Inter Press ServiceProjects – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Climate Change Threatens Mexico’s Atlantic Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 08:52:40 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159669 “I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the […]

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Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

“I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the ancestral indigenous practices based on the rainy and dry seasons for the “milpa” – the collective cultivation of corn, pumpkin, beans and chili peppers, the staple crops from central Mexico to northern Nicaragua.

It has also modified the traditional “slash and burn” technique used to prepare the land for planting.

Canté, a representative of the Xyaat ecotourism cooperative, told IPS that “climate change affects a lot, the climate is changing too much. It’s no longer possible to live off of agriculture.” As he talks, he prepares for the new planting season, hoping that the sky will weep and water the furrows.

The farmer lives in the Señor eijido in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP) in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo. Señor is home to about 450 “ejidatarios” or members of the ejido, a traditional Aztec system of collectively worked lands that can be sold.

This state and its neighbors Campeche and Yucatán comprise the Yucatán peninsula and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as are the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Tabasco, on the Gulf of Mexico which, along with the Caribbean Sea, make up Mexico’s Atlantic coast.

These consequences include rising temperatures, more intense and frequent hurricanes and storms, rising sea levels due to the melting of the Arctic Ocean, droughts and loss of biodiversity.

The Yucatan peninsula has a population of 4.5 million people, in a country of 129 million with a total of 151,515 square kilometers and a Caribbean coastline of 1,766 square kilometers.

In addition, this peninsular region suffers the highest rate of deforestation in the country, and government subsidies have failed to change that, according to the report “Forest subsidies without direction,” released in December by the non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Agriculture.

The peninsula is home to the largest remaining tropical rainforest outside of the Amazon, and is a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

María Eugenia Yam, another indigenous resident of FCP, a municipality of 81,000 inhabitants, concurred with Canté in pointing out to IPS with concern that “the rains are no longer those of the past and it is no longer possible to live off of the milpa.”

Yam, an employee of the Síijil Noh Há (where water sprouts, in the Mayan tongue) cooperative, owned by the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido, in the municipality of the same name, lamented that agricultural production is declining, to the detriment of the peasant farmers in the area who also grow cassava and produce honey.

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The three states of the peninsula produce a low level of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The biggest polluter is Campeche, producing 14.5 million tons of GHGs, responsible for global warming. It is followed by Yucatán (10.9 million) and Quintana Roo (3.48 million), according to the latest measurements carried out by the state governments.

In 2016, Mexico emitted 446.7 million net tons of GHG into the atmosphere, according to the state-run National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC).

Within the peninsula, the state of Yucatan has 17 municipalities vulnerable to climate change, Campeche, 10, and Quintana Roo, three, including FCP. In total, 480 Mexican municipalities are especially vulnerable to the phenomenon, out of the 2,457 into which the country is divided, according to an INECC report.

In Campeche, the State Climate Change Action Programme 2030 predicts a temperature increase of between 2.5 and four degrees Celsius between 1961 and 2099, with impacts on communities, economic activities and natural wealth.

Also, the 2012 study “Impacts of the increase in mean sea level in the coastal area of the state of Campeche, Mexico”, prepared by the World Bank and the state government, warns that vulnerability to the rising sea level affects 440,000 people, more than half of the local population.

“Climate change will increase flooding and coastal erosion in the future” and the probability of extreme storm surges on the coasts will increase, according to the study, which predicts a rise in water level between 0.1 to 0.5 meters in 2030 and from 0.34 to one meter in 2100.

In Quintana Roo, annual rainfall will become more and more irregular. The rainy season will be shortened by five to 10 percent in 2020, while it will range from a 10 percent increase to a 20 percent drop in 2080. In addition, the temperature will rise between 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius in 2020 and between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees Celsius in 2080.

The state of Yucatan faces a similar scenario, with the average annual temperature rising between 0.5 and 0.8 degrees for the period 2010-2039. Annual rainfall will alternate drops of up to nearly 15 percent and rises of one percent in that period.

Although the three states have instruments to combat the phenomenon, such as climate change laws -with the exception of Campeche-, special programmes and even a regional plan, the situation varies widely at a local level, as many municipalities lack such measures.

The Climate Change Strategy for the Yucatan Peninsula, drawn up by the three state governments, aims for the development of a regional adaptation strategy, the implementation of the regional programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the creation of a climate fund.

The plan seeks to reduce emissions from this region by 20 percent by 2018 and 40 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

The region launched the Yucatan Peninsula Climate Fund in September 2017, but it is just beginning to operate.

So far, the scrutiny of the implemented actions has been a complex task.

The “Strategic Evaluation of the Subnational Progress of the National Climate Change Policy,” published by INECC in November, which investigated three municipalities on the peninsula, concluded that state and municipal authorities report multiple adaptation actions, but without clarifying how vulnerability is addressed.

For this reason, it considers the creation and promotion of capacities to face climate change to be an “urgent need”.

“We have to make everything more sustainable, but it’s a local effort. If those who govern and make decisions had more awareness, we would be able to do it,” said Canté.

Yan proposed reforesting, reducing garbage generation, conserving biodiversity and educating children about the importance of environmental care. “Maintaining the forest is a good adaptation measure. But the municipalities should have climate programmes and appoint officials who know” about the issue, he suggested.

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Building Mongolia’s Green Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-mongolias-green-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:59:05 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159633 A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius. This has had vast impacts on Mongolia’s herders. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

The landlocked country of Mongolia sparks certain images in the mind—rolling hills with horses against a picturesque backdrop.

However, the East Asian country is facing a threat that will change its landscape: climate change.

“Climate change isn’t affecting everyone around the world evenly. Small island states is an example and another example is people who live in more norther climates like Mongolia,” United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox told IPS.

“The problem for Mongolia is, with respect to climate change, is that it contributes almost nothing to greenhouse gasses…so that means instead Mongolia has to be concerned with adaptation,” he added.

According to the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, the mean air temperature increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius between 1940 and 2014, more than twice the global average.

This has increased the frequency of natural disasters such as what is locally known as “dzud”—a summer drought followed by a severe winter, a phenomenon that has increased over recent years.

January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius.

This has had vast impacts on the country’s herders.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export.

At the same time, 28 percent of the population live at or below the poverty line, making them dependent on this trade.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

“Any adverse impact of a changing climate on pasture availability would threaten forage yield, livestock productivity, and, ultimately, local and national food production capacity. Hence, environment and climate condition play a key role in the sustainable development of the country,” said Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)’s Mongolia representative Romain Brillie.

Approximately 70 percent of grassland in the country is impacted by desertification while the area of barren land expanded 3 times between 1992 and 2006.

While overgrazing has contributed to the changes in the environment, climate change has exacerbated the impacts.

Without sustainable livelihoods, many have poured into the country’s cities including Ulaanbaatar where they live in informal settlements without basic facilities such as running water or sanitation.

And to cope with the long and harsh winters, families use coal-fired stoves, contributing to air pollution.

In fact, Ulaanbaatar has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the world, increasing the risk of acute and chronic respiratory issues.

According to U.N.’s Children Agency (UNICEF), the three diseases that have resulted in the most lost life-years in the East Asian countries are related to air pollution.

But steps are being taken to mitigate the crisis, Brillie noted.

“Mongolia has been very active in establishing a conducive policy environment for climate change mitigation and adaptation…for instance, Mongolia is one of the countries that has been the most successful in accessing the Green Climate Fund,” he told IPS.

In 2017, the government adopted a new law which aims to increase the country’s share of renewable energy in total primary energy sources to 25 percent by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

Mongolia has already started investing in wind power, establishing its first wind farm in 2013.

GGGI has also been working with the government to support its green development targets in energy and green finance.

In 2018, GGGI helped secure 10 million dollars from the Government of Mongolia and Mongolian commercial banks to invest into the Mongolia Green Finance Corporation, a vehicle to leverage investments by the financial sector.

Knox highlighted the importance of such civil society in efforts towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“I think it’s at the individual and community level that we really see sustainable development take hold,” he said.

Brillie also pointed to the much needed role of the private sector, stating: “Financing Mongolia’s NDC’s alone would require 6,9 billion dollars and public investment alone cannot match the extent of the challenge…policy, regulatory and financial incentives and guarantees need to come together to help private companies invest into green projects.”

While there are now standards in place, Knox noted the need to implement and enforce them including in efforts to cut back on coal energy.

Currently, only seven precent of Mongolia’s energy production is renewable energy, and they will have to ramp up action if they are to reach their 2030 target.

And the Paris Agreement should be the light forward.

“In many ways, the threat of climate change in Mongolia can only be addressed by collective action by the major emitters of the world…The parties to the Paris Agreement need to surmount up their commitments as quickly as possible and they need to take more effective actions to implement the commitments they have already undertaken,” Knox told IPS.

Brillie spotlighted the role youth can and will play in the country’s sustainable, green future as GGGI works with Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment to promote green education.

“Young people are already driving change across the world. We must provide the skills to create new and green lifestyle,” he said.

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Excerpt:

A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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Q&A: ‘There’s a Lot More Climate Finance Available than People Think’http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 18:07:00 +0000 Yazeed Kamaldien http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159590 IPS Correspondent Yazeed Kamaldien speaks to DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) about accessing finance for climate mitigation.

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Communities in rural Papua New Guinea install their own cost effective and energy efficient solar panels. GGGI says that governments should rather invest in renewable energy. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Yazeed Kamaldien
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan 11 2019 (IPS)

While growth in the green economy looks promising, government regulation and a business-as-usual approach are among the hurdles inhibiting cleaner energy production.

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), believes shifts are needed to realise more projects. And he believes funding is available.

“We have teams in more than 30 countries. We work on policy barriers and help develop bankable projects. In the last two years we have helped our member countries mobilise at least one billion dollars in green and climate finance,” Rijsberman told IPS. GGGI is a treaty-based international organisation that assists countries develop a green growth model.

Rijsberman was among panelists discussing ‘Unlocking Finance for Sustainability’ at the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference being held in Cape Town, South Africa from Jan. 10 to 11. It gathered government leaders, businesses and environmentalists to focus on the challenge to “reduce inequalities, protect the environment and grow the economy”.

The conference focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted three years ago.

“It is time now to take these global goals and turn them into real changes in the lives of people and nations. It’s time for action,” stated the conference agenda.

“We can restructure our economic and financial systems to transform them into drivers of sustainability and social inclusion; the two prerequisites for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” it continued.

At the December United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, where ministers from around the world negotiated on how best to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which outlines commitments to mitigate climate change, accessing finance was a topical issue. IPS reported from the  that the African team of negotiators had been concerned about who would carry the burden of financing the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

PAGE gathered around 500 innovators and leaders from governments, civil society, private sector, development organisations, media and the general public. The idea was to showcase “the experiences and creativity of first-movers…and engage in an open debate about what it is going to take to for us to have a ‘just transition’ to economics and societies that are more inclusive, stable and sustainable.”

Rijsberman offered his insights gained from working in different countries on accessing financing for green projects.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), says the largest amounts of money available is with the private sector and institutional development such as pension funds. This, he says, can be accessed for climate change mitigation. Credit: Yazeed Kamaldien/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Where is this money that you mention for green projects?

Frank Rijsberman (FR): There’s a lot more finance available than people think. There tends to be an over focus on development money but the largest amounts of money is with the private sector and institutional development such as pension funds. We need to get the private sector off the sidelines and to invest in renewable energy.

IPS: And how can that be done?

FR: They need to realise that green investments are attractive. If you want to do socially important projects then renewable energy is it. It has become the cheapest, most attractive form of energy.

IPS: What about the role that governments play in this? They are the regulators that sometimes inhibit the private sector.

FR: Sometimes we sit in the room with the private sector and ask them what stops them from investing and they say it’s regulation and policies. We have to find a more welcoming environment.

We talk to governments and they talk about a study they did three years ago and tell us renewable energy is expensive. But we tell them prices have come down. All that governments know is how to build fossil fuel power plants. Fossil fuel project developers are still in their contact lists. The banks know what to do. They need to look at an energy mix.

IPS: So what is it about government policies that hinder moves to renewable energy?

FR: Some governments have laws that they use to disconnect companies from power if they put solar on their rooftops. Other countries, like Finland, still have old polices that are bad and that are still on the books. It is also difficult politically when the government subsidises fuel and not renewable energy. Governments need to remove policy barriers.

We are in the middle of such a rapid transition but if you sit in a country where governments don’t see that it’s difficult.

