Inter Press ServiceProjects – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 New Relationship Evolves Between Society and Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157279 “We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in […]

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Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

“We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil.

The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in February this year in Sousa, a city in the interior of Paraiba, a state in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion.

Sixty of the 89 students chose that subject. The rest opted for the other alternative, marketing strategies, in the school named after a local engineer and entrepreneur who died in 2006.

“It was the local community that decided, in a public hearing, that these would be the two courses offered at the school,” 35-year-old Cícero Fernandes, a member of the school’s staff, told IPS.

“It’s about building a life project with the students. Renewable energies use different resources, but solar power is the predominant one here and is the focus of the course, because we have a lot of sunshine,” said Kelly de Sousa, who is the school’s principal at the age of 30.

The interest of the teenagers, most of them between 15 and 17 years old, reflects the solar energy boom they have been experiencing since last year in and around Sousa, a region considered the one with the most solar radiation in Brazil. The local Catholic church, businesses, factories and houses are already turning to this alternative source.

Energy, specifically electricity, is no longer something foreign, distant, that comes through cables and poles, at prices that rise for unknown reasons.

The municipality of Sousa, with more than 100 photovoltaic systems and a population of 70,000, 80 percent urban, is in the vanguard of the change in the relationship between society and energy that it is promoting in Brazil the expansion of so-called distributed generation, led by consumers themselves.

The share of photovoltaic generation in Brazil’s energy mix is still a mere 0.82 percent of the total of 159,970 MW, according to the government’s National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the regulatory agency.

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But it is the fastest growing source. In the plants still under construction, it already accounts for 8.26 percent of the total. This refers to power plants built by suppliers.

Added to these are the “consumer units of distributed generation” as Aneel calls them, residential or business micro-generators which now total 34,282, of which 99.4 percent are solar and the rest are wind, thermal or hydraulic. The total power generated is 415 MW – three times more than 12 months ago.

The Northeast, the poorest and sunniest region, still generates little solar energy, in contrast to wind power, which is already the main local source, consolidated after drought made the water supply drop over the last six years.

The acceleration of the solar revolution in Sousa has been driven by civil society, especially the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (Cersa), a network of activists, researchers, and social and academic organisations created in 2014.

This unincorporated organisation with no formal headquarters operates in three areas, as its coordinator, 60-year-old Cesar Nóbrega, who lives in Sousa, told IPS: community training and empowerment, installation of pilot project systems and lobbying for public policies on renewable energy.

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The technical school of Sousa proves that Cersa’s preaching fell on fertile ground. Other activities organised by the committee include short courses, seminars, and forums with the participation of university students, government officials and community organisations.

“I want to know how the panels absorb sunlight and generate energy, and that course was what I was hoping for,” said Mariana Nascimento, 16, who attends the school with her twin sister Marina. They live in the city of Aparecida, 20 km from Sousa.

The course drew not only young people. Emanuel Gomes, 47, decided to return to school to “learn to design residential (solar) projects, save energy costs and protect the environment.” He attends class together with his 18-year-old son.

“The students are enthusiastic, thirsty for knowledge and eager for practice,” and they proved it by participating in the seminar by the Solar Parish during their holidays, said the school principal Sousa, referring to the debate that took place at the inauguration of the solar power plant in Sousa’s Catholic church on Jul. 6.

Engaging and training students on energy and its environmental and economic effects is a task taken on by Walmeran Trindade a teacher of electrical engineering at the Federal Institute of Paraíba and technical coordinator of Cersa.

On Jul. 17, 28 students graduated from his 30-hour course at the “school factory” of LED lamps, examples of energy efficiency, in a rural town near Aparecida, supported by the Catholic Breda Institute.

“It is for professional training, income generation and promoting coexistence with the semi-arid climate,” the teacher told IPS. He travels more than 400 km from João Pessoa, the capital of Paraiba, to teach classes pro bono.

The lamps, made from plastic bottles, give off less light than mass-produced lamps, but are sold for just five reais (1.30 dollars), making them affordable to poor farmers. And they are made by “young people who are also poor,” and thus earn some income, he said.

“I made four lamps, I learned how it works and I want to work with energy, although I dream of studying law to defend society,” said 16-year-old Gaudencio da Silva, a second year high school student who participates in the “School Factory.”

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Renewable energy pilot plants have mushroomed, meeting the second objective of Cersa.

In addition to the Solar Parish church, the Oliveiras Community Bakery and urban and rural solar systems are positive examples of the sun as an environmentally sound source that empowers consumers and communities.

The Farmers’ Association of the Acauã Settlement, which emerged under the 1996 land reform, now has a solar plant that ensures the supply of water to its 120 families. The energy pumps water to a reservoir on a hill 800 m from the community.

“We were paying 2,000 Brazilian reais (540 dollars) a month in electricity to pump water to a tank on a hill 800 m from the community,” Maria do Socorro Gouveia, the head of the Farmers’ Association, told IPS.

Another rural example of the use of solar power is the farming couple Genival and Marlene Lopes dos Santos, both 48 years old, who were also settled on land of their own thanks to the agrarian reform. In addition to generating electricity, they use solar energy to pump water from a well and irrigate small orchards and their garden.

A biodigester, another system that is spreading in the rural part of the municipality of Sousa, provides them with cooking gas. And they fertilise their crops with manure processed to produce biogas.

“The drought didn’t stop us from planting our crops,” the farmers, who are also engaged in fishing and beekeeping, said proudly.

“There is a need for the public sector” to promote public policies in these alternative energy sources, said Nóbrega. The municipality of Sousa spends six million reais (1.6 million dollars) a year on electricity.

Adopting solar energy in public offices and street lighting would represent a great saving in terms of spending on municipal services and infrastructure and, as a result, the money paid to the electricity distributor, based in the capital João Pessoa, would give a boost to the local economy, argued the coordinator of Cersa.

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Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:53:53 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157270 In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them. “We […]

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Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana that have not been restored. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
GARU and TEMPANE, Ghana, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them.

“We realised that the long dry spell, bare land and high temperature of 40 degrees and the absence of irrigation facilities for farmers to [allow them] to farm year-round…effectively made them unemployed for the seven-month dry season,” Ayaaba Atumoce, chief of the Akaratshie community from the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS.“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed." Talaata Aburgi, a farmer from the Garu and Tempane districts in Ghana.

The Garu and Tempane districts, which encompass 1,230 square kilometres or 123,000 hectares, had large portions of barren and degraded land until just three years ago. Now, there are pockets of lush grass, neem trees, berries and indigenous fruit growing on some 250 hectares of restored land. The dry earth is beginning to flourishing, albeit it slowly.

Atumoce remembers that growing up in the area, there was dense forest cover. But it gradually diminished over time as the mostly farming communities here supplemented their income by making charcoal and selling it at regional centres. According to the 2015 Ghana Poverty Mapping report, the rate of poverty in these two districts is 54.5 percent or 70,087 people—accounting for the highest number of impoverished people in the entire region.

The rate at which trees were cut down surpassed the rate at which new trees grew, if they did at all. And soon there were less and less trees for people to make charcoal with. Sprouts were soon unable to grow also as the land became hard and lacked nutrients.

And rainfall patterns changed.

“Previously, we would prepare our farmlands in early February and start planting when the rains begin in late March or early April and ended in late September or mid-October. Now, our planting is pushed to the end of June or early July and ends just around the same period it used to. We are getting low yields,” Atumoce says.

Carl Kojo Fiati, director of Natural Resources at Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, tells IPS that deforestation and indiscriminate bush burning in the Upper Region has reduced the natural water cycles band, a natural cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, and resulted in the reduced rainfall pattern and unproductive land.

“When the shrubs are allowed to grow it draws water from the ground that evaporates into the atmosphere and becomes moisture. This moisture adds to other forms of evaporation and this is condensed and comes down as rain,” he explains.

Women and children affected

The reduced rainfall affected this community significantly. According to the Garu and Tempane districts Annual Report, 2014, large portions of the population migrated south in search of jobs from November 2013 to April 2014. According to the report, 53 percent of women in the Kpikpira and Worinyanga area councils migrated with their children to the southern part of Ghana to engage in menial jobs, exposing their children to various forms of abuse, and depriving them of basic needs such as shelter, education, health care and protection.

But three years ago, World Vision International (WVI) Ghana began implementing the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) programme. FMNR is a low-cost land restoration technique.

“After watching the video [presented by WVI] we got to know and accepted that we are suffering all these consequences because we harvested trees for timber, firewood, and constantly cleared our farmlands, engaged in indiscriminate burning and cutting,” Atumoce says.

But by this time, farmers in Garu and Tempane already knew that their crops like maize, millet, groundnuts, onions and watermelon would not grow without the use of chemical fertilisers, Atumoce explains.

“For the past 20 years, our parcels of land have not been fertile because one cannot plant without applying fertiliser. There was a long spell of drought; I observed that because the rainy season was delayed and the period of rain has now shortened. It decreased our crop yield and left us poor,” Atumoce says.

Asher Nkegbe, the United Nation Convention to Combating Desertification and Drought focal person for Ghana, explains to IPS that Ghana has adopted Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and set nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are commitments by government to tackle climate change by 2030. As part of Ghana’s NDCs, the country has committed to reforesting 20,000ha of degraded lands each year.

This includes identifying highly-degraded areas, establishing a baseline and increasing the vegetation cover. The Garu and Tempani districts are considered LDN key areas.

Ghana’s natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than 50 percent of the original forest area has been converted to agricultural land by slash and burn clearing practices. Wildlife populations are in serious decline, with many species facing extinction, according to a World Bank report.

The Garu and Tempane districts were the second and third areas in which the project was implemented, run in conjunction with the ministry of food and agriculture, the Ghana National Fire Service and other government agencies. From 2009 to 2012 the pilot was conducted in Talensi, Nabdam District, which is also here in Upper East Region.

The projects have been handed over to the communities and another one is now being introduced in Bawku East District, also in Upper East Region.

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

Simple restoration methods

The restoration in Garu and Tempane began using simple principles. This community of mostly farmers selected a degraded area and were asked to not destroy the shrubs there but to protect and allow them to grow.

They were also taught by the ministry of food and agriculture how to periodically prune away weak stems, allowing the shoots to grow into full sized trees rapidly. They were also advised to allow animals to graze on the vegetation so that their droppings could become a source for manure.

“The critical science behind regeneration and improved soil nutrient are that the leaves of the shrubs or vegetation drops and decay. The decayed leaves constitute carbon in the soil and that promotes plant growth,” says Fiati.

So far, 23 communities in Garu and Tempane have adopted the approach, and 460 people were trained by the ministry of food and agriculture. Volunteers were also trained in fire fighting techniques by the Ghana Fire Service. Community volunteer brigades were then formed, and these play an active role in quashing bushfires threatening the land.

New bylaws to regulate the harvesting of surplus wood, grasses, and other resources were also passed and enforced to prevent the indiscriminate felling of trees.

The Garu, Tempane and Talensi districts are estimated to now have over 868,580 trees, with an average density of about 4,343 trees per hectare, compared to a baseline of around 10 trees per hectare.

“We gave the farmers animals to keep as a source of an alternative livelihood so that farmers do not go back to the charcoal burning,” Maxwell Amedi, Food Security and Resilient Technical officer of WVI Ghana tells IPS.

A significant number of people, including mothers and their children, now remain in the area thanks to this alternative source of livelihood.

Amedi notes that forests are essential to realising the world’s shared vision for its people, and the planet. Forests, he says, are central to future prosperity as well as the stability of the global climate.

Talaata Aburgi, 60, from Susudi community in the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS that neem trees have always been used here to cure ailments including diabetes, skin ulcers, birth controls, malaria fever and stomach ache. She is glad that these trees are now repopulating the area.

In addition, red and yellow berries and other indigenous fruit have started growing again. Birds, butterflies and wild animals, like monkeys and rabbits, have reappeared. As IPS travelled through the region and visited Aburgi’s farm, we saw a significant number of farmers adopting FMNR.

