Inter Press ServiceFood Sustainability – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:13:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 How Ghana’s Rapid Population Growth Could Become an Emergency and Outpace Both Food Production and Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:27:15 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157229 Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region. “Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS. This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agenda 2030

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproductive Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

Families go into debt to pay for basic foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monopoly of Food Chain Creating a System that Makes People Ill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sugar Tax Not Enough to Stem Epidemic of Obesity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not her real name.

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

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

By Alice Lloyd
WASHINGTON, Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about governments?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted. We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, […]

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Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted.

We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, Africa and in Europe.

Enrique Yeves

We want to empower women and girls, yet in every sector we still see serious disparities in terms of equal pay for equal wages and getting more women into senior management positions. We worry about the mass movement of people, many of them disenfranchised, and yet fail to stop the exploitation and even death that too often awaits those who try to migrate.

What is to be done? First, we must understand how each of these issues is interlinked and how they can be alleviated using an integrated approach involving agriculture, education, social services, health and infrastructure. If we channel development assistance in an integrated way, rather than towards specific sectors, we are more likely to achieve sustainable changes – these in turn can ease the burden of coordination and enhance our ability to help governments to achieve more effective and long term improvements.

For this to happen, we need the political will of governments to achieve change, coupled with adequate resources.

These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments committed to the SDGs in 2015, pledging to end hunger, extreme poverty, and other social, environmental and health evils that have left over 815 million people undernourished, and in many areas barely surviving in squalid and inhumane conditions.

The role of governments is central. Only they can exert the political will to enforce the required changes and to set aside the critically needed resources.

The role of development organizations, including the UN, non-governmental organizations and international and regional financial institutions, is also critical. They exist to support governments determined to achieve the SDGs and in so doing to improve their overall social, economic and political wellbeing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working for over 70 years on both the policy front and on the ground, doing so globally, regionally, nationally and at the community level. We have been documenting the state of food insecurity in the world, exploring and emphasizing the all-important role of small producers in achieving food security. Small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters, constituting a vast number of the rural poor, are vulnerable to environmental and market forces often beyond their control.

Yet it is they who, using tried and tested traditional systems enhanced where possible by improved technologies adapted to their needs, hold the keys to a world without hunger. As FAO has documented, family farmers produce more than two-thirds of the world’s food, with smallholders producing more per unit of land.

In the long run, tackling the direct relationship between mass migration and poverty and instability entails addressing basic challenges in the countries that people are leaving, and by providing more integrated assistance to refugees to improve their health and capacity to earn livelihoods in the receiving countries.

An important but frequently underplayed aspect for governments in developing countries is their need for assistance in defining and quantifying their present situation through internationally accepted benchmarks. Reliable statistics are crucial in order to measure progress towards attainment of the SDGs and general progress in development.

FAO delivers a lot of services to its members in this regard. And the effort produces globally relevant information, some of it alarming. Right now, for example, the global number of undernourished people is estimated at 815 million and that figure is rising for the first time in more than a decade. The number of countries reliant on external food assistance is now 39, the highest it’s ever been since FAO started tracking.

Eradicating hunger is a lynchpin for the entire 2030 Agenda, and governments must raise awareness about why achieving the SDGs is critical. This effort will both enable and benefit from women’s empowerment.

Programmes such as food for work, food stamps or a mix of both – especially in situations where conflict or natural disaster have impacted local production – are all part of the toolkit and are demonstrably efficient in fostering women’s power and interests. Increasing access to food is a building block to goals ranging from nutrition to women’s rights and assuring resilient livelihoods for producers.

What is essential is to find synergies – not only to avoid wasteful duplication but to forge the basis for sustainable solutions. Otherwise our worries are in vain.

Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Brazil’s Agricultural Heavyweight Status Undermines Food Supplyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply/#respond Sat, 16 Jun 2018 00:45:50 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156253 Brazil is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies. A week-long nationwide strike by truck drivers, that began on May 21, revealed the precariousness of the food supply, which practically collapsed […]

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A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in central Brazil, where this monoculture crop is beginning to cover the best lands, following in the footsteps of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the largest producer and exporter of soy and maize in the country, which "imports" the food it consumes from faraway areas. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in central Brazil, where this monoculture crop is beginning to cover the best lands, following in the footsteps of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the largest producer and exporter of soy and maize in the country, which "imports" the food it consumes from faraway areas. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 16 2018 (IPS)

Brazil is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies.

