Inter Press ServiceIndigenous Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 16 Feb 2019 02:39:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Q&A: What of the Carbon Neutral Countries?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-carbon-neutral-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-carbon-neutral-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-carbon-neutral-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 11:56:00 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160137 IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DR. ARMSTRONG ALEXIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname.

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Dr. Armstrong Alexis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname tells IPS High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations need support as they continue to protect their forests. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 14 2019 (IPS)

As High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations meet in Suriname at a major conference, it is obvious that the decision made by these countries to preserve their forests has been a difficult but good one.

“It is a choice that governments have to make to determine whether they want to continue being custodians of the environment or whether they want to pursue interests related only to economic advancement and economic growth,” Dr. Armstrong Alexis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname, tells IPS in an interview.

The UNDP and the U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) have been instrumental in the coming together of the group of countries under the HFLD umbrella.

Both U.N. bodies have supported countries with the design and implementation of national policies and measures to reduce deforestation and manage forests sustainably, hence contributing to the mitigation of climate change and advancing sustainable development.

Forests provide a dwelling and livelihood for over a billion people—including many indigenous peoples. They also host the largest share the world’s biodiversity and provide essential ecosystem services, such as water and carbon storage, which play significant roles in mitigating climate change.

Deforestation and forest degradation, which still continue in many countries at high rates, contribute severely to climate change, currently representing about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Amid this, Alexis says HFLD countries need support as they continue to protect their forests.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

For a long time Suriname has maintained 93 percent forest cover of total land area which has been providing multiple benefits to the global community, in particular, combatting climate change for current and future generations. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Can you give a brief synopsis of the work of the UNDP in Suriname?

Armstrong Alexis (AA): The UNDP is a partner in development in Suriname. We specifically focus on resources. We cover a whole spectrum of issues around climate change, renewable energy, the reduction of fossil fuels and adaptation and mitigation measures. We also focus on the issue of forests.

IPS: Why is this meeting important for Suriname, and what was the UNDP’s role in collaborating with the HFLD nations?

AA: Suriname is the most forested country on earth. Approximately 93 percent of the land mass of Suriname is covered by pristine Amazonian forests. So, with 93 percent forest cover, Suriname has traditionally, for centuries, been a custodian of its forests and have preserved its forests while at the same time achieving significant development targets for its people.

Given the role of forests as they relate to climate change and in particular the sequestration of carbon, Suriname genuinely believes, and the science will back that up, that Suriname in fact is a carbon negative country. It stores a lot more carbon than it emits. And there are a number of other countries in the world that the U.N. has defined as Heavily Forested Low Deforestation countries. These are countries that are more than 50 percent covered by forests and at the same time they have the deforestation rate which is way below the international average which I think is .02 percent of deforestation per annum.

These countries have come together through a collaborative effort supported by the UNDP and the UN-DESA.

We’ve brought these countries together because they all have a common purpose, they all have a common story and they all are working towards finding common solutions to ensure that there is:

  1. Recognition of the fact that these countries have traditionally maintained their forests and have not destroyed the forests in the name of development;
  2. Given the relevance of trees and forests to combatting climate change, that these are actually the countries that provide a good example and the best opportunity for serving the earth with high forest cover.

IPS: What is the way forward for the protection of forests?

AA: In every country where there are forests there are activities that result in two things – deforestation, where the trees are cut down and usually not replaced; and you also have what it called forest degradation where the forest is not totally destroyed but it is not as thick, it does not have as many trees and sometimes the trees are much younger for many different reasons, including timber production. So, you might be degrading the quality of the forest but not necessarily deforesting in total.

Those countries that form the HFLD have made commitments with the international community that they will continue to pursue their development objectives without necessarily destroying their forests. And destroying here means either deforestation or degradation.

It’s a challenge because in Suriname for example, the small-scale gold mining sector is the largest driver of deforestation—not timber production, not palm oil as in some countries, and not infrastructure.

IPS: So, what do you say to a country that has gold in the soil? That they should not mine that gold?

AA: It’s difficult to say that to a country when the economy depends on it. How do you say to a country don’t produce timber when the economy of the country depends on it?

There are ways and means of doing it [small-scale mining or timber production] in a sustainable way. There are ways and means of ensuring that in granting concessions whether it be for timber production or small-scale gold mining, that you take into consideration means and approaches for rehabilitation.

You have to take into consideration the biodiversity and the sensitivity of some of those forests and whether or not you value more the biodiversity of that area or the few dollars that you can make by destroying that area’s forests and extracting the gold and extracting the timer.

So, conscious decisions have to be made by governments and our role as UNDP is to provide the government with the policy options, which usually is supported by sound scientific research and data to indicate to them what their real options are and how they can integrate those options in the decisions that they make.

So, it is a difficult choice indeed, but it is a choice that governments have to make to determine whether they want to continue being custodians of the environment or whether they want to pursue interests related only to economic advancement and economic growth.

So far, they’ve done a good job at it. One of the areas that I want to emphasise is that a lot of this work cannot be done by the countries alone, because if you think about it, the market for the timber is not Suriname. The market for the gold is not Suriname.

Usually the companies that come into those countries to do the extractives, they are not even local companies. They are big multinational companies. A country like Suriname or Guyana—those countries cannot take on this mammoth task alone. They need the support of the international community, they need the support of agencies like the U.N., they need the support of the funds that have been established like the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the Adaptation Fund, and they need the support of the bilateral donors and the countries that have traditionally invested in protecting the forests.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DR. ARMSTRONG ALEXIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname.

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Rapa Nui’s Stone Statues and Marine Resources Face Threats from Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/rapa-nuis-stone-statues-marine-resources-face-threats-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rapa-nuis-stone-statues-marine-resources-face-threats-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/rapa-nuis-stone-statues-marine-resources-face-threats-climate-change/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:05:45 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160125 Social activists and local authorities in Rapa Nui or Easter Island are calling for urgent action to address rising sea temperatures, declining rainfall, and rising tides that threaten their fishing resources and their Moais, the mysterious volcanic stone monoliths. On this island in the Polynesia region of the Pacific Ocean, 3,800 kilometers from the coast […]

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Are Sustainable Development Goals Reaching Indigenous Peoples?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/sustainable-development-goals-reaching-indigenous-peoples/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-development-goals-reaching-indigenous-peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/sustainable-development-goals-reaching-indigenous-peoples/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 12:19:00 +0000 Peter J. Jacques http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160104 Peter J. Jacques is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, USA.

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Above, Amazigh women in a village with an association that cultivates an olive tree nursery. Credit: Peter J. Jacques

By Peter J. Jacques
ORLANDO, Florida, Feb 12 2019 (IPS)

Life and death for whole communities hang in the balance of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include eliminating poverty, conserving forests, and addressing climate change in a resolution adopted unanimously by the United Nations in 2015.

Take for example, the Indigenous Amazigh people who live in the mountains around Marrakech. They are representative of people who need to be served first by sustainable development.

The High Atlas Amazigh people experience hard lives in small villages. Most work as day laborers and agriculturalists with barely enough income to support their families and heat their homes.

Education is a major concern, but is hard to attain for a number of reasons. Sometimes families cannot afford the subsequent costs of backpacks and books, even when the school is open and free.

The challenge is especially difficult for girls, because, as one person explained, “How can fathers let their girls study if it is dark when they must travel?”

The effect of incomplete education is profound, and when we asked one 62-year-old man what he thought the greatest threats to the future were, for his community, he did not have confidence in his own experiences, noting, “What can I say? I am not read [educated].”

Through a partnership of the University of Central Florida (Orlando), the Hollings Center for International Dialogue (Washington D.C. and Istanbul), and the High Atlas Foundation (Marrakech), we recently conducted field work in the High Atlas Mountains, speaking with the people there who poured their hearts out to us.

The most consistent message we heard from the people of the High Atlas was that the future hinges on water. One group told us that when things are good, it is because the rain is abundant and on time; things are very hard otherwise.

They are worried that climate change will affect if the rains come, or that the rain will not “come in its time.” They have good reason to worry because climate change is expected to decrease precipitation significantly, reducing streams, lakes, and groundwater.

Drought is a constant worry. The World Bank estimates that 37 percent of the population works in agriculture, meanwhile production of cereal crops varies wildly due to annual variation of precipitation– and 2018 was thankfully a bountiful year.

Climate change will make the people of the High Atlas Mountains much more vulnerable while they are already living on the edge of survival.

In one area, this change in precipitation timing and amount was already noticeable, resulting in a significant loss of fruit trees. In that same area, we were told that there is fear that there will be no water in twenty years, and that for these people who are deeply connected to the land, there will be “no alternatives.”

The High Atlas people are in an extremely vulnerable position. One group noted that they are so desperate for basic resources that they burn plastic trash to heat their water. Worse, they believe they have been left behind by society and that “the people of the mountains do not matter.”

They feel that Moroccan society is deeply unfair—there is no help for the sick, little support for education, little defense against the cold, and that, for some, corruption is the greatest threat to a sustainable future.

Consequently, civil society has an important role in achieving the SDGs. The High Atlas Foundation has been working to help people in this region to organize themselves into collectives that decide both what the collective wants, and pathways to achieve those goals.

Women have organized into co-ops that they own and they collect dividends from their products together. People in one coop lobbied the 2015 Conference of Parties climate meeting in Marrakech.

Men’s associations have developed tree nurseries that not only produce income, but which protect whole watersheds – and therefore some water for the future. They are also participating in carbon sequestration markets.

In this regard, the Marrakech Regional Department of Water and Forest provides them carob trees and the authorization to plant these trees on the mountains surrounding their villages.

However, perhaps the most important element of these collectives is that they give each person in them a voice. Leaders of these collectives have formal rights to approach the regional governments about their needs, and this voice would not be heard at all without the formal collective organization.

These organizations cannot replace government services, but they do add capacity to the community.

Not only do these collectives lend people some influence over their current and their children’s lives, they love each other and they are not struggling alone. We witnessed profound solidarity. Repeatedly, the collectives told us “We love each other, we are one family,” “We are like one,” “We help each other,” and the conviction that “I will be with you.”

The world is decidedly on an unsustainable path, so If we are going to meet SDGs, all the people like the people of the High Atlas Mountains must matter and their voice deserves to be heard.

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Excerpt:

Peter J. Jacques is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, USA.

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The Right to Life, Liberty, and Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/right-life-liberty-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=right-life-liberty-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/right-life-liberty-land/#respond Thu, 07 Feb 2019 10:07:01 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160026 Sustainable land management is becoming more important than ever as rates of emissions, deforestation, and water scarcity continue to increase. But what if you don’t have rights to the land? While the impact of agriculture on land is well known, the relationship between land degradation and land tenure seems to be less understood. In fact, […]

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Erin Myers Madeira who leads the Nature Conservancy’s Global Programme on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities says that communities outperform the government and other stakeholders in stopping deforestation and degradation. The Akaratshie community from the Garu and Tempane districts have been able to restore degraded land. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2019 (IPS)

Sustainable land management is becoming more important than ever as rates of emissions, deforestation, and water scarcity continue to increase. But what if you don’t have rights to the land?
While the impact of agriculture on land is well known, the relationship between land degradation and land tenure seems to be less understood.

