Inter Press ServiceFood Security – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 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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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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For the Rural Poor of Peru, the Social Agenda is Far Awayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/rural-poor-peru-social-agenda-far-away/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-poor-peru-social-agenda-far-away http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/rural-poor-peru-social-agenda-far-away/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:20:25 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154459 “The day will come when people do not have to go to the cities to overcome poverty,” says Elmer Pinares, mayor of an Andean highlands municipality in Cuzco, in southern Peru, where malnutrition and lack of support for subsistence farming are among the main problems. “If I were president of Peru, I would reactivate the […]

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The central square of Huaro, with a colonial church that is a national monument, in the middle of the typical Andes highlands landscape. This Peruvian rural municipality of 4,500 people feels alone in its efforts to reduce the high levels of poverty. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

The central square of Huaro, with a colonial church that is a national monument, in the middle of the typical Andes highlands landscape. This Peruvian rural municipality of 4,500 people feels alone in its efforts to reduce the high levels of poverty. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

By Mariela Jara
HUARO, Peru, Feb 22 2018 (IPS)

“The day will come when people do not have to go to the cities to overcome poverty,” says Elmer Pinares, mayor of an Andean highlands municipality in Cuzco, in southern Peru, where malnutrition and lack of support for subsistence farming are among the main problems.

“If I were president of Peru, I would reactivate the Andes highlands by supporting small-scale agriculture and training women and men in the face of climate change, so that communities can take advantage of their resources and families can have a good quality of life,” the mayor of Huaro, a town of 4,500 inhabitants located at 3,100 meters above sea level, told IPS.

Huaro is one of the 12 districts (municipalities) of the province of Quispicanchi, in turn one of the 13 that make up Cuzco, a department with high rates of inequality and poverty, despite being Peru’s epicentre of tourism and source of high-protein foods, such as quinoa, tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis) and amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus)."In our administration, we aim to combat chronic child malnutrition and we have focused our efforts on guaranteeing food security for families in a situation of extreme poverty, then we will sell outside if there is a surplus." -- Enrique Achahui

These problems translate into high rates of child malnutrition and anemia in the highlands areas, curtailing opportunities for the rural population from early childhood, said Pinares, who after finishing his three-year term in 2019 is determined to return to teaching at the local school.

At total of 38,533 girls and boys under the age of three are malnourished in the Andean communities of Cuzco, where the population is predominantly native Quechua, he said.

Peru, a country of 32 million people, has made progress in reducing child malnutrition in the last decade, but official figures show that in this region of 1.4 million people malnutrition remains high at 53.1 percent of children, almost 10 percentage points above the national average of 43.5 percent.

“This is the reality in the highland communities of the Peruvian Andes, which the national government ignores,” said Pinares, who during his term has promoted the development of productive projects for the benefit of families, with the support of a small team of local technicians.

And the situation in Huaro, IPS found during a tour of rural communities in the area, is repeated in other districts located over 3,000 meters above sea level, which forms part of the territory where rural poverty is concentrated in Peru.

According to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics and Information, from 2016, overall poverty in Peru stands at 20.7 percent of the population, but rural poverty climbs to 43.8 percent, and of that proportion, 13.2 percent live in extreme poverty.

For this group of Peruvians, food security is still a distant goal, as acknowledged by another government study from 2017.

Communities feel alone

It is in this context that the local authorities of the most neglected communities of Peru, who with limited resources try to boost development in their territories, feel like they have been left on their own by the central government.

Along with a small technical team, Huaro Mayor Elmer Pinares, from his office in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco, in southern Peru, promotes projects aimed at improving the living conditions of local families, and in particular at reducing child malnutrition, a sensitive subject for him, as a teacher. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Along with a small technical team, Huaro Mayor Elmer Pinares, from his office in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco, in southern Peru, promotes projects aimed at improving the living conditions of local families, and in particular at reducing child malnutrition, a sensitive subject for him, as a teacher. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

“In our administration, we aim to combat chronic child malnutrition and we have focused our efforts on guaranteeing food security for families in a situation of extreme poverty, then we will sell outside if there is a surplus,” Enrique Achahui, the municipal manager of the district of Andahuaylillas, told IPS.

In his town, at almost 3,200 m above sea level, another new and urgent problem is the lack of water, because the streams in the Andes are shrinking due to climate change.

“Here most families are engaged in small-scale agriculture, where they get their food, but without water there will be no food. Despite the serious nature of the situation, the central government has not put a priority on addressing this problem,” the official said.

A little higher up, at 3,553 m above sea level, the municipal authorities of the district of Quiquijana, also in the province of Quispicanchi, are committed to promoting economic development with productive projects carried out by peasant families.

“In highlands communities, child malnutrition exceeds 50 percent and may increase because crops are lost due to climate change. We are developing capacities for planting crops and harvesting water, creating organic bio-gardens and raising guinea pigs for food,” municipal official Efraín Lupo told IPS.

His colleague, Rosmary Challco, added that unexpected frost and hailstorms are destroying crops.

“Families lose money, work, and food, and this is a very serious problem for highlands communities. Unfortunately there are no initiatives from the central government to initiate change,” she said with dismay.

She also called attention to the need to promote public policies focused on Andean territories to reinforce local intervention and raise public awareness about changes in social patterns to improve the lives of communities.

“We need to eradicate the machismo that prevents girls and women in communities in highlands areas from getting an education and from living lives free of (gender) violence, so that they can have a profession, develop and provide for their families,” she explained.

For Janed Nina, education was the door that opened up opportunities for her to realise her dreams.

She had the support of her family to pursue university studies after finishing high school, and today, as an agronomist, she contributes to the growth of the family farm located in the community of Saclla in the district of Calca.

“We plant more than 40 kinds of vegetables, which enrich our diet. We sell the surplus to have an income that helps us develop the farm,” she told IPS.

After graduating as an agronomist, agroecological farmer Janed Nina returned to her community, Saclla, high in the Peruvian Andes, to apply her knowledge on the family farm and also share it with other local farmers. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

After graduating as an agronomist, agroecological farmer Janed Nina returned to her community, Saclla, high in the Peruvian Andes, to apply her knowledge on the family farm and also share it with other local farmers. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

She, along with her two brothers who are also agricultural engineers, is dedicated to working on the family farm and sharing their achievements.

“Here we offer training in agroecology to women farmers, as well as internships for people interested in learning,” she said.

For Nina, the weakness of small-scale agriculture has to do with the lack of vision of the central government, which does not include it as a strategic area of production, and with the fact that instead of promoting productive training in the communities, it limits itself to providing social assistance.

“We need to work and take advantage of our resources,” she said.

In the district of Cusipata, at 3,100 m altitude, with a population of 4,700, the main concern of the authorities is to create conditions for the population to improve their food security and thus reduce the rates of anemia and malnutrition among local children.

“We seek to work with organised groups of women. Associations of flower growers, artisans and guinea pig breeders have been formed. But we need to maintain the technical assistance in order to make their projects sustainable,” said Vladimir Boza, economic development manager of the municipality.

From distant Lima, he told IPS, the government has little understanding of the reality in the highlands areas, hence the weak and ineffective policies.

“For example, they talk about helping farmers specialise in producing agroexport crops, and this is not possible in high altitude areas because monoculture is not feasible with climate change,” he said.

“On the contrary, what needs to be promoted is diversification,” he said, based on his experience.

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Latin America Makes Headway Against Land Degradationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 23:25:38 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154083 Two-thirds of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have already submitted or are preparing to submit to the United Nations their land degradation goals, to combat a problem that threatens agriculture and the lives of their people. In 2015, the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to […]

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A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in northern Brazil, a country that is poised to be the world's largest producer of soy, a monoculture for which millions of hectares have been deforested. Commercial agriculture, especially livestock farming, and production of soy and palm oil, are key drivers in the degradation of Latin American soils. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in northern Brazil, a country that is poised to be the world's largest producer of soy, a monoculture for which millions of hectares have been deforested. Commercial agriculture, especially livestock farming, and production of soy and palm oil, are key drivers in the degradation of Latin American soils. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 30 2018 (IPS)

Two-thirds of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have already submitted or are preparing to submit to the United Nations their land degradation goals, to combat a problem that threatens agriculture and the lives of their people.

In 2015, the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to combat desertification and restore degraded land and soil, with national goals, which are based on the level of erosion in each country and which aim to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030.

“What we are doing directly now is to establish a policy of neutral land management. That is, where I degrade, on the other hand I compensate. We cannot continue with these extractive policies in the countries where what is degraded is never given back to the earth,” José Miguel Torrico, the UNCCD coordinator for the region, who is based in Chile, told IPS.

The new commitment, he stressed, is that “What one takes from the earth, one puts back, to maintain its productivity.”

The concept of LDN is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

“Today we are in the process of setting targets to achieve land neutrality. This is happening in 22 countries of the region that are actively taking part. Some have already established their goals and others, like Brazil, are at the end of the process of setting them,” Torrico said.

According to figures from UNCCD, there are currently more than two billion hectares of degraded land in the world (an area greater than South America), which have the potential for land rehabilitation and forest restoration. Of that total, 14 percent is within the region.

Sally Bunning, Senior Policy officer of Agricultural Systems, Land and Water of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “degraded lands represent more than one-fifth of the forests and agricultural lands of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

“Commercial agriculture is a key driver (of that degradation), especially production of meat, soy and palm oil,” she said at the regional office in Santiago.

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

A farmer next to a community rainwater collection tank, for the agricultural production and domestic needs of a group of families, with which they mitigate the effects of the recurrent droughts that devastate their rural communities in the northern Argentine province of Chaco, part of one of the Latin American regions with the greatest erosion of its soils. Solutions like this improve the lives of local residents in the degraded lands of the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

The expert explained that “the main areas of farmland that are facing multiple pressures include, but are not limited to, dry lands in northeastern Brazil, areas of agricultural expansion in the area of the Argentine Chaco, central Chile, farmland in southern Mexico, and parts of Cuba and Haiti.”

Bunning explained that desertification “accelerates with overgrazing as well as the growth of demand for meat and other agricultural products such as soy, sugar and cotton worldwide.”

“It is estimated that in Latin America most of the degraded lands were degraded due to deforestation (100 million hectares) and overgrazing (70 million hectares). The increase in international demand encourages farmers and large landowners to deforest in order to extend their agricultural areas and pastures for livestock farming,” she said.

According to the FAO regional official, addressing the problem is crucial “to manage the livestock sector and limit the complete elimination of the original vegetation to replace it with crops.”

“In South America, urgent action is needed in the Gran Chaco, an area that covers four countries: Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and to a lesser degree Brazil,” Bunning said.

“More than half of the territory in Argentina and Paraguay are affected by problems of desertification presenting a net loss of 325,000 hectares of forest per year in Paraguay, and 45 percent and 43 percent of the loss of forests were respectively caused by the expansion of pastures and the expansion of land for commercial crops in Argentina,” she said.

Torrico recalled, in turn, that several countries “have been hit very hard by climate phenomena. For example, the El Niño phenomenon affected them seriously and there have been very severe droughts in what has to do with the degradation of soils, but also with the effects suffered by the population.”

According to the UNCCD regional coordinator, Latin American small farmers are directly affected because they have less water for their crops and in some extreme cases they are forced to migrate.

He added that desertification is closely associated with migration, noting as an example that 80 to 90 percent of migrants from Africa are a visible effect of desertification.

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

“The migration of Haitians that Chile is currently experiencing is basically people who come from rural areas where they no longer have any chance to farm. They do not come from cities but from rural areas,” Torrico pointed out as an example of this situation in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bunning, meanwhile, said that “unequal distribution and lack of access and control of land and its resources can be key factors of poverty, food insecurity and land degradation.”

“In Latin America, conflicts are mainly between landless people and large landowners, and between landless people and indigenous communities,” she explained.

She said that “the key factors of conflicts over land include a combination of inequitable access to and control over land, degradation of natural resources, historical demands and demographic pressures, exacerbated by weak management and political corruption.”