A week-long nationwide strike by truck drivers, that began on May 21, revealed the precariousness of the food supply, which practically collapsed in the large Brazilian cities, at least in terms of perishable goods such as vegetables and eggs, said the National Agroecology Alliance (ANA).

Brazil ranks 28th out of 34 countries in the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Italian Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition, together with the British magazine The Economist’s Intelligence Unit."Monoculture agriculture, without interaction with the ecosystems, is based heavily on imports of inputs, including oil; it degrades the environment, causes erosion and deforestation, in contrast to agriculture as it was practiced in the past, which valued soil nutrients." -- Paulo Petersen

In Latin America, Colombia (13), Argentina (18) and Mexico (22) are the best rated, according to this index based on 58 indicators that measure three variables: sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food waste.

But the United States, the world’s largest producer of agricultural products, also ranks only 21st in the FSI, reflecting the same discrepancy between agriculture and sustainable food, which is also not directly related to the countries’ per capita income levels.

“The Brazilian food system is unsustainable in environmental, social and economic terms,” said Elisabetta Recine, head of the National Council for Food and Nutritional Security (Consea), an advisory body to the president of Brazil, with two-thirds of its 60 members coming from civil society.

“Production has become increasingly concentrated, as well as trade. This means food has to be transported long distances, driving up costs and increasing the consumption of durable, industrialised and less healthy food in the cities,” Recine, who teaches nutrition at the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

This is well illustrated by the four supermarkets of the Kinfuku chain in the region of Alta Floresta, in the northern part of the state of Mato Grosso, located on the southern border of the Amazon rainforest.

They sell food transported weekly by truck from the southern state of Paraná, more than 2,000 km away, owner Pedro Kinfuku told IPS at one of their stores.

Mato Grosso is the country’s largest producer of maize and soy, monoculture crops destined mainly for export or for the animal feed industry, which monopolise local lands, driving out crops for human food.

This “long cycle of production and consumption” is part of the system whose insecurity was highlighted by the truck drivers’ strike over the space of just a few days, said Recine.

A group of children eat lunch at a school in Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thanks to the National School Meals Programme (PNAE) the students in public schools eat vegetables and fresh food from local family farms. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A group of children eat lunch at a school in Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thanks to the National School Meals Programme (PNAE) the students in public schools eat vegetables and fresh food from local family farms. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This phenomenon also concentrates wealth, generates little employment and increases social inequality in the country, while environmentally it exacerbates the use of agrochemicals, she said.

Brazil, which had managed to be removed from the United Nations Hunger Map in 2014, has once again seen a rise in malnutrition and infant mortality, in the face of “budget cuts in social programmes, growing unemployment and the general impoverishment of the population,” the nutritionist lamented.

At the same time, “obesity is increasing in all age groups throughout the country, directly related to the poor quality of food and the lack of preventive actions, such as the creation of healthy food environments, with regulations that restrict certain products,” said the president of Consea.

“We have to consider the food system from the soil and the seed to post-consumption, the waste,” she said.

The “structural problem” of the mode of production, the transport, distribution and consumption of food in the world today, particularly in Brazil, is the result of “two disconnects, one between agriculture and nature and the other between production and consumption,” said agronomist Paulo Petersen, vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Agroecology.

Monoculture agriculture, “without interaction with the ecosystems, is based heavily on imports of inputs, including oil; it degrades the environment, causes erosion and deforestation, in contrast to agriculture as it was practiced in the past, which valued soil nutrients,” he said in an interview with IPS.

