Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tanzania fund seeks to protect eastern mountain forests - AlertNet

Khadija Mtungakoa, a 38-year-old mother of three, wears a broad smile as she prepares food on her energy-saving stove.

She explains joyfully how it has helped reduce her reliance on the firewood she gathers from the nearby Amani Nature Reserve in Tanzania’s Muheza District.

The government established the reserve in 1997 to protect the unique forest ecosystem of the East Usambara Mountains, a range in the Eastern Arc Mountains.

Mtungakoa’s stove, made of clay soil and cow dung, stays hot for much longer than a conventional model, which makes it more efficient when simmering and allows her to reheat cooked food. And it uses much less wood.

Mtungakoa, who lives in Sakale village at the foot of the reserve, says she used to collect two to three piles of firewood per week.

“But since I got the improved stove in 2011, I only need two pieces of firewood that I use for one week,” she says, giving credit to the Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) which supports the cookstove initiative.

Just over half of the 354 households in Sakale village now have the fuel-efficient stoves, and the Tanzania Traditional Energy Development and Environmental Organisation (TaTEDO), which supervises their production, is working to get them to the rest.

Moudy Nyimbire, a TaTEDO coordinator, says plans to deploy 1,000 stoves could save 1,716 tonnes of firewood a year in 11 villages surrounding the nature reserve.

That would cut climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as helping keep forests intact.
The stoves are given to villagers free of charge to encourage them to use less firewood.

But there are challenges to introducing them in rural areas. Some local experts say the government lacks political will when it comes to environmental conservation, and has not given enough backing to the improved cookstove project.

And in some cases, makers of the stoves have to travel long distances in search of the right raw materials. The stoves are produced by a team of 12 people - six men and six women - trained by TaTEDO and paid a small amount by the EAMCEF.

In general, people in Muheza remain enthusiastic. “(It) is really going to be the beacon of light for the conservation of the Amani Nature Reserve,” says Allan Hiza, Sakale’s executive officer.

Villagers who live near the reserve are still allowed to collect firewood inside it twice a week, notes Amani conservationist Mwanaidi Kijazi.

Since 2006, the EAMCEF has funded around 150 projects aimed at preventing further environmental degradation in the Eastern Arc Mountains. 

The projects range from community conservation and activities to improve livelihoods for people living next to forests, to research on protecting biodiversity in the mountains, and climate risk management to keep the ecosystem healthy.

One of the main aims is to halt deforestation, which contributes to climate change.

With $5.9 million from the Norwegian government, the fund is now implementing a five-year programme, from 2011-2016, focused on improving conservation of the mountain forests.

The scheme is also supported by the Tanzanian government and its development partners, including the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme.

EAMCEF Executive Director Francis Sabuni says the work is needed to stop unsustainable harvesting of mountain resources.

Most people living in surrounding rural areas depend heavily on subsistence agriculture and forests for their livelihoods. A growing population is also piling pressure on nature.

Estimates suggest that more than 70 percent of the original forest cover has been destroyed in the area, and only around 5,400 square km of forests remain on the mountains. Over the past 100 years, large tracts of forest have been converted to farmland, or lost due to timber harvesting and uncontrolled fires. 

“The Eastern Arc Mountains are the backbone of the country’s economy,” says Sabuni. “The mountains should be protected at any cost.”

At least a quarter of Tanzanians depend on the mountains for their water supply, and hydroelectric power generated with water from the Eastern Arc forests contributes more than half of the country’s electricity.

Sabuni says efforts to conserve biodiversity and improve community livelihoods in the Eastern Arc Mountains need to be extended beyond the target sites selected by the EAMCEF, and funding will be required on a longer-term, sustainable basis. 

In Udekwa, another remote village of 3,000 people located 75 km west of Kilolo District headquarters in Iringa Region, villagers are engaged in various EAMCEF projects, including tree planting and fish farming.
Udekwa executive officer Gredson Lekela said villagers are now aware of the importance of looking after the mountains’ resources.

Kilolo District forest officer Godfrey Mwita agreed. “These projects are a saviour to the environment of the Eastern Arc Mountains,” he said. “We have to keep them going to save the mountains from the effects of climate change.”

Post-2015: SDGs or Post-MDGs? / Articles - The Broker

With only two years to go, the debates on the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are intensifying. Two candidates are running up to the end of the MDG term in 2015: the Post-2015 development agenda (derived from the MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the UN aspires to integrate both agendas, sustainability targets form the basis of incompatible negotiations between the broader agenda and the SDGs.

