Inter Press ServiceFood Sustainability – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 21 May 2018 13:29:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 10:17:58 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155846 Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’ For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate […]

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security - Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY, May 21 2018 (IPS)

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’

For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed.

Tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food. As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security

The government’s role should be restricted to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring open trade and investment policies. In such a business-friendly environment, the private sector will thrive. Accordingly, pro-active government interventions or agricultural development policy would be a mistake, preventing markets from functioning properly, it is claimed.

The possibility of market failure is denied by this view. Social disruption, due to the dispossession of smallholders, or livelihoods being undermined in other ways, simply cannot happen.

 

Flawed recipes

This approach was imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s through structural adjustment programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs), contributing to their ‘lost decades’. In Africa, the World Bank’s influential Berg Report claimed that Africa’s supposed comparative advantage lay in agriculture, and its potential would be best realized by leaving things to the market.

If only the state would stop ‘squeezing’ agriculture through marketing boards and other price distortions, agricultural producers would achieve export-led growth spontaneously. Almost four decades later, Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential.

Examining the causes of this dismal outcome, a FAO report concluded that “arguments in support of further liberalization have tended to be based on analytical studies which either fail to recognize, or are unable to incorporate insights from the agricultural development literature”.

In fact, agricultural producers in many developing countries face widespread market failures, reducing their surpluses needed to invest in higher value activities. The FAO report also noted that “diversification into higher value added activities in cases of successful agriculture-led growth…require significant government intervention at early stages of development to alleviate the pervasive nature of market failures”.

 

Avoidable Haitian tragedy

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, former US President Bill Clinton apologized for destroying its rice production by forcing the island republic to import subsidized American rice, exacerbating greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

For nearly two centuries after independence in 1804, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice until the early 1980s. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier turned to the BWIs in the 1970s, US companies quickly pushed for agricultural trade liberalization, upending earlier food security concerns.

US companies’ influence increased after the 1986 coup d’état brought General Henri Namphy to power. When the elected ‘populist’ Aristide Government met with farmers’ associations and unions to find ways to save Haitian rice production, the International Monetary Fund opposed such policy interventions.

Thus, by the 1990s, the tariff on imported rice was cut by half. Food aid from the late 1980s to the early 1990s further drove food prices down, wreaking havoc on Haitian rice production, as more costly, unsubsidized domestic rice could not compete against cheaper US rice imports.

From being self-sufficient in rice, sugar, poultry and pork, impoverished Haiti became the world’s fourth-largest importer of US rice and the largest Caribbean importer of US produced food. Thus, by 2010, it was importing 80% of rice consumed in Haiti, and 51% of its total food needs, compared to 19% in the 1970s.

 

Agricultural subsidies

While developing countries have been urged to dismantle food security and agricultural support policies, the developed world increased subsidies for its own agriculture, including food production. For example, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supported its own farmers and food production for over half a century.

This has been crucial for ensuring food security and safety in Europe after the Second World War. For Phil Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner, “The CAP is at the root of a vibrant agri-food sector, which provides for 44 million jobs in the EU. We should use this potential more”.

Despite less support in some OECD countries, farmers still receive prices about 10% above international market levels on average. An OECD policy brief observed, “the benefits from agriculture for developing countries could be increased substantially if many OECD member countries reformed their agricultural policies. Currently, agriculture is the area on which OECD countries are creating most trade distortions, by subsidising production and exports and by imposing tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade”.

 

Double standards

If rich countries can have agricultural policies, developing countries should also be allowed to adopt appropriate policies to support agriculture, to address not only hunger and malnutrition, but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, as well as unsustainable production and consumption.

After all, tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food.

As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security.

Hence, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to agricultural development, requiring the same rules to apply to all, with no regard for different circumstances, would be grossly unfair. Worse, it would also worsen the food insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment experienced by most African and other developing countries.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.

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Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 05:14:37 +0000 Doaa Abdel-Motaal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155751 Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs […]

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By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs to create employment in rural areas while protecting forests and wildlife, improving landscapes, and preventing climate change through lower food production emissions. Well-functioning food systems are also considered essential for social stability and conflict prevention. In fact many politicians today go as far as to argue that food systems need to thrive so as to stem rural-to-urban migration and the cross-border flow of desperate people fleeing food insecure nations.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal

This sounds like a tall order, sufficient to make of food and agriculture an economic sector apart. Add to this mix that some want the agricultural sector to deliver energy in the form biomass and biofuels, and not just food, and you seem to have an almost impossible set of goals.

But let us take a minute to work through all of this. Is there any economic sector of which we do not expect abundance, safety, employment generation and environmental protection? Do we not expect, for example, when our cars are manufactured that there be a sufficient number of them to meet demand, that they be safe and generate employment, and that they not pollute either during their production or use? Do we not expect when cars or other manufactured products are produced, that our economies grow while delivering greater peace and security in the process?

The food and agricultural sector requires exactly what all other economic sectors do. Beyond government intervention to impose food safety and environmental regulations, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for absolutely any economic sector to thrive. This infrastructure includes physical infrastructure such as roads and highways, but above all legal infrastructure too. By this I mean the rule of law, in the form of a functioning court system to which investors can have quick and easy recourse, and open trade and investment policies. This legal infrastructure is what allows non-governmental actors like the private sector to throw their hat into the ring.

But there is something about food that makes any discussion of it emotional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are chronically undernourished. This figure is as unacceptable as it is alarming, and is certainly cause for immediate action. However, what this number does not call for is a misdiagnosis.

An emotional response to what is a troubling reality is the last thing we need. Doubling down on government intervention to pick winners and losers in the food sector, or to create an ‘industrial policy’ for agriculture, would be a mistake. It would prevent market signals from functioning properly. In fact, the answer to current food insecurity is to double down on economic growth, pursuing it even more aggressively.

Clearly some social protection is needed as this transition occurs. While people do not die of a lack of cars, they do die of a lack of food. But social protection must be managed carefully. The safety nets must be targeted to those in need, must not create complacency and slow the pace of economic reform, and, above all, food aid must not grow into an industry of its own, with the associated vested interests that would make it impossible to dismantle.

I have worked on international trade issues for decades where I have watched some of the world’s most developed nations refuse to reduce their agricultural subsidies and escalating tariffs that inflict daily harm on the developing world’s agricultural sector. A beggar thy neighbour approach. In the same arena, I have watched many developing countries refuse to open their markets to imported food, making food more expensive for the poorest segments of their population. These are all examples of the unfortunate application of an industrial policy to food.

