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2/22/2017

Another Sudan Famine

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On 20 February 2017, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of former Unity State of South Sudan and warned that it could spread rapidly without further action. The World Food Programme reported that 40% of the South Sudanese population (4.9 million people) needed food urgently, and at least 100,000, according to the UN, were in imminent danger of death by starvation. UN officials said President Salva Kiir Mayardit was blocking food deliveries to some areas, though Kiir said on 21 February that the government would allow “unimpeded access” to aid organizations.

In addition, parts of South Sudan have not had rain in two years. According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Representative Serge Tissot, “Our worst fears have been realised. Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive. The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.

The reports also warned that about 5.5 million people, half of South Sudan’s population, are expected to suffer food shortages and insecurity by July 2017. According to Jeremy Hopkins, the South Sudan representative for the UN children’s agency, more than 200,000 children are at risk of death from malnutrition in the country.

http://cdn.wfp.org/donate/

10/20/2016

More Murdered: Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionicio George both members of the Unified Peasant Movement (MUCA)

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En Honduras, dos líderes campesinos han sido asesinados: José Ángel Flores era el presidente del Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán (MUCA) y Silmer Dionosio George era uno de los principales organizadores del grupo. Ambos fueron asesinados por hombres armados el martes por la noche al salir de la oficina del MUCA en la comunidad de La Confianza, en el norte de Honduras, Valle del Aguán. Flores había denunciado las amenazas de muerte que recibió varias veces como consecuencia de su trabajo en defensa de la tierra, y la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos le había ordenado al gobierno de Honduras que les brindaran protección a él y a Silmer. Los miembros del MUCA tienen propiedades cooperativas de tierra, y el grupo está bajo presión para vender sus tierras para que empresas privadas puedan construir grandes plantaciones de aceite de palma. Los asesinatos del martes sucedieron en una región de Honduras en la que una zona especial de desarrollo, también conocida como ciudad modelo, se está desarrollando actualmente, lo que crearía una zona de libre comercio especial que opere fuera de la ley del gobierno de Honduras. Muchas de las empresas que presionan para crear zonas especiales de desarrollo en Honduras son apoyadas por el Banco Mundial.

TAKE ACTION: STOP US FUNDING OF VIOLENCE IN HONDURAS!

Demand that your US Congressional Representatives support the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act – HR5474. Since the 2009 coup, solidarity and human rights organizations in the US and in Honduras have worked to stop US funding violence in Honduras. On June 14, 2016, US Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia introduced HR5474. This Act would cut off US funding and support for the repressive Honduran military and national police and end US support for funding of mega-projects against the wishes of the local population. As of September 25, 2016, 41 representatives have signed on in support. Please contact your congressional representatives and find out if they are supporting HR 5474.

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3/18/2016

Indigenous activist Nelson Garcia has been shot dead in Honduras

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Another indigenous activist has been murdered in Honduras amid an escalating wave of repression against the relatives and colleagues of renowned campaigner Berta Cáceres, who was murdered less than two weeks ago.

Nelson García, 38, an active member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh) was killed on Tuesday after a violent eviction carried out by Honduran security forces in a nearby Lenca indigenous community.

García was shot dead in the face by unidentified gunmen as he returned to his family home in Río Lindo, north-west Honduras – about 100 miles south of La Esperanza where Cáceres was murdered at home on 3 March.

3/5/2016

Berta Cáceres Assassinated

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Honduran Indigenous Leader Berta Cáceres Assassinated, Won Goldman Environmental Prize

Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.

In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.

According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.

In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”

Statement from SOA Watch:

HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.

Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.

Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.

Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.

Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.

Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.

Market for natural chewing gum has been growing 25% per year

Filed under: agriculture,markets,mexico — admin @ 8:30 am

The world market for chewing gum is dominated by manufacturers of a product that is actually synthetic rubber, but there remains a demand for the real thing, luckily for some 2,000 Maya families in Quintana Roo. In fact, the production of gum made from natural chicle is seeing strong growth.

Chicle is a natural gum that has traditionally been used in making chewing gum and other products. It is collected from several species of Mesoamerican trees, including the Chicozapote (Manilkara zapota), which is the most common source in

The word chicle comes from the Nahuatl word for the gum, tziktli, meaning “sticky stuff,” although it could also have come from the Mayan word tsicte. Chicle was well known to the Aztecs and to the Maya, and early European settlers prized it for its subtle flavor and high sugar content.

Chicozapote plantations and the commercialization of chicle in the Yucatan peninsula state of Quintana Roo date back generations, although early in the 20th century Japanese interests controlled much of the market.

There was strong demand for natural chewing gum during World War II when the United States government supplied its military personnel with generous amounts of it, sourcing the product from Quintana Roo growers.

It was around that time that the Chiclero Consortium began operations, albeit inefficiently. It stumbled along aimlessly for some 50 years before state governor Mario Villanueva ordered an inspection of nearly 1.3 million hectares of Chicozapote rainforest which by then — in 1997 — had been virtually abandoned.

Villanueva was following the advice of Manuel Alderete, who also suggested he rehabilitate the consortium.

Today, Alderete is the executive director of the Chiclero Consortium, an enterprise that in the intervening 20 years has become a success story and a source of income for many of the state’s indigenous people: 70% of the company is owned by the local Maya community.

The Consortium provides a living for around 2,000 local families, many of whom have been working on the same Chicozapote farms for generations. During the last four years, sales of the consortium’s main product, natural chewing gum, have been increasing at an average annual rate of 25%, with buyers in 45 European, Asian and American countries. Paradoxically, the domestic market is their weakest.

The growth is at odds with international consumption of synthetic chewing gum, which has been declining due to a perception that it is unfashionable and concerns over its sugar content, according to the consultancy Euromonitor International.

Meanwhile, Mayan chicle producers continue to work their 1.3-million-hectare Chicozapote plantation, which has the capacity to be expanded to more than 5 million hectares; another 1,000 are expected to be incorporated into the production process this year. Its gum has also been certified as organic.

The consortium also intends to diversify by including crops naturally related to the Chicozapote tree, such as rainforest pepper (Capsicum baccatum) and RamÛn-nut, or breadnut (Brosimum alicastrum).

There is no shortage of reports offering evidence that many of Mexico’s indigenous people suffer from being sidelined and marginalized, but the story of the Mayan chicle producers is not one of them.

Prior to the overhaul of the gum-producing consortium at the end of the 1990s, farmers were left with just 45% of the value of their product. Today, they receive 85% and are beneficiaries as well of social security programs and savings funds and have access to college scholarships for their children. According to one account, failed general and former Mexican president Antonio LÛpez de Santa Anna, (he who first defeated Davy Crockett and Co. at the Alamo, only to be captured, dozing in his sleeping bag, by Texan Sam Houston a short time later) brought the idea of chewing gum to American consumers. In the 1860¥s Santa Anna was in exile in New York, when, mouth full of “chicle,” he met American scientist Thomas Adams Jr. Adams turned the idea of “chewing gum” into profit with Adams Brand “Chicklets”, established in 1876, and loathed by high-school janitors ever since.

Cavendish Bananas

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A nasty and incurable fungus has spread through the banana-producing countries around the world, and it could be making its way straight toward banana heartland: Latin America, which produces 80 percent of the world’s exports, threatening to drive the most popular variety of banana to extinction. So scientists are focusing on building a better banana to withstand the fungal assault.

Bananas have reached such all-star status in the American diet that we now consume more of them than apples every year. Yet you’re probably used to seeing just one type of banana at your supermarket: the relatively bland yellow Cavendish. It has high yields, ships pretty well, and ripens slowly, making it appetizing to global food distributors.