In fact, research has shown that insecure land tenure is linked to poor land use as communities have fewer incentives to invest in long-term protective measures, thus contributing to environmental degradation.

“Establishing secure tenure and secure rights to territory and resources for indigenous people and local communities is one of the most important things we can do around achieving positive outcomes for conservation,” said Erin Myers Madeira who leads the Nature Conservancy’s Global Programme on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

“Communities outperform the government, other stakeholders in stopping deforestation and degradation,” she added to IPS.

Despite holding customary rights to more than half of the earth’s lands, indigenous people and local communities legally own only a 10 percent slice.

Resources and Rights also found the legal recognition of community forest tenure rights also still remains adequate, amounting to just over 14 percent of forest area as of 2017.

While this is partially a result of a lack of government policies, land grabs by companies which fail to acknowledge communities’ ancestral lands are increasingly common around the world.

In 2006, 200 families lost access to their land in Cambodia’s Sre Ambel district to make way for a sugar plantation.

In Liberia, Liberian farmers were evicted after the government allocated 350,000 hectares to Malaysian multinational corporation Sime Darby, causing widespread resentment and conflict in the area.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), 35 percent of the remaining available cropland across Africa has been acquired by large entities, with over 70 million hectares allotted for biofuels.

Many have put up a fight against the expanse but it came with a deadly cost.

According to Global Witness, a record 201 environmental defenders were killed in 2017 trying to protect their land from mining, agribusiness, and other industries.

Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana prior to restoration taken in 2015. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

People-Led, Better-Led

Karina Kloos Yeatman, the Women’s Land Rights Campaign Director at Landesa, highlighted the importance of people-led conservation and sustainable land management but the first step is land rights.

“If we aren’t looking forward and thinking about land use and land tenure security and finding more solutions to help people make long term investments to sustainably use their land, we are going to continue to see an even larger influx of climate migrants and people being displaced,” she told IPS.

Yeatman particularly pointed to successes of how secure lands rights have led to increase long-term investments in sustainable soil and forestry management.

For instance, smallholder farmers with secure rights in Ethiopia were 60 percent more likely to invest in soil erosion prevention.

In forests where indigenous land rights have been recognised, deforestation rates have dramatically declined.
In Bolivia, deforestation is 2.8 times lower within tenure-secure indigenous lands.

This has not only helped halt land degradation, but such measures have also mitigated forest-based emissions and curbed global warming.

Both Yeatman and Madeira noted that land rights alone is not enough to promote sustainable land management, but rather four pillars. These are securing the rights to territories and resources; support strong community leadership and local governance; promoting multi stakeholder collaborations, allowing local communities to engage in high levels of decision-making and; identifying environmentally sustainable economic development opportunities in line with communities’ cultural values and sustainable management.

“It’s when you have the four of those ingredients that is when you end up with enduring conservation, communities who have the power to protect those peoples and who can also benefit economically from their stewardship of those places,” Madeira said.

In an effort to curb logging and deforestation, Peru’s Shipibo-Conibo indigenous communities residing in the Amazon enlisted over 6,000 hectares—80 percent of their territory—into the country’s conservation programme and helps manage the land in a way that provides sustainable sources of income.

As part of the National Programme for Forest Conservation, communities receive 3 dollar per year for every hectare they assign to conservation which amounts to potential earnings of at least 18,000 dollar. In order to receive the payment, they must commit to protecting the forest.

A significant proportion of the money received is thus invested back into the forest and its communities who engage in activities such as ecotourism and the sustainable extraction of forest resources.

Farmers undertaking periodic pruning at vegetation Susudi, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

One Step Forward, Many More To Go

While tenure can look different in various contexts, Madeira highlighted the importance of governments and companies respecting land rights as well as the inclusion of indigenous people and local communities to shape sustainable land management planning.

“A lot of the development decisions are made far away from the ground in board rooms. The extent to which indigenous people and local communities are excluded from those decisions, you’re going to get these poor outcomes,” she told IPS.

Yeatman urged corporations to be aware of the complexities surrounding land tenure and support local communities to ensure a sustainable future.

“[Companies] often have 50-100 year leases and if they want the land to be sustainable, they need to help those farmers secure their land rights and help have access to information and inputs to diversify so that they are not degrading their lands,” she said.

Consumers also have a role to play, Yeatman noted, as they delve into the stories behind the products and companies they buy from.

Oxfam’s campaign Behind the Brands provides a scorecard, assessing how the world’s 10 largest food and beverage companies are measuring up against a number of indicators including support for women farm workers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and respecting rights to and sustainably using land.

For instance, French multinational company Danone and American manufacturer General Mills are ranked among the lowest on the land indicator as it has not committed to zero tolerance for land grabs and does not require its suppliers to consider how such acquisitions affect livelihoods.

While it is easier said than done, there have already been positive developments across the world.

Most recently, the Malaysian government file a lawsuit against local government of Kelantan state for failing to uphold the land rights of its indigenous people Orang Asli, many of whom lack formal titles, as it continues to grant licenses to logging companies and agricultural plantations.

“Rapid deforestation and commercial development have resulted in widespread encroachment into the native territories of the Orang Asli,” Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said in a statement.

“Commercial development and the pursuit of profit must not come at the expense of the Temiar Orang Asli and their inherent right, as citizens of this country, to the land and resources which they have traditionally owned and used,” he added.

Similarly, Myanmar, which has among the highest rates of deforestation in Asia, plans to transfer over 918,000 hectares of forest land to community management by 2030 in order to help prevent illegal logging and allow traditional residents to practice sustainable forestry.

There is still a long way to go but action is necessary to prevent the dwindling of land and natural resources essential for everyone’s survival.

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Mexican Village Wants to Turn Thermoelectric Plant into Solar Panel Factoryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/mexican-village-wants-turn-thermoelectric-plant-solar-panel-factory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexican-village-wants-turn-thermoelectric-plant-solar-panel-factory http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/mexican-village-wants-turn-thermoelectric-plant-solar-panel-factory/#respond Fri, 01 Feb 2019 00:02:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159927 Social organisations in the central Mexican municipality of Yecapixtla managed to halt the construction of a large thermoelectric plant in the town and are now designing a project to convert the installation into a solar panel factory, which would bring the area socioeconomic and environmental dividends. Antonio Sarmiento, from the Institute of Mathematics of the […]

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The Central Combined Cycle Plant, located in the Nahua indigenous farming community of Huexca, in central Mexico, is practically ready to operate, but local inhabitants managed to block its completion because of the pollution it could cause, and they want to use the facility to open a solar panel factory. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Central Combined Cycle Plant, located in the Nahua indigenous farming community of Huexca, in central Mexico, is practically ready to operate, but local inhabitants managed to block its completion because of the pollution it could cause, and they want to use the facility to open a solar panel factory. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
YECAPIXTLA, Mexico, Feb 1 2019 (IPS)

Social organisations in the central Mexican municipality of Yecapixtla managed to halt the construction of a large thermoelectric plant in the town and are now designing a project to convert the installation into a solar panel factory, which would bring the area socioeconomic and environmental dividends.

Antonio Sarmiento, from the Institute of Mathematics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, outlined the idea when the state-run Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) launched the construction of the Morelos Integral Project (PIM), which consists of a gas and steam generating plant, a gas pipeline that crosses the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala, and an aqueduct.

“The plant can be reconverted. There are alternative uses. It can generate significant economic development in the region and make energy change possible,” the expert told IPS, estimating that an investment of some 260 million dollars would be needed."We don't want the thermoelectric plant to operate, because it's going to cause irreparable damage. If the solar plant is viable, go ahead. Or they could turn it into a university, so our children don't have to travel long distances to study and be exposed to violent crime. Something worthwhile should be installed.” -- Teresa Castellanos

Sarmiento calculates that the use of half of the area of the Central Combined Cycle Power Plant, which covers 49 hectares in the community of Huexca and has a capacity of 620 megawatts (MW), would permit the installation of solar panels, the planting of crops under the panels, and a factory to produce them.

“Agrophotovoltaic technology” takes advantage of the water that condenses on the panels, which drips onto the crops below, before it can evaporate – technology that is already used in Germany and other nations. In addition, farmers can use solar-powered irrigation pumps to access water from wells.

For this area of solar cells, with a useful life of 25 years, the generation would total 359 MW-hour per day, which would meet the consumption needs of 34,278 households. The electricity generated would supply the municipality and replace energy from fossil fuel-powered plants, the academic explained.

Huexca, home to the thermoelectric plant that is no longer being built, about 100 kilometers south of Mexico City, has some 1,000 inhabitants, mostly Nahua Indians, part of the total 52,000 people living in Yecapixtla.

The transformation would reduce gas consumption, methane leakage, massive use of water, the generation of liquid waste and the release into the atmosphere of nitrous oxide, which causes acid rain that contaminates the soil and destroys crops.

The local struggle

By means of several judicial injunctions, the People’s Front in Defence of Land and Water in Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala and its ally, the Permanent Assembly of the Peoples of Morelos (APPM), have blocked the completion of the power plant and 12-kilometer aqueduct, as well as the start of operations of the 171-kilometer gas pipeline.

Huexca and other Nahua peasant communities, through legal action brought at the start of the construction of the power plant in 2012, managed to stop construction of the pipeline in 2017 for violating indigenous rights.

In addition, groups of “ejidatarios” – people who live on “ejidos” or rural property held communally under a system of land tenure that combines communal ownership with individual use – blocked the extraction of water from the nearby Cuautla River to cool the turbines of the plant in 2015, and the People’s Front secured, early this year, the suspension of the discharge of treated water into the river.

On Jan. 28, a group of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the Central Combined Cycle Power Plant in Huexca, a village in the municipality of Yecapixtla, Morelos state in central Mexico. Their signs call for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to betray his people, and to keep the plant from opening. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

On Jan. 28, a group of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the Central Combined Cycle Power Plant in Huexca, a village in the municipality of Yecapixtla, Morelos state in central Mexico. Their signs call for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to betray his people, and to keep the plant from opening. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Opponents of the power plant also resorted to protests and roadblocks to bring to a halt a project that affects more than 900,000 people, including 50,000 indigenous people from 37 indigenous tribes, according to a 2018 estimate by the autonomous governmental National Human Rights Commission.

Now, they want leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1, to cancel the Morelos Integral Project and reach an agreement with the local population on the fate of the plant.

“We don’t want the thermoelectric plant to operate, because it’s going to cause irreparable damage. If the solar plant is viable, go ahead. Or they could turn it into a university, so our children don’t have to travel long distances to study and expose themselves to violent crime. Something worthwhile should be installed,” activist Teresa Castellanos told IPS.

Castellanos, a member of the APPM, has been involved in the battle against the plant from the beginning, which has earned her persecution and threats. For her activism, she won the Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life 2018, awarded by the Geneva-based non-governmental Women’s World Summit Foundation.

