Inter Press ServiceLatin America & the Caribbean – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:02:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:22:11 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151713 “Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central […]

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The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

“Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil.

Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central Brazil which has experienced a major expansion of the agricultural frontier since the 1970s, and is currently the leading national producer of soy, accounting for 27 per cent of Brazil’s production.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS from Sinop.

For this reason, “it is a natural tendency,” he said, for Brazil to soon overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soy, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predict, in the report “2017-2026 Agricultural Outlook”.

More or less regular rainfall from October to May is the main factor for the growth of agriculture in northern Mato Grosso, explained Galván.

Besides soy, which is planted at the start of the rainy season and harvested about four months later, other crops are also planted, but at the end of the rainy season – generally cotton and maize, of which Mato Grosso has also become the biggest producer in the country in the past four years.

State-owned lands, divided between the “Cerrado” ecoregion – the Brazilian savannah – and the Amazon forest, used to be undervalued for their low fertility, until they became the new agricultural frontier.

Galván, originally from the far south of Brazil, moved to Sinop in 1986, when land was still cheap. “Soybean was just starting in Sinop when I came, the local economy was only based on livestock and logging,” he recalled.

That year, Mato Grosso produced 1.9 million tons of soybean. But by 2016 the state’s soy crop reached 26.03 million tons, and this year it is expected to increase between 11 and 12 per cent, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s National Supply Agency.

Many of the migrants from southern Brazil who founded and settled in Sinop did not share that prosperity reflected in one of the highest human development rates in Brazil’s hinterland. “They went bankrupt and returned to their places of origin,” defeated by the harsh living conditions and lack of transport at the beginning, lamented Galván.

The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

 Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This is how Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics.

The production of soy also expanded from south to northwest, although more slowly.

Soy began to be grown in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state, in 1914, because it had the most temperate climate, the only one suitable at the time. The expansion began in 1970, when national output was just 1.5 million tons.

In a decade production rose tenfold, and it more than doubled again in the 1990s, advancing towards the north until Mato Grosso took the lead in production in 2000.

While production stagnated in the south, in Mato Grosso it tripled so far this century, and expanded to previously inconceivable areas, such as the Northeast, including the semi-arid parts, and the humid northern Amazon region.

Soy became the main national agricultural product, representing half of the production of cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and the largest export revenues: 25 billion dollars in 2016. The rural map and economy of Brazil changed radically in the process.

“The main obstacles for the expansion of soy are infrastructure and logistics. On the large agricultural estates technology continues to improve while productivity grows, with yields approaching the U.S. average of 3,730 kilos per hectare,” said Alexandre Cattelan, head of Technology Transfer in Embrapa Soy.

Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), created in 1973 by the Agriculture Ministry, is a complex of 47 specialised units, including Embrapa Soy, scattered around the country.

It played a decisive role in the adaptation of soy to Brazil’s tropical climate, with increasing productivity. Output, using new seeds and techniques, increased 6.17 times, while the cultivated area grew 3.82 times since 1980.

“We have the land and know-how to overtake the U.S., but we lack proper roads, ports, railways and sufficient storage facilities,” Cattelan told IPS. This year, because of a record harvest, the storehouses are full and there is no space for the maize that is now being harvested.

Highway BR163, which crosses the most productive area in Mato Grosso and runs to the river ports in the Amazon, is the shortest way for exporting locally produced soy and maize. But it still has an unpaved 100-km stretch and is impassable during the rainy season.

Adequate seeds and the use of lime, fertilisers and micronutrients to improve the soil helped to expand the crop to the Cerrado savannah region, said Cattelan, an agronomist who has a PhD in soil microbiology.

Direct seeding, which excludes plowing of the earth and involves covering it with straw, the inoculation of bacteria which fix nitrogen in the soil, reduce costs and environmental damage, such as the contamination of the water table, he said.

A bottleneck for the production of soy could be a slowdown in the consumption of protein in China, from a 7.9 per cent increase in the last decade to a 2.3 per cent increase over the next decade, according to the FAO and OECD report.

The report also projects a lower level of growth of per capita consumption of food in the countries of the developing South, from 1.1 per cent against the previous 3.1 per cent, and the stabilisation of the use of vegetable oils for making biodiesel.

Moreover, the expansion of soy generates controversy, especially because of the intense use of genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals, sald Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso.

In 2011, a study identified toxic agrochemicals in the breastmilk of many women in Lucas do Rio Verde, a municipality next to Sinop.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Thuault told IPS.

Furthermore, soybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

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What Does “Climate-Smart Agriculture” Really Mean? New Tool Breaks It Downhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 23:20:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151680 A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products. This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides […]

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The base for a water catchment tank. Faced with severe droughts, many farmers in the Caribbean have found it necessary to set up catchment areas to harvest water whenever it rains. Credit: CDB

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products.

This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change.“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture...all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers." --Steve Maximay

Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.”

He said each category is further subdivided, so resource conservation includes the use of land, water, nutrients and labour. Energy use includes its use in power, lighting, input manufacture and transportation. Safety revolves around production operations, harvesting, storage and utilization.

Biodiversity support examines land clearing, off-site agrochemical impact, limited introduction of invasive species, and ecosystem services impact. Greenhouse gas reduction involves enteric fermentation (gas produced in the stomach of cattle and other animals that chew their cud), soil management, fossil fuel reduction and manure/waste management.

“These subdivisions (four each in the five categories) are the basis of the 20 questions that comprise the C-SAC tool,” Maximay explained.

“The manual provides a means of scoring each aspect on a five-point scale. If the cumulative score for the project is less than 40 it is deemed non-compliant and not a truly climate smart agriculture activity. C-SAC further grades in terms of degree of compliance wherein a score of 40-49 points is level 1, (50-59) level 2, (60 -69) level 3, (70-79) level 4, and (80-100) being the highest degree of compliance at level 5.

“It is structured with due cognizance of concerns about how the global climate change funds will be disbursed,” he added.

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

Mainstreaming CSA requires critical stocktaking of ongoing and promising practices for the future, and of institutional and financial enablers for CSA adoption.

Maximay said C-SAC is meant to be a prioritizing tool with a holistic interpretation of the perceived benefits of climate-smart agriculture.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture…all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

“C-SAC will provide bankers and project managers with an easy to use tool to ensure funded projects really comply with a broad interpretation of climate smart agriculture.”

Maximay said C-SAC incorporates major categories of compliance and provides a replicable analysis matrix using scalar approaches to convert qualitative assessments into a numeric compliance scale.

“The rapid qualitative analysis at the core of C-SAC depends on interrelated science-based guidelines honed from peer reviewed, field-tested practices and operations,” Maximay explained.

“Climate-smart agriculture often amalgamates activities geared towards adaptation and mitigation. The proliferation of projects claiming to fit the climate smart agriculture designation has highlighted the need for an auditing and certification scheme. One adaptation or mitigation feature may not be enough to qualify an agricultural operation as being climate-smart. Consequently, a more holistic perspective can lead to a determination of the level of compliance with respect to climate-smart agriculture.

“C-SAC provides that holistic perspective based on a structured qualitative assessment of key components,” Maximay added.

The scientist notes that in the midst of increased opportunities for the use of global climate funds, it behooves policymakers and financiers to ensure projects are not crafted in a unidimensional manner.

He added that small farmers in Small Island Developing States are particularly vulnerable and their needs must be met by projects that are holistic in design and implementation.

Over the years, agriculture organisations in the Caribbean have been providing funding to set up climate-smart farms as demonstrations to show farmers examples of ecological practices that they can use to combat many of the conditions that arise due to the heavy rainfall and drought conditions experienced in the region.

Maximay was among the first agricultural scientists addressing climate change concerns during the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC).

A plant pathologist by training, he has been a secondary school teacher, development banker, researcher, World Bank-certified training manager, university lecturer, Caribbean Development Bank consultant and entrepreneur.

Maximay managed the first Business Development Office in a Science Faculty within the University of the West Indies. With more than thirty years’ experience in the agricultural, education, health, financial and environmental sectors, he has also worked on development projects for major regional and international agencies.

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New Tool Separates Wheat from Chaff for Climate-Smart Ag Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-tool-separates-wheat-chaff-climate-smart-ag-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-tool-separates-wheat-chaff-climate-smart-ag-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-tool-separates-wheat-chaff-climate-smart-ag-finance/#comments Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:40:56 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151669 Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.  CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation. Trinidadian scientist Steve Maximay says his new Climate-Smart Agriculture […]

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Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad , Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand. 

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

Trinidadian scientist Steve Maximay says his new Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture . . . all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

Climate-smart agriculture

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

 

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:39:10 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151672 The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents. Renewable […]

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?

The solar farm in Arribeños, a locality in the province of Buenos Aires, which began to inject 500 Kw into the Argentinian power grid in August. Credit: Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents.

Renewable sources of energy today make up an insignificant proportion of Argentina’s energy mix. But under a law passed in 2015, with the consensus of all political sectors, this scenario is to be reverted in the next few years.“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources.” -- Javier Cao

The objective is not only based on commitments of turning to clean sources of energy undertaken by Argentina within the framework of global agreements to combat climate change, but also on the need, imposed by the economy, to expand and diversify the energy mix.

For years, Argentina has been spending a fortune to import fossil fuels, although the amount has decreased, from seven billion dollars in 2014 to less than three billion dollars last year.

However, that did not happen due to increased productivity or a diversification of local sources, but because of a fall in international oil prices.

“Fossil fuels form an absurdly large portion of our energy mix. We have to change that,” Daniel Redondo, the government’s secretary of strategic energy planning, acknowledged in July in front of an auditorium of experts.

“We are going to live up to the law on renewable energies, which stipulates that 20 per cent of our energy should come from clean source by 2025,” he added.

According to official data, Argentina’s primary energy supply is based on 51 per cent natural gas and 33 per cent oil.

With respect to power generation, thermal plants which use fossil fuels cover 64 per cent of the supply, while 30 per cent comes from hydroelectric plants. The country’s three nuclear plants provide four per cent of the total.

Since 2016, the government has signed 59 contracts with private investors to develop renewable energy projects around the country. These initiatives, which should begin functioning next year, involve an overall investment of about four billion dollars, according to the Energy Ministry.

These projects will jointly add 2,423 megawatts (MW) to the energy supply, which the state has assumed the commitment to buy and incorporate into the national grid, which currently has some 30,000 MW of installed capacity.

China, a decisive player in the energy sector

Besides these projects, which form part of the government’s RenovAr Programme, the governor of the northern province of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales, announced that he signed a contract with the Power China company for the construction and financing of a 300-MW solar farm in the Salar de Cauchari, some 4,000 metres above sea level.

The contract was signed during President Mauricio Macri’s visit to China in May, when Morales was part of the official delegation. According to the governor, it will be “the biggest solar farm in Latin America.”

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.”

President Mauricio Macri signs contracts for renewable energy projects, together with members of his administration and representatives of the Buenos Aires city government. Credit: Argentine Presidency

During the visit, China consolidated its role as a key player in the renewal of the power industry in Argentina. In Beijing, an agreement was reached for the Asian giant to finance 85 per cent of the construction of two nuclear plants, with an investment of 14 billion dollars.

Before the visit, they had agreed for China to finance the construction of two hydroelectric plants in Argentina’s southern region of Patagonia, at a cost of nearly five billion dollars. But the two mega-projects are still on hold by a Supreme Court order, in response to a complaint filed by environmental organisations.

The government is keen on solving this situation, as the Chinese investors have threatened to apply a “cross-default” clause and block their investments in other projects.

Energy Ministry officials reiterate in every public forum in which they participate that the goal is for 20,000 MW of power to be added to the electric grid by 2025, and for half of this to come from renewable sources.

