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Despite Odds, Women Gain Stature in African Politics

16 October 2017 - 8:47am

Launch of the African Women Leaders Network in New York. Credit: UN Photos

By Kwamboka Oyaro, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

Once in a while, Africa produces talented women politicians who, despite the odds, overcome the obstacles that impede their success in the political arena.

Some of the African women who have shattered the glass ceiling include Liberia’s outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda; Mauritius’s president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; and former interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza.

For most African women, however, the political terrain is too rough to navigate. Few make the journey, perceiving that their male colleagues would try to undermine them. In their effort to take up leadership positions, qualified African women can expect to confront gender-based attacks, including being labelled “prostitutes” or “concubines”. Sometimes they are sexually harassed, and they often contend with men seeking sexual favours as preconditions for support.

Propositions from senior male office holders as a precondition for entry into the field are unacceptable, says former Nigerian senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife. She adds that this is a tactic men have used for years to discourage women from entering the political fray.

Ms. Ekwunife recollects her 2011 re-election campaign for Nigeria’s House of Representatives, when her opponent superimposed her head on a naked body and sent the picture to YouTube “just to demean my person.” Luckily, that childish slur backfired, and Ms. Ekwunife easily won the election to the legislative body.

Four years later, when she sought election to the senate in 2015, her experience was less pleasant. Although she was re-elected to become one of six women out of the 109 senators in Nigeria’s upper law-making body, her political journey was short.

The courts nullified her election after she had been in the senate only six months. She believes that her election’s nullification was politically motivated, even though there was the issue of her switching political parties at the last minute.

Ms. Ekwunife’s experience is not unique among women political hopefuls in Africa. For example, just two days after activist Diane Shima Rwigara declared her intention to run for the presidency in Rwanda’s general election in August this year, social media was awash with purported nude pictures of her. Her candidacy was disqualified by election officials.

In neighbouring Uganda, a member of the opposition Zainab Fatuma Naigaga and some male colleagues were arrested on their way to a political rally in October 2015. But it was only Ms. Naigaga who was stripped naked by abusive police officers, while the men were left alone.

In Kenya, MP Millie Odhiambo Mabona was analysing the country’s Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Parliament when a commotion on the floor degenerated into a free-for-all brawl.

Ms. Mabona says she was assaulted by two pro-government MPs. “That day I was in a dress and these men kept pulling it up while I pulled it down. They went ahead and tore my panties,” Ms. Mabona told Africa Renewal in an interview.

One of the accused male MPs was quoted in the local dailies, saying, “I slapped her because she wanted to assault the deputy speaker. That was great disrespect.” The MPs later passed the bill on security laws.

Women facing sexual harassment must call the men’s bluff, says Ms. Mabona. “If they threaten me with exposing my sexual encounters, I tell them I would also expose those that I went out with.” Ms. Ekwunife, taking a different tack, says “women need to focus and ignore these distractions.”

Besides issues relating to their bodies and their private lives, African female politicians, most of the time, begin their career in politics later in life, and start from a position of disadvantage of having to balance family and work. They also tend to have less money than their male counterparts to spend on campaign expenses.

Shauna Shames of New Jersey’s Rutgers University-Camden, writing about “Barriers and solutions to increasing women’s political power,” notes that “when money dominates politics, women lose out. With women having persistently lower incomes for many reasons, they are far less likely than men to be in the social and business networks that pour money into political campaigns.”

Major political parties rarely nominate women for elected positions during primaries because of the belief that women stand a slim chance of winning against men. In Kenya, for example, all the leading parties nominated men as presidential candidates for the August 2017 elections.

Sometimes a political party will attempt to curry favour by nominating women, yet will not fully back the female politicians to win elections, explains Ms. Ekwunife.

Women candidates are more vulnerable than their male counterparts to electoral violence, including physical attacks on the candidates themselves, their families or supporters, from the campaigns to election time, says Ms. Mabona.

The Kenyan government pledged to enhance security for women aspirants in the lead-up to the August 2017 general election. The cabinet secretary for interior security, the late Joseph Nkaissery, in June announced the government’s intention to protect women candidates, but also told them to be “tough,” without explaining what he meant, leaving pundits to infer a tacit approval for women to be violent.

Ms. Mabona herself witnessed raw violence early this year during her political party’s fiery primaries in her Mbita Constituency in western Kenya. Her bodyguard was killed and her house was burned down.

Will the ground be level anytime soon for women politicians in Africa? Dismas Mokua, a political analyst with Trintari International, a Nairobi-based public relations firm, says women in Africa have made some impact in politics but could do better. Most societies are patriarchal and don’t expect women to take up leadership positions, explains Mr. Mokua.

“Running for a public office requires resources. A lot of women candidates may not have the requisite finances,” says Mr. Mokua. Against all odds, the time is now for Africa’s visionary female politicians to join politics and change the narrative.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.

The post Despite Odds, Women Gain Stature in African Politics appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Can the Kenyan Lion Kick High Enough to Be the South Korean Tiger of Africa?

16 October 2017 - 7:52am

Taekwondo a Korean martial art also practiced in Kenya. Credit: Capital FM

By Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

In 1953 South Korea emerged from the ravages of a debilitating war, yet the total gross domestic product in nominal terms has surged 31,000 fold since 1953.

Consider this: in 1950 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of South Korea was US$ 876 and Kenya’s was US$ 947. In 2016, the GDP per capita of South Korea rose to US$ 27,539 and Kenya’s to US$ 1,455.

South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible economic growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies.

In South Korea the Gini coefficient is 0.30 (extent of inequality) whereas in Kenya it is much higher at 0.45. Despite posting some of the highest GDP growth rates globally, countries in Africa continue to have the worst poverty and unemployment rates, with Kenya being one of those countries where the gap between rich and poor is widening.

While the majority of these Kenyans are occupied in the agricultural industry, technology advances and the rising prominence of the service industry is threatening to render many of these superfluous unless urgent shifts in growth models are undertaken to create quality jobs.

Lessons from economic structural transformation abound especially from the Asian tigers. Once an agricultural country like Kenya, South Korea spent much of the 20th century driving modern technologies and is now regarded as one of Asia’s most advanced economies. Among the focus areas for the country were facilitating industrialization, high household savings rates, high literacy rates and low fertility rates.

What South Korea achieved was fast economic growth underpinned by a strong industrial base that led to full employment and higher real wages. When the 1997 financial crisis threatened employment and welfare of its citizens in 1997, the country engaged in ambitious structural adjustment that introduced social protection measures for workers, the unemployed and poor people, in addition to reigniting the drivers of growth.

The international experience suggests that, for a given increase in the labor force, GDP growth should be at least double that rate to prevent unemployment from rising, and even higher if unemployment is to be reduced. With Kenya’s labor force growing at 3 percent corresponding to one million youth entering the job market each year, GDP should keep growing at 6 percent.

But this may not be enough as there is a lot of slack in the labor market to be absorbed. Kenya has one of the highest informal sector employment rates in the continent. With about three out of four workers employed in casual jobs whose key features include unpredictable incomes, poor working conditions and low productivity.

According to the latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), employment in the informal economy has grown much faster than in the formal economy, rising by nearly 4 million versus 60,000 since 2009, with the corresponding share of the formal economy in total employment shrinking to 17 percent from 19 percent.

Income inequality remains a challenge in Kenya, with the highest 10 percent earning almost 15 times higher than the lowest 10 percent, which is double of that in South Korea.

There are grounds for optimism, as Kenya seeks to move from being a regional leader to local innovator. In August 2016, Kenya hosted the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which was the first on African soil. Kenya is also developing policy and institutional reforms to increase export through better trade logistics and greater regional integration.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost standardization activities between the two countries. Credit: Citizen TV


In addition, Kenya’s internet prices are low at half of even lower than those in neighboring countries. Innovations in mobile phone-based banking and related technological platforms have resulted in more financial inclusion that has reached 75 percent of the population. A large population of educated youth is already employed in these areas that have high job creation potential.

Kenya’s policies will need to consider the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact. Household incomes improve when the largest number of people get involved in technology-based productive work. Even agriculture needs to be high-tech and include agro-processing.

Underlying this is the ability of the education and training system to adapt and promote the creation of a sustainable and inclusive economy. Kenya’s policies will therefore need to assess the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact.

Kenya is moving ahead on education with its more than 1000 post-secondary institutions, 22 public and more than 30 private universities that produce the largest numbers of highly trained and skilled persons in the East African Community.

However, Kenya has substantial disparities in access to education. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, children in capital city Nairobi have about 15 times more access to secondary education than those living in Turkana, one of the poorest counties.

In addition to education, that increases employability on the labor supply side but does not in itself create jobs, more emphasis should be given to policies that increase labor demand. With an increasing youthful population, Kenya faces a window of demographic opportunity not only numerically.

Today’s youth are more educated than their parents and are “waiting in the wings”, not yet active but ready and willing to do so. But for this to happen and thus reduce youth and educated unemployment, there is a need to ensure that there are enough opportunities for them to participate actively in the economy and society.

Unfortunately, about 43 percent of Kenya’s youth are currently either unemployed or working yet living in poverty. Not unrelated to the few employment opportunities at home, many job seekers emigrate. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) reports for Kenya a skilled emigration rate of 35 per cent reaching 51 percent among health professionals. These rates are among the highest in the world. A continued lack of decent work opportunities as a result of insufficient or misapplied investments can perpetuate, if not increase, emigration and lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic societies.

Still within the area of labor markets, good governance is critical for linking employment growth to decent employment creation. A recent meeting on the Future of Work organized by the Ministry of Labour, the Kenya Federation of Employers and the Kenya Federation of Trade unions in collaboration with the International Labour Organization discussed the implications for the 4th industrial revolution and its impact on Kenya. The discussion confirmed that laws, policies and institutions can be improved through social dialogue that would also include the informal sector.

For women, access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls is the best bet for improved economic opportunity. Global data shows that the highest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would accrue to the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would give as wide-reaching impacts.