Torrico added that the problem of desertification is also closely associated with climate change.

“It is already clear that rainfall will decrease significantly in sectors of the continent. How do we forecast this? With an early warning system, so we know in advance when we are going to have a drought and, how do we prepare for this?” he asked.

“With efficient water catchment systems, reservoirs, dams and wells. And with better farming techniques, with mechanised irrigation, drip irrigation and more effective crops and better seed quality,” he answered.

Bunning warned that in the region “there are still no programmes to take into account the importance of water management.”

“For me this is one of the most important parts of the problem of degradation. It is not always degradation of the soils, but also the degradation of the capacity to retain water in the soil, to store and reuse water in agriculture, but also to be reused by other users,” she said.

The FAO expert listed solutions for this, such as “localised drip systems and more efficient systems, to also reduce evaporation.”

“There are technologies to use greenhouses, plastic cover in the fields, to pump water using solar panels, to distribute fertilisers in the water and reduce the problems of over-exploitation of fertilisers,” she detailed among the instruments that are at hand.

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-edged Sword against Climate Change and Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:41:58 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152923 As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020. While achieving this goal requires […]

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Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.“My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed." --farmer Damiano Malambo

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

The bad season that farmer Malambo refers to was characterized by El Nino, which affected agricultural production for most African countries, especially in the Southern African region, leaving millions of people without food. But as the case was with farmer Malambo, CA farmers thrived amidst these tough conditions as the CASU project discovered in its snap assessment.

“CA has proved to be more profitable than conventional agriculture”, says Precious Nkandu Chitembwe, FAO Country Communications Officer. “In seasons when other farmers have struggled, we have seen our CA farmers emerging with excellent results”, she adds, pointing out that the promotion of legumes and a ready market has improved household nutrition and income security for the farmers involved in CA.

And farmer Malambo is a living testimony. “In the last two seasons, I have doubled my cattle herd from 30 to 60, I have bought two vehicles and my overall annual production has increased from about 150 to 350 by 50kg bags.

“I am particularly happy with the introduction of easy to grow cash crops such as cowpeas and soybeans which are not only money spinners but also nutritious for my family—see how healthy this boy is from soya-porridge,” says Malambo pointing at his eight-year-old grandchild.

While Zambia boasts a stable food security position since the introduction of government farmer input subsidies in early 2000s, the country’s record on nutrition leaves much to be desired. Hence, the recent ranking of the country in the top ten hungriest countries in the world on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) may not come as a surprise, as the most recent Zambia Demographic and Health survey shows that 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, adding that progress made since 2000 is threatened, emphasising the need to establish resilience for communities at risk of disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

It is worth noting that Zambia has recognized the challenges of nutrition and has put in place several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign—an integrated approach to address stunting by tackling both direct and indirect causes of under-nutrition. Unlike the standalone strategies of the past, the 1000 Most Critical Days campaign brings together all key Ministries and stakeholders of which the Ministry of Agriculture is a key stakeholder and entry point.

And the implementation of CA, of which crop diversification is a key principle, is one of the Ministry’s contributions to the overall objective of fighting under-nutrition. As alluded to by farmer Malambo, promotion of crops such as soy beans and cowpeas among other food legumes is critical to achieving household nutrition security.

“With a known high demand for good nutrition in the country, especially for rural populations, soybean and other food legumes offer an opportunity to meet this demand—from soybean comes soy milk which is as competitive as animal milk in terms of nutrition, use in the confectionary industry and other numerous value addition options at household level for nutritional diversity,” explains Turnbull Chama, Technical Assistant, Climate Change component at the FAO Country Office.

While CA is a proven approach to climate resilience in agricultural production for food and nutrition security, its adoption has not been without hitches. According to a study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture in Zambia are still very low.

The study, which used data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, found that only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/14 season. The report notes, however, that social factors, such as belief in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

But for the Southern Province Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Nyambe, CA adoption should not be measured in a generic manner.

“The package for conservation agriculture is huge, if you measure all components as a package, adoption is low but if you looked at the issues of tillage or land preparation, you will find that the adoption rates are very high,” he says. “So, that’s why sometimes you hear of stories of poor adoption because there are several factors that determine the adoption of various principles within the package of conservation agriculture.”

Agreeing with these sentiments, Douty Chibamba, a lecturer at the University of Zambia Department of Geography and Environmental studies, offers this advice.

“It would be thus important for future policies and donor projects to allow flexibility in CA packaging because farmers make decisions to adopt or not based on individual components of CA and not CA as a package,” says Chibamba, who is also chairperson of the Advisory and Approvals committee of the Zambia Civil Society Environment Fund phase two, funded by the Finnish Embassy and managed by Panos Institute Southern Africa under its (CBNRM) forum.

This year’s World Food Day was themed around investing in food security and rural development to change the future of migration—which has over the years been proved to be as a result of the former. And FAO Country Representative George Okechi stresses that his organization is committed to supporting Zambia in rural development and food security to reduce rural-urban drift.

“With our expertise and experience, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, we continue providing policy support to ensure that farmers get desired services for rural development,” says Okechi.

“We are also keen to help farmers cope with effects of climate change which make people make a move from rural areas to urban cities in search of opportunities,” he added, in apparent reference to Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives that FAO is implementing in Zambia, among which is CASU.

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New Villages Bloom in the Shadow of a Mountain’s Wrathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:46:50 +0000 Kafil Yamin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152545 Repeated volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung since 2010 have displaced thousands of people, leaving villages around the mountain deserted, with volcanic ash, lava and mud covering the soil, trees and empty houses. No one knows when the eruptions will cease. Some displaced people have formed new settlements; others live in temporary houses or refugee camps. […]

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A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

By Kafil Yamin
MEDAN, Indonesia , Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Repeated volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung since 2010 have displaced thousands of people, leaving villages around the mountain deserted, with volcanic ash, lava and mud covering the soil, trees and empty houses.

No one knows when the eruptions will cease. Some displaced people have formed new settlements; others live in temporary houses or refugee camps.Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheavals because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.

With support from BNPB, the Indonesian acronym for the National Agency for Disaster Management, the local government has resettled 347 families in three housing complexes in Siosar area, Karo regency, with each family getting a 500 square meter plot for farming. They grow vegetables, breed animals, and operate shops and services. Social, cultural and economic life have blossomed.

Since 2015, following a major eruption, Siosar farmers have sent their harvest to Kabanjahe, the capital of Karo Regency. Potatoes, carrots, cabbages, oranges and coffee beans are on the market, helping stimulate economic growth of 4.5 percent of the North Sumatra province.

But the 2016 eruption devastated the staggering economy. At least 53,000 hectares of farmland was destroyed by volcanic ash and mud. The harvest failed throughout the entire district. Of 17 sub-districts, 14 were severely affected. The head of the local Agriculture Office, Munarta Ginting, urged the farmers to shift to tubers, which were more resilient to volcanic ash.

The farmers refused to give up. They started all over again late last year. BNPB sent seeds, fertilizers and consultants to help.

“After emergency management measures come social and economic recovery measures, which look farther ahead but are no less challenging,” said Agus Wibowo, director of the Social-Economic Division of BNPB.

“We aid victims to overcome the calamity, start a better life, restore social and economic enterprises, and more importantly, restore confidence for the future,” Agus added.

Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheavals because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.

In the first week of October, life in Siosar has returned to normal, with farmers harvesting potatoes, cabbages, carrots and chilies, despite lower production due to lack of rainfall.

Several farmers have enjoyed large harvests. Berdi Sembiring grew nine tons of potatoes on his 500 meter square farm, which is good for the dry season.

“I sold my potatoes for 48 million rupiah (4,000 dollars) – not bad,” said Sembiring with a big smile.

BNPB also encourages the refugees not to rely solely on farming and raw products. “We encourage people to develop new business opportunities, such as food industry, mechanics and manufacturing,” said Agus Wibowo, who sent a team of business consultants to train the wives of farmers.

Now, with potato chip processing machines from BNPB, Siosar has started producing chips branded Top Potato. But challenges remain in turning a profit.

“One of the shortcomings is the unstable rate of production. Four groups of farmer wives take turns using one processing machine. Each group has its own production capacity,” said Nurjanahah, a business consultant for the potato chip manufacturing.

“Uncompetitive quality and big diminution from raw potatoes to final potato chip is another challenge to deal with. Four kilograms of potatoes produce only 600 grams of chips,” she added.

“The potato chip has yet to be a professional product until we solve all these shortcomings,” Nurjanah told IPS.

BNPB provided four processing machines for groups of farmer wives in Siosar, beyond the Rp590 billion fund it created for the Mount Sinabung disaster, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of BNPB’s Center of Data and Information.

Basic mechanics is another alternative to diversify from agriculture. For one thing, the sector has yet to have competitors in the new settlements. For another, the area is in urgent need of such services, considering the absence of public transportation. Personal minivans and motorcycles are the backbone of village transportation.

Basmadi Kapri Peranginangin returned to his village after living for a year in a refugee camp. He grew potatoes and other vegetables, but just as he finished planting, Mount Sinabung erupted again and his newly-replanted farm – part of the area’s most vulnerable ‘red zone’ – was ruined.

Peranginangin decided to go to Siosar and shift to the motorcycle repair business, but lacked the funds to buy tools and build a workshop. Then he heard about a training program for displaced people jointly sponsored by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Development Program and BNPB.

After one month of training, he received a set of equipment to repair motorcycles. And with his new knowledge, including administration and financial management, he started a motorcycle repair business in July 2016. Now he earns Rp3,5 million a month on average.

When social and economic life blooms, so does art and culture. On October 1, the new community celebrated its one-year anniversary with an art and music show.

Biri Pelawi, a local religious leader, said in his opening remarks, “Siosar land is God’s promised land for us. Sigarang-garang, our former village, is the departing spot. One year in refugee camps is our training period. God’s plan for us is here. He kept His plan secretly.”

“Now we live safe with no fear of Mount Sinabung eruption. God has sent us to safer place to carry on,” he said.

On that very day, Mount Siabung erupted again, spewing volcanic ash as high as four kilometers, but this time, no one was affected and the celebration continued as planned.

“We don’t have to worry anymore. We live in a safe place,” said Mesti Ginting, one of the celebration organizers.

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The Urbanization of Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/the-urbanization-of-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-urbanization-of-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/the-urbanization-of-malnutrition/#respond Mon, 25 Sep 2017 11:52:45 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152223 Rapid urbanization is increasingly shifting the impacts of malnutrition from rural to urban areas. One in three stunted under-five children out of 155 million across the world now lives in cities and towns. Degrading land productivity, deepening impacts of changes in climate, conflict, and food insecurity, poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities are driving mostly […]

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Rapid urbanization is increasingly shifting the impacts of malnutrition from rural to urban areas: 1 in 3 stunted under-5 children now lives in cities or towns

While Kuala Lumpur boasts islands of artificial rainforest, one of the fastest growing urbanized agglomerations stretching 2,245 sq.km around it, with 7.4 million people, has lost all ancient rainforests to destructive palm oil plantations. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, India, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

Rapid urbanization is increasingly shifting the impacts of malnutrition from rural to urban areas. One in three stunted under-five children out of 155 million across the world now lives in cities and towns.

Degrading land productivity, deepening impacts of changes in climate, conflict, and food insecurity, poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities are driving mostly the rural poor into towns and cities, with projections that just 13 years from now, 5 billion people will be living in the world’s urban areas. While the urban population is forecast to double within these 30 years (starting in 2000), the area taken over will triple, increasing by 1.2 million square kilometers, says the Global Land Report 2017.Not only will urban land area triple globally between 2000 to 2030, the projected expansion will take place on some of the world’s most productive croplands.

Close to 90 percent of urban population and area growth is forecast in Asia and Africa, with the most dramatic changes foreseen in Asia, according to this report from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

By 2050, 56 percent of Asia’s population will be urban. China crossed the halfway mark in 2012, India will in 2050. This major shifting of the character of a population, the character of its economic activity, from being predominantly rural to becoming urban is seen to catapult – particularly China and India – to global economic leadership. But its urban growth engines could be riding on a huge malnourished rural migrant population.

