Inter Press ServiceHeadlines – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 19 Nov 2018 21:55:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 UN Commemorates International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 16:16:14 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158738 Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Special Adviser to the President of Wellesley College on Women’s Leadership.

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

“From the tuk tuk drivers in Cambodia… to the school children in South Africa, women and men and girls and boys are taking a stand to prevent violence against women,” says Executive Director of UN Women and Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

On November 19, the UN marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the Trusteeship Council Chambers at the UN Headquarters. It also commemorates the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women.

One of the unique features of the commemoration is the UN’s commitment to the role of law enforcement in ending violence against women and girls in private and public spaces. This local-to-global focus at the UN will bring critical perspectives from the UN, Member States, and including for the first time, a local law enforcement agency – the New York Police Department (NYPD).

The “violence against women” movement is perhaps the greatest success story of international mobilization. However over 35 percent of women across the world face violence during their life in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

Over one billion women experience gender – based violence in the world. Under Secretary General Mlambo-Ngcuka has pointed out that given the magnitude of this pandemic, if it was a disease, governments and scientists would be marshalling every resource to address it.

According to research led by a group of scholars at Stanford and Oxford universities, domestic violence costs 25 times more than conflict and violent extremism and exhausts 5.2 percent of global GDP.

Despite the stark and unyielding statistics, around the world, a new energy is bringing renewed commitments from heads of state and government leaders to address the different faces of violence against women.

Eighteen years ago, when I partnered with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on a study on domestic violence in the outskirts of Beijing, violence against women in the domestic sphere was recognized only in terms of loss of limb or eyesight.

The broadening categories of domestic violence including the recognition of economic abuse as a category of violence is part of a second generation of domestic violence laws and is in full compliance with international norms such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW).

Earlier in the year, Theresa May wrote to the Guardian, “Not all abusive behavior is physical. Controlling, manipulative and verbally abusive behavior ruins lives and means thousands end up isolated, living in fear. So, for the first time, the bill will provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes economic abuse, alongside other non-physical abuse.”

While older laws on gender -based violence focused on punishment, the new crop of laws focus broadly on punishment and prevention.

For example, the newly passed “anti-violence against women” law in Tunisia (2017) makes it easier to prosecute domestic abuse, and it imposes penalties for sexual harassment in public spaces. Most importantly it calls for children to be educated in schools about human rights.

Another phenomenon of this “second generation” of gender-based violence laws is a heightened recognition of a victim- centered approach and the costs of violence on the survivor, in terms of physical, economic, psychological, social and familial.

Earlier in the year, New Zealand passed legislation granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children. Family violence in New Zealand is estimated to cost the country between NZ$4.1bn and $7bn a year.

One of the critical components of the UNiTe campaign is the recognition that violence against women does not take place in a vacuum. As Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has confirmed: “Violence against women is fundamentally about power. It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

Mlambo- Ngcuka harnesses the full panoply of international commitments in their full majestic entirety, including the recognition that gender parity and women’s leadership is critical to UNiTe campaign to end violence against women.

In doing so she marshals international norms, from General Recommendation 12 and 19 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the DEVAW and the Security Council Resolution 1325 and its progeny as normative and constitutive in combating violence against women.

From the HeforShe movement, which calls for male leadership in advancing women’s equality, Mlambo-Ngcuka is putting in motion a broader bedrock of structures to combat violence against women in order to address the root causes of gender inequality.

On November 19, we come together at an extraordinary moment of unprecedented momentum built by the #MeToo movement towards empowering women and achieving gender equality across the board and across the globe.

As envisioned 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognized that “contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…” More must be done to recognize that these barbarous acts take place not only battlefields, but within hallowed halls of power, in the classrooms, in workplaces, including the paddy fields, and in our homes.

As stated in the UDHR, the commitment to end violence against women is a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. This common standard transcends culture, tradition, power or politics.

*Along with Richard Liu of MSNBC, Rangita de Silva de Alwis will be moderating the UN’s Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the UN Trusteeship Council on November 19.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Special Adviser to the President of Wellesley College on Women’s Leadership.

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‘Hate Is a Status Symbol. If You’re Not Being Hated You’re Not in the Game’ Says Celebrity Branding Guru Jeetendr Sehdevhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/hate-status-symbol-youre-not-hated-youre-not-game-says-celebrity-branding-guru-jeetendr-sehdev/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hate-status-symbol-youre-not-hated-youre-not-game-says-celebrity-branding-guru-jeetendr-sehdev http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/hate-status-symbol-youre-not-hated-youre-not-game-says-celebrity-branding-guru-jeetendr-sehdev/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 15:56:47 +0000 Danielle Gibson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158734 New York Times bestselling author Jeetendr Sehdev believes that chief marketing officers need to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage with. Ahead of his keynote, ‘Human 2.0: Sacrifice Everything If You Believe In Something’, at The Future of Marketing on November 22, Sehdev chats to The Drum about his book […]

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By Danielle Gibson
LONDON, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

New York Times bestselling author Jeetendr Sehdev believes that chief marketing officers need to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage with.

Ahead of his keynote, ‘Human 2.0: Sacrifice Everything If You Believe In Something’, at The Future of Marketing on November 22, Sehdev chats to The Drum about his book ‘The Kim Kardashian Principle’, how the Nike Colin Kaepernick campaign implemented his rules to create their success and why brands should embrace the hate from social media.

(Photo/Jeetendr Sehdev by Kimo Lauer)

An era of unrest and unease – this is the new reality for brands and businesses. Does that mean businesses now need to learn new rules for branding?

You bet. Anyone who’s serious about competing in this new reality needs to recognise that there are new rules of the game. In fact, there are six of them that I sum up in a framework called S.E.L.F.I.E. in my book The Kim Kardashian Principle.

Are there any examples of who’s doing it well?

I would have to say the Nike and Colin Kaepernick campaign. The media reported on how Nike had applied the rules of The Kim Kardashian Principle to create the breakthrough campaign. And how their headline ‘Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything’ was inspired by one of my branding rules ‘sacrifice everything to believe in something’. Given it’s become one of the most talked about advertising campaigns in recent history, and generated $163.5 million worth of brand exposure, I would say Nike followed the new rules well.

Every single business is talking about being authentic and driving some sort of purpose. There is so much noise. What piece of advice would you would give to marketers, when trying to connect with consumers?

Yes, but every single business is talking about being authentic by striving to be perfect, and that’s a problem. Which brand, CEO, organization or individual today can claim the mantel of perfection anyways? What’s right for one consumer might not be right for another – as marketers we need to respect that.

My definition of authenticity has always been about focusing on what you believe and what you want to create regardless of the blowback. It’s not about living up to other people’s standards but living up to your own standards, and that requires tons of courage. It’s about breaking through by becoming your own champion.

In today’s world where consumers have finely-tuned authenticity detectors and value those who march to their own drum beat, The Kim Kardashian Principle is the only definition of authenticity that’s going to get you noticed.

What is that one thing that CMOs should change when doing business in this changing world?

CMOs have to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage. It’s easy to demean and degrade others for being different. Narcissistic, lazy, entitled, stupid… How many times have we heard millennials and generation Z being labelled that way? You don’t like the fact that a YouTuber promoted himself to fame by playing video games, made $15 million on his latest endorsement deal, brought some followers to big himself up? It doesn’t matter.

Instead of playing the moral police, look at ways to empathize with a new generation with a different value system. What drives them to do what they do? Understand it, empathize with it. It’s especially important for us because we’re in the business of building emotional connections. That’s the value of a brand, right?

You talk about breaking rules, what are the risks CMOs need to be aware of when considering “bold and dynamic” messaging? How should you balance risks and failures in this increasingly connected world?

It’s no secret that the largest most sophisticated brands are struggling to engage younger audiences today. The biggest risk CMOs will take today is not taking enough risks! Traditional marketing tactics are no longer working, the competition is too intense, audiences are too savvy. Hiding your true opinions as an organization – from social to political to financial to environmental – in an attempt to cater to the lowest common denominator is just not a viable option for brands anymore. Younger audiences are value-driven, and they want to engage with brands that have similar values… so, you’ve no longer have a choice but to show your true values.

When it comes to brands or celebrities, in terms of influence, what can the two learn from each other?

So much. New world leaders like Kim Kardashian can teach brands how to cultivate develop and lead a new generation of consumers. Any brand that is serious about engaging their audiences needs to be paying close attention to Kim.

Talk us through the top two key themes that will ignite brands in the future?

First off, hate is a status symbol. If you’re not being hated you’re not in the game. There’s no avoiding hate with social media. Everybody has a platform to voice their opinions now, besides I’m a big believer that everybody has both a right to their opinion and to be heard. You’re not going to please everybody and any attempts to cater to the lowest common denominator will only be seen as inauthentic. So, embrace the hate and learn to love it.

Secondly, it’s not about creating fans but fanatics. Those who have blind faith and are willing to see through to the intention of your idea. That’s a much deeper level of emotional bonding that brands will need to achieve in order to compete and fend off future competition.

‘Business as usual’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Transformations are radically altering our lives, making it more daunting than ever to make a positive impact on our wellbeing, our productivity, and our world. How should we manage this challenge?

Don’t resist it. Embrace it. Run with it. Even if you don’t fully understand it. With greater innovation has also come greater levels of forgiveness from audiences if your idea, product or service doesn’t quite work out.

Sehdev will attend The Future of Marketing on November 22. You can purchase tickets for the event at The Crystal, London here.

This story was originally published by The Drum.

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Improved Husbandry Practices Boosts Aquaculture in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/improved-husbandry-practices-boosts-aquaculture-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=improved-husbandry-practices-boosts-aquaculture-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/improved-husbandry-practices-boosts-aquaculture-kenya/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 15:40:05 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158718 Despite the humid late October midday weather in Kisumu County near the shores of Lake Victoria, Jane Kisia is busy walking around her fish ponds feeding her fish. As she rhythmically throws handfuls of pellets into the ponds, located within her homestead, the fish ravenously gobble them up. Kisia, a retired teacher, has been rearing […]

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People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy their daily catch. Demand for fish in Kenya is on the rise courtesy of fast population growth of around three percent per year and increased awareness of the nutritional value of fish. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
KISUMU/VIHIGA, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

Despite the humid late October midday weather in Kisumu County near the shores of Lake Victoria, Jane Kisia is busy walking around her fish ponds feeding her fish. As she rhythmically throws handfuls of pellets into the ponds, located within her homestead, the fish ravenously gobble them up.

Kisia, a retired teacher, has been rearing fish for six years. In 2016 she was enlisted in the Kenya Market-led Aquaculture Programme (KMAP), to boost aquaculture and protect Lake Victoria’s dwindling stocks. KMAP, which runs from 2016-2019, is a programme by Farm Africa, a charity organisation. It covers 14 counties in Kenya’s central and Lake Victoria regions.

“KMAP has been providing training on aquaculture which has enabled me to harness the sector’s opportunities,” Kisia tells IPS.

Aside from just the training, KMAP has also given her a valuable link to traders. “When my fish mature, buyers are just a phone call away,” says Kisia.

In her five ponds, she rears Tilapia and some Catfish. She harvests them twice a year and makes between Kenya Shillings 150,000 – 200,000 (USD 1,500 -2000).

Demand for fish in Kenya is on the rise courtesy of fast population growth of around three percent per year and increased awareness of the nutritional value of fish.

Unfortunately, the country’s fish production is heavily reliant on wild fish caught in its lakes whose stocks are sharply declining. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in April reported that over the last five years fish landed, including from lakes, marine source and fish farming, has declined from over 163,000 tons in 2013 to 135,000 tons last year. This has led to scarcity and high costs.

The scenario is unfolding despite the country having over 1.14 million hectares of land ideal for aquaculture as per the 2017 Aquaculture Report of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI).

Not even a government programme to boost the aquaculture sector that saw 48,000 fish ponds across the country almost a decade ago solved the problem of low fish supply. This is because the programme had only shown people how to dig ponds and stock them with fingerlings. While a few training sessions were held, the beneficiaries of those programmes were largely left to themselves.

An integrated fish and poultry rearing system. Poultry houses are built above fish ponds for chicken droppings to supplement feeds. NGO Farm Africa, are training rural farmers in Kenya’s 14 counties on how to start their own fish farms. The country’s fish production is heavily reliant on wild fish caught in its lakes whose stocks are sharply declining. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

Teddy Nyanapa, Farm Africa’s coordinator, tells IPS they empower rural farmers through closely engaging with them, monitoring their progress, providing technical expertise, advice on markets and natural resources preservation. He adds that they also lobby for an improved legislative environment for the sector.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference
The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and is being co-hosted with Canada and Japan. The aim of the conference is learn how to build a blue economy that harnesses the potential of the world’s oceans and waterbodies in order to improve the lives of all. 

Nyanapa explains that the programme encompasses all players in the fish value chain. These include farmers, feed manufacturers and fish traders.

