Inter Press Service » Projects http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Drought Prompts Debate on Cuba’s Irrigation Problemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:14:16 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145849 Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

By Ivet González
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Five gargantuan modern irrigation machines water the state farm of La Yuraguana covering 138 hectares in the northeastern province of Holguín, the third largest province in Cuba. However, “sometimes they cannot even be switched on, due to the low water level,” said farm manager Edilberto Pupo.

“The last three years have been very stressful due to lack of rainfall. We take our irrigation water from a reservoir that has practically run dry,” Pupo told IPS. In 2008 La Yuraguana received new irrigation equipment financed by international aid.

Central pivot machines are a form of overhead water sprinkler that imitates the action of rain. The machinery is assembled in Cuba using European parts.

Since late 2014 Cuba has endured the worst drought of the past 115 years.

The extremely dry weather has sounded an alarm call drawing attention to the urgent need to modernise and change water management practices in response to climate challenges, and to other problems such as water wastage from leaky supply networks, inefficient water storage and conservation policies and absence of water metering at the point of use.

National reforms begun in 2008 have not yet achieved the hoped-for lift-off in agricultural production. Farming, however, is the main consumer of water in this Caribbean country, responsible for using 65 percent of the island’s total fresh water supply for irrigation, fish farming and livestock.

Future difficulties loom on the horizon, because droughts are becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region due to climate change, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published June 21. 

“Agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences,” the FAO report says. “Most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed, and demand for fresh water is increasing with irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region.”

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, FAO said.

The eastern part of Cuba suffers most from droughts, and its population, alongside small farmers in Holguín province, has its own methods of addressing the problem of lack of rainfall. They say that in extreme droughts, irrigation equipment is of little use.

“At the most critical time we had to plant resistant crops like yucca (cassava) and plantains (starchy bananas that require cooking) that can survive until it rains,” Pupo said, speaking about the cooperative farm which sells vegetables, grains, fruit and root crops to the city of Holguín’s 287,800 people.

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

La Yuraguana employs  93 workers, 14 of whom are women. Its 2016 production target is 840 tonnes of food, for direct sale to markets in the city of Holguín, in the adjacent municipality.

“We hope Saint Peter will come to our aid, that the rains will come and fill the reservoir, so that we can water our crops and keep on producing,” said Pérez. Devout rural folk call on Saint Peter, whose feast day is June 29, to intercede on their behalf because they believe the saint is able to bring rain.

Cuba’s total agricultural land area is about 6.24 million hectares out of its total surface of nearly 11 million hectares. Only 460,000 hectares of arable land is under irrigation, mostly with outdated equipment and technology, according to the government report titled “Panorama uso de la tierra. Cuba 2015” (Overview of land use: Cuba 2015).

At present only about 11 percent of the land used to raise crops is irrigated, but FAO forecasts that by 2020 the area equipped for irrigation will nearly double, to some 875,600 hectares, through a programme launched in 2011 to modernise machinery and reorganise farm irrigation and drainage.

Use of irrigation increases average crop yields by up to 30 percent, experts say.

Cuban authorities want to boost local production in order to reduce expenditure on purchasing imported food to meet demand from the island’s 11.2 million people, and from the influx of tourists – there were three million visitors to Cuba in 2015. The bill for imported food is two billion dollars a year.

Agricultural scientist Theodor Friedrich, the FAO representative in Cuba, told IPS that “irrigation is not the answer to drought.”

This Caribbean island “should curb the use of irrigation rather than extend it,” he warned, because exploiting water sources, especially underground aquifers, could lead to “degradation and accelerated salinisation of water resources.”

A better course of action, he said, is to “implement water conservation measures at once, including the reduction of leakage losses throughout the piped water distribution network, avoidance of all forms of sprinkling irrigation, watering the soil directly and irrigating according to the particular needs of the crop, not forgetting to take into account long-range meteorological forecasts.”

In Friedrich’s view, sustainable solutions must be based “on soil management” and conservation techniques.He pointed out that eco-friendly organic agriculture “achieves greater production yields with less water and opens up the soil so that rainwater can infiltrate to the fullest depths and refill aquifers.”

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Cuba is not blessed with any large lakes or rivers, and so is reliant on rainfall, captured in 242 dammed reservoirs and dozens of artificial minilakes.

Local experts agree with FAO’s Friedrich that over-exploitation of underground water reserves should be discouraged because of the risk of causing salinisation and losing fresh water sources.

The present drought in Cuba was triggered by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon, which has had devastating effects in Latin America this year. Shortage of water has affected 75 percent of Cuban territory, according to official sources, with the worst effects being felt in Santiago de Cuba, a province adjacent to Holguín.

In spite of steps taken to put the water consumption needs of people before agricultural and industrial uses, one million people experienced some limitation on their access to water in May, said the state National Institute of Water Resources. 

On June 20 the European Union announced an additional grant of 100,000 euros (113,000 dollars) to Cuba via the Red Cross, as disaster relief for 10,000 drought victims in Santiago de Cuba. The funds are intended to improve access to safe drinking water and to deliver transport equipment, reservoirs and materials for water treatment and quality control.

However, many of those responsible for the agriculture and small farming sectors still see irrigation as the key to boosting production.

“Yields under irrigation when necessary are much higher than when one just waits for nature to take its course,” said Abdul González, deputy mayor in charge of agriculture for the municipal government of Holguín. Unfortunately “80 percent of our land under crops lacks irrigation,” he told IPS.

“Small farmers from all forms of agricultural production (state, private and cooperative) are demanding irrigation systems. Some of them resort to home made tanks and ditches to mitigate the negative impacts of the drought,” he said.

At the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Service Cooperative, not far from La Yuraguana, Virgilio Díaz, one of the cooperative’s beneficial owners who grows garlic, maize, sweet potato, papaya and sorghum on his 22-acre plot, ascribed much of his success to the irrigation system bought in 2010 by the 140-member cooperative.

“Income went up by over 70 percent: we raised salaries; I was able to request a lease on more land and I built a new house,” Díaz said. He and five other workers between them produce 200 tonnes of food a year, when the climate is favourable.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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An Elite Club of Suicide Bombershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:50:10 +0000 Editor Dawn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145729 By Editor, Dawn, Pakistan
Jun 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It is always baffling, isn’t it, to see the yawning difference in our responses in South Asia to a gathering communal threat, for instance, as opposed to the catastrophic prospect of nuclear annihilation? Only recently, Pakistan toggled between public outcry and terrified whispers when teeming mourners showed up at the funeral of an executed religious zealot, the savage killer of a popular provincial governor.

57682f60102e5_In India, the sight of glistening, unsheathed swords or trishuls used to disembowel helpless people, as happened in Gujarat in 2002, evokes outrage from the middle classes among others. The remorseless lynching of men, women and children and an almost formulaic public gang rape of women that accompanies such abhorrent outings fill us with horror. It all horrifies us because we abhor bloodshed and hurting innocents. We are outraged because we see the rule of law collapsing; we see injustice ruling, where women bear the brunt of a hideous mob.

Remember the piles of bodies on military trolleys in Jaffna? They included the sexually tortured cadavers of women from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. We acknowledged at the time that though the LTTE included ruthless killers in its ranks, the military response was even more inhuman. Some of the cases we petitioned before international arbiters.

The middle classes that quake at the thought of gore and fascist hordes seem incorrigibly sanguine about a nuclear calamity.

So one thing is clear. We abhor bloodshed or at least most of us do. We are not inclined to accept organised mass rape or torture and targeted lynching as an occurrence we have to learn to live with. In fact, even laden with our unending grief and sorrow, as glimpsed in the case of Zakia Jafri and her doughty supporter, Teesta Setalvad, we want the severest retribution for our killers but not capital punishment.

What goes wrong when it comes to the prospect of nuclear annihilation? Why do we go silent or even appear indifferent? The middle classes that quake at the thought of gore and fascist hordes seem incorrigibly sanguine about a nuclear calamity. The cavalier way in which we behave towards our own or someone else’s nuclear arsenal is clearly not the standard global response to weapons of mass destruction, not even to nuclear power. Are we thus behaving like the third world that we are, people who are so busy warding off starvation and so on, that we don’t have the time or inclination to reflect on a major existential issue? Or is it because very few among us believe that a nuclear exchange, say between India and Pakistan, or between India and China, is really possible?

Examine: India joining NSG will escalate nuclear race in South Asia: US senator

We hear ever so often from nation-first analysts who try to assure us that the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) is adequate to deter a nuclear war. If Pakistan, for example, targets India then Pakistan would be made extinct by India, or so goes the doctrine. In which case the world should relax. There cannot be war. Yet there is that lingering doubt. What if the Pakistani ruler or the man with the trigger control says enough is enough, it’s time for all the faithful to go to heaven? And he or they pull the trigger? This is a common and pervasive fear across the world. North Korea could do it. Vladimir Putin could. Donald Trump, if he succeeds in his presidential bid will only be a shade more fraught than Hillary Clinton in posing a global threat. That’s a given.

In the cluster of those that are genuinely sensitive to the ticking of the Doomsday Clock are New Zealand and South Africa. They have opposed the US-backed move to include India in the elite club called NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

But why should India or Pakistan or Israel, which would be the ultimate beneficiary of the current dogfight between India and Pakistan over the NSG bone, be indulged? What does it signal to the rest of the world — that we are ready to honour two more or possibly three new members to the elite club of suicide bombers? That is what they are, nothing less. Suicide bombers. How are they different — the so-called P5 from those that wear belts to blow up people? To suggest that India’s participation in the club of bombers would make the world more stable or secure is to ignore history. The NSG was barely a decade old in 1983 when the presence of mind of a Soviet officer manning the early warning system prevented a nuclear war and thereby the end of the world. India and Pakistan will not have the luxury of the time gap that may have saved us in 1983.

