Inter Press ServiceLatin America & the Caribbean – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Sustainable Land Management, the Formula to Combat Desertificationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sustainable-land-management-formula-combat-desertification/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-land-management-formula-combat-desertification http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sustainable-land-management-formula-combat-desertification/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 22:11:05 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156279 Sustainable land management (SLM) and conservation are the recipes that with different ingredients represent the basis for combating soil degradation, participants in the event to celebrate the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD)agreed on Jun. 17 in Ecuador. Under the theme “Land has true value. Invest in it,” a Latin American country hosted for the […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Farmers from Central America and Brazil Join Forces to Live with Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/farmers-central-america-brazil-join-forces-live-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-central-america-brazil-join-forces-live-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/farmers-central-america-brazil-join-forces-live-drought/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2018 02:49:55 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156228 Having a seven-litre container with a filter on the dining room table that purifies the collected rainwater, and opening a small valve to fill a cup and quench thirst, is almost revolutionry for Salvadoran peasant farmer Víctor de León. As if that weren’t enough, having a pond dug in the ground, a reservoir of rainwater […]

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After a day working on the land where he grows corn and beans, Víctor de León serves himself freshly purified water, one of the benefits of the climate change adaptation project in the Central American Dry Corridor region, La Colmena village, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana, El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

After a day working on the land where he grows corn and beans, Víctor de León serves himself freshly purified water, one of the benefits of the climate change adaptation project in the Central American Dry Corridor region, La Colmena village, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana, El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Having a seven-litre container with a filter on the dining room table that purifies the collected rainwater, and opening a small valve to fill a cup and quench thirst, is almost revolutionry for Salvadoran peasant farmer Víctor de León.

As if that weren’t enough, having a pond dug in the ground, a reservoir of rainwater collected to ensure that livestock survive periods of drought, is also unprecedented in La Colmena, a village in the rural municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana.

“All our lives we’ve been going to rivers or springs to get water, and now it’s a great thing to have it always within reach,” De León, 63, told IPS while carrying forage to one of his calves.

De León grows staple grains and produces milk with a herd of 13 cows.

This region of El Salvador, located in the so-called Dry Corridor of Central America, has suffered for years the effects of extreme weather: droughts and excessive rainfall that have ruined several times the maize and bean crops, the country’s two main agricultural products and local staple foods.

There has also been a shortage of drinking water for people and livestock.

But now the 13 families of La Colmena and others in the municipality of Metapán, also in Santa Ana, are adapting to climate change.

They have learned about sustainable water and soil management through a project that has combined the efforts of international aid, the government, the municipalities involved and local communities.

The 7.9 million dollar project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with the support of several ministries and municipal governments.

Sharing experiences

The work in the local communities, which began in September 2014, is already producing positive results, which led to the May visit by a group of 13 Brazilian farmers, six of them women, who also live in a water-scarce region.

The objective was to exchange experiences and learn how the Salvadorans have dealt with drought and climatic effects on crops.

“It was very interesting to learn about what they are doing there, how they are coping with the water shortage, and we told them what we are doing here,” Pedro Ramos, a 36-year-old farmer from El Salvador, told IPS.

Ofelia Chávez shows some of the chicks given to the families of the village of La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, Santa Ana department, El Salvador, to promote poultry farming in this rural village. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ofelia Chávez shows some of the chicks given to the families of the village of La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, Santa Ana department, El Salvador, to promote poultry farming in this rural village. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The visit was organised by the Networking in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 farmers and social organisations of this ecoregion of Northeast Brazil, the country’s driest region. Now, six Salvadoran peasants will travel to learn about their experience between Jun. 26-30.

“The Brazilians told us that there was a year when total rains amounted to only what the families in the area consume in a day, practically nothing,” Ramos continued.

The Brazilian delegation learned about the project that FAO is carrying out in the area and visited similar initiatives in the municipality of Chiquimula, in the department of the same name, in the east of neighbouring Guatemala.

“These Brazilian farmers have a lot of experience in this field, they are very organised, their motto is not to fight drought but to learn to live with it,” said Vera Boerger, a land and water officer of FAO’s Subregional Office for Mesoamerica.

Brazilians, she added in an interview with IPS from Panama City, have it harder than Central Americans: in the Dry Corridor it rains between 600 and 1,000 mm a year, while in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast it only rains between 300 and 600 mm, “when it feels like raining.”

Life in La Colmena is precarious, without access to electricity and piped water, among other challenges.

According to official figures, El Salvador’s 95.5 percent of the urban population had piped water in 2017 compared to 76.5 percent in rural areas. Poverty in the cities stands at 33 percent, while in the countryside the poverty rate is 53.3 percent.

In La Colmena, Brazilian farmers were able to see up close the two reservoirs built in the village to collect rainwater.

They are rectangular ponds dug into the ground, 2.5 m deep, 20 m long and 14 m wide, covered by a polyethylene membrane that prevents filtration and retains the water. Their capacity is 500,000 litres.

They have started to fill up, IPS noted, as the rainy season, from May to October, has just begun. The water will be mainly used for cattle and family gardens.

(L to R) Pedro Ramos, Víctor de León, Ofelia Chávez and Daniel Santos, in front of one of the two rainwater reservoirs built in their village, La Colmena, in the Salvadoran municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera. The pond is part of the benefits of a climate change adaptation project implemented by FAO. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

(L to R) Pedro Ramos, Víctor de León, Ofelia Chávez and Daniel Santos, in front of one of the two rainwater reservoirs built in their village, La Colmena, in the Salvadoran municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera. The pond is part of the benefits of a climate change adaptation project implemented by FAO. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ofelia Chávez, 63, raises livestock on her 11.5 hectares of land. With 19 cows and calves, she is one of those who has benefited the most from the reservoir built on her property, although the water is shared with the community.

“I used to go down to the river with my cattle, and it was exhausting, and I got worried in the summer when the water was scarce,” she told IPS, next to the other pond on the De León farm, along with several enthusiastic neighbours who watched the level of water rise every day as it rained.

“Experts tell us that we can even raise tilapia here,” Ramos said, referring to the possibility of boosting the community’s income with fish farming.

He added that the Brazilians told them that the reservoirs in their country are built with cement instead of polyethylene membranes. But he believes that in El Salvador that system probably won’t work because the soil is brittle and the cement will eventually crack.

“It is possible to use (this design with polyethylene membrane) in some places of the semi-arid region, we can experiment with it here,” said one of the Brazilians who visited the country, Raimundo Nonado Patricio, 54, who lives in a rural community in Tururu, a municipality in the state of Ceará.

For the farmers in the Dry Corridor, he told IPS in an interview by phone from Rio de Janeiro, it is a useful experience “to see our crop diversity and our rainwater harvesting systems.”

In the two Central American countries visited, production is concentrated “in two or three crops, mainly maize,” he said, while in Brazil’s semi-arid region dozens of vegetables, fruits and grains are grown, and several species of animals are raised, even on small plots of land.

In total, the Salvadoran project financed by the GEF built eight reservoirs of a similar size.

Each beneficiary family also received two 5,000-litre tanks to collect rainwater made of polyethylene resin, so they can store up to 10,000 litres. Once purified with the filter they were provided, the water is fit for human consumption.

“My wife tells me that now she sees the difference. We are grateful, because before we had to walk for more than an hour along paths and hills to a spring,” said Daniel Santos, a 37-year-old farmer who grows grains.

In addition, in the beneficiary communities, living fences were erected with grass, and other fences with stones, on sloping ground, to prevent erosion and facilitate water infiltration, an effort aimed at preserving water resources.

Furthermore, 300,000 fruit and forestry trees, as well as seeds to plant grass, were distributed to increase plant cover.

María de Fátima Santos, 29, who lives in a rural community in Fatima, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahía, told IPS that of the experiences she learned about in El Salvador and Guatemala, the most useful one was “the use of the drinking water filter, which is common, similar to that in Brazil, but which is less appreciated here.”

For their part, their Central American counterparts, she said, could adopt the “economic garden”, which consists of a large hole in the ground, with a canvas or plastic cloth, which is covered with ploughed soil and buried pipes provide underground drip irrigation.

With additional reporting by Mario Osava in Rio de Janeiro.

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Intelligent Land Use Seeks to Make Headway in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 02:06:56 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156189 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Farmers are trained in sustainable land management in the Coquimbo region, in northern Chile, bordering the region of Atacama, home to the driest desert on earth. Initiatives such as this are part of the measures to combat soil degradation in Latin America. Credit: National Forest Corporation (CONAF)

Farmers are trained in sustainable land management in the Coquimbo region, in northern Chile, bordering the region of Atacama, home to the driest desert on earth. Initiatives such as this are part of the measures to combat soil degradation in Latin America. Credit: National Forest Corporation (CONAF)

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Consumers can be allies in curbing desertification in Latin America, where different initiatives are being promoted to curtail it, such as sustainable land management, progress towards neutrality in land degradation or the incorporation of the bioeconomy.

Ecuador is cited as an example in the region of these policies, for its incentives for intelligent and healthy consumption and promotion of sustainable land use practices by producers and consumers.

This is important because 47.5 percent of the territory of that South American country is facing desertification and the worst situation is along the central part of its Pacific shoreline.

On Jun. 15, the second phase of a Sustainable Land Management (SLM) project, promoted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, will be launched with funding from South Korea.

The plan promotes the strengthening of the capacity of communities affected by degradation. In the first phase 348,000 dollars were invested.

Juan Calle López, of the FAO office in Ecuador, told IPS from Quito that the project’s aim is “to improve the capacity of local community and institutional actors, to address and implement SLM in degraded landscapes.”

“The project seeks to have pilot sites serve as a reference for communities to verify SLM efforts and their potential to adapt to local conditions,” he said.

“It also seeks for these practices to have a landscape approach that integrates the management of remaining ecosystems and agricultural areas to maintain local environmental services in the long term, such as regulation of the hydrological cycle and sustainable land use,” he said.

Calle López explained that “the project will work together with local municipal governments, local parishes, and producers’ associations, to jointly define best practices for each area depending on the social and environmental conditions of each site.”

“Local farmers will be the direct stakeholders in the project since their involvement is a prerequisite for developing the different practices on their farms,” in a process which will use tools already tested by FAO and the results of the National Assessment of Land Degradation, carried out in the country in 2017.

Ecuador is also the country that will host this year’s global observance of World Day to Combat Desertification, on Jun. 17. This year’s focus will be on the role of consumers on sustainable land management through their purchasing decisions and investments.

Under the theme “Land has true value. Invest in it,” one of the objectives is to “encourage land users to make use of the land management practices that keep land productive,” said Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UNCCD.

Symbolically, the event will take place at the Middle of the World Monument, located exactly on the equator, from which the Andean country takes its name, about 35 km from Quito, to symbolise the union of the two hemispheres, the UNCCD coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, José Miguel Torrico, based in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

Ecuador’s commitment to innovative initiatives to combat soil degradation and to promote sustainable land management, which also include advances in the transition to a bioeconomy, is also recognised by its choice as host.

Tarsicio Granizo, Ecuador’s environment minister, defined the bioeconomy as “an economic model based on renewable biological resources, replacing fossil resources,” which has special meaning in a country that has depended on oil exports for decades as one of the pillars of its economy.

“Experts agree that this model combines economic progress with care for the environment and biodiversity,” Granizo said during the Second Global Bioeconomy Summit, held in Berlin in April.

The minister warned, however, that “this is not a short-term issue. We are only just beginning to develop a framework to transition toward a bioeconomy.”

Meanwhile, in Santiago, Torrico pointed out that “desertification entails losses of 42 billion dollars in annual global income, while actions to recover land cost between 40 and 350 dollars per hectare.”

“On the other hand, the returns on investments in actions against degradation at the global level are four to six dollars for every dollar invested,” he said, explaining the benefits of mitigation projects.

This also applies in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it is estimated that 50 percent of agricultural land could be affected by desertification.

