Inter Press ServiceLatin America & the Caribbean – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 20 Jul 2018 10:02:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 10:02:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156776 Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to […]

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Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
JUAZEIRINHO/BOM JARDIM, Brazil, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to pits that are dug deep in the ground to store as much water as possible in the smallest possible area to reduce evaporation.

“We no longer suffer from a shortage of water,” not even during the drought that has lasted the last six years, said Pereira, a 47-year-old peasant farmer, on the family’s small farm in Juazeirinho, a municipality in the Northeast state of Paraíba.

Only at the beginning of this year did they have to resort to water distributed by the army to local settlements, but “only for drinking,” Pereira told IPS proudly during a visit to several communities that use innovative water technologies that are changing the lives of small villages and family farmers in this rugged region.

To irrigate their maize, bean, vegetable crops and fruit trees, the couple had four “stone ponds” and three mud trenches, enough to water their sheep and chickens.

“The water in that pond is even drinkable, it has that whitish colour because of the soil,” but that does not affect its taste or people’s health, said Pereira, pointing to the smallest of the ponds, “which my husband dug out of the rocks with the help of neighbours.”

“There was nothing here when we arrived in 2007, just a small mud pond, which dried up after the rainy season ended,” she said. They bought the property where they built the house and lived without electricity until 2010, when they got electric power and a rainwater tank, which changed their lives.

The One Million Cisterns Programme (P1MC) was underway for a decade. With the programme, the Articulation of the Semi Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, is seeking to achieve universal access to drinking water in the rural areas of the Northeast semi-arid ecoregion, which had eight million inhabitants in the 2010 official census.

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The network promoted the construction of 615,597 tanks that collect water from rooftops, for use in drinking and cooking. The tanks hold 16,000 litres of water, considered sufficient for a family of five during the usual eight-month low-water period.

Other initiatives outside ASA helped disseminate rainwater tanks, which mitigated the effects of the drought that affected the semi-arid Northeast between 2012 and 2017.

According to Antonio Barbosa, coordinator of the One Land, Two Waters Programme (P1+2) promoted by ASA since 2007, the rainwater tanks helped to prevent a repeat of the tragedy seen during previous droughts, such as the 1979-1983 drought, which “caused the death of a million people.”

After the initial tank is built, rainwater collection is expanded for the purposes of irrigation and raising livestock, by means of tanks like the ones built in 2013 on the farm belonging to Pereira and her husband since 2013. ASA has distributed 97,508 of these tanks, benefiting 100,828 families.

Other solutions, used for irrigation or water for livestock, include ponds built on large rocks or water pumps used by communities to draw water from deep wells.

Tanks holding up to 52,000 litres of rainwater, collected using the “calçadão” system, where water runs down a sloping concrete terrace or even a road into the tank, are another of the seven “water technologies” for irrigation and animal consumption disseminated by the organisations that make up ASA.

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In the case of Pereira and Leite, this water infrastructure came through the Programme for the Application of Appropriate Technologies for Communities (Patac), an organisation that seeks to strengthen family farming in small agricultural communities in Paraiba.

The tanks and terraces are made with donated material, and the beneficiaries must take part in the construction and receive training in water management, focused on coexistence with the semi-arid climate. Community action and sharing of experiences among farmers is also promoted.

Beans drying in the courtyard, and piled up inside the house, even in the bedroom, show that the Pereira and Leite family, which also includes their son, Salvador – who has inherited his parents’ devotion to farming – managed to get a good harvest after this year’s adequate rainfall.

Maize, sweet potato, watermelon, pumpkin, pepper, tomato, aubergine, other vegetables and medicinal herbs make up the vegetable garden that mother and son manage, within a productive diversification that is a widespread practice among farmers in the semi-arid region.

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Also contributing to this diversification are eight sheep and a large chicken coop, which are for self-consumption and for sale. “Our family lives off agriculture alone,” said Pereira, who also benefits from the Bolsa Familia programme, a government subsidy for poor families, which in their case amounts to 34 dollars a month.

“I am one of the customers for Pedrina’s ‘cuzcuz’, which is not only tasty but is also made without toxic agricultural chemicals,” said Gloria Araujo, the head of Patac. She was referring to a kind of corn tortilla that is very popular in the Brazilian Northeast, an important source of income for the family.

Living in the community of Sussuarana, home to 180 families, and forming part of the Regional Collective of farmers, trade unions and associations from 11 municipalities from the central part of the state of Paraiba, offers other opportunities.

Pereira has been able to raise chickens thanks to a barbed wire fence that she acquired through the Revolving Solidarity Fund, which provides a loan, in cash or animals, that when it is paid off goes immediately to another person and so on. A wire mesh weaving machine is for collective use in the community.

In Bom Jardim, 180 km from Juazeirinho, in the neighbouring state of Pernambuco, the community of Feijão (which means ‘beans’) stands out for its agroforestry system and fruit production, much of which is sold at agroecological fairs in Recife, the state capital, 100 km away and with a population of 1.6 million.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, I started reforesting bare land and they called me crazy, but those who criticised me later planted a beautiful forest,” said Pedro Custodio da Silva, owner of 2.5 hectares and technical coordinator of the Association of Agroecological Farmers of Bom Jardim (Agroflor), which provides assistance to the community.

In addition to a diversified fruit tree orchard and vegetable garden, which provide income from the sale of fruit, vegetables and pulp, “without agrochemicals,” a stream that had dried up three decades ago was revived on his property and continued to run in the severe drought of recent years.

It filled a small 60,000-litre pond whose “water level drops in the dry season, but no longer dries up,” he said.

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“The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 03:55:57 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156798 Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of environment

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Excerpt:

Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of environment

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Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-medicine-desertification-not-take http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:30:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156750 The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities. “One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, […]

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Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.

“One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, is the retention of rainwater. That is key because since we have eroded and degraded soil and we have occasional rains in winter, the soil is not able to retain more than 10 percent of the water that falls,” Daniel Rojas, the head of the Peña Blanca farmers’ association, told IPS.

“The rest ends up in the sea,” added Rojas, the head of the association of 85 small-scale farmers, located 385 km north of Santiago, which has 6,587 hectares, 98 percent of them rainfed, irrigated exclusively by rainfall."If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business." -- Daniel Rojas

Rojas considered that “if we had retention works we could use between 50 and 70 percent of that water and restore our groundwater.”

In the region of Coquimbo, where Peña Blanca is located, within the municipality of Ovalle, 90 percent of the land is eroded and degraded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the area planted with fruit trees in Chile grew 50 percent, but in Coquimbo it fell 22.9 percent, from 35,558 to 27,395 hectares.

Water is vital in Chile, an agrifood powerhouse that last year exported 15.751 billion dollars in food and is the world’s leading exporter of various kinds of fruit.

According to Rojas, there is academic, social and even political consensus on a solution that focuses on water retention, “but the necessary resources are not allocated and the necessary laws are not enacted.”

Pedro Castillo, mayor of the municipality of Combarbalá, agreed with Rojas.

“Because of the strong centralism that prevails in our country, desertification won’t be given importance until the desert is knocking on the doors of Santiago,” Castillo, the highest authority in this municipality of small-scale farmers and goat farmers told IPS.

Castillo believes that all the projects “will be only declarations of good intentions if there is no powerful and determined investment by the state of Chile to halt desertification.”

The mayor said that desertification can be combated by investing in water catchment systems, through “works that are not expensive,” such as the construction of infiltration ditches and dams in the gorges.

“With rainwater catchment systems with plastic sheeting, rainwater can be optimised, wells can be recharged and the need for additional water, which is now being delivered to the population with tanker trucks, can be reduced,” he said.

“The cost of these systems does not exceed five million pesos (7,936 dollars) because the works use materials that exist on-site and do not require much engineering. A tanker truck that delivers water costs the state about 40 million pesos (63,492 dollars) each year,” Castillo said.

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

He also proposed curbing desertification through afforestation with native species of lands handed by agricultural communities to the government’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

“Afforestation efforts involve the replanting of native trees tolerant of the scarce rainfall in semi-arid areas, and they generate fodder for local farmers,” he said.

The region of Coquimbo comprises the southern border of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth which has the most intense solar radiation on the planet. Covering 105,000 sq km, it encompasses six northern regions in this long and narrow country that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

This year Peña Blanca, at the southern tip of the desert, received 150 mm of rainfall, a high figure compared to the average of the last few years.

