Inter Press ServiceAsia-Pacific – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Why We Should Care about Vulnerable Coastal Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=care-vulnerable-coastal-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:47:24 +0000 Nigel Brett http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159661 Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Meity Masipuang is a member of an enterprise group in Papusungan village, Lembeh island, Indonesia. Their women’s group purchases fish to smoke and resell. They are participants of the IFAD-funded Coastal Community Development project in Indonesia. Credit: IFAD/Roger Arnold

By Nigel Brett
ROME, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

According to UN statistics, approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast, and overall the world’s coastal population is increasing faster than the total global population. At the same time, global warming is causing sea levels to rise and increasing extreme weather incidents on coastlines.

The impacts are well publicized and alarming. But what we may not realize is that the people who are the most vulnerable to climate change are often the poorest. It is essential that we act upon what we know in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and build resilience in the poorest communities. In all of our development work, we cannot regard climate change and the plight of vulnerable coastal communities as a niche issue.

A large portion of the world’s poor people live in Asia and the Pacific: 347 million people in the region live on less than US$1.90 a day, almost half of the 736 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide. Rising sea level exposes large areas of Asia and the Pacific to potential floods, coastline damage and increased salinity of agricultural lands. Climate change and environmental degradation (including in small island developing states, or SIDS) is harming the poor rural population’s ability to produce food and income, which calls for urgent action to help people safeguard their assets and fragile resources, while also diversifying their income base.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with people in vulnerable coastal communities across the world to build resilience and institute sustainable agricultural practices so that vulnerable people can make a living while also preserving the environment and the resources that are the foundation of their way of life.

Nigel Brett Credit: IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

Some livelihood practices are not sustainable and can exacerbate climatic vulnerability. For example, unsustainable fishing destroys corals and depletes fish stocks, and the cutting down of mangroves for firewood results in coastal land that cannot resist flooding, cyclones and coastal erosion. Since 66 per cent of the fish that is eaten worldwide is caught by small-scale fishers, it is in everybody’s best interest to help them to improve their ability to make a living while protecting the environment.

In over 180 villages in Indonesia, the IFAD-supported Coastal Community Development Project introduced aquaculture and supported initiatives to make fishing and processing techniques more efficient and sustainable. By providing rudimentary refrigeration techniques such as ice coolers, and by forming and training women’s groups to process some of the fish into fish paste and dried fish snacks, fishermen were able to fish less because they did not have to factor in the amount of fish wasted by lack of refrigeration or low market demand. These measures also had a substantial impact on food security and actually reduced acute child malnutrition in the areas by half. And through community-based coastal resource management groups, marine resources have been maintained or improved.

In the Asia and the Pacific region overall, vulnerable communities are a prominent focus of our investment portfolio. Just under one third of our current $2.7 billion portfolio in the region is invested in improving the lives of 15,360,000 poor rural people living within five kilometers of the coastline.

One thing we’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a one-size fits all approach in working with vulnerable coastal communities. Context matters. Bangladesh suffers from overcrowding on its limited land, while the Pacific Islands suffer from not only extreme weather but a remote and dwindling population. In Tonga the rural population is declining due to migration and a lack of incentives for youth to remain. It is also classified as the second most at-risk country in the world in terms of its exposure and susceptibility to natural hazards and the effects of climate change. Development approaches need to be different.

Up to 80 million people live in flood-prone or drought-prone areas in Bangladesh, and thousands of vulnerable families eke out a living on river islands known as chars. The Char Development and Settlement Project has developed roads that remain intact even after they have been repeatedly submerged in water. It has also helped communities (especially women) to develop small businesses that can withstand floods, such as raising ducks. But, one of the most important aspects of the project’s work is land titling—which is particularly important for women. With land as collateral, women can access credit and acquire labour-saving machinery, including small irrigation pumps and rice threshers, and build small storage sheds to protect harvested rice from rain and floods.

In Tonga, we are helping communities to develop high-value crops that can be exported in order to boost the rural export market. The project is also planting tree species that can protect the coastline from tornados and cyclones. The project is working with communities to identify where improved infrastructure is needed (such as weather-resistant roads and waterfronts), and get them directly involved in investing in and supervising construction and maintenance.

After 40 years of working with poor rural people around the world, IFAD has learned that no one can hope to face these challenges alone. In a rapidly changing world we need to work together to channel support where it is most needed. Rural transformation can increase production and incomes, reduce hunger, and at the same time protect natural resources. With the right support, vulnerable coastal communities can play a part in securing a sustainable future.

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Excerpt:

Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Paris Agreement should be the light forward.

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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With All Things Equal Would the Ruling Party have Won the Elections in Bangladesh ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/things-equal-ruling-party-won-elections-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=things-equal-ruling-party-won-elections-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/things-equal-ruling-party-won-elections-bangladesh/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 15:29:06 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159613 It was the first time in the history of parliamentary elections in Bangladesh that a party won with such a huge margin. But according to local analysts familiar with Bangladesh’s political climate, the victory by the ruling Awami League (AL) led coalition—which won over 96 percents of seats in parliament in the country’s 11th national […]

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Women voters queue outside a local school polling centre in Tejgaon area in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Sheikh Hasan Ali/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Jan 14 2019 (IPS)

It was the first time in the history of parliamentary elections in Bangladesh that a party won with such a huge margin. But according to local analysts familiar with Bangladesh’s political climate, the victory by the ruling Awami League (AL) led coalition—which won over 96 percents of seats in parliament in the country’s 11th national elections on Dec. 30—was expected in the face of the country’s unprecedented development. 

Economic Growth Spurred on Ruling Party’s Win

Growth in this South Asian nation has overtaken that of many developing nations.

“Bangladesh’s economic growth rate hit record 7.86 percent, per capital income has reached 1,751 dollars, exports reached 42 billion dollars annually and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) indicators show we are on the right track. Now having said that, I think the overwhelming majority of the voters understand the development trends and so they chose rightly their leaders,” Professor Abu Ahsan Mohammad Shamsul Arefin Siddique, former vice chancellor of the University of Dhaka, told IPS.

According to the World Bank, the country is predicted to continue to have GDP growth in the 6.5 to 7 percent range well into next year, with key growth drivers being exports (the country’s ready made garments sector has driven this), manufacturing growth, and services.

A leading election analyst, Munira Khan, told IPS: “People have voted for AL to continue the huge social and economic development that we have observed in the recent past. And it is also true that those who voted for AL obviously wanted the spirit of the liberation forces to stay in power.”

Led by Sheikh Hasina, the victory of her ruling party confirmed her as the Prime Minister for a record third consecutive term.

In the final results AL and its allies won a total of 288 seats in parliament while the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP, which is a member party of the coalition Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front), secured only five. Jatiya Oikya Front is a coalition of opposition parties comprising BNP, Gono Forum, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Nagorik Oikya.

There had been criticism from many that BNP had ties to  banned Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami. However, Gono Forum leader and founder of the coalition, Dr. Kamal Hossain, acknowledged the negative impact on voters and added that he would not have wanted the alliance to include Jamaat if he had known about their inclusion by other party workers.

A further two seats went to members of the Jatiya Oikya Front alliance.

Hasina’s vision for women’s empowerment, educating girls and giving women a greater voice, has contributed to social changes and the country’s economic transformation.

The country, which according to the World Bank has considerably reduced poverty from 2010 to 2016 (the rate has since slowed), is expected to obtain the category of a Middle Income Country by 2021. The government also promised to generate 40,000 megawatts of electricity to fuel economic development.

While Hasina’s government has made huge economic progress, the Prime Minister has also been recognised by the global community for her role in giving shelter to the persecuted Rohingya refugees. She opened the doors for over a million Rohingya’s while many nations have been onlookers.

Claims of Irregularities in the Vote

The election was not without issues as BNP and it’s alliances claimed irregularities in the election process after violence was reported in 23 out of a total of 40,000 polling stations. Sixteen people died in clashes that ensued. Hossain, meanwhile, urged diplomatic mission heads in Dhaka to engage with the AL government to pursue holding fresh elections under a non-party administration immediately.

Many have questioned how AL received such a huge number of votes when the main rival, BNP, which was popular in previous polls and traditionally won seats, lost so miserably.

Reza Kibria, who contested the elections under Jatiya Oikya Front and lost, told IPS: “The so-called election was a farce and it was a shameful episode in the history of our country. The vote rigging took place in a wide scale and it was centrally directed.” Kibria is the son of the slain Shah AMS Kibria, who was the finance minister under the Sheikh Hasina-led government in 1996.

He said that about 30 to 40 percent of the votes were cast before the voting opened at 8am and that polling agents from opposition parties were not allowed to enter the voting centres to check whether the ballot boxes were empty.

“In many centres we had reports that 80 to 90 percent of the voters had turned out to vote by midday, which is physically not possible.”

Kibria’s critical remarks, however, were not supported by any evidence or specific details or a record of the irregularities.

Authorities have denied the allegations. Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, the Press Adviser to the Prime Minister, and also editor of Daily Observer, told IPS that the Jatiya Oikya Front and BNP leaders had failed to act as a responsible political party and convince general people that the alliance, if voted to power, could be a better political party to steer the government.

The win was not a surprise to critics of the government. Sharmin Murshid, Chief Executive Officer of Brotee, an NGO for social change, and a leading election critic, told IPS: “We had expected AL to win the election but not at this rate of enormity.”

“It would be a huge challenge for the government to rule for the next five years without an opposition. So when there is no opposition there is hardly any healthy critique and without such criticism politics may be difficult,” Murshid added.

But she pointed out that since the government has huge confidence and a mandate from the people it must investigate the alleged election irregularities. It would give the government more credibility if they did so, she said.

The Prime Minister has stated that with regards to complaints of irregularities, legal processes will be followed. They are being investigated by the Election Commission of Bangladesh (EC).

Election Commissioner Begum Kabita Khanam, however, told IPS: “The election was largely satisfactory although we had several allegations of irregularities in some centres, which we are now in the process of investigating.”

“Since the EC did not receive any evidence of unfairness in voting, the EC considers the election to be fair,” Khanam added.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Human Rights Foundation, and the Election Monitoring Forum, two independent entities, described the election as ‘peaceful’ and ‘organised’.

And local political analyst and retired Major General, Abdur Rashid, told IPS: “We found the election credible as people voted without fear and independently. Throughout the voting period, we observed that the environment was peaceful in most of the centres in which people voted in festive mood.”

Asked why AL got such a huge mandate, Rashid said, “I think that AL should be credited for restoring the dignity and identity of the new generation in favour of the spirit of the (1971) liberation. BNP leaders, on the other hand, had launched propaganda against the pro-liberation forces trying to divide the nation. This is one of the main reasons why AL got such a huge mandate, apart from the development works of course.”

The Scale of the Elections  

Despite the allegations of vote rigging and sporadic violence, the election was considered generally well organised and monitored.

The scale of the election was enormous. In a nation of 160 million people, there were 106 million registered voters, including 20 million newly-registered youth voters. Voter turnout was above 80 percent. A total of 25,900 representatives from 81 local observer bodies, 38 foreign observers, 64 officials and diplomats from foreign missions, and 61 Bangladeshi nationals working in overseas organisations, were present.