I have also worked extensively in the area of food aid. While I have seen this aid come to the rescue of millions of people in dire need, I have also seen it create dependence and delay desperately needed economic reforms. I now work on polar issues, where I am watching scientists in Antarctica harvest their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to cultivate fresh food where we would have previously thought impossible.

My message is this, let us apply simple economics to food and agriculture and not invent new industrial policy recipes for this sector every day. Let us also keep a watchful eye on where technology can take us. Research and development may well take this sector towards a very different future.

*Doaa Abdel-Motaal is former Executive Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, former Chief of Staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the World Trade Organization. She is the author of “Antarctica, the Battle for the Seventh Continent.”

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Women Farmers in Peru Bring Healthy Meals to Local Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 22:50:27 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155498 Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon. “We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because […]

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Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

By Mariela Jara
CHULUCANAS, Peru, Apr 26 2018 (IPS)

Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.

“We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because in today’s times we have forgotten what it means to eat healthy, nutritious food, and everything is fried or sweets, which is why there is malnutrition and obesity,” one of the women, Rosa Rojas, who has an organic garden in the community of Piedra de Toro, told IPS.

She is one of 25 women farmers trained in agro-ecological techniques by the non-governmental Flora Tristán Centre for Peruvian Women. They are engaged in small-scale agriculture in the valleys and highlands of Morropón, one of the eight provinces in the department of Piura, whose capital is Chulucanas."I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community. With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?" -- Jacqueline Sandoval

The department of Piura was hit between December 2016 and May 2017 by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a complex weather pattern resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

During that period, heavy rains and flooding affected more than one million people, left 230,000 without homes, and destroyed 1,200 hectares of crops, according to the governmental National Information System for Disaster Prevention and Response.

Rojas, 53, remembers those terrible months when many families were torn apart with the departure of parents or older siblings, forced to go abroad to make a living and to support those left behind in their communities.

“Women were left in charge of the homes and the plots of land, worrying about how to put food on the table for our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We had to eat the beans that we had kept for seed, and supporting each other among all the neighbours, we have recovered little by little to be able to plant again on the land that had been washed clean by the rains,” she said.

Almost a year later, she has replanted her vegetables, including coriander, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, yellow peppers and cucumbers, using organic fertiliser that she makes herself.

“My family’s diet is enriched with these healthy and nutritious organic fruits and vegetables. My community is waking up to what is natural food, we are learning the importance of eating vegetables daily, and that is what we are sharing at schools with teachers, mothers, fathers and students,” she said.

Yaqueline Sandoval, 42, a farmer in the community of Algodonal, in the neighbouring municipality of Santa Catalina de Mossa, is also recovering from the ravages of the coastal El Niño.

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women's Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru's northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru’s northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

She says she has resumed planting in her organic garden, together with her family, where the star product is the cowpea bean or black-eyed pea, which they call the “bean of hope” as it is ready for eating in a short time.

“Just 40 days after planning we are eating our beans. It is a very generous plant, it feeds us and it is a seed for the future because it adapts to different conditions and is very strong, something vital now we are facing climate change,” Sandoval told IPS.

Changing school habits

This is one of the inputs that the farmers use to create “healthy lunch boxes,” for students to carry their meals to eat in the public primary and secondary schools in the urban centres of the municipalities.

The lunches include meals prepared with local produce, to replace what schoolchildren were buying in the kiosks at their schools, such as cookies, crackers and chocolate, sugary drinks and other industrially processed sweets.

“We make tortillas with our vegetables and beans, we prepare passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) soft drinks, and we accompany it with a banana,” Sandoval said, describing what the children are now carrying in their lunch boxes.

“They are healthy and nutritious fruits of our land, free of chemicals, that nourish and do not damage the children’s health,” she said proudly about the initiative she is carrying out with other mothers of schoolchildren at the local “Horacio Zevallos” school.

This experience began last year with talks in the high school classrooms on the benefits of a healthy diet and the negative effects on their bodies and health of fast food or junk food.

“There was so much interest that this year in the Science, Technology and Environment course they are working in a small garden that they have set up on the premises of the school, where they are planting lettuce, carrots and other vegetables,” she added.

Sandoval, who considers herself an activist and entrepreneur, said agroecology is a tool that has allowed her to improve her relationship with nature, to make better use of the soil, water and seeds, and consequently, to improve her diet and health.

“I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community,” she said. “With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?”

Sandoval’s concern is well-founded.

The governmental Observatory of Nutrition and the Study of Overweight and Obesity indicates that more than 53 percent of Peru’s population has excess body fat and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranks the country as the third in Latin America in terms of overweight and obesity.

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

For its part, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has warned that one in five children under ten is already experiencing this problem due to the combination of factors such as inadequate diets and low levels of physical activity. And in Piura, three out of ten children under five suffer from anemia.

Eating healthy and nutritious food in a region rich in biodiversity could seem normal. But it is still a pending objective due to a lack of public investment in small-scale agriculture, training for rural populations and attention to the problem of water shortages.

In this context, taking advantage of traditional knowledge and using new know-how acquired in training and thanks to technical assistance puts women farmers in a better position to face the permanent challenges of climate change in order to achieve food security.

“Knowing about agroecology helps us use water more efficiently, irrigate our crops without wasting, replace crops that need a lot of irrigation, and choose beans that adapt to droughts. This knowledge is important for our food security,” said Escolástica Juárez.

Juàrez, a 57-year-old farmer, lives in the village of Chapica, in the municipality of Chulucanas, where the temperature reaches 37 degrees Celsius.

She has taken the healthy lunchbox initiative to the local “Colegio de Fátima” school.

“The school principal has called us back to continue with the talks this year,” she told IPS. “My grandson tells me that more of his classmates are eating healthy meals, it’s a matter of persistence, it takes time to bet families to change bad habits but it can be learned.”

She added that she feels grateful for the “bean of hope”, which like other farmers she has learned to cook in different ways, based on knowledge they have shared among themselves.

“We can eat them fresh from the pod, store them to cook later, and select some for seed. Even if there is a shortage of water, we know that it will feed us. We return the plant’s generosity sharing what we know with other neighbours and at the schools,” Juárez said.

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Food Is the Answer: Perugia International Journalism Festivalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/food-answer-perugia-international-journalism-festival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-answer-perugia-international-journalism-festival http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/food-answer-perugia-international-journalism-festival/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2018 14:59:00 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155266 The twelfth International Journalism Festival on April 12-15 has drawn 710 speakers from 50 different countries, becoming the biggest journalism festival in Europe. A panel discussion titled “End poverty, protect the planet, ensure prosperity for all? Food is the answer” took place on the opening day in the Sala del Dottorato hall in the center […]

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Food Is the Answer: Perugia International Journalism Festival

Credit: Riccardo Gregori – Penumbria Studio #ijf18

By IPS World Desk
PERUGIA, Italy, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The twelfth International Journalism Festival on April 12-15 has drawn 710 speakers from 50 different countries, becoming the biggest journalism festival in Europe.