Rojas said “there are many things to be done, not to halt the advance of desertification completely, but to slow it down.”

The social leader said that in meetings with both academics and politicians there is agreement on what to do, “but that is not reflected when it comes to creating a law or allocating resources to do these works.”

To illustrate, he mentioned a novel project for the retention of rainwater underground, saying the studies and development of the initiative were financed, “but not the works itself.”

“And this way, it’s no use. Ideas must be put into practice through works. This is what is urgently needed: fewer studies and more works,” he said.

Rojas also criticised the fact that the state spends “billions of pesos” on the distribution of water to rural areas through tanker trucks.

“If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business,” Rojas said.

Geographer Nicolás Schneider, the driving force behind the non-governmental “Un Alto en el Desierto” (A Stop in the Desert) Foundation, told IPS that in Chile “there is no public policy in terms of tools, concrete policies and the provision of resources” to halt desertification in the country.

“Successful alternatives are isolated experiences that are the product of enthusiasm or group ventures, but not of a state policy to stop this scientifically accredited advance (of the desertification process),” he said.

He mentioned Chilean physicist Carlos Espinosa, who invented the fog catcher, a system whose patent he donated in the 1980s to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and which consists of harvesting water from the fog.

Fog catchers consist of fine mesh nets known as raschel set up on foggy slopes to catch suspended drops of water, which gather and merge, running from small gutters to collection tanks.

These systems, which are becoming more and more sophisticated, have been providing water for human consumption and for irrigation on land generally higher than 600 metres above sea level for decades.

In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, owned by Peña Blanca, the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation installed 24 fog catchers and a fog study centre.

“The average daily water from fog there is six litres per cubic metre of raschel mesh and 35 percent shade. Since they are nine square metres in size, we have a catchment area of 216 metres, which gives us 1,296 litres of water per day,” Schneider said.

He explained that “this water is mainly used for reforestation and ecological restoration, beer making, water for animals and – when there is severe drought – for human consumption.”

“It is also an educational element because thousands of children have visited the fog catchers, so they have been turned into an open-air classroom against desertification,” he said.

He added that there is great potential for fog from Papudo, on the central Chilean coast, to Arica, in the far north of the country, which has not been exploited to the benefit of coastal communities that have problems of access and water quality.

Eduardo Rodríguez, regional director of Conaf in Coquimbo, told IPS that all of the corporation’s programmes are aimed at combating desertification, including one against forest fires, which now have better indicators.

“However, we have problems with afforestation because we do not yet have a policy for providing incentives to increase afforestation, reforestation and replanting in a region that has been degraded for practically a century and a half,” he acknowledged.

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Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

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Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

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Strengthening Cuban Coastal Landscape in the Face of Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 21:42:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156610 Strong winds agitate the sea that crashes over Punta de Maisí, the most extreme point in eastern Cuba, where no building stands on the coast made up of rocky areas intermingled with vegetation and with sandy areas where people can swim and sunbathe. A little inland, a white, well-kept lighthouse rises 37 metres above sea […]

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The 37-metre tall lighthouse is a symbol of the municipality of Maisí. Built in 1862, it is located at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The 37-metre tall lighthouse is a symbol of the municipality of Maisí. Built in 1862, it is located at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
MAISÍ, Cuba, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Strong winds agitate the sea that crashes over Punta de Maisí, the most extreme point in eastern Cuba, where no building stands on the coast made up of rocky areas intermingled with vegetation and with sandy areas where people can swim and sunbathe.

A little inland, a white, well-kept lighthouse rises 37 metres above sea level. Standing there since 1862, it is an icon of the municipality of Maisí, in the province of Guantánamo, in the east of this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million inhabitants.

“Occasionally there’s a cyclone. Matthew recently passed by and devastated this area,” said Hidalgo Matos, who has been the lighthouse keeper for more than 40 years.

Matos was referring to the last major disaster to strike the area, when Hurricane Matthew, category four on the one to five Saffir-Simpson scale, hit Guantánamo on Oct. 4-5, 2016.

Thanks to this rare trade, which has been maintained from generation to generation by the three families who live next to the lighthouse, the 64-year-old Matos has seen from the privileged height of the tower the fury of the sea and the winds from the hurricanes that are devastating Cuba and other Caribbean islands, more and more intensely due to climate change.

“One of the benefits of the area is that the majority of the population makes a living from fishing,” said the lighthouse-keeper.

This is the main reason why coastal populations are reluctant to leave their homes by the sea, and even return after being relocated to safer areas inland.

Facing this and other obstacles, the Cuban authorities in the 1990s began to modify the management of coastal areas, which was accelerated with the implementation in 2017 of the first government plan to address climate change, better known as Life Task.

Currently, more than 193,000 people live in vulnerable areas, in conditions that will only get worse, as the sea level is forecast to rise 27 centimetres by 2050 and 85 centimetres by 2100.

The relocation of coastal communities and the restoration of native landscapes are key to boosting resilience in the face of extreme natural events.

Hidalgo Matos is the keeper of the lighthouse located in Punta de Maisí at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. From his watchtower, he has witnessed the effects of climate change - the increasingly recurrent and extreme natural events. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Hidalgo Matos is the keeper of the lighthouse located in Punta de Maisí at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. From his watchtower, he has witnessed the effects of climate change – the increasingly recurrent and extreme natural events. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Scientists say that natural elements of coastal protection such as sandy beaches, sea grasses, reefs and mangroves cushion the tides.

Of the country’s 262 coastal settlements, 121 are estimated to be affected by climate change. Of these, 67 are located on the north coast, which was affected almost in its entirety by the powerful Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and 54 are in the south.

In total, 34,454 people, 11,956 year-round homes, 3,646 holiday homes and 1,383 other facilities are at risk.

Cuban authorities reported that 93 of the 262 coastal settlements had been the target of some form of climate change adaptation and mitigation action by 2016.

Measures for relocation to safer areas were also being carried out in 65 of these communities, 25 had partial plans for housing relocation, 22 had to be completely relocated from the shoreline, and another 56 were to be reaccommodated, rehabilitated and protected.

“There are no plans to move any settlements or people in the municipality because after Cyclone Matthew everything was moved,” said Eddy Pellegrin, a high-level official in the government of Maisí, with a population of 28,752 people who depend mostly on agriculture.

“Since 2015 we have been working on it. From that year to 2017, we relocated some 120 people,” he said in an interview with IPS in Punta de Maisí.

The view towards the mainland from the emblematic lighthouse in the farming town of Maisí, at the eastern tip of Cuba, where the municipal government is implementing several projects to adapt the vulnerable coastline to climate change. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The view towards the mainland from the emblematic lighthouse in the farming town of Maisí, at the eastern tip of Cuba, where the municipal government is implementing several projects to adapt the vulnerable coastline to climate change. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A total of 840 people live along the 254 km of coastline in this municipality, “who are not in dangerous or vulnerable places,” the official said, discussing the national programme to manage the coastal area that Maisí is preparing to conclude with a local development project.

“There is no need to make new investments in the coastal area, what remains is to plant sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) to increase production,” he said of a local development project that consists of planting these bushes typical of the beaches, to restore the natural protective barrier and produce wine from the fruit.

Punta de Maisí and Boca de Jauco are the areas to be reforested with sea grape plants.

Pellegrin added that coconut groves – a key element of Guantánamo’s economy – will be replanted 250 m from the coast.

Maisí is an illustration of the long-term challenges and complexities of coastal management, ranging from the demolition of poorly located homes and facilities, to changing the economic alternatives in those communities that depend on fishing, to major engineering works.

Guantánamo has been hit continuously in recent years by major hurricanes: Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017), in addition to the severe drought between 2014 and 2017 that affected virtually the entire country.

“The latest atmospheric phenomena have affected the entire coastal area,” Daysi Sarmiento, an official in the government of the province of Guantánamo, told IPS.

Sports coach Milaydis Griñán lives near the historic Punta de Maisí lighthouse on the eastern tip of the Cuban island. Members of three families have worked as lighthouse keepers for generations. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sports coach Milaydis Griñán lives near the historic Punta de Maisí lighthouse on the eastern tip of the Cuban island. Members of three families have worked as lighthouse keepers for generations. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Now Baracoa Bay is being dredged,” said Sarmiento, referring to Baracoa, the first town in the area built by the Spaniards in colonial times, which faces the worst coastal risks.