In this region, “13 percent of the population lives on degraded lands, which varies from country to country: in Uruguay 33 percent of the population lives in degraded areas, compared to just two percent of the population in Guyana,” said the UNCCD regional coordinator.

“The annual costs of land degradation are estimated for Latin America and the Caribbean at 60 billion dollars per year, while globally they are estimated at 297 billion per year,” Torrico added.

He warned that “inaction in the face of land degradation will mean that global food production could be reduced by more than 12 percent in the next 25 years, leading to a 30 percent increase in food prices.”

“In direct terms, 40 percent of the world’s population (more than 2.8 billion people) live in regions undergoing desertification, while around 900 million people lack access to safe water,” he said.

“Estimates indicate that in order to supply the world population by 2050 (which is projected to reach nine billion people), agricultural production will have to increase by 70 percent worldwide and by 100 percent in developing countries,” he said.

Otherwise, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population (5.3 billion) could live under water stress conditions. This would mean that 135 million people would have to migrate by 2045, as a result of desertification,” he added.

According to Torrico, “In Latin America and the Caribbean, the most immediate situations are related to how to deal with droughts, for which the Drought Initiative has been implemented in eight countries of the region: Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Paraguay and Venezuela.”

This strategy, he explained, “seeks to harmonize public policies to address this phenomenon.

“The other emergency has to do with the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda, where 26 countries in the region have established a programme of goals to achieve,” he said.

This new commitment is that “what we take from the earth, we have to replace and maintain productivity,” Torrico concluded, on the commitment by its 195 States parties to achieve this neutrality by 2030, assumed in 2015 within the framework of the UNCCD.

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Excerpt:

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

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Beyond Hurricanes: How Do We Finance Resilience in the Caribbean?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 17:40:50 +0000 Deodat Maharaj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156122 Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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A woman walks in the street of Roseau, capital of Dominica, which has struggled to overcome the severe impact of two category 5 hurricanes which tore through the region in September 2017. Credit: UNICEF/Moreno Gonzalez

By Deodat Maharaj
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As a new hurricane season approaches in the Caribbean, I attended last week’s dialogue focused on “Financing Resilience in SIDS” held in Antigua and Barbuda and sponsored by the host government and Belgium.

The gathering sought to identify the main risks facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS), especially in terms of financing and innovative solutions to the countries’ challenges.

These vastly different SIDS have much in common. There was a clear recognition that the splendor of their beauty, wealth of their culture and vibrancy of their people mask a deep vulnerability to both natural disasters and economic shocks, which are further exacerbated by climate change.

This is true for Caribbean countries and beyond. In addition to the Caribbean, participants at the event last week also included representatives from Africa, Indian Ocean and the Pacific, from their Permanent Missions to the UN.

The hurricanes of last September 2017 that devastated our host, Antigua and Barbuda, and other Caribbean countries provided a compelling testimonial to this “new normal”. Dominica lost 226 percent of its GDP and a generation of development gains in a matter of hours with the passage of Hurricane Maria.

In our host country, the island of Barbuda endured a similar fate just 10 days earlier after Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction. The story is very much the same in other SIDS, such as Vanuatu and Fiji, which suffered massive losses from Cyclones Pam and Winston in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Notwithstanding the compelling narrative of adverse weather events, there are also other challenges, which hamper the ability to build resilient Small Island Developing States. As a UNDP presenter, I emphasized that resilience in the context of SIDS should be holistic and not exclusively associated with hurricanes and natural disasters.

The outcome document, “The St John’s Call for Action” clearly recognized that building resilience in the Caribbean is about managing the risks associated with natural disasters, but this entails much more than hurricanes, as our Human Development Report for the Caribbean also stressed.

One big challenge is accessing finance. SIDS are largely classified as middle or high-income countries with limited access to concessional financing and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

This is compounded by high levels of debt in places such as the Caribbean, which is one of the world’s most highly indebted regions. Indeed, its debt burden stands at an estimated $52 billion with a debt to GDP ratio of more than 70 percent. In some countries, debt levels are more than 100 percent of GDP.

At the same time, due to the small geographical and population size, SIDS invariably have a narrow tax base, limiting the ability to mobilize resources domestically. Mindful of these constraints, the St John’s Call to Action made some specific recommendations.

The role and importance of innovation was placed at the forefront on the way forward. Peter Thomson, the UN’s Special Envoy for Oceans made a compelling case for the blue economy—or boosting sustainable use of the ocean’s resources for gains in the social, economic and environmental realms—as a viable policy option.

The example of Seychelles and the launch of the World’s first Blue Bond was cited. Such Blue Bonds will help mobilize public and private resource to advance the Blue Economy, including through sustainable fisheries.

It was also noted that UNDP has started preparatory work to help Grenada launch a Blue Bond as well, which will be the first in the Caribbean. The outcome statement was clear on the importance of focusing on the green economy and transition to renewables.

Recognizing that innovation is required in financing, a call was made to rethink the role the diaspora plays in building resilience and providing the financial resources. In the Caribbean, remittances exceed foreign direct investment and ODA combined.

I made the point that the region needs to facilitate approaches that orient remittances toward investment instead of almost exclusively on consumption. Based on the experience of SIDS and the huge costs of recovery post disasters, the importance of new insurance products to help manage the risks faced by SIDS is a key issue.

The ”St John’s Call for Action”spoke to the need for sustained global advocacy for the recognition of SIDS’ vulnerability as a criterion to access concessional financing. At the same time, there must be a clear recognition that to attract the financing to build resilience and reach the SDGs, private capital is essential.

Attracting it is hard work; and creating an enabling environment is a necessary first step. Caribbean SIDS must work hard to improve the ease of doing business and lower energy costs, which represent major obstacles to attracting foreign direct investment. SIDS representatives also agreed on the importance not only of getting additional financing but also on the value of intensifying collaboration between and among the countries. UNDP with its global expertise and access has key role to play.

Therefore, teaming up, building partnerships and sharing innovative experiences, including through the UNDP-backed Aruba Centre of Excellence Sustainable Development of SIDS is a crucial and urgent step. There is no magic pill or easy solution.

The “St John’s Call for Action” by its very nature emphasized that the time to talk is over; the time to act is now. UNDP will continue to be a strong partner of SIDS, together, in the same boat.

The post Beyond Hurricanes: How Do We Finance Resilience in the Caribbean? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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China Generates Energy and Controversy in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 08:04:43 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156109 As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders. One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that […]

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Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders.

One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that China has mainly been financing hydroelectric, nuclear and hydrocarbon projects.

Just four percent of these investments are in renewable energies, which is precisely the sector where the country is clearly lagging.

“China’s main objective is to export its technology and inputs. And it has highly developed hydraulic, nuclear and oil sectors. There are no more rivers in China where dams can be built and this is why they are so interested in the dams on the Santa Cruz River,” María Marta Di Paola, FARN’s director of research, told IPS."What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China….The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation's environmental sovereignty.” -- Hernán Casañas

China is behind a controversial project to build two giant dams in Patagonia, on the Santa Cruz River, which was approved during the administration of Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015) and ratified by President Mauricio Macri, despite strong environmental concerns.

The dams would cost some five billion dollars, with a foreseen a capacity of 1,310 MW.

However, expert Gustavo Girado said that it is not China that refuses to get involved in renewable energy projects, but Argentina that has not yet made a firm commitment to the energy transition towards clean and unconventional renewable sources.

“Like any country with a lot of capital, China is interested in all possible businesses and takes what it is offered. In fact, in Argentina it also has a high level of participation in the RenovAr Plan,” explained Girado, an economist and director of a postgraduate course on contemporary China at the public National University of Lanús, based in Buenos Aires.

He was referring to the initiative launched by the Argentine government to develop renewable energies and revert the current scenario, in which fossil fuels account for 87 percent of the country’s primary energy mix.

Also participating in this industry are Chinese companies, which during the period January-September 2017 produced 25 percent of the total oil and 14 percent of the natural gas extracted in the country.

Since 2016, the Ministry of Energy has signed 147 contracts for renewable energy projects that would contribute a total of 4,466 MW to the electric grid, most of them involving solar and wind power, which are currently under development.

The goal is to comply with the law enacted in 2015, which establishes that by 2025 renewables must contribute at least 20 percent of the capacity of the electric grid, which today is around 30,000 MW.

In this sense, 15 percent of the power allocated through the RenovAr Plan has been to Chinese capital.

One mega project in renewable energies is the Caucharí solar park, in the northern province of Jujuy, which is to consist of the installation of 1,200,000 solar panels built in China, on a 700-hectare site.

The project has a budget of 390 million dollars, of which 330 million will be financed by the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China.

China is also behind Argentina’s intention to develop nuclear energy, since in 2017 it was agreed that it would finance the fourth and fifth nuclear power plants in this South American country, at a total cost of 14 billion dollars.

However, the Macri administration announced this month that it would indefinitely postpone the start of construction of at least the first of these plants, to avoid further indebtedness and reduce the country’s high fiscal deficit.

The decision is aimed at facilitating the granting of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after the crisis of confidence that resulted in a massive outflow of capital and which put the local economy in serious trouble.

On the other hand, other energy projects funded by Chinese capital are going ahead, including four other hydroelectric power plants and thermal plants powered by natural gas.

So far, the investments already committed by Beijing in the energy sector in Latin America’s third-largest economy total 30 billion dollars, in addition to projects in other areas, such as infrastructure, agribusiness or mining.

“The Chinese looked first at their continent, then at Africa, and for some years now they have their eyes on Latin America. First of all, they were interested in agricultural and mineral products, and today they are not only the region’s second largest trading partner, but also a good investor,” Jorge Taiana, Argentine foreign minister between 2005 and 2010, told IPS.

The veteran diplomat recalled a point made by then U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2005 Summit of the Americas (SOA) in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata, where the region refused to form the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

“He (Bush) told us,’I don’t know why they care so much about the FTAA, when what we need to discuss is how we defend ourselves against China’,” Taiana said.

He maintains that it depends on the decisions of Argentina and the rest of the countries in the region whether they will benefit from or be victims of China’s aggressive economic expansion.

“Foreign direct investment is always beneficial. The secret lies in what conditions the recipients put in place and what their development plan is,” he said.

“Argentina, for example, built its railways with English capital, and all the tracks converge in Buenos Aires because the English were only interested in getting the agricultural products to to the port. Those are the things that shouldn’t happen,” he added.

Environmental organisations are particularly critical of the dams on the Santa Cruz River, which begins in the magnificent Los Glaciares National Park and could affect the water level in Lake Argentino, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the country’s major tourist attractions.

However, the dam contract has a cross default clause whereby, if not built, Chinese banks could also cut off financing for railway infrastructure projects they are carrying out in Argentina.

“What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China,” said Hernán Casañas, director of Aves Argentinas, the country’s oldest environmental organisation.

“The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation’s environmental sovereignty,” he told IPS.

In this regard, Di Paola said that “China has occupied in Latin America the place previously occupied primarily by traditional financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.”

“The problem is that it does not have the same framework of safeguards, so they are able to start infrastructure works without complying with environmental requirements,” he said.

But Girado sees things differently, saying “the financial institutions impose conditions on the countries that receive the credits, which China does not do. In that sense it is more advantageous.”

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It Takes More Than Two to Tango: Platform to Achieve SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/takes-two-tango-platform-achieve-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=takes-two-tango-platform-achieve-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/takes-two-tango-platform-achieve-sdgs/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:16:16 +0000 Silvia Morimoto http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156103 Silvia Morimoto is Country Director UNDP Argentina

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Argentina is in a need of a new development paradigm, to combat a slew of development challenges. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Silvia Morimoto
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

Buenos Aires is a charming city; rich with history, magnificent architecture, and a soul and music that can pull you to tango in a heartbeat.

But the city’s staggering beauty and its abundant culture struggles with challenges. Argentina’s average poverty rate stands at 25.7% today. Hard-core poverty has averaged around 20% in the last few decades unequally distributed along the country and concentrated in urban areas.

Argentina is in a need of a new development paradigm, to combat a slew of development challenges. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) believes those development challenges require a platform approach, using technology and innovation, to hack development challenges, even faster.