Coal and oil is more certain [to produce power] but for countries that need to import that, where prices are uncertain, it’s a lot more certain to use the sun and wind if you have this in your country.

IPS: How is the prospect for renewable energy looking in the developing world?

FR: If you are using only coal-fired power plants then you will sit with a stranded asset. Countries that already have a lot of investment in fossil fuels will find the change to renewable energy painful.

In Africa, most countries don’t have this. In some countries only 20 percent of people have energy access. These countries can invest in green energy and they can avoid making bad investments and can leapfrog into renewables.

They don’t have to look like Asia where they have rapidly developed economies and sit with coal-fired power stations that pollute their cities.

There is a real opportunity to avoid the problems that other countries have.

IPS: What about developing country examples of renewable energy that worked?

FR: Just two years ago when the Indian government wanted to a build a power plant they found the prices of large-scale solar panels less than coal-fired power plants. They scrapped all their plans. They are looking at solar power projects.

But there is still a lot of inertia. People are still continuing to invest in fossil fuels. We are trying to show governments through information and projects that this is feasible. We want to show how it can reduce risk.

We are working on projects. In Fiji the government gives a subsidy to low-income houses for electricity. We have proposed a project where the government puts solar panels on the roof and uses the same subsidy to finance this. It’s about using that money for sustainability.

Low-income houses have TVs and mobile phones. Making a package for people that puts solar on their roof is better. They can charge their mobile phones and [solar] also connects to their fridge and TV. Social movements have done this in some countries.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Yazeed Kamaldien speaks to DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) about accessing finance for climate mitigation.

The post Q&A: ‘There’s a Lot More Climate Finance Available than People Think’ appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Blue Economy Can be a Lifeline for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/blue-economy-can-lifeline-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-can-lifeline-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/blue-economy-can-lifeline-africa/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 15:43:45 +0000 Ruth Waruhiu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159588 By efficient management, the sustainable exploitation of resources in oceans, seas, lakes and rivers—also known as the blue economy—could contribute up to $1.5 trillion to the global economy, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental organization comprising of 36 countries. Last November experts, government officials, environmental activists, policy makers and academics […]

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By Ruth Waruhiu
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2019 (IPS)

By efficient management, the sustainable exploitation of resources in oceans, seas, lakes and rivers—also known as the blue economy—could contribute up to $1.5 trillion to the global economy, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental organization comprising of 36 countries.

Last November experts, government officials, environmental activists, policy makers and academics converged in Nairobi, Kenya, for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference. With the theme “Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the conference, convened and hosted by Kenya, with Canada and Japan as cohosts, looked at new technologies and innovation for oceans, seas, lakes and rivers as well as challenges, potential opportunities, priorities and partnerships.

Africa has 38 coastal and island states and a coastline of over 47,000 km, and hence presents an enormous opportunity for the continent to develop the sectors typically associated with the blue economy, says Cyrus Rustomjee, a blue economy expert and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Nairobi Blue Economy conference was dedicated to realizing the untapped potential found in our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers.

“Expanding fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transportation and maritime and inland ports can help to reduce African poverty and enhance food and energy security, employment, economic growth and exports, ocean health and sustainable use of ocean resources,” says Dr. Rustomjee.

He notes that more than 12 million people are employed in fisheries alone, the largest of the African blue economy sectors, providing food security and nutrition for over 200 million Africans and generating value added estimated at more than $24 billion, or 1.26% of the GDP of all African countries. Of concern at the Nairobi conference was the current wanton and large-scale exploitation of the world’s waters, especially in developing countries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya expressed concern over the “massive pollution of our water bodies; the evident overexploitation of water resources and their related biodiversities, as well as the specific challenge of insecurity, more so in the high seas.” Pre-conference advocacy by Kenya, Canada and Japan, the main organisers of the event, focused on many issues central to Africa’s development, including food security for vulnerable groups and communities, malnutrition, sustainable food production and gender equality in blue economy industries.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Monica Juma, said the discussions were “dedicated to realizing the untapped potential found in our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers; and focused on integrating economic development, social inclusion and sustainability which promotes a blue economy that is prosperous, inclusive and sustainable.” While emphasizing the importance of unlocking the full productive potential of Africa’s waters, Ms. Juma said she especially hoped to see increased participation of women and youth in all areas of the blue economy.

A recurring theme at the conference was that the blue economy could boost a country’s economic growth and environmental protection and, by extension, help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. According to Macharia Kamau, the Principal Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, overall the conference presented “immense opportunities for the growth of our economy, especially sectors such as fisheries, tourism, maritime transport, offshore mining, among others, in a way that the land economy has failed to do.”

The strategic importance of the blue economy to trade is clear, notes the International Maritime Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. For instance, up to 90% of global trade facilitation by volume and 70% by value is carried out by sea. One challenge is that the oceans and seas absorb about 25% of the extra carbon dioxide emissions added to earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. Oil and gas remain major sources of energy, with approximately 30% of production carried out offshore.

Before the event in Kenya, the organisers highlighted current challenges within the blue economy, including a lack of shared prosperity, maritime insecurity and unsustainable human activities around and in oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, including overfishing. Other challenges are pollution, invasive species and ocean acidification, which lead to biodiversity loss and compromise human health and food security. In addition, a weak legal, policy, regulatory and institutional framework and poorly planned and unregulated coastal development exacerbate existing challenges.

To address these problems, participants called on leaders and policy makers to implement appropriate policies and allocate significant capital to sustainable investment in the sector to boost production, inclusiveness and sustainability. The Nairobi conference drew global attention to the blue economy; the challenge is ensuring concrete actions follow the vigorous discussion.

*The link to the original article from Africa Renewal, published by the United Nations: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2018-march-2019/blue-economy-can-be-lifeline-africa

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Preventing a New Euro-Missile Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventing-new-euro-missile-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2019 15:00:15 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159564 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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Russia's 9M729 missile reportedly has been tested using a mobile launcher system similar to that used by the 9K720 Iskander-M pictured here on September 18, 2017. Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe.

The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

On Dec. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia had fielded a ground-launched missile system, the 9M729, that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit. He also announced that, in 60 days, the administration would “suspend” U.S. obligations under the treaty and formally announce its intention to withdraw in six months unless Russia returns to compliance. Suspension will allow the administration to try to accelerate the development of new missiles currently prohibited by the treaty.

Noncompliance with the treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But Trump’s public declaration that he will terminate the treaty and pursue new U.S. nuclear capabilities will not bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty. Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

Without the treaty, already severe tensions will grow as Washington considers deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere and Russia considers increasing 9M729 deployments and other new systems.

These nuclear-capable weapons, if deployed again, would be able to strike targets deep inside Russia and in western Europe. Their short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis. Any nuclear attack on Russia involving U.S. intermediate-range, nuclear-armed missiles based in Europe could provoke a massive Russian nuclear counterstrike on Europe and on the U.S. homeland.

In delivering the U.S. ultimatum on the treaty, Pompeo expressed “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance. Hope that Russia will suddenly admit fault and eliminate its 9M729 system is not a serious strategy, and it is not one on which NATO leaders can rely.

Instead, NATO members should insist that the United States and Russia redouble their sporadic INF Treaty discussions, agree to meet in a formal setting, and put forward proposals for how to resolve issues of mutual concern about the treaty.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have refused thus far to take up Russia’s offer to discuss “any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” That is a serious mistake. Failure by both sides to take diplomatic engagement more seriously since the 9M729 missile was first tested five years ago has bought us to this point.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour diplomatic breakthrough, however, the INF Treaty’s days are numbered. Doing nothing is not a viable option. With the treaty possibly disappearing later this year, it is not too soon to consider how to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe.

One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that none of them will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia.

This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles.

Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START, which is now scheduled to expire in 2021.

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

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Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:55:44 +0000 Peter Luthi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159539 Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

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In the Siraro District of Ethiopia, extreme weather patterns are increasing. Since 2005, people have endured five droughts. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

By Peter Lüthi
ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The unusually hot summer of 2018 showed that climate change affects a central part of our lives: agriculture. The severe drought in Liechtenstein led to large losses in the hay harvest.

In countries of the Global South, the consequences of climate change are already much more drastic. In Africa, for example, extreme weather conditions threaten food security for millions of people.

East Africa has encountered droughts at increasingly shorter intervals in recent years, most recently in 2005-6, 2009, 2011, 2014-15, and 2017.

Apart from drought, the conditions for agriculture are also becoming increasingly difficult due to the gradual rise in temperature, salinization and changing rainy seasons.

Serious consequences include decreasing availability of food and increasing conflicts over water–both obstacles to development opportunities of the affected states and possible triggers for migration.

Agriculture is also the cause

Agriculture and the food system are not only victims but also causes of climate change. The term “food system” refers to the entire food cycle, from production to harvesting, storage, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

This cycle produces significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically, modern industrial agriculture aims to intensify operations to compensate for the loss of production caused by climate change.

However, using ever more fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers, and agrochemicals increases emissions of climate-damaging gases instead of reducing them. Industrialized agriculture causes additional problems as well, including large-scale deforestation, immense water consumption, soil compaction and erosion, chemical pollution of the environment, and biodiversity loss.

This exacerbates the overexploitation of natural resources and increases climate change vulnerability.

In the project “Food security in rural Ethiopia” by Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg, the village communities of the Siraro district dig erosion control ditches.
This is important for preserving and enhancing natural resources. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Carrying on like in the past is no longer an option

“Industrial agriculture has reached a dead end—there is no option to continue as before,” warns Hans Rudolf Herren, winner of the World Food Prize and longtime president of the Biovision Foundation.

The renowned agronomist and entomologist urges global agriculture to embrace organic, multifunctional, healthy and sustainable practices that take agroecological principles into account, rather than striving for the highest possible yields.

This option is now also recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a response to the many challenges of climate change.

Diversity increases resilience

Climate change is a complex problem involving various factors. This calls for holistic solutions. These include agroecology adapted to the local political, social, and natural conditions.

An important principle of agroecology is the promotion of diversity. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more flexible it can react to changes, recover from disturbances, and adapt to new conditions.

Diversified agroecosystems use synergies from mixed cultivation or agroforestry systems and rely on natural fertilizers from compost and manure.

Agroecology combines traditional and new knowledge. This includes locally adapted and robust plant varieties and animal breeds. Efficiency-enhancing measures, such as irrigation systems, are becoming increasingly important.

At the societal level, fair trade conditions and market access for all producers are important, as is responsible governance. The latter is necessary to coordinate and issue appropriate political policies.

Save money for drought periods: Barite Jumba from Siraro learned how to raise and breed chickens in Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg’s project. With the income from her egg business, she buys surplus vegetables to sell at a profit on the market.
This enables her to save money for food when her own supplies run out. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Acting at all levels

A breakthrough for agroecology principles will require dialogue between all actors involved. Only then can the course of agriculture change towards a joint sustainable future.

This is the aim of the Biovision Foundation’s advocacy team. Together with an alliance of goal-oriented organizations and states, these agroecology advocates succeeded in establishing the demand for sustainable agriculture as part of the UN’s 17 sustainability goals in New York in 2015.

The Biovision Foundation supports the achievement of these goals both for agriculture and for climate protection at three levels:

Here at Biovision, we focus on raising public awareness for sustainable consumption and on establishing a network to implement sustainability goals.

At the international level, the advocacy team discusses agroecology with interested country representatives to position agroecology principles in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the project “Advocacy for Agroecology,” Biovision supports countries with concrete recommendations for action and a coordinated policy dialogue to plan climate-friendly agroecological measures.

Through various grassroots projects in Africa, Biovision has demonstrated various concrete examples of successful application of these measures. LED’s support to train and inform smallholders is of crucial importance for farmers to have the ability to prepare themselves for the consequences of climate change.

*This article was first published in “Blickwechsel”, the magazine of the Liechtenstein Development Service LED.

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Excerpt:

Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

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Local Innovation Facilitates Solidarity-Based Biogas Networks in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 02:52:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159528 Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards. The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is […]

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Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards.

The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is thanks to engineer Alexander López Savran, who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to create distribution networks with the few basic materials available in this Caribbean island nation.

“A new biodigester has been designed to obtain pressure, which means that biogas can be distributed more than five kilometers away without the need for a compressor or blower. That is where the innovation lies,” the engineer, who lives in the city of Cabaiguán, capital of the municipality of the same name, where La Macuca is located, in the central province of Santi Spíritus, told IPS."Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas…We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.” -- Yuniel Pons

López, 32, made headlines in 2017 when he received the Green Latin America Award in Ecuador, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology included him among the 35 young Latin Americans whose innovations improved the lives of their communities.

