Inter Press ServiceLatin America & the Caribbean – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:17:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 07:50:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152630 The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.” Two large hydropower plants, one of […]

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Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

By Mario Osava
PARANAITA, Brazil, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.”

Two large hydropower plants, one of which is still being built, have changed life in Paranaita. But its future is not yet clearly defined between the rainforest, cattle-breeding and soy and maize monoculture that have advanced from the south, deforesting the west-central state of MatoGrosso, which is the southeastern gateway to the Amazon jungle region.

Construction of the plants has brought investment, new housing and hotels and has given a new boost to the local economy in the city, which now has large supermarkets. “My hotel only had six apartments; now it has 12 complete apartments and a more attractive facade,”Francisco Karasiaki Júnior said brightly, during a tour of the area by IPS.

The Teles Pires dam, 85 km northwest of Paranaita, employed 5,719 workers at the height of construction, in July 2014.

The dam began to be built in August 2011 and was completed in late 2014, when work had already begun on the São Manoel – the former name of the Teles Pires river – dam, which is smaller and located farther away from the city, 125 km downstream.

São Manoel suffered delays when construction was temporarily halted by court order and when the company building it came close to bankruptcy as a result of corruption scandals, which led to massive lay-offs in late 2016.

“I lost money, many of the people who stayed here didn’t pay their bills,” complained Ster Seravali Petrofeza, 68, the owner of the Petros Hotel and of a large store that sells machinery and appliances for production, construction and households in a building on the main street of the city that she saw grow up from nothing.

“The era of the ‘garimpo’ brought me my best business,” she said, recalling the boom in informal gold mining that brought Paranaitaprosperity during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

The sales of dredges, motors and other equipment purchased by miners ensured the success of the business she ran with her late husband, who “used to spend all his time on the road, looking for products, assembling dredges and delivering them to the ‘garimpeiros’ (informal gold-miners) on the river, working round the clock,” she said.

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The ‘garimpo’ led to the emergence of 11 hotels in the city, between 1982 and 1989,” and put an end to frustrated attempts to grow tomatoes, coffee, cacao and tropical fruit like the guaraná, said Karasiaki, another pioneer who has lived 37 of his 53 years in Paranaíta and inherited the hotel built by his father.

“Our employees would disappear; they would go and ‘garimpar’ (mine for gold),” he said.

But the mining industry declined in the 1990s. The crisis was overcome by the intensification of the extraction of timber and the mushrooming of sawmills in the city. “We started selling chainsaws like hotcakes, about 12 a day,” said Petrofeza.

That era ended in turn the following decade, as a result of increasingly strict environmental controls.

The construction of hydropower dams gave the city new life, reviving the local market, “but they didn’t leave us anything permanent,” lamented the businesswoman, who was widowed in 1991.

“Agriculture isour hope,” said Petrofeza, whose two adult children produce soy and maize.

Paranaita exemplifies the “boom and collapse” cycles that affect an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources in Brazil’s rainforest, said economist João Andrade, coordinator of Socioenvironmental Networks at the non-governmental Centre of Life Institute (ICV), which operates in the north of the state of MatoGrosso.

Mining, rubber, timber, livestock and monoculture – all environmentally unsustainable activities – have succeeded each other in different areas, some of which have now been affected by the construction of hydropower plants.

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The plants do not change the model of occupation and domination of the Amazon, but could kick off a new cycle, by providing more accessible energy to the mining industry and facilitating the expansion of export agriculture with new roads, Andrade fears.

Paranaíta, a city of just under 11,000 people in 2010, according to the latest census, declared a state of emergency in November 2013, due to the collapse in public services, because the population had expanded by two-thirds in the first few years of construction of the TelesPires plant, according to the city government.

Rents, the prices of goods and services, crime rates, and demand for health and education suddenly shot up, said biologist Paulo Correa, director of Environmental Projects and Licensing in the city government and a former employee of the Teles Pires dam, who decided to stay in Paranaita.

Contagious diseases like malaria and sexually transmitted infections also increased when the construction work was at its peak in the affected municipalities, said Carina Sernaglia Gomes,analyst of municipal environmental management at ICV.

The number of rapes rose more than threefold in the city of Alta Floresta, an important regional hub of50,000 people, with an airport and institutions of higher learning. The total climbed from 11 cases in 2011 to 36 in 2015, according to police records, Gomes pointed out.

In Paranaita, homicides and other violent crimes rose from 20 to 70 cases in that period.

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

These negative visions contrast with the enormous social and environmental investments made by the companies, especially the TelesPires Hydroelectric Company (CHTP). But nearly always in this kind of project, the compensation and mitigating measures arrive too late, after the worst impacts of the works have already been felt.

Paving the 55-km road to Paranaitaconnected the once-isolated city with the rest of the world. “It wasn’t an obligation, but we understood what the local populace was longing for and we did it,” said CHTP environment director Marcos Azevedo Duarte.

A road trip between the two towns was cut from three hours to just over half an hour, making it possible for the young people of Paranaitato study at the universities in Alta Floresta.

The training of 2,800 local workerswas “a legacy of knowledge,” said Duarte. Local labour power represented 20 percent of the company’s total at the height of construction.

The company returned outside workers to their homes after the work was done, to ease the demographic pressure on Paranaíta, the most heavily affected town due to its proximity and small population, he said.

Besides the 44 projects aimed at compensating for the damage in the affected municipalities, CHTP has attempted to boost local development.

Along with the city government and ICV, it has fomented improvements in production and administration in the rural settlement of São Pedro, population 5,000, located 40 km fromParanaita, and still dependent on food shipped in from southern Brazil.

Ensuring land titles to family farmers is a priority, said Duarte.

Getting Paranaitaoff the Environment Ministry’s black list of municipalities guilty of the worst deforestation in the Amazon is a goal of the city government that has the support of CHTP. Reducing the deforested area and legalising rural properties in a national land registry are the requirements for achieving that.

With respect to indigenous people, who the company compensated with 20 specific programmes, mainly the donation of vehicles, boats, fuel and community centres, Duarte acknowledged a major failing: the flooding of a site sacred to the Munduruku people, the “seven falls”.

“There is no way to compensate for a sacred site,” and the company feels the obligation to address proposals like building a centre for memory and culture for local indigenous communities and handing over the funeral urns found in the excavation during the construction of the plant, he said.

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Mexican Immigrants Help Sustain Two Economies – and Are Discardedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded/#comments Thu, 19 Oct 2017 22:34:05 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152606 They work for years to bolster the economies of two countries. For one, the United States, they provide labour and taxes; for the other, Mexico, they send remittances that support tens of thousands of families and communities. Then they are deported, and neither government takes into account their special needs. “These are the inconsistencies of […]

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What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:41:37 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152567 The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November. The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics […]

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Cattle is by far the most susceptible livestock to Bovine TB (animal tuberculosis). Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November.

The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions. See: The World Is Running Out of Much Needed New Antibiotics

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), on 20 September said on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), “A stronger global effort, including larger investments and improved surveillance measures, is required to ensure that antimicrobials are used responsibly and in ways that do not threaten public health and food production.”

What is it?


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health.

It also has implications for both food safety and food security and the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households--FAO

AMR refers to when micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites – evolve resistance to antimicrobial substances, like antibiotics.

This can occur naturally through adaption to the environment, the pace of AMR's spread is now on the uptick due to inappropriate and excessive use of antimicrobials.

Various factors are at play:

• Lack of regulation and oversight of use
• Lack of awareness in best practices that leads to excessive or inappropriate use
• The use of antibiotics not as medicines but as growth promoters in animals
• Over-the-counter or internet sales that make antimicrobial drugs readily availability common
• Availability of counterfeit or poor-quality antimicrobials

As a result of AMR, medicines that were once effective treatments for disease become less so – or even useless, leading to a reduced ability to successfully treat infections, increased mortality; more severe or prolonged illnesses; production losses in agriculture; and reduced livelihoods and food security.

The health consequences and economic costs of AMR are respectively estimated at 10 million human fatalities a year and a 2 to 3.5 percent decrease in global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), amounting to US$ 100 trillion by 2050. However, the full impact remains hard to estimate.

SOURCE: FAO

“We need surveillance on antimicrobial use and the spread of AMR – not only through hospitals, but throughout the food chain, including horticulture and the environment for more comprehensive risk assessments.”

This was not the first time UN agencies have sounded the alarm about the misuse and abuse of antibiotics both in humans and animals. To learn more, IPS interviewed Dr. Juan Lubroth, Coordinator on AMR and Chief Veterinary Officer at FAO.

Dr Juan Lubroth. Credit: FAO


So, what do you really eat when you order a steak, fish or chicken filet? IPS asked.

“Meat! Meat, and other foods of animal origin are high quality nutritious products that are very important, not least for women and growing children, and especially in the developing world or wherever under- and mal-nutrition are rampant,” Lubroth answers.

There is a widespread misunderstanding that food may contain hazardous antimicrobial residues if an animal was previously treated with these medicines, he said.

“This is not the case if farmers and other producers comply with the rules in respecting the withdrawal periods. These withdrawal periods ensure that the antimicrobial in question has been eliminated from the system of the animal so that the meat, the milk or eggs are fit for human consumption.”

According to Lubroth, the problem with antimicrobial resistance in farming lies in poor management systems where antimicrobials are given routinely and in excessive amounts which in turn drives development of antimicrobial resistance.

“As a consumer, you have the power to make a difference by choosing animal products from sustainable farming systems operated responsibly.”

A farmer and her cattle in Cambodia, which is sharing with other countries its successful experience in dealing with AMR. Credit: FAO


Meantime, farmers need more tools in their toolbox to produce food more sustainably to feed a growing global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, said the FAO Chief Veterinary Officer.

“More affordable vaccines and portable diagnostic tests for vets – or physicians, dentists, pharmacists – to accurately diagnose causes of disease will help to reduce reliance on antimicrobials. Innovations in alternatives to antimicrobials such as probiotics are promising too.”

Bacteria, Not Humans, But…

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.

WHO notes that bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. However, these bacteria may infect humans and animals – terrestrial or aquatic – and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

The UN estimates that around 700,000 human deaths each year are estimated to be related to antimicrobial resistant infections. Across the globe, AMR further poses a major “threat to food safety and security, livelihoods, animal health and welfare, economic and agricultural development.”

And FAO reports that the intensification of agricultural production has led to an increasing use of antimicrobials – a use that is expected to increase by 67 per cent by 2030.

IPS asked Lubroth how to reconcile the need for antibiotics in food and agricultural production with ensuring human and animal health?

How to balance intensive and extensive production to meet the needs of a growing world population is a difficult and equally important question, he said. “Livestock, aquaculture and crop production needs to be guided by the right policies, ss do the human health sector and the environment sector.”

According to Lubroth, changes needed include better tracking of animals from primary production areas on farms to the market, and products to consumers, as well as regulation of antibiotic use through the approval of a licenced veterinarian, and better hygiene on farms to prevent infections.


Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It poses a major challenge http://www.fao.org/antimicrobial-resi…

“Antimicrobials are essential to ensure animal health and for animal welfare. Sick animals under human care have a right to treatment, however, the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion must be phased out.”

Lubroth emphasises that a sustainable agriculture sector is essential to safeguard food security and nutrition, development of countries and gender equality around the world, and that food security is a significant factor to achieve stability and peace.

“Optimising production practices such that we can minimize the need for antimicrobials requires investment. In this we all have a role to play, from government policies and investment in the food and agriculture sector, to the producers implementing the necessary practices, and the retailers and consumers where there needs to be a recognition that this does come at a cost and will impact the price of food.”

This is observed in some markets where meat produced “antibiotic-free” retails at a higher price, he said.

According to Lubroth, the best way to assist developing countries is have the enabling conditions for them to produce their own food and to take responsibility for their own national development.

Healthy Animals

The single most important action to create this balance is education – in all sectors, he said. For the food and agriculture sector, it is education about good management practices based on hygiene and care on the farm, which reduce the need to treat livestock or the growing fish. Herd, flock and aquaculture health is key.

“Healthy animals provide food and livelihoods and they do not need antimicrobials… We also need affordable and quick diagnostic tools to be used on the site to get the right treatment for the corresponding disease.”

How? FAO formed an inter-departmental working group on AMR, bringing together multidisciplinary experts. And it supports the agriculture sector to move towards responsible use of antimicrobials, and towards sustainable food production systems, and it is present in the rural communities and in constant dialogue with the farmers on site as well as in the halls of government ministries.

“In the end, this is where the change starts – in the meetings and communications between professionals and farmers.”

FAO is currently active on the ground in more than 25 countries to engage the food and agriculture sector in addressing AMR and provide them with support for implementation.

“But what we can invest is a tiny portion of what is needed by countries, as countries are developing their national action plans they are now starting to also cost their implementation and realise that this is a multimillion dollar investment.”

However, Lubroth explains, the benefit of such investment is multiple as many aspects such as improving biosecurity, implementing good hygiene practices among others can reduce the burden of disease in the production system and also improve the safety of the food produced. In this context it is a worthwhile investment, with great dividends in health.

The Business Sector

The business sector has been signalled as one of the major causes leading to the excessive use and misuse of antibiotics in the food and agriculture and animal production chains.

What is this sector’s response to the world efforts to reduce the misuse and abuse of antibiotics? IPS asked Lubroth.

The business sector is a very important stakeholder in this matter, he answers. They are in close contact with consumer demands and consumer behaviour patterns.

“They are often multinational companies with great potential to put demands on suppliers. And that is what is happening now – we see major food companies putting demands for improved policies on antimicrobial use in the supply chain.”

The Consumers

According to Lubroth, we also see that there are over 6 billion of consumers – their voice can be very powerful and can change industrial or commercial or marketing policies.

“We need to be careful though, so that animal welfare or health are not jeopardized by too strict policies. Sick animals will always need adequate treatment.”