The FMNR project, Fiati says, is an excellent method of correcting the problem of reduced rainfall by bringing the production cycle in sync with nature.

Nkegbe is optimistic.

“With lessons learned and the results observed with regeneration initiatives, there is hope. We are scaling it up and have even expanded it to include traditional healers and have set up 14 herbaria. It may not be 100 percent but for sure there are positive signs. More support is needed,” Nkegbe says.

Meanwhile, Aburgi says that adopting the initiative has contributed to young herders spending less time seeking grazing land and allows them to attend school for longer periods.

“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed,” Aburgi says.

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How Ghana’s Rapid Population Growth Could Become an Emergency and Outpace Both Food Production and Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:27:15 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157229 Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region. “Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS. This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the […]

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Paul Ayormah and his friends on his maize farm in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of Ghana’s Eastern Region. Credit: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri/IPS

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA and DONKORKROM, Ghana, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region.

“Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS.

This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the Eastern Region, have resorted to alternative means of cultivating their farms. The farmers group together and travel to each other’s farms, where they work to prepare and weed the farmland, taking turns to do the same for everyone else in the group. They have also resorted to using cattle dung to fertilise their crop.

“We are doing this to cut down on the cost involved in preparing our land for planting our maize,” Ayormah tells IPS.

Ayormah, a father of five, inherited his two-acre maize farm from his late father. And as the breadwinner in his family, Ayormah relies solely on his produce as a source of income.

Ayormah says that in a good season he is able to harvest 40 bags of maize, which he then sells in Koforidua, the capital of the Eastern Region, for an average of USD27 per bag.

“The money I make is what I use to take care of my family. Two of my children are in tertiary [education], one is in high school, and the other two are in junior high and primary school [respectively]. So there is hardly enough money at home,” he explains.

Ayormah believes he will have a good enough harvest this season, but says “I cannot promise a bumper harvest.”

Food Security

Ghana’s economy is predominately dependent on agriculture, particularly cocoa, though the government has taken steps to ensure that the cultivation of staples such as rice, maize and soya is also enhanced.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says that 52 percent of the country’s labour force is engaged in agriculture, which contributes 54 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, it notes that the country’s agricultural sector is driven predominately by smallholder farmers, and about 60 percent of all farms are less than 1.2 hectares in size and are largely rain-fed.“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development.” -- Dr. Leticia Appiah, National Population Council director

Last April, president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched Ghana’s flagship agricultural policy, Planting for Food and Jobs, a five-year plan geared towards increasing food productivity and ensuring food security for the country. The policy’s long-term goal is to reduce food import bills to the barest minimum.

The programme also provides farmers who own two to three acres of land with a 50 percent subsidy of fertiliser and other farm inputs, such as improved seedlings.

Farmers who enrol in the programme enjoy a flexible repayment method where they pay their 50 percent towards the fertiliser cost in two instalments of 25 percent prior to and after harvest. Each payment is estimated to cost USD12.

Ayormah benefited from the programme last year, and had hoped that the use of chemical fertiliser would increase his farming yield and income. However, delayed rains and an armyworm infestation caused him to lose almost half of his produce.

He says although the programme was helpful, he cannot afford to pay the final USD12 he owes the government.

“With the little I will get from my farm produce this year, I will pay the money I owe the government so I can benefit [from the fertiliser] next year and get a bumper harvest,” he explains.

“If all goes well I hope to [harvest] my 40 bags. But this year is going to be a little difficult for my family because I am not getting the government fertiliser,” Ayormah laments.

A report by the ministry of food and agriculture assessing the one-year implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs policy, notes the negative impact of delayed rains and armyworm infestation on maize production in the country. So far, government interventions such as the routine pesticide spraying on farms is bringing the armyworm infestation under control. But 20,000 hectares of land have already been affected.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Ghana’s minister of food and agriculture, tells IPS the situation faced by farmers in other parts of the country, particularly the Northern Region, poses a potential threat to food security for this west African nation.

Agenda 2030

Hiroyuki Nagahama, vice chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) at the Asian and African Parliamentarians, spoke with IPS during a three-day visit this August to learn the opportunities and challenges that Ghana faces.

Nagahama says that if the current grown rate on the continent, in excess of two percent, is not checked, U.N. Population estimates and projections put Africa at a risk of contributing 90 percent to the increase in the world’s population between 2020 to 2100.

He further notes that the population growth rate does not correspond with the food produced on the continent and this poses a threat to food security.

“According to calculations by the FAO, food security can be possible through cutting down on losses from food and engaging appropriately in farm management and production. But, economic principles compels us to ask difficult questions about how the population of Africa will have access to food supply,” Nagahama says.

A new project by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the JPFP, which focuses on enhancing national and global awareness of parliamentarians’ role as a pivotal pillar for achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, was launched this year. The project also supports parliamentarians as they implement necessary policy, legislative changes and mobilise resources for population-related issues.

It is a platform to examine the ways in which both developed and developing countries can, in equal partnership, serve as the driving force to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and create a world where no one is left behind.

Rashid Pelpou, chair of Ghana’s Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, tells IPS it is estimated that 1.2 million of Ghana’s 29.46 million people are currently food insecure.

And that a further two million Ghanaians are vulnerable to food insecurity nationwide. In the event of an unexpected natural or man-made shock, their pattern of food consumption can be greatly impacted.

He says that as representatives of the people, parliamentarians’ priorities are to ensure that laws and budget allocations translates into constituents having physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Reproductive Health

In Ghana, the National Population Council (NPC) stated last August that the country’s current 2.5 percent population growth rate was high above the global rate of 1.5 percent, calling it a disturbing trend.

Dr. Leticia Appiah, NPC director, tells IPS that population management is an emergency that requires urgent action. She previously said that the “annual population increase is 700,000 to 800,000, which is quite alarming.”

Appiah tells IPS that when people give birth to more children than they can afford, not only does the family suffer in terms of its ability to care for these children, but the government becomes burdened as it provides social services.

“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development,” Appiah explains.

African Development Bank Group data shows that “economic growth fell from 14 percent in 2011 at the onset of oil production to 3.5 percent in 2016, the lowest in two decades.” In April the Ghana Statistical Service announced an 8.5 percent expansion in gross domestic product.

“We have to really focus on reproductive health otherwise we will miss the investment we have made in immunisation and create more problems for ourselves,” Appiah says.

Nagahama addresses the issue of Africa’s population growth: “It is an individual’s right to choose how many children they will have and at what interval. But in reality there are many children who are born from unwanted pregnancies and births.”

“To remove such plight, it is important for us parliamentarians to legislate, allocate funding and implement programmes for universal access to reproductive health services in ways that are culturally acceptable,”Nagahama says.

Niyi Ojoalape, the U.N. Population Fund’s Ghana representative, tells IPS that strong government coordination is the way to harness demographic dividend—the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population.

Ghana currently has a national population policy with strategies to manage the country’s population for long term benefit, but implementation of this has lacked political will over the years.

Ojoalape notes that without sustainable implementation over the long term, Ghana will not be able to reap the benefits.

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When Salt Water Intrusion is Not Just a Threat But a Reality for Guyanese Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 07:46:03 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157018 Mikesh Ram would watch his rice crops begin to rot during the dry season in Guyana, because salt water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was displacing freshwater from the Mahaica River he and other farmers used to flood their rice paddies. The intrusion of salt water into the rice paddies had been happening off and […]

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Kaieteur Falls, Guyana. Guyanese farmers have been reporting salt water intrusion for a number of years. This especially happens during periods of drought and in those regions where irrigation water is sourced from rivers and creeks which drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Courtesy: Dan Sloan/CC By 2.0

By Jewel Fraser
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Mikesh Ram would watch his rice crops begin to rot during the dry season in Guyana, because salt water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was displacing freshwater from the Mahaica River he and other farmers used to flood their rice paddies.

The intrusion of salt water into the rice paddies had been happening off and on for the past 10 years, and he, like many other rice farmers in Regions 4 and 5 of Mahaica, Guyana, had sustained periodic financial losses due to the ocean overtopping the 200-year-old sea walls erected as barricades to the sea. And while 2015 was an unusually good year for Guyana’s rice harvest, the following year, 2016, saw a 16 percent drop in production.

Though the fall-off in production that year could not entirely be attributed to the salt water intrusion, expert sources say this was part of the problem. The United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service’s Commodity Intelligence Report notes that reduced rice production “was due to myriad problems including drought, water rationing, salt water intrusion, lack of crop rotation, less fertiliser input, and slower and lower returns to farmers.” It added that for the first rice crop of 2016, “about 20 percent was affected by drought and another 15 percent had salt water intrusion on fields.”“The knowledge of the [agricultural] extension officers in mitigating and adapting to the salt water intrusion is questionable, however, but a real education and awareness campaign should start with these officers who interact with farmers more frequently.” -- Heetasmin Singh

The rice-growing regions of Demerara-Mahaica and Berbice-Mahaica are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, located as they are six feet below sea level on Guyana’s Atlantic north coast.

Heetasmin Singh, who completed a master’s degree at the University of Guyana, presented a paper on the subject at the just concluded Latin America and Caribbean Congress for Conservation Biology, held Jul. 25-27 at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Following her presentation, she told IPS via e-mail of some of the concerns farmers in the region have.

She said, “Farmers have been reporting salt water intrusion for a number of years, maybe as much as 10 years (or more) in certain regions of the country. This especially happens during periods of drought and in those regions where irrigation water is sourced from rivers and creeks which drain into the Atlantic Ocean (as opposed to a water conservancy or catchment)… the salt water intrusion is not just a threat, it is a reality for many of them.”

Farmer Mikesh’s son, Mark Ram, is a colleague of Singh as well as a scientific officer at the Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity at the University of Guyana. He told IPS that salt water intrusion normally occurs during the dry season when there is less fresh water because the rains have not fallen. He said the salinity had one of two effects on growing rice plants: it could either kill them or slow down their rate of growth,

“Usually, [salt water] affects the plant when they have just been planted because…we are required to flood the fields. So what we would do, we usually wait until it rains a bit, then flood the fields and add fertiliser. Then we release the water and then try to flood it again. It is at this time [when] the water becomes saline because the rain has not fallen that it affects the crop, it kills out the rice fields.” On the other hand, he said, “it can delay harvesting time because the rice is not going to grow as fast as it should.”

Sometimes, he said, “there is actual rotting of the plant” due to the water’s salinity.

To counteract the problems caused by salt water intrusion, farmers in the Mahaica region rely on fresh water supplies from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority. According to the USDA Commodity Intelligence Report, Guyana is “divided into water conservancy regions, [and] has developed an irrigation and dike infrastructure to help farmers use supplemental irrigation from reservoirs while protecting areas through levees from unseasonably heavy rains which could flood or erode land. To help the agricultural sector, starting in January 2016, Guyana’s National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) water authorities begin pumping available water into the drier conservancies.”

“Farmers ask the NDIA to release some of the fresh water from the major reservoirs,” Ram said.  “Once they receive this it reduces the salinity so that the water becomes usable.” However, no other adaptation or mitigation measures had so far been implemented by farmers, he said.

Singh noted via e-mail that “the knowledge of the [agricultural] extension officers in mitigating and adapting to the salt water intrusion is questionable, however, but a real education and awareness campaign should start with these officers who interact with farmers more frequently.”

She added, “Many farmers I interviewed saw the effects of the soil salinisation on their crops but many were not familiar with the term climate change or were not adapting best practices for ameliorating soil salinisation. They instead sought to solve their low crop yields issues with more fertilisers which would end up doing more harm than good for the crops.”

However, she notes that some will flush their fields and allow water and the salts to percolate through and past the root zone of the crops. Others will ensure their soils are deep ploughed to ensure faster percolation of salts past their crop root zone. With sea level rises for Guyana projected to rise anywhere from 14 cm to 5.94 metres in 2031; from 21 cm to 6.02 metres in 2051; and from 25 cm to 6.19 metres in 2071, the need for proactive adaptation and mitigation measures becomes ever more urgent.

