Inter Press Service » Africa Climate Wire News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:45:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Paris Delivers Historic Climate Treaty, but Leaves Gender Untouched Sun, 13 Dec 2015 10:34:00 +0000 Stella Paul UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figures with the COP21 President Celebrate the Adoption of Paris Agreement. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figures with the COP21 President Celebrate the Adoption of Paris Agreement. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
PARIS, Dec 13 2015 (IPS)

After 2 weeks of intense negotiations, on Saturday evening, the 21st UN climate conference (COP21) in Paris finally delivered a historic agreement that, for the first time, promises to keep the global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. The treaty, consisting 31 pages and signed by by 196 countries, include the big five steps of climate action:

Climate Change Mitigation (Article 2 and 4): The agreement includes a series of goals to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius to accompany the current hard limit of 2 degrees. Following this treaty, countries will pursue the mitigation plans laid out in their domestic climate commitments, which will go into effect in 2020.

Long-Term Goal (Article 4): The overall aim specified in the agreement is to peak global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and undertake rapid reductions so as to achieve a balance between emissions by anthropogenic sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century.

The specificity of this long term goal is such that, when coupled with the goal of limiting warming to 2 Celsius countries would be de facto required to completely decarbonize the global electric sector by 2050, according to the IPCC.

Adaptation (Article 7): Developed countries will provide financial and technological support to help developing countries adapt to impacts of climate change, building resilience and preventing further damage (also in COP Decision Section III, Paragraphs 42-47).

Loss and Damage (Article 8): The Paris Agreement includes a section directing countries to create a special process to address the losses and damage that stems from unavoidable climate impacts which overwhelm the limits of adaptation (e.g. sea level rise), as well as follow the procedures laid out in the Warsaw Mechanism. The COP Decision explicitly excludes liability or compensation for losses and damages (COP Decision Section III, Paragraph 52)

Finance (Article 9): The COP Decision text reiterates a global finance pledge with a floor of 100 billion dollars per year in climate financing from developed countries by 2020 (Section III, Paragraph 54), and expands the donor pool post-2020 to encourage other countries to voluntarily provide additional financial support (Article 9.2). Countries have agree to set a new global, collective climate finance goal for 2025 that increases upon the 100 billion dollar target for 2020 (COP Decision Section III, Paragraph 54.

Scientists at the COP approved the agreement. Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre called the agreement a “turning point” that would ensure a “1.5-2 Celsius safe operating space on Earth”.

“To have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees, we need to aim for 1.5 degrees anyway, and it is sensible to acknowledge that 2 degrees itself is hardly safe. So, all told, a great outcome,” said Miles Allen, scientist from the Oxford University.

Women’s leaders recognized the progress but said that there were still miles to go to make the fight against climate change truly gender inclusive.

Titi Gbemisola Akosa, Executive Director of the Centre for 21st Century Issues in Lagos, Nigeria said that under the agreement developed and industrialized countries are not held liable for global warming and will not pay any compensation to those who are the victims of climate change. This will drive women, especially those from the climate vulnerable regions of Africa into deeper poverty.” The provision of liability and compensation could have helped women mitigate some of the climate change affects, but now their future become more uncertain,” said Akosa.

Both Akosa and Cherry however agreed that the agreement gave a foothold for women leaders to demand greater equality. “It’s a work in progress. In next COP, we will have to keep pushing for greater inclusion of women in all process – in negotiation, and in the climate agreement text,” said Cherry.

Gender was earlier mentioned only in the preamble. This time, they have mentioned in the main text of the draft – in the Adaptation (of climate change) and in the “capacity building” sections. This is good. But we still need inclusion of gender in several key areas, especially in finance, said Flavia Cherry of St. Lucia who represents 17 Caribbean nations for CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action).

But for Indigenous groups, the agreement has been more of a disappointment than a hope.

“The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatise, commodity and sell forested lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+ projects. These offset schemes provide a financial laundering mechanism for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution on the backs of the global south,” Said Alberto Saldamando, Human Rights expert from Alaska.

The next climate conference will be held in Morocco in 2016.


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Paris Delivers the Promised Climate Deal to Resounding Cheer and Applause Sun, 13 Dec 2015 10:20:00 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz 1 Climate Change and Women Across Three Continents Sat, 12 Dec 2015 09:05:02 +0000 Dizzanne Billy, Domoina Ratovozanany, and Sohara Mehroze By Dizzanne Billy, Domoina Ratovozanany, and Sohara Mehroze Shachi
PARIS, Dec 12 2015 (IPS)

The link between women in climate change is a cross-cutting issue that deserves greater recognition at climate negotiations. It is pervasive, touching everything; from health and agriculture to sanitation and education.

Women from developing countries witness the nexus between climate change and gender issues on a first-hand basis. They are oftentimes highly dependent on the land and water resources for survival and are left in insecure positions. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but links to social justice, equity, and human rights, all of which have gender elements.

A female perspective is critical to the success of the 2015 Climate Conference (COP21), which strives to find a global agreement to tackle climate change. In order for it to be effective, it must integrate gender equality, particularly women’s empowerment and gender responsiveness to the vulnerability of rural women.

During the back-and-forth iterations of the climate agreement’s draft, of which several versions were published in the last two weeks, gender was treated as an accessory element that could be removed and bargained with, and all but a handful of parties ignored it. They are wrong.

Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa are three of the most climate vulnerable continents in the world and although they contribute the least to climate change, the women in their countries endure the brunt of its severe impact.

Millions of people in Asia are extremely vulnerable to climate change, especially women because of their traditional, gender-prescribed roles. In many rural areas the mobility of women is very limited, as women working outdoors is often frowned upon due to conservative social perceptions. So while men from climate change-affected areas often migrate to cities and less climate vulnerable regions in search of work, women are left to take care of the homes and children. This confinement to houses translates to economic dependence and lack of access to information such as early warning, which contributes to increasing women’s vulnerability.

Women in Asia usually have more climate sensitive tasks, such as fetching water and preparing food, which increases their vulnerability in the context of climate change. The UN Development Program (UNDP) field research has shown that fetching water involves women and girls commuting over long distances. With the increasing frequency and intensity of floods, women regularly have to navigate through waterlogged areas for fetching water and cooking, which exposes them to the risks of drowning, snakebites, and skin diseases.

Halfway around the globe, women face similar climate-related issues. Caribbean households are largely matriarchal and women find themselves at the frontline of the need for climate adaptation and mitigation.