Read: Nuclear leak in Gujarat may be more serious than the Indian government is claiming

That doesn’t answer the question though. Why are we in South Asia, laden with the potential to destroy ourselves many times over, so blasé about the issue? One Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union sent shivers down the spine of the world. I was in Tokyo the day the Fukushima calamity took place in Japan. It was scary. But I have to say something about the discipline of the Japanese, the way they trooped out of their offices and schools and homes and forded through the crisis without treading on the toes of the person next to them.

The mile-long lines to the telephone booths moved steadily, with everyone sure they would get their chance to send a message to their folks. Consider the melee that occurs in our patch at the drop of a hat. So many crushed in a stampede in such and such religious fair. Can we even begin to imagine the stampede if and when a nuclear calamity takes place? It rained exploding missiles at a military arms depot in Maharashtra the other day. It was an accident. There have been several close calls at our nuclear facilities as well. That somehow doesn’t frighten us as much as fidayeen suicide bombers and unsheathed swords do. Why?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi. jawednaqvi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Xenophobia: ‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:43:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145697 With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”

Hardly a statement could have portrayed more accurately the current wave of hatred invading humankind, like the one made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“… Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces, which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions, which act as checks on executive power, are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned.

In his address to the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016), the Human Rights Commissioner warned, “As the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence… And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack.”

Zeid explained, “The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values“ which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

He the recalled, “We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner referred to the millions of stranded refuges and migrants, saying that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.

“But many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.”

‘Europe Must Remove Hysteria and Panic’

The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, “ he said, while stressing that “Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” which was sealed on March 22, 2016.

“It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution…”

According to Zeid, in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. “Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people’s security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.”

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

“The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he said and added that “the best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

De-Radicalisation

Radicalisation, or rather de-radicalisation, is precisely the focus of one of the panels organised within the current session of the Human Rights Council.

 Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

In fact, on June 23, 2016, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has organized the event under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN Office in Geneva. The panel will be moderated by highly respected Algerian diplomat and former head of a UN agency Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panel organisers recall that “violent extremism had been until 2001 mainly in the lot of developing countries such as Uganda where a Christian mandate was usurped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to attack civilians and force children to participate in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, where the first suicide attacks originated, and Algeria where more Muslims were killed during a decade than Europeans worldwide ever since, through an evil manipulation of the precepts of Islam.”

Outside observers, they add, tended to belittle the impact of such violence considered as local incidents, at times preferring to ascribe it to “militants” responding to deficits of democracy and governance in the targeted countries.

During the last phases of the Cold War, violent extremism was condoned in some quarters as a weapon against communism, the panel concept note recalls, and adds that the recruitment of new cohorts of violent extremists was given added impetus by the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the collapse of Iraq and Libya and the wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

“These developments, or lack thereof, occurred mainly in Muslim countries thus exacerbating violent extremism associated with this region and leading to an intensification of Islamophobia elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.”

It remains, as underlined by the joint co-chairs conclusions of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (7-8 April 2016), that “violent extremism or terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

 A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

The reaction of the international community was slow in taking shape in the UN if only because of political differences in terms of acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, says the panel’s concept note.

In a key remark, the organisers warn, “The very lexicon of international affairs is being manipulated to provide knee-jerk reactions that nurture ideologies of racist and xenophobic parties in the advanced world. It also provides a propitious climate for explosion of violent extremism around the world.”

In Europe, over 20 million Muslims have lived for decades as citizens in harmony with followers of other religions as well as with non-believers and have been contributing to the wealth of their countries of residence, the panel organisers recall.

“They are now being targeted by virtue of their identity, not their deeds. They are alone to suffer from fear-mongering and the rise of xenophobia for diverse minority groups in different parts of the world. One needs in this context to understand better the causes and means by which violent extremism is perpetrated and spread.”

The focus has been so far on how to roll back radicalism and on fighting violent extremism by all possible means without a full understanding of the root causes of such violence, says the panel’s concept note.

“The roll-back of violent extremism calls for an in-depth approach informed by the genesis and evolution of radicalisation, its link with citizenship and possible tipping point into violence… There also needs to be a better understanding of short-cuts to violent extremism that do not transit through radicalisation.”

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What If Turkey Drops Its “Human Bomb” on Europe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 22:26:05 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145685 Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 19 2016 (IPS)

Will the rapid–though silent escalation of political tensions between the European Union and Turkey, which has been taking a dangerous turn over the last few weeks, push Ankara to drop a “human bomb” on Europe by opening its borders for refugees to enter Greece and other EU countries?

The question is anything but trivial—it is rather a source of deep concern among the many non-governmental humanitarian organisations and the United Nations, who are making relentless efforts to fill the huge relief gaps caused by the apparent indifference of those powers who greatly contributed to creating this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

These powers are mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and France who, supported by other Western countries and rich Arab nations, led military coalitions that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and who, along with Russia, have been providing weapons to most of the fighting parties in Syria.

Ironically, these four powers are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Neither the above posed question is about a mere, alarming speculation. In fact, Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan has recently made veiled, though specific threats to the EU, by warning against the consequences of Europe continuing to fail the two key commitments it made in exchange of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement —also known as “the shame deal”–, which the two parties sealed on March 22 this year.

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

The deal is about Turkey taking back the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who fled to its territories mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and crossed from there to EU bordering countries like Greece. Once “re-taken”, the EU said it would “select” an undetermined number of asylum seekers, mainly Syrians.

In exchange, the European Union promised to pay to Ankara three billion euro a year, starting in November 2015, to share only a relatively small part of the big financial burden that Turkey has to face by providing basically shelter, food and health care to the repatriated asylum seekers. Turkey currently hosts three million refugees.

The EU also promised to allow Turkish citizens to access its member countries without entry visa, also as part of the “shame deal.”

The tensions between the EU and Turkey were made clearly visible on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which Turkey hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016, covering a big portion of its cost.

The WHS was meant to highlight the fact that human suffering has now reached unprecedented, staggering levels as stated to IPS by Stephen O’ Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), as well as to call on world leaders to mobilise the much needed resources to alleviate this human drama.

For this, the UN submitted to the WHS a set of shocking facts: the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War II, and experiencing a human catastrophe “on a titanic scale” as stated on IPS by the WHS spokesperson Herve Verhoosel: 125 million humans in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

The UN also quantified the urgently needed resources: more than 20 billion dollars needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

And stressed that unless immediate action is taken, 62 per cent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all human beings could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030.

In spite of these staggering facts, none of the leaders of the most industrialised countries–the so-called Group of the 7 richest nations (G7), nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, attended the World Humanitarian Summit.

The sole exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had reportedly gone to Istanbul to meet Erdogan over the growing political tensions rather to participate in the Summit.

This absence of the top decision-makers of the richest countries has been widely criticised, starting with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon who on May 24 publicly decried it. Also Turkish president Erdogan expressed deep disappointment at such political boycott by world leaders.

Moreover, in a press conference at the closure of the WHS on May 24, Erdogan revealed that Europe had not met its promises as it had not provided the committed financial resources, nor kept its compromise to let Turkish citizens enter the EU without visa as from June this year.

He then expressed strong indignation, rather fury, over the set of 72 new conditions the EU has suddenly imposed on Ankara in exchange of suppressing the entry visa requisite for Turkish citizens. These conditions imply, among others, that Ankara changes its current anti-terrorist laws.

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

All this moved Erdogan to warn that of Europe does not honour its part of the refugee deal, the Turkish Parliament will not ratify it.

This simply means that Turley would not only stop allowing refugees to be forcibly returned to its territories, but that it would also permit more and more of them to cross its borders to the EU countries.

In the mean time, more and more organisations have been accusing Europe of sealing an immoral, unethical and, above all, illegal refugee deal with Turkey. But meanwhile Europe has been turning rapidly, dangerously towards far right parties and movements that are feeding hate, xenophobia and islamophobia.

Also meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are arriving to Europe, many of them drowning at sea, prey to inhumane practices and manipulation by smugglers.

Humanitarian assistance organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, the UN Children Fund, UN Refugee agency, among many others, have been warning that a growing number of unaccompanied children—estimated in 1 in 3 refugees and migrants, are crossing Mediterranean waters and European frontiers.

Only two days ahead of the World Refugee Day, marked on June 20, the UN secretary general visited the Greek island of Lesbos, which has become migrants’ entry point to Europe. There he called on “the countries in the region” to respond with “a humane and human rights-based approach, instead of border closures, barriers and bigotry.”

“Today, I met refugees from some of the world’s most troubled places. They have lived through a nightmare. And that nightmare is not over,” Ban told non-governmental organisations, volunteers and media.

The “human bomb” is ticking at Europe’s doors amidst an inexplicable passivity of its leaders.

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Soil Degradation Threatens Nutrition in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 17:32:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145637 Las Canoas Lake in the town of Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon affects Nicaragua, leaving local residents without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

Las Canoas Lake in the town of Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon affects Nicaragua, leaving local residents without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

Curbing soil degradation is essential for ecological sustainability and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Everyone knows how important water is, but not everyone understands that soil is not just what we walk on, it’s what provides us with food, fiber and building materials, and it is where water is retained and atmospheric carbon is stored,” said Pilar Román at the regional office of the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

More than 68 percent of the soil in South America is currently affected by erosion: 100 million hectares of land have been degraded as a result of deforestation and 70 million have been over-grazed.

For example, desertification plagues 55 percent of Brazil’s Northeast region – whose nearly 1.6 million sq km represent 18 percent of the national territory – affecting a large part of the staple food crops, such as maize and beans.

In Argentina, Mexico and Paraguay, over half of the territory suffers problems linked to degradation and desertification. And in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, between 27 and 43 percent of the territory faces desertification.

