Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Junk food - A novel market swaps rubbish for vegetables in Mexico

The Economist, October 27, 2012 The 21m residents of Mexico City have far too much rubbish and not enough healthy food. Now they can swap one for the other. A new monthly market run by the city government takes paper, glass, plastic and aluminium in return for tokens that can be swapped for locally grown food and plants. Since it began in March the “Barter Market” in Chapultepec park has exchanged 140 tonnes of rubbish for 60 tonnes of produce. The market is a small step towards tackling a big waste problem. In January piles of rubbish built up after a landfill closed. It had received up to 12,600 tonnes of trash a day, and was the size of 450 football pitches. The muck-up will not be the last unless households get better at recycling. “We want people to learn that rubbish is not rubbish,” says Paola de María y Campos, a city official who helped set up the market. The project provides welcome jobs for the city’s farmers, many of whom work in the watery southern district of Xochimilco. Canals there are the last reminder of what Mexico City looked like before the Spanish drained the lake on which it sat. The city’s undeveloped south is prone to illegal slum-building. The government hopes to deter this by promoting farming on the land. The market is proving popular. Queues start to form at 6am, and food nearly sells out by noon. “Now everyone in our family is separating their waste,” says Eugenia Trueba, showing off a bag of lettuce, sesame seeds and cactus leaves which she got for newspapers and plastic bottles. However, over half of visitors come by car, somewhat undermining the market’s green credentials. The project does not break even. Each month the market sells 20 or so tonnes of rubbish to glassmakers, paper manufacturers and other firms for about 40,000 pesos ($3,100). The food, which the government buys from Xochimilco’s farmers at above-market prices, costs 90,000 pesos. Taxpayers pick up the difference. The point, however, is to get people recycling, not to make money. Plans for new branches are under way, and the market may go fortnightly. The real test will be whether more households can be persuaded to recycle even without the carrot of free food in return. Source

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lady to Camera, Mount Kenya Region

Lady from Mount Kenya region talks about how her life has been transformed by a local micro-hydro plant Practical Action helped implement.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Supporting small-scale agriculture in Latin America and Caribbean

By Latinamerica Press, October 18, 2012 According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO, although Latin America and the Caribbean produce enough food to meet the needs of its 600 million inhabitants, 49 million people continue to suffer from hunger. While in the last 20 years Latin America and the Caribbean has been the region of the world with the largest recorded improvements in hunger reduction, the governments of the region continue to support agricultural exports, leaving behind small-scale agriculture, which is main source of food for millions of people and generates high levels of employment in rural areas. As part of World Food Day, celebrated on Oct. 16, the FAO asked national authorities to support small-scale farmers, who are the world’s main food producers at affordable prices. “In the last three decades, national investments in agriculture and development have decreased, and millions of small farmers have had to fight to adapt to many changes: climate, market and price,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO’s director-general. The international humanitarian organization Oxfam also called for the support of small-scale agriculture that guarantees food security and urged Latin American governments to change their focus in agricultural policies, now centered on boosting food exports because of profitability. Antonio Hill, the representative for Latin America from Oxfam’s CRECE Campaign, a campaign directed to boost small-scale agriculture, insisted that the governments of the region should take advantage of “the current economic growth that many countries are experiencing, adding to the 2013 budgets an increase in investment in family and rural agriculture, especially in women, who have much potential to increase their productivity in a sustainable way. This is the most viable change to eliminate hunger in the region.” “Small-scale agriculture has to be viewed as profitable, first because it is the food pantry of the people in the region, and second, because it continues to be an important source of employment. Strengthening small-scale agriculture through major investments in agricultural technology or policies for adapting to climate changes is a change not only to decrease hunger but also to protect the region against the economic crisis in Europe and other parts of the world,” said Hill in statements to the agency Intercultural Communications Services, or SERVINDI. The FAO warned against the continued volatility of food prices, and it did not rule out that this tendency will continue in the next few years. According to the FAO’s Food Price Index, since mid-year food prices have increased by 10 per cent, directly affecting the poorest sectors of society who allocate close to 70 per cent of their income to purchasing food. To offset this tendency and to protect the most vulnerable, Oxfam invoked the governments of the region to “not yield to the private interests of the agrobusiness sector, which oftentimes go against the generation and production of basic food,” and to “invest in the sustainable productivity of small-scale farmers within the framework of food security policies that will guarantee the provision of food for everyone.” “The close relationship between the demands of powerful interest groups and budget allocations in their interest is no secret,” said Hill. “The part of the story that remains untold is that governments cave in to these pressures at the expense of the rights of almost 50 million of the poorest and most vulnerable farmers and consumers in Latin America year after year. Either we change those tendencies or we throw away a more just food system.” Source

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ogoni: Experts Praise Lawsuit Against Shell In The Netherlands

By UNPO, October 23, 2012 Foreign experts have described as a major landmark, the suit filed by Ogoni people against the Dutch oil company, Shell, in Netherlands last week by farmers in the host oil community. Shell was dragged to court in The Hague, Netherlands, by four Nigerian farmers from Ogoni in Rivers State in collaboration with environmental campaigners, Friends of the Earth. The farmers said they could no longer work or feed their families because oil spills caused by Shell in the area have damaged crops and fish farms. Commenting on the suit, an environmental law expert, Professor Jonathan Verschuuren, of the Netherlands’ Tilburg University, said: “It was a really important case, if (the claimants) are successful. It is a big step in cases where Western multinationals commit acts that cause pollution. Up until now, you had to go through a developing country’s courts,” he said. The plaintiffs, according to Friends of the Earth, Netherlands, opted to drag Shell before a Dutch court because they were said to have lacked confidence in Nigerian courts as hundreds of legal cases allegedly brought by victims of oil pollution have become “stranded in the inefficient and corrupt Nigerian legal system.” The NGO added: “Furthermore, the verdicts are often not or inadequately carried out and the damages awarded – if they are paid – are far from sufficient.” Senior Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Netherlands, Evert Hessink, explained why the case was taken to The Netherlands: “We have more confidence in the Dutch system,” he said. The group also said it took the case to The Netherlands so that Shell’s headquarters could be held accountable for the actions of its subsidiaries. “It’s not about whether the headquarters know every detail. It is about whether senior managers and executives of a well-organised international company were aware of the problem and were able to instruct their company,” Hessink added. “When it’s clear that this is a possibility, many others from Nigeria, or other countries that have issues with Dutch or European companies, can take this route,” he added. Source

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Ensuring sustainable food security under land, water, and energy stresses | ReliefWeb

The 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report focuses particularly on the issue of how to ensure sustainable food security under conditions of water, land, and energy stress. Demographic changes, rising incomes and associated consumption patterns, and climate change, alongside persistent poverty and inadequate policies and institutions, are all placing serious pressure on natural resources.

In this report, IFPRI describes the evidence on land, water, and energy scarcity in developing countries and offers two visions of a future global food system—an unsustainable scenario in which current trends in resource use continue, and a sustainable scenario in which access to food, modern energy, and clean water improves significantly and ecosystem degradation is halted or reversed. Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe provide on-the-ground perspectives on the issues of land tenure and title as well as the impacts of scarce land, water, and energy on poor people in Sierra Leone and Tanzania and describe the work of their organizations in helping to alleviate these impacts.