Women have the prime responsibility of taking care of everyone in the home and are affected by food security and water scarcity. Rural women are particularly vulnerable, especially smallholder producers, marginalised farmers, and agricultural workers living in rural areas.

Whether the food or water shortages are due to the increased amount and intensity of hurricanes or drought, their chances of living decent lives are not high and aren’t getting better. Understanding this point of view is important for successful formulation and execution of climate adaptation strategies.

According to Mildred Crawford, President of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers,” Agriculture needs more visibility in the negotiations. Women are actors in the food chain and need finance to assist small farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Women groups are already organised; so incentives can be given to them to control carbon from waste in their community.”

The Caribbean is in its worst drought in the past five years. According to Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland, and also former head of t UN’s High Commission on Human Rights, the climate draft needs to have a sharper gender focus in order to ensure that women have greater access to climate finance, renewable technologies and adaptation capacity. Indeed, climate campaigning should not be narrowed to emissions reductions, carbon trading and transfer of technology, but it should strive to go beyond.

Along with these, it should take note of the fact that most farmers in developing countries are women and therefore adaptation applies strongly to them. Gender applies across the board, it is not something to be used conveniently.
Women from developing countries need to be empowered to play major roles in the climate change fight as they stand to lose so much.

Kalyani Raj, member in charge of All India Women’s Conference, argues that it is crucial to give vulnerable women a voice and include them in policy planning.

“A lot of women have developed micro-level adaptation approaches, indigenous solutions and traditional knowledge that are not being replicated at the macro level,” she said. “So policies should be focused on upscaling these instead of proposing one-size-fits-all measures for climate change adaptation.”

In Africa, the climate change impact on gender issues is mainly linked to agriculture, food security and natural disasters. According to the 2011 Economic Brief of the African Development Bank (AFDB), out of Africa’s 53 countries, women represent 40 percent or more of the agricultural workforce in 46 of them. This sector is characterised as vulnerable because generally it does not comprise formal sector jobs with contracts and income security.

“The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women,” pointed out UNFPA in the 2009 State of World Population report. Furthermore, in a sample of 141 countries over the period 1981–2002, it was found that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters are directly linked to women’s economic and social rights. In inequitable societies, more women than men die from disaster.

As young women from these three vulnerable continents, we are calling for proper representation of women in the climate agreement. The cry of the rural woman is a reality that we must all face. However, we must recognise that women are not just victims, we are powerful agents for change. Therefore, women need to be included in the decision-making processes and allowed to contribute their unique expertise and knowledge to adapt to climate change, because any climate change intervention that excludes women’s perspective and any policy that is gender blind, is destined to fail.


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Tackling Climate Change in Africa: Europe’s Solution to the Migrant Crisis? Fri, 11 Dec 2015 12:00:04 +0000 Friday Phiri By Friday Phiri
PARIS, France, Dec 11 2015 (IPS)

As thousands of Africans arrive in Europe every month, often risking their lives aboard shaky boats to get to a better life, lack of access to energy could be one of the reasons for their exodus.

Africa’s poverty challenges are well documented. In recent years there has been much discourse around how climate change worsens these challenges and could reverse the continent’s economic fortunes.

Lack of access to energy, for example has been mentioned here at COP 21 as one of the reasons why Africa’s young people leave the continent in search of opportunities, mostly in Europe.

While the International Organisation for Migration outlines that the linkages between human mobility and climate impacts are highly complex, it is critical to point out that, in most situations, people choose or are forced to migrate due to a number of factors and climate change could be the primary one or the key to many secondary factors.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank agrees with this reasoning by highlighting lack of electricity in Africa as a reason for young Africans’ mass movement to Europe.

“Droughts all across Africa, the Sahel is burning, Lake Chad is dried-up, livelihoods are devastated, young people across Africa are jumping on boats, jumping to go to Europe because there are no economic opportunities,” Dr. Adesina told IPS at the COP 21 talks in Paris, France.

He says Africa’s lack of access to electricity is stopping the continent’s industrialization, costing Africa up to 4 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Africa has no electricity. And therefore, industrialization is not happening, the small and medium enterprises are not functioning at their full capacity. As a result, Africa today loses 3 to 4 per cent of its GDP for lack of electricity,” he said.

Linking his argument to migration, the AfDB President believes lighting-up Africa could transform the continent’s economic fortunes thereby according young people massive opportunities within their own countries.

“It’s also linked to migration by the way…if you turned off this light and it is dark, and you go to an area where there is light, even insects move from where there is dark to where there is light.

“So by lighting up and powering Africa, our young people will be staying on the continent because they can use electricity to do many things. Nobody works in the dark and succeeds, you walk in the dark you always stumble, you fall, that’s why we must light up and power Africa,” he said of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative which was launched at the COP 21 talks, targeting 10 gigawatts in the next five years and 300 gigawatts by 2030.

This massive initiative dubbed Africa’s commitment to an ambitious outcome of the COP 21 climate deal will require billions of dollars to materialize.

Juxtaposing Europe’s migrant crisis that is set to cost as much as 5 billion dollars, and the cost of climate financing for Africa, there could be an opportunity for longer term investment in Europe addressing the migrant problem at its source.

Niclas Hällström, Director of What Next, a Swedish think-tank, says the renewable energy initiative provides an opportunity for Europe to make serious investments in its own interest.

“It is a moral imperative for developed countries to support Africa’s climate adaptation, but it is also in their interest.

“Take the newly launched Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. This bold effort by African countries is set to reach universal access for all Africans by latest 2030…It requires billions of dollars in climate finance, but will create jobs and enhanced well-being for people across the whole continent. Apart from the need to handle the refugee situations acutely, this is the best longer-term action one can think of,” said Hällström.

Climate finance has remained a sticking point in the climate negotiations for years. With few days to go before the end of COP 21, the trend has not changed much.

Dan Bodansky, Foundation Professor of Law and Faculty, Co-Director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, shares insights on day 8 of the negotiations.

“Of the ‘crunch issues,’ finance is the most difficult…unlike the other issues, it may not be possible to paper over through artful wording, although the use of terms like “should” and “strive” may provide a middle ground,” he said, pointing out that the negotiating text that emerged from the ADP over the weekend still has many other brackets and options.

As negotiations enter the final frenzy hours with the text expected on Day 9, the African Group of Negotiators and other key stakeholders’ anxiety is reaching tipping points.

“The present reality at the conference confirms that countries have spent the first week restating their old positions leaving most of the key debates unresolved,” said Sam Ogallah of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), calling on Ministers to urgently inject energy into the process for a fair deal that would reflect the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility-CBDR and addresses the issues of loss and damage, finance for adaptation and mitigation and keeping the global warming well below 1.5 Celsius.