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Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2018 03:54:03 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157200 Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people. In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected […]

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Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people.

In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected regions, the scientists call for water in the area to be treated as a non-renewable resource because mining companies, agriculture and large cities consume underground reservoirs of water that date back more than 10,000 years and are not replenished with equal speed.

According to the experts, the current rate of water extraction for mining, agriculture, industry and cities “is not sustainable.”

Chile is the world’s leading exporter of copper and of fruit and vegetables, two water-intensive sectors."In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy.” -- Claudio Latorre

In the small rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, 400 km north of Santiago, teacher Marleny Rodríguez and her only four students installed gutters to collect rainwater in a 320-litre pond to irrigate a vegetable garden.

“The children are happy. They tell me that we were losing a vital resource that we had at hand and were not using. They replicated what they learned at school at home,” Rodríguez told IPS.

The two girls and two boys, between the ages of six and 10, including three siblings, attend the tiny school in an area of ancestral lands of the Atacama indigenous people.

“We have a year-round cycle. What we harvest we cook in the cooking workshop where we make healthy recipes. Then we eat them at school,” said the teacher of the school in Punitaqui, near Ovalle, the capital of the Coquimbo region, on the southern border of the desert.

“The children help to sow, clean the garden, harvest, and water the crops. We have a scientific workshop to harvest the greywater with which we irrigate a composter of organic waste and other materials such as leaves, branches and guano, used as fertiliser” she said.

Calogero Santoro, an archaeologist and promoter of the Tarapacá Manifest, which was delivered to the government of President Sebastián Piñera on Jun. 29, believes that citizens and large companies do not have the same awareness as these children about water scarcity.

“Private companies do not see this as a necessity, because they do not have any problem. On the contrary, the whole Chilean system is designed to make businesses operate as smoothly as possible, but the problem is just around the corner. It is the Chilean government that invests in scientific and technological research,” he told IPS.

The scientists’ manifest calls for raising awareness about the serious problem of the lack of water, in-depth research into the issue, and investment in technologies that offer new solutions rather than only aggravating the exploitation of groundwater.

“The first step is to generate cultural change. As awareness grows, other technological development processes are developed, new technologies are created and these are adapted to production processes,” explained Santoro, of the government’s Research Centre of Man in the Desert.

“Unfortunately, the private sector in this country does not invest in this kind of things,” he said.

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on earth. It covers 105,000 sq km, distributed along six regions of northern Chile and covering the cities of Arica, Iquique (the capital of Tarapacá), Antofagasta and Calama.

 Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation


Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

It is home to 9.5 percent of the population of this long, narrow South American country of 17.5 million people.

In a normal year, only between 1.6 to 2.5 mm of water fall on the regions of the so-called Norte Grande, which covers the Atacama Desert, and so far in 2018 the deficit is 100 percent in some of the cities and 50 percent in others, according to Chile’s Meteorological Agency.

Hugo Romero, winner of the national geography prize, and a professor at the University of Chile and president of the Chilean Society of Geographic Sciences, told IPS that “groundwater is today the most important source of water for both mining and urban development in the northern regions.”

That means the problem is very complex, he said, because “there is some evidence that much of the groundwater is the product of recharge probably thousands of years ago, and therefore is fossil water, which is non-renewable.

As an example, Romero cited damage already caused in the desert area, “such as those that have occurred with the drying up of Lagunillas, and of the Huasco and the Coposa Salt Flats, adding up to an enormous amount of ecological effects.”

They also affect, he said, “the presence of communities in these places, given this close relationship between the availability of water resources and the ancestral occupation of the territories.”

“All of this is creating an extraordinarily complex system with respect to which there is a sensation that the country has not taken due note and decisions are often taken only with economic benefits in mind, which are otherwise concentrated in large companies,” he added.

Romero also warned that the level of research “has been minimal and, unfortunately, many of the academic resources that should be devoted to providing society and social actors with all the elements to reach decisions are committed to consulting firms that, in turn, are contracted by large companies.”

Claudio Latorre, an academic at the Catholic University of Chile and an associate researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, believes that “there is not just one single culprit” for the serious situation.

“It is simply the general economic activity of the country that is causing this problem. The more activity, the more the country grows and the more resources are required, and the more industrial activity, the more work. But urban needs are also increasing and that also puts pressure on water resources,” he said.

“In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy,” he explained.

According to Calogero, “in addition to cultural changes, there have to be technological changes to make better use of water. We cite the case of Israel where it is our understanding that water is recycled up to seven times before it is disposed of. Here, it is recycled once, if at all.”

Latorre stressed that “we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of water resources that lead to an unthinkable situation…but in the Norte Grande area we still have time to take concrete actions that can save cities in 20 or 30 years’ time.”

He called for improved access to scientific information “so that we can be on time to make important decisions that take a long time to implement.”

According to Romero, there is also “an atmosphere of uncertainty that has often led to decisions that have subsequently led to environmental damage” as in the case of many salt flats, bofedales (high Andean wetlands) and some lagoons and lakes.

“There is no transparent public knowledge available to society as needed, given the critical nature of the system,” he said.

In his opinion, “on the contrary, the greatest and best information is of a reserved nature or forms part of industrial secrecy, which gives rise to much speculation, ambiguity and different interpretations by users or communities affected by the extraction of water.”

Romero also warned that “there is not only very significant ecological damage, but also a steady rural exodus to the cities, as the people leave the area.”

There are Quechua, Aymara, Koyas and Atacama communities – the native peoples of northern Chile – in the cities of Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio and Antofagasta as a result of their migration from their Andes highlands territories, he said.

That’s why only four students are now attending the rural school in El Llanito de Punitaqui, the teacher said.

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How the Lack of Affordable Vegetables is Creating a Billion-Dollar Obesity Epidemic in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 10:51:04 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157170 Every Sunday afternoon, Thembi Majola* cooks a meal of chicken and rice for her mother and herself in their home in Alexandra, an informal settlement adjacent to South Africa’s wealthy economic hub, Sandton. “Vegetables is only on Sunday,” Majola tells IPS, adding that these constitute potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. Majola, who says she weighs […]

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The number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubled in the last six years, while it had taken the United States 13 years for this to happen.

Fruit and vegetable prices in South Africa have increased to the point that poorer people have had to remove them from their grocery lists. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

Every Sunday afternoon, Thembi Majola* cooks a meal of chicken and rice for her mother and herself in their home in Alexandra, an informal settlement adjacent to South Africa’s wealthy economic hub, Sandton.

“Vegetables is only on Sunday,” Majola tells IPS, adding that these constitute potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. Majola, who says she weighs 141 kgs, has trouble walking short distances as it generally leaves her out of breath. And she has been on medication for high blood pressure for almost two decades now.“It is precisely a justice issue because at the very least our economy should be able to provide access to sufficient and nutritious food. Because, at the basis of our whole humanity, at the very basis of our body, is our nutrition." -- Mervyn Abrahams, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group

“Maize is a first priority,” she says of the staple item that always goes into her shopping basket. “Every Saturday I eat boerewors [South African sausage]. And on Sunday it is chicken and rice. During the week, I eat mincemeat once and then most of the time I fill up my stomach with [instant] cup a soup,” she says of her diet.

Majola is one of about 68 percent of South African women who are overweight or obese, according to the South African Demographic and Health Survey. The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 ranks 34 countries across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste.  South Africa ranks in the third quartile of the index in 19th place. However, the country has a score of 51 on its ability to address nutritional challenges. The higher the score, the greater the progress the country has made. South Africa’s score is lower than a number of countries on the index.

Families go into debt to pay for basic foods

Many South Africans are eating a similar diet to Majola’s not out of choice, but because of affordability.

Dr. Kirthee Pillay, lecturer of dietetics and human nutrition at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, tells IPS that the increase of carbohydrate-based foods as a staple in most people’s diets is cost-related.

“Fruit and vegetable prices have increased to the point that poorer people have had to remove them from their grocery lists.”

The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), a social justice non-governmental organisation, noted last October in its annual food barometer report that while the median wage for black South Africans is USD209 a month, a monthly food basket that is nutritionally complete costs USD297.

The report also noted that food expenditure from households arise out of the monies left over after non-negotiable expenses, such as transport, electricity, debt and education needs have been paid first. And this resulted in many families incurring debt in order to meet their food bills.

“Staples are cheaper and more filling and people depend on these, especially when there is less money available for food and many people to feed. Fruit and vegetables are becoming luxury food items for many people given the increasing cost of food. Thus, the high dependence on cheaper, filling staples. However, an excessive intake of carbohydrate-rich foods can increase risk for obesity,” Pillay tells IPS via email.

Majola works at a national supermarket chain, with her only dependent being her elderly mother. She says her grocery bill comes to about USD190 each month, higher than what most average families can afford, but agrees that the current cost of fruit and vegetables are a luxury item for her.

“They are a bit expensive now. Maybe they can sell them at a lesser price,” she says, adding that if she could afford it, she would have vegetables everyday. “Everything comes from the pocket.”

Monopoly of Food Chain Creating a System that Makes People Ill

David Sanders, emeritus professor at the school of public health at the University of the Western Cape, says that South Africans have a very high burden of ill health, much of which is related to their diet.

But he adds that large corporates dominate every node of the food chain in the country, starting from inputs and production, all the way to processing, manufacturing and retail. “So it is monopolised all the way up the food system from the farm to the fork.”

“The food system is creating, for poor people anyway, a quite unhealthy food environment. So for well-off people there is sufficient choice and people can afford a nutritionally-adequate diet, even one of quite high quality.

“But poor people can’t. In most cases, the great majority, don’t have a kind of subsistence farming to fall back on because of land policies and the fact that in the 24 years of democracy there hasn’t been significant development of small scale farming,” Sanders, who is one of the authors of a report on food systems in Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, tells IPS.

According to the report, about 35,000 medium and large commercial farmers produce most of South Africa’s food.

In addition, Sanders points out that a vast majority of rural South Africans purchase, rather than grow, their own food.

“The food they can afford tends to be largely what we call ultra processed or processed food. That often provides sufficient calories but not enough nutrients. It tends to be quite low often in good-quality proteins and low in vitamins and minerals – what we call hyper nutrients.

“So the latter situation results in quite a lot of people becoming overweight and obese. And yet they are poorly nourished,” Sanders explains.

The Sugar Tax Not Enough to Stem Epidemic of Obesity

In April, South Africa introduced the Sugary Beverages Levy, which charges manufacturers 2.1 cents per gram of sugar content that exceeds 4g per 100 ml. The levy is part of the country’s department of health’s efforts to reduce obesity.

Pillay says while it is still too early to tell if the tax will be effective, in her opinion “customers will fork out the extra money being charged for sugar-sweetened beverages. Only the very poor may decide to stop buying them because of cost.”

Sander’s points out “it’s not just the level of obesity, it is the rate at which this has developed that is so alarming.”

A study shows that the number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubled in the last six years, while it had taken the United States 13 years for this to happen.

“Here is an epidemic of nutrition, diet-related diseases, which has unfolded extremely rapidly and is just as big and as threatening and expensive as the HIV epidemic, and yet it is going largely unnoticed.”

Overweight people have a risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension, which places them at risk for heart disease. One of South Africa’s largest medical aid schemes estimated in a report that the economic impact on the country was USD50 billion a year.

“Even if people knew what they should eat there is very very little room for manoeuvre. There is some, but not much,” Sanders says adding that people should rather opt to drink water rather than purchase sugary beverages.

“Education and awareness is a factor but I would say that these big economic drivers are much more important.”

Sanders says that questions need to be asked about how the control of the country’s food system and food chain can “be shifted towards smaller and more diverse production and manufacture and distributions.”

“Those are really the big questions. It would require very targeted and strong policies on the part of government. That would be everything from preferentially financing small operators [producers, manufacturers and retailers]…at every level there would have to be incentives, not just financial, but training and support also,” he says.

Pillay agrees that the increase in food prices “needs to be addressed as it directly influences what people are able to buy and eat. … Sustainable agriculture should assist in reducing the prices of locally-grown fruit and vegetables and to make them more available to South African consumers.”