Finally, Kenya would need to address the rural/urban divide. Urban population growth is naturally fueled from growth in the population already living in cities but in Kenya, more than in many other African countries, urban growth comes from significant internal migration. This suggests that the country side is becoming increasingly less attractive. The share of population living in slums remains high at 55 percent with no discernible decline since 1990.

In conclusion, increases in real wages and decent employment creation will remain elusive as long as growth is not inclusive while educated job seekers are not employed in sectors that require new skills. The shifting population of Kenya provides many opportunities for growth. With a median age of 18, investing in Kenya’s youth would reap a demographic dividend. Key investments have to be in education and skills, empowerment of women and girls, a Marshal plan of employment and equity. These would help accelerate Kenya’ march to prosperity and help end poverty.

When this happens, Kenya will increase its ability to introduce more comprehensive and effective social protection policies that would add to the income security provided by decent employment. And unlike South Korea, Kenya should not wait to do so after a financial crisis.

The post Can the Kenyan Lion Kick High Enough to Be the South Korean Tiger of Africa? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Hunger in Africa, Land of Plenty

14 October 2017 - 7:45pm

A tea farmer in Nyeri County, central Kenya contemplates what to do after his crop was damaged by severe weather patterns. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 2017 (IPS)

Globally, 108 million people faced food crises in 2016, compared to about 80 million in 2015 – an increase of 35%, according to the 2017 Global Report on Food Crises. Another 123 million people were ‘stressed’, contributing to around 230 million such food insecure people in 2016, of whom 72% were in Africa.

The highest hunger levels are in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) according to the Global Hunger Index 2016. The number of ‘undernourished’ or hungry people in Africa increased from about 182 million in the early 1990s to around 233 million in 2016 according to the FAO, while the global number declined from about a billion to approximately 795 million.

This is a cruel irony as many countries in Africa have the highest proportion of potential arable land. According to a 2012 FAO report, for African sub-regions except North Africa, between 21% and 37% of their land area face few climate, soil or terrain constraints to rain-fed crop production.

Why hunger?
Observers typically blame higher population growth, natural calamities and conflicts for hunger on the continent. And since Africa was transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer in the 1980s despite its vast agricultural potential, international food price hikes have also contributed to African hunger.

The international sovereign debt crises of the 1980s forced many African countries to the stabilization and structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) of the Bretton Woods institutions. Between 1980 and 2007, Africa’s total net food imports grew at an average of 3.4% per year in real terms. Imports of basic foodstuffs, especially cereals, have risen sharply.

One casualty of SAPs was public investment. African countries were told that they need not invest in agriculture as imports would be cheaper. . Tragically, while Africa deindustrialized thanks to the SAPs, food security also suffered.

In 1980, Africa’s agricultural investments were comparable to those in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). But while LAC agricultural investment increased 2.6 fold between 1980 and 2007, it increased by much less in Africa. Meanwhile, agricultural investments in Asia went from three to eight times more than in Africa as African government investments in agricultural research remained paltry.

Thus, African agricultural productivity has not only suffered, but also African agriculture remains less resilient to climate change and extreme weather conditions. Africa is now comparable to Haiti where food agriculture was destroyed by subsidized food imports from the US and Europe, as admitted by President Clinton after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Lost decades
SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow cuts in public investment, thus paying for imports. But the ostensibly short-term pain of adjustment did not bring the anticipated long-term gains of growth and prosperity. Now, it is admitted that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, causing the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’ for Africa.

Thanks to such programmes, even in different guises such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century. And despite the minerals-led growth boom for a dozen years (2002-2014) during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals, nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

The World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa shows that the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

Land grabs
Despite its potential, vast tracts of arable land remain idle, due to decades of official neglect of agriculture. More recently, international financial institutions and many donors have been advocating large-scale foreign investment. A World Bank report notes the growing demand for farmland, especially following the 2007-2008 food price hikes. Approximately 56 million hectares worth of large-scale farmland deals were announced in 2009, compared to less than four million hectares yearly before 2008. More than 70% of these deals involved Africa.

In most such deals, local community concerns are often ignored to benefit big investors and their allies in government. For example, Feronia Inc – a company based in Canada and owned by the development finance institutions of various European governments – controls 120,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Advocates of large-scale land acquisitions claim that such deals have positive impacts, e.g., generating jobs locally and improving access to infrastructure. However, loss of community access to land and other natural resources, increased conflicts over livelihoods and greater inequality are among some common adverse consequences.

Most such deals involve land already cleared, with varied, but nonetheless considerable socioeconomic and environmental implications. Local agrarian populations have often been dispossessed with little consultation or adequate compensation, as in Tanzania, when Swedish-based Agro EcoEnergy acquired 20,000 hectares for a sugarcane plantation and ethanol production.

Land grabbing by foreign companies for commercial farming in Africa is threatening smallholder agricultural productivity, vital for reducing poverty and hunger on the continent. In the process, they have been marginalizing local communities, particularly ‘indigenous’ populations, and compromising food security.

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

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How to Change the Future of Migration

14 October 2017 - 3:34pm

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 14 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

SOURCE: FAO

What to Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis

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

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

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

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

Looking for sustainable solutions to fight famine in conflict situations …. Credit: FAO


Causes and Remedies

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

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

Credit: FAO


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

Climate Change and the Migration Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food for Thoughtful Health

13 October 2017 - 2:29pm

Credit: Bigstock

By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
OXFORD, United Kingdom, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

Milk and cookies, macaroni and cheese, fish and chips. Some foods seem to match perfectly together to the point where one can’t go without the other. Food and health, while maybe not as catchy, should be viewed in the same light. Without good food it is hard to maintain good health; without good food growing practices it is difficult to maintain a healthy planet.

It is hard to believe that in 2017, with all the advancements made in agriculture and the food industry, many people around the world still do not have enough to eat. This is a tragedy. There is more than enough food produced to feed everyone, yet according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 800 million people suffer from hunger and more than 2 billion from micronutrient deficiencies.

This will only get worse as the world population is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050. Conflict, and with it the displacement and migration of people, further compound the food security and nutrition equation. In 2017 alone a number of crises have made millions worldwide severely food insecure.

On the flip side, there are many people going to bed too full across the globe: an estimated 40% of adults and millions of children worldwide are overweight.

We are witnessing an overconsumption of food often coupled with a lower nutritional quality. This is having a major impact on obesity, heart disease and other issues, and is no doubt adding to the looming heath crisis. Obesity tends to affect poorer populations more, suggesting that the issue is not only the availability of food, but the type of food available.

It is becoming increasingly clear that food systems, and diets, are not sustainable. What is urgently needed is a holistic approach to address food and health as well as sustainability along the entire food chain
We are also losing many of the traditional diets found throughout the world in favour of less sustainable diets. Developing countries are moving away from traditional diets high in cereal, green vegetables and fiber to more Western style diets that are high in sugars, fat and animal-source food. This is not only bad for human health, but potentially catastrophic for the environment.

A look at livestock alone and its contribution to climate change demonstrates this point. According to the FAO, the sector emits 7 gigatons of CO2 equivalent every year, representing around 14 percent of all human-induced emissions. Planetary boundaries may well be surpassed if current trends continue. Also, it takes ten times more water and twenty times more energy to produce one kilogram of wheat as it does to produce the same weight of beef, and at present three quarters of the world’s wheat is grown to feed livestock.

And while certain agricultural practices contribute to climate change, climate change is also likely to have a serious impact on our food security. Climate models indicate that while rising temperatures may have a beneficial effect on crops in temperate areas, tropical areas may experience a significant reduction in their crop productivity in the long term.

Equally serious will be the impact of climate change on the nutritional content of key crops which could put hundreds of millions of people at risk of vitamin deficiencies. Studies show that higher CO2 levels significantly reduce the levels of the essential nutrients iron and zinc, as well as protein, in such staple crops as wheat, rice, maize and soybeans.

While these crops are relatively low in iron and zinc compared to meat, in poorer societies where meat is not consumed as much as in wealthier nations, they remain a major source of the nutrients needed for children to grow and to develop.

And then there is the waste. Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted, with fruits and vegetables having the highest wastage rates of any food, says the FAO. This waste amounts to roughly $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries. If we are going to meeting Goal 12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – to reduce global food waste in half by 2030 –  much more needs to be done.

 

Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted, with fruits and vegetables having the highest wastage rates of any food. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

 

This World Food Day, we have to acknowledge the multiple problems that exist within our food systems and that nutritional problems are escalating. It is becoming increasingly clear that food systems, and diets, are not sustainable. What is urgently needed is a holistic approach to address food and health as well as sustainability along the entire food chain.  Awareness raising on what a healthy diet means is also key.

Through the newly established Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health at the Oxford Martin School, we will continue to find solutions to health risks posed by poor stewardship of the planet. In an era of global environmental change, the food-health connection must be made central to any such investigation.

Over the next 18 months, the Economic Council – made up of world leaders from government, international organizations, civil society, business, finance and academia – will bridge knowledge gaps on the links between economic development, natural systems and human health to compel collaboration across disciplines and coordinated action to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.  A century where the food and health connection will need to be viewed inseparably, like an order of fish and chips.

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

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Stepping Forward to Lead on Indigenous Rights

13 October 2017 - 1:26pm

Indigenous communities that live in traditional forests likes these on the Indonesian island of Lombok are not consulted when such lands are handed over to commercial entities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Rukka Sombolinggi
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

When nine women farmers from the Kendeng community in Central Java encased their feet in cement blocks last year, many indigenous advocates understood how that felt. Dressed in their traditional clothing, these women protested outside the State Palace in Jakarta to block a proposed cement plant that would pollute the rivers flowing through their villages. Their livelihoods as farmers were under threat, as was their cultural heritage.

These women who so inspire me, like most Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia, have lived on their land for generations without official recognition of their rights. Their communities began long before current laws were written—in fact, long before Indonesia was a country.

At first, their protest—hundreds of miles away from their homes—was successful. It brought attention to their plight and led the Supreme Court to rule in 2016 that factory construction must stop. But in response, the local government issued new environmental permits and the construction started again.