To finance this, the government created the Fund for the Development of Renewable Energies (Foder), which was endowed with 800 million dollars from the state, in addition to another 480 million approved by the World Bank to finance the projects.

The ones that are already underway are mainly wind and solar power projects, since Argentina has favourable conditions for the former in the windy southern region of Patagonia, and for the latter in the high plateaus of northwestern Argentina, where solar radiation is intense.

There are also small-scale hydroelectric and biogas projects.

“This is the first time that Argentina is really moving forward in the development of renewable energies. Today we have what we used to lack: financing,” said Javier Cao, an expert in renewable energies for the economic consulting firm Abeceb.

“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources,” he told IPS.

Will the third time be the charm?

Argentina’s dream of developing renewable energies is not new, but up to now all the efforts made had failed.

The first law that declared renewables a matter of “national interest” was passed by Congress in 1998. But the financial incentives created by that law were destroyed by the late 2001 economic and political crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.

In 2006 a second law was enacted, which set a target: eight per cent of the electric power consumed was to come from renewable sources by 2016. But once again, it failed, due to problems with financing.

The third, which will hopefully be the charm, was passed in 2015, with votes from lawmakers who backed then president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) as well as members of the opposition, in a rare example of consensus.

This law created tax and customs incentives for investors and included among renewable sources hydroelectric dams up to 50 MW of capacity, in contrast to the ceiling of 30 MW set by the previous law.

In addition, it established the obligation to reach the target of eight per cent renewable energies in the electric grid by Dec. 31, 2017 – a deadline that will not be reached. However, the government hopes to meet the target by 2019.

The government does hope to reach the second target set by the law, on time: 20 per cent renewables by 2025.

“One of the challenges in this respect is decentralising production,” said Marcelo Álvarez, president of the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies, which represents companies in the sector.

Towards that end, Congress is expected to pass a new power distribution law this year, which will allow users who generate renewable power to sell their surplus to the grid, which would be a real innovation in Argentina.

“We already have achieved a unified text for the bill in the Energy Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, with the participation of technical advisers from all the parties and technicians from the executive branch,” said Juan Carlos Villalonga, a former Greenpeace environmental activist who is now a lawmaker for the governing alliance Cambiemos.

“The take-off of renewable energies will be one of the legacies of this government,” said Villalonga.

Within the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 196 member states in December 2015, Argentina committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent before 2030, a level criticised as low, but to which this country would add another 15 per cent if it receives special funds.

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Conservation Agriculture Sprouts in Cuban Fieldshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:21:00 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151642 At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil. “For more than five years we’ve been […]

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Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
LOS PALACIOS, Cuba, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil.

“For more than five years we’ve been practicing conservation agriculture (CA),” Onay Martínez, who works 22 hectares of state-owned land, told IPS.

He was referring to a specific kind of agroecology which, besides not using chemicals, diversifies species on farms and preserves the soil using plant coverage and no plowing.

“In Cuba, this system is hardly practiced,” lamented the farmer, who is cited as an example by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of integral and spontaneous application of CA, which Cuban authorities began to include in their policies in 2016.

This fruit tree orchard in the province of Pinar del Río, worked by four farmhands, is the only example of CA reported at the moment, and symbolises the step that Cuba’s well-developed agroecological movement is ready to take towards this sustainable system of farming. The Agriculture Ministry already has a programme to extend it on a large scale.

FAO defines CA as “an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. CA is characterised by three linked principles, namely: Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance; Permanent organic soil cover; Diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations.”

Because of the small number of farms using the technique, there are no estimates yet of the amount of land in Cuba that use the basic technique of no-till farming, which is currently expanding in the Americas and other parts of the world.

CA, which uses small machinery such as no-till planters, has spread over 180 million hectares worldwide. Latin America accounts for 45 per cent of the total, the United States and Canada 42 per cent, Australia 10 per cent, and countries in Europe, Africa and Asia 3.6 per cent.

The world leaders in the adoption of this conservationist system are South America: Brazil, where it is used on 50 per cent of farmland, and Argentina and Paraguay, with 60 per cent each.

And Argentina and Brazil, the two agro-exporter powers in the region, are aiming to extend it to 85 per cent of cultivated lands in less than a decade.

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“In conservation agriculture we found the basis for development because it allowed us to achieve goals in adverse conditions,” said Martínez, a computer specialist who discovered CA when in 2009 he and his brother started to study how to reactivate lands that had been idle for 25 years and were covered by weeds.

A worker operates a kind of mower characteristic of this type of agriculture to clear the paths in Tierra Brava, which has no electricity or irrigation system. The cut grass is thrown in the same direction to facilitate the creation of organic compost.

“There are places on the farm, such as the plantation of soursop (Annona muricata), where you walk and you feel a soft step in the ground,” Martínez said, citing an example of the recovery of the land achieved thanks to the fact that “no tilling is used and the soil coverage is not removed.”

Focused on the production of expensive and scarce fruit in Cuba, the farm in 2016 produced 87 tons, mainly of mangos, avocados and guavas, in addition to 2.7 tons of sheep meat and 600 kilos of rabbit.

Now they are building a dam to practice aquaculture and are starting to sell soursop, a fruit nearly missing in local markets.

Mandarin orange, canistel (Pouteria campechiana), coconut, tamarind, cashew, West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), mamey apple (Mammea americana), plum, cherry, sugar apple (Annona squamosa), cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and papaya are some of the other fruit trees growing on the family farm, until now for self-consumption, diversification or small-scale, experimental production.

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Rotating crops is hard and requires a lot of training and precision, but CA is also special because it allows you time to be with your family,” said Martínez, referring to another of the benefits also mentioned by specialists.

FAO’s representative in Cuba, German agronomist Theodor Friedrich, is one of the staunch advocates of CA around the world, based on years of research.

“Agroecology, as it was understood in Cuba in the past, has excluded the aspect of healthy soil and its biodiversity,” he told IPS in an interview. “Now the government recognises that the move towards Conservation Agriculture fills in the gaps of the past, in order to achieve true agroecology.”

Friedrich said that in this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million people, CA is new, but “several pilot projects have been carried out, and there is evidence that it works.”

In October 2016, Cuba laid out a roadmap to implement CA around the country, after an international consultation supported by FAO. And in July a special group was set up within the Agriculture Ministry to promote CA.

“CA has not been immediately adopted on a large-scale around the country,” said Friedrich. “But as of 2018, the growth of the area under CA is expected to be much faster than in countries where this system only spreads among farmers, without the coordinated support of related policies.”

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Good practices that improve the soil, which form the basis of this system, have been promoted in Cuba for some time now by bodies such as the Soil Institute (IS). It is even among the few environmental services supported by the state in Cuba’s stagnant economy, to combat the low fertility of the land.

According to data from the IS, only 28 per cent of Cuban soils are highly productive for agriculture. Of the rest, 50 per cent is ranked in category four of productivity, one of the lowest, due to the characteristics of the formation of the Cuban archipelago and the poor management of soil during centuries of monoculture of sugarcane.

“In this municipality, the number of farms that use organic compost to improve the soils has increased. The payment for improving the soil has been an incentive,” said Lázara Pita, coordinator of the agroecological movement in the National Association of Small Farmers of Los Palacios.

“We have rice fields, where agroecology is not used, but where they do apply good practices for soil conservation such as using rice husks as nutrients,” Pita, whose association has 2,147 small farms joined together in 15 cooperatives, an agroindustrial state company and rice processing plant, told IPS.

Standing in a wide-roofed place without walls in Tierra Brava, Pita estimated that 40 farms qualify as ecological, and another 60 could shift to clean production techniques.

With the certification of a soil expert, a farmer like Martínez can earn between 120 and 240 dollars a year for offering environmental services, such as soil improvers, the use of live barriers and organic materials. This is an attractive sum, given the average state salary of 29 dollars a month.

Cuba, which depends on millions of dollars in food imports, has 6,226,700 hectares of arable land, of which 2,733,500 are cultivated and 883,900 remain idle.

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A Hostage to Parliament, Temer Sacrifices Indigenous Rights to Save Himselfhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:19:48 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151600 This article is part of special IPS coverage for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9

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Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Brazilians now have new reasons to yearn for and at the same time fear the parliamentary system of government. It facilitates quick solutions to political crises such as the one that is currently affecting the country, but it also further empowers reactionary forces and has led to backsliding on gains such as indigenous rights.

In a country with a presidential system of government, the “semi-parliamentarism” which many people, including President Michel Temer, identify in the current administration, is working against indigenous people and other sectors that have little say in parliament.

“The national Congress forms part of a conservative system, a ‘democracy’ which never took indigenous representation into account,” lamented Marcos Terena, coordinator of the World Indigenous Nations Games, also known as the Indigenous Olympics, and a veteran activist of the Terena people, who live in west-central Brazil.

Native people are suffering an offensive against their rights, which has intensified since Temer took office.

Temer, who went from vice-president to president in May 2016 after the impeachment and removal of Dilma Rousseff, who was elected in 2014 and accused of fiscal fraud, totally depends on mainly conservative parliamentary groups.

This dependence started with how he rose to power, because a two-thirds majority in both houses was required to remove Rousseff. But it has been heightened since May 17, when the scandal broke out that made Temer the country’s first sitting head of state to be formally charged with a crime.

A conversation recorded by Joseley Batista, owner of JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, was the basis for a formal accusation of corruption against Temer by the federal prosecution office.

On Aug. 2, the lower house of Congress rejected a corruption charge against Temer for alleged bribe-taking, which saved him from a possible Supreme Court trial might have removed him from office. But the federal prosecution office is preparing new charges of obstruction of justice and activity in a criminal organization, drawing out the parliamentary and judicial battle for the current presidency, which ends on Jan. 1, 2019.

To ensure the backing of the ruralist parliamentary group, which according to their website has 214 representatives and 24 senators – 40 per cent of parliament – Temer is granting its members a number of benefits and the approval of legal measures, to the detriment of native peoples, the environment and fiscal austerity.

Headed by large landowners, cattle ranchers and producers of grains for export markets, this bloc sees indigenous lands, whose demarcation is ensured by the 1988 constitution, as an obstacle to the expansion of agriculture.

According to the last census, there were 896,917 indigenous people in Brazil in 2010, or 0.47 per cent of the population of 190.7 million at the time. But they occupy more than 13 per cent of the national territory, which the powerful ruralist caucus considers excessive.

A constitutional amendment that would submit the demarcation of indigenous lands to approval by Congress is one of the ruralist bloc’s proposals, which would likely prevent the creation of new protected areas to ensure the physical and cultural survival of native peoples.

Submitted in the year 2000, the initiative has been shelved until now. “I think that even the ruralists themselves recognise that the conditions for it to be passed do not exist,” said Marcio Santilli, founder of the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), the non-governmental organisation that has the largest database on indigenous people in the country.

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A constitutional amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, which has become more difficult to obtain with a governing coalition weakened by accusations of corruption, not only against Temer, but also against his chief ministers and parliamentary leaders.

“The biggest threat, more than a risk, is the time frame, a concept with which they want to limit the entire public administration,” on the indigenous issue, Santilli told IPS.

This time frame is October 1988, when the constitution was approved. The rights of indigenous peoples were to be limited to the area occupied at that time, according to an interpretation by the Supreme Court, when it ruled in 2009 on the demarcation of the Raposa Sierra do Sol indigenous reserve, in the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil.

The ruralist caucus wants this to be the general criteria followed. Up to now what have been demarcated are “lands traditionally occupied” by indigenous people, as stated in the constitution. Anthropological studies are carried out identify the territory to be demarcated, in a process carried out by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), which answers to the executive branch.