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Argentina’s Biodiesel Plagued by Commercial and Environmental Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/argentinas-biodiesel-plagued-commercial-environmental-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-biodiesel-plagued-commercial-environmental-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/argentinas-biodiesel-plagued-commercial-environmental-challenges/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 07:00:49 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152563 The Argentine biodiesel industry, which in the last 10 years has become one of the most powerful in the world, has an uncertain future, faced with protectionist measures in the United States and Europe and doubts in the international scenario about the environmental impact of these fuels based on agricultural products. In August, the U.S. […]

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A view of Enresa, one of Argentina’s biodiesel plants. The country's biofuel production capacity is four million tons, but more than half is idle, due to a lack of external markets and limitations in domestic consumption. Credit: Courtesy of CEPREB

A view of Enresa, one of Argentina’s biodiesel plants. The country's biofuel production capacity is four million tons, but more than half is idle, due to a lack of external markets and limitations in domestic consumption. Credit: Courtesy of CEPREB

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

The Argentine biodiesel industry, which in the last 10 years has become one of the most powerful in the world, has an uncertain future, faced with protectionist measures in the United States and Europe and doubts in the international scenario about the environmental impact of these fuels based on agricultural products.

In August, the U.S. government blocked in practice the import of Argentine biodiesel, which is made exclusively from soybeans, by imposing high import duties, arguing dumping, or unfair competition with local soybean producers.

One month later, Argentina recovered, at least partially, from the economic effect of this measure, when the European Union (EU) complied with a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling and lowered – although they did not eliminate – the anti-dumping tariffs they had imposed on the product in 2013.

“We are convinced that there is protectionism hidden behind false arguments. The decision by the Donald Trump administration not only affects consumers in the U.S., where fuel prices are already on the rise, but also delays the replacement of oil,” said Gustavo Idígoras, international relations consultant for the Argentine Chamber of Biofuels.

In his view, “the lowering of tariffs in the EU allows us to recover a commercial opportunity that had been closed arbitrarily, but it will not replace the U.S. market.”

The EU had heavily invested in biofuels until 2012, but began to reduce its use since 2015, when it considered that devoting agricultural raw materials to transport fueled deforestation and accelerated climate change.

This reasoning was disputed in his dialogue with IPS by Idígoras, who was a commercial attaché for Argentina before the EU in Brussels between 2004 and 2009.

“The use of biodiesel generates 70 percent savings in emissions of greenhouse gases, as international studies show, and is a fundamental tool in the fight against global warming,” he argued.

Argentina, a major soy producer since the commercialisation of the first transgenic seeds from biotech giant Monsanto was authorised in the 1990s, began to develop its biodiesel industry in 2007.

That year, a law to promote biofuels came into force, requiring a certain proportion to be included in petroleum-based fuels sold in the country.

“Today the country has an installed capacity to produce 4.4 million tons per year of biodiesel, 70 percent of which is produced by 10 transnational corporations.

“This country is the third largest producer of soybean oil biodiesel, after the United States and Brazil, but it is the leading exporter of biofuels, taking all raw materials into account,” explained Julio Calzada, director of Economic Studies at the Rosario Stock Exchange (BCR).

Most of the biodiesel-producing plants are near the central city of Rosario, where soy exports are shipped out from its river port to the Atlantic Ocean.

However, more than half of the national production capacity is currently idle.

The domestic market consumes 1.2 million tons, due to the obligation to incorporate 10 percent of biofuel into diesel.

Although the industry is pressing the government of Mauricio Macri to increase the proportion, automotive companies are lobbying in the opposite direction, arguing that it could affect the performance of the engines.

The country also produces ethanol, from maize and sugarcane, but in an amount that only covers domestic use. In 2016, according to official data, it produced 815 million litres, destined almost entirely to be mixed with fuel sold in the country, which according to the 2007 law should include 12 percent biofuel.

In 2016, Argentine exports of biodiesel amounted to 1.6 million tons which generated 1.175 billion dollars, according to data from the BCR.

However, more than 90 percent of that was exported to the United States, which in August brought purchases to a halt when it slapped an average tariff of 57 percent on Argentine biodiesel.

The reason given was that Argentina’s production of biodiesel is locally subsidised, since its exports are not taxed, unlike soybeans and soybean oil which do pay export taxes amounting to 30 and 27 percent of their value, respectively.

The decision left the Argentine government in a particularly uncomfortable position, because it was adopted only a few days after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was given a friendly reception in Buenos Aires, where he praised the economic reforms carried out by President Mauricio Macri, in power since December 2015.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry rejected the U.S. decision in an Aug. 24 statement, saying that biodiesel “derives its success (in the U.S. market) from the recognised competitiveness of the soybean production chain in our country” and announced negotiations to try to reverse the Washington measure.

However, not only have they not been successful so far, but reportedly, in the near future the United States could raise import duties on Argentine biodiesel, due to the alleged unfair competition.

The EU also accused Argentina of dumping – selling at a lower price than normal – when it imposed a 24 percent tariff on Argentine biodiesel in 2013 – a rate that had been miscalculated, according to the WTO’s March 2016 ruling, which the EU complied with last month.

However, it is not only economic issues but also environmental ones that cast a shadow of uncertainty on the future of Argentine biodiesel.

“Beyond the fact that using crops for fuel goes against food uses, Argentine biodiesel is not green at all,” said Hernán Giardini, coordinator of the Greenpeace Argentina Forests campaign.

“The emissions avoided by the substitution of oil could be less than those generated to transport soybeans, which in Argentina is done by truck. In addition, soy accounts for more than half of all deforestation in recent years,” he told IPS.

On the other hand, Jorge Hilbert, an international consultant at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology, said that the environmental criticism against Argentine biodiesel actually arise from economic and political interests.

“Argentine biofuels are meeting the goals of emission reduction agreed at a global level, given the characteristics of our agricultural system,” he told IPS.

Hilbert claimed that “80 percent of the grains used are grown in the Rosario area, in soils with more than 100 years of agriculture, where there are no problems of deforestation or biodiversity.”

“The oil used for biodiesel is a byproduct of the soybean that Argentina produces in such quantity that there is no market for it. Its use in biofuel does not compete with food use,” he argued.

For Daniel Lema, an economist who specialises in agriculture, “U.S. and European producers are affected by Argentine biodiesel, and the problem is that our tax scheme gives them an argument for applying protectionist measures.

“Argentina should unify its taxes on all by-products of soy in order to not lose markets,” he told IPS.

Lema warned about another source of uncertainty with regard to biofuel. “Biodiesel faces another obstacle: it is more expensive than diesel derived from petroleum, and for the time being consumers have shown no signs of being willing to pay more in exchange for reducing emissions of polluting gases,” he said.

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Ending Poverty in Next 13 years Means Boosting Resilience Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ending-poverty-next-13-years-means-boosting-resilience-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-poverty-next-13-years-means-boosting-resilience-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ending-poverty-next-13-years-means-boosting-resilience-now/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 15:58:09 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152556 Jessica Faieta is UN Assistant Secretary General & UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Dominica, 2 October Devastation after Hurricane Maria. Credit: Ian King/UNDP

By Jessica Faieta
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

This month the world marks two key International Days: for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October and for Disaster Reduction, four days earlier. It is no coincidence that they are profoundly connected.

Reducing risks related to disasters has never been so urgent—and the Latin America and the Caribbean region bears witness to this. Seven hurricanes have hit the Caribbean in the past five months, two of them as category 5, causing catastrophic damage, including in island nations that were barely recovering from another massive hurricane that struck one year ago.

Also, two earthquakes rocked Mexico in September—with almost 5.000 aftershocks—while another powerful quake struck Ecuador in April 2016. In addition, both Colombia and Peru suffered major landslides in the past eight months.

The number of children, women and men killed is deeply saddening, especially in an era in which we have the knowledge to minimize loss of lives due to natural events. Yet, we keep experiencing tragedies.

The fact is that natural disasters do not exist. Such phenomena become disasters when people, communities and societies are vulnerable to them. This, in turn, translates into losses—of lives and assets. And the poorest are the hardest hit.

On the one hand, poverty reduces people’s capacity to face and recover from disasters; on the other hand, disasters also hinder people’s ability to leave poverty behind.

That’s why if the world is to end poverty in all its forms by 2030 we must also boost resilience—in all its forms. This means the capacity to cope with shocks without major economic, social and environmental setbacks.

A disaster of natural causes, a financial crisis, an economic slowdown or a health problem in the family can all cause people to fall into poverty—especially those who barely managed to leave it behind, as one of our recent UNDP report shows; unless a ‘cushion’ is in place to help absorb the impact, such as social protection systems or physical assets.

In this particular moment, it is crucial to take special notice of what the Caribbean is experiencing. Two back-to-back hurricanes, Irma and Maria, were the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic. They forced—for the first time ever—the island of Barbuda to evacuate its entire population.

These colossal phenomena battered several Caribbean countries with deadly waves and maximum sustained winds of nearly 300 km/h for up to three full days. They decimated Barbuda, Dominica and Saint Maarten, also impacting some of the region´s disaster-preparedness champions, like Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

What we have just witnessed is a game changer. And it will likely be the new norm. That’s why we need urgent action.

It’s a fact. Climate change—and all natural hazards—hit Small Island Developing States (SIDS) hard, even though these countries haven’t historically contributed to the problem. Having lived and worked in four Caribbean countries I have witnessed firsthand how such nations are extremely vulnerable to multiple challenges ranging from debt and unemployment to climate change and sea level rise.

Clearly, if countries do not reduce their vulnerabilities and strengthen their resilience—not only to natural disasters but also to any shock—we won’t be able to guarantee, let alone expand, progress in the social, economic and environmental realms.

Since the hurricanes hit we have been working on the ground in affected Caribbean countries supporting Governments to build back better—with more resilient communities—so they are prepared for the next hurricane season only eight months ahead. This is essential: international cooperation and the private sector play a key role with investments in resilient infrastructure.

If Caribbean countries are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in 13 years they need urgent accessing to financing—including for climate change adaptation. However, the vast majority of Caribbean SIDS are ranked as middle-income countries—with per capita income levels above the international financial eligibility benchmark—and are shunned from receiving financing for development.

In view of such urgent needs, our Caribbean Human Development Report “Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income”, launched a year ago, called for improved standards that take into account multiple indicators, or well-being measurements beyond income alone.

Now is the moment to act on climate change, support countries as they build back better and rethink traditional development ranking methods based on monetary aspects alone.

If the world has vowed to eradicate poverty by 2030 we need to invest in boosting communities’, countries’ and entire regions’ resilience in the social, economic and environmental fronts. Reducing vulnerabilities—in its multiple aspects—is a crucial path to leave no one behind.

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In the Race Against Hunger, we Must Reach the Goalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/race-hunger-must-reach-goal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=race-hunger-must-reach-goal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/race-hunger-must-reach-goal/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 21:05:18 +0000 Julio Berdergue and Pablo Aguirre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152525 Julio Berdegué is FAO Regional Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Pablo Aguirre is technical advisor of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

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According to FAO studies, empowering rural women and investing in activities that significantly increase their productivity could lead to a significant reduction in hunger and malnutrition. Credit: Max Toranzos / FAO

By Julio Berdergué and Pablo Aguirre
SANTIAGO, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

On September 15, we announced the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report, published in collaboration with five United Nations organisations, including FAO. The 144-page study shows numerous results and analyses of various dimensions and indicators, but the message is the same: after a long downward trend in the world’s hunger levels, we are now taking a step backwards.

It is estimated that today, 815 million people suffer from hunger, which corresponds to an increase of 38 million people compared to last year. This is an unacceptable backward step, especially if we recall that only two years ago, countries of the world committed to the Sustainable Development Goal: to eliminate hunger on the planet by 2030.

To supplement the previous report, FAO and the Pan American Health Organisation, have recently published the “Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2017”. The main message is the same: we are also losing ground in the fight against hunger.

Compared to the last measurement, 2.4 million persons have become undernourished. In total, 43 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean suffer from the scourge of hunger. In seven countries, more than 15% of the population is in this state: Antigua and Barbuda, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Saint Lucia.

If the most recently projected hunger rates do no change, only eight countries will reach the Zero Hunger goal by 2030: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. Therefore, we must make a stronger and better effort in reaching the committed goal.

Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay are leading the progress made in the fight against undernourishment and Chile, Argentina and Mexico are a part of the most advanced group of countries.

Less than 4.2% of their populations suffer from undernourishment. However, many of them have entered a stage where their progress has slowed down, just when the goal is within reach. Since 1990, Mexico has reduced incidences of hunger by 2.5% and Argentina by approximately 1.7%.

Countries like Nicaragua and Bolivia have another reality. The level of hunger in these nations are high, above 17%, but what is important is that they are improving and moving quickly in the right direction.

We highlight the case of Nicaragua, with an impressive reduction of 35% since 1990. Bolivia is also moving at a good speed with hunger decreasing by almost 16% since 1990.

We can identify a third group of countries where the problem has worsened over the last year. In Costa Rica, 5.6% of the population is suffering from undernourishment. It is one of the countries with the highest numbers, and the problem has recently increased.

Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Peru, Saint Lucia and Venezuela have also regressed compared to the year 2016, and in the latter case, even more significantly. Peru’s recent regression must be considered in light of the fact that this country has a successful long-term trajectory, since it has reduced hunger by 22% since 1990, leaving the country with only an 8% incidence of undernourishment.

Considering the previously summarised trends, what strategies do we need so that in the year 2030 we can say that Latin America and the Caribbean is a region free from hunger, as promised by our political leaders?

In countries like Guatemala or Haiti that still have a high percentage of the population suffering from hunger, we must establish a broad and transverse strategy, in other words, one that covers every corner of their societies. CELAC’s Food Security and Nutrition Plan or the Mesoamerican No Hunger Initiative have proposals based on the best and most successful regional experiences.