Mervyn Abrahams, one of the authors of the Pacsa report, now a programme coordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, tells IPS that the organisation is campaigning for a living wage that should be able to provide households with a basic and sufficient nutrition in their food basket. The matter, he says, is one of economic justice.

“It is precisely a justice issue because at the very least our economy should be able to provide access to sufficient and nutritious food. Because, at the basis of our whole humanity, at the very basis of our body, is our nutrition. And so it is the most basic level by which we believe that the economy should be judged, to see whether there is equity and justice in our economic arena.”

*Not her real name.

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Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:55:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157146 Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power. “We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that […]

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Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power.

“We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that cost fell to about 300 reais (80 dollars),” Catholic priest Paulo Diniz Ferreira, in charge of the Sant’Ana Parish of Sousa, now nicknamed “Solar Parish,” told IPS. The parish’s solar energy generating system was formally inaugurated on Jul. 6, but had been in operation since April.

The 142 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Parish Centre, which includes offices, auditoriums and an indoor sports arena, also generate energy for the church, which is currently undergoing expansion work, for a chapel and for the living quarters.

The installed maximum capacity is 46.1 kW and its monthly generation is estimated at around 6,700 kWh.

“It is more than an energy issue, it is a question of being in tune with Laudato Si,” the priest explained, referring to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, published in May 2015, and the church’s duty to be a “reference point and witness.”

With the new resources, the parish will be able to enhance evangelisation work and pastoral care for children, the elderly and prisoners, he said.

Their example is expected to inspire the other 60 parishes that make up the diocese based in the neighbouring city of Cajazeiras, says César Nóbrega, coordinator of the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (CERSA), which promotes the use of solar energy and other alternative sources in and around Sousa, a large municipality with an 80 percent urban population.

The first solar-powered school in Paraíba was inaugurated on the same day, Jul. 6.

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil's Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil’s Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Twelve solar panels will save 350 to 400 kWh per month for the Dione Diniz primary and secondary school, in a rural district of Sousa, São Gonçalo, Brazil, which is the area with the highest level of solar radiation in Brazil and the second in the world, Nóbrega told IPS.

The aim is also to “disseminate information and promote discussions with teachers, students and the local community about the solar potential in mitigating climate change,” he said.

“We included it in the school’s Pedagogical Intervention Project, which chooses a theme for each two-month period, with renewable energy as its flagship,” said Clemilson Lacerda, the school’s science teacher.

“We don’t yet know how much we will save on the electricity bill, which reached 1,700 reais (450 dollars) in June, but we will invest the savings in improving the school, in teaching materials and in food for the students,” school vice principal Analucia Casimiro told IPS.

From the small rooftop terrace of the Vó Ita Hotel you can see the solar energy boom in Sousa. The rooftop of the hotel itself is covered with photovoltaic panels, as well as two large rooftops below, of a gas station and a steakhouse.

Nearby there are industrial warehouses, houses, stores, pharmacies, car dealerships and supermarkets which are also using the new source of energy, as well as companies that consume a lot of energy, such as cold storage warehouses and ice-cream parlours.

“I reduced my energy costs to zero,” young entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha, a partner in a company that has a poultry slaughterhouse, farm, dairy products factory and store, told IPS. It generates its own electricity with 60 solar panels placed over the truck parking lot at its slaughterhouse.

“In 2014, when we founded CERSA, there was not a single solar energy system in Sousa; today we have more than 100 installed,” said Nóbrega, the head of the organisation, which brings together public and private institutions, researchers and collaborators, with the mission of making “solar power the main source of energy” in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This activism, rooted in the fight against climate change that tends to aggravate local drought, succeeded in mobilising many stakeholders from universities, civil society and the public sector in seminars, forums and courses.

“CERSA was not born to install generation systems, but to debate,” raise awareness and encourage public policies, Nóbrega said.

But in practice it also acts as a disseminator of solar plants on two fronts: corporate and social.

It stimulated the creation in 2015 of Ative Energy, the largest installer of photovoltaic systems in Sousa and executor of the Solar Parish project, conceived by CERSA. Today there are five solar power companies in the city.

“By November 2017 we had installed 40 systems; now there are 196. We used to employ only five workers, now there are 30: we grew sixfold in six months,” said Frank Araujo, owner of Ative, whose operations spread over 26 cities in five states of the Brazilian Northeast.

In Brazil, solar generation represents only 0.8 percent of current installed capacity, but it is the fastest growing source of energy. According to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), the sector’s regulatory body, it accounts for 8.26 percent of the energy in new construction projects.

Danilo Gadelha, one of the leading members of Sousa’s business community, is a co-owner of Ative and also its main client. He hired the company to install solar power plants in the companies of his conglomerate Vó Ita, comprising distributors of food and cooking gas, a vegetable oil factory, a hotel, a construction company, a gas station and a cemetery.

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family's home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family’s home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“I started trying solar energy as a user,” before offering it as an installer and “going from a large-scale energy consumer to an entrepreneur,” he told IPS. The company’s energy costs are close to 23,500 dollars a month.

Ative Energy has a major competitive advantage. As it has a great amount of capital, it finances the solar plants it installs at the lowest interest rates on the market.

This is what it did with the Parish of Sousa, which is paying off the financing in monthly installments lower than the amount saved in the electricity bill. “We will repay everything in three and a half years,” said the parish priest, because little more than a third of the project was paid for in cash with donations.

Since the equipment has a 25-year life span, the church will have free energy for more than 20 years.

The solar energy units in companies and large houses are important for the CERSA campaign as a demonstration of solar power’s viability and economic and environmental benefits, acknowledged Nóbrega.

But the campaign also succeeded in attracting the interest of funds and institutions that support social projects.

Thus, in 2016, the Solar Semi-Arid Project was born, made up of CERSA, Caritas Brazil – the social body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference – and the Forum on Climate Change and Justice, with financial support from Misereor, the development aid body of the German Catholic Church.

This allowed the Dione Diniz School to obtain its solar plant, financed part of the Solar Parish system, and distributed water pumping devices and biodigesters in rural communities, as well as making it possible to offer training courses for “solar electricians” in Sousa and nearby municipalities.

In addition to providing cheap and clean energy, decentralised photovoltaic generation is an economic alternative for Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast which is at risk of becoming completely arid due to climate change, warned Nóbrega.

In the state of Paraíba – where Sousa is located – 93.7 percent of the territory is in the process of desertification, according to the Programme to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought in that northeastern Brazilian state.

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Why the Flooding in Grenada is a Clear Reminder of its Vulnerability to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/flooding-grenada-clear-reminder-vulnerability-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=flooding-grenada-clear-reminder-vulnerability-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/flooding-grenada-clear-reminder-vulnerability-climate-change/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 08:47:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157093 Grenada is still tallying the damage after heavy rainfall last week resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding that once again highlights the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to climate change. Officials here say extreme weather events like in 2004 and 2005 are still fresh in the minds of residents. Rising sea levels are […]

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Grenada is still tallying the damage after heavy rainfall last week resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding. Courtesy: Desmond Brown

By Desmond Brown
ST GEORGE’S, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

Grenada is still tallying the damage after heavy rainfall last week resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding that once again highlights the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to climate change.
Officials here say extreme weather events like in 2004 and 2005 are still fresh in the minds of residents. Rising sea levels are leading to an erosion of coastlines, while hurricanes and tropical storms regularly devastate crucial infrastructure.

For three hours, between 9 am and 12 noon on Aug. 1, a tropical wave interacting with the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, lingered over the island, dumping several inches of rain, which resulted in rapidly-rising flood waters."We had so much rain over such a short period, the whole system was inundated, and it speaks clearly to the effects of climate change.”-- senator Winston Garraway, minister of state in the ministry of climate resilience.

The Maurice Bishop International Airport Meteorological Office recorded six inches of rain over the three-hour period, and officials said the interior of the island received significantly more rainfall. No recording of the island’s interior was immediately available.

“The flooding was wide and extensive,” senator Winston Garraway, minister of state in the ministry of climate resilience, told IPS.
“St. David and St George [parishes] were badly impacted and we have decided that both areas will be disaster areas.”

In St. David, Garraway said there were 60 landslides, and these have impacted on the road network in the parish which is the country’s main agriculture zone.

A total of nine homes in both parishes have been badly affected and families had to be relocated, Garraway said, adding that disaster officials are looking at either demolishing and rebuilding or relocating homes.
“The national stadium took a bad beating from the flood waters and this is likely to impact on activities going forward in the immediate future,” Garraway said.

Damage to the ground floor of the stadium also led to the postponement of one of the main carnival events.

Garraway, who also has responsibility for the environment, forestry, fisheries and disaster management, said the weather event was another clear remainder that Grenada and other SIDS are among the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“We have been one of the strong proponents of the impact of climate change, so we’ve been training our people as it relates to mitigation measures. But we had so much rain over such a short period, the whole system was inundated, and it speaks clearly to the effects of climate change,” he said.

“One might ask, was there any chance of us mitigating against some of these challenges that we have seen? In some sense, I think yes, in a large sense, no. The system could not have absorbed the amount of water we had that short time.”

The minister of communication, works and public utilities, Gregory Bowen, agrees with Garraway that events like these highlight the effects of climate change on SIDS.

Bowen said there is an urgent need for grant financing to help at the community level.

“A lot of the flood waters passed through private lands. The state is responsible for state properties, but for private people, the size of drains that would have to run through their properties, they can’t afford it,” Bowen told IPS.

“So that is one area that we have to work on, getting granting financing to help the people. Because the rains come, and it will find its own path and it’s usually through private lands. If you have good drains you could properly channel the run off.

“So that is one critical component that we have to move on immediately. Millions of dollars are needed to be spent on that,” Bowen added.
But he said the island simply cannot afford to cover these costs, noting that Grenada only recently concluded a three-year, International Monetary Fund supported Structural Adjustment Programme.

While the formal impact assessment is still being done by the ministry of works in collaboration with the ministry of finance, officials here have already reached out to regional partners for support.

Garraway said officials at the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, have been in touch with local disaster management officials to ascertain the extent of the damage and the immediate assistance needed.

Meanwhile, epidemiologist in the ministry of health, Dr. Shawn Charles, has advised residents to stay away from the stagnant water resultant from the flooding. He warned that they may not only be contaminated with debris such as broken bottles and plastics, but pathogens that can cause life-threatening conditions.

“Flood water from the level of rainfall we received from that tropical wave is normally contaminated with all kinds of things and it’s not wise for anyone to expose themselves to it. There are all kinds of contaminants that can impact differently, so swimming, running and doing other things in that type of contaminated water should be avoided,” Charles told IPS.

“One of the life-threatening contaminants in flood water is droplets and urine from rats and that is the main transmitter for leptospirosis, and that disease can cause death. So, it’s not advisable for a person to just go about exposing themselves to flood water. It is just not wise; it can result in sickness. People need to be very cautious. Personal contact with flooded water should be avoided.”

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VIDEO: Climate Change Could Have Devastating Consequences for Saint Luciahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/video-climate-change-devastating-consequences-saint-lucia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=video-climate-change-devastating-consequences-saint-lucia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/video-climate-change-devastating-consequences-saint-lucia/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 11:14:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157104 The Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia is home to more than 2,000 native species — of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else in the world. Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, the island is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by […]

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Climate Change Could Have Devastating Consequences for Saint Lucia

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 7 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia is home to more than 2,000 native species — of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else in the world. Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, the island is exceptionally rich in animals and plants.

Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers.

But a major conservation organisation warns that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake. Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action. He urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

 

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Land Degradation: A Triple Threat in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-degradation-triple-threat-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 08:41:45 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157041 Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods. African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land […]

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A rice farmer in Northern Ghana during better days. Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods.

African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land degradation across the continent.

“We need to take ownership of our responsibility,” said minister of environment and sustainable development of Senegal Mame Thierno Dieng. The west African nation was one of the countries that helped launch the 3S initiative."We need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm." -- Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei.