An especially serious case is Bolivia, where six million people, or 77 percent of the population, live in degraded areas.

The situation is not much different in Central America. According to the 2014 Soil Atlas of Latin America and the Caribbean produced by the EUROCLIMA program, erosion affects 75 percent of the land in El Salvador, while in Guatemala 12 percent is threatened by desertification.

FAO stresses that as much as 95 percent of the food consumed worldwide comes from the soil, and 33 percent of global soils are degraded.

In Africa, 80 percent of land is moderately to severely eroded, and another 10 percent suffers from slight erosion.

To alert the global population about the dangers posed by desertification and soil degradation, the world celebrates the World Day to Combat Desertification on Jun. 17, under the theme this year of “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People”.

“Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on the occasion of the international day this year.

Román, with the FAO regional office’s technical support for South American subregional coordination, told IPS that there are close links between poverty, desertification and land degradation.

“Numerous studies show that the poorest and most vulnerable communities have the worst access to inputs. A poor community has access to less fertile land, and more limited access to seeds, water, productive resources, agricultural machinery and incentives,” she said.

Terraces built by Atacameño indigenous people in the village of Caspana, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This age-old farming technique represents local adaptation to the climate and arid soil to guarantee the food supply for Andean highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Terraces built by Atacameño indigenous people in the village of Caspana, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This age-old farming technique represents local adaptation to the climate and arid soil to guarantee the food supply for Andean highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

“In these poor communities, the most vulnerable are women, who have fewer land titles and more restricted access to economic incentives, and indigenous people.

“There is a direct correlation in that direction and vice versa: degraded soil will push a community to migrate and will generate conflicts over a limited resource,” she said in an interview in the FAO regional office in Santiago.

One example is Chile, where 49 percent of the land suffers from moderate to severe erosion and 62 percent faces desertification.

To address this severe problem, the authorities updated a land degradation map, with the aim of designing and implementing strategic climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

The map was updated using meteorological and bioclimatic data from the last 60 years, as well as physiographical, socioeconomic and environmental indicators, and statistics on natural resources.

Efraín Duarte, an expert with Sud-Austral, a private consultancy, who is the author of the updated map, told IPS that “the main direct causes of desertification, land degradation and drought at a national level are deforestation, degradation of forests, forest fires and processes arising from land-use changes.”

“The impact of climate change” should also be factored in, he said.

According to several studies, at least 25 percent of the rainfall shortage during the current drought in Chile, which has dragged on for nearly five years, is attributable to human-induced climate change, said Duarte.

He also cited indirect causes: “Inadequate public policies for oversight, regularisation and fomenting of ‘vegetational’ resources (forests, bushes and undergrowth), combined with rural poverty, low levels of knowledge, and a lack of societal appreciation of plant resources.”

Using the updated map, the government designed a national strategy focused on supporting the recovery and protection of native forests and plants adapted to desert conditions, and on fomenting reforestation and revegetation.

According to Duarte, “Chile could carry out early mitigation actions focused on fighting deforestation, forest degradation, excessive extraction of forest products, forest fires, over-grazing, over-use of land and unsustainable land use, and lastly, the employment of technologies inappropriate for fragile ecosystems.”

The expert said the fight against desertification is a shared responsibility at the national and international levels.

Román concurred and proposed that the prevention of soil degradation should be carried out “in a holistic manner, based on adequate information and training and awareness-raising among communities and decision-making agents on protection of the soil.”

Also important in this effort are agricultural production, avoiding the use of bad practices that prioritise short-term results, and pressure on land, he added.

For FAO, sustainable agricultural production practices would make it possible to produce 58 percent more food, besides protecting the soil for future generations.

Prevention not only consists of applying techniques in the countryside, but also making efforts at the level of government and legal instruments, and working with the communities, said Román.

While the ideal is to prevent degradation and desertification, there have been successful initiatives in the recovery of desertified areas.

In Costa Rica, for example, the two main causes of degradation were reduced between 1990 and 2000, when the area affected by deforestation shrank from 22,000 to 8,000 hectares, while the area affected by forest fires shrank from 7,103 to 1,322 hectares.

Román underlined that, as a form of mitigation, it is important to diversify and expand the range of foods consumed, as potatoes, rice, wheat and maize – just four of the 30,000 edible plants that have been identified – currently represent 60 percent of all food that is eaten.

“On one hand, monoculture plantations of these plants are one of the factors of soil degradation, and on the other hand, a diet based on carbohydrates from these plants generates malnutrition,” she said.

Edited by Estrella Gutierrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Drought Dries Up Money from Honeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-dries-up-money-from-honey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 13:14:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145631 Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

“It is everything” is how smallholder farmer Nyovane Ndlovu describes beekeeping, which has long been an alternative sweet source of income for drought-beaten farmers in Zimbabwe.

A drought worsened by the El Nino phenomenon – which has now eased – led to a write-off of crops in many parts of Zimbabwe and across the Southern Africa region where more than 28 million people will need food aid this year. More than four million people need assistance in Zimbabwe, which has made an international appeal for 1.6 billion dollars to cover grain and other food needs. The drought, the worst in 30 years, has destroyed crops and livestock.

Ndlovu, 57, from a village in the Lupane District, a dry area prone to drought and hunger, is one of the country’s growing number of honey heroes, using forest resources to cope with a changing climate and complement his farming income.

But even beekeeping has not been immune to the latest severe drought , and many farmers who have depended on honey to make ends meet are reporting major losses this year.“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food." -- Nyovane Ndlovu

“Honey is my food and my children love it because they know each time I harvest they never go hungry,” says Ndlovu, who trained in beekeeping more than 10 years ago.

Beekeeping, practiced by more than 16,000 farmers in Zimbabwe, generally complements maize and grain crops. Last season, Ndlovu harvested a tonne of maize and 0.5 tonnes of sorghum, low numbers even for a drought year.

“Even in times of drought I have realized something from the field, especially small grains, but this past season has been terrible for many farmers,” says Ndlovu, who won a scotch cart and a plough in 2012 for emerging as the top farmer in an agriculture competition. “I turned to beekeeping when I realized the benefits. The proceeds from my honey sales have allowed me to pay school fees for my children and cover other household needs. I am getting more from honey than I do from cropping.”

Lupane District located 172km North West of Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo is home to more than 90,000 people, many who get by through limited cropping and extensive cattle rearing. The area is also home to state-owned indigenous hardwood forests, on which communities depend for fuel and food.

More honey, more money

Ndlovu has more than 20 Kenya Top Bar hives and two Langstroth hives – considered the best technology for apiculture because they give a higher production and quality honey. In a good season Ndlovu earns more than 500 dollars from honey sales. He even has his own label, Maguswini Honey, which he plans to commercialize once his honey has received a standard mark. A 375ml bottle of honey sells for four dollars in the village but five dollars when he delivers it to customers in Bulawayo and beyond.

Last year, Ndlovu and his neighbours, who belong to Bumbanani, a 30-member local beekeepers association, sold 900 dollars worth of honey within three days of exhibiting at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, an annual business showcase hosted in the city of Bulawayo. This year, they did not even make half the amount because they harvested less honey because of the drought.

“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food and the water was also scarce and the hives did not have a lot of honey,” Ndlovu told IPS.

Another farmer, Nqobani Sibanda from Gomoza village in Ward 12 in Lupane, this year harvested one 20-litre bucket of honey compared to 60 litres last year.

“This year the flowers withered early and we think the bees did not have enough food, hence the honey harvest was low. I have four hives and each hive can give me up to 20 litres of honey on a good season and I can get 300 dollars or more, but not this year,” Sibanda said.

Development researcher with the Institute of Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Everson Ndlovu, told IPS that income-generating projects such as beekeeping are an easy way for farmers to earn extra income in times of poor or no harvests and these projects can be up scaled into viable commercial enterprises.

“There is need for more training in business management, linking such small scale businesses to the market and business associations to get them properly registered and empowered,” said Ndlovu adding that, “the impact of drought has made it strategic for smallholder farmers to diversity their livelihoods but they need to receive weather information on time and in a manner they understand for them to make right decisions.”

Honey is traded globally and last year’s sales of natural honey were worth 2.3 billion dollars, according the World Top Exports website that tracks key exports. The sales were led by Europe with 35.2 percent of international honey sales, with Africa accounting for just 0.4 percent of the exports.

Bees which provide honey, propolis, Queen Jelly and beeswax among other products, help boost food security for some two billion smallholder farmers worldwide at no cost, a February 2016 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found. The FAO has called for the protection of bees and insects that play a vital role of pollination thereby sustainably increasing food supply. However, climate change is affecting global bee colonies.

A drought of many things

“Farmers have been affected by the drought and beekeeping was not spared, as seen by the low amount of honey they realized this year compared to last year in Lupane, a dry area,” said Clifford Maunze, a beekeeping trainer and Project Officer with Environment Africa under the Forestry Forces Programme supported by the FAO.

“We have trained farmers on beekeeping and helped them counteract the effects of the drought by planting more trees that bees like such as Moringa Oleifera, commonly known as the drumstick tree, which flowers constantly and have promoted the development of homestead orchard where they can have citrus trees to provide forage for the bees,” Maunze said.

Environment Africa, working with the Department of Agriculture Extension Services (Agritex), has trained 1,382 farmers in Lupane District and over 800 in Hwange District on beekeeping under a programme started in 2011. Lupane was chosen for apiculture projects because of its indigenous forests, some of which are threatened by expanding agricultural land, veld fires and deforestation.

“While the drought has affected farmers in Lupane, apiculture is the way to go providing income and jobs because it is cost-effective,” Maunze said.