The Post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs are frequently discussed in one breath. But since the consultations and negotiations with member states started, the ‘S’ for sustainability in the SDGs seems to be driving the two agendas and their advocates apart. Shaping the Post-2015 agenda as an extension of the MDGs builds on pragmatic beliefs. Followers of this agenda argue that getting industry-driven countries like the BRICSAM countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and Mexico) on board will only be possible if the new targets do not restrict economic growth with sustainability measures, as the UN is aiming for with the SDGs.

The UN’s sustainable development agenda

The Sustainable Development Goals are a direct result of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. At Rio, the member states decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build on the Millennium Development Goals, and converge with the Post-2015 development agenda. A UN System Task Team was assigned to outline the Post 2015 development agenda. The Task Team aspires to a development agenda that targets inclusive and holistic growth: a realistic development agenda can accordingly no longer neglect the link between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. 1 It states that long-term development requires integrated policy making, which approaches social equity, economic growth and environmental protection together.

Sustainable development has been the mandate for the UN system since the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro 20 years ago. Rio+20, named after the first conference, was an effort to set new goals to achieve sustainable development. The conference focused on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication emphasizing a holistic, equitable and far-sighted approach to decision-making at all levels, and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development creating new international institutions, including the Commission on Sustainable Development. According to critics, however, Rio+20 did not result in the necessary targets to hold countries accountable for pollution and environmental degradation. A lack of commitment might undermine the implementation of the UN’s ambitious SDG vision. The risk is a repeat of the flaws experienced during the MDG process, which this new agenda aims to overcome.  

Post-2015: Lessons learnt from the MDG process
The MDGs were largely developed in a political vacuum drawn from a series of high-profile international conferences during the 1990s. This meant many goals already had a large degree of political support, although they were inevitably altered somewhat by the grinder of the political process. As a result, the MDGs were executed around a set of largely pre-existing and narrowly defined targets.

The MDG agenda missed important areas for development investment such as  improving financial regulation, social inclusion and reducing international inequality. Furthermore, critics argued that the goals were too far apart to achieve synergy, and lacked ownership at national and international level. This resulted in competition over targets, as the strong focus on specific thresholds created problems of equity by benefitting some areas over others.

This time around, the Post-2015 agenda is not being developed in a vacuum. Several international consultation processes are occurring in parallel.

An UN Task Team has explored the options for integrating the SDG agenda and the Post-2015 process and identified key areas for the latter. In its first report, ‘The Future We Want’ published in June 2012, the Task Team prioritized a new agenda format based on the strengths of the MDG framework but reorganized along four key dimensions of a more holistic approach: (1) inclusive social development; (2) inclusive economic development; (3) environmental sustainability; and (4) peace and security.

Simultaneously, in July 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced a 27-member High Level Panel to advise him on the Post-2015 development agenda.  The panel’s report was launched on 1 February 2013. In May 2012, the UN opened the consultations to the member states, civil society and the private sector. Originating in the Rio conference, this multi-actor approach, embracing 56 countries, 4 aims to come up with a shared vision, ’The Future we Want’. A High Level Political Forum on sustainable development was set up to lead the consultations and formulate an institutional format. Additionally, the Open Workgroup on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will start consultations with 30 countries early February. 5

Including civil society 
Extending the people-centred and participatory process, UNDP has started an online consultation process, ‘The World We Want 2015’, to bring in civil society voices. Eleven theme-based sub-consultations have been set up to propose a structural framework for sustainable development, each led by a different UN entities and stakeholders: 1) Inequalities, 2) Governance, 3) Growth and Employment, 4) Health, 5) Education, 6) Environmental Sustainability, 7) Food Security and Nutrition, 8) Conflict and Fragility,  9) Population Dynamics, 10) Energy, and 11) Water.

UNICEF), the United Nations Development Policy and Analysis Division (UNDESA) and UN Water, together with the Netherlands and Switzerland as co-sponsoring member states, are taking the lead in the Water sub-consultation. The theme of this year’s annual World Water Day is ‘Water Cooperation’, which aims to set forth an integrated and multi-stakeholder approach. Civil society movements are key in the consultations including for example the Global Call to Action against Poverty, and Beyond 2015,a partnership of civil society organizations which have worked together to produce a joint statement. They seek a civil society consensus on a single set of Post-2015 goals, no matter whether it will be called post-MDG, SDG or something completely different with a legitimate Post-2015 framework.

