Puerto Morelos”, as this initiative could provide important employment and income opportunities in areas such as enlargement of the coastal protection as well of science and food security by transforming natural kelp fertilizer and agricultural food.

Globally, the demand for services and sustainable activities is on the rise. With its people and scientists’ willingness, Puerto Morelos wants to be an example of climate adaptation.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Catalina Arévalo from Agencia EFE.

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Water and Sanitation: Bridging the Gender Gap on India’s Seashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/water-and-sanitation-bridging-the-gender-gap-on-indias-seas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-and-sanitation-bridging-the-gender-gap-on-indias-seas http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/water-and-sanitation-bridging-the-gender-gap-on-indias-seas/#respond Fri, 11 Dec 2015 05:46:34 +0000 Malini Shankar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143294 Jeeja Behera, 34, the wife of a fisherman in the village of Sannapatna in India’s cyclone prone Puri district, dreads the onset of the cyclone season between October and January every year due to the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene in cyclone shelters. Standard operating procedure of India’s Disaster Management Act mandates evacuation of […]

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Peruvian Women Install Solar Panels and Light Up their Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/peruvian-women-install-solar-panels-and-light-up-their-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peruvian-women-install-solar-panels-and-light-up-their-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/peruvian-women-install-solar-panels-and-light-up-their-communities/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2015 15:58:57 +0000 Pilar Celi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143272 Five women from Candarave Province, located in Tacna (Peru), travelled to India to be trained and to learn how to install solar panels. The training has enabled 272 families to have electricity and improve their quality of life. Solar panels mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases and allow to address climate change. In 2011, Reina […]

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Women from Candarave share their knowledge in solar panels installation. Credit: Alicia Condori

By Pilar Celi
TACNA, PERU , Dec 9 2015 (IPS)

Five women from Candarave Province, located in Tacna (Peru), travelled to India to be trained and to learn how to install solar panels. The training has enabled 272 families to have electricity and improve their quality of life.

Solar panels mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases and allow to address climate change.

In 2011, Reina Isabel Humiri Mamani, 41, who has two children and two grandchildren, realized that, sometimes, to make a right decision, you have to break stereotypes, overcome fears and invest in knowledge. Although her mother, brothers, and some people in her community (Tacalaya) were against the idea, she accepted to take part in the Barefoot College programme, travelled to India for six months, and learned that electricity can be obtained by sunlight with the help of solar panels.

In December 2011, Reina together with four other women from Candarave, left for Barefoot College. This institution brings rural women together from around the world to Tilonia, a village in India, to share life experiences and most importantly, learn how to install and maintain solar panels – devices that convert solar radiation into electric energy – and thus improve daily life in their communities.

“At first I was afraid, because I knew what would happen. My family was sad, and in the community, they believed that it wasn’t true that I would come back to help, once I left. ‘My, you’re so brave’, they said,” Reina said to ConexiónCOP.

Before leaving, the inhabitants of the Candarave communities, starting from 6 in the afternoon – at sunset – were experiencing constant problems due to the lack of light. “I decided to travel to India so that I could have electricity. We used to cook or care for animals at night and children would study using the light of candles and lights. But we had to buy kerosene and would inhale the smoke, which caused us trouble breathing,” Reina explained.

As regards to what Reina said, the health system, Allina Health, warns that inhaling noxious fumes can cause disease in the lungs and airways. Moreover, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 96,000 children die annually worldwide due to thermal burns, which may result from the use of lighters.

To participate in Barefoot College, Reina flew almost 30 hours. She arrived in India, changed her diet, and left her family. Reina explained that while in Tilonia, she mingled with women around the world, discovered other cultures, beliefs, ideas, and even a new language, and above all, learned about solar technology.

“At the beginning, our group of Peruvian women was greatly shocked by the many changes we faced. The food was different and we did not understand the language, but the teachers followed a method using colours, with which were able to communicate, and we learned how to install solar panels.”

At Barefoot College, the women learn using signs, numbers and colours. The method makes learning possible also by illiterate women. With the help of teachers, they are trained on how to install solar panels, troubleshoot and repair. Also, the aim of this programme is to be replicated in other communities.