However, there were fewer monitors than previous polls. Many election monitors were not allowed to participate in their professional duties as they reportedly did not register on time, according to the EC.

One of the prominent features of this election was the level of security. Over 700,000 security forces, including the army, were on tight vigil round the clock. Out of 40,051 polling centres, violence occurred in 23 centres, which statistically was less than 0.06 percent.

“I have never seen such a huge number of security men around polling centres,” remarked Mohammed Zakir Hossain, 73, who has been voting since 1970.
Such security measures perhaps raised the confidence and level of enthusiasm among the voters, which is why the queues at most of the centres, even in remote areas, appeared very long.

Amid cool weather, a group of five young ladies were found in festive mood in Dhaka’s uptown in Baridhara. Shirin Mahtab, 28, who was carrying her child, said: “You can see how safe I feel coming to vote bringing my young daughter along with me.”

Professor Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah who founded Jatiya Nirbachon Parjabekkhon Parishad (the National Election Observation Council), told IPS that the tight security meant that, “vote fraudulence was hardly possible due to tight vigilance by officials and heavy presence of security. Public movement was very restricted as only voters with valid ID card were allowed to approach the polling centres and throughout we noticed police checking on suspected movements while army patrolled at striking range.”

He also called the elections free and fair.

Despite the claims of irregularities, the election was well accepted internationally. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the first world leaders who congratulated Hasina.

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Recorded Increase in Human Trafficking, Women and Girls Targetedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 08:03:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159551 Human trafficking is on the rise and it is more “horrific” than ever, a United Nations agency found. In a new report examining patterns in human trafficking, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that the global trend has increased steadily since 2010 around the world. “Human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions […]

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Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Human trafficking is on the rise and it is more “horrific” than ever, a United Nations agency found.

In a new report examining patterns in human trafficking, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that the global trend has increased steadily since 2010 around the world.

“Human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters,” said UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

Asia and the Americas saw the largest increase in identified victims but the report notes that this may also reflect an improved capacity to identify and report data on trafficking.

Women and girls are especially vulnerable, making up 70 percent of detected victims worldwide. While they are mainly adult women, girls are increasingly targeted by traffickers.

According to the 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, girls account for 23 percent of all trafficking victims, up from 21 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2004.

UNODC also highlighted that conflict has increased the vulnerability of such populations to trafficking as armed groups were found to use the practice to finance activities or increase troops.   

Activist and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who was abducted from her village and sold into sexual slavery by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, a tactic used in order to boost recruitment and reward soldiers. 

Murad recently received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, dedicating it to survivors of sexual violence and genocide.

“Survivors deserve a safe and secure pathway home or safe passage elsewhere. We must support efforts to focus on humanity, and overcome political and cultural divisions. We must not only imagine a better future for women, children and persecuted minorities, we must work consistently to make it happen – prioritising humanity, not war,” she said.

“The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals,” Murad added.

Sexual exploitation continues to be the main purpose for trafficking, account for almost 60 percent, while forced labor accounts for approximately 34 percent of all identified cases.

Three-quarters of all female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation globally.

The report also found for the first time that the majority of trafficked victims are trafficked within their own countries of citizenship.

The share of identified domestic victims has more than doubled from 27 percent in 2010 to 58 percent in 2016.

This may be due to improved border controls at borders preventing cross-border trafficking as well as a greater awareness of the different forms of trafficking, the report notes.

However, convictions have only recently started to grow and in many countries, conviction rates still remain worryingly low.

In Europe, conviction rates have dropped from 988 traffickers convicted in 2011 to 742 people in 2016.

During that same time period, the number of detected victims increased from 4,248 to 4,429.

There also continue to be gaps in knowledge and information, particularly in certain parts of Africa, Middle East, and East Asia which still lack sufficient capacity to record and share data on human trafficking.

“This report shows that we need to step up technical assistance and strengthen cooperation, to support all countries to protect victims and bring criminals to justice, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Fedotov said at the report’s launch.

Adopted in 2015, the landmark SDGs include ambitious targets including the SDG target 16.2 which calls on member states to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

SDG indicator 16.2.2 asks member states to measure the number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 population and disaggregated by sex, age, and form of exploitation, reflecting the importance of improving data recording, collection, and dissemination.

“The international community needs to…stop human trafficking in conflict situations and in all our societies where this terrible crime continues to operate in the shadows,” Fedotov said.

“I urge the international community to heed Nadia [Murad]’s call for justice,” he added.

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Turning Mangrove Trees into Sustainable Assets for Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/turning-mangrove-trees-sustainable-assets-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turning-mangrove-trees-sustainable-assets-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/turning-mangrove-trees-sustainable-assets-myanmar/#respond Mon, 07 Jan 2019 14:22:38 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159520 In 2015, Worldview International Foundation began a mangrove restoration project, planting saplings of the trees on about 121 hectares of land in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region. In this video, Aung Aung Myint tells IPS when the mangrove restoration began and elaborates on the main species that have been planted. Originally, Myint says, the condition of the soil […]

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By Stella Paul
SHWE THAUNG YAN, Myanmar, Jan 7 2019 (IPS)

In 2015, Worldview International Foundation began a mangrove restoration project, planting saplings of the trees on about 121 hectares of land in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region.

In this video, Aung Aung Myint tells IPS when the mangrove restoration began and elaborates on the main species that have been planted. Originally, Myint says, the condition of the soil was concerning, but has increased over the years.

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Sprouting Mangroves Restore Hopes in Coastal Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/sprouting-mangroves-restore-hopes-coastal-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sprouting-mangroves-restore-hopes-coastal-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/sprouting-mangroves-restore-hopes-coastal-myanmar/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 11:19:28 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159479 Htay Aung is having a moment. The 63-year-old retired professor of Marine Science sits at the foot of a Buddha statue atop a hill on Shwe Thaung Yan sub township, in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region, almost in meditation. Below him, a vast thicket of mangrove glistens in the gold of a setting sun. For Aung, this stretch of […]

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Young planters stand guard by mangrove forest in Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
SHWE THAUNG YAN, Myanmar, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

Htay Aung is having a moment. The 63-year-old retired professor of Marine Science sits at the foot of a Buddha statue atop a hill on Shwe Thaung Yan sub township, in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady region, almost in meditation. Below him, a vast thicket of mangrove glistens in the gold of a setting sun. For Aung, this stretch of mangroves—known as the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park—is a symbol of joy, hope and all things good.

“We gave three years of hard work in planting these trees. Now they are growing tall. Soon, they will be the biggest assets of our people,” he says, pointing at the forest and the tiny dot of houses that appear in the horizon.

The restored mangrove forest in Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Mangroves in Myanmar
This mangrove forest is spread across an area of 2,557 square kilometres (km)—almost the size of Luxembourg.

However, in most places, the density is wafer thin thanks to rampant clearing of the mangroves for space to breed shrimps and for firewood etc. According to a recent study by Pierre Taillerdat, Massimo Lupascu and Daniel Friess, Myanmar loses about 21 square km of its mangrove forests each year.

Shwe Thaung Yan, about 185 km north west of Yangon, once had a severely degraded forest where 75 percent of its mangroves had been destroyed.

Then the story changed.

In 2015, just before the rains came, a motley crowd of a few hundred men, women and youths from the fishing villages, wearing shinny plastic gumboots and carrying sling sacks filled with mangrove saplings, gathered along the muddy swamp in Myagi—one of the three villages under Shwe Thaung Yan.

For several hours a day, they planted the saplings in the muddy soil made fertile and nutrient rich by regular tides.
By October of that year, they had planted over 700,000 trees on three square km of land.

Since then, the plantation drive has taken place each year. By the end of October 2018, the community planted six million trees in three villages of under Shew Thaung Yan, covering 9 square km of land—an area over four times bigger than the city of Monaco.

Leading the planters from the front, besides Aung were U BoNi and Aung Aung Myint, experts in mangrove research and costal ecosystems restoration. The three are currently associated with Worldview International Foundation (WIF)—a Norwegian charity co-founded by Arne Fjortoft, a former journalist turned politician and a renowned environmentalist.

“We used the satellite images, studied the images meticulously and created a map that shows the exact patches in the mangrove forest that had gone bare. We shared this information with the villagers. We also marked the areas and divided the planters in several groups and assigned each group a certain area,” BoNi tells IPS.

Before the plantation started, WIF entered into an active partnership with Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and two of the country’s leading educational institutions, Myeik and Pathein universities. The land area for planting mangroves—over 7 square km in all—was provided by Pathein University, which is also involved in studying marine science along the coast of Shwe Thaung Yan.

Worldview International Foundation (WIF) signboard by a mangrove forest in Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Mitigating Climate Change
Mangroves make up only 0.7 percent of the world’s forests, but they have the potential to store about 2.5 times as much CO2 as humans produce globally each year. A 2017 study estimated that the total amount of carbon held in the world’s mangroves was around 4.2 billion tonnes. If this whole amount were released as CO2, it would be equivalent to the annual emissions of China and the United States put together.

Another study said that Myanmar’s mangroves — which is 3 percent of global mangrove forests, shows “huge (blue carbon) potential if conservation can prevent further emissions from their loss and encourage future carbon sequestration through restoration.” So, blue carbon mitigation at the national scale “is well aligned with the Paris Agreement and associated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for some nations,” the study says.

Cameron Keith Richards, professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, visited Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in 2016 to evaluate the mangrove restoration and its blue carbon stock. In his validation report, which helped the project qualify for selling its carbon stocks, Richards summarised the project saying that it was “reasonably assumed to represent an overall 4.3 million tons of C02 within a 20-year lifecycle of the current trees and additional trees to be planted in the project.”

The mangrove project has opened ways for alternative livelihoods and skill-building opportunities for the community. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Community Development
Shew Thaung Yan is primarily a fishing sub township where catching and selling of fish remain the source of sustenance for its nearly 11,000-strong community.

However, the mangrove project has opened ways for alternative livelihoods and skill-building opportunities for the community: during the monsoon when there is little or no fishing in the sea, the community members earn wages by planting mangrove saplings in the forests around them.

Women of the village have also started a clam farming collective–a first for the community. The collective which presently has 55 members, is running from a site that was earlier used as a nursery for growing mangrove saplings. The women visit the mangrove forest where they collect clams and bring it back to the farm where each of them have a 6 to 10 ft enclosure that are regularly flooded by the tidal waves. The clams have been “sowed’ into the slushy farm soil, where they will thrive and grow fat, feeding on the nutrients brought by the tides.

This is a zero-investment livelihood initiative that promises local women a good earning opportunity, explains Shwe Sandar Oo, the coordinator of the farming project. “The land is free, the clams are free and we have already connected them to buyers,” she tells IPS. The buyers, she says, are hoteliers in Chaung Tha, a beach town popular among domestic and foreign tourists. Big, fleshy clams are high in demand among the tourists and usually fetch half a dollar each.