The dredging is part of investments expected to be completed in September to protect Baracoa’s coast, which is highly vulnerable to floods, hurricanes and tsunamis.

By August 2017, the authorities had eliminated more than 900 state facilities and 673 private buildings from beaches nationwide. On the sandy coasts in this area alone, a total of 14,103 irregularly-built constructions were identified at the beginning of the Life Task plan.

The central provinces of Ciego de Avila and Sancti Spíritus are the only ones that today have beaches free of zoning and urban planning violations.

There are at least six laws that protect the coastline in various ways, in particular Decree-Law 212 on “Coastal Area Management”, which has been in force since 2000 and prohibits human activities that accelerate natural soil erosion, a problem that had not been given importance for decades.

“The community has grown further away from the coast,” sports coach Milaydis Griñán told IPS. She defines herself as Cuba’s “first inhabitant” because of the proximity of her humble home to the Punta de Maisí lighthouse, which is still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Matthew.

“The risks have been high because we are very close to the beach, especially when there is a storm or hurricane or tsunami alert, but we don’t have plans for relocation inland,” she said.

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Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Saint Lucia’s Biodiversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 08:43:33 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156592 Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could […]

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Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, including the parrot.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

“With climate change, countries like St. Lucia [experience] significant weather events. The increase in hurricanes, the increase in bad weather and mudslides – these are incredible consequences of climate change,” Southey said.“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags," Sean Southey, chair of the Commission on Education and Communication.

Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake.

Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action, and he urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

“The smallness of islands allows for real society to get involved. What it means is helping people connect to the environment,” Southey said.

“It means that they need to know and feel and appreciate that their individual behaviours make a difference. Especially the biodiversity decisions [like] land use planning. If you are going to sell your family farm, do you sell for another commercial tourist resort, do you sell it to make a golf course or do you sell it to [produce] organic bananas? These are the type of individual decisions that people have to make that protect an island or hurt an island,” he said.

Southey added that thoughtful management of mangroves and effective management of shorelines, “can create natural mechanisms that allow you to cushion and protect society from the effects of climate change.”

 

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

The CEC chair said recent extreme weather events have forced people in the Caribbean to understand climate change more than inhabitants from other countries in the world do.

“If you’re over the age of 30 in the Caribbean, you’ve seen a change in weather patterns. It’s not a story that you hear on the news, it’s a reality that you feel during hurricane season every year. So I believe there is an understanding,” he said.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through many of St. Lucia’s neighbouring islands, including Barbuda.

The category five hurricane wreaked havoc on Barbuda’s world-famous frigate bird colony. Most of the 10,000-frigate bird population disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane that destroyed the mangroves in which they nest and breed.

While many countries in the Caribbean are working on building natural barriers and nature-based solutions in response to climate change, Southey still believes there needs to be a greater strengthening of that sense that people can actually do something to contribute.

Reducing plastic waste

In June 2016, Antigua took the lead in the Caribbean with a ban on the commercial use of plastic bags.

The island’s environment and health minister Molwyn Joseph said the decision was made in a bid to reduce the volume of plastic bags that end up in the watercourses and wetlands.

“We are giving our mangroves a fighting chance to be a source of healthy marine life, that can only benefit us as a people,” he said.

Antigua also became the first country within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the second within the Caribbean Community, to ratify the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Nagoya Protocol provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

On Jul. 3 this year, one of the Caribbean’s largest supermarket chains launched a campaign to discourage the use of single use plastic bags for bagging groceries at its checkout counters, while actively encouraging customers to shop with reusable bags as a more eco-friendly option.

Managing director of Massy Stores St. Lucia Martin Dorville said the company is focused on finding more permanent solutions to reducing plastic waste and its own demand for plastic bags.

He said the decision to encourage customers to use less plastic was bold, courageous and will help manage the adverse impacts of single use plastic on the environment.

“I am very thrilled that one of the number one supermarkets has decided to ban all plastic bags. It’s a small behaviour but it helps everyone realise that their individual actions make a difference,” Southey told IPS.

“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags, so I was very appreciative of that. But what I really liked is that when I spent over USD100, they gave me a recyclable bag as a bonus to encourage me to use that as an individual so that my behaviour can make a difference,” he said.

He added that if school children could understand the importance of mangroves and complex eco-systems and the need to protect forests, wildlife and endangered birds “then I think we can make a huge difference.”

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From the Soccer Field to the Political Arenahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soccer-field-political-arena http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:33:53 +0000 Oliver Philipp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156582 Oliver Philipp, who studied European and political science in Mainz, Dijon and Oppeln / Poland, has been working for the Department of International Policy Analysis of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

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A young Russian soccer fan shows his skills outside the Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov near the FIFA Fan Fest in Saransk, Russia

By Oliver Philipp
BERLIN, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Was your childhood room not adorned with posters of Gerd Müller or Zinedine Zidane? Were Willy Brandt or Mikhail Gorbachev the idols you looked up to in your youth?

And is the World Cup the worst time of the year for you, and are you already thinking about what remote place to flee to for four weeks to get away from the football frenzy? There’s no need to. We are about to tell you why the World Cup, now in its final stages, could be interesting to you, too.

Football is football and politics is politics. This statement does not always hold true, as demonstrated recently by the debate about the photograph of German national team members Ilkay Gündogan and Mesut Özil posing with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Football just can’t get away from politics. 60 members of the EU Parliament demanded a boycott of the World Cup in Russia in an open letter, and the debate about Putin’s politics will be a constant fixture over the next four weeks. The statements from the German national team were rather predictable. Coach Joachim Löw said that taking part in a World Cup does not equate to ‘associating with a system, regime or ruler’, and no matter where the German national football team plays, it always advocates its values of ‘diversity, openness and tolerance’.

Oliver Philipp

The business manager of the German national team, Oliver Bierhoff, even emphasised that his players were mature and allowed to have an opinion on politics. According to common clichés about footballers, those who are skilled with a ball are not usually skilled with words.

In Germany, you always had to decide at an early age whether you wanted to be famous, enjoy social recognition, have millions in the bank and keep in shape – or go into politics. The examples of Rhenania Würselen 09 defender and former German Chancellor candidate Martin Schulz and striker Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor, show that football missed out on promising talents because they chose to go into politics.

It looks like it might be a while before the next German top politician with international football experience emerges. Other countries have made some more progress in this regard.

A former World Player of the Year is now head of state in Africa, and in Brazil, the idol of an entire generation has traded in his position on the right wing of the football field for the same position in the political arena. We would like to present four footballers who tried their hand at politics after their active career in football.

A president, an exiled Erdoğan critic and a Brazilian senator

Let’s start with what is perhaps the most prominent example: George Weah. Football fans in Paris and Milan celebrated him for his goals, and FIFA nominated him as the first and, to date, only African World Footballer of the Year in 1995. Weah was celebrated once more in 2017, this time by followers in his home state of Liberia. He won the presidential elections and brought the first peaceful change of government since 1944.

By contrast, the political career of Hakan Şükür could be subsumed under the title ‘From football star to enemy of the state’. Being one of Turkey’s golden generation that unexpectedly won third place at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, he is one of the most well-known and popular Turkish footballers. He took advantage of this popularity at the presidential elections in 2014, when he took a seat on the Turkish parliament as a member of the AKP.

However, he declared in 2016 that he was leaving Erdoğan’s AKP and accused the party of taking hostile steps against the Gülen movement. He was subsequently indicted for insulting the president in an alleged tweet about President Erdoğan and investigated for ‘membership in an armed terrorist organisation’. Şükür has been living in the USA since 2015 and was forced to watch from afar as his membership with Galatasaray Istanbul, the club with which he won eight Turkish championships and even the UEFA Cup, was revoked.

Brazilian football star Ronaldinho has received the title as World Player of the Year twice. There was hardly another footballer who’s dribbling skills we enjoyed watching more than those of the ponytailed Brazilian.

It was therefore not only the world of football that was shocked when headlines such as ‘The World Player of the Year and the fascist’ appeared this year. These headlines emerged in light of Ronaldinho’s announcement that he intended to support Jair Bolsonaro, an open racist and candidate to be reckoned with in the presidential elections in October 2018.