These countries, Haiti in particular, require international cooperation, but to be successful this must be supported by strong and long-term national political will, surpassing humanitarian logic and linking the reduction of hunger to the promotion of sustainable development.

Pablo Aguirre, technical advisor of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Pablo Aguirre, technical advisor of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

In countries that already have this goal in sight but are still not victorious, the strategy that has worked in previous decades, must be changed.

These counties are entering a harder stage in the fight against hunger, which persists in social and territorial pockets of deep poverty, where factors such as institutional weaknesses, ethnic and gender inequalities, social exclusion, or geographic isolation, make the usual policies less effective.

It is like the climber who tries to reach to the peak of Mount Everest: the effort in the last 500 meters is a lot more that what was required at the beginning, and in order to reach the goal he must resort to special strategies.

At FAO, it is proposed that we accurately identify the social and territorial pockets of hunger, country by country, and for each one, we tailor-make a programme.

However, there is one very important factor in every country. Latin America and the Caribbean can only announce that our region is free from hunger in 2030 if our social and political leaders, businesses, each and every one of us, become convinced that populations suffering from hunger is an insult to our own dignity and an embarrassing trademark that we can no longer tolerate.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Dams Hurt Indigenous and Fishing Communities in Brazilian Amazonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:02:39 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152515 The dirty water is killing more and more fish and ‘Taricaya’ yellow-spotted river turtles every day. In addition, the river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season, complained three Munduruku indigenous law students in the south of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The change in […]

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The Teles Pires river along the stretch between Sinop and Colider, two cities from which two new hydropower stations take their name, which are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The Teles Pires river along the stretch between Sinop and Colider, two cities from which two new hydropower stations take their name, which are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

The dirty water is killing more and more fish and ‘Taricaya’ yellow-spotted river turtles every day. In addition, the river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season, complained three Munduruku indigenous law students in the south of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The change in the natural flow of the Teles Pires river, caused by the installation of four hydropower plants, one in operation since 2015 and the others still under construction, is apparently reducing fish catches, which native people living in the lower stretch of the basin depend on as their main source of protein.

“When the water level rises, the fish swim into the ‘igapó’ and they are trapped when the level suddenly drops with unusual speed,” explained 26-year-old Aurinelson Kirixi. The “igapó” is a Brazilian term that refers to the forested, floodable shore of Amazon jungle rivers where aquatic animals seek food.

That includes the yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), a species still abundant in the Brazilian Amazon, whose meat is “as important as fish for us,” the young Munduruku man told IPS during a tour of the indigenous territories affected by the hydroelectric plants.

“It’s even tastier than fish,” he agreed with his two fellow students. But “it is in danger of extinction; today we see them in smaller numbers and possibly our children will only see them in photos,” lamented Dorivan Kirixi, also 26.

“The fish die, as well as the turtles, because the water has gotten dirty from the works upstream,” said 27-year-old Isaac Waru, who could not study Administration because the degree is not offered in Alta Floresta, a city of 50,000 people in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil.

Local indigenous people avoid drinking water from the river, even bathing with it, after cases of diarrhea, itchy rashes and eye problems, said the three students who come from three different villages. To return to their homes they have to travel at least eight hours, half by road and the other half by river.

This year they began to study law thanks to scholarships paid by the São Manoel Hydroelectric Plant – also known as the Teles Pires Plant, which is the nearest to the indigenous lands – as part of the compensation measures for damage caused by the project.

They offered a total of seven scholarships for the three affected indigenous communities: the Apiaká, Kayabí and Munduruku, the latter of which is the largest indigenous group in the Tapajós river basin, formed by the confluence of the Teles Pires and Juruena rivers.

Three Munduruku indigenous students who study law in the city of Alta Floresta, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region, thanks to scholarships from one of the companies building the hydroelectric plants on the Teles Pires river. They are highly critical of the impact of the new dams on their people. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Three Munduruku indigenous students who study law in the city of Alta Floresta, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region, thanks to scholarships from one of the companies building the hydroelectric plants on the Teles Pires river. They are highly critical of the impact of the new dams on their people. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The compensations for the indigenous communities were few in number and poorly carried out: “precariously built houses and health posts,” said Patxon Metuktire, local coordinator of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government body for the protection of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

“The companies believe that our problem is just one of logistics, that it is just a matter of providing trucks and fuel, and they forget that their projects damage the ecosystem that is the basis of our well-being and way of life,” he told IPS.

An oil spill further contaminated the river in November 2016. The hydroelectric plants denied any responsibility, but distributed mineral water to the indigenous villages, recalled Metuktire, whose last name is the name of his ethnic group, a subgroup of the Kayapó people.

Fisherpersons are another group directly affected by the drastic modification of the course of the river by the hydropower dams, because their lives depend on flowing water.

Since the vegetation in the river began to die off after the river was diverted to build the dam, fish catches have shrunk, said Solange Arrolho, a professor of biology at the State University of Mato Grosso in Alta Floresta, where she is head of the Ichthyology Laboratory of the Southern Amazon.

A map of the Teles Pires river, a source of hydroelectric energy in Mato Grosso, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region. In red is the location of hydroelectric power plants that have damaged the way of life of indigenous people and riverbank communities that depend on fishing. Credit: Courtesy of Instituto Ciencia e Vida

A map of the Teles Pires river, a source of hydroelectric energy in Mato Grosso, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region. In red is the location of hydroelectric power plants that have damaged the way of life of indigenous people and riverbank communities that depend on fishing. Credit: Courtesy of Instituto Ciencia e Vida

The researcher, who said she has been “studying fish for 30” of her 50 years, led a project to monitor fish populations in 2014 in the area of influence of the Colider hydroelectric power station, as part of the Basic Environmental Program that the company that built and will operate the dam must carry out.

Colider, which will start operating in mid-2018, is the smallest of the four plants that are being built on a 450-km stretch in the middle course of the river, with a capacity of 300 MW and a 183-sq-km reservoir.

The others are the Teles Pires and São Manoel plants, downstream, and Sinop, upstream. The entire complex will add 3,228 megawatts of power and 746 square kilometers of reservoirs.

These works affect fishing by altering the river banks and the river flow, reducing migration of fish, and cutting down riverbank forests, which feed fish with fruit and insects that “fall from the trees into the water,” said Arrolho . “The fish do not adapt, they migrate,” he told IPS.

The Teles Pires river is suffering from the accumulated effects of polluting activities, such as soy monoculture, with intensive use of agrochemicals, livestock farming and mining, he pointed out.

The Colider and Sinop plants do not directly affect indigenous lands such as those located downstream, but they do affect fisherpersons.

“They killed many fish with their explosions and digging,” said Julita Burko Duleba, president of the Sinop Colony of Fisherpersons and Region (Z-16), based in the city of Sinop, the capital city of northern Mato Grosso.

“Fish catches in the Teles Pires basin have dropped: we used to catch over 200 kilos per week, but now we catch a maximum of 120 kilos and on average only between 30 and 40 kilos,” she said.

At the age of 68, she now does administrative work. But she was a fisherwoman for more than two decades, and her husband still works as a fisherman, the activity that allowed them, like other colleagues, to live well and buy a house.

 Deforestation due to the expansion of cattle ranches dominates the landscape in the vicinity of Alta Floresta, the city that is a southeastern gate to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and is also known as a center for ecotourism based on fishing and bird-watching. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Deforestation due to the expansion of cattle ranches dominates the landscape in the vicinity of Alta Floresta, the city that is a southeastern gate to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and is also known as a center for ecotourism based on fishing and bird-watching. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

They are currently struggling to obtain better conditions for the sector, such as a warehouse and a refrigerated truck that would allow them to ”collect” the fish from the widely spread members and sell them in the market.

One difficulty facing this colony is the dispersion of its members throughout 32 municipalities. The association at one point had 723 members, but now there are only 290, mainlyin the cities of Colider and Sinop, from which the nearby hydroelectric plants take their names.

Many have retired, others have given up. “We are an endangered species,” Duleba lamented to IPS.

The compensations offered by the hydroelectric companies for the damage caused do not include a focus on helping small-scale fisherpersons recover their livelihoods, as Duleba and other activists had hoped.

The headquarters of the Colony, which will be built by the Sinop Power Company, owner of the power plant of the same name, will be more of a tourist complex, with a restaurant, lookout, swimming pools and soccer field, on the river bank, 23 km from the city .

There will be a berth and an ice factory which could be useful for fishing, but not the fishing village, with its houses and infrastructure, which Duleba tried to negotiate.

In Colider, fisherpersons preferred compensation in cash, instead of collective projects, she lamented.

Northern Mato Grosso, where the land is the current source of local incomes and wealth, which is now based in agriculture, livestock farming and mining, after being based on timber, has now discovered the value of its water resources.

But its energy use is imposed to the detriment of traditional users, just as the land was concentrated in export monoculture to the detriment of food production.

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After 13 Years, UN Peacekeeping Mission Closes Doors in Haitihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/13-years-un-peacekeeping-mission-closes-doors-haiti/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=13-years-un-peacekeeping-mission-closes-doors-haiti http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/13-years-un-peacekeeping-mission-closes-doors-haiti/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 13:53:18 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152513 The UN peacekeeping mission ended its operations in the Caribbean nation of Haiti after 13 years on October 15. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which aimed to bring stability to a politically chaotic Haiti of 2004, will transfer power to the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), a much smaller successor […]

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Scene from a polling station in Port-au-Prince during Haiti’s presidential election on 20 November 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Logan Abassi

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

The UN peacekeeping mission ended its operations in the Caribbean nation of Haiti after 13 years on October 15.

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which aimed to bring stability to a politically chaotic Haiti of 2004, will transfer power to the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), a much smaller successor mission that is going to assist the government on security issues.

“Haiti is now in a position to move forward and consolidate the stability that has been obtained, as a framework for continued social and economic development,” Sandra Honoré, the head of MINUSTAH, said in a recent interview with UN News.

In spite of the mission’s successful efforts at democratization and professionalization of the National Police, it was not without troubles and controversy.

Most prominently, the peacekeeping mission admitted to introducing a strain of cholera to the country. The cholera epidemic, which occurred immediately after the devastating earthquake in 2010, killed nearly 10,000 people and affected 800,000, or roughly one in every twelve Haitians. Although the UN has pledged a two-year project to improve water and sanitation services, the total costs of the project remain severely underfunded.

And in November 2007, just three years into the mission, 108 military personnel from an Asian country were sent home after being accused of sexual exploitation of minors. Although the UN expressed “outrage” at the charges, the world body has no political or legal authority to penalise military personnel. Most of them have escaped punishment because national governments have refused to prosecute.

Still, the mission’s achievements—like eliminating gang violence and contributing to economic growth—have been recognised.

Meanwhile, Haiti has continued to suffer the devastating impacts of natural disasters that require international funding and relief efforts.

The April 13 resolution that was adopted by the the UN Security Council (UNSC) this year ordered the gradual removal of the mission from the nation. Nikki Haley, the US representative to the UN, told the UNSC that the political context and Haiti’s “peaceful transition of power” in the November 2016 presidential election had finally cemented the decision.

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How to Change the Future of Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/change-future-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=change-future-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/change-future-migration/#comments Sat, 14 Oct 2017 19:34:43 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152497 The world is on the move. More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War due to increased conflict and political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change. Such a short paragraph hardly depicts the growing drama of migration, […]

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DROUGHT IN THE HORN OF AFRICA. Food security conditions in drought-hit areas are alarming [...read more]. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 14 2017 (IPS)

The world is on the move. More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War due to increased conflict and political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Such a short paragraph hardly depicts the growing drama of migration, but much can be learned from World Food Day 2017, marked on 16 October, which this year proposes specific ways to address the huge challenge of massive human movement.

Large movements of people today are presenting complex challenges, which call for global action, says on this the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), adding that many migrants arrive in developing countries, creating tensions where resources are already scarce, but the majority, about 763 million, move within their own countries rather than abroad.

Ten facts you need to know about Hunger

1. The world produces enough food to feed everyone, yet, about 800 million people suffer from hunger. That is one in nine people. 60% of them are women.
2. About 80% of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture.
3. Hunger kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and aids combined.
4. Around 45% of infant deaths are related to malnutrition.
5. The cost of malnutrition to the global economy is the equivalent of USD 3.5 trillion a year.
6. 1.9 billion people – more than a quarter of the world’s population – are overweight.
7. One third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted.
8. The world will need to produce 60% more food by 2050 to feed a growing population.
9. No other sector is more sensitive to climate change than agriculture.
10. FAO works mainly in rural areas, in 130 countries, with governments, civil society, the private sector and other partners to achieve #ZeroHunger.

SOURCE: FAO

What to Do?

One key fact to understand the current reality is that three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture or other rural activities.

Consequently, creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods, is a crucial component of any plan to tackle the migration challenge, says the UN specialised body.

Meantime, one key solution is to invest in food security and rural development, which can address factors that compel people to move by creating business opportunities and jobs for young people that are not only crop-based (such as small dairy or poultry production, food processing or horticulture enterprises).

It can also lead to increased food security, more resilient livelihoods, better access to social protection, reduced conflict over natural resources and solutions to environmental degradation and climate change, FAO adds.

“By investing in rural development, the international community can also harness migration’s potential to support development and build the resilience of displaced and host communities, thereby laying the ground for long-term recovery and inclusive and sustainable growth,” according to the WFD 2017’s theme ”Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”

Migration is part of the process of development as economies undergo structural transformation and people search for better employment opportunities within and across countries.

The challenge is to address the structural drivers of large movements of people to make migration safe, orderly and regular, FAO underlines, adding that in this way, migration can contribute to economic growth and improve food security and rural livelihoods.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has joined FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, a large number of agriculture ministers, including several from the Group of Seven (G7) most industrialised countries, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development to celebrate World Food Day 2017 at FAO on 16 October.