The opposition to the plant by the affected communities, who make a living growing corn, beans, squash and tomatoes and raising cattle and pigs, focuses on the lack of consultation, the threat to their crops due to the extraction of water from the rivers, and the dumping of liquid waste.

Mexico’s energy outlook

In the first half of 2018, Mexico had a total installed capacity of 75,918 MW, of which 23,874 MW come from clean technologies. The capacity of clean sources grew almost 12 percent with respect to the first half of the previous year.

Mexico assumed a clean electricity generation goal of 25 percent by 2018, including gas flaring and large hydroelectric dams; 30 percent by 2021; and 35 percent by 2024.

But the reality is that the renewable matrix is only around seven percent, although it could reach 21 percent by 2030 with policies aimed at fomenting it, according to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

By 2021, more than 200 clean energy generators are to come into operation, generating 19,500 MW. Of these 200, 136 are solar and 44 depend on wind power, according to the Energy Regulatory Commission.

As López Obrador reiterated during the election campaign, his energy plan consists of the construction of a refinery in the southeastern state of Tabasco, the upgrading of the National Refinery System’s six processing plants and of 60 hydroelectric plants, as well as investment in solar energy.

The president continues to refuse to close plants of the state generator CFE, due to the need to meet the growing energy demand of this Latin American nation of 129 million people, the second largest economy in Latin America.

According to government investment projects for 2019, state-owned oil giant Pemex would have at its disposal about 24 billion dollars for oil exploration and extraction, the overhaul of six refineries and the start of construction of another.

For its part, the CFE will be able to spend some 23 billion dollars on projects such as the renovation of 60 hydroelectric plants and the development of solar energy.

The solar panel factory that is proposed as an alternative for Huexca, could, in fact, cover a significant deficit in technology and inputs in the solar energy sector in Mexico, say experts.

Hopes for change

López Obrador plans to visit the area on Feb. 11 and has requested that a file be put together on the generator in order to decide the future of a construction project which so far has cost around one billion dollars.

The local population does not want to see seven years of struggle against the plant go to waste. “We need alternatives. We voted for López Obrador, he can’t let us down. We are only demanding respect for our right to life,” said Castellanos, the activist.

For Sarmiento, the academic, the environmental and health damages would be greater if the plant goes into operation. “The maintenance of the plant will be more expensive than solar generation. And what will happen when it reaches the end of its useful life? It will be useless,” he said.

Meanwhile, the inactive smokestacks of the unfinished plant are waiting for a signal to belch out smoke and the electric pylons are rusting with no power to transport. Perhaps they never will, if the local residents have their say.

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Argentina’s Indigenous People Fight for Land Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/argentinas-indigenous-people-fight-land-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-indigenous-people-fight-land-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/argentinas-indigenous-people-fight-land-rights/#respond Sat, 12 Jan 2019 00:24:33 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159595 Nancy López lives in a house made of clay, wood and corrugated metal sheets, on private land dedicated to agriculture. She is part of an indigenous community of 12 families in northern Argentina that, like almost all such communities, has no title to the land it occupies and lives under the constant threat of eviction. […]

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A group of Wichí children play in the mud in the indigenous community of El Quebracho, in northern Argentina. This country’s laws recognise the right to bilingual support in the education of native children, but in practice the rule is not enforced and children suffer discrimination when they speak their native languages. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

A group of Wichí children play in the mud in the indigenous community of El Quebracho, in northern Argentina. This country’s laws recognise the right to bilingual support in the education of native children, but in practice the rule is not enforced and children suffer discrimination when they speak their native languages. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
TARTAGAL, Argentina , Jan 12 2019 (IPS)

Nancy López lives in a house made of clay, wood and corrugated metal sheets, on private land dedicated to agriculture. She is part of an indigenous community of 12 families in northern Argentina that, like almost all such communities, has no title to the land it occupies and lives under the constant threat of eviction.

A widow and mother of nine, she has heard stories of better times. “My father told me that before they come and go and stay wherever they wanted. There was no talk of private land, no soybeans, no barbed wire. They felt free. Today they call us usurpers,” she told IPS.

López belongs to the Wichí people, one of the most numerous indigenous group of the 31 registered in Argentina. According to official data, native people represent 2.38 percent of the population of this South American country of 44 million people, although experts and indigenous leaders consider that the real percentage is much higher."The indigenous people who live on the outskirts of the cities are refugees who have been displaced from their place in the forest over the past 100 years by non-indigenous farmers who arrived with their cows and, in recent decades, by agribusiness.” -- John Palmer

Today, indigenous people in Argentina are struggling to preserve their way of life in a scenario made complex mainly due to conflicts over land.

Ninety-two percent of the communities do not have title to the land they live on, according to a survey published in 2017 by the National Audit Office, an oversight that depends on the legislative branch.

The scope of the conflict is huge. Approximately half of the 1,600 native communities in the country have carried out or are carrying out the process of surveying their lands that the State began more than 10 years ago, and they lay claim to eight and a half million hectares – a total area larger than the country of Panama.

The backdrop is the pattern of discrimination that persists in Argentina despite advances made on paper, as then UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples James Anaya reported after a visit to the country in 2011.

“There are still legacies from the colonial era and the history of exclusion is still highly visible,” Anaya wrote in his report.

Nancy López, a leader in her community, says children no longer want to speak Wichí, because if they do, they suffer discrimination at school, which must have a bilingual assistant teacher, according to the National Education Law in effect since 2006.

“The bilingual assistant is given jobs like making photocopies or running errands. He barely translates to the kids what the homework is. There’s a lot of racism,” Lopez said, as local children from the community played with mud in the rain.

Nancy López sits next to her house built of mud, wood and corrugated metal sheets in the Wichí community of El Quebracho, Salta province, northern Argentina. The indigenous community lives on privately owned agricultural land, to which they returned after being evicted in a major police operation. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Nancy López sits next to her house built of mud, wood and corrugated metal sheets in the Wichí community of El Quebracho, Salta province, northern Argentina. The indigenous community lives on privately owned agricultural land, to which they returned after being evicted in a major police operation. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Her community, El Quebracho, is one of dozens located near Tartagal, a city of 80,000 people in the province of Salta, on route 86, which is actually just a dirt road that leads to the Paraguayan border.

López explains that the families in her community settled six years ago in the countryside where they now live, without the owner’s permission, “because this used to be uncleared forest.”

The Wichí and other indigenous peoples of the area, who are hunter-gatherers, have historically depended on the forest for food, medicine, or wood to build their houses.

But every day there are fewer forests. Along with neighboring Santiago del Estero, Salta is the Argentine province that has suffered the greatest deforestation in recent years, due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, pushed mainly by transgenic soy, which today occupies more than half of the area planted in the country.

“As the city of Tartagal grew, they pushed our indigenous communities out, so we go wherever we can,” explains López, who says that a couple of years ago they were evicted in an operation in which some 200 police officers participated.

“We stayed on the side of the road for about two months, until the policemen left and we went back in. We have nowhere else to go. This used to be all forest. Today we are surrounded by soy,” she says.

Since Argentina became a nation in 1853, one of its main goals was to exclude or assimilate indigenous people.

In fact, the constitution that went into effect that year called for “the preservation of peaceful treatment for the Indians, and the promotion of their conversion to Catholicism”, while, on the other hand, it imposed on the government the obligation to encourage European immigration.

Posters at the entrance to an indigenous community in the province of Salta say the State has already carried out a survey recognising the land as ancestrally occupied by native people. But no progress has been made in the titling of community property in this area of northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Posters at the entrance to an indigenous community in the province of Salta say the State has already carried out a survey recognising the land as ancestrally occupied by native people. But no progress has been made in the titling of community property in this area of northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The directive on the original population was still in force until just 25 years ago. Only in 1994, during the last constitutional reform, was it replaced by an article that recognises “the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous peoples” and “community possession and ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy.”

However, according to then rapporteur Anaya, the constitutional change did not modify a reality marked by “the historical dispossession of large tracts of land by ranchers and by the presence of agricultural, oil and mining companies that operate on lands claimed by indigenous communities.”

In 2006, Congress passed the Indigenous Communities Act, which declared indigenous lands in an emergency situation, ordered surveys of ancestrally occupied land and suspended evictions, even in cases with a judicial ruling, for a period of four years.

Since then, however, the survey has not even begun to be carried out in half of the communities, despite the fact that the law has been extended three times. And the great majority of the communities where the survey has been conducted still have no community property titles.

Today it is also reported that evictions are still being carried out, although the law in force prohibits them until 2021.

According to Amnesty International, which in 2017 released a study that detected 225 unresolved conflicts throughout the country, it is not surprising that the vast majority of the conflicts involving indigenous people in Argentina are over land.

“Some provinces have granted property titles, but there are no institutional mechanisms for access to indigenous community property in Argentina. We need a national law,” attorney Gabriela Kletzel, of the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), told IPS.

This non-governmental organisation brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the case of a group of communities whose ownership of 400,000 hectares was recognised by the government of the province of Salta in 2014.

“However, these communities are not yet able to take control of the land because they do not have title to it. And they still can’t get white families to take their cattle off their land, which destroys the natural resources that are the foundation of indigenous life,” Kletzel said.

John Palmer, an English anthropologist who arrived in Salta more than 30 years ago and married a Wichí indigenous woman, told IPS: “The indigenous people who live on the outskirts of the cities are refugees who have been displaced from their place in the forest over the past 100 years by non-indigenous farmers who arrived with their cows and, in recent decades, by agribusiness.”

“The destruction of the forests has wiped out all of the resources that their economy is based on. So, like many animals that no longer have anything to eat, they came to the cities,” concluded Palmer, who lived for years in a rural Wichí community until he moved to Tartagal with his wife and their five children.

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Indigenous People, the First Victims of Brazil’s New Far-Right Governmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/indigenous-people-first-victims-brazils-new-far-right-government/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-people-first-victims-brazils-new-far-right-government http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/indigenous-people-first-victims-brazils-new-far-right-government/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 02:39:32 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159569 “We have already been decimated and subjected, and we have been victims of the integrationist policy of governments and the national state,” said indigenous leaders, as they rejected the new Brazilian government’s proposals and measures focusing on indigenous peoples. In an open letter to President Jair Bolsonaro, leaders of the Aruak, Baniwa and Apurinã peoples, […]

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"We are fighting for the demarcation of our territory," reads a banner in a march of indigenous women who came to Rio de Janeiro from the communities of the 305 native peoples of Brazil, to demand respect for the rights recognised by the constitution, which far-right President Jair Bolsonaro began to ignore as soon as he was sworn in. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

"We are fighting for the demarcation of our territory," reads a banner in a march of indigenous women who came to Rio de Janeiro from the communities of the 305 native peoples of Brazil, to demand respect for the rights recognised by the constitution, which far-right President Jair Bolsonaro began to ignore as soon as he was sworn in. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

“We have already been decimated and subjected, and we have been victims of the integrationist policy of governments and the national state,” said indigenous leaders, as they rejected the new Brazilian government’s proposals and measures focusing on indigenous peoples.

