Inter Press Service » Projects http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:05:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.16 Food Security in the Middle East Sharply Deterioratedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:41:26 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149663 An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/CAIRO, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

Food security and nutrition levels in the Near East and North Africa have sharply deteriorated over the last five years, undermining the steady improvement achieved before 2010 when the prevalence of undernourishment, stunting, anaemia and poverty were decreasing, a new UN report warns.

According to the FAO Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in the Near East and North Africa, issued on March 27, the deterioration is largely driven by the spreading and intensity of conflicts and protracted crises.

The assessment made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) shows that the prevalence of severe food insecurity in the adult population of the Near East and North Africa was close to 9.5 per cent in 2014-2015, representing approximately 30 million people.

“The region is facing unprecedented challenges to its food security due to multiple risks arising from conflicts, water scarcity and climate change,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa. “War and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security, ” Graziano da Silva

Countries of the region need to implement long-term and comprehensive sustainable water management to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030, he added. “A peaceful and stable environment is an absolute pre-condition for farmers to respond to the challenges of water scarcity and climate change.”

“Wars, Conflicts, Worst Enemies of Food Security”

José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, said in a recent visit to Lebanon, “We are reminded once again that war and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security.

“Our own reports and other have described, sometimes in rather horrible detail, the unrelenting process through which the conflicts in the region are destroying people’s lives and livelihoods, disrupting agriculture production, increasing food prices, stoking fears and insecurity and triggering large-scale displacement of people and alarming flows of refugees.”
Lebanon, a small country that has itself suffered the misfortunes of war and internal conflict, has courageously and generously hosted more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, da Silva added.

“To put that in perspective, that’s the third of the country’s population, the proportional equivalent of the European Union taking in more than 170 million people… The unprecedented influx of refugees has put extraordinary pressure on Lebanon’s economic and social infrastructure, its food security and its social cohesion.”

According to FAO, the Syria crisis in particular has deepened during the period 2015-2016, leaving more than half of the population in need of food assistance and 4.8 million refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries. The numbers of food insecure and the internally displaced are also rising in Iraq and Yemen.

The Water Factor

Beyond conflicts and crises, the report argues that water scarcity and climate change are the most fundamental challenges to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Water scarcity is the binding factor to agricultural production in the Near East and North Africa region and the driver of the region’s dependency on food imports.

Building on the evidence accumulated in the framework of FAO’s Regional Water Scarcity Initiative in the Near East and North Africa, the report shows that climate change is expected to affect food security in terms of availability, access, stability and utilisation. Most of the impacts of climate change will affect water availability.

The FAO Regional Overview underlines the urgency to develop and implement strategies for sustainable management of water resources and to adapt to the impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture.

It documents several positive experiences in sustainable management of water resources and climate change adaptation in the region and highlights the importance of accelerating investments aimed at improving water efficiency and water productivity as well as the need for a shift in cropping patterns towards less water-consuming crops.

The report explores other major options for the adaptation to climate change impacts on water and agriculture, including the need for designing and implementing social protection measures for building resilience of farmers to extreme events, cutting food losses and improving trade policies.

The report stresses the importance of building a strong evidence base for assessing the impact of climate change on food security and for the formulation of sound and flexible water adaptation measures and agricultural policies.

It calls for strengthened regional collaboration to face the massive challenge of water scarcity and climate change, building on the strong political will expressed by the leaders of the region and building on the positive experiences in many countries.

Ould Ahmed noted that, “sustainable agriculture and water management should include strategies and policies to improve irrigation efficiency, establish sustainable ground water management, promote incentives for farmers to shift to crops with higher economic returns per drop, cut food losses and waste, and enhance resilience of vulnerable population and farmers to climate-induced shocks.”

“Achieving food security is still at hand, provided we take concerted efforts and make the right moves now.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/feed/ 0
Trinidad Pushes for Shift to Cleaner Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/#comments Sun, 26 Mar 2017 16:20:43 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149643 CNG fuel signs at the NP Ramco service station, on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

CNG fuel signs at the NP Ramco service station, on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Mar 26 2017 (IPS)

The Trinidad and Tobago government has invested about 74 million dollars in the first phase of a 295-million-dollar project to encourage more drivers to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), described by experts here as a preliminary step in the country’s transition to using more sustainable forms of energy.

Use of CNG would represent a major behavioural shift for Trinidadians and Tobagonians whose country’s economy has relied heavily on exports of major fossil fuel reserves, giving it one of the highest per capita incomes in Caricom as well as placing it among the top ten emitters of carbon per capita in the world.The economic downturn has made maintaining generous fossil fuel subsidies an unsustainable proposition.

The shift to CNG “starts a certain behaviour because [CNG] is the cleanest fuel Trinidad and Tobago has which is affordable,” said the president of NGC-CNG, Curtis Mohammed.

In 2013, the government mandated the National Gas Company (NGC) to promote the sale and use of CNG. NGC formed NGC-CNG in January 2014 to carry out the mandate. In keeping with its mandate NGC-CNG has offered substantial incentives to both public and private vehicle owners to retrofit their vehicles for the use of CNG, including thousands of dollars in free CNG to school buses and taxis. The government has also given substantial tax incentives to buyers of CNG-fuelled vehicles.

Mohammed said the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC), which is Trinidad and Tobago’s government-run bus service, has plans to eventually convert its entire fleet to CNG vehicles. The country’s Finance Minister Colm Imbert in his 2016-2017 Budget report also said that the association representing the privately owned public service vehicles, known as maxi taxis, has committed to introducing approximately 1,200 OEM CNG vehicles over the next three years.

However, “while CNG offers a cheaper and cleaner option for transportation fuel, it is to be recognized that it is a transitionary fuel and the deployment of renewable energy sources are more sustainable…the 10% renewable energy target signals Government’s intention to gradually move away from traditional fuels to more sustainable sources,” explained head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, in Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Planning and Development, Kishan Kumarsingh, in an e-mail interview.

Though CNG has been an option under consideration for many years, a combination of factors over the past couple of years has increased interest among citizens in shifting from heavy domestic use of fossil fuels to the use of CNG for transport and eventually to renewables.

The government had for decades provided generous fuel subsidies that made owning and driving a vehicle in the country affordable for a large portion of its population. However, the government saw its revenues decline by 35 per cent between 2014 and 2016, that is, from 8.4 billion dollars in 2014 to 5.5 billion in 2016.

“Because of the collapse in oil and gas prices, we have lost 20 billion in annual revenue since 2014,” Minister Imbert was reported as saying in his 2016-2017 budget speech.

Thus, the economic downturn has made maintaining the generous fuel subsidies an unsustainable proposition and the government has gradually removed most of them.

Retrofitting to use CNG is a cheaper alternative for drivers who travel substantial distances. CNG retails at 15 cents per litre, compared to 46 cents per litre for super gasoline, 85 cents per litre for premium and 25 cents per litre for diesel. The government still subsidises the price of diesel which is used by public transport.

Another factor is Trinidad and Tobago’s active engagement over the years in initiatives to combat climate change, with the country being a signatory to the 2015 COP21 Paris agreement.

“The country has adopted a National Climate Change Policy and is currently implementing a range of projects aimed at addressing climate change nationally such as reducing emissions and assessing climate vulnerability. Trinidad and Tobago has taken a proactive approach and was the first Caribbean country to submit its NDC [Nationally Determined Contributions] to the UN as well as among the first countries to formulate and adopt a National Climate Change Policy,” Kumarsingh said in an e-mail.

Included in government’s plans are “a feed-in-tariff to allow for renewable energy to be generated and to be fed into the national power grid,” he said. However, “the current legislative and policy structure limits the wide deployment of renewable energy mainly due to very old legislation.”

Kumarsingh said, “As a first step, the enabling environment from a policy and legislative perspective has to be in place. Once that policy and legislative framework is established, opportunities for installation of generation capacity from renewable energy sources, and therefore opportunities for job creation and income generation, can be more fully explored.”

The members of the Energy Chamber, representing more than 400 gas and petrochemical industry companies in Trinidad and Tobago, also see opportunities opening up with the removal of the fuel subsidy. Dr. Thackwray Driver, CEO of the Energy Chamber said, “You would see opportunities for electric vehicles as well. Trinidad’s electricity is very cheap…Because of the decreasing price of renewable energy we might reach a point where…electricity vehicles would be more attractive.”

He said there was “a lot of interest” in energy efficiency and renewable energy among Energy Chamber members.

Dr Driver said the Chamber had always advocated for the removal of subsidies because they encouraged “wasteful use of valuable resources which could be sold on international markets…In other countries you see people are less wasteful in using fuel. When there are higher prices to pay for it, they buy cars that are more fuel efficient, they tend to make more fuel-efficient decisions. People in Trinidad do not worry about fuel efficiency.”

With regard to renewables becoming a major source of energy locally, Dr Driver said, “I think given the structure of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, it will remain relatively small for the next decade:” He added that the domestic sector was likely to see a 10-15 per cent uptake of renewables in the next decade or two.

Meanwhile, “I think right now the biggest interest is in energy efficiency, because there is a huge opportunity in the electricity sector to improve energy efficiency…Once we get energy efficiency up that is where we will see the deployment of grid-scale renewable energy,” Dr. Driver said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/feed/ 0
New Recipe for School Meals Programmes in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:51:52 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149606 Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Sunita Daniel remembers what the school lunch programmes were like in her Caribbean island nation, Saint Lucía, until a couple of years ago: meals made of processed foods and imported products, and little integration with the surrounding communities.

This changed after Daniel, then head of planning in the Agriculture Ministry, visited Brazil in 2014 and learned about that country’s school meals system, which prioritises a balanced, healthy diet and the participation of family famers in each town.

“I went back to the government and said: This is a good example of what we can do,” said Daniel.

Today, the small island state puts a priority on purchasing from local producers, especially family farmers, and is working on improving the diet offered to schoolchildren.

Saint Lucia is not unique. A new generation of school meals programme that combine healthy diets, public purchases of products from local farmers, and social integration with local communities is transforming school lunchrooms and communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The model followed by these projects is Brazil’s National School Feeding Programme, which has taken shape over recent years and is now at the heart of a regional project, supported by the Brazilian government.

Currently, the regional initiative is seeking to strengthen school meal programmes in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, through triangular South-South cooperation that receives the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Delegates from the countries participating in the project, and representatives of the FAO and the Brazilian government, met Mar. 20-22 in the Costa Rican capital to take part in the “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, and share their experiences.

“This kind of workshop strengthens everyone – the Brazilian programme itself, countries and governments,” said Najla Veloso, regional coordinator of the project for Strengthening School Feeding Programmes in Latin American and the Caribbean. “It works as a feedback system, to inspire change.”

Brazil’s system focuses on guaranteeing continuous school feeding coverage with quality food. The menus are based on food produced by local farmers and school gardens.

In Brazil, “we’re talking about offering healthy food every day of the school year, in combination with dietary and nutritional education and purchases from family farmers,” Veloso told IPS during the three-day meeting.

In Brazil, a country of 208 million people, more than 41 million students eat at least one meal a day at school, said Veloso, thanks to coordination between the federal government and state and municipal authorities.

“This does not exist in any other country in the world,” said the Brazilian expert.

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Taking Brazil’s successful programme as a model, the regional technical cooperation project was launched in 2009 in five countries, a number that climbed to 17. At the present time, 13 new-generation projects are receiving support as part of the regional initiative, which is to end this year.

According to Veloso, more than 68 million schoolchildren in the region, besides the children in Brazil, have benefited from the innovative feeding programmes, which have also boosted ties between communities and local farmers.

Today, the project is operating in Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucía, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The project has had varied results and has followed different formats in each country, as shown by the delegates who shared their experiences in San José.

In the case of Saint Lucía, for example, the authorities forged an alliance with the private sector to raise funds and provide food to between 8,000 and 9,000 schoolchildren aged five to 12, said Daniel.

In Honduras, grassroots participation enabled cooperation between the communities, the municipal authorities and the schools, Joselino Pacheco, the head of the School Lunch programme, described during the meeting.

“We didn’t have a law on school feeding until last year, but that didn’t stop us because our work comes from the grassroots,” the Honduran delegate said.

The law, which went into effect in September 2016, built on the experience of a government programme founded in 1998, and is backed up by social organisations that support the process and which are in turn supported by the regional project, Pacheco told IPS.

Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, like Honduras, have specific laws to regulate school feeding programmes.

In the case of Costa Rica, the country already had a broad school meals programme, so the authorities decided to focus on expanding its capacities by including innovative elements of the new generation of initiatives aimed at achieving food security.

“A programme has been in place since 2015 to open school lunchrooms during the mid-term break and at the beginning and the end of the school year,” said Costa Rica’s first lady, Mercedes Peñas, a renowned expert in municipal development.

A pilot plan in 2015 was carried out in 121 school lunchrooms in the 75 most vulnerable districts. By 2016 the number of participating schools had expanded and 200,000 meals were served in the first 40 days of the school year.

This is spending that not only produces short-term results, improving nutrition among schoolchildren, but also has an impact on public health for decades, said Ricardo Rapallo, technical coordinator of FAO’s Hunger-Free Mesoamérica programme.