From 777 million chronically undernourished people worldwide, 2016 saw a jump to 815 million. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ latest major report, said the increased food insecurity owes to a greater  number of conflicts, often exacerbated by climate-related shocks. These two factors, which studies have now established to be inter-related, are what is driving most migration today, and possibly will continue to do so in the future unless strong multi-sector action is taken soon.

Rapid urbanization is increasingly shifting the impacts of malnutrition from rural to urban areas: 1 in 3 stunted under-5 children now lives in cities or towns

In India’s urban slums lack of sanitation is a major cause for child malnutrition and stunting. In this picture inside a slum in Bhubaneswar city in eastern India, the child on the left is a growth-impaired 6 year old always carried by his mother.
Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

From rural food producers to net consumers in cities

Rural marginal landholders, the family farmers, compelled to abandon their food producing role, migrate to urban centres to join instead the growing millions of consumers. Where once they grew their own food, kept aside for their own needs first and the remainder sold to urban food chains, and reached out to the natural ecosystem in hard times, these farmers are migrating into an economic structure where access to cash alone determines their food security.

Poor urban households in many developing countries spend over half their earnings on food, studies find.

Although in cities, food is available year-round, a growing number of urban poor face a daily struggle to feed their families. Price fluctuations, sometimes of staples which are increasingly being imported from other parts of the world, hit the poor hardest.

An illness, a religious ceremony or a family wedding can cut deeply into the fragile food budget of the urban poor, paving the way for malnutrition and stunted childhoods.

When Sunita Behera came to India’s megacity Delhi with her three children, the youngest barely three years old, and her husband, a wage worker for a construction contractor building the 2010 Commonwealth Games stadium, they could afford meat and fish only once a week. But vegetables and lentils – said to be a poor man’s meat because of its rich protein content – were a regular part of their meals.

The price of lentils, India’s staple item, inched up because more was being imported to meet the demand. By 2014, the commonly used variety was 1.5 dollars a kilogram. Reducing the cooked quantity by half, Behera would mix rice starch to thicken it and sauté a few more chilies to spice it up.

In 2015, her husband fell from a construction scaffolding and could not work for months. Lentil prices had doubled and a month’s salary from her domestic work from one household would have gone for purchasing a month’s requirement of lentils alone. She didn’t buy them anymore and they mostly ate rice and potatoes. Her father back in the village grows green grams over half an acre every winter.

Many city-dwellers in Asia, and in India specifically, particularly men when they migrate alone, have limited time and no place to cook or store groceries, relying increasingly on street foods. Poor shelter, lack of sanitation and hygiene in slums, and insufficient family and community support – which were woven into the rural social fabric – further compound the problems of the urban poor. Under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are the result.

With over 65 percent of its population below the age of 35, India is set to supply more than half of the potential workforce over the coming decade in Asia, a recent study said. Over the last two decades, India’s urban population increased from 217 million to 377 million and is expected to reach 600 million, or 40 percent of the 1.5 billion population, by 2031. This demographically-powered economic growth is bound to see a huge rural-urban migration. Hundreds of ‘smart’ cities are already underway to capitalize on this migrating workforce.

Rapid urbanization is increasingly shifting the impacts of malnutrition from rural to urban areas: 1 in 3 stunted under-5 children now lives in cities or towns

On 1/5th hectare of land in Indian Sundarbans, Alpana Mandal has access to a range of food – fish from their tiny freshwater pond, eggs from a brood of hens and beans, leafy vegetable and rice – all self-grown. But the rising sea threatens this Ganges deltaic village and fleeing to Kolkata city could be their only means of survival. Photo credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Urbanisation, cropland loss and under-nutrition

Not only will urban land area triple globally between 2000 to 2030, the projected expansion will take place on some of the world’s most productive croplands, according to a 2016 study. Asia and Africa alone will account for over 80 percent of global cropland loss. Asia’s 3 percent is world’s highest absolute loss, leading to a 6 percent annual food production loss. Currently around 60 percent of cropland around towns and smaller cities have irrigation facilities and are twice as productive.

This dynamic adds pressure to potentially strained future food systems, says the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

China and India will continue to urbanize rapidly, but with different spatial patterns and development dynamics, it said. China’s cropland losses between 2000 and 2030 are calculated to be 5-6 percent, adding up to 9 million hectares and translating into as high as one-tenth of food production loss.

India’s absolute urban area expansion until 2030 would take over around 4 million hectares, half that of China. The South Asian nation will lose 2 percent production by 2030, mainly because the nature of its urbanization will be more in the shape of small towns and 100,000-population cities, according to the PNAP study. Its peri-urban regions would for the time being continue to grow food and rural-urban linkages have the potential for sustainability.

Indian experts however said India’s infrastructure developments and land use change in favour of industries and mining is already severely affecting the food and nutritional security of the country’s poorest, including many of the 104 million partly forest-dependent indigenous population.

Owing to hundreds of land related conflicts that over the last two decades delayed proposed industries, mining projects, dams and other infrastructure, the government has set aside close to 2.68 million hectares of land-bank, barricading some of them in eight states, according to a recent news report.

An industrial corridor is being planned between the financial hub of Mumbai and the capital New Delhi, which will develop as many as eight new manufacturing cities across six states. India constructed 20,000 km of new and upgraded roads between 2012 and 2017 to improve transport systems. An acute shortage of 18 million urban housing units across India in 2012 has led the government to convert the city fringes for expansion, to cite only a few urban infrastructural projects.

Even when the aggregate amount of cropland on city fringes is high, the weak link is that each patch is relatively small, with vulnerable smallholders finding it difficult to hold out against the government or aggressive property developers.

Cropland loss can be compensated by the global food trade but its impacts are borne mainly by the urban poor. Agricultural intensification and expanding into grazing commons and less productive land can compensate for food production loss. In South Asia, however, much of the suitable land is already under intensification. With climate change already adversely affecting yields, further intensification will be counter-productive.

Policies to ensure sustainable urbanization and adequate quantity and quality of food supply include protecting peri-urban agricultural land from conversion, incentivizing farmers in proximity to cities to maximize production, and encouraging urban residents to grow food even on small patches and rooftops.

However, to date, the quality of governance in countries with important cropland losses tends to be medium to low in emerging economies like India and China, the PNAP study said.

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Latin America in Search of Sustainable Food Systemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 20:42:42 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152021 A paradigm shift is needed regarding how food is produced, consumed and marketed in Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to curb health problems related to poor nutrition. Finding healthy and sustainable food production systems was the idea debated by experts, academics and representatives of governments of the region and United Nations agencies, at […]

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Students at the Pepenance Canton School, in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, wait for lunch to be prepared with local recipes and products purchased from farmers in the surrounding community, as part of the Sustainable Schools project’s healthy meals programme. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Students at the Pepenance Canton School, in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, wait for lunch to be prepared with local recipes and products purchased from farmers in the surrounding community, as part of the Sustainable Schools project’s healthy meals programme. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR/ATIQUIZAYA, El Salvador , Sep 11 2017 (IPS)

A paradigm shift is needed regarding how food is produced, consumed and marketed in Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to curb health problems related to poor nutrition.

Finding healthy and sustainable food production systems was the idea debated by experts, academics and representatives of governments of the region and United Nations agencies, at a regional forum held Sept. 5-7 in San Salvador.

The challenge is overwhelming: to fight against not just hunger and malnutrition, but also overweight and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean, which are on the rise in this region of over 640 million people.“It is necessary to buy from family farmers, because that produces changes in the local economy and empowers the communities." -- Najla Veloso

The three-day Regional Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Eating in San Salvador was organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“This space is an opportunity to share experiences, because we are working hard to have standards, as a challenge for society as a whole: urbanism, a sedentary lifestyle, changes in eating habits, over-processed fast foods, end up being a threat,” said Carlos Garzón, PAHO representative in El Salvador.

In 2012, 38 million people died from non-communicable diseases, 48 percent of them under 70 – “people who shouldn’t have died,” he said.

“And a good part of these diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, are linked to overweight and obesity, and thus, related to diet,” he stressed.

For his part, Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, said this part of the world is losing the fight against hunger and overweight.

He said this region had had an important leadership role at a global level, with comprehensive public policies to tackle hunger, and had managed to lift 26 million people from a state of food insecurity since 1990.

“But for the last five years we have not been making the progress we had been making. I regret to have to announce that the data that FAO will publish next week will confirm that, for the first time in a generation, the world, including our region, are experiencing a setback in the fight against hunger,” he said during the forum.

And with regard to obesity, he said that in 24 countries in the region, 20 percent or more of the population is overweight.

In Chile, Mexico and the Bahamas the proportion is over 30 percent, while in Uruguay, Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago it is nearly 29 percent.

According to FAO, obesity is eroding the development opportunities of nearly four million children in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Brazil and Paraguay, 12 percent of children are overweight, in Chile, Bolivia and Mexico the proportion is nine percent, and in El Salvador, six percent.

Some of the participants in the forum visited the village of Pepenance, in the municipality of Atiquizaya, 83 kilometers west of San Salvador, to learn about the effort made since 2013 by the local school to promote the Sustainable Schools programme.

This project is part of the Sustainable School Feeding Program of El Salvador’s Education Ministry.

FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué (right), and other visitors listen to two students at the school in Pepenance, a village in El Salvador, as they talk about their school vegetable garden. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué (right), and other visitors listen to two students at the school in Pepenance, a village in El Salvador, as they talk about their school vegetable garden. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

In the programme, students learn to produce food in the school garden, and eat a nutritional daily meal based on vegetables and other natural products purchased from local family farmers.

The Sustainable Schools initiative, supported by FAO and financially backed by Brazil, is implemented in 10 of El Salvador’s 14 departments, and covers 40 of the 262 municipalities and 215 of the over 3,000 schools located in rural areas. It benefits a total of 73,000 students.

Principals from a dozen other schools in the municipality visited the school in Pepenance, along with local farmers and others involved in the project, to stress that the effort must be sustained and expanded.

Ana Fajardo, head teacher at the Parvularia Cordelia Ávalos Vda. de Labor School, explained that some students used to miss class because they were malnourished, before the local schools in this Central American country of 6.4 million people began to serve nutritional meals.

But things have changed since the school joined the programme, she said. Now they eat healthy meals at school, based on cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables and sources of protein.

Ninth grade student Yajaira Ortiz said the school garden not only helps them learn to grow food, but is also useful in subjects like math.

“The gardens make our class more interesting, we get out of the classroom and see that we have many geometric figures there too,” she said. In the gardens, the crops are planted in geometric shapes, like triangles and circles.

Exploring experiences like El Salvador’s school meals programme and similar initiatives in other countries was part of the debate in the forum held in the Salvadoran capital.

“This is the concrete, real face of the debate in the San Salvador symposium,” Berdegué told IPS. “We are discussing big ideas there, public policies, but when we talk about healthy, sustainable systems, we’re referring to programmes like this one.”

El Salvador is among the group of 13 countries from this region that since 2009 have formed part of an initiative sponsored by FAO and the Brazilian government, aimed at expanding the programme of sustainable schools, adapting what Brazil has achieved through its national school feeding programme.

The FAO regional coordinator for the Strengthening of School Feeding Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean project, Brazilian expert Najla Veloso, underscored that it is important to get local farmers involved, because this strengthens the social and economic fabric of the communities.

Veloso explained to IPS that in Brazil, 30 percent of the food served daily to 42 million students comes, by law, from local producers.