One of the favorite maxims of development experts is that everything is complex and interconnected. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by all nations manifest those strong linkages.

To contend with those complex linkages, we are developing a platform in Argentina to mediate connections between an unprecedented range of actors, to help the country achieve the SDGs.

The objective of such a platform is to intensify support to the government in dealing with development challenges, while providing space for building relationships beyond traditional partners.

The idea is to partner with so called ‘unusual suspects’ to convene, connect, engage in co-creating innovative solutions, and raising much needed resources to finance those solutions.

This will foster active collaboration between UN agencies, as well as a range of institutions including government agencies, the private sector, international financial institutions, academia, unions, faith-based institutions and civil society organizations.

Rene Mauricio Valdez, UN Resident Coordinator in Argentina, sees UNDP as a platform that allows to interconnect different actors, sectors and even other platforms to generate sounder policies and programs.

In the world of digital economies, speed and flexibility in decision making are imperative. Mobile technologies have enabled millions to live their lives online. A platform approach is vital if we are to keep up with this ever-shifting development landscape.

Our vision is to try to focus on so called ‘wicked problems’ – problems that seem impossible to resolve. In Argentina, this means for example taking on the challenge of Matanza-Riachueloriver that meanders around the southern edge of Buenos Aires.

That once sleepy and muddy river -as the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges described it- on whose banks more than five million people reside is now a toxic waterway, contaminated by factories, tanneries, and sewage. It has high levels of arsenic, cadmium and other pollutants that are affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, especially children who live along the riverbanks. They have lead in their bloodstreams, and suffer from a host of respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

UNDP is willing to support the government to transform the lives of the people living by the river.

It is the kind of problem that befits platform thinking. It requires giving up control and opening-up the space for creative processes to thrive. This will mean moving away from business as usual in an organization steeped in traditions and processes, which allows for unprecedented openness and freedom, to harness integrated responses to economic, social and environmental issues.

We are up for that challenge, as adapting and innovating to a shifting development landscape has long been part of our raison d’etre. A platform approach to our work represents that evolution.

It would ensure that programmes and projects are implemented more efficiently, and with greater transparency and accountability. And it would spawn a growing archive of knowledge, experience, and best practices from across the world, but especially between MERCOSUR states.

UNDP’s new Strategic Plan sets out a vision for UNDP’s ambitions over the next four years, reflecting the people centred nature of the 2030 Agenda. UNDP Argentina has already contributed to mapping available information on sustainable development through the country’s 2017 National Development Report 2017, and developed an online platform with statistical information on baselines and targets for select indicators.

Assessments of the country’s resources to meet SDGs targets will allow for identification of funding gaps for prioritized goals and help raise resources to bridge those gaps.

This will further strengthen and accelerate the process of integrating the 2030 Agenda into Argentina’s plan’s and policies. The aim is to create a more prosperous Argentina at every level. Argentina is showing that it takes more than two to tango, “To leave no one behind.”

The post It Takes More Than Two to Tango: Platform to Achieve SDGs appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Silvia Morimoto is Country Director UNDP Argentina

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Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mixhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 01:15:11 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156075 Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

Colombia is a global power in biodiversity and water resources, but at the same time it depends on exports of fossil fuels, coal and oil, to the world. But don’t panic: in the green economy there are also incomes and jobs – says a world expert on the subject, Juhern Kim.

“If Colombia makes intelligent use of its abundant natural resources, its natural capital, it can create new business opportunities linked to bio-economics, sustainable agriculture and forestry, which have the potential to generate income and create green jobs,” Kim, an environmental economist and ecosystem management specialist, told IPS in an interview.

Kim is acting representative in Colombia of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organisation created in 2012, which promotes sustainable development that is both economically viable and socially inclusive. It works directly in 26 countries, including Colombia.

In June last year, Colombia ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, by which it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, to help fight global warming.

Among other issues, Kim analysed in his interview with IPS how this South American country is moving towards climate change mitigation and adaptation and a low-carbon economy, as committed to in the climate agreement signed in December 2015 in the French capital, at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The expert, who previously represented the GGGI in Vietnam and worked on issues related to the green economy at the UN Environment, also analysed how Colombia can make its energy mix and its economy greener in general.

IPS: Colombia is the world’s fifth largest producer of coal. How does the GGGI suggest bringing about an end to mining, an activity that runs counter to the climate accords?

JUHERN KIM: Coal production plays an important role in the Colombian economy: it contributes around 1.5 percent of GDP and 18 percent of total exports. Since about 95 percent of the coal produced in Colombia is exported, national coal production is affected by international market trends.

The recent volatile price fluctuation for commodities, and the associated impact on the Colombian economy, clearly shows that the country’s economy needs to be diversified in order to grow more and better.

Furthermore, future global demand for coal will tend to fall, although it will happen progressively and not for all types of coal.

Many countries have started to shut down their coal plants, and have been working on reducing the consumption of other fossil fuels, reinforced by international commitments such as the Paris Agreement, where Colombia made its own commitment as well.

GGGI promotes a sustainable and inclusive economic growth path, which implies the reduction of coal and other fossil fuel use, due to the negative environmental impacts.

That’s why GGGI has been supporting the government of Colombia for the last year and a half through the National Planning Department (DNP) to formulate a long-term green growth policy, that proposes actions related to the economic activity of coal in three ways:

1. Incorporation of renewable energy in the energy mix. GGGI advocates for countries to achieve energy transitions towards cleaner technologies. In Colombia, the production of electricity from coal amounts to 8 percent of the total.

2. Exploring new economic growth drivers to diversify the economy currently depending on the mining-energy sector (oil and coal exports). For instance, Colombia has abundant resources associated with natural capital, such as biodiversity – if Colombia utilizes these resources wisely, they can create new business opportunities related to bio-economy, sustainable agriculture, forest economy, which have the potential to generate income and create jobs (green jobs).

3. Curbing the environmental impacts of coal mining, especially by informal miners. Coal mining has informality rates close to 40 percent, while many productive units do not have an environmental license and have exploitation techniques that are harmful to the environment. It is intended to strengthen the mining formalization and provide technical assistance to reduce pollution.

IPS: How can the coastal population be protected from the intensification of tropical storms and the advance of coastal erosion?

JK: Colombia is being highly threatened by tropical storms and coastal erosion in two coastal areas that represent nearly 1,700 km in the Caribbean and 1,300 km in the Pacific.

Colombia has coasts on two oceans, and the frequency and intensity of such extreme events have been increasing, which, added to the deficient planning of urban development, increases the vulnerability and risk of people, infrastructure, and ecosystems.

The National Adaptation Plan recognises the country’s vulnerability to this type of events.

The country is now moving in the right direction led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) by including climate change variables within the planning and zoning of the territories, which will be articulated with adequate financing and technology transfer to implement mitigation measures for this type of risks.

Of particular importance is the ecosystems-based adaptation measure.

In this case, protecting and increasing the mangroves on the coastal lines will reduce coastal erosion, and at the same time allow the sustainable use of this type of ecosystem for the benefit of local people’s livelihood.

In other cases, it will be necessary to implement traditional infrastructure measures that avoid short-term calamities. Increasing local capacities, public awareness, adequate planning and the implementation of risk mitigation measures are key to achieving this objective.

IPS: A key question is the energy transition. How can clean energy be promoted in Colombia? Is community self-management better, or are large regional concessions, criticised as monopolies, preferable?

JK: Colombia has a high proportion of clean energy from hydroelectric generation (70 percent). However, this energy depends on the hydrological cycle which makes it vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

In that sense, it will be beneficial for Colombia to diversify its energy mix with other sources of clean energy, with some policy changes and regulations in the wholesale energy market.

Colombia currently lags behind in terms of the production of non-conventional renewable energy resources, compared to neighboring Latin American countries like Chile. However, Colombia has a strong potential for generation of solar, wind and biomass energy, and those can also serve as alternative off-grid solutions.

We believe that renewable energy projects should be carried out by entities that have the right technical and financial strengths required to develop, operate and maintain this type of projects.

IPS: What does the GGGI think of fracking?

JK: Fracking, like any other exploitation technique, has associated risks in its implementation and management, as it is known for generating many environmental impacts, such as potential contamination of ground and surface aquifers, methane emissions, air pollution, etc. In addition, it also has a potential for increasing oil spills, which can harm soil and surrounding vegetation.

In general, as an institute dedicated to green growth, we promote the development of alternative renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As mentioned above, it would be expected that the government make some efforts to diversify their economy to generate new sources of economic development while taking care of the environment and social impact.

IPS: According to environmental analysts, when the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) withdrew from the territories it controlled, it became evident that the guerrillas had played a role as forest rangers in those areas, because thousands of hectares have been razed since then. What is your take on the situation and what do you think can be done?

JK: Although the presence of guerrillas in many forested zones of the country prevented the entry of agricultural expansion and exploration for natural resources in some sense, it is probably not that simple to say that they played a role as forest rangers, because they also supported the production of illicit crops that generated deforestation.

In brief, understanding the reasons for the increase in deforestation in the country is not simple math at all. And finding solutions is not simple as well.

It seems that the post-conflict process has been generating a change in the territorial dynamics, in some cases through an absence of control arguably provided by guerrillas in the past, in other cases through a high-level of speculation associated with unproductive land use, with false hope embedded for some people wanting to be awarded land titles if they put any type of activities in the land, and sell their land at a better price in the future.

The playing field must be levelled. The abovementioned situation prevents rural producers and entrepreneurs from accessing land with adequate support for productive activities and conservation incentives, such as credits (i.e. financial instruments), access to markets, financial incentives for conservation (e.g. payment for ecosystem services), and so on.

In fact, the whole landscape should be properly planned in an integrated way – i.e. sustainable landscapes approach, which promotes economic gains but minimising environmental impact and increasing social returns.

For instance, productive zones for local economic development should be set up, but it is not wise to set them in the biological corridor. Also, financial instruments designed to promote sustainable agriculture methods, such as agroforestry, can be a driver for making a sustainable transition.

Also, Colombia has defined an Integrated Strategy for the Control of Deforestation and Forest Management, which sets clear guidelines on how to address this issue. However, having this strategy is not enough if there is no tight alliance among Colombian society as a whole.

In addition, the public authorities have an important role to play to implement the vision for conservation of forests (i.e. command and control) – e.g. functions of the prosecutor offices, judges and many other actors, committed to reduce illegality.

The post Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mix appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/#respond Mon, 04 Jun 2018 17:30:58 +0000 Dulcie Leimbach http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156051 Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue*

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In one of her last public appearances as president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet visits Lo Prado, a community in Santiago, the capital, on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018. Her advice to women and girls who want to lead an exemplary life in our chaotic times? Don’t try to be perfect.

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4 2018 (IPS)

Michelle Bachelet ended her second term as president of Chile on March 11, 2018. Her first term, from 2006 to 2010, was marked by an ambitious social and economic agenda advancing women’s rights and better health care. Her cabinet of ministers, for example, was composed of an equal number of men and women, as she vowed to do during her campaign.

During her second presidency, Bachelet, 66, aimed higher in reducing inequalities but met more resistance. Nevertheless, her achievements included free education at the university level, especially for poor students; creating a Ministry of Women and Gender Equality; and decriminalizing abortion.

Her tax-reform measures helped subsidize her social reforms, although some experts contend that higher taxes on the rich and corporations have stifled the economy.

Bachelet’s history of being imprisoned and tortured in Chile is well known. In 1973, her father, Brig. Gen. Alberto Bachelet Martínez, was locked up and tortured after the Sept. 11 coup ousting President Salvador Allende, aided and abetted by the CIA.

Her father died in prison from a heart attack in 1974; soon after, Bachelet and her mother, Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, a famous archeologist, were imprisoned and tortured by the Pinochet regime.

Bachelet and her mother sought and won exile first in Australia and then moved to East Germany, where Bachelet worked on her medical degree, married and had her first child.

She and her family returned to Chile in 1979, where she delved into politics a few years later (and separated from her husband). When she first ran for president, she was a single mother of three children.