“If we don’t work on creating healthy eating habits among children, it is more difficult to change them later,” said Rapallo.

School meals programmes are essential in achieving economic, social and environmental development in Latin America, the speakers agreed, describing school feeding as a fundamental component for achieving several of the 17 SDGs, which have a 2030 deadline.

“The experience of a school feeding programme, together with a programme for public purchases from family farmers, makes the 2030 agenda possible,” said Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, during one of the meeting’s panels.

Daniel described one inspirational case. In Belle Vue, a town in southwestern Saint Lucía, the school lunchroom inspired women in the community to start their own garden.

“They came and said, what can we provide. And a lot of their children went to the school,” said Daniel, who is now director of the school meals programme in Saint Lucía and a liaison on the issue between FAO and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The school set up a daycare center for toddlers and preschoolers so the local mothers could work in the garden. As a result, some 30 mothers now earn a fixed income.

Veloso explained that although the programme is due to close this year, they are studying what needs and opportunities exist, to decide whether to launch a second phase.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/feed/ 0
Local Solutions to Rebuild Oldest Cuban City in Hurricane Matthew’s Wakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:43:47 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149577 The veranda of a house which has been used to provide shelter for four families, including the family of retiree Dania de la Cruz. In the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa, 167 people are still living in shelters after Hurricane Matthew destroyed their homes in October 2016. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The veranda of a house which has been used to provide shelter for four families, including the family of retiree Dania de la Cruz. In the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa, 167 people are still living in shelters after Hurricane Matthew destroyed their homes in October 2016. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
BARACOA, Cuba, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Clearings with fallen trees in the surrounding forests, houses still covered with tarpaulins and workers repairing the damage on the steep La Farola highway are lingering evidence of the impact of Hurricane Matthew four months ago, in the first city built by the Spanish conquistadors in Cuba.

Baracoa, a 505-year-old world heritage city in eastern Cuba, located in a vulnerable area between the coast, mountains and the rivers that run across it, is showing signs of fast recovery of its infrastructure, thanks in part to the application of its own formulas to overcome the effects of the Oct. 4-5, 2016 natural disaster.

“The ways sought to deal with the situation have been different, innovative. Necessity led us to involve the local population in addressing a phenomenon which affected more than 90 per cent of the homes,” said Esmeralda Cuza, head of the office in charge of the recovery effort in the people’s council of Majubabo, an outlying neighborhood along the coast.

Standing next to a mural announcing the delivery of bottles of water donated to the families affected by the hurricane, the 64-year-old public official, with experience in dealing with disasters since 1982, told IPS that “more local solutions were sought” before, during and after Hurricane Matthew hit the province of Guantánamo.

Internationally renowned for its effectiveness in protecting human lives during climate disasters, Cuba’s disaster management model is also undergoing changes within the current reforms carried out by the government of Raúl Castro, which includes local responses during the evacuation of local residents and the rebuilding process.

“We had some experience in this, but never with the magnitude and organisational level of this one,” said Cuza, referring to what the strongest hurricane in the history of Guantánamo meant for this city.

Workers unload materials for the reconstruction of a building damaged by Hurricane Matthew, on the seaside promenade of the historic city of Baracoa, in the eastern province of Guantánamo,  Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Workers unload materials for the reconstruction of a building damaged by Hurricane Matthew, on the seaside promenade of the historic city of Baracoa, in the eastern province of Guantánamo, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

In a city where most houses have lightweight roofs, the hurricane wreaked havoc in 24,104 of the 27,000 houses in the municipality of Baracoa, population of 81,700.

The local government reports that 3,529 homes were totally destroyed, 3,764 were partially destroyed, 10,126 lost their roofs, and 6,685 suffered partial damage to the roofs.

This figure does not include multi-family buildings that were also damaged. One of these, located on the seafront, is waiting to be demolished. In addition, 525 government buildings were affected, as well as the power and communication networks, water pies, roads and bridges.

Authorities say 85 per cent of the city has been restored, including 17, 391 houses that have been repaired.

“At least here all the houses have roofs,” said Cuza, talking about the restoration of the 1,153 damaged houses in Majubabo. In the rest of Baracoa, 90 per cent of the damaged roofs were fixed, and you can still see some houses with no roofs or covered with tarpaulins on a drive through the city.

Like everyone else, the office headed by Cuza is waiting for more materials to finish restoring the damaged interior of the houses.

In the case of homes that were completely destroyed, authorities provided the so-called “temporary housing facility“, which consists of basic construction materials. With this support and salvaged materials, 3,466 families rebuilt part of their homes to be able to leave the shelters and shared houses where they were initially placed.

The remains of boats and bushes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew scattered on a beach in Baracoa bear witness to the violence of the biggest climate disaster ever to hit the province of Guantánamo, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The remains of boats and bushes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew scattered on a beach in Baracoa bear witness to the violence of the biggest climate disaster ever to hit the province of Guantánamo, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

This set of measures seems to be the reason for the rapid improvement in the city´s landscape, through which foreign tourists stroll. With painted facades and big signboards, the 283 rental houses and state-run tourist facilities have been operating since early November, when high season started.

International aid

Contributions from the rest of the Cuban provinces, Cubans abroad and international cooperation have been arriving since October for the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew in the east of the country.

For example, the United Nations is carrying out a plan that aims to mobilise 26.5 million dollars to address the urgent needs of 637,608 people in Guantánamo and the neighbouring province of Holguín. This UN programme has received contributions from the governments of Canada, Switzerland, Italy and South Korea.

The Cuban government has also received assistance from Japan, Pakistan and Venezuela, as well as from companies in China and the United States and from international cooperation organisations, such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Some parts of the seafront promenade are still impassable while workers fix the two-kilometre wall, which barely defended the city from the waves. Because of their vulnerability to the sea, 21 coastal communities are to be relocated before 2030, including Baracoa.

“The construction materials programme was launched to respond to the demand,“ said Rodolfo Frómeta, who is in charge of the state-run company that groups 12 small factories of natural rock materials and blocks, which plans to produce earthquake-resistant concrete slabs for roofs this month.

Baracoa has the largest number of these factories, which also operate in the affected neighbouring municipalities of Imías and Maisí. Up to February, the 22 factories in the area had produced 227,500 blocks, using artisanal moulds and rocks collected from the surrounding land and surface quarries.

“We only import the cement and steel,” said Frómeta, referring to the factories, of which three are state-run and the rest are private. “But all of them receive government support, like these mills that grind stones,“ he told IPS in Áridos Viera, a company in Mabujabo.

A psychologist by profession, Amaury Viera founded in 2015 this private enterprise, with the aim of turning it into a cooperative. Eight workers obtain sand, granite, gravel and stone powder. “Our main activity now is making blocks, some 800 a day, although we want to increase that to 1,200,“ said Viera.

With his bag full of tools, the young bricklayer and carpenter Diolnis Silot is heading home for lunch. “I have worked in the construction of 35 houses since Matthew, two were fully rebuilt and the rest involved replacing lightweight roofs. Most of them received state subsidies,” he told IPS.

Rodolfo Frómeta, in charge of the local company that groups 12 small local factories of natural rocky materials and blocks, next to a stone mill, near the city of Baracoa in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Rodolfo Frómeta, in charge of the state company that groups 12 small local factories of natural rocky materials and blocks, next to a stone mill, near the city of Baracoa in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A few metres away, the owner of a private cafeteria, Yudelmis Navarro, is installing a new window and making other improvements to his house. “The hurricane carried away the roof and some things from indoors. The government replaced the roof for free and now I am doing the smaller-scale repairs at my own expense,“ he said.

“People who expect everything for free will not solve very much,“ Navarro said.

On crutches, retiree Dania de la Cruz, one of the 167 people still living in shelters in the municipality, watches people going home for lunch, from the doorway of the large house where she lives with her daughter and three other families. “I used to live with my daughter along the Duaba river, on a farm, where I lost almost everything. I won’t go back there. We don’t know when or where we will have our new house,” she said.

“The longest-lasting damages were in agriculture and housing,” said Luis Sánchez, the mayor of Baracoa. He stressed that the recovery strategy included modernising the new infrastructure and making it more resistant, for example in communications.

So far, he said, 3,900 low-interest bank loans were approved for people to rebuild their homes, in addition to 700 subsidies, and more than 10,000 allowances for low-income families. Some families paid for the rebuilding out of their own pocket.

“And we have gained experience in evacuation,“ said Sánchez, who mentioned the use of traditional shelters in caves and rural buildings known as “varas en tierra” made of wood and thatched roofs that reach all the way to the ground.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake/feed/ 1
Investing in Zimbabwe’s Smallholder Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 12:24:21 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149534 Women do demonstrations during a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Farmer Field Schools training in Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

Women do demonstrations during a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Farmer Field Schools training in Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

To take his mangoes to Shurugwi, 230 kms south of Harare, requires Edward Madzokere to hire a cart and wake up at dawn. The fruit farmer sells his produce at the nearest “growth point” at Tongogara (the term for areas targeted for development) where the prices are not stable.

“As a fruit grower, I have been forced to sell the fruits for very little rather than let them rot,” he told IPS.“LFSP is improving farmers’ ability to buy inputs and sell their products by strengthening farmer groups, improving farmers’ access to financial services, connecting farmers to national and regional markets.” -- FAO's Ali Said Yesuf

The poor performance of the economy has not made life easier for Madzokere, who struggles to provide for his family’s basic needs.

“I wish to have knowledge to make mango fruit jam or to be able to dry fruits for selling,” he said. Madzokere believes with better information and the creation of links to outside markets for his produce, he can go a long way in this sector.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has highlighted the concentration of smallholder farmers in subsistence farming rather than farming as a business, which means they have low demand for inputs, resulting in few incentives for input suppliers to reach the farmers.

For Elias Matongo, an agribusiness dealer in Shurugwi, it’s the same story. Matongo has been struggling to convince financial institutions to give him enough capital to expand his business. So far he has only managed to raise 2,500 dollars, which isn’t enough.

“Agricultural inputs are very expensive, I need to get a loan for 5,000 dollars and more to be able to make farming inputs available and closer to farmers,” Matongo told IPS.

FAO notes that 68 percent of Zimbabweans live in rural areas, where the economy is dominated by agriculture. In 2012, 76 percent of rural households were found to be poor. The agency further states that smallholder farmers often live in remote locations where infrastructure is poor and where input suppliers and buyers do not travel.

Ali Said Yesuf, FAO’s Chief Technical Advisor, told IPS that his organization, with financial support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) of 72 million dollars, has launched the Livelihood and Food Security Program (LFSP) to increase agricultural productivity, increase incomes, improve food and nutrition security, and reduce poverty in rural Zimbabwe. The project, which commenced in 2015, will ultimately be implemented in eight districts in the country.

“LFSP will actively address the specific constraints that smallholder farmers face in raising the productivity of their farms and creating markets for their farming produce,” says Yesuf.

More than 349,000 Zimbabweans are expected to be reached by 2018, selected based on poverty levels, food uncertainty and potential for market development.

“LFSP is improving farmers’ ability to buy inputs and sell their products by strengthening farmer groups, improving farmers’ access to financial services, connecting farmers to national and regional markets,” Yesuf said.

Another key player, the World Food Program (WFP), is also working with FAO to support 5,389 smallholder farmers with the production of drought tolerant small grains, in order to strengthen their resilience. Last December, 93 percent of the planned 646 hectares were planted in selected areas in the country, including extension services, as WFP and FAO provide farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizers to small-scale farmers.

Eddie Rowe, WFP Country Director, said integrated strategies for reducing and mitigating risks are essential to overcome hunger, achieve food security and enhance resilience.

“Building resilience before, during and after disasters is necessary for supporting the government of Zimbabwe to achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all people by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” Rowe told IPS.

FAO believes smallholder farmers play a critical role in food and nutrition security in Zimbabwe as they account for the bulk of the food that is produced in the country. Zimbabwe’s has since put in place its Country Strategic Plan (2017-2021) to enable smallholder farmers to have increased access to well-functioning markets by 2030 supporting initiatives that promote efficient and profitable marketing.

In Manicaland Province, the Extended Nutrition Impact for Positive Practice (ENIPA) has been introduced. The program is a nutrition behaviour change methodology for promoting identified good nutrition and health practices. The approach encourages the participation of men to so that they become the change agents and champions in the communities.

“Men’s participation is transformative as it transforms the household decision-making dynamics. It’s turning out that a man who understand the importance of consuming nutritious food will support his wife to purchase/grow the same,” Yesuf said.

The project is providing training in nutrition-sensitive agriculture through modules such as healthy harvest where there is selection, production, processing and preparation of diversified food types.