“It is necessary to buy from family farmers, because that produces changes in the local economy and empowers the communities,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Q&A: “It’s a Crime” that 35 Million Latin Americans Still Suffer from Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/qa-its-a-crime-that-35-million-latin-americans-still-suffer-from-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-its-a-crime-that-35-million-latin-americans-still-suffer-from-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/qa-its-a-crime-that-35-million-latin-americans-still-suffer-from-hunger/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 22:33:10 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150579 Orlando Milesi interviews JULIO BERDEGUÉ, FAO regional representative

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Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, in his office in Santiago. Credit: Maximiliano Valencia/FAO

Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, in his office in Santiago. Credit: Maximiliano Valencia/FAO

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 24 2017 (IPS)

The fight against hunger has been “remarkably successful” in Latin America and the Caribbean, but “it is a crime” that 35 million people still go to bed hungry every day, FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.

Berdegué, who is also assistant director-general of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), with decades of experience in matters related to rural development, said during his first interview as the new regional representative that the biggest challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean is inequality, which “is present in every action and contributes to many other problems.”

In the FAO regional office in Santiago, Berdegué, from Mexico, discussed with IPS issues such as obesity, “in which we are losing the fight,” the weakness of rural institutions, which facilitates corruption, or the weakness of the social fabric, which drug trafficking mafias depend on, as well as the need to address the question of water scarcity which is here to stay due to climate change, and where the key is the transformation of agriculture, which uses 70 per cent of all water consumed.

IPS: What do you consider are the greatest debts of the region in the agri-food sector?

JULIO BERDEGUÉ: We unfortunately still have very high levels of rural poverty. Nearly 50 per cent of the rural population is still living in poverty conditions and almost 30 per cent in extreme poverty. There are 58 million rural poor and 35 million living in conditions of indigence, who are not even able to feed themselves adequately.

IPS: This is happening in the region that has been the most successful in reducing poverty and hunger in this century…

JB: We have a problem with malnutrition and hunger, which even though they have been notably reduced, still stand at 5.5 per cent, which in human terms means that 35 million Latin Americans are still going to bed hungry every day, and six million children are chronically undernourished… Which is a crime. And of these, 700,000 children suffer from acute and chronic undernutrition… that is terrible.

IPS: In that context, which will be the priorities of your administration?

JB: The main thrust has been continuity, and I want to adhere to that. FAO’s mission and strategic objectives are clearly defined in a medium-term work plan discussed and approved in May in Rome (at FAO’s global headquarters).

The first objective has to do with hunger…undernourishment and malnutrition will continue to have a central role in the agenda. The second has to do with greater sustainability of agriculture, contributing to global food security, in a sustainable manner.

The issues of rural poverty, where unfortunately family agriculture is included, beyond what people might think, are not yet lost, but we still have a long way to go. Also the importance of food systems, which have experienced in the past 25 to 30 years a radical shift in their depth and speed, and the importance of resilience in the face of climate change.

IPS: And what are the regional assets available to carry out these tasks?

JB: We must not lose sight of the fact that Latin America is a great contributor to global food security. What our region does in this matter is very important, and we must take advantage of this strength.

This is also a region with enormous biodiversity. In terms of biodiversity the region is a player of global importance and whatever we do well or badly affects each person on this planet.

IPS: Has there been progress in the political and social spheres?

JB: The question of peace in the region is another asset. What has happened in Colombia (with the peace agreements that came into force in late 2016) is exciting for all of us, and is of utmost importance. In the last 20 years there has also been heavy spending in rural areas, on roads, electrification, telecommunications, and access to basic services, education and health. The educational levels of our rural people under 35 are far higher than that of their parents. These are assets that we need to mobilise.

IPS: And what are the weaknesses you perceive in these same fields?
JB: In rural areas, government institutions are very weak, in most countries in the region… The exceptions can be counted on the fingers of one hand… and they are weak because they are outdated, because there is much corruption, patronage, use of public budgets for particular interests, and that weakens the government and public action for the benefit of society as a whole. It makes our job difficult.

IPS: Apart from that difficulty, what other challenges does the region face?

JB: The rural social fabric has been weakening in some countries. The penetration of drug trafficking, of violence, which often goes hand in hand with corruption, makes life very hard for the inhabitants of those rural areas and makes it very difficult to bring political solutions that would increase their opportunities and well-being. The situation in some Central American countries is extremely concerning. In my own country, Mexico, the situation worries all Mexicans. The levels of violence in Venezuela… There are countries where the weakening of the social fabric is a warning sign.

IPS: Latin Americans are facing a new and growing problem, obesity, without yet having solved that of chronic malnutrition…

JB: Malnutrition is a crime. The fact that more than half of the rural children in Guatemala suffer from chronic undernutrition is unacceptable in the 21st century, but obesity is killing us. Not long ago, Mexico’s minister of health, Dr. José Navarro, who until recently was the provost of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), reminded us that obesity kills more people than organised crime in Mexico. Obesity is definitely killing us.

IPS: Do malnutrition and obesity have anything in common?

JB: First, let me say in what they differ. We have greatly reduced undernutrition. In this, Latin America has been remarkably successful, even at a global level. We are the only region that has met its Millennium Development Goals. But in terms of obesity we are losing the fight badly. Every day there are more overweight and obese people.

What they have in common, from FAO’s perspective, is a radical change in Latin America’s food systems. The world in which we had local markets and people ate locally produced food, where many people went home to eat, has disappeared forever.

Today our food systems are globalised, the bulk of the distribution of food products is through supermarket chains, most of what we eat are ultra-processed foods. Even our farmers eat mostly purchased food: processed and ultra-processed.

IPS: But this is a global phenomenon, as you say, not only regional…

JB: The point is not the transformation of the agri-food systems. That transformation can also be observed in Norway, Canada or New Zealand. They have the same patterns of urbanisation, of eating outside the home, purchasing in supermarkets, ultra-processed foods, etc. The difference is that in those places there are public policies. Ours is a transformation that responded to market forces without public policies. The market achieves important things… today food products are much cheaper, but with enormous consequences, one being obesity and the erosion of public health in all aspects that have to do with what and how we eat.

IPS: So, what public policies are needed in the region to tackle obesity?

JB: What has to be done is to ‘redirect’ these transformation processes of the food systems, bearing in mind that we have public objectives. Redirecting means setting certain limits. For example, what is being done in Chile and to some extent in Mexico with sugary beverages, and labeling. There are healthy and unhealthy foods, and consumers have to know this.

Redirecting also means putting greater emphasis on public education with regard to healthy eating. It means that if there are places with less access to a more varied diet, to fresh fruit and vegetables, we cannot leave it to be solved by the market.

IPS: Another problem that is creating conflicts is water, its scarcity and its uses. What should be done from the agri-food sector?

JB: We have a terrible problem here, which is that agriculture is consuming 70 per cent of our planet’s fresh water. This is not sustainable and has no future. If I were president of a given country in 30 or 50 years, and they told me: ‘To produce potatoes you are using 70 per cent of the water and people have no water in the cities because of climate change,’ as president I would say: ‘well, we will import potatoes, and stop growing them.’

Between giving water to the people or producing potatoes, lettuce or asparagus… we are going to lose that fight. Our farmers fight, they organise to get more water, and it is good that they do that. We make dams and reservoirs, that’s great. But we have to start thinking how we can practice agriculture using less water, how we can produce the same amount of food without using 70 per cent of the water, and using half of that instead. We cannot talk about ‘zero water’ agriculture, but it should be much less than 70 per cent, and this is something that we are not thinking about.

We are used to using water almost without restrictions, and climate change is putting an end to that. We will not be able to go rapidly from 70 to 35 per cent water use in agriculture, but we better start now because otherwise climate change will win the race.

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Orlando Milesi interviews JULIO BERDEGUÉ, FAO regional representative

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New Recipe for School Meals Programmes in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:51:52 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149606 Sunita Daniel remembers what the school lunch programmes were like in her Caribbean island nation, Saint Lucía, until a couple of years ago: meals made of processed foods and imported products, and little integration with the surrounding communities. This changed after Daniel, then head of planning in the Agriculture Ministry, visited Brazil in 2014 and […]

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Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Sunita Daniel remembers what the school lunch programmes were like in her Caribbean island nation, Saint Lucía, until a couple of years ago: meals made of processed foods and imported products, and little integration with the surrounding communities.

This changed after Daniel, then head of planning in the Agriculture Ministry, visited Brazil in 2014 and learned about that country’s school meals system, which prioritises a balanced, healthy diet and the participation of family famers in each town.

“I went back to the government and said: This is a good example of what we can do,” said Daniel.

Today, the small island state puts a priority on purchasing from local producers, especially family farmers, and is working on improving the diet offered to schoolchildren.

Saint Lucia is not unique. A new generation of school meals programme that combine healthy diets, public purchases of products from local farmers, and social integration with local communities is transforming school lunchrooms and communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The model followed by these projects is Brazil’s National School Feeding Programme, which has taken shape over recent years and is now at the heart of a regional project, supported by the Brazilian government.

Currently, the regional initiative is seeking to strengthen school meal programmes in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, through triangular South-South cooperation that receives the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Delegates from the countries participating in the project, and representatives of the FAO and the Brazilian government, met Mar. 20-22 in the Costa Rican capital to take part in the “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, and share their experiences.

“This kind of workshop strengthens everyone – the Brazilian programme itself, countries and governments,” said Najla Veloso, regional coordinator of the project for Strengthening School Feeding Programmes in Latin American and the Caribbean. “It works as a feedback system, to inspire change.”

Brazil’s system focuses on guaranteeing continuous school feeding coverage with quality food. The menus are based on food produced by local farmers and school gardens.

In Brazil, “we’re talking about offering healthy food every day of the school year, in combination with dietary and nutritional education and purchases from family farmers,” Veloso told IPS during the three-day meeting.

In Brazil, a country of 208 million people, more than 41 million students eat at least one meal a day at school, said Veloso, thanks to coordination between the federal government and state and municipal authorities.

“This does not exist in any other country in the world,” said the Brazilian expert.

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Taking Brazil’s successful programme as a model, the regional technical cooperation project was launched in 2009 in five countries, a number that climbed to 17. At the present time, 13 new-generation projects are receiving support as part of the regional initiative, which is to end this year.

According to Veloso, more than 68 million schoolchildren in the region, besides the children in Brazil, have benefited from the innovative feeding programmes, which have also boosted ties between communities and local farmers.

Today, the project is operating in Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucía, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The project has had varied results and has followed different formats in each country, as shown by the delegates who shared their experiences in San José.

In the case of Saint Lucía, for example, the authorities forged an alliance with the private sector to raise funds and provide food to between 8,000 and 9,000 schoolchildren aged five to 12, said Daniel.

In Honduras, grassroots participation enabled cooperation between the communities, the municipal authorities and the schools, Joselino Pacheco, the head of the School Lunch programme, described during the meeting.

“We didn’t have a law on school feeding until last year, but that didn’t stop us because our work comes from the grassroots,” the Honduran delegate said.

The law, which went into effect in September 2016, built on the experience of a government programme founded in 1998, and is backed up by social organisations that support the process and which are in turn supported by the regional project, Pacheco told IPS.

Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, like Honduras, have specific laws to regulate school feeding programmes.

In the case of Costa Rica, the country already had a broad school meals programme, so the authorities decided to focus on expanding its capacities by including innovative elements of the new generation of initiatives aimed at achieving food security.

“A programme has been in place since 2015 to open school lunchrooms during the mid-term break and at the beginning and the end of the school year,” said Costa Rica’s first lady, Mercedes Peñas, a renowned expert in municipal development.

A pilot plan in 2015 was carried out in 121 school lunchrooms in the 75 most vulnerable districts. By 2016 the number of participating schools had expanded and 200,000 meals were served in the first 40 days of the school year.

This is spending that not only produces short-term results, improving nutrition among schoolchildren, but also has an impact on public health for decades, said Ricardo Rapallo, technical coordinator of FAO’s Hunger-Free Mesoamérica programme.

“If we don’t work on creating healthy eating habits among children, it is more difficult to change them later,” said Rapallo.

School meals programmes are essential in achieving economic, social and environmental development in Latin America, the speakers agreed, describing school feeding as a fundamental component for achieving several of the 17 SDGs, which have a 2030 deadline.