A panel discussion titled “End poverty, protect the planet, ensure prosperity for all? Food is the answer” took place on the opening day in the Sala del Dottorato hall in the center of Perugia, held under the auspices of the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN).

Lucio Caracciolo, President and Director of MacroGeo and Limes, presented a report prepared by the BCFN Foundation in collaboration with MacroGeo and CMCC (Centro euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici). The report “Food & Migration: Understanding the geopolitical nexus in the Euro-Mediterranean” , is a research tool “to explore through a geopolitical perspective, flows and trends of the current and future nexus of migration and food in specific areas, particularly the Mediterranean countries.”

Caracciolo emphasized the deep links between migration flows and food security in the Mediterranean region and how addressing the latter could be part of the solution to the former.

Luca di Leo, Head of Communications at BCFN, highlighted the crucial importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN, shedding light on the clear linkages between the 17 SDGs and food choices.

The Director General of IPS Farhana Haque Rahman and IPS Data Analyst Maged Srour participated as panellists.

Food systems are facing the enormous challenge of feeding increasingly growing and urbanised populations generally demanding a more environmentally intensive diet, while restoring and preserving ecosystems for the health of the planet.


Haque Rahman spoke about the urgent need to enhance the capacity of developing country journalists for them to be able to write analytical commentary to enhance awareness of communities on food sustainability and climate change and influence the food choices of the general public while also drawing attention of decision makers to take the right measure on policies.

She highlighted media capacity building and training undertaken by IPS on the SDGs in both developed and developing countries. The IPS Director-General shed light on the importance of giving access to ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) to poor farmers to enable them to better manage planting and marketing their products.

Maged Srour explained the nexus between water and security (the latter in terms of geopolitical security). Srour shared data on water insecurity, specifically in the Mediterranean region, and went on to explain how the increase in variability of water resources also affects the way countries interact.

“Most of the water in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region is actually shared by two or more nations. So, at the moment we also have climate change hitting this area and consequently an increase in water stress. This obviously increases tensions among those states,” he said.

“Climate change, in combination with the increasing population of the world, is definitely a source of instability which could exacerbate migration flows, and could become fertile grounds for extremism and for conflict,” he warned.

The Mediterranean region was at the heart of the panel discussions with most of the speakers discussing the nexus of food security, water security, climate change, migration and geopolitical security in the region.

Ludovica Principato, a researcher at the Barilla Foundation, presented data and in depth analyses on the Food Sustainability Index, which was developed in collaboration between the BCFN Foundation and the Economist Intelligence Unit, to promote knowledge on food sustainability. The index is a global study that measures facts on nutrition, sustainable agriculture and food waste, collecting data from 34 countries across the world.

“Food systems,” said Principato, “are facing the enormous challenge of feeding increasingly growing and urbanised populations generally demanding a more environmentally intensive diet, while restoring and preserving ecosystems for the health of the planet.”

IPS Director General Farhana Haque Rahman spoke about IPS’s work since it was founded in 1964, especially capacity building activities across the world to raise awareness of communities on topics such as food sustainability and climate change. She shed light on the importance of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) in the enhancement of sustainable farming and in the overall communication among smallholder farmers to become more productive and consequently climb out of poverty.

Laura Garzoli presented an innovative project which won the 2017 BCFN YES! (Young Earth Solutions) award granted by the BCFN Foundation to encourage innovative projects in the field of food sustainability.

Garzoli’s project, YES!BAT, “promotes Integrated Pest Management strategy to enhance ecosystem services provided by bats in rice agroecosystems”. Employing bat boxes in rice fields, it encourages insect-eating bats into areas where there are few roosting sites.

For those who missed the conference, it was live-streamed and is available here:

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UN’s Zero Hunger Goal Remains a Daunting Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 05:29:11 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155232 The United Nations, which is battling some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, still remains focused on one of its equally daunting undertakings: how to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. But the latest figures released in a joint study by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture […]

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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, which is battling some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, still remains focused on one of its equally daunting undertakings: how to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.

UN’s zero hunger challenge.

But the latest figures released in a joint study by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) highlight the gravity of the situation just last year alone when some 124 million people in 51 countries faced acute food insecurity — 11 million more than in 2016 (even while the number of people living on the edge of starvation and hunger remains at 815 million worldwide).

The 2017 increase, according to the ‘Global Report on Food Crises’, is largely attributable to new or intensified conflicts and insecurity in Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Yemen.

Prolonged drought conditions have also triggered poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, both in eastern and southern Africa.

And UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres warned last January that hunger is on the rise the world over, with Africa registering the highest rates.

The Secretary General said agricultural and livestock productivity in Africa was under threat largely due to conflict and climate change. He added, “climatic shocks, environmental degradation, crop and livestock price collapse and conflict are all interlinked”.

Still, the United Nations seems determined to work towards its targeted goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. But how feasible is this?

Asked about the impediments facing that goal, Dr Marta Antonelli, Research Programme Manager at the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), told IPS reducing the number of chronically undernourished people in Africa is one of the most urgent challenges that the world needs to face.

She pointed out that food insecurity, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, is related to a variety of interconnected factors, such as extreme poverty, un-diversified livelihoods, weak institutions and governance, and, especially, adverse climatic conditions and social conflicts.

“Climate change and severe extreme weather events could have a tremendous impact on crop yields, livestock, fish stocks and therefore affect farmer’s incomes (especially subsistence smallholder farmers) who become more vulnerable to food insecurity.”

Dr Antonelli said measures to tackle hunger in Africa include the harmonisation of governance of food security, sustainability and nutrition; building institutional responses to reduce extreme poverty and inequalities; supporting more efficient agricultural systems; ICTs and technology innovation.

Additionally, it also includes supporting farmers to diversify livelihoods and reduce vulnerability; restoring land and increasing integrated land and water management to improve harvests; identification of strategies for building resilience to shocks through adaptation to climate change, institutional response mechanisms; and finally monitoring and reporting of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through generation and sharing of reliable data.

The BCFN Foundation, a non-profit, independent think tank working for food sustainability, addresses today’s major food related issues with a multidisciplinary approach — from the environmental, economic and social perspective. That goal is to secure the wellbeing and health of people and the planet.