More voices are being heard and agendas pushed forward, all of which will need to be integrated into one agenda by 2015. This complex web of parallel political and societal consultations are still ongoing processes. The SDGs and the Post-2015 agenda seem to diverge, but it is too early to make any predictions on the outcomes at this stage. The Broker will follow these consultations closely. The main challenge is to give shape to an integrated global approach. To feed into this challenging process, The Broker will bring together the knowledge and opinions of different stakeholders, analysing them in this dossier on Post-2015 Water goals and in other future dossiers on crosscutting themes.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Edible forest insects


There are more than 1900 edible insect species and the most important ones are in the orders of Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (butterfly and moths), Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants), Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets), Isoptera (termites), Hemiptera (true bugs), and Homoptera (cicadas).

Reliable figures mention the consumption of 250 insect species in Africa, 549 in Mexico, 180 in China, and 160 in the Mekong area. Although Japan is not a tropical country, a number of insect species are popular food, in particular wasps.

Yde Jongema, taxonomist of the Laboratory of Entomology of Wageningen University, has compiled a worldwide list of edible insect species using a number of literature references. Any remarks about the list, please follow the instructions on the Wageningen University website.

The research center for management of biodiversity in Benin together with the Royal African museum of Tervuren (Belgium) developed the insect database
Lincaocnet with insects from West and Central Africa. It includes the countries Niger, DR Congo, Cameroon, Mali, Central African Republic, Togo and Benin. In each country in between 7 to 22 different species were detected. The database gives high resolution pictures and sound recorded names of insects and host plants in local languages.

Edible forest insects

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cameroon's forest dwellers lose out as land handed to developers - AlertNet

Forest dwellers forced off their land in southern Cameroon after it was leased to private companies have been allowed to return by the government, but many still fear for their livelihoods and the future of their homes.
“Our lands have been taken away from us (and) our forest, which is our main source of living, destroyed, forcing us stay in poverty,” said Medjo Marcel, the village chief of Adjap, one of several villages affected by land takeovers.

“We (still) have no right to possession,” Marcel added. “We cannot invest on the land for fear that foresters and other land grabbers may flush us out at any time.”

Over the past decade Cameroon’s government has leased more than 42,000 hectares (104,000 acres) of forest in the country’s South region alone to companies like HEVECAM, a rubber production business, and ONADEF, a timber firm. It is part of a trend that has seen forest land in West and Central Africa made vulnerable to the kind of deforestation more commonly known in Indonesia and Brazil.

Critics say that lack of proper consultation and weak legal processes leave local communities displaced and impoverished, while the environmental effects have been devastating.


The 5,000 or so inhabitants of five affected villages in the South region, as well as the Bagyeli pygmy community, were offered settlement on other land but say they cannot grow food or practise their traditional occupation as hunters there. Much of their former leased forest land is being cleared for planting.

After an outcry from the affected communities and pressure from civil society organisations, the government has returned 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of forest to the villagers, but with rights only to use the land, not to have full possession of it.

“In the classification of forest in Cameroon, the rights of the forest inhabitants are not respected,” insisted Jean Calvin of Cameroon Ecology, a nongovernmental organisation.

The community members are not entitled to own or transfer the land, nor to veto potential investors, Calvin explained. This allows businesses to take forest land from its inhabitants, he said.

“We have been forced to move from our forest habitat to the village of Adjab where we have difficulties earning any income,” lamented Mbah Martin, head of the Bagyeli pygmy community.

“(There are ) no animals to hunt, (and) our medicinal plants from the forest have all been destroyed,” he said.
Environmental experts are critical of the government’s welcoming attitude towards land investors and criticise the increasing displacement of forest communities.

“Land grabbing by heavy investors has caused rapid disappearance of resources, triggering massive movement of the population from resource-depleted zones to other areas where resources are available, causing conflict between communities,” said Andy White of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an international NGO.


According to a report published by the organisation, forest communities reap no benefits from the transactions that deprive them of their community lands.

“In the case of southern Cameroon, income from harvest and the sale of fruits has disappeared, hunting of bush meat as a source of protein was brought to a halt while sources of firewood and medicinal plants vanished, and land rights were lost without compensation,” said RRI’s Francoise Tiayon .

African governments have been chided for making efforts to protect the land rights of rural people and indigenous communities on the one hand, while rapidly ceding community forests and other lands for development with the other. These conflicting choices were the focus of two new reports by RRI and the 13th Regional Dialogue on Forests, Governance, and Climate Change which took place recently in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital.

“Some ministries (are) choosing to hand over natural resources to agribusiness and mining, and others seeking to protect the rights of their citizens and respect recent commitments,” said RRI’s White.

Samuel Nguiffo, secretary general of the Centre for Environment and Development in Cameroon said he believed government interest in development and exploiting resources outweighs interest in protecting vulnerable communities.