“The experience of a school feeding programme, together with a programme for public purchases from family farmers, makes the 2030 agenda possible,” said Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, during one of the meeting’s panels.

Daniel described one inspirational case. In Belle Vue, a town in southwestern Saint Lucía, the school lunchroom inspired women in the community to start their own garden.

“They came and said, what can we provide. And a lot of their children went to the school,” said Daniel, who is now director of the school meals programme in Saint Lucía and a liaison on the issue between FAO and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The school set up a daycare center for toddlers and preschoolers so the local mothers could work in the garden. As a result, some 30 mothers now earn a fixed income.

Veloso explained that although the programme is due to close this year, they are studying what needs and opportunities exist, to decide whether to launch a second phase.

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Investing in Zimbabwe’s Smallholder Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/investing-in-zimbabwes-smallholder-farmers/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 12:24:21 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149534 To take his mangoes to Shurugwi, 230 kms south of Harare, requires Edward Madzokere to hire a cart and wake up at dawn. The fruit farmer sells his produce at the nearest “growth point” at Tongogara (the term for areas targeted for development) where the prices are not stable. “As a fruit grower, I have […]

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Women do demonstrations during a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Farmer Field Schools training in Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

Women do demonstrations during a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Farmer Field Schools training in Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

To take his mangoes to Shurugwi, 230 kms south of Harare, requires Edward Madzokere to hire a cart and wake up at dawn. The fruit farmer sells his produce at the nearest “growth point” at Tongogara (the term for areas targeted for development) where the prices are not stable.

“As a fruit grower, I have been forced to sell the fruits for very little rather than let them rot,” he told IPS.“LFSP is improving farmers’ ability to buy inputs and sell their products by strengthening farmer groups, improving farmers’ access to financial services, connecting farmers to national and regional markets.” -- FAO's Ali Said Yesuf

The poor performance of the economy has not made life easier for Madzokere, who struggles to provide for his family’s basic needs.

“I wish to have knowledge to make mango fruit jam or to be able to dry fruits for selling,” he said. Madzokere believes with better information and the creation of links to outside markets for his produce, he can go a long way in this sector.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has highlighted the concentration of smallholder farmers in subsistence farming rather than farming as a business, which means they have low demand for inputs, resulting in few incentives for input suppliers to reach the farmers.

For Elias Matongo, an agribusiness dealer in Shurugwi, it’s the same story. Matongo has been struggling to convince financial institutions to give him enough capital to expand his business. So far he has only managed to raise 2,500 dollars, which isn’t enough.

“Agricultural inputs are very expensive, I need to get a loan for 5,000 dollars and more to be able to make farming inputs available and closer to farmers,” Matongo told IPS.

FAO notes that 68 percent of Zimbabweans live in rural areas, where the economy is dominated by agriculture. In 2012, 76 percent of rural households were found to be poor. The agency further states that smallholder farmers often live in remote locations where infrastructure is poor and where input suppliers and buyers do not travel.

Ali Said Yesuf, FAO’s Chief Technical Advisor, told IPS that his organization, with financial support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) of 72 million dollars, has launched the Livelihood and Food Security Program (LFSP) to increase agricultural productivity, increase incomes, improve food and nutrition security, and reduce poverty in rural Zimbabwe. The project, which commenced in 2015, will ultimately be implemented in eight districts in the country.

“LFSP will actively address the specific constraints that smallholder farmers face in raising the productivity of their farms and creating markets for their farming produce,” says Yesuf.

More than 349,000 Zimbabweans are expected to be reached by 2018, selected based on poverty levels, food uncertainty and potential for market development.

“LFSP is improving farmers’ ability to buy inputs and sell their products by strengthening farmer groups, improving farmers’ access to financial services, connecting farmers to national and regional markets,” Yesuf said.

Another key player, the World Food Program (WFP), is also working with FAO to support 5,389 smallholder farmers with the production of drought tolerant small grains, in order to strengthen their resilience. Last December, 93 percent of the planned 646 hectares were planted in selected areas in the country, including extension services, as WFP and FAO provide farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizers to small-scale farmers.

Eddie Rowe, WFP Country Director, said integrated strategies for reducing and mitigating risks are essential to overcome hunger, achieve food security and enhance resilience.

“Building resilience before, during and after disasters is necessary for supporting the government of Zimbabwe to achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all people by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” Rowe told IPS.

FAO believes smallholder farmers play a critical role in food and nutrition security in Zimbabwe as they account for the bulk of the food that is produced in the country. Zimbabwe’s has since put in place its Country Strategic Plan (2017-2021) to enable smallholder farmers to have increased access to well-functioning markets by 2030 supporting initiatives that promote efficient and profitable marketing.

In Manicaland Province, the Extended Nutrition Impact for Positive Practice (ENIPA) has been introduced. The program is a nutrition behaviour change methodology for promoting identified good nutrition and health practices. The approach encourages the participation of men to so that they become the change agents and champions in the communities.

“Men’s participation is transformative as it transforms the household decision-making dynamics. It’s turning out that a man who understand the importance of consuming nutritious food will support his wife to purchase/grow the same,” Yesuf said.

The project is providing training in nutrition-sensitive agriculture through modules such as healthy harvest where there is selection, production, processing and preparation of diversified food types.

Supporting small holder farmers in the country is a certain path to sustainable production, with farmers like Madzokere already learning new concepts, broadening their horizons and focusing on outside markets. In this context, investing in agriculture simply makes good business sense.

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Fishing Villages Work for Food Security in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/fishing-villages-work-for-food-security-in-el-salvador/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:17:45 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149499 After an exhausting morning digging clams out of the mud of the mangroves, Rosa Herrera, her face tanned by the sun, arrives at this beach in southeastern El Salvador on board the motorboat Topacio, carrying her yield on her shoulders. For her morning’s catch – 126 Andara tuberculosa clams, known locally as “curiles”, in great […]

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Rosa Herrera returns to the village after spending the morning digging for clams in the mangroves that border Isla de Méndez in Jiquilisco bay, in the southeastern department of Usulután. The struggle to put food on the table is constant in fishing villages in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Rosa Herrera returns to the village after spending the morning digging for clams in the mangroves that border Isla de Méndez in Jiquilisco bay, in the southeastern department of Usulután. The struggle to put food on the table is constant in fishing villages in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
ISLA DE MÉNDEZ, El Salvador, Mar 20 2017 (IPS)

After an exhausting morning digging clams out of the mud of the mangroves, Rosa Herrera, her face tanned by the sun, arrives at this beach in southeastern El Salvador on board the motorboat Topacio, carrying her yield on her shoulders.

For her morning’s catch – 126 Andara tuberculosa clams, known locally as “curiles”, in great demand in El Salvador – she was paid 5.65 dollars by the Manglarón Cooperative, of which she is a member.

“Today it went pretty well,” she told IPS. “Sometimes it doesn’t and we earn just two or three dollars,” said the 49-year-old Salvadoran woman, who has been harvesting clams since she was 10 in these mangroves in the bay of Jiquilisco, near Isla de Méndez, the village of 500 families where she lives in the southeastern department of Usulután.“I have left my life in the mangroves, I was not able to go to school to learn to read and write, but I am happy that I have provided an education for all my children, thanks to the clams.” -- Rosa Herrera

Isla de Méndez is a village located on a peninsula, bordered to the south by the Pacific ocean, and to the north by the bay. Life has not been easy there in recent months.

Fishing and harvesting of shellfish, the main sources of food and income here, have been hit hard by environmental factors and by gang violence, a problem which has put this country on the list of the most violent nations in the world.

For fear of the constant raids by gangs, the fishers shortened their working hours, particularly in the night time.

“We were afraid, so nobody would go out at night, and fishing this time of year is better at night, but that is now changing a little,“ said Berfalia de Jesús Chávez, one of the founding members of the Las Gaviotas Cooperative, created in 1991 and made up of 43 women.

But the gang was dismantled and, little by little, life is returning to normal, said the local people interviewed by IPS during a two-day stay in the village.

“Climate change has also reduced the fish catch, as have the la Niña and el Niño climate phenomena,” said María Teresa Martínez, the head of the cooperative, who added however that fishing has always had periods of prosperity and scarcity.

Ofilio Herrera (L) buys a kilo of fish freshly caught by Álvaro Eliseo Cruz off the coast of Isla de Méndez, a fishing village in southeastern El Salvador. Cruz caught 15 kilos of fish this day, including red porgy and mojarras, which he uses to sell in the market and feed his family. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ofilio Herrera (L) buys a kilo of fish freshly caught by Álvaro Eliseo Cruz off the coast of Isla de Méndez, a fishing village in southeastern El Salvador. Cruz caught 15 kilos of fish this day, including red porgy and mojarras, which he uses to sell in the market and feed his family. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The women in Las Gaviotas are making an effort to repair their three canoes and their nets to start fishing again, a real challenge when a good part of the productive activity has also been affected by the violence.

Fishing and selling food to tourists, in a small restaurant on the bay, are the cooperative’s main activities. But at the moment the women are forced to buy the seafood to be able to cater to the few visitors who arrive at the village.

Sea turtle project suspended due to lack of funds

Another project that was carried out in Isla de Méndez but has now been suspended was aimed at preserving sea turtles, ensuring the reproduction of the species and providing an income to the gatherers of turtle eggs.

All four species that visit El Salvador nest in Jiquilisco bay: the hawkbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback or lute (Dermochelis coriácea), olive or Pacific ridley (Lepidochelys olivácea) and Galápagos green turtle (Chelonia agassizii).

In 2005, this bay, with the biggest stretch of mangroves in the country, was included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, and in 2007 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared it the Xiriualtique – Jiquilisco Biosphere Reserve.

The gatherers were paid 2.5 dollars for 10 turtle eggs, which were buried in nests until they hatched. The hatchlings were then released into the sea.

But the project was cancelled due to a lack of funds, from a private environmental institution, to pay the “turtlers”.

“Our hope is that some other institution will help us to continue the project,” said Ernesto Zavala, from the local Sea Turtle Association. To this septuagenarian, it is of vital importance to get the programme going again, because “those of us who cannot fish or harvest clams can collect turtle eggs.”

“Now tourists are beginning to come again,” said a local resident who preferred not to give his name, who had to close his restaurant due to extortion from the gangs. Only recently did he pluck up the courage to reopen his small business.

“Before, at this time, around noon, all those tables would have been full of tourists,” he said, pointing to the empty tables at his restaurant.

In Isla de Méndez, each day is a constant struggle to put food on the table, as it is for rural families in this Central American country of 6.3 million people.

According to the report “Food and Nutrition Security: a path towards human development”, published in Spanish in July 2016 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the prevalence of undernourishment – food intake insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements – in El Salvador stands at 12.4 percent of the population.

The United Nations are still defining the targets to be achieved within the Sustainable Development Goals, but in the case of El Salvador this prevalence should at least be cut in half, Emilia González, representative of programmes at the FAO office in El Salvador, told IPS.

“Sometimes we only manage to catch four little fishes for our family to eat, and nothing to sell, but there is always something to put on the table,” said María Antonia Guerrero, who belongs to the 37-member Cooperative Association of Fish Production.

“Sometimes what we catch does not even cover the cost of the gasoline we use,” she said.

Because of the cooperative’s limited equipment (just 10 boats and two motors), they can only go fishing two or three times a week. When fishing is good, she added, they can catch 40 dollars a week of fish.

The local fishers respect the environmental requirement to use a net that ensures the reproduction of the different species of fish.

“We do it to avoid killing the smallest fish, otherwise the species would be wiped out and we would have nothing to eat,” said Sandra Solís, another member of the cooperative.

González, of FAO, said one of the U.N.’s agency’s mandates is to strive for food and nutrition security for families, adding that only by empowering them in this process can their standard of living be improved.

“We have worked a great deal in these communities for families to be the managers of their own development,” she said.

In this community, efforts have been made to develop projects to produce organic compost and to treat solid waste, said Ofilio Herrera with the Community Development Association in Area 1.