With a long-standing movement of biogas promoters and current regulations for private pork production favorable to its expansion, Cuba faces the challenge of creating efficient distribution networks to further exploit this ecological resource and raise the quality of life of rural localities, amidst an anemic economy.

“We started by taking a close look at the problem,” López recalled. “We had pork-raising centers that needed biodigesters, but the volume they were going to produce would be much greater than the consumption of those state facilities. On the other hand, we didn’t have the equipment to be able to distribute it.”

This fuel arises from the decomposition of organic matter, especially cattle manure and human feces. But on many farms with biodigesters there is a surplus of methane gas which, if not used, puts pressure on the equipment and is often released into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution.

In addition, biogas is most efficient for cooking because up to 70 percent of the energy is lost when it is used to generate electricity or fuel a vehicle.

“Two factors were considered: we had too much energy and there are difficulties in cooking food in the communities due to deficits in access to energy or electricity costs,” López said, referring to the dependence of most Cuban households on electric appliances.

After two years of study and design, López came up with the first prototype, which over time “has changed structurally to gain in efficiency, durability and performance,” he said, when interviewed by IPS in Pons’ home, where Pons lives with his wife Sandra Díaz and their son.

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family's land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family’s land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Most of the biodigesters designed by López have been built as part of the Biomás Cuba project, which is coordinated by the state-run Indio Hatuey Experimental Pasture and Forage Station, located in the province of Matanzas, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

This initiative, which seeks to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside, provides part of the inputs, while the producer provides another part, to build the biodigester, which with fixed-dome technology is expensive because it requires a large volume of building materials but is compensated with distribution and 40 years of durability.

López estimated that his 10-cubic-meter biodigester costs the equivalent of 1,000 dollars in Cuba, but with an efficiency equal to that of a standard 15-cubic-meter biodigester. Less profitable are the polyethylene biodigesters, which cost about 800 dollars, serve just one home and have a useful life of up to 10 years.

So far, 10 biodigesters have been built with this local innovation in four localities of Cabaiguán: El Colorado (two), Ojo de Agua (one), Juan González (six) and La Macuca (one), which supply 102 homes and improved the lives of 600 people, saving 65 percent of electricity consumption per household.

And the technology was also replicated in Matanzas, although the engineer lamented the lukewarm reception by decision-makers with respect to the biodigester, which could contribute to the national plan for renewable energies to provide 24 percent of electric power by 2030, compared to just four percent today.

In well-equipped corrals, Pons keeps between 100 and 150 pigs behind his house as part of an agreement between state companies and private producers that in 2017 produced a record 194,976 tons, which did not, however, meet the demand of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. And that total was apparently not surpassed in 2018.

“Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas,” recalled the producer, who is supported by Biomás. “We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.”

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

After lighting the gas stove in his kitchen, Diaz, a homemaker, explained that “cooking food like this is faster, it’s wonderful… I used to cook with an electric hotplate and pressure cooker, but they were almost always broken,” she said.

The network reaches the modest home of Denia Santos and her family, who live next door to Pons. “Now I cook with biogas and I also use it to boil (disinfect) towels and bedding, something I did with firewood that I would chop up myself,” said Santos, who takes care of her mentally disabled son.

Other benefits described by families who have biogas are that it is a better way to cook food for their animals and boil water for human consumption, and that it generates a strongersense of community as everyone is responsible for maintaining the biodigester.

José Antonio Guardado, national coordinator of the Movement of Biogas Users, which emerged in 1983 and today has more than 3,000 members spread throughout almost all of Cuba’s provinces, said he was happy with the trend in Cuban agriculture to create solidarity biogas networks.

Guardado told IPS that there is “greater awareness, political support and participative activities in the context of local development,” although obstacles to distribution persist because “materials in the market are not optimal, sufficient or affordable” and “there is a lack of institutional infrastructure to provide this service in an integrated manner.”

Meanwhile, in El Cano, outside of Havana, the solidarity plans of farmer Hortensia Martínez have come to a halt despite the fact that she used her own resources to build a biodigester with a traditional fixed 22-cubic-meter dome on her La China farm, to supply the farm itself and share with five neighboring homes.

“Now I plan to give it a boost, but we haven’t been able to implement it because we don’t have the connections to the community’s houses and it has valves, special faucets and a type of hose that makes it possible to bury the network underground,” the farmer, who is well-known for her community projects, especially targeting children, told IPS.

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Solar Energy Crowns Social Housing Programme in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 20:35:43 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159511 “Solar energy makes my happiness complete,” said Divina Cardoso dos Santos, owner of one of 740 houses with photovoltaic panels on the rooftops in a settlement on the outskirts of this central Brazilian city. “The first blessing was thishouse,” said the 67-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 14. “I paid 600 reais (155 dollars) […]

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A view of houses with solar panels on their rooftops in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, two kilometres from the city of Palmeiras de Goiás. With 740 homes, it is the largest solar energy project in social housing complexes in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A view of houses with solar panels on their rooftops in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, two kilometres from the city of Palmeiras de Goiás. With 740 homes, it is the largest solar energy project in social housing complexes in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMEIRAS DE GOIÁS, Brazil, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

“Solar energy makes my happiness complete,” said Divina Cardoso dos Santos, owner of one of 740 houses with photovoltaic panels on the rooftops in a settlement on the outskirts of this central Brazilian city.

“The first blessing was thishouse,” said the 67-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 14. “I paid 600 reais (155 dollars) a month for rent in the city of Palmeiras, and now I pay monthly quotas of just 25 reais (6.50 dollars) for this house, which is mine,” she told IPS.

Her retirement pension, which for the past two years has assured her an income equivalent to the minimum wage (250 dollars) a month, and visits from a daughter who lives in Switzerland are “other blessings,” which preceded the solar panels, which allow her to save almost the entire cost of the electricity bill – about 15 dollars a month.

The Maria PiresPerillo Residential complex, a group of 740 homes that began to house poor families in 2016, is a social housing project of the Housing Agency (AGEHAB) of the state of Goiás, in west-central Brazil.

Located two kilometres from Palmeiras de Goiás, a city of 28,000 people, it is the largest of the four residential complexes that AGEHAB will supply with solar energy. The agency is a pioneer in Brazil in includingsolar power in housing programmes.

“We would like to build all the new housing complexes with solar panels and also install them in the ones built previously,” Cleomar Dutra, president of AGEHAB, told IPS.

The agency subsidises the installation, granting 3,000 reais (780 dollars) to each family, through the”ChequeMaisMoradia”programme for the improvement of homes. The money covers the cost of two solar panels and the necessary equipment, such as inverters, cables and supports.

But this year’s devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the real, drove up the cost of the panels and other equipment, which is almost all imported. Additional resources for the facilities in the Palmeiras complex, which are yet to be completed, had to be sought, said Dutra.

Divina Cardoso dos Santos stands in front of her house in a social housing complex, for which she pays a monthly fee of about 6.5 dollars, on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Palmeiras de Goiás. That's 24 times less than the rent she used to pay. On the neighbouring rooftop can be seen a solar water heater, which all of the homes in the neighbourhood have. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Divina Cardoso dos Santos stands in front of her house in a social housing complex, for which she pays a monthly fee of about 6.5 dollars, on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Palmeiras de Goiás. That’s 24 times less than the rent she used to pay. On the neighbouring rooftop can be seen a solar water heater, which all of the homes in the neighbourhood have. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“Not all of the houses will have solar panels, because some did not sign the financing contract for the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’,” said Pedro de Oliveira Neto, the 32-year-old technician who runs the facilities at the Maria Perillo Residential Complex, installed by Nexsolar.

Oliveira has been doing this work for the past four months, after taking a specialised course. Before that, he worked in the meat industry and in mining. Now he wants to stay in the field of solar energy, “which has a future, it’s innovation,” he told IPS.

Actually, most of the houses in the complex have solar panels, but few of them generate their own energy. After they are installed, other conditions must be met in order for the local power company, Enel from Italy, to connect each home’s system to the grid.

The process began in March 2017 when solar units were installed in three homes as a test.

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, 31, married with an eight-year-old daughter, was included in that first installation. Her electricity bill fell to one-fifth of the previous one. Now she pays about four dollars a month.

“We have two TV sets, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a computer and fans,” she told IPS to explain how much electricity they use.

“Now we want to reduce the water bill, which costs us 10 to 12 times more than electricity,” she complained.

Her family also no longer has to pay rent because they were granted a home in the complex. Whereas they used to pay 350 reais (90 dollars) a month they now pay just 25 reais (6.50 dollars) per month, the fee for the small portion of the financing that the owners have to pay.

The low cost of the home is due to a subsidy of up to 20,000 reais (5,200 dollars) granted by AGEHAB, through the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’ programme for construction, to poor families with incomes of up to three minimum wages (about 740 dollars), said Dutra, the head of AGEHAB.

Two workers install solar panels on a house in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, an additional benefit for the poor families who are buying their homes at a very low cost. The Goiana Housing Agency of the state government of Goias, in central Brazil, subsidises most of the housing and the solar energy. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers install solar panels on a house in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, an additional benefit for the poor families who are buying their homes at a very low cost. The Goiana Housing Agency of the state government of Goias, in central Brazil, subsidises most of the housing and the solar energy. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The families settled in the complex are only paying the complementary financing from the Federal Economic Fund, a government bank.

“A 44-square-metre house, like the ones in the complex, are built with materials that cost 29,000 reais (7,500 dollars), but the cost can be reduced if the purchase is collective,” estimated Dutra. So the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’ is insufficient, but almost enough.

If the beneficiary families are in charge of construction, working together collectively, or if the mayor’s office provides the labour, the houses can be built practically without running up a debt, Dutra said.

The housing complexes are aimed at the most needy local families, since AGEHAB does not have the resources to assist everyone, she said.

Palmeiras de Goiás was included in the system because the population grew well above the state average, due to immigration. New meat, dairy and animal feed industries attracted many people looking for work.

Generating electricity from solar panels is a novelty of the last two years in the Goiás housing programme, but solar energy was already used in social housing projects for heating water – there are solar boilers on every rooftop.

It is a cheaper and more accessible technology, quite widespread in Brazil, even in the Northeast region, where people are not used to bathing with hot water, due to the high local temperatures.

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, who was the first to receive solar panels as a test in 2017, stands in front of her house and next to an electric meter that reads "danger of electric shock". Her power bill in this social housing complex on the outskirts of Palmeiras de Goiás in central Brazil has fallen to one-fifth of what she previously paid. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, who was the first to receive solar panels as a test in 2017, stands in front of her house and next to an electric meter that reads “danger of electric shock”. Her power bill in this social housing complex on the outskirts of Palmeiras de Goiás in central Brazil has fallen to one-fifth of what she previously paid. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Photovoltaic electricity generation has immense potential in Brazil. In the Midwest, solar radiation from a 30-square-metre rooftop could produce five times the electricity consumed by a low-income family, estimated Dennys Azevedo, an engineer who is works manager at AGEHAB.

That generation would be enough for 3.5 households consuming the national average, 157 kilowatts/hour per month, he told IPS.

But the rules set by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the Brazilian regulatory body, do not allow consumers to sell the energy they generate. The only benefit they receive is that the energy that they generate and consume is deducted from their electric bill.

The houses of the Maria Perillo Residential complex, for example, only have two solar panels, which occupy only about one-fifth of the rooftop. An additional panel would exceed the consumption of local families.

That rule, which does not exist in countries that have greatly expanded solar generation, such as Germany, is difficult to eliminate because of “pressure from distribution companies that would lose market share,” said Azevedo.

In addition, these power companies want to charge a tax for distributed (decentralised) solar generation, basically a tax for the use of the power lines, a cost that is currently subsidised, according to them. But “we’ve all already paid an availability tax” for the power grid, said the engineer.

Another restriction is the importation of equipment not yet manufactured in Brazil. The prices depend on the exchange rate, and any devaluation of the national currency makes everything more expensive, making planning impossible, he argued.

In addition, multiple expensive taxes raise the prices of solar equipment in Brazil, cancelling out part of the cost reduction for all solar energy components, said Azevedo, who explained that efforts are being made to avoid that taxation, “perhaps by buying equipment through the United Nations,” and to obtain funds for new projects.