In drier regions like Matabeleland North Province, farmers can harvest honey twice a season and with at least five hives a farmer can get 100 litres of honey. This can be even more in regions with higher rainfall and forage, where farmers can harvest up to four times a season.

Figures from the national statistical agency Zimstats and Agritex show that Zimbabwe produces over 427,000 kg of honey annually against a local demand of 447,000 kg. The deficit of nearly 20,000 metric tonnes is made up through imports, a situation that farmers like Ndlovu are seeking to change through intensive investment in apiculture.

Zimbabwe is aiming to raise honey production to a target 500,000 litres by 2018, according to Zim-Asset, a national strategy to revive the country’s battered economy, currently facing a cash crisis.

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Uruguay Seeks Future as Oil Producer in Ultra-Deep Watershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uruguay-seeks-future-as-oil-producer-in-ultra-deep-waters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uruguay-seeks-future-as-oil-producer-in-ultra-deep-waters http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uruguay-seeks-future-as-oil-producer-in-ultra-deep-waters/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 20:19:31 +0000 Veronica Firme http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145553 The Maersk Venturer drillship, which is drilling the Raya-1 well that set a new world record in terms of water depth, and will determine the existence of commercially viable oil and gas reserves on Uruguay's continental shelf. Credit: Ancap

The Maersk Venturer drillship, which is drilling the Raya-1 well that set a new world record in terms of water depth, and will determine the existence of commercially viable oil and gas reserves on Uruguay's continental shelf. Credit: Ancap

By Veronica Firme
MONTEVIDEO, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Uruguay is just weeks away from finding out if it will have a chance to stop being totally reliant on oil imports at some point in the future, when the first offshore exploration well in national waters – which set a new world record in terms of water depth – is completed.

Since Mar. 30, the consortium headed by France’s Total has been prospecting 250 km from the Atlantic coast, in more than 3,400 metres of water, and 3,000 metres below the seabed.

The Raya-1 well in Block 14, drilled with an investment of some 200 million dollars in ultra-deep waters on the continental shelf, is hunting for commercially viable oil or gas reserves.

On Thursday Jun. 8, the representative of Total in the country, Artur Nunes da Silva, said the drilling would be done in about two weeks and the samples would be sent to France for analysis. Only then, he said, would the results be announced.

The next day, the local media reported that, according to information from the industry, only water was found in Raya-1, although that did not fully rule out the existence of oil and gas on the continental shelf.

The drilling represents a major turning-point for this South American country of 3.4 million people, because it will soon know if it has a future as an oil producer. The effort to find oil here was not stalled by the oil-price crisis, which has discouraged investment at a global level, especially in high-risk ventures such as deepwater drilling.

“When the current drop in prices began, most of the contracts had already been signed,” Víctor Bacchetta, a journalist who specialises in environmental issues and who edits Uruguay’s Mining Observatory publication, told IPS.

The contracts form part of the goals set by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining’s 2005-2030 energy policy, which, although it puts a priority on strengthening renewable energies, also paves the way for exploration and prospecting for oil and natural gas.

The state oil company Ancap is responsible for implementing the policy, which also requires attempts at participating in joint ventures for exploring deposits in other countries.

Geologist Ethel Morales told IPS that the first attempts to find fossil fuels in Uruguay dated back to the 1950s, when exploratory wells were drilled in the Northern Basin, which covers some 90,000 sq km in this country of 176,220 sq km.

A screenshot from a presentation by geologist Ethel Morales, showing the contracts granted so far on Uruguay's continental shelf, to the right. The second from the top is Block 14, awarded to French oil major Total. Credit: Uruguay Round

A screenshot from a presentation by geologist Ethel Morales, showing the contracts granted so far on Uruguay’s continental shelf, to the right. The second from the top is Block 14, awarded to French oil major Total. Credit: Uruguay Round

Exploratory wells were also drilled on the continental shelf in the 1970s, said Morales, a professor at Uruguay’s University of the Republic. But shallow water prospecting ended in 1976, after two wells were declared dry.

Besides the energy policy itself, Morales said another factor that fuelled offshore exploration was the appearance of the so-called pre-salt deposits, located beneath a two-kilometre-thick salt layer under rock, sand and deep water, to the north of this country’s continental shelf, off the coast of Brazil.

These huge deposits drew the oil corporations’ attention to the South Atlantic. Morales said Brazil’s Santos basin, where the pre-salt deposits are located, and the Uruguayan basin “share the same origins,” although their later evolution was different.

In this context, Ancap began to search for partners to drill exploratory wells in Uruguayan waters, although its spokespersons stress that the chances of finding commercially viable reserves stand at just 15 percent.

Uruguayan Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining Carolina Cosse (3rd-left) with high-level officials from the state oil company Ancap, during their visit to the drillship that is exploring for oil in ultra-deep waters 250 km off the coast of Uruguay. Credit: Ancap

Uruguayan Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining Carolina Cosse (3rd-left) with high-level officials from the state oil company Ancap, during their visit to the drillship that is exploring for oil in ultra-deep waters 250 km off the coast of Uruguay. Credit: Ancap

The Uruguay Round 1 bidding process was launched in 2009, offering continental shelf blocks, followed in 2011 by Round 2, in which eight contracts were signed, including the one with Total.

“Up to 2012 there was no 3D (tridimensional) seismic, and now we have nearly 40,000 sq km covered in the area of greatest prospectivity, which reflects a quantitative and qualitative leap with respect to the information available,” Ancap reported in late 2015.

Oil industry analysts stress the participation in the exploration here of the world’s leading oil companies, and note that the contracts assign a large proportion of the profits to the Uruguayan state.

Ancap and the Ministry of Industry decided to launch Uruguay Round 3, whose chief aim is the same: to determine whether there is oil and gas on the continental shelf, and if there is, whether it is commercially viable.

Total’s partners in Block 14 are the U.S. ExxonMobil (which has a 35 percent share) and Norway’s Statoil (15 percent), and the state will take 70 percent of the earnings, if the presence of light crude reserves is confirmed.

But even if the results from Raya-1 are positive, between two and three dozen additional wells will have to be drilled in the 6,900-sq-km block, and some six billion dollars will have to be invested if there is mainly oil, and 20 billion if there is mainly gas.

It could take up to six years before the start of commercial production of oil or gas, according to Total.

The oil companies granted contracts in the two bidding rounds held so far have invested a combined total of up to one billion dollars in exploration and prospecting.

The most important thing, in Ancap’s view, is that “after a period of nearly 30 years with no exploration” for fossil fuels, the oil companies are interested in investing in Uruguay, at their own expense and risk.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Humanitarian Aid – Business As Unusual?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/humanitarian-aid-business-as-unusual/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-aid-business-as-unusual http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/humanitarian-aid-business-as-unusual/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 12:23:34 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145517 Credit: Oxfam International

Credit: Oxfam International

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Big business is most often seen by human rights defenders and civil society organisations as “bad news,” as those huge heartless, soulless corporations whose exclusive goal is to make the biggest profits possible. Too often and in too many cases this is a proven fact.

Meanwhile, the United Nations was born after World War II as the best possible system to help improve the living conditions of the most needed. In fact, it started its mission by providing humanitarian assistance to war victims—mostly Europeans.

In the following years, the UN expanded its activities to help the emerging development needs in Africa, Asian and Latin American countries, which had just won independence from European colonizers. So far, big business had practically no role to play… at least directly.

This year as it turned 70, the UN system has become visibly and increasingly helpless to fulfill its mission due to the growing lack of funding by the richest countries and traditional donors.

Precisely now that the world faces the most staggering levels of human suffering since WWII, the private sector has jumped on the stage as an actor with strong funding potential.

For example, while the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is starving for funds to assist the current 60 million refugees around the planet and with numbers growing, the widely known and largest ready-made furniture maker in the world—IKEA, has become through its Foundation, the largest private donor to this UN agency, with 150 million euro provided over the last five years.

The same Foundation has also become the biggest private donor to both the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) and to the UN’s largest funding umbrella for development programmes – the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

And on Match 22 this year, on the occasion of the World Water Day, IKEA Foundation announced a new grant of for 12.4 million euro to water.org to expand efforts to provide safe water and sanitation to one million people in India and Indonesia.

Per Heggenes

Per Heggenes

How does one explain this new phenomenon? IPS met Per Heggenes, Chief Executive Officer of IKEA Foundation on the margins of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) that took place in Istanbul on May 23-24.

“First of all, there is no conflict between making money and doing good,” says Heggenes. “If you look at IKEA Group, you will see that we care strongly about social responsibility and environmental responsibility—this is how they do business, how the business operates.”

According to Heggenes, the company takes responsibility for the communities where it operates. “And this is also good for business—if you do things in the right way, in a sustainable away, in a responsible way, you turn that into a good business.”

But what is this “right way”? “Look, we focus our investments on children and youth in the poorest communities in the world, simply because that is where we can have the biggest impact. Children and families are absolutely at the core of IKEA Foundation,” he answers. “Children are the most important people in the world and of course they are the future of this world.”

Therefore, he says, “we have decided our initiatives for children to have a place to call home, a healthy start in life, access to quality education, and take all that and turn it into a adequate livelihood that makes possible for them to live out of poverty… That’s the basic philosophy of IKEA Foundation and that’s how we operate.”

The Foundation is now present in 50 countries around the world with initiatives focused on children, aiming at helping children and their families help themselves out of poverty.

“In doing all that, we believe that our Foundation is also in a position to be able to take risks. We try to find new solutions, new ways of doing this kind of activities better. And we are always very focused on driving innovation and constant improvements, while taking responsibilities for the people and the environment,” says Heggenes.

How? “We look for ways to work with partners who are looking to develop new models, new ways of thinking, new ways of bringing aid and services to the people that we try to help… and we develop systems and structures that otherwise would not have not been there.”