That’s not all: besides being a pediatrician, Bachelet is a military specialist, having served as the country’s health minister and then defense minister before winning the presidency in 2006.

Bachelet, who between her presidencies was the first executive director of UN Women, is said to be a shortlisted candidate for the next United Nations high commissioner for human rights, though she would not confirm that status.

In an email interview with Bachelet, who has been traveling since March from Chile to Washington, D.C., to Geneva, India and back to Chile, she answered questions about her immediate post-presidential life, which appears to be just as active — if equally public — as her job running one of South America’s most democratic countries.

When Bachelet left office, she was the last female president standing in the continent.

In the interview, she touches on her new role in the World Health Organization; how her role as the first female defense minister of Chile, from 2002 to 2004, enabled her to garner the respect from that sector that she needed to run the country; how her mother has supported her emotionally throughout her life; what advice Bachelet gives to girls and women in our chaotic times; and whether she prays (she is an agnostic, she answered). — DULCIE LEIMBACH

Q. You’ve just become a private citizen after your recent four-year presidential term ended in mid-March; how does that feel and what is a routine day for you now? Are you based in Santiago, Chile’s capital?

MICHELLE BACHELET: I’ve enjoyed going back to my everyday life! However, I haven’t stayed home resting. I’m based in Santiago, I moved back to my house — I lived in another house during my Presidency — and I’ve also been busy opening up my new foundation, which will serve as a space for dialogue and political reflection, without partisan divisions, and that will take on the challenge of articulating a common project with civil society.

Q: Tell us about your new role as co-chair of the High-Level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and chairman of the board of the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health? What do women and girls need the most globally, health-wise? And what is your strategy for attaining these needs? Will it require politicking?

BACHELET: I am very excited about [my] new role in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. I’ve been working on this issue since the mid-1990s at a national level, and hopefully, will continue to contribute in an international sphere.

The health inequities that prevail all around the world, particularly among women and girls, are not only unjust, they also threaten the advances we have made in the last decades, and they endanger economic growth and social development.

I believe that each country needs to develop an integrated health program for women and girls, strengthening components of the United Nations’ global strategy [Sustainable Development Goals] in early childhood development; the health and well-being of adolescents; the improvement in quality, equity and dignity in health services; and sexual and reproductive rights as a way to empower women and girls worldwide and without leaving anyone behind.

The global strategy establishes ambitious but achievable goals, and I look forward to discussing with states and stakeholders about the required actions needed to ensure that people realize their right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Q. Do you think it helped in your two presidencies that you had been a defense minister of Chile, that you had the trust of the military, especially since you are a woman?

BACHELET: Yes, of course. My family has always been linked to the military world. My father was a general in Chile’s air force and I studied defense issues, focusing on military strategy and Continental defense.

When I was appointed the first woman to occupy the position of Minister of Defense in Chile and in Latin America, my academic and military background was considered an asset and that led to very good relationships with this institution during my time as Minister and during my Presidency.

Q. How did you navigate barriers to your ambitious social and economic agenda in your second term as president of Chile? What personal trait or support did you rely on to deal with barriers in your way?

BACHELET: Since the return of democracy in 1990, Chile has experienced sustained economic growth at an annual average of 5 percent, and became the first South American country to join the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development]. However, this strong growth has not meant the end of inequality in access to health or education.

That is why, when I returned in 2013 to run for my second term, I was determined to carry out the kind of social, economic and political reforms that I believed were necessary to make people’s lives better. In order to do that, we have risked political capital and I believe it was worth it, because we had the courage to put Chile in motion, and with it, we have seen Chile change.

Q. Your mother, Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, an archeologist, reportedly lives with you; how has her presence helped you as president? Did she keep your spirits up in such a demanding, round-the-clock role?

BACHELET: Although I am very close with my mother, at 91 years old, she continues to be very independent and does not live with me! She is an inspiring, strong, dignified and resilient companion, but also a very affectionate and supportive presence, especially during the harder parts of being president. I am thankful for her companionship me during these past years.

Q. Chile is a predominately Catholic country; do you practice that religion? Do you use your faith to manage your life and the political obstacles? Do you pray?

BACHELET: Chile is a diverse society with different religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic realities. I, however, am agnostic and believe in the diversity of opinions and worldviews, respecting people’s freedom of worship. During my government, we protected religious freedom based on equality and respect.

For example, we supported the Chilean Association of Interreligious Dialogue for Human Development, made up of various organizations, including the plurality of religions found in Chile. We also worked on an interreligious code of ethics for dialogue for democratic coexistence. I am certain that the respectful expression of convictions is good for our country, and enriches us as a society.

Q. It’s relatively easy to advise women and girls to persevere in seeking the life they want — in education, work and as a person — but what is the most important thing for women and girls to remember in trying to lead an exemplary life, especially in our chaotic times?

BACHELET: I get asked this question often and my answer is always the same: don’t try to be a superwoman or a super girl, because it will only bring frustrations. Instead, seek the help of someone you can count on. Be assertive but also learn the art of dialogue, learn to communicate. And, of course you should have a sense of humor!

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from our base in the UN press corps. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs in New York and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN; previously, it was housed at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. PassBlue is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

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Excerpt:

Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue*

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Plastic Tsunamis Threaten Coast in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/plastic-tsunamis-threaten-coast-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plastic-tsunamis-threaten-coast-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/plastic-tsunamis-threaten-coast-latin-america/#respond Sun, 03 Jun 2018 08:47:56 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156036 This article is part of special IPS coverage for World Environment Day, on June 5, whose theme this year is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

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Volunteers from the Peruvian Institute for the Protection of the Environment Vida clean up the waste washed up by the sea on the coast near Lima. Half of the 6,000 tonnes of marine debris collected by the organisation since 1998, with the support of 200,000 volunteers, is disposable plastic. Credit: Courtesy of Vida

Volunteers from the Peruvian Institute for the Protection of the Environment Vida clean up the waste washed up by the sea on the coast near Lima. Half of the 6,000 tonnes of marine debris collected by the organisation since 1998, with the support of 200,000 volunteers, is disposable plastic. Credit: Courtesy of Vida

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 3 2018 (IPS)

Although Latin America produces just five percent of the world’s plastic, it imports billions of tons annually for the use of all kinds of products, some of which end up in the sea as garbage.

It thus contributes to this kind of artificial tsunami that threatens the biodiversity of the oceans, where 13 million tons of waste, mostly disposable plastics, are dumped each year at a global level, according to UN Environment – enough to wrap around the Earth four times.

The impact is such that it also affects human health, as this resistant waste enters the food chain, and has led the United Nations to declare “Beat Plastic Pollution” as the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, on Jun. 5."Plastic discarded improperly on beaches, rivers and the sewers ends up in the sea and causes the death of thousands of marine animals every year. Drinking straws, cigarette butts, caps, plastic bags, improperly discarded, represent the highest percentage of environmentally hazardous materials for marine wildlife." -- Marcelo Szpilman

Favoured by a 3,000-km coastline on the Pacific Ocean, with one of the world’s most nutrient-rich waters, Peru was one of the first Latin American countries to join the Clean Seas campaign, launched a year ago by UN Environment.

The global campaign aims to eliminate by 2022 the main sources of marine debris, which can remain in ecosystems for 500 years. There are five identified ‘islands’ of plastic rubbish in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, one of them between Chile and Peru.

“We have witnessed firsthand the serious impacts of different types of waste, including plastic in our seas,” said Ursula Carrascal, project coordinator for the Institute for the Protection of the Environment Vida in Peru.

For 20 years, the organisation has been leading a campaign to clean up beaches and coastlines in this Andean country, involving all sectors of society.

According to Carrascal, the problem is exacerbated when the country suffers additional damage caused by natural disasters, such as the “La Niña” phenomenon that in 2017 caused flooding and the shifting of tons of waste accumulated on river banks.

“Marquez Beach in Callao was literally covered in garbage for three km. Many beaches are now gone, fishing boats and artisanal fishermen are affected by the damage to their nets or engines caused by plastic,” she told IPS from Lima.

The country, according to the Environment Ministry, generates 6.8 million tons of solid waste. Lima and the neighbouring port city of Callao alone generate an estimated three million tons per year. Of that total, 53 percent is organic waste, and in second place comes plastic, accounting for 11 percent, a percentage in line with the world average.

In fact, half of the 6,000 tons of marine debris collected by Vida since 1998, with the support of 200,000 volunteers, is plastic.

“There is a strong concern about the risk in the field of food safety due to the plastic accidentally ingested by fish,” Carrascal said.

The governmental Marine Institute of Peru has been studying the impact of microplastic (less than five mm long) on Peruvian beaches and in the digestive tract of fish for years. A 2017 report found 473 plastic fragments per square metre on a beach in Callao.

The British Ellen MacArthur Foundation, dedicated to promoting the circular economy – based on the reduction of both new materials and waste, to create loops of recycling – warns that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans and reminds us that all marine life eats this waste.

One of the consequences, say scientists at Ghent University in Belgium, is that when you eat fish and seafood, you ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic, a material most commonly derived from petrochemicals, every year.

In Brazil, a country with more than 9,000 km of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, a marine aquarium was inaugurated in October 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. AquaRío, which promotes environmental education and scientific research for biodiversity conservation, is the institution with which the Clean Seas campaign was launched.

Guanabara bay, a symbol of Río de Janeiro, Brazil which until recently was surrounded by waste, mainly plastic, along its shores, has changed thanks to new awareness among groups like fisherpersons, who are helping to keep it clean. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Guanabara bay, a symbol of Río de Janeiro, Brazil which until recently was surrounded by waste, mainly plastic, along its shores, has changed thanks to new awareness among groups like fisherpersons, who are helping to keep it clean. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“Plastic discarded improperly on beaches, rivers and the sewers ends up in the sea and causes the death of thousands of marine animals every year. Drinking straws, cigarette butts, caps, plastic bags, improperly discarded, represent the highest percentage of environmentally hazardous materials for marine wildlife,” director Marcelo Szpilman told IPS.

“The remains of nets, fishing lines, ropes and plastic bags abandoned in the sea remain in the environment for many years due to their low biodegradability and end up injuring or killing countless animals that end up entangled and die by asphyxiation or starvation,” added the marine biologist.

To raise awareness among children about this silent killing at sea, the aquarium uses the image of mermaids dying from the ingestion of plastic.

This happens in reality in the oceans to fish, birds, seals, turtles and dolphins that confuse floating plastic waste with octopuses, squid, jellyfish and other species that they eat.

“Dolphins have been found with their stomachs full of city trash. Cigarette butts, the most widely collected item in all beach clean-up campaigns, have caused the death of animals that swallow them mistaking them for fish eggs,” Szpilman said.

In addition, he noted, “a plastic bag drifting at sea is easily mistaken for a jellyfish, which is a food for several species of sea turtles, which as a result can die from asphyxiation.

According to experts, in Brazil and other Latin American countries, the problem is combated with isolated initiatives, such as the banning of plastic bags in supermarkets, when what is needed is a broader change in the model of plastic production and consumption.

But some things have started to be done.

In Peru, for example, Vida has coordinated actions with the waste management industry to promote the circular economy model through recycling chains with the waste collected in coastal cleanups throughout the country.

This work has been carried out not only with large industry but also with small and medium-sized enterprises and the National Movement of Recyclers of Peru.

“Greater efforts and investment in recycling technology are needed to solve the plastic problem. In Peru, much of the plastic waste collected, although it could be 100 percent recycled, is not recycled because there are no recycling plants, due to lack of knowledge or lack of adequate technology,” Carrascal said.

In his opinion, “great progress is being made in the separation of waste from primary sources, but this cycle ends when the waste ends again in a landfill.”

The Peruvian model of waste management in the marine ecosystem has been used as a reference point in other countries of the Southeast Pacific, including Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama.