Supporting small holder farmers in the country is a certain path to sustainable production, with farmers like Madzokere already learning new concepts, broadening their horizons and focusing on outside markets. In this context, investing in agriculture simply makes good business sense.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers/feed/ 0
Fishing Villages Work for Food Security in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:17:45 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149499 Rosa Herrera returns to the village after spending the morning digging for clams in the mangroves that border Isla de Méndez in Jiquilisco bay, in the southeastern department of Usulután. The struggle to put food on the table is constant in fishing villages in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Rosa Herrera returns to the village after spending the morning digging for clams in the mangroves that border Isla de Méndez in Jiquilisco bay, in the southeastern department of Usulután. The struggle to put food on the table is constant in fishing villages in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
ISLA DE MÉNDEZ, El Salvador, Mar 20 2017 (IPS)

After an exhausting morning digging clams out of the mud of the mangroves, Rosa Herrera, her face tanned by the sun, arrives at this beach in southeastern El Salvador on board the motorboat Topacio, carrying her yield on her shoulders.

For her morning’s catch – 126 Andara tuberculosa clams, known locally as “curiles”, in great demand in El Salvador – she was paid 5.65 dollars by the Manglarón Cooperative, of which she is a member.

“Today it went pretty well,” she told IPS. “Sometimes it doesn’t and we earn just two or three dollars,” said the 49-year-old Salvadoran woman, who has been harvesting clams since she was 10 in these mangroves in the bay of Jiquilisco, near Isla de Méndez, the village of 500 families where she lives in the southeastern department of Usulután.“I have left my life in the mangroves, I was not able to go to school to learn to read and write, but I am happy that I have provided an education for all my children, thanks to the clams.” -- Rosa Herrera

Isla de Méndez is a village located on a peninsula, bordered to the south by the Pacific ocean, and to the north by the bay. Life has not been easy there in recent months.

Fishing and harvesting of shellfish, the main sources of food and income here, have been hit hard by environmental factors and by gang violence, a problem which has put this country on the list of the most violent nations in the world.

For fear of the constant raids by gangs, the fishers shortened their working hours, particularly in the night time.

“We were afraid, so nobody would go out at night, and fishing this time of year is better at night, but that is now changing a little,“ said Berfalia de Jesús Chávez, one of the founding members of the Las Gaviotas Cooperative, created in 1991 and made up of 43 women.

But the gang was dismantled and, little by little, life is returning to normal, said the local people interviewed by IPS during a two-day stay in the village.

“Climate change has also reduced the fish catch, as have the la Niña and el Niño climate phenomena,” said María Teresa Martínez, the head of the cooperative, who added however that fishing has always had periods of prosperity and scarcity.

Ofilio Herrera (L) buys a kilo of fish freshly caught by Álvaro Eliseo Cruz off the coast of Isla de Méndez, a fishing village in southeastern El Salvador. Cruz caught 15 kilos of fish this day, including red porgy and mojarras, which he uses to sell in the market and feed his family. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ofilio Herrera (L) buys a kilo of fish freshly caught by Álvaro Eliseo Cruz off the coast of Isla de Méndez, a fishing village in southeastern El Salvador. Cruz caught 15 kilos of fish this day, including red porgy and mojarras, which he uses to sell in the market and feed his family. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The women in Las Gaviotas are making an effort to repair their three canoes and their nets to start fishing again, a real challenge when a good part of the productive activity has also been affected by the violence.

Fishing and selling food to tourists, in a small restaurant on the bay, are the cooperative’s main activities. But at the moment the women are forced to buy the seafood to be able to cater to the few visitors who arrive at the village.

Sea turtle project suspended due to lack of funds

Another project that was carried out in Isla de Méndez but has now been suspended was aimed at preserving sea turtles, ensuring the reproduction of the species and providing an income to the gatherers of turtle eggs.

All four species that visit El Salvador nest in Jiquilisco bay: the hawkbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback or lute (Dermochelis coriácea), olive or Pacific ridley (Lepidochelys olivácea) and Galápagos green turtle (Chelonia agassizii).

In 2005, this bay, with the biggest stretch of mangroves in the country, was included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, and in 2007 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared it the Xiriualtique – Jiquilisco Biosphere Reserve.

The gatherers were paid 2.5 dollars for 10 turtle eggs, which were buried in nests until they hatched. The hatchlings were then released into the sea.

But the project was cancelled due to a lack of funds, from a private environmental institution, to pay the “turtlers”.

“Our hope is that some other institution will help us to continue the project,” said Ernesto Zavala, from the local Sea Turtle Association. To this septuagenarian, it is of vital importance to get the programme going again, because “those of us who cannot fish or harvest clams can collect turtle eggs.”

“Now tourists are beginning to come again,” said a local resident who preferred not to give his name, who had to close his restaurant due to extortion from the gangs. Only recently did he pluck up the courage to reopen his small business.

“Before, at this time, around noon, all those tables would have been full of tourists,” he said, pointing to the empty tables at his restaurant.

In Isla de Méndez, each day is a constant struggle to put food on the table, as it is for rural families in this Central American country of 6.3 million people.

According to the report “Food and Nutrition Security: a path towards human development”, published in Spanish in July 2016 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the prevalence of undernourishment – food intake insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements – in El Salvador stands at 12.4 percent of the population.

The United Nations are still defining the targets to be achieved within the Sustainable Development Goals, but in the case of El Salvador this prevalence should at least be cut in half, Emilia González, representative of programmes at the FAO office in El Salvador, told IPS.

“Sometimes we only manage to catch four little fishes for our family to eat, and nothing to sell, but there is always something to put on the table,” said María Antonia Guerrero, who belongs to the 37-member Cooperative Association of Fish Production.

“Sometimes what we catch does not even cover the cost of the gasoline we use,” she said.

Because of the cooperative’s limited equipment (just 10 boats and two motors), they can only go fishing two or three times a week. When fishing is good, she added, they can catch 40 dollars a week of fish.

The local fishers respect the environmental requirement to use a net that ensures the reproduction of the different species of fish.

“We do it to avoid killing the smallest fish, otherwise the species would be wiped out and we would have nothing to eat,” said Sandra Solís, another member of the cooperative.

González, of FAO, said one of the U.N.’s agency’s mandates is to strive for food and nutrition security for families, adding that only by empowering them in this process can their standard of living be improved.

“We have worked a great deal in these communities for families to be the managers of their own development,” she said.

In this community, efforts have been made to develop projects to produce organic compost and to treat solid waste, said Ofilio Herrera with the Community Development Association in Area 1.

More ambitious plans include setting up a processing plant for coconut milk and cashew nuts and cashew apples, he added.

Rosa Herrera, meanwhile, walks towards her house with a slight smile on her face, pleased with having earned enough to feed her daughter, her father and herself that day.

As a single mother, she is proud that she has been able to raise her seven children, six of whom no longer live at home, on her own.

“Because I had to work to get food I was not able to go to school. We were eight siblings; the younger ones studied, and the older ones worked. My father and mother were very poor, so the older of us worked to support the younger ones. Four of us did not learn to read and write. The others learned as adults, but I didn’t,” she said.

“I have left my life in the mangroves, I was not able to go to school to learn to read and write, but I am happy that I have provided an education for all my children, thanks to the clams,” she said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador/feed/ 1
Caribbean Stakes Future on Climate-Smart Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:43:53 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149439 The massive rice industry in Guyana, which provides employment for at least 100,000 people, is just one area of the Caribbean’s agriculture sector under threat from climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The massive rice industry in Guyana, which provides employment for at least 100,000 people, is just one area of the Caribbean’s agriculture sector under threat from climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

As Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries continue to build on the momentum of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech in 2016, special emphasis is being placed on agriculture as outlined in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

The historic climate agreement was approved on Dec. 12, 2015 at COP21. INDCs is the term used under the UNFCCC for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries which are party to the convention were asked to publish in the lead up to the conference.Nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have experienced prolonged droughts, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

In their INDCs, the countries of CARICOM, a 15-member regional grouping, have prioritized adaptation in the agricultural sector, given the need to support food security.

They are now shifting their focus from climate planning to action and implementation. To this end, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) hosted a Caribbean Climate Smart Agriculture (CCSA) Forum here recently to raise awareness of best practices, by promoting and supporting climate change actions, while providing a space for dialogue among relevant actors and allowing them to discuss the challenges and successes of  Climate Smart Agriculture.

Climate Smart Agriculture has been identified as offering major wins for food security, adaptation and mitigation in the Caribbean.

“Agriculture is a priority sector,” Pankaj Bhatia, Deputy Director of the World Resource Institute’s Climate Programme, told participants.

As countries move forward with their plans, he recommended they participate in NDC Partnership, a global initiative to help countries achieve their national climate commitments and ensure financial and technical assistance is delivered as efficiently as possible.

“Much work still needs to be done by countries to create more detailed road maps, catalyse investment, and implement the plans to deliver on their climate commitments,” said Bhatia, who helps to manage one of the largest climate change projects of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

“It’s worth exploring the options and how the NDC Partnership can offer support,” Bhatia added.

As of February 2017, there were approximately 40 countries involved in the NDC Partnership, as well as intergovernmental and regional organizations such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Bank, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

A farmer manually irrigates a cornfield in Barbados. In recent years, nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A farmer manually irrigates a cornfield in Barbados. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The major pillars of the Partnership to drive ambitious climate action include sharing knowledge and information and facilitating both technical and financial support, thus encouraging increased efficiency, accountability and effectiveness of support programmes.

The Partnership develops knowledge products that fill critical information gaps and disseminates them through a knowledge sharing portal.

Another speaker, Climate Change Specialist in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Climate Change Office, John Furlow, emphasized the importance of participation from multiple sectors in the process of creating Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAPs), using Jamaica as a case study for how this was done effectively.

“In 2012, the then prime minister of Jamaica asked USAID to help Jamaica develop a national climate policy. Rather than starting with climate impacts, we wanted to start with what Jamaica defined as important to them,” Furlow explained.

“The national outcomes in the vision document listed agriculture, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, construction, creative industries, sport, information and communication technology, services and tourism.

“So, we wanted to bring in the actors responsible for those economic sectors for discussion on how they would address climate and hazard risk reduction in a national policy,” he added.

Furlow continued that the goal is to get climate change out of the environment ministry and into the ministries responsible for the sectors that are going to be affected.

This, he said, has the potential of putting developing countries in the driver’s seat in locating “multiple sources of funding – domestic, bilateral aid funding and multi-lateral aid funding” – so countries can take a role in what’s going on within their borders.

The Climate Change Policy Framework for Jamaica outlines the strategies that the country will employ in order to effectively respond to the impacts and challenges of climate change, through measures which are appropriate for varying scales and magnitudes of climate change impacts.

It states that relevant sectors will be required to develop or update, as appropriate, plans addressing climate change adaptation and/or mitigation.

Within the Policy Framework there are also Special Initiatives based on new and existing programmes and activities which will be prioritized for early implementation.

Each year the Caribbean imports 5 billion dollars worth of food and climate change represents a clear and growing threat to its food security with differing rainfall patterns, water scarcity, heat stress and increased climatic variability making it difficult for farmers to meet demand for crops and livestock.

In recent years, nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

Organizers of the CCSA Forum say there are many common agriculture-related topics in the NDCs of the English-speaking Caribbean countries, including conservation and forestry, water harvesting and storage, and improved agricultural policies.

All but one of the Caribbean countries included the issue of agriculture in their respective INDC. The sector is addressed in the INDCs with the priority being on adaptation. However, more than half of the countries also included conditional mitigation targets that directly or indirectly relate to agriculture.

The commitments made by all the countries denote the priority of the sector in the region’s development goals and the need to channel technical and financial support for the sector.

IICA said agriculture also has great potential to achieve the integration of mitigation and adaptation approaches into policies, strategies and programmes.

It also noted that the commitments made by each country, both through the Paris Agreement and in their respective INDCs, provide a solid foundation for tackling the global challenge of climate change with concrete actions keyed to national contexts and priorities.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture/feed/ 1
New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-evidence-confirms-risk-that-mideast-may-become-uninhabitable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-evidence-confirms-risk-that-mideast-may-become-uninhabitable http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-evidence-confirms-risk-that-mideast-may-become-uninhabitable/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 16:42:43 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149392 The water table is falling in Egypt's desert oases, raising questions of sustainability. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

The water table is falling in Egypt's desert oases, raising questions of sustainability. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 13 2017 (IPS)

New evidence is deepening scientific fears, advanced few years ago, that the Middle East and North Africa risk becoming uninhabitable in a few decades, as accessible fresh water has fallen by two-thirds over the past 40 years.

This sharp water scarcity simply not only affects the already precarious provision of drinking water for most of the region’s 22 countries, home to nearly 400 million inhabitants, but also the availability of water for agriculture and food production for a fast growing population.“Looming water scarcity in the North Africa and Middle East region is a huge challenge requiring an urgent and massive response" – Graziano da Silva.

The new facts are stark: per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average. Moreover, higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.

Add to this that the region’s fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world, and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations leading agency in the field of food and agriculture.

Moreover, 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, adds the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Meanwhile, agriculture in the region uses around 85 per cent of the total available freshwater, it reports, adding that over 60 per cent of water resources in the region flows from outside national and regional boundaries.