For Petersen, consumption is increasingly moving away from agricultural production in physical distance, and also because of the processing chain, which is generating waste and “homogenising habits of consumption of ultra-processed foods and excess sugar, sodium, fats and preservatives, leading to obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

A large line of trucks slows down traffic in Anápolis, a logistics hub in central Brazil, at an intersection, where thousands of trucks circulate daily transporting food, industrial products and supplies, in all directions in this enormous country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A large line of trucks slows down traffic in Anápolis, a logistics hub in central Brazil, at an intersection, where thousands of trucks circulate daily transporting food, industrial products and supplies, in all directions in this enormous country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

All of this, he said, has to do with climate change, the loss of biodiversity, growing health problems, the concentration of land ownership and the dominant power of agribusiness and large corporations.

“It is necessary to reorganise the food system, to change its logic, and that is the State’s obligation,” said Petersen, also executive coordinator of the non-governmental organisation Advisory Service for Alternative Agriculture Projects (ASPTA)- Family Agriculture and Agroecology, and member of the executive board of the National Agroecology Alliance (ANA) network.

Brazil launched positive actions in the food sector, such as the government’s School Meals Programme, which establishes a minimum of 30 percent of family farming products in the food offered by public schools to its students, thus improving the nutritional quality of their diet.

In addition, family farming was recognised as the source of most of the food consumed in the country, and a low-interest credit programme was created for this sector.

The problem, according to Petersen, is that this financing sometimes foments the same vices of industrial large-scale agriculture, such as monoculture and the use of agrochemicals.

There is a growing awareness of the negative aspects of agribusiness and the need for agro-ecological practices, as well as initiatives scattered throughout the country, but the dominant agricultural sector exercises its power in a way that blocks change, he said.

The bulk of agricultural credit, technical assistance, land concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners, and influence on state power all favour large-scale farmers, who also have the largest parliamentary caucus to pass “their” laws, Petersen said.

A vegetable garden in Santa Maria de Jetibá, of the 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region, the largest supplier of vegetables and fruit to schools in the municipality of Vitoria, in the southeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A vegetable garden in Santa Maria de Jetibá, of the 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region, the largest supplier of vegetables and fruit to schools in the municipality of Vitoria, in the southeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In Brazil, there are 4.4 million family farms, which make up 84 percent of rural establishments and produce more than half of the food, according to official figures.

But they have little influence in the government in the face of the power of a few dozen large producers.

Food banks are also an example of good, albeit limited, actions to reduce waste and the risks of malnutrition in the most vulnerable segments of the population.

They emerged from isolated initiatives in the 1990s and were adopted as a government programme in 2016, with the creation of the Brazilian Network of Food Banks, under the coordination of the Ministry of Social Development.

In 1994, the Social Trade Service (SESC), made up of companies in the sector, also began to create food banks in its own network, which it named Mesa Brasil (Brazil Board). By the end of 2017, it had 90 units in operation in 547 cities.

That year, the network served 1.46 million people per day and distributed 40,575 tons of food.

It is the largest network of such centres in the country, but it has proven insufficient in a country of 208 million people and 5,570 cities.

Mesa Brasil makes use of food that would no longer be sold by stores, because of commercial regulations, but which is in perfect condition, and delivers it to social institutions.

“It also promotes educational actions for workers and volunteers from social organisations and collaborators from donor companies,” on food and nutritional security, according to Ana Cristina Barros, SESC’s manager of aid at the national level.

“One of our biggest difficulties is the legal obstacles that prevent food companies from making donations, which are increasingly interested in doing so,” she told IPS.

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You Are More Powerful than You Think!http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:25:08 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156239 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Monique Barbut
BONN, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Are you overwhelmed by the depressing news coming at you daily? Conflict, forced migrants, famine, floods, hurricanes, extinction of species, climate change, threats of war … a seemingly endless list. It might surprise you, but you can really make a difference on many of these issues.

Just like every raindrop counts towards a river and every vote counts in an election, so does every choice you make in what you consume. With every produce you consume, you strengthen the river of sustainability or of unsustainability. It is either a vote in favor of policies that spread social goods like peace and poverty eradication or social bads like – conflict or grinding poverty.

We look up to governments a lot, forgetting that governments set up policies to encourage us to make specific choices. That’s how powerful our lifestyles choices are.