And the budget? Heggenes responds that since 2009 when he joined the Foundation, “we have constantly increased the funding year by year. Specifically, in 2016 we will donate 160 million euro – a budget which will grow to 200 million euro annually by the year 2020.”

IKEA Foundation works with everybody—with both the private sector, the governments, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the UN.

In the case of UNHCR, “we work specifically on what we call self-reliance, looking at refugees as assets instead of just as mere beneficiaries, on how we can engage refugees while they are forced to be in camps so that they can choose their future by themselves, so that they can have opportunities to work, to use their capabilities for something productive, rather than frustrations, instead of sitting and waiting—and we know that refugees now stay in camps for an average of 17 years.”

Courtesy IKEA Foundation

Courtesy IKEA Foundation

Heggenes then explains that “there we focus on education, children’s education is absolutely key when you think about the fact that many refugee children spend their entire childhood in camps. There, education is lacking often because of the lack of money.”

The second thing, he adds, is that a big part of the Foundation’s work with UNCHR is providing opportunities for refugees to work, to earn a living and take care of their families.

The third element of what the Foundation does is renewable energy. “We have a large commitment to do whatever we can to reduce climate change and use renewable energy in the refugee settings. This helps children to study at night or for women to feel safe after dark, and also to help small business with providing energy to them.”

As an example, he mentions that they are in the midst of finalising a large power plant in Jordan, which aims to cover the needs of the entire Asraq refugee camp.

The IKEA Foundation chief is skeptical about big summits, like the WHS in Istanbul. “But I believe that if we can use a summit like this to bring the different actors, so that the private sector can engage with the UN and with the NGOs to drive more efficiency and more innovation in this humanitarian role, then I think we can achieve something that would not have been otherwise achieved,” he says.

“It is all about collaboration, sharing of best practices, not only about providing financial resources. Business can also contribute valuable experience and knowledge. I personally have a big belief in business’ ability to help drive social change.”

Heggenes feels comfortable in reminding that IKEA Foundation is committed to provide 400 million euro to climate action through 2020. “We made a commitment last year before the Paris Summit to be involved in climate change related investments. Out of the 600 million euro the business sector will invest, IKEA Foundation will invest 400 million euro.”

“For us this is about helping the people who are the most impacted by climate change, that’s the poorest people in the world. we are investing in different programmes to help these communities fight the impact of climate change.

The investment will be directed to renewable energy. “Climate smart agriculture often combined with irrigation could maybe enable small farmers to have three crops a year. We are also looking into different ways to help people to find smart ways to cope with the impact of climate change, and most importantly, help them to fight prevent this impact and become more resilient.”

Heggenes repeats once and again the term “innovation.” What does this means for the millions of refugees?

“Five years ago we started developing a shelter that was meant to replace or be an alternative to tents, where most people are exposed to natural disasters, etc.” he says and add that living in a tent for years is not a way to live. It is also very expensive for the organizations that have to pay for the tents, because tents used to last six months, perhaps 12 months.

“So we decided to invest in developing something that can replace tents, at least in certain situations, that meet certain specifications when it comes to weight, price, mobility, and at the same time provide better life quality for the people. After five years we have been into a prototype testing. We have established a social enterprise that will manufacture this new kind of shelter.”

Just three days ahead of the WHS, IKEA foundation and Oxfam announced a 7.3 million euro partnership agreement to improve disaster response.

Through it, Oxfam partners with the Foundation to launch an innovative, three-year programme to ensure that local humanitarian actors in Bangladesh and Uganda are able to cope more effectively with crises, from severe flooding to large numbers of refugees fleeing conflict.

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Coral Reef Tourism in Danger as Reefs Struggle to Adapt to Warminghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 15:51:00 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145490 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/coral-reef-tourism-in-danger-as-reefs-struggle-to-adapt-to-warming/feed/ 0 No More Dumping of Milk in Laikipiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/no-more-dumping-of-milk-in-laikipia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-more-dumping-of-milk-in-laikipia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/no-more-dumping-of-milk-in-laikipia/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:22:06 +0000 Daniel Sitole http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145479 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/no-more-dumping-of-milk-in-laikipia/feed/ 0 Closing the Gaps in Fight Against Wildlife Trafficking in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/closing-the-gaps-in-fight-against-wildlife-trafficking-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closing-the-gaps-in-fight-against-wildlife-trafficking-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/closing-the-gaps-in-fight-against-wildlife-trafficking-in-latin-america/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 16:57:46 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145408 Because of their biological wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean are a source and destination of trafficked species. In the photo, trafficked parrots in a cage after being seized. Credit: World Animal Protection

Because of their biological wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean are a source and destination of trafficked species. In the photo, trafficked parrots in a cage after being seized. Credit: World Animal Protection

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 2 2016 (IPS)

Although it violates the international conventions that regulate the wildlife trade, it is possible to go online and find websites to buy, for example, axolotl salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum) or spiny softshell turtles (Trionyx spiniferus).

These websites reflect new trends in the trafficking of plant and animal species, which help fuel the smuggling of wildlife and form part of the ‘Deep Web’, made up of pages that search engines cannot find.

Despite the magnitude of the damage to biodiversity, Latin America and the Caribbean have made scant progress in fighting wildlife trafficking. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, celebrated on Jun. 5, is Go Wild for Life.“People have to be taught that they should not purchase wild animals or plants. That would be enough to cut down trafficking to sustainable levels.” -- Juan Carlos Cantú

Because of their biological wealth, Mexico, Central America and the Amazon rainforest – which is shared by Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela – are the main sources of trafficked plant and animal species in the region.

“Latin America represents significant criminal activity, because there are several countries considered megadiverse, which makes this region highly vulnerable to trafficking,” Roberto Vieto, with World Animal Protection, told IPS.

Vieto, who is wildlife campaigns officer for Latin America at the London-based international animal welfare organisation, said wildlife trafficking has seen a resurgence in the region, driven by online trade.

The World Wildlife Crime Report, published May 26 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela headed the region in terms of seizures of trafficked wildlife in the 2004-2015 period.

This region accounted for 15 percent of global seizures, while North America represented 46 percent, the Asia-Pacific region 24 percent, Europe 14 percent and Africa one percent.

The seizures indicate that the main destinations for reptiles, mammals and birds trafficked from this region are the United States, Europe, and more recently, China.

UNODC reports that some 7,000 species have been discovered in seizures worldwide. And the European Union reported in February that wildlife trafficking generates anywhere between 8.9 and 22.25 billion dollars a year. That makes it one of the four main transnational criminal activities, along with drug, weapon and people trafficking.

Smuggling, forgery of documents, and the mixture of legal and illegal products are the favorite techniques used by traffickers of wild species. In the photo are small birds in tin cans and a cage, discovered during a seizure in Brazil. Credit: World Animal Protection

Smuggling, forgery of documents, and the mixture of legal and illegal products are the favorite techniques used by traffickers of wild species. In the photo are small birds in tin cans and a cage, discovered during a seizure in Brazil. Credit: World Animal Protection

Wildlife seizures are an indicator of the scale of the phenomenon. To cite just one example, authorities in Mexico seized more than 200,000 specimens between 2007 and 2011 and arrested 294 suspects.

Part of the SDGs

The elimination of wildlife trafficking forms part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), number 15 is dedicated to protecting ecosystems, and target number seven is “Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products.”

“The problem is very serious,” said Juan Carlos Cantú, the representative in Mexico of the U.S.-based Defenders of Wildlife. “For certain species, trafficking is the only threat they face. International trafficking is focused on endemic species, the rarest ones, the ones that are the most threatened by extinction.”

In Latin America, there are legal vacuums, and laws against wildlife trafficking are not always adequately enforced.

One illustration of this: in its first “National report on the traffick of wild animals”, published in 2014, the Brazilian organisation Renctas concluded that more than one million caimans – related to alligators – are poached every year in wilderness areas in Brazil, and their hides are taken to neighbouring countries for processing and export.

In 2015, Defenders of Wildlife stated in its report “Combating Wildlife Trafficking from Latin America to the United States” that the five most frequently seized animals in the region are queen conches, sea turtles, caimans, crocodiles and iguanas.

The lucrative Chinese market poses an enormous threat to species like the totoaba, sea cucumbers and sharks. The capture of the totoaba, a fish that is endemic to the Gulf of California in northwest Mexico, whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, is a death sentence for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a rare species of porpoise only found in the same area.

Traffickers often use legal documents to hide illegal activities or forged permits to smuggle specimens. As UNODC notes, certain markets are especially vulnerable to the infiltration of illegally sourced or trafficked wildlife.

In the photo, an inspector from Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency carries a box of parrots seized in a 2011 operation against the trafficking of protected species of birds. Credit: PROFEPA

In the photo, an inspector from Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency carries a box of parrots seized in a 2011 operation against the trafficking of protected species of birds. Credit: PROFEPA

Smugglers and their clients take advantage of legal gaps in the region. For example, in Brazil it is illegal to sell wild animals, but it is legal to own them if they were raised in captivity.

Requests for protection

For the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Johannesburg Sep. 24-Oct. 5, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras asked for the inclusion of four kinds of lizards from the Abronia genus in Appendix I – species for which CITES prohibits international trade.

In one illustrative case, Mexico asked for the inclusion of 13 species of rosewood (Dalbergia calderonii) in Apendix II - species in which trade must be controlled – to protect the tree from logging for timber.

Sharks are the perfect illustration of incoherent and contradictory regulations and laws. Most Latin American nations allow them to be sold, but ban their capture for the purpose of removal of their fins, which are in high demand in Asia and provide an incentive to blur the distinction between the legal and illegal markets.