Recurring droughts have destroyed most harvests in the Sahel. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

Recurring droughts have destroyed most harvests in the Sahel. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

This alarming situation has prompted FAO’s director general to call for urgent action. On his recent visit to Cairo, Jose Graziano da Silva said that access to water is a “fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture”, and its looming scarcity in the North Africa and Middle East region is a huge challenge requiring an “urgent and massive response”.

Meantime, the rising sea level in the Nile Delta –which hosts the most fertile lands in Egypt– is exposing the region’s most inhabited country (almost 100 million people) to the danger of losing substantial parts of the most productive agriculture land due to salinisation.

“Competition between water-usage sectors will only intensify in the future between agriculture, energy, industrial production and household needs,” on March 9 warned Graziano da Silva.

FAO’s chief attended in Cairo a high-level meeting on the Rome-based organisation’s collaboration with Egypt on the “1.5 million feddan initiative” {1 feddan is equivalent to 0.42 hectares, or 1.038 acres}, the Egyptian government’s plan to reclaim eventually up to two million hectares of desert land for agricultural and other uses.

What to Do?

Egypt’s future agenda is particularly tough as the country “needs to look seriously into the choice of crops and the patterns of consumption,” Graziano da Silva also warned, pointing to potential water waste in cultivating wheat in the country.

“Urgent actions supporting it include measures aimed at reducing food loss and waste and bolstering the resilience of smallholders and family farmers, that require implementing a mix of social protection interventions, investments and technology transfers.”

Specialty crops such as fruit and vegetables, here on sale at a Cairo market, have a key role in Egypt's future. Credit: FAO

Specialty crops such as fruit and vegetables, here on sale at a Cairo market, have a key role in Egypt’s future. Credit: FAO

The UN specialised agency leads a Near East and North Africa Water Scarcity Initiative that provides both policy advice and best practice ideas on the governance of irrigation schemes. The Initiative is now backed by a network of more than 30 national and international organisations.

The Big Risk

Several scientific studies about ongoing climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area, had already sounded loud warning drums.

“Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models,” a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research said.

The research–titled “Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat”, reveals details of a business-as-usual scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, but also shows that curbing emissions could forestall these “deadly temperature extremes.”

The study, which was published in detail ahead of the Paris climate summit in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and Jeremy Pal of Loyola Marymount University.

The authors conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it “a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.”

Running high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. Eltahir says this threshold “has, as far as we know … never been reported for any location on Earth.”

For its part, the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change latest assessment warns that the climate is predicted to become even hotter and drier in most of the Middle East and North of Africa region.

Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts, an effect that is already materializing in the Maghreb,” said the World Bank while citing the IPCC assessment.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-evidence-confirms-risk-that-mideast-may-become-uninhabitable/feed/ 2
SPARKS Plugs Gap in Caribbean Climate Researchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sparks-plugs-gap-in-caribbean-climate-research/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sparks-plugs-gap-in-caribbean-climate-research http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sparks-plugs-gap-in-caribbean-climate-research/#comments Sat, 11 Mar 2017 00:06:07 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149365 Big data is used by scientists in the Caribbean to forecast drought conditions for farmers and other farming interests. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Big data is used by scientists in the Caribbean to forecast drought conditions for farmers and other farming interests. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 11 2017 (IPS)

On Nov. 30 last year, a new high-performance ‘Super Computer’ was installed at the University of the West Indies (UWI) during climate change week. Dubbed SPARKS – short for the Scientific Platform for Applied Research and Knowledge Sharing – the computer is already churning out the ‘big data’ Caribbean small island states (SIDS) need to accurately forecast and mitigate the effects of climate change on the region.

Experts are preparing the Caribbean to mitigate the devastating impacts – rising seas, longer dry spells, more extreme rainfall and potentially higher impact tropical cyclones – associated with climate change. The impacts are expected to decimate the economies of the developing states and many small island states, reversing progress and exacerbating poverty. Observers say the signs are already here.The system will help scientists to "better evaluate potential risk and impacts and effectively mitigate those risks as we build more resilient infrastructure." --UWI Professor Archibald Gordon

Before SPARKS, regional scientists struggled to produce the kinds of credible data needed for long-term climate projections. Only a few months ago, UWI’s lack of data processing capacity restricted researchers to a single data run at a time, said Jay Campbell, research fellow at the climate research group . Each data run would take up to six months due to the limited storage capacity and lack of redundancy, he said noting: “If anything went wrong, we simply had to start over.”

Immediately, SPARKS answered the need for the collection, analysis, modelling, storage, access and dissemination of climate information in the Caribbean. Over the long term, climate researchers will be able to produce even more accurate and reliable climate projections at higher spatial resolutions to facilitate among other things, the piloting and scaling up of innovative climate resilient initiatives.

So, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces its next global assessment report in 2018, there will be much more information from the Caribbean, making SPARKS a critical tool in the region’s fight against climate change.

Not only has the new computer – described as one of the fastest in the Caribbean – boosted the region’s climate research capabilities by plugging the gaping hole in regional climate research, UWI Mona’s principal Professor Archibald Gordon said, “It should help regional leaders make better decisions in their responses and adaptation strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change”.

The experts underscore the need for “big data” to provide the information they need to improve climate forecasting in the short, medium and long term. Now, they have the capacity and the ability to complete data runs that usually take six months, in just over two days.

The system will help scientists to better “evaluate potential risk and impacts and effectively mitigate those risks as we build more resilient infrastructure,” Gordon said.

As the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reported in June 2016 as “the 14th consecutive month of record heat for land and oceans; and the 378th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average,” regional scientists have committed to proving information to guide Caribbean governments on the actions they need to lessen the impact of climate change.

The region has consistently sought to build its capacity to provide accurate and consistent climate data. Efforts were ramped up after a September 2013 ‘rapid climate analysis’ in the Eastern Caribbean identified what was described as “a number of climate change vulnerabilities and constraints to effective adaptation”.

The USAID study identified among other things “the lack of accurate and consistent climate data to understand climate changes, predict impacts and plan adaptation measures”. To address the challenges, the WMO and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), with funding from USAID, established the Regional Climate Centre in Barbados.

The launch of the new computer is yet another step in overcoming the constraints. It took place during a meeting of the IPCC at UWI’s regional headquarters at Mona – significant because it signalled to the international grouping that the Caribbean was now ready and able to produce the big data needed for the upcoming 2018 report.

Head of the Caribbean Climate Group Professor Michael Taylor explained in an interview that the credibility and accuracy of climate data require fast computer processing speeds, fast turn-around times as well as the ability to run multiple data sets at higher resolution to produce information that regional decision-makers need.

“Climate research and downscaling methods will no longer be limited to the hardware and software,” he said, trying but failing to contain his excitement.

SPARKS also puts Jamaica and the UWI way ahead of their counterparts in the English-speaking Caribbean and on par with some of the leading institutions in the developed world. This improvement in computing capacity is an asset for attracting more high-level staff and attracting students from outside the region. Crucially, it aids the university’s push to establish itself as a leading research-based institution and a world leader in medicinal marijuana research.

“This opens up the research capability, an area the university has not done in the past. Before now, the processing of big data could only be done with partners overseas,” Professor Taylor said.

Aside from its importance to crunching climate data for the IPCC reports, SPARKS is revolutionising DNA sequencing, medicinal, biological and other data driven research being undertaken at the University. More importantly, UWI researchers agree that a supercomputer is bringing together the agencies at the forefront of the regional climate fight.

What is clear, SPARKS is a “game-changer and a big deal” for climate research at the regional level and for UWI’s research community.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sparks-plugs-gap-in-caribbean-climate-research/feed/ 0
370 Million Children Eat Healthy Food at School, Every Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/370-million-children-eat-healthy-food-at-school-every-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=370-million-children-eat-healthy-food-at-school-every-day http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/370-million-children-eat-healthy-food-at-school-every-day/#comments Fri, 10 Mar 2017 13:36:45 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149361 Every day around 370 million children around the world are fed at school through school meals programmes. Credit: FAO

Every day around 370 million children around the world are fed at school through school meals programmes. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 10 2017 (IPS)

Every day some 370 million children around the world are fed at school, while learning about healthy food and nutrition through school meals programmes that also help boost attendance, the United Nations reports.

Each programme is different: beans and rice in Madagascar, spicy lentils in the Philippines, vegetable pastries and fruit in Jordan. In some countries it may be a healthy snack, or it could include take-home food such as vitamin A-enriched oil for the whole family, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) informs.

“School meals have proved successful in providing educational and health benefits to the most vulnerable children… they boost school attendance, and a full stomach can help students concentrate on their lessons.“

According to FAO, communities, particularly in rural areas, also benefit when family farmers and small and medium enterprises are the main source of healthy food for the schools.

Marking the International School Meals Day on March 9, the UN specialised agency believes that consistent global investments in school meals will lead to a generation of children who develop healthy eating habits and who benefit from a diverse diet.

Governments invest in school meals because they are a powerful tool in efforts to reach Zero Hunger, helping to ensure every child has access to education, health and nutrition. Credit: WFP

Governments invest in school meals because they are a powerful tool in efforts to reach Zero Hunger, helping to ensure every child has access to education, health and nutrition. Credit: WFP

The UN body promotes school meals in a range of ways including technical support to governments on sustainable agriculture, food safety and standards, support to family farmers to grow surplus harvests to sell to schools, public procurement regulations, nutritional and food guidelines and nutrition education activities.

This month, FAO jointly presented the Home-Grown School Feeding Resource Framework, together with partners including the World Food Programme (WFP).

The framework supports governments through the process of policy formulation, implementation and evaluation of school meals programmes.

It also brings together the technical expertise of different stakeholders in a programmatic and coherent way to be easily accessed by countries requesting technical assistance.

Purchase from Africa for Africa

In Africa, the Purchase from Africans for Africa (PAA Africa) programme is modelled on Brazil’s achievements in fighting hunger and poverty, and is helping promote local agricultural production and school meals.

During the programme’s second phase, around 16,000 family farmers were able to sell 2,700 tons of food for school meals for around 37,000 students, FAO reports.

The school is an ideal setting for teaching basic skills in food, nutrition and health, says the UN agency. In many communities, schools may be the only place where children acquire these important life skills.

Among many tools, growing and preparing garden food at school can be instrumental. Combined with diversified school meals and nutrition education, it increases children’s preferences for fruits and vegetables, it adds.

This food and nutrition education is an essential element in the prevention and control of diet-related health problems. FAO provides technical assistance for integrating food and nutrition education in the primary school curriculum.

Meals provide an added incentive for parents to send their children to school. Credit: FAO

Meals provide an added incentive for parents to send their children to school. Credit: FAO


It also supports schools to ensure that all foods, meals and snacks available at school are nutritionally adequate and appropriate for the school-age child.

The UN specialised body gives two examples of case studies.

Latin America and the Caribbean

In 2009, a school-feeding programme based on the National School Feeding Programme of Brazil was launched in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Through inter-sectoral policy and legal mechanisms, it developed actions for food and nutrition education, and encouraged purchases for the programmes to be made from local farming families.

In 2013, a study conducted in eight of the participating countries, surveying a territory encompassing 18 million students, showed that the programmes not only promote school attendance and bolster the learning process, but also increase the income of the community’s farmers.

Cape Verde

In Cape Verde, the school meals programme was introduced by the UN in 1979, and the government took ownership in 2010.

Since then FAO has worked with the government and other UN agencies to diversify the school meals by linking local farmers to the procurement process to increase the supply of local fruit, vegetables, beans and fish to school canteens.

Around 9000 primary school students benefited from this initiative, as did local farmers and fishers who had an assured market.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/370-million-children-eat-healthy-food-at-school-every-day/feed/ 0
The Indigenous ‘People of Wildlife’ Know How to Protect Naturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature/#comments Fri, 10 Mar 2017 07:33:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149356 The cultures of indigenous peoples traditionally involve the sound management of wildlife. A Maasai pastoralist holding a pregnant ewe in Narok, Kenya. Credit: FAO

The cultures of indigenous peoples traditionally involve the sound management of wildlife. A Maasai pastoralist holding a pregnant ewe in Narok, Kenya. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 10 2017 (IPS)

In the northern part of Mount Kenya, there is an indigenous community — the Il Lakipiak Maasai (“People of Wildlife”) — which owns and operates the only community-owned rhino sanctuary in the country.

They have managed to alleviate the human-wildlife conflicts that arise in the area due to the intrusion of wild animals searching for water, prey and pasture during drought.

And they achieved this by reducing bush-cutting to ensure more fodder for wildlife on their lands. Through this conservation strategy, indigenous peoples have demonstrated that they can coexist harmoniously with wildlife while supporting their own pastoral lives and cultures.

No wonder, for thousands and thousands of years, the Earth’s original peoples have faced hard challenges, yet they managed to survive and conserve their natural environment.

They still do so in spite of modern humans who have been systematically abusing their rights, stripping their lands, confining them to reserves, and disdain their ancestral cultures and knowledge.

Now, following recent trends, the international scientific and development community has been further recognising the invaluable role of the indigenous peoples when it comes to facing one of the most dangerous challenges of modern times: the extinction of biological diversity.