Among its objectives, 3S hopes to stabilise “at risk” areas by creating new, green jobs for the most vulnerable communities through investments on land rehabilitation and sustainable land management.

Without any such action, the dangers for communities are undeniable.

Globally, 80 percent of land degradation is caused by agriculture. Since 1950, 65 percent of Africa’s cropland, which millions depend on, has been affected by land degradation by mining, poor farming practices, and illegal logging.

Meanwhile, an estimated 375 million young Africans are estimated to enter the job market within the next 15 years. Of this population, 200 million will live in rural areas.

As resource-based sectors such as agriculture account for 80 percent of employment, young people will be left without a healthy environment to survive on. According to 3S, this could lead to conflict over natural resources, instability caused by the lack of income-generating opportunities, and increased exposure to extremist groups.

Ghana, renowned for its tropical forests and cocoa farms, is already seeing this scenario play out.

Approximately 35 percent of the west African country’s land is under threat of desertification especially in the north where land degradation and climate change have exacerbated poverty.

Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts.

Such losses have forced northern residents to migrate to the southern region of the country where they live in “highly deplorable” conditions, Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei told IPS.

“It is about time that we find ways of ensuring we neutralise the high rate of degradation,” she said.

“[3S] is an initiative we are very passionate about and we believe that we need to join to address these issues because land degradation and desertification issues is not just affecting the land but it is also affecting water, energy, food baskets, and livelihoods of the people who live within those communities,” Appiagyei continued.

While Ghana has begun investing in agricultural development in the north, conflicts are beginning to escalate between farmers and herders who are losing grazing land for their cattle.

The Gambia is facing similar challenges, with almost 80 percent of its woodlands degraded in alongside a rapid decrease in the productivity of its cropland.

As 64 percent of its population are young people, Gambians have been forced to move to urban areas or abroad for greener pastures.

Many Gambians have also been returning which is proving to be an additional challenge, said minister of environment, climate change, and natural resources Lamin Dibba to IPS.

“There was a particular month that there were about 400 people returning from abroad. This is very worrying for the fact that when they stay long without any livelihood support system, this can bring a lot of social disorder,” he said.

In an effort to avoid such instability, the Gambia hopes to create 25,000 green jobs for youth in their communities as well as returning migrants in the fields of agriculture, tourism, and conservation.

To achieve this, education is a crucial component, both Appiagyei and Dibba said.

“[We need] to reach out to the communities to explain to them what is climate change, what are the causes, what are the likely impacts…this is why we call it integrated—we want to look at all aspects of people’s livelihoods,” Dibba said.

Supported by the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, the Gambia is implementing an education project targeting schools about GGW and land restoration methods.

Appiagyei noted the importance of including farmers, especially women, in such initiatives through education on agricultural practices and new technologies.

“They are currently suffering from the agricultural practices they are undertaking and the weather doesn’t really help…we need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm,” she said.

While Ghana is considering a lift on a ban on small-scale mining, which has impacted swathes of forests and water bodies, Appiagyei told IPS that sustainable land management comes first.

“We are thinking about lifting the ban, but not until we are able to improve on land management practices and apply the right legislation. Not until we are convinced that we have the right measures to curb the activities of small-scale illegal mining,” she said.

But no one of this will be possible without meetings and support from the international level.

“We want to ensure these projects become a reality,” said Dibba.

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The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

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Trump Escalates Rhetoric on Iranhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trump-escalates-rhetoric-iran/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-escalates-rhetoric-iran http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trump-escalates-rhetoric-iran/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 17:38:14 +0000 Kelsey Davenport http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157009 Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

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Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

By Kelsey Davenport
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

Rhetoric escalated between the United States and Iran when U.S. President Donald Trump irresponsibly tweeted July 22 that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN” or else suffer consequences the likes of which “FEW HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The meeting for a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in 2015. Attendees included John Kerry of the United States, Philip Hammond of the United Kingdom, Sergey Lavrov of Russia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Laurent Fabius of France, Wang Yi of China, Federica Mogherini of the European Union and Javad Zarif of Iran.

In response to Trump’s threat, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted July 23 that Iran is “UNIMPRESSED” by the bluster and ended his message with the warning “BE CAUTIOUS.”

The Trump tweet was likely prompted by Rouhani warning July 22 that the United States should know that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars” and if Iran’s oil exports are blocked, “no other country in the region” will export oil.

The sanctions that Trump reimposed May 8 when he violated and withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), include measures penalizing states if they fail to significantly reduce imports of Iranian oil every 180 days.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated in a July 22 speech that the U.S. focus is to get states importing Iranian oil to “as close to zero as possible” by the Nov. 4 180-day deadline (see below for details).

Pompeo said little about the JCPOA in his speech, which criticized the Iranian regime and reiterated that the United States is engaged in a “diplomatic and financial pressure campaign” to cut off funds used by the government to “enrich itself and support death and destruction.”

While Trump’s tweet prompted pushback from some policymakers, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton July 23 reiterated and appeared to broaden the vague and reckless threat, saying “if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said July 24 that Trump is making “very clear” that Iran is “on the wrong track” and called for Tehran to “shape up and show responsibility.”

The exchange of threats between the United States and Iran is taking place as the P4+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are looking for options to sustain sanctions relief and keep Iran in the JCPOA (see below for details).

The P4+1 face a ticking clock, as the first U.S. sanctions re-imposed by Trump will be enforceable Aug. 6, when the 90-day wind down closes. These measures target certain banking activities, trade involving certain metals, coal, and the automotive sector, and the purchase of U.S. dollars by the Iranian government.

The Treasury Department will also revoke authorizations allowing carpets and Iranian foodstuffs to be exported to the United States and revoke licenses issued for the sale of commercial aircraft parts and services to Iran.

The remaining sanctions penalties, including those that target Iran’s oil sales, will be effective Nov. 4.

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Excerpt:

Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

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Transforming Food Systems: Today’s Realities and Tomorrow’s Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 15:37:30 +0000 Alice Lloyd http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157007 The world’s food systems face two immense challenges today. One, to produce enough food to nourish a global population of seven billion people without harming the environment. Two, to make sure food systems deliver nutrition to everyone, particularly the world’s poorest, many of whom suffer from chronic under-nutrition. Like the Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index, […]

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Radish production at West Africa Farms, in Northern Senegal. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

By Alice Lloyd
WASHINGTON, Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

The world’s food systems face two immense challenges today. One, to produce enough food to nourish a global population of seven billion people without harming the environment. Two, to make sure food systems deliver nutrition to everyone, particularly the world’s poorest, many of whom suffer from chronic under-nutrition.

Like the Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index, a new report released earlier this summer looks at the complex connections between the ways we organize and produce our food, and the implications for the environment, human health, and social wellbeing.

With input from over 150 experts from 33 countries, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project, makes the case for a global agri-food systems transformation. It argues that our agri-food systems today are being viewed and evaluated through a narrow, incomplete and distorted lens by focusing on per-hectare-productivity. To fix our food system, our food metrics need to be fixed.

The way we are currently producing food is negatively impacting climate, water, top soil, biodiversity and marine environments. If we do not change course, we will seriously undermine our ability to deliver adequate food for future populations. In addition to the negative environmental impacts, we are struggling to deliver nutritious and healthy diets in an equitable way. Diet-related chronic diseases are on the rise even as we fail to deliver nutritious food to millions of poor people around the world.

The consequences of our current food systems outlined in the report include:
• Agricultural production alone contributes over one-fourth of global GHG emissions.
• However, when considering the entire ‘agri-food value chain’ (including agriculture-related deforestation, farming, processing, packaging, transportation and waste), this number climbs to a staggering 43 to 57 percent of GHG emissions.
• 70 to 90 percent of global deforestation is from agricultural expansion.
• If women had the same access to resources (land, credits, education, etc.) as male farmers, they could raise yields by 20 to 30 percent, and lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger.
• Approximately one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, enough to feed the world’s hungry six times over.
• Around 40 percent of available land is used for growing food, a figure that would need to rise to an improbable 70 percent by 2050 under a “business-as-usual” scenario.
• 33 percent of the Earth’s land surface is moderately to highly affected by some type of soil degradation mainly due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, or chemical pollution of soils.
• Diets have become the main risk for human health. Six of the top eleven risk factors driving the global burden of disease are diet-related.
• The World Health Organization estimates the direct costs of diabetes at more than US$827 billion per year, globally.
• Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases. An estimated 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food, while 420,000 die every year.
• 61 percent of commercial fish populations are fully fished and 29 percent are overfished.
• In a “business-as-usual” scenario, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by 2050.

The agricultural revolution is still very strongly influencing our food production. While food production has successfully been increased, the environmental impacts have received a lot less attention. They have been either been ignored or been considered as a necessary trade-off.

The Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index for example, in considering how resilience to natural resource and climate related risks pose long term threats to food systems across countries, includes a tool to explore how individual countries perform on a natural resources and resilience adjustment factor.

“If you look at food production only from a price perspective, and the old paradigm of the cheaper the better, you run into a trap because the long-term sustainability of our food production system is not a given,”says Alexander Müller, Study Leader of TEEBAgriFood.

“The task for agriculture and food systems in the years to come is huge, says Muller: ‘feeding a population projected to reach 10 billion in 2050, achieving the four dimensions of food security (FAO 1996) for all people by providing healthy food, drastically reducing the impacts of different types of agricultural production on the world’s ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change and to adapt to it, developing rural areas to create jobs and to improve livelihoods of poor people, maintaining ecosystem services such as clean water and air for a rapidly urbanizing planet are only some of the challenges.”

Tackling these challenges requires a systematic approach. This report looks at all the impacts of the value chain, from farm to fork to disposal, including effects on livelihoods, the environment, and health. It identifies theories and pathways for transformational change in government, business, farming, and consumer contexts while providing a framework for evaluation that supports the comprehensive, universal and inclusive assessment of eco-agri-food systems.

Recognizing the interlinkages, in terms of impacts and dependencies that food systems have with our economies, societies, health, and environment is a crucial first step. Using the report’s Framework and its language can allow for the next generation of agricultural and food research to provide a more comprehensive basis for decision-making and together with the 2017 Food Security Index, provides a comprehensive assessment of food systems as well as natural resource availability and resilience.

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GGGI awarded A+ rating by DFID for the first timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/gggi-awarded-rating-dfid-first-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gggi-awarded-rating-dfid-first-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/gggi-awarded-rating-dfid-first-time/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 14:41:51 +0000 GGGI http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157000 The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has received an A+ rating in the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s 2017 Annual Review, highlighting the excellent progress made last year. The United Kingdom is a founding Member of GGGI, a contributing member that provides multi-year core funding to GGGI, and currently serves on GGGI’s Council that […]

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By GGGI
SEOUL, South Korea, Aug 1 2018 (GGGI)

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has received an A+ rating in the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s 2017 Annual Review, highlighting the excellent progress made last year.

The United Kingdom is a founding Member of GGGI, a contributing member that provides multi-year core funding to GGGI, and currently serves on GGGI’s Council that approves and oversees GGGI’s work plan, budget, and results.

This is the first time that GGGI has been awarded an A+. Previously DFID had awarded GGGI with an “A” score, exceeding expectations and demonstrating impressive development as an organization.

DFID conducts rigorous annual reviews of activities, assessing performance standards for all programs financially supported by the UK.

GGGI has performed exceptionally well in the areas of finance and knowledge generation and continuously showed improvement in the quality of its reporting, assurance and risk management systems.

The rating clearly demonstrates that GGGI is strategically moving in the right direction in scaling up its in-country impact by being an effective organization that has a sound risk appetite and achieves increased value for money, through the smart delivery of its programmatic interventions.

GGGI has been working also to strengthen its results-based management system and corporate results reporting to fully meet its obligations to donors for accountability, transparency and good governance.

DFID is primarily responsible for administering the UK Government’s overseas aid with a primary focus to promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty.