In an open letter to President Jair Bolsonaro, leaders of the Aruak, Baniwa and Apurinã peoples, who live in the watersheds of the Negro and Purus rivers in Brazil’s northwestern Amazon jungle region, protested against the decree that now puts indigenous lands under the Ministry of Agriculture, which manages interests that run counter to those of native peoples.

Indigenous people are likely to present the strongest resistance to the offensive of Brazil’s new far-right government, which took office on Jan. 1 and whose first measures roll back progress made over the past three decades in favor of the 305 indigenous peoples registered in this country.

Native peoples are protected by article 231 of the Brazilian constitution, in force since 1988, which guarantees them “original rights over the lands they traditionally occupy,” in addition to recognising their “social organisation, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions.”

To this are added international regulations ratified by the country, such as Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the International Labor Organisation, which defends indigenous rights, such as the right to prior, free and informed consultation in relation to mining or other projects that affect their communities.

It was indigenous people who mounted the stiffest resistance to the construction of hydroelectric dams on large rivers in the Amazon rainforest, especially Belo Monte, built on the Xingu River between 2011 and 2016 and whose turbines are expected to be completed this year.

Transferring the responsibility of identifying and demarcating indigenous reservations from the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) to the Ministry of Agriculture will hinder the demarcation of new areas and endanger existing ones.

There will be a review of the demarcations of Indigenous Lands carried out over the past 10 years, announced Luiz Nabhan García, the ministry’s new secretary of land affairs, who is now responsible for the issue.

García is the leader of the Democratic Ruralist Union, a collective of landowners, especially cattle ranchers, involved in frequent and violent conflicts over land.

Bolsonaro himself has already announced the intention to review Raposa Serra do Sol, an Indigenous Land legalised in 2005, amid legal battles brought to an end by a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, which recognised the validity of the demarcation.

Hamilton Lopes and his daughter, members of the Guarani indigenous community, stand in front of their hut, where their family lives a precarious existence on land that has not been demarcated, where they face threats of expulsion, on Brazil's border with Paraguay. Large landowners seize the lands of the Guarani, the second-largest native community in the country, causing a large number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Hamilton Lopes and his daughter, members of the Guarani indigenous community, stand in front of their hut, where their family lives a precarious existence on land that has not been demarcated, where they face threats of expulsion, on Brazil’s border with Paraguay. Large landowners seize the lands of the Guarani, the second-largest native community in the country, causing a large number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This indigenous territory covers 17,474 square kilometers and is home to some 20,000 members of five different native groups in the northern state of Roraima, on the border with Guyana and Venezuela.

In Brazil there are currently 486 Indigenous Lands whose demarcation process is complete, and 235 awaiting demarcation, including 118 in the identification phase, 43 already identified and 74 “declared”.

“The political leaders talk, but revising the Indigenous Lands would require a constitutional amendment or proof that there has been fraud or wrongdoing in the identification and demarcation process, which is not apparently frequent,” said Adriana Ramos, director of the Socio-environmental Institute, a highly respected non-governmental organisation involved in indigenous and environmental issues.

“The first decisions taken by the government have already brought setbacks, with the weakening of the indigenous affairs office and its responsibilities. The Ministry of Health also announced changes in the policy toward the indigenous population, without presenting proposals, threatening to worsen an already bad situation,” she told IPS from Brasilia.

“The process of land demarcation, which was already very slow in previous governments, is going to be even slower now,” and the worst thing is that the declarations against rights “operate as a trigger for violations that aggravate conflicts, generating insecurity among indigenous peoples,” warned Ramos.

In the first few days of the new year, and of the Bolsonaro administration, loggers already invaded the Indigenous Land of the Arara people, near Belo Monte, posing a risk of armed clashes, she said.

The indigenous Guaraní people, the second largest indigenous group in the country, after the Tikuna, who live in the north, are the most vulnerable to the situation, especially their communities in the central-eastern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

They are fighting for the demarcation of several lands and the expansion of too-small areas that are already demarcated, and dozens of their leaders have been murdered in that struggle, while they endure increasingly precarious living conditions that threaten their very survival.

Karioca Cupobo Indians are painted and armed for combat before participating in a demonstration for indigenous rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Karioca Cupobo Indians are painted and armed for combat before participating in a demonstration for indigenous rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The grave situation is getting worse under the new government. They are strangling us by dividing Funai and handing the demarcation process to the Ministry of Agriculture, led by ruralists – the number one enemies of indigenous people,” said Inaye Gomes Lopes, a young indigenous teacher who lives in the village of Ñanderu Marangatu in Mato Grosso do Sul, near the Paraguayan border.

Funai has kept its welfare and rights defence functions but is now subordinate to the new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, led by Damares Alves, a controversial lawyer and evangelical pastor.

“We only have eight Indigenous Lands demarcated in the state and one was annulled (in December). What we have is due to the many people who have died, whose murderers have never been put in prison,” said Lopes, who teaches at a school that pays tribute in indigenous language to Marçal de Souza, a Guarani leader murdered in 1982.

“We look for ways to resist and we look for ‘supporters’, at an international level as well. I’m worried, I don’t sleep at night,” she told IPS in a dialogue from her village, referring to the new government, whose expressions regarding indigenous people she called “an injustice to us.”

Bolsonaro advocates “integration” of indigenous people, referring to assimilation into the mainstream “white” society – an outdated idea of the white elites.

He complained that indigenous people continue to live “like in zoos,” occupying “15 percent of the national territory,” when, according to his data, they number less than a million people in a country of 209 million inhabitants.

“It’s not us who have a large part of Brazil’s territory, but the big landowners, the ruralists, agribusiness and others who own more than 60 percent of the national territory,” countered the public letter from the the Aruak, Baniwa and Apurinã peoples.

Actually, Indigenous Lands make up 13 percent of Brazilian territory, and 90 percent are located in the Amazon rainforest, the signatories of the open letter said.

“We are not manipulated by NGOs,” they replied to another accusation which they said arose from the president’s “prejudices.”

A worry shared by some military leaders, like the minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet, retired General Augusto Heleno Pereira, is that the inhabitants of Indigenous Lands under the influence of NGOs will declare the independence of their territories, to separate from Brazil.

They are mainly worried about border areas and, especially, those occupied by people living on both sides of the border, such as the Yanomami, who live in Brazil and Venezuela.

But in Ramos’ view, it is not the members of the military forming part of the Bolsonaro government, like the generals occupying five ministries, the vice presidency, and other important posts, who pose the greatest threat to indigenous rights.

Many military officers have indigenous people among their troops and recognise that they share in the task of defending the borders, she argued.

It is the ruralists, who want to get their hands on indigenous lands, and the leaders of evangelical churches, with their aggressive preaching, who represent the most violent threats, she said.

The new government spells trouble for other sectors as well, such as the quilombolas (Afro-descendant communities), landless rural workers and NGOs.

Bolsonaro announced that his administration would not give “a centimeter of land” to either indigenous communities or quilombolas, and said it would those who invade estates or other properties as “terrorists.”

And the government has threatened to “supervise and monitor” NGOs. But “the laws are clear about their rights to organise,” as well as about the autonomy of those who do not receive financial support from the state, Ramos said.

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Local Communities in Mexico Question Benefits of Mayan Trainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 22:43:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159298 “If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico. Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in […]

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The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

“If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico.

Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP), told IPS that they lack detailed information about the megaproject, one of the high-profile initiatives promised during his campaign by the new leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his acronym AMLO.

“It’s not clear to us. We don’t know about the project,” said Euán, who also questioned the benefits promised by the president, who was sworn in on Dec. 1, for the local population, as well as the mechanisms for participation in the project and the threats it poses to the environment."They are violating our indigenous rights. We don't agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don't see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses." -- Miguel Ku

“What will be the benefit for the local community members, for the craftswomen? As ecotourism communities, will we be able to promote our businesses and goods?” said the spokeswoman for the Community Tourism Network of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, one of the states in southeastern Mexico that share the Yucatan Peninsula, on the Atlantic coast, with 1.5 million inhabitants.

The network, launched in 2014, brings together 11 community organisations from three municipalities of Quintana Roo and offers ecotourism and cultural tours in the area, its main economic activity.

In the municipality of FCP, home to just over 81,000 people, there are 84 ejidos,areas of communal land used for agriculture, where community members own and farm their own plots, which can also be sold.

One of them, of the same name as the municipality, FCP, covering 47,000 hectares and belonging to 250 “ejidatarios” or members, manages the ejidal reserves Síijil Noh Há (“where the water flows,” in the Mayan language) and Much’KananK’aax (“let’s take care of the forest together”).

Euán’s doubts are shared by thousands of inhabitants of the peninsula, which receives almost seven million tourists every year.

IPS travelled a stretch of the preliminary TM route through Quintana Roo and the neighboring state of Campeche and noted the general lack of detailed information about the project and its possible ecological, social and cultural consequences in a region with high levels of poverty and social marginalisation.

The government’s National Tourism Fund (Fonatur) is promoting the project, at a cost of between 6.2 and 7.8 billion dollars. The plan is for it to start operating in 2022, with 15 stations along 1,525 kilometers in 41 municipalities in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.

The locomotives will run on biodiesel -possibly made from palm oil- and the trains are projected to move about three million passengers annually, in addition to cargo.

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The new government argues that the project will boost the region’s socioeconomic development, foster social inclusion and job creation, safeguard indigenous cultures, protect the peninsula’s Protected Natural Areas (PNA), and strengthen the tourism industry.

Ancient ecosystems

The railway will cut through the heart of the Mayan jungle, an ecosystem that formed the base of the Mayan empire that dominated the entire Mesoamerican region – southern Mexico and Central America – from the 8th century until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

This is the most important rainforest in Latin America after the Amazon region and a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

The region belongs to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor consisting of habitats running from southern Mexico to Panama, the southernmost of the seven Central American countries, and is home to about 10 percent of the world’s known species.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, shared by the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, there are 25 PNAs, with a total area of 8.5 million hectares.

In fact, two TM stations will be contiguous to the 725,000-hectare Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the 650,000-hectare Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

“What’s going to happen? We don’t know the route, we don’t have information. We have to study this closely,” Luís Tamay, the indigenous president of the Commissariat of Common Assets of the Nuevo Becal ejido in the municipality of Calakmul, in Campeche, told IPS.

Like Euán, Tamay fears the arrival of crowds of tourists, for which Calakmul “is not prepared; this is a high-impact project” for a municipality of just over 28,000 people.

Nuevo Becal has 84 landowners, covers 52,800 hectares and carries out six projects of timber exploitation, agroforestry, seeds and environmental conservation.

Although the TM will not pass through the immediate vicinity of Nuevo Becal, the megaproject will have impacts on the area.

In Calakmul, the government will carry out technical and environmental impact studies in 2019, with the idea of starting construction the following year in the locality.

To build the railway network, the government must negotiate with the ejidatarios, who own most of the land in the five states along the planned railway, as there are 385 in Campeche, 279 in Quintana Roo and 737 in Yucatán.