Imagine, what would happen if the world’s over 7 billion consumers committed, every year, to just one lifestyle change that will support the provision of goods from sustainably managed land.

Every year, we make New Year resolutions about change. Why not include as one of those resolutions, a changeof habit leading that will lead to a smart sustainable consumer lifestyle? Without any government intervention, you can make choices that will help to end deforestation, soil erosion and pollution or reduce the effects of drought or sand and dust storms.

Monique Barbut

However, to make the right lifestyle change, each of us must first find out where the goods we consume are cultivated and processed. For instance, if they are linked to conflict in regions with rapidly degrading land or forests or polluted water or soils, then chose an alternative that is produced sustainably. It is a small, but achievable change to make every year.

Every country and product has a land footprint. What we eat. What we wear. What we drink. The manufacturer or supplier of the products we consume. The brands related to these suppliers that we will support. We prioritize buying from the local small farm holders to reduce our global land footprint. Consumers have plenty of options.

But a vital missing link is the informed consumer.

Through mobile phone apps**, it is getting easier and easier to track where the goods we consume come from. It is also getting easier to find alternative suppliers of our choice, as the private sector embraces the idea of ethical business. The information you need is literally in the – mobile phone in the – palm of our hand.

But you must believe in your own power to change the world. The global effect on the market may surprise you.

We will reward the food producers, natural resource managers and land planners struggling against all odds to keep the land healthy and productive. This is cheapest way to help every family and community in the world to thrive, and avoid the damage and loss of life that comes from environmental degradation and disasters.

Make 17 June, the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, your date with nature. It’s the mid-point of the year and a good moment to review the progress you are making towards your New Year resolution of a sustainable lifestyle.

In 2030, when the international community evaluates its achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, you can point to positive changes that you have contributed in favor of present and future generations.

You are more powerful than you think. Take your power back and put it into action.

Monique Barbut is Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Greece: SDGs a Way to End Economic Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 16:50:43 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156119 Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis. During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. […]

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Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

A Greek flag waving in the locality of Oia, Greece. Credit: Matt Artz on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis.

During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. It is the first time, since 2011, that economic accounts of Greece are so encouraging that the country is looking with some optimism to the month of August 2018 when the last phase of European aid will be over definitely.

The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people

The surplus during the first nine months of 2017 was 2.2% higher related to the 1.75% imposed by the European Union. The GDP growth was 1.9% in 2017 and estimates show it will reach 2.5% in 2018.

Among the most significant levers of the Greek recovery is the increase of its exports. In particular, the production and sale of liqueurs, as well as the car industry are both stimulating growth. Tourism remains a pillar of the Greek economy. In 2017, it was 17% higher than the year before.

However, despite these positive signs, the reality on the ground is bitter sweet. The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people. Greece might not risk that default that was feared a few years ago but the ordinary people are facing tough challenges even to meet some basic needs such as covering rents and paying bills.

The people in general are far from being out of the crisis. However, while living this situation of high unemployment and uncertainty about their future, the Greeks have started, during these past few years, to turn back to the land in order to earn money.

Agriculture is the main sector that has not suffered in a substantial way and, has been constantly showing (relatively) positive signs. According to the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives, during the first years of the crisis, between 2008 and 2010, agriculture created 32,000 new jobs and the majority of these jobs were taken up by Greek nationals.

Those who owned a plot of land, in some cases inherited, on a small island or in the countryside, decided to leave the dramatic situation in Athens and return to their lands to work on ecotourism or farming.

Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

Credit: Vesela Vaclavikova on Unsplash

Additionally, many young people started to show interest in the faculties of agriculture, as applications for such courses tripled in the past few years. However, among those who decided to abandon the urban areas to live and work in the rural ones, the majority are aged between 40 and 60 years old. The majority of these people had lost their jobs just before retirement, waiting to receive their pension.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, which was developed in collaboration between the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit with the objective to “promote knowledge on food sustainability”, Greece earned a positive score in sustainable agriculture.