Clam farmer Thein Thein Sein is full of happiness as she looks upon her zero-investment clam farm in Myagi village of Shwe Thaung Yan sub township in Ayyerwady region of Myanmar. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Thein Thein Nwe, one of the clam farmers says that it’s the zero-investment that drew her to the collective. Earlier this year, Nwe’s eldest daughter dropped out of school at grade 10, after she failed to pass her grade 10 tests. With the income she earns from her clam farm, the 42-year-old fisherwoman now hopes to send her daughter to a private coach, so she could retake the tests.

Many in the village of Maygi have received clean cookstoves and solar lamps provided by WIF. The village has a media centre where school-going children of the village are learning various skills including basic computer operations, photography and embroidery. Run by WIF, the centre offers scholarship girl students who are promising but too poor to afford tuition fees.

Way to the Future
As 2019 begins, the planters in Shwe Thaung Yan are gearing up to plant two billion trees–their biggest plantation drive to date. Once finished, restoration drive of Shwe Thaung Yan would be complete and the restored forest would store 300 million tonnes of CO2, Uboni says. “After this, we are going to Yangon Division and also the delta division. So, in the new year, we will go to Bago and Mon state to plant mangrove,” he announces.

Aung, on the other hand, is more focused on the underwater marine life, especially conserving the seagrass and the coral bed both of which are available in the sea around Shwe Thaung Yan.

“The seagrass can stock much more blue carbon than the land trees or mangrove. It is also what feeds Dugong or sea cow—a critically endangered sea mammal. So, with the help of WIF and Pathein University, we now aim is to build a marine sanctuary around Shwe Thaung Yan,” he says.

The idea has received the approval of Daw Si Si Hla Bu, the rector of Pathein University. “I want to see our university making significant contribution to coastal ecosystem restoration,” Hla Bu tells IPS.

Arne Fjortoft tells IPS that the funding for the proposed marine sanctuary could be raised from selling off the carbon stock of mangrove forests. For Fjortoft, however, the mangrove restoration, vocational trainings, clam farming and marine life conservation are all part of a big, single picture: “The final goal here is to help bring sustainable development for 12 million people of the country’s coastal communities. And that’s the future we are hoping to see.”

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Getting Sustainable Development Back on Track in Asia & the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 13:53:51 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159472 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Social Protection and Financing Social Development
Against the backdrop of persisting poverty and widening inequalities, ESCAP supports national and regional efforts by functioning as a knowledge platform for social protection, including through its Social Protection Toolbox (http://socialprotection-toolbox.org). ESCAP advocates for inclusive social protection along the Social Protection Floor and works to strengthen the capacity of policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region to design, implement and finance inclusive social protection as a tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

2019 will be a landmark year for the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Four years will have passed since world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Four years since governments recommitted themselves to eradicating extreme poverty, improving universal health care coverage, education and food security, and achieving a sweeping set of economic, social and environmental objectives. Long enough to assess our direction of travel and then refocus work where progress is falling short.

As the United Nations development arm in the region, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (UN ESCAP) absolute priority is to support our members achieve the SDGs by 2030. We work to give scale to their effort through regional cooperation and the South-South cooperation. So, we see the stock taking in 2019 as an opportunity. One to ensure our region remains on track to achieve sustainable development.

We already know our region’s effort must be intensified. UN ESCAP analysis shows that on our current trajectory only one SDG, universal education, is on track to be met by 2030. Environmental degradation and air pollution are worsening. Our region is feeling the full force of climate change, but our greenhouse gas emissions remain high. Intraregional trade and connectivity remain below their potential. Inequalities, both within and between countries, are widening.

Much good work is underway to overcome these challenges. But there is scope to step up our region’s response in three main areas.

First, the region cannot afford to ignore widening inequality. Had the proceeds of growth been shared more equitably over the past decade, 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. Inequalities of income, opportunity and increased exposure to natural disasters are all on the rise. Our response clearly needs to cut across sectors. But UN ESCAP research shows social protection delivers the highest return on investment. Countries such as Thailand or Vietnam have expanded their social protection programmes and have expertise to share. Let us use South-South cooperation to share it.

Continuing to strengthen our resilience to natural disasters is also key. We know disasters increase inequality. They keep children out of school and adults out of work, increase inequality and entrench poverty. Regional cooperation can help establish multi-hazard early warning systems, improve impact forecasting and damage assessment. UN ESCAP works closely with the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space of Indonesia (LAPAN) towards these objectives. LAPAN had a leading role in developing the recently agreed Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development. Now, we need to focus on implementation, to harness space applications and digital innovations, to protect people from natural disasters better.

Second, the region must fulfil its longstanding ambition to increase intraregional trade. Recent trade tensions highlight Asia and the Pacific’s vulnerability to protectionism from major export markets. UN ESCAP analysis shows how regional value chains are being disrupted. 2.7 million jobs could be lost due to trade tensions, with unskilled workers, particularly women, suffering most. Increasing intraregional trade and connectivity should be part of our response. By implementing the framework agreement on the facilitation of cross-border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific, adopted by UN ESCAP members to support the exchange of electronic trade data and documents, smoother commercial exchanges are within reach. Particularly if transport and energy connectivity are also increased. ASEAN’s achievement in strengthening power grids across borders is a leading example of successful political commitment and technical cooperation. We need this at the regional level.

Third, Asia and the Pacific should move decisively to reduce its ever-growing environmental footprint that is undermining development and peoples’ health. We should start with air pollution. As rapid urbanization continues, the region accounts for the bulk of cities with unhealthy air pollution levels. It leads to over 2 million premature deaths a year. Now is the time to agree a common response. One which limits hazardous health effects, accelerates the region’s transition to cleaner energy, promotes sustainable transport and strengthens our fight against climate change. A framework for science-based policy cooperation could make a real difference, including by raising ambitions when it comes to fighting climate change. The countries of North East Asia have already agreed a Clean Air Partnership. We should consider building on this approach at a regional level.

2019 is the region’s moment to build a more coherent regional response to these major challenges. To take decisive steps to combat air pollution and climate change, boost intraregional trade, improve social protection and resilience to natural disasters. We owe it to future generations to seize this opportunity, to come together and to quicken our pace to achieve sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

The post Getting Sustainable Development Back on Track in Asia & the Pacific appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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BAPA+40: An Opportunity to Reenergize South-South Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 12:35:46 +0000 Branislav Gosovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159409 Branislav Gosovic, worked in UNCTAD, UNEP, UNECLAC, World Commission on Environment and Development, South Commission, and South Centre (1991-2005), and is the author of the recently-published book ‘The South Shaping the Global Future, 6 Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN.’

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Global South-South Development Expo 2018. Credit: UNOSSC

By Branislav Gosovic
GENEVA, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The upcoming conference on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA+40), scheduled to take place in the Argentine capital on 20-22 March 2019, ought to be more than just another UN conference where the developing countries assemble to present their demands and seek support from the North.

Also, it must not turn out to be a replay of the 2009 1st UN High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation*, i.e. an anodyne event in terms of impact and follow-up, though such a scenario may be preferred by some, risk of which exists since the 2019 gathering is also scheduled to last only three days, not enough time for genuine deliberations and negotiations.

Therefore, it is up to the developing countries to build up BAPA+40 into a major global event.

a. South-South cooperation and the United Nations system

One of the key objectives of the Global South at BAPA+40 should be to place South-South cooperation at the very centre of the UN system of multilateral cooperation.

The UN system needs to recognize the diversity and broad spectrum that SSC subsumes, to resist the limits being imposed on SSC and it being distanced and cut off from its original institutional and political roots and aspirations.

The United Nations ought to introduce clear and specific measures and programmes, necessary human and financial resources, and mandates by “mainstreaming” and “enhancing support” for SSC in every organization and agency of the UN system, to have them incorporate the needs and objectives of South-South cooperation.

It needs also to be reiterated that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for North-South development cooperation, but a parallel and new sphere of multilateral cooperation that opens new and promising opportunities, stimulates North-South cooperation, and provides alternative and innovative approaches in development cooperation.

In the fold of the UN, a significant, yet very limited step to mainstream South-South Cooperation has been taken by upgrading the UNDP Special Unit for TCDC first into a Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and then into the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

This cannot and should not be the end-station, but needs to be followed up ambitiously and seriously at the global level, by appointment of a UN Secretary-General’s high level representative who would provide political vision for South-South cooperation and the establishment of a UN specialized entity within the UNDP platform or in the UN Development System (UNDS) in the making, whose mission would be to promote South-South cooperation, as recommended by the Group of 77 Ministerial Meeting.

Any such entity would need to have its own intergovernmental machinery, a major capital development fund for South-South projects, and fully staffed substantive secretariat equipped to perform a number of important functions, including initiating and funding projects, undertaking research, maintaining a data base on SSC and a directory of national actors involved in SSC, and publishing a regular, periodic UN report on South-South Cooperation called for by G77 Summits.

A suggestion has been floated to consider entrusting this task to UNCTAD, given that its mandate concerning North-South issues has been eroded and its role marginalized.

Such a central entity for SSC would need to be backed, at the regional level, by greatly strengthened and invigorated UN regional economic commissions in the South.

These Commissions are the principal UN bodies based in and with a full knowledge of their respective regions. Their key mission should be the promotion of South-South cooperation or “horizontal cooperation”, as traditionally referred to in Latin America.

The proposed structure, drawing also on UN specialized agencies in their areas of competence, would have as one of its tasks to support and energize sub-regional, regional and inter-regional South-South cooperation.

Regular, high-level UN conferences on South-South cooperation would need to be convened, and a consolidated and regular substantive, analytical and statistical UN report on the state of South-South cooperation will need to be prepared.

b. Global South and South-South cooperation

Given the overall global context, the developing countries cannot rely solely on the United Nations, even if and when the suggested institutional improvements are approved and become operational.

South-South cooperation is an opportunity for the Global South to contribute to achieving a number of outstanding goals and aspirations and be a vehicle for reshaping the global system.

For this to happen, however, what is needed on the part of the developing countries is hard work, mobilization of resources and of collective power, major and sustained efforts and commitment/obligation to pursue and attain a series of objectives that need to be identified and agreed on.

In their efforts to follow this advice, in addition to many practical obstacles and problems, the developing countries would also encounter opposition and doubts within their own ranks, not to mention a frontal or undercover resistance by actors of the North.

This resistance would especially come from those who would consider every major move in that direction as a potential threat to their own interests and global designs, and would, very likely, take steps, including within individual developing countries, often with local support and even via ”inconvenient” regime and leadership change, to influence and embroil the collective efforts.

What matters, however, is that today the Global South has the resources and collective power to move forward, and that this is not a “mission impossible”, as some who are familiar with problems and difficulties encountered in South-South cooperation efforts and undertakings and the building and management of joint institutions might point out. There is little that stands in the way of:

    • Undertaking a critical, in-depth review and analysis of: South-South cooperation, important actions and proposals agreed on over the years and their implementation, experiences, public attitudes, performance of individual countries, functioning of joint institutions and mechanisms of cooperation and integration, main obstacles and shortcomings that call for action, including the all too frequent difficulties or failure to follow up on important decisions taken at the political level.
    • Focussing on how to resolve the issue of lack of adequate financing for South-South cooperation, activities, projects and institutions, probably one of the most serious practical obstacles standing in the way of SSC being put into practice as desired and called for.