The government has already asked for 30 hectares in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido to build a station, as a contribution to the project, which was first proposed in 2007 by the then governor of Yucatan, Yvonne Ortega, who projected the Transpeninsular Rapid Train in 2007.
Shortly after taking office in December 2012, AMLO’s predecessor, conservative Enrique Peña Nieto, adopted it as a national plan to connect the region. But public spending cutbacks in 2015 put the project on hold.

To the original project which will be added more than 300 kilometers of rundown railroads that functioned between 1905 and 1957, first for military transport and then also for passenger traffic.

On Nov. 24-25, before AMLO took office, his team obtained support for the railway network, along with a new refinery in the state of Tabasco and the execution of other projects, during a National Consultation on 10 Priority Social Programmes.

But this support, in a consultation that was only carried out in certain localities through a process that was not very representative, did not appease the criticism of the TM in the region.

On Nov. 15, a group of academics asked López Obrador to stop the works because of their ecological, social, cultural and archaeological impacts.

Three days later, a collective of indigenous organisations rejected the project, demanded respect for their forests and jungles, and called for free, prior, informed and culturally appropriate consultation.

“They are violating our indigenous rights. We don’t agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don’t see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses” in the sector, Miguel Ku, representative of the Network of Environmental Service Producers, told IPS.

This organization brings together 3,756 ejidatarios from 33 agrarian communities in the municipality of José María Morelos, and three more in the municipality of FCP, all of which are in Quintana Roo. Together, they own 257,000 hectares that are used for forestry, agriculture, beekeeping and livestock.

Local organisations are seeking another socioeconomic model. “We have shown that conservation allows for good development. We have natural resources, let us take advantage of them, that’s how we can support ourselves,” said Tamay.

Ku protested what he called a repeat of what has happened with previous projects. “We are sick and tired of others taking the benefits even though we own the land. The government could do something else. We want the ejidos to develop their own projects,” he said.

But López Obrador appears to be in a hurry to move forward with the Mayan Train, and on Dec. 16 he laid the first stone in the city of Palenque, Chiapas, without waiting for Fonatur to present the environmental impact assessment to the environment ministry.

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“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemalahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:32:06 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159268 According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

    “Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Indigenous Leaders are Calling for New Global Agreement to Protect Amazonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/indigenous-leaders-calling-new-global-agreement-protect-amazon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-leaders-calling-new-global-agreement-protect-amazon http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/indigenous-leaders-calling-new-global-agreement-protect-amazon/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 10:38:05 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158902 Leaders of Amazon’s indigenous groups are calling for a new global agreement to protect and restore at least half of the world’s natural habitats. The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (or COICA), an activist group, has prepared a proposal that will be presented to the secretariat, government bodies, and NGOs during […]

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By Rabiya Jaffery
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 27 2018 (IPS)

Leaders of Amazon’s indigenous groups are calling for a new global agreement to protect and restore at least half of the world’s natural habitats.

The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (or COICA), an activist group, has prepared a proposal that will be presented to the secretariat, government bodies, and NGOs during the ongoing 14th Conference of the Parties (COP-14) UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Egypt.

COICA was founded in 1984 in Lima, Peru, and coordinates nine national Amazonian indigenous organizations in promoting and developing mechanism to defend the self-determination of Indigenous peoples and coordinate the actions of its members on an international level.

COICA’s proposal invites more input and involvement of indigenous communities in conservation efforts and policy-making that addresses biodiversity loss, as the parties negotiate on defining the terms of the post 2020 global framework on biodiversity that is to be adopted in Beijing, China in two years.

The proposal resulted from a COICA summit held last August with indigenous leaders from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, and Venezuela.

“Nearly 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is found on the lands of tribal peoples and that the majority of the most biodiverse places on Earth are tribal peoples’ territories,” said Juan Carlos Jintiach, a representative of COICA, currently in Egypt.

“Tribal people have been contributing and sustainably using the resources on their lands for thousands of years and it’s not possible to create policies that will be effective without their input.”

In the declaration, the indigenous delegations invite States and other entities to include ancestral knowledge in policies that address conservation, and is planning to start bilateral negotiations with different actors in an effort to create a fair ambitious agreement for 2020.

“COICA wants to work with other players behind a common goal to protect and restore half of the planet before 2050.

COICA is also pushing for a dialogue with the governments of the Amazon region to include the joint vision of the indigenous confederations through an “alliance and commitment to protect the region, its biodiversity, its cultures, and sacredness” to protect the rainforest and its “biological corridor”.

An agreement to protect a “biological corridor” that possesses over 135 million hectares of areas and is distributed between Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia is being promoted among the three countries.

The corridor will cover zones from the Amazon, the Andes Cordillera, and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the regions of major biodiversity in the world and indigenous groups believe that their input and perspectives are important for the effectiveness of the agreement.

“65% of the world’s lands are indigenous territories but only 10% are legalized. Guaranteeing indigenous territorial rights is an inexpensive and effective of reducing carbon emissions and increasing natural areas,” stated Tuntiak Katan, Vice President of COICA.

In 2015, former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed Brazil’s input in the ongoing talks on the Amazon-Andres-Atlantic (AAA) agreement which, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s former president, considered analyzing in a statement during the Summit of the Americas talks in Panama.

Indigenous communities are also expressing deep concerns about statements on environmental policies and indigenous issues made by Brazil’s President-Elect, Jair Bolsonaro, during his campaigns.

Bolsonaro will not assume office until January, but he has supported a weakening of protections for the Amazon. As a result, less land will controlled by indigenous and forest communities and more will be open to agribusiness, miners, loggers and construction companies.

“His views are worrying, but the new government will also face a challenge in reversing policies that are already in line because they will lose their position as an international leader on environmental issues,” says Oscar Soria, senior campaigner, of Avaaz– a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.

“We wish to remind Bolsonaro that Brazil has national and international obligations to guarantee territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and to respect their free, prior, and informed consent,” he adds.

“We hope the new government will respect international obligations and we will continue to stand by NGOs and Indigenous Peoples who are fighting to save the world – the world cannot protect biodiversity without Brazil but Brazil cannot destroy biodiversity alone.”

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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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Rainwater Harvesting Eases Daily Struggle in Argentina’s Chaco Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2018 23:22:31 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158571 “I’ve been used to hauling water since I was eight years old. Today, at 63, I still do it,” says Antolín Soraire, a tall peasant farmer with a face ravaged by the sun who lives in Los Blancos, a town of a few dozen houses and wide dirt roads in the province of Salta, in […]

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Mariano Barraza (L), a member of the Wichi indigenous people, and Enzo Romero, a technician with the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the rainwater storage tank built in the indigenous community of Lote 6 to supply the local families during the six-month dry season in this part of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina's Chaco region. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Mariano Barraza (L), a member of the Wichi indigenous people, and Enzo Romero, a technician with the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the rainwater storage tank built in the indigenous community of Lote 6 to supply the local families during the six-month dry season in this part of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina's Chaco region. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
LOS BLANCOS, Argentina, Nov 6 2018 (IPS)

“I’ve been used to hauling water since I was eight years old. Today, at 63, I still do it,” says Antolín Soraire, a tall peasant farmer with a face ravaged by the sun who lives in Los Blancos, a town of a few dozen houses and wide dirt roads in the province of Salta, in northern Argentina.

In this part of the Chaco, the tropical plain stretching over more than one million square kilometres shared with Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, living conditions are not easy."I wish the entire Chaco region could be sown with water tanks and we wouldn't have to cry about the lack of water anymore. We don't want 500-meter deep wells or other large projects. We trust local solutions." -- Enzo Romero

For about six months a year, between May and October, it does not rain. And in the southern hemisphere summer, temperatures can climb to 50 degrees Celsius.

Most of the homes in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte, where Los Blancos is located, and in neighbouring municipalities are scattered around rural areas, which are cut off and isolated when it rains. Half of the households cannot afford to meet their basic needs, according to official data, and access to water is still a privilege, especially since there are no rivers in the area.

Drilling wells has rarely provided a solution. “The groundwater is salty and naturally contains arsenic. You have to go more than 450 meters deep to get good water,” Soraire told IPS during a visit to this town of about 1,100 people.

In the last three years, an innovative self-managed system has brought hope to many families in this area, one of the poorest in Argentina: the construction of rooftops made of rainwater collector sheets, which is piped into cement tanks buried in the ground.

Each of these hermetically sealed tanks stores 16,000 litres of rainwater – what is needed by a family of five for drinking and cooking during the six-month dry season.

 

 

“When I was a kid, the train would come once a week, bringing us water. Then the train stopped coming and things got really difficult,” recalls Soraire, who is what is known here as a criollo: a descendant of the white men and women who came to the Argentine Chaco since the late 19th century in search of land to raise their animals, following the military expeditions that subjugated the indigenous people of the region.

Today, although many years have passed and the criollos and indigenous people in most cases live in the same poverty, there is still latent tension with the native people who live in isolated rural communities such as Los Blancos or in the slums ringing the larger towns and cities.

Since the early 20th century, the railway mentioned by Soraire linked the 700 kilometres separating the cities of Formosa and Embarcación, and was practically the only means of communication in this area of the Chaco, which until just 10 years ago had no paved roads.

Dorita, a local indigenous woman, stands in front of a "represa" or pond dug near her home, in Lote 6, a Wichí community a few kilometres from the town of Los Blancos, in Argentina's Chaco region. The ponds accumulate rainwater and are used to provide drinking water for both animals and local families, posing serious health risks. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Dorita, a local indigenous woman, stands in front of a “represa” or pond dug near her home, in Lote 6, a Wichí community a few kilometres from the town of Los Blancos, in Argentina’s Chaco region. The ponds accumulate rainwater and are used to provide drinking water for both animals and local families, posing serious health risks. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The trains stopped coming to this area in the 1990s, during the wave of privatisations and spending cuts imposed by neoliberal President Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

Although there have been promises to get the trains running again, in the Chaco villages of Salta today there are only a few memories of the railway: overgrown tracks and rundown brick railway stations that for years have housed homeless families.

Soraire, who raises cows, pigs and goats, is part of one of six teams – three criollo and three indigenous – that the Foundation for Development in Peace and Justice (Fundapaz) trained to build rainwater tanks in the area around Los Blancos.

“Everyone here wants their own tank,” Enzo Romero, a technician with Fundapaz, a non-governmental organisation that has been working for more than 40 years in rural development in indigenous and criollo settlements of Argentina’s Chaco region, told IPS in Los Blancos. “So we carry out surveys to see which families have the greatest needs.”

The director of Fundapaz, Gabriel Seghezzo, explains that “the beneficiary family must dig a hole 1.20 metres deep by five in diameter, in which the tank is buried. In addition, they have to provide lodging and meals to the builders during the week it takes to build it.”

“It’s very important for the family to work hard for this. In order for this to work out well, it is essential for the beneficiaries to feel they are involved,” Seghezzo told IPS in Salta, the provincial capital.

Fundapaz “imported” the rainwater tank system from Brazil, thanks to its many contacts with social organisations in that country, especially groups working for solutions to the chronic drought in the Northeast region.