In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis on July this year donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s “efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.”

The Pope said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought.” See: Pope Francis Donates to FAO for Drought, Conflict-Stricken East Africa. Also see: East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

World Food Day 2017 has been marked in the context of a world where global hunger is on the rise for the first time in decades. See: World Hunger on the Rise Again

Causes and Remedies

The WFD is marked just a week after FAO launched its State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, in which it recalls that population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace.

The report posed questions such as what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefiting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come? See: How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approach

Credit: FAO

The Day has also been preceded by a new study which reveals a widening gap in hunger. The 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) states that despite years of progress, food security is still under threat. And conflict and climate change are hitting the poorest people the hardest and effectively pitching parts of the world into “perpetual crisis.” See: Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Does

Climate Change and the Migration Crisis

Meanwhile, two UN high officials —Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration— have addressed the key issues of climate change and migration.

Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions, they wrote on 10 October, noting that over the last 18 months, some 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with millions forced off their land.

According to Glasser and Swing, while it may not be the first time, for many, it could be the last time they turn their backs on the countryside and try to make a life in urban slums and informal settlements, adding that for at least the last two years, more people have been forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by conflict.

“We need to set about the long-haul task of making the planet fit for purpose once more through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and, in the meantime, making it more resilient to disasters, limiting the damage already done.”

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, for it part, warned that exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines.

Conclusion: the causes of growing human suffering have been clearly identified–conflict, political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change. Aemedies have been also presented. All is needed is for decision-makers to listen… and implement. The future of migration can in fact be changed.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Trying to Make Immigration an Option Rather than a Need in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:16:25 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152477 This article forms part of the IPS coverage for World Food Day, celebrated on October 16.

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In Vega Central, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Santiago, the stands of Peruvian migrants, 300,000 of whom live in Chile, offer typical produce and meals from that country. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

In Vega Central, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Santiago, the stands of Peruvian migrants, 300,000 of whom live in Chile, offer typical produce and meals from that country. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

The aim is for migration to become just one option among others for the rural population of Latin America, says Brazilian expert Luiz Carlos Beduschi, referring to an issue that causes concern in the region due to its impact on food security.

The theme this year of World Food Day, celebrated Oct. 16, is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“If living conditions improve in rural areas, people can use more autonomous strategies that can turn the decision of whether or not to migrate into just one more option among other alternatives,” Beduschi, policy officer in FAO’s regional office in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

The Brazilian academic added that “the tendency to migrate increases or declines” depending on the specific characteristics and circumstances of the potential migrants.

He mentioned, for example, individual circumstances, such as “the search for independence among the young,” and family circumstances, because “among families with members in other countries, the tendency to migrate is stronger.”

Other reasons arise from where people live. With regard to this point, Beduschi explained that “in areas with greater economic opportunities and lower crime rates, better public services, etc, the tendency to migrate is weaker.

“In more remote areas with poorer quality land, where people don’t have savings or cash allowing them to migrate, social protection policies are even more necessary,” he said.

Migration in context

Some 30 million people from Latin America and the Caribbean live outside their home countries, equivalent to four percent of the total population of the region, according to Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) statistics, which are based on the latest national census information from the different countries. Of that total, some 20 million live in the United States and 11 million of them are undocumented.

Central America and southern Mexico account for the largest number of migrants from the region – 9.7 percent of the total population of this subregion known as “Mesoamerica” – and Mexico represents 40 percent of the region’s total migration, with approximately 12 million Mexicans living abroad, mainly in the United States.

The International Migration Report 2016, prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, reported that migrants from Latin America are getting younger: between 2010 and 2015, the median age of immigrants from this region declined from 40 to 36 years.

One significant fact is that around 5.5 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are immigrants in the United States, equivalent to 25 percent of the Latin American immigrant population in that country. Another is that 49.4 percent of Latin American immigrants in the United States are women.

Another phenomenon that ECLAC emphasises is that so far this century, inter-regional migration in Latin America has grown at an annual average of 3.5 percent, with more than eight million Latin American immigrants living in other nations in the region, 63 percent in countries that border their own.

Poverty and climate, factors that drive migration

For Víctor Hugo Lagos, a lawyer with the Jesuit Service for Migrants that operates in three Chilean cities, poverty is the main factor driving immigration today.

“Poverty is a factor that makes people decide to leave their home countries and seek opportunities elsewhere. And poverty has different causes, such as a lack of access to education or jobs,” he told IPS.

Jorge Martínez with the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE) said that in this region, rural migration to urban areas has declined.

“That was an issue in previous decades, which accompanied broad social and economic changes – migration driven by a lack of opportunities, by modernisation in agriculture, and the simultaneous draw of urban areas,” he told IPS at CELADE headquarters in Santiago.

He added that most of the migrants from Latin America come from urban areas, with a few exceptions, such as Mexico, where migration is still leading to the depopulation of rural areas.

“One factor that can have a potentially heavy influence is natural disasters/climate change, which requires a new assessment of the consequences of mobility, affecting the most disadvantaged and the least resilient,” he warned.

In 2015, more than 19 million people worldwide were displaced within their countries as a result of natural disasters, according to FAO.

Between 2008 and 2015, an average of 26.4 million people a year were displaced by natural catastrophes.

Lagos lamented that “at the level of international law (natural disasters) have not been recognised as grounds for granting refugee status in another country,” because “practice shows that today the environment is one of the main factors leading people to leave their countries.

“One classic example is Haiti, which is not only a country steeped in poverty and whose leaders have shown a high level of corruption, but which has also been plagued by different natural disasters,” he said.

Beduschi, meanwhile, stressed that the projects, programmes and policies supported by FAO seek to strengthen the decision-making autonomy of rural families, including the decision of whether or not to migrate.

The idea is “to change the future of migration, investing in food security and agriculture.

“What we are trying to do in FAO, with a broad, diverse set of partners, is to eradicate rural hunger and poverty, improve nutrition, make better use of natural resources, and strengthen people’s livelihoods,” he said.

“International cooperation is not aimed at reducing the number of migrants, but at helping to make migration a safe, orderly and regular process,” he added. “The idea is also for people and families to decide to migrate, not as the only option for their development, but as one option in a broaders range of opportunities.”
Beduschi said “conflicts over ownership and use of natural resources are also related to migration flows,” as are aspects such as “changes in climate conditions and the exhaustion of natural resources.”

He said that “expanding access to assets and services is part of the response to build up resilience in rural areas, as is promoting more environment-friendly production methods.”

According to FAO, investing in sustainable food production and rural development systems helps to address the main global challenges in feeding the growing global population, protecting the climate, and tackling some of the fundamental causes of migration and displacement.

It adds that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be reached without putting an end to hunger and without achieving agriculture and food production systems that respect the climate and are sustainable and resilient.

Of 129 countries monitored by FAO, 72 reached the goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger, by 2015, although the U.N. agency issued an alert that in 2016 the fight against malnutrition suffered a setback.

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Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Doeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:27:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152470 In a world where only 8 individuals – all of them men—possess as much as half of all the planet’s wealth, and it will take women 170 years to be paid as men are*, inequality appears to be a key feature of the current economic model. Now a new study reveals that there is also […]

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According to a new study, hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among populations that are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Credit: 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI)

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

In a world where only 8 individuals – all of them men—possess as much as half of all the planet’s wealth, and it will take women 170 years to be paid as men are*, inequality appears to be a key feature of the current economic model. Now a new study reveals that there is also a widening gap in hunger.

In fact, the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) states that despite years of progress, food security is still under threat. And that conflict and climate change are hitting the poorest people the hardest and effectively pitching parts of the world into “perpetual crisis.”

Although it has been said that “hunger does not discriminate,” it does, says the 2017 Global Hunger Index, jointly published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe.

According to this study, hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among populations that are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Hunger and inequality are inextricably linked, it warns. By committing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the international community promised to eradicate hunger and reduce inequality by 2030.

“Yet the world is still not on track to reach this target. Inequality takes many forms, and understanding how it leads to or exacerbates hunger is not always straightforward.”

Women and Girls

The GHI provides some examples–women and girls comprise 60 per cent of the world’s hungry, often the result of deeply rooted social structures that deny women access to education, healthcare, and resources.

Likewise, ethnic minorities are often victims of discrimination and experience greater levels of poverty and hunger, it says, adding that most closely tied to hunger, perhaps, is poverty, the clearest manifestation of societal inequality.

Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where hunger is typically higher.

The 2017 Global Hunger Index tracks the state of hunger worldwide, spotlighting those places where action to address hunger is most urgently needed.

This year’s Index shows mixed results: despite a decline in hunger over the long term, the global level remains high, with great differences not only among countries but also within countries.

For example, at a national level, Central African Republic (CAR) has extremely alarming levels of hunger and is ranked highest of all countries with GHI scores in the report.

While CAR made no progress in reducing hunger over the past 17 years—its GHI score from 2000 is the same as in 2017—14 other countries reduced their GHI scores by more than 50 per cent over the same period.

Meanwhile, at the sub-national level, inequalities of hunger are often obscured by national averages. In northeast Nigeria, 4.5 million people are experiencing or are at risk of famine while the rest of the country is relatively food secure, according to the 2017 Index.

Child Stunting

This year’s report also highlights trends related to child stunting in selected countries including Afghanistan, where rates vary dramatically — from 24.3 per cent of children in some parts of the country to 70.8 per cent in others.

While the world has committed to reaching Zero Hunger by 2030, the fact that over 20 million people are currently at risk of famine shows how far we are from realising this vision, warns the report.

“As we fight the scourge of hunger across the globe, we must understand how inequality contributes to it. To ensure that those who are affected by inequality can demand change from national governments and international organisations and hold them to account, we must understand and redress power imbalances.”

The study notes that on 20 February, the world awoke to a headline that should have never come about: famine had been declared in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced anywhere in the world in six years. “This formal famine declaration meant that people were already dying of hunger.”

This was on top of imminent famine warnings in northern Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, putting a total of 20 million people at risk of starvation, it adds.

“Meanwhile, Venezuela’s political turmoil created massive food shortages in both the city and countryside, leaving millions without enough to eat in a region that, overall, has low levels of hunger. As the crisis there escalated and food prices soared, the poor were the first to suffer.”

This year’s report also highlights trends related to child stunting in selected countries including Afghanistan, where rates vary dramatically — from 24.3 per cent of children in some parts of the country to 70.8 per cent in others.

According to 2017 GHI scores, the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27 per cent from the 2000 level. Of the 119 countries assessed in this year’s report, one falls in the extremely alarming range on the GHI Severity Scale; 7 fall in the alarming range; 44 in the serious range; and 24 in the moderate range. Only 43 countries have scores in the low range.

In addition, 9 of the 13 countries that lack sufficient data for calculating 2017 GHI scores still raise significant concerns, including Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.

To capture the multidimensional nature of hunger, GHI scores are based on four component indicators—undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

The 27 per cent improvement noted above reflects progress in each of these indicators according to the latest data from 2012–2016 for countries in the GHI:

• The share of the overall population that is undernourished is 13.0 per cent, down from 18.2 per cent in 2000.
• 27.8 per cent of children under five are stunted, down from 37.7 per cent in 2000.
• 9.5 per cent of children under five are wasted, down from 9.9 per cent in 2000.
• The under-five mortality rate is 4.7 per cent, down from 8.2 per cent in 2000.

By Regions

The regions of the world struggling most with hunger are South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, with scores in the serious range (30.9 and 29.4, respectively), says the report.

Meanwhile, the scores of East and Southeast Asia, the Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States range from low to moderate (between 7.8 and 12.8).

These averages conceal some troubling results within each region, it says, adding that however, including scores in the serious range for Tajikistan, Guatemala, Haiti, and Iraq and in the alarming range for Yemen, as well as scores in the serious range for half of all countries in East and Southeast Asia, whose average benefits from China’s low score of 7.5.

For its part, the UN State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, released on 9 October, warns that efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030 could be thwarted by a thorny combination of low productivity in developing world subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialisation, and rapid population growth.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report also argues that rural areas need not be a poverty trap.

In short, also hunger discriminates against the ultimate victims of all inequalities–the most vulnerable. Any reaction?

*Oxfam International’s report ‘An economy for the 99 per cent’.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Rights of Rural Women Have Seen Uneven Progress in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:34:35 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152444 This article is part of IPS coverage on the International Day of Rural Women, celebrated on October 15.

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Bonificia Huamán (2nd- L), carries out a communal task with other women in Llullucha, a Quechua community located 3,553 meters above sea level, where 80 families practice subsistence agriculture, overcoming the challenges of the climate in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Bonificia Huamán (2nd- L), carries out a communal task with other women in Llullucha, a Quechua community located 3,553 meters above sea level, where 80 families practice subsistence agriculture, overcoming the challenges of the climate in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

In a remote village in the Peruvian Andes, Bonificia Huamán managed to overcome adverse weather conditions with a small greenhouse, where she grows vegetables at 3,533 metres above sea level. This has improved her family’s diet, which she is very proud of.

The downside is that Alina, her second-oldest daughter, aged 17, left school before finishing high school to help her with the enormous workload that as head of household she assumes every day on her farm and caring for her family. She supports her three daughters and son, as well as her oldest daughter’s son.

“School costs a lot of money, uniforms, school supplies, I can’t afford it,” Huamán, 47, told IPS sadly during a meeting with her and other women farmers in Llullucha, home to some 80 Quechua families, within the rural municipality of Ocongate, in the southeast department of Cuzco."The countries in the region must acknowledge our existence as rural indigenous women and take measures to ensure that our rights are respected…And in order for that to happen, we must break down the barriers of patriarchy.” – Ketty Marcelo

“This is a reality for rural women in Latin America, in the face of which governments should act with greater emphasis in order to move towards sustainable development, which is a commitment undertaken by the countries of the region,” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in Peru, María Elena Rojas, told IPS.