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Turning Bio-Waste to a Bio-Economy in the Ayeyarwady Deltahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/turning-bio-waste-bio-economy-ayeyarwady-delta/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turning-bio-waste-bio-economy-ayeyarwady-delta http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/turning-bio-waste-bio-economy-ayeyarwady-delta/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 16:22:13 +0000 GGGI http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159508 In November 2018, a team of GGGI investment and bio-economy specialists have been travelling around the Ayeyarwady Delta and meeting members from national and regional government, NGOs, farming associations, businesses and communities to scope potential bio-economy commodities and investments that will enable socially inclusive green growth, and support national goals of climate change mitigation and […]

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GGGIs Principle Investment Officer Tero Raassina presenting on rice husk energy opportunities.

By GGGI
Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar, Jan 4 2019 (GGGI)

In November 2018, a team of GGGI investment and bio-economy specialists have been travelling around the Ayeyarwady Delta and meeting members from national and regional government, NGOs, farming associations, businesses and communities to scope potential bio-economy commodities and investments that will enable socially inclusive green growth, and support national goals of climate change mitigation and adaptation in coastal areas.

In a series of workshops and site visits, GGGI facilitated discussions on the range of current value chain activities in the region to assess what key stakeholders see as the barriers to developing or scaling up these activities. One such value chain that was consistently identified was the bi-products of rice grain processing.

Participants from regional government, rice mills and NGOs discuss the barriers to expanding rice husk bio-economies.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Myanmar produced over 25 million metric tonnes of rice in 2016, of which the Delta region harvests almost half of. There are hundreds of small to medium sized rice mills in the region. Consultation participants described that during the harvesting and milling process, a considerable volume of less valuable bi-products are produced. These include the rice bran, rice straw which is often burnt, and rice husk which is often dumped directly (illegally) in waterways, causing widespread impacts to river and drinking water quality, and navigational safety.

Alternatively, there are a number of existing rice husk bio-gasification plants that use outdated technologies resulting in heavily polluted waterways. Similarly, there are existing rice husk fuel pellet facilities but participants frequently said these plants emit a foul smell.

Visualisation of rice bi-products

Initial value chain analysis shows these low-value bi-products can be used to make higher value products that can increase the income of rice farmers and millers and provide affordable energy to the wider region. The Delta has a low level of electrification at approximately 10% and suffers from chronic power shortages. This power shortage not only limits business development but also contributes to widespread deforestation of the mangroves for fuel wood. The government’s General Administration Department stated “rice husk to energy should be the first priority. If we can use this waste then everyone will benefit”.

The potential economic, social and environmental benefits of this value chain are timely for the Delta, with high proportions of landless rural households and reportedly the highest rates of mangrove deforestation in Asia. The potential investments in this value chain could significantly contribute to achievement of Myanmar’s Nationally Determined Contribution greenhouse gas mitigation targets and REDD+, climate change adaptation (including the NAPA), the Agricultural Development Strategy, and Myanmar’s Sustainable Development Plan.

Potential outcomes of rice husk energy for climate change.

GGGI visited an existing rice husk bio-gasification plant in the Delta and the operators discussed barriers to its development such as high startup costs and lack of affordable finance with up to 13% loan interest being reported. The financing shortfalls also limits access to modern clean technologies that are causing other environmental impacts.

GGGIs Myanmar Programme Officer Thiha Aung discuss issues at the Kyaiklat rice husk power plant.

This early analysis will feed into further in-depth value chain assessment by GGGI to design tailored financing solutions and social interventions that are pro-poor and lead to socially inclusive improvements.

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Using Blockchain Technology to Distribute Fuel Efficient Cookstoves in Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/using-blockchain-technology-distribute-fuel-efficient-cookstoves-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-blockchain-technology-distribute-fuel-efficient-cookstoves-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/using-blockchain-technology-distribute-fuel-efficient-cookstoves-myanmar/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 15:58:57 +0000 GGGI http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159502 In November 2018, a team of GGGI social development, and green investment specialists have been talking to representatives from national and regional government, NGOs, cookstove manufacturers and households from rural communities on how to increase the distribution and usage of fuel efficient cookstoves. Fuel efficient cookstoves, or ‘improved’ cookstoves, have clear benefits over the traditionally […]

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Left: Traditional three-brick. Centre: Original design of the cookstove. Right: The fuel efficient cookstove.

By GGGI
Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar, Jan 4 2019 (GGGI)

In November 2018, a team of GGGI social development, and green investment specialists have been talking to representatives from national and regional government, NGOs, cookstove manufacturers and households from rural communities on how to increase the distribution and usage of fuel efficient cookstoves.

Fuel efficient cookstoves, or ‘improved’ cookstoves, have clear benefits over the traditionally used open three-brick method and even the original design of the cookstove. Most notably, the improved design is more fuel efficient and requires less fire wood to be collected, resulting in reduced deforestation and time-saving for households, particularly for women.

Although cookstoves are used in rural communities throughout Myanmar, their usage in the Delta is more problematic due to the rate of deforestation of mangrove forests for firewood. Mangroves are a critical forest type for climate change mitigation as they store up to 4 times the amount of carbon as other forest types. The mangrove forests of the Delta are also critical for disaster risk reduction during severe weather events and are foundation for sustaining coastal fishery-based livelihoods.

Potential outcomes of fuel efficient cookstoves for climate change.

In a series of workshops and site visits around the Delta, GGGI facilitated discussions as to why distribution and usage of fuel efficient cookstoves remains low. Cookstove manufacturers discussed barriers to their production, including costs and difficulties with attaining and transporting raw materials, a lack of access to start-up finances, labour-intensive manufacturing process, and a lack of marketing and promotion of product. Numerous problems were consistently mentioned by buyers, including inconvenient design, unfamiliarity with product benefits, remote communities lack access to distributers, and that fuel efficient cookstove is often more expensive than the original cookstove design.

The time required for drying cookstoves during manufacture is problematic, especially during monsoon season. Taken at a cookstove manufacturer in Kalarkon, near Pathein.

Figure 2 Cookstove manufacturing is time and people intensive, taking up to 15 days to produce the final product. Taken at a cookstove manufacturer in Kalarkon, near Pathein.

GGGI presented initial ideas for providing novel investment solutions to increase distribution and usage of fuel efficient cookstoves across the Delta. These have included linking the proven carbon savings of the fuel efficient cookstove to distributed ledger or ‘blockchain’ technology to access carbon credits from the international carbon market. This technology could connect the carbon emission savings of the cookstove to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, to a domestic custodian bank, and various partners for manufacturing, certification, distribution and implementation. These credits can then be used to increase job opportunities, provide funding for increased distribution and subsidise the product price.

GGGIs Analyst Diana Quezada presents on financing solutions for improved cookstoves. With Principle Investment Officer Tero Raassina and Myanmar’s Programme Officer Thiha Aung.

The potential economic, social and environmental benefits of this investment solution are important for the Delta, with high rural population density and reportedly the highest rates of mangrove deforestation in Asia. The potential outcomes of this solution are aligned with Myanmar’s polices and strategies for climate change mitigation, adaptation, reforestation and sustainable development. It has potential for notable benefits for women by creating many decent, year-round employment opportunities during manufacture, by reducing the time being spent on firewood collection, and reducing respiratory ailments due to smoke inhalation. This benefit of time savings may also allow increased opportunities for girls to engage in educational activities and for women to focus on developing additional income streams.


Ingvild Solvang
, GGGIs Global Leader on Gender and Social Development added “access to improved cookstoves is a global challenge, which if solved has the potential to reduce communities’ reliance on fuel wood. Improved cookstoves have positive impacts on deforestation, but also communities spend much time and resources on fuel collection, which contributes to time-poverty particularly for women and girls. Improved cookstoves have a can improve indoor pollution, which causes health problems for children, vulnerable and elderly family members, and those mainly in charge of cooking, typically women.”

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Unlocking Sustainable Community Forestry in the Ayeyarwady Deltahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/unlocking-sustainable-community-forestry-ayeyarwady-delta/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unlocking-sustainable-community-forestry-ayeyarwady-delta http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/unlocking-sustainable-community-forestry-ayeyarwady-delta/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 15:27:50 +0000 GGGI http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159495 In November 2018, GGGI have been exploring potential investments in agriculture, forestry and fishery value chains that not only increase economic and social development, but also reduce deforestation pressures and increase the extent of mangrove forests. GGGI investment, forestry policy and bio-economy specialists have been consulting with communities, NGOs and government in the Ayeyarwady Delta […]

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Integrated fish ponds and forestry at a LIFT-funded climate smart agriculture project, Bogale.

By GGGI
Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar, Jan 4 2019 (GGGI)

In November 2018, GGGI have been exploring potential investments in agriculture, forestry and fishery value chains that not only increase economic and social development, but also reduce deforestation pressures and increase the extent of mangrove forests. GGGI investment, forestry policy and bio-economy specialists have been consulting with communities, NGOs and government in the Ayeyarwady Delta to understand the factors that are critical to achieve fully inclusive, sustainable success, and support national goals of climate change mitigation and adaptation in coastal areas.

The conservation of mangrove forests is a notable policy priority for Myanmar. Mangroves are widely acknowledged to offer life-saving protection to coastal communities against the impact of extreme weather events, storm surges and tropical cyclones. In addition their contribution to climate change adaptation, mangrove forests store up to 400% more carbon than other forest types (particularly in their soils) which makes their conservation important to maintaining the stability of global climate. Unfortunately, Myanmar’s mangrove forests are disappearing at the highest rates of any country in Asia, and therefore have a disproportionate impact on greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

The potential economic, social and environmental benefits of finding a solution to ensuring the sustainability of forest management are very timely for the Delta. The potential investments in mangrove conservation, and associated value chains could significantly contribute to achievement of Myanmar’s Nationally Determined Contribution targets, as well as key sectoral polices and strategies for climate change mitigation and REDD+, adaptation and sustainable development.

In a series of workshops and site visits, GGGI facilitated discussions on the range of current forestry and fishery value chain activities in the region to assess what stakeholders see as the barriers to developing or scaling up these activities.

Dr Aaron Russell, Ingvild Solvang, Luis Miguel Aparicio and Programme Officer Thiha Aung met with remote communities and Forest Department on the Delta to discuss community forest restoration activities.

The establishment of community forestry projects are seen as a useful means to stabilize and reforest mangrove forests. Local communities strongly recognize the importance of mangroves to provide households with firewood, house and boat building materials. However, a frequently overlooked benefit from mangroves is that they provide natural habitat for Myanmar’s highly sought-after mud-crabs, prawns, blood cockles, and other fish species. Some of these lucrative delicacies provide income for large numbers of landless rural households in the Delta.

Consistent stories were heard during the mission. Existing laws restrict those wanting to own and manage lands. In some communities up to 70% of the population may be effectively landless. There is a shortage of livelihood opportunities in the Delta, and many are forced to seasonally migrate to cities to find work. Mangroves and other forests are often illegally logged as people have no other household cooking fuel options, or have no other option to make an income. There is a large demand for mangrove fuel wood and charcoal from the Delta that reaches as far as Yangon. The catches of crabs, fish and prawns are falling due to lost mangrove habitat, leading to fishers to selling all they catch, including juveniles and females with eggs. This is leading to a cycle of debt for many landless people of the Delta, and as stated by a spokesperson of the Department of Fisheries “we need to conserve the mangroves to increase fishery value chains; their destruction is the primary reason for recent fishery stock depletion”.

Due to their remote location and unaffordable transport costs, many are unable to travel to the markets to sell their goods. Instead they rely on selling to a buyer who comes to them but are forced to sell at often half the market price. Many landless people want to diversify their incomes but lack access to affordable finance without a land title, or knowledge of market demands.

“Community Forestry could ensure people’s rights to sustainable use of forest resources, improve people’s livelihoods also in fishery value chains. These synergies between social, environmental and economic benefits are good examples of what green growth is about”, says Dr. Aaron Russell, Country Representative for GGGI in Myanmar.

Village community members show us their catch of mud crabs that are ready to be sold to the buyer. Fishers know that selling juvenile or female crabs is not sustainable but they have few income options in remote areas.

Initial value chain analysis shows that with the right financial, technological and institutional interventions, integrated community-based mangrove-fisheries management could be sustainable, would provide more diversity in incomes for the landless, thereby strengthening incentives to maintain and reforest mangroves.

In addition to mudcrab value chains, supplementary value chains that have the potential to contribute to these communities’ incomes are to integrate coconut palm or nipa palms and other shade trees around fish/prawn/crab ponds or integrated with the existing farms in agroforestry arrangements. Coconuts provides food, offers many applications for natural coconut fibres, and have the potential for export of virgin coconut oil. Nipa palm similarly has useful fibres, can be useful for livestock feed and there are indications of export demand for nipa palm buds. In addition, there are numerous natural extracts from mangroves that are used across south-east Asia as dyes and pigments, and even with medicinal properties that are underexplored in Myanmar. While individuals can improve their incomes on individually owned land, the sustainability of mangroves and recovery of many fishery species are more likely to be achieved if the economic needs of the whole community are taken into account.