The Attorney General’s office, which advises the executive branch, pronounced itself in favour of the validity of the time framework, “extending the threat” to prevent new demarcations, said Santilli, who presided Funai in the 1990s.

According to data from ISA, Brazil has 480 indigenous lands already approved, but there are still 72 declared and 44 identified which are still pending demarcation, in addition to other 108 in process of identification, the initial phase of the process.

There is a huge lag, because the constitution established that all the areas were to be demarcated within a five-year period – in other words, by 1993.

A time frame makes no sense in “a country that was 100 per cent indigenous” when, in 1500, “the native people encountered the unknown world of the ‘coloniser’ which caused the extermination of thousands of natives and their communities, generating a national debt which cannot be subject to a moratorium,” Terena told IPS.

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Besides, the offensive against indigenous rights and lands has brought violent conflicts. From 2003 to 2015, 891 indigenous people were murdered in Brazil, an annual average of 68, according to the latest report by the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council. The violence has intensified in recent years, with 137 murders in 2014 and 138 in 2015.

The current context encourages “anti-indigenous groups to promote proposals that range from changes to the sacred national constitution to attempts to block a budget capable of addressing indigenous demands,” Terena asserted.

Another ruralist threat is to close down Funai, the government body which implements indigenous policies and has suffered constant budget cuts that curtail its functions, such as the anthropological studies and the defence of demarcated territories.

The loosening of measures against mining and the construction of roads, hydroelectric plants and power transmission lines on indigenous lands are other means of pressure exercised by the ruralists and by companies that seek to “break down or weaken” indigenous peoples’ exclusive rights to use their lands, said Santilli.

“There is an ‘anything goes’ mentality, against an absurd backdrop of weakness of the president, accused of corruption and with only five per cent approval in opinion polls,” who is incapable of defending the diluted rights of the minorities and the environment against the private interests of legislators, he lamented.

The ruralist caucus reflects a distortions in parliamentary representation. Landowners make up a small sector of the population with disproportionate political power, in contrast to the millions of small-scale farmers, who are practically absent in Congress.

The economical clout of the former and the electoral rules, which assign a larger proportion of legislators to small states in Brazil’s hinterland with rural economies than to the most urbanised states, go a long way to explaining the power of the conservatives, said Santilli.

Weakened, Temer is distributing “prizes, incentives, public posts and advantages, paying the price for being saved, but when the money is finished, there will be an exodus,” predicted Antonio Queiroz, head of the Inter-Union Department of Parliamentary Advisory, which supplements the legislative work in Brasilia.

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Climate Scientists Use Forecasting Tools to Protect Caribbean Ways of Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-scientists-use-forecasting-tools-protect-caribbean-ways-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-scientists-use-forecasting-tools-protect-caribbean-ways-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-scientists-use-forecasting-tools-protect-caribbean-ways-life/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 00:01:50 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151576 Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses […]

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The remains of abandoned shade houses that one farmer attempted to build to protect his crops from the effects of climate change in Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

The remains of abandoned shade houses that one farmer attempted to build to protect his crops from the effects of climate change in Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses were incurred due to crop failures and wild fires caused by the exceptionally dry conditions.

In neighbouring Cuba, the reputation of the Centre for Atmospheric Physics at the Institute for Meteorology (INSMET) is built on the development of tools that “provide reliable and timely climate and weather information” that enables the nation to prepare for extreme rainfall and drought conditions as well as for hurricanes.“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software." --INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot

Regional scientists believe the extended dry periods are one of several signs of climate change, now being experienced across the region. Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) – known regionally as the Five Cs – believes climate change is threatening the “Caribbean’s ways of life”.

Dr Trotz noted, “Some countries in the Caribbean like Barbados and Antigua are inherently water scarce. It is expected that climate change will exacerbate this already critical situation. We have seen in recent times the occurrence of extended droughts across the Caribbean, a phenomenon that is expected to occur more frequently in the future.

“Droughts have serious implications across all sectors – the water, health, agriculture, tourism -and already we are seeing the disastrous effects of extended droughts throughout the Caribbean especially in the agriculture sector, on economies, livelihoods and the wellbeing of the Caribbean population,” he said.

With major industries like fisheries, tourism and agriculture already impacted, the region continues to look for options. Both the Cuban and Jamaican experiences with forecasting tools means their use should be replicated across the Caribbean, Central and South America as scientists look for ways to battle increasingly high temperatures and low rainfall which have ravaged the agricultural sector and killed corals across the region.

Charged with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s mandate to coordinate the region’s response to climate change, the ‘Five Cs’ has been seeking financial support investigating and pooling regional resources to help countries cope with the expected impacts since its birth in 2004. These days, they are introducing and training regional planners in the application and use of a suite of tools that will help leaders make their countries climate-ready.

St Lucian government officers becoming familiar with tools at a recent workshop in St Lucia. As part of the training, they will use the tools to assess planned developments and weather conditions over six months to provide data and information which could be used for a variety of projects. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

St Lucian government officers becoming familiar with tools at a recent workshop in St Lucia. As part of the training, they will use the tools to assess planned developments and weather conditions over six months to provide data and information which could be used for a variety of projects. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

The experts believe that preparing the region to deal with climate change must include data collection and the widespread use of variability, predictability and planning tools that will guide development that mitigate the impacts of extreme climatic conditions.

The recent Caribbean Marine Climate Report card reflects the findings of the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, pointing to the need for countries to ramp up their adaptation strategies. Both highlight the many significant risks climate change is expected to bring to regional economies that depend heavily on eco-systems based industries; where major infrastructure are located along the coasts and where populations are mainly poor.

The report points to the threats to biodiversity from coral bleaching; rising sea temperature and more intense storms which could destroy the region’s economy, and in some cases inundate entire communities.

The tools not only allow the users to generate country specific forecast information, they allow Met Officers, Disaster Managers and other critical personnel to assess likely impacts of climatic and extreme weather events on sectors such as health, agriculture and tourism; on critical infrastructure and installations as well as on vulnerable populations.

Training is being rolled out under the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) in countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CCAP was designed to build on both USAID’s Regional Development Cooperative Strategy which addresses development challenges in the countries in that part of the region, as well as the CCCCC’s Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to a Changing Climate and its associated Implementation Plan, which have been endorsed by the Heads of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Regional experts and government officers working in agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning and disaster risk reduction from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are being taught to use a variety of tools.

The program aims to build resilience in the development initiatives of the countries as they tackle climate change-induced challenges, which are already being experienced by countries of the region.

At a recent workshop in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, trainees were confident that the tools could become critical to their developmental goals. St Lucian metrological forecaster Glen Antoinne, believes the tools could be “useful for St Lucia because they are directly related to our ability to forecast any changes in the climate”.

He looks forward to his government’s adoption of, in particular, the weather tools to  “support the climatology department in looking at trends, forecasting droughts and to help them to determine when to take action in policy planning and disaster management”.

The tools work by allowing researchers and other development specialists to use a range of climatic data to generate scientific information and carry out analysis on the likely impacts in the individual countries of the region. They are open source, to remove the need for similar expensive products being used in developed world, but effective, said INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot.

“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software,” he said.

“The more countries use the data, the more information that is available for countries and region to use,” Morlot continued, pointing out that the data is used to generate the information that then feeds into the decision making process.

CCAP also includes activities aimed at the expansion of the Coral Reef Early Warning System for the installation of data gathering buoys in five countries in the Eastern Caribbean providing data which, among other things will be used for ecological forecasts on coral bleaching and other marine events.

The project also provides for the strengthening of the hydro meteorological measurement systems in participating countries. This will allow for better monitoring of present day weather parameters and for generating data to feed into the climate models and other tools.

Among the tools being rolled out under the project are the Caribbean Assessment Regional DROught (CARiDRO) tool; the Caribbean Weather Generator, and the Tropical Storm Model which were designed to help experts to develop scenarios of future climate at any given location and to use these to more accurately forecast the impacts, and inform mitigating actions.

There are accompanying web portals and data sets that were developed and are being introduced to help countries to enhance their ability to reduce the risks of climate change to natural assets and populations in their development activities.

These online resources are designed to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Their integration into national planning agendas across the region is being facilitated through regional and country workshops to ensure effective decision-making while improving climate knowledge and action.

“The resulting information will help leaders make informed decisions based on the projections and forecasting of likely levels of impact on their infrastructure and economies,” Lavina Alexander from St Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development noted, pointing to that country’s recent experiences with hurricanes and extreme rainfall events.

As one of the tool designers, Morlot believes that by providing free access to the tools, the project is ensuring that “more countries will begin to collect and use the data, providing regional scientists with the ability to make more accurate forecasts of the region’s climate.”

Putting all the information and tools in one place where it is accessible by all will be good for the region, he said.

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“I’ll Tell You a Story” – Violence Against Women in Peruhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/ill-tell-story-violence-women-peru/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ill-tell-story-violence-women-peru http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/ill-tell-story-violence-women-peru/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 10:57:28 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151566 Domestic violence is alarmingly prevalent in Peru. Not only is it statistically more common than in other, more progressive cultures, but Peruvian women tend to accept it as simply a ‘part of marriage.’ It was therefore both surprising and understandable that the domestic violence classes at a women’s center in the Cajamarca region, observed throughout […]

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Poor women from the Andes highlands queuing up for aid in a village in Peru's Puno region. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Poor women from the Andes highlands queuing up for aid in a village in Peru's Puno region. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Andrea Vale
LIMA, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

Domestic violence is alarmingly prevalent in Peru. Not only is it statistically more common than in other, more progressive cultures, but Peruvian women tend to accept it as simply a ‘part of marriage.’

It was therefore both surprising and understandable that the domestic violence classes at a women’s center in the Cajamarca region, observed throughout the summer of 2016, were always crowded and bustling, teeming with adult women and teenage girls."Whenever he sees her with someone, that’s when he starts to get angry. And that’s when he hits her." --Cecilia

“A lot of women don’t speak out against domestic violence because they aren’t as educated, they don’t know about it as much,” one woman called out during class one afternoon. Her fellow classmates all nodded. “Their husbands will insult them and hit them, and the women believe that it’s their fault, that they deserve that kind of treatment.”

One of the class attendees, Cecilia, was reluctant to speak after initially offering to do so, instead staring down at her skirt while her friend sitting next to her, Yolanda, asked, “Are you ready to talk about it?” To which Cecilia quietly replied, “No.”

(Surnames have been omitted to ensure confidentiality.)

When asked if she or anyone she knew has had experience with domestic violence, Yolanda’s eyes immediately darted to Cecilia.

“Many of my friends have experience with it,” she said in Spanish.

When asked if she thinks that some women don’t object to being subjected to domestic violence because they think it’s simply a part of marriage, or a part of the larger culture, Yolanda whispered to Cecilia, “Come on, tell them, tell them.” Cecilia, however, did not answer.

In many Peruvian families, men’s education takes priority over that of women. According to a report by the United Nations, only 56.3% of women in Peru have received at least some secondary education, as compared to 66.1% of men. According to UNESCO, only 6.3% of adult males in Peru are illiterate – as compared to 17.5% of females.

As with almost any aspect of society, education makes a huge difference, but especially so when it comes to domestic violence. According to a study carried out by Princeton University, the less education you have, the higher your chances of being domestically abused are: 42.04% of women with no education at all, and 42.80% of those with primary school education had been abused – compared to 28.93% of those with tertiary, college or more.

“Mothers teach their boys to not do women’s work, that they don’t cook and clean and that’s the woman’s job,” another woman chimed in during class one afternoon, “If the women doesn’t cook and do women’s chores, then they’ll be abused. They won’t be able to get out of it because they don’t have any education, they don’t have any resources.”