Unfortunately, the popularity of the Cavendish might also be its downfall. A nasty and incurable fungus known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4) has spread in Cavendish-producing countries around the world, and it could be making its way straight toward banana heartland: Latin America, which produces 80 percent of the world’s exports. For a paper published in November in the journal PLOS Pathogens, researchers confirmed that the version of TR4 afflicting bananas in different countries around the globe‚ including China, the Philippines, Jordan, Oman, and Australia, appears to come from a single clone. Ever since the fungus migrated from Asia and Australia into Africa and the Middle East starting in 2013, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has urged countries to step up their quarantining of sick plants. Yet the Pathogens paper confirms that these quarantines, seemingly the only prevention against the spread of the fungus, which can live in soil for up to 50 years, have mostly failed. “It indicates pretty strongly that we’ve been moving this thing around,” says professor James Dale, one of the world’s experts on bananas and the director of the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities. “It hasn’t just popped up out of the blue.”

The finding seems to confirm every banana grower’s worst fear: that the Cavendish will go down the same way our old favorite banana did. A century ago, Americans ate only Gros Michel bananas, said to have more complex flavor and a heartier composition than today’s Cavendish variety. Then, the monoculture fell prey to the fungal disease Tropical Race 1, or “Panama disease,” which wiped out the crop around the globe. There was nothing anything could do to stop it.

So this time around, rather than attack the fungus, scientists have shifted their efforts into building a better banana to withstand it. Dale’s research team, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has spent 12 years working on TR4. Three years ago, it started a trial on two very promising ideas: (1) inserting a TR4-resistant gene from a different wild banana species from Malaysia and Indonesia, musa acuminata malaccensis, into the Cavendish to create a fungus-resistant version of the popular variety and (2) turning off a gene in the Cavendish that follows directions from the fungus to kill its own cells. Dale says it’s too early to discuss the details of the trials, but the team is “very encouraged by the results” of the experiment with the wild malaccensis banana‚ which means the genetically engineered fruit seems to have successfully resisted TR4.

GMO haters would not be too happy about a rejiggered banana plant. Dale’s introduction of a different GM experiment in 2014, a vitamin-A-fortified banana meant to help deliver nutrients to impoverished Africans, was met with harsh criticism from the likes of Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva, Friends of the Earth Africa, and Food and Water Watch. “There is no consensus that GM crops are safe for human consumption,” they wrote in a letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Regardless of where you land on GMOs, there is another option to consider: We could stop relying on Cavendish bananas. If you’ve ever tasted one of the dozens of small, sweet bananas that grow in regions like Central America and Southeast Asia, you probably aren’t terribly impressed with the United States’ doughy supermarket varieties. Belgium’s Bioversity International estimates that there are at least 500, but possibly twice as many, banana cultivars in the world, and about 75 wild species. The Ruhuvia Chichi of the Solomon Islands is sunset red and cucumber shaped; Inabaniko bananas from the Philippines grow fused together, giving them the name “Praying Hands”; Micronesia’s orange-fleshed Fe’i bananas are rich in beta-carotene. Elsewhere, you can find the Lady Finger banana, the Senorita, the Pink French, and the Blue Java.

But Dale doubts the global food industry will suddenly switch to one of these tempting fruits. “To change over to another variety would be quite challenging, because the growers and shippers have really been set up to use [the Cavendish] around the world.” And he points out, “Even if you did find a replacement, that’s not to say that in 20 years another disease wouldn’t come along and knock it over.”

8/1/2014

RH has become the government of PNG

I have just arrived back from Pomio, where the clear felling of the bush and subsequent oil palm planting are in full swing despite the fact that the vast majority of villagers oppose both. Villagers are powerless to stop these activities which continue even though SABLs have recently supposedly been revoked. This looks likely to have the same status as the police commissioners public order (Dec 2011) that police be pulled out of logging camp sites. The police never were removed, and it is only their continued presence, violence and intimidation that prevents villagers from setting up road blocks to protect their land, gardens and environment.

What is clear to me is that for most local villagers in Pomio the state has shifted away from them and is largely in the pockets of large Malaysian logging companies.

These companies control important governments departments and officials in crucial departments such as Lands, Forestry and the police force. The same applies to other officials in District administration, Local Level Government, Provincial Administration and national government departments. Nearly all sectors of the state have been co-opted into coercive pro-development policies that seek to privatise land and resources without villagers consent.

These logging companies were supported and gave support to the local national member for Pomio who is now in jail for corruption charges. The large funds of money these foreign companies provide at election time has transformed voting into a patron client relationship that supports local, provincial and national government politicians who support the Lease-Lease back schemes (SABLs).

Police and company directors often tell complaining villagers that the land is no longer theirs but belongs to the state which has leased it from them so as to lease it again to the Malaysian companies. The state has become the crucial intermediary in the forced process through which villagers lose control of their resources and especially their land. Much of this depends upon the production of dubious reports by the Lands Department that collects and produces lists of signatures that are highly selective in that they are not the signatures of major clan leaders and of those who represent the majority of villagers.

Through the SABLs and the Private, Public Partnerships, the Somare government created two interlocking policies that have institutionalised corruption in PNG to a point where villagers find it almost impossible to achieve forms of justice concerning the fraudulent nature of state processes that have been effectively dispossessed them of huge areas of land.

Officials in departments like forestry write reports that are not just wrong but are intentionally designed to conceal and legitimise the forced appropriation of land. For example one letter by the local forestry official concerns the late night visit of the armed riot squad to the village of Mu in 2012 where villagers were forced by police to sign English documents that they could not read. This was said to be not at all violent intimidation, but was simply the police correcting an administrative oversight. The riot squad had just gone to collect the names of villagers who had attended a recent meeting over logging, where record keeping had been poorly implemented. None of this explains the swearing and violent demeanour of the armed police and that the signatures were collected forcibly and from many who never went to the meeting. The state is not just incompetent buthas become the crucial instrument for foreign large scale capital, it is state officials who seek to manage and placate opposition to the loss of vast areas of customary local land. They produce the dodgy reports that seek to sanitise and obscure what is actually happening on the ground.

Recently RH has shifted tactics and there has been a movement away from using the violence of the riot squad to intimidate opponents. Instead there is a greater use of courts and restraining orders to prevent the organisation of protests. The cost of legal action has become another form of intimidation that is meant to penalise protesters and their leaders. The judiciary has now become co-opted into this realising a coercive development agenda that has little respect for people’s customary property rights.

Disaster-Prone Caribbean Looks to Better Financing

Filed under: agriculture,caribbean,climate change,disaster,weather — admin @ 4:58 am

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jun 15 2014 – A freak storm, followed by heavy floods in December 2013, will go down in history as the most destructive natural disaster to have hit the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with reported total damages and losses of at least 103 million dollars.

Six months later, the country, which is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), is still in the recovery phase of this crisis, but Tourism Minister Cecil McKee said several lessons have been learned, making the country better prepared for future catastrophic weather events.

“Although Caribbean nations have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, they will pay a heavy price for global inaction in reducing emissions.” — Hela Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the Green Climate Fund “We have been dealing with our river defences and our coastal defences,” McKee told GIP, adding that the government is not only repairing damaged homes but also “relocating a number of persons whose homes are situated on river banks in areas that are obviously going to put them at risk should we have a reoccurrence of such events.”

A slow-moving, low-level trough on Dec. 24 dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain on the Caribbean island states of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica, killing at least 13 people.