Antolín Soraire, a "criollo" farmer from the Chaco region of Salta, stands in front of one of the tanks he built in Los Blancos to collect rainwater, which provides families with drinking water for their needs during the six-month dry season in northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Antolín Soraire, a “criollo” farmer from the Chaco region of Salta, stands in front of one of the tanks he built in Los Blancos to collect rainwater, which provides families with drinking water for their needs during the six-month dry season in northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Romero points out that so far some 40 rooftops and water tanks have been built – at a cost of about 1,000 dollars each – in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte, which is 12,000 square kilometres in size and has some 10,000 inhabitants. This number of tanks is, of course, a very small part of what is needed, he added.

“I wish the entire Chaco region could be sown with water tanks and we wouldn’t have to cry about the lack of water anymore. We don’t want 500-meter deep wells or other large projects. We trust local solutions,” says Romero, who studied environmental engineering at the National University of Salta and moved several years ago to Morillo, the capital of the municipality, 1,600 kilometres north of Buenos Aires.

On National Route 81, the only paved road in the area, it is advisable to travel slowly: as there are no fences, pigs, goats, chickens and other animals raised by indigenous and criollo families constantly wander across the road.

Near the road, in the mountains, live indigenous communities, such as those known as Lote 6 and Lote 8, which occupy former public land now recognised as belonging to members of the Wichí ethnic group, one of the largest native communities in Argentina, made up of around 51,000 people, according to official figures that are considered an under-registration.

In Lote 6, Dorita, a mother of seven, lives with her husband Mariano Barraza in a brick house with a tin roof, surrounded by free-ranging goats and chickens. The children and their families return seasonally from Los Blancos, where the grandchildren go to school, which like transportation is not available in the community.

Three children play under a roof next to goats in Lote 6, an indigenous community in the province of Salta in northern Argentina. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, with half of the population having unmet basic needs, and where the shortage of drinking water is the most serious problem. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Three children play under a roof next to goats in Lote 6, an indigenous community in the province of Salta in northern Argentina. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, with half of the population having unmet basic needs, and where the shortage of drinking water is the most serious problem. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

About 100 metres from the house, Dorita, who preferred not to give her last name, shows IPS a small pond with greenish water. In the region of Salta families dig these “represas” to store rainwater.

The families of Lot 6 today have a rooftop that collects rainwater and storage tank, but they used to use water from the “represas” – the same water that the animals drank, and often soiled.

“The kids get sick. But the families often consume the contaminated water from the ‘represas’ because they have no alternative,” Silvia Reynoso, a Catholic nun who works for Fundapaz in the area, told IPS.

In neighboring Lote 8, Anacleto Montes, a Wichi indigenous man who has an 80-square-metre rooftop that collects rainwater, explains: “This was a solution. Because we ask the municipality to bring us water, but there are times when the truck is not available and the water doesn’t arrive.”

What Montes doesn’t say is that water in the Chaco has also been used to buy political support in a patronage-based system.

Lalo Bertea, who heads the Tepeyac Foundation, an organisation linked to the Catholic Church that has been working in the area for 20 years, told IPS: “Usually in times of drought, the municipality distributes water. And it chooses where to bring water based on political reasons. The people in the area are so used to this that they consider it normal.”

“Water scarcity is the most serious social problem in this part of the Chaco,” says Bertea, who maintains that rainwater collection also has its limits and is experimenting with the purchase of Mexican pumps to extract groundwater when it can be found at a reasonable depth.

“The incredible thing about all this is that the Chaco is not the Sahara desert. There is water, but the big question is how to access it,” he says.

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Latin American Rural Women Call for Recognition and Policieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 13:39:07 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158128 This article forms part of IPS coverage of International Rural Women's Day, celebrated Oct. 15.

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Yolanda Flores, an Aymara indigenous woman, speaks to other women engaged in small-scale agriculture, gathered in her village square in the highlands of Peru's southern Andes. She is convinced that participating in local decision-making spaces is fundamental for rural women to stop being invisible and to gain recognition of their rights. Credit: Courtesy of Yolanda Flores

Yolanda Flores, an Aymara indigenous woman, speaks to other women engaged in small-scale agriculture, gathered in her village square in the highlands of Peru's southern Andes. She is convinced that participating in local decision-making spaces is fundamental for rural women to stop being invisible and to gain recognition of their rights. Credit: Courtesy of Yolanda Flores

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

Rural women in Latin America play a key role with respect to attaining goals such as sustainable development in the countryside, food security and the reduction of hunger in the region. But they remain invisible and vulnerable and require recognition and public policies to overcome this neglect.

There are around 65 million rural women in this region, and they are very diverse in terms of ethnic origin, the kind of land they occupy, and the activities and roles they play. What they have in common though is that governments largely ignore them, as activists pointed out ahead of the International Day of Rural Women, celebrated Oct. 15."They play key roles and produce and work much more than men. In the orchards, in the fields, during planting time, they raise the crops, take care of the farm animals, and disproportionately carry the workload of the house, the children, etc., but they don't see a cent." -- JulioBerdegué

“The state, whether local or national authorities, neglect us,” Yolanda Flores, an Aymara woman, told IPS. “They only think about planting steel and cement. They don’t understand that we live off agriculture and that we women are the most affected because we are in charge of the food and health of our families.”

Flores, who lives in Iniciati, a village of about 400 indigenous peasant families in the department of Puno in Peru’s southern Andes, located more than 3,800 metres above sea level, has always been dedicated to growing food for her family.

On the land she inherited from her parents she grows potatoes, beans and grains like quinoa and barley, which she washes, grinds in a traditional mortar and pestle, and uses to feed her family. The surplus is sold in the community.

“When we garden we talk to the plants, we hug each potato, we tell them what has happened, why they have become loose, why they have worms. And when they grow big we congratulate them, one by one, so our food has a lot of energy when we eat. But people don’t understand our way of life and they forget about small farmers,” she said.

Like Flores, millions of rural women in Latin America face a lack of recognition for their work on the land, as well as the work they do maintaining a household, caring for the family, raising children, or caring for the sick and elderly.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) urges governments in the region to assume a commitment to reverse the historical disadvantages faced by this population group which prevent their access to productive resources, the enjoyment of benefits and the achievement of economic autonomy.

“Depending on the country, between two-thirds and 85 percent of the hours worked by rural women is unpaid work,” Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS.

Women engage in subsistence agriculture at more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the highlands of the southern department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru, in the municipality of Cusipata. With the support of nongovernmental organisations, they have built greenhouses that allow them to produce a range of vegetables despite the inclement weather. Credit: Janet Nina/IPS

Women engage in subsistence agriculture at more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the highlands of the southern department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru, in the municipality of Cusipata. With the support of nongovernmental organisations, they have built greenhouses that allow them to produce a range of vegetables despite the inclement weather. Credit: Janet Nina/IPS

Berdeguè, who is also deputy director general of FAO, deplored the fact that they do not receive payment for their hard work in agriculture – a workload that is especially heavy in the case of heads of families who run their farms, and during growing season.

Public policies against discrimination

María Elena Rojas, head of the FAO office in Peru, told IPS that if rural women in Latin American countries had access to land tenure, financial services and technical assistance like men, they would increase the yield of their plots by 20 to 30 percent, and agricultural production would improve by 2.5 to 4 percent.


That increase would help reduce hunger by 12 to 15 percent. "This demonstrates the role and contribution of rural women and the need for assertive public policies to achieve it and for them to have opportunities to exercise their rights. None of them should go without schooling, healthy food and quality healthcare. These are rights, and not something impossible to achieve," she said.

“They play key roles and produce and work much more than men,” the official said from FAO’s regional headquarters in Santiago. “In the orchards, in the fields, during planting time, they raise the crops, take care of the farm animals, and disproportionately carry the workload of the house, the children, etc., but they don’t see a cent.”

“We say: we want women to stay in the countryside. But for God’s sake, why would they stay? They work for their fathers, then they work for their husbands or partners. That’s just not right, it’s not right!” exclaimed Berdegué, before stressing the need to stop justifying that rural women go unpaid, because it stands in the way of their economic autonomy.

He explained that not having their own income, or the fact that the income they generate with the fruit of their work is then managed by men, places rural women in a position of less power in their families, their communities, the market and society as a whole.

“Imagine if it was the other way around, that they would tell men: you work, but you will not receive a cent. We would have staged a revolution by now. But we’ve gotten used to the fact that for rural women that’s fine because it’s the home, it’s the family,” Berdegué said.

The FAO regional representative called on countries to become aware of this reality and to fine-tune policies to combat the discrimination.

A global workload greater than that of men, economic insecurity, reduced access to resources such as land, water, seeds, credit, training and technical assistance are some of the common problems faced by rural women in Latin America, whether they are farmers, gatherers or wage-earners, according to the Atlas of Rural Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, published in 2017 by FAO.

But even in these circumstances, they are protagonists of change, as in the growth of rural women’s trade unions in the agro-export sector.

Afro-descendant Adela Torres (white t-shirt, front), secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintraingro) in the banana region of Urabá, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, sits on the floor during a meeting of women members of the union. Credit: Courtesy of Sintrainagro

Afro-descendant Adela Torres (white t-shirt, L-C, front), secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintrainagro) in the banana region of Urabá, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, sits on the floor during a meeting of women members of the union. Credit: Courtesy of Sintrainagro

With the increased sale of non-traditional products to international markets, such as flowers, fruit and vegetables, women have swelled this sector, says another regional study, although often in precarious conditions and with standards that do not ensure decent work.

Trade unions fight exploitative conditions

But trade unions are fighting exploitative labour conditions. A black woman from Colombia, Adela Torres, is an example of this struggle.

Since childhood and following the family tradition, she worked on a banana farm in the municipality of Apartadó, in Urabá, a region that produces bananas for export in the Caribbean department of Antioquia.

Now, the 54-year-old Torres, who has two daughters and two granddaughters, is the secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintrainagro), which groups workers from 268 farms, and works for the insertion of rural women in a sector traditionally dominated by men.

“When women earn and manage their own money, they can improve their quality of life,” she told IPS in a telephone conversation from Apartadó.

Torres believes that women’s participation in banana production should be equitable and that their performance deserves equal recognition.

“We have managed to get each farm to hire at least two more women and among the achievements gained are employment contracts, equal pay, social security and incentives for education and housing for these women,” she explained.

She said rural women face many difficulties, many have not completed primary school, are mothers too early and are heads of households, have no technical training and receive no state support.

In spite of this, they work hard and manage to raise their children and get ahead while contributing to food security.

Making the leap to positions of visibility is also a challenge that Flores has assumed in the Andes highlands of Puno, to fight for their proposals and needs to be heard.

“We have to win space in decision-making and come in as authorities; that is the struggle now, to speak for ourselves. I am determined and I am encouraging other women to take this path,” Flores said.

Faced with the indifference of the authorities, more action and a stronger presence is the philosophy of Flores, as her grandmother taught her, always repeating: “Don’t be lazy and work hard.” “That is the message and I carry it in my mind, but I would like to do it with more support and more rights,” she said.