Potential outcomes of integrated community forestry for climate change.

NGO Local community engagement in participatory workshop to assess potential for community forestry activities.

The mission team concluded that the promotion of community forestry and associated value-chains should form a key component of GGGI’s Coastal Landscape Restoration program. This early analysis will feed into further in-depth integrated value chain assessments by GGGI to design tailored solutions and interventions that are pro-poor and lead to socially inclusive benefits from direct and indirect use of restored and protected mangrove areas.

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Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-severe-consequences-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 14:31:16 +0000 Dan Shepard http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159488 Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer specializing in sustainability issues--including SDGs, biodiversity & climate change.

 
Africa Renewal*

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Farmers planting during a rainy season in Dali, North Darfur, Sudan. Credit: UN Photo / Albert Farran

By Dan Shepard
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

Record global greenhouse gas emissions are putting the world on a path toward unacceptable warming, with serious implications for development prospects in Africa. “Limiting warming to 1.5° C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, cochair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III.

But IPCC, the world’s foremost authority for assessing the science of climate change, says it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5° C—if, and only if, there are “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.” For sub-Saharan Africa, which has experienced more frequent and more intense climate extremes over the past decades, the ramifications of the world’s warming by more than 1.5° C would be profound.

Temperature increases in the region are projected to be higher than the global mean temperature increase; regions in Africa within 15 degrees of the equator are projected to experience an increase in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.

The odds are long but not impossible, says the IPCC. And the benefits of limiting climate change to 1.5° C are enormous, with the report detailing the difference in the consequences between a 1.5° C increase and a 2° C increase. Every bit of additional warming adds greater risks for Africa in the form of greater droughts, more heat waves and more potential crop failures.

Recognizing the increasing threat of climate change, many countries came together in 2015 to adopt the historic Paris Agreement, committing themselves to limiting climate change to well below 2° C. Some 184 countries have formally joined the agreement, including almost every African nation, with only Angola, Eritrea and South Sudan yet to join. The agreement entered into force in November 2016.

In December 2018, countries met in Katowice, Poland, for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—known as COP24—to finalise the rules for implementation of the agreement’s work programme. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries made national commitments to take steps to reduce emissions and build resilience. The treaty also called for increased financial support from developed countries to assist the climate action efforts of developing countries.

But even at the time that the Paris Agreement was adopted, it was recognized that the commitments on the table would not be enough. Even if the countries did everything they promised, global temperatures would rise by 3° C this century. According to the IPCC, projections show that the western Sahel region will experience the strongest drying, with a significant increase in the maximum length of dry spells. The IPCC expects Central Africa to see a decrease in the length of wet spells and a slight increase in heavy rainfall.

West Africa has been identified as a climate-change hotspot, with climate change likely to lessen crop yields and production, with resultant impacts on food security. Southern Africa will also be affected. The western part of Southern Africa is set to become drier, with increasing drought frequency and number of heat waves toward the end of the 21st century.

A warming world will have implications for precipitation. At 1.5° C, less rain would fall over the Limpopo basin and areas of the Zambezi basin in Zambia, as well as parts of Western Cape in South Africa. But at 2° C, Southern Africa is projected to face a decrease in precipitation of about 20% and increases in the number of consecutive dry days in Namibia, Botswana, northern Zimbabwe and southern Zambia. This will cause reductions in the volume of the Zambezi basin projected at 5% to 10%.

If the global mean temperature reaches 2° C of global warming, it will cause significant changes in the occurrence and intensity of temperature extremes in all sub-Saharan regions. West and Central Africa will see particularly large increases in the number of hot days at both 1.5° C and 2° C. Over Southern Africa, temperatures are expected to rise faster at 2° C, and areas of the southwestern region, especially in South Africa and parts of Namibia and Botswana, are expected to experience the greatest increases in temperature.

Perhaps no region in the world has been affected as much as the Sahel, which is experiencing rapid population growth, estimated at 2.8% per year, in an environment of shrinking natural resources, including land and water resources.

Inga Rhonda King, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, a UN principal organ that coordinates the economic and social work of UN agencies, told a special meeting at the UN that the region is also one of the most environmentally degraded in the world, with temperature increases projected to be 1.5 times higher than in the rest of the world.

Largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, the Sahel is regularly hit by droughts and floods, with enormous consequences to people’s food security. As a result of armed conflict, violence and military operations, some 4.9 million people have been displaced this year, a threefold increase in less than three years, while 24 million people require humanitarian assistance throughout the region.

Climate change is already considered a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing problems, including conflicts. Ibrahim Thiaw, special adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahel, says the Sahel region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with 300 million people affected.

Drought, desertification and scarcity of resources have led to heightened conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders, and weak governance has led to social breakdowns, says Mr. Thiaw. The shrinking of Lake Chad is leading to economic marginalization and providing a breeding ground for recruitment by terrorist groups as social values and moral authority evaporate.

*Africa Renewal, which is published by the United Nations, reports on and examines the many different aspects of the UN’s involvement in Africa, especially within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It works closely with the many UN agencies and offices dealing with African issues, including the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

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Excerpt:

Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer specializing in sustainability issues--including SDGs, biodiversity & climate change.

 
Africa Renewal*

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DRC Farmers in “Schools Without Walls” Learn to Increase Harvesthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 18:49:51 +0000 Badylon Kawanda Bakiman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159461 It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but […]

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Smallholder farmers at Mamani 6 km from Kikwit, the capital of Kwilu province. Many across the country are learning new farming techniques through practical application. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
KIKWIT, DR Congo, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but an educational one.
“Thanks to the knowledge about agricultural techniques learnt from Farmer Field School, FFI has produced 30 tonnes of sweet potato in 2017 from a field of two hectares,” says Albert Kukotisa, chairman of FFI, from Kikwit, Kwilu province in southwest DRC.

FFI’s group of farmers are just some of those across the country who are learning new farming techniques thanks to the Farmer Field School (FFS) – an initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The field schools are not necessarily a new concept. According to a survey they were first introduced in 1989 in Indonesia where schools were developed to hope farmers deal with pesticide-induced problems.

And while they are also not new to the DRC, they are proving an effective way to educate and assist farmers.

Lazard Milambo, an FAO expert says that the new element to the FFS is that farmers are introduced to “new ideas with guided exercises without imposition and stimulating discussions by farmers.” He says the involvement of farmers themselves in the training process is also new.

With the FFS, however, farmers are not just told about new techniques and research, they are able to implement it also. Each week, a group of 20 to 25 farmers meet in local field and under the guidance of a trained facilitator they implement new farming techniques. Facilitators have various backgrounds and can include extension workers, employees from NGOs or previously-trained farmers.

“In groups of five they observe and compare two plots over the course of an entire cropping season. One plot follows local conventional methods while the other is used to experiment with what could be considered best practices. The plot of land belongs to a member of the group,” Patience Kutanga, an expert, agricultural engineer and one of the trained facilitators, explains.

Didier Kulenfuka, an agriculture expert adds that “small farmers experiment with and observe key elements of the agro-ecosystem by measuring plant development, taking samples of insects, weeds and diseased plants, and constructing simple cage experiments or comparing characteristics of different soils. At the end of the weekly meeting they present their findings in a plenary session, followed by discussion and planning for the coming weeks.”

According to a World Bank report, “DRC farmers are particularly poor and isolated, therefore vulnerable to climate impacts and other external shocks…”
In a country with 80 million hectares of arable land, “there are more than 50 millions of farmers in the country with land. Most of them are smallholders,” Milambo says.

And according to the same World Bank report the government is, however, committed to a green revolution, pledging to reduce rural poverty by 2020 through agricultural production systems. The government allocated 8 percent of its 2016 budget to agriculture.

But Kikwit, the capital and largest city of Kwilu province, and home to some 186,000 people, has only one university with an agronomic faculty.

Farmers and smallholders instead rely on the advice and knowledge of agricultural extension officers. And now, as Milambo points out, about two million smallholder farmers are working across the country with some 20,000 FFSs.

Françoise Kangala, a 47-year-old farmer of Kongo Central (formerly Bas-Congo) province explains that he learned a lot from the course, including how to identify the best field for planting his crop and how to choose top seeds. His increased knowledge showed in the increased harvest.

“So, my family has harvested 20 tonnes of maniocs [Cassava], Obama variety for a field of one hectare. In 2014 it wasn’t the case. The same land produced only 7 tonnes. Observations about results between old practices and the new is among the innovations of the approach.’’

For John Masamba, a smallholder farmer from Goma, North Kivu province, east of DRC, it’s necessary to popularise this system around the DRC “because it’s a school without walls.” He said he appreciated learning through practice.

“Together, farmers swap experiences. With the knowledge from FFS and using resilient seeds, I have produced [in 2018] 19 tonnes of maize from one a field of one hectare, compared to 7 tonnes in 2016,’’ he says.

Going forward this increased production by smallholder farmers will be crucial to the country’s food security. Smallholding farming contributes — around 60 percent — to the country’s food security, according to Milambo.

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Hungarian Government to Launch a Climate Finance Instrument to Support Climate Action in the Western Balkans in 2019http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/hungarian-government-launch-climate-finance-instrument-support-climate-action-western-balkans-2019/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hungarian-government-launch-climate-finance-instrument-support-climate-action-western-balkans-2019 http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/hungarian-government-launch-climate-finance-instrument-support-climate-action-western-balkans-2019/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 17:33:09 +0000 GGGI http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159462 The Hungarian Government approved on December 21, 2018 (Government Decision 1770/2018. [XII. 21.]) the establishment of the Western Balkans Green Center (WBGC), a new instrument to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Designed with the support of GGGI under a cooperation project supported by the Ministry for Innovation and Technology of Hungary, the WBGF […]

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By GGGI
BUDAPEST, Jan 2 2019 (GGGI)

The Hungarian Government approved on December 21, 2018 (Government Decision 1770/2018. [XII. 21.]) the establishment of the Western Balkans Green Center (WBGC), a new instrument to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Designed with the support of GGGI under a cooperation project supported by the Ministry for Innovation and Technology of Hungary, the WBGF will support climate actions in six countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Republic of Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The Government Decision calls for the set-up of a state-owned company, including financial provisions for the next three years. Responding to the needs of the countries, the WBGF will be complementary to existing instruments and will target areas that are under-financed such as climate adaptation. As early as 2019, the WBGC will support project preparation and capacity building in the region through grant financing in water management, forestry, sustainable energy for buildings and sustainable city sectors.

“The Hungarian Government in collaboration with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) intends to support the green transition of the Western Balkan region through a dedicated fund. With the establishment of the Western Balkan Green Center, Hungary is showing its commitment to the Paris Agreement. The project will result in concrete actions to support climate mitigation and adaptation in a neighboring region”. (Dr. Peter Kaderják, Secretary of State for Energy Affairs and Climate Policy).

The proposal is the result of extensive consultation at regional level, studies and analysis. Furthermore, the proposal was developed under the strategic guidance of an Advisory Committee composed of representatives of ministries, policy experts and other stakeholders.

“I am delighted that GGGI supported the design of an instrument that will help the region meet its objectives under the Paris Agreement. I see a critical role for this Hungarian initiative in supporting green infrastructure investments. GGGI estimates that every USD 100,000 in project preparation funds during the Fund’s first phase may mobilize USD 10 million in infrastructure investments”. (Ban-Ki-Moon, President and Chair of GGGI)

The WBGC is the first step of a broader, more ambitious endeavor, to create a regional multi-donor fund in 2021 supporting project implementation, using blended finance and targeted financial instruments for beneficiaries in Western Balkans. The Government proposal also calls for the set-up of an international committee and further engagement with the Visegrad and other Central European countries for the establishment of the regional multi-donor fund in 2021.
 