Scientists have called the floods the worst disaster in living memory for the small countries, caused by higher-than-average rainfall of 15 inches, which overwhelmed the water systems’ ability to facilitate smooth run-off.

For Mckee, the Christmas disaster was a reminder that “climate change is going to be here with us for some time.”

“If we look at the events of Christmas Eve 2013, I think we can all agree that climate change is affecting not only St. Vincent and the Grenadines but the entire Caribbean in a significant way,” he asserted.

But simply understanding the problem is not enough – many of the island nations in the Caribbean are in dire need of financial resources to assist with mitigation and adaptation.

Caribbean looks to climate finance

Flooding is commonplace in the Caribbean, with Guyana, one of the most flood-prone countries in the region, recently benefitting from a multi-million-dollar credit scheme to guard against flooding. A statement from the World Bank said more than 300,000 people from the flood prone region of East Demerara will benefit from reduced flooding and climate risks as a result of an 11-million-dollar loan from the International Development Association (IDA).

Nearly 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives in this narrow coastal plain, largely below sea level and, therefore, highly vulnerable to climate change.

Extreme rainfall in 2005 resulted in flooding and damages estimated at nearly 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or 465 million dollars at the time.

The impact on poverty was evident and many subsistence farmers, small business operators and vendors were affected.

Sophie Sirtaine, the World Bank’s country director for the Caribbean, said the funds would assist in providing opportunities for all Guyanese by reducing vulnerability to climate change.

“To boost competitiveness, it is essential to address the vulnerability to climate risks and ensure that the skills learnt in the classroom lay the foundation for future work-place success,” she told GIP.

Specifically, the project will upgrade critical sections of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dams and channels; improve drainage capacity in priority areas along the East Demerara coast; and increase flood preparedness by installing instruments to monitor hydro-meteorological data.

The IDA credit to the Government of Guyana has a final maturity of 25 years, with a five-year grace period.

During its annual board of governors meeting held in Guyana last month, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President Dr. Warren Smith said the Caribbean was becoming more aware of the severe threat posed by climate change on a daily basis. “Seven Caribbean countries…are among the top 10 countries, which, relative to their GDP, suffered the highest average economic losses from climate-related disasters during the period 1993-2012.

“It is estimated that annual losses could be between five and 30 percent of GDP within the next few decades,” he added.

According to Smith, despite the region’s high vulnerability and exposure to climate change, Caribbean countries have failed to access or mobilise international climate finance at levels commensurate with their needs.

Caribbean countries are hoping that the South Korea-based Green Climate Fund (GCF) would prove to be much more beneficial than other global initiatives established to deal with the impact of climate change.

GCF Executive Director Hela Cheikhrouhou, who delivered the 15^th annual William Demas Memorial lecture during the CDB meeting, said that the concern expressed by Small Island Developing States all over the world finds a strong echo in the Caribbean, where the devastating effects of hurricanes have been witnessed by many.

“Although Caribbean nations have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, they will pay a heavy price for global inaction in reducing emissions,” Cheikhrouhou warned.

The GCF came into being at the 16^th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) held in Cancun, Mexico.

Its purpose is to make a significant contribution to global efforts to limit warming to two degrees Celsius by providing financial support to developing countries to help limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

There are hopes that the fund could top 100 billion dollars per annum by 2020.

“Our vision is to devise new paradigms for climate finance, maximise the impact of public finance in a creative way, and attract new sources of public and private finance to catalyse investment in adaptation and mitigation projects in the developing world,” Cheikhrouhou said.

Selwin Hart, climate change finance advisor with the CDB, said the GCF provides an important opportunity for regional countries to not only adapt to climate change but also to mitigate its effects.

McKee said the region is also putting measures in place to mobilise financial support in events similar to what affected the three OECS countries in December 2013.

“Countries are being asked to place monies in regional holding systems that would allow the region to respond more [efficiently] and I think that we are looking more and more to the international bodies and the more developed countries”, which are largely responsible for climate change, for assistance, he told GIP.

CODRINGTON, Barbuda, Jun 30 2014 (GIP) – The 1,800 residents of the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda are learning to adapt as climate change proves to be a force to reckon with, disrupting not just the lives of the living but also the resting places of those who died centuries ago.

United States-based archaeologist Dr. Sophia Perdikaris said when Hurricane Georges hit in 1998, it did a lot more than turn the spotlight on the island’s shrinking coastline. “One of the sure things that will happen as a result of climate change is that one-third wetlands will engulf the one-third lowland…so that will leave us with 21 square miles of usable land.” — John Mussington

“In the early years when I first started coming to Barbuda, it was because hurricane activity had exposed a lot of archaeology and it was an effort to do rescue. A human skeleton from 450 AD was exposed in the area called Seaview,” Perdikaris told GIP.

“In fact, some of the archaeology [including the human skeleton] that we are now housing in the newly formed museum was excavated by Hurricane Georges.”

Perdikaris, a professor of anthropology and archaeology at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, said some of the findings coming out of Barbuda point to climatic shifts in weather conditions at the same time that the northern part of Europe was experiencing the little Ice Age.

“Similar signatures are coming out of Barbuda that actually have the same stories in Greenland, Iceland and the North Coast of Africa,” she said. “Hence, Barbuda is not just a small island in the Caribbean but actually a major part of bigger weather events in the circum Atlantic.”

Perdikaris said one of the things that Barbudans are faced with today is “a big word, climate change – what does it really mean and how is it affecting people’s lives and what can they do to change it?”

But she noted that the residents are very adaptive.

“We do find solutions with the help of the amazing expertise of the local people because they are the best experts for their local environment,” she said.

“We are trying to gather enough information to see what our challenges are and how we move forward; and then find the funding resources and technology to make that happen.

“We are monitoring erosion in many parts of the island and we also have been testing the wells to see whether the water is safe to drink or whether the salinity has been changing; all of these efforts in order to assess the three aquifers that are under Barbuda,” she added. Another project being developed on the island is aquaponics, the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics (growing plants without soil), amid a growing realisation that climate change will likely seriously threaten food security in Barbuda.

“There are diminishing resources in the sea. It is problematic to grow crops if you have a drought or if you only have salty water to water them so we have developed an aquaponics facility,” said Perdikaris.

Dr. Perdikaris said climate change has forced the residents of the island with a single village to make changes to their way of life and also to put measures in place to secure their future.

“As glaciers melt because of high temperatures what it’s doing to the rest of us is actually increase the sea level, and by increasing the sea level a number of things are taking place,” she said. “With a low-lying island like Barbuda, one of our main concerns is how much of the island, how fast, will actually be under water.

“As the sea waters are rising, they are not only claiming land but they are actually claiming the coral reefs,” Perdikaris added.

Marine biologist and environmentalist John Mussington said the warning by scientists that the 62-square-mile [161-square-kilometre] island is becoming one of the most vulnerable spots due to the consequences of climate change is not being taken lightly.

“Barbuda is flat; the highest point is just over 100 feet. Now with climate change predictions they are talking about several metres in terms of sea level rise. When you look at the present topography of Barbuda, it is 62 square miles. A third of Barbuda is taken up by lagoons and wetland systems. “Another third is what we call the lowlands. One of the sure things that will happen as a result of climate change is that one-third wetlands will engulf the one-third lowland to become two-thirds wetlands,” Mussington told GIP.

“So that will leave us with 21 square miles of usable land for sustaining communities. That is the reality we are facing.”