The global gendarme

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in effect since 1975, regulates more than 5,600 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants from overexploitation through international trade, in accordance with the degree of risk of extinction.

But the millions of species that aren’t covered by CITES can be illegally bred and raised and internationally traded.

Furthermore, national markets are also outside of the reach of the convention, if it cannot be proved that specimens or products have crossed international borders, in contravention of CITES.

In the case of Latin America, since at least 2010 most of the countries have not presented their biennial reports to CITES on how they are implementing the convention, despite the importance of oversight and monitoring in the fight against trafficking.

That gap is going to close, because in its annual meeting in Geneva in February, the CITES Standing Committee decided that its member states must provide statistical information every year on seizures, which will go into an annual report, the first of which will be published in October 2017.

Vieto and Cantú agree on the importance of raising public awareness so that people understand they must not buy wild animals. “Educational campaigns are needed to reduce the consumption of products, step up enforcement of existing regulations and laws, and bolster international cooperation,” to fill in gaps at a local level, said Vieto.

For Cantú, the key is reducing demand. “People have to be taught that they should not purchase wild animals or plants. That would be enough to cut down trafficking to sustainable levels,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Traditional Mexican Recipes Fight the Good Fighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 11:54:49 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145330 AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 27 2016 (IPS)

In a clay pot, Araceli Márquez mixes tiny Mexican freshwater fish known as charales with herbs and a sauce made of chili peppers, green tomatoes and prickly pear cactus fruit, preparing a dish called mixmole.

“I learned how to cook by asking people and experimenting,” the 55-year-old divorced mother of two told IPS. “The ingredients are natural, from this area. It’s a way to eat natural food, and to fight obesity and disease.”

Mixmole, which is greenish in color and has a distinctive flavour and a strong aroma that fills the air, is one of the traditional dishes of the town of San Andrés Mixquic, in Tlahuac, one of the 16 boroughs into which Mexico City, whose metropolitan region is home to 21 million people, is divided.

Márquez belongs to a cooperative named “Life and death in Tlahuac- heritage and tourist route”dedicated to gastronomy and ecotourism. The ingredients of their products and dishes, which are based on recipes handed down over the generations, come from local farmers.

Another dish on her menu is tlapique – a tamale (seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough) filled with fish, chili peppers, prickly pear cactus fruit, epazote (Dysphaniaambrosioides) – a common spice in Mexican cooking – and xoconostles (Opuntiajoconostle), another kind of cactus pear native to Mexico’s deserts.

“We are trying to show people thelocal culture and cuisine.The response has been good, people like what we offer,” said Márquez, who lives in the town of San Bartolo Ameyalco, in Tlahuac, which is on the southeast side of Mexico City.

Márquez’s meals reflect the wealth of Mexican cuisine and the growing efforts to defend and promote it, in this Latin American country of 122 million people, which is one of the world’s fattest countries, meaning diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and stomach ailments are major problems.

Traditional Mexican cuisine, on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2010, revolves around corn, beans and chili peppers, staples used by native peoples long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

The local diet was enriched by the contributions of the invaders, and is now rich in vegetables, herbs and fruit – a multicultural mix of aromas, flavours, nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Activists offer beans on downtown Reforma Avenue in Mexico City to promote consumption of this staple of the Mexican diet, produced with non-genetically-modified native seeds, and to boost food security. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Activists offer beans on downtown Reforma Avenue in Mexico City to promote consumption of this staple of the Mexican diet, produced with non-genetically-modified native seeds, and to boost food security. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Liza Covantes is also dedicated to reviving traditional cuisine based on local products. With that aim she helped found a bartering and products cooperative in Zacahuitzco, in the south of the capital, in 2015.

“We are a group of people working for the right to a healthy, affordable diet who got together to foment healthy eating. We’re exercising the right to food, health and a clean environment,” she told IPS.

The cooperative brings together 45 families who produce food like bread, cheese and vegetables. To sell their products, in November they opened a store, Mawi, which means “to feed” in the Totonaca indigenous language.

“We don’t accept anything with artificial ingredients,” said Covantes. The cooperative sells six-kg packages of food, which always include vegetables.

Mexico’s world-renowned cuisine is a significant part of this country’s attraction for tourists.

To cite a few examples of the rich culinary heritage, there are 200 varieties of native chili peppers in Mexico, 600 recipes that use corn, and 71 different kinds of mole sauce.

But this culinary wealth exists alongside the epidemic of obesity caused by the proliferation of sodas and other processed food high in added fats and sweeteners.

The 2012 National Survey on Health and Nutrition found that 26 million adults are overweight, 22 million are obese, and some five million children are overweight orobese. This generates growing costs for the state.

The survey also found that over 20 million households were in some category of food insecurity.

Referring to the country’s traditional cuisine, expert Delhi Trejo told IPS that “its importance lies in the diversity of the food.”

“We have a great variety of fruits, vegetables and grains; they’re important sources of fiber, vitamins, protein and minerals. Their costs are low and they have benefits to the environment,” said Trejo, the senior consultant on nutrition in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Mexico office.

María Solís, who grows different varieties and colours of native corn, removes the kernels from a cob in San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala state, during a traditional fair dedicated to corn, the country’s main crop, which originated in Mexico and forms the base of the national diet. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

María Solís, who grows different varieties and colours of native corn, removes the kernels from a cob in San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala state, during a traditional fair dedicated to corn, the country’s main crop, which originated in Mexico and forms the base of the national diet. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

FAO declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses – one of the key elements in the Mexican diet.

But traditional cuisine not only has nutritional value; the preparation of foods employs more than five million people and the country’s 500,000 formal restaurants generate two percent of GDP in Latin America’s second-largest economy.

To improve nutrition and defend an important segment of the economy, in August 2015 the government launched a Policy to Foment National Gastronomy, aimed at fostering and strengthening the country’s gastronomic offerings, fomenting tourism and boosting local and regional development through restaurants and the value chain.

But its measures have not yet yielded clear dividends.

“The traditional diet would be a solution for diabetes or obesity,” independent researcher Cristina Barros told IPS. “It is indispensable to return to our roots…We are what we eat.”

The Dietary Guidelines launched by the United States in 2010 state that people with traditional plant-based diets are less prone to cancer, coronary disease and obesity than people with diets based on processed foods.

Márquez is calling for more support and promotion. “There is assistance, but it is not enough. I hope the federal programme brings results,” said the cook, whose goal this year is to make a Tláhuac recipe book.

For Trejo, the FAO consultant, part of the problem is that a segment of the population erroneously associates traditional food with what is sold by street vendors or food stalls.

“The country has to foster its gastronomy and do away with false ideas of combinations of fats, sugar and industrialised food that increasingly reach every corner of the country and put traditional cuisine at risk,” she said.

Initiatives in different parts of Mexico have pointed in that direction, like in the southern state of Chiapas, one of the country’s poorest, where several organizations launched in April 2015 the campaign “Pozol project: eating healthier as Mexicans”, aimed at fomenting the consumption of pozol, a nutritious fermented corn drink.

On Apr. 28, the Mexican Senate approved the draft of a Federal Law to Foment Gastronomy, which outlines measures to strengthen the sector. The bill is now pending approval by the lower house of Congress.

“Collectively we can defend these principles and create a social trend that boosts the nutritional values of our gastronomy, to also benefit local producers,” said Covantes.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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The Humanitarian Clock Is Ticking, The Powerful Feign Deafnesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 13:07:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145314 Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 26 2016 (IPS)

The humanitarian clock is now ticking away faster than ever, with over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people in dire need of assistance. But the most powerful, richest countries—those who have largely contributed to manufacturing it and can therefore stop it, continue to pretend not hearing nor seeing the signals.

The World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, May 23-24) represented an unprecedented effort by all United Nations bodies who, along with member countries, hundreds of non-governmental aid organisations, and the most concerned stakeholders, conducted a three-year long consultation process involving over 23,000 stakeholders, that converged in Istanbul to portray the real½ current human drama.

Led by the UN, they put on the table a “Grand Bargain” that aims to get more resources into the hands of people who most need them, those who are victims of crises that they have not caused. The WHS also managed to gather unanimous support to Five Core Responsibilities that will help alleviate human suffering and contribute to preventing and even ending it.

Around 9,000 participants from 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, and hundreds of key stakeholders attending the Summit, have unanimously cautioned against the current growing human-made crises, while launching strong appeals for action to prevent such a “humanitarian bomb” from detonating anytime soon.

In spite of all that, the top leaders of the Group of the seven most industrialised countries (G 7), and of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have all stayed away from this first-ever Humanitarian Summit, limiting their presence to delegations with lower ranking officials.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Although several UN officials reiterated that it was not about a pledging conference but the fact is that massive funds are badly needed to start alleviating the present human suffering which, if allowed to grow exponentially as feared, would cause a human drama of incalculable consequences.

The notable absence of the top decision-makers of the most powerful and richest countries sent a strong negative signal with a frustrating impact on the humongous efforts the UN has displayed to prepare for the Istanbul Summit and mobilise the world’s human conscious– let alone the millions of the most vulnerable who are prey to human dramas they are not responsible for creating.

In fact, most of world’s refugee flows are direct results of wars not only in Afghanistan and Iraq—both subject to vast military operations by coalitions led by the biggest Western powers (G 7), but also a result of on-going armed conflicts in Yemen (also with the support of the US and Europe), and Syria where the Security Council permanent member states, except China, have been proving weapons to the parties involved in this long six-year war.

Other victims of the current humanitarian drama are “climate refugees”, those who flee death caused by unprecedented droughts, floods and other disasters resulting from climate change, which is largely caused by the most industrialised countries.