“What communities on the ground in Cameroon see is no different from what is unfolding in other neighbouring countries in West and Central Africa,” he said. “The slow pace of good intentions—the efforts to protect communities of subsistence farmers who have no wealth except for the land that they cultivate—has been overtaken by greed and power.”

Michael Richards, a natural resources economist and author of the RRI report examining 18 large-scale African land acquisitions in the agriculture sector, noted that, “across Africa, weak governance and a lack of legal recognition and support for customary rights are inhibiting any real progress” in protecting forest communities.

The report lists a variety of problems, including a lack of consultation with communities in affected areas, coercion or political pressure, misleading or falsified documents, doubtful legality and poor transparency.

“If a free, prior, and informed consent process had been followed, it seems probable that in 17 out of the 18 cases I looked at, the communities would not have given their consent,” Richards said.

Compared to other forested regions of the developing world, such as those in Latin America and Asia, Africa lags far behind in recognising community and customary rights to forest and land; giving control or ownership of forest areas to local and indigenous communities; and recognising the right of communities to exclude invaders.

Studies show that whereas one-quarter to one-third of forest land in Latin America and Asia is owned by communities and indigenous peoples or is designated for their use, this is true of only 2 percent of forest land in Africa, where almost all the land is managed by the government.

“So much human tragedy could be averted if land rights in Africa didn’t erode so soon after they are established,” said Phil René Oyono, an independent expert and author of the second RRI report.

“Yes, there has been a surge of new laws and reform processes since 2009,” added Samuel Nguiffo, “but these efforts are too slow and do not meet the challenges presented by rapid development and exploitation in the extractive sector. Africans will not sit idly by as our future is handed over to the highest bidder.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Praying for Dry Land in Panama

For thousands of years on the Kuna Yala islands, water and prayer were intertwined with daily rituals.

The Kuna — a group of roughly 40,000 indigenous people living on dozens of islands off Panama’s Caribbean coast — were isolated, relying on the land and one another to sustain their communities. Most of the local fishermen spend their days coasting the sun-drenched waters in hand-carved dugout canoes, looking for lobsters and fish to sell at the local market.

In the evenings, they gather for several hours in “congreso,” a nightly meeting led by the community spiritual leader, where they worship and recite traditional songs. The lyrics are steeped in myths and metaphors acknowledging their ancestors and giving praise to their land.

But for the past several years, the congresos have taken a dark tone. After abnormally high tides hit the coast in 2008, hundreds of the Kuna were forced to move inland when their homes were destroyed by knee-deep floodwaters. According to studies by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, since 1910 the average sea level in Kuna Yala has risen by almost six inches, and is continuing to increase by roughly three-quarters of an inch annually. Many of the Kuna are beginning to fear that in the near future, their land will be completely submerged.

Now when the Kuna pray to their gods, they mostly ask for protection to preserve their way of life.
“From the outside looking in, it looks like a very peaceful living paradise,” said Matthieu Rytz, who has been photographing the islands, with the support of Neus Photos since 2011. “The women are dressed in molas, their traditional dress. Everything looks so calm. But the Kuna have a lot of problems they are trying to address. There are many things that the tourists don’t see.”

It was during a boat trip from Panama to Colombia that Mr. Rytz first came across the Kuna Yala islands. He had been studying anthropology at the University of Montreal and was immediately drawn to how the Kuna showed reverence for their ancient traditions to maintain the land.

“It was literally like traveling through time,” Mr. Rytz, 32, said.

Originally from Switzerland, Mr. Rytz said he has always been interested in understanding how different cultures are formed and how people are influenced by their surroundings. In 2009, he founded Anthropographia, a nonprofit organization that promotes art and photography focused on human rights issues. When he reached the Kuna islands and noticed the flooding, he wanted to explore how these challenges could change their future.

But for Mr. Rytz, photographing them was no simple task.

After a bloody rebellion against Panama in 1925, the Kuna claimed their independence and became an autonomous Indian community — with complete control over the use of their land. Originally from what is now Colombia, the Kuna occupy nearly 40 of the 350 islands between Central and South America and have fought for many years against development and mining activities that could disrupt their resources.

Most islands have no electricity and are powered by oil-fueled generators brought in by Colombian merchants. Kuna leaders have also strictly regulated tourism, limiting hotel construction to only a few of the main islands as well as charging tourists a small fee for interacting with residents.

Immediately after Mr. Rytz began taking pictures of the Kuna islands, he was told by several spiritual leaders that he would need a permit for each individual island he wanted to document. Without their permission or a spiritual blessing, he could face a $500 fine.