More ambitious plans include setting up a processing plant for coconut milk and cashew nuts and cashew apples, he added.

Rosa Herrera, meanwhile, walks towards her house with a slight smile on her face, pleased with having earned enough to feed her daughter, her father and herself that day.

As a single mother, she is proud that she has been able to raise her seven children, six of whom no longer live at home, on her own.

“Because I had to work to get food I was not able to go to school. We were eight siblings; the younger ones studied, and the older ones worked. My father and mother were very poor, so the older of us worked to support the younger ones. Four of us did not learn to read and write. The others learned as adults, but I didn’t,” she said.

“I have left my life in the mangroves, I was not able to go to school to learn to read and write, but I am happy that I have provided an education for all my children, thanks to the clams,” she said.

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Latin America Is a Leading Influence in the Global Fight Against Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/latin-america-in-the-vanguard-of-global-fight-against-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-in-the-vanguard-of-global-fight-against-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/latin-america-in-the-vanguard-of-global-fight-against-hunger/#respond Sat, 11 Feb 2017 20:09:48 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148916 A model for fighting against hunger and malnutrition with a global reach which has been successful within and outside the region has spread worldwide, first from Brazil and then from Latin America, notes a distinction given to the current Director-General of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), José Graziano da Silva. Graziano was included […]

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Children eat lunch at a school in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a community where most children live in poverty, but thanks to the synergy between family farming and school meals, they have managed to eliminate malnutrition among the student body. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Children eat lunch at a school in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a community where most children live in poverty, but thanks to the synergy between family farming and school meals, they have managed to eliminate malnutrition among the student body. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Mario Osava
SANTIAGO/RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 11 2017 (IPS)

A model for fighting against hunger and malnutrition with a global reach which has been successful within and outside the region has spread worldwide, first from Brazil and then from Latin America, notes a distinction given to the current Director-General of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), José Graziano da Silva.

Graziano was included in the 2016 ranking of “Global Latin Americans” with influence at a global level, drawn up by the international edition of the journal AméricaEconomía, along with Pope Francis from Argentina, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim, Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, microfinance pioneer María Otero, who was born in Bolivia, famous Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, Mexican-born journalist Jorge Ramos and Venezuelan poet Rafael Cárdenas, among others.

“He has been one of the most steadfast advocates of food security, working on the whole issue of rural life, which is why we put him on the list,” the journal’s director of digital media, Lino Solís de Ovando, told IPS.

AméricaEconomía, an international journal that is published in Santiago and which also has eight national or subregional editions as well as a large digital platform, seeks with this “unprecedented ranking to provide a list of the 25 most influential men and women,” he said. Not all of them are “in the front row,” but they are all “people who truly generate global change” with their activities, he said.

Graziano, director-general of FAO since 2012, a post he will hold until 2019 after he was reelected for a second term in 2015, led the team that designed Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” programme, which gave rise to a new global model.

“The recognition of people is an acknowledgment of the ideas and the causes to which they devote their lives. In this case, it is a recognition of rural development and the fight against hunger in Latin America and worldwide,” Graziano said on Thursday Feb. 9, referring to his inclusion on the list of Latin Americans with the greatest global influence.

Named special minister of food security and the fight against hunger (2003-2006) during the first years of the presidency of leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), “Graziano played a decisive role in coming up with strategies to combat hunger, combining structural and emergency actions,” the executive director of ActionAid International, Adriano Campolina, told IPS.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaking at the fifth Celac Summit, in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Credit: FAO

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaking at the fifth Celac Summit, in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Credit: FAO

“His efforts translated into loans to family farmers, improved school feeding and income transfer policies, among other initiatives,” Campolina said from the humanitarian organisation’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.

According to Campolina, in his strategy Graziano “had the wisdom to identify in society effective and liberating ways to fight hunger,” translating them into public policies and “recognising that many solutions lay in the successful initiatives carried out by social movements and non-governmental organisations.”

Graziano was in charging of setting in motion “the most important programme in Lula’s administration, Zero Hunger, which had the full acceptance of all segments of Brazilian society, even the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT),” said Frei Betto, who helped design and launch the programme, as special adviser to the president.

“Zero Hunger comprised more than 60 complementary and empowering programmes, including agrarian reform, unionisation, family agriculture, and rainwater harvesting others,” said the well-known Catholic writer, who is also an adviser to different social movements.

Its administration was in the hands of “civil society organised in Management Committees, which were created in more than 2,500 municipalities, half of Brazil, during Graziano’s term of office,” said Betto.

But in 2004 the government decided to focus its efforts on cash transfers, through Bolsa Familia, “which was compensatory in nature”. That led to Betto’s resignation, while Graziano became adviser to the president, until he was named FAO’s regional representative in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2006.

The replacement of Zero Hunger with Bolsa Familia, which provided direct subsidies, was due to pressure from municipal authorities who wanted to control the lists of beneficiaries for electoral purposes, said Betto.

“Fortunately, Graziano was recognised internationally, elected and re-elected as head of FAO, to take the initiative and experience of Zero Hunger to other countries,” he said.

“At FAO, Graziano had the political courage to recognise the key role played by small-scale family agriculture, women farmers, agroecology and sustainable agriculture in eradicating hunger,” said Campolina.

Recognising these tendencies, instead of prioritising large-scale agriculture and transnational corporations that abuse toxic agrochemicals, is “the paradigm shift that makes it possible to combat the structural causes of hunger,” he said.

“Graziano’s leadership strengthened the fight for access to land and sustainability and boosted family farmers, who produce 80 per cent of the world’s food,” said ActionAid’s executive director.

Economist Francisco Menezes, a former president of Brazil’s National Council of Food and Nutritional Security (2003-2007), stressed that “one of Graziano’s legacies is being able to get Brazil, Latin America and the world to give priority to the goal of food security.”

Graziano himself expressed hope at the fifth summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), held in January, that “Latin America and the Caribbean could become the first developing region to fully eradicate hunger.”

For this to happen, Menezes said, governments must reinforce the implementation of the Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan developed by Celac with FAO support, whose goal is to put an end to the problem in the region by 2025.

Solís de Ovando also underscored FAO’s focus, during Graziano’s administration, on the issue of obesity and overweight, which affect 360 million people in the region, according to a study released by the organisation in January.

In its “Global Latin Americans” 2016 ranking, AméricaEconomía also highlighted the efforts made by the head of FAO in South-South cooperation and the exchange of solutions and experiences between countries of the different regions of the Global South, with the goal of achieving food security and sustainable development.

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It’s Women’s Turn in Rural Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/ifad-2017-its-womens-turn-in-rural-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ifad-2017-its-womens-turn-in-rural-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/ifad-2017-its-womens-turn-in-rural-development/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 11:04:47 +0000 Mario Osava and Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148827 Mario Osava and Baher Kamal interview JOSEFINA STUBBS, candidate for president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

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Josefina Stubbs, candidate for president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Credit: Courtesy of Josefina Stubbs

Josefina Stubbs, candidate for president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Credit: Courtesy of Josefina Stubbs

By Mario Osava and Baher Kamal
BRASILIA, Feb 6 2017 (IPS)

Josefina Stubbs, from the Dominican Republic, may become the first woman to preside over the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty.

IFAD is a United Nations agency created in 1977 to invest in poor farmers in developing countries, who represent three-quarters of the world’s poor and undernourished.

Stubbs has accumulated 35 years of rural development experience, most recently in IFAD, as Regional Director of the Latin America and the Caribbean Division (2008-2014) and later as Associate Vice-President of the Strategy and Knowledge Department, before being nominated for president of IFAD by her country.

She holds a BA in Psychology and Master’s degrees in Sociology, Political Science and International Development, and has also worked for Oxfam and the World Bank.

The elections will take place on Feb. 14-15 during the IFAD annual meeting at the agency’s Rome headquarters. In her favour, Stubbs led, as vice president, the process of designing the agency’s Strategic Framework 2016-2025, besides her in-depth knowledge of how IFAD functions.

In its 40 years of experience, IFAD has earmarked 18.4 billion dollars for rural development projects that have benefited a total of 464 million persons. And the Fund’s soft loans and donations mobilised far greater sums contributed by governments and other national sources, as co-financing.

Boosting the crop yields of small farmers, protecting the environment, training poor peasant farmers, and empowering young people and women will be her priorities if she is elected president of IFAD.

She described her ideas and plans in this interview with IPS during her visit to Brasilia in the first week of February.

IPS: What direction and priorities will you adopt as president of IFAD if you are elected?

JOSEFINA STUBBS: I will dedicate myself to working with the governments of the IFAD member countries, in particular with low- and middle- income countries, so they can advance towards fulfilling the Agenda 2030 in the rural sector and achieving Sustainable Development, with two goals: food security and poverty reduction. Implementing the Agenda 2030 in the countryside, supporting women and young people, and protecting the environment will be vital for the future of the rural sector.

This requires increasing agricultural and non-farm productivity, to produce more and better, in order to supply a continually growing population, while stimulating small-scale farming to create more employment, services and income. A vibrant rural sector is needed to keep people in the countryside, especially the young.

We have to support women more strongly in the productive area, and in the processing of agricultural products as well, encouraging the creation of companies to amplify the benefits. This way new inclusive production chains are generated, and their active involvement in the market is bolstered. Organising farmers is key to boosting the volumes of production and trade, and to improving the quality standards of the products which reach increasingly demanding consumers.

Public policies are the umbrella under which IFAD can work more closely with governments. One example is Brazil, where we work with the national, state and municipal governments in policies to expand markets and transfer technologies. IFAD’s activities in Brazil were limited eight years ago, but now we have agreements with all nine states of Brazil’s Northeast region, providing financial support and technical assistance. This is an experience that should be strengthened and taken to other countries.

IPS: And is any region going to be given priority, Africa for example?

JS: IFAD’s priority lies where the rural poor are, training them and governments in the search for solutions. In Africa we have provided many resources and we have to keep doing so. The African economy is strongly tied to the rural sector, both because of the employment and because the urban and peri-urban markets demand more quality food. Africa has IFAD’s support because of its poverty rate, but so do Asian countries such as India, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

IPS: For the first time, three women are running for the presidency of IFAD. Researchers say that resources achieve more efficient results against poverty and hunger if they are given to women. What should IFAD do for rural women, who make up over 60 per cent of the agricultural workforce in regions of the South and are victims of inequality?

JS: Governments must be encouraged to ensure a greater presence of women in all of the activities financed by the Fund. But we must do it in an innovative way, breaking down traditional barriers to women’s access to public and private goods, loans, technology and the markets. We need to create new instruments specifically adapted to women’s lives, their needs, so that they can be useful to them. It is absolutely urgent to increase the participation of women and their role in the decision-making process about the investments that are made in their communities, and for them to be active subjects in the implementation of these investments.

IPS: But technical and scientific development has gone into large-scale agricultural production. Would it be suitable for poor women in rural areas?

JS: In agriculture, Brazil has demonstrated coexistence between large-scale and small-scale farmers. It already has new machinery for small-scale producers, such as tractors and harvesters, as well as irrigation. The progress made by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) in improving the crops of small farmers is extraordinary. Brazil has developed important technologies for other countries. It has also made headway with productive infrastructure in communities. An example is machinery and refrigerated trucks for goat’s milk, suited for narrow roads. We need technologies adapted to small farms.

Food security depends on small-scale producers. In Africa 60 per cent of the basic food basket of the middle-class comes from local small-scale farmers. If we don’t increase this production, we lose the opportunity to promote food security in these countries. This has been proven. In the Dominican Republic, 80 per cent of basic products come from small-scale producers.

Increasing national productive capacity brings more benefits than spending on imports. It is a battle won which we have to make visible.

IPS: Does the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) share this view?

JS: The work of the three agencies based in Rome – IFAD, FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) – must create synergy. They have a key role in supporting governments in meeting the goals of Agenda 2030 in the rural sector. With the specific mission of each agency, we must increase our impact – in investment for the rural poor through IFAD, by strengthening national and global policies that facilitate the achievement of food security and poverty reduction with the work carried out by FAO, and by reinforcinge the humanitarian responses in the rural sector, with the WPF has been doing for decades.