In adding impetus to the climate change and migration nexus, a report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the COP 21 Talks, accuses world’s top media of failing to identify climate change as a contributor to some of the world’s biggest crises, including migration, food insecurity and conflict.

IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze, said “If the world becomes aware of how climate change threatens our food security or why it is a catalyst for migration and conflict, then we can expect better support for policies and investments that can pre-empt future crises.”

Will developed countries at COP 21 recognise this argument? The world will know in a matter of hours.


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Farmers to COP 21: Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You! Thu, 10 Dec 2015 10:46:33 +0000 A. D. McKenzie 0 Cities Emerge as Urgent Climate Solution at COP21 Thu, 10 Dec 2015 08:07:17 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz At COP21 entrance are situated the ‘Wind Trees.’ Each “aeroleaf” generates energy by harnessing the power of the wind. Credit:

At COP21 entrance are situated the ‘Wind Trees.’ Each “aeroleaf” generates energy by harnessing the power of the wind. Credit:

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
PARIS, France, Dec 10 2015 (IPS)

As the climate conference advances into its final stages amid the colossal challenge of having 195 countries agree on a single and unified global policy on climate change, urban areas appear a a different issue but complementary solution for all.

Cities are undeniably one of the key players in the global warming arena, being the leading source of greenhouse gases, of population settlements and of energy consumption, grouping three highly interconnected driving factors of global warming. As humanity walks deeper into the 21st century their relevance will only grow.

Cities and municipal level government offices have proven to move faster than the international country-driven negotiations in addressing climate change, as international alliances both inside and outside the UN umbrella show.

However, they don’t live in another world and their solution portfolio is intertwined with the fate of the 2015 UN Climate Conference (COP21).

“The way decisions will be made as part of the agreement, including the funding and the agenda of solutions, all these decisions will be implemented at that sub national level so they are key to success,” said French French Minister of Ecology, Energy and Sustainable Development Ségolène Royal.

The minister spoke during the presentation at COP21 of a five-year plan to raise action from cities and regions spanning across five continents representing almost one-fifth of the world’s population.

The plan was launched under the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) platform, a mechanism created during last year’s climate conference as a way to include so-called non state actors into the search for the climate solution.

Its urban workstream currently includes over 2200 settlements around the world, from Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator to globalization strongholds like New York and London and adds to previous efforts like C40.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) says urban areas are responsible for up to 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and by mid century, they are estimated to hold about seven of every 10 human beings.

Tokyo, for instance, emits as much as 62 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year, which accounts to the equivalent of the 37 countries least polluting countries in Africa.

Their transition to a greener economy is also an economic necessity. If the world keeps a business-as-usual high-carbon economy, about 90 trillion dollars, or an average of six trillion a year, will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems over the next 15 years, according to the New Climate Economy report “Better Growth, Better Climate”.

But the report adds that only around 270 billion dollars a year would be needed to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy, through clean energy, more compact cities, better public transport systems and smarter land use.

These and other low-carbon local decisions are going to be taken by country delegates at the climate conference, but the actual heavy lifting will come from sub national efforts.

“COP21 is the first time that cities will have their voices fully recognized at a global UN conference on climate change and the first time mayors are gathering in great numbers to demand bold action,” said UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Michael Bloomberg during the Cities for Change, a parallel event in Paris.

The conference comes at a crucial moment. Earlier this year, Paris suffered from haze masking city’s landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and this week Beijing raised a “red alert” warning over smog and the city has gone on a shutdown to protect its people, so mayors and city planners are moving fast.

The city of Ghent in Belgium has implemented projects that address climate change. Speaking at a side event in COP21 called “Global Covenant of Mayors: Towards Carbon Neutral and Inclusive Cities,” the city’s mayor Tine Heyset emphasized climate policies at the local level.

“Climate policy should contribute to reduce emissions. It can contribute to a livable city, reduction of poverty, and better housing. Local authorities can demonstrate that local climate policy is not only good for climate but also good for citizens,” she said.

And it’s not just developed cities that are making bold steps of climate action. Mayor Josefa Errazuris of Chile’s Providencia also shared about their city-wide projects such as changing street lights to LED and having a target of 50 per cent carbon reduction of GHG based on 2014 levels.

“In order to protect our commune and the sustainability of our territory, we have efforts to include climate change as part of policies,” she said.

But urban areas also have to carry a heavy burden. During her intervention, minister Royal highlighted the double nature of the cities as “both places with highest greenhouse gases but also where you need concrete and urgent action” to address the negative impacts of climate change.

A 2013 paper published in Nature showed that without major new defences or emissions cuts, the global costs of flooding in cities could rise to one trillion dollars a year in 2050 and the negative effects span to all corners of the world.

As poverty hotspots around the world, cities lack the necessary resilience to withstand climate change and its impacts, which usually harder on the most vulnerable among communities and settlements.

The 2014 World Urbanization Prospects revealed that 828 million people are currently living in slums, as satellites or metropolis in all continents, a number enlarged by 6 million on a yearly basis.

But it’s not only the world’s most vulnerable. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that if global warming continues as it is now, half the homes in 21 cities in the United States will be underwater by 2100.

COP21 is scheduled to deliver a final text by Thursday noon, Paris time, in which all 195 countries that signed to the UN Climate Convention agree on a global plan to combat climate change.


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Women Leaders agree COP21 Must Have “Gender-Responsive” Deal. Tue, 08 Dec 2015 13:04:35 +0000 Stella Paul "Women Leaders at COP 21 in Paris Raise the Banner for Gender Awareness in Any Climate Deal." Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Solar Power Fuels Hope on Neglected Lagos island Tue, 08 Dec 2015 06:02:52 +0000 Augustina Armstrong By Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna
LAGOS, NIGERIA, Dec 8 2015 (IPS)

For the first time in his 30 years on Sagbo Kodji Island, near Lagos, Friday Onos has electricity at home, thanks to a solar power project that could transform the lives of the island’s 80,000 inhabitants.

Women on their way to the city to sell the fisheries they cooked with their new solar-powered ovens. Credits: Augustina Armstrong Ogbonna

Women on their way to the city to sell the fisheries they cooked with their new solar-powered ovens. Credits: Augustina Armstrong Ogbonna

“The lack of power supply to this island kept extinguishing my dreams of creating alternative job opportunities for the youths here,” said Onos, 35.