This prompted the women to renew their resistance—this time joined by men. More than 100 farmers have been protesting, and the added attention continues to press the local government and its private sector partner to comply with the court ruling.

This is how progress moves in Indonesia: for every two steps forward, we take one step back. In 2013, after decades of indigenous advocacy, the Indonesian Constitutional Court ruled that the government has no right to indigenous forests and must return them to their customary owners.

President Joko Widodo was elected in 2014 with the promise of recognizing indigenous rights to 9 million hectares of land—and yet, in 2017, his administration has only recognized indigenous rights to 13,000 hectares.

Many of those on the frontlines defending indigenous lands and resources are women. Before the Dutch colonized Indonesia, women had a prominent role in community governance and often served as judges and chiefs.

But European influences forced women into subservient roles. It wasn’t until my mother’s generation that indigenous women started to reassume their traditional leadership.

Aleta Baun, a farmer from the Mollo people in the western part of Timor, showed us all how this is done. When a mining company started digging into Mutis Mountain, fouling the headwaters of the rivers that run through the Mollo’s territory and desecrating one of their sacred places, Mama Aleta, as she is affectionately known, led the resistance.

She organized the remote villages of her people, dodging assassination attempts along the way, and led a year-long occupation of the mining site by women weavers that eventually stopped the operation.

And we must not forget Nai Sinta Sibarani, who led her community, the Batak in North Sumatra, in resisting Inti Indorayon—a mega-sized pulp and paper company—under the oppressive General Suharto regime in the early 1990s.

Yet Indonesia’s laws afford women like Mama Aleta and Nai Sinta Sibarani even less protection for their lands than men. A recent analysis of 30 developing countries from Rights and Resources Initiative found that Indonesia is one of only two countries that does not include equal protection for women in its constitution.

In addition, not one of the country’s six legal frameworks regulating community forests adequately protects women’s rights to inheritance, community membership, governance, or dispute resolution, which are key for women to assert their voice, achieve economic security, and play a leadership role in their communities.

Because women are so often responsible for managing their customary forests and feeding their communities, this lack of protection for women leaves entire communities vulnerable. Huge swathes of indigenous lands have already been leased or sold to oil palm plantations and other developments, resulting in deforestation and forest fires. Indonesia now has one of the most unequal land distribution in the world.

A recent study on conflicts between communities and companies in Indonesia and seven other Southeast Asian countries found that almost half were driven primarily by Indigenous Peoples being forced from their homes. This can be particularly hard on women, who so often depend on the lands for their livelihoods.

The Kendeng farmers and Mollo weavers rely on the land for traditional dyes as they handcraft their textiles, as do the Dayak basket weavers from Kalimantan and the Baduy in Western Java.

As I take the lead of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (known by its Bahasa acronym, AMAN), a coalition of more than 2,300 indigenous communities throughout Indonesia, I draw my strength from Mama Aleta, the women of Kendeng, and many others—including my own mother, whose tireless advocacy for women’s rights helped open the doors I have walked through.

Indigenous women will not sit idly by while their rights to their lands are violated—the lands that sustain them and are part of who they are as Indigenous Peoples. When our communities’ lands and livelihoods are threatened, we will continue to be on the front lines leading the resistance. It is time for our government to recognize this, and to recognize and protect our rights.

*Rukka Sombolinggi is the first woman to lead the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (known by their acronym in Bahasa, AMAN).

The post Stepping Forward to Lead on Indigenous Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Overcoming the Challenges: Securing the World’s Food, Energy and Water

13 October 2017 - 1:01pm

Credit: Bigstock

By Adel Sharif
SURREY, United Kingdom, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

According to the United Nations estimates almost 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger (1 in every 9 persons on the planet) and a higher number (1 in 3) suffer from malnutrition. 1 in every 5 persons (1.4 billion people) have no access to electricity worldwide (living with energy poverty) whilst 1 in 10 people do not have access to clean water.  With climate change, this situation is worsening across many parts of the world.

Food, Energy and Water (FEW) are linked inextricably and are important requirements for  national security and economic development of nations.

 

 

To make enough food for a growing world population, more water and energy are needed. To ensure water is accessible and clean for human consumption demands energy and diverts water resources from agriculture. Additionally producing energy requires water, again potentially impacting irrigation. Energy production is further constrained by the need to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These interlinkages are intensifying in many regions around the world as demand for resources increase with population growth, changing consumption patterns, and low management efficiencies in both supply and demand in these three sectors, likely to be compounded by the impact of climate change.

Attempting to achieve sustainable management in one of these sectors independently, without addressing trade-offs, will endanger sustainability of the other two sectors. It is important therefore to adopt a nexus-thinking approach in the planning and management to achieve intelligent synergies and fair trade-offs between all three sectors.

At the centre of the FEW nexus lies the global challenge of climate change and poverty. According to the UN Declaration on Social development in 1995, poverty, whether it is absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or abject poverty is a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.

Poverty therefore is the biggest challenge to humanity.   The poor suffer from it while the rich fear it. It creates social divisions, fierce competition, greed, tensions and political instability among other societal problems. Eradicating poverty is therefore a moral responsibility and a fundamental requirement to social justice, political stability and sustainable development.

Arguably there could be perhaps two ways to reduce or eliminate poverty: One is to make everybody or every nation rich; though it is not possible politically and logistically, it would still not solve the problem of poverty due to the limited global resources and their geographical distribution and constraints.

The second way is by making the basic needs of Water, Energy and Food available and affordable to everyone. With technological advances, it is possible to achieve the latter but not the former. History shows that since the industrial revolution, science and technology have contributed hugely to reduce global poverty, improve people’s health, enhance quality of life, increase education opportunities and even help bring people and nations together by reducing cultural barriers.

However, the over exploitation of science and technology has also contributed to global problems including accelerated depletion of natural resources due to increased population and human greed fuelled by  the rich and technologically developed nations’ desire to be richer and dominating. These activities have affected the environment negatively and resulted in the challenge of climate change and raised the question of unsustainable development.

Critical to achieving sustainability and eradicating poverty is to have sustainable energy and water supplies that have little or no geographical or climatic condition constraints. This appears near impossible or far reaching given the current rate of consumption of the world’s energy and water resources and the status of scientific and technological development.

However, history tells us that humans have always found ways to advance their mission on earth by discovering alternative sources, and/or inventing new ways of doing things better. Examples include how human moved from using wood to coal and then to oil and gas before any of these resources had been completely depleted. However, the challenges, whether they are energy or water resources related have not yet disappeared.

For energy, this is so because fossil based energy sources are available in certain places around the world which presents a geographical, logistical and political constraints. Additionally they have negative impact on the environment, which has resulted in the challenge of Climate Change.

 

A wind park in Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Dforcesolar

 

Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, whether solar, wind, tidal, hydropower, etc., though have less negative impacts on the environment; they are not free from geographical and climatic constraints regardless of their development status. In other words, they are not available to every country, never mind their still high capital and installation costs, which can be restraining factors.

The global water situation is not different from that of energy. The most populated parts of the world suffer from water shortages.  Additionally, most of the larger cities in the world are located near the sea. This mainly provides an option for domestic water sourced from desalinated seawater or by long distance water transportation.  Both are energy intensive processes.

The water shortage problem has negatively affected farming and agriculture activities worldwide. Globally, agriculture water constitutes about 70% of the total freshwater use. Groundwater contamination has resulted in a further reduction of water resources which were available for irrigation and exacerbated the problem of water scarcity. Tapping into seawater was considered as an option solution for freshwater supply, but as mentioned before desalination is energy intensive technology and has high installation cost, which limits its use to wealthy and oil rich countries.

Hence low cost energy is the key to a prosperous world. The world needs water and food as well among other key requirements. For water, there is plenty of it in the sea but it is not suitable for human consumption or irrigation. Hence having secure, adequate, sustainable and low cost energy source provides sustainable and affordable water. Both provides the base for food production, as there is little or no shortage of agricultural land.

Should water and energy be available, it could change people’s lives. With the availability of these essential ingredients for living, health, prosperity and quality of life among other things for most people could be granted.  This will also have a positive effect on the environment and helps reducing the impact of climate change.

There is a good reason for optimism that a sustainable and affordable energy source will be found. The reason for optimism is that because scientists have not exhausted all the options. More scientists are required to innovate and think out of the box including re-examination of the many of the scientific principles and the existing engineering concepts, i.e. doing perhaps more of going back to the basics and applying reverse-engineering among other approaches.

For example, in the case of energy, scientists and engineers for a long time, probably since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, have associated energy transformation and power production to fuel consumption; e.g. burning wood, coal, oil and gas including the nuclear reaction.

This has created a resource problem as most of these sources are not available everywhere. However the renewable energy sources, though they do not involve fuel consumption, have limitations of location, weather and availability. To overcome these limitations, many of the existing political and environmental rules and regulations need to be substantially changed; which is unlikely.

This leaves us with no options but to think beyond the conventional ways. Given that accessible, affordable, secure and low cost energy is central to achieving sustainable development, energy therefore must have the highest global priority. Securing sustainable energy supplies will directly impact the security of water and food; giving the interlinked dependency of these essential needs for our modern civilisation.

Out of the box thinking suggests an energy source that has little or no constraints and that is Gravity. Gravity is everywhere and anywhere with an infinite range and no geographical nor climatic limitations. However, gravity while it powers and is responsible for many of the large scale structures in the Universe, it is largely a negative energy source for humans because of the penalties to overcome it in most human activities expect for hydropower generation and few other uses. Other sources of renewable energy that are not widely exploited include low grade heat and ocean energy.

Turning gravity to an exploitable energy source for electricity production, would present a great leap in technological advancement. Electron is a universal form of energy that is used for lighting and powering machines and devices for all uses and purposes including heating, transportation, etc.  Gravity has the potential to provide electricity.

Investigating the possibility of producing electricity using gravity is currently an area of limited research. This is because the idea is largely perceived as impossible.  The number of researchers who are investigating this area is very small compared to the size of the scientific community. If they succeed, the potential would be huge with a global impact and opportunities.