As October 15, the International Day of Rural Women, nears, access to quality education, productive resources, technical training and participation remain challenges shared by rural Latin American women to close the persistent gaps in gender equality and realize their full potential under equal conditions.

“Rural women, women with rights” is the theme of the regional campaign promoted by FAO on the occasion of this international day established in 2008 by the United Nations, the day before World Food Day.

The initiative, which will run until November, is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and specifically goal number five, which refers to gender equality, although the question of equal opportunities for men and women cuts across the other 16 as well.

It is estimated that in this region of just over 640 million people, 48 percent of the rural population is female, amounting to 60.5 million women.

Of these women, 40 percent live in poverty, a problem that has been aggravated by the effects of climate change on agriculture, which impact on their health, well-being and security, according to FAO studies.

In spite of their work – on their farms and raising children, securing food, and caring for the sick – they receive no pay and lack incomes of their own, the studies point out.

FAO representative in Peru María Elena Rojas sits in her office in Lima, in front of an image of an Andean woman plowing the land and holding a document with a significant title: "Rural women, women with rights". Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

FAO representative in Peru María Elena Rojas stands in her office in Lima, in front of an image of an Andean woman plowing the land, and holding a document with a significant title: “Rural women, women with rights”. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Bolivia, where 1.6 million women live in rural areas, according to the National Institute of Statistics, is one of the Latin American countries which has seen a growing feminisation of agriculture.

“These women produce about half of the food we consume in the country,” said Wilfredo Valle, head of the planning area at the Bolivian non-governmental Training and Service Center for Women’s Integration (Cecasem).

Speaking with IPS from La Paz, he added that despite being pillars of production in the countryside, they do not receive remuneration. And when they do generate an income, they have no say in the family budget, which is still controlled by men. This situation is an obstacle to break the circle of poverty.

Added to this problem is the unequal access of women to land ownership and use. The region’s statistics show that the lands they manage are smaller, of poor productivity, and legally insecure.

The Third National Agricultural Census of Ecuador records that 45.4 percent of farms are headed by women, and 62.8 percent of these are less than two hectares in size.

This inequitable trend in access to and control of productive resources is also evident in Peru, where, according to official figures, rural women are in charge of lands of 1.8 hectares in size on average, while the average size of the farms managed by men is three hectares.

How to make progress along the path of addressing the complex web of discrimination faced by rural women? For Ketty Marcelo, from the Amazonian Asháninka people and president of the National Organisation of Indigenous Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru, they must first be recognised as subjects entitled to rights.

“The countries in the region must acknowledge our existence as rural indigenous women and take measures to ensure that our rights are respected…And in order for that to happen, we must break down the barriers of patriarchy,” said Marcelo, an activist from the community of Pucharini, in Peru’s central rainforest.

Women farmers in the rural town of Tapila Florida, in the Bolivian department of La Paz, sell their freshly harvested produce at a collective storage and trading centre, thanks to support from the Centre for Training and Service for Women’s Integration to develop agroecology. Credit: Courtesy of Cecasem

Women farmers in the rural town of Tapila Florida, in the Bolivian department of La Paz, sell their freshly harvested produce at a collective storage and trading centre, thanks to support from the Centre for Training and Service for Women’s Integration to develop agroecology. Credit: Courtesy of Cecasem

In her view, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the targets included within them for achieving gender equality, is a mandate for the countries, but is also a double challenge for rural women in the region.

“We are invisibilised and a great deal of advocacy will be necessary in order for our problems to come to light; the SDGs are an opportunity to place our agendas into national policies,” she said.

In this vein, Wilfredo Valle underlined three challenges for governments in the context of achieving the SDGs. These are: “improving literacy rates among rural women, because with a higher level of education, there is less discrimination; guaranteeing their access to land and to title deed; and ensuring a life free of violence.”

Latin America and the Caribbean, considered the most unequal region in the world, has the Regional Gender Agenda for 2030, established in 2016 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

It constitutes a roadmap, according to ECLAC, for countries to protect the human rights of women “regardless of their age, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, where they live, their migratory status, ethnicity and race, and their physical and mental capacity.”

It is also in agreement with the SDGs and, through the fulfillment of its 10 core targets, puts gender equality at the center of sustainable development.

Although there is an international normative framework in the region that has given rise to national plans and policies aimed at achieving precisely the SDGs on gender equality, actions to make this human right of rural women a reality are urgently needed, experts agreed.

“The 2030 Agenda gives countries the opportunity to empower girls and women, eradicate illiteracy, secure them title deeds and loans, to develop their potential, rise out of poverty and fully exercise each of their rights,” said FAO’s Rojas.

“We know the gaps exist, but we need public policies to visibilise them,” she said. To that end, “it is necessary to work on statistics with a gender perspective so that state measures really contribute to improving the reality of rural women.”

A mixture of political will and strengthening of institutional capacities that would transform the lives of rural women in the region, such as Bonifica Huamán and her daughter Alina, in Peru’s southern Andes, so that the enjoyment of their rights becomes a daily exercise.

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Hydropower Dams Invade Brazil’s Agricultural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/hydropower-dams-invade-brazils-agricultural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hydropower-dams-invade-brazils-agricultural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/hydropower-dams-invade-brazils-agricultural-economy/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 20:43:17 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152403 “After being displaced for the third time,” Daniel Schlindewein became an activist struggling for the rights of people affected by dams in Brazil, and is so combative that the legal authorities banned him from going near the installations of the Sinop hydroelectric dam, which is in the final stages of construction. He was a teenager […]

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Brothers Daniel (left) and Armando Schlindewein stand in front of the small bridge over the Matrinxã river which will be submerged by the filling of the Sinop hydropower dam reservoir in western Brazil. Since the house they share is on the other side of the river, they will have to move, and their farms, which are connected by the bridge, will be separated. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brothers Daniel (left) and Armando Schlindewein stand in front of the small bridge over the Matrinxã river which will be submerged by the filling of the Sinop hydropower dam reservoir in western Brazil. Since the house they share is on the other side of the river, they will have to move, and their farms, which are connected by the bridge, will be separated. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SINOP, Brazil, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

“After being displaced for the third time,” Daniel Schlindewein became an activist struggling for the rights of people affected by dams in Brazil, and is so combative that the legal authorities banned him from going near the installations of the Sinop hydroelectric dam, which is in the final stages of construction.

He was a teenager in 1974 when the Iguaçu National Park was expanded in the southwest of the country, leading to the expulsion of his family and other local farmers. Seven years later, his family was once again evicted, due to the construction of the Binational Itaipu dam, shared with Paraguay, which flooded 1,350 sq km of land.

That was during Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, when fighting for people’s rights could lead to prison and torture.

Today there are laws, recognition of rights and mechanisms to defend people which make conflicts more visible, such as the one triggered by the construction of four dams on the Teles Pires river in the western state of Mato Grosso, where Schlindewein now lives, 1,500 km north of where he was born.

The announcement, last decade, of the plans for the new dams “prompted previously fragmented social movements to organise in their resistance” in Mato Grosso, Maria Luiz Troian, an instructor at the Sinop state vocational-technical school, told IPS.

In 2010 the Teles Pires Forum was born, an umbrella group of trade unions, non-governmental organisations, religious groups, associations of indigenous people and fisherpersons, university professors and groups like the Movement of those Affected by Dams (MAB) and the Landless Movement (MST).

It is a “pluralistic forum without hierarchies,” for the defence of rights that are threatened or violated by hydropower dams, said Troian, one of the group’s most active participants.

Farmers whose land will be flooded by the construction of dams “are forced to accept unfair compensation, because the alternative is legal action, which takes a long time and has an uncertain outcome,” she said.

Aerial view of the hydropower dam being built by the Sinop Energy Company on the Teles Pires river which is changing the lives of the people in a large part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso – both family farmers and monoculture producers of soy. Credit: Courtesy of CES

Aerial view of the hydropower dam being built by the Sinop Energy Company on the Teles Pires river which is changing the lives of the people in a large part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso – both family farmers and monoculture producers of soy. Credit: Courtesy of CES

“In practice it is expropriation; they pay us four times less than the local market price,” complained Schlindewein, 56, one of the first people who settled in the village of Gleba Mercedes, in 1997, five years after emigrating from the southern state of Paraná, drawn by the prospect of cheap land in Mato Grosso.

“Many gave up because it rained too much and it took four hours to get to the city of Sinop, just 100 km away, in ‘girico’ (the name given to improvised motorised carts brought by peasant farmers from Paraná),” he said. Electric power did not arrive in the area until 10 years later.

Despite the difficulties, years later Schlindewein brought his divorced brother Armando, one year younger, who purchased land next to his, separated by the Matrinxã river that runs into the Teles Pires river.

The two brothers share a tractor and other machinery, and live together in the elder brother’s house, less than 100 metres from the small river.

But the dam will put an end to their brotherly cooperation, because the water will rise up to eight metres deep in that area, submerging the small wooden bridge that connects their farms and forcing them to move the house to higher ground.

The solution demanded by the Schlindewein brothers is to build up the riverbanks and make a longer, higher bridge. This modification depends on the Sinop Energy Company (CES), which owns the dam, and is important for local residents, because otherwise the distance to the city would be increased by 20 km since they would have to skirt around the flooded Matrinxã river.

The Teles Pires river, where it winds its way past the future Sinop and Colider hydropower plants, under a bridge on BR-163, the road used to transport most of the soy produced in the state of Mato Grosso northwards to Miritituba, the start of the Tapajós river waterway, which continues along the Amazon river until running into the Atlantic ocean, in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Teles Pires river, where it winds its way past the future Sinop and Colider hydropower plants, under a bridge on BR-163, the road used to transport most of the soy produced in the state of Mato Grosso northwards to Miritituba, the start of the Tapajós river waterway, which continues along the Amazon river until running into the Atlantic ocean, in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Of the 560 families in the village – also known as the Wesley Manoel dos Santos settlement – 214 will see their land totally or partially flooded by the dam when the reservoir is filled in 2018.

Besides the low level of compensation, some complain that improvements made to their land and assets that they will lose have not been taken into account.

In the case of José da Silva Teodoro, his wife Jacinta de Souza and their four children, 79 of their 81 hectares of land will be flooded. With the indemnification, they were able to buy 70 hectares of land nearby, but “without the three sources of water” they have on their farm now – the Teles Pires river along the back and a stream running on either side.

“It wasn’t enough money for us to buy land within the settlement; we were expelled and we will lose our fruit trees, for which they hardly gave us a thing,” Teodoro told IPS. “We’ll plant new ones, but they won’t produce fruit for four or five years.”

The couple, who also come from southern Brazil, grow bananas, cassava, pineapples and mangos, raise chickens, and produce milk and cheese.

Their neighbour Ely Tarabossi, his wife and two children already had to give up half of their 100 cows, because the heavy traffic of trucks, tractors and buses caused by the construction of the dam cut off their access to water from the river. But Tarabossi plans to stay, even though the reservoir will flood 30 of his 76 hectares.

“I don’t have any other option,” he said. Although he was reluctant to do so, he plans to dedicate himself to monoculture production of soy, of which Mato Grosso is Brazil’s largest producer. “We tried everything here, from cassava to cucumbers…logistics is the hurdle. I’m 83 km from Sinop, and growing fresh produce is not feasible – everything perishes on the long journey there,” he said.

José da Silva Teodoro and his wife Jacinta de Souza stand next to their “girico” – the small, improvised vehicle that they use to transport people and products in the northern part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which they brought with them when they moved here from the southern state of Paraná. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

José da Silva Teodoro and his wife Jacinta de Souza stand next to their “girico” – the small, improvised vehicle that they use to transport people and products in the northern part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which they brought with them when they moved here from the southern state of Paraná. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The logging industry was the first economic driver in the area, and helped clear the land for agriculture, according to the local residents.

Then came cattle-raising, which led to the deforestation of vast expanses of land, followed by soy, which rotates with corn or cotton every year. Livestock and then soy dominated the middle and northern part of the state of Mato Grosso and spread northwards, into the Amazon rainforest.

Then came the construction of hydropower dams.

The 408-MW Sinop dam, 70 km from the city of the same name, built at a cost of 950 million dollars, and its 342-sq-km reservoir will favour three hydroelectric plants downstream: Colider (300 MW), Teles Pires (1,820 MW) and São Manoel (700 MW).

With regard to compensation, CES stated that its calculations are based on the rules of the Brazilian Association for Technical Standards, subject to approval by the concerned parties. The negotiations, which have almost been completed, are carried out individually with each property owner, the company’s communication department told IPS.

“Everyone who is affected has constant meetings with our teams, who are always available for whatever is needed,” the statement said. Bridges and access roads will be built with the approval and “active participation” of the concerned parties, with the aim of minimising the impacts of the dam, it added.

To boost local development, CES has been implementing a Fruit and Vegetable Production Project over the last year in the settlements of Mercedes and 12 de Outubro, with the participation of 88 families.

Large agricultural producers in the area complain that the project ruled out sluices in the hydropower plants, and as a result, discarded the idea of a Teles Pires-Tapajós waterway for exporting soy produced in Mato Grosso, which currently depends on road transport.

“The hydroelectric dams respond to a national need; unfortunately their construction was agreed before the adoption of the new law that requires the creation of canals for future sluices,” Antonio Galvan, the president of the Sinop rural producers association, told IPS.

His hope now is that the waterway will be created on another nearby river, the Juruena, which along with the Teles Pires runs into the Tapajós river, and connect with the 1,142-km Ferrogrão railway running between Sinop and Miritituba, the export port on the Tapajós river in the northern Amazon state of Pará.

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How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:40:57 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152386 Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to […]

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Nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come?