When they came back to their communities, Reina and the others were recognized as engineers, a situation that no one had imagined when they were offered the opportunity. In each village, a “solar committee” was set up to organize the population. In January 2013, they received equipment imported from India, which came in “kits” in order to install a low-power solar system for electric lighting. The technology is based on LED lights, which, unlike the traditional types, can be repaired and need not be changed.

The installation of 387 solar units made it possible for 1,360 people (272 families) from nine communities in Candarave Province to have electricity. Alicia Condori Quispe, who was part of the Barefoot College coordinating team in Peru, told ConexiónCOP: “The team monitored the distribution process, but it was the five engineers who installed the panels in the families’ homes. Each beneficiary paid 35 [new] soles for the installation, and each woman was capable of installing up to four units per day. The beneficiaries were very satisfied,” she said.

However, maintaining the solar panels over the years is an issue that still needs to be improved. Due to the high transportation costs and the lack of budget and management in the communities, it was problematic to regularly hire women engineers. However, new populations have requested additional systems, which shows that the benefits outshine the obstacles. As a first step, the engineers trained the beneficiaries on the basic maintenance of the systems, who today can carry out simple repairs independently.

Candarave is province that is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The area lies between 3,500 and 4,800 meters above sea level, and the inhabitants are mainly engaged in trout and alpaca breeding. Alpacas have been affected by the increase of greenhouse gases, as frost and drought are compounded by the effect of climate change, thus affecting their food.

With the arrival of solar power, the children of Candarave can study at home with adequate lighting and improve their school results. The health of the populations has also improved because they no longer inhale the smoke of candles and lighters. In addition, this resulted in significant cost savings for families, because the lighting systems previously used were very expensive.

Villagers on their own initiative also brought power outside the home, which resulted in an increase in the productivity in traditional activities. Policarpio Pariguana, who owns a trout farm, installed five solar panels, which made it possible to feed his fish at night and in the early morning.

Similarly, Reina explained that the villagers who raise alpacas as she does, installed solar lighting systems to protect their alpacas at night and to prevent foxes, which usually eat baby alpacas, from coming near. Another initiative was taken by the parents in the community of Marjani, who collected money to pay for the installation of the solar system in the community school.

Rodrigo París Rojas, journalist, political scientist, diplomat and director for Latin America of Barefoot College, explained that when women return to their homes, they become transformative people who illuminate lives.

“When returning home, women want to stop the consumption of gasoline or kerosene, which provides feeble light and generates CO2 emissions. With the help of NGOs and state institutions facilitating the programme, they also want to do away with the risks of accidents and problems for children’s health due to the amount of smoke that they inhale,” said Rodrigo París Rojas.

In developed and developing economies, access to energy is often the difference between poverty and wellbeing. The importance of the Barefoot College programme, which invests in knowledge and empowerment of the people, lies precisely in this difference.

Rodrigo París explained that during their stay in India, rural women learn to fight and to overcome challenges, and realize that change for the better is possible.

A key component of Barefoot College is that the students are exclusively women, because there is a philosophical notion that very clearly indicates that women are the centre of communities. “Women are generous. They are mothers and grandmothers. They are great storytellers, sharing knowledge among themselves, and ensuring that it will not fade away. And they also think about transforming their environment,” concluded Rodrigo París Rojas.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change.

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Women Leaders agree COP21 Must Have “Gender-Responsive” Deal.http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/women-leaders-agree-cop21-must-have-gender-responsive-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-leaders-agree-cop21-must-have-gender-responsive-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/women-leaders-agree-cop21-must-have-gender-responsive-deal/#comments Tue, 08 Dec 2015 13:04:35 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143259 53-year old Aleta Baun of Indonesia’s West Timor province is a proud climate warrior. From 1995 to 2005 she successfully led a citizens’ movement to shut down 4 large marble mining companies that polluted and damaged the ecosystem of a mountain her community considered sacred. After their closure in 2006, she became a conservationist and […]

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"Women Leaders at COP 21 in Paris Raise the Banner for Gender Awareness in Any Climate Deal." Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
PARIS, France , Dec 8 2015 (IPS)

53-year old Aleta Baun of Indonesia’s West Timor province is a proud climate warrior. From 1995 to 2005 she successfully led a citizens’ movement to shut down 4 large marble mining companies that polluted and damaged the ecosystem of a mountain her community considered sacred. After their closure in 2006, she became a conservationist and restored 15 hectares of degraded mountain land, reviving dozens of dried springs and resettling 6,000 people who were displaced by the mining.