He says apart from fish husbandry practices, farmers are also trained on book keeping and financial matters. They have enlisted some 1,100 farmers.

Each of the 14 counties has agents who assist farmers in adhering to best practices. “The agents are aquaculture extensionists, mostly recent graduates from colleges, for we need personnel to promote aquaculture adoption with zeal,” Nyanapa tells IPS. This level of engagement is believed to be the reason for the success of this project.

He observes that fingerlings are in low supply, stating that there are only 12 official hatcheries in Kenya.

KMAP works with three large capacity feed manufacturers. They have been trained on feed quality standards and palpability.

Nyanapa laments that there is no standard size for juvenile fish sold to farmers, with some sold so small that they rarely survive, which causes losses.

He agrees with the three farmers that the cost of feed is a huge challenge, as it can account for 70 percent of the farming costs.

“We rely on commercial feeds which are costly, yet sometimes quality is poor and supply inconsistent,” explains Kisia.

At Ebenezer Children’s Home and Life Centre, a boarding school for both primary and secondary school children, KMAP is working with its management on an aquaculture initiative for nutrition and commercial purposes.

Martha Achieng, a teacher/farm manager at Ebenezer Children’s Home and Life Centre, which is also based in Kisumu County, says they started aquaculture in 2012.

“The initial aim was to rear fish for food, given that some of the children are living with HIV/AIDS, but after our first harvest we sold the surplus and made Kenya Shillings 200,000 (2,000 USD) and realised it is a lucrative venture,” Achieng tells IPS.

The centre which has some 1,000 pupils, has six ponds stocked with Tilapia and Catfish.

Achieng says that since wild fish stocks are dwindling, the government should subsidise the costs borne by aquaculture farmers.

“There is need for a shift in policy by curbing Chinese fish imports and lowering the cost of inputs to tap the huge potential of aquaculture,” she adds.

Locally there has been much controversy about Kenya’s importation of fish from China, which was used to fill the gap as the country’s own fish stocks have declined. According to United Nations commercial data, in 2017 Kenya imported USD 21 million of fish from China.

However, this October, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta proposed banning these imports that were competing with the livelihoods of local fishers.

But some local fish farmers under KMAP are opting to go large scale, thereby marginally increasing the local supply of fish.

Stephen Lukorito, a Farm Africa agent in neighbouring Vihiga County, says there are some 100 fish farmers in the county. He says the potential for aquaculture is huge.

Beauty Farm in Vihiga County has five ponds that serve as a training centre for youth keen on practicing aquaculture.

Wilson Ananda, the farm manager, tells IPS that the demand for fish in the area is so huge that every time they harvest, the whole catch is bought by local community members.

Also in Vihiga County, a farm run by a company called Bunyore Riverside Development (BRAD) rears over 19,000 fish in six ponds of 60 x 30 metres. It has an integrated fish and poultry rearing system. Poultry houses are built above fish ponds and chicken droppings create algae in the water, on which the fish feed.

Emmanuel Simiyu, BRAD’s manager, says they supply their fish to hotels, restaurants, schools and hospitals. He adds that they face a challenge of ready supply of fingerlings and will soon venture into their production.

Other organisations have partnered with KMAP to offer support on hatcheries management, monitoring and evaluation, while some like the World Fish Centre provide advice on suitability of various fish species in different ecological zones.

And training has been extended to government fisheries officers: 28 have been trained in the Lake Victoria region on modern aquaculture technologies.

Some farmers are also selected and trained as peer mentors.

Nyanapa says that before the project closes they want to mobilise farmers to work in clusters or groups to purchase inputs and access markets and finance.

Ultimately there is the hope that the fish farms will remain a thriving success once the project has ended. It brings Kenya one step closer to increasing its own production of fish.

 

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Venture Capital Can Turbo Charge Growth in Emerging Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/venture-capital-can-turbo-charge-growth-emerging-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venture-capital-can-turbo-charge-growth-emerging-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/venture-capital-can-turbo-charge-growth-emerging-markets/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 14:18:36 +0000 Anna Shen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158730 Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to start ups around the world

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Employees of Africa’s Talking, a platform for software developers, working at their desks in Nairobi, Kenya on February 13, 2018. Credit: Dominic Chavez/International Finance Corporation

By Anna Shen
NEW YORK, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

Global poverty is undoubtedly the most critical economic and moral challenge of the 21st century. While economists debate how to raise up the world’s poorest – the more than 800 million people living on less than US$1.25 a day.– entrepreneurs are spurring innovation and growth in emerging markets.

However, to truly enable economic activity, governments must work diligently with entrepreneurs and the venture capital class to build ecosystems.

What is most exciting is a spate of new companies outside of the obvious BRIC countries in diverse geographies – from the Philippines to Peru, to Hangzhou to Lagos – that are unleashing home grown innovation, creating efficiencies and solving local problems.

Many of the start-ups are tackling challenges felt most keenly among the poor: access to health care, education, finance and markets among them.

The Center for American Entrepreneurship reports that venture capital (VC) — the funding source for many of the world’s start-up companies — hit an all-time high of USD$171 billion in 2017. In the past three years, start-ups in Beijing have raised $72.8 billion, almost as much as those in San Francisco ($81.8 billion).

Talent is everywhere, and it is hungry. California’s Silicon Valley has Facebook, Google, and Apple. But unicorns are elsewhere: China has Didi and Xiaomi, India has Hike, and Nigeria has Jumia.

Finally, even Silicon Valley is taking note. Headlines such as the New York Times proclaim: “Silicon Valley is Over, Says Silicon Valley,” or Forbes: “Is Silicon Valley Losing Its Luster?” Venture capitalists usually refuse to consider companies outside the Bay area. As one VC proclaimed, “If I can’t ride my bike to meet the founders, I won’t invest,” speaking to the Valley’s freewheeling hippy-esque culture.

Anna Shen

However, those in the know of global innovation say investors who remain local will lose out if they stay in the comfort zone of their own California bubble. At IFC’s recent Venture Capital in Emerging Markets conference in San Francisco, attendees predicted the dramatic rise of VC activity in Africa in the next five years, and Latin America in three.

At Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Singapore earlier this month, the talk was that Asian cities are now top challengers for domination by US venture capital firms. In a report “The Rise of the Global Startup City” by the Center for American Entrepreneurship, authors Ian Hathaway and Richard Florida state that: “The geography of start-up activity and venture capital investment is undergoing a rapid and profound period of globalization.”

The idea that successful start-ups must launch and scale in Silicon Valley — or in another major U.S. city — no longer holds true.” Increasingly, the world’s entrepreneurs can stay home to raise capital for their companies.

Most importantly is the profound contribution of local high-tech sectors on economic activity. For every single high-tech job created in the U.S. and Europe, 4.3 other jobs are created, said Hathaway.

While numbers in emerging markets are more difficult to come by, he noted: “I can only imagine that the impacts are far greater because the there is much more runway to grow.” New tech start-ups spur competition, productivity, and create jobs. Entrepreneurs launch new products, adopt cutting-edge technology and open new markets. The result: sustainable economic development.

“There are huge efficiency gains as the digitalization of the global economy has a huge impact in developing markets,” said Nikunj Jinsi, Global Head of the International Finance Corporation’s $1BN venture capital fund, which includes investments in health, education, transportation, and energy. He noted that in China IFC invested in the “Uber for trucks,” which consolidated a fractured industry that accounts for 15 to 20 percent of China’s GDP. The exponential effect is tremendous.

People often don’t focus on the multiplier effects of start-ups. “In Silicon Valley it’s called the PayPal effect – when companies succeed, they spin out dozens, even hundreds of entrepreneurs who know now how it is done. It is a flywheel of economic growth,” said Christopher M. Schroeder, co-founder of venture firm Next Billion Ventures.

In emerging markets, much of the capital is concentrated within a few families. But VC is an interesting way of injecting new capital into industries because it rewards entrepreneurs. It has a huge role to play in emerging markets because access to capital is limited and access to capital that will take risks is even more so.

“For GDP to grow in emerging markets, small business needs to grow and technology is a way to do this, said Paul Santos, Managing Partner of cross-border firm Wavemaker Partners, which invests in early stage start-ups in Southeast Asia.

The role of the public sector cannot be underestimated. “Governments must stimulate and build ecosystems and enabling environments, and this includes mentorship. They can do a lot, and provide tailored solutions,” said IFC’s Jinsi.

Entrepreneurs can go only so far without government intervention and support in the forms of incubators, accelerators, rule of law and other legal and support structures that encourage entrepreneurship. Risk taking must be nurtured, along with education.

Starting a company is challenging in any market, but for emerging markets there is often no community, and failure and experimentation are frowned upon, not celebrated. Funding is much more difficult to come by.

Governments are launching new initiatives to spur innovation. In Lebanon, the government allocated $400 million to support local venture capital funds. Similar initiatives are happening in Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and elsewhere.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Startup India, a campaign by Indian Prime Minister, aims to promote promising companies. From Africa to Asia to Latin America, governments are pitching in.

However, if governments do not do enough in a concerted manner to build ecosystems that empower entrepreneurs to create companies, jobs and opportunities for poor people in the developing world, the world will see greater conflict, as millions in the world live in fragility and conflict, and have no hope of creating a better life.

These jobs are critical to seeing fulfilment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially of Goal #8, which is decent work and economic growth. Speed and skill are key.

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Excerpt:

Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to start ups around the world

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Educating Children Starts With Parentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/educating-children-starts-parents/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=educating-children-starts-parents http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/educating-children-starts-parents/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 13:59:53 +0000 Seemant Dadwal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158725 Parents from low-income families often struggle to find the time to support their children, are alienated from educational systems themselves, and lack access to the networks that middle- and higher-income parents have.

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Children need support and guidance at a very early stage from their homes and communities | Photo courtesy: Meraki

Children need support and guidance at a very early stage from their homes and communities | Photo courtesy: Meraki

By Seemant Dadwal
NEW DELHI, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

Neha is a first-generation learner. Her mother, Hema, a maid, wants her only daughter to grow up to become a government servant. This, according to her, will give her family security, stable water and electricity connections, and also an attached toilet, apart from a better living environment.

The odds though, are stacked against Neha given the inter-generational nature of poverty, and the poor developmental outcomes that families like hers face. Unsurprisingly, despite Hema’s high aspirations, Neha isn’t performing well in school. She faces issues that most first generational learners face—poor academic achievement, an inferiority complex, lack of initiative, maladjustment, and an underdeveloped personality[1]. Their poor performance in school is usually caused by an array of issues: lack of motivation, lack of support at home, their work outside home for income generation, being some examples.

“Whatever I do, she just isn’t able to cope. One day I got so angry that I tore her copy and threw it in the dustbin. Then I realised that it wasn’t Neha I was angry at. It was I who had failed her. I don’t know what else to do apart from sending my child to school”, contemplates Hema.

It is parental commitment to schooling that keeps children in schools, even at the cost of additional debts and hardships. But more often than not, surrounded by insurmountable odds, parents give up.
A majority of classrooms in more than eight lakh primary schools in India face this situation on a day to day basis. To do justice to the needs of these children: teachers and the school system need parents to be able partners. But parents like Hema, often find the environment at school completely alien. This presents a significant barrier in their communication with the school.

The attitude of schools and teachers (who are usually educated, and from a higher caste and class) sometimes makes it even more difficult for them to approach school. Therefore, in most cases, the partnerships between schools and families are deeply fractured.

Parents, disheartened by their own inadequacy and financial stress, are ill-equipped to adequately support their children and therefore end up making poor decisions. It is parental commitment to schooling that keeps children in schools, even at the cost of additional debts and hardships[2]. But more often than not, surrounded by insurmountable odds, parents give up.

This is one of key reasons why children from low-income disadvantaged backgrounds underachieve, drop out, or do poorly academically.

 

The children’s home environment works against them

A child’s brain is built (not born) via a complex interplay of thousands of neural connections that are shaped by experience and environment. These connections shape the way children grow, learn, and flourish. Most children in disadvantaged communities are deprived of conditions that fuel these connections i.e. appropriate nutrition, protection from violence and abuse, responsive care giving, and availability of learning opportunities.

Non-availability of positive conditions can cause a lifetime of health and productivity issues including reduction in adult earnings by upto 25 percent. Simply put, the cumulative burden of poverty, neglect, and violence is astronomically larger than what most children, like Neha, can overcome.

They need support and guidance at a very early stage from their homes and communities. Our focus, therefore, has to be to provide a supportive environment and develop the capabilities of parents, like Hema, who can help children face these challenges before they enter school.

 

There is no support system for low-income parents

In most cases, low-income families are faced with a rather debilitating crisis of care. They’re usually trapped between the need of providing care for their children and the necessity of earning an income to support them.

Lack of quality daycare or pre-schools facilities, coupled with unsafe neighbourhoods that are not ideal for raising children, further exacerbate the issues of early childcare.