Barbuda’s culture is firmly based in a “living off the land concept” that Mussington said is fast becoming a thing of the past with the advent of climate change.

“We want to sustain the fact that Barbuda has a tradition of its people living off the land and one of the things we are going to face in terms of challenges from climate change is we are not going to be able to do that,” he said.

“If we are going to survive we have to overcome those challenges, hence the direction we are taking in terms of being able to continue to feed ourselves protein wise and vegetable wise.”

The entire population is being educated in aquaponics technology, a method of growing crops and fish together in a re-circulating system.

“We had a dream in 2012 of actually helping the situation in Barbuda by being able to guarantee that we can continue to get our protein source in the form of fish as well as to produce vegetables in spite of what was going to happen and what is happening from climate change,” Mussington said.

“In the aquaponics technology that we are pioneering we now house in our tanks 4500 tilapia.

“We have to find solutions in order to continue living on the island. That is why aquaponics turned out to be one of those things that we are pushing because the end result of the climate change consequences is that our coral reefs are going to suffer, our beaches are going to be shifting and changing,” Mussington added.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jun 26 2014 (GIP) – The Caribbean region’s bid to become food secure is in peril as farmers struggle to produce staple crops under harsh drought conditions brought about by climate change. But scientists are fighting back, developing drought-tolerant varieties which are then distributed to farmers in those countries most severely affected.

“We are mainly affected by issues of drought and…CARDI has been looking at methods of sustainable management of production using drought tolerant varieties. We are working with certain commodities and doing applied research aimed at producing them in the dry season,” Dr. Gregory Robin, CARDI representative and technical coordinator for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), told GIP.

“We’re starting first with the crops that are more significantly affected by drought. We take, for example, dasheen, which is a crop that requires a lot of moisture and I’m working with that crop in St. Vincent and St. Lucia,” he said.

“Validation will serve Jamaica, Grenada, Dominican Republic – all the islands that produce dasheen. Sometimes it’s not cost-effective to do activities in all the islands so some of the sweet potato work done here can be used in St. Kitts, Barbados and islands with similar agro-ecological zones and rainfall patterns,” he added.

The Trinidad-based CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute), which has worked to strengthen the agricultural sector of member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for more than 30 years, is at the forefront of the research.

“CARDI has a body of professionals around the region so if we have any issues of climate change and drought, CARDI is a body of scientists that is available to all the islands of the CARICOM region,” Robin said.

Another crop being given special attention is sweet potato. Robin explained that for the Caribbean region, sweet potato is very important as a food security staple and foreign exchange earner.

“We’re working with the crops that we think are going to be affected most. Sweet potato can take a certain amount of moisture stress but dasheen and crops that require a high level of moisture are not going to be standing up so well to moisture stress, so we are starting with those with a high requirement of moisture first,” he said.

Noting that irrigation is key to productivity, the CARDI official explained that, “I have been working here for the past seven years and it’s the first time I’ve seen it so dry and it’s highlighting the point that we need to look at our rainwater harvesting systems.”

Climate change has also forced Guyana, considered the bread-basket of the Caribbean, to develop new varieties.

“We have also been growing different varieties of crops that are resistant to salt water because one of the impacts of climate change is that the salt water will creep more into the inland areas and so we are looking at salt-resistant rice for example; looking at crops that are much more resilient to dry weather and that can withstand periods of flooding,” Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy told GIP.

“We’ve been doing things like shade technology, drip irrigation, using technology and methods and utilising animals and crops that are far more resilient to extreme weather conditions.”

In addition to developing drought-tolerant varieties, CARDI is also actively developing new technologies to assist farmers with irrigation.

“I remember when I started in agriculture probably 20 years ago farmers used to irrigate using a drum and a bucket,” Bradbury Browne told GIP.

But he said over the years CARDI has introduced drip irrigation technology and other types of irrigation technology.

“For example if I want to apply 3,000 gallons of water to an acre of sweet potato I can programme [the irrigation system] so that I don’t have to be there physically to be turning on a hose or a pipe and there would be no issue of flooding if I am called away on an emergency,” said Browne, who now serves as a field technician at CARDI.

Meanwhile, longtime legislator in Antigua and Barbuda Baldwin Spencer noted that more frequent and extreme droughts are expected to become a feature of Caribbean weather.

And he said the impact of such drought conditions will increase heat stress, particularly for the more vulnerable, such as the elderly.

“Despite the decline in the production and export of major agricultural commodities from the OECS, agriculture remains an important sector in the economic and social development of the region from the stand-point of food security, rural stability and the provision of input to other productive sectors,” said Spencer, who served as prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda from March 2004 until Jun. 12 this year.

“These benefits are at risk from climatic events and this risk only increases as the climate continues to change,” he said.

Experts project that decreased production levels of major crops combined with increasing food demand will pose large risks to all aspects of food security globally and regionally including food access, utilisation and price stability.

The World Bank said food security is consistently seen as one of the key challenges for the coming decades and by the year 2050, the world will need to produce enough food to feed more than 2.0 billion additional people, compared to the current 7.2 billion.

It said most of the population growth will be concentrated in developing countries, adding pressure to their development needs.

The World Bank added that to meet future food demand, agricultural production will need to increase by 50-70 percent, according to different estimates. And this will happen as the impacts of climate change are projected to intensify overall, particularly hitting the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

7/31/2014

La Via Campesina calls for the International Treaty on seeds to reject biopiracy

Filed under: agriculture,corporate-greed,markets,nicaragua — admin @ 4:46 pm

(Geneva, 7th of July 2014) The International Treaty on seeds (ITPGRFA) celebrated on July 3 in Geneva its 10th anniversary. It has been recognizing for a decade now farmers’ rights to use, exchange and sell their seeds. By organizing the sharing of seeds gathered from peasants’ field in 131 countries, it makes a critical contribution to global food security. Given climate change is on the rise, these local seeds are often the only ones guaranteeing harvests, while varieties selected in laboratories to work with chemical inputs are unable to adapt to any unexpected stress.

The success of the Treaty should not however mask its broken promises. The industry has still to service the debt contracted when “borrowing” for free seeds from peasants to create its commercial seeds. As such, the Treaty is unable to fulfil the sharing of benefits. Meantime, peasants lose their right to use the seeds they generously gave to the Treaty, as the industry contaminates these seeds with its engineered genes or patent them based on their natural features. Farmers’ rights cannot remain a statement of general intent and if the Treaty persists to trample on these rights, farmers cannot carry on to graciously give their seeds.

Without effective safeguard mechanisms for farmers’ rights and fair benefit sharing, along with concrete measures against patents on life, the seeds bank of the Treaty will become biopirates’ commons.

This Treaty must change, and La Via Campesina is ready to assist.

More on www.viacampesina.org

El Nino Triggers Drought, Food Crisis in Nicaragua

Filed under: agriculture,climate change,nicaragua — admin @ 4:29 pm

The Las Canoas lake in Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time Nicaragua is visited by the El Nino phenomenon, leaving local people without fish or water for their crops.

MANAGUA, Jul 10 2014 – The spectre of famine is haunting Nicaragua. The second poorest country in Latin America, and one of the 10 most vulnerable to climate change in the world, is facing a meteorological phenomenon that threatens its food security.

Scientists at the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) say the situation is correlated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a weather cycle that periodically causes drought on the western Pacific seaboard and the centre of the country, in contrast with seasonal flooding in the north and the eastern Caribbean coast.

Crescencio Polanco, a veteran farmer in the rural municipality of Tipitapa, north of Managua, is one of thousands of victims of the climate episode. He waited in vain for the normally abundant rains in May and June to plant maize and beans.