Active involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity. An indigenous tarsier holding onto a tree branch in Bilar, Philippines. Credit: FAO

Active involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity. An indigenous tarsier holding onto a tree branch in Bilar, Philippines. Credit: FAO

For instance, the United Nations says that actively involving indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity and ensuring sustainable rural livelihoods.

The urgent challenges that the world faces in maintaining biodiversity worldwide require that indigenous peoples are empowered to act at the national level with assistance from the international community, on March 3 said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the occasion of World Wildlife Day.

“The cultures of indigenous peoples and local communities involve the stewardship of wildlife. They simply cannot imagine their life divorced from nature and their interest in the sustainable use of resources is strong,” said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

Empowerment of these groups combined with their knowledge and long-term planning skills is essential to ensure the survival of future generations – of both humans and wildlife, Müller added.

The relationship between humans and wildlife is highlighted in a new edition of FAO’s quarterly forestry publication Unasylva, which is jointly produced by the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, comprising 14 international organisations.

It cites several case studies from various countries to illustrate how indigenous peoples can optimize the benefits for their livelihoods while also safeguarding wildlife, provided they are given the rights to make their own decisions in the territories they inhabit.

Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Human-wildlife conflicts have become more frequent and severe particularly in Africa, due to increasing competition for land in previously wild and uninhabited areas, Unasylva noted.

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

“This is often the result of human population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, and growing pressure for access to land, such as expansion of transport routes, agriculture and industries. More specifically, the publication stresses that in central and southern Africa, wildlife and people will continue to share landscapes and resources with conflicts likely to worsen unless actions are taken.”

FAO, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and other partners have developed the first Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) toolbox, which has helped a local community in Gabon’s Cristal Mount National Park.

It explains that local farmers in this area were particularly frustrated by the fact that animals such as cane rats, roan antelopes, bush pigs and elephants were destroying their entire crops, and thus threatening their livelihoods. At the same time, laws prohibited these farmers from taking action by hunting the protected animals either for meat or to protect their crops.

Anyway, when it comes to underlining the essential role of indigenous people in protecting Nature, FAO is no exception.

In fact, other major conservations organisations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), notes that “indigenous and traditional peoples have often been unfairly affected by conservation policies and practices, which have failed to fully understand the rights and roles of indigenous peoples in the management, use and conservation of biodiversity.”

In line with numerous international instruments, several IUCN resolutions emphasise indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and natural resources on which they have traditionally subsisted.

These resolutions stress the need to enhance participation of indigenous peoples in all conservation initiatives and policy developments that affect them. Furthermore, they recognise that indigenous peoples possess a unique body of knowledge relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Another leading environmental organisation fully agrees.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) recognises the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ participation as well as the valuable inputs that these holders of traditional knowledge – gained through trans-generational experiences, observations and transmission – can contribute to sustainable ecosystem management and development.

“Their close relationship and dependency on functioning ecosystems have made many Indigenous Peoples extremely vulnerable to changes and damages in the environment. Logging, mining activities, pollution and climate change all pose increasing threats to indigenous livelihoods and their survival.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-indigenous-people-of-wildlife-know-how-to-protect-nature/feed/ 0
Global Harvests Robust, Yet 37 Countries Need Food Aidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 17:07:41 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149300 Young boys head home after fishing for a day in the swamps of Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: FAO

Young boys head home after fishing for a day in the swamps of Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

Global food supply conditions are robust, but access to food has been dramatically reduced in areas suffering from civil conflicts, while drought conditions are worsening food security across swathes of East Africa, according to the United Nations.

In a new edition of its Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) informs that some 37 countries require external assistance for food, 28 of them in Africa as a result of lingering effects of last year’s El Niño-triggered droughts on harvests in 2016.

Yet, while agricultural production is expected to rebound in southern Africa, protracted fighting and unrest is increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry in other parts of the world, the report adds.

Famine has been formally declared in South Sudan and the food security situation is of grave concern in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

“This is an unprecedented situation. Never before have we been faced with four threats of famine in multiple countries simultaneously,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Kostas Stamoulis, head of the Economic and Social Development department.

“It demands swift action which should consist of immediate food assistance but also livelihood support to ensure that such situations are not repeated.”

Millions Facing Famine

The UN specialised body cites several examples.

In South Sudan, 100,000 people were facing famine in Leer and Mayendit Counties, part of former Unity State, while there was an “elevated risk” that similar conditions existed in two nearby counties. Over all, about 4.9 million people across the country were classified as facing crisis, emergency or famine.

That number is projected to increase to 5.5 million, or almost half the country’s population, at the peak of the lean season in July.

In northern Nigeria, 8.1 million people are facing acute food insecurity conditions and require urgent life-saving response and livelihood protection. That comes despite the above-average cereal harvest in 2016 and reflects the disruption caused by conflict as well as the sharp depreciation of the Naira.

Meanwhile in Yemen, FAO reports that 17 million people or two-thirds of the population are estimated to be food insecure, while almost half of them are in need of emergency assistance, with the report noting that “the risk of famine declaration in the country is very high.”

And in Somalia, the combination of conflict, civil insecurity and drought have resulted in more than double the number of people – now estimated at 2.9 million – being severely food insecure from six months ago.

“Drought has curtailed fodder for pastoralists and the third consecutive season of poor rainfall is estimated to have reduced crop production in southern and central regions to 70 per cent below average levels, leaving food stocks depleted.”

Conflicts and civil unrest in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Myanmar and Syria are also exacerbating food insecurity conditions for millions of people as well affecting nearby countries hosting refugees. In addition, the drought in East Africa in late 2016 has heightened food insecurity in several countries in the sub-region, according to the new report.

Worldwide Trends

Cereal production made quite strong gains in the world overall in 2016, with a record recovery in Central America, and larger cereal crops in Asia, Europe and North America.

Looking ahead, FAO’s first global wheat production forecast for 2017 points to a 1.8 per cent decline from last year’s record level, due mostly to a projected 20 per cent output drop in the United States, where the area sown to winter wheat is the lowest level in over 100 years.

Prospects are favourable for the 2017 maize crop in Brazil and Argentina and the outlook is generally positive for coarse grains throughout the Southern Hemisphere. Prospects for rice are mixed, but it is still too early to make firm predictions for many of the world’s major crops, according to FAO.

Maize harvests in Southern Africa, slashed by El Niño, are forecast to recover this year, with South Africa’s output expected to increase by more than 50 per cent from 2016, with positive trends likely in most nearby countries. However, an outbreak of armyworms, along with localized flooding in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, could limit larger production gains in 2017.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid/feed/ 2
Barefoot Solar Warriors Take On Gender Injustice and Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 02:05:19 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149284 Engineer Magan Kawar (wearing pink), who left school after third grade, teaches a class of international students in solar technology. Kawar has trained 900 women from over 20 countries. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Engineer Magan Kawar (wearing pink), who left school after third grade, teaches a class of international students in solar technology. Kawar has trained 900 women from over 20 countries. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
TILONIA, India, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

On a summer morning in 2008, Magan Kawar decided to leave her village for a job. The very next day, her parents-in-law excommunicated her.

“They were very angry,” says the 52-year-old mother of two from Bhawani Khera village of Rajasthan’s Ajmer, a district 400 kms west of New Delhi."The world over, the lives of women are the same – there are too many challenges, but together, we can help each other rewrite our stories.” --Magan Kawar

“Women never stepped out of the home alone. To go outside of the village and work in an office alongside men was a disgrace. My parents-in-law said I had brought upon them that disgrace.”

But even as angry relatives and shocked neighbors watched in utter dismay, Kawar traveled to Tilonia, a village an hour away. Here, along with her husband, she became a technician at a rural innovation centre. As the world shut its doors behind her, her husband assured her: “Everything would be alright one day.”

Eight years later, Kawar who never studied beyond the third grade, is one of India’s top renewable energy experts. She is a lead instructor at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, a unique innovation and training centre where rural women from across India and the world are trained in solar technologies.

A college for barefoot engineers

The Barefoot College of Tilonia was established four decades ago by Bunker Roy, a visionary educationist and environmentalist who envisoned a place where women with little or no formal education could learn livelihood skills and play a leadership role in their communities.

The skills taught here are many, including sewing, welding and carpentry, among others, but the flagship programme of the college is a six-month biannual course in solar technology.

The course accepts women of 35 years and older, mostly from economically or socially underprivileged communities living in areas that have no electricity. There are two separate learning centres for Indian and international trainees who are called ‘Solar Mamas.’

Each of the Solar Mamas is selected by her own community and sent to the college by their respective governments where they are provided a fellowship by the government of India. It covers their cost of their stay at the college campus, including food and accommodation.

Currently, there are 30 Solar Mamas from 13 countries of Asia and Africa, including India, Myanmar, Syria, Mali, Sierra Leone and Botswana. The latest group is slated to graduate on Mar. 15 – the day they will receive 700 dollars as a stipend for the six months they spent here. For many, this is also an amount they can use as seed money to start a business in their home country.

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make the circuit for a solar lantern. Oraon, who is not able to read or write, will soon become a Solar Mama - a barefoot solar engineer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make the circuit for a solar lantern. Oraon, who is not able to read or write, will soon become a Solar Mama – a barefoot solar engineer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Learning through sign language

On the final Sunday of February, a group of local youths graduated from the Barefoot College after learning some livelihood skills. At their graduation ceremony, each of the students was presented with a solar lantern – made by the women solar technicians of the college.

The circuit of the lantern is complex, with dozens of minuscule electronic chips assembled on a 4-inch long plate. To teach this complex technology to the trainees when neither teacher nor student speak English or share a common language may seem extremely daunting to others, but the barefoot instructors have their own innovative methodology.

Explains Magan Kawar, “We first make a list of the most important parts and equipment and begin by making each trainee learn by heart the names. That is essential. After that, we communicate by pointing at a part, signs and actions. For example, I will take a circuit plate, point at a part and say, ‘press’. Or, I will then take a cable from the power testing machine, touch this to the plate, show it to the trainees and say, ’power testing’. They follow suit.”

There are no certificates awarded to the graduates, but then, this college is not a place that upholds formal educational norms. Instead, it practices a “very, very simple” method that champions imparting education that “truly empowers,” says Bunker Roy, who is also the director of the college.

“Imagine a woman who never traveled out of her village. Can’t read or write. Takes a flight and travels for 19 hours…comes to a strange country, strange food, strange language and in six months, she becomes a solar engineer using sign language. She knows more about solar engineering than a college graduate. What can be more exhilarating than this?” asks Roy.

Women from local villages in India with solar lanterns made by Solar Mamas of the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women from local villages in India with solar lanterns made by Solar Mamas of the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Honing climate leadership skills

Elizabeth Halauafu, 42, is from Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean which considered is the third most vulnerable country on earth to rising sea levels from climate change. Despite its high vulnerability, however, the country has been slow in adopting climate adaptation measures, including renewable energy.

But as Tonga finally wakes up to play a stronger role in climate action, Bayes could become one of the pioneers in rural solar technology thanks to her training at the Barefoot College.

“I have already learned about solar installations. I can build a circuit, assemble and repair solar lights. Once I return to Tonga, I will be happy to join a job that will allow me to use my skills. I and my husband may also start a solar venture,” says Bayes, before recalling that when she returns home, the season of oceanic storms will begin when electricity will be scarce.

A place to share, forget and rise above

Solar Mamas Hala Naseef and and Azhar Sarhan are from Damascus. The government may try to show Damascus as an oasis in an otherwise war-torn Syria, but the ground realities are different: there are frequent power outrage and everyone lives in fear of a total collapse of the grid. Solar technology is not very popular, but could soon become the only source of power if the war does not end soon, says the duo.

It has been a long journey from Damascus to the Barefoot College for both Sarhan and Naseef, but both are quick to point out that the past five months, despite daunting odds, have been a very enriching experience.

“I miss home and the food…but to see other women who have come from difficult places, we forget our own struggle,“ says Naseef.

Lila Devi Gujjar, who teaches alongside Magan Kawar, says that most of their trainees come from conflict zones and carry a ‘burden of pain.”

“Many of them are survivors of abuse, violence and are broken in spirit. But here they find a way to forget their past and get new hope to rebuild their lives,” says Gujjar.

Kawar shares the story of Chantal, one of her recent trainees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was raped several times in her home country. “It was her first escape from the violence. She first cried for days, then just immersed herself in learning. Somehow, she found our informal learning environment very soothing.

“And we also realized that the world over, the lives of women are the same – there are too many challenges, but together, we can help each other rewrite our stories,” says Kawar, who wrote her own story a few years ago by sending her two children to universities and inviting her parents-in-law to visit the Barefoot College.

“They came, saw me teaching and my mother-in-law said, ‘But it is just women educating each other!’ That day, she welcomed me back into the family,” says the barefoot engineer with a smile.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/barefoot-solar-warriors-take-on-gender-injustice-and-climate-change/feed/ 2
Caribbean Awaits Trump Moves on Climate Funding, Paris Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-awaits-trump-moves-on-climate-funding-paris-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-awaits-trump-moves-on-climate-funding-paris-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-awaits-trump-moves-on-climate-funding-paris-deal/#comments Sun, 05 Mar 2017 13:56:30 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149250 Torrential rains from trough systems in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2016 resulted in landslides like this one, which swept one structure away and threatened nearby houses. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Torrential rains from trough systems in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2016 resulted in landslides like this one, which swept one structure away and threatened nearby houses. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 5 2017 (IPS)

Caribbean leaders worry that with climate change sceptic Donald Trump in the White House, it will be more difficult for small island developing states facing the brunt of climate change to secure the financing necessary to adapt to and mitigate against it.