The challenges of Water, Energy and Food along with other challenges of  Climate Change and Poverty Eradication, can then be successfully addressed. This would mark the beginning of the Sustainable Age.

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

The post Overcoming the Challenges: Securing the World’s Food, Energy and Water appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Trying to Make Immigration an Option Rather than a Need in Latin America

13 October 2017 - 12:16pm

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

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Migration in context

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

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

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

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

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

Poverty and climate, factors that drive migration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Humanitarian Needs Spike as Rohingya Arrivals in Cox’s Bazar Top 536,000

13 October 2017 - 12:16pm

This week (9-11 October) some 15,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, bringing the total arrivals since late August to over 536,000. Credit: UN Migration Agency/Muse Mohammed 2017

By International Organization for Migration
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Oct 13 2017 (IOM)

An estimated 536,000 people have fled Myanmar and arrived in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh, over the past 47 days, according to the IOM-hosted Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) of aid agencies. Numbers spiked again this week when some 15,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh between 9-11 October.

“I came here five days ago. Five members of my family, including my pregnant wife are still on the other (Myanmar) side. I’ve talked to them by phone. They had to leave home and are now living in the open on a beach. They said that 8-9,000 people are on the beach waiting for an opportunity to cross,” said Mohammad Yakub, 50, speaking to IOM in Shahporir Dwip, a Bangladeshi island in the Naf river close to the border between the two countries.

The speed and scale of the influx has triggered a humanitarian emergency in Cox’s Bazar, where close to three quarters of a million refugees now depend on humanitarian assistance for shelter, food, water, sanitation and other life-saving needs. Prior to the August influx, Cox’s Bazar was already hosting over 200,000 previously displaced Rohingya, placing the district’s infrastructure and basic services under immense strain.

Earlier this week ISCG aid agencies appealed for USD 434 million as part of a 6-month Humanitarian Response Plan targeting 1.2 million people, including the Rohingya refugees and 300,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis living in host communities in Cox’s Bazar.

“The seriousness of the situation cannot be over-emphasized. These people are malnourished and there is insufficient access to clean water and sanitation in many of the spontaneous sites. They are highly vulnerable. They have fled conflict, experienced severe trauma and are now living in extremely difficult conditions,” said IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Sarat Dash.

Many of the new arrivals require immediate health assistance and agencies have appealed for USD 48 million to scale up primary health care in all the new settlements over the next six months.

“The risk of an outbreak of communicable disease is very high given the crowded living conditions and the lack of adequate clean water and sanitation. Maternal, newborn and child health care are also in desperately short supply given the very high numbers of pregnant or lactating women and children among the new arrivals,” said IOM Senior Regional Health Officer Patrick Duigan.

Since 25 August, ISCG agencies have provided over 210,000 people with healthcare assistance. Health partners are supporting the district health department with 12 medical teams in the new influx areas of Teknaf and Ukhia sub-districts. Nine health centers have also been established in remote, hard-to-reach areas of the new settlements.

Some 35,500 children between the age of 5 – 15 years have been vaccinated against measles and rubella, and over 72,000 children between the age of 0 – 5 have been vaccinated against polio and received Vitamin A supplementation. An oral cholera vaccination campaign targeting the entire population also began this week.

Almost all of the refugees arrive with virtually nothing and need tarpaulins for shelter, as well as non-food items (NFI) such as clothing, mosquito nets, cooking sets, soap and blankets. As of last week, some 288,000 people have received emergency shelter assistance and 54,000 NFI assistance since 25 August. Over 17,000 households have received acute emergency kits including one tarpaulin per family of five. Over 2,500 households received have received two tarpaulins and 5,000 have received blankets and sleeping mats.

The massive increase in the number of people in multiple sites is also overwhelming existing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities. WASH sector agencies believe that some 750,000 people out of the 1.2 million people targeted by the response plan will need WASH assistance in the next six months.

Since 25 August, over 333,000 people have been reached with WASH assistance, but agencies believe that almost same number of people are still in immediate need of WASH services. Collectively, the sector has installed 3,249 tube wells, but there are concerns about the quality of the wells and whether they are too shallow, given falling water tables.

Some 8,100 emergency latrines have also been built, but the fill rate currently exceeds the construction rate. This is being is compounded by the shortage of land and a lack of sewage management infrastructure. WASH agencies say that USD 74 million is needed to meet WASH needs through February 2018.

Against this backdrop, there is tremendous pressure on the existing settlements, with the population of multiple sites and settlements more than doubling since August 25. This has resulted in a huge need site management for an estimated 700,000 people. This will cost an estimated USD 65 million, according to ISCG site management agencies.

For more information please contact IOM Bangladesh:
In Cox’s Bazar
Hala Jaber, Tel : +8801733335221, Email: hjaberbent@iom.int
In Dhaka
Shirin Akhter, Tel: +8801711187499, Email: sakhter@iom.int

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Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Does

13 October 2017 - 11:27am

Credit: 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI)

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women and Girls

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

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

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

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

Credit: 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI)

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

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

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

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

Child Stunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI)

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

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

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

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

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

By Regions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Women are Pivotal to Addressing Hunger, Malnutrition and Poverty

13 October 2017 - 8:22am

Women farmers clearing abandoned farmland in the drought-affected Nachol village in Northern Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

The 16th of October marks World Food Day, a reminder to the international community of the criticality of treating food security as a 21st Century priority if sustainable development, peace and security and the realisation of human rights are to be achieved.

When we think and act on food security we must think and act on gender equality and women’s empowerment as women are not only the ones most affected by food insecurity but are charged with the food and nutrition responsibilities for families and communities in the entire food value chain from growing the crops to bringing food to the table.

Rapid population growth, the slowdown of the global economy, commodity price volatility, the speculative aspects of the trade in food commodity futures, and distortive agricultural and trade policies are compounding factors for continuing food insecurity and hunger. The latest estimates indicate that 795 million people were undernourished globally in 2014-2016, with insufficient food for an active and healthy life.

Lakshmi Puri

Bio-fuel production with its rising pressure on land and natural resources as well as climate change, are adding to the volatility of food prices and the urgency to find solutions for food insecurity. and for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) on Ending Hunger, Achieving Food Security, Improving Nutrition and Promoting Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Food security and gender equality and women’s empowerment are concomitant and inextricably interlinked.

Women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty especially in developing countries. They comprise an average of 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force across the developing world making up the backbone of the agricultural sector and food production systems and the bulk of the agricultural labourers. Eight out of ten agricultural workers in Africa are women and in Asia six out of ten are women. Rural women often represent approximately two thirds of the 400 million poor livestock keepers.

Furthermore, women are on the front line of nutrition as care givers in the family — producing, storing, cleaning, cooking food for consumption – and ensuring that food, when available, reaches children first. Women have a crucial role in ensuring the health of children.

Eight out of ten agricultural workers in Africa are women and in Asia six out of ten are women. Rural women often represent approximately two thirds of the 400 million poor livestock keepers.
Nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five are attributable to undernutrition. Anemia, caused by poor nutrition and deficiencies of iron and other micronutrients, affects 42 per cent of all pregnant women globally and contributes to maternal mortality and low birth weight.

It is therefore even more inexcusable that women continue to face many barriers and constraints including limited access to assets and resources necessary for food security as well as disproportionately bear the impact of food insecurity. It is estimated that 60 percent of the world’s chronically hungry people are women and girls.

Rural ringing women and girls have been found to be impacted disproportionately from food insecurity and experience the triple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity).

Women tend to face higher barriers than men to productive resources, economic opportunities, and decision-making, that would help alleviate food insecurity. For farming women, the lack of access to agricultural inputs, services, credit, and markets constrain agricultural productivity growth and agricultural production, making the arduous pathway out of poverty especially difficult.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the productivity levels of female workers in agriculture are between 20 and 30 per cent lower than those of male workers, purely because of the gender gap in access to resources. Moreover, food preferences, taboos and consumption patterns give rise to differential gender outcomes on food security, as men and boys get preferential food access in some contexts. In time of food scarcity, women tend to eat last and least.

 

Peruvian peasant women working in the potato fields. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

 

Women’s participation in decision making processes and in the leadership of rural institutions remains low – which has led to women’s rights, contributions and priorities to be largely overlooked by mainstream policies and institutions on agriculture, food security and nutrition.

Also, gender inequalities in the distribution of unpaid care work burden both in developed and in developing countries continue to deprive women from opportunities for paid work, education, and political participation, all of which have a bearing on their food security and nutrition.

It is therefore clear that achieving sustainable development and peace and security will continue to challenge humanity if gender disparities in agriculture, food security and nutrition remain unaddressed.

This year’s World Food Day should therefore be a reminder that empowering women and unleashing their untapped potential to increase agricultural production is critical to the achievement of food and nutrition security, in improving rural livelihoods and in generating income and overall well-being of their households and communities.

The inextricable links between gender equality and food security have gained enormous momentum in the international agenda. In 1995 the Beijing Platform for Action recognized that women were key to reducing poverty and ensuring food security.

The Platform for Action called upon Member States and all stakeholders to formulate and implement policies and programmes that enhance women’s access to financial, technical, extension and marketing services. It also highlighted the need to improve women’s access to and control over land and appropriate financing, infrastructure and technology.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable (the 2030) recognized both as sustainable development goals (Goal 2 for food security and ending hunger, and Goal 5 for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls), and stressed that both goals are mutually reinforcing and enabling factors in the overall achievement of sustainable development.

Many crosscutting targets in terms of both gender equality and food security include ending hunger and addressing the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women (SDG 2.2), eliminating discrimination against women in laws, policy and practice (SDG 5.1).

Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda recognizes that women’s empowerment and control over resources reinforces nutritional health of their children (SDG 2.1). One specific group of women whose rights to economic resources must be enhanced (SDG 5.a.) is small-scale women food producers. Ensuring women’s rights and improving their access to land, resources and incomes (SDGs 2.3 and 1.4) will be critical to achieving a number of goals.