But there are other examples from Brazil. Romario, for example, who was also once nominated as World Player of the Year and won the World Cup, is now a member of the Brazilian Congress as senator for Rio de Janeiro, where he is fighting corruption and advocating for the equality of people with disabilities.

It looks like the World Cup has something to offer even to the biggest football grouches and politics nerds. For who knows what future head of state we will be watching on the field. We hope that all the others who want to let politics be politics during the World Cup will forgive us for writing these lines.

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Excerpt:

Oliver Philipp, who studied European and political science in Mainz, Dijon and Oppeln / Poland, has been working for the Department of International Policy Analysis of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

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The Voice of Argentina’s Slums, Under Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=voice-argentinas-slums-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 02:23:54 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156545 Between the dimly-lit, narrow alleyways of Villa 21, only 30 minutes by bus from the centre of the Argentine capital, more than 50,000 people live in poverty. It was there that La Garganta Poderosa (which means powerful throat), the magazine that gave a voice to the “villeros” or slum-dwellers and whose members today feel threatened, […]

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One of the offices in Buenos Aires of La Poderosa, the social organisation that publishes the magazine La Garganta Poderosa and is involved in a number of activities, ranging from soup kitchens to skills training for adults and workshops for youngsters in the “villas” or slums in the capital and the rest of Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Between the dimly-lit, narrow alleyways of Villa 21, only 30 minutes by bus from the centre of the Argentine capital, more than 50,000 people live in poverty. It was there that La Garganta Poderosa (which means powerful throat), the magazine that gave a voice to the “villeros” or slum-dwellers and whose members today feel threatened, emerged in 2010.

“’Villeros’ don’t generally reach the media in Argentina. Others see us as people who don’t want to work, or as people who are dangerous. La Garganta Poderosa is the cry that comes from our soul,” says Marcos Basualdo, in one of the organisation’s offices, a narrow shop with a cement floor and unpainted walls, where the only furniture is an old metal cabinet where copies of the magazine are stored.

Basualdo, 28, says that it was after his house was destroyed by a fire in 2015 that he joined La Poderosa, the social organisation that created the magazine, which is made up of 79 neighbourhood assemblies of “villas” or shantytowns across the country.

From that time, Basualdo recalls that “people from different political parties asked me what I needed, but nobody gave me anything.”

“Then the people of La Poderosa brought me clothes, blankets, food, without asking me for anything in return. So I decided to join this self-managed organisation, which helps us help each other and helps us realize that we can,” he tells IPS.

Villa 21, the largest shantytown in Buenos Aires, is on the south side of the city, on the banks of the Riachuelo, a river polluted for at least two centuries, recently described as an “open sewer” by the Environment Ministry, which has failed to comply with a Supreme Court ruling ordering its clean-up.

Small naked cement and brick homes are piled on each other and crowded together along the narrow alleyways in the shantytowns and families have no basic services or privacy.

As you walk through the neighbourhood, you see sights that are inconceivable in other parts of the city, such as police officers carrying semi-automatic weapons at the ready.

Across the country, villas have continued to grow over the last few decades. Official and social organisation surveys show that at least three million of the 44 million people in this South American country live in slums, without access to basic services, which means approximately 10 percent of the urban population.

In this alleyway in Villa 21, a slum in the capital of Argentina, is located the house where nine-year-old Kevin Molina was hit and killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between drug gangs in 2013, and the police refused to intervene, according to reports. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In this alleyway in Villa 21, a slum in the capital of Argentina, is located the house where nine-year-old Kevin Molina was hit and killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between drug gangs in 2013, and the police refused to intervene, according to reports. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

La Garganta Poderosa, whose editorial board is made up of “all the members of all the assemblies” of the villas, also grew, both in its monthly print edition and in its active participation in social networks and other projects, such as a book, radio programmes, videos and a film.

It has interviewed politicians such as former presidents Dilma Rousseff or Brazil and José “Pepe” Mujica of Uruguay or sports stars like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona of Argentina, and has established itself as a cultural reference in Argentina, with its characteristic covers generally showing the main subjects of that edition with their mouths wide open as if screaming.

The writing style is more typical of spoken than written communication, using idioms and vocabulary generally heard in the villas, and the magazine’s journalism is internationally recognised and is studied as an example of alternative communication at some local universities.

The work this organisation carries out, as a means of creative and peaceful expression of a community living in a hostile environment, was even highlighted by the U.N. Special Rapporteur against Torture, Nils Melzer, who visited the villa in April.

However, recently, after the magazine denounced abuses and arbitrary detentions by security forces in Villa 21, the government accused it of being an accomplice to drug trafficking.

On Jun. 7, all media outlets were summoned by e-mail to a press conference at the Ministry of National Security, “to unmask the lies told by La Garganta Poderosa.”

 Activists from La Poderosa, on Avenida Iriarte, the main street of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires, on Jun. 1, as they leave for the courthouse to follow a trial against six police officers for alleged brutality against two teenagers from the slum. Credit: Courtesy of La Garganta Poderosa


Activists from La Poderosa, on Avenida Iriarte, the main street of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires, on Jun. 1, as they leave for the courthouse to follow a trial against six police officers for alleged brutality against two teenagers from the slum. Credit: Courtesy of La Garganta Poderosa

The next day, Minister Patricia Bullrich stated that the magazine and the social organisation that supports it are seeking to “free the neighbourhood so that it is not controlled by a state of law but by the illegal state.”

“This is a message that authorises violence against us. The minister showed images of our main leader, Nacho Levy, and since that day he has been receiving threats,” one of La Poderosa’s members told IPS, asking to remain anonymous for security reasons.

A few minutes walk from La Poderosa’s premises is the house where Kevin Molina, a nine-year-old boy, was shot in the head inside his house during a shootout between two drug gangs, in 2013.

“The neighbours called the police, but they didn’t want to get involved and said they would come and get the bodies the next day,” says the La Poderosa’s activist.

In recent weeks, the situation has become more tense.

Minister Bullrich’s accusation was a response to the repercussions from the arrest of La Garganta Poderosa photographer Roque Azcurriare and his brother-in-law. It happened on the night of May 26 and they were only released two days later.

Lucy Mercado and Marcos Basualdo, two members of La Poderosa's social organisation, pose in front of a mural in Villa 21, a slum in Buenos Aires, that pays tribute to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was murdered in March in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Lucy Mercado and Marcos Basualdo, two members of La Poderosa’s social organisation, pose in front of a mural in Villa 21, a slum in Buenos Aires, that pays tribute to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was murdered in March in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Using his cell-phone, Azcurriare tried to film police officers entering his house, which is located at the end of a short alleyway next to the house of Iván Navarro, a teenager who a few days earlier had testified about police brutality, during a public oral trial.

Navarro said that one night in September 2016, he and his friend Ezequiel were detained without cause in a street in the villa. He said the police beat them, threatened to kill them, stripped them naked, tried to force them to jump into the Riachuelo, and finally ordered them to run for their lives.

In connection with this case, which has been covered and supported by La Poderosa, six police officers are currently being held in pretrial detention awaiting a sentence expected in the next few weeks.

“Ivan Navarro was arrested because he was wearing a nice sports jacket. That’s how things are here in the villa. When someone is wearing brand-name sneakers, the police never think they bought them with their wages, but just assume that they’re stolen,” says Lucy Mercado, a 40-year-old woman born in Ciudad del Este, on the Triple Border between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, who has lived in Villa 21 since she was a little girl.

“It’s no coincidence that this is happening now. In April we had filed six complaints of torture by the police. And this very important oral trial. Never in the history of our organisation have we achieved anything like this,” another La Poderosa activist told IPS, who also asked not to be identified.

Azcurriare’s arrest gave more visibility in Argentina to the trial of the six police officers, to the point that on Jun. 1 there was a march from Villa 21 to the courthouse, in which hundreds of members of human rights organisations participated.

“We will no longer stay silent because it is not a question of harassing a charismatic reporter, but of systematically clamping down on all villa-dwellers,” La Garganta Poderosa stated on its social network accounts.

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Separated Central American Families Suffer Abuse in the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 23:20:14 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156513 After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside. Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her […]

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Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside.

Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her home country El Salvador. She is originally from Chalatenanango, in the central department of the same name.

The 29-year-old mother and her little boy spent more than four months apart after being detained on Feb. 19 for being intercepted without the proper documents in the U.S. state of Texas, where they entered the country from the Mexican border city of Reynosa.

“It’s been bad, very bad, everything we’ve been through, my son in one place and me in another,” Rodríguez told IPS in a brief statement before getting into a family car outside the Migrant Assistance Centre, where Salvadorans deported from both the United States and Mexico arrive.

She was informed she could apply for asylum, but that meant spending more time away from her son, and for that reason she chose to be deported. “I felt immense joy when they finally gave me my child,” she said with a faint smile..

Rodriguez was held in a detention centre on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, while her son was sent to a children’s shelter in far-flung New York City as a result of the “Zero Tolerance” policy on illegal immigration imposed in April by the Donald Trump administration.

The traumatic events experienced by Rodríguez and her son are similar to what has happened to thousands of families, most of them from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, detained and separated on the southern U.S. border after Trump implemented the measure to, in theory, stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.

According to the Salvadoran General Migration Officete, between Jan. 1 and Jun. 27, 39 minors were deported from the US, either alone or accompanied, 1,020 from Mexico and five others from other locations. That figure of 1,064 is well below the 1,472 returned in the first half of 2017.

Of the 2,500 children separated from their parents or guardians on the southern border of the U.S. since April, just over 2,000 are still being held in detention centres and shelters in that country, according to the media and human rights organisations.

This is despite the fact that President Trump signed a decree on Jun. 20 putting an end to the separation of families.

Images of children locked up in cages created by metal fencing, crying and asking to see their parents, triggered an international outcry.

“The detention of children and the separation of families is comparable to the practice of torture under international law and U.S. law itself. There is an intention to inflict harm by the authorities for the purpose of coercion,” Erika Guevara, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, told IPS from Mexico City.

The plane in which Rodríguez was deported carried another 132 migrants, including some 20 women, who told IPS about the abuses and human rights violations suffered in the detention centres.

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

Carolina Díaz, 21, who worked in a maquiladora – export assembly plant – before migrating to the United States, told IPS that she was held for a day and a half in what migrants refer to as the “icebox” in McAllen,Texas.

The icebox is kept extremely cold on purpose, because the guards turn up the air conditioning as a form of punishment “for crossing the border without papers,” said Díaz, a native of Ciudad Arce, in the central department of La Libertad, El Salvador.

“You practically freeze to death there, with nothing to keep yourself warm with,” she added, saying she had decided to migrate “because of the economic situation, looking for a better future.”

To sleep, all they gave her was a thermal blanket that looked like a giant sheet of aluminum foil, she said. Another woman, who did not want to be identified, told IPS that she was held in the icebox for nine days without knowing exactly why.

Díaz also spent another day and a half in the “kennel,” as they refer to the metal cages where dozens of undocumented immigrants are held.

“When I was in the kennel, the guards made fun of us, they threw the food at us as if we were dogs, almost always stale bologna sandwiches,” she said.

Díaz said that in McAllen, as well as in a similar detention centre in Laredo, Texas, she saw many mothers who had been separated from their children, crying inconsolably.

“The mothers were traumatised by the pain of the separation,” she said.

Guevara of Amnesty International said Trump’s decree does not stop the separations, but only postpones them, and families will continue to be detained, including those seeking asylum.

“The president’s Jun. 20 decree does not say what they are going to do with the more than 2,000 children already separated, in a situation of disorder that is generating other human rights violations,” she said.

These violations include the failure to notify parents or guardians when children are transferred to other detention facilities.

She added that the United States has created the world’s largest immigrant detention system, and currently operates 115 centres with at least 300,000 people detained each year.

Meanwhile, Marleny Montenegro, a psychologist with the Migrations programme in Guatemala’s non-governmental Psychosocial Action and StudiesTeam, explained that children detained and separated from their parents suffer from depression, fear, anxiety and anguish, among other psychological issues.

“They are affected in their ability to trust, their insecurity and they have trouble reintegrating into the community and in communicating their feelings and thoughts,” Montenegro told IPS from the Guatemalan capital.

The plane with undocumented deportees arrived in El Salvador on the same day as U.S. Vice President Michael Pence, who was meeting in Guatemala with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and El Salvador’s President Sánchez Cerén.

Pence’s aim at the Jun. 28 meeting was to obtain a commitment from the three governments to adopt policies to curb migration to the U.S. According the figures he cited, 150,000 Central Americans have arrived to the US. so far this year – an irregular migration flow that he said “must stop.”

In a joint statement, at the end of what they called “a frank dialogue” with Pence, the three Central American leaders expressed their willingness to work together with the United States on actions that prioritise the well-being of children and adolescents, family unity and the due process of law.

They also stressed the importance of working in a coordinated manner to inform nationals of their countries of the risks involved in irregular migration and to combat human trafficking and smuggling networks.

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Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:20:14 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156475 At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”. “We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what […]

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In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
CUSIPATA, Peru, Jun 30 2018 (IPS)

At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”.

“We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what we eat, and we forget about other vegetables, but now we’re going to be able to naturally grow tomatoes, lettuce, and peas,” María Magdalena Condori told IPS, visibly pleased with the results, while showing her solar greenhouse, built recently in several days of community work.

She lives in the Andes highlands village of Paropucjio, located at more than 3,300 m above sea level, in Cusipata, a small district of less than 5,000 inhabitants."We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognized." -- Elena Villanueva

The local population subsists on small-scale farming and animal husbandry, which is mainly done by women, while most of the men find paid work in districts in the area or even in the faraway city of Cuzco, to complete the family income.

The geographical location of Paropucjio is a factor in the low fertility of the soils, in addition to the cold, with temperatures that drop below freezing. “Here, frost can destroy all our crops overnight and we end up with no food to eat,” says Celia Mamani, one of Condori’s neighbors.

A similar or even worse situation can be found in the other 11 villages that make up Cusipata, most of which are at a higher altitude and are more isolated than Paropucjio, which is near the main population centre in Cusipata and has the largest number of families, about 120.

Climate change has exacerbated the harsh conditions facing women and their families in these rural areas, especially those who are furthest away from the towns, because they have fewer skills training opportunities to face the new challenges and have traditionally been neglected by public policy-makers.

“In Paropucjio there are 14 of us women who are going to have our own greenhouse and drip irrigation module; so far we have built five. This makes us very happy, we are proud of our work because we will be able to make better use of our land,” said Rosa Ysabel Mamani the day that IPS spent visiting the community.

The solar greenhouses will enable each of the beneficiaries to grow organic vegetables for their families and to sell the surplus production in the markets of Cusipata and nearby districts.

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

With a broad smile, Mamani points to a 50-sq-m wooden structure that within the next few days will be covered with mesh on the sides and microfilm – a plastic resistant to extreme temperatures and hail – on the roof.

“We will all come with our husbands and children and we will finish building the greenhouse in ‘ayni’ (a Quechua word that means cooperation and solidarity), as our ancestors used to work,” she explains.

The ayni is one of the social forms of work of the Incas still preserved in Peru’s Andes highlands, where the community comes together to build homes, plant, harvest or perform other tasks. At the end of the task, in return, a hearty meal is shared.

The minga, another legacy of the Inca period, is similar but between communities, whose inhabitants go to help those of another community. In this case women from different villages and hamlets get together to build the greenhouses, especially the roofs, the hardest part of the job.

Training in production and rights

A total of 80 women from six rural highlands districts in Cuzco will benefit from the solar greenhouses and drip irrigation modules for their family organic gardens, as part of a project run by the non-governmental Peruvian Flora Tristán Women’s Centre with the support of the Spanish Basque Agency for Development Cooperation.

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognised,” Elena Villanueva, a sociologist with the centre’s rural development programme, told IPS.

She said the aim was comprehensive training for women farmers, so that they can use agro-ecological techniques for the sustainable use of soil, water and seeds. They will also learn to defend their rights as women, farmers and citizens, in their homes, community spaces and before local authorities.

The expert said the solar greenhouses open up new opportunities for women because they protect crops from adverse weather and from the high levels of ultraviolet radiation in the area, allowing the women to grow crops that could not survive out in the open.