In contrast, middle- and higher-income parents, although confronted with their own unique challenges of raising children, are still much better equipped to setup quality proxies (pre-schools, child care facilities) to compensate for their lack of time, if at all. Additionally, they usually have easy access to, and support from teachers—during and beyond school hours—through informal networks as well as formal structures such as parent-teacher associations.

Low-income parents have been either unwilling or unable to participate in these rigid traditional parent involvement modes. They are, therefore in comparison, doubly disadvantaged—they lack the support structures that are available to higher-income households while also carrying an additional burden of leading lives characterised by financial and emotional stress.

It is therefore crucial that they have access to programmes focused on improving parent abilities to tackle adversity, reduce neglect, provide early learning experiences, and responsive relationships with their children.

Science has undeniably established the importance and urgency of investment in early childhood care and education as a way to improve outcomes later in life. It is also important to note that without this investment, interventions that seek to improve learning outcomes later in a child’s life are likely to hit a wall.

 

A skill building session for parents | Photo courtesy: Meraki

A skill building session for parents | Photo courtesy: Meraki

 

Building parent capabilities is non-negotiable

We know that the abilities of adults to tackle these challenges can be built over time. But from my experience at Meraki,  it cannot be done via the traditional mode of giving information or advice to people who need active skill building.

To cater to the challenges and needs of low-income India, we need multiple early stage interventions focused on parents of very young children (especially 0-6 years of age).

Examples of such interventions can be those that focus on reducing neglect, improving parent-child relationships, improving parenting practices and mental health of parent caregivers, and capacity building to help build stable and caring environments at home.

From our experience, such skill building requires patience, longer term orientation as well as an intervention that uses principles of andragogy to engage with adults who haven’t been in a formal learning environment before.

Building long term capacity of parents to support their children will nudge the entire education system towards better outcomes. But the educational paradigm, in this case, needs to accommodate a slightly different view: to educate children let’s start with parents.

 

[1] Ghosh, S. (2014). The silent exclusion of first generation learners from  educational scenario – A profile from Puncha Block of purulia District, West Bengal. International Journal of Developmental Research, 804-811

[2] Jha, J., & Dhir, J. (2002). Elementary Education for the Poorest and other Deprived Groups.New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research

 

Seemant Dadwal is an educator and founder of Meraki. He started Meraki with his Teach for India colleague, Ghazal Gulati. An IIM Bangalore graduate, Seemant started Meraki with a deep appreciation for his parent’s struggles, who took bold decisions to ensure a better future for him, and as a culmination of his learnings from half-a-decade of work in the education sector. Meraki imagines a more equitable world where all parents, irrespective of their socio-economic or educational backgrounds, are able to provide quality early childhood education and care to their children. Over the past 2 years, they have partnered with South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the Delhi government, to reach out to more than 1000 low-income families.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

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Excerpt:

Parents from low-income families often struggle to find the time to support their children, are alienated from educational systems themselves, and lack access to the networks that middle- and higher-income parents have.

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Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:50:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158723 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Education CS Amina Mohamed chats with form four candidates of Mama Ngina Secondary School a few minutes before KCSE exams. Credit: Standard

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

November 20, 2018 marks International Children’s Day. Perhaps a day we should use to reflect on a national crisis of underage pregnancies that confronts us.

Recent media reports of the high number of girls failing to sit their final secondary school examinations (KSCE) only reveal the extent to which we have continued to sweep under the carpet candid discussions about adolescent sexuality.

Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said that the country must confront this worrying trend. “We must have this conversation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It is happening to our children, our sisters, and even our young brothers. We will deal with it or it will not go away”. No doubt CS Mohamed has a tough job ahead.

Consider this. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.

The carpet’s edges are now too frayed to conceal our failure to act; we no longer can afford the blissful pretence about sexual activity among our teenagers. Nor can the responsibility for decisive solutions be shunted around.

Numerous studies have documented the fact that a high number of teens are already sexually active. These young girls are part of the four in ten women in Kenya aged between 15 and 49 who have unintended pregnancies. There can be no illusions about what they need: accurate, up-to-date information and access to effective contraception.

It is time to take a wholesome picture of the social and economic price society is paying when 15 percent of its teenage girls become pregnant. For virtually all of them – and statistics say majority are from poor families – it means an end to any dreams of coming out of poverty because they cannot continue with education.

Complications during pregnancy are the second cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, therefore it means their already poor families have additional health care costs to meet. Children born to such young mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive development.

The overall effect is a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty that brings personal catastrophe while weakening social and economic development and adding strain to already stretched medical services.

In reproductive health, as in most things, knowledge is power. But across sub-Saharan Africa too many teenage girls lack knowledge of their bodies, their contraceptive options, and their rights. The notion of rights is central.

As the UNFPA report The Power of Choice states, in countries where rights to health, education and opportunity prevail, fertility rates tend to be lower. Through exercising their wider rights, people exercise choice about the timing and number of their children.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 that shows girls who have completed secondary education have an average of three children in their lifetimes compared to an average 6.5 for those with no education. Additionally, around 60% of girls who have completed primary and secondary school use some form of modern contraception compared to only 15% of those with no education.

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

“The girl child in this country is under threat from all manner of vices, including early pregnancy and female genital mutilation and many other kinds of nonsense that affect our communities. These things have no basis for the development of our country” said the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.

The underlying drivers of teenage pregnancy are complex and include gender inequality, child marriage, poverty, sexual violence, and poor education and job opportunities. To be successful, efforts to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy must address all these elements through comprehensive programmes of behaviour change, social and economic development, health and sex education, reproductive rights, and gender equality.

Crucially, such efforts must also include boys and men, whose attitude to girls and women underpin many pervasive social problems in Kenya and across the world.

Reproductive rights and health are also central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages.

As the UN family in Kenya we are working in partnership with government, civil society, religious and youth groups to extend access to sexual and reproductive health information, counselling and services for young people. We intend to step this up.

Three years ago, Kenya launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy. Unless bold decisions are made to implement that policy, pregnancies among our youth will continue to be a wrecking ball to the national development agenda particularly the Big Four and the SDGs.

In order for every girl to achieve her full human potential, how can the entire country be engaged to initiate a change in mindset in Kenya? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Cuba’s Only Semiarid Region Reinvents Agriculture to Survivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 04:02:00 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158713 At a brisk pace, Marciano Calamato and Mireya Noa walk along the dry, yellow soil of their farm, where they even manage to grow onions in Cuba’s unique semi-arid eastern region. The region, which has a particularly sensitive ecosystem due to the large number of endemic species, covers 1,752 square kilometers in the southern part […]

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Mireya Noa and Marciano Calamato are a couple who have a farm in Cuba's only semiarid zone, in the eastern province of Guantánamo. Thanks to the trees they planted, they were able to shade areas of the land, cool things down and counteract the strong evaporation of water from the soil in this coastal and semi-desert eco-region. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Mireya Noa and Marciano Calamato are a couple who have a farm in Cuba's only semiarid zone, in the eastern province of Guantánamo. Thanks to the trees they planted, they were able to shade areas of the land, cool things down and counteract the strong evaporation of water from the soil in this coastal and semi-desert eco-region. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

By Ivet González
SAN ANTONIO DEL SUR, Cuba, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

At a brisk pace, Marciano Calamato and Mireya Noa walk along the dry, yellow soil of their farm, where they even manage to grow onions in Cuba’s unique semi-arid eastern region.

The region, which has a particularly sensitive ecosystem due to the large number of endemic species, covers 1,752 square kilometers in the southern part of the province of Guantánamo. It is the only semi-arid ecoregion in this Caribbean island nation, and is a world rarity because it is a coastal desert on a relatively large island like Cuba, according to experts.

“It’s difficult, you have to make a great effort. We implement irrigation systems and maintain a well from which we pump to a water tank, and from there to the area of the crops,” explained Calamato, a farmer who in 2008 was granted the 12.4-hectare La Cúrbana farm in usufruct."This is an atypical municipality, with many risks of disasters from drought, coastal flooding from high tides, high-intensity hurricanes and even tsunamis." -- Tania Hernández

As in the rest of the province, one of the least developed in the country, the population of 25,796 inhabitants of the municipality of San Antonio del Sur depends almost exclusively on agriculture, which represents a challenge in the local semi-desert ecozone.

“I participate in everything from planting to putting organic matter around the plant. We have harvested very large onions, beans, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers. Everything we plant grows well, as long as it has water,” Noa said, discussing how they manage their nutrient-poor soils.

The leafy canopies of fruit trees and drought-resistant species provide shade in the centre of La Cúrbana, where the small rustic wooden house of Calamato and Noa is located, along with a greenhouse, water tanks for human consumption, a storehouse for household goods and corrals for 40 head of goats and more than 20 barnyard fowl.

La Cúrbana, where the family grows crops on a small scale, and which is self-sufficient in animal feed, also has small livestock – the type of farm recommended by experts in agriculture in a semi-arid ecosystem.

“The farms down here are very focused on animal production, small livestock, which is the most suitable for this land. And there are alternatives for achieving self-sufficiency, that is, for family self-consumption and animal feed,” said geographer Ricardo Delgado.

He forms part of the coordinating committee for the project “Ponte Alerta Caribe: Harmonising risk management strategies and tools with an inclusive approach in the Caribbean”, which is being implemented in Cuba and the Dominican Republic until early 2019, in order to strengthen national and regional institutional capacities.

The project is executed by the international organisations Oxfam, based in the UK, and Humanity and Inclusion, based in Canada, and has funding from the Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Agricultural worker Abigail Castro points to where the sea is, from the La Fortuna farm in the municipality of San Antonio del Sur, Guantánamo province in eastern Cuba, which has a unique semiarid coastal ecosystem. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Agricultural worker Abigail Castro points to where the sea is, from the La Fortuna farm in the municipality of San Antonio del Sur, Guantánamo province in eastern Cuba, which has a unique semiarid coastal ecosystem. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Among its diverse actions in Cuba is strengthening drought resilience in San Antonio del Sur, IPS learned during several tours of farms seeking to adapt to climate change in this municipality, where this reporter spoke to farmers, specialists and authorities in the area.

Ponte Alerta strengthened the Guantánamo meteorological centre to process drought data and equipped it with portable weather stations for distribution on some farms and the data processing system. It also supported the adaptation of a drought resilience tool to the coastal conditions in the municipality.

“This is the most disadvantaged part of the municipality’s land. But La Cúrbana is a very good experience of a farm that has adapted to these conditions,” said geologist Yusmira Savón, who has participated in several projects involving efforts to adapt to drought in the area.

A cocktail of agroecological techniques, water management, soil management, productive reconversion, resilience to drought and the use of renewable energies make up the formula prescribed by experts to farmers in a municipality that reports a very low average annual rainfall, less than 200 millimeters.

“The soils of the semiarid ecosystem in San Antonio del Sur have exploitable qualities from a chemical point of view, because they are loose soils that are prepared and, with the help of organic matter and water, can be farmed with a certain margin of profitability,” said agronomist Loexys Rodríguez.

The expert warned about changes that affect the eco-region, such as the one degree Celsius increase in the current temperature with respect to the average recorded between 1980 and 2010, and changes in rain intensity and seasonal rainfall variability.

All of these factors increase drought-related problems and put pressure on the area’s productive sector, where environmental authorities are also implementing programmes to combat deforestation and desertification.

Just nine meters from the sea, Abigail Castro is working on the La Fortuna farm, which on six hectares produces more than 46 tons a year of various crops such as onions, tomatoes, beans, yucca, melons, plantains (cooking bananas) and beans (Phaseolus vulgaris).

 Marciano Calamato stands next to the well and water tank on his farm, which enable him to irrigate his crops at least once a day, in Cuba's only semi-desert zone, in San Antonio del Sur, a municipality in southeast Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS


Marciano Calamato stands next to the well and water tank on his farm, which enable him to irrigate his crops at least once a day, in Cuba’s only semi-desert zone, in San Antonio del Sur, a municipality in southeast Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

“We have a natural windbreak to protect the crops from strong sea winds,” he said proudly.

Castro said: “We don’t have coastal flooding from high tides here, but the river does flood everything when there are cyclones, and we remain incommunicado. The people are evacuated to the town and we take the animals to the mountains,” he said, explaining how the local farmers face climatic events, the most serious in recent times being Hurricane Matthew, which hit the eastern part of the island in 2016.

In La Fortuna, the shiny green crops contrast with the dry soil and the scorching sun. “The problem along the coast is drought, which is very bad, but here the crops suffer fewer pests,” said José Luis Rustán, who in 2008 was granted use of this land, where weeds used to rule.

“In addition to ensuring irrigation, we apply a lot of organic matter. I produce it myself: I use manure from the corrals and I make compost and green fertiliser. I’ve also used bat guano,” said the farmer, who has developed his farm with his own means.