The Agreed Conclusions of the 61st Session of Commission on the Status of Women (March 2017) recognized the crucial role that rural women in particular have in food security, particularly in poor and vulnerable households and how it is important to achieve rural women’s empowerment as well as their full, equal and effective participation at all levels of decision making. Interventions on the ground aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity must focus on the protagonists of agriculture, who are mainly women in many rural contexts.

The international community is increasingly recognizing not only that women are on the front lines of food security, but that their needs and rights must be placed at the forefront of trade and agricultural policies and investments if sustainable development and peace and security are to be realized.

Today it is more evident than ever that closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity could potentially lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and hunger and address losses in economic growth opportunities.

Bold and decisive action is critical to end the discrimination faced by women not only as a matter of justice and equality; but also to tackle the factors that are holding back agricultural production. Stability in the food market depends on increased investment in agriculture, particularly in developing countries, where 98 percent of the hungry live and where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed growing populations.

Strengthening support and investment in the agricultural sector, should go in hand with acknowledging women’s contributions to food security and ensuring their equal rights and equal access to resources, assets and opportunities.

Measures to advance towards this aim include supporting the contributions of rural women and women farmers and ensuring that they have equal access to agricultural technologies, through investments, innovation in small-scale agricultural production and distribution.

This in turn must be supported through policies that improve productive capacity and strengthen their resilience, addressing the existing gaps in and barriers to trading their agricultural products in local, regional and international markets. Better disaggregated data that shows where in the food systems women are, as well as their situation in terms of food security and nutrition is also urgently needed.

 

Women working in their vegetable gardens at the Capanda Agroindustrial Pole in Angola. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

 

Gender differences in land tenure and access to productive resources are particularly relevant as rural women are significant contributors to global food production. We must ensure rural women’s full and equal rights to land and inheritance, land tenure security, common property and common resources and equal access to justice and legal support, by designing, reforming and enforcing relevant laws and policies.

Control over and ownership of assets can provide women with greater protection and stronger fallback positions, enhancing their bargaining power within the household and their capacity for economic independence. We must also promote women’s involvement in climate-resilient agriculture as farmers, workers, and agriculture and food entrepreneurs.

All these efforts require transformative financing and investment, both targeted and mainstreamed also in terms of advocacy and support from all multistakeholders. Member States, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector should to take new and concrete actions for the full and accelerated implementation of the gender equality international commitments. It is equally as crucial to engage with grassroots women organisations and rural women organisations in the implementation of these commitments.

It is critical to ensuring equal access to and control over productive resources, provision of quality basic services and infrastructure, and support to women smallholder farmers to improve productivity and resilience of food supplies, so that women are able to reach their potential as key game changers to ensure global food and nutrition security.

At the current 72nd session of the UN General Assembly these issues will be addressed by the international community and the global norms, standards and policy commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of women as a precondition and objective of food security for all will be strengthened. The report of the Secretary-General on Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas (A/72/207) highlights the efforts of Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to address challenges faced by women and girls in rural areas, especially the poorest and most marginalized.

The report’s recommendations cover in particular economic and social policies, ending violence against women and girls, education, health, land, inheritance and property rights, decent work and social protection, labour-saving infrastructure and technology.

On the battle against climate change, we must recognize and support the potential of women as agents of change for climate mitigation and adaptation, which remains relatively untapped. The upcoming 23rd   Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will recognise the vital role women play in sustainable development and in the implementation of climate policies, including through its Gender Action Plan which is being pushed for finalization at COP 23.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recognizes the role of women in ensuring sustainable livelihoods and by encouraging the equal participation of women in capacity building. The UNCCD Advocacy Policy Framework (APF) on gender recognizes that it is through the full participation of local people, especially women, that efforts to combat desertification can be most effective.

The forthcoming 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women with its priority theme of ‘challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,’ will also signal the determination to make the universe of food, nutrition and agriculture one that is powered by and is empowering for women and girls.

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

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Food Insecurity and Forced Displacement of People: Where do we Draw the Line?

13 October 2017 - 6:30am

Refugees dig for water in a dried up watering hole in Jamam camp, in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

The World Food Programme estimates that more than 100 million people worldwide face severe food insecurity. The situation is most severe in countries affected by conflict and violence including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, South Sudan and Yemen affecting more than 40 million people. Another 22 million people in Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Haiti and Mozambique are affected by the adverse impact of climate change and environmental degradation.

On top of this, more than 30 million people in several of these countries and Somalia are at risk of famine and starvation. The combination of violence and conflict and the adverse impact of climate change have contributed to a global food crisis that is affecting more than 40 countries in the world.

This year’s 2017 World Food Day theme highlights an important subject that is often neglected by international decision-makers as violence and conflict are often seen as the main triggering factors of the protracted migration and refugee crisis. “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development” is an important occasion to raise awareness of the adverse impact of food insecurity, environmental degradation and climate change which exacerbate the refugee and migration crisis.

Idriss Jazairy

During a high-level event at the United Nations in September 2016 on food insecurity and the refugee crisis, the Secretary-General of the United Nations observed that providing access to food to displaced people remains a critical issue:

“Food is a matter of life and death – especially for people in need, like refugees. Many of the millions of refugees in our world are food insecure. They face the grave risk of malnutrition. We have a moral obligation to help them.”

But if food had been available locally in the first place, there would also be far fewer migrants.

The Sahel region of Africa has been in the spotlight for decades owing to the severe environmental alterations that have transformed the region’s outlook. Since 1963, Lake Chad has lost 90% of its volume disrupting the livelihoods of 21 million people living in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon who rely on the lake’s resources to meet their basic needs.

The lack of access to resources owing to the adverse and disruptive effects of climate change has impeded the ability of countries in the Sahel region to create a sustainable economic model fostering economic growth, development and prosperity.

Lingering food insecurity and lack of rural development as a result of climate change and armed conflicts have exacerbated the refugee and migrant crisis. The “protective fencing” of Europe and mass expulsions of forcibly displaced people are not adequate solutions to respond to the unfolding crisis.
Climate change is exacerbating already adverse natural conditions leaving affected people with no other choice than to flee. With the population of Sahel set to increase three-fold to 300 million people by 2050, it is likely that food insecurity and lack of access to natural resources will become issues of growing concern to the region.

A global framework to respond to the adverse impact of climate change on agricultural production, food security and other related issues is needed more than ever.

The situation in Syria is an example of a country that has been severely affected by food insecurity owing to the escalation of armed conflicts. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 9 million Syrians are in need of food assistance as a result of decreasing agricultural output and lowered yields. Syria – once described as the “the breadbasket of Rome” as agriculture constituted once 24% of the country’s GDP – is on the brink of a severe famine that could further starve the majority of its remaining inhabitants. This shows that food insecurity will contribute to forced migration of people as the conflict has severely disrupted farming and food production putting severe pressure on the remaining population. The emigration of farmers has rapidly deteriorated Syria’s agricultural production to a historic rock bottom level.

These examples show that lingering food insecurity and lack of rural development as a result of climate change and armed conflicts have exacerbated the refugee and migrant crisis. The “protective fencing” of Europe and mass expulsions of forcibly displaced people are not adequate solutions to respond to the unfolding crisis.

Providing for adequate livelihood opportunities and revitalising the agricultural sector in countries severely affected by the loss of human capital as well as empowering rural women constitute an Ariadne thread towards the solution. Furthermore, countries hosting and providing protection to displaced people also deserve support.

Refugees and migrants in the Middle East are in need of food assistance as the steady arrival of displaced people is putting pressure on host countries to identify solutions to their plight. The solution to the crisis is not just national or regional. It is global.

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

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Forcing Displaced Nigerians May Worsen Humanitarian Crisis

13 October 2017 - 5:11am

“Boko Haram came in the dark of night,” recalls Haja (17). “They killed my husband.” She fled with their young baby, Mommodu. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council / Michelle Delaney

By Jan Egeland
Maiduguri City, Nigeria, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

Haja grabbed her eight children and fled as Boko Haram set her home ablaze two years ago. Today we sit in her hut in a displacement camp, and she wonders how she is going to keep her children fed. I’ve spoken to many families in Nigeria’s north-eastern Monguno town. Their stories paint a horrifically detailed picture of the brutal violence these communities have endured over the past eight years.

The Nigerian Armed Forces have been at war with the Islamic extremists Boko Haram since 2009, fighting a battle that has seen well over 20,000 people killed. Recent military gains have pushed the jihadists back. In response, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks on softer targets like marketplaces and camps sheltering displaced people. Civilians have become the preferred pawns in this senseless conflict.

Borno State – the crisis’s epicentre – saw the highest number of attacks this year since 2013. Also on the rise is the appalling use of children as human bombs. We have seen four times as many so far this year, compared to the whole of last year. Here in northeast Nigeria, no place is sacred, no person is safe.

Despite these dangers, many government officials are keen to see communities move back home. This is usually a cause we should all champion. But the unfortunate truth is that pushing people back now will have harmful consequences.

Too scared to return

In the largest report of its kind to date, the Norwegian Refugee Council surveyed over 3,400 households – representing 27,000 displaced people – in Borno State, to find out whether communities were ready to return home. The results were undisputable.

Eighty-six per cent of people interviewed say they are too scared to return in the immediate future. Over 80 per cent of those cite insecurity as the main factor preventing them returning. An overwhelming majority tell us they feel safer in camps than where they were before. A startling statistic, considering camps are increasingly the target of suicide attacks.

Even if the security situation improves, our Not Ready to Return report found that half of the displaced people interviewed say their homes were destroyed in the conflict. There’s nothing left waiting for them.

Let them decide

Communities who decide to return home must do so of their own free will. Reports of coercion to expedite people moving home are most concerning. Returns must be safe, voluntary and informed.

Before displaced Nigerians return home, two key things must be done. Firstly, the overall security situation must improve. Communities must be, and feel, safe. This is the primary responsibility of the government and its armed forces.

Secondly, resources must be channelled into rebuilding homes and re-establishing livelihoods. Families need a roof over their head and the prospect of making a living if they are to have any chance of starting anew. This is where the international community can support.