“It wasn’t an easy process and it became frustrating at times,” Mr. Rytz said. “The Kuna are very big on protecting their image and maintaining a certain level of control over their people. Sometimes, they didn’t even care to hear what I was trying to do with my photographs. I was told to leave the island right away.”
After getting his permits, he returned in 2012 and traveled with several local guides.

On each island, he watched how the Kuna spent most of their days working together to collect garbage, corals and sand to create makeshift barriers along their homes, only for the waters to wash away their efforts in a matter of hours.

“The majority of the people think the island is disappearing, they speak about it a lot,” he said. “So they are putting these blockers up by the sea. They don’t have engineers. They don’t have concrete or cement. Instead they use garbage. Without proper understanding on how to build bags, they do whatever they think will work.”

He quietly joined in on a few congresos, where the Kuna sang spiritual songs and asked for better days to come. Then there were the debates on how to handle the Colombian drug trafficking trade surrounding their islands, which sometimes results in bags of cocaine drifting to their shores. (They eventually decided that any money made from a Kuna selling drugs found off the coast would go back to improving the community.)

At one point, one of his guides brought home a large flat-screen television that he received from a traveling merchant after trading several small bags of cocaine he found while fishing for lobsters. Mr. Rytz watched as the man proudly carried the television into his home, propping it up against a small branch to keep it away from the sandy floor.

When he realized he didn’t know how to turn it on, he turned to Mr. Rytz for help.
“I had to explain to him that he needed electricity to make this television work,” he chuckled. “There are no outlets in the middle of the sea.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sustainable Development - An 'Evergreen' Revolution Cuts Fertilizer Costs for Africa's Farms

Evergreen agriculture integrates trees into crop systems, helping farmers protect against drought, conserve water, improve soil fertility, and fight climate change.
Around the globe, agriculture is facing a daunting challenge: How can farmers significantly increase yields to feed the world’s burgeoning population while growing crops in depleted soils with scarce water resources and at the same time avert a 4°C warmer world?

In Africa, where soils are often degraded and most smallholder farmers cannot afford commercial fertilizers, food production needs to double by 2050 to avoid widespread starvation, even as climate change threatens to decrease crop yields by up to 50 percent.

To address these challenges, CGIAR, a consortium of 15 research centers supported by the World Bank, pursues climate-smart solutions that can sustainably reduce poverty and food insecurity. One area of that research involves evergreen agriculture — the integration of trees into crop and livestock systems. The practice is already helping millions of poor, small-scale farmers across Africa protect themselves against drought and hunger, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water, and improving soil fertility.

The power of an acacia

The most promising results in evergreen agriculture come from the integration of Faidherbia albida trees, an indigenous African acacia, with food crops. These trees improve soil fertility by drawing nitrogen from the air and transferring it to the soil through their roots and leaf litter.

Unlike most trees, Faidherbia sheds its nitrogen-rich leaves during the early rainy season, making it highly compatible with food crops because it does not compete with them for light, nutrients, or water during the growing season. The leaves grow again when the dry season begins, after the crops have been harvested.
African farmers who have adopted evergreen agriculture are reaping impressive results without the use of costly fertilizers. Crop yields often increase by 30 percent and sometimes more. In Zambia, for example, maize yields tripled when grown under Faidherbia trees.

"I used to get about 10 bags of maize from my field," said Mary Sabuloni, a widow and mother of eight in Malawi who started planting fertilizer trees with her maize. “Now I get at least 25 bags." This has made a huge difference in her children’s lives. "In the past, we often went hungry," she says, "but now I can feed my family all year round.”

Fighting climate change

In addition to increasing farmers’ productivity and incomes, the practice of evergreen agriculture has other benefits, including:
  • increasing rainwater use efficiency by up to 380 percent,
  • capturing and storing up to 4 tons of carbon per hectare annually, and
  • reducing up to 3.5 tons of CO2 -equivalent emissions per hectare per year.
Within the context of climate change, an increasing global population, reduced landholdings, and declining soil productivity, evergreen agriculture is not only an effective solution to complex agriculture challenges, but it is also an affordable way to achieve the triple win of increased productivity, incomes, and food security; improved resilience; and greater climate change mitigation.

In recognition of its success, research conducted on evergreen agriculture by the World Agroforestry Centre, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, recently won a UK Climate Week Award.

Sustainable Development - An 'Evergreen' Revolution Cuts Fertilizer Costs for Africa's Farms

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Land Grab in Africa Threatens Food Security

By Kim Lewis, VoA News

The International aid agency Oxfam warns that more than 60 percent of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in countries where food security was a major challenge. 

The report, Our land, Our lives, also says that Africa’s land is the most targeted with known deals equaling nearly five per cent of the continent’s total agricultural area.