The post Plastic Tsunamis Threaten Coast in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of special IPS coverage for World Environment Day, on June 5, whose theme this year is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

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Latin America Begins to Discover Electric Mobilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/latin-america-begins-discover-electric-mobility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-begins-discover-electric-mobility http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/latin-america-begins-discover-electric-mobility/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 23:07:59 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156009 With 80 percent of the population living in urban areas and a vehicle fleet that is growing at the fastest rate in the world, Latin America has the conditions to begin the transition to electric mobility – but public policies are not, at least for now, up to the task. That is the assessment of […]

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The podium at the conference in Argentina’s lower house of Congress, where representatives of UN Environment assured that public transport, which in Latin America has the highest rate of use in the world per capita, will lead the transition to electric mobility. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

The podium at the conference in Argentina’s lower house of Congress, where representatives of UN Environment assured that public transport, which in Latin America has the highest rate of use in the world per capita, will lead the transition to electric mobility. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, May 31 2018 (IPS)

With 80 percent of the population living in urban areas and a vehicle fleet that is growing at the fastest rate in the world, Latin America has the conditions to begin the transition to electric mobility – but public policies are not, at least for now, up to the task.

That is the assessment of UN Environment, according to a conference that two of its officials gave on May 29 in Argentina’s lower house of Congress, in Buenos Aires.

The shift towards electric mobility, however, will come inexorably in a few years, and in Latin America it will begin with public passenger transport, said the United Nations agency’s regional climate change coordinator, Gustavo Máñez, who used two photographs of New York’s Fifth Avenue to illustrate his prediction.

The first photo, from 1900, showed horse-drawn carriages. The second was taken only 13 years later and only cars were visible."As at other times in history, this time the transition will happen very quickly. I am seeing all over the world that car manufacturers are looking to join this wave of electric mobility because they know that, if not, they are going to be left out of the market." -- Gustavo Máñez

“As at other times in history, this time the transition will happen very quickly. I am seeing all over the world that car manufacturers are looking to join this wave of electric mobility because they know that, if not, they are going to be left out of the market,” said Máñez.

Projections indicate that Latin America could, over the next 25 years, see its car fleet triple, to more than 200 million vehicles by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

This growth, if the transition to sustainable mobility does not pick up speed, will seriously jeopardise compliance with the intended nationally determined contributions adopted under the global Paris Agreement on climate change, according to Máñez.

The reason is that the transport sector is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the region’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In this regard, the official praised the new president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, who called for the elimination of fossil fuel use and for the decarbonisation of the economy. Máñez also highlighted that “Chile, Colombia and Mexico are working to tax transport for its carbon emissions.

“This is an example of public policies aimed at generating demand for electric vehicles,” said Máñez, while another positive case is that of Uruguay, one of the countries in the region that has made the most progress in electric mobility, stimulating it with tax benefits.

“But the region still needs to do a great deal of work developing incentives for electric mobility and removing subsidies for fossil fuels,” he added.

In this respect, he asked Latin America to look to the example of Scandinavian countries, where electric vehicles already play an important role, thanks to the fact that their drivers enjoy parking privileges or use the lanes for public transport, in addition to other sustained measures.

There are very disparate realities in the region.

Thus, while electric vehicles have been sold in Brazil for years, the country hosting the conference is lagging far behind and only began selling one model this year.

An electric bus parked on a downtown street in Montevideo. Credit: Inés Acosta / IPS

An electric bus parked on a downtown street in Montevideo. Credit: Inés Acosta / IPS

In fact, the meeting was led by Argentine lawmaker Juan Carlos Villalonga, of the governing alliance Cambiemos and author of a bill that promotes the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, which is currently not on the legislative agenda.

“The first objective is to generate a debate in society about sustainable mobility,” said Villalonga, who acknowledged that Argentina is lagging behind other countries in the region in the transition to clean energy.

Argentina only started a couple of years ago developing non-conventional renewable energies, which in the country’s electricity generation mix are still negligible.

As for electric mobility, the government of the city of Buenos Aires hopes to put eight experimental buses into operation by the end of the year, as a pilot plan, in a fleet of 13,000 buses.

Combating climate change is not the only reason why electric mobility should be encouraged.

“Health is another powerful reason, because internal combustion engines generate a lot of air pollution. In Argentina alone, almost 15,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality,” said José Dallo, head of the UN Environment’s Office for the Southern Cone, based in Montevideo.

“There is also the issue of energy security, as electricity prices are more stable than the price of oil,” he added.

In 2016, UN Environment presented an 84-page report entitled “Electric Mobility. Opportunities for Latin America,” which noted the change would mean a reduction of 1.4 gigatons in carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for 80 percent of GHG emissions, and savings of 85 billion dollars in fuels until 2050.

The report acknowledges that among the region’s obstacles are fossil fuel subsidies “and a lower electricity supply than in developed countries, where the boom in electric mobility has been concentrated so far.”

It also notes that Latin America is the region with the highest use of buses per person in the world, and that public transport “has a strategic potential to spearhead electric mobility.”

Along these lines, the experience of Chile through the Consortium Electric Mobility, a mixed initiative with the participation of the Ministry of Transport and scientific institutions from Chile and Finland, was also shared during the conference in Buenos Aires.

Engineer Gianni López, former director of the government’s National Environment Commission and a member of the Mario Molina Research and Development Centre, said that “in Chile the decision has already been taken to move public transport towards electric mobility.”

He explained that there will be 120 electric buses operating next year in Santiago and that the goal is 1,500 by 2025 – more than 25 percent of a total fleet of nearly 7,000 public transportation units.

“There are many aspects that make it easier to start with public buses than private cars,” Lopez said.

“On the one hand, buses run many hours a day so the return on investment is much faster; on the other hand, since they have fixed routes, it is easier to install recharging systems; and autonomy is not a problem because you know exactly how far they are going to travel each day,” he said.

One example of this is Uruguay, where electric taxis have been operating since 2014, and since 2016 a private mass transit company has a regular service with electric buses. In addition, a 400-km “green route,” with refueling stations every 60 km, was inaugurated last December.

As for the cost of electric vehicles, Máñez assured that China, which leads the production and sale of electric vehicles, is now close to reaching cost parity with conventional vehicles.

In this sense, the official also spoke of the need for Latin America to develop a technology that is currently underdeveloped.

He highlighted the case of Argentina, which is not only a producer of conventional vehicles, but in the north of the country has world-renowned reserves of lithium, a mineral used in batteries for electric vehicles.

The question is that lithium is exported as a primary product because this South American country has not developed the technology to manufacture and assemble the batteries locally.

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Peru’s Poor and Disabled Struggle in the Shadowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/perus-poor-disabled-struggle-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=perus-poor-disabled-struggle-shadows http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/perus-poor-disabled-struggle-shadows/#respond Wed, 30 May 2018 12:01:32 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155985 Eighty percent of the world’s disabled live in developing nations, according to a report by the United Nations. Their identities, lives and stories are of course varied – but what isn’t is the stigma and lack of resources they face. If one were to take a ride up a dirt road high in the Andes […]

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Putting Tortillas on Mexico’s Tables Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mexico-want-put-tortillas-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-want-put-tortillas-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mexico-want-put-tortillas-table/#respond Wed, 30 May 2018 00:02:07 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155979 Agronomist Irene Salvador decided to learn the process of making corn tortillas in order to preserve and promote this traditional staple food in the Mexican diet, which has lost its presence and nutritional quality. “I wanted to make my own experience. It has been very enriching, because I have regained knowledge and learned other things. […]

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Irene Salvador arranges tortillas that she made on a table full of ears of corn of different varieties, during a forum on tortillas in Mexico City. An alliance has just emerged in the country to promote the production and consumption of this traditional food, due to its nutritional, social, economic and environmental benefits. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Irene Salvador arranges tortillas that she made on a table full of ears of corn of different varieties, during a forum on tortillas in Mexico City. An alliance has just emerged in the country to promote the production and consumption of this traditional food, due to its nutritional, social, economic and environmental benefits. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 30 2018 (IPS)

Agronomist Irene Salvador decided to learn the process of making corn tortillas in order to preserve and promote this traditional staple food in the Mexican diet, which has lost its presence and nutritional quality.

“I wanted to make my own experience. It has been very enriching, because I have regained knowledge and learned other things. I also did it because of the situation we are living in, importing food and renouncing our staple foods,” she told IPS.

Salvador began making tortillas in March, after harvesting four tons of blue-grain maize on two hectares of land on a family farm in the municipality of Juchitepec, in the state of Mexico, some 70 km southeast of the capital.

With this raw material, she has produced by hand every week up to 30 kg of tortillas, which are a round, fine and flat dough made with nixtamalised corn, which in different preparations has long been part of the meals in this Latin American country."New generations are losing the right to a quality tortilla. Consumption of tortillas in Mexico is dropping at an alarming rate, because the tortilla has changed, and there is easier access to processed food and junk food.” -- Rafal Mier

She sells them in her home in the municipality of Magdalena Contreras, one of the 16 boroughs that make up Mexico City, in the south of the capital, and is now thinking about buying a machine to expand her production.

Salvador, who toured four states to learn about the process and has invested about 6,000 dollars, struggled to sell the product in her neighbourhood, but as buyers began to try it, demand started growing.

The new Alliance for Our Tortilla, launched this month by organisations of food producers, corn planters and academics, is aimed at enterprises like hers.

The aim is to promote the activity and spread a traditional form of low-cost nutrition in this country of 130 million inhabitants. The tortilla, in different presentations, has become part of the gastronomy of many other countries, but it is becoming less and less part of the everyday life of many Mexican tables.

“New generations are losing the right to a quality tortilla. Consumption of tortillas in Mexico is dropping at an alarming rate, because the tortilla has changed, and there is easier access to processed food and junk food,” one of the promoters of the alliance, Rafael Mier, told IPS.

“The alliance seeks to reverse this situation,” said Mier, who is the director of the non-governmental Mexican Corn Tortilla Foundation.

The basic tenets of the alliance include the consumption of native grains, a fair price for tortillas, the defence of nixtamalisation – the ancestral technique for preparing maize to be made into tortillas – and the nutritional benefits of tortillas.

In 2017, five non-governmental organisations launched the “I want my tortilla 100 percent nixtamalised” campaign, in another initiative to save the product in which members of the new alliance took part.

Pre-Columbian heritage

Nixtamalisation, a combination of the Nahuatl words “nextli” (ash) and “tamalli” (corn dough), is the technique of cooking the grain with calcium hydroxide or lime, which dates back to the time before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico in the 15th century.

This method neutralises aflatoxins, a type of micro-toxins produced by certain fungi in crops such as maize, which can contaminate grains on the plant, during harvest or in storage, and can cause various types of cancer, according to scientific studies.

In addition, the cooking opens the grain cuticle which releases vitamins and facilitates the absorption of nutrients during its consumption.

Georgina Trujillo checks the white maize that she is cooking in the back room of the Cintli tortilla factory in Mexico City. The nixtamalisation of maize, which is cooked for hours with water and lime, releases its nutritional properties. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Georgina Trujillo checks the white maize that she is cooking in the back room of the Cintli tortilla factory in Mexico City. The nixtamalisation of maize, which is cooked for hours with water and lime, releases its nutritional properties. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Mexican dough and tortilla industry encompasses around 80,000 establishments, including mills and tortilla factories or combinations of the two, accounting for one percent of the country’s GDP.

With the nixtamalisation process, one kg of maize becomes two kg of dough.

Maize is the staple food of Mesoamerica, the region that stretches from central Mexico down to Costa Rica. In Mexico, some 60 varieties of maize are grown, and the white, yellow, blue, red and bicolored grains – among others – are used to make tortillas.

But consumption of tortillas has dropped to less than half in Mexico: from 170 kg a year per person in the 1970s to 75 kg today, as fast food has expanded and eating habits have changed.

In February, official figures indicated that in the last year, adding the two harvest cycles, the country produced 23.8 million tonnes of white maize and imported 912,000 tonnes. Some12.9 million tonnes were used by people, of which 5.07 million were for self-consumption, and the rest was for export, seeds and livestock.

The harvest of yellow corn, mainly destined for industrial use, amounted to additional 3.04 million tonnes, while imports reached a historic 14.37 million.