“Now they will have year-round food that is not currently part of their diet, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce, that will enrich the nutrition and diets in their families – crops they will be able to plant and harvest with greater security,” she said.

The women have also been trained in the preparation of natural fertilisers and pesticides. “Our soils don’t yield much, they squeeze the roots of the plants, so we have to prepare them very well so that they can receive the seeds and then provide good harvests,” Condori explains.

In the 50 square metres covered by her new greenhouse, the local residents have worked steadily digging the soil to remove the stones, turn the soil and form the seed beds for planting.

Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS


Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“To do that we have had to fertilise a lot using bocashi (fermented organic fertiliser) that we prepare in groups with the other women, working together in ayni. We brought guinea pig and chicken droppings and cattle manure, leaves, and ground eggshells,” she explains.

This active role in making decisions about the use of their productive resources has helped change the way their husbands see them and has brought a new appreciation for everything they do to support the household and their families.

Honorato Ninantay, from the community of Huasao, located more than 3,100 metres above sea level in the neighbouring district of Oropesa, confesses his surprise and admiration for the way his wife juggles all her responsibilities.

“It seems unbelievable that before, in all this time, I hadn’t noticed. Only when she has gone to the workshops and has been away from home for two days have I understood,” he says.

“I as a man have only one job, I work in construction. But my wife has aahh! (long exclamation). When she left I had to fetch the water, cook the meals, feed the animals, go to the farm and take care of my mother who is sick and lives with us. I couldn’t handle it all,” he adds.

His wife, Josefina Corihuamán, listens to her husband with a smile on her face, and confirms that he is now involved in household chores because he has understood that washing, cleaning and cooking are not just a “woman’s job.”

She also has a solar greenhouse and irrigation module and is confident that she will produce enough to feed her family and sell the surplus in the local market.

“What we will harvest will be healthy, organic, chemical-free food, and that is good for our families, for our children. I feel that I will finally make good use of my land,” she says.

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Football, Xenophobia, Racism, Discrimination– & a Few More Thingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-things/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-things http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-things/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 17:16:07 +0000 Pablo Alabarces http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156470 Pablo Alabarces holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Brighton, England. He is Professor of Popular Culture at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires and has published several books on football and popular culture.

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Credit: iStockphoto.com/ peepo

By Pablo Alabarces
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

Football tells us a great deal about identity. Even a budding sports journalist knows that. And it has come to be a meeting point and even an advertising theme. But what we never discuss is the varying forms of this identity that are possible, let alone the consequences, which are sometimes ill-fated.

Saying that football is tied to identity is comforting because it places higher status on it than just a triviality: it allows us to emphatically claim that “soccer is the most important of the least important things” (another triviality).

Of course, this importance is derived precisely from the fact that it comprises a series of memories and stories in which very diverse identities are invented and adopted and from the fact that its effectiveness is based on its emotional warmth (the apparent “passion”), the potential beauty of the game (although rare, to be honest), and the unpredictability of the outcome.

But the comfort of identity overlooks—or conceals—that we have not explained anything with this; that we need to add another dimension that is indispensable (and generally covert): the dimension of power.

The dimensions of identity involved are not just the two most visible ones: identity at the micro or tribal level (the club, the team, the colors) and national identity (national team, country, homeland), although these also require our attention before we start celebrating.

The stories of identity that football involves—or has involved in Latin America in the past—have been centered on a wide variety of themes. At least in broad terms, these have included ethnicity, race, class, territory, and country—all of which were triggered by stories that—in some cases—labeled themselves as “playing styles”.

Ethnicity stems from the actual roots and conflicts among Europeans (not only the English), criollos and mestizos; class, from the sport’s popularization and the disputes over professionalization; race, from the appearance of those of African descent; territory, from the close relationship between teams and cities or towns (or neighborhoods in major cities).

And finally country, which found the ideal channel to popularize narratives of identity in soccer in 1916 and the appearance of international competitions. At the same time, however, there is something major missing – and not just in Latin America: the dimension of gender was silenced (as well as banned) in this discovery and in these stories.

Let us pause here and use this missing component to better illustrate the dimension of power. The commonality of identity sometimes overlooks the fact that these are essentially male identities and stories, that they were imposed as universal at the expense of censorship and the exclusion of football and female fandom.

To top it off, the culture of sports does not allow women to be a channel for identity narratives, since this is impossible based on a broader principle that is not just Latin American. According to this principle, the narrative of one’s homeland cannot be told from a female perspective and women cannot be the heroes in a nationalist story.

On the contrary, the excess of narratives—the effective excess of narratives—in male football ruled out the possibility of having a female story altogether, and even excluded it, as we have already noted.

Thus the aim here is not to celebrate identities, but to assess who creates them, who adopts them, and how they are narrated. And fundamentally, who they are narrated against. Because, as we know, every story of identity is also a story of otherness: what someone is and what someone isn’t.

In football, the prevailing story is that the one telling it is masculine: but the “other” is gay—not a woman—which doubles the exclusion of women in one fell swoop. It is a matter entirely for men, which in turn creates space for a homoerotic story and—paradoxically—a homophobic one.

This is an initial common ground for discrimination that was recently used in an unsuccessful ad by television broadcaster Torneos y Competencias [Latin American sports and entertainment service]: disguised as alleged criticism of Russia’s repression of homosexuality, the ad revealed the persistent anti-feminine discrimination established by football culture.

Racism and xenophobia

The same holds true for the concepts of ethnicity and race. Latin American soccer was built on top of an ethnic dispute (at times disguised as anti-imperialism) during the process of making a European-invented game more criollo. Once this initial stage was over, however, it gave rise to two conflicting junctures:

1. The national narratives of differentiation—Buenos Aires against provincial Argentina, Santiago against Valparaíso, Rio de Janeiro against São Paulo, coastal areas against the mountainside in Colombia, Ecuador, and to a lesser extent in Peru, and
2. The racialization of African-descendant ethnicity, a key concept that was crucial to the invention of “popular” soccer in Brazil, Uruguay, and Peru.

These concepts started to come into play at the international level in 1916: the Chilean league demanded that the points achieved by the Uruguayan team in the first South American Championship not be counted because they had “African players” on their roster.

At the 1921 South American Championship in Buenos Aires, Brazilian President Epitácio Pessoa stated his desire to have the Brazilian team made up of only white players since the year before, the Argentine press had called the Brazilians “little monkeys” when they passed through Buenos Aires on their way to the South American Championship in Chile.

This was not the first presence of racism in “white” Latin American societies; we are simply pointing out that football allowed this racism to establish itself from then on and gave it a competitive advantage.

Since the 1930s, all these concepts were primarily narrated by the mass media, with the resulting prevalence of stereotyping. The media uses stereotypes to create and tell narratives, simply because this is the method it has to readily put a chaotic world in order.

The problem comes when a stereotype also dictates our understanding of the world since no other story lines can be found. Here we see the problem of power once again: the narrators were—and mostly still are—white and middle class, so all their narratives were created from these perspectives.

The prevailing voice and practically the only perspective throughout the Americas is still white, urban, and middle class. The best example of this in football is in Brazil, where it was revealed that an apparent racial democracy was achieved starting in 1958, with its first World Cup title in Sweden, led by its star players Vavá, Didí, Pelé, and Garrincha. Three black men and a mulatto. But this revelation was made and publicized by educated white men: Gilberto Freyre and Mário Filho.

A discriminatory celebration

The aim here is not to attribute the homophobic, xenophobic, and racist excesses of Latin American fans to mass culture, however. Mass culture simply sets the stage for the prevailing stories such that broadly homophobic, xenophobic, and racist societies cannot avoid having these characteristics in their mass culture, and thus in their soccer.

Due to its massiveness, soccer provides greater visibility of these narratives and sets the stage for the masses. These are not every day racist acts. Instead, it is a crowd berating the blackness of a particular soccer player in mostly white societies. The xenophobic narrative, in turn, is disguised as a joke.

Sports journalists think very highly of their own humor and believe mutual bashing between Chileans and Peruvians, Argentines and Brazilians, or Colombians and Venezuelans can be adopted based on the argument of tradition (“that the way it’s always been”) and humor (“not seriously”).