These are some of the main questions posed by the just-released State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, which argues that a key part of the response to these challenges must be transforming and revitalising rural economies, particularly in developing countries where industrialisation and the service sector are not likely to be able to meet all future job demand. “Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” Graziano da Silva.

“It lays out a vision for a strategic, ‘territorial approach’ that knits together rural areas and urban centres, harnessing surging demand for food in small towns and mega cities alike to reboot subsistence agriculture and promote sustainable and equitable economic growth,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report, issued on 9 October.

One of the greatest challenges today is to end hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable, it warns, while explaining that this challenge is “daunting” because of continued population growth, profound changes in food demand, and the threat of mass migration of rural youth in search of a better life.

The report analyses the structural and rural transformations under way in low-income countries and shows how an “agro-territorial” planning approach can leverage food systems to drive sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Otherwise, the consequences would be dire. In fact, the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations, the report says, while noting that small-scale and family farmers produce 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and investments to improve their productivity are urgently needed.

“Urbanisation, population increases and income growth are driving strong demand for food at a time when agriculture faces unprecedented natural-resource constraints and climate change.”

Harvesting sunflowers in Pakistan. Credit: FAO

Moreover, urbanisation and rising affluence are driving a “nutrition transition” in developing countries towards higher consumption of animal protein. “Agriculture and food systems need to become more productive and diversified.”

Catalytic Role of Small Cities, Towns

According to the report, small cities and towns can play a catalytic role in rural transformation rural and urban areas form a “rural–urban spectrum” ranging from megacities to large regional centres, market towns and the rural hinterland, according to the report. In developing countries, smaller urban areas will play a role at least as important as that of larger cities in rural transformation.

“Agro-territorial development that links smaller cities and towns with their rural ‘catchment areas’ can greatly improve urban access to food and opportunities for the rural poor.” This approach seeks to reconcile the sectoral economic aspects of the food sector with its spatial, social and cultural dimensions.

On this, the report explains that the key to the success of an agro-territorial approach is a balanced mix of infrastructure development and policy interventions across the rural–urban spectrum.

“The five most commonly used agro-territorial development tools –agro-corridors, agro-clusters, agro-industrial parks, agro-based special economic zones and agri-business incubators – provide a platform for growth of agro-industry and the rural non-farm economy.”

A Clear Wake-Up Call

Announcing the report, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, the international community committed itself to eradicating hunger and poverty and to achieving other important goals, including making agriculture sustainable, securing healthy lives and decent work for all, reducing inequality, and making economic growth inclusive.

With just 13 years remaining before the 2030 deadline, concerted action is needed now if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached, he added.

“There could be no clearer wake-up call than FAO’s new estimate that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world stands at 815 million. Most of the hungry live in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, many of which have yet to make the necessary headway towards the structural transformation of their economies.”

Graziano da Silva said that successful transformations in other developing countries were driven by agricultural productivity growth, leading to a shift of people and resources from agriculture towards manufacturing, industry and services, massive increases in per capita income, and steep reductions in poverty and hunger.

Countries lagging behind in this transformation process are mainly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most have in common economies with large shares of employment in agriculture, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and high levels of poverty, he explained.

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population. Credit: FAO

1.75 Billion People Survive on Less than 3.10 Dollars a Day

According to the latest FAO estimates, some 1.75 billion people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries survive on less than 3.10 dollars a day, and more than 580 million are chronically undernourished.

The prospects for eradicating hunger and poverty in these countries are overshadowed by the low productivity of subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization and –above all– by rapid rates of population growth and explosive urbanisation, said Graziano da Silva.

In fact, between 2015 and 2030, their total population is expected to grow by 25 percent, from 3.5 billion to almost 4.5 billion. Their urban populations will grow at double that pace, from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people aged 15–24 years is expected to increase by more than 90 million by 2030, and most will be in rural areas.

“Young rural people faced with the prospect of a life of grinding poverty may see few other alternatives than to migrate, at the risk of becoming only marginally better off as they may outnumber available jobs in urban settings.”

Enormous Untapped Potential

The overarching conclusion of this report is that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live, said the FAO Director General.

“It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.”

To achieve the same results in the countries that have been left behind, the report outlines a strategy that would leverage the “enormous untapped potential of food systems” to drive agro-industrial development, boost small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, and create off-farm employment in expanding segments of food supply and value chains.

“This inclusive rural transformation would contribute to the eradication of rural poverty, while at the same time helping end poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.”

A major force behind inclusive rural transformation will be the growing demand coming from urban food markets, which consume up to 70 per cent of the food supply even in countries with large rural populations, he added.

The FAO chief explained that thanks to higher incomes, urban consumers are making significant changes in their diets, away from staples and towards higher-value fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and more processed foods in general.

The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow from 150 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars between 2010 and 2030, said Graziano da Silva.

Urbanisation thus provides a “golden opportunity for agriculture”, he added. However, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers. “More profitable markets can lead to the concentration of food production in large commercial farms, to value chains dominated by large processors and retailers, and to the exclusion of smallholders.”

Small-Scale Producers

According to the FAO head, to ensure that small-scale producers participate fully in meeting urban food demand, policy measures are needed that: reduce the barriers limiting their access to inputs; foster the adoption of environmentally sustainable approaches and technologies; increase access to credit and markets; facilitate farm mechanisation; revitalise agricultural extension systems; strengthen land tenure rights; ensure equity in supply contracts; and strengthen small-scale producer organisations.

“No amount of urban demand alone will improve production and market conditions for small-scale farming,” he said. “Supportive public policies and investment are a key pillar of inclusive rural transformation.”

The second pillar is the development of agro-industry and the infrastructure needed to connect rural areas and urban markets, said Grazano da Silva, adding that in the coming years, many small-scale farmers are likely to leave agriculture, and most will be unable to find decent employment in largely low-productivity rural economies.

Agro-Industry Already Important

In sub-Saharan Africa, food and beverage processing represents between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of total manufacturing value added in most countries, and in some more than 80 per cent, he said. “However, the growth of agro-industry is often held back by the lack of essential infrastructure – from rural roads and electrical power grids to storage and refrigerated transportation.”

In many low-income countries, such constraints are exacerbated by a lack of public- and private sector investment, FAO chief explained.

The third pillar of inclusive rural transformation is a territorial focus on rural development planning, designed to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political connections between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

In the developing world, about half of the total urban population, or almost 1.5 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500,000 inhabitants or fewer, according to the report.

“Too often ignored by policy-makers and planners, territorial networks of small cities and towns are important reference points for rural people – the places where they buy their seed, send their children to school and access medical care and other services.”

Recent research has shown how the development of rural economies is often more rapid, and usually more inclusive, when integrated with that of these smaller urban areas.

“The agro-territorial development approach described in the report, links between small cities and towns and their rural ‘catchment areas’ are strengthened through infrastructure works and policies that connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other downstream segments of food value chains, including local circuits of food production and consumption.”

“Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” warned Graziano da Silva.

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Searching for a Doctor at 3,000 Metres Highhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/searching-doctor-3000-metres-high/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=searching-doctor-3000-metres-high http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/searching-doctor-3000-metres-high/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 12:15:17 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152379 Good healthcare can be hard to get – particularly when one lives on top of a mountain. The road to Porcón in the Cajamarca region of Peru, therefore, is as breathtaking as it is sobering. With every step further into its isolated natural beauty, a group of volunteers sent to deliver healthcare essentials are reminded […]

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Celestina of Porcón Alto, a rural region high in the Andes, whose family has lived on the same plot of land for generations. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

Celestina of Porcón Alto, a rural region high in the Andes, whose family has lived on the same plot of land for generations. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

By Andrea Vale
PORCÓN, Peru, Oct 6 2017 (IPS)

Good healthcare can be hard to get – particularly when one lives on top of a mountain. The road to Porcón in the Cajamarca region of Peru, therefore, is as breathtaking as it is sobering. With every step further into its isolated natural beauty, a group of volunteers sent to deliver healthcare essentials are reminded how long the trek would be in an emergency.

After a bus has taken the volunteers as far as it can, to the rim of a sweeping valley dipping into the basin of a ring of mountains, they start their hike.“We have a lot of fear,” Celestina says. “The doctors are always telling us that they’re going to help us and heal us, but we can’t always get to them and they’re not able to get to us."

It’s not very long mile-wise, but they stumble over unforgiving drops in a rocky wind that leads them through tilted pastures resting on the sides of the mountains. The looming brown stillness is disrupted by their panting, at a loss of breath from the gasping altitude.

At the end lies a community of artisans who live in close proximity to one another in Porcón Alto, a rural region high in the Andes.

They’ve been waiting. Once the volunteers arrive, several women filter out into the pasture where they’ve set up shop and sit cross-legged around them, all accompanied by toddlers clutching at their long skirts and babies peeking out of the tops of the shawls slung over their backs to carry infants, or vegetables.

They have a flood of questions ready, about basic nutrition, exercise, disease prevention. They have a waiting list of ailments to look at – my child has this rash. My child can’t say his R’s. It hurts when I stand up from bed.

Immediately put to work, volunteers begin taking their blood pressure, weighing them, measuring their heart rates and their blood glucose levels. Under the shadow cast by one woman’s tall brimmed hat her skin is wrinkled in layers, leathery and toughened from years of work in the sun. She looks anywhere between 40 and 60, balancing a squirming toddler in her lap while she squints at the volunteer helping her with rapt attention and concern. But a glance at her chart reveals that she is only 22.

One woman sits in the center of the others, shucking corn with a baby tied to her back. Her eyes crinkle with smile lines and her elements-exposed skin is a mosaic of black freckles and brown creases. Her name is Celestina.

Porcón is home to her in a deep sense – her family has lived on this exact plot of land for generations.

“The house over there was taken down, but that’s where my grandmother and her mother lived,” she says in Spanish, gesturing out towards a rolling plot of land.

As to what life has been like, living high up here: “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes I get worried. My daughter is sick right now, so I’m sad right now,” Celestina says, touching her daughter’s face as the baby girl plays in her lap. Baby Analee, she says, was bit by an insect just this morning. Analee’s cheek is already massively swollen with a red welt.

Fearing for her daughter is a constant reality of existence for Celestina.

“When I’m sleeping I can forget, but otherwise there’s always that worry for my child,” she says. “She needs to go to school, she needs to work, and I’m always worried about her, to know that she’ll be okay.”

Despite how long her family has lived on this land, Celestina says without a hint of hesitation that she wishes Analee could grow up in an urban area, perhaps the city Cajamarca below.

“Of course I want to live out in the city, but we don’t have land. Where would we build a house? Here, being out in the country, we just cook, we clean, we try to bathe, and we wait. All we can do is wait for the proper transportation to get to Cajamarca to try to get the proper attention if someone is sick.”

She says that there are no home remedies that she or anyone in the community uses to try to treat illness. Their best defense is simply the best level of hygiene they can achieve, and oftentimes it isn’t enough.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, only 19.1% of the urban population in Peru make up the country’s total poverty – as compared to 54.2% of rural peoples. In regards to extreme poverty, the contrast is even starker – 2.5% of the urban population, and 23.3% of the rural.

Celestina is 38 years old. She has the health of a 60-year-old. Plagued with health struggles since childhood, she currently suffers from chronic eyesight and stomach trouble.

But she brushes this acknowledgement off and automatically returns her attention to her baby.

“My daughter is sick and I am worried,” she says. “Always, I am scared for her.”

Celestina may worry about emergency illness striking, but what her and the other community members don’t realize is that the real threat of living in such isolation is not one-time tragedies, but rather chronic health problems. Of the children screened in Porcón, one-fourth were underweight and one-fourth were either at risk of being overweight or actually overweight. Of the adults screened, 33% were obese and 42% were overweight.

Most of the people examined during the health screenings, both in Porcón and across Cajamarca, had hypertension and were overweight. An inordinate number had diabetes and were completely unaware of it, ignorant to what caused the disease. One woman’s blood glucose level was close to 230 – the volunteer who tested her was so shocked that she tested the level twice more, sure that that initial reading couldn’t be possible.

Uneducated on signs of cancer and prevention techniques, many have had parents and grandparents pass away from the disease and simply chalked it up to having ‘just died,’ without a known cause.

According to the World Health Organization, the current national Human Resources for Health Density in Peru – meaning doctors, nurses and midwives – is 17.8 per 10,000 population. That distribution, however, is extremely inequitable, with rural areas usually having an HRH density of below ten. Lima, for instance, has three times more physicians per population – 15.4 – than Huancavelica, one of the poorest cities in Peru and populated in majority by indigenous peoples. 89.1% of births in urban regions are assisted by a professional – while only 42.9% of births in rural areas are.

Consequently, it’s perhaps not surprising that child mortality rates in Peruvian rural areas are almost twice that of urban areas – 40% to 26%.  According to the Pan American Health Organization, 35.3% of adults in rural areas of Peru are overweight, and 16.5% are obese. Only 40% of them perform any “moderate physical activity” – all of the health screenings concluded with group exercise classes.

Without doctors nearby, without easy and reliable transportation to get to the closest doctors, and without health education, Celestina has to live in constant fear. There is fear for her neighbors and for herself – but above all, fear for her baby. There is fear that disease will strike, that accidents will happen, that unexplained illness will come. Because when it does, Celestina and the rest of the community are left alone on top of the Andes with only their best abilities as a defense – uneducated, unequipped and without adequate and reliable transportation.

“We have a lot of fear,” Celestina says, “The doctors are always telling us that they’re going to help us and heal us, but we can’t always get to them and they’re not able to get to us. They’re always promising that they’re going to help us, but it never happens because they’re so far.”

For now, all that Celestina and the rest of Porcón can do is wait.

“The only thing we can do is wait until we can go to the doctor,” she says, “To go to the doctor and then wait again. Sometimes there’s nobody.”