Undernourishment and obesity

Advocates say increasing tortilla consumption can help Mexico achieve its goals of ending poverty, reaching zero hunger, and boosting health, well-being, responsible production and consumption and healthy terrestrial ecosystems, within the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be met by 2030.

In 2016, when the SDGs began to be implemented, there were 53.4 million people living in poverty in Mexico, including 9.4 million in extreme poverty, according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy. There were a total 24.6 million undernourished people.

In adolescents aged 12 to 19, the prevalence was 36 percent, and in adults aged 20 years and older, 72 percent.

By contrast, the National Health and Nutrition Survey Mid-way 2016 found a prevalence of overweight and obesity in the five to 11 age group, of 33 percent that year.

In adolescents aged 12 to 19, the prevalence was 36 percent and in adults aged 20 years and older, 72 percent.

The survey also found, among the three age groups, low proportions of regular consumption of most of the recommended food groups, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes.

Against this backdrop, several initiatives have emerged in the last two years to support the tortilla.

José Castañón also went through a learning process in the southern state of Oaxaca to learn about the relationship between maize and tortillas.

“I began to wonder: why not do something similar in Mexico City? I look for the junction between organic production, nutritional culture and fair trade. People come here because of values and health,” he told IPS.

Parallel to his audiovisual work, Castañón inaugurated in November 2017 the “Cintli” (ear of corn in Nahuatl) tortilla factory in a western neighbourhood of the capital, where he sells white and blue grain products from the municipality of Vicente Guerrero, in the southern state of Tlaxcala, including 16 varieties of tortillas.

The business, in which he has invested about 25,000 dollars and where two other people also work, processes about 70 kg of maize a day and sells retail tortillas to organic shops and restaurants, as well as dishes made with maize.

While the sector is committed to strengthening the culture of corn and tortillas, with initiatives such as the alliance, Salvador lamented that “there is a lack of information on the importance of the tortilla, and we really need it, because we are in the process of losing awareness.”

For Mier, the solution lies in tackling the marketing and supply of the grain. “Talking about differentiated markets and paying a reasonable price, encouraging more tortilla factories to use native maize,” he said.

According to Castañón, whose next move is to sell tortillas over the internet, it is necessary to promote the nutritional benefits of tortillas and the variety of flavours. “The issue must be put on the national agenda in an informed manner,” he said.

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Chile Debates Whether Citizens Should Profit from Generating Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 01:19:07 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155937 Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply. […]

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Commercial Habitat, a high-end home appliance store located in the upscale municipality of Vitacura, in the east of the Chilean capital, supplies part of its electricity consumption with energy generated from solar panels installed on its roof. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 27 2018 (IPS)

Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply.

A Senate committee has analysed whether to eliminate the payments to citizens for their surplus energy established in a law in force since 2012, in response to an indication to that effect from the government of socialist former president Michelle Bachelet (2014-March 2018), which her successor, the right-wing Sebastián Piñera, is keeping in place.

Now it is being studied by the Chamber of Deputies, which has been warned by leaders of environmental organisations that the proposal to eliminate payments to citizens who inject the surplus energy they generate into the grid will sentence these initiatives to death.

Gabriel Prudencio, head of the Ministry of Energy’s Renewable Energy Division, told IPS that the current government aims to make “distributed generation a major element in citizen power generation.”

“We will continue to encourage end users to be able to generate their energy because of the resultant benefits, but we must identify and avoid any inconvenience in terms of economy, especially for those who cannot install these systems, and for the sake of the security of the system,” he said.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the non-governmental Institute for Political Ecology (IEP), said “We hope that this proposal will not succeed and that we can continue with citizen-generated energy. Without the contribution of this sector, the goal of 80 percent non-conventional energy by 2050 will not be achieved.”

The expert believes that the authorities fear that citizen power generation, mainly solar, will become a business in itself and will not be used only for self-consumption and to cut the electricity bills of individuals or small businesses.

“They are legislating against a ghost,” he told IPS. “Energy should be born from thousands of connected points and by a system that allows buying and selling.”

The current installed electricity generation capacity in Chile, a country of 17.9 million inhabitants, is 22,369 MW. Of this total, 46 percent comes from renewable sources (30 percent hydropower), and 54 percent is thermal (21 percent coal).

All electricity generation is in private hands, most of it based on foreign capital. Consumption, which is constantly growing, reached 68,866 GW-h in 2013.

Revolution towards non-conventional sources

Chile’s solar and wind energy potential is 1,800 GW, according to a study by the Ministry of Energy and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GIZ).

If only five percent of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile were used to generate solar energy, 30 percent of South America’s electricity demand could be met, according to the Solar Energy Research Centre (SERC).

During Bachelet’s four-year term, Chile made an unprecedented leap in non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), which went from contributing five percent of generation in 2013 to 20 percent in 2017.

“Solar energy showed the greatest growth, from 11 MW in early 2014 to 2,080 in late 2017, followed by wind energy, which grew from 333 to 1,426 MW,” said environmental engineer Paula Estévez in the book Energy Revolution in Chile, published by former Chilean Minister of Energy Máximo Pacheco on May 10.

According to Baquedano, “In the country’s energy revolution, the main thing is indeed the change towards renewable energy that took place. Chile’s energy mix is going to be 100 percent renewable at some point.”

Baquedano warned, however, that “the benefits of this energy revolution from the productive point of view have been only for the private sector and have not been passed on to the public sector.”

Prudencio said that “to date, there are approximately 16 MW of installed capacity of systems under Law 20,571 (payments to residential generators), which is equivalent to more than 2,600 operating projects throughout the country.”

A few cases in point

Ragnar Branth, general manager of Commercial Habitat, a high-end furniture and home design store in the municipality of Vitacura in eastern Santiago, installed solar panels on the roof to power a five-kW photovoltaic plant whose generation saves 13.5 percent in annual electricity bills.

“There is a benefit in the monthly fee, but the initial investment is quite significant. We’re talking about more than 20 million pesos (about 32,200 dollars) in the purchase of panels and their installation alone, and that is not compensated in savings until at least the fifth or sixth year of consumption,” he told IPS.

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“The government took a good first step with the cogeneration law. However, some adjustments are needed, including the recognition of 100 percent of the energy generated and some kind of benefit in the investment project,” he said.

“If the government wants this to spread and wants there to be significant cogeneration, there has to be a benefit in the investment or some form of tax reduction or benefit,” he added.

In the agricultural county of Buin, south of the city of Santiago, 99 citizen shareholders convened by the IEP financed the community project Solar Buin Uno that built a 10 kW photovoltaic solar plant connected to the grid.

Much of the energy is delivered to the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), and the rest is injected into the grid. But the local distribution company pays only up to 60 percent of the value of the kWh billed to the CST. That is, it pays for the surplus only a portion of what it charges its users.

The generation by individuals received a special boost with the Distributed (decentralized) Generation Law, in force since 2017, also known locally as citizen generation.

Andrés Rebolledo, the last energy minister in the Bachelet administration, explained to IPS that this law “aims to encourage and give signals for the generation by citizens and show that homes and small businesses can generate their own energy based on NCRE.”

The former minister said there has been “exponential growth” of citizen generators and stressed that the modification being debated by parliament raises the possibility that they could increase their potential from 100 to 300 kW, favouring small and medium enterprises.

“The objective and vision is that the progress that Chile has made in terms of NCRE generation at the level of large plants can also be taken advantage of at the citizen level and that in this way households can generate their own electricity, save on their electricity bills and at the same time contribute to a more sustainable model,” he said.

“This implies an effort to strengthen the distribution networks, to have another form of measurement so that households can manage their own consumption and generation and, ultimately, so that they can become prosumers, that is, for a household to be both a producer and a consumer of energy at the same time,” he said.

The former minister explained that the request for a debate in parliament “was intended to try to send out signals and offer incentives so that more people could make an investment and this could become accessible to all, always taking care that households do not turn this into a business but rather for their own consumption.”

But non-governmental organisations say it will be a setback if the payment received for the injection of energy into the grid generated by citizens is eliminated.

According to Sara Larraín, executive director of Chile Sustentable, the proposed modification “eliminates the payment for the energy surplus injected by the residential generator over its own consumption.”

That, she told IPS, “discourages households from investing in self-generation and recovering their investment in less time thanks to the retribution for the electricity fed into the grid.”

Speaking to members of parliament, Larraín said that the reform “is a monopolistic distortion in favour of distribution companies that already constitute a monopoly as concessionaires of the distribution service.”

The president of IEP, Baquedano, said that the installation of a second citizens’ plant in the north of the country was suspended pending the legislative decision, “because the model will not work if this legislation is approved.”

“There’s a question mark over what’s going to happen to the energy generated by citizens. The government will have to understand that if citizen energy runs out, the environmental movement will not keep quiet. The conflicts will return, that’s my thesis, and not just my thesis because we are also preparing the scenarios,” he concluded.

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Why Would an Immigrant Support Trump?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigrant-support-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/#comments Fri, 25 May 2018 12:17:44 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155922 Giuseppe DiMarco is 83 years old. He has recognized the U.S. as his home for over 30 years. In the aftermath of World War Two, DiMarco fled an impoverished farming town in Southern Italy in the pursuit of advancement and the promise of wealth he had never known. Whilst economic strife and extreme poverty drove […]

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A Natural Climate Change Adaptation Laboratory in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 23:19:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155880 The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region. The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias […]

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Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PINTADAS, Brazil, May 22 2018 (IPS)

The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region.

The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias bahiensis) fruit trees of the Anacardiaceae family, putting a halt to deforestation that has already devastated half of the original vegetation of the caatinga, the semi-arid biome of the Brazilian northeast region, covering 844,000 square km.

“I sold 500 kilos of umbú this year to the Ser do Sertão Cooperative,” Adelso Lima dos Santos, a 52-year-old farmer with three children, told IPS proudly. Since he owns only one hectare of land, he harvested the fruits on neighbouring farms where they used to throw out what they could not consume.

For each tonne the cooperative, which owns the small factory, pays its members 1.50 Brazilian reals (42 cents) per kg of fruit and a little less to non-members. In the poor and inhospitable semi-arid interior of the Northeast, known as the sertão, the income is more than welcome.

“A supplier managed to sell us 3,600 kg,” the cooperative’s commercial director and factory manager, Girlene Oliveira, 40, who has two daughters, told IPS.

Pulp production also generates income for the six local women who work at the plant. It contributes to women’s empowerment, another condition for sustainable development in the face of future climate adversities, said Thais Corral, co-founder of Adapta Sertão and coordinator of the non-governmental Human Development Network (REDEH), based in Rio de Janeiro.

The pulp mill began operating in December 2016 in Pintadas, a town of 11,000 inhabitants in the interior of the state of Bahia, and its activity is expanding rapidly. In 2017, it produced 27 tonnes, a figure already reached during the first quarter of this year, when it had orders for 72 tonnes.

But its capacity to process 8,000 tonnes per day remains underutilised. It currently operates only eight days a month on average. The limitation is in sales, on the one hand, and of raw material, whose supply is seasonal and therefore requires storage in a cold chamber, which has a capacity of only 28 tons.

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In addition to umbú and umbú-cajá, harvested in the first quarter of the year, the factory produces pulp from other fruits, such as pineapple, mango, guava and acerola or West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), available the rest of the year. Also, it has five other kinds of fruit for possible future production and is testing another 16.

The severe drought that hit the caatinga in the last six years caused some local fruits to disappear, such as the pitanga (Eugenia uniflora).

The Productive Cooperative of the Region of Piemonte de Diamantina (Coopes), whose members are all women, is another community initiative born in 2005 in Capim Grosso, 75 km from Pintadas, to process the licuri palm nut (Syagus coronate), from a palm tree in danger of going extinct.

More than 30 food and cosmetic products are made from the licuri palm nut. Its growing value is also helping to drive the revitalisation of the caatinga, vital in Adapta Sertão’s environmental and water sustainability strategies.