The outlook is thus dreadful. FIFA regulations appear to have achieved few results in the world of UEFA, let alone in the world of CONMEBOL. It is possible that this relative lack of success is due to an issue of power.

The ones who make these rules—for the sake of political correctness—are members of the same groups that can and do discriminate on multiple bases (white, urban, and rich, if possible). In the case of Argentina, no one seriously believes that it is that bad to call a rival “black,” “Bolivian,” or “fag”—it’s a “guy thing,” said in the heat of the moment during the game. It is certainly not possible to find fault with tens of thousands of fans who are simply adopting the ethics of their dominant classes, either.

It will take far more than a few well-written disciplinary rules to potentially undo this process. Last August, Frank Fabra—a Colombian player of African descent, who plays for Argentina’s Boca Juniors—was insulted by rival fans of “Estudiantes de la Plata” [Argentine professional sports club based in La Plata] with predictable shouts of “black,” “fag,” and “Colombian.” The referee decided not to interrupt the game, claiming that the shouting did not come from the entire stadium.

So, as we said: it was just a joke.

The link to the original article: https://www.fes-connect.org/trending/football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-and-a-few-more-things/

The post Football, Xenophobia, Racism, Discrimination– & a Few More Things appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Pablo Alabarces holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Brighton, England. He is Professor of Popular Culture at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires and has published several books on football and popular culture.

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Breaking the Cycle of Child Labor in Peruhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/breaking-cycle-child-labor-peru/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-cycle-child-labor-peru http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/breaking-cycle-child-labor-peru/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 11:39:13 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156436 Most laborers in Peru are forced into a vicious cycle by circumstance. Faced with low-paying, high-intensity work, they have no choice but to make their children work as well. Having spent their lives neglecting education for labor, those children in turn grow up with no options for income besides low-paying, high-intensity positions  – and so […]

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The brick site where children toil away, just down the road from the classroom. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

By Andrea Vale
LIMA, Jun 28 2018 (IPS)

Most laborers in Peru are forced into a vicious cycle by circumstance. Faced with low-paying, high-intensity work, they have no choice but to make their children work as well. Having spent their lives neglecting education for labor, those children in turn grow up with no options for income besides low-paying, high-intensity positions  – and so on. But in classrooms across one region, a handful of teachers are trying to break that cycle while the children are still young.

Passing out books every week in a tiny classroom that lies on the side of a dirt road, high up in the Andes overlooking the city of Cajamarca, volunteers are met with a crime that teachers would usually welcome – the children are trying to sneak out extra books so that they can read more.When they first begin coming to classes, virtually all of the children have self-esteem so low that they are cripplingly shy and can barely speak to others.

Once each has a book the air is filled with high voices while they excitedly compare with one another, sometimes swapping between friends, exclaiming in thrill.

Each one of them is a child laborer.

The overwhelming majority work in brick yards, although some in nearby towns work loading and unloading carts of fruit from trucks in the crowded mercado; as construction workers helping to build houses by carrying cement and heavy tools; farm hands; maids; or simply wandering the streets for hours picking up bottles for recycling departments.

The miniature brick workers – all aged around six years old – rise at six in the morning and walk for several hours to get to their work sites. They spend all day in the mud, molding dirt into bricks; carrying loads into large, industrial ovens; hauling piles of finished bricks into trucks; and unloading the same loads in construction sites and crowded mercados.

It’s a job that consumes a child’s daily life, taking up any time that he or she is not in school.  The work gradually eats in to school hours themselves more and more until the children eventually drop out completely around age 12, to allow themselves to spend more time working and earn a larger income. Unsurprisingly, almost all of them are constantly ill and malnourished.

The first week spent in the classroom, one volunteer picked up an unsuspecting-looking crossword puzzle and examined it off-handedly. What she found was a startling unintentional statement on the reality of child labor, a first-grader’s scrawl answering as casual vocab terms the names of laws and legal rights that ensured that his right to protect his body, and for adults to care for him and other children.

That disquieting intermingling of childish innocence alongside more menacing undertones characterized the classroom. Posters on the wall displayed ‘My Rights Are: A Family;” “My Rights Are: An Education;” and “My Rights Are: A Home,” with the same bright colors and cartoons that exhibited the ABCs in elementary school classrooms.

A child laborer’s crossword puzzle. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

Antonieta, the teacher, smiled over them all from her place at the front of the classroom. She augmented to the atmosphere of cheeriness, taking time to sit with the children at their tables to ask them, “What story are you writing in your journal?”; “What do you think the moral of the book you’re reading is?”

When interviewed sitting on a log by the outhouse behind the classroom without any children around, however, her demeanor is notably more sober.

“Going to school is the most expensive right in Peru,” Antonieta said in Spanish, “According to the laws, they say, ‘No, school doesn’t cost anything,’ but in reality, they ask for money for everything.”

Antonieta told me that child laborers come from illiterate parents, ones without stable jobs. At best, mothers find occasional work as housekeepers, clothes washers and nannies, earning a salary of 100 soles a month (30 dollars), 200 if they’re lucky. Fathers are blue-collar workers, resigned by their lack of education to low salaries and career instability.

To earn an income even close to what it takes to keep a family surviving, everyone has to work – including the smallest members. An average income for a family in which mothers, fathers and children all contribute is about 400 to 600 soles a month – the equivalent of about 120 to 180 U.S. dollars.

And what does 400 to 600 soles a month look like? A house comprised of one room, at most two. Mothers, fathers, children, aunts and uncles, and grandparents all live together in their simultaneous bedroom, dining room and kitchen. And housed inside with them are farm animals and pets. As a result, these children grow up without independence, constantly stricken with stomach infections, colds and other detrimental diseases. The Cajamarca region holds the second-most place in Peru for youth malnourishment.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 3.3 million child laborers in Peru, and a third of them are under 12 years old. 26.5% – almost 1/3 – of the Peruvian population between the ages of six and 17 are currently working, and those numbers are projected to increase greatly over the next few years. Though most of the younger half of child laborers attempts to attend school alongside their labor, children seem to drop out of school completely around age 12. For instance, among children who labor as domestic workers, only 2.3% of those aged 6-11 don’t attend school at all – as compared to 97.7% of those aged 12-17.

One brick site sits just down the road from the classroom. Unshielded from the sharp Peruvian sun beating down is a field of meticulously organized piles of industrial-sized bricks, intercepted in places by mounds of dirt and one massive brick oven. It isn’t hard to picture the ghosts of activity that had filled it only hours before – little hands straightening those piles of bricks; tiny bodies stumbling inside that oven carrying loads of mud stacked higher than their heads.

“Last week we gave dolls to the children,” Antonieta said. “They identify certain parts of the body where emotion is connected, where they feel happy or sad. Many of them couldn’t.”

When they first begin coming to classes, virtually all of the children have self-esteem so low that they are cripplingly shy and can barely speak to others. They are totally unable and fearful of expressing their thoughts and feelings.

“The children don’t have places for recreation. They don’t have places to be together with their friends, they don’t have places to do homework, they don’t have places to have conversations with their parents,” Antonieta said, “After coming to a few classes, they are more expressive. They are able to communicate their feelings, they communicate more with their families. They are improving in their studies. We have them write in journals. There was a little boy who brought his in and had written, ‘If (class) didn’t exist anymore, my dreams would be broken. My dreams would be dead.’ “

Antonieta began to quietly weep.

“A lot of children have written very good things, beautiful things,” she persisted, “‘There is so much hope with these children, that they’ll be able to learn and grow, and they come here and they get that hope.”

She says that reading “will help tremendously with their knowledge, increase their abilities, and they will not be taken advantage of so easily. They will be able to defend their own rights.”