Relatedly, as part of GGGI’s effort to expand its partner network, the Institute has recently worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to qualify as a Public International Organization (PIO) in order to be eligible for USAID financing opportunities worldwide. This PIO status allows GGGI to engage with USAID missions in its Member countries in a country-specific approach to seek joint opportunities in the implementation of green growth objectives.

GGGI looks forward to identifying these opportunities with USAID and to forming a long term productive relationship to advance its mutual objectives around the globe.

About the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

Based in Seoul, GGGI is an intergovernmental organization that supports developing country governments transition to a model of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. GGGI delivers programs in 27 partner countries with technical support, capacity building, policy planning & implementation, and by helping to build a pipeline of bankable green investment projects. More on GGGI’s events, projects and publications can be found on www.gggi.org. You can also follow GGGI on Twitter and join us on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

About the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

The Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty. DFID is tackling the global challenges of our time including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict. DFID’s work is building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK.

About United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.

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Is Thailand Making Progress Towards Reaching its Climate Change Mitigation Goals?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/thailand-making-progress-towards-reaching-climate-change-mitigation-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thailand-making-progress-towards-reaching-climate-change-mitigation-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/thailand-making-progress-towards-reaching-climate-change-mitigation-goals/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 09:31:14 +0000 Sinsiri Tiwutanond http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156986 As preparations are underway for an important formal discussion between countries committed to the Paris Agreement; Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, has been determining its progress towards reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 to 25 percent by 2030. But experts have warned against merely emphasising policies to affect real changes. Under the Facilitative Dialogue […]

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Runoff from the north into the Chao Phraya River, heavy rains and high tides all pose major flooding threat to Bangkok. Credit: Ron Corben/IPS

By Sinsiri Tiwutanond
BANGKOK , Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

As preparations are underway for an important formal discussion between countries committed to the Paris Agreement; Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, has been determining its progress towards reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 to 25 percent by 2030. But experts have warned against merely emphasising policies to affect real changes.

Under the Facilitative Dialogue 2018, countries will have the opportunity to revisit  their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in a fight to close the gap between the GHG emissions trajectory needed to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. NDCs are outlines of the actions countries propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C.

“Climate change impacts deal with long-term planning. We need to be looking at how we are planning to adapt ourselves to the impact in the next five to 10 years and the infrastructure needed to be resilient to those impacts. It is very site-specific. You can’t really focus on the policy level alone,” Wanun Permpibul of Thailand Climate Action Network told IPS.

According Permpibul, unofficial talks have indicated that Thailand may not be revisiting their NDC commitments this year.

“When we meet with government officials, they claim that they already achieved 17 percent of reduction even though we haven’t implement the NDCs yet. It seems they are still unsure if we are going to resubmit our targets this year,” she said.

She cautioned against this optimism as there are still ongoing projects from the government that contradict their NDC commitment, in particular a plan for two coal-fired powered plants in in the southern tourist destinations of Krabi and Songkhla. Earlier this year, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand announced it would delay the construction of the power plants after months-long opposition from local villagers and activists. However, the coal-fired power plants remained on the pipeline with an expected start date in the next three years.

“There is no room to say we have a marginalised renewable energy and that is already acceptable. We’ve been working with communities and networks in the lower northern region of Thailand and they have already witnessed the impacts of climate change. It’s more difficult now to plan for their crops because the rainfall pattern has changed,” Permpibul said.

She believes a stronger push is needed to see real progress towards the government’s commitment. “We need to limit the temperature to 1.5 degrees. It’s a matter of life and death and it’s the urgency that Thailand is not aware of. You can’t afford to go for another half degree.”

Global Green Growth Intuitive (GGGI) Thailand’s green growth and planning and implementation programme manager Khan Ram-Indra said that the country is making meaningful progress on their NDC goals. Credit: Sinsiri Tiwutanond/IPS

Global Green Growth Intuitive (GGGI) is one of the organisations working closely to assist the country’s Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy (ONEP).

GGGI’s Thailand’s green growth and planning and implementation programme manager Khan Ram-Indra said that Thailand is making meaningful progress on their NDC goals.

The organisation has previously worked with the government to develop a GHG reduction roadmap for the Thai industry to remain on track with the agreement.

“GGGI’s work in Thailand has a strong focus on green industries. We believe we are in the best position to help Thailand achieve their ambitious target in GHG reduction. Out of the 20 percent [commitment under the NDC], eight percent will be from the energy industry, which is the area we are focused on, so we are currently working to turn those plans into real actions by collaborating directly with the private sector to develop bankable projects,” Ram-Indra said.

He said what makes GGGI’s work here crucial is that it is among a few development agencies working to focus on bankable project developments in the implementation phase of the value chain instead of planning. This has already demonstrated hopeful results from local companies. Under GGGI’s Accelerate NDC Implementation track, the organisation worked with local industry to identify potential energy efficiency projects and helped mobilise financing from its reach of investors.

Through a series of audits, on-site electricity and economic studies, the organisation was able to narrow down two companies with the most potential for energy efficiency projects.

GGGI was also able to raise USD1 million for a green industry project and based on that project, the organisation predicts similar successes across the country. While green investment makes up the bulk of GGGI’s efforts, Ram-Indra stressed that the means are as important as the end. “What we want is to see real tangible GHG reduction by the end of the project,” he added.

“For our Thailand programmes, they tend to focus more on climate change mitigation. Because GGGI’s mandate is to create a resilient world of strong inclusive and sustainable growth, with all of our projects, especially green cities, we make sure that the plan that we develop to help mobilise finance has a strong aspect of resilience to address climate change,” Ram-Indra explained.

Other projects on GGGI’s portfolio also include assisting the Udon Thani municipality develop a feasibility study to decide what will be the most cost-effective measures in collecting e-waste products. Udon Thani, a province located 560 km northeast of Bangkok, is ramping up efforts to become a regional hub for waste products after successfully developing their own waste treatment plant. GGGI is also assisting them conduct a feasibility study for a recycling plant that disassemble products like mobile phones and makes them more economically viable to sell to third-parties.

Another focus is on the Green Climate Fund, which Thailand currently has limited capacity in accessing. GGGI is working closely with ONEP which is the focal point of the fund to help the agency effectively access it.

Whether these efforts would bolster the country’s results to meet its NDCs by 2030 remains to be seen.

“If you set your demands very high, it doesn’t reflect the reality of this country. Rather, why don’t we use the time and resources to make our targets more ambitious and affect real changes,” Permpibul concluded.

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Caribbean Builds Resilience Through Enhanced Data Collectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection/#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 13:53:30 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156973 By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean. At the same time, the centre […]

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Meteorologists and hydro-met technicians assemble one of the 40 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) being installed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Program (USAID CCAP). Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Jul 31 2018 (IPS)

By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean.

At the same time, the centre is also installing an additional 50 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) across nine countries to expand the existing network of hydro-meteorological stations- yet another push to improve data collection in the region. The data will help scientists to better evaluate potential risks and impacts, and provide the information national leaders seek to build more resilient infrastructures to mitigate climate risks.

Enhancing the data collection and availability is central to the centre’s mandate to prepare the Caribbean’s response to climate change, Dr Ulric Trotz science advisor and deputy executive director told IPS.

He noted: “Experts here are using the critical data they collect, to enhance models, design tools and develop strategies to mitigate and build resilience to the devastating impacts – rising seas, longer dry spells, more extreme rainfall and potentially higher impact tropical cyclones – associated with climate variability and change.”

Reporting in “Volume 1 of the Caribbean Climate Series,” released ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  in Germany in 2017, researchers at the University of the West Indies Climate Studies Group, Mona Campus, Jamaica, pointed out that the Caribbean is already experiencing the impacts associated with changes in climatic conditions.

According to the report, nights and days are warmer; air and sea surface temperatures are higher and there are longer and more frequent periods of droughts. Not surprisingly, after the 2017 hurricane season, researchers also reported increasing intensity in rainfalls and more intense hurricanes with stronger winds and lots more rain.

“Even if global warming beyond the 1°C already experienced were limited to only a further half a degree, there would still be consequences for the Caribbean region,” the report said.

Trotz explained: “These data gathering systems, which were acquired with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Programme, are increasing the volume of real-time data and enhancing the reliability and accuracy of weather and climate forecasting in the region”.

In addition to the super computers installed at CCCCC’s Belize location, the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus and Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH)-under previous projects- the newly installed data points, are already enhancing the capacity of regional scientists to monitor and process the atmospheric and other environmental variables that are affected by the changes in climatic conditions.

The data collection efforts support evidence-based decision-making, and improve the accuracy of the projections from the regional and global climate models while building the region’s resilience to the impacts of climate variability and change. In the end, the information provided in the 1.5 Report which will form part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change global assessment report AR6 as well as all other Caribbean forecasts and models promises to be more accurate and reliable.

“The data collected from these stations forms the baseline for all climate modelling, ensuring that we have a good baseline data to suffice our regional climate services models for regional forecast and predictions. The network strengthens the baseline for climate change projection models thereby increasing the confidence in the results that are used in the decision-making for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Albert Jones, instrumentation technician at the 5Cs, told IPS.

The retired weather forecaster explained, that the new AWS are not only improving data collection, they are also expanding the capability and roles of local Met Offices from their historic roles of providing information for primarily aviation purposes.

The importance of these systems cannot be understated, particularly in countries like Guyana and Suriname where deficiencies in the data seriously hampers the coverage of areas with significant differences in the topography and climatic conditions. This is especially significant where comparisons of hinterland and elevated forested areas to the low-lying coastal flood plains are critical to development of lives and property.

The centre, which celebrates its 14th year of operation in July 2018, has worked with several donors over its existence to improve the collection of data in a region that largely depended on manual systems and where historical data has been hard to come by. The latter is an essential input for validation of the regional models required for the production of region-specific climate scenarios, which are utilised in impact studies across all of the affected sectors in the region. These in turn form the basis of crafting the adaptation responses required to build climate resilience in specific sectors.

Popularly known as the 5Cs, the climate change centre carries out its mandate through a network of partners including government meteorologists, hydrologists, university professors and researchers. Scientists and researchers in Universities across the region and at specialist institutions like the Barbados-based CIMH, do the data crunching.

“We are building climate and weather early warning systems to build resilience, so it is important that we collect and turn this data into useful information that will benefit the society,” CIMH’s principal Dr David Farrell told hydro-met technicians at a USAID sponsored training on the grounds of the institute in March.

He noted that in designing the system, the CIMH- that has responsibility for maintaining the network- identified and reduced existing deficiencies to improve the quality of data collected.

And as global temperatures continue to soar, the World Meteorological Organisation 2018 report noted that 2017 was “was one of the world’s three warmest years on record.”

It said: “A combination of five datasets, three of them using conventional surface observations and two of them re-analysis, shows that global mean temperatures were 0.46 °C ± 0.1 °C above the 1981–2010 average, and about 1.1 °C ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial levels. By this measure, 2017 and 2015 were effectively indistinguishable as the world’s second and third warmest years on record, ranking only behind 2016, which was 0.56 °C above the 1981−2010 average.”

With studies pointing to a warmer Caribbean and an increase in the frequency of extreme events, regional scientists are committed to improving the way they use data to guide governments on the actions that will lessen the expected impacts. In 2017, extreme weather events in the form of Hurricanes Irma and Maria claimed lives, destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure, throwing islands like Barbuda, Dominica and the Virgin Islands back several decades.

In identifying extreme weather events as “the most prominent risk facing humanity”, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018 noted: “Fuelled by warm sea-surface temperatures, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever for the United States, and eradicated decades of development gains in small islands in the Caribbean such as Dominica. Floods uprooted millions of people on the Indian subcontinent, whilst drought is exacerbating poverty and increasing migration pressures in the Horn of Africa.”

The CREWS network is part of a global system to improve the monitoring and management of coral reefs as environmental and climatic conditions increases coral bleaching and death. The centre works in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration to install monitoring stations that collect data on climate, marine and biological parameters for use by scientists to conduct research into the health of coral reefs in changing climatic and sea conditions.

Under previous funding arrangements, CREWS stations were also installed in Belize, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, as well as other parts of the region.