This programme, focused on adapting family farming to climate change, has mobilised nine cooperatives and some twenty local and national organisations over the last 12 years in the Jacuipe River basin, which encompasses 16 municipalities in the interior of the state of Bahia.

It was terminated in April with the publication of a book that tells its story, written by Dutch journalist Ineke Holtwijk, a former correspondent for Dutch media in Latin America and for IPS in her country.

Having more than doubled milk production on some of the farms assisted by the programme, winning 10 awards and introducing technical innovations to overcome the six-year drought in the semi-arid ecoregion are some of the programme’s achievements.

 Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme "broadened our horizons," based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme “broadened our horizons,” based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brazil’s semi-arid region covers 982,000 square km, with a population of 27 million of the country’s 208 million inhabitants. The region’s population is 38 percent rural, compared to a national average of less than 20 percent, who depend mainly on family farming.

The programme’s legacy also includes the training of 300 farming families in innovative technologies, the strengthening of cooperativism and a register of family farms to sustain production throughout at least three years of severe drought.

A focus on the long term, with adjustments and the incorporation of factors discovered along the way, was key to success, said Thais Corral about the programme, which was broken down into four phases over the last 12 years.

Starting in 2006, under the title Pintadas Solar, it tried to introduce and test solar pump irrigation, to meet the demands of women tired of transporting heavy buckets to water their gardens.

“But the solar panels and equipment were too expensive at the time,” said Florisvaldo Merces, a technician working for the programme since its inception and now an official of the municipality of Pintadas in the agricultural sector.

Problems such as salinisation of the soil because of the brackish water from the wells and the difficulty in maintaining the equipment were added to the emergence of other agricultural issues to extend assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities in addition to Pintadas.

Problems such as the salinisation of the soil by brackish water from the wells and difficulty in maintaining the teams were added to other agricultural issues of emergency to extend the assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities, in addition to Pintadas.

Credit, the production chain, cooperatives, water storage and climate change dictated other priorities and transformed the programme, including its name, which was replaced by Adapta Sertão in 2008, when the Ser do Sertão Cooperative was also created.

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Research, conducted in partnership with universities, found that the temperature in the Jacuipe basin increased 1.75 degrees Celsius from 1962 to 2012, compared to the average global rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius, while rainfall decreased 30 percent.

The programme had to test its strategies and techniques in the midst of the longest drought in the semi-arid region’s documented history, as a formula capable of sustaining production and maintaining quality of life as climate problems worsen.

It tries to respond to the challenge with the Intelligent and Sustainable Smart Agro-climatic Module (MAIS), the model for planning, productivity improvement, mechanisation and optimisation of inputs, especially water, in which Adapta Sertão trained 100 family farmers.

The aim is to “turn farmers into entrepreneurs, who record all production costs,” said Thiago Lima, a MAIS technician in sheep-farming, who now intends to apply his knowledge to his 12-hectare farm.

“Transforming complex technologies into simple ones” is the solution, Merces told IPS.

“The promoters’ sensitivity to talking with local people, carrying out research and not coming with already prepared proposals, favouring actions in tune with local forces,” was the main quality of the programme, acknowledged Neusa Cadore, former mayor of Pintadas and now state representative for the state of Bahia.

“But there was a lack of alignment with the government. We did everything with private stake-holders, foundations, cooperatives and local authorities, always hindered by the government. Ideally, Adapta Sertão should be adopted as a public policy for climate-resilient family farming,” Corral told IPS.

The company Adapta Group, created by the other founder of the programme, Italian engineer Daniele Cesano, will seek to spread the MAIS model as a business.

But Corral disagrees with the emphasis on dairy farming, which has presented the best economic results, but which requires 18 hectares and large investments, excluding most families and women, who prefer to grow vegetables. Also, she says that not enough importance is placed on the environment and thus long-term resilience.

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Indigenous Peoples Recover Native Languages in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 09:22:22 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155818 Ángel Santiago is a Mexican teenager who speaks one of the variations of the Zapotec language that exists in the state of Oaxaca, in the southwest of Mexico. Standing next to the presidential candidate who is the favorite for the July elections, he calls for an educational curriculum that “respects our culture and our languages.” […]

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Chile, an Oasis for Haitians that Has Begun to Run Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 02:11:29 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155779 A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country. Some 120,000 Haitians were […]

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Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 16 2018 (IPS)

A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country.

Some 120,000 Haitians were living in Chile in early April, according to official figures, most of them working in low wage jobs in sectors such as construction and cleaning.

These immigrants, with an average age of 30, came with tourist visas, almost all of them since 2014, and stayed to work and build a new life in this long and narrow country wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, whose dynamic economic growth has made it one of the most attractive destinations for immigrants from the rest of the region in the last five years.

But on Apr. 8, their situation changed radically when the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera, in power since Mar. 11, eliminated the temporary visas that allowed them to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, and then to be able to bring their families to this country.

Piñera seeks to curb immigration in general – which according to official figures is around one million people in a country of 17.7 million – and of Haitians in particular, with measures which analysts and activists see as discriminatory against the fifth-largest foreign community in Chile, after Peruvians, Colombians, Bolivians and Venezuelans.

From now on, Haitians will have to obtain a tourist visa at the consulate in Port-au-Prince, in order to board a plane bound for Chile. The visa will be valid for 30 days, extendable to 90, and they will not be able to exchange it for a permit allowing them to stay in the country.

By contrast Venezuelans, the other foreign community that has experienced explosive growth, will be able to obtain in Caracas a so-called “democratic visa” valid for one year.

Offsetting the new restrictions, since Apr. 16, all Haitians who arrived before Apr. 8 have begun to be able to regularise their status, in a process that will end in July 2019. Also, starting on Jul. 2, 10,000 additional family reunification visas will be issued over the following year. In total, the government estimates at 300,000 the number of undocumented immigrants in Chile, a minority of whom are Haitians.

 The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS


The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

For Erik Lundi, 37, who arrived in Chile six years ago from Haiti, the plan “is a very good option. It is very reasonable to give legal status to those who are here.”

“But there is a lot of racial discrimination in the new tourist visa. Only in the case of Haitians is it granted for only 30 days, because Venezuelans have the democratic visa. That is very discriminatory. Why are only Haitians given 30 days? It should be the same for everyone,” he told IPS.

Activists for the human rights of migrants told IPS that in Chile Haitian immigrants face a special cocktail of xenophobia mixed with racism, sometimes disguised as criticism of the fact that their languages are Creole or French, not Spanish.

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician who arrived three years ago after spending time in the Dominican Republic, the country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, told IPS that “I do not see anything wrong, I see the measures adopted by the government as positive,” while Congress approves a reform of the Migration Law, in force since 1975, one of Piñera’s main campaign promises.

Henry agrees that “Chile is saturated with immigrants and if more continue to arrive, it means more poverty for those who are already here. It’s not because I’m already here, but you have to take action for the greater good of all,” he said.

A history of inefficiency

José Tomás Vicuña, national director of the Jesuit Migrants Service (SJM), doubts the effectiveness of instituting the consular visa for tourism for Haitians and eliminating the temporary one, based on the experience of similar provisions adopted for Dominicans in 2012, during the previous government of Piñera (2010-2014).

“When they started requiring a consular visa, more started to arrive,” the director of Chile’s leading migrant rights organisation told IPS.

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The SJM predicts that “the influx (of Haitians) will increase across unauthorised border crossing points. And smuggling networks will also grow,” said Vicuña, who noted that “this happens in many countries when access is severely restricted.”

Luis Eduardo Thayer, a researcher at the Central University School of Social Sciences and until 2017 chair of the National Consultative Council on Migration – an autonomous civil society entity eliminated by the Piñera administration – agrees with that view.

“The Dominicans kept coming because they had family here, they had networks and job opportunities and the conditions in their country of origin were not what they hoped for,” he told IPS.

There were only 6,000 Dominicans in the country when their entrance was restricted, compared to 120,000 Haitians, Thayer said, so “the magnitude of the ‘calling effect’ by the labour market and family ties is much greater in the case of Haitians.”

The 3,000-km Chilean border is described as “porous” by migration officials, making it difficult to control irregular entry.

Thayer ventured that as the Dominicans did, Haitians will use a route known locally as “the hole” or “the gap.”

“They take a plane to Colombia and there they set out on a clandestine route to Chile, assisted by people who know the route and charge them money – in other words, a people smuggling network,” he explained.

The expert said it is “discriminatory” for Haitians to be required to obtain consular visas to come as tourists “just because they are Haitians.” “The government’s argument is that they come here using fraudulent means. But it must be acknowledged that fewer Haitians come here than Venezuelans, Bolivians, Peruvians or Colombians,” he said emphatically.

The Chilean Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla, responsible for foreign and immigration policy, denied in a meeting with foreign correspondents that the measures for Haitians are discriminatory and pointed out that they have the special benefit of family reunification visas.

“The community of Haitian citizens numbers around 120,000 and we believe that for practical purposes we have to help their children and spouses to come quickly and without obstacles to this country,” he said.

Stories of those who are already here

The immediate causes of Haitian migration lie in the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 which added devastating effects to the chronic political, economic, social and environmental crisis in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

Word of mouth is another major factor.

And José Miguel Torrico, coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), emphasises another long-standing factor. The degradation of Haitian soil “is a major impact factor, since basically the migration we have here is unskilled workers, the rural poor,” he said.

“The immigration that Chile is receiving comes from rural sectors mainly because they have not been able to maintain their standard of living on the lands they farm,” he told IPS in an interview at his regional office in Santiago.

“I came because I saw on the Internet that there are opportunities to work in Chile, and other Haitians who had come here told me about those opportunities,” said Henry.

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

During a break at work in a municipality in the foothills in the Chilean capital, Henry explained that he has a work contract and legal residency for five years, and was able to bring his wife and three of his four children. But his case is exceptional.

His youngest daughter was born in Santiago. “My wife was treated like a queen in the hospital and I did not pay a peso”, he said, explaining that the cost was covered by a health fund to which she pays a monthly fee. But undocumented migrants do not have the right to healthcare in Chile.

Accionel Sain Melus, 44, arrived eight years ago from the Dominican Republic (where he lived for 10 years), and works on contract at the Lo Valledor Market, the main vegetable and fruit supply centre in the Chilean capital.

“I have legal residency for five years. The problem is that my wife and daughter were given a temporary visa for one year. I applied and they rejected it. I have all the marriage papers and legalisations. I paid a visa for five years and they sent me a visa for one,” he said.

In his conversation with IPS, at the end of a mass in Creole in the Catholic parish of Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Estación Central, he confided his worries: “This is a difficult time for us…”

Pedro Labrín, the priest of that parish in one of the two municipalities with the largest Haitian communities, where some streets are like a “small Haiti”, explained to IPS that some immigrants from Haiti “have a strong educational background, language skills and technical qualifications.”

But most, he added, “come from the countryside, with very little education, and great difficulties to integrate into the new society because they have fewer social skills and suffer a language barrier.”

Lundi said that “most of them leave their country with the dream of continuing their studies. But migrants here have almost no chance to study,” he said, pointing to the high cost of Chilean universities.

Living with racism and xenophobia

For the parish priest Labrín “the main problem that Haitians face is racism: black people seem interesting as long as they are not next to us. I observe that attitude here… there is a lot of racial resistance,” he said.

In his opinion, “Haitians are stigmatised as carriers of diseases, generators of garbage and domestic violence, as noisy, child abusers, people who speak loudly and are always arguing. Chileans are also angry that they compete with Haitians in terms of access to basic services in healthcare, day care centres, kindergartens and schools.”

Lundi’s experiences have varied: “On the one hand, Chile has been a welcoming country for migrants. On the other hand, Chileans are a bit more violent, more discriminating.”

He accused some sectors of “xenophobia, I do not know if because of their culture they are not used to living with many foreigners, especially black people. They discriminate on the basis of skin colour. That is manifested directly with insults and sometimes psychologically.”

Labrín said that in Estación Central “there is an unethical business to subdivide poor houses to lease them at exorbitant prices.”