2012 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Ensuring sustainable food security under land, water, and energy stresses | ReliefWeb

Monday, October 22, 2012

World Food Day 2012: A Do or Die Affair | ActionAid

How can we eliminate hunger in Nigeria when despite the changing climate, our government has not incorporated sustainable agricultural practices as a means of rejuvenating the sector and serving as insurance to thousands of smallholder famers especially the women? Will hunger ever be deported from our land with our government investment in agriculture grossly inadequate as it has consistently disrespected its own signature on the Maputo declaration wherein she pledged to allocate 10% per cent of its annual budget to agriculture?
World Food Day 2012: A Do or Die Affair | ActionAid

Conservation programmes that address livelihoods have better chance of success

T. V. Padma, South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net Imagine if you are a poor farmer with less than a hectare of land, and find a rhino or a leopard munching your crop away, or an elephant trampling your house meanwhile. Your, or many poor communities whose livelihoods depend on local resources, point of view may differ a little from of a wildlife enthusiast on the rhino, leopard or elephant. Efforts are on to integrate livelihood issues into conservation programmes and I listened to several such case studies in the Asia-Pacific today (19 Oct). In Nepal’s Bardia national park, explained Rabin Kadariya from the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Kathmandu, the human-wildlife conflict became severe due to animals from the nearby national park rampaging fields. The trust, therefore, initiated a programme to help farmers switch to cultivation of mentha which, for some reason, the rhinos do not like. The trick succeeded. The farmers income trebled fromUS$400 a year from a hectare of wheat, to US$ 1200 and rhinos no longer annoy them. “The farmers are happy in their fields, and the rhinos are happy in their forest,” Kadariya says. Under a Wildlife Conservation Society project, a remote part of northern Cambodia grows “Ibis rice”. A “unique repository for biodiversity,” the area is home to 40 species in IUCN’s Red List, with six species critically endangered, says WCS’s Madu Rao. It was also under threat from over-exploitation, hunting, illegal logging, and over fishing. The project engaged the local communities to conserve Ibis, and also helped them grow and market rice. The trick here was clarify resource tenures to the local communities, and provide incentives for niche marketing, which were linked to their efforts at conservation. Thus came the “Ibis rice” , whose production rose from 38 tons in 2008-09, to 141 tons in 2011-12. “It is an example of benefit sharing relevant to the Nagoya Protocol’s Access and Benefit Sharing,” she says. There are similar projects in Papua New Guinea, where Ona, Keto and other tribes are engaged in local reforestation programmes that also help raise their incomes. The Ona Keto community reforestation and sustainable livelihoods project has since been recognised as a model project by government institutions and universities. These are some heartening examples .. and seem to be the way forward to avoid the human-wildlife conflicts that invariably plague top-down conservation programmes in abjectly economically poor areas that are also rich in biodiversity. Source

Sunday, October 21, 2012

allAfrica.com: Madagascar: Nation's Palms Near Extinction

Eighty three percent of Madagascar's palms are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk – according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Palms are an integral part of Madagascar's biodiversity and all of the 192 species assessed are unique to the island. They provide essential resources to some of Madagascar's poorest communities, such as materials for house construction and edible palm hearts. Habitat loss and palm heart harvesting are major threats putting these species at risk.

Populations of many palm species are at risk as land is being cleared for agriculture and logging.

Ravenea delicatula, (Critically Endangered), is known from just one site, but the site is not protected and it is being threatened by local people clearing the forest to cultivate hill rice, and by miners looking for minerals and gems such as rubies.

The recently discovered Tahina Palm (Tahina spectabilis), also known as the Suicide Palm, has been listed for the first time on The IUCN Red List. Large enough to be viewed on Google Earth, it grows up to 18m in height. A few months after flowering and producing seeds, the tree dies.

With only 30 mature palms found in the wild, it is classified as Critically Endangered, and much of its habitat has been converted to agricultural lands.

allAfrica.com: Madagascar: Nation's Palms Near Extinction

Saturday, October 20, 2012

'REDD actions can have varying impacts' - SciDev.Net

 Impacts of actions under Reduction of Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) – a UN mechanism to stem deforestation  and degradation – on biodiversity and carbon vary across forest types and landscape conditions, a new global assessment shows.

Christoph Wildburger, coordinator at GFEP, said that given that REDD+ actions were relatively recent, several knowledge gaps remained.

A key finding was that REDD+ actions have variable impacts on carbon and biodiversity across different forest types and landscape conditions; and across space and time. 

Tradeoffs between carbon, biodiversity and social outcomes, at both local and wider spatial scale, would remain. For REDD+ to be effective, local communities need to be engaged early on; social objectives should be pursued along with carbon and biodiversity goals; and tenure and property rights need to be clear, the review found. Without sufficient emphasis on local community participation, there is risk that REDD+ "recentralises government decision-making and undermines community-based forest governance."

'REDD actions can have varying impacts' - SciDev.Net

Friday, October 19, 2012

London sanitation exhibit aims to make "poo" a hot topic - AlertNet

Human defecation remains a taboo subject, despite the fact that 2.5 billion people lack a toilet, causing a global health crisis that kills more than a million children each year.

But the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) hopes a new exhibition opening on Thursday will make sanitation easier to discuss. The show is part of its efforts to help fight diseases causing diarrhoea, which kill more children than malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles combined.

“People don't talk about poo enough, and if we don't talk about poo, how are we going to solve the problem of diarrhoeal diseases?” asked Val Curtis, director of the LSHTM's Hygiene Centre.

“We want to make shit sexy - make talking about shit possible,” Curtis told AlertNet, adding that proper handwashing with soap could prevent 600,000 deaths a year from diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections.

“You've got to know your enemy and look your enemy in the face. Some people say it's not acceptable for academics to go around talking about shit, but it's not acceptable for 600,000 children to be dying unnecessarily because we don't talk about shit,” she said.

London sanitation exhibit aims to make "poo" a hot topic - AlertNet

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Violence Against Women Persists in Bangladesh

By Naimul Haq, IPS News, October 17, 2012 Bangladesh, often cited as a model of progress in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), appears to be sliding backwards when it comes to dealing with violence against women (VAW). Police statistics and assessments by non-government organisations (NGOs) working to establish women’s rights show that there is in an increasing trend in VAW. According to police records, while there were 2,981 cases of dowry-related violence in 2004, the figure has already hit 4,563 in the first nine months of 2012. Also, where there were 2,901 rape cases recorded in 2004, the figure for the current year, up to August, stands at 2,868. Farida Akhtar, an internationally known rights activist, told IPS that the disturbing aspect of this rising trend in VAW is that it is “taking on different deceptive forms that go beyond the statistics.” “When women are better aware of their rights through education, and want to assert them, they suffer violence,” said Akhtar, a founder of the NGO, ‘UBINIG’, acronym for ‘Policy Research for Development Alternatives’ in the Bangla language. With school enrolment at 95 percent, Bangladesh is well on track to achieving the MDGs that deal with gender parity in education by 2015. But gender equity and women’s empowerment are another matter. Akhtar said there is evidence that Bangladeshi women are now facing more mental torture than before. “Unfortunately, mental torture cannot be quantified and often goes unreported. But, the fact that suicide is the biggest cause of female deaths in this country is telling.” Women’s rights leaders say that atrocities go unreported because of fear of harassment by religious or political leaders and, of the cases that are registered, a large number end up being dismissed as false allegations. Police data show that 109,621 complaints of various forms of VAW were lodged during the 2010-2012 (up to August) period. Of these, 18,484 complaints were taken into cognizance, but only 6,875 cases were deemed ‘genuine’ and fit for further proceedings. Mohammad Munirul Islam, additional inspector-general of police responsible for dealing with crimes related to VAW at the police headquarters, told IPS, “On many occasions our investigations showed that the law was used to harass the accused. It does seem that not all complaints are genuine.” Afroza Parvin, executive director of Nari Unnayan Shakti, a women’s rights NGO, told IPS, “Due to better awareness female victims have learnt to raise their voices, but stop short of seeking police help. During our 20 years of experience on VAW we have found that police often do not cooperate with victims and favour the accused.” Leading women’s movement activist Shireen Huq says that the main difficulty is that of “establishing a prima facie case for lack of eye witnesses, evidence, etc., with the result that the accused are easily acquitted and cases are recorded as false.” Huq, who is also a founder member of Naripokkho, a local NGO, told IPS that “no matter what the offence or what the form of violence, police and lawyers find it convenient to file the complaint under ‘torture for dowry’, and since this is a non-bailable offence we often hear of the elderly parents of the accused being arrested.” Failure to fulfill dowry demands is a major cause for VAW in Bangladesh. On average 5,000 complaints of dowry are recorded annually. In 2010, police reported 5,331 cases of dowry, which jumped to 7,079 in 2011. Despites the debates, official statistics show that VAW continues unabated and many complaints are dismissed without justice. Data from Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) show that of the 420 recorded rape cases in 2011, only 286 reached the prosecution stage. Salma Ali, executive director of BNWLA, told IPS that one of the difficulties in establishing the rights of women is the fact that Bangladeshi society is strongly patriarchal. “This means that women suffer discrimination in respect of matrimonial rights, guardianship of children and inheritance – often through religious injunctions or directives,” the prominent lawyer said. Hameeda Hossain, chairperson of Ain-o-Shalish Kendra, a leading women’s rights organisation, told IPS that if “women are still suffering socially, culturally and politically” it is due to “social acceptance of women’s subordination, discriminatory laws and poor law enforcement.” “Crimes against women within the family are often ignored, and the women silenced,” Hossain said. “There is social tolerance of domestic violence and limited intervention.” To its credit the Bangladesh government has taken a number of legal steps to improve the situation of women, starting with the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act in 2000. In 2009 the National Human Rights Act was passed followed by the Domestic Violence Act in 2010. Bangladesh is also signatory to international conventions designed to protect women and their rights. Yet, very little is being done on the ground to ensure a secure and safe environment for them, rights activists say. Source