    • Inspiring, informing about and involving in the South-South cooperation project the public and individuals; with this in mind, applying capacity-building and training to raise the awareness of the existing experiences and opportunities; using to this end also educational, marketing, media and public relations approaches, which are so common in contemporary society and are used not only to advertise and publicize goods and services, but also political and social goals and causes, in this case the common identity of the South as an entity.

    • Setting up a South organization for South-South cooperation, and pooling together and networking intellectual and analytical resources available in the South and internationally to staff and support the work of that institution.

    • Placing on the agenda the challenge of intellectual self-empowerment of the Global South and the harnessing of its intellectual resources and institutions into an interactive network for support of common goals and collective actions.

    • Evolving, at the highest level, a representative system of political authority (e.g., heads of state or government, one delegated from each region) for regular and ad hoc communication, consultations and contacts, for meetings to assess progress in the implementation of agreed SSC goals, and for communication/interaction with all heads of state and/or government in the Global South.

    • Based on the workings and experience of the South Commission, of the now defunct UN Committee on Development Planning and of the G77 High-Level Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South, to consider establishing a permanent South-South commission or committee to bring together, on a regular basis, high-stature personalities and thinkers from the South to reflect and deliberate on challenges faced by the developing countries and by the international community.

    • Elaborating and agreeing on a blueprint for national self-empowerment for South-South cooperation, to guide and be used as a reference by the individual developing countries in line with their own characteristics and capacities, and transforming this blueprint into a legal instrument binding for all developing countries.

    • Nurturing, training and educating future cadres and leaders for South-South cooperation, directly exposing them to and familiarizing them with different problems and different regions of the South, and, when they are ready, deploying them in national, sub-regional, regional and multilateral, including UN, settings.

    • Focussing on the role of “digital South-South cooperation” in the promotion and energizing of all forms of South-South cooperation, including closer contacts, communication, information sharing and interaction, mutual understanding between and among the peoples and countries of the South, transfer of technology, and education and culture.

    • Calling for closer cooperation between and joint initiatives of G77 and NAM, an important pending political and institutional topic on the agenda of the Global South.

There is little new in the above suggestions, which draw on practical experiences and have been articulated over the years and in different contexts. What they propose is within reach, is doable, and would represent a major “leap forward” for South-South cooperation.

What is needed today is firm political will, long-term vision and determined initiative for a group of the South’s countries and leaders to launch such a process on the desired track and, most importantly, sustain it with the necessary political commitment and financial and institutional support.

The 2019 Buenos Aires Conference in March next year is an opportunity for the South to stand up and raise its collective voice, as at the very beginnings of South-South cooperation in Bandung (1955), Belgrade (1961), Geneva (1964) and Algiers (1967).

* This article is a shortened version of the concluding pages of an extensive essay “On the eve of BAPA+40 – South-South Cooperation in today’s geopolitical context”, which was published in VESTNIK RUDN. International Relations, 2018, Volume 18, Issue 03, October 2018, pp. 459-478, the international journal of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN), formerly Patrice Lumumba University, in a special volume to mark the 40th anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. (See http://journals.rudn.ru/international-relations/article/view/20098/16398 )

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Excerpt:

Branislav Gosovic, worked in UNCTAD, UNEP, UNECLAC, World Commission on Environment and Development, South Commission, and South Centre (1991-2005), and is the author of the recently-published book ‘The South Shaping the Global Future, 6 Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IPS: What are the challenges facing GGGI?

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

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

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

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Pakistan: Food Security and Reducing the Price of Wheathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 09:05:26 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159265 Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high […]

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The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year. The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high enough to allow workers access to food and other necessities – even if such wages are higher than the going market rate.

Some iconic and highly successful firms have in fact done this. Henry Ford, in 1914, caused quite a stir when he decided to offer his workers five dollars a day – double the going market pay at the time. This allowed him to not only have a healthy and satisfied work force but also to pick and choose his employees; to ensure that they stayed with the company; did not spend time looking for other opportunities as their experience and skill levels improved; and felt a stake in the success of the firm.

Other companies such as Guiness, Cadbury’s and Tata’s followed the same route providing not only good salaries but also housing, medical services and schools, as well as scholarship for the brightest children of their employees.

A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

In Karachi, a friend runs one of the most successful engineering companies in the country. He tells of how two fresh graduate engineers came looking for a job and asking for a salary of Rupees 10,000/month (about US$75 at today’s exchange rate).

My friend told them that this was “a ridiculous demand” and that as qualified engineers from a reputable university he was not prepared to pay a penny less than Rupees 20,000. This was 20 years back and much of the success of the firm was the result of the dedication and hard work on these two “overpaid” engineers.

For countries, the same principles and practices hold. A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

This was one of the key principles underlying the creation of the welfare state. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are extremely high with approximately 60 percent of the population vulnerable to food insecurity.  Moreover, nearly half of children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, which implies that their will most likely not reach their full physical and mental potential.

Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted this issue in his inaugural speech and committed his Government to addressing the country’s nutrition emergency.  However, given the Government’s generally weak implementation capacity and tight fiscal situation there is a need to find suitable low cost means to achieve this goal. On such means is by reducing the price of food.

The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year.  The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

This was a price approaching US$ 300/tonne (US Dollar to Pakistan Rupee exchange rate of Rupees 110 which was the rate prevailing at the time of the last wheat harvest) paid at farm-gate.  This is a price well above what farmers in most countries get.

To keep the price of wheat at Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms, the Government imposes import tariffs which currently stand at 60%. In addition huge outlays are incurred to buy, store and then dispose of this wheat. As wheat production has increased beyond domestic need and there is a subsidy given to exporters.

The impact of high wheat prices on consumers, particularly the poor, is very significant. Often it is argued that high prices for wheat and other food items help reduce poverty in rural areas.   This is simply not correct as the bulk of Pakistan’s poor rural population comprises of small scale farmers and landless who are net buyers of food.

High prices favor large farmers who have surpluses to sell; the big flour millers who get subsidized wheat from the Government; the large bureaucracy that has been created to run the wheat procurement system; and the banks, who lend to the Government for the purchase of wheat.  Direct budgetary costs of administering the system, according to the Government’s own estimates, amount to Rupees 200 billion (US$1.5 billion)/annum.

If the import restrictions on wheat are removed, domestic prices could fall considerably. In big centers such as Lahore and Karachi, where prices are 11% to 21% higher compared to international prices, a family of six people, consuming about 744 kilograms of wheat per year would save around Rupees 5,000 (almost US$40) per year.

In addition, the Government would save the costs incurred in running the system would amount to another Rupees 6,000 (over US$45) per family. This money could be used to fund targeted food assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable.

It would take some political courage to take on the lobbies of those who benefit from the current system of wheat procurement.  But if this can be done it would make a huge dent in addressing a fundamental problem without any extra outlay of public funds.

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

 

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From Cambodia, with lovehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/from-cambodia-with-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-cambodia-with-love http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/from-cambodia-with-love/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 06:24:44 +0000 Rubana Huq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159182 Education indeed. Getting to Phnom Penh took me to yet another learning curve. Not being able to fly out of Dhaka for almost close to 18 hours is a story to share, but getting de-planed and watching passengers reacting to the situation is another narrative altogether. Re-fuelling had failed as the pump wasn’t working and […]

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A Phnom Penh street scene. PHOTO: JONAS HANSEL/FLICKR

By Rubana Huq
Dec 12 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Education indeed. Getting to Phnom Penh took me to yet another learning curve. Not being able to fly out of Dhaka for almost close to 18 hours is a story to share, but getting de-planed and watching passengers reacting to the situation is another narrative altogether. Re-fuelling had failed as the pump wasn’t working and more than three flights were stuck and couldn’t take off and passengers had to be transported to hotels after midnight.

After midnight, this Dhaka that I breathe in, looked different. The driver of the microbus from a pre-dinosaur era was in a hurry to pick up the other batch from the airport. The transport had the smell of a burnt cigarette, with a real-life smoker up at the front huffing and puffing about having missed his flight. In no time, I decided not to give up on this adventure and stuck to the general plan instead of opting for my chauffeur. He drove at 160 miles an hour, braving export-laden trucks, and cheering every time he saved us from getting hit by any one of them.

Speed is what we needed, he said, and I hastily and unhesitatingly agreed. Meanwhile, a Dutchman, in all his glory, lashed out at the airport staff, immigration authorities and anyone who crossed his path. For him, what mattered was speed and efficiency. The rest could wait. For him, human errors past midnight were unpardonable, technical failures were unacceptable and the list could go on. Pretty amazingly, the rest of our own clan seemed content and a few like me enjoyed watching the flame and the fury of the disgruntled…

Finally, after landing in Phnom Penh the night before, I felt overwhelmed by the “look” and feel of development. The airport is managed by the French, where arrival felt super smooth, and I got into the car with my luggage in less than 15 minutes. The hint of western food chains loomed large and it was obvious that Cambodia was trying to mimic the West, enticing investments to a place which was still stung by conflicting values. It’s also an NGO land. Cambodia has close to 4,000 NGOs in place. The NGO boom here started in the early 1990s after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, marking the start of an era of development and democracy after 50 years of political turmoil. There is at least one active NGO for every 10,000 Cambodians. After Rwanda, it has the second highest number of NGOs per capita in the world.

Like almost anywhere else, it is a land ridden by paradoxes. While the march for development is on, the graduation to a tolerant landscape is still a far cry. The first headline of the day was all about Phnom Penh banning a march on Human Rights Day from the old Freedom Park to its new site. The gathering was allowed but the march was banned on account of concerns about “security, safety and public order.” The other news was on the Khmer National Liberation Front receiving the “green light” from the “authorities.” I gathered from the papers that the members of their movement had “realised their mistakes” and thus, Prime Minister Hun Sen could seek pardon for them from King Norodom Sihamoni. As for the readymade garment exporters’ scene, quite interestingly, the cases of the six trade union leaders, who were protesting the wage scene in Veng Sreng Boulevard, way back in 2013, are still being heard. The defendants face charges of “international act of violence with aggravating circumstances” and jail term of five years, in spite of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia having withdrawn its complaint.

The last time I was here was in 2013 for mentoring a young Cambodian girl, a scavenger who was rescued from the dumps and was given shelter in an NGO founded and run by an ex-president of 20th Century Fox International, Scott Neeson. Neeson had discovered Phnom Penh as a shooting location, fell in love with it and then returned to Cambodia to settle. The top boss of Hollywood left behind a million-dollar salary, sold his cars, yacht, dumped his doubts and started helping children going through and burning piles of garbage, getting affected by methane. Now his meetings are typically at dump sites, where he encourages families to keep their children in school.

When I met Neeson, he sounded like a regular man trying to do his best for a community that needed him. For Scott, the definitions of power, profit and wealth were all different. Like they ought to be. Scott’s project, the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), has 64 projects in six core programme areas: education, community outreach, leadership, career and life skills, healthcare and childcare. CCF touches the lives of more than 2,500 children and has targeted academic programmes through the Neeson Cripps Academy (NCA), providing impoverished Cambodian children with quality education opportunities through conducive learning spaces and digital technologies, with a special focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). All this so that the children have a better understanding of the universe they live in.