“For up to 200,000 pesos (about 333 dollars) they rent miserable rooms with no safety or sanitary conditions. During the visit by Pope Francis (in January 2018), one of these houses where a hundred people were living with just three showers, one of which was not working, and one toilet, was burned,” he complained.

Doubts about the process

For Lundi “the family reunification visa is extremely important because people cannot be happy if they are not with their families. It gives them the opportunity to live together.”

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the academic Thayer said this offer “is demagogic: they are saying we are going to close the border, but we are going to allow them to be with their family… which is a basic human right.”

Meanwhile, Vicuña said it is essential to know “what will be the criteria for granting the visas, because reducing the criteria to only family reunification will fall short of demand.”

“Orderly, safe and regulated migration requires a clear information process, and many measures have been taken here on the fly,” he said.

Thayer broke down another growing social prejudice against Haitians. “The rate of unemployment of migrants is very low, like that of Chileans, from five to six percent,” he said.

“You cannot say that the labour market is overrun because of the arrival of Haitians. What there is, is a problem of integration because of a lack of public policies on housing, education and work,” he said.

Parish priest Labrín called for an emphasis to be put on the contributions made by Haitians: “culture, work, economic assets and children.” “The Chilean birth rate, which causes so much concern in the development pyramid, will be bolstered by the birth of Chilean children to migrant parents,” he said, to illustrate.

First impact: crowded migration offices

In the Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, three blocks from the La Moneda government palace, the air was unbreathable on Apr. 17, the day after the new regulations entered into force.

An unrelenting crowd of migrants seeking to get the process done packed the office and its surroundings from dawn, doubling the already heavy daily flow of people, before the new immigration measures adopted by decree went into effect.

Leonel Dorelus, a 32-year-old Haitian, arrived in Chile in Novembers 2017, after living in the Dominican Republic for three years. He lives with a brother-in-law, who arrived earlier, in a municipality on the south side of Santiago, where he works in an evangelical church.

“I would only like to bring my girlfriend,” he told IPS as he waited his turn.

Mark Edouard, 30, comes from the Haitian town of Artibonite. He works as a night-shift doorman, with a contract, and during the day he works at a public market, in the populated district of Puente Alto, 20 km southeast of Santiago.

“I started as an assistant at the same market. At first I lived with other people, but I was not comfortable so I moved and now I live alone,” he said.

Zilus Jeandenel, 28, came to Chile from the rural town of Comine. He lives in the municipality of San Bernardo, in the south of Greater Santiago, with two sisters. He arrived eight months ago and has no job, just like one of his sisters. “It’s hard to get work,” he said, “even though my quality of life is much better here.”

Little Haiti in Santiago

It’s Sunday, and dozens of Haitians are attending mass in the Jesuit parish church of Santa Cruz, on Pinguinos street in the neighbourhood of Nogales, in the municipality of Estación Central in Santiago, where Erik Lundi works. Kitty corner from the church, a Haitian barber attends his fellow countrymen. They all speak Creole and while they wait for their turn they watch a Formula One race on television.

In front of the barbershop is the bus stop where people catch the bus to downtown Santiago or the southern outskirts of the city. The ticket costs the equivalent of one dollar.

Also on Pingüinos, further east, a street market is held, every Sunday, with stands selling clothes and used shoes that customers try on right there. Other stands, some improvised on the sidewalk, sell vegetables, fruit, meat, typical Haitian products and the most sought-after: sacks of beans. Haitian dishes are also offered to sample on the spot.

There are some Chilean vendors, but most are Haitians. All explain, in Creole or Spanish, the prices, in a street market that, as the parishioners explain, is also a social meeting place. Women with small children, pregnant women, young people who greet each other with high fives and a couple made up of a Haitian man and a smiling Chilean woman holding hands, are part of the Sunday landscape on Pingüinos street.

Just two blocks away, there is an evangelical church which, like the Catholic church, also functions as a social centre, where the service is carried out in Creole and is accompanied by live music played on guitars, electric basses and large congo drums.

People dress up for church as an important occasion. The women wear colourful outfits and shoes and the men wear shiny shoes, some white, while almost all of them wear ties. The girls especially stand out with their tulles and elaborate braided hairstyles. This is Haitian life and culture, transplanted to Santiago, in the Andes mountains.

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Child Slavery Refuses to Disappear in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/child-slavery-refuses-disappear-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-slavery-refuses-disappear-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/child-slavery-refuses-disappear-latin-america/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 23:00:16 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155766 Child labour has been substantially reduced in Latin America, but 5.7 million children below the legal minimum age are still working and a large proportion of them work in precarious, high-risk conditions or are unpaid, which constitute new forms of slave labour. For the International Labor Organisation (ILO) child labour includes children working before they […]

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A little girl peels manioc to make flour in Acará, in the state of Pará, in the northeast of Brazil's Amazon region. In the rural sectors of Brazil, it is a deeply-rooted custom for children to help with family farming, on the grounds of passing on knowledge. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

A little girl peels manioc to make flour in Acará, in the state of Pará, in the northeast of Brazil's Amazon region. In the rural sectors of Brazil, it is a deeply-rooted custom for children to help with family farming, on the grounds of passing on knowledge. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Child labour has been substantially reduced in Latin America, but 5.7 million children below the legal minimum age are still working and a large proportion of them work in precarious, high-risk conditions or are unpaid, which constitute new forms of slave labour.

For the International Labor Organisation (ILO) child labour includes children working before they reach the minimum legal age or carrying out work that should be prohibited, according to Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, in force since 2000.

The vast majority of these children work in agriculture, but many also work in high-risk sectors such as mining, domestic labour, fireworks manufacturing and fishing."They work in truly inhuman, overheated spaces. They are not given even the minimum safety measures, such as facemasks so they do not inhale lint from jeans, or gloves for tearing seams, which hurts their fingers. The repetitive work of cutting fabric with large scissors hurts their hands." -- Joaquín Cortez

Three countries in the region, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay, exemplify child labour, which includes forms of modern-day slavery.

In Paraguay, a country of 7.2 million people, the tradition of “criadazgo” goes back to colonial times and persists despite laws that prohibit child labour, lawyer Cecilia Gadea told IPS.

“Very poor families, usually from rural areas, are forced to give their under-age children to relatives or families who are financially better off, who take charge of their upbringing, education and food,” a practice known as “criadazgo”, she explained.

“But it is not for free or out of solidarity, but in exchange for the children carrying out domestic work,” said Gadea, who is doing research on the topic for her master’s thesis at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso).

In Paraguay, the country in South America with the highest poverty rate and one of the 10 most unequal countries in the world, some 47,000 children (2.5 percent of the child population) are in a situation of criadazgo, according to the non-governmental organisation Global Infancia. Of these, 81.6 percent are girls.

“People do not want to accept it, but it is one of the worst forms of work. It is not a solidarity-based action as people try to present it; it is a form of child labour and exploitation. It is also a kind of slavery because children are subjected to carrying out forced tasks not appropriate to their age, they are punished, and many may not even be allowed to leave the house,” said Gadea.

According to the researcher, most of the so-called “criaditos” (little servants), ranging in age from five to 15, are “subjected to forced labour, domestic tasks for many hours and without rest; they are mistreated, abused, punished and exploited; they are not allowed to go to school; they live in precarious conditions; they are not fed properly; and they do not receive medical care, among other limitations.”

Only a minority of them “are not abused or exposed to danger, go to school, play, are well cared for, and all things considered, lead a good life,” she said.

The origins of criadazgo lay in the hazardous forced labour to which the Spanish colonisers subjected indigenous women and children, said Gadea.

Paraguay was devastated by two wars, one in the second half of the nineteenth century and another in the first half of the twentieth century, its male population decimated, and was left in the hands of women, children and the elderly, who had to rebuild the country.

“The widespread poverty forced mothers to give their children to families with better incomes, so they could take charge of their upbringing, education and food, while the mothers worked to survive and rebuild a country left in ruins,” she said.

The practice continues, according to Gadea, because of inequality and poverty. Large low-income families “find the only solution is handing over one or more of their children for them to be provided with better living conditions.”

On the other hand, “there are people who need these ‘criados’ to work as domestics, because they are cheap labour, since they only require a little food and a place to sleep,” she said.

Campaigns to combat this tradition that is deeply-rooted in Paraguayan society face resistance from many sectors, including Congress.

It is a “hidden and invisible practice that is hardly talked about. Many defend it because they consider it an act of solidarity, a means of survival for children living in extreme poverty,” she added.

The case of Mexico

Mexico is another of the Latin American countries with the highest levels of child labour exploitation, in sectors such as agriculture, or maquiladoras – for-export assembly plants.

A boy works in a maquiladora textile plant in the state of Puebla, in central Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Joaquín Cortez

A boy works in a maquiladora textile plant in the state of Puebla, in central Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Joaquín Cortez

In Mexico, with a population of 122 million people, there are more than 2.5 million children working – 8.4 percent of the child population. The problem is concentrated in the states of Colima, Guerrero and Puebla, explains Joaquín Cortez, author of the study “Modern Child Slavery: Cases of Child Labour Exploitation in the Maquiladoras.”

Cortez researched in particular the textile maquilas of the central state of Puebla.

Children there “work in extremely precarious conditions, in addition to working more than 48 hours a week, receiving wages of between 29 and 40 dollars per week. To withstand the workloads they often inhale drugs like marijuana or crack,” the researcher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told IPS.

In some maquilas “strategies have been used to evade accountability. As in the case of working children who, in the face of labour inspections, are hidden in the bathrooms between the bundles of jeans,” said Cortez.

“They work in truly inhuman, overheated spaces. They are not given even the minimum safety measures, such as facemasks so they do not inhale lint from jeans, or gloves for tearing seams, which hurts their fingers. The repetitive work of cutting fabric with large scissors hurts their hands,” he said.

In short, Cortez noted that “they are more at risk because they work as much as or more than an adult and earn less.”

At times, these children “are verbally assaulted for not rushing to get the production that the manager of the maquiladoras needs. Girls are also often sexually harassed by their co-workers,” he added.

Cortez attributes the causes of this child labour, “in addition to being cheap labour for the owners of small and large maquiladoras,” to inequality and poverty and to poor social organisation, despite attempts at resistance.

The situation in Brazil

In Brazil, a study by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), published in 2017, found that of the 1.8 million children between the ages of five and 17 who work, 54.4 percent do so illegally.

In this South American country of 208 million people, the laws allow children to work from the age of 14 but only as apprentices, while adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 cannot work the night shift and cannot work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

One of the authors of the report, economist Flávia Vinhaes, clarified to IPS that although child labor does not always occur in conditions of slavery or semi-slavery, “children between the ages of five and 13 should not work under any conditions, as it is considered child labour.”

Among those employed at that age, 74 percent did not receive remuneration.

Another indicator revealed that 73 percent of these children worked as “assistants”, helping family members in their productive activities.

“Both domestic tasks and care work make up a broad definition of child labor that may be in conflict with formal education as well as being carried out over long hours or under dangerous conditions,” Vinhaes said.

The research showed that 47.6 percent of workers between the ages of five and 13 are in the agricultural sector, part of a deep-rooted custom.

“In traditional agriculture, children and adolescents perform work under the supervision of their parents as part of the socialisation process, or as a means of passing on traditionally acquired techniques from parents to children,” she said.

“This situation should not be confused with that of children who are forced to work regularly or day after day in exchange for some kind of remuneration or just to help their families, with the resulting damage to their educational and social development,” she said. “There is a fine line between helping and working in a way that is cultural and educational.”

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Protests Fuel Harassment Faced by Media in Nicaraguahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-fuel-harassment-journalists-nicaragua/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-fuel-harassment-journalists-nicaragua http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-fuel-harassment-journalists-nicaragua/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 22:38:39 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155741 Assaults on journalists, persecution of press workers’ unions, direct censorship and smear campaigns are a high cost that freedom of expression has paid in Nicaragua since demonstrations against the government of Daniel Ortega began in April. It is the culmination of “a process of degradation of the practice of journalism and of freedom of expression” […]

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