Oxfam reports that while foreign investment is normally thought of as good for a country, these land deals potentially threaten the livelihoods of 80 million small landholders, farmers and pastoralists.

“We distinguish between land deals and land grabs. Land grab essentially means the communities, many of which are poor communities, lose their land and livelihood as a result of transactions that take place sometimes between governments and investors, and sometimes between elites and foreign investors. These processes leave families basically without any alternative livelihood. And in many cases the transactions are accompanied by violence and conflict,” explained Irungu Houghton, Oxfam’s pan Africa director in Nairobi.

The report says that countries affected by “land grab” include, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.

Houghton said that Oxfam has seen about 700 deals over the last decade, which are equivalent in land area to Kenya or Cameroon.

As a result Oxfam is stepping up its campaign to end land grabs that it believes violate human rights.  Houghton said first of all you have to know how the land is going to be used. There are two main areas of interest for investors.

“The first is for production of biofuel and there is a huge demand for biofuel globally, particularly in Europe and North America. The first group of interests has been in planting soy, palm oil and sugar cane to produce ethanol so it can be exported,” said Houghton.

The second interest said Houghton is producing food, which is largely going to the Middle East and Asia.

“What we are worried about is it is happening on a continent where one in four people are food insecure.  Many of these countries have food insecurity.  Within Oxfam and a number of different organizations, we are simply publicizing this issue and seeking government intervention across Africa, particularly under the auspices of the African Union,” said Houghton.

Houghton said that governments can protect their land by performing “due diligence” with environmental, social and labor impact assessments.  Also, investments should primarily support the communities by helping them increase productivity and not harm farming.

Land Grab in Africa Threatens Food Security

Monday, March 25, 2013

Global Civil Society raises ‘Red flag’ to the Final High Level Forum: Eight issues to salvage the Post 2015 Development Process

Ahead of the Final High Level Forum on Post 2015, members of global civil society that met in Bonn (Germany) -  March 22 – 23, 2013 during the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Conference expressed deep concern about the direction that the High Level Panel on Post 2015 Development may take, 
particularly as regards the roles of government, business and multilateral institutions in any sustainable development agenda. They are seeking individuals and institutions to endorse it.

The statement cautions against developing a set of reductive goals, targets and indicators that ignore the transformative changes required to address the failure of the current development model, which is rooted in unsustainable production and consumption patterns and exacerbates inequality as well as gender, race and class inequities.

The sign on statement also notes the "poison threads" in society -- like corporate land grabs that impoverish communities, an unjust global trade and financial architecture, corruption and privatization of social services like education, health, water and sanitation – that must also be addressed. They argue for creation of some rules and remove others to ensure that the global frameworks do not constrain human rights and development goals.

“Former German President and High Level Panel member Horst Koehler reminded us in his keynote address, we cannot "talk about food security without regulation of financial markets . . . poverty without (addressing) unfair trade, peace and security without small arms control, land degradation without talking of climate.", the civil society statement emphasizes.

The statement adds that GDP and existing corporate financial reports are neither adequate nor accurate metrics; they must factor in social and environmental impact and the well-being of people. Furthermore, Goals need to be universal. Ending inequality is paramount. Women, children, youth, indigenous peoples, marginalized communities and differently-abled people must be at the center of development. In addition, the responsibilities of the rich and powerful need to be clearly spelled out. 

The statement also calls for respect  that build upon the overarching principle of equitable sharing of atmospheric space, taking into account historical responsibility between and also within states as well as inter-generational justice. Commitments by all stakeholders must be time-bound; accountability and transparency are also paramount.

‘As the members of the High Level Panel prepare to meet in Bali and in the spirit of partnership and collaboration, Civil Society we would like to raise a 'Red Flag' (a set of 8 points that must be addressed) to support a Post 2015 framework - or the High Level Panel's recommendations as follows:

1. Land and Water Grabs
All too often, businesses and governments acquire land, water and other natural resources -- be it 'legally', illegally or through a corrupt process -- without the free, prior and informed consent of individuals and communities, displacing and impoverishing people in the process. This must stop.

2. Extractives Development Model
People living near mega-mines, oil wells and other extractive sites frequently face a loss of livelihoods and serious adverse health effects. The Post 2015 framework should eliminate financial support for these harmful economic activities, introduce regulations that protect communities as well as mechanisms for redress that require companies to clean up and pay for their messes. In addition, we must recognise the rights of indigenous people to land for food sovereignty and insure that economic activities do not negatively impact people, particularlywomen, migrants, fishermen, forest dwellers, First Nations, pastoralists and other marginalised communities.