For a man who dropped out of school at 17, education looks different than what it appears to be in a typical world.

While I am racing to the end of the column, I can hear the school bells and the children of Phnom Penh chanting their vows. Dressed in blue and white, they are no different than ours. They have the same look and the same potential. As for ourselves, for the world that we are leaving behind, are we teaching them to rise above intolerance and greed? With Asia taking off at its best speed, are we ringing our own periodic bells and reminding the millennial generation that instead of the race to the next best home, car or balance sheet, “empathy” still tops the list as the most critical asset and in place of greed or grudge, the world still needs to pass on to the next generation the knowledge of generosity of gesture?

Are we?

Dr Rubana Huq is the managing director of Mohammadi Group. Her Twitter handle is @Rubanah.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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AI to map Chinese strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ai-map-chinese-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:38:41 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159166 29 years ago, Han Dongfang survived the hail of bullets at Tiananmen Square. Now, he lives in Hong Kong and maps Chinese labour market strikes. Arbetet Global caught up with him at the ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen. Between meetings at Bella Center in Copenhagen, Arbetet Global gets a chat with the man who’s been […]

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Indonesia Commits to Low Carbon Development and a Green Economy at COP24http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/indonesia-commits-low-carbon-development-green-economy-cop24/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesia-commits-low-carbon-development-green-economy-cop24 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/indonesia-commits-low-carbon-development-green-economy-cop24/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 09:24:02 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159150 Although Indonesia has attained decent economic growth of over five percent in the last decade, in order to ensure sustainable growth in the future the switch to renewable energy (RE) will be critical, says the country’s government. “If we don’t focus on low carbon development, we cannot continue this growth,” Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister of […]

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A traffic jam, in Indonesia's capital Jakarta. Air pollution in Jarkarta is triple the the maximum “safe” level recommended by the World Health Organisation. The country's government says it is committed to making the switch to renewables. Credit: Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Although Indonesia has attained decent economic growth of over five percent in the last decade, in order to ensure sustainable growth in the future the switch to renewable energy (RE) will be critical, says the country’s government.
“If we don’t focus on low carbon development, we cannot continue this growth,” Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister of National Development Planning, said yesterday Dec. 10.

He spoke about Indonesia’s shift to a low carbon, climate-friendly development pathway at a high-level panel discussion at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which is currently being held in Katowice, Poland. The panel discussion was organised by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), in partnership with the Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia (BAPPENAS).

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of catastrophic climatic impacts if global warming is not kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will include severe impact on food production and increasing risks of climate-related disasters.

But according to Brodjonegoro, the Indonesian government is taking this issue seriously.
“We are fully committed to steer our economy for low carbon development. We will mainstream a low carbon framework in our medium-term development plan,” he said, adding that low carbon development in Indonesia would involve improving environmental quality, attaining energy efficiency, increasing agriculture productivity, improving reforestation and reducing deforestation simultaneously.

There is a large scope for RE development in Indonesia, as most of its potential is unrealised as of now. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report on Indonesia’s RE prospects, the country has “an estimated 716 GW of theoretical potential for renewable energy-based power generation”. But of its bioenergy potential of 32.7 GW, it has developed a mere 1.8 GW.

“In order to provide the electricity for remote areas, this is a good time to promote renewable energy as this will increase the percentage of renewable energy in our energy mix,” Brodjonegoro said.

According to the minister, a key issue for scaling up RE in Indonesia lies with developing the capacity of stakeholders to meet the needs of different types of investors to access finance.

Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister of National Development Planning, said the switch to renewable energy is critical for his country’s sustainable economic growth. He was speaking at a panel discussion held at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director General of GGGI, echoed these thoughts, stating that the critical factor for proliferating renewables in Indonesia is whether it can attract private sector investment.

“Both governments and the private sector have not fully incorporated the idea that green growth is not only nice but it is also affordable,” he said. “Businesses should be investing in renewable energy because there is a business opportunity.”
In this regard, he said that blended finance could be a critical path where every dollar investment from donors could catalyse other investments from private sources.

State Secretary for Climate and Environment in Norway Sveinung Rotevatn, was a panelist at the event. He stated that Norway is encouraged by the low carbon development in Indonesia, and is committing substantial funds to reduce deforestation there. According to Global Forest Watch, Indonesia experienced a drop in tree cover loss in 2017, including a 60 percent decline in primary forest loss. The organisaiton said that this could be in part to the 2016 government moratorium on the conversion of peatland.

“As a developed country we see [Norway] as having a responsibility to contribute,” he said. Norway has been working in partnership with Indonesia since 2010.

The future of oil is not bright, and Rotevatn believes the shift in production to gas from coal could be a useful bridge towards a shift to renewables in the long run. He added that resistance in this transition from fossil fuels to renewables is expected.

“In 1991 Norway introduced a carbon tax. Today we consider it a natural thing but implementing it is always hard,” he said. One estimate from the Norwegian environmental agency shows that since Norway reduced emissions in 1991 it continued healthy economic growth.

However, Indonesia has a long way to go in the transition process as over 90 percent of its energy still comes from fossil fuels. But the government is optimistic of its potential to scale up RE.

“We are focusing on incentivising renewable energy production and increasing infrastructure of renewable energy capacity. We have a lot of isolated islands and remote areas which can be utilised,” said Rida Mulyana, Director General of New, Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation (NREEC) at Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

However, he noted that several challenges remain. One of these is public acceptance, as there is still a need for systematic and sustainable socialisation and education to minimise community resistance to RE projects.

Moreover, affordability of the available clean energy remains an issue, and the cost needs to be reduced for renewables to be a viable option. This is exacerbated by the fact that liquified petroleum gas is still subsidised, which fosters Indonesia’s dependency on fossil fuels.

While Mulayana pointed out financing as a key issue, he also said the government will not provide any subsidy for renewables and it has to compete with other sources of energy.

David Kerins, Senior Energy Economist at the European Investment Bank and another panelist at the event, said although RE projects are becoming more commercially viable, the private sector is yet to jump in on these investment opportunities. So there is a need to promote investment while providing safeguards to investors on the expected benefits.

“The RE energy sector has moved far beyond the situation it was before. Once people see how possible and straight forward it is, private sector can start targeting projects of its own,” he said.

Glenn Pearce-Oroz, Director for Policy and Programmes, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), one of the attendees of the event, said one of the important next steps will be how to bring along commercial financing for low carbon development.

“Part of what we are seeing is private sector being more and more interested to do business in the green economy. What they are looking for though is clarity of roles and consistency in terms of the markets they are getting into,” he said.

“So the challenge for developing countries is how do you demonstrate that type of consistency and clarity and how do you establish clear rules of the game, good regulatory frameworks, that gives private sector the confidence to come into these markets?” He said Indonesia has the size, dynamism of economy and a lot of favourable elements for attracting private sector investment.

“Green growth as a concept is beginning to take off in different countries,” said Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and a 24-time COP attendee.

“The most important element of any green growth strategy is to make sure it’s nationally determined and nationally owned,” he said, adding that modality of green growth is peculiar to the politics, socio economic conditions and culture of a country.

“Green growth is more of a political process than a technical process. There are vested interests and issues that have to be worked out at the national level,” he said. “The good news is it [green growth] has started to happen.”

 

  • This story has been published with support from Inter Press Service, the Stanley Foundation, Earth Journalism Network and Climate Change Media Partnership.

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Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’shttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 09:57:24 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159042 IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The bamboo industry in China currently comprises up to 10 million people who make a living out of production of the grass. But while the Asian nation has significant resources of bamboo — three million hectares of plantation and three million hectares of natural forests — the continent of Africa is recorded to have an estimated three and a half million hectares of plantations, excluding conservation areas.

This means that there is a possibility of creating a similar size industry in Africa, according to International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) director general Dr. Hans Friederich.

“In China, where the industry is developed, we have eight to 10 million people who make a living out of bamboo. They grow bamboo, manufacture things out of bamboo and sell bamboo poles. That has given them a livelihood and a way to build a local economy to create a future for themselves and their children,” he tells IPS.

INBAR is the only international organisation championing the development of environmentally sustainable bamboo and rattan. It has 44 member states — 43 of which are in the global south — with the secretariat headquarters based in China, and with regional offices in India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. Over the years, the multilateral development organisation has trained up to 25,000 people across the value chain – from farmers and foresters to entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Africa is estimated to have three and a half million hectares of bamboo. While China has about six million hectares of natural forests, almost double the size of Africa’s, experts say there is potential for developing the industry on the continent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been INBAR’s Role in the South-South Cooperation agenda?

Dr. Hans Friederich (DHF): In fact, a lot of our work over the last 21 years is to link our headquarters in China with our regional offices and our members around the world to help develop policies, put in place appropriate legislation and regulations to build capacity, train local people, provide information, and carry out real field research to test new approaches to manage resources in the most efficient way.

I think we [have been] able to help our members more effectively and do more in the way of training and capacity building. I also hope we can develop bamboo and rattan as vehicles for sustainable development with our member countries around the world, especially in the Global South.

IPS: What are the prospects for Africa’s bamboo and rattan industry?

DHF: The recorded statistics say that Africa has about three and half million hectares of bamboo, which excludes conservation [areas].

So, if I were to make a guess, Africa has as much bamboo as China [excluding China’s natural forests] and that means theoretically, we should have the possibility of creating an industry as large as China’s in Africa. That means an industry of 30 billion dollars per a year employing 10 million people.

IPS: How is INBAR helping to develop such a huge potential in Africa?

DHF: The returns we are seeing in China may not happen overnight in Africa, China has had 30 to 40 years to develop this industry.

But what we are doing is working with our members in Africa to kick off the bamboo value chain to start businesses and help members make the most out of these plants.

IPS: Working with countries from the global south means replication of best practices and knowledge sharing among member states. Are there any good examples worth mentioning?

DHF: China is the world’s leading country when it comes to the production and management of bamboo so we have a lot to learn from China. Fortunately China has the financial resources that makes it easy to share that information and knowledge with our members …Looking at land management activities in Ghana, as an example, I think bamboo can really help in restoring lands that have been damaged through illegal mining activities.

Maybe that is actually where we can learn from other African countries because we are already looking at how bamboo can help with the restoration of degraded lands in Ethiopia.

Also, when we had a training workshop in Cameroon last year and we looked at architecture, we brought an architect from Peru who shared his experience of working with bamboo in Latin America, which was quite applicable to Cameroon. So we are using experience from different parts of the world to help others develop what they think is important.

IPS: What is the most important thing in the development of the bamboo and rattan value chain for an African country like Ghana?

DHF: There are a number of things that we can do. One area that Ghana is already working on with regards to bamboo and rattan, is furniture production. I know that there is fantastic work being done with skills development.

The value chain of furniture production is an area where Ghana already has a lot to offer. But if we can improve quality, if we can make the furniture more interesting for consumers, through skills training [of artisans], then that is an area where we can really help.

IPS: Which other opportunity can Ghana look at exploring in the area of Bamboo and Rattan value chain?

DHF: Another area of opportunity is to use bamboo as a source of charcoal for household energy. People depend on charcoal, especially in rural areas in Ghana, but most of the charcoal comes from often illegally-cut trees.