The FSI ranks 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. It aims to highlight issues across three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. Despite having only a mid-level score for food loss and waste, and minimal scores for the policy response to food loss, “Greece earned a high score for sustainable agriculture, with a strong performance for the air category (GHG emissions), and for sub-indicators such as diversification of agricultural system, land ownership and sustainability of water withdrawal serving to bring up the score in the land and water categories”.

When considered in conjunction with the water scarcity situation of the country, this high score in the agricultural sector gains an additional prize. Indeed, according to the FSI, the average number of months of freshwater scarcity in Greece is six and despite that, the country has been able to maintain a high level of performance in the sector.

Not surprisingly, Greece has recently showed interest in sharing its high expertise and level of innovations in agro-technology with Qatar in a bid to develop and support the tiny Gulf country’s agriculture sector and self-sufficiency initiatives.

Greece’s third bailout is due to expire in August 2018 and the Hellenic country aims to return to a path of growth after years of crisis and uncertainty. During the Fourth Agricultural Business Summit, which took place in Larissa on May 3, 2018, organized by The Economist under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, experts and policymakers gathered to discuss the priorities and challenges that need to be resolved as of 2018 and beyond in the field of agriculture in relation to business.

The analysts discussed if Greece could play a leading role in South-East Europe and whether the Greek Agribusiness sector will be able to transform uncertainty into stability, competitiveness and growth.

It is hard to forecast with accuracy the outcome of the next following months and years but, the fact that the Greek establishment (academia, businesses, policymakers, etc.) is showing its willingness to act and implement a concrete roadmap to end the crisis through the SDG Agenda, means that the country strongly believes in Agenda 2030which is the driving force to start growing again.

In addition, a study, published by SEV Business Council for Sustainable Development and conducted by the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Practice of Ernst & Young in Greece highlighted “to identify the current status in Greece, regarding the level of awareness, readiness and willingness of Greek companies towards integrating the SDGs in their strategy”. One of the key findings of the study brings some optimism for the future of Greece.

For example, regarding awareness and readiness on SDGs among Greek companies, the study revealed that “senior executives, regardless of company size, have a high level of knowledge of sustainable development issues related to the Goals. The engagement and awareness of middle management executives on sustainable development issues related to the Goals constitute a crucial factor for their successful implementation”.

Beginning in August 2018, the economic system of Greece will once again have to walk on its own legs. Many analysts believe that the commitment of Greek authorities in the past few years in planning and implementing a sustainable agenda will help Athens to develop in the next future without the support of the EU and IMF.

By the end of 2018, we will undoubtedly have the first answers to this dilemma and the 2019 elections will also tell us if the Greek people view the government’s efforts of the past few years as the best it could do and achieve.

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Food Security and Growth in Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-security-growth-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-security-growth-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-security-growth-asia/#respond Mon, 28 May 2018 06:51:19 +0000 Geetika Dang and Raghav Gaiha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155942 A disquieting finding of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building resilience for peace and food security, or (SFSN2017), Rome, is that, in 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased to 815 million, up from777 million in 2015 although still lower than about 900 million in […]

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By Geetika Dang and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, May 28 2018 (IPS)

A disquieting finding of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building resilience for peace and food security, or (SFSN2017), Rome, is that, in 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased to 815 million, up from777 million in 2015 although still lower than about 900 million in 2000. Similarly, while the prevalence of undernourishment rose to 11 percent in 2016, this is still well below thelevel attaineda decade ago. Whether this recent rise inhunger and food-insecurity levels signals thebeginning of an upward trend, or whether itreflects an acute transient situation calls for a close scrutiny.

Undernourishment is associated with lower productivity. More importantly, in an agrarian economy with surplus labour and efficiency wages, a weather or market shock could result in rationing out of those lacking adequate physical stamina and dexterity from the labour market. This could perpetuate the poverty of the undernourished, often referred to as nutrition –poverty trap.

By contrast, other indicators of food security have registered improvement. Stunting refers to children who are too shortfor their age. It is a reflection of achronic state of undernutrition.When children are stunted before the age of two, they are athigher risk of illness and more likely thanadequately nourished children to lackcognitive skills and learning abilities in later childhood and adolescence.Globally, the prevalence of stunting of children under five years fell from29.5 percent to 22.9 percent between 2005and 2016. The global average of the prevalence of anaemiain women of reproductive age increased slightlybetween 2005 and 2016. When anaemia occurs duringpregnancy, it causes fatigue, loweredproductivity, increased risk of maternal andperinatal mortality, and low birth weight babies.