For his part, agronomist Yandy Leyva, who works on the La Piedra farm, where sheeps are raised for meat, and who takes part in Ponte Alerta Caribe, recommended greater use of efficient microorganisms (biofertilisers) by farms in the semiarid ecosystem, where he believes they could even be sold.

He also lamented the fact that the irrigation systems available to the farmers are very old, “and are flood irrigation systems, which wash away and degrade the land.”

“We have to take measures like dams and soil cover and increase the density of crops in order to mitigate this problem,” he said.

Other national and international cooperation projects in the semiarid region promote the use of renewable energies and the planting of species adapted to this ecosystem, which contribute to reforestation and create jobs.

These species include the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which originates in India and is mainly used to make fertilisers, and jatropha (Jatropha curcas), which is used to produce biodiesel.

“This is an atypical municipality, with many risks of disasters from drought, coastal flooding from high tides, high-intensity hurricanes and even tsunamis,” said Tania Hernández, vice president for local government risk management.

And like the rest of the Cuban municipalities, San Antonio del Sur aspires to strengthen food security. “We are 100 percent self-sufficient in tubers and vegetables, but other items have to be imported,” said the official.

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E-Commerce Giants Under Fire for Retailing Hazardous Mercury-Based Cosmeticshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 11:18:28 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158706 A coalition of over 50 civil society organizations (CSOs), from more than 20 countries, have urged two of the world’s largest multi-billion dollar E-commerce retailers – Amazon and eBay – to stop marketing “dangerous and illegal mercury-based skin lightening creams.” The protest is part of a coordinated global campaign against a growing health hazard in […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

A coalition of over 50 civil society organizations (CSOs), from more than 20 countries, have urged two of the world’s largest multi-billion dollar E-commerce retailers – Amazon and eBay – to stop marketing “dangerous and illegal mercury-based skin lightening creams.”

The protest is part of a coordinated global campaign against a growing health hazard in the field of cosmetics.

So far, the groups have reached out to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and INTERPOL, the Lyon-based international law enforcement agency whose mandate includes investigating the sale of illegal health products online.

Michael Bender, International Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group, told IPS internet moguls must stop breaking the law with their toxic trade in illegal cosmetics.

“Amazon and eBay have the responsibility and resources to prevent exposing their customers to this dangerous neurotoxin,” he added.

At the same time, said Bender, the FDA must enforce the law— no matter how big the retailer, since no one is above the law.

The CSOs have identified 19 skin products sold by these two companies that contain illegal mercury levels—even as the use of these products are skyrocketing globally, and in the US, and used worldwide mostly by women in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

In a letter to Jeff Bezos, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Amazon, the groups say: “We strongly urge Amazon to self-police its website to ensure that cosmetics found to have mercury levels over 1 part per million (ppm) are no longer offered for sale to your customers worldwide.”

Since 1973, the FDA has warned against using cosmetics with over 1ppm mercury and detailed the risks. And mercury is known to state, federal and international agencies as toxic and harmful to human health.

In a letter to Devin Newig , president and CEO of eBay, the groups say the products advertised for sale on the e-Bay website are “unpermitted and illegal”.

The protest has taken added relevance against the backdrop of the upcoming second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) which will take place November 19-23 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Minamata Convention is an international treaty which has been signed by 128 UN member states and ratified by the legislatures of 101 countries.

Syed Marghub Murshed, Chairperson, Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO, said “skin-lightening creams are pushing the youth towards a serious health risk and environmental havoc”.

He urged the government to take a regulatory and legislative step to protect future generations — and the environment.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, European Environmental Bureau Project Manager “Zero Mercury Campaign” and International Co-ordinator, Zero Mercury Working Group, told IPS that toxic trade in illegal high mercury skin lighteners is a global crisis which is expected to only worsen with skyrocketing global demand.

“To combat this, it’s important for governments to quickly enact and/or enforce regulations and effectively warn consumers”, he added.

Sonya Lunder of the Sierra Club’s Gender, Equity and Environment Program, said internet sellers should be held to the highest standards for selling safe and legal cosmetics.

“Not only should they remove all illegal products from their websites immediately, but they must develop a system to ensure that toxic products remain out of their supply-chains,” declared Lunder.

The WHO says mercury is a common ingredient found in skin lightening soaps and creams. It is also found in other cosmetics, such as eye makeup cleansing products and mascara.

“Skin lightening soaps and creams are commonly used in certain African and Asian nations. They are also used among dark-skinned populations in Europe and North America.”

In Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo, 25%, 77%, 27%, 35% and 59% of women, respectively, are reported to use skin lightening products on a regular basis, says WHO.

In 2017 and 2018, 338 skin-lightening creams from 22 countries were collected by 17 NGO partners and tested for mercury, according to the group.

And 35 creams (10.4% of the samples) had mercury concentrations ranging from 260 – 16,353 parts per million (ppm).

These levels significantly exceeded not only regulations in many countries, but also new provisions in the Minamata Convention disallowing, after 2020, the “manufacture, import or export” of cosmetics with a mercury above 1 ppm.

The health consequences include damage to the skin, eyes, lungs, kidneys, digestive, immune and nervous systems.

The Mercury Policy Project, the Sierra Club and the European Environmental Bureau say they have purchased skin lighteners from eBay and Amazon websites.

The brands purchased included many previously identified as high mercury by New York City, the state of Minnesota, countries of the European Union, Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Philippines, among others.

Of these, 19 products had illegal mercury levels, typically more than 10,000 times higher than the legal threshold of 1ppm.

In their letters, the groups are calling on Amazon and eBay to:

(1) Ensure the products they sell comply with government regulations; monitor lists of toxic skin lighteners identified US regulators; and keep them out of their inventory; and

(2) Add skin lightening cream products to a list of categories requiring prior approval before sale; and require that sellers provide documentation verifying that the products do not contain mercury and that the products are otherwise compliant with all applicable regulations.

Out of the 22 countries where the global cosmetics sampling took place, 14 have legislation or other requirements consistent with the Minamata convention provisions, the letter says.

Out of the 7 countries where high mercury samples were found, only 4 have legal requirements prohibiting creams with more than 1 ppm mercury content.

The Zero Mercury testing showed also that in:

–in Bangladesh, 50% of the creams sampled and tested had mercury content exceeding 1 ppm.

–In the Dominican Republic, one out of 3 samples had mercury above 1 ppm (33%), whereas in Indonesia it reached 31%.

— in Mauritius, one out of 15 creams was found to contain more than 1 ppm (7%).

— in the Philippines, 19% of the samples exceeded 1 ppm mercury content, while the Thai samples reached 63; and.

–in Trinidad and Tobago, 20% of the samples tested also exceeded the Minamata limits.

The Group’s research demonstrates that hazardous substance restrictions and accompanying risk communication strategies in many countries are incomplete and/or inadequately enforced.

”This thereby raises the risk of health effects, primarily to women.”

However, as the Minamata Convention on Mercury provision pertaining to cosmetics take effect after 2020, new opportunities for countries to reduce exposure to mercury from skin lighteners are emerging, including resources that may become available to Parties for the following, perhaps in collaboration with all levels of government and civil society:

1. Development and adoption of national government cosmetic regulations;

2. Continuously updated global government detention website listing of product violations, including product photo, manufacture, country of origin, seller identification, links, etc.

3. Enhanced harmonization and increased enforcement of by custom officials at borders;

4. Effective risk communication to consumers at risk and in particular pregnant and nursing mothers and woman of child bearing age;

5. Effective oversight of the marketplace;

6. Adoption of effective labeling guidelines to assure consumers are provided with the necessary information on hazardous substances, but also on alternatives, since they may contain other hazardous substances;

7. Effective cyber crime oversight of the internet, in global collaboration with Interpol, (since most lighteners are imported); and

8. Through national ad councils, assuring that non-discriminatory advertising guidelines do not reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin color.

Globally, mercury-based products are a big business. Demand is skyrocketing, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, with sales of $17.9 billion in 2017, and projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Skin lightening products — also known as “bleaching creams,” “whiteners,” “skin brighteners,” or “fading creams” — work when inorganic Mercury salts (e.g. 1-10% ammoniated mercury) inhibit the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.

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Rohingya Protest Against Return to Myanmar and Halt Repatriationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:37:00 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158693 Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar. The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. […]

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Rohingya refugees protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against their voluntary repatriation to Myanmar. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

By Naimul Haq
COX'S BAZAR/DHAKA, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar.
The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. They had agreed to the repatriation of 2,260 people from 485 families at the rate of 150 people per day over 15 days. However plans for repatriations were postponed in the face of massive demonstrations which started Thursday in several of the 27 camps that now host over a million refugees.

Men, women and even children began protesting soon after midday at one of the smaller camps in Unchiprang near the Myanmar border and protests soon spread across other camps, including the biggest camp Kutupalong.

They chanted slogans and waved placards that read—‘We won’t go back,’ ‘We demand safety,’ ‘We want citizenship,’ ‘We demand justice,’—as rows of buses arrived outside Unchiprang camp. The buses were to transport refugees some 15km from Cox’s Bazar to the Bangladesh border of Gundum, from where they would have been taken to Tumbru in Myanmar.

Bangladesh officials in charge of repatriation waited outside the camp asking the families to board the buses but none were willing.

Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—fled atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh.

Many still carry fresh memories of their experiences, which include rape, sexual violence and the torching of homes with people still inside.

“Why should we return?” shouted Nahar, a 26-year-old mother of three who arrived last July. She said that returning to Myanmar means going to a death camp.
Yousuf Ali, a resident of neighbouring Shamlapur camp said, “You want us to commit suicide?” A fellow refugee from Jamtoli camp said, “There is no guarantee that we would survive once we return.”

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, and also a magistrate attached with Cox’s Bazar district office, told IPS, “We were prepared for the repatriation. Earlier we had sought a voluntary decision and made informed choices on the return of the refugees. No one responded with the decision to return home in Myanmar and so we had to postpone the programme.”

On Tuesday, 50 of the identified families selected for return, were interviewed by the U.N. to find out whether families agreed to return. None agreed, according to Kalam.

“They refused to go now but we remain prepared to facilitate their return home. Our counterpart from Myanmar was also present on the other side of the border … So far we know Myanmar had also taken all preparations for the much-expected repartition [that was] to start today,” Kalam said.

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies, have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this week urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, saying the move would violate international laws. “With an almost complete lack of accountability — indeed with ongoing violations — returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades,” Bachelet said.

In October chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, said that the Myanmar government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle” to repatriation. He had also said, “Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity.” The U.N. has called the full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine State.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali briefed the media on Thursday evening in the capital Dhaka, saying that Bangladesh would not forcibly return Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“There have been campaigns [saying] that the Bangladesh government is sending them back forcibly. From the beginning we have been saying that it will be a voluntary return. There is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?” he said.

Mia Seppo, U.N. resident coordinator in Dhaka, told reporters at the joint press conference that, “The U.N. actually welcomes the commitment of the government of Bangladesh to stick to the principle of voluntary repatriation, which has been demonstrated today.”

Abu Morshed Chowdhury, President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Cox’s Bazar Civil Society NGO Forum, told IPS, “There were some flaws in the plans for the Rohingya repatriation. How can the refugees return, even if it’s voluntary, without ensuring their citizenship? The U.N. agencies have the responsibility to ensure this.”
He added that U.N. should have “been more active in their roles to allow smooth repatriation.”

Rezaul Karim Chouwhury, Executive Director of COAST Bangladesh, one of the leading NGOs working to address the Rohingya crisis also echoed the same concerns.

“There were flaws in the plans too, because we know that sooner or later the Rohingyas have to return to settle back. The bilateral agreement paved the way for the initiation of the repatriation and rehabilitation but the key players (international) in my opinion have not been so active,” he told IPS.

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer, U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS that every refugee has the right to freely decide their own future and the right to return.  Their decisions should be based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin.

“Access restrictions in Rakhine State currently limit UNHCR’s ability to provide such information. Only refugees themselves can make the decision to exercise their right to return and when they feel the time is right for them. It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature,” she said. She added that the UNHCR supported the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity to their places of origin or choice.

“We will work with all parties towards this goal. However, we do not believe that current conditions are conducive to returns in line with international standards. The responsibility for creating these conditions lies with Myanmar.”

*Additional Reporting by Mohammed Mojibur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar

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Africa Set for a Massive Free Trade Areahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africa-set-massive-free-trade-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-set-massive-free-trade-area http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africa-set-massive-free-trade-area/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:20:34 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158690 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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(From left) African Union chairperson and president of Rwanda Paul Kagame, president of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou and African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at the launch of AfCFTA in Kigali in March 2018. Credit: Office of President Paul Kagame

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

Following the unveiling of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018, Africa is about to become the world’s largest free trade area: 55 countries merging into a single market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.

The shelves of Choithrams Supermarket in Freetown, Sierra Leone, boast a plethora of imported products, including toothpicks from China, toilet paper and milk from Holland, sugar from France, chocolates from Switzerland and matchboxes from Sweden.