Instead of cutting trees we can simply harvest bamboo and make charcoal from this, which is a legally produced source.

The great thing about Bamboo is that it re-grows the following growing season after harvesting, so it is a very sustainable source of charcoal production.

IPS: What does the future look like for INBAR?

DHF: Two months ago Beijing hosted the China Africa Forum and we were very, very pleased to have read that the draft programme of work actually includes the development of Africa’s bamboo industry. There is a paragraph that says China and Africa will work together to establish an African training centre.

We understand this will most likely be in Ethiopia and it will happen hopefully in the coming years.

Another thing is that China and Africa will work closely together to develop the bamboo and rattan industry. They will also develop specific activities on how to use bamboo for land restoration and climate change mitigation and to see how bamboo can help with livelihood development in Africa in partnership with China.

This is a very exciting development, a new window of opportunity has opened for us to work together to develop bamboo and rattan in Africa.

 

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Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Fish Farming Takes on Crime in Papua New Guineahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 10:26:02 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158988 In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae. Moxy, who completed […]

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A fish farm in Central Province near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae.

Moxy, who completed his sentence at the Bihute Prison in Eastern Highlands Province ten years ago, has used skills learned during his time in gaol to set up a fish farming enterprise in his village, located 15 kilometres northwest of the Province’s main town of Goroka. Today he is proudly known as ‘Daddy Fish’ in his community where he has regained self-esteem, social status and is sought after for his wisdom and knowledge.

“Whenever I feel down or I am tempted to do wrong, I sit by my fish ponds and look at what I achieved,” he said.

Moxy is one of many inmates who have participated in the Fish for Prisons program, the result of a partnership between Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The initiative, begun in 2008, aims to train and mentor prisoners in aquaculture practice so they are equipped for a new livelihood before they are released.  But the training has also made ex-prisoners more disciplined, self-motivated, emotionally resilient and less likely to reoffend.

Aquaculture, while still a relatively under-developed industry in the Pacific Islands, possesses huge potential to help meet future food and nutritional needs in the region, where fish is a major part of the daily diet.

The global average fish consumption rate of 20.2kg per person pales in comparison to the Pacific Islands where consumption is 53kg per person in Papua New Guinea, 85kg in Tonga and 118kg in the Solomon Islands.

Yet for people living in inland areas of Papua New Guinea, far from the sea, protein deficiency is common. It was high levels of malnutrition in the highlands which prompted the introduction of aquaculture into the country in the 1960s, although development of the sector was very slow until recently. A decade ago, there were an estimated 10,000 fish farms in the country, but today the number has jumped to about 60,000 aided by improved research, training programs and outreach support.

Fish farming is as important as ever to combating malnutrition, which remains pervasive among the Melanesian nation’s population of more than 8 million people. The child stunting rate is the fourth highest in the world and children living in the highlands are at greater risk than those living in coastal communities.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims that, with its multiple nutrients, fish is the optimum single food for addressing undernourishment.  It possesses high quality animal protein, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, as well as fat and water soluble vitamins.

But aquaculture is also giving young people in rural areas, where unemployment is as high as 70 percent, the chance to acquire vocational skills, economic self-reliance and sense of achievement.

This has happened in the Eastern Highlands village of Hogu where a criminal band, locally known as a ‘raskol gang’, renowned for car jackings, extortion, robbery and an illegal marijuana racket, had turned the nearby section of highway into the infamously known ‘Barola Raskol Hotspot.’ It was a treacherous place for any motorist or traveller.

But that all changed when fish farmer training was conducted in the village three years ago, gaining the attention of the gang.

“They saw the training being held and came down to see what was going on in their territory. They became interested, were welcomed by the [training] team and eventually participated,” Associate Professor Jes Sammut of the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Ecosystem Science and the fisheries consultant in Papua New Guinea for the ACIAR told IPS.

The program covered all facets of practice, including husbandry, water quality management, building and maintaining fish ponds, producing low cost fish feed and the use of organic fertilisers with the aim of strengthening sustainable food security and household incomes.

After finishing the course, the raskols, aged from 25-47 years, established 100 fish ponds, which now produce tilapia and carp and help to feed the village’s population of more than 680 people. In so doing, they gained an honest livelihood and respect within the community, eventually destroying their marijuana crops and abandoning crime.

Micah Aranka, who works with fish farmers in Hogu, said that “they [the gang] worked hard on digging their ponds and digging canals to draw water to their ponds…..and by watching the fish in their ponds they have found peace.”

In the most populous Pacific Island nation, aquaculture has emerged as an unlikely agent of social change, as well as a more secure food future.

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The Bond that is Educating Girls Across Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bond-educating-girls-across-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bond-educating-girls-across-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bond-educating-girls-across-india/#respond Sat, 01 Dec 2018 05:36:17 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158974 Barely five months into the start of Sneha’s year at a government school in Bhilwara, a town in India’s desert state of Rajasthan, the bubbly 15-year-old was pulled out by her parents. They wanted her to stay at home instead, to look after her four younger siblings and to cook and clean for the family […]

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Schoolgirls in rural Bihar, India. In Indian villages one in 10 girls aged 10 to 14 are kept out of school to help contribute to the family income or care for siblings. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Dec 1 2018 (IPS)

Barely five months into the start of Sneha’s year at a government school in Bhilwara, a town in India’s desert state of Rajasthan, the bubbly 15-year-old was pulled out by her parents. They wanted her to stay at home instead, to look after her four younger siblings and to cook and clean for the family as her parents worked on their farm.

Sneha’s  parents, however, are no different from thousands of others in rural Rajasthan who believe it is pointless to educate daughters as they ultimately get married and leave their parents’ homes to manage their own households and raise kids.

Many opt to train their daughters in housekeeping and child rearing from a young age, using their skills to provide free care and services to their families instead.

Sneha’s story, however, had a different ending. Her school principal and Educate Girls (EG), a non-profit that empowers communities to facilitate girls’ education in rural India, intervened. They spoke to Sneha’s parents about the importance of education and how receiving an education could become life-changing for the young girl and her family.

“After we were counselled, we realised that we had erred in depriving our daughter of an education,” Kishan Ram, 48, Sneha’s father, told IPS. “And that if  we educate her, she will be able to make informed life choices that will not only help her earn a livelihood but also improve the future of an entire generation.”

Sneha’ is not the only young girl in India who was able to return to school thanks to intervention from EG.

Since 2007, the multiple award-winning organisation has been working to empower and educate underprivileged communities to make young girls employable, join the country’s formal workforce and lift their families out of poverty.

EG has grown from a 500-school pilot project, to serve a network of over 25,000 schools across 16 districts in Rajasthan as well as the central India state of Madhya Pradesh. It aims to leverage existing community and government resources to augment access and quality of education for around 2.5 million children across 27,500 schools by the end of 2018.

In 2015 EG became part of a unique experiment. It implemented the Development Impact Bond (DIB), a mechanism which capitalises on private risk capital so that a third party, such as a donor agency or foundation, can finance the achievement of agreed-upon outcomes.

“This type of outcome-based funding can be a great catalyst for driving quality and improving learning outcomes in the education sector,” Dr. Suresh Pant, an educationist and former associate Professor from the Delhi University, told IPS.

According to one of the stakeholders in the project, UBS Optimus Foundation, DIBs are more result-oriented compared to traditional funding as they transfer the risk to investors who put in the working capital for the implementing organisations on the ground. Predefined targets are regularly measured and this enables the implementing organisation to adapt quickly for any course correction where necessary. The implementing organisation has an increased motivation to deliver results.

“Patriarchy and gender-based discrimination systematically exclude girls from school thus denying them the advantages of autonomy, mobility and economic independence that boys enjoy,” EG’s Founder and London School of Economics alumnus, Safeena Husain, told IPS. “Education opens doors for girls giving them the potential for equal opportunity. Our organisation alleviates these girls’ life and future by bringing them into a formal education system.”

Children in the rural town of Harohalli Taluq, 60 kilometres south of Bangalore, India. Though India has achieved a 99 percent enrolment rate of school children at primary level, the quality of learning has remained abysmal. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

Though India has achieved a 99 percent enrolment rate of school children at primary level, the quality of learning has remained abysmal. An Indian student, say surveys, lags at least two grades behind the level that is expected for their age. Rajasthan reports some of the worst education indicators in the country.

Working in synergy with the government, EG taps into a network of 12,000 community volunteers, called Team Balika, to ensure higher enrolment and attendance for girls as well as improved learning outcomes for all children.

Experts say this approach to education is a huge boon for Indian villages where one in 10 girls aged 10 to 14 are kept out of school to help contribute to the family income or care for siblings.

Dr. Shamika Ravi, Research Director at Brookings India, opines that the DIB model has immense implications for education policy and innovative financing instruments.

“Impact Bonds are a new, complementary source of funding developmental interventions. Private sector firms undertake the initial investment by providing the upfront working capital to service providers to deliver programmes on the ground. Outcome payers — governments or development agencies — are obligated to repay the private firms’ investment alongside a fixed return if, and only if, pre-determined performance indicators are met. The bonds’ stakeholders can collectively impact the delivery of social services, and how small-scale interventions can create benchmarks and common frameworks for scale and sector-wide impact,” he writes in his column in The Hindu newspaper.

EG students’ learning is measured using the Annual Status of  Education Report, an annual survey that provides reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India. The test measures three proficiencies: Hindi, English and Mathematics. Student enrolment is defined by the percentage of out-of-school girls (between the ages of seven and 14) enrolled in school by the end of the third year.

According to EG’s annual report released this August, in it’s third year the DIB surpassed both its target outcomes by achieving 160 percent of its learning target and 116 percent of its enrolment target.

“Progress was measured against agreed targets for the number of out-of-school girls enrolled into primary and upper primary schools as well as the progress of girls and boys in English, Hindi and Math. The outcome-based funding model, with its constant feedback and analysis of data from the field teams, has allowed the organisation to identify challenges and craft customised  solutions,” says the report.

The organisation’s biggest success was enrolment—which reached 92 percent—and accounted for 20 percent of the outcome payment. The programme had also surpassed the target, enrolling 768 girls, accounting for a 116 percent increase. Learning outcomes, which made up 80 percent of the outcome payment, saw an upward spiral of 8,940 more learning levels than the comparison group against a targeted predefined metric of 5,592, equivalent to a 160 percent achievement against target, says the report.

Participation in the DIB, explains Husain has led to EG becoming more target-driven and develop precise frameworks, processes and capabilities to measure and monitor the outcomes achieved. “The success of the DIB model has proven we’re on the right path,” she concludes.

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Asia-Pacific Takes Stock of Ambitious Development Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 05:16:58 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158909 Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing […]

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By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing economic growth with social imperatives, underpinned by rights and choices for all as enshrined in the landmark Programme of Action stemming from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD.

In the Programme of Action, diverse views on population, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and sustainable development merged into a remarkable global consensus that placed individual dignity and human rights at the heart of development.

Truly revolutionary at the time, ICPD remains all the more urgent and relevant a quarter-century later, in this era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals. Without ICPD we would not have the SDGs, and indeed they go hand in hand. The ICPD is a dedicated vehicle through which we can – and will – address, achieve and fulfill the SDGs.