Polanco lost his bean crop due to lack of rain, but he remains hopeful. He borrowed 400 dollars to plant again in September, to try to recoup the investment lost by the failed harvest in May. ENSO brings drought The warm phase of ENSO happens when surface water temperatures increase in the eastern and central equatorial areas of the Pacific Ocean, altering weather patterns worldwide. Experts at the Humboldt Centre told IPS that in Nicaragua, the main effect is “a sharp reduction in available atmospheric humidity”, leading to “significant rainfall deficits” and an irregular, sporadic rainy season from May to October. Over the last 27 years there have been seven El Nino episodes, and each of them has been associated with drought, they said.

If the rains fail again, it will spell economic catastrophe for him and the seven members of his family.

“In May we spent the money we got from last year’s harvest, but with this new loan we are wagering on recovering what we lost or losing it all. I don’t know what we’ll do if the rains don’t come,” he told IPS.

His predicament is shared by thousands of small producers who depend on rainfall for their crops. Some 45 kilometres south of Tipitapa, southwest of Managua, campesino (small farmer) Luis Leiva regrets the total loss of three hectares of maize and squash to the drought.

Leiva sells his produce in the capital city’s Mercado Oriental market, and uses the profits to buy seeds and food for his family. Now he has lost everything and cannot obtain financing to rent the plot of land and plant another crop.

“The last three rains have been miserable, not enough to really even wet the earth. It’s all lost and now I just have to see if I can plant in late August or September,” he said with resignation.

Rainfall in May was on average 75 percent lower than normal in Nicaragua. According to INETER, there was “a record reduction in rainfall”, up to 88 percent in some central Pacific areas, the largest deficit since records began.

Based on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), INETER has warned that the drought could last until September.

The nightmare is affecting all farmers on the Pacific coast and in the centre of the country. Sinforiano C·ceres, president of the National Federation of Cooperatives, a group of 300 large farming associations, expounded the sector’s fears to the inter-institutional National Board for Risk Management.

“We have already lost the early planting (in May), and if we lose the late planting (in August and September) there will be famine in the land and a rising spiral of prices for all basic food products,” he said at a forum of producers and experts seeking solutions to the crisis. There is a third crop cycle, in December, known as “apante”.

The country’s main dairy and beef producers raised their concerns directly with the government. Members of the Federation of Livestock Associations and the National Livestock Commission told the government that meat and milk production have fallen by around 30 percent, and could drop by 50 percent by September if the ENSO lasts until then, as INETER has forecast.

Moreover, the National Union of Farmers and Livestock Owners said that over a thousand head of cattle belonging to its members have perished from starvation.

It also warned that the price of meat and dairy products will rise because some livestock owners are investing in special feeds, vitamins and vaccines against diseases to prevent losing more cattle on their ranches.

The agriculture and livestock sector generates more than 60 percent of the country’s exports and earns 18 percent of its GDP, which totalled 11 billion dollars in 2013, according to the Central Bank of Nicaragua.

In the view of sociologist Cirilo Otero, head of the non-governmental Centre for Environmental Policy Initiatives, a food crisis would have a particularly severe economic impact on a country that has still not recovered from a plague of coffee rust that hit plantations in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America over the last two years.

“Thousands of small coffee farmers and thousands of families who depended on the crop have still not been able to recover their employment and income, and now El NiÒo is descending on them. I don’t know how the country will be able to recover,” he said.

According to Otero, if ENSO continues its ravages for the rest of the rainy season, thousands of families will suffer from under-nutrition in a country where, in 2012, 20 percent of its six million people were undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

“Producers do not know how to mitigate the effects of climate change, nor the mechanisms for adapting to soil changes. Unless the government implements policies for adaptation to climate change, there will be a severe food crisis in 2014 and 2015,” he said.

The government has set up commissions to monitor the phenomenon, as well as information meetings with farmers and livestock producers.

The authorities have also expanded a programme of free food packages for thousands of poor families, and are providing school meals for over one million children in the school system, as well as a number of small programmes for financing family agriculture.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered urgent imports in June of 20.5 million kilograms of beans and 73.5 million kilograms of white maize to supply local markets, where shortages were already being felt. The government’s intention is to lower the high prices of these products while hoping for a decent harvest in the second half of this year.

The price of red beans has doubled since May to two dollars a kilogram, in a country where over 2.5 million people subsist on less than two dollars a day, according to a 2013 survey by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge.

Across Latin America: Struggle for Communal Land & Indigenous Autonomy

Filed under: agriculture,corporate-greed,culture,ideology,markets,mexico — admin @ 5:52 am

Communal Land and Autonomy

Entering into the heart of indigenous communities in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, land of the Mixtecs and the Zapotecs, is like opening a door to a world of shapes, textures, colors and flavors that contrasts with the Western culture that governs daily life in big cities and westernized families. These indigenous communities are strongly tied to the mountains, to the smell of coffee that mixes with the smell of pines and the fragrance of flowers, to the legends that are woven by looms into clothing. All this takes place in lands that cannot be bought or owned.

If poetry, legends, clothing and food are the ways in which the ancestral culture of the indigenous Oaxacans is materialized and maintained, then “uses and customs” is the living expression of the political system of these communities, which has maintained its legitimacy historically, like any other state system. Of the 570 municipalities in the state of Oaxaca, 418 are governed through the traditional form of political organization of “uses and customs.” Only 152 have adopted a conventional system using political parties, a striking reality that is not just relevant in Mexico but in all of Latin America.

As an example, Bolivia is the country with the largest indigenous population in Latin America; according to the UN, 62 percent of Bolivians are part of an indigenous group. Only 11 local governments, however, are recognized as autonomous, with the right to elect their authorities through their own “uses and customs” system.

Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s 31 states, has the country’s highest level of diversity as well as the largest indigenous population. Of the 3.5 million inhabitants in the state, according to official statistics, more than one-third of the population is of indigenous origin (1,165,186 individuals). However, it wasn’t until 1995 that all the municipalities’ normative systems of “uses and customs” were legally recognized in Oaxaca’s state congress.

Each town has its owns rules about the best forms of organization; they are not homogenous. Despite the diversity of systems, two things are broadly characteristic of all of them: the cargo system and the assembly.

The assemblies, which are the highest decision-making bodies, are attended by all the heads of families, women and men, where they deliberate in person the town’s issues in order to arrive at consensus. Designated authorities preside over the assemblies. There are different levels of assembly: the domestic, neighborhood, the town council, the civil, the religious and the agrarian assemblies. The general assembly is the product and culmination of these previous assemblies. It is the maximum indigenous authority and it is the body that decides the rules that the govern community life.

Authorities are not elected through a traditional electoral system, but through a hierarchical system of cargos, which are unpaid positions that each member of the community must fulfill. In order to get to the position of mayor, a citizen would have to have served in a series of positions (cargos) throughout his or her life in the community. In general, individuals begin performing cargos at an early age. A 10-year-old child can start participating in community activities by doing some type of service in the church, ringing the daily bells that are used by the community as important daily markers of time, for example.

From there the process of transition from one cargo to the next begins, each one deliberated in the assembly. The communities in Guelatao de Juarez, inhabited by no more than 800 inhabitants, and Capulalpam de Mendez, with 1,500 inhabitants, located 60 kilometers from the capital city of Oaxaca in the Northern Sierra mountain range, are examples where these traditions are maintained. In these communities one begins in a position of topil (general assistant) or police assistant, then becomes a third-level council member or project manager, then second-level council member on education, ecology or health, followed by a first-level council member on taxes, community mediator and finally president.