Yet many of these products are produced much closer—in Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and other African countries with an industrial base.

So why do retailers source them halfway around the world? The answer: a patchwork of trade regulations and tariffs that make intra-African commerce costly, time wasting and cumbersome.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), signed by 44 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018, is meant to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, rev up industrialization and create jobs.

The agreement creates a single continental market for goods and services as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travellers. Countries joining AfCFTA must commit to removing tariffs on at least 90% of the goods they produce.

If all 55 African countries join a free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The ECA adds that intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCFTA.

Five more countries signed the AfCFTA at the African Union (AU) summit in Mauritania in June, bringing the total number of countries committing to the agreement to 49 by July’s end. But a free trade area has to wait until at least 22 countries submit instruments of ratification.

By July 2018, only six countries—Chad, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ghana, Kenya, Niger and Rwanda—had submitted ratification instruments, although many more countries are expected to do so before the end of the year.

Economists believe that tariff-free access to a huge and unified market will encourage manufacturers and service providers to leverage economies of scale; an increase in demand will instigate an increase in production, which in turn will lower unit costs.
Consumers will pay less for products and services as businesses expand operations and hire additional employees.

“We look to gain more industrial and value-added jobs in Africa because of intra-African trade,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, a body that deals with trade, investment and development, in an interview with Africa Renewal.

“The types of exports that would gain most are those that are labour intensive, like manufacturing and agro-processing, rather than the capital-intensive fuels and minerals, which Africa tends to export,” concurred Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, in an interview with Africa Renewal, emphasizing that the youth will mostly benefit from such job creation.

In addition, African women, who account for 70% of informal cross-border trading, will benefit from simplified trading regimes and reduced import duties, which will provide much-needed help to small-scale traders.

If the agreement is successfully implemented, a free trade area could inch Africa toward its age-long economic integration ambition, possibly leading to the establishment of pan-African institutions such as the African Economic Community, African Monetary Union, African Customs Union and so on.

A piece of good news

Many traders and service providers are cautiously optimistic about AfCFTA’s potential benefits. “I am dreaming of the day I can travel across borders, from Accra to Lomé [in Togo] or Abidjan [in Côte d’Ivoire] and buy locally manufactured goods and bring them into Accra without all the hassles at the borders,” Iso Paelay, who manages The Place Entertainment Complex in Community 18 in Accra, Ghana, told Africa Renewal.

“Right now, I find it easier to import the materials we use in our business—toiletries, cooking utensils, food items—from China or somewhere in Europe than from South Africa, Nigeria or Morocco,” Paelay added.

African leaders and other development experts received a piece of good news at the AU summit in Mauritania in June when South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised economy, along with four other countries, became the latest to sign the AfCFTA.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and another huge economy, has been one of the holdouts, with the government saying it needs to have further consultations with indigenous manufacturers and trade unions. Nigerian unions have warned that free trade may open a floodgate for cheap imported goods that could atrophy Nigeria’s nascent industrial base.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella workers’ union, described AfCFTA as a “radioactive neoliberal policy initiative” that could lead to “unbridled foreign interference never before witnessed in the history of the country.”

However, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo expressed the view that the agreement is “where our [economic] salvation lies.”

At a July symposium in Lagos organised in honour of the late Adebayo Adedeji, a onetime executive secretary of the ECA, Yakubu Gowon, another former Nigerian leader, also weighed in, saying, “I hope Nigeria joins.”

Speaking at the same event, Songwe urged Nigeria to get on board after consultations, and offered her organisation’s support.

Last April, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari signalled a protectionist stance on trade matters while defending his country’s refusal to sign the Economic Community of West African States-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. He said then, “Our industries cannot compete with the more efficient and highly technologically driven industries in Europe.”

In some countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, the government would like to have control over industrial policy, reports the Economist, a UK-based publication, adding, “They also worry about losing tariff revenues, because they find other taxes hard to collect.”

While experts believe that Africa’s big and industrialising economies will reap the most from a free trade area, the ECA counters that smaller countries also have a lot to gain because factories in the big countries will source inputs from smaller countries to add value to products.

The AfCFTA has also been designed to address many countries’ multiple and overlapping memberships in Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which complicate integration efforts. Kenya, for example, belongs to five RECs. The RECs will now help achieve the continental goal of a free trade area.

Many traders complain about RECs’ inability to execute infrastructure projects that would support trading across borders. Ibrahim Mayaki, head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the project-implementing wing of the AU, says that many RECs do not have the capacity to implement big projects.

For Mr. Mayaki, infrastructure development is crucial to intra-African trade. NEPAD’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is an ambitious list of regional projects. Its 20 priority projects have been completed or are under construction, including the Algiers-Lagos trans-Saharan highway, the Lagos-Abidjan transport corridor, the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya power transmission line and the Brazzaville-Kinshasa bridge.

The AfCFTA could change Africa’s economic fortunes, but concerns remain that implementation could be the agreement’s weakest link.

Meanwhile African leaders and development experts see a free trade area as an inevitable reality. “We need to summon the required political will for the African Continental Free Trade Area to finally become a reality,” said AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the launch in Kigali.

*This article first appeared in Africa Renewal which is published by the United Nations.

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Kenya Looks to Lead the Way in Developing the Blue Economy’s Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:15:22 +0000 Ambassador Macharia Kamau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158679 Ambassador Macharia Kamau is Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Kenya, also the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, 2018.

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While Africa is bordered by two oceans and two seas, African-owned ships account for a tiny fraction – just over 1 percent - of the world’s shipping. Much of Sierra Leone’s indigenous fishing continues to be carried out by traditional methods and, aside from boats’ engines, remains unmechanised and labour intensive. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Ambassador Macharia Kamau
NAIROBI, Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

For many years now, the economic potential of the African continent has been discussed, promoted and hailed by everyone from economists to policymakers to world leaders – and with very good reason. After all, Africa is a vast, populous, developing continent with enormous natural and human resource riches and a raft of rapidly developing economies which are helping create prosperity and raise living standards and social opportunities through economic growth.

But those discussions and promotions have often focused heavily, if not exclusively, on the land-based economies of the continent, and little has been said about the equally vast potential of Africa’s blue economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi from 26 to 28 Nov., is helping to bring this potential into focus – and not just for Africa, but for the entire global community – by highlighting the economic opportunities the world’s oceans, seas and rivers offer.

The global blue economy, by some estimates, generates up to USD 6 trillion for the global economy and, if it were a country, would be the seventh-largest economy is the world. It helps drive economic growth and provides jobs for hundreds of millions around the world, often to those in the poorest communities, in industries as diverse as fishing, transport, tourism, off-shore mining and others.

Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, at Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, says more could be done by African nations to develop the continent’s blue economies.

But its potential is, so far, being underexploited in the countries which it could help most. This is no better exemplified than in Africa where almost three quarters of countries have a coastline or are islands, where the continent’s total coastline is over 47,000 km and with 13 million km2 of collective exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Yet despite this, maritime trade among African countries makes up only just over 10 percent of total trade by volume. And while Africa is bordered by two oceans and two seas, African-owned ships account for a tiny fraction – just over 1 percent – of the world’s shipping. The International Energy Agency says ocean renewable energy can potentially supply more than four times current global energy demand. Africa could provide a significant share of that, but many renewable energy projects on the continent have so far focused on wind and solar or other renewable energy sources.

By any standards, Africa is at least underusing, possibly even drastically wasting, its blue economy potential. This must be rectified. By some estimates, the African maritime industry is already worth USD 1 trillion annually. But, with the right economic policies implemented, it could triple in just two years.

The good news is that Kenya, and other countries in Africa, are on the way to taking advantage of the blue economy’s potential and diversifying their economies to include a greater ‘blue’ share.

For instance, the Seychelles has established a Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy while the African Union has put the blue economy at the heart of its 2063 development agenda. In South Africa, a national development plan includes a key focus on the blue economy which is projected to add USD 13 billion to the nation’s economy and create a million new jobs by 2030.

This is all very encouraging, but more could, and should, be done by African nations to develop the continent’s blue economies.

Kenya, as co-host of this conference, is looking to lead the way in developing the blue economy’s potential, not just for itself, but for the rest of Africa and the entire global community.

But we can only do this with other countries. Thankfully, the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference provides an excellent opportunity for other countries, such as co-hosts Canada and Japan. Canada are further along with their integration of the blue economy into their wider economies – from the breadth and size of their shipping and fishing industry to innovative recycling projects that help clean the ocean as well as providing work in coastal communities – to exchange ideas and experiences, as well as technical advances, with states who are just beginning the expansion of their blue economy activities.

The conference will also provide a timely and much-needed opportunity for countries to look together at how both the private and public sector can help finance initiatives and projects in various blue economy sectors to achieve the best effect.

Indeed, the private sector’s contribution to the development of the blue economy, especially in poorer nations with more limited means to diversify their economies, is crucial. In some states, the public sector would be unable to shoulder such a financial burden on its own and innovative methods of finance will be necessary.

This, of course, is not to play down the importance of the kind of bold initiatives like the ‘blue bonds’ issued by the Seychelles to support its efforts in the blue economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to hear about and discuss projects around the world which are both exploiting the economic potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, but at the same time helping protect and conserve them. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

But while the economic potential of the blue economy is clear, and the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will help underline it, we must not forget the most important part of this economy – that it is sustainable. And it must remain so.

For all the economic opportunity it offers, the blue economy will deliver nothing if it is seen simply as an economic resource to be plundered for monetary gain.

Yes, like any economy, it can help to drive greater prosperity and raise living standards, creating jobs and wealth. But those jobs and the industries that support them, must be fostered and developed on the basis of long-term environmental sustainability.

This conference will provide an excellent opportunity to hear about and discuss projects around the world which are both exploiting the economic potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, but at the same time helping protect and conserve them and discuss the best ways to put similar projects into practice, and to provide guidelines and draw up regulations to help ensure that economic growth, jobs and wealth are not being created at the expense of the environment.

This first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference  is a chance to set a course for an environmentally sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for Kenya, other African states and nations around the world. Kenya is proud that it will be at the helm as this journey starts in Nairobi.

The post Kenya Looks to Lead the Way in Developing the Blue Economy’s Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Macharia Kamau is Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Kenya, also the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, 2018.

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Earth’s Biodiversity: A Pivotal Meeting at a Pivotal Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/earths-biodiversity-pivotal-meeting-pivotal-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=earths-biodiversity-pivotal-meeting-pivotal-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/earths-biodiversity-pivotal-meeting-pivotal-time/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 08:27:52 +0000 Cristiana Pasca Palmer and Anne Larigauderie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158677 Cristiana Pașca Palmer is the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Montreal, & Anne Larigauderie is the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Bonn

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Zainab Samo, along with her son and daughter, planting a lemon seedling on her farm in Oan village in Pakistan’s southern desert district of Tharparkar, to fight desert’s advance and for windbreak. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Cristiana Pașca Palmer and Anne Larigauderie
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt , Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

The quality of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink depend directly on the state of our biodiversity, which is now in severe jeopardy. We need a transformational change in our relationship with nature to ensure the sustainable future we want for ourselves and our children.

Largely overshadowed by other concerns in coverage of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a section on how much better it will be for biodiversity – the essential variety of all life on Earth – if global warming can be held to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Based on one modelling study, involving 105,000 species, the IPCC report estimates that 1.5°C of global warming will dramatically alter the world for 8% of plants, 4% of vertebrates and 6% of insects – eliminating more than half of their geographic range.

In a world 2°C warmer, the figures double for plants (16%) and vertebrates (8%), and triple for insects (18%). The knock-on effects for people would be severe.

Similarly, forest fires, the spread of invasive species and other biodiversity-related risks to human well-being are substantially lower at 1.5°C relative to 2°C of global warming.

Ocean temperatures and acidity will rise higher, and ocean oxygen levels will drop further, in a 2°C warmer world, leading to irreversible losses of marine and coastal ecosystems, less productive fisheries and aquaculture, less Arctic sea ice and fewer warm water coral reef ecosystems (70 to 90% losses at 1.5°C; more than 99% at 2ºC), with the loss of all the natural benefits that these provide to people around the globe.

One model projects a more than 3 million tonne drop in the world’s annual catch of marine fish at 2°C of global warming, twice the loss anticipated at 1.5°C.

It is against this deeply worrying backdrop that member States of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meets in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt Nov. 17 – 28 for the UN Biodiversity Conference. A central focus of the meeting will be a move towards a new set of global biodiversity action goals and targets.

The current goals, established in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, expire in 2020, when they are expected to be formally replaced.

Thankfully, we can point to meaningful progress on the protection and conservation of biodiversity over the past 10 years. For example, the annual rate of net forest loss has been halved; global protected areas have increased to 13% of coastal and marine areas and 15% of terrestrial areas (although not all world ecoregions are adequately covered, and most protected areas are not well connected); and the number of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture secured in conservation facilities has risen.