How well have we responded to trends such as population ageing and international migration? How successful have we been in ensuring optimal sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all, including the right to choose when or whether to get married and when or whether to have children, and how many? How well have we done in strengthening gender equality and women’s empowerment, and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable among us? Where should our efforts be refocused to leave no one behind?

Asia and the Pacific has much to celebrate. The region remains the engine of global growth and at the forefront of the global fight against poverty. It is now home to half the world’s middle class. The share of the population living in poverty has dropped considerably although it is still unacceptably high. People are living, longer healthier lives. Rights-based family planning has contributed to considerable economic success and women’s empowerment. And we are on track to achieve universal education by 2030.

Yet for all this growth, considerable injustices remain. On its current trajectory, the region will fall short of achieving the 2030 Agenda. In several areas we are heading in altogether the wrong direction. Inequalities within and between countries are widening. Some 1.2 billion people live in poverty of which 400 million live in extreme poverty. Lack of decent job opportunities and access to essential services are perpetuating injustice across generations.

At the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), we are keen to shine the spotlight on three key issues where regional commitment is vital.

First, we need to respond to the unprecedented population changes unfolding across the Asia-Pacific region. Many countries are facing a rapidly ageing population. The proportion of people above the age of sixty is expected to more than double by 2050. Effectively meeting the needs of an ageing society and ensuring healthy and productive lives must be a priority. This requires a life cycle approach – from pregnancy and childbirth, through adolescence and adulthood, to old age – ensuring that all people are allowed to fulfil their socioeconomic potential, underpinned by individual rights and choices.

Equally, there is a strong case for strengthening Asia-Pacific’s response to international migration. Migrants can, when allowed, contribute significantly to development. However, we know that migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. So, our ambition is for discussions this week to build further momentum in support of safe, orderly and regular migration to fully harness its development benefits.

Second, there is clear evidence the region must spend more on social protection, as well as on health care and education. Today, social protection is the preserve of a few, rather than a right for all. As a result, 60 per cent of our population are at risk of being trapped in vulnerability or pushed into poverty by sickness, disability, unemployment or old age, often underpinned by gender inequality. The “Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific: Poorly Protected”, which ESCAP will publish later this week, sets out why expanding social protection is the most effective means of reducing poverty, strengthening rights and making vulnerable groups less exposed. Many women, migrants, older persons and rural communities would also benefit. Our evidence suggests it could even end extreme poverty in several countries by 2030.

Third, we need to invest in generating disaggregated data to tell us who is being left behind to ensure our response to population dynamics is targeted and credible. Availability of data on social and demographic issues lag far behind anything related to the economy. Millions of births remain unregistered, leading to the denial of many basic rights, particularly to women and girls. Of the 43 countries which conducted a census between 2005 and 2014, only 16 have reliable data on international migration. With the 2020 round of censuses upon us, we will be redoubling our efforts to close these data gaps by strengthening new partnerships for data capacity and working with governments and other partners to translate data into policy and action.

The Midterm Review of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development as well as the Committee on Social Development provide the region with an opportunity to speak with one voice on population and development issues. ESCAP and UNFPA stand united in their commitment to supporting their Member States to build and strengthen a regional response to issues that will shape the future for generations to come.

We look to this week’s discussions to galvanize countries behind the ambition and vision that link ICPD and the SDGs and accelerate work to leave no one behind in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Dr. Natalia Kanem is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

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Youth Create Businesses that Are Geared to Protecting the Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/youth-create-businesses-geared-protecting-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youth-create-businesses-geared-protecting-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/youth-create-businesses-geared-protecting-environment/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 08:04:34 +0000 Ahn Mi Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158880 An organic pesticide safe for farmers and the environment, and carbonised fuel briquettes made from agricultural waste materials and organic waste are all business ideas that promote a green economy. The entrepreneurs who started these businesses are among the winners of this year’s ‘Greenprenuers’ Programme, which is designed by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) […]

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Brian Kakembo Galabuzi who founded Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise (WEYE) Clean Energy Company Ltd in Uganda which makes carbonised fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials and organic waste. In Africa, over 640 million people have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Ahn Mi Young
SEOUL, Nov 27 2018 (IPS)

An organic pesticide safe for farmers and the environment, and carbonised fuel briquettes made from agricultural waste materials and organic waste are all business ideas that promote a green economy.

The entrepreneurs who started these businesses are among the winners of this year’s ‘Greenprenuers’ Programme, which is designed by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) to supercharge green growth start-ups. It was run with GGGI, Youth Climate Labs and Student Energy (SE).

The programme helps young entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas “take their idea from concept to business plan, for a solution that positively impacts the future of sustainable energy; water and sanitation; sustainable landscapes (forestry and agriculture); or green city development.”

“It was very amazing to be selected among the 10 finalists out of over 345 applicants from around the world,” said Brian Kakembo Galabuzi who founded Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise (WEYE) Clean Energy Company Ltd in Uganda. It makes carbonised fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials and organic waste.

In Uganda, 80 percent of solid waste is organic and can be used to produce cheaper and cleaner cooking charcoal briquettes that can substitute firewood.

The prize winner told IPS how he addressed the grassroots challenges he experienced with GGGI’s help.

He said like many young start-ups his biggest challenge was the lack of adequate finance, and limited experience that resulted in a process of trial and error.

“In the beginning, our targets were not that high so it was easy to achieve them, but through the ‘Greenprenuers’ programme we have learned to set bold targets and stand by them until we can achieve them,” said Galabuzi

Galabuzi added that ‘Greenprenuers’ helps with the two-most crucial requirements for the green growth start-ups: “It offers the right skills and knowledge through its 10-week web-based programme, and which is accompanied by an opportunity to win seed funding at the end of the programme.”

Galabuzi also explained that the programme helped him develop a well-structured business plan. “GGGI has also provided the seed funding through the ‘Greenprenuers’ programme, which has availed us finances to test out our business plan in a field seen as high risk by financing institutions in Uganda.”

Winners of this year’s ‘Greenprenuers’ Programme, which is designed by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) to supercharge green growth start-ups.

Students of the programme were also given an opportunity to receive free consultations and be mentored by experts around the world who have built and run their won successful companies and organisations.

“This is something we would have paid a lot of money to get access to in conferences and training workshops, but we got for free,” said Galabuzi.

Meanwhile, the award came as a surprise to Jonathan Kent Sorensen, who is from Bumdest in Indonesia. His company produces CountrySide, an organic pesticide that is safe for both the environment and farmers.

Sorensen said through the module training his company was able to specify their target market and reach out to prospective customers. “Through this process, we could determine our package size to fit the local need, then to reasonably determine our prices,” he told IPS.

Thanks to the programme, Sorensen’s team secured an agreement for the field test with a local agriculture company. “If it was not because of ‘Greenprenuers’, we might never [have taken] the practical step to turn our research idea to a business idea,” said Sorensen.

Sirey Sum and Aaron Sexton from Cambodian Green Infrastructure (CGI) Social Enterprise also agreed that the 10-week course was helpful in turning their idea into a business.

CGI planned to work with the capital city of Phnom Penh to address stormwater and urban green space issues.

After decades of economic growth, Phnom Penh faces stormwater flooding and has very few urban green spaces.

“[The] lean startup model helped us to develop, and quickly adjust our business plan,” Sum told IPS.

Finally, the prize winners shared their future vision to take the next step.

Galabuzi said that for his company this would be to collaborate with the GGGI-Uganda office to take his idea to public institutions first, and hopefully later to  private intuitions.

“Through these collaboration, we can replicate this model to save the forest in Uganda. Also, it is essential to have access to affordable financing options,” he said.

“Youth unemployment in Uganda is so high yet the youth have great business ideas that if supported can create more jobs and boost the country’s economy. We need programmes like ‘Greenpreneurs’ to give us a platform to grow these ideas better into bankable projects or businesses,” he added.

Sorensen said that the next step for his company was to conduct a field test and to build a pilot plant with the seed capital. “It is essential for our start-up to have the right marketing method to the local farmers. In doing so, we think that we should work with local government agencies to convince that our product is worth to try.”

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Sufi Shrines: Public-private Partnership to Improve Food Security and Nutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/sufi-shrines-public-private-partnership-improve-food-security-nutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sufi-shrines-public-private-partnership-improve-food-security-nutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/sufi-shrines-public-private-partnership-improve-food-security-nutrition/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 12:25:54 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158863 The new government in Pakistan has now been in office for over 100 days and has started work on its reform and socio-economic agenda. There is a growing realization that being in government is far more difficult than it first appeared, and that in order to move forward there is an urgent need to build […]

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The sufi shrines, which are scattered around Pakistan, feed large numbers of people on a regular basis. One of the largest and most important of these shrines of that of Lal Shabaz Qalandar in the province of Sindh – not far from Karachi, the country’s main port, financial center and largest city – where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit every year.

The sufi shrines, which are scattered around the country, feed large numbers of people on a regular basis. Credit: Daud Khan

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

The new government in Pakistan has now been in office for over 100 days and has started work on its reform and socio-economic agenda. There is a growing realization that being in government is far more difficult than it first appeared, and that in order to move forward there is an urgent need to build national and international partnerships.

Of the challenges facing the country, food insecurity and malnutrition are high on government’s priority as was evident from the Prime Minister’s inaugural speech. The focus on food security and nutrition is warranted. Nearly half of children under the age of five in the country are suffering from stunted growth, which implies that they will most likely not reach their full physical and mental potential. In addition, approximately 60 percent of the population is vulnerable to food insecurity.

Given the scale of the food insecurity and malnutrition problem in the country, government and donor assisted schemes will not be sufficient and there is a need to look for innovative and low cost mechanisms that would strengthen partnerships with private initiatives. One such partnership could be with the Sufi shrines in Pakistan

Past governments and donor agencies have been making strong efforts to address food insecurity and malnutrition. The United Nations’ agencies,  in particular the World Food Programme, has been working on the malnutrition problem by providing supplements to children, pregnant and lactating women, in addition to leading a wheat and oil fortification programme.

The government, on the other hand, has focused on augmenting incomes of the poorest households and providing affordable flour and bread.  The Benazir Income Support Programme provides cash support to poor families with the aim of meeting basic needs; the Sasti Roti programme provided inexpensive bread to urban dwellers; and the government continues a long standing subsidy, albeit a rather inefficient one, to flour mills to supply affordable wheat flour to the public – a programme that could be replaced by allowing imports of cheaper foreign wheat.

However, given the scale of the food insecurity and malnutrition problem in the country, government and donor assisted schemes will not be sufficient and there is a need to look for innovative and low cost mechanisms that would strengthen partnerships with private initiatives. One such partnership could be with the Sufi shrines in Pakistan.

The sufi shrines, which are scattered around the country, feed large numbers of people on a regular basis. One of the largest and most important of these shrines of that of Lal Shabaz Qalandar in the province of Sindh – not far from Karachi, the country’s main port, financial center and largest city – where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit every year.