Most islanders fish for a living, and in the absence of electricity, they smoke the fish and try to sell it quickly – often at a low price. But with enough solar power, they could refrigerate their catch.

Onos’s home is one of the few lucky ones on this neglected island to be equipped with solar power. So far only five out of nearly 7,000 houses in his neighbourhood have benefited.

When the solar project was first mooted, many residents did not believe it would work, following a failed government effort to install solar street lights. After a few months, the light bulbs stopped working, leaving many locals sceptical about the idea.

Onos, however, volunteered to participate in the new project and is now thinking of setting up a cold-room business, offering fresh fish storage.

For now, children find his solar electricity a novelty. “At night, (they) gather around my house and dance for joy, playing until they get tired,” he said. “They had never seen a 24-hour power supply before.”

Sagbo Kodji Island is one of 34 riverine communities in the Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos in southwest Nigeria. The island, which has been settled for around a century, is bound by Apapa seaport to the south, but has yet to get an electricity supply.

According to local leader Solomon Suenu, the island community was founded by a fisherman from the ancient town of Badagry, who used to rest there during fishing expeditions.

He then brought his family to settle on the island, and was later joined by other traders and people from Lagos.The fish caught by the islanders is smoked using wood stoves and sold in Lagos. Many Lagos residents are unaware of the islanders who crowd daily onto boats to tout their wares in the city centre, at markets and on street corners.

There is often a dense cloud hanging over Sagbo Kodji Island, due to the wood smoke from homes where women preserve fish or cook for the family.

Until recently, many children on the island believed light came only from small petrol-powered generators, unaffordable to most, or the floodlights of cargo ships sailing by to Apapa wharf.

But several months ago, a handful of homes on the island were equipped with solar power under a pilot project led by Arnergy, a renewable energy technology company founded in 2013 by a young entrepreneur in Lagos.

Its CEO Femi Adeyemo was shocked to learn that a community had existed for a century without electricity. After visiting the island and meeting community leaders, he decided to change that.

The system enables users to pay N100 ($0.50), N200, N300 and N500 per day for a 24-hour electricity supply, with power from the solar panels stored in batteries.

Before the company installs solar panels in a home, it takes an inventory of the gadgets and appliances its residents will use, ensuring the right panel is supplied.

“Sometimes people can be tricky,” Adeyemo said. “After listing the appliances that will be used and installation is finished, they later include others that are not listed.”

The company has technology that detects overloading via a wireless network and switches off power remotely from its office once a customer has used up their pre-paid units.

Arnergy has secured funding from investors including Nigeria’s Bank of Industry, which has put up $600,000 to deploy the company’s system to 3,000 households in three states.

But powering the whole of Sagbo Kodji Island would be expensive, at a cost of around $1.2 million per 1,000 households, as the solar panels must be imported, Adeyemo said.

The company has sought backing from U.N. agencies and other international donors.

“Up to now, most promises are yet to be fulfilled,” said Adeyemo. “Many investors find it hard to believe that a community can exist inside Lagos – known as a megacity – without ever having been connected to a source of power.”

But with more financial support, the social and economic life of the island’s residents could develop much faster, he added.

Businesses would come alive, children could study at any time of the day, and women would no longer inhale smoke that has damaged their health.

“This solar power project will change the air they breathe,” said Adeyemo.

According to a 2007 World Health Organisation report, indoor air pollution from solid fuel use kills around 80,000 people in Nigeria each year. Over 60 percent of the oil-rich country’s population is not connected to the national grid.

But a N9.2 billion federal government programme to supply clean energy cook stoves to women in rural communities has run into troubled waters.

Hamzat Lawal, director of non-profit group Connected Development (CODE), said women in communities like Sagbo Kodji would benefit from the initiative. But no concrete plan has yet been put in place to produce or procure the stoves, he noted.

Government officials are not answering questions about the future of the project, which is shrouded in secrecy, he said.

The original plan was that the new cookstoves would be fuelled by wood from fallen trees, which would be replaced by LPG once the infrastructure was ready to refill and maintain the cylinders, providing local jobs too.

“We know there are real women in poor communities like Sagbo Kodji who need this source of energy,” said Lawal.

Without an alternative fuel supply, they will cut down trees for firewood, he said. “We lose our forest, the Sahara desert encroaches, and our women continue to inhale smoke.”

Many residents in Sagbo Kodji are hopeful their homes will be fitted with solar panels in the next phase of Arnergy’s project – but that will depend on whether the company gets financial support to expand its activities on the island.

“I will be happy to witness light in every home on this island,” said Madam Felicia Akodji, a 68-year-old woman community leader. “Or are we not part of the Lagos megacity?”

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Megan Rowling from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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Draft in Hand, Ministers in Paris Enter Last Week of Climate Talks Mon, 07 Dec 2015 17:56:52 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz The 2015 Climate Conference is hosted by France, who also serves as its President. The French has been eager to conclude the talks with an agreement, thus pushing countries to a fast-paced first week. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

The 2015 Climate Conference is hosted by France, who also serves as its President. The French has been eager to conclude the talks with an agreement, thus pushing countries to a fast-paced first week. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
PARIS, France, Dec 7 2015 (IPS)

Whatever effort there was made during the past four years to create a global legal architecture to combat climate change, its legacy will be defined in the forthcoming days.

Negotiators from 195 countries walked into the second and final week of the climate negotiations here in Paris on Monday after producing the final draft version of the expected global agreement last Saturday. This has a cleaner look than those preceding it but still major international policy issues lie unresolved.

“We could have been better, we could have been worse, the important thing is that we have a text, that we want an agreement next week and all parties want it,” said French Ambassador for the International Climate Negotiations Laurence Tubiana as talks closed last week.

It’s up now to ministers to continue the technical discussions delegates had during the first segment of the talks but with a politically nuanced view as countries should agree to complex economic and development meeting points to address climate change.

If the accord comes through, the world should break apart from its fossil fuel dependence and quickly move towards a low-carbon economy with more resilient cities, communities and businesses, in what accounts to a complete divorce from the 20th century development model.

For this to happen though, parties must agree to heavy cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and financial support to comply with inversion in cleaner energy and adaptation to climate impacts.

The relatively fast-paced 2015 Climate Conference (COP21) is still on schedule with the expectations of its host, the French government. According to their proposed agenda, the talks will deliver a final text by Wednesday night this week so that translators and legal advisors can prepare an official document in all UN languages. But that’s still several days away.

“The job is not done, we need to apply all intelligence, energy, and willingness to compromise and all efforts to come to agreement. Nothing is decided until everything is decided,” said Tubiana.