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not fired with logic

Abhijit Banerjee, Hindustan Times, July 25, 2012 In the development business doing something for both women and the environment is the equivalent of holding a royal flush in poker. Which is why, a few years ago so many people signed on to the idea of an improved cookstove: in September 2010, for instance, Hillary Clinton announced the formation of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC), which calls for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020. The basic idea is simple. The world’s poorest people use the cheapest available fuels — dung and twigs and even leaves. This might sound like protecting the environment — after all we are not burning something that needs to be pulled out of the earth. But it is not. These are among the dirtiest fuels available, in terms of the amount of particulate matter and carbon dioxide released into the air; coal is clean by comparison. And when a woman bends over the stove to cook, a lot of those newly liberated particles travel more or less directly into her lungs. A lot of the rest swirls around the house, ending up in the respiratory system of those who spend a lot of time at home, like young children and the elderly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 2 million people die from this kind of indoor air pollution every year, which is about as many deaths as malaria and tuberculosis combined. Improved cookstoves seemed to be a simple but brilliant solution to the problem. Why not enclose the fire so that neither the heat nor the smoke can escape from the stove and channel the smoke out of the house through a simple chimney? Enclosing the heat saves energy and lowers emissions; and sending smoke out is obviously better. This is what the new generation of stoves were designed to do and when tried out under controlled conditions they seemed to work: this was why there was so much excitement about them. Yet, a recent study by some of my colleagues from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that followed several thousand households with and without improved stoves in Odisha over four years reluctantly concluded that having a stove at home made absolutely no difference. The study was done with great care: households were selected by lottery to receive a subsidised stove to ensure that those who got those stoves were exactly like those who didn’t. It was not that the stoves just never arrived — Gram Vikas, one of India’s most respected NGOs, was in charge of implementation and every eligible household that wanted a stove got one. A wide range of outcomes — from school attendance of children to the carbon dioxide in the lungs of their mother — were measured. Quite remarkably, by the end of year four, there was really no good news to report, whether it was health that you cared about or fuel use or time spent cooking. It is instructive to try and understand why the promised miracle did not happen. At one level the answer is simple — people stopped using the improved stoves. They had them in their homes, but they used their old unimproved stoves. Interestingly, this was true from the very beginning. People never stopped using their old stoves, though the new stoves did get significantly more use in year one than in year four. Correspondingly, in year one carbon dioxide in the lungs of women does go down, but it goes back up over time, as the new stove falls into disuse. One advantage of the old stoves is that they are portable. When the weather was not too hot or wet, cooking was more pleasant outside than inside their small single room houses. The new stoves, with their fixed chimneys, could not be moved. But surely there must be something else to the story — remember all of this got started because there was enough cooking inside to be a health hazard. Well, it turns out that improved stoves, like all stoves, have a tendency to crack. But a crack in an improved stove defeats its whole point. Smoke comes into the room through the crack rather than exiting through the chimney. Heat leaks out, reducing fuel efficiency. New stove owners, data shows, spend significantly more time repairing their stoves. And since such repairs in rural Odisha are a man’s job, this probably involved a fair amount of persuasion by the woman. The improved stoves also demanded more attention. There were two burners, and both need to be covered all the time, even if only one was being used — otherwise the smoke just leaked out through the other hole. If you got distracted and forgot to put the cover on, because, say, a child was crying outside, you would come back to find yourself in a room full of smoke. For the hyper-rational being that lives in economic models, none of this ought to matter. They would never forget in any case, and even if they did, they would recognise the superiority of the new technology and stick to it. But I know how I would react: I would be so frustrated with all the things that keep going wrong with new stove (especially after all that hype) that I would stop using them. The broader point is not at all that new technologies never work or that the poor cannot adapt to them — no one who has seen the cellphone sneaking in and out of the ghunghat in rural Rajasthan can believe that. It is not even that such a stove cannot be made to work — there might even be one already somewhere that does. But it does remind us that technology works best when it sits lightly on the lives of its users. And most importantly, it warns us not to declare victory too soon — the fact that we think something should work is not enough — it needs to work for the people who use them. Source

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Global Poverty Day 2012 in Uganda: Need to green the Post 2015 development framework

By Kimbowa Richard, Regional Coordinator, LVEMPII Civil Society Watch Project (c/o Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development), October 15, 2012 The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be traced back to 17 October 1987. On that day, over a hundred thousand people gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honor the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger. They proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected. These convictions are inscribed in a commemorative stone unveiled on this day. Since then, people of all backgrounds, beliefs and social origins have gathered every year on October 17th to renew their commitment and show their solidarity with the poor. Replicas of the commemorative stone have been unveiled around the world and serve as a gathering place to celebrate the Day At the Millennium Summit, world leaders committed themselves to cutting by half by the year 2015 the number of people living in extreme poverty - people whose income is less than one dollar a day. The 2012 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is special in that it comes at a time when discussions on following up the Millennium Development Goals after the varying progress made across the globe, is on. But as these discussions on the Post 2015 development framework gain momentum, contextualization of this process is very important to avoid ‘one-shoe-fits-all’ interventions. One way is to reflect the level of dependence countries like Uganda, have on environment and natural resources. There are many linkages between environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. For example improving the conditions of the fast growing slum dwellers might provide better water supply and other living conditions that contribute to a healthy population, reduce public expenditure on ‘diseases of poverty’ (like cholera and diarrhoea). However, to date, Uganda’s natural resources are under increased threat from the growing population, to the demands on them by private investors and the communities that sometimes do not use them sustainably. For example, given Uganda’s heavy dependence on agriculture as a mainstay of its economy, agricultural expansion from small plots into estate production, conversion of wetlands and deforestation pose a strong threat to Uganda’s biodiversity those communities that directly and indirectly derive a living from it (NEMA, 2007) On this occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty countries like Uganda with a high stake on environmental resources need to secure that the Post 2015 development framework addresses these concerns. On strand is to secure implementation of the global to lower level commitments (from Rio 1992 to date) to ensure a clear place for environmental sustainability as part of poverty eradication (the main focus for development agencies). For example, predictable and long-term financing for sustainable development that ranges from supporting micro level interventions to actions on global common resources like the atmosphere, transboundary waters, forests, wetlands and so on The other strand should be designing interventions under key priority sectors (below) guided by the Rio principles. From these sectors, Uganda and other developing countries will need to develop inclusive indicators: - Increasing land area covered by forests (on both public and private lands) to address land degradation and deforestation. - Addressing the food security - environment interface (action for small holder farming): promoting ecological agricultural practices to ensure sustainable land management - Increase the proportion of population using improved drinking water sources to address insufficient access to safe and clean drinking water, declining total water resources - Scale up access to sanitation - Actions for the fast growing slum dwellers - Addressing access of modern forms of energy for the poor and promoting energy options tom meet the growing industrial growth - Addressing the climate change effects on the poor (adaptation and mitigation actions) - Threatened species in fragile ecosystems like freshwater lakes, forests, wetlands and others to address the declining fisheries and fish stocks; reducing biodiversity and containing alien species like the water hyacinths on Lake Victoria

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jordan Mandates Domestic Solar Water Heating

By Laurie Balbo, Greenprophet, October 14, 2012 It’s about time: Regulations come into effect in April 2013 and make solar water heaters obligatory for every new residence (including apartments) sized 150 m2 or greater in Jordan where there is ample sun. Private houses sized a minimum of 250 m2 and office spaces sized a minimum 100 m2 must also comply. Finally Jordan’s rooftops and side yards will capitalize on the nearly 330 days of sunshine that they bask in every year, just as we’ve seen in Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel. To help households make the solar switch, the Ministry of Energy and the Jordan River Foundation have teamed up to provide $1.8 million in loans to purchase and install all necessary equipment. In a related measure, Minister of Energy Alaa Batayneh confirmed that new regulations will allow citizens and businesses to sell surplus solar power back to the national grid. This kind of solar power will come from homes and businesses that set up solar voltaic panels as solar hot water heaters use thermal energy to heat water. They don’t create electricity. “Under this decision, private citizens, businesses and hotels can sell [up to 5 MW of surplus power] directly to public electric utilities and we believe that this is a big step forward for the renewable energy sector,” he said in a press conference, according to The Jordan Times. The recently endorsed Renewable Energy Law had limited sell-back of privately-generated power to 1 MW. The Electricity Regulatory Commission and the Jordan Electricity Distribution Company are setting the purchase price for citizen-sourced power. Batayneh indicated that the rate will be set at “current generation costs”. Domestic water heating makes simple use of solar power: units usually consist of a solar collector with a water storage tank mounted right above the panel. This type of system is especially efficient: hot water rises to a roof-mounted storage tank through natural thermosiphoning, no mechanical pumping is required. Despite affordable technology and abundant sunshine, Jordan’s use of solar water heating has been dropping overall. Industry experts blame slow adoption of this simple solar system on inadequate building regulation. The new measures are viewed as a government attempt to revive the Kingdom’s domestic conversion to renewable energy. The Renewable Energy Law provides incentives for investment in solar and wind energy projects in order to achieve the national energy goal of having renewable sources account for 10% of Jordan’s energy mix by 2020. Source

Friday, October 12, 2012

US corn ethanol cost poor nations $6.6 bln - study - AlertNet

Growing use of U.S.-produced corn for biofuel has added $6.6 billion to the food import bills of developing countries over the past six years, highlighting the need to rethink energy policies that are making food more expensive for poor people, says new research.