IPS: With regard to the environment, how can IFAD and small-scale farmers contribute to protecting nature and the climate?

JS: Climate change issues and the adequate management of environmental resources have to be seen in a broader perspective in the rural sector. I will keep defending ‘climate-smart agriculture’ with eco-friendly practices that also generate income. But in addition, we have to pay attention to the management of environmental resources such as water, energy, tourism, or agro-forestry, which also generate economic and environmental benefits for the rural and urban sectors. We must seek to empower communities, particularly indigenous communities, so they become effective and efficient managers of natural resources.

IPS: Water is another growing environmental problem.

JS: First of all, we have to safeguard our basins, reforest, preserve. Then we have to change the irrigation systems, replace flood irrigation with new techniques. Sometimes the solution is simple. Rainwater collection, such as in the Northeast of Brazil, is an example. Coming up with solutions implies listening to the local population, not imposing approaches to development that are not what people need.

IPS: How will IFAD keep up or accelerate poverty reduction, with the goal of eradicating it by 2030?

JS: By the deadline set for the Millennium Development Goals, one billion people had been lifted out of poverty. Now the challenge is to keep them afloat, but we still have one billion poor people in the world. We have to sustain our achievements and expand the results. We have to combine conditional cash transfer programmes with an increase in productivity, support for small-scale producers in their production and services companies, support for the expansion of access to technologies as an instrument to expand the benefits of development. We have to create a rural sector where the youth see a future and want to stay.

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Excerpt:

Mario Osava and Baher Kamal interview JOSEFINA STUBBS, candidate for president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

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Kenyans Turn to Wild Fruits and Insects as Drought Loomshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/kenyans-turn-to-wild-fruits-and-insects-as-drought-looms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyans-turn-to-wild-fruits-and-insects-as-drought-looms http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/kenyans-turn-to-wild-fruits-and-insects-as-drought-looms/#respond Tue, 31 Jan 2017 12:10:53 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148735 Too hungry to play, hundreds of starving children in Tiaty Constituency of Baringo County instead sit by the fire, watching the pot boil, in the hope that it is only a matter of minutes before their next meal. Unbeknownst to them, the food cooking inside the pot is no ordinary supper. It is actually a […]

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Once fertile agricultural land in Kenya is being degraded by encroachment and the effects of climate change. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Once fertile agricultural land in Kenya is being degraded by encroachment and the effects of climate change. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jan 31 2017 (IPS)

Too hungry to play, hundreds of starving children in Tiaty Constituency of Baringo County instead sit by the fire, watching the pot boil, in the hope that it is only a matter of minutes before their next meal.

Unbeknownst to them, the food cooking inside the pot is no ordinary supper. It is actually a toxic combination of wild fruits and tubers mixed with dirty water, as surrounding rivers have all run dry.“We are now facing severe effects of desertification because we are cutting down more trees than we can plant." --Hilda Mukui

Tiaty sits some 297 kilometers from the capital Nairobi and the ongoing dry spell is not a unique scenario.

Neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet and Turkana County are among the counties spread across this East African nation where food security reports show that thousands are feeling the impact of desertification, climate change and rainfall shortage.

“In most of these counties, mothers are feeding their children wild fruits and tubers. They boil them for at least 12 hours, believing that this will remove the poison they carry,” Hilda Mukui, an agriculturalist and soil conservationist, told IPS.

Teresa Lokwee, a mother of eight children, all of them under the age of 12, who lives in Tiaty, explains that the boiling pot is a symbol of hope. “When our children see that there is something cooking, the hope that they will soon enjoy a meal keeps them going.”

Mukui, who was head of agriculture within the Ministry of Agriculture and worked in most of the affected counties for more than two decades, says that rainfall deficit, shortage of water and unusually high temperatures is the scenario that characterizes 23 out of the 47 counties in Kenya.

The situation is so dire that in Baringo County alone, 10 schools and 19 Early Childhood Development Schools are empty as children join other family members in search of water.

“Sometimes once you leave in the morning to search for water, you return home in the evening,” Lokwee told IPS.

In other affected counties, especially in Western Kenya, communities have resorted to eating insects such as termites which were previously taboo.

Though these unconventional eating habits are a respite for starving households, experts warn that this is a ticking time bomb since the country lacks an insect-inclusive legislation and key regulatory instruments.

In the Kenya Bureau of Standards, which assesses quality and safety of goods and services, insects are labeled as impure and to be avoided.

But if predictions by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation are anything to go by, the worst is yet to come as the country watches the onset of what experts like Mukui call a crisis after the failure of both the long and short rains.

“We are now facing severe effects of desertification because we are cutting down more trees than we can plant,” she explains.

She added that Vision 2030 – the country’s development blueprint – calls for the planting of at least one billion trees before 2030 to combat the effects of climate change, but the campaign has been a non-starter.

Mukui told IPS it is no wonder that at least 10 million people are food insecure, with two million of them facing starvation.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which works in countries such as Kenya buckling under the weight of desertification, land degradation and severe drought, the number of people living on degraded agricultural land is on the rise.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, with at least 45 percent of government revenue being derived from this sector.

Mukui says it is consequently alarming that at least 10 million of the estimated 44 million Kenyans live in degraded agricultural areas, accounting for an estimated 40 percent of the country’s rural community.

Other statistics by UNCCD show that though arid and semi-arid lands constitute about 80 percent of the country’s total land mass and are home to at least 35 percent of the country’s population, areas that were once fertile for agriculture are slowly becoming dry and unproductive.

A survey by the Kenya Forest Service has revealed that not only is the country’s forest cover at seven percent, which is less than the ten percent global standard, an estimated 25 percent of the Mau Forest Complex – Kenya’s largest water catchment area – has been lost due to human activity.

Within this context, UNCCD is working with various stakeholders in Kenya to ensure that at least five million hectares of degraded land is restored. According to Executive Secretary Monique Barbut, there is a need to ensure that “in the next decade, the country is not losing more land than what it is restoring.”

“Land issues must become a central focus since land is a resource with the largest untapped opportunities,” she said.

Research has shown that the state of land impacts heavily on the effectiveness of policies to address poverty and hunger.

Restoring forest cover in Kenya is key. Since 1975, official government statistics show that the country has suffered 11 droughts – and the 12th is currently looming.

The cost implications that the country continues to suffer can no longer be ignored. UNCCD estimates that the annual cost of land degradation in Kenya is at least five percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. And addressing land degradation can earn the country four dollars for every one dollar spent in land restoration efforts.

Barbut has, however, commended the country’s efforts to address desertification caused by both human activity and the adverse effects of climate change, particularly through practical and sustainable legislation.

Mukui says that UNCCD works through a country-specific National Action Programme which Kenya already has in place. “What we need is better coordination and concerted efforts among the many stakeholders involved, government, communities, donors and the civil society, just to name a few,” she said.

Efforts to enhance the country’s capacity to combat desertification by the UNCCD include providing financial and technical resources to promote management of local natural resources, improving food security and partnering with local communities to build sustainable land use plans.

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Zambia’s Armyworm Outbreak: Is Climate Change to Blame?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/zambias-armyworm-outbreak-is-climate-change-to-blame/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zambias-armyworm-outbreak-is-climate-change-to-blame http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/zambias-armyworm-outbreak-is-climate-change-to-blame/#respond Mon, 23 Jan 2017 14:05:01 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148624 Surrender Hamufuba of Mwanamambo village in Pemba district recalls how he battled Armyworms in 2012. Fast-forward to 2016 and it is a similar story — another pest infestation on an even larger scale. “I am not sure why, but there could be more to the increased frequency of these pest attacks, maybe weather changes,” speculates […]

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Zambian farmer Surrender Hamufuba inspecting a maize plant in his field. Experts say a changing climate is bringing more crop pests to parts of Africa. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Zambian farmer Surrender Hamufuba inspecting a maize plant in his field. Experts say a changing climate is bringing more crop pests to parts of Africa. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Jan 23 2017 (IPS)

Surrender Hamufuba of Mwanamambo village in Pemba district recalls how he battled Armyworms in 2012. Fast-forward to 2016 and it is a similar story — another pest infestation on an even larger scale.

“I am not sure why, but there could be more to the increased frequency of these pest attacks, maybe weather changes,” speculates the 48-year-old farmer, who seems quite knowledgeable about climate smart agricultural fundamentals.“As temperature is projected to rise, insects like stalk borers will develop faster and this could lead to earlier population growth than expected.” --Researcher Donald Zulu

Out of the five hectares he planted, Hamufuba estimates the damage to be up to 1ha. In Pemba alone, at least 5,000 smallholders have reported some stalk borer damage in varying proportions.

Aside from the stalk borers, the Armyworm invasion has caused larger damage across the country. According to Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya, at least 124,000 hectares of maize have been invaded, representing just under 10 percent of the 1.4 hectares of maize planted this farming season.

National Coordinator of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) Patrick Kangwa said “the pests were under control” as government bought and delivered 87,000 litres of pesticides for spraying in the affected farmers’ fields.

While farmers are being supported in every way possible to safeguard their crops in the short term, the long-term concern is the frequency — and unpredictability — of these devastating pests.

Donald Zulu, a lecturer and researcher at the Copperbelt University, says climate change may complicate the pattern of infestations.

“Outbreaks of Armyworms are highly dependent on the seasonal patterns of wind and rainfall. With global warming, the weather pattern in Africa will continue to change, which could mean more or fewer Armyworm outbreaks,” says Zulu, prescribing long-term integrated approaches built around “robust, country-wide surveillance and early warning systems” considering the devastating nature and feeding pattern of Armyworms.

Armyworms are serious migratory crop pests that feed on young maize plants, and also attack other cereal crops such as wheat, rice, sorghum, millet and most grass pastures, affecting both crop and livestock production. They feed with such devastating speed that by the time they are discovered, notable damage would already have been caused. Stalk borers on the other hand, have the habit of boring into stalks, affecting plant growth.

There are several types of Armyworms, among them the African Armyworm, which occur in Africa. While the 2012 attack was the African Armyworm, this year’s outbreak is different.

“This particular pest is the Fall Armyworm, and not the African Armyworm,” says Dr. Eliot Zitsanza, chief scientist at the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRCO-CSA). “The two are closely related though. The Fall Armyworm is native to the Americas and may have been introduced to Zambia accidentally.”

Coincidentally this year, the Armyworm outbreak is occurring alongside stalk borers. Both belong to the same scientific family, called ‘Noctuidae’, of moths. From a scientific perspective, the two types of pests depend on weather for their production and growth, highlighting another importance of reliable early warning systems.

One of the most notable early warning systems uses an extensive network of pheromone traps that attract male armyworm moths using the artificial scent of mating female armyworms. The catches of Armyworm in the traps are used in combination with local weather reports to forecast armyworm outbreaks and help to alert farmers much faster to the need for control.

But with global warming causing massive weather unpredictability, is it to blame for increased incidences of pests? Professor Ken Wilson of Lancaster University, who has been studying Armyworms for 25 years, says it is very likely that over a few decades, the pattern of outbreaks has changed.

“It is very likely that climate change will affect the incidence of this pest because the armyworm is dependent on weather, so it feeds on crops and grasses that are dependent on the amount of rainfall, and the pattern of outbreaks depends very much on where rain storms occur and how frequently they occur,” Prof. Wilson told IPS, pointing out however, that the relationship is not simple as “we don’t have very good data and information to validate this hypothesis.”

As for stalk borers, just like most insects, they are directly under the control of temperature for their growth and it is the most important environmental factor influencing insect behavior, says Donald Zulu. “As temperature is projected to rise, insects like stalk borers will develop faster and this could lead to earlier population growth than expected.”