Asked what role BCFN can play, as part of its contribution to a resolution of the food crisis, Dr Antonelli said the coexistence of hunger and obesity, the overexploitation of natural resources and food loss and waste: these are the three paradoxes identified by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation.

According to BCFN, it recognises three imbalances that beset the global food system: food waste (nearly 1/3 of world food production), hunger in the face of epidemic levels of obesity (2.1 billion people impacted), and unsustainable agricultural systems (1/3 of world grain production is used for animal feed, foodstuffs are used for first generation biofuels instead of feeding people.

Dr Antonelli said: “Since 2009, we use a multidisciplinary approach to study and analyse the relationship between food and scientific, economic, social and environmental factors. Through research, dissemination and public engagement, our contribution to shift towards more sustainable food systems includes the Nutritional and Environmental Double Pyramid, the Milan Protocol, the publication of Eating Planet.”

Moreover, in 2016, BCFN launched the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition. The FSI analyses, ranks and maps 34 countries worldwide on a range of indicators, from food waste per capita to agricultural biodiversity and CO2 emissions from agriculture, to determine the sustainability of their food systems.

“We fund young research through the ‘BCFN YES!’, a contest open to PhD candidates and young research fellows around the world. The award is given in recognition and support of innovative projects on food and sustainability. We also believe that involving media and journalists is also pivotal to shed a light simultaneously on local and global food sustainability, inform people on supply chains and inform their choices.”

For this reason, the BCFN launched in 2016 the Food Sustainability Media Award, which invites journalists, bloggers, freelancers and individuals to submit work, either published or unpublished, on food safety, sustainability, agriculture and nutrition. (www.goodfoodmediaaward.org).

BCFN has also developed a series of educational programmes for school children and the MOOC on “Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective” realised in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Mediterranean with SDG Academy and The University of Siena, with a major educational purpose.

It consists of a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, quizzes, discussion forums and deals with environmental and climate-related challenges basing upon Mediterranean experience, how sustainable farming systems is being utilized as a roadmap for positive action and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.

Asked about the importance of food sustainability– including eliminating waste and reducing obesity – as a key factor in reaching the 2030 goal, Dr Antonelli said the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs establish a global set of objectives for all countries in the world to be achieved by the year 2030.

SDGs range from the eradication of poverty and hunger, to the need to act for climate mitigation, to the promotion of education and gender equality, to preserving natural resources such as water in sufficient quantity and quality for human needs.

Food access, utilisation, availability, quality and sustainability are at the core of all SDGs and represent a pre-requisite to implement the 2030 Agenda in all countries in the world.

Agriculture accounts for one third of global GhG emissions, cover 38% of the world’s land surface (an area still in expansion), accounts for 70% of water withdrawals and 80% of desertification.

The number of hungry people, she pointed out, is rising again and exceeded 815 million in 2016; overweight and nutrition challenges affect two billion people both in the North and the South of the world; and about one third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or is wasted.

“We cannot transform our world without fixing the food system first.”

Asked about the countries making the most progress in the Food Sustainability Index, she said the FSI Index shows that, when defining food sustainability by looking at country’s performance in sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food loss and waste, the top scoring countries are France, Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary.

The presence or absence of sound and well-implemented policies is fundamental in shaping the score of the countries analysed. Generally speaking, high human development is moderately correlated with higher sustainability of food systems.

The analysis performed in 2017 on the Mediterranean countries revealed that the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries are those struggling the most in achieving sustainable food system, especially in the area of food loss and waste, whereas they perform relatively better across the nutritional challenges indicators.

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High and Dry: Can We Fix the World’s Water Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/high-dry-can-fix-worlds-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=high-dry-can-fix-worlds-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/high-dry-can-fix-worlds-water-crisis/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 23:01:41 +0000 Mxolisi Ncube http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154913 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22.

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While Cape Town may be in the spotlight, more and more urban centres, especially in Africa, are facing or on the brink of a similar crisis. Credit: Bigstock

While Cape Town may be in the spotlight, more and more urban centres, especially in Africa, are facing or on the brink of a similar crisis. Credit: Bigstock

By Mxolisi Ncube
JOHANNESBURG, Mar 20 2018 (IPS)

April 12 is expected to be the infamous “Day Zero” in South Africa’s second largest city of Cape Town, a tourist hub which attracts millions of visitors every year.

Just last year, the city reported a record-breaking increase in its tourist arrivals, with a slew of attractions that include Table Mountain Cableway, Robben Island and Cape Point — overall, about 28 percent more visitors than the previous year. Tourism provides more than 300,000 jobs in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, but they could soon be under threat as a water crisis threatens to put paid the city’s booming service industry.“In some places there is too little water, in some there is too much, and almost everywhere the water is dirtier than we would want. " --Jens Berggren of SIWI

Among a slew of new rules as taps began to close, residents are now being forced to limit their water use to as little as 50 liters a day — in other words, bathe for a few seconds and flush the toilets once a day — or face stiff penalties

Patricia de Lille, the mayor of South Africa’s troubled “Mother City”, recently warned that the time to beg residents to save water had elapsed, meaning the city would now force residents to comply. Businesses, including hotels, are also not being spared the stringent water rationing measures.

Sisa Ntshona, head of South Africa’s tourism marketing arm, recently told the press that although tourists were still welcome in Cape Town, they were expected to save water “like locals” due to the fast-drying of the city’s water sources, which stood at 19 percent of their total capacity last week, following months of droughts.

City experts warn that without a substantive amount of rain within the next few months, Cape Town could run out of water by July 9.

That would grossly affect South Africa’s economic prospects. Tourism contributes more than 3 billion dollars to the Western Cape’s coffers every year, according to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.

Population growth, drought and climate change are among the key causes of the water crisis, according to a report from Groundup, a joint project of Community Media Trust and the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Social Science Research, who state that since 1995 the city’s population has grown 79 percent, from about 2.4 million to an expected 4.3 million in 2018. Over the same period dam storage has increased by only 15 percent.

The Berg River Dam, which began storing water in 2007, has been Cape Town’s only significant addition to water storage infrastructure since 1995. Its 130,000 megalitre capacity is over 14 percent of the 898,000 megalitres that can be held in Cape Town’s large dams. Had it not been for good water consumption management by the City, the current crisis could have hit much earlier, adds the organisation.

Cape Town is in the middle of a drought, with decreased rainfall during the past two years for Theewaterskloof, the dam supplying more than half our water, adds the report.

While Cape Town may be in the global spotlight at the moment, the water crisis is not limited to the South African city, as more and more urban centres, especially in Africa, are facing or on the brink of a similar crisis.

The African non-governmental organization, the Water Project, estimates that at any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to clean water. The number rises to about 80 percent in developing countries.