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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Aborted Fuel Tax Initiative in France: Its Ramifications for Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth/#respond Thu, 27 Dec 2018 22:57:30 +0000 Mizan Khan and Dereje Senshaw http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159442 Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

By Mizan Khan and Dereje Senshaw
PARIS, Dec 27 2018 (IPS)

Emmanuel Macron was voted to French Presidency in 2017 with the mission of strengthening the integration of the European Union and pursuing economic and ecological reforms. So from the outset, he was set to distinguish himself, not just in Europe but on the world stage, especially after President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement. So Macron held the summit meeting on `One Planet’ in Paris last December to push for stronger environment and climate policy. He also spoke of the environment when he addressed the Congress in April 2018, stating that “Let us face it: There is no Planet B.”i

As part of the package Macron initiated the new tax on gasoline to finance ecological transition and reduce budget deficit. France was set to increase the diesel tax by 6.5 Euro cents per liter and the gasoline tax by 3.9 cents per liter, which had already increased its gas and diesel taxes by several cents this year, and this shift came after years in which France, and Europe, had encouraged the use of diesel fuel as being better for the environment. Macron defended the Contribution Climat Énergie (CCE), a French version of the carbon tax, whose steady increase in recent years has brought about a growing dispute over rising fuel prices. Since its adoption in 2013, the CCE has increased from year to year, putting pressure on fuel prices. In 2019, a ton of CO2 would have cost of €55 in France, the second highest in Europe.ii The CCE was decided when oil prices were still low. But it is way up now. Still fuel taxes are calculated lower than their social costs.iii

The increase this time was resented by the French voters, initially by the rural constituencies and then the city dwellers including the Parisians joined. The result was violent protests for two weeks led by the Yellow Vest Movement. Finally, the government gave in, with declarations of some concessions, both by the President and his Prime Minister, to deflate the protests and assuage the public. But the rating of the President has plummeted to the lowest since he occupied the Presidency. Finally, the proposed tax has been shelved at least for 2019.

Why was the reaction so violent? What has gone wrong?

Introduction of different types of eco-tax, or fuel/carbon tax is decades old in Europe and they have not met the same fate. Why? Media reports and post-mortem of the episode point to a range of factors:

1. Macron’s government is viewed by a large segment of general public as elitist, which bank on support from technocrats and business leaders. The voters at large feel they are marginalized from any consultations. Even the CCE is reported to be little-known among French people, many of whom have only recently discovered it when they are already feeling disgruntled with this year’s tax rises.

2. It is the increase in the price of oil this year that has added to the tax’s impact. The price of petrol in France is already the highest in Europe. The €55 cost of a CO2/ton in France compares with the European price of €17/ton.iv The French CCE affects both private individuals and businesses, generating almost €7 billion a year through the prices of all fuels, including fuel oil, gas, petroleum, diesel and coal.v

3. These tax inequalities are a problem, according to experts. The tax disproportionately hits those on the lowest incomes, who receive an ‘energy cheque’ of €150 if they do not pay any tax.vi So the CCE, a French version of the carbon tax, whose steady increase in recent years has brought about a growing dispute over rising fuel prices. Macron’s tax policies have alienated many in the middle class — and analysis of the 2018-19 budget showed incomes of the poorest households would get worse under his plans.vii

4. The target of spending the revenue generated by this new tax was misplaced – it was mostly meant for reduction of budget deficit. Of the €34 billion the government will raise on fuel taxes in 2018, a sum of only €7.2 billion is earmarked for environmental measures.viii

5. The most polluting industries are viewed to be paying less, and many industrial sectors are exempted, including agriculture, all of the industry sectors enjoy emissions allowances, including road, air and maritime transport, agriculture and fish farming. The French ecological tax hits private individuals harder than businesses due to these exceptions. The Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE), a think-tank in a memo clarified that removing these exemptions would bring in twice as much money for France, around €14 billion.ix

6. Analysts say the fuel tax will disproportionately affect residents of rural areas, fueling claims that Macron is out of touch with the French people. Most of the rural residents have to depend on private cars, and diesel fuel, unlike in larger cities served by central heating. This was the reason that the protests began in the provinces and then spread in the cities including Paris. The fuel taxes represent in the eyes of many an urban ignorance of the reality of life in rural areas relatively unserved by train lines or other forms of public transportation. At the same time the railway company is closing the non-TGV, less profitable lines in some routes.

7. So, a perception developed among the rural protesters that they have two Frances, Parisian France and the `other’ France. So Macron has been dubbed “President of the Rich” by many working-class citizens who saw him remove the wealth tax from his rich Paris constituency, then propose a gas tax on his “other” constituency.x Lionel Cucchi, a spokesman of YVM in Marseille, told BFM TV that protesters “demands are much bigger than this moratorium” … we have to stop stealing from the pockets of low-income taxpayers.”xi So, the issue here is about redistribution of income.

Experience in other countries

World Bank estimates that 46 countries and 25 sub-national entities charge some kind of carbon price, even if that policy applies to only one sector of their economy.xii Sweden and the United Kingdom have successfully run carbon taxes for years. Sweden as the pioneer has taxed all forms of energy since the 1950s and adjusted the levy to account for carbon in 1991, well before climate change became a high-profile global agenda. The result is its emissions declined by 26 percent in the years that followed.xiii

There are other examples of carbon taxes in Europe and beyond. Many European countries have imposed taxes on emissions of common air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Also, a number of countries have imposed energy taxes or energy taxes based partly on carbon content. Some other green growth and climate-conscious countries have adopted carbon taxes, including Chile, Spain, Ukraine, Ireland and nations in Scandinavia. Others have adopted cap-and-trade programs that effectively put prices on carbon emissions. Many developing countries including Bangladesh, China, India and some others also have introduced different kinds of eco-taxes including carbon pricing. However, only around 12 percent of global emissions are covered by pricing programs such as taxes on the carbon content of fossil fuels or permit trading programs that put a price on emissions, according to the International Monetary Fund.xiv

Britain may offer some relevant lessons. It only imposed a carbon tax on electricity generation in 2013, helping drive emissions lower. But climate policy has a long and cross-party history in the U.K with its parliament being almost unanimous in adopting an aggressive climate bill a decade ago. This cross-party commitment is the way to implement an enduring climate policy, which touches the very foundations of modern life. California, for instance, is the only U.S. state with a strong climate policy. Yet its first policies came in 2006 at the hand of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican. Subsequent Democratic governments have built on that initial foundation.

But Canada is about to offer a test case, with its province of British Columbia leading a successful case of carbon tax for several years. In the rest of Canada, despite the success story in British Columbia, other provinces are dragging their heels. Prime Minister Trudeau has unveiled a “backstop” carbon tax of $20 a ton, to take effect in January, for the four Canadian provinces that do not already have one. Trudeau’s policy, however, is designed pragmatically: about 90 percent of the revenue from the tax will be paid back to Canadians in the form of annual “climate action incentive.”xv Because of the progressive tax rates, about 70 percent of Canadians will get back more than they paid. If they choose to be more energy efficient, they could save even more.xvi

However, by design, the British Columbia plan was the simplest: it slapped a tax on any fossil fuels used for heating, electricity and transportation. Each person and business was expected to shoulder the burden of pricing pollution; no loopholes, no exemptions. This revenue-neutral carbon tax was unbiased: tax was based on pollution intensity of products or services. This has induced behavioral change among consumers. The move, the first of its kind in Canada, placated both conservative economists and environmentalists.

So, based on experience we can say that the prospects of carbon taxes may depend on what happens to the money raised. In the British Columbia case, all the tax money raised went back to the people. The World Bank has called it the text book instrument. The economist William Nordhaus, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics, supported the British Columbian model as an ideal for export to other economies. Fears that the tax would have a negative impact on the economy quickly dissipated when the numbers came in, as reports suggest. The province grew its economy by 16%, far outpacing any other region of the country.xvii

The revenue-neutral aspect of the tax is novel but has frustrated some environmental groups, who feel the tax does not do enough to reduce emissions. So the current British Columbia government is thinking of modifying the revenue-neutral aspect of the programme in order to allocate funding for green infrastructure, deviating from its original revenue neutrality. By 2012, when the tax reached its first maximum level ($30 per ton), 64% of the population supported it. By 2016, the support shot up to nearly 70% of residents.xviii

So a big difference between Canada’s carbon tax and France’s carbon tax is where the money is going. In the provinces that will use Canada’s carbon tax instead of their own plan, 90 per cent of the revenue from the taxes are expected to be refunded during tax time, the government says.xix But in France the overwhelming share was supposed to go for reduction of budget deficit. Without substantive dialogue with the main stakeholder groups before designing the programme, it has backfired.

Use of French experience by sceptics

The unhappy experience in France obviously gave fodder to feed the sceptics like the French Far Right, or Presidents Trump, who still remains a diehard climate denialist. In a tweeter Trump had to say that Macron’s setback showed he was right and justified again that US was not going to clean up pollution caused by others! Fuel taxes, however, generate revenue that stays inside home countries without going to pay for others’ pollution. And the Paris Agreement placed much greater responsibilities on developing countries than ever before. President Trump’s rugged nationalist tends to infect some other leaders at a time when there is the need for promoting multilateralism, as shown in the recent climate negotiations in Katowice.

Despite Trump’s self-righteous justification, 10 east coast states have a `cap & trade’ system for carbon emissions since 2009, under which companies have their emissions capped and then trade any surplus or deficit with others. But Barack Obama, while president, was unable to pass a nationwide system. Some prominent Republicans have backed for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but with little success yet.

Future for green growth strategy

France’s abortive attempt offers some sobering lessons, with a dilemma: how do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without losing their chances of re-election? The challenge is to consider the equity and distributional aspects of introducing environmental/carbon tax, together with ensuring universal access to clean fuel and transport. Suh argues that this requires income-group and spatially-specific policies. This kind of policies aimed at transition to a low-carbon economy need to be grounded on local and national level stakeholder consultations for a revenue-neutrality system, particularly for the poorest. Such a consensus can gradually mature with intensive campaign of public education and awareness aimed at behavioral change. The median voters need to be placated in that in this age of environmental crises, what a society needs is to penalize the Bads, such as pollution and incentivize the Goods, such as hard-earned income by the working class. With this policy for some time, the revenue generated from environmental Bads can gradually be shifted to a green growth strategy nationwide.

The tax rises appear to fit within a pro-Green agenda espoused by Macron’s government. His intentions were not bad in revamping the culture of polluting driving and the protesters are also not against climate change or green growth. Simply the time is bad for the working classes in France and elsewhere, where uneven globalization and lack of distributive justice do not provide any cushion to the poorest communities. So the climate-and green growth-friendly governments must remain in check in devising green policy instruments such a way that do not backfire & play into the hands of populist demagogue leaders around.

Finally, we can say that whatever skepticism is there, the outlook for green instruments like carbon taxes looks bright: reports show that 88 nations, representing more than half of global emissions, say they are or will use carbon pricing to tackle climate change. Furthermore, some states have suggested they would impose carbon border levies on imported goods from nations that do not tax carbon. However, this policy should be applied to major emitters across the aisle.

Let us recall that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal at a very bad time in the US was not a tax programme, even if it included taxes. Instead, it was the greatest of all stimulus and jobs bills. We now need to craft a Green New Deal based on growth and distributive justice.

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i https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/france-yellow-vest-climate-action/577642/
ii https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.70945e2904f8
iii Suh, S. 2018. Low-carbon transition: changing urgently and equitably. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/change-urgently-but-slowly-equitably-same-time-sangwon-suh/?articleId=6474975376325115904#comments-6474975376325115904&trk=prof-post
iv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.70945e2904f8
v https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
vi https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
vii https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
viii https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/ ; https://globalnews.ca/news/4728184/france-carbon-tax-riots-canada/
ix https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
x https://thefederalist.com/2018/12/17/carbon-tax-riots-may-breaking-point-frances-socialism/
xi https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/world/europe/france-fuel-tax-yellow-vests.html
xii https://carbonpricingdashboard.worldbank.org/
xiii https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/france-yellow-vest-climate-action/577642/
xiv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.e7c114d785d3
xv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.e7c114d785d3
xvi https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.24e04590073f
xvii https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/how-to-make-a-carbon-tax-popular-give-the-profits-to-the-people
xviii https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/how-to-make-a-carbon-tax-popular-give-the-profits-to-the-people
xixi https://globalnews.ca/news/4728184/france-carbon-tax-riots-canada/
xx Suh, 2018 (endnote ii).