These successes are not, however, nearly enough to halt the ongoing loss of plant and animal diversity on Earth — a fundamental worldwide extinction crisis, deepening every year, and severely aggravated by climate change.

So, what can world policymakers do next?

To make better decisions on biodiversity, we need the best-possible understanding of the problems and the best evidence on which to act. Authoritative expert assessments, such as the IPCC report, and those of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the IPCC’s counterpart in biodiversity, provide this evidence.

Founded just six years ago, IPBES has already published seven major assessment reports on, for example, pollination and food production; land degradation and restoration; and regional assessments of biodiversity in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and the Americas.

IPBES also has a landmark new assessment report in the pipeline, to be released in Paris next May – the first comprehensive global assessment of biodiversity since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 – it will describe the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services around the world.

For almost three years, about 150 experts – including natural and social scientists, and indigenous knowledge holders – from almost 50 countries have contributed to the report, which covers land-based ecosystems, inland waters and the open oceans.

They have evaluated the changes that have occurred over recent decades, a range of possible scenarios through 2050, and the end results to expect from the pursuit of various policy options, including ‘business as usual’.

Once published, the IPBES global assessment will inform not just the critical deliberations on the world’s post-2020 biodiversity goals and targets, but all policies and actions related to biodiversity for the next decade and beyond – decisions fundamental also to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The choices humanity makes now will profoundly affect the world’s biodiversity, which in turn will impact the future economies, livelihoods, food security and quality of life of people everywhere. We must get them right.

The post Earth’s Biodiversity: A Pivotal Meeting at a Pivotal Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Cristiana Pașca Palmer is the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Montreal, & Anne Larigauderie is the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Bonn

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Women Make the Voice of Indigenous People Heard in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:38:52 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158673 The seed was planted more than 20 years ago by a group of indigenous women who began to gather to try to recover memories from their people. Today, women are also the main protagonists of La Voz Indígena (The Indigenous Voice), a unique radio station in northern Argentina that broadcasts every day in seven languages. […]

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Q&A: All Sustainable Development Goals Relate in Some Way to the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/qa-sustainable-development-goals-relate-way-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-sustainable-development-goals-relate-way-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/qa-sustainable-development-goals-relate-way-oceans/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 19:27:56 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158669 IPS correspondent Carmen Arroyo interviews PETER THOMSON, United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.

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Peter Thomson, the United Nation’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. Credit: UNDP / Freya Morales

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 2018 (IPS)

When Peter Thomson, the United Nation’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, heard in 2010 there was going to be a 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, he knew he had to include the ocean question.

Thomson had just been appointed Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. that year. He had a long career as a civil servant for the Republic of Fiji, and was a diplomatic personality. So the work at the U.N. suited him.

At that time, the health of the ocean was becoming a priority among representatives from islands worldwide. So when the opportunity to impress this issue to the world came his way, Thomson did not miss it.

Thomson, along other representatives from the Pacific Islands, started to push for the inclusion of an ocean goal within the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Soon enough, other countries joined them. In 2015, they succeeded.

Now SDG14 reads: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

In September 2016, Thomson became President of the 71st session of the U.N. General Assembly. The ocean was still a top concern of his. While other SDGs had supporting mechanisms in place (like the World Health Organisation for health or the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the U.N. for food,) the ocean lacked a supporting mechanism.

So in June 2017, the U.N. Ocean Conference to implement SDG14 was held, with representatives from NGOs, firms, governments, and civil society.

Later that year, the Secretary General appointed Thomson as the Special Envoy for the Ocean, a task he was happy to take on.

Now, Thomson is working towards the implementation of some of the targets of SDG14 that mature in 2020. They include ending overfishing and protecting marine ecosystems. The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference that will take place in Nairobi by the end of the month will address these issues.

Thomson travels constantly for his job, and by the end of the week he is inevitably tired. However, his passion over ocean conservancy does not waiver. So when IPS asks him what his biggest concern is, he quickly replies: “At 3AM when I stare at the ceiling and worry about my grandchildren, I worry most about climate change. Because that is the course which we are now set upon.”

The Blue Economy presents a challenge of how to ensure economic development that is both inclusive and environmentally sound. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

Excerpts of the interview below:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What is your goal for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi?

Peter Thomson (PT): The Nairobi conference is hosted by the governments of Kenya and Canada, and some other governments have given their support, including Japan. It’s not a U.N. conference, but it’s a very important conference. It’s the first time an Ocean Conference is being held on the African continent.

This is about the balance between protection and production of the ocean. In the case of the Nairobi conference, it’s not just the ocean, it’s lakes and rivers as well. It’s about SDG14’s goal to conserve but also to sustainably use the ocean’s resources. It’s about that balance.

IPS: In recent years, the U.N. has held a number of conferences and talks on the ocean. Do you think public opinion has changed?

PT: Yes, hugely. I compliment the media on that. Now, there are programmes on television and radio. Five years ago this was not the case, three years ago this was not the case. Today, ocean’s problems and solutions are on everybody’s lips. So I definitely think that this is much larger in the public perception as it used to be. As it should be, because the climate and the ocean are the two fundamentals on which life on this planet exists. Every breath that we take comes from oxygen created by the ocean.

IPS: How exactly are people more aware?

PT: Everyone is aware that there has to be a component of ocean action in their work for it to be regarded as complete. I can give no better example than marine plastic pollution. Everybody is now engaged in this battle against single use plastic. That has raised global consciousness, no doubt. But it doesn’t stop there. We have all the SDG 14 targets to attend to.

That is my job, to make people aware that is not just one or two issues on the ocean, it’s a gamut of issues for which we have targets. The other important part of our message is that we are continuing to see a decline in ocean’s health. Now our primary attention is in the implementation of that plan.

IPS: SDG14 is closely intertwined with the other SDGs. How do you work with them?

PT: When we do our ocean work, we think about the other SDGs. For example, SDG12, changing consumption and production patterns, is the core of 2030 agenda. If humanity doesn’t move away from unsustainable consumption and production patterns, we are stealing from our grandchildren.

Everything we are doing in SDG14 is about harmony with SDG12. But all SDGs relate in some way to the ocean. We are doing our bit and helping them, and everything they are doing is helping us. I don’t feel any artificial barriers at all.

IPS: You work with governments, the private sector, NGOs… As of now, are there countries that are doing nothing?

PT: Even landlocked countries have skin in the game, because they eat fish and breath oxygen. This is something that every human being should find relevant. This is work for the future, not the present.

IPS: And the private sector? How do you work with them towards SDG14?

PT: The co-presidents of the U.N. Ocean Conference of 2017 were Fiji and Sweden. I was then the Fiji ambassador to the U.N., and the Swedish Minister who was active was Isabella Lövin. She and I went to Davos in January in the wake of the Ocean conference, and we asked the World Economic Forum to serve as secretariat to a group called Friends of Ocean Action. The group was formed by leaders from firms, intergovernmental organisations, and academic institutions. This has proved a very good way of maintaining the involvement of the private sector in the implementation of SDG14.

IPS: What about NGOs?

PT: They’ve played a huge role in raising awareness of the need to put in place measures to assure that humanity doesn’t destroy the place where we live. If left unchecked we probably would.

IPS: And then there’s individuals. How can we contribute to the solution in our daily lives?

PT: Every human being has skin in the game here. Every breath we take comes from the ocean. I am no angel. I have been part of the problem. But for example I haven’t owned an internal combustion engine car in this century.

I love a hamburger as much as the next guy. But two years ago, my wife and I looked at our grandchildren and at what the beef industry was doing in the world. We love our grandchildren more than we love beef. So we gave up beef. It is a personal choice.

The same goes for single-use plastic. I am old enough to know a time when there was none of that nonsense of plastic covering everything. Who asked for it? We didn’t ask for it as consumers. Who is putting this on us?

IPS: What can we do as consumers?

PT: Consumers have the responsibility of speaking up. When I walk into a supermarket, I demand they keep the plastic they put around the product I wanna buy. Sometimes it has a plastic film around it, so it lasts for three months. But I don’t want it for three months! I want it for today. I rip it off, I give it to the cashier and say ‘that’s yours not mine’. If all consumers acted like that, you’d have a quick reaction in board rooms.

The post Q&A: All Sustainable Development Goals Relate in Some Way to the Oceans appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Carmen Arroyo interviews PETER THOMSON, United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.

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Trump’s Anti-Media Rhetoric Resonates Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2018 07:44:05 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158659 A former French president once remarked: Never pick a fight with a little kid or the press. The kid will throw the last stone at you and the press will have the last word. But that obviously does not apply to a teflon-coated Donald Trump because nothing apparently sticks on him – even as he […]

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Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 2018 (IPS)

A former French president once remarked: Never pick a fight with a little kid or the press. The kid will throw the last stone at you and the press will have the last word.

But that obviously does not apply to a teflon-coated Donald Trump because nothing apparently sticks on him – even as he survives a barrage of criticisms from the mainstream media while he continues to utter falsehoods and mouth blatant lies.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan never said: Trump may be entitled to his own opinions but not to his own facts.

The leader of the free world, according to some critics, is fast emulating the authoritarian lifestyle of a tin pot third world dictator.

At a highly confrontational press conference last week, Trump lashed out at Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for Cable News Network (CNN) for his sharp questioning of the US president– specifically on Trump’s deliberate mischaracterizations of the Central American migrant caravan.

As a result, the White House, in an unprecedented move, suspended Acosta’s press credentials while also threatening to blacklist other reporters —including Peter Alexander of National Broadcasting Company (NBC), April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks and Yamiche Alcindor of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)– “if they did not treat the White House with respect”.

Trump’s decision is a violation of the basic right of journalists to cover the government. He characterized one reporter as “very nasty” and dismissed another reporter for asking “a stupid question”.

But Trump’s authoritarian tactics and his hostility towards the mainstream media—dismissing negative stories as “fake news” – are increasingly influencing other right wing and dictatorial leaders, including in the Philippines, Hungary, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, China, Poland and Syria, who are following in his footsteps.

Barbara Crossette, a former New York Times UN Bureau Chief, told IPS “it isn’t only authoritarian regimes that may be taking heart from Trump — in fact it may be the other way around.”

She said Trump admires their strong-man behavior. And more democracies are also putting journalists and intellectuals in many fields into harm’s way, she added.

Maria Ressa is right now under extreme pressure and legal threats in the Philippines, and in India, which prides itself on its democratic credentials, journalists and academics have been threatened, assaulted and in some cases killed by extreme Hindu nationalist mobs spawned in a way very similar to Trump’s unleashing of white supremacists.

Among the victims killed in India was Gauri Lankesh, an internationally known journalist who had been critical of the Hindu nationalists, said Crossette, who was a former New York Times chief correspondent for South and Southeast Asia.

CNN, which has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for the suspension of Acosta’s press credentials, said “if left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers elected officials.”

In a statement released November 13, CNN demanded the return of Acosta’s credentials arguing that “the wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process.”

Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA, told IPS Trump’s contempt for the press and his decision to bar certain reporters from the White House not only is an affront to the right to free speech, and anathema to good governance, but also sends a dangerous signal to other leaders.

“We have seen governments around the world try to silence journalists just for reporting on uncomfortable truths or expressing a difference of opinion from the ruling power,” he pointed out.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been imprisoned in Myanmar for nearly a year for exposing crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

Johnson said President Erdogan of Turkey has a history of shutting down outlets and imprisoning journalists. Trump’s actions are especially galling coming so recently after the horrifying disappearance and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“While Khashoggi’s case may be an extreme example of the dangers reporters face, Trump’s insistence that reporters show him deference or face consequences only emboldens those who see a free press as a threat to authoritarian rule.”

Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said journalists should be able to do their job without fear that a tough series of questions will provoke retaliation.

“The White House should immediately reinstate Jim Acosta’s press pass, and refrain from punishing reporters by revoking their access–that’s not how a free press works.”

“In the current climate, we hope President Trump will stop insulting and denigrating reporters and media outlets, it’s making journalists feel unsafe,” added Radsch.

Meanwhile, in a New York Times piece last week, Megan Specia pointed out how Trump’s words have justified aggressive and undemocratic actions by several political leaders worldwide.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly invoked “fake news” to denounce his critics. So has Poland’s right wing government.

Responding to an Amnesty International report on thousands of deaths in Syrian prisons, President Bashar al-Assad was quoted as saying: “You can forge anything these days. We are living in a fake news era.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Using Data to Restore Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-data-restore-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 18:55:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158650 A new landmark initiative aims to make quality data and tools available to the international community in order to combat an “existential crisis”: land degradation. The Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (LDN), launched by United Nations-backed partnership the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), aims to put data directly into the hands of local and national decision […]

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Large tracts of land, like these in the Sinhapura area of Sri Lanka’s North Central Polonnaruwa Province, have been degraded by years of overuse. Credit: Sanjana Hattotuwa/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2018 (IPS)

A new landmark initiative aims to make quality data and tools available to the international community in order to combat an “existential crisis”: land degradation.

The Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (LDN), launched by United Nations-backed partnership the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), aims to put data directly into the hands of local and national decision makers to help stop and reverse environmental degradation.

“Land degradation is an existential crisis. Until now, monitoring it in real time felt like an insurmountable challenge. No longer,” said Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) upon welcoming the new initiative.

“With Earth observation datasets and the practical tools to use them readily available, decision-makers and land users will have immediate and actionable information to scale up sustainable land management and planning. It is a first step to boosting our resilience,” she added.

According to the UNCCD, land quality is getting worse as over 75 percent of the world’s land surface is significantly and negatively impacted by human activity across 169 countries.

The consequences of the growing problem includes more and severe droughts, high loss of wildlife, internal displacement, and forced migration.

In fact, without urgent climate action, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could see more than 140 million people move within their own countries by 2050, further increasing competition for shrinking space.

The lack of action on one of the world’s biggest environmental problems is largely due to the lack of accurate data and tools to monitor it.

“At national and local levels, monitoring has been essential to government responses to land degradation,” UNCCD’s Policy Officer Sasha Alexander and lead scientist Barron Joseph Orr told IPS.

They also noted the lack of uniform indicators in order to monitor and measure land degradation.

In 2009, a global survey revealed that nearly 1,500 unique indicators were being used by countries to monitor the challenge.

“In order to have a harmonised understanding of this major environmental challenge, it has become clear that a minimum set of essential variables, combined with the flexibility for countries to add additional indicators deemed nationally or locally relevant, would be necessary,” Orr said.

The GEO LDN initiative, unveiled in Kyoto last week, hopes to bring together Earth Observation (EO) data providers and governments in order to develop quality standards, analytical tools, and capacity-building to strengthen land degradation monitoring and reporting.

The importance of such data is also recognised in the globally-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which includes a target to combat desertification and land degradation and an indicator to assess the proportion of land that is degraded over total land area.

Of course, data alone will not be enough to combat degradation.

But with the right data, governments will be able to prioritise interventions as well as plan and manage land better.

“Using an agile development approach…governments with limited capacity are now able to do far more with monitoring data than in the past, not only reporting at the global level, but using what is being learned from these data sets to make the course corrections necessary to help ensure the right mix of interventions to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation,” Alexander told IPS.

She pointed to the case of Brazil which successfully implemented a project to reverse degradation in the drylands region of northeastern Brazil.

After using data to identify priority areas, the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerabilities (URAD) initiative was established to finance actions including the provision of techniques and trainings to municipal governments.

The initiative recognised that environmental actions alone will not be sufficient as economic and social aspects must be taken into account in order to have lasting change.

While local communities have long been suspicious of government projects, the effective participation of populations and the project’s promotion of sustainable value chains and income generation help inspire “noticeable attitude and behaviour changes.”

Alexander noted that Brazil provides an example of how LDN can be achieved, and why it is crucial to link global and national monitoring with more site-specific monitoring at the project level.

The GEO LDN initiative has already been garnering interest worldwide from developing and developed countries alike.

Following the launch, Germany committed 100,000 Euros towards the cause, and more can be expected to come.

The GEO LDN initiative is a result of UNCCD’s call made at the Conference of the Parties (COP13) to bring data providers and users together and support global efforts to halt, reduce, and reverse land degradation.

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Climate of Repression a Dark Cloud over Upcoming Elections in Fijihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 12:45:58 +0000 Josef Benedict http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158651 Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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A semi-submerged graveyard on Togoru, Fiji. The island states in the South Pacific are most vulnerable for sealevel rise and extreme weather. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Josef Benedict
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 13 2018 (IPS)

Powdery white beaches. Crystal clear turquoise water. Palm trees swaying in the breeze.

This is the postcard picture of paradise that comes to mind when tourists think of Fiji. But for many citizens of the South Pacific’s largest island nation, and its media, the reality is anything but blissful.

And the repressive climate in which elections are about to take place serves to highlight the decline in democracy there in recent years.

In fact, since incumbent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama seized power a coup in 2006, Fijians have seen their civic freedoms increasingly restricted through repressive laws and policies.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, says these restrictions have also created a chilling effect within Fijian media and civil society.

Voters in this country of 900,000 people go to the polls on November 14 in the second national elections since the return to parliamentary democracy in 2014. But given the state of afffairs, serious questions have been raised about the poll’s legitimacy.

Bainimarama’s FijiFirst government took the reins democratically following the 2014 vote – after eight years of ruling by decree. To hold on to power, Bainimarama has tried to muzzle the media and any criticism.

For several years after the coup, a regime of heavy censorship was imposed, where officially-appointed censors roamed newsrooms, deciding what could and could not be published.

In 2010, the government introduced a media decree that imposed excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression with hefty penalties. It also barred foreign investors from owning more than 10 percent of a Fijian media outlet.

That law has since become a noose around the neck of the media sector, giving the authorities the license to imprison journalists or bankrupt editors, publishers and news organisations.

Three years ago, the noose tightened when the decree was amended to prohibit the airing of local content including news by subscription-based television services. Early this year, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein raised concerns about this law saying it “has the effect of inhibiting investigative journalism and coverage of issues that are deemed sensitive, as well as discouraging a plurality of views.”

Some outlets have tried to challenge the official suppression and paid for it. In 2012, The Fiji Times, one of the very few independent news outlets that has refused to toe the government line, and its editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, were found guilty of contempt of court for reprinting an article first published in New Zealand, that criticised Fiji’s judiciary.

Four years later, four Fiji Times officials, including Wesley, were charged with sedition for a letter published in the weekly vernacular Nai Lalakai newspaper, that authorities found to contain inflammatory views about Muslims.

This, even though the letter was not written by any Fiji Times staff. Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. Despite the judicial harassment, they were acquitted by the Fiji High Court in May 2018.

The sedition law has also been used by the Fijian authorities to target opposition politicians. In March, the Fiji United Freedom Party’s former leader, Jagath Karunaratne and former opposition parliamentarian, Mosese Bulitavu were convicted of spray painting anti-government slogans in 2011 – charges they have denied. Both were sentenced to almost two and a half years in prison.

The government has also in recent years tried to systemically weaken the power of trade unions, which has a strong voting bloc. Felix Anthony, the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) National Secretary, has blasted Bainimarama for preaching respect for human rights and painting a picture of Fiji for the international community that is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground.

Anthony has accused the government of ignoring workers’ collective bargaining rights and imposing individual contracts on civil servants, teachers, nurses and other workers in direct violation of labour laws and international conventions that Fiji has ratified. Over the last year, the trade union has been denied permission to hold peaceful marches on at least three occasions, without a valid reason.

Fiji’s draconian laws have compelled civil society organisations (CSOs) to tread carefully, fueling frustration at a narrow civic space and the suppression of dissenting voices. Nevertheless, rights groups have continued bravely to organize and demand reforms and accountability for rights violations.

While CSOs often play a crucial role in election preparations and promoting participatory democratic culture in many countries, this is not the case in Fiji. A 2014 Electoral Decree, which does not allow any CSO that receives foreign funding “to engage in, participate in or conduct any campaign, including organising debates, public forum, meetings, interviews, panel discussions, or publishing any material that is related to the election”, has effectively barred civil society participation in elections.

Clearly unjustified, this ban is a violation of freedom of expression and undermines civil society, a key pillar of any democratic society.

Despite these worrying restrictions, Fiji was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2018 for a three-year term. Among its commitments was that Fiji ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a treaty that clearly outlines legal obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Demonstrated respect for these rights must begin with the upcoming elections and upheld by the winning party after it.

The next administration must take steps not only to ratify all human rights treaties but to ensure that all laws and decrees – such as the sedition and media laws – are revised or repealed to keep national legislation in step with international human rights law and standards.

Law enforcement officials, such as the police, who are seen to be controlled the executive, must be re-trained to ensure that they operate independently, respect the right to free speech and assembly and allow peaceful protests.

The incoming administration must take steps to foster a safe, respectful and enabling environment for civil society and swiftly remove measures that limit their right to participate in elections.

During the pledging event by candidate states to the UNHRC in Geneva in September, Fiji’s representative at council, Nazhat Shameem, committed to giving the South Pacific region a voice in world’s main human rights body.

A lofty promise for a government not in the habit of giving voice to interests beyond its own. Fiji should start by allowing its own citizens to speak out and express themselves at home, without fear of reprisals.

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Excerpt:

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Creating Beauty and Worth from Bamboo Enhances the Livelihoods of Ghana’s Artisanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/creating-beauty-worth-bamboo-enhances-livelihoods-ghanas-artisans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=creating-beauty-worth-bamboo-enhances-livelihoods-ghanas-artisans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/creating-beauty-worth-bamboo-enhances-livelihoods-ghanas-artisans/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 19:12:40 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158644 Yaw Owiredu Mintah from Ghana has been working as an all-round processor of bamboo and rattan since the 1980s. And while he says that he can do most things with bamboo like weaving, framing and finishing, he admits, “I need to improve my skills and designs because all of us are, most of the time, […]

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Frempong Koranteng (left) learns how to weave a bamboo and rattan coffee table. About 100 of Ghana’s artisans are benefiting from a 30-day skills development training in bamboo and rattan processing given by trainers from the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR). Training is taking place in Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti Region, Ghana. Credit: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri/IPS

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
KUMASI, Ghana , Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

Yaw Owiredu Mintah from Ghana has been working as an all-round processor of bamboo and rattan since the 1980s. And while he says that he can do most things with bamboo like weaving, framing and finishing, he admits, “I need to improve my skills and designs because all of us are, most of the time, doing the same things.”

“That is why I am happy this training is taking place,” Mintah tells IPS.

Mintah is among the 100 local artisans selected to benefit from a 30-day skills development training in bamboo and rattan processing in Ejisu a suburb of Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti Region, Ghana.

According to research, Ghana has lost over 60 percent of its forests from 1950 to 2000. Since 2000, it has had a deforestation rate of three percent. A report by Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI), a past project of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, shows that the general depletion of forests has led to the reduced production of wooden furniture and reduced exports of plywood and flooring. However, the report noted, as bamboo grows in the wild in Ghana, there could be a market for bamboo furniture, plywood and flooring and other products generally manufactured from timber.

Bamboo and rattan have been identified as important commodities in the country. The processing of this – from raw material to finishing — employs thousands of people across the country.

Under tree canopies along Ghana’s major streets, you will find local artisans selling mostly baskets and furniture made from bamboo and rattan.

But many of these local artisans use outdated technology, which results in lower quality designs and less durable products. And this subsequently results in lower income.

Thus industrial manufacturing techniques like those being taught at the workshop Mintah is attending will equip artisans, over the course of a month, to produce a wide range of long-lasting, strong and inexpensive goods produced from bamboo and rattan. In turn this can contribute to long-term poverty alleviation and socio-economic development.

“I have learnt a lot of things that would improve my work when I leave here and go back to my place of work,” Mintah says.

Participants from all parts of the country, including two women from the Greater Accra Region, are currently involved in the transfer of knowledge and ideas from 7 technical trainers, 5 translators and 2 administrative support staff from the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (ICBR) headquartered in China.

Yaw Owiredu Mintah going through the finishing process of a bamboo and rattan chair with his trainer. Credit: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri/IPS

China-Ghana Cooperation

This training follows a request made by Ghana’s government to the Government of China under its South-South bilateral Cooperation Agreements. These agreements support the capacity building of people whose livelihoods depended on bamboo and rattan in this West African nation.

The cooperation was facilitated the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), an independent, intergovernmental organisation that focuses on bilateral South-South cooperation and has over 44 members, 43 of which are in the global south.

INBAR proceeded with a collaboration with the Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP), an initiative in Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

The participants are leaning how to combine about 10 different designs through the use of innovation as well as the use of simple but effective tools to perfect the finishing of the bamboo and rattan products. The training began on Oct. 15, at the Forestry commission’s technical centre in Ejisu.

Dai Honghai, Director of the Foreign Aid Programme from ICBR, tells IPS that the training sessions has impacted greatly on the participants’ raw material handling, creativity and innovation and their application of tools to improve and enhance product processing and finishing.

“It is expected that this training will impact the market and marketing of the bamboo and rattan products to meet both local and international market and standard,” he says. “We have been here for three weeks and it is going well.”

Honghai says the participants are already mastering the use of the tools and are already making products.

“You can see the products, all together 150 products like bamboo flower stands, chairs and tables, rattan chairs and coffee tables are been made from bamboo rattan and wood materials for exhibition at the end of the training next week.

“We try to combine all the materials locally to make the product so that after we return to China they can still use the local material,” Honghai says to IPS. He adds that with the marketing strategy session that would be held within the final week of the workshop, participants will be equipped to properly market the bamboo and rattan products both locally and internationally.