Has Asia’s experience been different? It is argued below on the basis of Table 1 that it has been more mixed.

Table 1
Food Security Indicators in Asia



Source: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building resilience for peace and food security (SFSN2017).

Although proportion of undernourished in different sub-regions of Asia varied within a narrow range in 2004-06, it became narrower in 2014-16. In all sub-regions, the proportion of undernourished fell during this period but slowly, as in Asia as a whole. Under-five stunting is a key indicator of child malnutrition. The range was large in 2005, with a high of 44.6 % in Southern Asia and a low of 9.4 % in Central Asia. The range became narrower in 2016 but Southern Asia continued to have the highest prevalence of over 34 % (but lower than in 2005) and Eastern Asia the lowest of 5.5 % (substantially lower than in 2005). So except for Central Asia which witnessed a slight rise, all other sub-regions recorded reductions in stunting. Prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age was widespread with a high of 50 % in Southern Asia and a low of about 19 % in Eastern Asia in 2005. While the prevalence of anaemic women fell in Southern Asia from 50 % to 43.7 % in 2016, this sub-region still had the highest prevalence.

Geetika Dang

Eastern Asia saw a more than moderate rise, South Eastern Asia experienced a negligible reduction, and Central Asia a small reduction. As a result, there was a bunching of high prevalence rate in Central Asia, Eastern Asia and South Eastern Asia, and a consequent rise in prevalence of anaemic women from a high of 33.3 % to 36.6 per cent.

SFSN (2017) attributes much of the worsening in food security-especially in Sub-Saharan Africa- to frequency of conflicts, droughts, and fragility of governance, but the analysis is largely conjectural.

As Asia was not so prone to conflicts, we sought to unravel the relationship between these indicators of food security and income growth, allowing for unobservable country –level heterogeneity and residual time effect. Whether the political regime of a country is more inclined to protect the poor and vulnerable -especially children and women in the reproductive age-group- against the risks of undernourishment from weather and market shocks is unobservable but crucial for isolating the effect of income.

Our analysis shows that there are robust relationships between these indicators and per capita income (PPP2011) and the residual time effect. Assessing the effect of income in terms of elasticities, proportionate change in say prevalence of undernourishment/proportionate change in income, we find that the elasticity of undernourishment to income is –0.28, implying that a 1 % higher income will lower prevalence of undernourishment by 0.28 %. A related finding is that the elasticity (in absolute value) rose substantially during 2005-16, implying that a 1% higher income will be far more effective in curbing undernourishment. Moreover, there was a substantial negative residual time effect, implying that controlling for income, other time related factors led to reduction in prevalence of undernourishment.

Raghav Gaiha

The elasticity of under-five stunting with respect to income was also robust, with an elasticity of -0.045, implying that a 1 % higher income will translate into a reduction of stunting by -0.045 %. Compared to the elasticity of undernourishment with respect to income, this is considerably lower. This is not surprising given that stunting is the result of persistent undernourishment over time. In addition, there was a significant negative residual time effect, implying presumably better hygiene and sanitary conditions. The elasticity (in absolute value) rose more than moderately between 2005 and 2016, implying greater sensitivity of under-five stunting to income.Finally, the elasticity of prevalence of anaemia among women in reproductive phase with respect to income was negative but also low (-0.075). So a 1 % higher income is likely to be associated with a reduction in prevalence of anaemia of 0.075 %. The (absolute) elasticity rose slightly between 2005 and 2016. The residual time effect was negative, implying better access to medical services, hygiene and sanitary conditions for women in reproductive phase over time.

Although limited in scope, our analysis confirms that income growth is key to food security in Asia. This is not to suggest that other factors (e.g. social safety nets, greater nutritional awareness-especially among women-and education) do not matter. They matter too but call for a broader investigation.