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Rainwater Harvesting Improves Lives in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rainwater-harvesting-improves-lives-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rainwater-harvesting-improves-lives-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rainwater-harvesting-improves-lives-el-salvador/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:33:52 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152354 Filling a jug with water to supply her household needs used to be an ordeal for Salvadoran villager Corina Canjura, because it meant walking several kilometers to the river, which took up a great deal of time, or else paying for water. But an innovative project of rainwater harvesting has changed her life. “Now we […]

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Corina Canjura loads a jug of water that she has just filled, thanks to a system of rainwater collection located on the ground next to her house, which also supplies another 12 families in the village of Los Corvera in the municipality of Tepetitán, in the central Salvadoran department of San Vicente. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Corina Canjura loads a jug of water that she has just filled, thanks to a system of rainwater collection located on the ground next to her house, which also supplies another 12 families in the village of Los Corvera in the municipality of Tepetitán, in the central Salvadoran department of San Vicente. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
TEPETITÁN, El Salvador, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

Filling a jug with water to supply her household needs used to be an ordeal for Salvadoran villager Corina Canjura, because it meant walking several kilometers to the river, which took up a great deal of time, or else paying for water.

But an innovative project of rainwater harvesting has changed her life.

“Now we just pump, fill the tank and we have water ready to use,” said the 30-year-old woman from the village of Los Corvera, in the rural municipality of Tepetitán, in El Salvador’s central department of San Vicente.

In this village, 13 families benefit from a system that collects the rainwater that falls on the roof of Canjura’s house, which is then channeled through a pipe into a huge polyethylene bag, with a capacity of 25,000 liters.

From there, it is manually pumped into a tank with a faucet used by all of the families.

“Since it has rained a lot, the bag is always full, which is a joy for us,” Canjura told IPS, while carrying a jug on her head which she had just filled."We are the ones who do the housework and have to go looking for water... we are the ones who worry and suffer to find it for our families." -- Lorena Ramirez

The initiative, launched in February 2017, is being promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP), which, together with Australian aid and the Ford Foundation, have provided funds to get it going, while local organisations and governments have given operational support.

The system´s technology was developed by the consortium Mexichem Amanco, which entered into the market of polyethylene membranes used as waterproof barriers in civil engineering works, sanitary landfills, and artificial lagoons for aquaculture, among other uses.

In 2013, GWP Central America had already promoted a water harvesting project in southern Honduras in communities suffering from drought, and this project is being replicated in El Salvador’s Jiboa Valley.

In this small country of 6.4 million people, eight rainwater harvesting systems have been installed so far in seven municipalities in the Jiboa valley in San Vicente. There is one in each municipality, except for Jerusalen, located in the department of La Paz, where two systems have been installed.

Of the 323 families identified as having problems of access to water in rural communities in these municipalities, 100 are benefiting directly from the project, conceived of as a pilot plan that would offer lessons for its expansion to other areas.

Participation by local women has been vital to the implementation of the project, taking advantage of the fact that they already have a strong presence in the communities through the Network of Women Entrepreneurs of the Jiboa Valley.

“We are the ones who do the housework and have to go looking for water… we are the ones who worry and suffer to find it for our families,” said 43-year-old Lorena Ramirez.

Ramirez shared her experience with IPS during a meeting on the country’s water situation, held on Sept. 21 in San Vicente, the capital of the department.

Women from rural communities in the Jiboa Valley debate at a forum in San Vicente, in central El Salvador, about the impact of water scarcity in that ecoregion. They are the main drivers of the installation in their villages of a system of rainwater harvesting, which has improved the living conditions of the participating families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Women from rural communities in the Jiboa Valley debate at a forum in San Vicente, in central El Salvador, about the impact of water scarcity in that ecoregion. They are the main drivers of the installation in their villages of a system of rainwater harvesting, which has improved the living conditions of the participating families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

She is originally from Hacienda Nuevo Oriente, a village of 400 people, located in the jurisdiction of Verapaz, also in the department of San Vicente. There, another 15 families are benefiting from the harvesting of rainwater.

Ramírez, a homemaker who has a kitchen garden, added that, before the arrival of the project, the families of the village had to look for water in the ravines to wash clothes and for other necessities.

The water they used to drink was fetched from a spring located a kilometer away, but they had to get up very early, otherwise it would be empty. “We drank from that spring,” she said.

During the May to October rainy season there is no problem keeping the polyethylene bag full, Ramirez said. But during the dry season, they will have to establish a mechanism for using the resource wisely.

It is estimated that the 25,000 liters stored in the bag are equivalent to five tanker trucks, and can supply a family for 15 days to one month, depending on the use, although each system installed in El Salvador is intended for 15 families.

“We can’t say this completely meets the needs of those 15 families; this is for filling a couple of jugs for drinking water and to use for basic things,” she stressed.

And when the water runs out in the summer, the participating municipalities have committed to sending tanker trucks and keep the bags filled, so there will always be water.

The basic idea is that the harvested water is exclusively for drinking, so the families involved in the program have received a filter to make it potable.

The University of El Salvador will provide equipment and scientific personnel to measure the quality of the water that has been purified, said Marta Alfaro, mayor of Jerusalen, one of the municipalities participating in the programme.

One of these systems is currently being installed in the Jerusalen neighborhood of El Progreso, and another in the village of Veracruz.

“We want to keep installing more systems, it’s not so costly, but the thing is that this year it was not included in the budget,” Alfaro told IPS.

For the next year her administration will include in the budget the installation of 10 systems in 10 other communities.

Each system costs around 1,400 dollars, Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation, told IPS.

The plan to harvest rainwater is “a short-term solution for rural communities, instead of installing water pipes connected to the national grid or other mechanisms, which would be for the medium and long term,” added Chanta, who is also a volunteer at the Water Youth Network, an independent space promoted by GWP Central America.

And with the already visible climate change effects, this effort “has the potential to be an alternative for the adaptation to climate change impacts,” she said.

Jorge García, of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ Water Fund, told IPS that one of the main goals of the water plan is to store water in large reservoirs, to address the problem of scarcity.

The plan would cost about 1.2 billion dollars, he said.

“This pilot project in the Jiboa Valley will set a precedent that can be replicated,” he said.

And while the water collected is primarily for drinking, Lorena Ramírez, from Hacienda Nueva Oriente, said that because in the rainy season the bag fills up quickly and must be drained, she plans to capture that surplus in a small well and use it in her garden.

“That way I use it to cover our main needs and irrigate my milpa (traditional corn crop) and my crops of beans, tomatoes and green beans, and without affecting the other 14 families,” she concluded.

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Back-to-Back Hurricanes Take Heavy Toll on the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:58:24 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152351 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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A seven-year old boy stands in front of debris as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Credit: UNICEF/UN0119399

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

As you know, we are coming off a jam-packed High-level week and opening of the General Assembly. Some of the most important speeches during that period came from leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless. The Prime Minister of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations “straight from the front line of the war on climate change”.

Today I am announcing that I will travel on Saturday (October 7) to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there.

When I met them last month, I was struck most of all by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders – including from the hardest hit countries. Yes, they said, we urgently need support today. But even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow.

As I said in my address to the General Assembly, we should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world. I would like to share some relevant data about what we are seeing.

First, some facts about this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record. Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometers per hour for 37 hours — the longest on record at that intensity.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year. And, of course, they were followed by Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico.

It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season.

Second, some facts about the changes in major climate systems. Sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters has nearly tripled, and economic losses have quintupled.

Scientists are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather. Climate change is warming the seas. This, in turn, means more water vapor in the atmosphere. When storms come, they bring more rain.

A warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes. Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean. The melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of the seas, means bigger storm surges. With more and more people living on coastlines, the damage is, and will be that much greater.

Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected. To date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region by air and by sea: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance; and much else.

We have launched appeals for $113.9 million to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead. I commend those countries that are showing solidarity with the Caribbean countries at this time of dire need, including those doing so through South-South cooperation.

But on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor. I urge donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come. The United Nations will continue to help countries in the Caribbean to strengthen disaster preparedness, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

We are strongly committed to helping small island states and, indeed, all countries to adapt to inevitable climate impacts, to increase the pace of recovery and to strengthen resilience overall. Innovative financing mechanisms will be crucial in enabling countries, like the Caribbean ones, to cope with external shocks of such significant magnitude.

We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change. But we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future. Once again, I urge countries to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition.

That is why I will convene a Climate Summit in 2019, as you know. But today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action.

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The Tuxá Indigenous Paradise, Submerged under Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/#respond Sat, 30 Sep 2017 21:43:52 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152296 The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir. […]

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Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RODELAS, Brazil, Sep 30 2017 (IPS)

The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir.

Dorinha Tuxá, one of the leaders of this native community, which currently has between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants, sings on the shore of what they still call “river”, although now it is an 828-sq-km reservoir, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, along the border with the state of Bahia, to the south.

While singing the song dedicated to their “sacred” river and smoking her “maraku”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, she looks dreamily at the waters where the “Widow’s Island” was submerged, one of several that sprinkled the lower course of the São Francisco River, and on which the members of her community used to live.“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone." -- Manoel Jurum Afé

“This song is to ask our community for unity, because in this struggle we are asking for the strength of our ancestors to help us recover our territory. A landless indigenous person is a naked indigenous person. We are asking our ancestors to bless us in this battle and protect our warriors,” she told IPS.

The hydroelectric plant, with a capacity of 1,480 megawatts, is one of eight installed by the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (CHESF), whose operations are centered on that river which runs across much of the Brazilian Northeast region: 2,914 km from its source in the center of the country to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast.

After the flood, the Tuxá people were relocated to three municipalities. Some were settled in Nova Rodelas, a hamlet in the rural municipality of Rodelas, in the state of Bahia, where Dorinha Tuxá lives.

After a 19-year legal battle, the 442 relocated Tuxá families finally received compensation from the CHESF. But they are still waiting for the 4,000 hectares that were agreed upon when they were displaced, and which must be handed over to them by state agencies.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone,” Tuxá chief Manoel Jurum Afé told IPS.

The new village is very different from the community where they used to live on their island.

Only the soccer field, where children play, retains the shape of traditional indigenous Tuxá constructions.

But the elders strive to transmit their collective memory to the young, such as Luiza de Oliveira, who was baptized with the indigenous name of Aluna Flexia Tuxá.

She is studying law to continue her people’s struggle for land and rights. Her mother, like many other Tuxá women, also played an important role as chief, or community leader.

“It was as if they lived in a paradise. They had no need to beg the government like they have to do now. They used to plant everything, beans, cassava. They lived together in complete harmony. They talk about it with nostalgia. It was a paradise that came to an end when it was flooded,” she said.

Dorinha Tuxá, a leader of the native Tuxá people, sings to her sacred river and smokes her "marakú", a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, to ask her ancestors to help them get the lands which were promised to them when they were evicted from their island to make way for a dam in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

Dorinha Tuxá, a leader of the native Tuxá people, sings to her sacred river and smokes her “marakú”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, to ask her ancestors to help them get the lands which were promised to them when they were evicted from their island to make way for a dam in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

After three decades of living with other local people, the Tuxás stopped wearing their native clothes, although for special occasions and rituals they put on their “cocares” (traditional feather headdresses).

They welcomed IPS with a “toré” – a collective dance open to outsiders. Another religious ceremony, “the particular”, is reserved for members of the community. That is how they honour the “enchanted”, their spirits or reincarnated ancestors.

But they are also Catholics and very devoted to Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Rodelas, which was named after Captain Francisco Rodelas, considered the first chief who fought alongside the Portuguese against the Dutch occupation of northeast Brazil in the 17th century.

Armando Apaká Caramuru Tuxá is a “pajé” – guardian of the Tuxá traditions.

“The waters covered the land where our ancestors lived. Many times I saw my grandfather sitting at the foot of a jua (Ziziphus joazeiro, a tree typical of the eco-region of the semi-arid Northeast), there on the island talking to them up there (in the sky),” he said.

“We lost all that. That place which was sacred to us was submerged under water,” he said, sadly.

The Tuxá people, who for centuries were fishermen, hunters, gatherers and farmers, practically gave up their subsistence crops in their new location.

Some bought small parcels of land and grow cash crops, such as coconuts.

“We need to improve our quality of life. Before we used to live on what we produced from agriculture and fishing. Today that is not possible, so we want to return to agriculture, and to do that we need our land,” Chief Uilton Tuxá told IPS.

In 2014, a decree declared some 4,392 hectares of land an “area of social interest” in order to expropriate it and transfer it to the Tuxá people.

In June of this year, they won a lawsuit in a federal court, which ruled that the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) had three months to create a working group to begin the demarcation process. It also set
a new compensation to be paid to the Tuxá people.

But distrustful of the state bureaucracy and the courts, the Tuxá people decided to occupy Surubabel, the area near their village, on the banks of the reservoir, which was expropriated in order for it to be demarcated in their favor, but this never happened.

They began to build a new village there, in what they call “the recovery” of their lands.

“The occupation of this land by us, the Tuxá people, represents the rekindling of the flame of our identity as an indigenous people native to this riverbank. We were already here, since the beginning of the colonization process, even in the 16th century when the first catechists arrived,” argued Uilton Tuxá.

“We want to build this small village for the government to fulfill its obligations and the order to delimit our territory,” he said.

During the week they have other activities. They are public employees or work on their plots of land. But on Saturdays they load their tools in their vehicles and build their houses in the traditional way.

“Nowadays a lot of land in this sacred territory of the Tuxás is being invaded by non-indigenous people and also by indigenous people from other ethnic groups,” chief Xirlene Liliana Xurichana Tuxá told IPS.

“We were the first indigenous people from the Northeast to be recognized and we are the last to have the right to our land. This is just the beginning. If the justice system does not grant us our right to continue the dialogue, we will adopt forceful measures, we will mobilise. We are tired of being the good guys,” she warned, speaking as a community leader.