The amount of U.S. maize that goes into ethanol equals around 15 percent of global corn production, and in recent years this has contributed to rising food prices around the world, says the study from Tufts University in Massachusetts.

US corn ethanol cost poor nations $6.6 bln - study - AlertNet

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Green way to recycle paper

By Biplab Das, Down To Earth, October 15, 2012 Millions of tonnes of waste paper is generated every year. Just a small fraction of that is recycled through deinking—detachment of ink particles from the paper and removal of this ink by washing. This is done using hazardous chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. This produces toxic effluents, drastically increasing the cost of wastewater treatment. Indian researchers have now devised an ecological deinking method using bacterial enzymes. The new method, developed by researchers from the Kurukshetra University and Ballarpur Industries Limited in Haryana, is environment friendly and cost-effective. Paper is made of fibres derived from plants. These fibres contain sugar molecules, like xylan and pectin, and a chemical compound known as lignin. These fibres need to be broken down to seperate ink from the paper surface. For the experiment, the researchers grew Bacillus pumilus, a bacterium that produces xylanase and pectinase, the enzymes that can digest the plant sugar molecules in paper. They then shredded school waste paper, written over with blue ballpoint pen ink, into small pieces. These shreds were soaked overnight in tap water at room temperature and then washed, ground, dried, mixed with water and made into pulp. The pulp was subjected to bacterial enzymes for 1-4 hours at 40-65°C. The researchers found that enzymatic treatment dissolved the sugars in the paper fibres, leaving only lignin molecules behind. This loosened the bond between paper fibres and ink particles, seperating ink from the paper pulp. Ink floated to the top of the container and was removed by skimming. The ink-free pulp was washed and pressed into sheets. A dose of 15 International Units (IU) xylanase and 3 IU pectinase is sufficient to deink 1 gram of paper pulp, say the researchers. The enzymes removed maximum ink at a pH of 8.5, leading to an increase in brightness and whiteness of the pulp. “This shows that the enzymes can work in alkaline conditions and, unlike chemical deinking, the process does not involve any acids which can end up in the effluents. This makes them suitable for paper industries. Maximum enzymatic deinking was observed at 50°C, while chemical deinking peaks at 70°C,” says lead researcher Ritu Mahajan, of the Department of Biotechnology in Kurukshetra University. The study has been published in the September issue of Bioresource Technology. The researchers say if enzymatic and chemical deinking processes are used in combination for deinking, it can bring down the use of toxic chemicals by 50 per cent. Source

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Brasilia Consensus, a Model for Latin America

By Estrella Gutiérrez, IPS News, October 7, 2012 Following the extreme neoliberalism of the Washington Consensus, which gave rise to a lost decade in social terms, Latin America is experimenting more successfully with a home-grown formula: the Brasilia Consensus, which combines the market economy and social inclusion. Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank, coined the term “Brasilia Consensus” in contrast with the Washington Consensus. It is also called “Lulaism” after former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or “the Brazilian model.” And it has a growing following in Latin America among governments of both left and right. “The Brazilian model has had a very positive impact as an example of how things can be done differently, by promoting growth without relinquishing social equity,” José Rivera, the permanent secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA), told IPS. He said Latin America and the Caribbean “should share the regional aspiration of integration and be united in the common goal of reducing asymmetries and making progress in repaying major outstanding social debts.” Rivera said there were “positive examples, especially home-grown ones, of governments that deal efficiently with the unpaid social debts in the region, where one out of three Latin Americans live in poverty and nearly 90 million people survive on less than a dollar a day.” In an interview with IPS, Shifter said the features of the Brasilia Consensus “remain intact and valid,” although Lula left office in January 2011 and the international and regional contexts have worsened. “The model has not changed, with its three central concepts: economic growth, social equity and democratic governance,” he said. Its validity is confirmed by its spread as a governance guide for many countries in the region, whatever the political ideology of their presidents. This contrasts with the decline of other, more radical, proposals led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in the first decade of this century. The Brazilian model takes the opposing view to the package of measures imposed by Washington-based international financial institutions and power brokers on Latin America during the foreign debt crisis that broke out in the early 1980s, and during the 1990s. The 10-point Washington Consensus, summarising neoliberal ideology, enforced harsh adjustments to eliminate the fiscal deficit, including the redirection of spending, financial and monetary liberalisation, tax hikes, opening of markets and investments, and massive privatisation, in order to repay debt and establish a new basis for economic growth. In practice, far from generating growth, the reforms fuelled regional deindustrialisation and caused GDP to fall for nearly a decade, marked by financial crises, several of which were of global scope. But the worst aspect was its impact on people. During the so-called lost decade, all forms of social spending were cut, especially in education, health, housing and aid for the most vulnerable sectors, while labour conditions also worsened. As a result, poverty and extreme poverty increased, shanty towns grew in the cities, and the informal economy and informal labour expanded, among other negative impacts. During his eight years in power (2003-2011) Lula established a different model, based on macroeconomic and fiscal stability, an autonomous monetary authority and free exchange rates, added to aggressive industrial and domestic production policies. Another priority of the Brazilian model is social inclusion, with wage raises, formal job creation and high spending on policies to eradicate hunger, reduce poverty, improve education and health and redistribute income across society. The guiding principle is democracy, along with the extension of human rights, incentives for citizen participation and organisation from the grassroots up. Shifter said Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff, “decided to keep a lower global profile than Lula, but the Brasilia Consensus model has not been affected.” She has “a different leadership style and other priorities,” he said. Rousseff has implemented different policies to stimulate the economy and cushion the effect of the economic recession in the countries of the industrialised North, especially Europe. She has also taken care to reinforce social programmes in this unfavourable new scenario. A recent statement by Rousseff underscores her position. “What I want, and what I fight for, is for Brazil to become the sixth social power,” she said, now that her country has become the sixth largest economy in the world and is heading for fifth position. Among the Latin American countries whose governments take the Brasilia Consensus as their guide, with variations, Shifter mentioned Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Uruguay. Other administrations adopt certain elements, while he described Argentina and Paraguay – until its president Fernando Lugo was ousted in June – as “hybrids” between Lulaism and Chavism. He particularly mentioned the case of Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, who chose Lulaism over Chávez’s Bolivarian model, initiating the latter’s regional decline. He also found it remarkable that Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate in Venezuela’s elections on Sunday Oct. 7, “stressed that Lula was his model, which his platform confirmed.” Source