The sole exception was German chancellor Angela Merkel who addressed the Summit, though she reportedly went to Istanbul to meet Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan to try to alleviate the growing tensions between Ankara and the European Union, who accuse each other of not fulfilling the refugee deportation deal they sealed in March.

In fact, the EU-Ankara deal is about deporting to Turkey all asylum seekers and also migrants arriving in Europe mainly through Turkish borders, once the European Union announced last year its readiness to host them but decided later½ to flinch. In simple words, the deal simply transforms Turkey into a huge “deposit” of millions fleeing wars and other human-made disasters.

In exchange, Ankara should receive from the EU 3 billion euro a year to help shelter and feed the 3 million refugees who are already there. The EU also promised to authorise the entry of Turkish citizens to its member countries without visa.

At a press briefing at the end of the Summit, Erdogan launched veiled warnings to the EU that if this bloc does not implement its part of the refugees deal, the Turkish Parliament may not ratify it.

In other words, Turkey would not only stop admitting “returnees”, i.e. refugees repatriated by Europe, but would even open its borders for them—and other millions to come and go to EU countries. The “human bomb” is therefore ticking at the very doors of Europe.

That said, the Istanbul Summit has set us on a new course. “It is not an end point, but a turning point,” said the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the closing session.

Governments, people affected by crisis, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, UN agencies and other partners came together and expressed their support for the Agenda for Humanity, and its five Core Responsibilities, Ban added.

“Implementing this agenda is a necessity, if we are to enable people to live in dignity and prosperity, and fulfil the promise of last year’s landmark agreements on the Sustainable Development Agenda and Climate Change.”

Ban stressed that humanitarian and development partners agreed on a new way of working aimed at reducing the need for humanitarian action by investing in resilient communities and stable societies.

Aid agencies and donor governments committed to a ‘Grand Bargain’ that will get more resources into the hands of people who need them, at the local and national level, said Ban.

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

“And Governments committed to do more to prevent conflict and build peace, to uphold international humanitarian law, and live up to the promise of the Charter of the UN, he added. “I hope all member states will work at the highest level to find the political solutions that are so vital to reduce humanitarian needs around the world.”

According to Ban, ”Together, we launched a ground-breaking charter that places people with disabilities at the heart of humanitarian decision-making; a platform on young people in crises; and commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls in emergencies and protect them from gender-based violence.”

Ban also announced that in September this year he will report to the UN General Assembly on the Summit’s achievements, and will propose “ways to take our commitments forward through intergovernmental processes, inter-agency forums and other mechanisms.”

The WHS Chair’s Summary: Standing up for Humanity: Committing to Action issued at the end of the Summit states that “civil strife and conflicts are driving suffering and humanitarian need to unprecedented levels and serious violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law continue on an alarming scale with entire populations left without essential supplies they desperately need.”

It adds that natural disasters, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, are affecting greater numbers of women, men and children than ever before, eroding development gains and jeopardising the stability of entire countries.

“At the same time we have been unable to generate the resources to cope with these alarming trends, and there is a need for more direct predictable humanitarian financing,” the statement warns.

“The Summit has brought to the forefront of global attention the scale of the changes required if we are to address the magnitude of challenges before us. The participants have made it emphatically clear that humanitarian assistance alone can neither adequately address nor sustainably reduce the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

A new and coherent approach is required based on addressing root causes, increasing political diplomacy for prevention and conflict resolution, and bringing humanitarian, development and
peace-building efforts together, it adds.

“Global leaders recognized the centrality of political will to effectively prevent and end conflicts, to address root causes and to reduce fragility and strengthen good governance. Preventing and resolving conflicts would be the biggest difference leaders could make to reduce overwhelming humanitarian needs. Humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political action.”

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Humanitarian Summit, The Big Fiascohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 18:44:42 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145286 UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 24 2016 (IPS)

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul on May 23-24, managed to send a strong wake-up call to the world about the unprecedented human suffering now in course, but failed to achieve the objective of attracting the massive funds needed to alleviate the humanitarian drama, as none of the leaders of the Group 7 of the richest countries nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council attended, with the exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the summit’s closing session, while recalling that the WHS achieved its main objective of addressing the conscious of the world towards the growing human drama, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong “disappointment” on the absence of leaders of the most powerful countries.

Though they reiterated their appeal for solidarity to rescue the most vulnerable people on Earth–130 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters and growing, none of them could hold out or offer any hope soon.

“Their absence (G-7 and Security Council leaders) is not an excuse for inaction,” Ban said. The resources required to rescue the lives of tens of millions of human beings represent only 1 per cent of the total world military expenditure, he added.

Ban showed no signs of optimism regarding an end soon of conflicts in Syrian, Yemen, South Sudan, among others, while recalling that every year the United Nations organised a pledging conference and “countries are tired of that.” He also stressed that currently 80 per cent of the UN humanitarian resources are spent on made-made crises.

For his part, Erdogan reiterated veiled threats to the European Union (EU), saying that if this bloc does not fulfil its agreements with Ankara, the “law of returnees” (refugees deported from EU countries to Turkey) may not be passed at the Turkish Parliament.

The EU promised Turkey 3.000 billions in 2017, to add to an equal sum promised last year, in its refugees deportation deal with Ankara, sealed in March.

The EU also is to authorise the entry to its member countries without visa. Nevertheless, thus authorisation will not be implemented soon as promised, as the EU now demands that Turkey fulfils a long list of requirements.

A Foretold Political Failure
During the two-day summit, leaders of 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, promised to do more for the 130 million civilians who are victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
Nevertheless, the community of humanitarian organisations have shown scepticism about½ such announcements that would end up in effective commitments and if the expected funds will be employed in the right way.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a leading humanitarian organisation with over 5000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries, was one of the strongest voices in this regard.

The humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians from violence, Egeland said, while commenting how humanitarian aid has to be more efficient and cost-effective not to fail those most in need.

According to Egeland, humanitarian assistance does not reach thousands of victims who are among the most vulnerable of all. “In Fallujah, Iraq, there are now over 50,000 civilians who are besieged, prey to the Islamic State (IS), Engeland cited as an example.

“Nobody is helping them, nobody is reaching them, he warned. The Iraqi government is not helping them, the humanitarian organisations cannot reach them.”

There are thousands of victims like them who are in dire need but are not reached. In Yemen, Engeland said, there are 20 million civilians among the most vulnerable, while stressing that coalitions supported by Western countries are attacking civilians.

Egeland expressed hope that leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children.

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Fighting parties, be they governmental or militias or opposition or rebels, still get weapons that they use to blow up hospitals and kill civilians, he warned. “Let’s blacklist that armed group and that army and that government.”

“We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct,” Egeland added.

The NSC Secretary General emphasised that “all borders should be open… in Europe, in the Gulf states… in the United States. “As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?”

From 2011 to 2013, he was the Europe Director of Human Rights Watch, prior to joining NRC where he took up his post as Secretary General in August 2013. In 2006, Time magazine named Jan Egeland one of the 100 “people who shape our world.”

“More resources are sorely needed… but more resources will not solve the problem,” said for his part Francesco Rocca, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Speaking on behalf of 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Rocca demanded more support to strengthening national and local actors, who are key to the solution.

“Strengthening local and national capacity would have an impact,” he said “Yet, scant resources have been channelled though those key local actors or invested in their long-term capacities.”

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned, “the less we help in conflict zones, the more people will move,” and that “sticking people in camps is not the solution.”

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Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina , May 23 2016 (IPS)

Family farmers in the northern Argentine province of Chaco are gaining a new appreciation of the common prickly pear cactus, which is now driving a new kind of local development.

Hundreds of jars of homemade jam are stacked in the civil society association “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” (smallholders of Corzuela united), ready to be sold.

Until recently, the small farmers taking part in this new local development initiative did not know that the prickly pear, also known as cactus pear, tuna or nopal, originated in Mexico, or that its scientific name was Opuntia ficus-indica.

But now this cactus that has always just been a normal part of their semi-arid landscape is bringing local subsistence farmers a new source of income.

“The women who took the course are now making a living from this,” Marta Maldonado, the secretary of the association, which was formally registered in 2011, told IPS. “They also have their vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs and goats.”

“The prickly pear is the most common plant around here. In the project we set up 20 prickly pear plantations,” she said.

Local farmers work one to four hectares in this settlement in the rural municipality of Corzuela in west-central Chaco, whose 10,000 inhabitants are spread around small settlements and villages.

The initiative, which has benefited 20 families, made up of 39 women, 35 men and four children, has been implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The SGP, which is active in 125 countries, is based on the sustainable development concept of “thinking globally, acting locally”, and seeks to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems.

The aim of these small grants, which in the case of the local association here amounted to 20,000 dollars, is to bolster food sovereignty while at the same time strengthening biodiversity.

The SGP has carried out 13 projects so far in Chaco, the poorest province in this South American country of 43 million people.

In the region where Corzuela is located, “there are periods of severe drought and fruit orchards require a lot of water. The prickly pear is a cactus that does not need water,” said Gabriela Faggi with the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA).

The large-scale deforestation and clear-cutting of land began in 1990, when soy began to expand in this area, and many local crops were driven out.

“The prickly pear, which is actually originally from Mexico but was naturalised here throughout northern Argentina centuries ago, had started to disappear. So this project is also important in terms of rescuing this local fruit,” said Faggi.

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

This area depends on agriculture – cotton, soy, sunflowers, sorghum and maize – and timber, as well as livestock – cattle, hogs, and poultry.

However, it is now impossible for local smallholders to grow crops like cotton.

“In the past, a lot of cotton was grown, but not anymore,” the association’s treasurer, Mirtha Mores, told IPS. “It’s not planted now because of an outbreak of boll weevils (Anthonomus grandis), an insect that stunts growth of the plant, and we can’t afford to fight it, poor people like us who have just a little piece of land to farm.”