Beyond natural causes and consumption levels, experts say that water waste, poor water conservation policies and lack of political goodwill are some of the main reasons behind the water crisis afflicting most major cities.

South Africa, for example, is losing 37 percent of its water supply through leaks across its many cities, according to a 2017 GreenCape market intelligence report.

“The main cause of water crises in urban centres, and in almost every place, is poor water management,” Steven Downey, Global Water Partnership Head of Communications, told IPS.

“Sure, droughts are bad, but they are not impossible to deal with. It takes a combination of planning, prevention, and mitigation, not waiting until the crisis actually happens. Global Water Partnership calls for action in three areas: participation (involve stakeholders in decision-making), integration (taking into account all sectors), and finance (provide money for infrastructure and for good governance of the resource),” he said.

Jens Berggren, the Director of Communications for the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), notes that there are several different types of water crises in urban centres across the world and in Africa.

“In some places there is too little water, in some there is too much and almost everywhere the water is dirtier than we would want. With so many different types of water challenges it is impossible pinpoint the main cause,” says Berggren, who also notes that mismanagement is one of the causes.

“On a very general level, the cause is that water is not being sufficiently well managed. In some places there is a lack of appropriate infrastructure, for example dams, treatment plants, boreholes, rainwater harvesting systems, pumps and pipes. In other places there is a lack of policies and/or of their enforcement resulting in poor service delivery, inefficient use, pollution, bad planning and/or implementation of projects. In many places, there is a lack of both governance and infrastructure.”

There is also increasing water variability, especially in the transition areas between wetter and dryer climate zones (very roughly around 10 degrees and 30 degrees north and south of the equator), adds Berggren.

There is also an increase in both the frequency and the intensity of extreme water and weather events, like downpours and droughts, increasing the need for both governance and infrastructure, while great inequality within urban areas in Africa and elsewhere — where some citizens are well served with and protected from water while others are struggling to get by on small and variable amounts of unsafe drinking water and get unsanitary floods when it rains — are also some of the causes.

Ways of alleviating the problem depend a lot on the local situation.

“Generally, improvements in governance and infrastructure need to go hand in hand, one without the other doesn’t work. The scope and size of the challenge also varies a lot,” Berggren said.

“In places with very unequal water situations, some citizens must be incentivized to reduce their water use while others are encouraged to increase theirs (in order to stay healthy),” adds the SIWI official, who says in some places supply and demand doesn’t match up over the year, for example during short but intense rainy seasons. That means different methods and techniques exist for storing water.

Where current demands exceed supplies, the possibilities for managing demand may include tiered pricing and expanding supply- transferring water from other basins, looking for new sources like ground- or rainwater, or treating “wastewater” for reuse. In view of the rising water variability, good water management will increasingly be about planning for the unexpected.

“There is a lot to be learned but also a lot to be taught. Experiences and knowledge from urban water management in Africa seems increasingly sought after. For example, water reuse was pioneered in Windhoek, Namibia, and there is a huge interest in how Cape Town has managed the current drought but also in how they managed to reduce the water intensity – per capita as well as per economic activity, of the city before that,” says Breggren.

“Once again, it is impossible to generalize, but a lesson that I think and hope is dawning on the western and northern parts of the world is that there has been overreliance on and overconfidence in infrastructure made of concrete and metal. Working with nature, e.g. avoiding floods by having spongy surfaces in and around cities, using so called green infrastructure or nature-based solutions is becoming more important. The key here is of course to know when to use what how and having governance structures (institutions, laws, guidelines, etc.) that allows and supports both kinds of infrastructure. I am sure that this is an area where African cities could both learn and lead the way.”

While Cape Town’s water problems have attracted international headlines, South Africa’s northern neighbor, Zimbabwe, has silently lived with a serious water crisis for more than two decades. Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, has for close to two decades struggled with water  purification problems that resulted in a serious outbreak of typhoid fever a few years ago.

The country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, is forced to ration its water supply almost every year, due to siltation in its supply dams, all located in the drought-stricken southern parts of the country.

A recent BBC report warned that 11 other cities in the world, which include Sao Paulo (Brazil), Cairo (Egypt) and Beijing China, could be headed to equally stormy waters. It would therefore, be fundamental for the city authorities to heed the advice from experts.

The post High and Dry: Can We Fix the World’s Water Crisis? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22.

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Water Scarcity: India’s Silent Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/water-scarcity-indias-silent-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-scarcity-indias-silent-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/water-scarcity-indias-silent-crisis/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2018 00:12:34 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154837 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22.

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Kottayam in the southern state of Kerala. India's water bodies and fresh water sources are threat from pollution, industrialization, human waste disposal and governmental neglect. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Kottayam in the southern state of Kerala. India's water bodies and fresh water sources are threat from pollution, industrialization, human waste disposal and governmental neglect. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Mar 16 2018 (IPS)

As Cape Town inches towards ‘Zero Hour’ set for July 15, 2018, the real threat of water scarcity is finally hitting millions of people worldwide. For on that day, the South African city’s 3.78 million citizens — rich and poor, young and old, men and women — will be forced to queue up with their jerry cans at public outlets for their quota of 25 litres of water per day.

Who knew things would come to such a sorry pass for the rich and beautiful metropolis, ironically lapped by the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans? An ominous cocktail of deficient rainfall, devastating droughts and poor planning, say conservationists, have made Cape Town the first major city to run out of fresh water.By 2040, there will be no drinking water in almost all of India.

The issue of water scarcity was first raised in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Since then, each year, March 22 is observed across the world to shine the spotlight on different water-related issues. The theme for World Water Day this year is — ‘Nature for Water’ — Exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

But even as the world is letting out a collective sigh for Cape Town, spare a thought for India. By 2040, there will be no drinking water in almost all of India. A UN report on water conservation published in March 2017 reveals that due to its unique geographical position in South Asia, the Indian sub-continent will face the brunt of the water crisis and India would be at the epicentre of this conflict.

By 2025, the report predicts, nearly 3.4 billion people worldwide will be living in ‘water-scarce’ countries and that the situation will become even more dire over the next 25 years.

With the planet’s second largest population at 1.3 billion (after China’s 1.4 billion), and expectant growth to reach 1.7 billion by 2050, India is struggling to provide safe, clean water to most of its populace. According to data from India’s Ministry of Water Resources, though the country hosts 18 percent of the world’s population, its share of total usable water resources is only 4 percent. Official data shows that in the past decade, annual per capita availability of water in the country has plummeted significantly.