Monday, October 8, 2012

World Bank Refuses Call to Halt Land Deals

By Carey L. Biron, IPS News, October 5, 2012 The World Bank has rejected a call to suspend its involvement in large scale agricultural land acquisition following the release of a major report by the international aid agency Oxfam on the negative impact of international land speculation in developing countries. “We share the concerns Oxfam raised in their report,” the bank stated in an unusually lengthy public rebuttal to the Oxfam Report. “However, we disagree with Oxfam’s call for a moratorium on World Bank Group…investments in land intensive large-scale agricultural enterprises, especially during a time of rapidly rising global food prices.” “A moratorium focused on the Bank Group targets precisely those stakeholders doing the most to improve practices – progressive governments, investors, and us. Taking such a step would do nothing to help reduce the instances of abusive practices and would likely deter responsible investors willing to apply our high standards,” the rebuttal said. Over the past year, aid agencies, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and development watchdogs have warned that international investors are increasingly engaging in massive and sometimes predatory land deals in the developing world, particularly in Africa. These acquisitions are partly to blame for rising food insecurity. Food prices are once again nearing record highs. In late August, the World Bank warned that due to adverse weather in parts of Europe and the United States, the global cost of certain staple crops was approaching levels last seen in 2008. Ironically, multinational companies interested in growing food crops to address this need have been doing much of the recent investing. According to Oxfam, however, two-thirds of the investments made between 2000 and 2010 were exclusively for export-oriented crops, while other lands are being used to meet the increasing international demand for biofuels. “Already an area of land the size of London is being sold to foreign investors every six days in poor countries,” Oxfam stated, noting that in Liberia, land deals have “swallowed up” 30 percent of the country over the past five years. The report did not reject what good can potentially result from private investment but warned that food-price spikes from 2008 to 2009 led to the tripling of land deals, as “land was increasingly viewed as a profitable investment” even though it largely failed to benefit local communities. “The world is facing an unbridled land rush that is exposing poor people to hunger, violence and the threat of a lifetime in poverty. The World Bank is in a unique position to stop this,” Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s executive director, said Thursday, noting that the bank both invests in land and advises developing countries. Oxfam is calling on the World Bank to temporarily halt its investments in agricultural land to give it time to review the advice it offers developing countries, and to put in place stronger policies to slow or stop the speculation and “land-grabbing” projects in which it is said to be involved. World Bank investment in agriculture has reportedly tripled in the past decade. Since 2008, however, local communities have also brought 21 formal complaints against bank-funded projects that they say have violated their rights. In a way, the bank’s response to the call for a moratorium demonstrated outright denial: “The Bank Group does not support speculative land investments or acquisitions which take advantage of weak institutions in developing countries or which disregard principles of responsible agricultural investment.” The bank also noted that 90 percent of its agricultural investment is focused on smallholders, and that the agricultural work of its private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has provided 37,000 jobs. By 2050, it warned, the global population is set to grow by two billion people, requiring a 70 percent increase in global food production. Still, the bank recognised that its massive systems are imperfect and highlighted an upcoming overhaul of related guidelines that would “review and update its environmental and social safeguards policies”. “We agree that instances of abuse do exist, particularly in countries where governance is weak, and we share Oxfam’s belief that in many cases, practices need to ensure more transparent and inclusive participation in cases of land transfers,” the rebuttal stated. The degree to which these safeguards are followed nevertheless remains voluntary, said Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, a U.S.-based think tank that has been at the forefront of recent civil society warnings about the effects of land speculation in the developing world. “Back in 2009 and 2010, we were clearly identifying the role that the World Bank Group has been playing in promoting and facilitating these large-scale investments, completely ignoring the social and economic impact,” she told IPS, referring to two reports (available here and here) that the new Oxfam work builds upon. “Oxfam is reiterating that this kind of investment is misinvestment in communities, in agriculture, and unfortunately the bank is choosing to ignore the clear evidence that has been brought forward.” Bank officials did not respond to requests for additional comment. Mittal said that the development discussion needs to focus less on prescriptions handed down from multilaterals and more on the national implementation of internationally agreed rights including the rights to food and to free and prior informed consent. “We’re not interested in voluntary guidelines coming from Washington or Geneva, but rather in strengthening local and national capacities that help communities work best themselves,” she said. “Each country in Africa, for instance, is in a unique situation. So what we need are real consultations at the local level to see what kind of development actually works for the local populations.” While Oxfam had called on the World Bank to move to halt its involvement in land deals before the annual meetings between the bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Tokyo next week, the bank’s new president is now suggesting that he will use the meetings to begin pushing substantial reforms aimed at holding the bank’s anti-poverty approaches more to account. “If we are going to be really serious about ending poverty earlier than currently projected…there are going to have to be some changes in the way we run the institution,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, preparing to attend his first annual meetings, told journalists on Thursday. Kim said he would be pushing for a model “where our board and our governors focus much more on holding us accountable for results on the ground in countries, rather than focusing so much on approval of large loans. Source

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Case for Cassava: A Potential Nutritional and Economic Powerhouse

By Caitlin Aylward, Nourishing the Planet After rice and corn, cassava is the third most important calorie source for people living in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Although the cassava plant is a lesser-known crop, its rich nutritional content and powerful economic potential has many development specialists interested in the plant. Nutritionally, the cassava plant is comparable to a potato, but has a higher fiber and protein content. The cassava plant is primarily harvested for its tuberous root, which is a major source of carbohydrates for many people in the developing world, and contains vital nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Additionally, the leaves of the cassava plant are excellent sources of vitamins, protein, and lysine, an essential amino acid. The cassava plant grows well in tropical climates with high humidity, and is also a uniquely drought resistant crop that thrives in nutrient-poor soils. Consequently, the cassava plant does not require extra fertilizer or additional inputs, making it an ideal crop for poor farmers. Although cassava is tolerant to drought and poor soil conditions, it is not well suited to modern farming techniques. Unlike most plants that naturally reproduce on their own, farmers can only breed the cassava plant by replanting stem cuttings from parent plants (also known as vegetative reproduction), which is labor-intensive and costly. In addition, the cassava root is bulky and highly perishable, making it difficult to manage. Because of these challenges, researchers have spent less time developing the cassava plant as compared to rice, corn, and wheat. But agricultural experts from around the world, in partnership with the Global Cassava Development Strategy team, conclude that the cassava root can be processed into products that would effectively enhance food security and increase incomes worldwide. From animal feed, to specialty food products, to carpets, cassava is becoming a competitive crop in the global market. Cassava can be used in a variety of ways: as a replacement for potatoes in potato-based dishes, as tapioca flour, and even as chips! Source

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Climate Change Challenges in India

‘Exchanging underwear not Zambian’