The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment report confirms this strong linkage between warming and increased pest and disease. In highlighting the major risk posed by climate change to agriculture — reduction in crop productivity associated with heat and drought stress — the report cites increased pest and disease damage and flood impacts on food system infrastructure as key indicators.

Similarly, in identifying key adaptation issues and prospects, the report highlights adoption of stress-tolerant crop varieties, irrigation, and enhanced weather observation systems.

While several arguments may have emerged since the outbreak, Southern Province Agricultural Coordinator Max Choombe points to mono-cropping as a major reason, especially for the stalk borer outbreak.

“I believe mono-cropping has brought about this burden because our farmers grow maize after maize, they don’t change,” laments Dr. Choombe, insisting on the importance of crop rotation for breaking the cycle of pests.

Dr. Choombe also believes climate change is a precursor to pest infestations and does not rule out the linkage between the current outbreak and global warming. “Climate change also is a problem, is a precursor for certain pests attack and I believe the attack this season could be as a result of the extreme weather changes we have been experiencing.”

With a looming outbreak of Red Locusts as forecast by the IRCO-CSA, there could be more work ahead in identifying long-term solutions to the rising challenge of pests in a changing climate. Further, the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which places obligations on individual countries to contribute to a global transition to green growth, means that Zambian policy makers would have to double their efforts considering that agriculture is at the forefront of the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

But while they do, Donald Zulu strongly believes in the following premise: “It is generally agreed that the earth is warming. And temperature influences insect development and is the most important environmental factor that affects insect pests. Because of this, climate change is more likely to influence insects’ geography distribution and affect crops.”

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360 Million of 625 Million People Are Overweight in Latin America and Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/360-million-of-625-million-people-are-overweight-in-latin-america-and-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=360-million-of-625-million-people-are-overweight-in-latin-america-and-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/360-million-of-625-million-people-are-overweight-in-latin-america-and-caribbean/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:36:14 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148612 In Latin America and the Caribbean 360 million people are overweight, and 140 million are obese, warned the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Panamerican Health Organisation (PAHO). “The rise in obesity is very worrying. At the same time the number of people who suffer from hunger has diminished in the region. […]

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FAO acting regional representative Eve Crowley (C) during the launch of the Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, at FAO headquarters in Santiago. The report , where it was warned that overweight affects 360 million people in the region. Credit: FAO

FAO acting regional representative Eve Crowley (C) during the launch of the Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, at FAO headquarters in Santiago. The report , where it was warned that overweight affects 360 million people in the region. Credit: FAO

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 20 2017 (IPS)

In Latin America and the Caribbean 360 million people are overweight, and 140 million are obese, warned the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Panamerican Health Organisation (PAHO).

“The rise in obesity is very worrying. At the same time the number of people who suffer from hunger has diminished in the region. We need to strengthen our efforts and have food systems with improved nutrition based on sustainable production methods to reduce those figures,” Eve Crowley, FAO acting regional representative, said Thursday at the organisation‘s headquarters in Santiago.

At the regional FAO office in Santiago on Thursday Jan. 19 the two organisations launched the Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, which sounded the alarm about the phenomenon in this region of just over 625 million people.

The problem, highlighted the report, largely affects children and women, increasing chronic diseases, driving up medical expenses for countries and individuals, and posing a threat to the quality of the future labour force that national development plans will require.

At the same time, the region has considerably reduced hunger: today only 5.5 per cent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean is undernourished, the Caribbean being the area with the highest prevalence (19.8 per cent), largely because Haiti has the highest malnutrition rate in the world: 53.4 per cent.

Chronic child malnutrition (low height for age) in Latin America and the Caribbean also dropped, from 24.5 per cent in 1990 to 11.3 per cent in 2015, which translates into a decrease of 7.8 million children.

Despite the progress made, currently 6.1 million children still suffer from chronic malnutrition: 3.3 million in South America, 2.6 million in Central America, and 200,000 in the Caribbean. About 700,000 million children suffer from acute malnutrition, 1.3 per cent of them under the age of five.

Asked whether the difficulty of access to natural, good quality foods is due to the high prices or to a flawed production and distribution system, Crowley told IPS that it is “a combination of factors“.

“We talk about a food system because it involves a set of factors – from supplies to which foods are available at a national level. For example in Latin America there is a great availability of sugary foods and meat. But ensuring physical availability and access to nutritious, healthy, affordable fresh food in every neighborhood is still hard to achieve,” she said.

“There is evidence that food high in bad calories, from ultra-processed sources, is less expensive than healthy food, and this poses a dilemma to guaranteeing good nutrition for the entire population, particularly people in low-income households,” she said.

Crowley said there are changes in consumption patterns, with people shifting away from their traditional diets based on legumes, cereals, fruits and vegetables toward super-processed foods rich in saturated fats, sugar and sodium, which are backed by extensive advertising.

A girl wearing traditional dress from Bolivia’s highlands region shows a basket with fruit during a school exhibit in La Paz to promote good eating habits among students.. Programmes to promote healthy eating are spreading through schools in Latin America, to address problems such as malnutrition and overweight. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

A girl wearing traditional dress from Bolivia’s highlands region shows a basket with fruit during a school exhibit in La Paz to promote good eating habits among students.. Programmes to promote healthy eating are spreading through schools in Latin America, to address problems such as malnutrition and overweight. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

She called for better information, nutrition warnings, taxes on unhealthy foods, and subsidies for healthy foods necessary for the population.

With the exception of Haiti (38.5 per cent), Paraguay (48.5 per cent) and Nicaragua (49.4 per cent), overweight affects more than half of the population of the countries in the region, with Chile (63 per cent), Mexico (64 per cent) and the Bahamas (69 per cent) showing the highest rates, states the report.

Erick Espinoza, a physical education teacher in a private school in a middle-class neighborhood in Santiago, sees the problem of the change in eating and behavioural habits of his students, aged six to 10, which is a reflection of what is happening throughout the region, and in particular in the countries with the highest overweight and obesity rates.

“As snacks, they don’t bring fruit, only potato chips, crackers or cookies, fizzy drinks, juice or milk high in sugar. And they don’t just bring a small package, but sometimes two or three packages or even a big one,” he told IPS, referring to the snack during recess.

Since 2016, kiosks that sell food in Chilean schools have been prohibited from selling foods high in sugar, sodium or fat. “They have to sell fruit, but the kiosk is not doing well because the children don’t buy fruit or yoghurt, but bring other things from home,“ said the teacher.

Alexandra Carmona, a teacher at a municipal school for children aged four to 17 in a low-income neighborhood in Santiago, pointed to a different problem.

“There was an obese boy who was really bullied. Everybody would say ‘hey fattie‘, ‘hey grease ball‘. So I called the parents to tell them what was happening, but they didn’t give it any importance,“ she told IPS. The boy ended up in a special school even though he had no learning disability.

At her school, the school provides meals, but many children won‘t accept the legumes and balanced diet that is offered.

The Panorama reports that 7.2 per cent of children under five years old in the region are overweight, which means a total of 3.9 million children, including 2.5 million in South America, 1.1 million in Central America and 200,000 in the Caribbean.

The countries with the highest rates of overweight in children under five years old are Barbados (12 per cent), Paraguay (11.7 per cent), Argentina (9.9 per cent), and Chile (9.3 per cent).

The report also points out that several countries have adopted taxes on sugary beverages, including Barbados, Chile, Dominican Republic and Mexico, while others such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile have laws on healthy nutrition which regulate advertising and labeling of food products.

With respect to the countries that stand out in sales per person of ultra-processed products, the report says that Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay exceed the regional average of 129.6 kilograms per inhabitant. Mexico ranks first, with 214 kg per inhabitant, and Chile is second with 201.9 kg.

In 30 of the 33 countries studied , more than half of the population over 18 is overweight, and in 20 of them obesity among women is at least 10 percent higher than among men.

According to PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne, “the region is facing a two-fold burden of malnutrition, which has to be fought with a balanced diet which includes fresh, healthy and nutritious foods, produced in a sustainable manner, besides addressing the main social factors that lead to malnutrition.”

In addition to the lack of access to healthy foods, she mentioned the difficulty of access to clean water and sewage services, education and health services, and social protection programmes, among others.

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Nicaraguan Women Push for Access to Land, Not Just on Paperhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:40:41 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148102 A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large. Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told […]

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Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.

Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.

According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.

Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.

They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.

For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.

“For rural women, land is life, it is vital for the family; land ownership and inputs to make it productive are closely linked to women’s economic empowerment, to decision-making about food production, to the preservation of our environment, and to ensuring food security and protecting our native seeds to avoid dependence on genetically modified seeds,” said Rocha.

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Femuprocan is the only federation in the country solely made up of women farmers: more than 4,200 members organised in 73 cooperatives in six of the country’s departments: Madriz, Managua, Granada, Región Autónoma del Caribe Norte, Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Rocha believes the progress made has been more qualitative than quantitative.

In 2010, when they pushed through Law 717, an estimated 1.1 million women lived in rural areas, and most of them owned neither land nor other assets.

The law was aimed at giving rural women access to physical possession and legal ownership of land, improving their economic conditions, boosting gender equity, ensuring food security and fighting poverty in the country, estimated at the time at 47 per cent.

Nicaragua currently has a population of 6.2 million, 51 per cent of whom are women, and 41 per cent of whom live in rural areas, according to World Bank figures.

Data from the Household Survey to Measure Poverty in Nicaragua, published in June by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge, indicates that 39 per cent of the population was poor in 2015.

The poverty rate in urban areas was 22.1 per cent, compared to 58.8 per cent in rural areas.

According to the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam, only 18 per cent of the rural women who work on farms in Nicaragua own land, while the rest have to lease it and pay before planting.

“Access to land ownership is a pending demand for 40 percent of the members of Femuprocan, which represents a total of 1,680 women without land,” said Rocha.

The struggle for access to land is an uphill battle, but the organisation is not giving up.

“In 17 municipalities covered by our federation, 620 women are active in the process of searching for lands for our members. Not only women who have no land, but also women who do are engaged in the process of identifying lands to make them productive, as are other governmental and non-governmental organisations,” she said.

One of the members of the organisation told IPS that there has been no political will or economic financing from the state to enforce the law on access to land.

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

“How many doors have we knocked on, how many offices have we visited to lobby, how many meetings have we held…and the law is still not enforced,” said the farmer, who asked to be identified only as Maria, during a trip to Managua.

“The problem is that the entire legal, economic and productive system is still dominated by men, and they see us as threats, more than competition, to their traditional business activities,” she said.

Other women’s organisations have come from rural areas to the cities to protest that the law on access to land is not being enforced.

In May, María Teresa Fernández, who heads the Coordinator of Rural Women, complained in Managua that “women who do not own land have to pay up to 200 dollars to rent one hectare during the growing season.”

In addition to having to lease land, the women who belong to the organisation have in recent years faced environmental problems such as drought, dust storms, volcanic ash and pests without receiving the benefit of public policies that make bank loans available to deal with these problems.

“Six years ago, Law 717 was passed, ordering the creation of a gender equity fund for the purchase of land by rural women. But this fund has not yet been included in the general budget in order for women to access mortgage credits administered by the state bank, to get their own land,” Fernández complained in May.

The Nicaraguan financial system does not grant loans to women farmers who have no legal title to land, a problem that the government has tried to mitigate with social welfare programmes such as Zero Hunger, Zero Usury, Roof Plan, Healthy Yards and the Christian Solidarity Programme for food distribution, among others.

However, sociologist Cirilo Otero, director of the non-governmental Centre of Initiatives for Environmental Policies, said there is not enough government support, and stressed to IPS that women’s lack of access to land is one of the most serious problems of gender inequality in Nicaragua.

“It is still an outstanding debt by the state towards women farmers,” he said.

Nevertheless, data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that Nicaragua was one of 17 Latin American countries that met the targets for hunger reduction and improvement in food security in the first 15 years of the century, as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

According to the U.N. agency, between 1990 and 2015, the country reduced the proportion of undernourished people from 54.4 per cent to 16.6 per cent.

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