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Excerpt:

Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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Italy Has the ‘Greenest Agriculture’ in Europe, But it’s Not Sustainablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable/#respond Sun, 23 Dec 2018 13:01:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159431 While Italian agriculture is in a leading position in terms of organic farming, sustainable agriculture and being at the forefront of biodiversity conservation; water scarcity, illegal workers and the role of women and combined ageing of its workforce remain pressing concerns. “The Italian agriculture is the greenest in Europe,” Lorenzo Bazzana, Economic Manager of Coldiretti, […]

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The New Agriculture Cooperative was founded in 1977 by a group of young unemployed, labourers and farmers with two main objectives: create employment in agriculture and prevent the construction of a vast area of high environmental value. In 1990 the conversion to organic farming began, followed in 1996 by the conversion of livestocks. In 2010 the Cooperative moved to biodynamic agriculture. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Dec 23 2018 (IPS)

While Italian agriculture is in a leading position in terms of organic farming, sustainable agriculture and being at the forefront of biodiversity conservation; water scarcity, illegal workers and the role of women and combined ageing of its workforce remain pressing concerns.

“The Italian agriculture is the greenest in Europe,” Lorenzo Bazzana, Economic Manager of Coldiretti, which is the leading organisation of farmers at Italian and European level, told IPS.

“Italy has also a leading position in terms of organics, with 72,000 organic operators,” continued Bazzana. Indeed, according to 2014 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 10.5 percent of arable land is dedicated to organic agriculture.

“Our country is at the forefront of biodiversity conservation, with the decision not to cultivate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and with 40,000 farms committed to keep and preserve seeds and plants at risk of extinction. Moreover, it has the primacy in terms of food security, with the highest number of agri-food products in compliance with irregular chemical residues [99.4 percent].”

Italy and the ‘Food Sustainability Index (FSI)’: top performer in sustainable agriculture

The positive data os confirmed by various studies, such as the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), a multidisciplinary think tank working for food sustainability. The FSI is an indicator on food sustainability that analysed 34 countries representing 87 percent of the world economy (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) and over two thirds of global population, It focused on three main pillars, in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • sustainable agriculture;
  • food loss and waste;
  • nutritional challenges.

When it comes to sustainable agriculture, Italy is the top performer among the 34 ranked countries. It scores high across the “environmental impact of water on agriculture, sustainability of water withdrawal, water scarcity and water management sub-indicators,” according to a report from the BCFN summarising the data unveiled by the 2017 FSI.

“Italy has pioneered new techniques to reduce water loss in domestic and agricultural contexts,” states the report.

However, water scarcity in central and southern Italy, for example during the summer of 2017, exposed criticality’s in terms of poor and inadequate water infrastructures. The country has positive scores across many other indicators such as organic farming and strong laws exist to protect smallholders’ land rights.

The illegal working issue in agriculture

However, according to the BCFN’s report, the participation rate of women in farming is only one percent and that of youth is only 3.1 percent, a minimal number compared with that of similar economies such as Spain which counts nearly one third of its agricultural workforce as having women and youth represented.

Also of strong concern is the employment of illegal workers. According to the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai-Cgil, there are a huge amount of farmers—some 400,000—who employ illegal workers.

According to the union, they farmers employ illegal workers through a black market that is exploited by criminal organisations, making the phenomenon of so-called ‘agromafia’ or ‘caporalato’, an economic and social scourge for the country.

The generational turnover in agricultural work is not happening

“I have been working here since 1981 and I have dedicated my life to this cooperative producing organic,” a 60-year-old member of ‘Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova’ (‘New Agriculture Cooperative’), tells IPS. The cooperative extends for hundreds of hectares, only 10 km from the centre of Rome, and exclusively produces organic products.

“Our cooperative is a reality already on its feet, it does not need to be built from the ground up,” he adds. “What worries me – and worries us all in here – is in fact the generational turnover: for the most part we are old people – over 50-60 years old – working here. There are no young people working here, they don’t want to.”

The fear of the farmers, breeders and beekepers working there, is that this area will one day die, because there will be no one able to manage all the activities that the Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova deals with today.

“I am terrified by this perspective,” Davide Pastorelli, one of the very few young people working in this cooperative, told IPS. Pastorelli is only 30 years old and has been working at Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova for 10 years, managing the production of milk and cheese. He frequently has to train people who come to work, but who they usually only stay for a short time and leave.

“Many young people are simply not willing to work hard in the farmlands, this is the reality,” he said. “If there were not many migrants and many disabled, who stay here relatively for a long term working for us, I would not really know how we could move forward.”

Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova is an ‘integrated cooperative’, which means that it promotes a policy of integration within it, and this explains the presence of migrants and disabled people with mental illnesses. “By law, we should have at least 30 percent of disabled people among our workers while instead there are many more,” explains Letizia, a member of the Cooperative.

Perspectives: “Italy still has a long way to go”

Based on the positive data raised above by the FSI, Italy is on track, but at the same time it should not underestimate any challenge, either in the short or in the long-term. For example, Italy’s score in the nutritional pillar of the FSI was only moderate, with some high scores within the ‘life quality’ and ‘life expectancy’ categories, let down by weak indicators within the dietary patterns category. In particular, indicators like ‘physical activity’, ‘number of people per fast food restaurant’ or ‘policy response to dietary patterns’, have not so enviable scores compared to other countries, making the nutritional pillar the one which surely Italy must keep the most under observation.

What should not be underestimated is also the goal of reducing food waste and raising awareness in terms of dietary patterns. Italy, through a deep-rooted attention to the quality of food and tradition linked to the ‘Mediterranean diet’ – identified as the most balanced by nutritionists around the world – is at the top of the world for longevity, scoring 89.10 out of 100 on the FSI. “However,” warned Bazzana, “it is true that, especially in the new generations, there is a risk that these good eating habits linked to the Mediterranean diet, will be lost to the advantage of less balance food models, borrowed from bad habits and imported behaviours.” 

“In the 130 researches attached to the ‘Manifesto for Food and Health’, a document edited by the Navdanya International organisation, and which aims to be a useful tool for all those who want to start a transition towards a more sustainable paradigm, many of the critical issues highlighted, closely concern Italy,” said Cavazzoni.

“The fact that today the food is bought canned and inundated by a “shrewd” marketing at the supermarket, has separated what is the knowledge about food from what is its nutritional function, which very often is poor,” said Cavazzoni. “And instead, we have to recover these steps”.

He said that the crucial point of the discussion is that biological consumption must become something ‘popular’, which means ‘of the people’.

“That does not mean massified and trivialised. “We must favour disintermediation, that is, to get producers close to consumers as fast as possible, along the food chain. And we must revive the farmers’ markets because industrial production and supermarkets not only are they damaging small producers, but they are also compromising the quality itself of our food,” said Cavazzoni.

“Connecting consumers and producers, without giving up on the issue of quality and on that of the maximum price of food. This is the crucial point on which we must work.”

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Changing the Gender Bias in Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/changing-gender-bias-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=changing-gender-bias-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/changing-gender-bias-agriculture/#respond Sat, 22 Dec 2018 13:46:06 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159427 Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness. “Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. […]

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Urban farmer, Elizabeth Tshuma in her horticulture plot, at Hyde Park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Many say women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
WAGENINGEN, the Netherlands, Dec 22 2018 (IPS)

Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness.

“Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. She noted that women entrepreneurs have to prove themselves, even though they are as capable and innovative as men.

“Women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men when it comes to access to finance because of several factors, including socio-cultural beliefs,” adds Gakuba, who runs a flower export business.

“The relationship between money and human beings has always been handled by men, so when a woman says ‘I want to grow my business, or I want to get a loan’, there are many questions asked. Women define agribusiness because more are employed in agriculture.”

Opening opportunities, closing barriers

Agriculture is an important source of livelihood for the poorest and is a way of eradicating extreme poverty, especially among rural women. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if women had the same access as men to resources such as information, land, improved technologies and credit facilities, they could increase agricultural yields by up to 30 percent, and lift more than 100 million people out of hunger.

Given their contribution to agricultural development, how can women be empowered, and how can digitalisation in agriculture help to close the growing gender gap? These were some of the critical questions posed at a recent workshop hosted in Wageningen by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

The workshop, organised this month around the theme of ‘Making next generation agriculture work for women, explored concrete strategies for creating and improving women’s opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness. The three-day event drew 40 participants from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries working to advance women’s position and performance in the agriculture sector.

CTA Director Michael Hailu reflected on the question of how to ensure that women have a fair share of the benefits of agriculture and value addition.

“In Africa, 68 percent of economically active women are in agriculture, but they get very little benefit from it,” said Hailu, citing disparities between the amount of labour women invest in agriculture and the volume of their earnings.

Being a woman entrepreneur in agribusiness comes with a catalogue of challenges, which include gender inequality, cultural and social barriers, limited markets, lack of land tenure, and skewed access to knowledge and information, finance and a range of productive assets.

“Women put in more into agriculture, but get far less from it, and can do more with a little recognition of their innovation and knack for enterprise,” said Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, senior technical adviser for value chains and agribusiness at CTA.

CTA recently launched VALUE4HER, a collaborative project with AWAN and the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), in an effort to help women develop agribusinesses and derive more income from agri-food markets.

“We want to bring in more young women to be job creators and not just job seekers,” said Irene Ochem, entrepreneur and CEO of AWIEF. “Women entrepreneurs face barriers of not having adequate management and business leadership skills, and we try to address these through networks.”

Urban farmer, Elizabeth Tshuma in her horticulture plot, at Hyde Park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Lack of access to technology is a one of major challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in agriculture. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Designing the right interventions

Inclusion and equal participation in agricultural production has long been an issue for women farmers and entrepreneurs.

“It is important to recognise that culture is part of agriculture,” said anthropologist Deborah Rubin, co-founder of Cultural Practice, a United States-based consulting firm working on gender in agriculture, health, evaluation and monitoring.

“We have to look at the cultural context in the way in which production takes place. What is important is to see the cultural context as enabling rather than as an impediment,” she added, warning against generalisation about the rigid roles of women and men in agriculture.

Roles have changed over time in response to conditions in and outside the community, said Rubin. She stressed the need to focus on specific constraints faced by women in agriculture, in order to design the right interventions.

“We have to look for things we can do immediately – either provide support, or change a discriminatory policy, or give access, for example for women to be able to cultivate land, not necessary ownership but to provide access,” said Rubin.

Closing the gender gap?

Researcher and development economist Cheryl Doss said the narrative about women and agricultural productivity should be reframed because narrow analyses have diverted focus from the bigger and more important question of how to target women for agricultural development interventions. In a 2017 research study, Doss cautions that genderblind approaches to designing interventions will miss key constraints, opportunities and impacts, because gender is embedded in the distribution of all resources for agriculture.

Despite the challenges of entering and staying in agribusiness, change lies within women themselves: “Women empower themselves,” said Rubin. “There is a role for policies and organisations to support the act of women empowering themselves, but in the end it is the women who have to take that responsibility, and who can act on it.”

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Overfishing Threatens Malawi’s Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 17:38:12 +0000 Mabvuto Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159420 Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most. The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 […]

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Judith Twaili shows where she used to dry the fish catch when business was better. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

By Mabvuto Banda
MANGOCHI, Malawi, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most.

The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 percent out of the almost 1,000 species of fish in the lake can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development estimates that fishing contributes about four percent to Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), and that it employs about 300,000 people.

However, that is probably not the case now because fish stocks in the lake have been dwindling over the years due to over-fishing and women are the hardest hit.

Judith Kananji’s life-changing story tells it all. Kananji who is from a fishing family in Micesi Village Traditional Authority Mponda, in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, says she has in the meantime stopped purchasing fish because the trade is no longer lucrative compared to in previous years.

“The problem is that the fish is no longer found in abundance and it’s only the small fish available at the moment and it’s expensive. Unlike before we were having bigger fish which was easy to make profits. This time around it is hard to purchase small fish to sell at a higher price,” she told IPS.

“About 8 years ago, I used to make a good profit from capital of about MK100, 000 (137 dollars). But now it is even impossible to make profits with a working capital of MK800, 000 (1,095 dollars),” she said.

According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), protocol report, “Years ago, it was the norm to catch about 5,000 fish a day, but now, fishers catch about one-fifth of that, or even as less as a mere 300 fish a day.”

Kananji said that the increase of fishing vessels on the lake has negatively contributed to depleting fish levels because there is stiff competition among the fishermen, which is leading to overfishing.

But SADC also said, “The rapid drop in Lake Malawi’s water levels, driven by population growth, climate change and deforestation, is threatening its flora and fauna species with extinction.”

Kananji said: “Sadly it is us women who buy fish from fishermen who have been pushed out of business because fishermen in most cases raise their prices to meet operating costs whenever there is a small catch.”

“This works to our disadvantage because fish prices at the market are always low,” she added.

Just like Kananji, Chrissy Mbatata received a loan from a micro finance lending institution popularly known as village bank to bank roll her fish selling business.

Mbatata is, however, in more trouble. She is currently struggling to settle the loan.