All of the women in the class fell into one of two camps. Some wore jeans and tank tops. Others wore traditional long skirts, button down shirts and cardigans. Some were timid – some were not. The ones who spoke openly, condemning Machismo Culture and lecturing the others on the importance of marrying your best friend, were wearing leggings. The ones with waist-length braids and farming boots stayed quiet.

Contributing to that Machismo Culture is the reality that Peru is a sometimes vision-bending fusion of the Old existing alongside the New. While many in Peru drive cars, have cell phones and wear modern clothing, the simultaneous perseverance of a rural lifestyle that feels like going back in time offers fertile soil for that outdated, patriarchal society to take root in.

Consequently, domestic violence is more prevalent among rural women, as is their willingness to put up with it.

“It’s even worse in the rural areas. There, women are just expected to stay in their homes and that’s it,” Yolanda said. “The women from out in the country are quiet. They don’t talk, they don’t say anything. They were raised in that home. Their father hits their mother, and when they get married they get hit. They see it as normal.”

According to the Pan American Health Organization, physical violence within domestic abuse – as opposed to emotional, sexual or verbal violence – is “used much more frequently on women with fewer economic resources” in Peru.

According to the World Health Organization, the lifetime prevalence of physical violence by an intimate partner is 50% in urban areas of the country, as opposed to 62% in rural areas. And there, more than other countries, domestic violence often becomes fatal.

According to the Peruvian publication La Republica, there have been 356 feminicidios, or ‘women-icides’ in the country within the last 4 years, with an additional 174 attempted feminicidios. What’s more, judges have been markedly lenient in their punishments for perpetrators, with almost half receiving less than 15 years in prison, and two receiving less than seven – that is, if they end up being convicted, which only 84 were.

After staring over periodically at Yolanda while she spoke, and visibly reacting to one of Yolanda’s answers, Cecilia became willing to speak. When asked if she knew any stories of domestic violence, she stared down into her lap for a long silence, then nodded.

“Yes. I could tell you a story,” she said.

She proceeded to describe in detail the situation of a ‘relative’ who happened to be the same age as herself – twenty-nine.

“She got engaged to this man … He is always telling her that he loves her, and that he wants her, all the time right?” Cecilia said. “And always saying how much he loves her, and how he’s willing to give her everything, right? But in reality, I can see that it is not good.

“When he tells her that he needs her, she’ll go and be with him. But she is alone. He says that he loves her so much, and that’s why he doesn’t want her to work. He says she should only dedicate herself to her child. She has a daughter, and because of that she can’t work.

“Every instant the phone rings to call her, he asks, ‘Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with?’ And he’ll find her.”

She finished, “He forces her to stay with him. She tries to leave, but he’s there always, always behind her, listening and waiting for her. Whenever he sees her with someone, that’s when he starts to get angry. And that’s when he hits her. She has tried to get out, but he’s forcing her. Because right now she lives more in fear, out of fear that he’s going to kill her if she were to have another partner.”

Cecilia’s hesitancy to speak – whether or not she actually was talking about a “relative” – says leagues about her situation, and that of all the women facing the Machismo Culture in Peru. It’s difficult to grapple with an issue that is in many ways tied into the larger economic, political and historical storylines that have resulted in the perseverance of a rural, anachronistic culture.

The education they are receiving at classes like the one taught at the women’s center is a necessary start – but only if paired with empowerment, so that women like Cecilia can know that they don’t have to be afraid to tell their stories.

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Latin America Discusses How to Make Environmental Rights a Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 01:35:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151563 The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean. That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational […]

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Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean.

That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational legal instrument with the aim of making public access to information and to environmental justice a reality for people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Delegates from 24 countries are taking part Jul. 31 to Aug. 4 in the Seventh Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land.” -- Danielle Andrade

This week’s meeting in Buenos Aires, organised by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Argentina, is to be the second-to-last debate on Principle 10, and is being held behind closed doors.

The final document is to be approved in November or December in an as-yet undetermined city.

But there is still a long way to go.

At the current meeting it has become clear that the debate on how far public participation should go has not come to a conclusion, although the ECLAC-sponsored negotiations began in November 2014.

The main sticking point is whether or not the document will be binding on signatory states.

If an agreement is reached for a binding document, it would set minimum standards for the participating countries to guarantee public participation in environmental matters.

If the decision is that it should be non-binding, it could merely become yet another declaration of principles that changes nothing.

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox of the United States, said “the instrument should be binding, even though that would make it harder to reach a consensus.”

“If it isn’t binding, the impression will be that instead of taking a step forward, we took a step back,” he said.

Knox was a special guest speaker during the opening of the meeting, which was held at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, with the presence of three Argentine cabinet ministers and Costa Rica’s deputy minister of environment, Patricia Madrigal.

The Costa Rican official took part on behalf of the Negotiating Committee board, which is presided by her country and Chile, and is also composed of Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the same vein as Knox, the Argentine expert on environmental law, Daniel Sabsay, a speaker at a special session on the implementation of the future agreement, said he was “worried by the prospect that the text will just end up as another grand declaration, without any actual results.”

Rights of indigenous peoples and communities

The draft of the Regional Agreement makes several references to indigenous peoples and establishes that it will acknowledge the right to consultation, and prior, free and informed consent, which has been recognised in most national legislations, and in the International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which regulates the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

It also stipulates that information must be delivered in indigenous languages, and that native people must receive special assistance to access information, since they are identified as a vulnerable group.

In addition, it establishes that, in every project with an environmental impact, the State has the obligation to identify the directly affected communities and promote their informed participation in the decision-making processes.

“The drafts that have been released until now set out no concrete instruments which countries are required to enforce and which would empower civil society. If it is not binding, it will not be useful,” he told IPS.

The debate is taking place against a backdrop of escalating disputes over land and natural resources, around the world and in this region in particular.

“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land,” said Danielle Andrade of Jamaica, chosen as a civil society representative in the negotiations.

This situation shows the failure of governments to address the concerns of local communities in the face of extractive or land use projects that affect them.

Principle 10 of the Río Declaration establishes that States must facilitate and promote social participation in debates on environmental issues, making information widely available and guaranteeing access to legal and administrative proceedings.

The consensus is that Latin America in general has sufficient regulations in this respect. In fact, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that “since 1992, 20 countries in the region have incorporated in their constitutions the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.”

The issue, it seems, is how to put into practice those rights which are only on paper.

“Nearly every country has environmental laws, but they have problems enforcing them. That is why we believe the creation of a committee for implementation of the treaty is crucial, to which people in the region could turn with their environmental conflicts, and which should include public participation, and should have powers to intervene,” Andrés Nápoli of Argentina, another civil society representative in the negotiations, told IPS.

The agreement that is being negotiated is inspired by the so-called Aarhus Convention, approved in 1998 in that city in Denmark, within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Convention was especially useful for Eastern Europe countries, which had abandoned Communism a few years before, and had few environmental regulations.

“The countries of Latin America have been developing environmental laws since the 1990s, and recently some English-speaking Caribbean nations have being doing so,” said Carlos de Miguel, head of ECLAC’s Policies for Sustainable Development Unit.

“For that reason, the aim is enhancing the capacities of countries to ensure the rights established in the existing laws. Some countries have not been able to implement their environmental legislation, not because they don’t want to, but due to a lack of training and of financial resources,” he told IPS.

De Miguel said “we expect an ambitious agreement, that includes the creation of the institutions that will enforce it. We hope it will be signed not only by the 24 countries that are negotiating, but by all 33 countries in the region.”

The countries taking part in the discussions include all of the nations of South America except for Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam, and all of the countries of Central America with the exception of Nicaragua, while Caribbean island nations like Barbados and Cuba are absent.

Among the articles that are under discussion in Buenos Aires are article 6, which defines the scope of the right to information; 7 and 8, on the participation of citizens in decision-making processes; and 9, which regulates access to justice.

The last meeting will discuss the articles that define the institutions created by the treaty and whether or not to create an enforcement committee that, according to the majority, will define its effectiveness.

“It is essential to establish mechanisms to ensure that participation is real and ensure the most vulnerable populations have access to information, because official bodies and NGOs on their own cannot mobilise participation,” said Leila Devia, head of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for South America, at the special session on implementation.

That convention, which has 186 member States, deals with the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

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Guyana’s Model Green Town Reflects Ambitious National Planhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/guyanas-model-green-town-reflects-ambitious-national-plan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyanas-model-green-town-reflects-ambitious-national-plan http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/guyanas-model-green-town-reflects-ambitious-national-plan/#comments Thu, 03 Aug 2017 10:57:59 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151554 At the head of Guyana’s Essequibo River, 50 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, you will find the town of Bartica. Considered the gateway to Guyana’s interior, the town has a population of about 15,000 and is the launching point for people who work in the forests mining gold and diamonds. Under a new project, […]

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At the head of the Essequibo River, in Guyana, you will find the town of Bartica. A pilot initiative will make it the first model ‘green’ town,

The light-emitting diode (LED) is one of today's most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing lighting technologies. Under the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) project, the community of Bartica is set to benefit from the installation of energy efficient as well as LED street lighting. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BARTICA, Guyana, Aug 3 2017 (IPS)

At the head of Guyana’s Essequibo River, 50 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, you will find the town of Bartica. Considered the gateway to Guyana’s interior, the town has a population of about 15,000 and is the launching point for people who work in the forests mining gold and diamonds.

Under a new project, Bartica is to benefit from the installation of a 20Kwp grid connected Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system at the 3-Mile Secondary School along with the installation of energy efficient lighting, as well as light-emitting diode (LED) street lighting.The implementation of the J-CCCP supports the government’s commitment to transitioning to the use of 100 percent renewable energy in public institutions by 2025.

The Ministry of the Presidency (MotP), through the Office of Climate Change, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) in Bartica earlier this month.

The Partnership, which is being funded by the Government of Japan to the tune of 15 million dollars, supports countries in advancing the process of improving energy security planning for adaptation to climate change.

Head of the Office of Climate Change within the Ministry of the Presidency Janelle Christian said the partnership comes at an opportune time as it helps to advance the vision of President David Granger for Bartica to be developed as a model ‘green’ town.

“The J-CCCP project and the support that Guyana has been benefiting from and continues to benefit from is set within the framework of the ‘Green’ State Development Strategy (GSDS)… The pilot initiative that will be implemented in Bartica is a direct response to the President’s pronouncement on Bartica becoming the first model ‘green’ town,” she said.

The GSDS provides a framework for national development plans and policies for climate action.

Christian said that the implementation of the J-CCCP supports the government’s commitment to transitioning to the use of 100 percent renewable energy in public institutions by 2025.

“These initiatives have to date, through budgetary support and also resources that we have been able to leverage through our development partners, already started taking effect,” she said.

“The project here in Bartica is not unique to Bartica but it is part of that national programme where we would’ve already seen through the leadership of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) some schools being installed with photovoltaic system (PVs).

“Further, under the Ministry of Communities, I believe as part of the initiative for all of the townships, there is and has been budgeted resources for installation of LED street lighting and we felt that those projects must align with those national plans with respect to our achievement and implementation of those commitments that we have made,” Christian added.

United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Mikiko Tanaka said that the launching of the Partnership is in line with Guyana’s ‘green’ development trajectory. “The resources will undoubtedly contribute to enhancing Guyana’s and the other seven beneficiary countries’ ability to respond to climate risk and opportunities,” she said.

The partnership is part of a regional initiative that was officially launched in January 2016 and has been implemented in Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and now Guyana.

Tanaka explained that the partnership is part of the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it relates to the climate action.