3. Planetary Boundaries
Planetary boundaries and the rights of future generations need to be respected. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities requires that the burden of adjusting to these limits be equitably shared.

4. Gender Justice
The Post 2015 Framework must affirm the human rights of women and men, girls and boys, young people, and people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities to bodily integrity, guarantee sexual and reproductive rights and universal access to quality, comprehensive, integrative sexual and reproductive health services.

5. Economic and Financial Architecture
The current economic and financial architecture causes and perpetuates poverty. We must urgently reform financial and trade regimes to ensure fair trade, just sovereign debt workout mechanisms and stop illicit capital flows. The new architecture should ensure gender, environmental and social justice as well as recognise that care and social reproduction are intrinsically linked with the productive economy and should therefore be fully reflected in macroeconomic policies.

6. Human Rights
Poverty is a cause and consequence of human rights violations. The Post 2015 agenda must be rooted in the existing international human rights architecture, which has been developed over six decades. Human rights law provides a universally-recognized framework that clearly delineates the common but differentiated responsibilities of all actors to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, both within and between countries.

7. Peace and Conflict
No society can develop in an environment of fear and insecurity. Peace is not simply the absence of violence nor is conflict limited to fragile states; it is based on dignity, social justice, the fulfillment of human rights and well-being for all. Violence and conflicts are often products of struggles for resource control, lack of decent work and livelihoods, inequalities, failed structures and corporate interests. The Post 2015 framework should be conflict-sensitive and ensure the safety, security and sustainability of life, ensure an end to gender-based violence, promote social cohesion, people's participation and foster an environment where people live in freedom and with ownership and control of their own resources.

8. Accountability & Corruption
For the Post 2015 framework to succeed, clear transparent accessible mechanisms of accountability must be created, strengthened and implemented for all. We must monitor commitments and address corruption. Accountability mechanisms must be universal, participatory and empower all people to monitor and hold governments, financial institutions, development actors and the private sector to account in order to be legitimate and effective. In a number of cases, good laws rest on the books; they must be implemented and enforced.

Bio-Cement Solves Two Problems

By Climate Himalaya

Researchers have come up with a neat solution to the problem of producing some forms of biofuel waste – add it to cement, and make concrete nearly a third stronger than other versions.

Engineers are working on yet another way to deliver more energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions. The latest trick: use the waste from biofuel production to make a stronger, greener concrete.

Biofuel is rapidly becoming big business: as demand rises, farmers are gathering up wheat and rice straw and the leaves and stalks of maize – known in the US as corn stover – as the raw material for bioethanol to drive the next generation of tractors, buses and cars.

Concrete, too, is global big business: the world uses seven billion cubic metres of the stuff every year, and every tonne of cement – an essential part of the mixture –  made by traditional processes means another tonne of CO2 dumped in the atmosphere. The manufacture of Portland cement contributes an estimated 5% of global CO2 emissions.

So Feraidon Ataie, a civil engineer from Afghanistan, now studying at the University of Kansas, has been working with colleagues on ways to close the loop. They are using byproducts of biofuel production to take the place of at least some of the cement in a concrete mix.
This stuff would normally be wasted. Biofuel made from corn or grain leaves a residue that can be turned into cattle feed. But biofuel from the cellulose waste – from wood chips, straw and so on – leaves a residue high in a woody substance, lignin, that usually has to be burned or buried.
When the Kansas team added 20% lignin waste to their cement, the subsequent chemical reaction delivered a concrete more than 30% stronger.

No recycling

More than half of the human race now lives in cities: building materials are increasingly in demand and concrete long ago became the most used industrial material, after water.

The Kansas team is not the only one working on ways to reduce the impact of cement on the greenhouse gas emissions tally, and limit global warming.

A Canadian team is experimenting with ways to produce a concrete that will actually absorb CO2 emitted from factory flues. A Californian power station has tried bubbling CO2 exhausts through seawater to make a calcium carbonate product that could substitute for Portland cement. Manufacturers have launched a “sustainable cement initiative” to try to reduce emissions wherever possible.

But the catch is that concrete is not something that can be recycled. Every new road, new building or new bridge requires new cement. The Kansas engineers think they may have a contribution to make, just by adding the waste from bioethanol.

“If you use this in concrete to increase strength and quality, then you add value to this byproduct rather than just landfilling it”, said Ataie. “If you add value to the byproduct, then it is a positive factor for the industry. It can help reduce the cost of bioethanol production.”

Bio-Cement Solves Two Problems

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kenya pushes ahead on building a green economy - AlertNet

In 2002, Kenya's government announced a plan to embark on some ambitious infrastructure projects, including some that it hoped would kickstart Kenya's move towards a greener economy.