Meanwhile, the small portion of their ancestral land that was not submerged, and the land they occupy now, are threatened by new megaprojects.

These lands were left in the middle of two canals, on the north axis of the diversion of the São Francisco River, a project that is still under construction, which is to supply 12 million people with water.

“The Tuxá people have suffered impacts, above and beyond the dam. There is also the diversion of the river and the possibility that they might build a nuclear plant will also affect us,” said Uilton Tuxá, smoking his marakú during a break.

They say the marakú attracts protective forces. And this time they hope these forces will help them to get the land promised to them when their ancestral land was taken away, and that they will not lose it again to new megaprojects.

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Finally, Argentina Has a Law on Access to Public Informationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/finally-argentina-law-access-public-information/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=finally-argentina-law-access-public-information http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/finally-argentina-law-access-public-information/#respond Thu, 28 Sep 2017 23:53:41 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152281 After 15 long years of public campaigns and debates in which different political, social and business sectors held marches and counter-protests, Argentina finally has a new law that guarantees access to public information. This step forward must now be reflected in reality, in this South American country where one of the main social demands is […]

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The director of the new Agency for Access to Public Information in Argentina, Eduardo Bertoni – a former IACHR special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression - presented his plans at the Aug. 17 public hearing where his appointment was discussed. Credit: Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers

The director of the new Agency for Access to Public Information in Argentina, Eduardo Bertoni – a former IACHR special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression - presented his plans at the Aug. 17 public hearing where his appointment was discussed. Credit: Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 28 2017 (IPS)

After 15 long years of public campaigns and debates in which different political, social and business sectors held marches and counter-protests, Argentina finally has a new law that guarantees access to public information.

This step forward must now be reflected in reality, in this South American country where one of the main social demands is greater transparency on the part of the authorities.

The Law on the Right of Access to Public Information, which considers “all government-held information” to be public, was approved by Congress in September last year and enters into force Friday Sept. 29.

Eduardo Bertoni stressed the importance of the new law. He is the academic appointed by the government of President Mauricio Macri to lead the new Agency for Access to Public Information, which will operate within the executive branch, although “with operational autonomy,” according to the law.

“There are already 113 countries that have right of access to information laws and 90 countries have incorporated it into their constitutions,” Bertoni said during the public hearing where his appointment was discussed.

Bertoni, a lawyer with a great deal of experience regarding the right to information, served as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIADH) between 2002 and 2005.

“We must now encourage society to demand more information from the authorities. And it is essential to push for better organisation of the public archives, because if we do not find the information people seek, we will fail,” he added.

The text is broad in terms of the list of institutions legally bound to respond to requests for access to information: besides the various branches of the state, it includes companies, political parties, trade unions, universities and any private entity to which public funds have been allocated, including public service concessionaires.

The Agency was created to ensure compliance with the law. Its functions include advising people who seek public information and assisting them with their request.

“This was clearly a pending issue for Argentina. It is incomprehensible that the governments of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) did not push for approval of this law, which should be an incentive for provinces and municipalities to do the same, since very few have regulations on access to public information,” Guillermo Mastrini, an expert on this question, told IPS.

For Mastrini, a former director of Communication Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, “this does not change the worrying scenario with respect to the right to information, since the government is regulating by decree issues related to audiovisual communication services in a way that does not favor plurality and transparency.”

The bill was sent to Congress by the government a few months after Macri took office in December 2015, and passed with large majorities in both legislative chambers.

Until now, at the national level, there was only decree 1172, signed in 2003 by Kirchner with the aim of “improving the quality of democracy”, which was not only below the status of a law, but only covered the executive branch with regard to the obligation to provide information.

José Crettaz, a journalist and the coordinator of the Center for Studies on the Convergence of Communications, told IPS that “Néstor Kirchner’s decree, which applied to the executive branch, worked very well at first, but then public officials began to leave most requests for information unanswered.”

“Now we are seeing a huge step forward, since the law encompasses all branches of the state, and I see a government with a different attitude. The decisive thing will be how the law is implemented. The only valid criterion should be: if there is public money involved, it is public information,” he said.

The law was passed after dozens of bills on access to information were introduced in Congress in recent years. The first was presented under the government of Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), with the support of a network of civil society organisations, but with little backing from journalists.

The initiative obtained preliminary approval from the lower house of Congress in 2003, passed to the Senate and then the main Argentine media outlets joined the public campaign demanding that it be approved. However, they later distanced themselves from the bill.

They did so, Bertoni recalled in a paper written in 2011 for the World Bank, when a senator warned that the media should also respond to requests for information submitted by any member of the public, as they receive state advertising, which is considered a subsidy.

In 2004, the Senate approved the bill, but with modifications that included private entities among the subjects obligated to provide information, and sent it back to the lower house, where it was shelved. Another bill was passed by the Senate in 2010, but it also failed to prosper.

Now one thing that stood out is that just two days before the law went into effect, the government modified it through a questioned channel: based on “a decree of necessity and urgency”, putting the new Agency in the orbit of the chief of the cabinet of ministers.

“The government thus gave a lower status to the Agency, which according to law was to depend directly on the Presidency of the Nation; the decision, moreover, cannot be taken by decree when Congress is in session,” said Damián Loreti, professor of Right to Information at the University of Buenos Aires.

“That the law is in force is good. But I am concerned about a number of things, such as not including among its objectives a guarantee for the exercise of other rights, such as housing or sexual and reproductive rights. The model law of the Organisation of American States was not followed,” he told IPS.

For Sebastián Lacunza, the last director of the Buenos Aires Herald, a well-respected English-language newspaper that closed this year, “in a country that does not have a culture of transparency, there is a risk that the law will fail.”

“This government promised a regeneration of the country’s institutions, but in some aspects it ended up aggravating the shortcomings of the previous administration, which was not prone to being open with information,” he told IPS.

In his view, “in a context of global crisis in the media industry and a shrinking of plurality of information, the most important thing is that there is an active state that combats the concentration of the media in a few hands.”

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Marginalised Minorities and Homeless Especially Hard-hit by Mexico’s Quakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 23:45:17 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152266 Maricela Fernández, an indigenous woman from the Ñañhú or Otomí people, shows the damages that the Sept. 19 earthquake inflicted on the old house where 10 families of her people were living as squatters, in a neighbourhood in the center-west of Mexico City. The magnitude 7.1 quake, mainly felt in Mexico City and the neighboring […]

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A community of 35 Nahñú indigenous families, from the central state of Querétaro, set up a camp in front of the old building that they occupied in the center of Mexico City, which was heavily damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake. In the photo can be seen the tent that serves as their kitchen and dining room. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

A community of 35 Nahñú indigenous families, from the central state of Querétaro, set up a camp in front of the old building that they occupied in the center of Mexico City, which was heavily damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake. In the photo can be seen the tent that serves as their kitchen and dining room. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Maricela Fernández, an indigenous woman from the Ñañhú or Otomí people, shows the damages that the Sept. 19 earthquake inflicted on the old house where 10 families of her people were living as squatters, in a neighbourhood in the center-west of Mexico City.

The magnitude 7.1 quake, mainly felt in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla, caused structural damage to the building, which like many other buildings in the city is in danger of collapsing.

The two-storey building, inhabited by indigenous families since 2007, had already been damaged by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed at least 10,000 lives on September 19, 1985 in the Mexican capital, exactly 32 years before the one that hit the city a week ago."These are families who, because of their condition, have long occupied spaces in deplorable conditions, squatting for example on properties condemned since the 1985 earthquake…The recent earthquake left the properties uninhabitable. Authorities have told them that they cannot live in those buildings anymore.” -- Alicia Vargas

Since Sept. 19 “we have been sleeping outside, because the house is badly damaged and may collapse. We do not want to go to a shelter, because they could take the building away from us,” explained Fernández, a mother of two who works as an informal vendor.

The residents of the house, including 16 children, set up a tent on the sidewalk, where they take shelter, cook and sleep while looking after their battered house and belongings inside.

Fernández, a member of the non-governmental “Hadi” (hello in the Ñahñú language) Otomí Indigenous Community, told IPS that humanitarian aid received so far came from non-governmental organisations and individual citizens.

But she criticised what she described as disregard from the authorities towards them and the discrimination exhibited by some neighbors.

“It is unfair that they discriminate against us for being indigenous and poor. Nobody deserves that treatment,” she said.

The earthquake had a death toll of at least 331 people – mostly in Mexico City – while at least 33 buildings collapsed and another 3,800 were partially or totally damaged.

Most schools resumed classes on Monday Sept. 25, as did economic activity and administrative work, but thousands of students and employees are reluctant to return to their educational institutions and workplaces until they have guarantees that the buildings are safe.

A similar situation is faced by another Ñahñú community living in a different rundown, abandoned building in a neighborhood in the centre of the capital, which has a population of nearly nine million people and which exceeds 21 million when adding the greater metropolitan area.

After the earthquake they set up a camp in the street next to the building that is damaged but still standing, where they sleep, cook and eat. Their refusal to move to a shelter is due to the fear of eviction and the loss of their home and belongings.

The 10 Nahñús families who were living in an old house in Mexico City since 2007 are now living outside the building due to the structural damages caused by the Sept. 19 earthquake. They are staying there in order to protect their property and belongings and to demand support for access to housing. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

The 10 Nahñús families who were living in an old house in Mexico City since 2007 are now living outside the building due to the structural damages caused by the Sept. 19 earthquake. They are staying there in order to protect their property and belongings and to demand support for access to housing. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

“We have organised ourselves to prepare food and watch over our things. The government has not taken care of us. They always ignore indigenous people,” complained Telésforo Francisco Martínez, a member of the group of 35 families who inhabit the property.

The whiteness of three large tents and a smaller one contrasts with the black canvas that protects the entrance to the building. Two camping tents complete the makeshift camp, together with two campfires and a few small tables.

These indigenous people work in the informal sector, selling traditional crafts and art, cleaning cars on the streets or cleaning houses.

“We have not been able to work, so we have no income,” said Martínez, who cleans car windshields on the streets.

Since 1986, some 2,000 Ñahñú natives have migrated to Mexico City from the municipality of Santiago Mezquititlán in the central state of Querétaro, and they now live in eight shantytowns in neighborhoods in the center-west of the capital.

Mexico City attracts thousands of people from other parts of the country who leave their towns to seek an income in the informal economy and often live in slums on the outskirts of the city.

The Ñahñús, who numbered 623,098 in 2015, are one of 69 native peoples in Mexico, representing about 12 million people, out of a total population of 129 million.

About 1.2 million indigenous people live in the capital, according to data from the non-governmental Interdisciplinary Center for Social Development (Cides).

“These are families who, because of their condition, have long occupied spaces in deplorable conditions, squatting for example on properties condemned since the 1985 earthquake,” Cides director Alicia Vargas told IPS.

“The recent earthquake left the properties uninhabitable. Authorities have told them that they cannot live in those buildings anymore,” she said.

For Vargas, whose organisation works with these minorities, these groups have been “traditionally invisible, especially children” and their level of vulnerability is exacerbated by disasters and the exclusion and discrimination they suffer.

The Sept. 19 earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico City, including the homeless, such as this woman sleeping on a sidewalk on the south side of the capital. Authorities have diverted assistance for the homeless to earthquake victims. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

The Sept. 19 earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico City, including the homeless, such as this woman sleeping on a sidewalk on the south side of the capital. Authorities have diverted assistance for the homeless to earthquake victims. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

“The State’s response is to come and assess the properties and evict them, leaving them on the streets, with nothing. They have not offered them any alternative. There is no official response from any government housing body to temporarily resolve their situation,” the activist complained.

The homeless, forgotten as always

The homeless have also suffered from the earthquake, which has exacerbated their extreme poverty.

“It’s the same as with historically excluded groups: in times of disaster, they always do worse. The disaster is so severe that no one remembers these groups. On the street they are more on their own than ever,” the director of the non-governmental organisation El Caracol, Luis Hernández, told IPS.

After the earthquake, squads of 25 community workers with El Caracol, which works with street people, visited groups at risk in different Mexico City neighbourhoods.

The monitoring found that they had received food, but the services they traditionally have access to – such as preventive health care – are now unavailable to them, as these services have been reoriented to care for those affected by the deadly earthquake.

“That neglect exacerbates their vulnerability. No governmental or private institution has approached them to provide assistance. They have remained on the streets and have not been evacuated or taken to shelters,” said Hernández, who noted that many homeless people participated in the efforts to rescue people trapped in damaged buildings.

In Mexico City, 6,774 people are homeless and of these, 4,354 stay in public spaces, and 2,400 in public and private shelters, according to the Census of Homeless People in August, carried out by the Ministry of Social Development.

Of the homeless, 5,912 are men and 862 are women. The majority are between the ages of 18 and 49 and nearly 40 percent have come from other states seeking work.

IPS found at least four people on the street who had received no kind of assistance, and were wandering about without being aware of where they were or what had happened.

In recent years, organisations such as El Caracol have denounced violations of the rights of the homeless, such as eviction from bridges and avenues, without offering them alternative shelter.

Fernández and Martínez just want a decent place to live. “We want to live here…we want them to tear the house down and build housing,” said Fernandez.

Martínez, for his part, complained about the slow process of regularisation of ownership of the property. “We have already completed it and they have not given us an answer. We don’t want anything for free, we just want to be taken into account,” he said.

For Vargas, the cleaning of debris, the installation of temporary housing, the provision of basic services and a safe space for about 100 children are urgent needs.

“Perhaps given this situation they can have access to social housing. In the medium-term, what is necessary is the immediate resolution of the definition of land to build housing for these families, with accessible credits. The indigenous population are in the areas of highest risk in the city, with the worst overcrowding,” he said.

Hernández proposed developing protection policies during emergencies. “What we are worried about is that they could be evicted from their areas, unless it is due to safety issues caused by collapses or demolitions,” he said.

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