We can provide them with the tools to do so – construction material, farming equipment, start-up capital and livestock. My organisation also counsels returnees on housing, property and legal rights. This is just a first step.

A toxic mix

Forced returns and new bouts of violence are just two ingredients adding to the danger that is stewing in the northeast. We managed to avert a famine striking Nigeria, for now. But let’s not forget that the food crisis persists. More than 5.2 million Nigerians do not have enough to eat.

The violence, coupled with food insecurity and a push to move people home prematurely, will certainly create a toxic mix ideal for exasperating the humanitarian crisis in the northeast.

Now is the time for long-term strategies, not short-term thinking – for Hajja’s sake and the 1.8 million other Nigerians anxiously waiting to return home.

The post Forcing Displaced Nigerians May Worsen Humanitarian Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Land Settlement Empowers: Bangladesh Sets an Example

13 October 2017 - 4:26am

Afrusa Begum and Shafiul Alam receiving land title from Deputy Commissioner Md Mahbubul Alam Talukder

By Shahiduzzaman
Maijdee, Noakhali (Bangladesh), Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

History was made for 400 landless families in the remote char lands of Noakhali district. On October 11, they all received land titles from the government for which they had waited for over two decades. In Bangladesh, as in other countries, the title is a permanent legal ownership document.

Over a thousand people, including the landless families, children, friends and neighbours, gathered under a big colourful ‘pandal’ (marquee) near Saddam Bazar of Nolerchar. It was a sunny but very hot day, with temperatures between 37 to 39 degrees Celsius. Everybody was sweating in the sweltering heat but it didn’t matter because this was a day for celebration, a day they had waited for a very long time.

At noon when the top district official, Deputy Commissioner Md. Mahbubul Alam Talukder arrived, everyone gave him and the accompanying officials a warm welcome by standing up and clapping. Soon the officials began announcing names of the beneficiaries of land titles. The very first ones to be called were Afrusa Begum (68) and her husband Shafiul Alam (72).

They both looked frail and older than their real age. They walked slowly to the dais to receive the land title from DC Talukdar. Both of them broke down, saying they had waited for 25 years for this day and never thought that they would get the land title in their lifetime. They are now free from uncertainty and no one can uproot them from their land again. Other recipients of land titles, Rima Akther, Md. Shamim, Panna Begum and Md. Asraf were all overjoyed and could not hold back their tears.

landlees families are waiting in a colourful pandal.


Panna Begum and Md. Asraf came with their one-month-old baby girl Noor Jahan Begum. Panna said, “Our life was horrible and full of tension. Never, ever settled down peacefully, moving all the time. Today I am so happy I can’t express it in words. I can only say that my daughter will take her first step on our own land and grow up with a secure life. We are saluting the government and the people who helped us.”

Officials of the Char Development and Settlement Project Phase IV (CDSP IV) helped to make their dreams come true. The project introduced processes to improve the position of women in regard to land rights. A wife’s name is now written first in the legal document. As a result, she is legally entitled to 50 percent of the land.

This strengthens her position in the family and in many decision-making processes. Also, if the husband abuses his wife or there is evidence of any illegal actions on his part, legal action can now result in him losing his share of the land.

DC Talukder addressing the land title recipients said, “The government is very much pro people and has come to your door to address your issues. Today is one of its best examples shown by concerned officials of the district who have come to you to hand over the land titles properly. We hope you will now build a future with happy families without any fear and further complication.”

He warned not to undermine the rights of women on the land. “If we receive any allegation in this regard then the government will take serious measures to protect women rights,” the Deputy Commissioner said.

The CDSP IV project started in March 2011 and is co-financed by the Government of Bangladesh, the Government of the Netherlands, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The 89.2-million-dollar project has focused on the development of five new chars of Noakhali district and those adjacent to Meghna river. The chars are: Char Nangulia, Noler Char, Caring Char, Urir Char and Char Ziauddin. These encompass around 30,000 hectares of char land, with an estimated population of 155,000 persons in 28,000 households.

Panna begum and her one year old daughter Noor Jahan Begum.


The local people said that in all respects CDSP IV is a blessing for them. Since 1994, when the project started, unrest in char lands has reduced and land grabbers have left the area.

The dispute over char lands in this area has gone on for more than half a century. It is government property and the landless people should have priority to get land allotments but this was not always upheld. Groups of land grabbers, power brokers and musclemen in collaboration with some local corrupt officials controlled the char lands illegally for decades.

Several violent incidents happened between the landless people and land grabbers. Many people lost their lives and assets, and women were often violated by the land grabbers who treated the landless people as slaves.

Bazlul Karim, Deputy Leader of the CDSP IV, described how hard it was to settle the landless people, particularly to counter and free the land from grabbers and power brokers. He said, those people brought under permanent settlement have now risen above the poverty line.

“Nowadays, you will not find any really poor people within 300 square kilometers of the project areas. Because, in addition to land title, the beneficiaries are also receiving a package of support services including credit and healthcare facilities,” said Karim.

“The most challenging aspects were developing the char lands for habitat by constructing enclosures, embankment, culverts, sluice gates and roads to connect remote areas. It has also ensured pure drinking water to people by setting up hundreds of tubewells around the project area and helped prepare the land for cultivation. Now settlers are getting four times more crops than before. On the other hand, massive planting has been undertaken in the char lands. So, it has become real green fields to enjoy,” the deputy leader said.

Panna Begum and Md. Asraf.


The Land Settlement Adviser of the project Md. Rezaul Karim said, “Since CDSP’s launch in 1994 all along it has been a tough job to settle the many issues around land titles. Anyway, we have successfully completed Phase I to III. Now Phase IV (CDSP IV) is ongoing, where IFAD came forward with huge support to carry out the activities of the project. This Phase has targeted distribution of land titles to 14,000 people by the year 2018. The progress is quite good. To date 11,538 families have received their land titles, so we have enough time to achieve the set target.”

The char lands are formed from sedimentation of the Meghan river. On an average annually 1.1 billion tons of sediment is carried down by the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river system, the largest sediment load in any river system in the world. Much of it forms the raw mass for new developing land in the coastal areas, the ‘chars’, as it is known in Bangla language.

A study conducted by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) said about 1 million people are directly affected by riverbank erosion each year and landlessness in these areas could be as high as 70 percent. Affected people are frequently forced to settle in more disaster-prone areas where displacement can occur several times. On an average each household studied was displaced 4.46 times.

This scenario is prevalent in the CDSP IV area. It is estimated that each year 26,000 people lose their land through Meghna river erosion. It has been observed that the river eroded families from the adjacent areas are migrating into the new char for shelter and livelihooda. The families are mostly from the other coastal chars and offshore islands who have lost their land due to erosion.

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Statement by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Withdrawal by the United States of America from UNESCO

12 October 2017 - 12:45pm

By UNESCO
PARIS, Oct 12 2017 (UNESCO)

After receiving official notification by the United States Secretary of State, Mr Rex Tillerson, as UNESCO Director-General, I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. Credit: UNESCO/Ania Freindorf

Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity.

In 2011, when payment of membership contributions was suspended at the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference, I said I was convinced UNESCO had never mattered so much for the United States, or the United States for UNESCO.

This is all the more true today, when the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security, to counter racism and antisemitism, to fight ignorance and discrimination.

I believe UNESCO’s work to advance literacy and quality education is shared by the American people.

I believe UNESCO’s action to harness new technologies to enhance learning is shared by the American people.

I believe UNESCO’s action to enhance scientific cooperation, for ocean sustainability, is shared by the American people.

I believe UNESCO’s action to promote freedom of expression, to defend the safety of journalists, is shared by the American people.

I believe UNESCO’s action to empower girls and women as change-makers, as peacebuilders, is shared by the American people.

I believe UNESCO’s action to bolster societies facing emergencies, disasters and conflicts is shared by the American people.

Despite the withholding of funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful.

Together, we have worked to protect humanity’s shared cultural heritage in the face of terrorist attacks and to prevent violent extremism through education and media literacy.

Together, we worked with the late Samuel Pisar, Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Education, to promote education for remembrance of the Holocaust across the world as the means to fight antisemitism and genocide today, including with, amongst others, the UNESCO Chair for Genocide Education at the University of Southern California and the UNESCO Chair on Literacy and Learning at the University of Pennsylvania.

Together, we work with the OSCE to produce new tools for educators against all forms of antisemitism, as we have done to fight anti-Muslim racism in schools.

Together, we launched the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education in 2011.

Together, with the American academic community, including 17 UNESCO University Chairs, we have worked to advance literacy, to promote sciences for sustainability, to teach respect for all in schools.

This partnership has been embodied in our interaction with the United States Geological Survey, with the US Army Corps of Engineers, with United States professional societies, to advance research for the sustainable management of water resources, agriculture.

It has been embodied in the celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Washington D.C in 2011, with the National Endowment for Democracy.

It has been embodied in our cooperation with major private sector companies, with Microsoft, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Intel, to retain girls in school, to nurture technologies for quality learning.

It has been embodied in the promotion of International Jazz Day, including at the White House in 2016, to celebrate human rights and cultural diversity on the basis of tolerance and respect.

It has been embodied in 23 World Heritage sites, reflecting the universal value of the cultural heritage of the United States, in 30 Biosphere Reserves, embodying the country’s vast and rich biodiversity, in 6 Creative Cities, as a source of innovation and job creation.

The partnership between UNESCO and the United States has been deep, because it has drawn on shared values.

The American poet, diplomat and Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish penned the lines that open UNESCO’s 1945 Constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” This vision has never been more relevant.

The United States helped inspire the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

In 2002, one year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the late Russell Train, former Head of the US Environmental Protection Agency and founder of the World Wildlife Fund, who did so much to launch the World Heritage Convention, said: “At this time in history, as the fabric of human society seems increasingly under attack by forces that deny the very existence of a shared heritage, forces that strike at the very heart of our sense of community, I am convinced that World Heritage holds out a contrary and positive vision of human society and our human future.”