If that isn’t scary enough, a glance at the World Bank’s latest statistics reveals the magnitude of the problem: 163 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water; 210 m have no access to improved sanitation; 21 percent of communicable diseases are linked to unsafe water and 500 children under age five die from diarrhoea each day in India.

Experts say India’s gargantuan population increases the country’s vulnerability to water shortage and scarcity. Further, the country’s exponentially growing middle-class is raising unprecedented demands on clean, safe water. Long dry spells — with the temperamental monsoons (the seasonal rains that visit south Asia between June and August) — only aggravate this paucity.

In 2016, a whopping 300 districts (or nearly half of India’s 640 districts) were under the spell of an acute drinking water shortage across India. The government then had to operate special trains at great expense just to carry water to the affected places.

Surface water isn’t the only source reaching a breaking point in India. The country’s freshwater is also under great stress. This is largely because State policies have failed to check groundwater development. With continued neglect and bureaucratic mismanagement and indifference, the problem has intensified.

Grassroots efforts like those led by Rajendra Singh, who won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), in 2015, have had a positive effect. His pioneering work in rural development and water conservation, starting in the 1980s, brought some 8,600 rainwater storage tanks, known as johads, to 1,058 villages spread over 6,500 sq km in nine districts of Rajasthan. Five seasonal rivers in the state which had nearly dried up have since become perennial.

But adverse fallouts from water shortage aren’t just limited to people. They impact the Indian economy too.

“As an agrarian economy, India relies heavily on agriculture. There is aggressive irrigation in rural areas where agriculture provides the livelihood for over 600 million Indians, However, technological advances in agriculture haven’t kept pace with the population explosion,” explains economist Probir Choudhury of Reliance Capital.

As a result, he says, even as much of the world has adopted lesser water-intensive crops and sophisticated agricultural techniques, India still uses conventional systems and water-intensive crops. An excessive reliance on monsoons further leads to crop failures and farmer suicides.

The country’s industrialization has brought its own set of woes, say market analysts. Contamination of fresh water sources by industrial waste has sullied the waters of all major rivers. Over 90 percent of the waste water discharged into rivers, lakes, and ponds is untreated that leads to further contamination of fresh water sources.

Wastage by urban population is already a great challenge in Indian cities. By far the greatest waste occurs in electricity-producing power plants which guzzle gargantuan amounts of water to cool down. More than 80 percent of India’s electricity comes from thermal power stations, burning coal, oil, gas and nuclear fuel.

Now researchers from the US-based World Resources Institute, after analysing all of India’s 400 thermal power plants, report that its power supply is under threat from water scarcity.

The researchers found that 90 percent of these thermal power plants are cooled by freshwater, and nearly 40 percent of them experience high water stress. The plants are increasingly vulnerable, while India remains committed to providing electricity to every household by 2019.

“A severe lack of regulation, over privatization and entrenched corruption are the salient reasons pushing the country to a water crisis,” says Dr. Chintamani Reddy, a water expert and former professor of geography at Delhi University.

Worsening the situation, adds Reddy, are regional disputes over access to rivers in the country’s interior. Clashes with neighbours — Pakistan over the River Indus and River Sutley in the west and north and with China to the east with the River Brahmaputra — have become increasingly common.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Thankfully, some measures are underway to improve the scenario. Indian farmers are being sensitized about the latest irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation, and utilizing more rainwater harvesting to stem the loss of freshwater sources. Modern sanitation policies are being drafted that both conserve and prudently utilize water sources.

Massive investments in wind energy and solar energy, along with rejection of fossil fuel facilities in water-stressed places, are also being vigorously pursued. India has a target for 40 percent of its power to come from renewables by 2030 under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Water conservationists say if these steps are followed strictly, India may be able to minimize its water scarcity. Otherwise, the apocalyptic scenario currently bedeviling South Africa may well become India’s fate.

The post Water Scarcity: India’s Silent Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22.

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Want to Learn How to Save a Planet?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/want-learn-save-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=want-learn-save-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/want-learn-save-planet/#respond Fri, 09 Mar 2018 17:09:01 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154736 Barilla Center’s MOOC, is the first free e-learning platform for you.

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Barilla Center’s MOOC, is the first free e-learning platform for you.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Mar 9 2018 (IPS)

The agricultural sector in the Mediterranean Area is facing tough challenges and incredible opportunities at the same time: beyond a shadow of doubt, the farming sector is experiencing a critical time of change and transition towards a new era.

In collaboration with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) and the SDG Academy the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) has developed the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on “Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective”. The BCFN is an independent multidisciplinary research center, with the purpose of providing people, institutions and media with “activities and scientifically robust analysis related to food and its relationships with societies and environment.”

This MOOC, which is ready to be launched on March 15, 2018, offers to those who will attend its ten modules, a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, quizzes and discussion forums. It’s the first MOOC on Agro-Food challenges in the Mediterranean region for the promotion of Sustainable Development and of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What is the MOOC about ?

The Online course aims to provide an overview on those challenges, in order to be used as an instrument and a roadmap for action and implementation of SDGs, with a specific focus on the Mediterranean basin.

The BCFN is a knowledge-hub that is helping advancelearning about how to save our Planet through the development and implementation of several practical tools such as the “Food Sustainability Index (FSI)” or through awareness raising initiatives such as the “Food Sustainability Media Award” and the “Food Sustainability Report” .

In addition to its independent activities, the BCFN’s MOOC as of March 15, 2018. Will offer the open-ended course with no closing date, providing a unique opportunity to gain knowledge from scientists, professors and top leaders and learn about fresh approaches based on their expertise and experiences on the Mediterranean region. The course is free of any fees.

The agriculture sector in the Med region is increasingly being threatened by several issues: overexploitation of natural resources, water scarcity and poor water management, unsustainable agriculture, food loss and waste, limited agricultural diversification, just to name a few. Therefore, this MOOC was conceived to address these issues and to serve as a guide or handbook of sustainable policies for the Mediterranean region’s people.

The course is for students, policymakers and stakeholders as well as current and future practitioners in the agriculture, food and beverage sectors. Participants may enrol any time after March 15, 2018.

Why so important?

The United Nations has been repeatedly warning that sustainable farming is getting more vital to the health of our Planet. While industrial agriculture has certainly many advantages, as it is highly productive and is able to produce a significant amount of crops within a harvest season, it also introduces long-term damages to the environment that can be solved only through sustainable practices.