How the French Presidency and the facilitators it has appointed handle these upcoming days decides the fate of the agreement, which could provide a global treaty on emissions reduction or another failure like the 2009 conference at Copenhagen.

“We have advanced at the pace the French presidency wanted. There is a negotiating text for this week, but it’s not as clean as we would have liked”, Dennis Castellanos, head of the Guatemalan delegation, told IPS. “The work we have for this week is still pretty significan.t”

Guatemala currently presides over AILAC, the Latin American and Caribbean Independent Alliance, which groups eight developing countries from the region with a progressive stance and is seen as a bridging group between developing nations and the industrialized countries.

“As always, finance would be another of the key issues we would need to address,” Castellanos explained.

The financial support from developed countries, and more unusually as South-South cooperation, will determine the quality of the agreement and the tools countries will have to implement, measure, and verify their current commitments. This remains one of the cloudiest topics of the talks.

The pressure for delegates is double: they not only have the mandate to produce a globally binding agreement after the two-week long Paris talks, but it needs to be as ambitious as possible to create a longstanding solution to climate change.

The latest review of the current pledges show global warming was curved down, but still not enough as to prevent catastrophic impacts around the globe.

“The ministers have a choice: either they meaningfully address the inadequacy of current climate targets, or they make a deal that puts the world on a path to catastrophic three degrees of warming,” said Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe in a press release.

A key issue still undecided is what should be the limit of the temperature increase, a target set in two degrees Celsius after a political debate in the Copenhagen talks but hotly debated over the past years as still too dangerous.

The 2013-2015 review, a scientific analysis of existing literature made by a subsidiary body of the Climate Convention, concluded among other elements that 2 degrees would be catastrophic for lowland regions around the world, especially the atoll nations of the world.

The scientific body submitted a three-year long scientific review which may have convinced nations that a 1.5 Celsius target was possible, but strong opposition by an oil-rich country made it miss the last chance to be approved before the final week of talks.

As over 100 countries among the least developed and most vulnerable, along with some key players like France and Germany, push for this more ambitious target needing a faster transition to renewable energy but could in turn trigger increased actions for the private sector.

“Paris needs to send a signal that the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end, so that businesses can plan for a carbon-free future. So the language in the Agreement needs to be clear,” argued Martin Kaiser, Head of International Climate Politics at Greenpeace.

As delegates are aware now that the current voluntary pledges made by countries won’t be sufficient to comb down the planet’s temperature increase to safe levels, Kaiser said “The Agreement then needs to provide the means for getting there. That’s the mechanism to scale up ambition every five years.”

This mechanism, also called the Paris Ambition Mechanism among the hopeful who push for it, would institute mandatory and periodical reviews for country’s commitments where they can be scaled up to further reduce emissions. This would be completed by a global analysis of how much can be achieved globally.

However, Kaiser stated, the first review should be before 2020 and not to “wait for the first review or stock-take to happen in 2024 or 2025, because that will set in stone the current pledges.”

So begins the last week ever of the road to a Paris Agreement, which would enshrine the process as a masterful year-long successful effort to combat climate change is down to a handful of days.or another step humanity takes into the war against itself.


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Africa Hangs its Agricultural Transformation Agenda on COP 21’s Outcome Mon, 07 Dec 2015 10:48:59 +0000 Friday Phiri By Friday Phiri
PARIS, France, Dec 7 2015 (IPS)

A famous saying goes: To whom much is given, much is expected. This is the message that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is carrying and delivering for, and on behalf of Africa at the global conference on climate change, COP21, which opened Monday, 30th November.

“All fingers are not equal. Those who pollute more should do more in saving our planet,” said AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who is leading his bank’s team at the climate change conference in Paris.

Adesina, a former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, knows what climate change has done and what its implications are for Africa’s agricultural development if nothing is done to halt global warming.

“The danger that Africa will not be able to feed itself is a real one. And if we don’t have resources to adapt to climate change, Africa will not be able to unlock potential in agriculture,” said Adesina, highlighting the implications of climate change variability on Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.

He says the bank’s message at the COP 21 was clear: a new climate deal that does not work for Africa is no deal at all.

According to Dr. Adesina, the major and historic polluters must take a fair share of responsibility not only to cut their emissions but also help the suffering adapt to climate impacts.

The AfDB’s stance resonates with a long standing position of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN)which has been pushing for a common but differentiated principle demanding historic emitters to cut emissions to keep warming below 1.5 degrees celsius and provide funding for adaptation for vulnerable countries, most of which are in Africa.

With impacts ranging from droughts and floods affecting agricultural production and water availability in the southern and Sahel regions of Africa, to shrinking rivers, a classic example being Lake Chad, African countries are hoping for a climate deal that would address these challenges both in the short and long term.

“Adaptation as you know is key for Africa but this time we are demanding a high level of adaptation equal to mitigation because we know that the two are closely linked,” Chair of the African Group of Negotiators Nagmeldin Elhassan told a high level panel discussion at the on-going climate talks in Paris.

Nagmeldin said African heads of state are expecting nothing short of a fair and just deal for the continent, a victim of circumstances it never caused.

He said adaptation would be a key issue at the COP 21 negotiating table for Africa as over the years, the African Group of Negotiators has been seeking for parity between mitigation, adaptation and provisions for enhancing means of implementation, noting the increased burden for adaptation in developing countries.

“When we speak adaptation, we link it to means of implementation as a way of getting developed countries involved to provide support,” the AGN chair said.

And the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumutsime puts it categorically that, “Unless we get a good deal here, that will help with the right technology, we will not be able to modernize and transform agriculture.”

The question of means of implementation is a critical component of this year’s COP. According the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa-(UNECA), climate change could stimulate developing economies into adapting sustainable development paths, through entrepreneurial opportunities, and spaces for policy makers to address equity concerns in gender and youth policies.

Dr. Carlos Lopez of UNECA argues Africa’s possible positive outcome from danger. “Despite all the negative news that is reported about Africa, there are opportunities that we can take advantage of. It is very important to get the perceptions right about Africa’s challenges and available opportunities. In all the bad news are potential areas for growth,” he said.

Dr Lopez said Africa has a massive advantage to develop differently by embracing the opportunities that climate change offers to develop sustainably.

“It is also important for us to realize that we are not going to make it using the same carbon intensive model…let’s take for example, under the 2063 agenda we have to create 122 million jobs. Following the carbon path, we will only create 54 million jobs, but what about the deficit?” he asked.