UNESCO’s work is key to strengthen the bonds of humanity’s common heritage in the face of forces of hatred and division.

The Statue of Liberty is a World Heritage site because it is a defining symbol of the United States of America, and also because of what it says for people across the world.

Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, is a World Heritage site, because its message speaks to policy-makers and activists across the globe.

Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are World Heritage sites, because they are marvels for everyone, in all countries.

This is not just about World Heritage.

UNESCO in itself holds out this “positive vision of human society.”

At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues.

At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack.

This is why I regret the withdrawal of the United States.

This is a loss to UNESCO.

This is a loss to the United Nations family.

This is a loss for multilateralism.

UNESCO’s task is not over, and we will continue taking it forward, to build a 21st century that is more just, peaceful, equitable, and, for this, UNESCO needs the leadership of all States.

UNESCO will continue to work for the universality of this Organization, for the values we share, for the objectives we hold in common, to strengthen a more effective multilateral order and a more peaceful, more just world.

*****

Press Release: Ambassador Haley on the United States’ Withdrawal from UNESCO

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Rights of Rural Women Have Seen Uneven Progress in Latin America

12 October 2017 - 11:34am

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

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Strengthening Youth Potential and the Prospects for a Better Future

12 October 2017 - 8:47am

The United Nations estimates that by 2030, the youth population will be 1.3 billion globally. Credit: Mahmuddun Rashed Manik/IPS

By Bandar Hajjar
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth by developing their potential through education, job creation and instilling the values that advance the cause of humanity is the most daunting, yet promising challenge facing world leaders.

The challenges our society faces today cannot be divorced from those faced by the youth. Recently, the international community agreed on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. We must keep in mind that the relevance of each of the SDG goals to the youth must constantly remain a top priority.

A United Nations report, titled Youth Population Trends and Sustainable Development, estimated that as of 2015, there were 1.2 billion youth in the world, aged 15-24. This figure will increase by 7 percent by 2030, raising the youth population to 1.3 billion globally.

According to UN data, the youth population will grow by 15 percent in Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and by 42 percent in Africa by 2030.

Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar

These major changes in youth population bring tremendous opportunities for economic growth.  It can help emerging economies develop their manufacturing potential and create markets that can help drive the global economy. Yet, lack of proper planning and investment in the youth can be catastrophic, as we have seen in some countries at the beginning of this decade. The world is still grappling with these challenges.

Still, I remain optimistic. Earlier this year, the Islamic Development Bank chose “Youth Economic Empowerment” as a theme for its 2017 Annual Meeting in Jeddah. That meeting brought together youth delegates from the 57 IDB member countries to brainstorm and determine their priorities. The Youth Summit, the first of its kind in the Muslim World, convened talented youth already making a difference in education, entrepreneurship and social mobilization. Here at the IDB, it has been decided by top management to integrate youth initiatives in projects. Drawing on the IDB’s 10-Year Strategic Framework, the President’s 5-Year Programme includes key components related to youth development.

Harnessing the potential of the global youth population to become an asset in their own societies is of paramount importance. With the right policies and strategies, the youth can stay in their home countries to contribute to their economies, rather than seek an uncertain future, crossing borders only to end up in the hands of criminals.

Islam holds youth in high esteem, calls upon them to be active members in society by contributing to socio-economic development. The youth population is one of the strengths of OIC countries if the critical challenges facing this population are addressed. According to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), OIC countries will remain to have the largest share of young population. In 2050, 15.9% of the population in OIC countries are projected to be 15-24 years old. This could result in OIC countries having a solid position in terms of their younger population.

While the youth population can offer great opportunities for OIC countries, neglecting their development issues can threaten socio-economic development and lead to massive youth migration to countries that offer them better life prospects, resulting in a brain drain of OIC countries.
The ILO’s ILO report on the World Employment and Social Outlook for Youth, 2016 estimated that the global youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 13.1 per cent in 2016, rising by half a million to reach 71 million. For the most part, their condition is abysmal, with high unemployment rates and widespread poverty. If the issue of youth migration is to be addressed, it will require efforts and an overarching agenda for youth development in OIC countries by multiple partners, including governments, development institutions, policymakers, economists, civil society agencies and the youth themselves.

The UN World Report (2013) states that “young migrants constitute a relatively large proportion of the overall migrant population”. The high number of youth migrant population can be explained by the “Push-Pull-Facilitation” model proposed by SESRIC (2014).  Push factors are problems and difficulties that compel young people to leave their home country or region, while pull factors are features that attract young people to the country of destination, and facilitation factors are the dynamics that enable the immigration process from the home country to the country of destination. SESRIC (2015) reports that “One of the major push factors is the lack of inclusion of OIC youth in society”, in addition to factors such as unemployment, poor working conditions, lack of political stability, the rise of extremism, poor governance, corruption, poverty and lack of freedom. The main pull factors the report highlights include higher income, better employment prospects, higher living standards, freedom and political stability. Facilitation factors are forces such as globalization, internationalization of professions and advances in information and communication technology, which has led to an increase in young people mobility, as well as easier access to information about education, employment and living opportunities abroad.

In harnessing the potential of youth in OIC countries, I believe that we must consider the push factors by undertaking two critical  objectives: (i) Productive and economically empowered youth who contribute to the development of their societies/communities; and (ii) Engaged and responsible youth who embody and embrace leadership. To achieve these objectives, we need to address the following four strategic pillars: Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Effective Engagement:

 

  1. Education: Education is a key pillar in addressing youth migration. Education is about making the most important investment in human capital to increase the productive capacity of a nation. Quality education generates both immediate and long-term benefits to society. It gives the youth effective skills for employment, or for becoming entrepreneurs, improving living standards and personal and mental health and promoting peace and stability.

 

  1. Employment: Youth unemployment is one of the main push factors forcing young people from OIC countries to migrate in search for a better life. This issue has grown in prominence on the global development agenda. To achieve job growth for the youth, it is essential to strengthen existing industries and develop new, competitive ones. Enhancing trade stimulates the economy, requiring member countries to provide their youth with appropriate vocational skills to seize the job opportunities thus created.

 

  1. Entrepreneurship: Youth entrepreneurship has the potential to integrate youth into the labor market and combat poverty. This in turn will reduce youth unemployment and lead to additional socio-economic outcomes. Islamic microfinance supports the youth’s entrepreneurial endeavors by financing their income-generating activities in proportion to their capacity as business partners. Islamic microfinance institutions support economic empowerment, providing access to credit as well as business opportunities to youth through access to markets, information and technology. They play an important catalyst role in creating startups and in SME growth.

 

  1. Effective Engagement: In addition to becoming economically empowered, the youth of OIC countries should be effectively engaged. First, they should seek to be informed and consulted about decisions affecting their socio-economic well-being, made in their communities. Second, they should be able to take positive and constructive action to influence changes potentially affecting them.

 

The main aim of these pillars is to instill in the minds of the youth such useful character traits as leadership, volunteerism, civic engagement and skill development for lifelong learning and advocacy. This sense of empowerment will create a strong bond between the youth and their communities, eliminating the need to migrate in search for better lives.

In addition to the four strategic pillars above, the following points may be worth considering as key success factors:

  1. Strengthening cooperation with other Multilateral Development Banks and regional institutions to create platforms for learning about youth development issues.
  2. Consulting the youth and allowing their perspective and experience to be included as a part of a high-level, strategic dialogue. This will ensure that initiatives, projects and programmes will take into consideration the youth dimension (including the perspectives of women, the disabled and marginalized youth).
  3. Involving youth in designing, implementing and evaluating youth-related projects and programmes. Platforms to support this role for youth have to be established and maintained.

In conclusion, I share the popular adage that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Islam regards youth as a blessing, and holds them in high esteem. While the youth population can offer great opportunities for OIC countries, neglecting their development issues can threaten socio-economic development and lead to massive youth migration to countries that offer them better life prospects, resulting in a brain drain of OIC countries.

Addressing youth migration in OIC countries is an enormous undertaking. Therefore. I suggest that we adopt a focused, yet comprehensive approach in order to increase the impact and capability of interventions so that the youth in OIC countries can look forward to a more promising future and contribute positively to their countries’ well-being.

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

 

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Transforming Agriculture in Africa

12 October 2017 - 7:48am

Farmer in a field on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Akinwumi Adesina
ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

The African rural world is one I know well. I grew out of rural poverty myself and went to a rural school without electricity and lived in a village where we had to walk for kilometers to find water. We had to study after dark with candles or kerosene lanterns. By God’s grace, I made it out of poverty to where I am today. But for tens of millions of those in similar situations, especially in rural Africa, the outcomes are not like mine. For most, the potential has simply been wasted.

Some 60% of Africans live in rural areas. Such areas are dependent overwhelmingly on agriculture for livelihoods. The key to improving the quality of life in rural areas is therefore to transform agriculture. But the low productivity of farming, the poor state of rural infrastructure, digital exclusion and poor access to modern tools and agronomic information make the quality of life very low in these areas.

Unfortunately not much has changed since I was at my rural school. Economic opportunities are even shrinking for many, with high poverty levels, leading to the repeated inheritance of poverty. As a result, rural youths are discouraged, disempowered and vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists who find decimated rural areas ideal for their activities.

We must pay particular attention to three factors: extreme rural poverty, high rates of unemployment among youths and environmental degradation – what I refer to as the “triangle of disaster”. Wherever these three factors are found, civil conflicts and terrorism take root, destroying people’s ability to work farms and access food markets.

We must invest urgently and heavily in Africa’s rural areas and turn them from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity. In particular, we must create jobs and stable societies in order to disrupt terrorist recruitment campaigns that are taking root in these rural areas. So, we must connect economic, food, and climate security together to have a chance of economic prosperity.

We need to jumpstart the transformation of the agricultural sector. The African Development Bank is leading the way by investing $24 billion in agriculture in the next ten years.

Akinwumi Adesina

In doing so, the Bank wants to encourage agriculture to move away from giving the appearance of a development sector for managing poverty and subsistence to an industrialised food planting and processing business for creating wealth for the owners and decent jobs for the workforce.