By Emelda Mwitwa, Zambian Daily Mail, October 4, 2012 EFFECTING the ban on the sale of second-hand underwear is timely yet is not going to be an easy battle. The Zambia Bureau of Standards needs to marshal enough resources and manpower to stop the trade across the country. From my own informal survey carried out among friends, respondents seem to be split between proponents and opponents without an apparent majority – both arguing from either the point of economic rationality or morality (public health). If one chooses to argue on the basis of morality, one will outrightly condemn the sale of second-hand underwear or rather exchanging of underwear if I may bluntly put it that way. However, the truth of the matter is that the sale of second-hand clothes, including underwear is big business with a big clientele. Salaula as the business is called, is a blessing in my lower-middle income countries to many families who are financially constrained to shop for brand new clothes in expensive retail outlets. There is no doubt that second-hand wares from the Western world have made life easier for a cross section of the population who are now able to spend more money on food and other basic necessities of life because of the cheaper and durable clothes on the market. Salaula business is also renowned for creating jobs and providing a steady income to thousands of people who otherwise would have been languishing without this imported merchandise. Second-hand goods- underwear, clothes, towels, shoes, bags, socks, bedding are consumed by both the income-poor and the middle class; of course including some of the rich people. These products, especially clothes are renowned for their durability, because most of it comes with designer labels, sold at affordable prices. With all due respect to salaula business, I have not been comfortable with the sale of used underwear, which in my view is as good as exchanging undergarments. How else would you call it if someone uses their underwear – it does not matter how short the period – and puts it up for sale in a foreign country. It is simply exchanging underwear, which is a taboo in our culture. Even in the villages where you expect to find the poorest of the poor, we may share other garments, but not underwear. Similarly at funerals, when someone dies- it does not matter how rich or smart they were, their underwear is not just on the list of items to be shared among close relatives. Our tradition without any influence from experts, appreciates the fact that exchanging underwear is unhygienic, but I wonder why second-hand underpants are treated differently. Is it because second-hand clothes are well packaged and supposedly fumigated to make them safe for transference from one person to the other? From what the Zambia Bureau of Standards are telling us, second-hand underwear are not safe with all the fumigation requirements before these products are shipped to developing countries. According to the bureau’s public relations officer, Dingase Makumba, the ban on second-hand underwear was necessitated by the bacteria found on these garments. Ms Makumba argued that used underwear contain some level of moisture which create a breeding ground for bacteria such as yeast and molds, responsible for highly infections conditions such as skin irritations and urinary tract infections. She also warned that second-hand underwear usually contain bacteria such as staphylococcus which cause boils. I also did my own research on the health hazards of second-hand underpants on the website for the Australian government’s department of health and ageing. What came out is that among the many hosts and channels of bacteria, clothes are among them. This includes undergarments, though towels were the most dreaded disease or bacterium transmitting agent. A person who has a disease caused by a bacterium germ or has an infected skin rash may leave germs on their garment or towel and the person who shares these garments is likely to catch the disease. Generally, sharing clothing is unhygienic, which is the reason why dealers in second-hand garments of any sort are required to wash them clean and fumigate their wares before offloading them on the market. There are so many diseases and infections which can be caused by sharing clothes, towels and shoes- these include scabies, lice, athlete’s foot, skin conditions and other fungal infections. From what I know, we have not had any health problems with second-hand clothes as they are evidently fumigated with a strong sanitiser, otherwise most of us would have frequently suffered from fungal infections. There is however, no harm in buyers taking own precautionary measures by sanitising second-hand clothes with an anti-bacterial solution, for instance, before using them. The most affordable method of sanitising second-hand clothes is by laundering them; then ensuring to thoroughly dry them and ironing them before use. Although these clothes may appear neat and tidy, the temptation to wear them without dry-cleaning must not even be entertained, unless one has microscopic eyesight to detect germs. In terms of risks associated with sharing clothes, underwear are even worse because according to experts at the Zambia Bureau of Standards, they normally attract moisture content which becomes breeding ground for fungi. It seems the second-hand underwear trade has been thriving on the argument that the poverty levels are high, therefore not everyone can afford brand new underpants. But if given enough sensitisations on the health hazards of exchanging underpants, people will appreciate the need to do away with “salaula briefs”. Not every person will want to trade their health for second-hand underwear if they are well informed about the possible risks. The truth of the matter is that this is a big business which is almost impossible to stop instantaneously, but can be controlled, and may be eventually put to an end if given the right approach. For as long as the used underpants continue to be offloaded on the market, they are going to sell like hotcakes, like they always do. Actually at this stage of enforcement of the law which am told came into effect sometime in 2008 but remained shelved, I am not for the idea of burning the stacks of salaula wares yet. I would rather that the law enforcers sensitise both importers and members of the public on the new law and the dangers of buying used under-wear. Reality on the ground is that many people (consumers) do not even know that the salaula underwear business is illegal because it has been going on for many years without any caution from the authorities. Enforcing a law that people do not know exits is like fighting an uphill battle. I also feel that wholesalers or importers of second-hand clothes who am sure are well informed about the ban on used undergarments, must adhere to the law because they are not being asked to abandon their business altogether. There is a wide variety of second-hand products, garments inclusive, that they can deal in and be able to run their businesses at a profit. Why should anyone smuggle used underpants into the country if they threaten public health. Nevertheless, the best way to stop the sale of used underwear is to stop their entry into the country because the wares are clearly labelled. The Zambia Bureau of Standards, which is centralised, may confiscate and torch stacks of second-hand underwear in Lusaka, but what about the many other parts of the country where the bureau does not have a presence. The only way to stop this culture of exchanging underwear is to collaborate with customs officers at ports of entry to stop the contraband; one-off inspections in selected parts of the country cannot stop it. Source

Friday, October 5, 2012

Urban Agriculture Sprouts in Brazil’s Favelas

By Fabiola Ortiz, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, Sep. 25 2012 You do not need to live in the countryside to grow vegetables, as hundreds of thousands of people involved in urban agriculture from Havana to Buenos Aires know very well. Now they are being joined by residents of Rio de Janeiro’s “favelas”. Plants can flourish in the middle of the city, everywhere from community gardens to the rooftops and balconies of homes in Brazil’s poorest neighborhoods. A pioneering initiative is now underway in two favelas or shantytowns in particular: Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira, both located in the southern Rio de Janeiro district of Leme. The initiative forms part of Rio’s Sustainable City programme, being carried out by the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS). So far, 16 residents of the favelas have volunteered for five months of training in techniques for growing crops in household planters. Organic agriculture is a growing trend in big cities, said Marina Grossi, president of the CEBDS. “Not only because people want organic food, but also because it shortens distances and generates income.” In Cuba, urban farming dates back more than two decades and has been a resounding success. Last year’s yield of vegetables and herbs was more than a million tons, while the country’s total horticultural production was 2.2 million tons. The sector employs around 300,000 people, and the products are sold without intermediaries. Small livestock and poultry farming have also been incorporated, and training is provided on issues such as soil improvement, water management and agroecological pest control. In 2007, the Cuban government decided to extend urban agricultural production to the suburbs, largely through small farms organized into cooperatives. Brazil, with a population of 192 million, is a world power in agriculture, primarily on the basis of export-driven agroindustrial production. But there are a mere 120,000 urban farmers, and just over half of them receive support from the government to maintain their crops and supply food for their own needs and local markets. “We did a survey to find out what the residents of Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira eat. And we decided on a system of continuous production based on agroecology,” with no chemical fertilisers or pesticides, explained the coordinator of the organic agriculture course, Suyá Presta. The highest possible degree of diversification is achieved in every single planter. “Every week new seedlings are planted so that production never stops,” Presta told Tierramérica*. Luiz Alberto de Jesus, a 52-year-old resident of Babilônia, is one of the students taking the course. He has a second-floor balcony where he shares a garden with four neighbors. “When I first heard about organic food I didn’t know what it was. There is no mystery to producing food, you can grow it in planters in very small spaces. I used to think you needed a big piece of land to plant food,” he said. In his garden there is lettuce, arugula, watercress, cherry tomatoes, rosemary and mint. The first harvest will be in February, and the apprentice farmers are anxiously awaiting it. “I want to raise people’s awareness so that they will eat organic products. I’m going to pass this information on to the young people and children,” he added. In 1990, Argentina launched its successful Pro-Huerta programme, aimed at promoting small-scale organic farming in both urban and rural areas. In 2005, the initiative was “transplanted” to Haiti, and helped spare many families from hunger when the 2010 earthquake demolished the capital and other cities. As one of the food sovereignty strategies adopted in Venezuela, a major importer of food, urban agriculture has been actively promoted since 2004. There are no consolidated figures on the volume of food produced by the country’s urban and peri-urban agricultural production units (UPAs), nor on the number of consumers or people working in these initiatives. However, national volumes of horticultural production for a market of 29 million inhabitants suggest that urban agriculture does not feed more than several thousand or perhaps a few tens of thousands of families. According to official statistics, there are some 20,000 registered urban UPAs, of which 2,400 have been consolidated and another 4,000 are in the process of doing so. In 2011, the Venezuelan government invested 2.5 million dollars in this sector, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land. In Caracas and eight states, primarily in northern Venezuela, vegetables and aromatic and medicinal herbs are planted. There have also been forays into the raising of fruit crops – bananas, papayas, oranges, mandarins – as well as the production of organic fertiliser. But there are other factors involved in the equation in Venezuela. The Women’s Development Bank (Banmujer) provides financing for these initiatives as a means of combating the feminisation of poverty and the loss of agricultural roots among the poor sectors of the population who move from the countryside to towns and cities. In 2010, 47 percent of the microcredits provided by the bank were for agricultural activities, and “many of these are in urban and peri-urban areas,” said Nora Castañeda, the president of Banmujer. “We now have women farmers who devote themselves full-time to this work and put incredible effort into it,” she told Tierramérica. “One of our clients, a woman peasant farmer who was abused by her husband for more than 20 years, recently came to give us a course on how to produce humus,” she recounted. “For her, the most important thing isn’t being the farmer that she is today, but having overcome a situation of violence, thanks to an economic foundation that made her stronger and more valuable, even in her own eyes,” said Castañeda. Self-worth was also mentioned by Rio resident Reina Maria Pereira da Silva, 58, who was inspired by the CEBDS course to plan a garden for her own house. “I have learned something new. It’s never too late, and this has also raised my self-esteem. I feel more capable. It’s wonderful to harvest healthy food that I planted myself,” she told Tierramérica. “I always liked to plant things, but I didn’t know how. There are techniques and planning involved, such as the time when you should harvest in the summer and the winter. Everything we grow is going to be for our own use and to donate to schools,” she explained. By 2050, 90 percent of the population of Latin America will live in cities. Today, 111 million people in the region live in overcrowded neighborhoods like favelas, according to the United Nations. The demand for food will be greater, and there will be fewer people to produce it in rural areas. This means that urban agriculture is both a “strategy of emancipation” and a significant means of improving the quality of life in cities, said Hélio Tomaz Rocha, the coordinator of urban and peri-urban agriculture at the Brazilian National Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security. Rocha advocates the planting of urban gardens in vacant lots in metropolitan areas, which are otherwise used as dumping grounds, for the establishment of slum housing, or for real estate speculation. He also highlights the need for a specific public policy to promote urban agriculture. “We know that it works, that there is space available in cities, but there is no formal system. It is moving towards greater sustainability, but it needs an initial boost,” he commented. The Brazilian government began to provide funding for urban agriculture projects in 2003, and many of the beneficiaries are also beneficiaries of the Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme. A total of close to 20 million dollars were invested in the sector as of 2010, through agreements with municipal and state governments, benefiting 74,000 people who were employed in urban garden initiatives. Of the projects that have been carried out in Brazil, 38 percent are concentrated in states in the southeast and 30 percent in the south, while the remainder are divided among other regions, except for the north and northeast. This year, close to five million dollars will be invested in 42 initiatives selected through an annual competition. The majority will be carried out in the northeast, with 17 municipalities participating. Source