Citing various examples of opportunities among which is renewable energy owing to Africa’s natural potential of solar, the UNECA Chief is more than convinced that the continent should be part of the solution and “achieve industrialization which is cleaner, greener, without following the carbon model.”

However, the question of resources still remains. Will the climate deal offer Africa this opportunity? The next week or so will decide what and which way forward.


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Solar Kiosks Help Light up Rural Kenya Mon, 07 Dec 2015 07:10:38 +0000 Justus Wanzala The Solar Kiosk with goods inside. A part from perishable foodstuffs/soft drinks  they include solar energy accessories and phone chargers. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

The Solar Kiosk with goods inside. A part from perishable foodstuffs/soft drinks they include solar energy accessories and phone chargers. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
Olkiramatian, Kenya, Dec 7 2015 (IPS)

This market centre in the arid Lake Magadi region, Kajiado of Southern Kenya is with no grid electricity. The area is inhabited by the pastoralist Maasai community. With climate change affecting their pastoral way of life, the community is increasingly adopting a more sedentary life but without amenities.

The centre is hot and dusty. Much as the area enjoys bright sunshine during the day, the situation changes to pitch dark after sunset. But in the last two years, the market centre is witnessing a transformation. It is becoming a beehive of activity.

This is courtesy of Solar Kiosk Kenya Ltd. that installed a retail kiosk, called the SOLARKIOSK E-HUBB. The E-HUBB, designed by GRAFT (partners and co-founders of SOLARKIOSK AG, the Berlin-based mother company), is a modular solar-powered structure that can be easily implemented in remote communities.

The E-HUBB outlet enables and empowers local entrepreneurship and the sustainable development of Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) communities by selling essential food ingredients, vital energy services, solar and clean energy products and connectivity solutions. By the end of 2015, SOLARKIOSK will have implemented over 100 E-HUBBs on three continents.

A SOLARKIOSK E-HUBB is a solar-powered autonomous business hub. It uses solar power to generate electricity for rural off-grid communities for various uses. It is a decentralised, easy to maintain source of energy. Kiosk operators are able to use the power during the day and continue operating late into the night.

Solar Kiosk Kenya Ltd manages operations in Kenya and uses a business model that enables a local entrepreneur to sell solar products and provide solar powered services to their community. It is a commercial enterprise which stations solar-powered units in kiosks in Kenya’s remote and peri-urban areas, thus creating a triple impact: social, environmental and economical.

Its impact amplifies the link between energy and development. To the residents of Olkiramatian the dream of ever accessing a clean source of energy was just a farfetched one to the residents.

Like elsewhere in remote areas of Kenya, Olkiramatian residents rely on kerosene lanterns or diesel generators which are not only noisy but also polluting.

Jan Willem Van Es, Managing Director of Solar Kiosk Kenya said, “Solar power is a renewable energy form with a potential to accelerate growth of remote areas with connection to electric power grid.”

He noted, “The structure is a modular and expandable kit-of-parts that can be transported and deployed in remote off-grid areas. The E-HUBB at Olkiramatian was the fourth to be installed in the country.”

“The E-HUBB combines a state of the art design with a total of 2Kilowattsolar panel capacity on the roof as well as enough battery capacity to operate for at least 24 hours without sunshine,” he said.

The SOLARKIOSK impact on residents of Olkiramatian is noticeable. Seuri Lesino, the SOLARKIOSK operator at Olkiramatian says that he opens his E-HUBB for a few more hours at night generating extra revenue for the family.

“Initially, to run a business here after sunset you had to rely on kerosene lanterns which could hardly provide enough light, but nowadays if you come at night, you will be mistaken to think that you are in a town. We operate till midnight and residents have come to like it, the power is abundant,” said Seuri.

“The2kw E-HUBBin Olkiramatian installed in 2013 generates electricity capable of powering a television set, printing services, document lamination, and phone charging, barber and photocopy services,” he said.

In addition to energy services and food staples, the E-HUBB sells a wide range of solar products as well as energy efficient cook stoves, farm waste charcoal briquettes and other sustainable goods. Van Willem says that the kiosks are also equipped with internet services in addition to being a platform for businesses like beauty salons, hairdressers, movie and sports viewing halls.

“In the future, we can expand this E-HUBB into its own mini mall, if another entrepreneur comes around with the aim of offering butchery services for instance, additional panels can be provided and this applies to service providers like telecommunication companies keen to put up network masts,” Jan Willem explained.

Area Chief Josphat Maiponyi says that SOLARKIOSK has enabled availability of services and products that initially were not previously accessible. They include cold drinks and perishable products that are now present courtesy of refrigeration services. “Harnessing of this free and abundant sunshine has borne dividends,” he said. He adds that residents used to move long distances to charge their phones but it is no longer the case.

Maiponyi says that the elders use a temporary hall set up close to the kiosk to conduct their meetings even after sunset. Fredrick Sankori, a primary school pupil from the neighbourhood says he finds the hall handy to his school homework late in the evening, taking advantage of the light provided and not being effected by the bad smoke of the kerosene candles.

SOLARKIOSK spurs local development by enhancing communication and entrepreneurship, offering a safe place to the residents to meet their friends. The kiosks are assembled in Kenya with the parts being brought in from Germany. Soon the kiosks will also be manufactured locally in Kenya. Currently, there are 23 SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBsin Kenya offering not only services to thousands of Kenyan but also employment to many local people. SOLARKIOSK AG is operating also in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana and Ghana.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Lighting Assessment undertaken in 2010 indicated that the off-grid population in Kenya was 34 million out of the country’s population 40.5 million people. This may slightly increased but indicates the need for efficient off grid systems particularly in rural areas.

Globally 1.5 billion people live without electricity access. Some 800 million are in Africa. Unsustainable and dirty fuels provide much of their energy despite abundant sunshine.

Fortunately, off-grid communities like Olkiramatian can benefit from the immense solar resources of the African continent and access sustainable energy. The outcome is a significant change in livelihood.

According to the World Bank, Kenya has an estimated solar radiation potential of at 4-6 kWh/m2/day, which can effectively end energy poverty if optimally harnessed.

Jan Willem’s concern is however that poor transport network and general infrastructure in rural Kenya could undermine investment in providing more SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs as off grid energy solutions.

“There hasn’t been much goodwill from authorities, we would welcome any support from the government,” he said.

He suggests that if the kiosks are embraced by local governments, they can open up rural market centres to spur entrepreneurship and economic development through the provision of affordable, reliable and clean energy.