There are two presidents. One is municipal, dedicated to the administration of the urban area, overseeing services like education, sewage and potable water. The other is the president or commissioner of communal resources, who administrates agrarian issues, such as communal land, since private property does not exist. There are also other cargos: mayor, treasurer and secretary. In Guelatao, there is a consulting board that is made up of elderly members of the community and people with experience who are well respected in the community.

In Guelatao, Jesus Hernandez Cruz just began his cargo as mayor. His hands, still rough from years as a small-scale farmer, grip a pencil and notebook where he takes his notes. He sits at a desk made of wood from the region. He was a professor and farmer for 34 years and retired in 2005, which is when he began his community service. He has a pension and continues to cultivate his tejocote fruit trees, from which he makes jellies.

Jesus Hernandez Cruz, mayor of Juarez Guelatao. The mayor explained the logic of participating in cargos starting at the bottom, doing things like cleaning public spaces, before reaching a position like mayor. “The objective is that the person comes to understand the problems and needs of the community in order to be able to resolve them once they assume more importantcargos. In this collective manner, each person is accommodated in certain activities according to their abilities. No one earns money here. In this way, one gains knowledge about the realities of the community. The only thing one earns as one completes a good service is the respect and recognition of the town,” he said.

In Guelatao, the inhabitants are compensated with services like water and public electricity that they don’t have to pay for. “Cargos are a service to the community, and in exchange, the community offers benefits to these citizens, such as gifts that are provided by the municipal authority in return for service. Because of this, it’s looked down upon if an individual does not fulfill his or her cargo and then comes back to the authority to ask for favors. If one does not want to fulfill the service – thecargo – without being compensated, it is preferable for this person to leave the town or that person will no longer enjoy these benefits,” writes Gabriela Canedo Vasquez, author of An Indigenous Conquest: Municipal Recognition of “Uses and Customs” in Oaxaca.

Community celebrations are also important times for the towns. Communities put on at least one celebration annually, where everyone participates and the assembly names a commission to be responsible for it, work which is also part of the cargosystem.

Collective work, cleaning the community in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca. Foundations

Two means of community communication are the loud speakers that are usually located in the center of town and the community radio station. From there authorities announce festivals, assemblies and tequios, or collective work that is done for community benefit. “We recently invited everyone to clean the highway that marks the boundary with the community of Ixtlan. This type of service also serves to integrate people into a sense of community,” said Sa?l Aquino Centeno, the commissioner of communal resources in Capulalpam de Mendez.

The elements that sustain the organizational community structure are the knowledge and values that have prevailed throughout their history. “We must understand what we are, not the `I’ or the `you,’ but the `we,’ and we should hold onto these principles in order to stop the interference of the vulgar and shameless principles of individualism. We shouldn’t enter into competition except to reproduce that which will be shared,” said Jaime MartÌnez Luna, an indigenous Zapotec anthropologist. “We are against development because it is linear and requires growth; we consider ourselves to be circular, in a spiral, and it’s because of this that men and women are not the center of the natural world. We are not owners of nature; we are owned by nature.”

Additionally, “Earth is considered to be our mother and we cannot do violence to her because she gives us life. We respect seeds because our grandparents taught us that they cry if they are not cared for; the grandparents say that the Mother Earth gives us food and when we die she receives and hugs us,” said Silvestre OcaÒa LÛpez, of the indigenous group Tlahuitoltepec Mixes in Oaxaca, who does not hesitate to mark the difference between the way of thinking in her town and Western thinking. “Within the Western worldview, the earth is a product,” OcaÒa LÛpez said. “For us in indigenous towns, we see it as our mother. She does not belong to us; we belong to her.”

Precedents

The indigenous rights lawyer Francisco LÛpez B·rcenas has immersed himself in the historical context of the indigenous communities of Oaxaca, and affirms that the debate about indigenous rights has existed since before the creation of the Mexican state. “It resumed on January 10, 1825, when the first Federal Constitution was being promulgated, which established in its fifth article that administratively it would be divided into counties, parties and towns; these last would be administrated by a city council made up of mayors, council members and mediators, as long as the town’s population reaches 3,000 `souls.’ In this way, the state of Oaxaca recognized the form of organization that indigenous communities had used since colonial times to resist Spanish oppression.”

In that sense LÛpez B·rcenas assumes that Oaxaca was the first state to pass legislation in the arena of indigenous rights, long before the Mexican government signed the UN’s ILO-Convention 169 regarding Indigenous and Tribal Communities in Independent Countries in 1989. Communal Lands

The land in these towns is communal; it belongs to everyone. There is no private property, not even small plots are sold. The transference of land is done through a transfer of land rights. A father can transfer his land to his children, for example. Everything must go through the assembly. No one can sell the land and no one can buy it.

“If someone here works in the fields that individual is given a parcel of land. But that person must continually work the piece of land. If after three years nothing has been produced on the land, it is transferred to someone else who is interested in farming it. The commissioner is in charge of this,” explained the president of communal resources of Capulalpam.

People’s discussion on mining in Capulalpam Mendez, northern highlands of Oaxaca.

The assemblies can even decree protected communal areas. “We are updating the statute about communalism that governs communal resources. We are going to decree that an area where there are freshwater springs will be protected. We know that there are currently projects to take our land,” the commissioner said.

People that come from other communities cannot acquire land; they can only rent. Nor can they participate in the assembly system automatically. In Guelatao, “the person that moves here has the obligation to report himself or herself to the municipal government in order to be considered for community projects and cargos, but only once the decision has been made by the assembly that they can be accepted,” according to Guelatao’s mayor.

Justice

Guelatao also has a security protocol. “Here the punishments range from jail time – for eight hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, up to three days – fines or forced labor, and are for the benefit of the community. The mediator is the person directly responsible for justice in cases of physical violence, theft and crimes. The mayor is responsible for domestic lawsuits. He is the family mediator. He is also the person in charge of following up with problems that are outside the scope of the mediator. If a situation is very grave, it would require transferring the case to the Public Ministry. But the majority of cases are resolved here,” Cruz explained.

Community Projects

Guelatao’s mayor explained that the community also depends on federal and state resources. “There is an imposition of rules that must be followed with regard to funds destined for municipalities for social development. These resources come from the federal government, to be used for infrastructure and operations,” the mayor said.

In Capulalpam, they also receive outside resources, but fewer. “Communities have grown and improved with their own resources. [The town] is self-sufficient economically,” said the president of communal resources.

The self-sufficiency of the town is based in resources that are generated by five community businesses: a water bottling plant, a mill (there are forests that are managed sustainably within the community), a crushed-gravel pit, a toy factory and an ecotourism project. “Each project has its own administration. The assembly chooses a commission that accompanies each of them. Each project must report to the commissioner regarding economic developments and requests, which are brought up for approval in the assembly, usually every four months,” the president said. The profits are used for social benefit. “No comunero (individuals who administrate and have historically had the right to use or cede communal lands) or citizen receives direct economic support or benefit. Resources are divided according to the needs of the community. The municipal government has some employees, such as a gardener, librarian [and] a person in charge of the cultural center. The project gives a certain amount of money to pay these people,” he added.

But Is It Autonomy?

Little is spoken about autonomy as a concept among people of these communities, although a definition is sought after in academic spaces. It’s possible that a complete concept has not been constructed that includes all the nuances and lived experiences of these towns. It simply manifests in the inter-subjective relationship between human and nature, and how social relationships are mitigated by this relationship to territory, or the Mother Earth, as they call it.