While debating over these sustainable practices, experts acknowledge the importance of the vision of going “back to rurality” and “rediscovering traditions”. However, this revival of traditions should not be misinterpreted as an antithesis of innovation. Tradition and innovation are not two different visions of the world: we could consider them as both essential for each other. Indeed, before being considered as such, every tradition was an innovation (think of the printing or the Internet). Moreover, tradition is not necessarily equivalent to “old”: it means also learning from the past and renewing the access and use of those positive practices of the past. At the same time, innovation is not necessarily meant to be “new”: it is also about discovering, passion, enhancement and recovering.

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, UN SDSN and the SDG Academy are working with regional, national and international actors to build the political and social architecture that is necessary to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Students, policymakers and practitioners in the agriculture, private sector should seize the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge to meet Agenda 2030, such as those gaining from this forthcoming MOOC. Let’s all save the date: March 15, 2018.

The post Want to Learn How to Save a Planet? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Barilla Center’s MOOC, is the first free e-learning platform for you.

The post Want to Learn How to Save a Planet? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Forest Communities Join Forces to Fight Land Degradation in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/forest-communities-join-forces-fight-land-degradation-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forest-communities-join-forces-fight-land-degradation-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/forest-communities-join-forces-fight-land-degradation-mexico/#respond Fri, 09 Mar 2018 07:16:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154720 Forest communities play a fundamental role in Mexico in combating land degradation, but they need more support to that end. The owners of forests can make a contribution in this Latin American country where half of the territory suffers from some degree of soil impoverishment, to reach its goal of 8.5 million hectares rehabilitated by […]

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Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger/#respond Sat, 03 Mar 2018 22:51:19 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154610 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Adelaida Marca, an Aymara indigenous woman, has been successful at the Rural World Expo in Santiago selling her sought-after premium oregano, which has a special fragrance, grown on terraces in Socoroma, her village in the highlands of northern Chile. Credit: Indap

Adelaida Marca, an Aymara indigenous woman, has been successful at the Rural World Expo in Santiago selling her sought-after premium oregano, which has a special fragrance, grown on terraces in Socoroma, her village in the highlands of northern Chile. Credit: Indap

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Mar 3 2018 (IPS)

Adelaida Marca, an Aymaran indigenous woman who produces premium oregano in Socoroma, in the foothills of the Andes in the far north of Chile, embodies the recovery of heirloom seeds, and is a representative of a workforce that supports thousands of people and of a future marked by greater gender equality.

“They asked me for oregano that was completely clean, without sticks and very green. I achieved that quality at the altitude where we live, at 3,000 metres above sea level,” the 54-year-old family farmer told IPS.

Proudly, she emphasises that her oregano “is an ancestral legacy: the seeds I inherited from several generations of ancestors.”"If I live off the earth, I can survive. But how do I educate my children and grandchildren? The earth bears fruit, but it does not generate money. If I sell what I get from the land raw, it has no value, but if I cook it, it has added value.” -- Juana Calhuaque

“We grow our crops on terraces. Last year I had one hectare planted, but since oregano is fragile at low temperatures, I lost a third of my crop. The Bolivian winter (rainy season) helps alleviate the water shortages,” she said.

Marca named her oregano Productos Socoroma Marka, and presented it successfully at the Rural World Expo, held in Santiago last October, running out of stock in just two days.

For this year’s International Women’s Day, on March 8, UN Women decided to focus on the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

UN Women stated that “Rural women and their organisations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.”

Rural women make up more than a quarter of the world’s population and 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labour force, according to UN Women.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, according to 2010 data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), women’s make up between 12 and 25 percent of the economically active population in agriculture, depending on the different areas.

The urgent need to empower rural women

Julio Berdegué, FAO representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “rural and indigenous communities have a crucial role to play in food security, first of all for their own peoples. The persistence of hunger is very high in indigenous populations. In many countries it doubles, triples or quadruples the national averages.”

Anamuri, a model for rural producers

"Our first demand is healthy and clean production and the right of each person to consume healthy food," said Alicia Muñoz, of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri), one of the leading Latin American organisations that defends women farmers.

"If you dig into the peasant and indigenous communities, you see the historical wisdom of highly aware women very knowledgeable about healthy foods for humanity," the well-known activist told IPS.

"The role of Anamuri aims at the incorporation of women in society and in organisations and how the production of these women is channeled today, so that society as a whole learns to distinguish what healthy food means compared to a diet with artificial and genetically modified food," Muñoz explained.

The other important demand that mobilises Anamuri, she said, "is decent work for people, which means well-paid and in healthy conditions, and not surrounded by pesticides and chemicals where people get sick.”

And at the global level, the organisation aims at "local markets for the community... for people to not have to go out to a supermarket, and for the peasants themselves to have their local markets and supply consumers in the communities."

"If in each locality there are gardens and grocery stores, but produced by women, peasants and small farmers, this will change. To this end we are coordinating with other rural organisations to get people to understand that peasant and family agriculture will save the planet," she said.

“if indigenous communities are not central actors, there is no way to solve hunger in those places,” he added at the regional headquarters in Santiago.

“In these communities we have an important issue of gender inequality, and inequality in access to land, access to political power within local communities, and access to participation, and that is a sensitive issue because of the norms and customs of native peoples,” he said.

“The empowerment of indigenous women is part of the agenda in the fight against rural poverty, poverty and hunger in indigenous communities,” he said.

For Juana Calhuaque, from Curarrehue, in the southern Chilean Araucanía region, “the land is good, it provides everything. But the problem is you have to sell it in order to have an income.”

“If I live off the earth, I can survive. But how do I educate my children and grandchildren? The earth bears fruit, but it does not generate money. If I sell what I get from the land raw, it has no value, but if I cook it, it has added value,” Calhuaque, who belongs to Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, told IPS.

She opened a small shop where she prepares meals using mushrooms, including the widely-sought after digueñes (Cyttaria espinosae), pine nuts and other products native to her land, which she harvests or grows herself.

“I prepare the dishes myself. I just need more people to come and that’s why I want to be interviewed on TV,” she said.

Marca, for her part, used the profits from her oregano venture, backed by the governmental Agricultural Development Institute (Indap), to get involved in rural tourism in Socoroma, in the region of Arica, on the northern tip of this narrow, long South American country with a population of 17.6 million.

Oregano “allowed me to improve my living conditions and fulfill my dream of showing the territory through tourism. In Socoroma I am restoring my grandfather’s house, which must be more than 150 years old, to put it at the service of the city.”

One problem that Marca faces is “the labour shortage, because work in agriculture is very hard.” Another is “transportation, because it’s hard to deliver the orders and I cannot send them by plane.”

Oregano “is one of the few plants that produces twice a year, which allows us to rotate crops,” she explained. The next harvest is in March and April.

The market plays in her favour because “the oregano is reaching its real value because it is a natural product, not genetically modified and without chemicals.”