Many citizens dismissed the idea, assuming that, like the pronouncements of previous governments, these too would come to nothing.
However, Kenya today is home to a number of initiatives that help fight the effects of climate change while simultaneously boosting development and creating jobs. And with several other projects in the early stages, experts say the nation may one day stand as an example to others that green ideals and social equity can go hand-in-hand.
One such project is the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project, which was inaugurated in July 2012 and is set to be completed by mid-2014. Part of the biggest geothermal effort in Africa, the project is situated in Naivasha, in Kenya's Rift Valley, and should add 280megawatts of power to the national grid.
Then there is the Lake Turkana Wind Power project , which comes into operation this year and is expected to create up to 2,500 jobs. At a cost of Ksh 75 billion ($882 million), it is not only the biggest wind-power project on the continent but also the largest single private investment in Kenya's history.
Both initiatives are consistent with constitutional requirements in Kenya to protect the environment. Since 2010, the constitution has called for “sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources.”
Chris Ackello, an agricultural economist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, thinks Olkaria and the Lake Turkana wind project (LTWP) will also bring Kenya big economic advantages.
“They will provide cheaper sources of energy, thereby stimulating industrialisation by making Kenyan goods and services cheaper," he said. "(And that will) consequently boost the country's competiveness in the region against such economic powers as Egypt and South Africa."
Experts say the Olkaria geothermal project and the LTWP wind farm promise great returns for Kenya. But their benefits are long term – and today Kenya is powered by more polluting fuels.
Up to 80 percent of Kenyans depend on wood-based fuel for their energy needs. Charcoal production, which is illegal in Kenya but nonetheless widespread, is having a devastating effect on the country's forests. For every 10 tonnes of trees felled for charcoal production, only a tonne is converted into charcoal – the rest simply goes to waste.
In an attempt to curb the charcoal industry's environmental impact while also opening up a new source of revenue, the government, through the Kenya Forestry Service (KFS), has embarked on a scheme to regulate the industry by legalising it.
The hope is that by encouraging greener charcoal-making methods, the government can bring in investors looking to put money into a more sustainable industry. As an added benefit, the initiatives are expected to generate income for the government through levies and taxes that illegal charcoal producers currently escape.
And while the government tries to save the country's trees, it also wants people to plant more of them.

Kenya's forests are concentrated in its mountainous regions, which make up part of the fertile 20 percent of the country’s land mass. This small area is home to 80 percent of the population and the source of most of the country's agricultural produce.
Looking to tap into the unrealised potential of Kenya's farmland, the Kenya Forest Service is promoting tree growing as a commercial venture. This initiative aims to bring the country’s tree cover up to 10 percent from the current 2 percent.
“We want to concentrate more on managing farmlands by not just planting trees in the forests but also encouraging tree-growing in our agricultural landscapes,” says KFS director David Mbugua.
Trees planted in farming areas can help boost soil nutrients, curb erosion, and provide alternative sources of income to farmers, either from fruit growing or when they are harvested, experts say.
The tree-planting scheme is expected to boost income both for the government, by way of fees and taxes, and for people through job creation. Revenue generated will be used to fund the reforestation of areas that have been depleted by the charcoal industry.
But even those involved in the tree-planting project will have to wait some time before seeing the benefits. For an example of a green economy project with almost immediate results, no single initiative can beat conservation agriculture.
By practicing resource-saving crop production, farmers can quickly increase their yields, agricultural experts say. Planting with minimal soil disturbance, intercropping nitrogen-fixing trees (which produce a natural fertiliser) with plants, using harvested crop residue to cover the soil, crop rotation – all these techniques have the combined effect of retaining soil moisture, reducing the release of soil carbon into the atmosphere, increasing soil nutrients, and keeping soil-borne diseases at a minimum, all while producing more food.
So far, conservation agriculture is proving a boon to smallholder farms in Kenya. Since last year, when the government sent out a task force to help entrench the practices in parts of the country, farmers adopting the approach have doubled their crop yield, the government says.
“We are looking into ways of scaling up the practice to cover the whole country in the near future,” said Jasper Nkanya, engineer in charge of agricultural services at Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.
The new farming techniques, regulatory initiatives and major renewable-energy projects should all enrich Kenya's economy as they help save the environment, experts say. If a recent study by the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis is anything to go by, the country stands to gain greatly from investing in green projects.
An analysis undertaken by the institute shows that positive results will be realised after seven to 10 years of green investments. It also suggests that the country may achieve even faster economic growth over the long run, with an average annual real GDP growth rate of 5 percent between 2010 and 2030, compared to the current annual growth rate of 3.7 percent.