On Monday, on the eve of the Gender Day at the ongoing UN Climate Change Summit (COP21) in Paris, Baun who is better known as or ‘Mama Aleta’ in West Timor, had a strong message for the negotiators: for a climate deal to be effective on the ground, it also had to be gender equal and recognize women’s climate leadership.

Running a landscape restoration project is costly. Baun has so far spent about 50,000 dollars pooled by community members and local NGOs. The project needs much more for completion. But this is a challenge as official funding has not come forth. This dismays Baun who feels that although women were setting great examples of climate leadership, it is not officially recognized by governments and international policy makers.

For example, she said, there was no official communication between the Indonesian delegation of negotiators at the COP and grassroots women climate activists like her. “We don’t know who the negotiators are and we don’t know what they are negotiating. We feel that we, the indigenous women, are alone in this fight against climate change,” she said.

Baun’s dismay and disappointment was shared by several other women leaders who expressed their thoughts on the draft climate policy at the COP. The draft, tabled at the end of the first week for formal negotiations, was “far from ideal,” said a woman leader because it had “too many brackets that made the text too complicated.”

“The purpose of the many sections is not clear. Also, some crucial components are missing. For example, gender equality is there, but indigenous people are not. One very important thing is inter-generational equity. For us, this is a core issue and it’s really not clear,” said Sabina Bok of Women in Europe for a Common Future.

Farah Kabir, head of ActionAid in Bangladesh agreed as her country has been hit by extreme weather events like flooding and sea disasters that have affected millions of women from poor communities. “The draft policy has lack of clarity on several of these points,” she said.

Presently, the key demands of most women leaders at the COP21 included commitment by all governments to keep global warming under 1.5 Celsius to prevent catastrophic climate change, including in all climate actions the recognition of human rights, gender equality, rights of indigenous peoples and intergenerational equity and provide new, additional and predictable gender-responsive public financing.

But, the negotiators seemed divided on the global warming target, which dismayed Kabir. “It is not clear whether the deal will stop global warming at 1.5 degree or at 2 degrees, the later will be catastrophic for women as that will mean more disasters and more suffering for women who are already the most vulnerable people.”

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) estimated that women comprise one of the most climate vulnerable populations. As the impact of climate change on women grows bigger, the vulnerability of women across the world is also growing and there is a sheer need for allowing women greater access to renewable technologies, said many. However, these technologies also had to be safe and gender responsive, so that they responded to both the daily and different needs and priorities of women. Alongside, investment is the need to train women in how to use these technologies.

Investments are also needed to facilitate women’s leadership in both mitigation and adaptation measures, said Neema Namadamu, a women leader from northern DRC. “In Congo, women are busy planting trees to help re-grow our rain forests. First, we need assured investments into initiatives like this that is a direct flight against climate change. The hair-splitting negotiations can continue after that,” said Namadamu, founder of Mama Shuja, a civil society organization that trained grassroots Congolese women in climate action and fighting gender violence using digital media tools.

However, to ensure women’s greater access to climate finance, renewable technologies and adaptation capacity, the climate draft needed to have a sharper gender focus, felt Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland and one of the greatest women climate leaders.

“There will be a climate deal in Paris. It will not be a ‘great’ deal, but a fairly ambitious one. But its extremely important to have a climate agreement that is ambitious, fair and also gender-fair. We definitely need an agreement that will exhilarate more women’s leadership. If we had more women’s leadership, we would have been where we are now,” Robinson said.

(End)

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