At Sehwan Sharif, there are a number of charity-funded kitchens where food is prepared for free distribution.  At one of the bigger kitchens, about 1,600 kgs of flour is baked into bread every day – enough to feed 5,000 people.

Charitable activities are an integral part of Pakistani culture and take many forms. For example, ordinary families routinely pay for food, as well as school fees and medical expenses for employees, helpers and poorer relatives. Many hotels and restaurants will distribute leftover food to the poor; a number of industrial units, more commonly the larger and more organized ones, will provide a free lunch to their workers; and successful business houses will set up charitable foundations.

The amount of help provided increases during times of national emergency and crisis.  After the 2005 earthquake which killed over 80,000 people and the floods in 2010 which caused damages of around US$10 billion, a large part of the relief effort was taken on by ordinary citizens on an individual or collective basis.  They provided money, clothing, food and medicines while skilled professionals such as doctor and engineers travelled to affected areas to help.

Inter country studies confirm the importance of charity in Pakistan.  In a review done by the Charities Aid Foundation (the World Giving Index 2017) with the help of Gallup, Pakistan stands 78 out of 137 countries in the global ranking of countries by how much they give to charity. While this is a respectable ranking, a more detailed look at the statistics shows that some 41 million Pakistanis donated money for charity (5th largest number among all countries) and 61 million helped a person they did not know directly (7th largest number in the world).

There is a lot that the government can do to improve the impact of these charitable works.  In the case of the free kitchens at the Sufi shrines there a couple of very quick and simple things that would improve impact:

  • Hygiene and food safety.  The nutritional benefits of the food provided are severely diminished due to contamination by bacteria and parasites at all stages of storage, preparation and serving. The cloths used to cover the food are often filthy; plates and other utensils are poorly washed; there are a large number of flies and other insects that deposit contamination; and often rats, mice and cockroaches infest the areas where food is stored.  Simple training and awareness-raising are low cost methods to address this. Local officials, or university or high school students, should be drawn upon to help.
  • Food Fortification.  In Pakistan various micronutrient deficiencies are highly prevalent and cause problems such as anemia, especially among women. Fortifying wheat and other foods served at the shrines is a very low cost way to raise levels of nutrition. Additives could be provided through local public health staff or by involving local doctors and pharmacies.

As in the case of food, better government guidance and oversight would considerably improve the impact of private initiatives in many other areas.  For example, following natural disasters, providing guidelines on what is needed by impacted populations would improve effectiveness; providing psychiatrists and psychologists to charitable institutions providing homes to the mentally ill or to orphans; and helping build providing specialized teacher training to working with handicapped children.

The Government has access to top quality expertise and international best practices – it should use to leverage the work of others rather than trying to do much itself.

 

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

 

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How Australia Sustainably Manages the World’s Last Wild Commercial Fishery of Pearl Oystershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/australia-sustainably-manages-worlds-last-wild-commercial-fishery-pearl-oysters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=australia-sustainably-manages-worlds-last-wild-commercial-fishery-pearl-oysters http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/australia-sustainably-manages-worlds-last-wild-commercial-fishery-pearl-oysters/#respond Fri, 23 Nov 2018 10:35:24 +0000 Neena Bhandari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158813 Australia’s remote north-western Kimberley coast, where the Great Sandy Desert meets the sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean, is home to the giant Pinctada maxima or silver-lipped pearl oyster shells that produce the finest and highly-prized Australian South Sea Pearls. Australia is the only country in the world that uses wild oyster stocks. To ensure […]

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Terry Hunter is a cultural tour guide at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. Being an extractive and extensive form of farming, pearl oyster aquaculture is one of the most environmentally sustainable industries. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

By Neena Bhandari
SYDNEY/BROOME/CYGNET BAY, Australia, Nov 23 2018 (IPS)

Australia’s remote north-western Kimberley coast, where the Great Sandy Desert meets the sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean, is home to the giant Pinctada maxima or silver-lipped pearl oyster shells that produce the finest and highly-prized Australian South Sea Pearls.

Australia is the only country in the world that uses wild oyster stocks. To ensure its sustainability, the pearling industry operates on a government-regulated quota system that sets a maximum number of wild stock pearl oysters that can be caught each year from the Eighty Mile Beach, south of Broome in the state of Western Australia. These wild pearl oyster beds represent the last wild commercial fishery for Pinctada maxima oysters in the world.

There are currently 15 wild stock pearl oyster licence holders, but the majority of licences are owned by Paspaley subsidiaries. As Paspaley Group of Companies’ Executive Director, Peter Bracher tells IPS, “Our wild pearl oyster quota is hand-collected by our divers. This is an environmentally friendly and sustainable form of commercial fishing that causes no damage to the seabed and produces no wasteful by-catch. Elsewhere in the natural habitat of Pinctada maxima, which includes much of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the wild oyster populations have been depleted by overfishing.”

In recent years, the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been set between 600,000 and 700,000 pearl oysters. The 2016 TAC was 612,510 pearl oysters and the total quota that could be seeded was approximately 907,670 (557,670 wild stock and 350,000 hatchery-produced), according to the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s 2016-17 Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Australian pearling companies have been conscious of the need to protect the oysters’ habitat as there is a strong co-relation between Kimberley’s pristine environment and the production of high-quality pearls.

“The nutrient-rich Kimberley waters, in which our pearls are farmed, are our most valuable asset and monitoring their condition forms an integral part of our operations and management. We have opened our infrastructure and expertise to the academic world and established the Kimberley Marine Research Station to encourage independent marine research and to help bridge the indigenous cultural knowledge with scientific knowledge, which we believe will help in our attempt to ensure our production practices are sustainable,” says James Brown, the third-generation owner and managing director of Cygnet Bay Pearls, the first all-Australian owned and operated cultured pearling company.

Being an extractive and extensive form of farming, pearl oyster aquaculture is one of the most environmentally sustainable industries. Oysters are voracious filter feeders drawing their nutrition from micro-organisms like algae from the water column and in so doing effectively clean the water.

Professor Dean Jerry, Deputy Director at James Cook University’s (JCU) Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture tells IPS, “Pearl farms also act as fish attraction devices (FAD). The oyster lines, buoys and panel nets hung in the ocean provide habitat and structure for larger and small fish. Often this is the only form of structure in the ocean where farms are providing habitat for marine life to live.”

But Pinctada maxima oysters are very sensitive to pollution and environmental changes. “Global warming and increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean will make it harder for the pearl oysters to quickly and efficiently lay down calcium carbonate for the mother of pearl that makes the nacre for the pearl. This means that oysters will have to spend more energy for growth, leaving less for immune functioning thereby increasing their exposure risks of disease as rises in water temperatures speed up microbial and parasitic lifecycles,” Jerry adds.

Since 2006, Australian companies have battled Oyster Oedema disease and Juvenile Oyster Mortality Syndrome, which impacts oysters before they are seeded with a pearl and may result in 90-95 percent mortality. Scientists haven’t yet been able to find a causative agent for the two diseases, which have almost halved the worth of the industry.

To make the industry more sustainable, Jerry says, “We need to adopt technology to make oyster breeding programs more productive and disease tolerant. Pearl oysters will really benefit from selective breeding, which will help them grow faster and therefore get to a point where they can be seeded at a younger age and ultimately produce the pearl quicker.”

It takes two years for an oyster to grow where it can be seeded and another two years for when the pearl is harvested. During these four years, the oysters have to be regularly cleaned. “It can cost up to AUD1 an oyster each time, which is a huge financial cost to businesses. If we can get to a stage of harvesting the pearl from a younger oyster, say three years, it will not only increase financial sustainability, but also environmentally sustainability,” Jerry adds.

Mother of Pearl at Cygnet Bay. Australia is the only country in the world that uses wild oyster stocks. To ensure its sustainability, the pearling industry operates on a government-regulated quota system that sets a maximum number of wild stock pearl oysters that can be caught each year. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

Hatchery-bred pearl oysters are now a major part of pearl production. Three oysters are required to create one pearl. A nucleus is inserted from one oyster into another healthy oyster with a small piece of mantle tissue selected from a donor oyster. With time, the mantle tissue that produces nacre (the secretion known as mother-of-pearl) grows completely around the nucleus, forming a pearl sac in which the pearl grows.

An oyster can be reseeded up to three times, and, when it reaches the end of its reproductive life, it is harvested for the mother of pearl shell used in jewellery and inlay for furniture, and pearl meat.

Last year, the Australian South Sea pearling industry of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, have been certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Chief Executive of Pearl Producers Association, Aaron Irving tells IPS, “The MSC Standard is an independent, internationally accredited science-based standard, against which the environmental sustainability management of a wild marine resource fishery is rigorously assessed. MSC ecolabel assists discerning customers in making an ethical choice.”

Australia is the world’s first pearl fishery to be certified against the MSC’s standard for sustainable fishing. MSC Oceania Program Director Anne Gabriel says, “It’s an exciting development and opens the door to engage a whole new world of consumers on the important issue of fisheries sustainability. We are looking forward to seeing the MSC ecolabel on wild pearls in the jewellery and fashion markets of the world, as well as on mother of pearl and pearl meat products. By buying sustainable pearl products, consumers can also play their part in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and securing the future of our fish stocks.”

Paspaley, Australia’s leading pearling company, exports over 95 percent of its production to wholesalers and jewellery manufacturers around the world. Bracher tells IPS, “We sell to many of the world’s leading brands for which ethical supply chains are a high priority. Although we cannot communicate directly with their end-customers, our environmental credentials are an important differentiator as a supplier.”

Cygnet Bay Pearls uses tourism as a way of educating consumers about the making of the Australian South Sea Pearl and the environment it thrives on. Brown tells IPS, “Our new business model welcomes general public to the farm. Our Giant Tides tour shows visitors the unique Kimberley marine environment, which is now regarded as having the largest tropical tides by volume of water and also the fastest tidal currents in the world. This is what powers our pearl farm and allows Australians to grow the finest pearls in the world.”

Terry Hunter, a fourth generation Bardi man, is a cultural tour guide on the Cygnet Bay Pearl farm. He tells IPS, “Cygnet Bay has been my playground. My father and grandfather worked here. The Browns have always recognised, acknowledged and respected Indigenous knowledge. When I hold a mother of pearl oyster shell, I feel alive – connected through ceremony and ancestors.”

Traditionally, the indigenous Aboriginal Bardi and Jawi tribes collected the mother of pearl to make a riji, which boys wear as a pubic covering at the time of initiation or formal admission to adulthood. The engravings on the shell symbolise their connection to earth and water. Now, the riji is worn for ceremonial purposes.

Bart Pigram, an indigenous Yawuru man, worked as a pearl shell cleaner and now owns and operates Narlijia Cultural Tours and shares the unique pearling history of Broome with visitors. He tells IPS, “The environment’s health is integral to not only sustaining the pearling industry, but also the local indigenous communities.”

The pearling industry employs about 800 people. The value of the pearl aquaculture sector was about AUD78.4 million for the 2015-16 financial year, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2016 report.

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and is being co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Over 13,000 participants from around the world are coming together to learn how to build a blue economy.

The post How Australia Sustainably Manages the World’s Last Wild Commercial Fishery of Pearl Oysters appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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