“Initially it was easy for me to pay the loan and support my family because I was making good money. Now it is even hard to break even. Fish is not available and I don’t know where the money to pay back the loan and support my family will come from,” Mbatata told IPS.

The dwindling fish is not only affecting businesses but also the protein intake in a country where the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund says around 46 percent of children under five are stunted, 21 percent are underweight, and four percent are wasted and Micronutrient deficiencies are common.

“Chambo [the famous local fish] used to be the cheapest source of protein for us but now it’s now a luxury we only can afford at month-ends. Imagine a single fish going at K1 800 (2.4 dollars)?” said Angela Malajira, a widow of four from Lilongwe’s Area 23 suburb.

To reverse the trend government and fishing communities have found sustainable ways to harness the industry by setting up some rules and empower chiefs to implement them.

Every year, the government prohibits fishing on the lake from the month of November to December 31 to allow breeding to take place.

Interestingly this has been well received, without any resistance, from fishing communities because they understand the importance of increasing the fish levels in the lake.

Instead the communities have formulated their own bylaws outlawing fishing from November to March —  extending the fishing for 5 months.

Vice Chairperson for Makanjira Beach Village Committee Malufu Shaibu said the fishing communities agree that fishing on the lake should shut down for a long time because it has shown that the move can help to improve fish levels on lake.

He explained that during the past five months, assessment has shown that there are more fish species and volume that have started to be seen on the lake as opposed to when the lake was closed for two months
only.

“We want the lake to be closed for six months. We are glad that now we have a lot of fish due to the prolonged time of breeding which we gave the fish,” said Shaibu.

“Our children will now be able to see fish the way we saw them. The benefits for closing the lake for a long time are more than the disadvantage.”

But Shaibu, like Kananji, complained that commercial fishermen are derailing their efforts to improve fish stocks.

Mangochi District Fisheries Officer Thomas Nyasulu said that an office they are working with the newly revived Fisheries Association of Malawi to rein in on big commercial fishermen on the lake.
He said closing the lake for a long period of time would make their work more easy and fulfilling.

“It is good that the fishermen are suggesting this move. It can really help a lot. On regulating the commercial fishermen, we are working with fisheries association of Malawi in making sure that all big fishermen are following their fishing grounds,” said Nyasulu.

The bylaws are working. In April this year a 40-year-old man was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of K800,000 (1,095 dollars) or in default serve 60 months imprisonment with hard labour for fishing on the lake when had closed contravening the  fisheries conservation and Management Act.

The Magistrate Court sentenced Kennedy Fatchi of Makawa Village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponda in the district after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Police prosecutor Maxwell Mwaluka told the court that on March 4, 2018 the chiefs working with the Fisheries Inspectorate in the district came across a commercial fishing company on the lake fishing.

He said the team seized the fishing materials and the convict was charged with three counts which he pleaded guilty to.

“This is the only way we can go back to having more fish in our lake which would inadvertently improve our lives,” said Kananji.

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As Climate Change Pummels Agriculture, Irrigation Offers the Best Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:58:13 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159357 The changing climate and extreme weather events are affecting agricultural productivity in Africa to such an extent that a panel of experts are urging governments to prioritise and invest in irrigation to ensure food security. Increased heat spells, coupled with flash flooding and frequent droughts, are making farming impossible and unprofitable as many African smallholder […]

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A farmer waters her plot at the Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

The changing climate and extreme weather events are affecting agricultural productivity in Africa to such an extent that a panel of experts are urging governments to prioritise and invest in irrigation to ensure food security.

Increased heat spells, coupled with flash flooding and frequent droughts, are making farming impossible and unprofitable as many African smallholder farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture.

Irrigation development can increase food security while extending the growing season, securing more income and jobs, said the Malabo Montpellier Panel, a group of international experts guiding policy to boost food and nutrition security in Africa.

Irrigation the best investment

In a study launched this week, the Malabo Montpellier Panel said Africa has the potential to irrigate 47 million hectares. This can boost agricultural productivity, improve livelihoods and accelerate economic growth.

“A number of economies in Africa depend on agriculture,” said Ousmane Badiane, Malabo Montpellier Panel co-chair and Africa director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). “That is why water control and irrigation are important to reduce poverty and to eradicate hunger across Africa.”

About 20 percent of cultivated land worldwide is irrigated and this contributes to about 40 percent of total food output, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest number of people who are hungry. It also has the lowest crop yields in the world as only six percent of cultivated land is irrigated on the continent, compared to 14 percent in Latin America and 37 percent in Asia.

“Irrigation must be made a priority in Africa because it works,” Badiane told IPS. “Once you commit to irrigation as a high-level priority, you put into place the institution mechanisms to deliver that effectively within government but in partnership with private sector and local communities.”

In 2014, 54 African governments signed the Malabo Declaration committing to halve the number of people in poverty by 2025. They sought to do this through agriculture growth that creates job opportunities for young people and women.

A study, Water-Wise: Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa found that irrigated crops can double yields compared to rain-fed yields on the continent.

Furthermore, the economic benefits of expanding areas under irrigation would be double the costs of rain-fed agriculture under climate change.

Greater levels of irrigation have led to better and longer harvests, higher incomes and better prospects for farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa.

These six countries are success models for either having the largest irrigated areas or for achieving the fastest growth in expanding irrigation agriculture. For example, Ethiopia increased the area under irrigation by almost 52 percent between 2002 and 2014, achieving the fastest growth in irrigation in Africa. Morocco has nearly 20 percent of its arable land currently equipped for irrigation.

A member of the 8-hectare Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.

Success in the crop yields

In Zimbabwe, FAO has implemented a 6.8 million dollar Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SIP) programme in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (MAMID) funded by European Union (EU) to improve income, food and nutrition security of communal farmers involved in small-scale irrigation. The programme has seen the rehabilitation of 40 irrigation schemes has benefitted 2,000 households in Manicaland and Matabeleland South Province.

Smallholder farmers in Matabeleland South Province are benefitting from irrigation schemes, which have allowed them to increase productivity even during droughts.

Landelani Ndlovu, a member of the 8-hectare Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, says she earns 400 dollars from growing vegetables under a community irrigation project that started in 2012.

“Irrigation has helped us produce more vegetables and crops and to increase our income which we would not do if we relied on the seasonal farming when we have rain,” Ndlovu said.

In West Africa, Patience Koku, who farms with a pivot irrigation system, tells IPS, “the importance of irrigation in increasing grain yields cannot be over emphasised.”

“We are currently able to grow two crop cycles a year, meaning we double our output annually. In addition to this our grain yields are always higher in our irrigated crop. Corn cobs fill up completely to the tip, translating in higher yields,” Koku said.

Filling the funding gaps

“The profitability of irrigation is proven and in most cases there are high rates of return,” said Badiane. “A commitment was made by African leaders in Maputo in 2003 for countries to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets for agriculture. If they did so, a fraction of that could fund the 47 million hectares of irrigation. The funding gap for irrigation is huge because the potential is large.”

Badiane said by making irrigation a high-level priority, African governments can attract private sector investment and innovation and facilitate the uptake of technologies in growing agriculture to drive economic growth. Improved regulations for safe and sustainable use of water are also a driving factor in promoting irrigation development.

Irrigation allows farmers to produce crops over extended periods, particularly in areas where there is one rainy, Badiane said, noting that there was a business case for investing in irrigation as a way to pull farmers out of poverty while securing food and income.

Expanding what works

Badiane said irrigation development will help deliver on the food security and nutrition targets under the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Malabo Declaration. A critical factor was getting the buy-in of decision makers at the highest level of government who need proof that irrigation works.

Decision makers do not take innovation lightly because they know the cost of failure is extremely high, said Badiane, adding that scaling up irrigation development will aid agricultural transformation.

Africa, in particular, will require nothing short of a complete water transformation,” says Nathanial Matthews, Programme Director at the Global Resilience Partnership a partnership of public and private organisations that work together to build a resilient, “sustainable and prosperous future for vulnerable people and places”.

He urged Africa to transform its water use by scaling up traditional practices, deploying new technologies and improving governance.

“Taking action is urgent, with 95 pe cent of the continent relying on rain-fed agriculture and 25 countries already experiencing widespread hunger, poverty and under nutrition,” Matthews told IPS.

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Q&A: For Vietnam, the Quality of Economic Growth is Starting to Matterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:02:25 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159305 Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. And while it is now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in Southeast Asia, this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. But the country has begun to prioritise green growth. Vietnam’s economic growth has been accompanied […]

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City view of Hanoi, Vietnam. Vietnam is prioritising green growth. Credit: Adam Bray/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. And while it is now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in Southeast Asia, this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. But the country has begun to prioritise green growth.

Vietnam’s economic growth has been accompanied by significant rural to urban migration, which has led to increased social and environmental challenges. Over the past decade, 700 square kilometres of land has been converted into urban areas. Vietnam’s emissions per unit of GDP are surpassing all other Asia-Pacific developing countries, except for China. This is fuelled by domestic coal consumption, which currently accounts for 36 percent of electricity supply and is projected to increase 56 percent by 2030.

But recently the concept of an inclusive green economy has emerged as a strategic priority in the country. A green growth economy is one that improves human well-being and builds social equity while reducing environmental risks.

The intergovernmental organisation, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), is trying to promote just that. GGGI is working to increase green energy production and reduce greenhouse gases emissions and has been assisting with the development of green master plans, strategies for renewable energy and bankable projects for Vietnam’s cities.

IPS spoke to Adam Ward, the Country Representative of GGGI for Vietnam. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Adam Ward, the Country Representative of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) for Vietnam says that his organisation is working on policies for the growth of green cities. Courtesy: Adam Ward

Inter Press Service (IPS): GGGI does not donate funds. So how can you develop green growth?

Adam Ward (AW): We support planning for projects like solar power and electric buses. We also seek finance for the government and the private sector at accessible rates so these projects can get implemented.

We have worked with the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) to develop guidelines for prioritisation and allocation of funding to public infrastructure. We have also worked on a process to solicit projects from small and medium enterprises and appraise them. We helped them to understand how to submit projects and access financing.

The government sees the value in our work. With MPI, we developed a handbook for the appraisal of public investment projects, [which is] becoming government policy. Projects worth over four billion dollars have been appraised under this inclusive framework. Like components of the airport, metro lines in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is really great to see that our guidelines are being used for sustainable growth.

IPS: Economic growth needs energy. How do you keep it sustainable?

AW: For example, we advised the government on generating energy from bagasse (the dry pulpy residue that remains after sugarcane is crushed to extract the juice). And how much can they potentially generate, how much investment is required and how to sell it to the grid. This makes sense, both economically and environmentally. It is clean energy that can be sold. Then we presented our advice to the government on better tariffs to stimulate the production of this green energy.

IPS: Does GGGI advise on national policies. How does it affect local decision making?

AW: We are also working on policies for the growth of green cities. The Ministry of Construction has already approved one of our suggestions, which has been incorporated into an Urban Green Growth Development Plan. Another one is the set-up of green growth indicators. Cities are now legally required to report the implementation of green growth. We also worked on waste water treatment and city planning. And we are kicking off a project on generating energy with municipal waste.

IPS: Vietnam has only recently risen out of poverty. Is green growth a real concern?

AW: There is definitely openness for green growth. Vietnam wants their development to be inclusive, sustainable and as green as possible. However, what we have seen is that growth has taken an upper hand on the environment. What we really want to tell the government is that the quality of growth matters for the future. [Especially] in Vietnam, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change.

Emissions are increasing rapidly. There are challenges with air quality in cities. Growth is important, we recognise that Vietnam wants to develop. But our message is that the quality of growth matters too. By embracing green growth there will be no downsides in terms of economic development.

IPS: What are the challenges facing GGGI?

AW: Vietnam has a high energy demand. And given the GDP growth, it will increase dramatically. They want to meet a large part of that via coal, which will have a serious impact on carbon emissions. But it will also pollute the surrounding cities and the agricultural lands surrounding coal plants. That’s going to be a massive challenge.

The second challenge facing Vietnam is climate change. The Mekong Delta is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change. Sea level rise and droughts are more common. Typhoons are more extreme.

The third area is the cities. Around 30 percent of the population lives in or around cities. This is set to increase to over 50 percent by 2050.
This brings a lot of benefits in terms of economic development, however, this mass influx of people brings challenges in terms of infrastructure in a way to support transport, housing, etc. This is exactly why GGGI is working on renewable energy, sustainable waste management, providing guidance on increasing investment into green projects and also specifically working with cities to make them cleaner.

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