Mere days after Trump’s inauguration, the White House ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to delete a page about climate change from its website. It has also also signalled its intention to slash the budget of the NOAA, the U.S.’s leading climate science agency, by 17 percent.“I have listened to President Trump after the election and he had said that he is keeping an open mind on the question of man-made climate change.” --PM of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves

If Trump follows through on his campaign promise to roll back his predecessor, Barack Obama’s, green legacy, it seems inevitable that Caribbean and other small island developing states will feel the effects. Trump had also explicitly vowed to stop all US payments to UN climate change programmes.

In this archipelagic nation, the Ralph Gonsalves administration spent some 3.7 million dollars in November 2016 – about 1 per cent of that year’s budget – cleaning up after a series of trough systems.

The sum did not take into account the monies needed to respond to the damage to public infrastructure and private homes, as well as losses in agriculture resulting from the severe weather, which the government has blamed on climate change.

“The United States is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases and, for us, the science is clear and we accept the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change,” Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves told IPS.

He said his nation’s commitment is reflected not only in the fact that St. Vincent and the Grenadines was one of the early signatories to the Paris Agreement at the end of COP 21, but was also one of the early ratifiers of the agreement.

The Paris Agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. During the election campaign, Trump vowed that he would pull the U.S. out of the deal if elected, although there appears to be some dissent within the administration on the issue.

It was reported this week that Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which oversaw the Paris deal, is visiting the US and had requested a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.

So far, Espinosa says she has been snubbed, and a state department official told the Guardian there were no scheduled meetings to announce.

The official added: “As with many policies, this administration is conducting a broad review of international climate issues.”

Small island developing states have adopted the mantra “1.5 to stay alive”, saying that ideally global climate change should be contained to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels if their islands are to survive.

Gonsalves is hopeful that Trump would modify the policies outlined during the election campaign.

“I have listened to President Trump after the election and he had said that he is keeping an open mind on the question of man-made climate change,” he told IPS.

Gonsalves noted, however, the developments regarding the removal of climate change references from the White House website, adding, “But I would actually wait to see what would actually happen beyond what takes place on the website.”

The prime minister noted to IPS that the United States is an extremely powerful country, but suggested that even if Washington follows through on Trump’s campaign pledges, all is not lost.

“The United States of American has a population of 330 million people. Currently, in the world, there are seven and a half billion people … There is a lot of the world out there other than 330 million [people] and the world is not just one country — though a hugely important country.”

But Kingstown is not just waiting to see where Trump goes with his policy on climate change.

Come May 1, consumers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will begin paying a 1 per cent “Disaster Levy” on consumption within the country. The monies generated will be used to capitalise the Contingences Fund, which will be set up to help offset the cost of responding to natural disasters.

In presenting his case to lawmakers, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said that there have been frequent severe natural disasters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly since 2010, resulting in extensive loss and damage to houses, physical infrastructure and economic enterprises.

“The central government has incurred significant costs in providing relief and assistance to affected households and businesses and for rehabilitation and replacement of damaged infrastructure. Indeed, we have calculated that no less than 10 per cent of the public debt has been incurred for disaster-related projects and initiatives, narrowly-defined,” he told Parliament during his Budget Address in February.

As part of the Paris Agreement, developed countries said they intend to continue their existing collective goal to mobilise 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 and extend this until 2025. A new and higher goal will be set for after this period.

Gonsalves said it was not anticipated that the Paris Agreement would have been signed and ratified by November 2016. “But it was done. The anticipation was that it was going to take several years longer, so they put the commitments from 2020.

“Now, what are we going to do between 2017 and 2020?” he told IPS, adding that one practical response is to push for the pledges to come forward.

As Caribbean nations do what they can, locally, to respond to the impact of climate change, they are hoping that global funding initiatives for adaptation and mitigation do not take on the usual sluggish disbursement practices of other global initiatives.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community at their 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting in Guyana in mid-February that it was critical the Green Climate Fund be more readily accessible for countries trying to recover from the aftermaths of climate-driven natural disasters.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-awaits-trump-moves-on-climate-funding-paris-deal/feed/ 1
Guyana’s New Oil Fields Both Blessing and Cursehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse/#comments Fri, 03 Mar 2017 21:54:31 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149240 In November 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

In November 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. The country has been lauded for its low-carbon development path. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Mar 3 2017 (IPS)

The recent discovery of large volumes of oil offshore of Guyana could prove to be a major headache for the country, as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) members press for keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels as provided for in the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

Exxon Mobil recently announced the successful drilling of a deep-water exploration well that may soon confirm that the seafloor beneath Guyana’s coastal waters contains one of the richest oil and natural gas discoveries in decades.“If you are now finding plenty of oil, and basically to keep temperatures down we are saying no more carbon fuels, then who are you going to sell it to?" --Dr. Al Binger of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Experts now estimate that one of its offshore fields alone, known as Liza, could contain 1.4 billion barrels of oil and mixed natural gas.

But in the face of a changing climate fueled by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Dr. Al Binger, interim executive director of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREE), said Guyana should not get too excited about the discovery.

“Guyana finds themselves inside AOSIS, the group that is fighting to keep temperatures under 1.5 degrees C, and now they are going to want to sell carbon which is going to get burned. I think they are going to have a lot of head-scratching to figure out ‘is this a blessing or is this a curse?’” Binger told IPS.

“If you are now finding plenty of oil, and basically to keep temperatures down we are saying no more carbon fuels, then who are you going to sell it to?” he said. “I don’t know how much they are going to be able to sell because they are trying to meet the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) requirements to actually keep the temperatures below 1.5 degrees C.”

Countries across the globe adopted an historic international climate agreement at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. The INDCs are publicly outlined post-2020 climate actions countries intend to take under the agreement.

The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement: to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

The rallying cry of AOSIS has been “1.5 to Stay Alive”, saying it represents a level of global warming beyond which many vulnerable small island states will be overwhelmed by severe climate impacts.

The scientific findings based on low-emission scenarios (also examined by the IPCC in its fifth assessment report) show that it is both physically and economically feasible to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees C by 2100, after temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees C in the 2050s (but still staying well below 2 degrees C).

Binger said holding warming below 2 degrees C requires early and rapid action with the level of action in the next ten years very similar to 1.5 degrees C. By 2030, action towards 1.5 degrees C needs to be faster than for 2 degrees C, he said.

“So, if you have a lot of carbon, what are you going to do with it? We keep emitting carbon and now we are reaching a stage where we just basically can’t emit anymore because there is no space for it if we are going to stay in temperatures that we can survive,” Binger said.

With an average global temperature increase of under 1 degree C, small islands have already experienced impacts including severe coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, marine habitat degradation, and power tropical storms.

Binger explained that limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees C by 2100 requires a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 70 to 95 percent relative to 2010 levels by 2050. This is significantly deeper than the 40 to 70 percent by 2050 for 2 degrees C.

Total greenhouse gas emissions have to reach global zero by 2060 to 2080 for 1.5 degrees C compared to 2080 to 2100 for 2 degrees C.

“If we have to decarbonise and we have to go to zero carbon fuels, then the only carbon we could actually burn would be some portion of what we sequester,” Binger said.

In November 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. It was the first time a developed country conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.

Under the initiative, developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation), Guyana can continue logging as long as biodiversity is protected.

Guyana is one of the poorest countries in the region and officials have been banking on the production of oil, expected to begin around 2020, to turn around the economy.

Early rough estimates by experts of how much recoverable oil Guyana could have range to more than four billion barrels, which at current prices would be worth more than 200 billion dollars.

Binger could not comment on what advice, if any, Guyana might be receiving from AOSIS or the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

“I don’t know what AOSIS is saying to them. I guess AOSIS is maybe saying, ‘nice you have oil, but we are trying to get rid of carbon so we don’t know why you are trying to find more’,” Binger said.

“There are quite a few reports out that we can’t burn a lot of the hydrocarbons, so what’s down there will have to stay down there unless they are going to use it to make things like plastic, chemicals, fertilizers. Anything that is going to be a combustion project is going to have issues with basically how much more carbon we emit relative to where we need to be to stabilize global climate,” he added.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse/feed/ 1
Caribbean Leaders Want Swifter Action on Climate Fundinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-leaders-want-swifter-action-on-climate-funding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-leaders-want-swifter-action-on-climate-funding http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-leaders-want-swifter-action-on-climate-funding/#comments Wed, 01 Mar 2017 12:14:50 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149170 Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie says special consideration needs to be given by international financial institutions to the unique circumstances of his country. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie says special consideration needs to be given by international financial institutions to the unique circumstances of his country. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Mar 1 2017 (IPS)

When Tropical Storm Erika hit the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica on Aug. 27, 2015, it killed more than two dozen people, left nearly 600 homeless and wreaked damages totaling more than a billion dollars.

The storm dumped 15 inches of rain on the mountainous island, caused floods and mudslides and set the country back 20 years, according Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. The island was inadequately prepared for a storm such as Erika. Many roads and bridges were simply not robust enough to withstand such high volumes of water.“It is critical that there must be relatively quick access to this Fund by those it is intended to assist." --Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

In a national address shortly following the storm, Skerrit said that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads had been destroyed and millions of dollars in financial aid were needed to help the country bounce back.

“In order to get back to where we were before Tropical Storm Erika struck, we have to source at least 88.2 million dollars for the productive sector, 334.55 million for infrastructure and 60.09 million for the social sectors,” Skerrit said.

Dominica’s neighbours in the Caribbean were the first to deliver aid in the form of medical assistance, telecommunications engineers, and financial aid, and were followed by essential supplies and manpower from Venezuela and doctors and nurses from Cuba.

Now, 18 months later, Skerrit said the island is still in the initial recovery stages of the devastation wrought by the storm, and he is pleading for swift action from international funding agencies for his country and its Caribbean neighbours which have been impacted by severe storms in recent years.

“Of particular importance to us is the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which has been established to assist in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change,” Skerrit told IPS.

“It is critical that there must be relatively quick access to this Fund by those it is intended to assist. As laudable as it is, it will be of minimal impact if disbursement is as sluggish as has been the experience with other institutions and agencies.

“The increasing intensity and frequency of these climatic events force us to face the reality of climate change. Hardly any of us in the region has been untouched in some form by the effects of the phenomenon and this emphasizes the need for the implementation of the measures contained in the Paris Agreement,” Skerrit added.

The GCF was established with a mission to advance the goal of keeping earth’s temperature increase below 2 degrees C.

The Fund is a unique global initiative to respond to climate change by investing in low emissions and climate-resilient development.

The GCF was established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, and to help adapt vulnerable societies to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Given the urgency and seriousness of the challenge, the Fund is mandated to make an ambitious contribution to the united global response to climate change.

The Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) was accredited as a regional implementing entity by the Board of the GCF in 2015.

CCCCC Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie said it speaks to the high caliber of work being done in the region and the strength of the centre’s internal systems.

“We will now move forward with a set of ambitious and bankable projects that we have been developing under a directive from CARICOM Heads,” he said.

As the first regionally accredited organization, the CCCCC is now the interface and conduit for GCF funding to the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean.

Skerrit, who wrapped up his tenure as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in February, said he visited Haiti and The Bahamas during his chairmanship of the 15-member regional grouping to see first-hand the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew.

Last year, Hurricane Matthew rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to hurricane status as it moved over the Caribbean Sea. Matthew continued to intensify to a Category 5 storm and into one of the strongest in Atlantic basin history, which made landfall and devastated portions of The Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba, and the eastern United States.

“In both countries, the extent of the damage was severe,” said Skerrit, who was accompanied by the CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and the Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson.

He noted that the Government of Haiti reported more than 500 deaths along with 1.5 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including 120,000 families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

The worst of the devastation occurred in the agricultural belt, which affected the food supply of the country.

“Agriculture and fishing were also badly affected in The Bahamas along with homes and infrastructure on the three islands which were hardest hit,” Skerrit described.

“The damage was estimated at more than 500 million dollars. It is my hope that the recovery process is well underway to reconstructing the lives and livelihoods of all those affected.”

Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie described how his country also faced a 600-million-dollar assessed impact from a Category 4 hurricane (Joaquin) in 2015 and encroachment by the sea with Hurricane Matthew a year later.

The Bahamian leader said special consideration needs to be given by the international financial institutions to the unique circumstances of the country.

“Our people are spread over a hundred thousand square miles of ocean [and] as we modernize we began to feel the effects of having rich people in our countries drive our economy and the measure of our economy on the basis of per capita income. And we were being graduated to the point where we are not qualified for concessionary loans,” he explained.