With reporting by Orlando Milesi in Santiago.

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Excerpt:

This article forms part of IPS coverage of International Rural Women's Day, celebrated Oct. 15.

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Why does the emperor have no clothes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/emperor-no-clothes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=emperor-no-clothes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/emperor-no-clothes/#respond Sat, 29 Sep 2018 15:07:42 +0000 Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157931 America has had a fairly inscrutable history. Haven to the oppressed in the European continent, its early settlers, while relishing the fruits of freedom, pretty much exterminated its indigenous inhabitants. At the same time, as a reaction to absolutist monarchies elsewhere in the world it created pluralist institutions. In this “New World” the Lord did […]

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SOURCE: TWITTER

By Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
Sep 29 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

America has had a fairly inscrutable history. Haven to the oppressed in the European continent, its early settlers, while relishing the fruits of freedom, pretty much exterminated its indigenous inhabitants. At the same time, as a reaction to absolutist monarchies elsewhere in the world it created pluralist institutions. In this “New World” the Lord did not supposedly anoint Kings investing them divine rights, but imparted them directly to the people through the Constitution. While their leaders penned and pronounced praises to liberty (in the “Federalist Papers” written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, for instance), notions of equality were not extended to their black African slaves. While they were explicit in expressions of their new world coming to the aid of the old, their entry into the Great Wars of the twentieth century was actually effected only when their interests were directly threatened. They initiated the use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction in warfare, only to champion their elimination when others, particularly not of their ilk, sought to acquire them. While their intelligence agents relentlessly worked towards regime-changes in other countries, they themselves reacted adversely when others allegedly sought to do the same in theirs. So, how was it that America, such a bundle of contradictions, able to project itself as a beacon of morality on the international scene over such a sustained period of time?

The answer perhaps lies in what Americans have always excelled in: effective marketing. About 1775-76, Thomas Paine had published the “Common Sense”. The historian Gordon Wood saw it as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”. It marshalled the arguments for the fight for liberty of the 13 American colonies against the British. The fact that the American Revolution almost coincided with the French counterpart helped. Indeed the French political scientist Viscount de Tocqueville in his two works, Democracy in America (in the 1830s) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856) extolled American values. He viewed them as a healthy relationship between the market and the State. Soon America was being projected as the “City on the Shining Hill”, with a “manifest destiny” to expand territorially and ideologically. Eventually a political culture evolved that stressed America’s “exceptionalism”.

Doubtless American support to allies helped defeat German Nazism and Japanese imperial might. The establishment of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions on American soil aided the perception of America as the leader of the “free-world”. It saw itself charged with the responsibility of “containment”, a term coined by the diplomat George Kennan, of Soviet expansionism and Communism. When Karl Marx’s theories were turned on its head and instead of “capitalism” it was “communism” that collapsed due to its inner contradictions, America emerged as the unchallenged superpower. With it came a sense of hubris. Its ultimate evidence was the 2003 invasion of Iraq under President George Bush. President Bush understandably made no claims to higher enlightenment. However, his administration was moved by some who did. They were the Neo-conservatives or the “neo-cons”, people like Paul Wolfowitz, Charles Krauthammer, and Doughlas Feith. They were disciples of Professor Leo Strauss, the German-American thinker who was deeply influenced by the Classical Greek philosopher, Plato.

Plato believed that it is only a handful of individuals, who truly understood the essence of what is great and good. He called them “Philosopher Kings”. He lauded “empiricism” over “abstraction” and “shadow-learning”. This was characterised perhaps the world’s most famous apologue in philosophy, in his “allegory of the cave”. It is not just that new ideas have ancient roots. All “true history” is really “contemporary” as Benedetto Croce observed. Alas, ancient sources are also often distorted to justify current unsavoury acts. Even if the neo-cons were pushing their interpretation of Platonism, they were in contrast to the founding fathers who derived inspiration from the study of Constitutions by Plato’s student, Aristotle. And for the record, Aristotle had famously said “Amicus Plato sedmagisamicaveritas” “dear is Plato but dearer still is the truth”!

Fast forward to the present. The supposed leadership role of America came with a heavy price. America was made to play the very role that traditionally the founding fathers had been chary of: searching for monsters to destroy abroad. While they won the Cold War because of the implosion within the adversary camp, they either drew or lost many fights like Korea or Vietnam, or became mired in an unending conflict like Afghanistan. They were the strongest power in the world. But situation that meant little because their power derived from weapons that they could never use. Sometimes unfairly to the Americans, others fuelled their ego of leadership of the free world, in the words of the current President Donald Trump, ripped them off in trade and commerce! Newer powers were emerging. Some had acquired the dreaded nuclear-weapon retaliatory capacity. China was rising. Not just militarily, but also economically. In the contemporary digital world, it was catching up with America in Artificial Intelligence. It had the capacity to feed the machine more mass-data, and algorithms to improve products and services and invent new ones. A “Thucydides Syndrome” was in the making. The sage of that name had observed that when Athens grew strong there was great fear in Sparta. History is replete with rising powers challenging established ones.

Trump is the product of exhausted America. He represents the viewpoint that the so-called leadership role with its high-price tag is not worthwhile. To him, the United States should be like any other nation that should act only in pursuance of its narrow self-interest. Recently at the United Nations, he rejected globalism and embraced patriotism. Many, like the Europeans, may think patriotism delinked from multilateralism could lead to nationalism. In Europe in the past it has in turn resulted in war. But Trump thinks differently. And right now he is the President. This thinking may be in many ways germane to contemporary American ethos. Some may argue that the idea of an intellectual restraint to the proliferation of such predilections might be in order. So has the time come for the “containment” of America by others in an ironical reversal of history? Opinion will be divided .The Emperor, in this case represented by the power of America, may not be wearing the clothes as the pretentious monarch in the fairy tale, which the clever and deceitful tailor had claimed were too fine for the human eye to see, but it is only because now he has chosen not to.

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is a former foreign adviser to a caretaker government of Bangladesh and is currently Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Indigenous Peoples Link Their Development to Clean Energieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 00:27:51 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157687 Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development. “We want to generate […]

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United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA , Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development.

“We want to generate a community economy based on sustainability,” Domingo Peas, an Achuar leader, told IPS. Peas is also an advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, which groups 28 indigenous organisations and 11 native groups from that South American country.

The first project dates back to the last decade, when the Achuar people began to install solar panels in Sharamentsa, a village of 120 people located on the banks of the Pastaza River. Currently they are operating 40 photovoltaic panels, at a cost of 300 dollars per unit, contributed by private donations and foundations."Communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people. It's about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

The villagers use electricity to light up their homes and pump water to a 6,000-litre tank.

“There is a better quality of services for families. Our goal is to create another energy model that is respectful of our people and our territories,” Peas said.

The Achuar took the next step in 2012, when they started the Kara Solar electric canoe motor project. Kara means “dream” in the Achuar language.

The first boat with solar panels on its roof, with a capacity to carry 20 people and built at a cost of 50,000 dollars, began operating in 2017 and is based in the Achuar community of Kapawi.

The second canoe, with a cost of 35,000 dollars, based in Sharamentsa – which means “the place of scarlet macaws” in Achuar – began ferrying people in July.

The investment came partly from private donations and the rest from the IDEAS prize for Energy Innovation, established by the Inter-American Development Bank, which the community received in 2015, endowed with 127,000 dollars.

The Achuar people’s solar-powered transport network connects nine of their communities along 67 km of the Pastaza river – which forms part of the border between Ecuador and Peru – and the Capahuari river. The approximately 21,000 members of the Achuar community live along the banks of these two rivers.

“It was an indigenous idea adapted to the manufacture of canoes. They use them to transport people and products, like peanuts, cinnamon, yucca and plantains (cooking bananas),” in an area where rivers are the highways connecting their settlements, said Peas.

The demand for clean energy in indigenous and local communities and success stories such as the Achuar’s were presented during the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of the U.S. state of California.

A solar panel exhibit in San Francisco, California, during the Global Climate Action Summit, which showed the expansion of solar and wind energy and micro hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to small communities. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A solar panel exhibit in San Francisco, California, during the Global Climate Action Summit, which showed the expansion of solar and wind energy and micro hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to small communities. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The event, held on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, was an early celebration of the third anniversary of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in the French capital in December 2015.

Native delegates also participated in the alternative forum “Our Village: Climate Action by the People,” on Sept. 11-14, presented by the U.S. non-governmental organisations If Not US Then Who and Hip Hop Caucus.

Right Energy Partnership

The Indigenous Peoples' Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), made up of 50 organisations from 33 countries, launched the Right Energy Partnership in July. In Latin America, organisations from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and five regional and global networks are taking part.

The consortium seeks to ensure that alternative projects are aligned with respect for and protection of human rights and provide access by at least 50 million indigenous people to renewable energy by 2030 that is developed and managed in a manner consistent with their self-determination needs and development aspirations.

This would be achieved by ensuring the protection of rights to prevent adverse impacts of renewable energy initiatives on ancestral territories, strengthen communities with sustainable development, and fortify the exchange of knowledge and collaboration between indigenous peoples and other actors.

The Alliance decided to conduct a pilot phase between 2018 and 2020 in 10 countries. The first countries included were Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua, and Australia, the United States and New Zealand could also join, as they have indigenous groups that already operate renewable ventures and have success stories.

In addition to Ecuador, innovative experiences have also emerged from indigenous communities in countries such as Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Guatemala, Malaysia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and the United States, according to the forum.

For example, in Bolivia there is an alliance between the local government of Yocalla, in the southern department of Potosí, and the non-governmental organisation Luces Nuevas aimed at providing electricity from renewable sources to poor families.

In Yocalla, a municipality of 10,000 people, mainly members of the Pukina indigenous community, “755 families live in rural areas with limited electricity; the national power grid has not yet reached those places,” project consultant Yara Montenegro told IPS.

Thanks to the programme, which began in March, 30 poor families have received solar panels connected to lithium batteries, produced at the La Palca pilot plant in Potosí, which store the fluid.

Each system costs 400 dollars, of which the families contribute half and the organisation and the government the other half. The families can connect two lamps, charge a cell phone and listen to the radio, replacing the use of firewood, candles and conventional batteries.

The development of clean sources plays a decisive role in achieving one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Goal seven aims to establish “affordable and non-polluting energy” – a goal that also has an impact on the achievement of at least another 11 SDGs, which the international community set for itself in 2015 for the next 15 years, within the framework of the United Nations.

In addition, the success of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), the programme to be implemented during the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024, which aims to guarantee universal access to modern energy services, and to double the global rate of energy efficiency upgrades and the share of renewables in the global energy mix, depends on that progress.

But most of the groups promoting an energy transition do not include native people, points out the May report “Renewable Energy and Indigenous Peoples. Background Paper to the Right Energy Partnership,” prepared by the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG).

That group launched a Right Energy Partnership in July, which seeks to fill that gap.

For Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Kankanaey Igorot people, who is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, energy represents “a problem and a solution” for indigenous people, she told IPS at the alternative forum in San Francisco.