Similar views are expressed by Peter George, Global Village Energy Partnership’s (GVEP) Head of Advisory Services who says that infrastructure is a challenge to renewable energy companies targeting remote communities. GVEP is involved in initiatives to reduce poverty and increase energy access in Kenya.

George says investment in renewable energy is vital because it conserves the environment and creates jobs. “Tangible and real development can only occur through sustained and enough energy generation in country.” he said. He adds that the more widespread the energy access, the easier it is for a country to tackle poverty.

“It is for this reason that we’re supporting companies like SOLARKIOSK who invest in the provision of energy to off grid communities,” he said.


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Addressing Climate Change and Poverty as one in Malawi Thu, 03 Dec 2015 17:30:07 +0000 Watson Maingo A community grain silo, no longer in use as farmers can't grow enough to save. Credit: Watson Maingo

A community grain silo, no longer in use as farmers can't grow enough to save. Credit: Watson Maingo

By Watson Maingo

The government of Malawi has been struggling to end poverty since independence in 1964, banking its strategies on the proceeds from its agro based economy. Sadly, climate change entered the scene and dramatically disrupted the farming sector.

Annie Ganizani, 47, a subsistence farmer from Kandulu village in Salima District has witnessed its impacts in the last decade.

“I was born in a family of subsistence farmers. My parents failed to give me education due to other reasons poverty, but when I got married and was blessed with some kids, I believed that through hard work I would be able to educate my kids,” said Ganizani.

“Our leaders used to tell us there was no reason for me to worry as the land was indeed producing more than enough. Farming was a very promising occupation and the only hope for our uneducated community,” she said.

Unfortunately her dreams were shattered by the prevailing brutal effects of climate change.

“We first noticed that something was wrong around us after the year 2000 when the rainfall pattern changed. Unexpected floods, drought, and dry spells became an annual occurrence,” said Ganizani. “The floods and dry spells quickly resulted into dwindling yields leading to food shortages and subsequently taking us into extreme poverty,” she added.

In 2004, heavy floods from near-by Lifidzi River destroyed her village and farm land.

“After the floods, we moved to this new area only to be given a smaller piece of land. We continued harvesting just enough to last us a few months. In the end we are engaging in activities that contribute to climate change” said Ganizani.

Now 10 years after relocating to upper land Ganizani, her family is poorer than they were in 1999. “I do believe that climate change and poverty should be addressed together,” she said.

Although climate change has turned the livelihoods of many villagers upside down and even in spite of the government of Malawi and other organizations’ continued interventions, communities are indirectly contributing to climate change.

“Many people want to run away from poverty by cutting down trees for charcoal and cultivating in river banks which, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to floods and droughts” said Majawa Bwanali, chairperson of the Kandulu Village Disaster Risk Management Committee (VDRMC).

Environmental District Officer for Salima Davies Chogawana concurs with Bwanali and said that efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change are continually challenged by local efforts to end poverty.

“People still cut trees down wantonly, still use charcoal at large scale and some of them still cultivate in river banks, triggering ever more floods and droughts,” said Chogawana.

Assistant District Disaster Risk Management Officer (ADDRMO) Blessings Kamtema said that it is unfortunate that not all victims of climate change related disasters have been rehabilitated despite interventions.

“Salima, one of the districts most hit by climate change in Malawi has been receiving support from many organizations. However, these area-specific interventions might not have restored the livelihoods of all the affected people,” said Kamtema.

With funding from UNDP under AAP projects, Kamtema said the Council and the community from Kandulu were able to build a dyke on the Lifidzi River which has prevented the river from flooding and causing havoc in Kandulu Village in the last three years.

Kamtema also said that with support from GEF, people of Kandulu village have built an evacuation point in times of floods so people no longer seek shelter at a primary school in the area.

DDRMO explained that with funding from UNDP, the Council has managed to establish a climate information for climate and weather early warning and farming planning.

Over 50% of Malawians live in poverty and 80% of Malawians depend on farming for their livelihoods. Unless climate smart agriculture technologies are passed on to all small holder farmers, the government goal of ending poverty by 2030, as pointed in the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030), will not be achieved.

And if poverty is not checked and alternative economic activities are not identified, little progress will be achieved to minimize our contribution to climate change.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Urmi Goswami from The Times of India.

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Avocados Reap Rewards in Kenya While Staple Corn Withers Thu, 03 Dec 2015 06:56:19 +0000 Robert Kibet 1 Farmers Urge Solutions at Climate Change Talks Wed, 02 Dec 2015 05:45:02 +0000 A. D. McKenzie 1 Climate Showdown Starts in Paris Mon, 30 Nov 2015 23:28:29 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz 0 Paris Climate Summit Opens With Dire Warning Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:05:45 +0000 Thalif Deen 2 Traditional Seeds Keep Hunger Away in Drought-Prone Zimbabwe Mon, 30 Nov 2015 17:32:28 +0000 Locadia Mavhudzi Women now actively participate in seed fairs. Credit: Locadia Mavhudzi

Women now actively participate in seed fairs. Credit: Locadia Mavhudzi

By Locadia Mavhudzi

It was all smiles as Bertha Chibhememe of Sangwe communal area in Chiredzi, south eastern Zimbabwe, showed off her traditional seed varieties at a seed fair. A 45-year-old smallholder in Zimbabwe’s lowveld region, Chibhememe told how her “nzara yapera” maize variety is thriving in a changing climate.

The name means “hunger is gone” and is traditionally peculiar to the Shangani people, explained Chibhememe, a widow who looks after eight school-going children. It allows her to protect her family from starvation in a region where it can seem impossible to survive without food aid or donations.

Many people are now shunning traditional seeds in favour of modern genetic hybrid varieties, but Chibhememe said nzara yapera grew better in dry conditions.

“That is my secret,” she added. “This traditional short season maize variety together with other traditional small grains like sorghum, millet and rapoko are the best in this area. They secure our future food and nutrition for our families. We receive low rainfall and frequent flash floods and extreme temperatures.”

Bertha’s example has invigorated community members to adapt to shifting weather patterns as the planet warms. Through traditional seed fairs and workshops, farmers have a platform to share best farming practices.

A recent study by Care International-Zimbabwe found that female farmers were more receptive to these ideas than their male counterparts. But they could not always use such information to their advantage due to a culture of male dominance of the household. Women did not get to decide what crops to grow and when.

This is proving to be a setback in the quest to embrace climate change adaptation techniques. But it is slowly changing, as the Zimbabwean government has started issuing land rights to women smallholders, previously a taboo.