“The achievements from this project would ultimately support Guyana’s pursuit of evolving into a ‘green’ state, as it fosters a platform for collaborative efforts . . . the project allows for the adaptation and implementation of mitigation and adaptation technologies, which gives Guyana the flexibility to identify, develop and implement demonstration pilot projects that seek to address significant climate related ramifications,” she said.

Meanwhile, Programme Specialist at the UNDP, Dr. Patrick Chesney said that the partnership is an important response that emphasizes partnership between a developed country and developing countries.

“This is an ambitious response, and we must match that ambition with our energy with our passion and with knowledge.  Guyana is the second greenest country on this earth, so the move towards establishing a green state is simply putting in place the architecture, the mechanisms and ensuring that all we do is contributing to making and keeping Guyana green,” Chesney said.

Additionally, Mayor of Bartica, Gifford Marshall praised the organisations for implementing the Partnership in the community, which he said demonstrates the Government’s interest in developing the township of Bartica.

“It is most importantly a visionary council that was elected by the people for the development of Bartica, we are committed to serve, we were elected to serve and that’s what we will do, and these projects of course will bring about major transformation to the township of Bartica,” Marshall said.

Project Manager Yoko Ebisawa said the J-CCCP is designed to strengthen the capacity of countries in the Caribbean to invest in climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies, as prioritised in their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

These technologies will help reduce the dependence on fossil fuel imports, setting the region on a low-emission development path; as well as improve the region’s ability to respond to climate risks and opportunities in the long-run, through resilient development approaches that go beyond disaster response to extreme events, she said.

The J-CCCP brings together policy makers, experts and representatives of communities to encourage policy innovation for climate technology incubation and diffusion. By doing so, the partnership aims to ensure that barriers to the implementation of climate-resilient technologies are addressed and overcome in a participatory and efficient manner.

As a result, concrete mitigation and adaption will be implemented on the ground, in line with the countries’ long-term strategies. Building upon and supported by the NAMAs and NAPs, the partnership also supports the incubation of climate technology into targeted public sectors, private industries, and community groups and enterprises so that green, low-emission climate-resilient technologies can be tested, refined, adopted, and sustained as practical measures to enhance national, sub-national and community level resilience.

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Climate Change Brings Migration from the Dry Corridor to Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 07:20:34 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151516 If the impact of drought and poverty in the municipalities of the so-called Dry Corridor in Nicaragua continues pushing the agricultural frontier towards the Caribbean coast, by the year 2050 this area will have lost all its forests and nature reserves, experts predict. Denis Meléndez, facilitator of the National Board for Risk Management, told IPS […]

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Peasant farmers on a farm in the town of Sébaco, in the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa, part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, where this year rains have been generous, after years of drought. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

Peasant farmers on a farm in the town of Sébaco, in the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa, part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, where this year rains have been generous, after years of drought. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MATAGALPA, Nicaragua, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

If the impact of drought and poverty in the municipalities of the so-called Dry Corridor in Nicaragua continues pushing the agricultural frontier towards the Caribbean coast, by the year 2050 this area will have lost all its forests and nature reserves, experts predict.

Denis Meléndez, facilitator of the National Board for Risk Management, told IPS that annually between 70,000 and 75,000 hectares of forests are lost in Nicaragua’s northern region and along the Caribbean coast, according to research carried out by this non-governmental organisation that monitors the government’s environmental record.

This phenomenon, he explained, occurs mainly due to the impact of climate change in the Dry Corridor, a vast area that comprises 37 municipalities in central and northern Nicaragua, which begins in the west, at the border with Honduras, and ends in the departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega, bordering the eastern North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN).“They are peasant farmers who are unaware that most of the land in the Caribbean is most suitable for forestry,and they cut the trees, burn the grasslands, plant crops and breed livestock, destroying the ecosystem.” -- Denis Meléndez

The Dry Corridor in Central America is an arid strip of lowlands that runs along the Pacific coast through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

In this Central American eco-region, which is home to 10.5 million people, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the cyclical droughts have been aggravated by climate change and the gradual devastation of natural resources by the local populations.

In Nicaragua, it encompasses areas near the RACCN, a territory of over 33,000 square kilometres, with a population mostly belonging to the indigenous Miskito people, and which has the biggest forest reserve in Nicaragua and Central America: Bosawas.

From these generally dry territories, said Meléndez, there has been an invasion of farmers to the RACCN – many of them mestizos or people of mixed-race heritage, who the native inhabitants pejoratively refer to as “colonists“ – fleeing the rigours of climate change, who have settled in indigenous areas in this Caribbean region.

“They are peasant farmers who are unaware that most of the land in the Caribbean is most suitable for forestry,and they cut the trees, burn the grasslands, plant crops and breed livestock, destroying the ecosystem,“ Meléndez complained.

He said that if the loss of forests continues at the current pace, by 2050 the Dry Corridor will reach all the way to the Caribbean coast.

IPS visited several rural towns in the northern department of Matagalpa, where four of the 37 municipalities of the Corridor are located: San Isidro, Terrabona, Ciudad Darío and Sébaco.

In Sébaco, the rains have been generous since the rainy season started in May, which made the farmers forget the hardships of the past years.

There is green everywhere, and enthusiasm in the agricultural areas, which between 2013 and early 2016 suffered loss after loss in their crops due to the drought.

“The weather has been nice this year, it had been a long time since we enjoyed this rainwater which is a blessing from God,” 67-year-old Arístides Silva told IPS.

Silva and other farmers in Sébaco and neighbouring localities do not like to talk about the displacement towards other communities near the Caribbean coast, “to avoid conflicts.“

A good winter or rainy season this year in the tropical areas in northern Nicaragua curbed migration towards the neighbouring Northern Caribbean Region by farmers who use the slash-and-burn method, devastating to the forests. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

A good winter or rainy season this year in the tropical areas in northern Nicaragua curbed migration towards the neighbouring Northern Caribbean Region by farmers who use the slash-and-burn method, devastating to the forests. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

“I know two or three families who have gone to the coast to work, but because the landowners want them because we know how to make the land produce. We don’t go there to invade other people’s land,“ said Agenor Sánchez, who grows vegetables in Sébaco, on land leased from a relative.

But like Meléndez, human rights, social and environmental organisations emphasise the magnitude of the displacement of people from the Dry Corridor to Caribbean coastal areas since 2005.

Ecologist Jaime Incer Barquero, a former environment minister, told IPS that this is not a new problem. “For 40 years I have been warning about the ecological disaster of the Dry Corridor and the Caribbean, but the authorities haven’t paid attention to me,“ he complained.

The scientist pointed out that the shifting of the agricultural frontier from the Dry Corridor to the Caribbean forest and its coastal ecosystems threatens the sources of water that supply over 300,000 indigenous people in the area, because when the trees in the forest are cut, water is not absorbed by the soil, leading to runoff and landslides.

“There are thousands of ‘colonists’ devastating the biosphere reserve in Bosawas, which is the last big lung in Central America, and it is endangered,”

Abdel García, climate change officer at the non-governmental Humboldt Centre, told IPS that during the nearly four years of drought that affected the country, the risk of environmental devastation extended beyond the Dry Corridor towards the Caribbean.

He believes the expansion of the Dry Corridor farming practices towards the Caribbean region is a serious problem, since the soil along the coast is less productive and cannot withstand the traditional crops grown in the Corridor.

While the soils of the Corridor stay fertile for up to 20 years, in the Caribbean the soil, which is more suited to forestry, is sometimes fertile for just two or three years.

That drives farmers to encroach on the forest in order to keep planting, using their traditional slash-and-burn method.

According to García, the expansion of the Corridor would impact on the Caribbean coastal ecosystems and put pressure on protected areas, such as Bosawas.

The environmentalist said the Caribbean region is already facing environmental problems similar to those in the Corridor, such as changes in rainfall regimes, an increase in winds, and the penetration of sea water in coastal areas that used to be covered by dense pine forests or mangroves that have been cut down over the last 10 years.

The climate monitoring carried out by the Humboldt Centre, one of the most reputable institutions and the most proactive in overseeing and defending the environment in the country, found that the average rainfall in the Corridor fell from 1,000 to 1,400 millimetres per square metre to half that in 2015.

The migration of farmers from the Corridor, where about 500,000 people live, towards the Caribbean is also having on impact on human rights, since the Caribbean regions are by law state-protected territories, and the encroachment by outsiders has led to abuse and violence between indigenous people and ‘colonists’.

María Luisa Acosta, head of the Legal Aid Centre for Indigenous Peoples, has denounced this violence before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In her view, the growing number of outsiders moving into the Caribbean region is part of a business involving major interests, promoted and supported by government agencies to exploit the natural resources in the indigenous lands along the Caribbean with impunity.

For its part, the government officially denies that there is conflict generated by the influx of outsiders in the RACCN, but is taking measures to reinforce food security in the Dry Corridor, in an attempt to curb migration towards the Caribbean.

Of Nicaragua’s population of 6.2 million people, 29.6 per cent live in poverty and 8.3 per cent in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank’s latest update, from April.

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Central America Fights Climate Change with Minimal Foreign Aidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:05:54 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151490 Despite the fact that Central America is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, it has half-empty coffers when it comes to funding efforts against the phenomenon, in part because it receives mere crumbs in foreign aid to face the impacts of the rise in temperatures. According to a study released in June, […]

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A Green Energy Shift in Barbados, One Streetlight at a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/green-energy-shift-barbados-one-streetlight-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-energy-shift-barbados-one-streetlight-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/green-energy-shift-barbados-one-streetlight-time/#respond Fri, 28 Jul 2017 22:26:42 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151514 The ever-escalating and volatile price of oil, and the high cost of importation, have left Barbados and other island nations in the unenviable position of having the highest electricity prices in the world. But a new shift towards renewables is driving down greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, buildings’ heating and cooling, and transport, and […]

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A Green Energy Shift in Barbados, One Streetlight at a Time

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 28 2017 (IPS)

The ever-escalating and volatile price of oil, and the high cost of importation, have left Barbados and other island nations in the unenviable position of having the highest electricity prices in the world.

But a new shift towards renewables is driving down greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, buildings’ heating and cooling, and transport, and saving taxpayer money in the process.

In addition to changing out street lights and retrofitting the 13 government buildings, a project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the European Union (EU) will also see the use of more electric vehicles in Barbados.

While the Barbados government leads the renewables drive, everyone on the island is catching on. In addition to the solar panels and water heaters which can be seen on government buildings, hospitals, police stations and bus shelters, thousands of private homes also have them installed. And desalinization plants are installing large photovoltaic arrays to help defray their own electricity costs.

“Of course, we must embrace the role of energy efficiency in this master plan because this is one of the low hanging fruits for Barbados in the transition to clean energy,” said the Head of the Green Economy and Resilience Section of the EU Peter Sturesson. “This will assist in the reduction of the fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions and by that, lowering the carbon footprint of the island.”

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Barbados Steps Up Plans for Renewables, Energy Efficiencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/barbados-steps-plans-renewables-energy-efficiency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=barbados-steps-plans-renewables-energy-efficiency http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/barbados-steps-plans-renewables-energy-efficiency/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:01:54 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151446 With wind, solar and other renewable energy sources steadily increasing their share in energy consumption across the Caribbean, Barbados is taking steps to further reduce the need for CO2-emitting fossil fuel energy. The tiny Caribbean island is rolling out a project to reduce both electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while driving down government’s fuel […]

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Minister with responsibility for energy of Barbados, Darcy Boyce (right). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Barbados’ minister with responsibility for energy, Darcy Boyce (right). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

With wind, solar and other renewable energy sources steadily increasing their share in energy consumption across the Caribbean, Barbados is taking steps to further reduce the need for CO2-emitting fossil fuel energy.