“I grow it the traditional way, in bulk and harvesting by hand” she said.

“The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures is really big here. This contrast enhances the flavour and aroma of our product. And the natural fertiliser I use makes this product stand out from others. My oregano is very aromatic,” she said.

For UN Women, cases such as those of Calhuaque and Marca “guarantee the food security of their communities and generate resilience to climate change.”

The agency warns, however, that “in practically all development measures, rural women are lagging behind rural men or urban women, as a consequence of deep-rooted gender inequalities and discrimination.”

“Less than 20 percent of the people in the world who own land are women, and although the global wage difference between women and men stands at 23 percent, in rural areas it can reach up to 40 percent,” it stated, to illustrate.

The post Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Dung-Eating Earthworms Restore Soil Nutrients in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/dung-eating-earthworms-restore-soil-nutrients-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dung-eating-earthworms-restore-soil-nutrients-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/dung-eating-earthworms-restore-soil-nutrients-bangladesh/#respond Mon, 26 Feb 2018 09:01:43 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154485 In Kaliganj village, 20 kilometres south of Rangpur city in Bangladesh, small farmers are turning to vermicomposting after crop yields started dropping. The problem was that soil fertility eroded due to organic nutrient depletion. “In the early 1980s when I began cultivating crops with chemical fertilizers, I got bumper production of all crops,” said Azizar […]

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Healthy Nutrition Spreads in El Salvador’s Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools/#comments Mon, 05 Feb 2018 00:09:17 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154164 Eating healthy and nutritious food in schools in El Salvador is an effort that went from a pilot plan to a well-entrenched programme that has now taken off. The Sustainable Schools programme, initially launched in 2013 in three schools in the rural municipality of Atiquizaya, in the western department of Ahuachapán, surpassed expectations and has […]

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FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué visited the rural school in Pepenance, in western El Salvador, which has become a model in healthy eating, within El Salvador’s programme of sustainable schools. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué visited the rural school in Pepenance, in western El Salvador, which has become a model in healthy eating, within El Salvador’s programme of sustainable schools. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
ATIQUIZAYA, El Salvador, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

Eating healthy and nutritious food in schools in El Salvador is an effort that went from a pilot plan to a well-entrenched programme that has now taken off.

The Sustainable Schools programme, initially launched in 2013 in three schools in the rural municipality of Atiquizaya, in the western department of Ahuachapán, surpassed expectations and has now been replicated in all 22 schools in the municipality, and in many others in the country.

“With the 10 menus that we have implemented here, we have changed the student’s expectations about meals,” the director of the Pepenance District Educational Centre, José Antonio Tespan, told IPS before this year’s first parent-teacher assembly.

That institution is one of the three where the programme started, and over time became the flagship of the initiative."This gives us the opportunity to open new doors with other decision-makers to promote more integral projects... there are families who want a school garden, so we’re starting a project of family gardens in the municipality.” -- Ana Luisa Rodríguez

Now it has been implemented in 10 of El Salvador’s 14 departments, and includes 40 of the country’s 262 municipalities and 215 of the more than 3,000 schools in the rural area, benefiting some 73,000 students.

The project has had from the start technical support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and financing from the Brazilian government. And although it officially ended in December 2017, it will continue because of its success.

“There was a paradigm shift and a sustainable school model was developed in Atiquizaya, it was a pleasure for FAO to have accompanied them,” the U.N. agency’s representative in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

El Salvador is part of a group of 13 countries in the region that, since 2009, have taken part in an initiative executed by FAO and the Brazilian government, extending the programme of sustainable schools, adapting the achievements of that South American country’s National School Feeding Programme.

This Central American nation of 6.5 million people faces serious socioeconomic problems, and child malnutrition has never been eradicated.

Chronic malnutrition in El Salvador was around 14 percent in 2014, in children under five, according to that year’s National Health Survey, the most recent. That exceeds the Latin American average, which is 11.6 percent, according to 2015 data from the World Health Organisation.

The students benefiting from the initiative receive a mid-morning snack, made with products purchased from farmers in the area, as part of the “local purchases” component, a key aspect of the project.

Students of the Pepenance District School in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, pose for pictures in front of one of the nutritious daily meals offered to the students, which are made with products from local farmers. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Students of the Pepenance District School in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, pose for pictures in front of one of the nutritious daily meals offered to the students, which are made with products from local farmers. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

“In addition to ensuring a nutritious diet for our students, at the same time we are strengthening the local economy,” said Tespan, the director of the school in Pepenance, home to 3,225 of the 34,000 inhabitants of the 67-sq-km municipality of Atiquizaya, which encompasses 13 districts (villages or small towns).

The school’s cook, 46-year-old Rosa Delmy Fajardo, a native of Pepenance, mixes fruits, vegetables, and eggs with enthusiasm. Her meals have achieved the approval of the students.

She told IPS that of the 10 menus, there was one she had never seen or tasted, the so-called “Chinese rice”, based on that grain, to which is added an egg cake, cut into pieces.

“When I make that, they eat everything, and there are children who ask their mothers to make them Chinese rice,” she said.

She added that she has been in charge of the school kitchen for 11 years, but has worked three years under FAO nutritional guidelines.

Before that, the menu was less nutritious, since it only had staples such as oil, rice, beans, sugar and milk.

“Now we have everything that is needed for the food to have another touch,” Fajardo said.

The success achieved in Pepenance was reflected in November when it became a finalist for the Banco do Brasil Foundation Award, in the international category.

The award promotes low-cost sustainable development initiatives with a major social impact that involve community participation. The categories are aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

“I am overjoyed about this award, for me it is a great achievement, and I feel proud,” added Fajardo.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Atiquizaya, Ana Luisa Rodríguez, said she felt happy and moved by the recognition obtained in Brazil, and hoped it would bring more benefits to strengthen the programme.

“This gives us the opportunity to open new doors with other decision-makers to promote more integral projects… there are families who want a school garden, so we’re starting a project of family gardens in the municipality,” she said in a conversation with IPS.

For the mayor, part of the key to the success obtained in Pepenance has been the work coordinated with all the actors and agencies that have been working towards the same end.

“Having achieved this intersectoral collaboration was momentous: the parents got involved in the construction of a storehouse, kitchen and dining room, and they were also empowered, they are part of the project,” she said.
For his part, the FAO’s González stressed that “in Atiquizaya the involvement by the community and local actors was vital” in achieving the result obtained.

In September 2017, FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué visited Pepenance for a first-hand view of the achievements obtained, and stressed that the small Salvadoran community’s accomplishments are an example to be replicated in other countries.

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