Stephen Osafo Owusu, President of the National Association of Bamboo and Rattan Artisans of Ghana, and also a beneficiary of the training, wants the association’s members to produce products that can access the international market. “We need more of such trainings so our members can make better bamboo and rattan products to sell locally and even export to the international market like the Chinese,” he tells IPS.

Faustina Baffour Awuah, programmes manager from BARADEP, tells IPS the government of Ghana has a special interest in developing the bamboo and rattan industry and thereby improving the livelihoods of some 4,000 workers.

“We have been engaging them and we thought this will be a good programme for their skills development because with this they can create better products which will earn them better income and improve their lives,” she says.

And indeed the project has long-term goals that will benefit the artisans. Michael Kwaku, Country Director of INBAR Ghana, tells IPS bamboo and rattan are one of the fastest-growing species that have been identified in place of other sources of wood.

He said that because of their fast rates of maturity, bamboo and rattan had enormous environmental benefits and could be used for restoration of degraded lands and in supporting afforestation.

“INBAR Ghana office trained the artisans on the theoretical component through PowerPoint presentations to educate them on bamboo skills, technological gaps and the needs to enhance their capacities. We also facilitated and supported our key training partner the ICBR and the Chinese delegation in undertaking a pre- and post-training assessment and evaluation,” he said.

Kwaku tells IPS that ultimately the overall objective is to establish a bamboo and rattan facility and training centre in Accra. This will be set up by the government of Ghana with funding from China.

“We want them to have a common place where they can go and process their raw materials using these new tools. So once they have this training when the place is established they can go and use the modern tools at the facility to work and enhance their lives,” he explains.

In the meantime Mintah is learning a lot.

“One thing I have learnt from this training so far is the application of the simple tools to have a perfect finishing. You know the beauty and worth of a product is in its finishing,” Mintah says.

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Northeast Nigeria: Urgent Need to Combat Deadly Cholera Outbreakshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 14:07:40 +0000 Janet Cherono http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158642 Janet Cherono is Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager in Maiduguri

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Overcrowding leading to poor sanitary conditions in IDPs camps and communities contributes to further cholera outbreak in Borno Nigeria.

By Janet Cherono
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

The number of people who have been affected by cholera in northeast Nigeria has increased to 10,000. The disease is spreading quickly in congested displacement camps with limited access to proper sanitation facilities.

One of the major causes of the outbreak is the congestion in the camps that makes it difficult to provide adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services. The rainy season has also worsened the conditions.

NRC is calling on the local governments in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe to end the cycle of yearly cholera outbreaks.

If more land is not urgently provided for camp decongestion and construction of health and sanitation facilities, Nigeria is steering towards yet another cholera outbreak in 2019.

Over the last decade, northeast Nigeria and other areas of the Lake Chad Basin have been affected by cholera outbreaks almost every year, due to poor hygiene facilities in displacement camps and host communities. More than 1.8 million people are displaced in Nigeria, as a result of ongoing conflicts.

Maiduguri has the highest concentration of displaced people, with 243,000 displaced people cramped in camps, camp-like settlements and already crowded host communities, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

In Kagoni Sangaya displacement camp, the eight latrines that were built to cater for about 150 displaced people are now being shared by 500 people. Camp residents said they end up defecating in the open which causes cholera and other water borne diseases in the area.

More than 10,000 people have been afflicted by the ongoing cholera outbreak in Nigeria, according to the government. Of these, 175 were reported dead in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as of early November 2018.

The number of deaths resulting from the disease is higher than would be expected in a situation where timely and efficient treatment is available. This indicates inexistent or insufficient access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and health services.

We are calling on the authorities to provide more space in camps and host communities for the construction of new water and sanitation facilities, and for the international community to provide the necessary funding. Only this way can we prevent new cholera outbreaks.

NRC has responded to the cholera outbreak by transporting at least 180,000 liters of clean water daily from Maiduguri to communities around Tungushe and Konduga towns, constructing more latrines where there are space and by sharing information about hygiene and cholera prevention with affected communities.

Facts and Figures:

– By 7th November, the cholera outbreak in northeast Nigeria includes 1762 registered cases and 61 deaths in Yobe State, 2737 registered cases and 41 deaths in Adamawa State, and 5845 and 73 deathsin Borno State, according to figures from the World Health Organization and the Government of Nigeria.

– An estimated 7.7 million people in the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe now depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.

– NRC is currently providing life-saving assistance including food and livelihood support to help stabilize the living conditions of over 130,000 families displaced from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

– In 2018, NRC provided water, sanitation and hygiene services to over 56,000 people in Borno state.

– The humanitarian response plan for Nigeria is only 55% funded.

The post Northeast Nigeria: Urgent Need to Combat Deadly Cholera Outbreaks appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Janet Cherono is Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager in Maiduguri

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Lack of Funds Prevent Ugandan Communities from Investing in Cage Aquaculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/lack-funds-prevent-ugandan-communities-investing-cage-aquaculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-funds-prevent-ugandan-communities-investing-cage-aquaculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/lack-funds-prevent-ugandan-communities-investing-cage-aquaculture/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 13:31:48 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158459 Colvince Mubiru had heard about cage fish farming on Uganda’s lakes. The small business owner decided to try his hand at it and spent USD8,000 to set up farming cages for Nile Tilapia on Lake Victoria, expecting to reap a huge profit. But just six months into his enterprise, he made huge losses. “It was […]

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Fishermen on the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria. Uganda has ventured into non-traditional methods of fishing on the lake with a few of companies using cage fishing. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
JINJA, Uganda, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

Colvince Mubiru had heard about cage fish farming on Uganda’s lakes. The small business owner decided to try his hand at it and spent USD8,000 to set up farming cages for Nile Tilapia on Lake Victoria, expecting to reap a huge profit. But just six months into his enterprise, he made huge losses.

“It was too costly to manage so I could not continue because I could have lost all I had,” Mubiru tells IPS.

Both Uganda and neighbouring Kenya have introduced cage fish farming as a sustainable method of ensuring a steady supply of fish stock from Lake Victoria.

Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria, is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It has, according to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Management Plan III, “experienced dramatic ecosystem change over time resulting into loss of more than 500 endemic haplochromine fish species.”

Uganda began promoting cage fish farming in 2006. Cage culture encloses the fish in a cage or basket made up of floats, anchors and a frame, submerged to a depth of 10 metres.

In Uganda, small tilapia of no less than one gram are stocked in nursery cages at a density of 1,000 – 2,500 fish. These are reared to at least 15 grams in eight weeks, graded, and stocked in production cages and then reared for a further six to seven months to reach a weight of 350-600 grams before they are harvested.

Fifty-two-year-old Joseph Okeny first became a fisherman on Lake Victoria in 1997. But he abandoned wild fishing two years ago at a time when illegal fishing methods were rife and fish were scarce in Lake Victoria. He has since started a boat cruising business instead.

“You could stay on the lake for almost the entire day but could not get enough fish for consumption at home and for sale,” Okeny tells IPS.

But things have changed since Okeny stopped fishing for a living. According to the Status of Fish Stocks in Lake Victoria 2017, released in December by the NaFIRRI of Uganda, the Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) of Kenya and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), fish stocks in the lake have recovered by 30 percent compared to 2016 figures.

This also included the stock of Nile perch, a fish not native to the lake, which was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase in stock is noted also in a study by the Makerere University-based Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), which said aquaculture fish production in Uganda alone increased from approximately 10,000 MT per annum in 2005 to approximately 100,000 MT per annum in 2013 – accounting for around 20 percent of the total national fish production in Uganda. The study said 899 tonnes of fish were being produced in Uganda from cages in every six- to eight-month production cycle.

It also stated that there were 28 registered cage culture farmers in Uganda, with a total of 2,135 cages around Lake Victoria alone. However, KMFRI reported last month that this figure is now close to 3,696.

IPS travelled to Uganda’s Jinja district area on Lake Victoria and discovered that six cage fish farms are owned by foreign investors.

The largest of the six sells fish retail to residents around Bugungu where it has established several nursery ponds. It exports the rest to Kenya, DRC and Europe.

Asked why there were no local fish farmers with established cages on the lake, Okeny believes that adopting that technology requires financing that locals cannot afford.

Aside from the cost of the cage, which can start at USD 350, seed or fingerlings, depending on the size, can cost about USD 270, according to Uganda’s National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI). There is also the added cost of feed for the fish.

Fish farming cage on Lake Victoria. Cage culture encloses the fish in a cage or basket made up of floats, anchors and a frame, submerged to a depth of 10 metres. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Dr. Richard Ogutu-Ohwayo, a Fish Biology and Ecology specialist with NaFIRRI, has worked in Uganda’s fisheries research for over 40 years, and agrees with Okeny about the cost.

“Cage fish farming is extremely expensive and you are keeping fish in a small area. If you don’t look after them very well, it is not only the environment which is going to lose, but you are also going to lose,” Ogutu-Ohwayo tells IPS.

“It is not cheap when compared to farming in ponds. And that is why cage fish farming must be practiced as a business just like you rear broiler chicken,” says Ogutu-Ohwayo.

Pointing to an abandoned cage floating within the area allocated to fish cages of an international company, Okeny says some locals tried to invest in cages but got their fingers burnt.

“They thought that cage fish farming brings money and they also started fish farming without having enough capital to buy feed,” explains Okeny.

“These people started without consulting those who have experience. So they failed and most of them withdrew from the business. So that is why you see only one cage remaining,” says Okeny.

Researchers of the survey “Prospects of Cage Fish Farming in South Western Uganda” published in June suggest that lack of funds is the main constraint in cage aquaculture and not lack of feed and fingerlings, as has been suggested in other studies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Gerald Kwikirizaa, one of those involved in the survey, told IPS that the results suggested that lack of funds to purchase inputs was the main constraint in cage aquaculture in South Western Uganda.

He suggested that the government could boost cage fish farming through subsidising feed cost for small-holders, especially if quality floating feed is produced locally.

This cage fish farmer plans to harvest fish from the fishing cages on Lake Victoria. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Fishery development is one of the key global development goals in Agenda 2030, which comprises the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), with countries seeking to support the restoration of fish stocks to improve safe and diversified healthy diets.

Ending hunger, securing food supplies and promoting good health and sustainable fisheries are among the topics to be discussed at the first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference being held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28. Over 7,000 participants from 150 countries will be discussing, among other things, how to build safe and resilient communities and to ensure healthy and productive waters.

According to Ogutu-Ohwaayo, cage fish farming is common in the Great Lakes of North America. He said Africa should utilise its inland waters to produce more fish instead of relying on declining wild fish populations.

He added that if properly and systematically developed, it can be another means of food production, explaining that 21 percent of Uganda is made up of fresh water, meaning land for food production is scarce. “So we must use our water to produce food. And cage fish farming is one way of using our waters, in addition to other services, to actually produce food,” Ogutu-Ohwayo further explains.

He said Uganda’s population, which is growing at over three percent a year, cannot survive only on wild fishing, which has stagnated.

Ogutu-Ohwayo said aquaculture is the fastest growing food industry in the world and provides an option for meeting the deficit in fish production.

Uganda’s fisheries production for capture fisheries and aquaculture is estimated at 400,000 tons per year, which is not sufficient to meet growing demand. The six kg per capita fish consumption is far below the FAO-WHO recommended level of 17.5 kg.

“My conviction is that Africa should not be left behind in cage fish farming. And we have the capacity not to be left behind if we do it well,” said Ogutu-Ohwayo, also a board member of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR), a scientific organisation made up of researchers studying the Laurentian Great Lakes, other large lakes of the world, and their watersheds.

There have been regional efforts to address the declining fish stocks through innovative technologies.

Ogutu-Ohwa told IPS that he is mobilising fellow researchers from the African Great Lakes region to develop best practices for what he described as an “important emerging production industry.”

“You must follow best management practices. Just like you would manage a zero-grazing cow. You must put in adequate management. We as scientists are doing our best to develop these best management practices,” says Ogutu-Ohwayo.

A project known as Promoting Environmentally, Economically and Socially Sustainable Cage Aquaculture on the African Great Lakes (PESCA) is part of the efforts to address social and environmental concerns related to cage culture.

It operates in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi and generally in the African Great Lakes. PESCA has been operational since the beginning of June 2018.

“There have been concerns that cage fish farming is going to spoil the quality of the water. We want to develop tools that would promote cage fish farming in an environmentally and social way,” said Ogutu-Ohwayo.

Meanwhile, Okeny tells IPS that the introduction of cage fish farming and the efforts by the government to fight illegal fishing seem to be paying off.“Now when people go fishing they come back with good fish because that bad practice has been controlled,” says Okeny

He has seen the negative and positive aspects of cage fishing farming. “I think cage fish farming is very productive going by the amount of fish harvested by [a cage fishing company] fish. And because of that, they are paying their workers very well,” Okeny tells IPS as he docks his boat after a busy day.

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