The tiny Caribbean island is rolling out a project to reduce both electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while driving down government’s fuel import bill.In addition to changing out the street lights and retrofitting the 13 government buildings, the project will also see the use of more electric vehicles in Barbados.

The country is hoping to save up to 3 million dollars in electricity bills annually with the implementation of a 24.6-million-dollar Public Sector Smart Energy Programme (PSPP).

The project, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the European Union (EU), includes changing out close to 30,000 street lights across the country, replacing them with Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures.

“So, this project will save us a couple million dollars a year, [up to] 3 million a year. It is a small amount in the context of Barbados but it is a start to save some money,” Minister with responsibility for Energy Darcy Boyce said, while explaining that based on a 2009 study, government is aiming for a 29 percent per year reduction in electricity consumption through various methods of renewable energy use and energy efficiency.

“When that is combined with the work to retrofit 13 government buildings with solar photovoltaic, it begins to add up.”

Boyce acknowledged that government is a significant user of electricity, adding that the street lamps account for a great portion of that usage.

Renewables have become a major contributor to the energy transition occurring in many parts of the world and the growth in renewables continues to bolster climate change mitigation.

In December 2013, Barbados passed the Electric Light and Power Act (ELPA) in parliament and later amended it in April 2015. It replaced the original 116-year-old Electric Light and Power Act which was passed in 1899.

The ELPA revised the law relating to the supply and use of electricity and promotes the generation of electricity from sources of renewable energy, to enhance the security and reliability of the supply of electricity and to provide for related matters.

A key aim of the government in passing the Act was reducing the Bds$800 million fuel import bill (50 percent of which is used to generate electricity). It also intended to promote the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources and allows independent power producers to supply electricity in addition to the Barbados Light and Power Company (BL&P).

Boyce urged those involved in the PSPP to “keep the momentum going”, adding that it was his intention for Barbados to reach 100 percent reliance on renewable energy by 2045 as outlined in the BL&P 100/100 Vision.

“The Light & Power has reached to a wonderful point where they are committing to have 100 percent renewable energy within 30 years. I pressed them and I wanted them there by 2035 but they say no, 2045 and I will live with 2045,” Boyce said.

“And that I think is really a very good commitment to the country’s economy because when we reduce the use of fossil fuels, when we reduce the importation of fossil fuels whether it is by efficiency gains or it is by renewable energy, we reduce the amount of foreign exchange that we use.”

The shift towards renewables is driving down greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, buildings’ heating and cooling, and transport.

In addition to changing out the street lights and retrofitting the 13 government buildings, the project will also see the use of more electric vehicles in Barbados.

So far government has two electric vehicles as part of a pilot project and is expected to procure about six more by the end of this year.

Head of the Green Economy and Resilience Section of the EU Peter Sturesson urged officials to go even further to focus on energy efficiency, pointing out that this is an important aspect if the country is to save critical foreign exchange.

“As you know, the European Union remains committed to support renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development in Barbados and in the Caribbean region,” Sturesson said.

“Of course, we must embrace the role of energy efficiency in this master plan because this is one of the low hanging fruits for Barbados in the transition to clean energy. This will assist in the reduction of the fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions and by that, lowering the carbon footprint of the island.”

Sturesson pointed out that the project marked “yet another milestone” in Barbados’ development.

While the Barbados government leads the renewables drive, everyone on the island is catching on. In addition to the solar panels and water heaters which can be seen on government buildings, hospitals, police stations and bus shelters, thousands of private homes also have them installed. And desalinization plants are installing large photovoltaic arrays to help defray their own electricity costs.

The combination of the ever-escalating and volatile price of oil, and the cost of importation, place Barbados and other island nations in the unenviable position of having the highest electricity prices in the world.

The effective cost of electricity in Barbados is around $0.65/kWh. This rate varies slightly from residential to commercial power users. Roughly 60 percent of the bill is simply a fuel charge. This component, the Fuel Clause Adjustment (FCA), varies month to month but has been increasing at a normalized rate of 3.7 percent per year over the past seven years.

Representative of the IDB Juan Carlos De La Hoz Viñas said there are many benefits to be derived by reducing the cost of electricity in the country.

“We all know and it’s part of the day to day conversation with the private sector that electricity costs are a major hurdle in terms of doing business in the country. So every attempt to reduce the electricity cost is a path to a greater competitiveness in the country,” he said.

“This is part of a long-standing cooperation between the IDB, European Union and the Government of Barbados to establish a sustainable energy matrix in Barbados.”

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China Seeks to Export Its Green Finance Model to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 03:05:44 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151431 Hand in hand with UN Environment and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) disembarked in the Argentine capital to prompt this country to adopt and promote the agenda of so-called green finance, which supports clean or sustainable development projects and combats climate change. The PBOC, which as China’s central bank […]

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Ma Jun, chief economist at the People’s Bank of China, together with Rubén Mercado, from the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina. The high-ranking Chinese official promoted Beijing’s green finance while in Buenos Aires. Credit: UNDP

Ma Jun, chief economist at the People’s Bank of China, together with Rubén Mercado, from the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina. The high-ranking Chinese official promoted Beijing’s green finance while in Buenos Aires. Credit: UNDP

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Hand in hand with UN Environment and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) disembarked in the Argentine capital to prompt this country to adopt and promote the agenda of so-called green finance, which supports clean or sustainable development projects and combats climate change.

The PBOC, which as China’s central bank regulates the country’s financial activity and monitors its monetary activity, has been particularly interested in Argentina, because next year it will preside over the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised and emerging economies.

In 2018, Buenos Aires will become the first Latin American city to organise a summit of the G20 forum, in which the major global powers discuss issues on the global agenda.

“China started to develop strategies to promote green finance international collaboration in the G20 framework in 2016, the year when it took over the presidency. And Germany took over this year the presidency and decided to continue. We are looking forward to Argentina to continue with this topic of green finance in 2018,” said Ma Jun, chief economist at the PBoC, in a meeting with a small group of reporters at the UNDP offices in Buenos Aires. “Once the companies begin to release the environmental information, we’ll see that money will begin to change direction. Some of the money which is invested in the polluting sector will be redirected to the green companies. And that costs governments zero. It’s only a requirement for the companies to disclose their environmental information.” -- Ma Jun

Ma, a distinguished economist who has worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Deutsche Bank, was the keynote speaker at the International Symposium on Green Finance, held Jul. 20-21 at IDB headquarters in Buenos Aires.

At that event, he told representatives of the public sector and private companies from a number of countries that over the past three years China has been making an important effort for its financial system to underpin a change in the development model, putting aside polluting industries and supporting projects that respect the environment and use resources more efficiently.

Ma, a high-ranking PBoC official since 2014, surprised participants in the Symposium stating that in 2015, China decided to change its development model because of the enormous environmental impact it had, which is reflected in the estimate he quoted: that “a million people a year die in China due to pollution-related diseases.“

He said four trillion yuan – approximately 600 billion dollars – will be needed to finance investments in environmentally sustainable projects over the next few years in China.

Simon Zadek, co-director of the UN Environment Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, concurred with Ma.

He explained that the UN agency he co-heads promotes the “mobilisation of private capital towards undertakings compatible with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments made in the Paris Agreement on climate change, by the financial markets, banks, investment funds and insurance companies.“

He added that “many countries have taken steps in that direction and China is one of the most inspiring, most ambitious at an internal level and most active in promoting international cooperation.“

“Financial markets and capital should take environmental and climate issues into account now, not tomorrow. We are hoping for Argentina’s leadership next year on this matter and we are ready to collaborate if it decides to do so,“ said the UN Environment official.

The Symposium was held a few days after this year’s G20 summit, which was hosted Jul. 7-8 by Hamburg, Germany.

During the summit the discrepancy became evident between the rest of the heads of government and U.S. President Donald Trump, who does not believe in climate change and withdrew his country from the Paris Agreement, which in December 2015 set commitments for all governments to reduce global warming.

In Hamburg, a meeting was held by the Green Finance Study Group (GFSG), created in 2016, the year China presided over the G20, and which is headed by Ma and Michael Sheren, senior advisor to the Bank of England, with UN Environment acting as its secretariat.

There are two main issues that the GFSG currently promotes for the financial industry to consider when deciding on the financing of infrastructure or productive projects: setting up an environmental risk analysis and using publicly available environmental data.

“PBoC, the largest Chinese bank, has verified that to invest too much in the polluting sector is not beneficial. The costs are higher and the profits lower, because lots of policies are more and more restrictive in the polluting sector,” Ma said, noting that the bank began to carry out environmental risk analysis two years ago.

For the chief economist, “the other focus is to allow financial markets to distinguish who is green and who is brown,” referring to the predominant model of development, based on draining natural resources and not preserving ecosystems.

“Once the companies begin to release the environmental information, we’ll see that money will begin to change direction. Some of the money which is invested in the polluting sector will be redirected to the green companies. And that costs governments zero. It’s only a requirement for the companies to disclose their environmental information,” added Ma.

An important part of the initiative is the promotion of the emission of so-called green bonds, to finance projects of renewable energy, energy saving, treatment of wastewater or solid waste, the construction of green buildings that emit less pollutants and reduce their energy consumption, and green transport.

But the promotion of green finance does not foresee the arrival of special funds for that purpose to countries of the developing South.

In fact, the “greening of the financial system“ mainly depends on the private sector, especially where the state has limited fiscal capacity, according to the conclusions of the G20’s GFSG.

For Rubén Mercado, UNDP economist in Argentina, governments can facilitate undertakings that are beneficial to the environment by changing policies, without the need for spending additional funds.

“The key issue is that of relative prices. In Argentina we have subsidised fossil fuels for years. Perhaps we would not even have to subsidise renewable forms of energy, but simply reduce our subsidies for fossil fuels so that the other sources can be developed,“ he said.

Ma took a similar approach, pointing out that “You don´t need to spend money, you just need to eliminate the subsidies” that are traditionally granted to fossil fuel producers, which hamper investments in clean energies.

In the Symposium in Buenos Aires a study was released about the economies of Germany, China and India, which revealed that in the last year they have invested in renewable energies just 0.7, 0.4 and 0.1 per cent of GDP, respectively.

“The massive demand for green financing simply cannot be met by the public sector or the fiscal system,” said Ma.

“In a country like China, 90 percent is being covered by the private sector. Globally, my feeling is that in the OECD countries the fiscal capacity is probably higher. Maybe more than 10 percent could be provided by governments,” he said.

“But in other economies with weaker fiscal capacity, the rate should be even lower than in China.”

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Tobago Gears Up to Fight Sargassum Invasionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion/#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 00:01:35 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151421 As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that […]

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Sargassum inundates a beach on Barbados. Credit: H. Oxenford/Mission Blue

Sargassum inundates a beach on Barbados. Credit: H. Oxenford/Mission Blue

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 25 2017 (IPS)

As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that will alert islanders to imminent invasions so they can take defensive action.

The Deputy Director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Dr. Rahanna Juman, told IPS, “After the 2015 sargassum event, the IMA got stakeholders together and developed a sargassum response plan. We looked at some sort of early warning mechanism [using satellites]. We know that it comes off of the South American mainland. If we know when it is coming and we can forecast which part of the coast it is going to land, we can inform the relevant regional authority so they can put things in place.A particularly heart-rending consequence of the sargassum invasions has been the devastation it causes to turtle nesting sites on the island.

“We have this network set up. We got the Met Services to provide an idea of where [the sargassum] is going to land,” she said.