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Benin – the Launchpad and Home for African Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/benin-launchpad-home-african-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=benin-launchpad-home-african-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/benin-launchpad-home-african-migrants/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2018 14:53:11 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156891 Last year, Mohamed Keita returned home to Mali after living and working in Libya for six years. Eighteen months ago he was arrested by security forces in Libya as he and other migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe via a makeshift boat. After spending a traumatising six months in jail, he was […]

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The floating market at Ganvie village on Lake Nokoue near Cotonou, Benin. Many migrants use Benin as a launchpad before heading to North Africa or Europe. But some are choosing to remain. Credit: David Stanley/CC By 2.0

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
COTONOU, Benin, Jul 26 2018 (IPS)

Last year, Mohamed Keita returned home to Mali after living and working in Libya for six years. Eighteen months ago he was arrested by security forces in Libya as he and other migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe via a makeshift boat. After spending a traumatising six months in jail, he was transported back to Mali.

But as soon as he arrived he immediately knew that it would be difficult for him to stay put.

Keita’s home is in the central poverty-stricken Mopti region where his entire village still does not have power.

While his parents now live in the country’s capital Bamako, “even in our family house in Bamako, running water and electricity are luxuries. And when it’s raining, flooding occurs and kills people. These kinds of things, including armed conflict and terrorism, force you to go far away to look for a better life and peace,” he says as he wipes the sweat that falls heavily from his face as he works on a construction site on the outskirts of Cotonou, a major city in Benin.“While we were waiting for the trip, we used to hear bad news of friends who had drowned at sea. Death stoked us while we waited for our turn... It was like waiting for Judgment Day.” Mohamed Keita.

Besides, he says, terrorism is still tearing the country apart, and peace and national reconciliation remain elusive.

The west African nation of Mali, which heads to the polls this Sunday Jul. 29, was caught in violent crisis in 2012 when a Tuareg group called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad began a fight for a separatist rule. However, AFP reported yesterday that despite recent attacks by jihadists and inter-ethnic violence, incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said there was “no war-mongering in Mali today.” He was elected in 2013 soon after French intervention to bring peace to the nation.

But as far as Keita was concerned, no real social or economic development has taken place since he left.

Had there been, the 26-year-old tells IPS, it would have enticed him to stay and plan his future. So instead he headed to Benin, another west African country. In Cotonou, a vibrant and thriving place, he shares a small room with six other sub-Saharan African migrants who are waiting to make the journey to North Africa and eventually to Europe.

Benin, new irregular migration hub?

The city is a far cry from his home village or even Bamako. Women from across the continent come here to buy local material that is highly sought after to make African dresses. Business is booming as the government doesn’t charge high taxes on small businesses.

Many also like it here because they consider xenophobia and police harassment to be non-existent. Last February, the government abolished short stay visas for 31 African countries in order to develop South-South cooperation.

Benin, a low-income country, has always been a transit route for west African migrants looking to make a fortune in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville and Angola. It has also served as a stopping point for central African migrants looking to get to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and perhaps continue their journey to Europe.

According to a 2015 United Nations report on the country, 2.1 percent of the 11 million people here are migrants, the vast majority of who come from the neighbouring countries of Nigeria, Togo and Niger.

But this nation has always attracted sub-Saharan African traders looking for business opportunities. Its central market Dantokpa or Tokpa—which means market of snakes in the local language—is West Africa’s largest open-air business area.

“Cotonou is a good place to do business because you can earn up to 100 percent profit from selling everything you buy here,” Congolese trader Marthe Mavoungou tells IPS, as she is about to board a plane back to Brazzaville.

The country’s proximity to economic powerhouse Nigeria, also plays a role in the bustling business here as huge volumes of stock from Lagos port make their way to Benin. Items ranging from women’s bags, shoes and clothes, find their way onto local markets where they are sold cheaply.

Biggest mistake

Keita, a high school dropout, left Mali at 20 for Libya and worked as a menial labourer there. The experience was a difficult one.

“If you are black and living in North Africa…you get unfair treatment but you have nowhere to complain,” he explains.

Amid emotional abuse, exploitation and racial slurs proffered towards him almost on a daily basis, Keita kept telling himself that the experience  would come to an end once he boarded the boat to Europe.

But it was not to be.

“I was crying when we were arrested, and at the same time angry with myself for making what I thought was the biggest mistake of my life,” he says.

“The failed trip cost me 1,500 dollars, which represented all my savings from working in the Libyan construction sector,” he says, emotionally.

But his story is fortunate. While he may not have crossed to Europe as he wanted to, Keita, unlike thousands of others is still alive.

“While we were waiting for the trip, we used to hear bad news of friends who had drowned at sea. Death [stalked] us while we waited for our turn. Some migrants even began smoking drugs to kill the stress. It was like waiting for Judgment Day.”

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said this month that on just one weekend some 218 migrants lost their lives in two mass separate drownings. “I’ve just returned to Libya after a series of tragedies and the loss of hundreds of migrant lives including several babies,” IOM head William Lacy Swing reportedly said as he visited Libyan earlier this month. “My message is that all must focus on saving lives and protecting migrant rights.”

IOM states that this is the fifth year in a row that nearly 1,000 migrants have died or gone missing crossing the Mediterranean.

Nearly 48,000 asylum-seekers and migrants have reached Europe’s shores in the first six months of 2018, according to IOM figures.

Keita still thinks that those who make it to Europe are lucky. “But if you ask them about the things they endured before achieving their goal, they would tell you thousands of stories of misery, abuse and pain,” he says.

His own pain did not end after trying to leave Libya for Europe. He says he experienced terrible and painful things in jail, which he would rather not talk about.

“The TV images you see showing migrants crammed in one place under the scorching sun like sheep waiting to be taken to the abattoirs is only a tip of the iceberg,” he explains.

A report released in March by the U.N Human Rights Office estimates that 6,500 people are being held in official prisons while thousands more are in facilities run by the government or run by armed groups affiliated to the state. Earlier this year Doctors Without Borders said that some 800 migrants in Libya’s detention centres were living under worsening conditions.

Many migrants have, however, returned home thanks to IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

Some choose to stay

Ousmane Bangoura, who lived in Morocco for four years in a failed attempt to reach Spain, also lives in Cotonou where he sells used clothes in the city market Dantokpa.

His experience was a difficult one.

“Arabs hate blacks for no apparent reason and they call us derogatory names. Everybody is against you, including your neighbours. Besides, local media is also fuelling xenophobia through subjective and discriminatory reports,” Bangoura says.

But Bangoura, who is from Guinea-Conakry, tells IPS, that he will remain in Benin.

“I’m happy with what I’m currently doing, as I’m able to my life and send money home time to time to my ailing parents,” he says.

There seems to be a recent increase in the number of migrants flocking to Cotonou looking to get to North Africa, according to a local community leader.

Some observers firmly believe that the city could become another Agadez (the door of Sahara), a northern town of Niger, where the country’s security forces have been conducting an aggressive campaign to root out human smugglers and migrants waiting to go to Libya. The campaign, which has been welcomed by the European Union, has also seen stocks of weapons seized and a number of arms traders arrested.

Congolese migrant, Didier, and his friend Felix, from the Central African Republic, both recently arrived at Cotonou from Agadez. Didier tells IPS that human smugglers have descended on Cotonou.

“A man and a woman came to see us on Sunday, asking if we wanted to travel to Spain via Morocco,” Didier says.

“He said all the paperwork will be done here in Benin and that they will take us through Senegal and Mauritania. They were asking for USD700 for the trip to Morocco, and once you reach there, they will take you to their ‘agents’ who will charge you USD1,500 negotiable for the trip to Europe. I’m not yet ready, but I will go come or shine. Europe is every young African’s dream.”

But for Keita the dream of living and working in Europe hasn’t died. But he says he will do it formally, when the time is right. For now he is happy to remain in Benin and earn a living.

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Q&A: Indonesia Takes Steps to Reduce Emissions – But It’s Not Enoughhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-indonesia-takes-steps-reduce-emissions-not-enough/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-indonesia-takes-steps-reduce-emissions-not-enough http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-indonesia-takes-steps-reduce-emissions-not-enough/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 09:31:30 +0000 Kanis Dursin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156847 Since 2013, the Global Green Growth Institute has been working with the government of Indonesia promoting green growth. IPS correspondent Kanis Dursin interviewed Indonesia Deputy Country Representative Dagmar Zwebe about the country's steps in mitigating climate change.

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Peatland degradation in Indonesia has also caused a decrease in fish populations. Courtesy: Global Green Growth Institute

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Jul 25 2018 (IPS)

The South Asian nation of Indonesia is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouses gases (GHG) and is ranked as the world’s second-largest plastic polluter of oceans, just behind China. So when the country committed in the Paris Agreement to limit the rise in average global temperatures to below 2°C by unconditionally reducing its emissions by 29 percent with using its own finances and by 41 percent with international funding, many felt the goals too ambitious.

Climate Action Tracker, which produces scientific analysis measuring the actions governments propose to undertake in order to limit climate change impact, noted that Indonesia’s 2016 commitment actions to reduce GHG, are “highly insufficient.”

The World Resources Institute (WRI), in a study on what is required for the country to reduce its emissions as promised in the Paris Agreement, noted that more ambitious actions would be necessary in order to meet the targets – referred to as nationally determined contributions or NDCs.

“For Indonesia to achieve both its unconditional and conditional NDC targets, more-ambitious mitigation actions will be necessary. Our analysis suggests that the key areas of increased ambition should be strengthening and extending the forest moratorium policy, restoring degraded forest and peatland, and increasing energy conservation efforts,” WRI said.

The Global Green Growth Institute, which has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies, has been assisting this Asian nation draw up its national green growth roadmap. GGGI focuses on assisting countries in achieving quality economic growth through less stress on the environment and natural capital.

“As the country aims to become a high-income country in the 2030s, continued rapid economic growth is required. Without adopting green growth approaches, Indonesia, already the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the largest contributor of forest-based emissions would only pollute the world more,” Indonesia deputy country representative Dagmar Zwebe told IPS.

However, private sector involvement, strengthening of national policies and regulation on land use are required to bring the country closer to its targets.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Q: GGGI helped Indonesia draw up its national Green Growth Programme. Tell us more about the roadmap and how you chose the priority sectors?

The roadmap helps Indonesia chart a course toward a sustainable economy and focuses on energy, sustainable landscape, and infrastructure. These priority sectors were selected based on multi-stakeholder consultations, involving many government agencies and ministries, including advice provided by the Green Growth Programme Steering Committee.

Q: Briefly, what green initiatives has GGGI introduced in each of the priority sectors?

At the policy level, the national government and two provincial governments are now working to mainstream green growth in planning processes. For projects, GGGI designed a hybrid solar photovoltaic (PV) project combining an existing diesel-based power grid with solar PV in eight locations in East Nusa Tenggara. The facilities would reduce diesel consumption by 236 million litres or the equivalent to a total reduction of 549,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions and potential savings for state-owned electricity company Perusahaan Listrik Negara of around USD125 million over 20 years.

In the forest and land-use sector, Central Kalimantan has now formed public-private partnerships for rewetting, replanting and revitalisation of peat landscapes, while in the infrastructure sector, GGGI helps develop bankable green infrastructure projects, especially in special economic zones.

Q: Has there been any difficulty faced in implementing the programme?

One of the difficulties faced is that often the general public, in all sectors, associate green developments with more work or more barriers, decreased returns, and slower developments.

Q: What is needed to drive private investment in green initiatives?

Just for example, the current administration has put infrastructure development as one of the country’s priorities. Based on the current plans, a total investment of USD400 billion is required in the transportation, energy, water and waste sectors over a five years period. While the government has allocated significant funding toward this goal, there is still a gap of USD150 billion to overcome.

This is where the private sector can come in and play an important role. That has not happened yet for various reasons, including the national political and regulatory environment, lack of healthy pipeline of high quality, green and inclusive bankable projects, and capacity limitations in the public, private, and financial sector.