Antonieta says that of the 250 children enrolled this year, 200 have left work, and the rest have reduced their hours at work.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” Antonieta says. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

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Solar Energy in Social Housing, a Discarded Solution in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 19:21:33 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156419 “Our main challenge is to get the project back on track,” agreed the administrators of two affordable housing complexes, where a small solar power plant was installed for social purposes in Juazeiro, a city in northeast Brazil. Gilsa Martins, re-elected for the third time to a two-year stint as manager of the Morada do Salitre […]

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Senegalese Immigrants Face Police Brutality in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/senegalese-immigrants-face-police-brutality-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=senegalese-immigrants-face-police-brutality-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/senegalese-immigrants-face-police-brutality-argentina/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 15:09:34 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156365 Senegalese immigrants began to arrive in Argentina in the 1990s and most of them joined the group of street vendors in Buenos Aires and other cities. But in recent months, they have suffered police brutality, denounced as a campaign of racial persecution. “We always had a good relationship with the police. They even looked after […]

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Looking to the Sky for Solutions to Mexico’s Water Scarcityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/looking-sky-solutions-mexicos-water-scarcity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=looking-sky-solutions-mexicos-water-scarcity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/looking-sky-solutions-mexicos-water-scarcity/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 18:48:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156314 Twenty-five years ago, Mexican engineer Gustavo Rodriguez decided to collect rainwater to solve the scarcity of water in his home and contribute to the care of natural resources. “We did it to seek a better integration with the care of nature. We wanted to have a sustainable home,” this resident of the indigenous town of […]

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Photomontage by the organisation Isla Urbana, a pioneer in the promotion of rainwater harvesting as part of a new model in the management of water supply and consumption in Mexico, where the benefits of the system to get access to water are recreated in informal settlements in the west of the capital. Credit: Isla Urbana

Photomontage by the organisation Isla Urbana, a pioneer in the promotion of rainwater harvesting as part of a new model in the management of water supply and consumption in Mexico, where the benefits of the system to get access to water are recreated in informal settlements in the west of the capital. Credit: Isla Urbana

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 20 2018 (IPS)

Twenty-five years ago, Mexican engineer Gustavo Rodriguez decided to collect rainwater to solve the scarcity of water in his home and contribute to the care of natural resources.

“We did it to seek a better integration with the care of nature. We wanted to have a sustainable home,” this resident of the indigenous town of San Bartolo Ameyalco, on the west side of Mexico City, told IPS.

Rodriguez installed a roof catchment, cistern, filters and piping, a system that retains 90 cubic metres (m3) of water and meets for at least seven months a year the water needs of the 12 people who live in three houses on his land.

“We use between 80 and 90 liters per person per day,” said Rodríguez, who has also incorporated a biodigester to generate biomass as energy to increase the sustainability of his farm.

San Bartolo Ameyalco, which means “place of springs” in the Nahuatl language, with a population of some 20,000 people, is supplied with water from a spring connected to the local water network which it feeds. But many people lack piped water, even though tjey pay for it.

“There is trade in water in tanker trucks and this has caused tension with its management. There is access to water, but not all people receive it and this is because the valves are manipulated to get people to pay political favours” in exchange for the supply, said Rodriguez, who has not received piped water for four months.

Rain can help this Latin American country of 130 million people to cope with the water crisis projected by experts from 2030 onwards, while it is currently causing floods, landslides and generally ending up in the drains.

At the same time, it can help Mexico achieve the goal of ensuring availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all, the sixth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be met by 2030.

The country receives an estimated 1.45 billion m3 of water per year in the form of precipitation, according to Mexico’s Water Statistics 2017.

Of the rainfall, 72 percent evaporates and returns to the atmosphere, 21 percent drains through water bodies and 6.3 percent infiltrates the subsoil and recharges aquifers, of which 105 out of 653 are overexploited.

In Mexico, rainwater ends up in the drains, when collecting it could supply water to households that lack the service. In the picture, a storm hits Mexico City on April 28, 2018. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Mexico, rainwater ends up in the drains, when collecting it could supply water to households that lack the service. In the picture, a storm hits Mexico City on April 28, 2018. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

 

Between 1981 and 2010, 740 millimeters of annual rainfall fell on this nation, while in 2016, rainfall rose slightly to 744 millimeters.

Data from the government’s National Water Commission indicate that the average natural availability of the resource fell from 18,035 m3 per inhabitant per year in 1950 to 3,687 m3 in 2016.

Despite the decrease, availability is not a problem, according to the parameters set by the United Nations, which establishes that a country with less than 1,000 m3 per inhabitant per year has a shortage of water and a country with a range between 1,000 and 1,700 m3 per person of water supply suffers water stress.

Data from the non-governmental Oxfam in Mexico indicate that almost 10 million people have no water in their homes, in violation of the right to water established in the constitution since 2012.

In addition, Mexico is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as prolonged droughts and heavy rainfall within a wet season that traditionally goes from May to October. Several studies foresee a water crisis by 2040, especially from the centre to the north of the country.

There are 8.8 million people living in Mexico City proper and more than 20 million in Greater Mexico City, and on average almost 16 m3 of water per inhabitant per day are extracted and only about 11 are replaced.

Water shortages prompted Matilde Jiménez to seek rainwater collection for her home in the Cerrada del Bosque Xochitonalá shantytown in the Santa Cruz Alcapizca neighbourhood of Xochimilco, one of the 16 boroughs into which Mexico City is divided, on the south side of the city.

“We didn’t have water, and a neighbour heard about the Isla Urbana organisation, their people visited us and registered several neighbours to get collectors installed,” Jiménez, a homemaker who is studying creative writing, told IPS.

After paying 150 dollars, her home, where she lives with her husband and three children, now has a collection system that has provided them with about 11,000 litres since its installation, which covers more than five months of consumption. They no longer have to spend money to buy water from the tanker trucks.

A large rainwater collection tank that serves for irrigation, water for animal consumption and, once properly purified, human consumption. Neta Cero has installed more than 2,000 of these systems in four states of Mexico. Credit: Neta Cero

A large rainwater collection tank that serves for irrigation, water for animal consumption and, once properly purified, human consumption. Neta Cero has installed more than 2,000 of these systems in four states of Mexico. Credit: Neta Cero

Rainfall reduces the need to obtain or import water from conventional sources, allows for the creation of supplies at specific locations, and does not depend on the traditional system, thus reducing the vicious circle of dependency and crisis.

Seven out of 16 boroughs in the capital suffer from water insecurity, calculated from the degree of marginalisation, access to water and distribution of the resource, according to the non-governmental organisation Isla Urbana, a pioneer in the promotion of rainwater harvesting in the country.

This organisation estimates that 21,693 hectares of rooftops would contribute 16 million m3 per month. The city consumes 32 m3 per second, so rainfall could provide 20 percent of that demand.

Water scarcity has led several organisations to develop rainwater harvesting systems in remote areas of the country, such as the social enterprise Neta Cero.

“There are communities without access to water. What we are doing is solving these problems with these systems that represent a very important source for these communities,” its founder, Tirian Mink, from the United States, told IPS.

This social entrepreneur, who created the organisation in 2013, recalled how he himself built the first “spring-roof” that year in the town of Palo de Marca, in the municipality of Huautla de Jiménez, which has a population of over 31,000 people and is located in the southern state of Oaxaca.

“It was in a preschool, it was a very important learning experience. We installed it in a couple of weeks with local materials, the tank was filled in less than a week,” said Mink, who chose the site because of the high levels of water stress and heavy rainfall and where nine systems already operate to provide a supply of water to the community.

The water is stored in tanks with a capacity of between 200,000 and 500,000 litres, at a cost of between 4,800 and 146,000 dollars, depending on the complexity and size of the facility, and with a total capacity to collect up to five million litres. Neta Cero has already connected 2,315 systems in four states since 2013.

The Mexican government is implementing the National Programme for Rainwater Harvesting and Eco-techniques in Rural Areas, which in 2017 was implemented in 94 highly marginalised areas in eight of the country’s 32 states, with the installation of 944 rainwater harvesting systems.

The government of Mexico City has also installed hundreds of rainwater systems in an attempt to alleviate the crisis that threatens to worsen in the long term.

Engineer Rodríguez proposed the promotion of rainwater harvesting. “There is little awareness, aggravated by political patronage. Politicians need to be aware of the problem and its solutions. The problem is not technical, it is social, a problem of governance. There is a lack of incentives,” he said.

Mink proposed more funding for the installation and maintenance of systems.

“We seek interventions with greater impact with the least investment. The biggest impact is achieved with large systems, but one difficulty is that the water service is free of charge so there is no maintenance. That is a challenge, and to have sustainable systems” environmentally and financially, said Mink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With additional reporting by Mario Osava in Rio de Janeiro.

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

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

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

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Intelligent Land Use Seeks to Make Headway in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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