Records show that Zimbabwe is already feeling the effects of climate change, notably with more variable rainfall and extreme weather. Barnabas Mawire, country director for regional organisation Environment Africa described the situation as worrisome.

“These conditions, combined with warming trends, are expected to render land increasingly marginal for agriculture, which poses a major threat to the economy and the livelihoods of the people,” said Mawire.

Zimbabwe depends heavily on rain-fed agriculture and climate sensitive resources. Farmers, who make up 62% of the population, are expected to feel the effects.

Yields from rain-fed farming in Africa could halve by 2020, according to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Semi-arid and arid areas will be worse affected, raising the risk of malnutrition and hunger.

Micro community initiatives can help, however. A water harvesting system in the Zvishavane, Mberengwa and Chivi districts, some of the hottest and driest in Zimbabwe, is one. It is as simple as digging pits to capture water in the rainy season and save it for drier periods.

A communal farmer in Zvishavane, Akwenziwe Maseko, said water conservation was essential to get strong crop yields. Farmers had been able to keep vegetable gardens going for more of the year and have more secure food supplies.

Zephaniah Phiri, a local conservationist who championed the water harvesting idea, stressed the importance of sustainable ways of managing and exploiting natural resources. Measures like planting vativa grass for windbreaks and sand traps were “very crucial,” he said.

Environmental Management Agency midlands manager Benson Bhasera added there was a link between sustainable farming practices and environmental preservation.

“Farmers who yield highly in their fields actively implement environmental education and awareness information,” said Bhasera.

With rainfall forecasts for the 2015/2016 farming season anticipated to be below normal, there is no time to lose.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Megan Darby and Climate Home.

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In Botswana: Leaving the Corporate Office to Work the Land – and Finding Opportunity Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:14:24 +0000 Ngala Killian Chimtom 0 Malawi Working to Improve Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Production Mon, 30 Nov 2015 07:53:23 +0000 Mabvuto Banda Prone to annual droughts and floods which impact greatly on agricultural production, Malawi is focusing on preventative measures to address malnutrition. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

Prone to annual droughts and floods which impact greatly on agricultural production, Malawi is focusing on preventative measures to address malnutrition. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

By Mabvuto Banda
LILONGWE, Malawi, Nov 30 2015 (IPS)

In the last few years, Malawi has successfully managed to reduce infant and under five mortality. But reducing malnutrition, which affects an estimated 1.4 million children, continues to be a costly challenge for the country.

A 2015 report by the Government of Malawi, the World Food Programme (WFP) together with other UN agencies, and the African Union, estimates the total annual cost associated with child malnutrition at $597 million – an indication that chronic food and nutrition insecurity are still prevalent in the southern African nation.

To change the alarming malnutrition rates, the Government of Malawi and the United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have come up with several initiatives anchored on increased agriculture production to improve nutrition.

Erica Maganga, Secretary for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, tells IPS that the role agriculture plays to fight all forms of malnutrition is inescapable.

“Prevention is better than cure and agriculture is key to reduce malnutrition for all ages and help reduce the cost of treating malnutrition,” says Maganga.

FAO resident representative in Malawi Florence Rolle agrees.

“We all know that nutrition is an issue in Malawi and that agriculture has a role to play in contributing to improving nutritional status of children, women and men,” Rolle says.

“It is now time to identify which existing agricultural programmes have potential to become much more nutrition sensitive,” she adds.

In 2008, FAO and the Malawi government started implementing a project titled Improving Food Security and Nutrition Policies and Programme Outreach (IFSN). One component of the programme was to roll out a comprehensive nutritional education programme targeting families with infants between 6 to 24 months to prevent malnutrition.

With financial support from Flanders International Cooperation Agency (FICA), the programme targeted two districts — Kasungu, just 100 km from the capital Lilongwe and Mzimba in northern Malawi.

According to Soka Chitaya, District Project Manager for Kasungu, the programme has had impact on the health status of many children in the district

“Before the programme started, many infants used to get sick. Mothers, most of them peasant farmers, used to struggle, which affected their yields because they spent more time at hospital nursing their sick children than in their gardens,” Chitaya says.

But he says the story is now different.

Kondwani Phiri, 32, of Yosefe Village, a mother of four, has nothing but praises for the programme.

“This project has changed my life. My children are healthy and happy because I now know what to plant in my gardens to have nutritious food for my family,” Phiri told IPS while preparing a meal for her children in the scorching November heat.

But she is worried that if the rains delay any later this year, she may lose all the gains she made in the last few years.

Malawi is among countries in Africa forecast to experience drought in the central regions and flooding in the southern regions as a result of the El Nino weather pattern.

Loveness Matola, another happy mother, expects a tough year as a farmer because rains have already delayed, but she is confident she will pull through and have enough food for her family. “This programme allowed me to enroll my child under the Infants and Young Children Feeding Programme. I no longer worry because I now know how to grow nutritious food from my garden,” she said.

With support from Extension Workers, Health Surveillance Assistants and Volunteer Community Facilitators, Phiri and Matola, together with other mothers, have been taught how to make a nutritious porridge out of three or four ingredients grown in their gardens.

The porridge contains a starchy food such as mashed potatoes, cassava or maize flour; a high protein food such as beans, groundnut flour, fish or meat powder or goat milk, mixed with a vegetable, for example pumpkins or leafy vegetables and a fat such as avocado oil. Mango or any other fruit is served to complete the daily recommended five-food groups for the child.

Among other focus areas, the project has taken on board the promotion of livestock production; climate change, natural resources and environmental education; capacity building and institutional support; increased crop production and diversification; promotion of fruit production; soil and water conservation; potable water and improved sanitation, and other cross-cutting issues such as gender, malaria and HIV.

This is not the only intervention that FAO and the Malawi government are implementing to improve nutrition across the country.

“Strengthening School Nutrition Education and School Gardens” is the name of another initiative being implemented.

The Malawi government, FAO and the Brazilian government signed a trilateral agreement with three main components namely: reviewing the School Health and Nutrition Strategy Plan, Nutrition Education and Integration of Nutrition Education and School Gardens.

FAO’s School, Food and Nutrition Specialist, Dr Andrea Polo Galante explained that the initiative aims to improve nutrition education, which focuses on more food and eating well.

According to Thoko Banda, Chief Director for the Ministry of Education, the review is earmarked to make recommendations to incorporate in the curricula of Teacher Training Colleges.


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African Countries Feeling Exposed to Extreme Weather Changes Sat, 28 Nov 2015 08:29:12 +0000 Justus Wanzala 0