Theatrical representation of gratitude to Mother Earth; the meeting of people in defense of native corn. In the central valleys of Oaxaca.

Autonomy seems to be a daily reality that is breathed and felt in the harmony of the people when they go to participate in the tequio – collective work – or when they attend an assembly, organize to defend their land and territory, and celebrate and dance. The cargos of self-governance are still seen as a symbol of respect for the person who is chosen to give the service without being paid.

The mayor of Guelatao recognizes the existence of a political and social organizational autonomy, but is critical of the role of state and federal government resources in communities. “The government is involved in everything, since they began collecting taxes and issuing public forms of credit. Before the farmer had the field entirely; in that moment we were autonomous. We produced and we provided for ourselves. We didn’t need any resources from the government. Town administration questions were handled through community cooperation. Now we aren’t 100 percent autonomous because we depend on resources from the government,” the mayor said.

For MartÌnez Luna, the anthropologist, autonomy is determined by the degree to which communities guarantee their own food sovereignty. “Autonomy shouldn’t be something that is injected from the outside; it should come from our own capacities – exercised, not developed.”

According to MartÌnez Luna, two other things are necessary to guarantee autonomy. “We have to value what we are because it is in this way that we value what we have, because this allows us to flourish fully. We have to think in a decolonized manner.” Community education is another route. “The value of individualism has been introduced into our way of being; it exists, but we have to fight to eliminate it through community education. Because I am not `I’ or `you,’ we are `us.'”

Threats

Some indigenous communities have been infiltrated by political parties, both from the left and the right, who offer food vouchers and place conditions on governmental economic support that would have had to be provided to small-scale farmers and indigenous individuals anyway. Another influencing factor is that deals are made between construction companies and local governments where the company gives a percentage of their budget designated for a public works project to the authorities or community representatives so that they will accept the project. In some cases, when budgets are larger, such as in the case of wind farm companies, hitmen are contracted or paramilitary groups are created to confront the community and thus give a justification for the interference of the state to re-establish “law and order,” to such a degree that there are indigenous leaders that have been assassinated for refusing to accept these projects.

“We recognize that we must confront the plundering by transnational companies and the harassment of bad governments through their political parties that offer programs and money that corrupt many leaders and divide our communities,” states the declaration of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) of the Isthmus region, which took place in March 2014.

While a furious battle has been unleashed for the recognition of indigenous rights and culture in other communities in Mexico and Latin America, in Oaxaca, new legislation is being debated on this very theme while large-scale projects continue to advance.

El Nino Triggers Drought, Food Crisis in Nicaragua

Filed under: agriculture,climate change,nicaragua,weather — admin @ 5:47 am

The Las Canoas lake in Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time Nicaragua is visited by the El Nino phenomenon, leaving local people without fish or water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS MANAGUA, Jul 10 2014 (IPS) – The spectre of famine is haunting Nicaragua. The second poorest country in Latin America, and one of the 10 most vulnerable to climate change in the world, is facing a meteorological phenomenon that threatens its food security.

Scientists at the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) say the situation is correlated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a weather cycle that periodically causes drought on the western Pacific seaboard and the centre of the country, in contrast with seasonal flooding in the north and the eastern Caribbean coast.

Crescencio Polanco, a veteran farmer in the rural municipality of Tipitapa, north of Managua, is one of thousands of victims of the climate episode. He waited in vain for the normally abundant rains in May and June to plant maize and beans.

Polanco lost his bean crop due to lack of rain, but he remains hopeful. He borrowed 400 dollars to plant again in September, to try to recoup the investment lost by the failed harvest in May. ENSO brings drought The warm phase of ENSO happens when surface water temperatures increase in the eastern and central equatorial areas of the Pacific Ocean, altering weather patterns worldwide. Experts at the Humboldt Centre said that in Nicaragua, the main effect is “a sharp reduction in available atmospheric humidity”, leading to “significant rainfall deficits” and an irregular, sporadic rainy season from May to October. Over the last 27 years there have been seven El Nino episodes, and each of them has been associated with drought, they said.

If the rains fail again, it will spell economic catastrophe for him and the seven members of his family.

“In May we spent the money we got from last year’s harvest, but with this new loan we are wagering on recovering what we lost or losing it all. I don’t know what we’ll do if the rains don’t come,” he said.

His predicament is shared by thousands of small producers who depend on rainfall for their crops. Some 45 kilometres south of Tipitapa, southwest of Managua, campesino (small farmer) Luis Leiva regrets the total loss of three hectares of maize and squash to the drought.

Leiva sells his produce in the capital city’s Mercado Oriental market, and uses the profits to buy seeds and food for his family. Now he has lost everything and cannot obtain financing to rent the plot of land and plant another crop.

“The last three rains have been miserable, not enough to really even wet the earth. It’s all lost and now I just have to see if I can plant in late August or September,” he said with resignation.

Rainfall in May was on average 75 percent lower than normal in Nicaragua. According to INETER, there was “a record reduction in rainfall”, up to 88 percent in some central Pacific areas, the largest deficit since records began.

Based on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), INETER has warned that the drought could last until September.

The nightmare is affecting all farmers on the Pacific coast and in the centre of the country. Sinforiano C·ceres, president of the National Federation of Cooperatives, a group of 300 large farming associations, expounded the sector’s fears to the inter-institutional National Board for Risk Management.

“We have already lost the early planting (in May), and if we lose the late planting (in August and September) there will be famine in the land and a rising spiral of prices for all basic food products,” he said at a forum of producers and experts seeking solutions to the crisis. There is a third crop cycle, in December, known as “apante”.

The country’s main dairy and beef producers raised their concerns directly with the government. Members of the Federation of Livestock Associations and the National Livestock Commission told the government that meat and milk production have fallen by around 30 percent, and could drop by 50 percent by September if the ENSO lasts until then, as INETER has forecast.

Moreover, the National Union of Farmers and Livestock Owners said that over a thousand head of cattle belonging to its members have perished from starvation.

It also warned that the price of meat and dairy products will rise because some livestock owners are investing in special feeds, vitamins and vaccines against diseases to prevent losing more cattle on their ranches.

The agriculture and livestock sector generates more than 60 percent of the country’s exports and earns 18 percent of its GDP, which totalled 11 billion dollars in 2013, according to the Central Bank of Nicaragua.

In the view of sociologist Cirilo Otero, head of the non-governmental Centre for Environmental Policy Initiatives, a food crisis would have a particularly severe economic impact on a country that has still not recovered from a plague of coffee rust that hit plantations in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America over the last two years.

“Thousands of small coffee farmers and thousands of families who depended on the crop have still not been able to recover their employment and income, and now El Nino is descending on them. I don’t know how the country will be able to recover,” he said.

According to Otero, if ENSO continues its ravages for the rest of the rainy season, thousands of families will suffer from under-nutrition in a country where, in 2012, 20 percent of its six million people were undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

“Producers do not know how to mitigate the effects of climate change, nor the mechanisms for adapting to soil changes. Unless the government implements policies for adaptation to climate change, there will be a severe food crisis in 2014 and 2015,” he said.

The government has set up commissions to monitor the phenomenon, as well as information meetings with farmers and livestock producers.

The authorities have also expanded a programme of free food packages for thousands of poor families, and are providing school meals for over one million children in the school system, as well as a number of small programmes for financing family agriculture.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered urgent imports in June of 20.5 million kilograms of beans and 73.5 million kilograms of white maize to supply local markets, where shortages were already being felt. The government’s intention is to lower the high prices of these products while hoping for a decent harvest in the second half of this year.