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Climate Change Takes a Bite Out of Global Food Supply

By IPS News, September 29, 2012 Humanity’s ability to feed itself is in serious doubt as climate change takes hold on land in the form of droughts and extreme weather, as well as on the world’s oceans. Less well known to many is the fact that emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are both heating up the oceans and making them more acidic. That is combining to reduce the amount of seafood that can be caught, according to a new report released here. Seafood is a primary source of protein for more than a billion of the poorest people in the world, said Matthew Huelsenbeck, report author and marine scientist at Oceana, an environmental NGO. “For many island nations like the Maldives, seafood is the cheapest and most readily available source of protein,” Huelsenbeck told IPS. The Maldives, Togo and Comoros top the list of nations whose food security is threatened by climate change, according to the report, “Ocean-Based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World”, which ranks the vulnerabilities of nations. Surprisingly, Iran is fourth on that list. This is the first-ever look at how climate change may affect food security for countries that are dependent on fish and seafood. The report was released this week at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World: Ocean Acidification, where nearly 600 scientists from around the world presented their research. Rising ocean temperatures are pushing many fish away from the tropics towards the poles where waters are cooler, researchers have documented. And in a well-understood process, human emissions of CO2 have increased the acidity of oceans by 30 percent, threatening fish habitats such as coral reefs and thinning the shells of shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels. The report examined every country’s exposure to climate change and ocean acidification, its dependence on and consumption of fish and seafood, and its level of adaptive capacity based on several socioeconomic factors, said Huelsenbeck. A number of countries in the Middle East like Iran, Kuwait and Libya make this list because of the high vulnerability of the Persian Gulf to climate change, with an expected 50-percent decline in fisheries. Ironically, those nations are major oil-producing countries. Tropical countries that are dependent on coral reef fisheries are also amongst those whose food security is most threatened. “Seafood is the only source of protein in large parts of the world. And for many local fishers, if they don’t catch fish, they go hungry,” Huelsenbeck said. The report is an attempt to alert countries to the fact that ocean acidification and warmer oceans will affect their ability to feed their people in the future. “They need to know if they are at risk,” he said. It is important for countries to know what the potential impacts of ocean acidification might be, said oceanographer Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK. “Science can also look at the potential to adapt and manage this risk through monitoring, looking at the potential of doing things like growing more sea grass to pull carbon out of seawater,” Turley told IPS. Preserving natural systems like kelp forests, sea grass beds and mangroves will help slow the impacts of climate change, she said. Huelsenbeck notes that his report is conservative and not the last word on what will happen to future fisheries. There isn’t a lot of data for some countries and other impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, reduced oxygen levels, changes in the nitrogen cycle are not included, he said. “No one knows what the combined impact of all this is,” he added. On land, the fingerprints of climate change are far clearer with worsening droughts, extreme weather and the record melt of Arctic sea ice. This year’s drought in the U.S. and extreme weather elsewhere has pushed food prices up, with corn rising to its highest price in history. “The world price of food, which has already doubled over the last decade, is slated to climb higher, ushering in a new wave of food unrest,” said Lester Brown, author of the new book “Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity”, in a press release. “As food prices climb, the worldwide competition for control of land and water resources is intensifying,” said Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental NGO based in Washington, D.C. Millions of households now routinely experience days when they will not eat each and every week. A recent survey by the NGO Save the Children shows that 24 percent of families in India now have foodless days. For Nigeria, the comparable figure is 27 percent. For Peru, it is 14 percent, Brown writes in his book. The world’s poorest spend up to 75 percent of their income on food, said Oxfam’s Climate Change Policy Adviser Tim Gore. A new report by Oxfam called “Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices” found that extreme weather in less than 20 years could push up prices 120-140 percent above the average food price in 2030, that will already be double today’s prices. If this happened today, a 25kg bag of corn meal – a staple which feeds poor families across Africa for about two weeks – would rocket from around 18 to 40 dollars, the report said. “The huge potential impact of extreme weather events on future food prices is missing from today’s climate change debate. The world needs to wake up to the drastic consequences facing our food system of climate inaction,” Gore said in a statement. Source

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Climate Change Solutions by Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR)‎‎ - India

Jatropha can revive degraded land, says study

SciDev.Net, October 1, 2012 Large-scale cultivation of Jatropha – known as a potential source of biofuel – can improve the soil quality of degraded lands and address climate change, says a new study. Jatropha curcas seeds yield oil that can be processed into biodiesel, but scientists at the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, have found that Jatropha plantations can also sequester carbon in abundant quantities. The findings, reported in October in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, may reignite the 'fuel-versus-food' debate where critics argue that Jatropha cultivation diverts lands that could be used to grow food crops and affect food security. ICRISAT scientists, led by Suhas Wani, assistant research programme director, studied Jatropha plantations in six different locations in India and measured the amount of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – they removed. Jatropha plantations older than four years added as much as 1,450 kilograms of organic carbon per hectare per year through leaf fall, pruned twigs and residue after removal of oil, the study said. Also, by increasing organic carbon in soils and live root activity Jatropha plants encouraged growth of the soil's microbe population – a key indicator of soil health. Nutrient availability also improved through recycling of the biomass back into the soil. Nitrogen increased by 85 kilograms per hectare, potassium by 44 kilograms, and phosphorus by eight kilograms. Previous experience has shown that commercial farming of Jatropha is fraught with problems, including non-availability of quality seeds and the need for inputs such as irrigation and fertilisers. At the current productivity levels of 1–1.5 tonnes of oilseeds per hectare, commercial Jatropha cultivation for producing biodiesel is not as economically viable as other crops, Wani said. Hence, it is better used for restoring degraded lands, he said. "Our emphasis is on reducing the burden of degraded lands and problems such as runoff, siltation and receding groundwater. If we could rehabilitate degraded lands, it may lead to improved carbon sequestration, soil fertility and greening," Wani told SciDev.Net. Vijay Gour, associate professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University, Jabalpur, says the initial hype over Jatropha resulted in several multinational companies investing in large plantations for oil production without proper planning. More studies, as well as crop improvement through such methods as genetic manipulation, are needed before Jatropha can become a viable source of biofuel, Gour told SciDev.Net. Source