Q: Under the Green Growth Programme, GGGI, in cooperation with government agencies, will train 30,000 civil servants on green growth.

An important aspect of the Green Growth Programme is to build systems and capacity in ways that can be replicated. This is done through the establishment and operations of a web-based green growth knowledge platform hosted by the Indonesian ministry of national development planning, which will extend support to initiatives in other provinces beyond the two current pilot provinces of Central and East Kalimantan. The knowledge platform was launched in July, and will be further built upon over the next few years.

GGGI is also working to strengthen capacity of stakeholders in the application of the extended cost benefit analysis tool, specifically in mainstreaming the tool into strategic environmental assessment methodologies, as part of the government of Indonesia’s development and spatial planning process.

Q: In the first phase, GGGI worked with the Central and East Kalimantan provinces on several green programmes. How have the programmes developed? 

Districts Murung Raya and Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan allocated USD8.8 million in 2015 to implement their green growth strategies, covering six key sectors: forestry, mining, plantation, aquaculture, energy and cross-sectorial developments.

GGGI has provided strong support for the development of the provincial general energy planning for East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. The plan followed the issuance of the General Plan for National Energy.

Q: Do you think Indonesia can achieve its targeted reduction of GHG emissions?

Indonesia has pledged to reduce emissions by 29 percent financed by its own resources and by 41 percent subject to international assistance by 2030. This is an ambitious target, but Indonesia is taking many steps to reach this. Even with all these efforts though, Indonesia is not yet on track to reach its targets.

However, further strengthening of the earlier mentioned national policies and regulations in the land-use and energy sectors, including the moratorium on new forest and peatland concessions, peatland restoration, renewable energy mix targets, social forestry and degraded forest land rehabilitation, could bring Indonesia much closer to their target.

– Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams

The post Q&A: Indonesia Takes Steps to Reduce Emissions – But It’s Not Enough appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Since 2013, the Global Green Growth Institute has been working with the government of Indonesia promoting green growth. IPS correspondent Kanis Dursin interviewed Indonesia Deputy Country Representative Dagmar Zwebe about the country's steps in mitigating climate change.

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Sustainable Agriculture To End World Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger/#respond Tue, 24 Jul 2018 10:26:29 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156834 Significantly more investment is needed to lift hundreds of millions rural poor out of poverty and make agriculture environmentally sustainable, according to Rob Vos, director of the markets, trade and institutions division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). With a growing world population, hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, and governments are […]

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The weakness of poor farmers and the growth of low-nutrition crops have been, until now, some of the deterrents of efficient agriculture. Esmilda Sánchez picks string beans on the Finca de Semillas farm. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 24 2018 (IPS)

Significantly more investment is needed to lift hundreds of millions rural poor out of poverty and make agriculture environmentally sustainable, according to Rob Vos, director of the markets, trade and institutions division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

With a growing world population, hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, and governments are looking for private alliances to alleviate these issues.“The world has over-invested in low-nutrition staple crops, driving up the relative price of nutrition rich-foods. Empty calories is the food system of the poor." -- John Coonrod, executive vice-president, the Hunger Project.

During the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, this July, IFPRI organised a side event called “Investing for Reshaping Food Systems”.

Speakers included Claudia Sadoff, director general for the International Water Management Institute; Nichola Dyer, from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme at the World Bank; Gerda Verburg, coordinator at the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN); and Chantal-Line Carpentier, chief at the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

They all emphasised the urgency of investing in sustainable agriculture, defined by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition as “the efficient production of safe, healthy, and high-quality agricultural products, in a way that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.”

While the world population will reach over eight billion people in 2025, the amount of cultivable land will remain the same. Decimated by pesticides, non-sustainable agricultural techniques, and water waste, healthy nutrients will become harder to access for the growing population. This issue, along with food waste (20 percent of every food purchase is wasted), is a major concern for Verburg, who highlighted the need to rethink food systems and stop blaming agriculture.

The relationship between the private sector and agriculture isn’t new. On the contrary, many farmers-especially the poorest ones-are members of the private sector.

“The majority of poor and hungry people are small-scale farmers. They are in fact members of the private sector, albeit the weakest. And some corporate investments in agriculture can hurt them,” John Coonrod, executive vice-president at the Hunger Project, told IPS.

The weakness of poor farmers and the growth of low-nutrition crops have been, until now, some of the deterrents of efficient agriculture.

“The world has over-invested in low-nutrition staple crops, driving up the relative price of nutrition rich-foods. Empty calories is the food system of the poor. To overcome malnutrition, we need to increase the dietary diversity of the poor to include many more fruits and vegetables, which means increasing their local production and reducing their price to local consumers,” Coonrod explained.

How can private investment develop sustainable agriculture? Vos from IFPRI said that a first priority should be to provide incentives for investments beyond farms “in infrastructure like roads, electricity and cold transportation and agri-food processing.”

“This will help provide better and more stable market conditions for farmers, create lots of new jobs, and limit the risks of investing in agriculture itself,” he said.

He also added that “the second priority is to provide incentives for investing in sustainable practices and crop diversification, including towards fruits and vegetables.”

Brian Bogart, senior regional programme advisor for South Africa to the U.N. World Food Programme, agreed with Vos.

“Key areas for investment to equity in food systems include rural infrastructure, access to markets, knowledge and technology, and improved storage and transport capacity to reduce post-harvest losses,” Bogart said.

What about governments?

During the event, Verburg, from SUN, pointed out the importance of political commitment and leadership within countries to reduce hunger and reshape food systems.

When asked about the role of national governments, Bogart said: “Member states have a responsibility to lead such efforts by developing effective partnerships with the private sector and fostering an enabling environment for investment.”

“With shrinking public investment in agriculture (according to the Secretary General’s progress report on the SDGs, government expenditure as a percentage of GDP declined from .38 to .23 between 2001 and 2016 and international aid allocations for agriculture declined by 20 percent between the mid-1980s and 2016), the question is how public-private partnerships can unlock opportunities for private investment to complement public resources and capacity to generate improved food security, particularly for the most vulnerable populations,” he added.

Some countries are already doing this. The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index on sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste which ranks 34 countries according to eight categories, which are in turn divided among 35 indicators, reveals that France, Japan, Germany score highest.

However, responsibility does not lie solely with the state, but with civil society also. Coonrod, from the Hunger Project, explained what his organisation does in this regard: “We promote good nutrition through education, promoting better local farming methods, increasing local food processing and, in indigenous communities of Latin America, we’ve opposed junk food and helped communities reclaim their nutritious traditional foods.”

Finally, Vos highlighted the importance of research in reducing hunger.

“We undertake research to better understand the causes underlying the deficiencies in the present food systems and test out the effectiveness of interventions that aim to overcome these shortcomings. We know far too little on what is driving food system change, not just in agriculture, but in all stages of the food chain, from farm to fork.”

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Building the Caribbean’s Climate Resilience to Ensure Basic Survivalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-caribbeans-climate-resilience-ensure-basic-survival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-caribbeans-climate-resilience-ensure-basic-survival http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-caribbeans-climate-resilience-ensure-basic-survival/#respond Mon, 23 Jul 2018 09:13:01 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156816 In 2004, when the Category 4 hurricane Ivan hit the tiny island nation of Grenada and its 151 mph winds stalled overhead for 15 hours–it devastated the country. But not before pummelling Barbados and other islands, killing at least 15 people. And again last year, the destruction left behind in several Caribbean islands by Hurricanes […]

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Grenada has rebounded after being destroyed by Category 4 hurricane Ivan in 2004 which destroyed 90 percent of homes. More than a decade later, the island’s prime minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST GEORGE’S, Jul 23 2018 (IPS)

In 2004, when the Category 4 hurricane Ivan hit the tiny island nation of Grenada and its 151 mph winds stalled overhead for 15 hours–it devastated the country. But not before pummelling Barbados and other islands, killing at least 15 people.

And again last year, the destruction left behind in several Caribbean islands by Hurricanes Irma and Maria once again highlighted the vulnerability of these island countries.

It has also emphasised the need for a strong natural resource base to protect and make communities and ecosystems more resilient to the impacts of climate change, which are expected to become even more severe in the future.“We have seen first-hand how poverty and social weaknesses magnify natural disasters. This need not be the case.” -- Grenada’s prime minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

“Building the region’s resilience to climate change, natural hazards and environmental changes is not only a necessary and urgent development imperative, but it is also a fundamental requirement to ensure our basic survival as a people,” Grenada’s prime minister Dr. Keith Mitchell told IPS.

“We have no choice as a region but to pursue climate-smart development, as we forge ahead to build a climate-resilient Caribbean.”

Grenada is among 10 Caribbean countries getting help from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to address water, land and biodiversity resource management as well as climate change.

Under the five-year Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF-IWEco Project), countries are implementing national sub-projects at specific sites in order to enhance livelihood opportunities and socio-economic co-benefits for targeted communities from improved ecosystem services functioning.

Project sites include the upper reaches of the Soufriere Watershed in Saint Lucia, the Cedar Grove and Cooks Watershed areas and McKinnons Pond in Antigua, and the Negril Morass in Jamaica.

“Adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning,” Mitchell said.

“In practice, this will require a shift in focus, from sustainable development to climate-smart sustainable development.”

In addition to Grenada―Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago ―are also participating in the project, which also aims to strengthen policy, legislative and institutional reforms and capacity building.

Half of the 10 countries ― Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and; St. Vincent & the Grenadines ― belong to the sub-regional grouping, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Their participation in the project is being funded by the GEF to the tune of USD20 million.

IWEco is being co-implemented by United Nations Environment and the U.N. Development Programme and co-executed by U.N. Environment’s Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (U.N. Environment CAR RCU), which is the Secretariat to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (the Cartagena Convention).

All OECS countries are signatories to the Cartagena Convention, a comprehensive, umbrella agreement for the protection and development of the marine environment.

Fresh and coastal water resources management, sustainable land management and sustainable forest management are all challenges to Caribbean SIDS, and more so as the region’s economies face numerous demands and, inevitably, another hurricane season.

Addressing these challenges while improving social and ecological resilience to the impacts of climate change are objectives of the IWEco Project.

Stating that storms and hurricanes do not have to result in catastrophic disasters, Mitchell said in too many instances in the region this has been the case because of the prevailing susceptibilities of communities.

“We have seen first-hand how poverty and social weaknesses magnify natural disasters. This need not be the case,” he said.

“We must redouble our efforts to improve the conditions for the most vulnerable in our societies so that they are empowered and supported to manage disasters and climate risks.”

Grenada, along with all participating countries, will benefit from regional project activities aimed at strengthening policy, legislative and institutional frameworks, strengthening monitoring and evaluation, and public awareness.

At a recent meeting in Montserrat, the regional coordinator of the Cartagena Convention, Dr. Lorna Inniss noted that since the particularly destructive hurricane season of 2017, perhaps even as a consequence of it, the trend in the region towards consolidating several related areas of responsibility into single ministries seems to have grown.

Grenada, for instance, now has the combined ministry of climate resilience, the environment, forestry, fisheries, disaster management and information. Dominica now has the ministry of environment, climate resilience, disaster management and urban renewal.

The most recent projections in climate research all anticipate a significant increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, as well as slow onset climate-related changes, such as sea-level rise, less rainfall and increased sea surface temperatures.

These impacts can disrupt Grenada’s economy and critical economic sectors like agriculture and tourism and damage critical infrastructure and personal property.

The findings of a regional study concluded that climate change has the potential to increase the overall cost to local economies by one to three percent of GDP by 2030 in the Caribbean. It also alters the risk profile of the islands by impacting local sea levels, hurricane intensity, precipitation patterns and temperature patterns.

According to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), in absolute terms, expected losses may triple between 2010 and 2030. Climate change adaptation is therefore critical for the economic stability of the tri-island state.

“Charting a course to 2030 is even more an urgent requirement as the impacts of climate change are increasingly affecting CCRIF’s Caribbean and Central American member countries,” CCRIF CEO, Isaac Anthony said.

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