“There is this paradigm that lumps the country together and does not take into consideration the unequal development that exists in our country. The people who live on the island of New Providence are entirely different to those on the remote islands.

“We are judged harshly. When there is a 600-million-dollar assessed impact from a hurricane, and an encroachment by the sea as happened with Hurricane Matthew, the country has to withstand the impacts and then you are downgraded because they say there is no assurance you are going to be able to have the revenue. These are the challenges that the countries in our region face,” Christie added.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-leaders-want-swifter-action-on-climate-funding/feed/ 1
Humankind’s Ability to Feed Itself, Now in Jeopardyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/humankinds-ability-to-feed-itself-now-in-jeopardy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humankinds-ability-to-feed-itself-now-in-jeopardy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/humankinds-ability-to-feed-itself-now-in-jeopardy/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2017 10:07:19 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149065 Women in the village of Rubkuai in Greater Unity State, South Sudan, on February 16, 2017. Credit: FAO

Women in the village of Rubkuai in Greater Unity State, South Sudan, on February 16, 2017. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Feb 22 2017 (IPS)

Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new United Nations’ report.

Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, “expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges, issued on Feb. 22, 2017.

“Almost one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded.”

As a result, “planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue,” cautions FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his introduction to the report.

By 2050 humanity’s ranks will likely have grown to nearly 10 billion people. In a scenario with moderate economic growth, this population increase will push up global demand for agricultural products by 50 per cent over present levels, intensifying pressures on already-strained natural resources, The Future of Food and Agriculture projects.

At the same time, the report continues, greater numbers of people will be eating fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed food — a result of an ongoing global dietary transition that will further add to those pressures, driving more deforestation, land degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Alongside these trends, the planet’s changing climate will throw up additional hurdles. “Climate change will affect every aspect of food production,” the report says. These include greater variability of precipitation and increases in the frequency of droughts and floods.

Zero Hunger?

The core question raised by the new FAO report is whether, looking ahead, the world’s agriculture and food systems are capable of sustainably meeting the needs of a burgeoning global population.

The short answer? Yes, FAO says, the planet’s food systems are capable of producing enough food to do so, and in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential – and ensuring that all of humanity benefits – will require “major transformations.”

Saving lives. Changing lives. Feeding dreams. Credit: WFP

Saving lives. Changing lives. Feeding dreams. Credit: WFP

According to the report, without a push to invest in and retool food systems, far too many people will still be hungry in 2030 — the year by which the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, the report warns.

“Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030,” it says. In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050.

Where Will Our Food Come From?

Given the limited scope for expanding agriculture’s use of more land and water resources, the production increases needed to meet rising food demand will have to come mainly from improvements in productivity and resource-use efficiency, says FAO.

However there are worrying signs that yield growth is leveling off for major crops. Since the 1990s, average increases in the yields of maize, rice, and wheat at the global level generally run just over 1 percent per annum, the report notes.

To tackle these and the other challenges outlined in the report, “business-as-usual” is not an option, The Future of Food and Agriculture argues.

“Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet,” it says.

“High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production,” adds the report.

More With Less

The core challenge is to produce more with less, while preserving and enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale and family farmers, and ensuring access to food by the most vulnerable.

“For this, a twin-track approach is needed which combines investment in social protection, to immediately tackle undernourishment, and pro-poor investments in productive activities — especially agriculture and in rural economies — to sustainably increase income-earning opportunities of the poor. “

Famine hits parts of South Sudan. UN agencies warn that almost 5 million people urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance. Credit: FAO

Famine hits parts of South Sudan. UN agencies warn that almost 5 million people urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance. Credit: FAO

According to the UN body, the world will need to shift to more sustainable food systems which make more efficient use of land, water and other inputs and sharply reduce their use of fossil fuels, leading to a drastic cut of agricultural green-house gas emissions, greater conservation of biodiversity, and a reduction of waste.

This will necessitate more investment in agriculture and agri-food systems, as well as greater spending on research and development, the report says, to promote innovation, support sustainable production increases, and find better ways to cope with issues like water scarcity and climate change, it underlines.

Along with boosting production and resilience, equally critical will be creating food supply chains that better connect farmers in low- and middle-income countries to urban markets — along with measures which ensure access for consumers to nutritious and safe food at affordable prices, such as such as pricing policies and social protection programs, it says.

On this, Kostas Stamoulis, FAO Assistant Director General for Economics and Social Development, said a media briefing, when asked about the most important challenge of tomorrow regarding food and agriculture, said that it is climate change. “This demands change in practice of agriculture and developing agriculture that is more adaptable to climate change.”

Kostas Stamoulis and the other two authors of the report, Rob Vos, Director of the Agriculture Economics Development Division, and Lorenzo Bellu, Team Leader, Global Perspective Studies, organised on Feb. 21, a briefing session for the media to explain the key issues the new document incudes.

Top Trends and Challenges

The FAO report identifies 15 trends and 10 challenges affecting the world’s food systems:

15 Trends:
• _A rapidly increasing world population marked by growth “hot spots,” urbanization, and aging
• _Diverse trends in economic growth, family incomes, agricultural investment, and economic inequality.
• _Greatly increased competition for natural resources
• _Climate change
• _Plateauing agricultural productivity
• _Increased conflicts, crises and natural disasters
• _Persistent poverty, inequality and food insecurity
• _Dietary transition affecting nutrition and health
• _Structural changes in economic systems and employment implications
• _Increased migration
• _Changing food systems and resulting impacts on farmers livelihoods
• _Persisting food losses and waste
• _New international governance mechanisms for responding to food and nutrition security issues
• _Changes in international financing for development.

10 Challenges:

• _Sustainably improving agricultural productivity to meet increasing demand
• _Ensuring a sustainable natural resource base
• _Addressing climate change and intensification of natural hazards
• _Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality
• _Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition
• _Making food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient
• _Improving income earning opportunities in rural areas and addressing the root causes of migration
• _Building resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts
• _Preventing trans-boundary and emerging agriculture and food system threats
• _Addressing the need for coherent and effective national and international governance

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/humankinds-ability-to-feed-itself-now-in-jeopardy/feed/ 0
Expansion of Renewable Energies in Mexico Has Victims, Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 22:34:19 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149013 In Mexico, wind farms spark controversy due to complaints of unfair treatment, land dispossession, lack of free, prior and informed consent and exclusion from the electricity generated. In the photo, wind turbines frame the horizon of the northern city of Zacatecas. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Mexico, wind farms spark controversy due to complaints of unfair treatment, land dispossession, lack of free, prior and informed consent and exclusion from the electricity generated. In the photo, wind turbines frame the horizon of the northern city of Zacatecas. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
KIMBILÁ, Mexico, Feb 17 2017 (IPS)

The growing number of wind and solar power projects in the southern Mexican state of Yucatán are part of a positive change in Mexico’s energy mix. But affected communities do not see it in the same way, due to the fact that they are not informed or consulted, and because of how the phenomenon changes their lives.

“We have no information. We have some doubts, some people say it’s good and some say it’s bad. We have heard what is said in other states,” small farmer Luis Miguel, a Mayan Indian, told IPS.

He lives in Kimbilá, a town in the municipality of Izmal, which is the site of an up-to-now failed private wind power venture that has been blocked by opposition from the area’s 3,600 inhabitants and in particular from the ejido or communal land where the wind farm was to be installed.“There is a lack of information going to the communities, who don’t know the scope of the contracts; (the companies and authorities) don’t explain to them the problems that are going to arise. Conflicts are generated, and manipulation is used to get the permits. Social engineering is used to divide the communities.” -- Romel González

“We fear that they will damage our crops,” said Miguel, whose father is one of the 573 members of the Kimbilá ejido, located in the Yucatán Peninsula, 1,350 km southeast of Mexico City.

The questioned project, run by the Spanish company Elecnor, includes the installation of 50 wind turbines with a capacity of 159 MW per year.

The company installed an anemometric tower in 2014, but the local population, who grow maize and garden vegetables, raise small livestock and produce honey for a living, did not find out about the project until January 2016.

Since then, the ejido has held two assemblies and cancelled another, without reaching an agreement to approve a 25-year lease on the lands needed for the wind farm.

Meanwhile, in February 2016, the members of the ejido filed a complaint against the Procuraduría Agraria – the federal agency in charge of protecting rural land – accusing it of defending the interests of the company by promoting community assemblies that were against the law.

The wind farm is to have an operating life of 30 years, including the preparatory phase, construction and operation, and it needs 77 hectares of the 5,000 in the ejido.

The company offered between five and 970 dollars per hectare, depending on the utility of the land for a wind farm, a proposition that caused unrest among the ejido members. It would also give them 1.3 per cent of the turnover for the power generated. But the electricity would not be used to meet local demand.

“We haven’t been given any information. This is not in the best interests of those who work the land. They are going to destroy the vegetation and 30 years is a long time,” beekeeper Victoriano Canmex told IPS.
This indigenous member of the ejido expressed his concern over the potential harm to the bees, “because new roadswould be opened with heavy machinery. They said that they would relocate the apiaries but they know nothing about beekeeping. It’s not fair, we are going to be left with nothing,” he said.

Canmex, who has eight apiaries,checks the beehives twice a week, together with four of his six children. He collects about 25 30-kg barrels of honey, which ends up on European tables. Yucatan honey is highly appreciated in the world, for its quality and organic nature.

Luis Miguel, a Mayan farmer from Kimbilá, in the southeastern state of Yucatán, Mexico, fears that the installation of a wind farm in his community will damage local crops of corn and vegetables.  Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Luis Miguel, a Mayan farmer from Kimbilá, in the southeastern state of Yucatán, Mexico, fears that the installation of a wind farm in his community will damage local crops of corn and vegetables. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yucatán, part of the ancient Mayan empire, where a large part of the population is still indigenous, has become a new energy frontier in Mexico, due to its great potential in wind and solar power.

This state adopted the goal of using 9.3 per cent non-conventional renewable energies by 2018. In Yucatán, the incorporation per year of new generation capacity should total 1,408 MW by 2030.

Leaving out the big hydropower plants, other renewable sources account for just eight per cent of the electricity produced in Mexico. According to official figures, in December 2016, hydropower had an installed capacity of 12,092 MW, geothermal 873 MW, wind power 699 MW, and photovoltaic solar power, six MW.

According to the Mexican Wind Energy Association, which represents the industry, in Mexico there are at least 31 wind farms located in nine states, with a total installed capacity of 3,527 MW of clean energy for the northeast, west, south and southeast regions of this country of 122 million people.

Besides the lack of information, and of free, prior and informed consent, as the law and international conventions require, indigenous people complain about impacts on migratory birds, rise in temperatures in areas with solar panels and water pollution caused by leaks from wind towers.

For Romel González, a member of the non-governmental Regional Indigenous and Popular Council of Xpujil, a town in the neighboring state of Campeche, the process of energy development has legal loopholes that have to do with superficial contracts and environmental impact studies.

“There is a lack of information for the communities, who don’t know the scope of the contracts; (the companies and authorities) don’t explain to them the problems that are going to arise. Conflicts are generated, and manipulation is used to get the permits. Social engineering is used to divide the communities,” González told IPS.

He said that in the region, there are “previously untapped” natural resources that are attracting attention from those interested in stripping the communities of these resources.

The state is experiencing a clean energy boom, with plans for five solar plants, with a total capacity of 536 MW, and five wind farms, with a combined capacity of 256 MW. The concessions for the projects, which are to operate until 2030, have already been awarded to local and foreign companies.

In the first national power generation auction organised by the government in March 2016, four wind power and five solar power projects won, while in the second one, the following September, two new wind projects were chosen.

The change in the electricity mix is based on Mexico’s energy reform, in force since August 2014, which opened the industry to national and international private capital.

Local authorities project that by 2018, wind power generation will amount to 6,099 MW, including 478 from Yucatán, with the total increasing two years later to 12,823 MW, including 2,227 MW from this state.

Yucatán will draw a projected 52 million dollars in investment to this end in 2017 and 1.58 billion in 2018.

The Electricity Industry Law, in effect since 2014, stipulates that each project requires a social impact assessment. But opponents of the wind power projects have no knowledge of any assessment carried out in the state, while there is only evidence of two public consultations with affected communities, in the case of two wind farms.

“The electricity will not be for us and we don’t know what will happen later (once the wind farm is installed). That is why we have our doubts,” said Miguel.

People in Yucatán do not want to replicate the “Oaxaca model”. That is the southern state which has the largest number of wind farms, which have drawn many accusations of unfair treatment, land dispossession and lack of free, prior and informed consent.

“The authorities want to do this by all means, they are just trying to get these projects approved,” said Canmex.

González criticised the government for failing to require assessments. “We have asked for them and the government has responded that there aren’t any. The community response to the projects will depend on their level of awareness and social organisation. Some communities will react too late, when the project is already underway,” he said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims/feed/ 0
Energy Access Builds Inclusive Economies and Resilient Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities/#comments Thu, 16 Feb 2017 11:34:56 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148974 More girls in rural Bihar, India are going to school after mini-grid-powered household lights give mothers and children two extra hours of evening work and study time. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

More girls in rural Bihar, India are going to school after mini-grid-powered household lights give mothers and children two extra hours of evening work and study time. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Feb 16 2017 (IPS)

Jaipal Hembrum runs three one-man home enterprises – a bicycle repair shop, a tiny food stall and a tailoring unit in Kautuka, a remote village in eastern India. Sewing recycled clothes into mattresses late into the evening, the 38-year-old father of three girls says two light bulbs fed by a solar power system have changed his life.