The 2010-2015 State of the Marine Environment (SOME) report, released in May this year by the IMA, states, “Sargassum invasion of Trinidad and Tobago’s beaches is a relatively novel phenomenon for which we have been largely unprepared for in the past. However, with climate change causing continuous warming of the oceans, it appears that future events are likely.”

The country experienced massive onslaughts of sargassum, a type of seaweed, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, and some again this year. “Sargassum is a natural phenomenon,” said Dr. Juman, but it was the quantity of the seaweed that stunned the public during these years.

The consequences for Tobago’s tourism industry have been debilitating.

A director on the board of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Environment Tobago and the Association of Tobago Dive Operators, Wendy Austin, told IPS the first major event for the Tobago tourism industry was in 2015. “People were cancelling their bookings. Visitors were having to move, particularly from the north end of the island. Speyside had it very bad and the smell was awful. The restaurants had to close because people were not coming out to eat.” As the sargassum rotted, it emitted a nauseating stench.

“This year we have been hit fairly hard once again,” Austin added. “Recommendations have been put forward to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) as to how the situation can be handled environmentally so that tourism would then have fewer problems. However, there is no money to put these recommendations into action.”

The THA reportedly spent approximately 500,000 dollars during one year to clear up the decaying sargassum.

Apart from the tourism industry taking a hit, the country’s marine environment has also been adversely affected .

A particularly heart-rending consequence of the sargassum invasions has been the devastation it causes to turtle nesting sites on the island. The SOME report notes, “Ecologically, both adult and juvenile sea turtles can become entangled in the thick masses.”

Dr. Juman said hatchlings making their way out to sea from Tobago’s shores in 2015 got caught in the mass of sargassum, as well as many leaving the beaches of Trinidad in the northeast after they were hatched. Local media reports earlier this year expressed fears that turtle hatchlings would die because of becoming entangled in the masses of sargassum that washed ashore in April.

Further, “sargassum can smother your coral reef and seagrass, and they can bring in organisms that are not native to [Tobago], so that can have a negative impact on the native species,” said Dr. Juman, who is a wetlands ecologist.

The SOME report notes that the seagrasses which the sargassum destroyed off southwest Tobago are important for the marine environment since they “stabilize bottom sediments, slow current flow, prevent erosion, and filter suspended nutrients and solids from coastal waters.”

In response to this phenomenon, as well as other threats caused by climate change to the nation’s coastlines, the Trinidad and Tobago government has established as a priority of its new Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy the objective of maintaining “the diversity, health and productivity of coastal and marine processes and ecosystems”.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning Marie Hinds said via e-mail that this objective, the eighth one listed under the ICZM policy, incorporates tackling the sargassum problem.

She said achieving the objective would involve implementing a “programme to manage/control the introduction of alien invasive species into the coastal and marine zones.”

Establishment of an ICZM policy was a requirement of the Inter-American Development Bank for Trinidad and Tobago to access funding to deal with climate change, Hinds added. The ICZM policy will facilitate coordination and cooperation between civil society, government and the private sector in addressing the impacts of climate change.

However, there is still relatively little research data on which to base decision-making and management of the sargassum problem because it is such a new phenomenon, said Dr. Juman.

Among the proposals for disposing of the sargassum is to transform it into a biogas. But, “if you are going to invest in some sort of industry…you have to have a known quantity, you need to know how much, you need to have a consistent supply.

“You also need research to quantify such an industry’s impact on the fishing and shipping industry, as well as tourism. We do not have that kind of data,” said Dr. Juman. “Having the research and knowing how to treat with it so we can be proactive not reactive,” she said, was important for the IMA in finding solutions to the sargassum problem.

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Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast Pools Efforts Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 03:18:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151406 Jonathan Barrantes walks between the rows of shoots, naming one by one each species in the tree nursery that he manages, in the south of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastal region. There are fruit trees, ceibas that will take decades to grow to full size. and timber species for forestry plantations. The tree nursery run by […]

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Local Farmers and Consumers Create Short Food Supply Chains in Mexican Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/local-farmers-consumers-create-short-food-supply-chains-mexican-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-farmers-consumers-create-short-food-supply-chains-mexican-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/local-farmers-consumers-create-short-food-supply-chains-mexican-cities/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 18:51:59 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151382 Víctor Rodríguez arranges lettuce, broccoli, potatoes and herbs on a shelf with care, as he does every Sunday, preparing to serve the customers who are about to arrive at the Alternative Market of Bosque de Tlalpan, in the south of the Mexican capital. Farmers bring their organic vegetables from San Miguel Topilejo, a rural village […]

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Mauricio Rodríguez, a member of the association of Organic Vegetables’ Producers of San Miguel Topilejo "Del Campo Ololique", serves customers at his stall in the Tlalpan Alternative Market, in the south of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Mauricio Rodríguez, a member of the association of Organic Vegetables’ Producers of San Miguel Topilejo "Del Campo Ololique", serves customers at his stall in the Tlalpan Alternative Market, in the south of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

Víctor Rodríguez arranges lettuce, broccoli, potatoes and herbs on a shelf with care, as he does every Sunday, preparing to serve the customers who are about to arrive at the Alternative Market of Bosque de Tlalpan, in the south of the Mexican capital.

Farmers bring their organic vegetables from San Miguel Topilejo, a rural village a few km away in the municipality of Tlalpan, where they grow chard, onions, radishes, beets and other produce as a group on a total of seven hectares.

Agriculture “is a family heritage handed down by our grandparents, we are the third generation, it gives us knowledge and tools for living. We farmers must continue to exist, because we form part of the food chain,“ said Rodríguez, 36, whose wife also works in the association.

He is one of eight members of the Organic Vegetables’ Producers association of San Miguel Topilejo “Del Campo Ololique”, which in the Nahuatl indigenous tongue means “place where things are well.“

Rodríguez, a father of two, says “the best thing to do was return to the roots and contribute to future generations,“ referring to the decision to engage in organic farming and create direct channels of distribution, instead of selling their crops to wholesalers, who used to pay them a pittance.

“We have made it through the hardest part, which was to keep the project alive. Now we have steady customers who want healthy products, they know what they are consuming. We have gained the trust of our customers,“ he explained.

The association emerged in 2003 and harvests some 700 kg of vegetables a week, which the members take on Sundays to the Tlalpan street market and two other alternative markets in Mexico City, and on Tuesdays to Cuernavaca, a city about 90 km south of the capital.

They also welcome visits to the farm by customers interested in seeing how they do things.

The group has added 1,000 metres of tomato greenhouses and 500 of cucumbers, thanks to a rainwater collection system that allows them to cultivate year round. They also make beet juice and ready-to-eat salads, to incorporate added value.

In Topilejo, which in Nahuatl means “he who holds the precious chieftain’s staff“ and where some 41,000 people live, the group also protects the forest and has built terraces to prevent mudslides.

The Ololique association is one of the five winners of the 2017 Fund for the Innovation of Short Agri-Food Chains, organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the non-governmental organisation Slow Food Mexico, which distributed some 34,000 dollars between five undertakings.

A total of 98 groups involved in sustainable commerce, eco-gastronomy and nutritional education ran in the competition held to promote traditional cuisine, agroecological food production, clean systems in small-scale agriculture, agricultural biodiversity of crops and wild species, as well as food security, sovereignty and resilience.

Short food supply chains are market mechanisms that imply a proximity between places of production and consumption, which offer products grown using sustainable agricultural practices, with fewer intermediaries and closer ties between producers and consumers.

The idea is that these mechanisms can bolster family farming, whose international year was celebrated in 2014, to promote agroecological practices, improve farmers’ incomes, protect the environment and bolster sustainable food.

“Short chains are mechanisms of commercialisation to sell directly to consumers or through only one intermediary,“ explained Mauricio García, coordinator of the Short Food Chains project in the FAO office in Mexico.

“Since the farmers know the consumers, they start growing in response to demand, and their products sell better. The consumer knows who the producers are and can see how they grow their food,“ he told IPS.

The expert said that this way “a connection“ is established that allows small-scale farmers to sell their products at a fair price and allows consumers to buy products knowing where they came from.

FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food estimate that small-scale agriculture produces 75 per cent of the country’s food. Of the more than five million farms in Mexico, over four million are family farms.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, small-scale farming makes up nearly 81 per cent of agricultural holdings, provides between 27 and 67 per cent of food consumed domestically, occupies between 12 and 67 per cent of agricultural land and contributes between 57 and 77 per cent of regional agricultural employment.

In this country of 129 million people, there are only 26 short food supply chain street markets, where farmers sell their produce directly to consumers in markets that they have set up themselves, according to the Platform of ‘Tianguis’ and Organic Markets of Mexico, and confirmed by FAO.

In 2017, the Mexican Agriculture Ministry’s Programme to Support Small-Scale Producers has a budget of 490 million dollars – a 29 per cent increase with respect to 2016.

One of the objectives of the Ministry’s 2013-2018 sectoral programme is to support the production and incomes of small-scale farmers in the poorest rural areas.

Rodríguez said that reaching more markets and consumers without intermediaries will require more support. “These projects are indispensable, because we defend agriculture, preserve our communities and protect the environment,“ he said.

The group plans to buy a solar dryer, add another four hectares of land in 2018, register their brand and design packaging and wrappers for their processed foods.

FAO and the Agriculture Ministry list some of the challenges for small-scale agriculture, such as human capital, limited capital goods and technologies, weak integration in production chains and degradation of natural resources.

They also include high vulnerability to weather shocks, low yields and serious constraints due to shortages of land and water.

García suggests a change in perspective for the public sector.

“We want strategic aspects to be financed in these projects, which already have a history and required very concrete things, in order for them to work better. They can have better products, with more added value to generate more resources and to be able to sustain their projects,“ he said.

He stressed that “these are replicable initiatives, we need to finance them, for them to thrive and to promote their replication.“

Since 2013, the more than 190 United Nations member states have been negotiating the “Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people living in rural areas.“

It addresses and promotes the rights to natural resources and to development, to participation, information about production, commercialisation and distribution, as well as to access to justice, work, and safety and health in the workplace.

In addition, it deals with rights to food and food sovereignty, to decent livelihoods and income, to land and other natural resources, to a safe, clean and healthy environment, to seeds and to biodiversity.

Meanwhile, organisations of farmers, rural associations and research centres have promoted, since 2015, that the UN declare a “Decade of Family Agriculture“.

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Farming Beyond Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/farming-beyond-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farming-beyond-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/farming-beyond-drought/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:01:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151372 The Caribbean accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries and Barbados is in the top ten. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita. With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature […]

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Caribbean farmers have been battling extreme droughts in recent years. A FAO official says drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, making it a key issue for Caribbean food security. Credit: CDB

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

The Caribbean accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries and Barbados is in the top ten. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita.

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean, experts say agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences.Expensive, desalinated water resources are also becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 percent in Antigua and Barbuda.

This is particularly important since the majority of Caribbean agriculture is rain fed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supply will become increasingly important.

In light of the dilemma faced by the region, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) is spearheading a climate smart agriculture project in which 90 farmers from three Caribbean countries, including Barbados, will participate over the next 18 months.

Executive director of the CPDC Gordon Bispham said the aim of the project, in which farmers from Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines are also involved, is to support sustainable livelihoods and reinforce that farming is serious business.

“Farming is not a hobby. It is a business where we can apply specific technology and methodologies, not only to be sustainable, but to be profitable. That is going to be very central to our programme,” Bispham said at the project’s launch last week.

“If we are going to be successful, it means that we are going to have to build partnerships and networks so that we can share the information that we learn from the project. We must not only upscale agriculture in the three countries identified, but bring more countries of the region into the fold,” he said.