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In the eyes of the Ogoni

By BusinessDay - Nigeria, September 27, 2012 Solomon Mnaa, a cassava farmer in the Ogoni region of Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, says he was accosted near his farm by “a gang of soldiers” led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Okuntimo, head of the regional Internal Security Task-force. “They stopped me, collected my machete and they cut me,” he said, slowly taking his shirt off to reveal the scars on his back. Tambari Anamakiri was also beaten and humiliated by Okuntimo’s thugs. “I was stripped naked in front of the whole village, beaten till I fainted, then kept in the prison at Kpor for one week and three days. They said I was a member of MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People). Okuntimo said he will shoot me at midnight,” he recalled. Joseph Wogobe, a retired civil servant, had his mouth bashed with the butt of a gun during a security forces raid on the annual Ogoni day festival. “They dragged me down the coal-tarred road. Blood streamed down my body. Then they dumped me in their car booth and took me to Kpor. I was kept there without any care for 12 days. I was sure I would die,” he said. Their stories mirror the testimonies of many others in the Ogoni region including the 12 Nigerian plaintiffs of the Kiobel vs Royal Dutch Shell case currently before the United States Supreme Court. Shell is accused of abetting human rights violations and faces allegations of conspiring and financing military personnel to commit crimes during the 1990s, most notably the torture and execution of the “Ogoni Nine”—Barinem Kiobel, a former state government commissioner, Ken Saro-Wiwa and seven others were arrested in May 1994 by the military regime. Shell insists it has no financial relationship with the Nigerian military, although admits “it paid ‘field allowances’ on two occasions.” However, there is little doubt that the international oil companies in Nigeria not only sponsor military personnel in the Niger Delta, but they also use their immense resources to manipulate government officials. In 2010, secret cables from the US embassy in Abuja spoke of Shell’s “tight grip” on the nation. A report in August from oil industry watchdog, Platform, based on leaked Shell documents, reveals that nearly $383 million was doled out by Shell between 2007 and 2009 for protecting its interests in the Niger Delta. About $65 million of this sum funded 1,300 armed forces drawn from “the Nigerian military and the ‘kill and go’ police. These personnel are often said to be on “special duties.” Thus, a group with documented history of violence and human right abuses meets a ready flow of cash facilitating continuous conflict in the region. Sebastian Kpalap lives in Oghale village, an Ogoni area crisscrossed by pipelines where tensions still run high. He points to an area a few meters away and says, “it’s a common occurrence. Some members of this Oghale community were shot dead for merely passing on these pipelines to their farm land. The task force men guarding the pipelines shoot them.” In the early 1990s, MOSOP, a group established by Saro-Wiwa, initiated and sustained massive public campaigns, protesting against Shell and the company’s abuse and devastation of Ogoni lands. Thousands died between 1993 and 1994 as the Nigerian military forces retaliated against Ogoni villages. “The killing was done by Nigerian government but it was Shell that brought in soldiers to unleash mayhem on the people,” said Stevyn Obodoekwe of the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), a civil society organization active in Ogoni. “Shell and the Nigerian government were working hand in glove. Crimes were committed, everybody knew it, so Shell is only making a mockery of itself saying ‘we did nothing’ because the world knows”, he added. Sadly, though the world does seem to know, very little has changed for the Ogonis as the oil companies continue business as usual. Obodoekwe, reflecting the general pessimism of many Nigerians, said he doesn’t see Shell or any of the other major oil companies becoming more accountable for their activities. “The thing is that there is no government to stand up to them. When we have a government with the political will to say ‘behave or pack out,’ then you will see them living up to proper corporate accountability,” he argued. Emmanuel Alozie, a mathematics teacher and activist known here as “the Spirit of Ogoni,” has his own tale of abuse and torture at the hands of the Nigerian armed forces, but he also fingers some of the leaders of the Ogoni people. According to Alozie, Shell’s ample resources means the company can buy silence and witnesses. He alleges that some youth leaders, all the chiefs and the traditional rulers in Ogoni were “bought” by Shell and the Nigerian military government. “They betrayed us,” says Alozie, “Before my eyes Nzide, the majesty of Nyo-Khana, sent a bottle of hot drink and four wraps of alligator pepper to the soldiers at Sogho where I had been detained and he told them to kill me because I was one of the Saro-Wiwas. They asked me to sit in some stagnant water. They beat me and taunted me. They said Saro-Wiwa was deceiving us; that they would kill the entire Ogoni people and that we would not achieve our aim. “The truth is not hidden,” said Alozie, adding: “Shell is as guilty as the Nigerian state.” In the village of Kpor, where Barinem Kiobel’s family lives, the sun sets on the calm beauty of the region’s rich vegetation. The sweet evening breeze masks the village’s history of violence and the present plight of its residents. Sitting in her austere living room, Kiobel’s step-mother recounts her family’s tragedy. She points at a picture of her late husband and Barinem’s father, Jim Kiobel. She says he died in 2011 still mourning the son who was the main source of material support for his family. None of his siblings could continue their schooling after he was killed, she adds. Esther Kiobel, the widow of Barinem, and the other plaintiffs in the Kiobel vs Shell case hope to prove in US courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) that Shell is guilty of human right crimes against Ogoni people. Their lawyers argue that the ATS allows foreigners to bring to US courts civil suits against corporations for violations of international law. “The case was taken to the US because Shell is part of the Nigerian government. We want a fair judgment, we want his name cleared,” asserts Darituka Kiobel, Barinem’s brother. “What has happened has happened. But at least let us know that he did not die in vain.” In Nigeria, the prevalent perception is that judges are easily bribed and the courts can’t be trusted to deliver fair judgments. “So, very few people actually have the financial muscle or confidence to go up against a seeming superpower like Shell,” says Vivian Bello of Social Action, an organization promoting citizen participation in policy issues. When asked for its official position on the Kiobel v. Shell case, the Ministry of Justice’s spokesman, Ambrose Momoh said there was none, as the case “does not mention the Nigerian government.” Most of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth comes from the Ogoni region, also known as Ogonilland. Companies like Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil have made billions of dollars in oil revenue and have, in turn, enriched one Nigerian administration after another, yet the Ogoni people live in poverty. There are no roads, pipe-borne water or proper health care. Farm lands have been damaged by repeated oil spills; surface and ground water poisoned; aquatic life destroyed. Central to the palpable tension in Ogoniland is the absence of a clear and strategic response from government to the long term problems in Ogoni. “The government is criminally silent on these issues,” says Obodoekwe. “All they want is for oil money to keep flowing. When there is any attempt to stop oil from flowing, they bring in soldiers and crush the people. They don’t care, they don’t inhale the polluted air or drink the poisoned water, and they don’t feel the pains the people feel. All they see in Ogoni is oil, they don’t see human beings.” The Supreme Court decided to rehear the Kiobel case on October 1, which coincides with Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary. The court has broadened the issue and is asking whether the ATS applies on foreign soil at all. Lawyers at Earth Rights International (ERI), a Washington-based human rights law nonprofit, says it is disturbing that the US Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of shielding corporations like Shell from legal responsibility for their abuses in developing countries. “Eliminating one of the few paths to justice for people who have suffered through the most egregious human rights abuses would, in itself, be tragic and offensive,” the group said. Nodding toward a sign post, a few yards from his house that simply reads “Contaminated Land,” Kpalap, the man from Oghale village, says, “we need some vindication and that is what the Kiobel case means for me and for many of my kinsmen.” But then he asks, somewhat wistfully: “When gold rusts, what should iron do? If we can’t get justice in the US that claims to be champions of human rights and democracy, where would we get justice?” Source

Monday, October 1, 2012

World Habitat Day 2012 in the Lake Victoria basin: Changing Cities Not Generating Matching Opportunities For All

By Kimbowa Richard, Regional Coordinator (LVEMPII CS Watch Project) The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. This year through the theme; ‘Changing Cities, Building Opportunities’, the World Habitat Day will reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all, to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. According to the State of East Africa Report (2012), by 2030 East Africa will have 178 million children and youth out of a total population of 237 million with 31 per cent (73 million) of them living in urban areas, putting pressure on the capacity of East Africa’s major cities to host these new urbanites (SID, 2012). This new and growing population with a high demand for land could lead to more unsustainable land use practices and social challenges At the moment in many parts of the Lake Victoria basin, Cities like Kampala, Kisumu, Mwanza, Jinja, and are surely ‘changing’ due to natural and human induced factors. But the question as to who benefits due to this change could generate diverse answers depending on the social and interest group; age bracket and the part of the city one has sought such response from. Furthermore, land degradation in the Lake Victoria basin is a common problem, but particularly acute in the Republics of Burundi, Rwanda, South Western Uganda, Nyando and Rachuonyo Districts in Kenya and Mwanza, Shinyanga and Mara regions in Tanzania (EAC, 2007). This increasing human population and the associated activities have accelerated the rate of delivery of nutrients causing eutrophication in Lake Victoria. The effects of increased pollution from urban and industrial discharges and soil erosion are visible in some of the rivers and streams: Nakivubo Channel (Uganda); Kisat, Nzoia, Yala, Nyando (Kenya) Kagera (Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda); Ruvubu (Burundi and Tanzania), Simiyu (Tanzania). The way forward is to scale up appropriate technological innovations and adoption in rural areas to help offset rural – urban migration that can spur job creation and better social amenities. Similarly, technological solutions are needed to assist urban dwellers to cope with the ‘changing cities’ through efficient and effective use of natural resources like land, water, energy (charcoal, grid power, firewood, solar energy), and waste. This is in addition to key sectors like water supply, sanitation, food preservation, transport and housing. In addition to having working governance structures and mechanisms in place, other long-term and viable options could be through public private partnerships involving Cities, Municipalities and other Local authorities with Intergovernmental agencies, Private entities and Not-for-Profit agencies interested in these areas.