 
 

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; and Raghav Gaiha is currently (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scientist, Department of Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health (2015 and 2016).

The views expressed are personal.

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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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Why Does Rural Poverty Equal Invisibility?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/rural-poverty-equal-invisibility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-poverty-equal-invisibility http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/rural-poverty-equal-invisibility/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 10:45:00 +0000 Alison Small http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155532 Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

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Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

By Alison Small
NAPIER, New Zealand, Apr 30 2018 (IPS)

If an estimated 500 million smallholder farmers at a conservative estimate, produce 70 percent of the food we eat, why are they still so invisible in many countries?

Governments, development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector have been working for decades on rural development in developing countries but still rural areas lag far behind cities and outlying areas in terms of infrastructure, services, social and economic development, notwithstanding the contribution that rural producers make to supplying us with food.

A tea farmer in Nyeri County, central Kenya contemplates what to do after his crop was damaged by severe weather patterns. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

In the United States the vote for President Trump was heavily supported by disheartened voters in rural areas while India is singular for having a high turnout amongst rural voters.

In most developing countries, rural producers are especially vulnerable to extremes of climate, drought followed by flooding, and other weather related issues, along with restricted services of almost every kind. Not by coincidence do we find that three-quarters of the world’s 836 million people living in extreme poverty are found in rural areas.

Smallholder farmers continue therefore to be largely invisible, notwithstanding our dependence on the food and other goods they produce. Its a paradox that appears to have become an inevitability. What you don’t see, doesn’t affect you.

In developed countries we worry about the rise of beggars on the streets, who make us feel uncomfortable as we step around them to enter our favourite cafe, bank or shop, and sometimes we offer them a coin or something to eat or drink. But the poor in rural areas, barely affect us. Perhaps subconsciously we think, they are living on the land, they can produce their own food, whereas seeing beggars in urban areas surrounded by concrete is perhaps more identifiable as poverty.

How many tourists visit rural areas, how many people actually witness rural poverty in developing countries, and if they do, perhaps the problem seems so entrenched that it appears intractable. The rural poor are largely off our radar, even off the radar of many governments it would appear. They exist, we exist but we seem unable to bridge the divide effectively.

Development agencies can point to hundreds of millions of dollars spent in projects and programmes aimed at improving the conditions of the rural poor, schools, shelter, wells for water, the provision of planting materials and other assistance to farmers, including significant assistance to rural women, women’s groups, women farmers, as well as access to extension and even some limited banking services. The fact is that distance, entrenched poverty, cultural biases, and poor governance, exacerbate the rural-urban divide.

The irony is that rural poverty increases the vulnerability of governments to instability, terrorism and economic vulnerability because poverty can easily be exploited and the poor manipulated. But if we are seeking solutions to feed a growing world population projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, the problem is fundamental to human survival. We help the food producers, the majority of them in rural areas and smallholders, we help ourselves, we also add to political stability and economic prosperity.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious, and the measurement of progress to achieve the goals is a hugely expensive development process of its own, but are real efforts being made by governments or is this just lipservice to the UN and for the UN to show some sort of progress without effecting any systemic change in the way resources including goods and services are divvied out by governments?

The Agenda 2030 vision and commitment are that no one will be left behind. It was adopted by 150 world leaders in 2015 but we have a long way to go before we can expect to see any progress to reach the 2030 target date.

New Zealand’s Helen Clarke, then Executive Head of the United Nations Development Programme stated “that ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty, for which reason, fearless leadership is needed”. But more than leadership, we need to keep the momentum going and we need to really consider what is actually working and what may need to be scrapped.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development, one of the three Rome food and agriculture based agencies, will be holding an international conference on rural inequalities to consider how to overcome disparities from 2 to 3 May.

Can the 60 international speakers come up with anything new that may give us some hope for progress . It would be an encouraging sign to see concrete suggestions by practitioners and even if a handful of governments could take some of the suggestions or proposals , set aside serious money and constructively work to improve the lives of the rural poor in a bid to keep humanity moving in the right direction over the next 33 years when we have 2.2 million more mouths to feed.

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Excerpt:

Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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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