According to the FAO, drought can affect the agriculture sector in several ways, by reducing crop yields and productivity, and causing premature death of livestock and poultry. Even a dry spell of 7-10 days can result in a reduction of yields, influencing the livelihoods of farmers.

Farmers, particularly small farmers, are vulnerable to drought as their livelihoods are threatened by low rainfall where crops are rain fed and by low water levels and increased production costs due to increased irrigation, the FAO said.

It notes that livestock grazing areas change in nutritional value, as more low quality, drought tolerant species dominate during extensive droughts, causing the vulnerability of livestock to increase. The potential for livestock diseases also increases.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, Regional Coordinator for FAO in the Caribbean.

He adds that the poor are vulnerable as food price increases are often associated with drought. Expensive, desalinated water resources are also becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 percent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact the poor significantly.

The FAO official adds that rural communities are vulnerable since potable water networks are less dense and therefore more heavily impacted during drought, while children are at highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.

Bispham said the youth and women would be a focus of the climate smart agriculture project, adding that with their inclusion in the sector, countries can depend on agriculture to make a sizable contribution to their gross domestic product (GDP).

While throwing her support behind the agriculture project, head of the political section and chargé d’affaires of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Silvia Kofler, highlighted the threat presented by global warning.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impact of climate change. It is an all-encompassing threat, and the nature and scale of this global challenge that we are facing demands a concerted action of us all,” she said.

She gave policymakers in Barbados the assurance that the European Union was willing to assist the region in transforming their societies and sectors into smart and sustainable ones, whether in farming or otherwise. 

FAO said climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other climate related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication.

A new FAO study says the Caribbean faces significant challenges in terms of drought. The region already experiences drought-like events every year, often with low water availability impacting agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires.

The Caribbean also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years with El Niño events. The impacts are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul said 2016 was an extremely tough year for farmers, as the limited rainfall affected the harvesting and planting of crops.

But he is encouraged by the fact that unlike last year there is no prediction of a prolonged drought for Barbados.

“Rain if still falling on some areas off and on, so that is a good sign. But the good thing is that we haven’t had any warning of a possible drought and we are hoping that it remains that way,” he said.

“With the little rainfall we got last year, farmers had some serious problems so we are definitely hoping for more rain this time around.”

Deputy Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services Sonia Nurse explained that 2016 started with below-normal rainfall levels in the first half of the year. However, by the end of the year, a total of 1,422 mm (55.62 inches), recorded at the Grantley Adams station, was in excess of the 30-year average of 1,270 mm (50.05 inches), while the 2015 total of 789 mm (31.07 inches) fell way below the 30-year average.

“Figures showed that approximately 78 per cent or 1,099.1 mm (43.27 inches) of the total rainfall measured last year was experienced during the wet season (June-November) as opposed to 461 mm (18.15 inches) recorded during the same period of the 2015 wet season.

“However, rainfall data showed that 2015 started out significantly wetter than 2016, with accumulations of over nine inches recorded between January and April as opposed to a mere five inches, which was recorded January to April 2016. A similar rainfall pattern was reported from some of the other stations around the island.”

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Brazil’s Shipyards – Victims of a Failed Reindustrialisation Processhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/brazilian-shipyards-no-reindustrialisation-horizon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazilian-shipyards-no-reindustrialisation-horizon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/brazilian-shipyards-no-reindustrialisation-horizon/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 00:33:01 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151342 “I have lived through three good periods and two bad ones,” prior to the present crisis in the Brazilian shipping industry, said Edson Rocha, a direct witness since the 1970s of the ups and downs of a sector where nationalist feelings run high. Now as the president of the Niteroi Metalworkers Union in this city […]

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An Atlantic Ocean deepwater oil platform moored at the Astillero Maua (Maua Shipyard) in Niteroi, in southeast Brazil, after being repaired, while awaiting being hired out to resume its activities. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

An Atlantic Ocean deepwater oil platform moored at the Astillero Maua (Maua Shipyard) in Niteroi, in southeast Brazil, after being repaired, while awaiting being hired out to resume its activities. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)

“I have lived through three good periods and two bad ones,” prior to the present crisis in the Brazilian shipping industry, said Edson Rocha, a direct witness since the 1970s of the ups and downs of a sector where nationalist feelings run high.

Now as the president of the Niteroi Metalworkers Union in this city near Rio de Janeiro Rocha has to battle with mass unemployment of shipyard workers, bearing a collective responsibility that he had not faced in previous shipyard crises.

“Out of the 14,500 people employed directly by the shipbuilding sector in 2014, only around 1,500 are left,” the union leader told IPS. He estimates that 2,500 indirect jobs, beyond the union’s control, have been lost out of a total of 4,000 such jobs in that year."Building ships abroad, although it may be cheaper, means paying attention only to shareholders’ profits and not to the overall interests of Brazil. Every job in the shipbuilding industry generates four or five indirect jobs, and domestic costs can be negotiated." -- Jesus Cardoso

For a city of half a million people and few alternative employment opportunities, the impact has been devastating. “This time the decline was abrupt,” with thousands of workers suddenly being made redundant at the 10 large and medium-sized local shipyards when construction of ships and other oil industry equipment stopped.

Rocha joined the shipbuilding sector when it was at its peak in the 1970s, when strong government stimulus policies promoted the production of dozens of ships, mainly for the export of Brazilian iron ore.

Then in the 1980s the industry went broke during the “lost decade” of foreign debt. It recovered slightly in 1993-1994, only to practically disappear in the years that followed.

But it made a strong recovery after 2002, based on the big increase in offshore oil production, Rocha, a qualified project design technician, told IPS.

The discovery in 2006 of vast pre-salt oil deposits in deep Atlantic ocean waters, some 200 kilometres off the Brazilian coast, accelerated national plans to become a new oil superpower.

The dream of reactivating and expanding the shipbuilding industry was consequently renewed. The industry depends on domestic demand because its costs are too high to compete internationally.

Large shipyards were buillt at various points on the Atlantic coast, joining dozens already in existence and under expansion, to provide the ships and equipment needed for exploration, production and transport of fossil fuels.

There was plenty of finance available, as well as a protectionist policy requiring at least 60 percent national content in such equipment.

Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of Maua Shipyard, next to the repairs dock where a dredging platform is moored. The company, located in Niteroi on Guanabara bay, near Rio de Janeiro, is suffering from the serious crisis affecting Brazil’s shipbuilding industry. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of Maua Shipyard, next to the repairs dock where a dredging platform is moored. The company, located in Niteroi on Guanabara bay, near Rio de Janeiro, is suffering from the serious crisis affecting Brazil’s shipbuilding industry. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The house of cards collapsed at the end of 2014. The fall in oil prices, the domestic economic crisis and the losses sustained by the state oil group Petrobras, owing to corruption and bad management, interrupted projects, contracts and payments to shipbuilding suppliers.

A total of 82,472 workers were employed by Brazil’s over 40 shipyards in late 2014. In November 2016, the National Naval Industry Union had only 38,452 registered members, and the figure is still dropping.

The Maua Shipyard, which has been operating since 1845 in Niteroi, ceased receiving payments in July 2015 and has had to suspend construction of three Panamax ships – the largest that could pass through the locks of the Panama Canal before the canal was enlarged in June 2016 – contracted by Transpetro, the logistical subsidiary of Petrobras.

“Two of the ships are 90 percent finished and the third is half built,” Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of the company since 2013, told IPS during a visit to the shipyard.

The cancellation of the contract forced the immediate redundancy of 3,500 workers. Today the shipyard, which also carries out repairs and other services, employs about 500 people, compared to an average of 350 in 2016.

“Our problem is how to survive until 2020,” when oil extraction is projected to increase, and demand for equipment and transport is expected to recover, in Vanderlei’s view.

The solution for his shipyard seems clear: finishing the three partly built ships in the yard would represent two years’ work and allow for the recall of 1,800 workers, he said.

The Zelia Gatai, one of the three unfinished tankers in the Maua Shipyard in southeast Brazil, waiting for renewal of the contract suspended two years ago in order to complete the remaining 10 percent of its construction. This Panamax ship has a length of 228 metres. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Zelia Gatai, one of the three unfinished tankers in the Maua Shipyard in southeast Brazil, waiting for renewal of the contract suspended two years ago in order to complete the remaining 10 percent of its construction. This Panamax ship has a length of 228 metres. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

At the moment there is a surplus of workers available in an economy that has been in recession for three years, he said, but the most highly skilled workers will be lost if the period of unemployment is further extended.

“Most of the workers laid off by the shipyards have resorted to the informal sector, like street sales and occasional services,” said Rocha, whose union is still claiming the labour rights of metalworkers, who are owed wages since they were made redundant two years ago.

A recovery in the shipbuilding industry, beginning by finishing partly built ships, platforms and drill rigs required for oil production, unites the interests of unionised workers and shipyards threatened by economic collapse. At least 12 shipyards are in the hands of the receivers with the courts setting measures such as long-term payment agreements.

There would be many advantages and limited costs in the case of Maua, but the process has been blocked by court procedures and by the paralysis of Transpetro, under new management since the resignation of its former president, Sergio Machado, in February 2015 after 12 years in office.

After being accused of corruption, Machado cooperated with the justice system, recording conversations with several of the political leaders involved. He was given a reduced sentence of only three years’ house arrest, and the return of 75 million reals (23 million dollars) that he had siphoned off from the company.

Transpetro cancelled 17 contracts in 2016 and put a halt to its Fleet Modernisation and Expansion Programme, initiated in 2004 for building 49 ships, more than half of which are completed or nearly completed.

Some, like the three ships being built by Maua in association with Ilha Shipyards S.A., are waiting on court judgments and the weakened decision-making power of Transpetro, Vanderlei said.

Large bore tubes abandoned in the Maua Shipyard, in southeast Brazil, after the cancellation of the contract for building three large ships for transporting fossil fuels on the part of a subsidiary of the state oil company Petrobras. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Large bore tubes abandoned in the Maua Shipyard, in southeast Brazil, after the cancellation of the contract for building three large ships for transporting fossil fuels on the part of a subsidiary of the state oil company Petrobras. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Losses are accumulating because of the need to maintain deteriorating equipment and the continued occupation of the shipyard’s whole industrial area of 180,000 square metres.

With a length of 228 metres, width of 40 metres and height of 18.5 metres, each Panamax ship is equivalent to a city block bearing six-storey buildings. Those built at Maua have the capacity to transport 72,000 tons.

The shipyards did not participate in “the business of bribery, and they lost market position” in an increasingly complex production sector, without budget add-ons that promoted corruption and recently benefited other large Brazilian projects, Vanderlei complained.

The Maua Shipyard survives thanks to its traditions, the diversification of its services including repair work on various ships and its privileged location at the entrance of Guanabara bay, shared between Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro, and its mooring facilities for large ships, Vanderlei said.

“Shipyards have an assured future as demand is bound to increase after 2020, given that the country has an extensive Atlantic coastline and needs to increase oil production,” he said.

“The initial costs of industrial infrastructure in Brazil have already been paid. We have already delivered dozens of ships to Transpetro, proving our capacity,” he argued. Production in Brazil is more expensive, but meets local requirements that are not satisfied by standard ships built abroad, he added.

Jesus Cardoso, president of the Rio de Janeiro Metalworkers’ Union, told IPS that “building ships abroad, although it may be cheaper, means paying attention only to shareholders’ profits and not to the overall interests of Brazil. Every job in the shipbuilding industry generates four or five indirect jobs, and domestic costs can be negotiated,” he said.

Rio de Janeiro, with 6.5 million inhabitants, has lost 15,000 shipyard jobs since 2015, contributing to the halving of the total number of local metalworkers which had reached a peak of 70,000, Cardoso said.

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