Given the trajectory of development India is currently pursuing, energy access for its rural population could bring dramatic economic improvement. Yet 237 million people — a fifth of its 1.3 billion people, many of them in remote villages with few livelihood options — do not have any access to it.The challenge India faces is how to meet its energy requirements while also meeting its emission reduction commitment to the global climate deal.

The Delhi-based research organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) stipulates that if even half of households deemed electrified through the national power grid are not receiving the guaranteed six hours uninterrupted supply, the number of people who are electricity-poor in India totals 650 million.

In this scenario, renewable energy-based mini-grids, particularly in remote villages, are considered the best option to manage local household and commercial energy demand efficiently by generating power at the source of consumption.

This is being proven true by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Smart Power for Rural Development (SPRD) initiative in two of India’s poorest states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where 16 and 36 percent of households respectively are electrified. In India, 55 percent rural households have energy access, often of unreliable quality.

Started in 2014, the SPRD project has helped set up close to 100 mini-grid plants, covering the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and lately, in Jharkhand too. According to Rockefeller Foundation sources, these plants are serving a customer base of around 38,000 people. Over 6,500 households are benefitting, along with 3,800 shops and businesses, and over 120 institutions, telecom towers and micro-enterprises.

Over 2014 – 2017, the Rockefeller Foundation aims to make a difference to 1,000 energy-poor villages in India, benefitting around a million rural people. For this effort, the Foundation has committed 75 million dollars, partnering and funding Smart Power India (SPI) a new entity designed to work closely with a wide range of stakeholders who help scale-up the market for off-grid energy.

Jaipal Hembrum stitches old clothes mattresses in the evening by the light of a solar-powered bulb. The 50 dollars a day he earns is kept aside for schooling and marriages of his three daughters. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Jaipal Hembrum stitches old clothes mattresses in the evening by the light of a solar-powered bulb. The 50 dollars a day he earns is kept aside for schooling and marriages of his three daughters. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

What can mini-grids can do? Plenty

A recent evaluation of the mini-grids’ impact on communities they serve in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh already show a broad range of economic, social and environmental benefits.

Entrepreneurship and new businesses have grown, with 70 percent existing micro-businesses reporting increased number of costumers after connecting to the mini-grids and 80 percent planned to expand.

Nine in 10 household users said their children’s daily study time has increased by two hours since they got the lights. Women said they had increased mobility after dark and theft cases had fallen. Use of kerosene and diesel has fallen dramatically — to virtually zero, according to Khanna.

Micro-businesses like cyber cafes, fuel stations, mobile and fan repair shops, banks, schools and hospitals are the fastest growing commercial customer section of mini-grids constructed under Smart Power India.

In Shivpura village of Uttar Pradesh, where TARA Urja, a small energy service company (ESCO), started providing reliable electricity from a 30-KW solar plant, Sandeep Jaiswal set up a water purification processor in 2015. In just over a month he was rushing 1,200 litres of water on his new mini-truck to 40 customers. TARA, also a social business incubator, has financially supported Jaiswal with 530 dollars, in return for a one-year contract to source electricity from TARA.

Smart Power India supports the development of rural micro-enterprises through loans, community engagement and partnerships with larger companies with rural value chains, for instance, city malls that source vegetables from rural farms.

India confronts a demographic youth ‘bulge’ with 64 percent in the working age group in 2020, requiring 10 million new jobs every year in the coming decade. Using green mini-grids to create rural livelihoods can also reduce urban migration.

Innovating a business model that propels construction of mini-grids

Mini-grids are a decentralized system providing a renewable energy-based electricity generator with a capacity of 10 kilowatts or more, with a target consumer group it supplies through a stand-alone distribution network.

The sustainability of private companies in the rural power supply sector depends on generating sufficient revenue long-term. To make it profitable for smaller-scale ESCOs to bring electricity to rural parts of the developing world, the Smart Power model ensures fast-growing sectors with significant energy needs such as telecom towers in rural areas, to provide steady revenue. In return, the ESCOs provide contractual guarantee of reliable power supply to the towers.

“There is an opportunity to catalyze the telecommunication and off-grid energy sectors. Currently cell phone towers in rural areas are often powered by expensive diesel generators and companies are looking for cheaper alternatives, thereby creating the possibility for a strong anchor,” says Ashvin Dayal, Managing Director, Asia, of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Telecom towers — by becoming the ‘anchor’ customers – help make ESCOs bankable. They then can expand supply into rural household lighting and local enterprises.

Government figures say 2 billion litres of diesel is annually consumed by the 350,000  existing telecom towers in India, including those in remote rural regions. The challenge India faces is how to meet its energy requirements without compromising environmental sustainability, while meeting its emission reduction commitment to the global climate deal.

Solar power cost per unit has fallen in India to 0.045 cents, which makes it increasingly feasible to shift to renewable powered mini-grids, saving substantial subsidies spent on fossil fuels. The government in 2016 decided to construct 10,000 mini-grids in the next five years of 500 megawatt (MW) capacity, but this is clearly not enough, say experts.

India has a potential for 748,990 MW of solar power. Fourteen states, including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, receive irradiance above the annual global average of 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day.

Around the world, approximately 1.3 billion people lack access to reliable and affordable means of electricity without which, growing their incomes, improving food security and health, educating children, accessing key information services becomes a major challenge. Energy access is critical to achieving several UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities/feed/ 0
Corruption Brings Down an Empire: Odebrecht in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/corruption-brings-down-an-empire-odebrecht-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corruption-brings-down-an-empire-odebrecht-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/corruption-brings-down-an-empire-odebrecht-in-brazil/#comments Thu, 16 Feb 2017 00:29:24 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148966 The American Airlines Arena, a stadium and entertainment complex in Miami, Florida, is one of the many projects carried out by Odebrecht in the United States, where prosecutors have begun to produce figures reflecting the scope of the company’s corruption. Credit: Odebrecht

The American Airlines Arena, a stadium and entertainment complex in Miami, Florida, is one of the many projects carried out by Odebrecht in the United States, where prosecutors have begun to produce figures reflecting the scope of the company’s corruption. Credit: Odebrecht

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 16 2017 (IPS)

People in Brazil have been overwhelmed by the flood of news stories about the huge web of corruption woven by the country’s biggest construction company, Odebrecht, which is active in dozens of fields and countries.

The business empire built by three generations of the Odebrecht family is falling apart after three years of investigation by the Lava Jato (car wash) operation launched by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office in Brazil, which is investigating the corruption that diverted millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for major public works contracts from the state-run oil giant Petrobras.The business group had created a specialised bribe department. According to U.S. justice authorities, every dollar “invested” in bribes produced 12 dollars in contracts.

Marcelo Odebrecht, who headed the company from 2008 to 2015, was arrested in June 2015 and was initially sentenced to 19 years in prison.

In October he and the company reached plea bargain deals to cooperate with the investigation. A total of 77 former and present Odebrecht executives provided over 900 sworn statements to Lava Jato prosecutors, causing a political earthquake in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

In December, the U.S. Justice Department revealed that Odebrecht allegedly spent 1.04 billion dollars in bribes to politicians and government officials in ten Latin American and two African countries, including Brazil, which accounted for 57.7 per cent of the total.

The United States is carrying out its own investigation, which could end in criminal convictions, since several Odebrecht subsidiaries, such as the petrochemical company Braskem, operate there, and their shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

That is also happening in the case of Petrobras, implicated in the corruption scandal and under investigation at the initiative of shareholders in the U.S.

The U.S. and Switzerland, where banks were allegedly used to funnel bribes or launder money, signed cooperation agreements with legal authorities in Brazil, as part of the ongoing offensive against corruption in Latin America’s giant.

The impacts are overwhelming. In Brazil, the revelations about Odebrecht are expected to provoke a tsunami in the political system. Two hundred parliamentarians and government officials may have received bribes, including senior members of the current administration and legislature.

The business group had created a specialised bribe department. According to U.S. justice authorities, every dollar “invested” in bribes produced 12 dollars in contracts.

That estimate is based on more than 100 projects carried out or in progress in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, plus Angola and Mozambique in Africa.

Part of the Caracas valley seen from the San Agustín Metrocable, one of the many works assigned to Odebrecht in Venezuela during the government of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), when the Brazilian company became the biggest construction firm in the country. Credit: Raúl Límaco/IPS

Part of the Caracas valley seen from the San Agustín Metrocable, one of the many works assigned to Odebrecht in Venezuela during the government of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), when the Brazilian company became the biggest construction firm in the country. Credit: Raúl Límaco/IPS

The arrest warrant issued by a court in Peru against former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), who has been living in the United States, and allegations implicating current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, are just the tip of the iceberg.

What was revealed by Odebrecht executives and former executives, as well as former directors of different departments, such as external affairs, infrastructure, industrial engineering or logistics, has not yet been made public.

New figures involving alleged bribes are expected to come out over the next few months, added to those already disclosed in the United States, including 599 million dollars distributed in Brazil, 98 million in Venezuela, 92 million in the Dominican Republic, 59 million in Panama and 50 million in Angola.

In Peru the total revealed so far is “only” 29 million dollars since 2005. The sum is small, considering that for the Southern Peru pipeline – still under construction – alone, the projected investments amount to seven billion dollars. The Peruvian government has decided to terminate the contract with Odebrecht for the project.

Besides Odebrecht, the Inter-Oceanic Highway, which runs across southern Peru from the Brazilian border to Pacific Ocean ports, is being built by three other Brazilian construction firms – Camargo Correa, Andrade Gutierrez and Queiroz Galvão – which are also under investigation for suspicion of corruption.

During the presidency of Alan Garcia (2006-2011), Peru and Brazil signed an agreement for the construction of five large hydropower plants in Peru, which was cancelled by his successor, Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), who, however, is suspected of receiving three million dollars from Brazil for his election campaign.

Odebrecht, which has a concession to manage Chaglla, the third biggest hydroelectric plant in Peru, with a capacity of 462 MW, was to be the main construction company in charge of building the new plants.

The growing wave of local and industry scandals sheds light on the reach of Odrebrecht’s tentacles. Braskem is accused of distributing 250 million dollars in bribes to sustain its leadership position in the Americas in the production of thermoplastic resins, with 36 plants spread across Brazil, Mexico, the United States, as well as Germany.

The empire, born in 1944 as a simple construction company, started diversifying in the last half century into activities as diverse as the sugarcane business, the development of military technologies or oil services, logistics or shipbuilding companies.

In the early 1970s the group built the Petrobras headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, sealing a connection that led to the current disaster which destroyed the reputation of the company that was so proud of its “Entrepreneurial Technology”, a set of ethical and operational business principles to which its fast expansion was attributed.

But Odebrecht’s success could actually be attributed to a strategic vision and a modus operandi that proved successful until the Lava Jato operation. Part of its methods included being “friends with the king”.

Angola is the best example. The current chairman of the company’s board of directors, Emilio Odebrecht, son of founder Norberto Odebrecht, meets every year with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda, to discuss projects for the country.

Officially, what they do is assess the projects carried out by the company and define new goals.

The explanation given for the special treatment received by Odebrecht is that it has such a strong presence in vital infrastructure works in the country in areas such as reconstruction, energy, water, highways and urbanisation.

Odebrecht has great prestige in Angola, since it built the Capanda hydroelectric plant on the Kwanza River between 1984 and 2007, facing delays and risks due to the 1975-2002 civil war. Now it is building the biggest plant in Angola, Lauca, also on the Kwanza River, with a capacity to produce 2,067 MW.

The conglomerate is ubiquitous in the country, managing the Belas Mall – an upscale shopping centre in the south of Luanda, Angola’s capital – implementing the water plan to supply the capital, developing the first part of the industrial district in the outskirts of Luanda, building housing developments and playing a key role in saving the national sugarcane industry.

In Cuba it also led the strategic project of expanding the Mariel Port and managing a sugar plant, to help boost the recovery of this ailing sector of the Caribbean nation’s economy.

In other countries, such as Panama, Peru and Venezuela, the number of works and projects in the hands of the Brazilian conglomerate is impressive, in fields as diverse as urban transport, roads and bridges, ports, power plants, fossil fuels, and even agriculture.

But that cycle of expansion came to an end. Heavily indebted, with a plummeting turnover and no access to loans, not even from Brazilian development banks, and carrying the stigma of corruption, the conglomerate is trying to cooperate with justice authorities in the involved countries, seeking agreements to allow it to keep operating and eventually recover.

Now it remains to be discovered whether Odebrecht is “too big to go bankrupt,” as was said of some banks at the start of the global crisis that broke out in 2008.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/corruption-brings-down-an-empire-odebrecht-in-brazil/feed/ 0