“The leaders have fought against hydroelectric dams and I have also seen projects in the hands of indigenous peoples,” she said.

Because of this, “the communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people,” she said.

“It’s about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes,” she summed up.

Examples of projects that can be replicated and expanded, as called for by the U.N special rapporteur, are provided by communities such as Sharamentsa in Ecuador and Yocalla in Bolivia.

Sharamentsa operates a 12 kW battery bank that can create a microgrid. “A power supply centre is planned that allows the generation of value-added products, such as plant processing,” Peas said.

In Yocalla, the plan is to equip some 169 families with systems in December and then try to extend it to all of Potosí. But Montenegro pointed out that alliances are needed so that the beneficiaries can pay less. “In 2019 we will analyse the impact, if the families are satisfied with it, if they are comfortable,” she said.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance.

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Preservation of the Klamath River – a Life or Death Matter for the Yurok Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 16:48:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157602 Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California. The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the […]

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Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
KLAMATH, California, USA , Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California.

The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the Yurok, the largest group of Native Americans in the state of California, who live in the Klamath River basin.

“The river level is dropping at a time when it shouldn’t. The water warms up in summer and causes diseases in the fish. This changes the rhythm of the community and has social effects,” lawyer Amy Cordalis, a member of the tribe, told IPS during a tour of the watershed.

Cordalis stressed that the community of Klamath, in Del Norte county in northwest California, depends on fishing, which is a fundamental part of their traditions, culture and diet.

The Yurok, a tribe which currently has about 6,000 members, use the river for subsistence, economic, legal, political, religious and commercial purposes.

This tribe, one of more than 560 surviving tribes in the United States, owns and manages 48,526 hectares of land, of which its reserve, established in 1855, covers less than half: 22,743 hectares.

Conserving the forest is vital to the regulation of the temperature and water cycle of the river and to moisture along the Pacific coast.

The Yurok – which means “downriver people” – recall with terror the year 2002, when the water level dropped and at least 50,000 salmon ended up dead from disease, the highest fish mortality in the United States.

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically linked. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically connected. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

And in 2015 no snow fell, which affects the flow of water that feeds the river and is fundamental for the fishery because in March of each year the salmon fry come down from the mountain, Cordalis said. This species needs cold water to breed.

The federal government granted the Yurok a fishing quota of 14,500 salmon for 2018, which is low and excludes commercial catch, but is much higher than the quota granted in 2017 – only 650 – due to the crisis of the river flow that significantly reduced the number of salmon.

The migration of fish downriver has also decreased in recent years due to sedimentation of the basins caused by large-scale timber extraction, road construction, loss of lake wood and loss of diversity in the habitat and fishery production potential.

As a result, the number of chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) and Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) have dropped in the Klamath River, while Coho or silver salmon (O. kisutch) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A reflection of this crisis, in Cordalis’ words, is the ban on commercial fishing for the third consecutive year, with only subsistence fishing allowed.

Faced with this, the Yurok have undertaken efforts for the conservation of the ecosystem and the recovery of damaged areas to encourage the arrival of the salmon.

In 2006, they began placing wood structures in the Terwer Creek watershed as dikes to channel water flow and control sediment.

“We had to convince the lumber company that owned the land, as well as the state and federal authorities. But when they saw that it worked, they didn’t raise any objections. What we are doing is geomorphology, we are planting gardens,” Rocco Fiori, the engineering geologist who is in charge of the restoration, from Fiori Geo Sciences, a consulting firm specialising in this type of work, told IPS.

Tree trunks are placed in the river bed, giving rise to the growth of new trees. They last about 15 years, as they are broken down and begin to rot as a result of contact with the moisture and wind.

But they generate more trees, giving rise to a small ecosystem. They also facilitate the emergence of vegetation on the river ford, explained Fiori, whose consulting firm is working with the Yurok on the restoration.

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Starting in the fall, this strip is flooded every year, which favours the abundance of organic matter for the salmon to feed on, allowing them to grow and thrive in the new habitat.

In addition, four of the six dams along the Klamath River and its six tributaries, built after 1918 to generate electricity, will be dismantled.

The objective is to restore land that was flooded by the dams and to apply measures to mitigate any damage caused by the demolition of the dams, as required by law.

The Copco 1 and 2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle dams will be demolished in January 2021, at a cost of 397 million dollars. The owner of the dams, the PacifiCorp company, will cover at least 200 million of that cost, and the rest will come from the state government.

“The removal of the dams is vital. It’s a key solution for the survival of salmon,” biologist Michael Belchik, of the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department, who has worked with the tribe for 23 years, told IPS.

The four reservoirs hold between five million and 20 million cubic metres of sediment, and their removal will provide 600 km of suitable habitat for salmon.

It is estimated that salmon production will increase by 80 percent, with benefits for business, recreational fishing and food security for the Yurok. In addition, the dismantling of dams will mitigate the toxic blue-green algae that proliferate in the reservoirs.

Water conservation projects exemplify the mixture of ancestral knowledge and modern science.

For Cordalis, salmon is irreplaceable. “Our job is not to let (a tragedy) happen again. The tribe does what it can to defend itself from problems and draw attention to the issue. We continue to fight for water and the right decisions. Our goal is to restore the river and get the fish to come back,” the lawyer said.

The Yurok shared their achievements and the challenges they face with indigenous delegates from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mexico and Panama in the run-up to the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of California to celebrate in advance the third anniversary of the Paris Agreement, reached in Paris in 2015. The meeting will take place on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, CA.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance .

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Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:57:59 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157456 This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Excerpt:

This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Land, Water and Education, Priorities for Chile’s Mapuche Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:16:26 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157417 The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We, the entire Cheuquepán Colipe family, are originally from communities in Lautaro (649 km south of Santiago). We’re here today because our […]

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Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2018 07:43:06 +0000 Jamison Ervin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157153 Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Photo - UNDP/ PNG-Bougainville People celebration

By Jamison Ervin
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than five percent of the world’s population, have the world’s smallest carbon footprint, and are the least responsible for our climate crisis. Yet because their livelihoods and wellbeing are intimately bound with intact ecosystems, indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, residents of the Carteret Islands – one of the most densely populated islands in the country – have felt the effects of climate change intensify over recent years. With a high point on their islands of just 1.2 meters above sea level, every community member is now at risk from sea level rise and storm surges.

Moreover, the community depends almost entirely on fishing for their food and livelihoods, but the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs has gradually deteriorated from warming waters and coral bleaching.

The residents of these islands faced a stark choice – to be passive victims of an uncertain government resettlement program, or to take matters into their own hands. They chose the latter. In 2005, elders formed a community-led non-profit, called Tulele Peisa, to chart their own climate course. In the Halia language, the name means “Sailing the Waves on our Own,” an apt metaphor for how the community is navigating rising sea levels.

In 2014, the initiative won the prestigious, UNDP-led Equator Prize, in recognition for their ingenuity, foresight and proactive approach in facing the challenges of climate change, while keeping their cultural traditions intact.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs published an article entitled “We Are All Climate Refugees Now,” in which he attributed the main cause of climate inaction to the willful ignorance of political institutions and corporations toward the grave dangers of climate change, imperiling future life on Earth. 2018 will likely be recorded as among the hottest year humanity has ever recorded.

Yet a slew of recent articles highlight that we are not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have not shown the collective leadership required to tackle this existential crisis.

Carteret Islanders have been broadly recognized as the world’s first climate refugees, but they are not alone. Arctic indigenous communities are already facing the same plight, as are their regional neighbors from the island nation of Kiribati.

According to the World Bank, their plight will likely be replicated around the world, with as many as 140 million people worldwide being displaced by climate change within the next 30 years or so.

But the Carteret Island leaders are more than just climate refugees. They have done something precious few political leaders have done to date – they recognized the warning signs of climate change as real and inevitable, they took stock of their options, and they charted a proactive, realistic course for their own future that promised the most good for the most people. Therefore, they could also be called the world’s first true climate leaders.

Let’s hope that our world’s politicians and CEOs have the wisdom, foresight and fortitude of the elders of Carteret Islanders. Because like it or not, we will all be sailing the climate waves on our own, with or without a rudder and a plan.

The post Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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States Must Act Now to Protect Indigenous Peoples During Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 19:13:13 +0000 UN experts on Indigenous Peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157142 States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from […]

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Indigenous men and women of Nuñoa in Puno, Peru, spin and weave garments based on the fiber of the alpacas. Credit: SGP-GEF-UNDP Peru/Enrique Castro-Mendívil

By UN experts* on Indigenous Peoples
GENEVA/NEW YORK, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands:

“In many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation. Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations.

We wish to remind States that all indigenous peoples, whether they migrate or remain, have rights under international instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While States have the sovereign prerogative to manage their borders, they must also recognise international human rights standards and ensure that migrants are not subjected to violence, discrimination, or other treatment that would violate their rights. In addition, states must recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; to a nationality, as well as rights of family, education, health, culture and language.

The Declaration specifically provides that States must ensure indigenous peoples’ rights across international borders that may currently divide their traditional territories.

Within countries, government and industry initiatives, including national development, infrastructure, agro-business, natural resource extraction and climate change mitigation, or other matters that affect indigenous peoples, must be undertaken with the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, such that they are not made to relocate against their will. States must recognise that relocation of indigenous peoples similarly triggers requirements including free, prior and informed consent, as well as restitution and compensation under the Declaration.

We are concerned about human rights violations in the detention, prosecution and deportation practices of States. There is also a dearth of appropriate data on indigenous peoples who are migrants. As a result of this invisibility, those detained at international borders are often denied access to due process, including interpretation and other services that are essential for fair representation in legal processes.

We call on States immediately to reunite children, parents and caregivers who may have been separated in border detentions or deportations.

In addition, States must ensure that indigenous peoples migrating from their territories, including from rural to urban areas within their countries, are guaranteed rights to their identity and adequate living standards, as well as necessary and culturally appropriate social services.

States must also ensure that differences among provincial or municipal jurisdictions do not create conditions of inequality, deprivation and discrimination among indigenous peoples.

We express particular concern about indigenous women and children who are exposed to human and drug trafficking, and sexual violence, and indigenous persons with disabilities who are denied accessibility services.

We look forward to engagement in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration regarding indigenous peoples’ issues.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we urge States, UN agencies, and others, in the strongest terms possible, to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights under the Declaration and other instruments, and to recognise these rights especially in the context of migration, including displacement and other trans-border issues.”

(*) The experts: The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council. Its mandate is to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to assist Member States in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is composed of seven independent experts serving in their personal capacities and is currently chaired by Ms Erika Yamada.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The Forum is made up of 16 members serving in their personal capacity as independent experts on indigenous issues. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and eight by the President of ECOSOC, on the basis of broad consultation with indigenous groups. It is currently Chaired by Ms Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine. 

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples was established by the General Assembly in 1985. The Fund provides support for indigenous peoples’ representatives to participate in sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, and UN human rights treaty bodies. Its Board of Trustees is currently Chaired by Mr. Binota Dhamai.

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