Before launching the project, the local branch of INTA trained the small farmers in agroecological techniques for growing cotton, and helped them put up fences to protect their crops from the animals.

They also taught them how to build and use a machine known as a “desjanadora” to remove the spines, or “janas”, from the prickly pear fruits, to make them easier to handle.

“It’s going well for us. Last year we even sold 1,500 jars of prickly pear fruit jam to the Education Ministry,” for use in school lunchrooms, Maldonado said proudly.

The association, whose work is mainly done by women, also sells its products at local and provincial markets. And although prickly pear fruit is their star product, when it is not in season, they also make jam and other preserves using papaya or pumpkin.

“It has improved our incomes and now we have the possibility to sell our merchandise and to be able to buy the things that are really needed to help our kids who are studying,” Mores said.

The project, which began in 2013, also trained them to use the leaves as a supplementary feed for livestock, especially in the winter when there is less fodder and many animals actually die of hunger.

“We make use of everything. We use the leaves to feed the animals – cows, horses, goats, pigs. The fruit is used to make jam, removing the seeds,” said Mores.

The nutrition and health of the families have improved because of the properties of the fruit and of the plant, said Maldonado and Mores. And now they need less fodder for their animals, fewer of which die in the winter due to a lack of forage.

At the same time, the families belonging to the association were also trained to make sustainable use of firewood from native trees, and learned to make special stoves that enable them to cook and heat their modest homes.

In addition, because women assumed an active, leading role in the activities of the association, the project got them out of their homes and away from their routine grind of household tasks and gave them new protagonism in the community.

“Living in the countryside, women used to be more isolated, they didn’t get out, but now they have a place to come here. They get together from Monday through Friday, chat and are more involved in decision-making. In the association they can express their opinions,” said Maldonado.

“When women get together, what don’t we talk about?” Mores joked.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145254 A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

With a line up of heads of state or government telling all what they did to alleviate human suffering and promising to do more, along with leaders of civil society and humanitarian
organisations denouncing lack of honest political will to act while governments continue spending trillions of dollars in weapons, the two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off today May 23 in Istanbul.

In fact, while the United Nations reports that the international community spends today around 25 billion dollars to provide live-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). estimates world’s military expenditure in 2015 was over 1.6 trillion dollars.

“Never mind–this Summit is too important to fail,” a high-ranking Asian diplomat on condition of anonymity said to IPS. “The leaders of the richest countries, especially in Europe and the Gulf Arab states, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges facing them,” the diplomat added.

“Some of them will be sincerely sensitive to human suffering; others will be more concerned with their ‘political’ peace of mind… Most industrialised countries, in particular in Europe, are eager that the humanitarian crises are dealt with and solved out of and beyond their borders.”

It is about the fear that this unprecedented crisis, if it grows exponentially as predicted, would inevitably lead to more conflicts and more instability affecting their [those leaders] political and economic welfare, according to the diplomat.

In this regard, the facts before the 5,500 participants in this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit are that over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates.

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product,” says the report of a UN promoted high-level panel on humanitarian financing. “Closing the humanitarian financing gap would mean no one having to die or live without dignity for the lack of money,” it adds.

The report addressing the humanitarian financing gap, says that this “would be a victory for humanity at a time when it is much needed.

As part of the preparations for the WHS, the UN Secretary-General had appointed a nine-person panel of experts to work on finding solutions about this widening financial gap.

The panel identified–and examined three important and inter-dependent aspects of the humanitarian financing challenge: reducing the needs, mobilising additional funds through either traditional or innovative mechanisms, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian assistance.

The report is also relevant in the context of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It states that only by focusing the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in desperate need will we be able to achieve the SDGs.

The panel recognises that the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. “This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase investment in disaster risk reduction.”

“Because development is the best resilience-builder of all, the panel believes that the world’s scarce resources of official development assistance (ODA) should be used where it matters most—in situations of fragility,” the report concludes.

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Species Loss, the Migration Hiding in Plain Sighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/species-loss-the-migration-hiding-in-plain-sight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=species-loss-the-migration-hiding-in-plain-sight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/species-loss-the-migration-hiding-in-plain-sight/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:34:48 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145248 The author is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification]]>

The author is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

By Monique Barbut
BONN, May 23 2016 (IPS)

Two months ago, I was in Agadez, a city in the middle of the famous Ténéré Desert of Niger. Agadez has become a major transit point on a hazardous journey for the hundreds and thousands of desperate people from all over West Africa trying to make it to the Mediterranean coast every year.

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

The loss of productive land and unpredictability of the rainy seasons has left many Sahelians with far too few options. Their livelihoods are under threat. When communities that are culturally nomadic and that practice seasonal migration as a coping mechanism resort to permanent migration and abandon the land, it signals an unfolding crisis.

Migration has become the ‘hot potato’ issue of our times. Alongside it, hidden in plain sight, is another threat that closely reflects this same abandonment dynamic. Plants and animals are also moving from their native homes to other parts of the world. A recent example is the mosquito carrying the deadly Zika virus. In a relatively short time, it has migrated from South to North America, and is now threatening to reach Europe.

The transformation occurring in ecosystems as a result of climate change, as plant and animal species selectively find new habitats, is difficult to fathom or explain to the public. It will be even harder to contain it.

The rate at which plant and animal life is migrating signals deepening trouble in the systems that support life on Earth – land, water, plants, climate, etc. Species migration, like human migration, has an impact in the new locations, but also in their places of origin.

An assessment in 2012 of the impacts of the ragweed species in Europe, for instance, shows it poses a risk to human health and agriculture. In future, more people may suffer allergies and maize, potato and sugar beet farmers, among many others, may be fighting a new weed.

On the other end is the predicted loss of food crops such as maize, beans, bananas and finger millet from much of sub-Saharan Africa. The loss of these crops, which are widely consumed in the region, could lead to new types of hunger crises.

Human migration is guided by reason and choice, and can be managed, even reversed, with the right policy incentives. For instance, if land is restored people may return. However, areas that are abandoned by humans are depopulated and eventually collapse and die for lack of investment.

By contrast, the migration of biodiversity is irreversible beyond a certain threshold. It is almost impossible to recover plants and animals that have become extinct or have migrated due to ecosystem change. Areas that are abandoned by species eventually die for lack of ecosystem services.

The forces driving species migration are strikingly similar to those driving people in West Africa’s Sahel region towards Agadez.

According to the local people, the forces driving their migration North are: land that is no longer productive; droughts and flash floods that are stripping much of the fertile top soil from the land; and population pressure in some of the most fertile areas of West Africa.

Climate change impacts, such as droughts that transform the local vegetation, the emergence of dust in new areas and migration of plants that are swept by floods, are some of the forces behind species migration and the disappearance of native species.

The damage already done to the climate system makes the transformation of ecosystems almost inevitable. Restoring degraded lands is the last hope we have to keep ecosystems functioning at the level they are in today. That window of opportunity, however, is closing fast.

That is why, in observing the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May, we must celebrate the countries leading the way in mainstreaming the biodiversity that has sustained us and our livelihoods for millennia.

Let’s celebrate and recognize the 90 countries that are setting national targets to restore degraded lands in order to ensure the fertile lands in use by 2030 stays stable and, in turn, sustains species and ecosystems.

Many of these are the poorest countries and communities of the world. But they have chosen to share their labor, knowledge and limited finances to maintain the integrity of an Earth that we all share.

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Humanitarian Summit Aims to Mobilise Up to 30 Billion Dollarshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:08:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145245 Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), opening today May 23 in Istanbul, aims at mobilising between 20 and 30 billion dollars to face the on-gowing, worst-ever humanitarian crises, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs andEmergency Relief Coordinator.

“Let us not underestimate the gravity of what lies before us in these coming days: A once in a generation opportunity to set in motion an ambitious and far-reaching agenda to change the way that we alleviate, and most importantly prevent, the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people,” O’Brien added in an interview with IPS.

Asked about most civil society organisations increasing concern that the financial resources the WHS is aiming to moblise would come at the very cost of current, already extremely short funding to longer-term objectives, such as the sustainable development goals, O’Brien said, “Not at all; we expect the international community fo be more generous.”

The Istanbul Summit is both about fresh thinking and building on the best, and the change that’s necessary to deliver for our fellow men and women who need us most, said O’Brien.

“Disasters, both man-made and natural, are becoming more frequent, more complex and more intense. More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. At this summit, humanitarian partners around the world will commit to take concrete action to address this,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassonin at a press conference on the eve of the Istanbul Summit.

The United Nations estimates that more than 130 million people are in need of assistance and protection across the world today.

Every year, humanitarian needs continue to grow and more people need more help for longer periods of time. This also drives up the costs of delivering life-saving assistance and protection. UN-led appeals have grown six-fold from 3.4 billion dollars in 2003 to nearly 21 billion dollars today.

Representatives of 177 countries, including 68 heads of state and governments, and crises-affected communities, civil society organisations, the private sector and UN agencies attend this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

The WHS follows an extensive global consultation with 23,000 stakeholders world-wide to identify the key humanitarian challenges of our time.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General laid out the United Nations’ vision for the Summit in an Agenda for Humanity focusing on a set of core commitments: to prevent and end conflicts; uphold the norms that safeguard humanity; leave no one behind; change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need; and invest in humanity.

In addition to the Summit’s plenary sessions starting May 23, series high-level leaders’ round tables are scheduled on: Leaders’ Segment for Heads of States and Governments on day one.

The Leaders’ Segment will discuss the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity.

These five core responsibilities are: one, Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflict; two, Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity; three, Leave No One Behind; four, Change People’s Lives – from Delivering Aid to Ending Need; and five, Invest in Humanity.

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