Africa imports $35 billion of food net annually, expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025, if current trends continue. Meanwhile, by growing what we do not consume and consuming what we do not grow, Africa is decimating its rural areas, exporting its jobs, eroding the incomes of its farmers, and losing its youth through voluntary migration to Europe and elsewhere.

Imagine what $35 billion per year will do if Africa feeds itself: It is enough to provide 100% electricity in Africa. And $110 billion savings  per year in food imports is enough to close all infrastructure deficits in Africa.

So we must think differently. Africa produces 75% of cocoa but receives only 2% of the $100 billion a year chocolate markets. The price of cocoa may decline, but never the price of chocolates. The price of cotton may fall, but never the price of garments and apparels. In 2014 Africa earned just £1.5 billion from exports of coffee. Yet Germany, a leading processor, earned nearly double that from re-exports.

This is also because the EU imposes a 7.5% tariff charge on roasted coffee but exempts non-decaffeinated green coffee. As a result, most of Africa’s coffee exports to the EU are unroasted green coffee beans sold as an unimproved commodity, but European manufacturers reap the rewards.

We must pay particular attention to three factors: extreme rural poverty, high rates of unemployment among youths and environmental degradation - what I refer to as the "triangle of disaster". Wherever these three factors are found, civil conflicts and terrorism take root, destroying people's ability to work farms and access food markets.
To transform its rural economies Africa must embark on agricultural industrialization and add value to all its agricultural commodities. Governments, while persuading developed countries to change their import priorities for agricultural products, should provide incentives to food and agribusiness companies to locate in rural areas.

We must get youths into agriculture and see it as a profitable business venture not a sign of lacking ambition. That’s why the Bank has rolled out its ENABLE youth program to develop a new generation of young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs. Our goal is to develop 10,000 such young agricultural entrepreneurs per country in the next ten years. In 2016, the bank provided $700 million to support this program in 8 countries and we’ve got requests now from 33 countries.

This is part of the African Development Bank’s larger programme: Jobs for Youth in Africa, with the goal of creating 25 million jobs within 10 years, and a focus on agriculture and ICT. We are investing in skills development in computer sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics to prepare the youths for the jobs of the future.

We know the technologies exist to transform African agriculture. But they remain, for the most part, on the shelves. I have always remembered what Norman Borlaug said: “take it to the farmers”. To achieve this, the African Development Bank and the CGIAR has developed the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) – a new initiative to scale up appropriate agricultural technologies from the CGIAR and national systems, all across Africa. The Bank and its partners plan to invest $800 million in the initiative.

The food and agribusiness sector is projected to grow from $330 billion today to $1 trillion by 2030, and there will also be 2 billion people looking for food and clothing. African enterprises and investors need to convert this opportunity and unlock this potential for Africa and Africans.

This is the transformation formula: agriculture allied with industry, manufacturing and processing capability equals strong and sustainable economic development, which creates wealth throughout the economy.

Africa can feed itself – and Africa must feed itself. And when it does, it will be able to feed the world. In this way today’s African farmers will contribute to feeding the world tomorrow. That is why the African Development Bank set “Feeding Africa” as one of its most important High 5 priorities.

It’s the Bank’s recipe for agricultural transformation of Africa, and we will not stop until we achieve it.

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

 

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Trump, Korea, the Ban, & Where Hope Lies

12 October 2017 - 6:32am

Dr. Joseph Gerson* is Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace and Economic Security Program, Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Co-Convener of the Peace and Planet International Network

By Dr. Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

There is much to celebrate in the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision to award this year’s prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

If the chilling threats of nuclear war being tossed around by Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un weren’t enough to raise concerns about nuclear weapons, press reports of ICAN being awarded the Prize have reminded people that the threat of nuclear war didn’t end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that there remains hope for a nuclear weapons-free future.

While the negotiation of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty has raised hopes around the world, Donald Trump (it is painful to refer to him as president) and his “madman” approach to North Korea give lie to the myth that the P-5’s nuclear arsenals are in “safe hands.”

With his denunciation of diplomacy, and simulated nuclear bomber attacks and tweets asserting that North Korea understands only one thing, Trump has returned humanity to the brink of nuclear catastrophe on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The ten months since Trump’s inauguration have almost inured us to surprise, but this week midst Trumpian chaos we learned that in July Trump urged a ten-fold increase in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and that this may have been the outrage that led Secretary of State Tillerson to describe his boss as a “f…..g moron.”

The reality of the “moron” having his finger on the nuclear trigger is indeed sobering and is the reason legislation has been introduced in Congress to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear war on his own authority.

Time dulls memory and sensibilities. Recall that a year ago Trump didn’t know what the nuclear triad was and suggested that Japan and South Korea should become nuclear powers. He asked why we can’t use nuclear weapons and threatened to use them against “terrorists” (likely including Kim Jung-un. He has also said “I can’t take anything off the table.”

In his first conversation with Vladimir Putin, before labeling the New START treaty a “bad deal”, he had to ask his advisors what it was. Since then, he has pledged to “greatly strengthen and expand” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, called for a nuclear arms race, and launched a Nuclear Policy Review targeted against Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, while Congressional forces press for deployment of land-based nuclear armed cruise missiles in Europe that would sink the INF Treaty.

Compounding these dangers Trump humiliated his Secretary of State’s efforts to pursue diplomacy with North Korea, even when the “Freeze for Freeze” option provides the obvious path back from the nuclear brink. With its B-1 bomber simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, increased tempo of U.S. so-called “freedom of navigation” naval exercises in the South China, as well as others in Black and Baltic Seas, Trump and the Pentagon have increased the danger that unintended incidents or miscalculations could escalate beyond control.

Midst it all, we have the Ban Treaty. As we see with the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Treaty further stigmatizes nuclear weapons as it seeks to outlaw their use, threatened use, development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons, or their transfer and deployment.

The Treaty’s greatest potential appears to be in Europe. I hope that I am wrong, but my fear is that, like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Ban Treaty will give us one more agreement that the nuclear powers refuse to respect.

Two trains are running in opposite directions. One, with the support of most of the world’s governments and international civil society, is racing toward a nuclear weapons-free world. The other, with the additional fuel of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and Trump at the helm in Washington, is burning unimaginable fortunes as it speeds toward nuclear Armageddon.

In addition to further stigmatizing nuclear weapons, the Treaty’s most important contributions may be reminding people around the world of the imperative of nuclear weapons abolition, and the encouragement it gives to people and governments who are working for nuclear disarmament.

That said, the Treaty will be recognized as international law by only those states that sign and ratify it. All the nuclear powers boycotted the ban treaty negotiations. The US, UK, France, and Russia denounced it, falsely claiming that nuclear deterrence kept the peace for 70 years. (Ask the Vietnamese, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Congolese and so many others about that!) Led by the US, each of the nuclear powers is upgrading and/or expanding its nuclear arsenal. With NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, its nuclear weapons, and with the West’s conventional, high-tech and space weapons superiority, Moscow is “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal.

With increased Japanese and South Korean anxieties resulting from Pyongyang’s nuclear threats and growing doubts about reliability of the U.S, “nuclear umbrella,” there are mounting calls from sectors of their elites for their governments to become nuclear powers. We thus could be entering an era of nuclear weapons proliferation, not abolition.

Our future depends on how people and governments respond, and it dictates a global division of labor among nuclear weapons abolitionists. States that negotiated the ban treaty obviously must sign and ratify it as quickly as possible. And, they can do more.

As Professor Zia Mian reminds us, Article 12 requires states parties to make their treaty commitments “part of their political engagement with the nuclear weapon states.” They can dispatch delegations to encourage others to join the treaty, and they can initiate sanctions and boycotts to pressure the nuclear powers.

But winning nuclear weapons abolition still requires building mass movements within the nuclear weapons and “umbrella” states. These nations and our disarmament movements still lie at the crux of the struggle.

The Ban Treaty certainly reinforces popular understanding of the righteousness of Jeremy Corbyn’s and our movements’ commitments to a nuclear weapons free world. Imagine the global reverberations of Britain, led by Prime Minister Corbyn, deciding not to fund Trident replacement. And, across the channel, if just one or two NATO or other umbrella states are led by their people reject the strictures of their nuclear alliances, they could begin to unravel world’s nuclear architecture and unleash a global disarmament dynamic.

For those of us in the world’s nuclear weapons states, the imperative of resistance remains. This includes doing all that we can to prevent war with North Korea and steadfast education about the human costs, preparations for, and dangers of nuclear war that can be brought on by miscalculation and accident, as well as intentionally. We need to highlight the deceit and deficiencies of “deterrence,” and teach about the forces that led to and won the ban treaty.

But good ideas and truth rarely prevail on their own. Frederick Douglass, the 19th century U.S. anti-slavery abolitionist, was right: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

More recently, on the eve of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, then U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon advised that governments alone will not deliver us into a nuclear weapons-free world. We can only reach that promised land with massive popular pressure from below, from international civil society.

For the moment, our best near-term hope may lie in Jeremy Corbyn and the possible Scottish succession from what was once Great Britain. Corbyn has said he will not push the nuclear button, and he has long opposed nuclear weapons and understands the need to invest in social uplift.

The loss of the Faslane on the Scottish coast could leave London without a nuclear weapons base. What the British movement does will thus be critical for human survival and to our struggles in the other nuclear weapons and umbrella states.

ICAN is not the first advocate of a nuclear weapons-free world to receive Nobel Peace Laureate. It was proceeded by the Quaker American Friends Service Committee which protested the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within days of the nuclear attacks; by Joseph Rotblat, the only Manhattan Project senior scientist who resigned because of his moral considerations, and by Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA who denounced nuclear double standards.

Years ago, speaking in Hiroshima, Robblat cut to the quick when he said that humanity faces a stark choice. We can either eliminate nuclear weapons, or we will see their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will tolerate what it experiences as an unjust hierarchy of power, in this case nuclear terror.

*Dr. Joseph Gerson is author of Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World, and With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination.

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