The price of red beans has doubled since May to two dollars a kilogram, in a country where over 2.5 million people subsist on less than two dollars a day, according to a 2013 survey by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge.

6/27/2014

E. coli outbreak linked to sprouts; hummus, dips, walnuts recalled

Filed under: agriculture,consumer,disease/health,usa — admin @ 3:52 pm

This has been a big week for food product recalls and the risk of food borne illness. Hamburger nearly kills Michigan man

Seven confirmed and three likely cases of E. coli infection linked to raw clover sprouts have been reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Beef recall expands Each year one out of every six Americans is sickened by a food borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some of the biggest food borne illness outbreaks since 2001. Click here for tips on how to keep your food safe. Each year one out of every six Americans is sickened by a food borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some of the biggest food borne illness outbreaks since 2001. Click here for tips on how to keep your food safe. Cantaloupes tainted with salmonella infected more than 260 people across 24 states in October 2012. Three people in Kentucky died and 94 were hospitalized. Investigators determined Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc. of Owensville, Indiana, was the source of this outbreak. Cantaloupes tainted with salmonella infected more than 260 people across 24 states in October 2012. Three people in Kentucky died and 94 were hospitalized. Investigators determined Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc. of Owensville, Indiana, was the source of this outbreak. Salmonella in a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, sickened 425 people and hospitalized 55 in the spring and summer of 2012. The product was used most often to make “spicy tuna” sushi, according to the CDC. Salmonella in a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, sickened 425 people and hospitalized 55 in the spring and summer of 2012. The product was used most often to make “spicy tuna” sushi, according to the CDC. In September 2011, listeria in cantaloupes left 30 people dead in what was the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food borne illness since the CDC started keeping track of listeria cases in 1973, according to the agency. In September 2011, listeria in cantaloupes left 30 people dead in what was the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food borne illness since the CDC started keeping track of listeria cases in 1973, according to the agency. Between February and August 2011, the Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. recalled more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey after tests revealed a strain of salmonella. The outbreak killed one person and sickened more than 130. Between February and August 2011, the Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. recalled more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey after tests revealed a strain of salmonella. The outbreak killed one person and sickened more than 130. In summer 2010, more than 1,900 people were reportedly sickened by salmonella found in eggs produced by Iowa’s Hillandale Farms, which voluntarily recalled about a half-billion eggs nationwide. In summer 2010, more than 1,900 people were reportedly sickened by salmonella found in eggs produced by Iowa’s Hillandale Farms, which voluntarily recalled about a half-billion eggs nationwide. Authorities shut down a processing plant in Texas in October 2010 after four deaths were tied to listeria-infected celery produced at the site. The Texas Department of State Health Services ordered SanGar Fresh Cut Produce to recall all products shipped from its San Antonio plant. Authorities shut down a processing plant in Texas in October 2010 after four deaths were tied to listeria-infected celery produced at the site. The Texas Department of State Health Services ordered SanGar Fresh Cut Produce to recall all products shipped from its San Antonio plant. Between April and August 2008, 1,442 people in 43 states were infected with salmonella from Mexico-grown jalapeÒo and serrano peppers. At least 300 people were hospitalized, and the infection may have contributed to two deaths, according to the CDC. Walmart stores in four states recalled jars of serrano peppers as a result. Between April and August 2008, 1,442 people in 43 states were infected with salmonella from Mexico-grown jalapeÒo and serrano peppers. At least 300 people were hospitalized, and the infection may have contributed to two deaths, according to the CDC. Walmart stores in four states recalled jars of serrano peppers as a result. Nine people died from salmonella-infected peanut butter between September 2008 and April 2009. The Peanut Corp. of America had sold the tainted peanut butter in bulk to King Nut, which recalled its products. More than 700 people were infected and 166 hospitalized. Nine people died from salmonella-infected peanut butter between September 2008 and April 2009. The Peanut Corp. of America had sold the tainted peanut butter in bulk to King Nut, which recalled its products. More than 700 people were infected and 166 hospitalized. In the summer of 2006, more than 200 people became infected with E. coli from spinach grown on a single California field. Investigators traced the prepackaged spinach back to Natural Selection Foods and baby spinach sold under the Dole brand name. Five deaths were linked to the outbreak. In the summer of 2006, more than 200 people became infected with E. coli from spinach grown on a single California field. Investigators traced the prepackaged spinach back to Natural Selection Foods and baby spinach sold under the Dole brand name. Five deaths were linked to the outbreak. During 2005 and 2006, four large outbreaks of salmonella infections hit 21 states in the United States. Tainted tomatoes being served in restaurants were found to be the cause. Investigators linked the produce to fields in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. During 2005 and 2006, four large outbreaks of salmonella infections hit 21 states in the United States. Tainted tomatoes being served in restaurants were found to be the cause. Investigators linked the produce to fields in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Pre-sliced Roma tomatoes purchased at deli counters in Sheetz gas stations infected more than 400 people in the summer of 2004. Two other smaller outbreaks in the United States and Canada also occurred that summer and were linked back to a tomato-packing house in Florida. Pre-sliced Roma tomatoes purchased at deli counters in Sheetz gas stations infected more than 400 people in the summer of 2004. Two other smaller outbreaks in the United States and Canada also occurred that summer and were linked back to a tomato-packing house in Florida. Listeria-infected sliced turkey killed eight and infected 46 others in 2002. Three pregnant women had fetal deaths. Two processing plants recalled 30 million pounds of meat following the outbreak. Listeria-infected sliced turkey killed eight and infected 46 others in 2002. Three pregnant women had fetal deaths. Two processing plants recalled 30 million pounds of meat following the outbreak. In 2001, cantaloupe was again the culprit. Salmonella tainted the fruit that killed two, hospitalized nine and infected 50 in an outbreak that started in Mexico. In 2001, cantaloupe was again the culprit. Salmonella tainted the fruit that killed two, hospitalized nine and infected 50 in an outbreak that started in Mexico. Worst food borne illness outbreaks Cantaloupe Tuna Cantaloupe Ground turkey Eggs Celery Peppers Peanut butter Spinach Tomatoes Roma tomatoes Deli meats Cantaloupe

5/24/2014

Greenhouse Gardening

Filed under: agriculture,antigua,caribbean,climate change,resource,weather — admin @ 4:37 am

Antigua is one of the most drought-prone countries in the Caribbean. So whenever it rains, the inhabitants generally regard the weather as “showers of blessing”.

But that is starting to change. Many farmers now see the rains as a curse and are now fighting an uphill battle to save their crops, vital for both the local and foreign markets.
“The yield and lifespan [of crops in a greenhouse] basically are three times as much as open-field production.” — Delrie Cole

“We are a drought-prone country,” Ruleta Camacho, senior environmental officer in the ministry of agriculture, stated. “The issue now is that due to the impact of climate change, we are having exacerbated drought and exacerbated rainfall events.”

Heavy rainfall can damage crops and high humidity brings with it an infestation of pests and diseases, increasing the consumption of pesticides.

“We are having large amounts of rain in very short times. There are a number of communities that are affected by flood conditions, communities where the livelihoods of the population could be affected,” Camacho added.

One such community is Jonas Road where Delrie Cole has been farming for the last three years. But since Cole introduced greenhouse technology to his farm, he is no longer at the mercy of the rains.

With the greenhouses he is also able to grow his vegetables – cilantro, parsley, basil, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkins and tomatoes – during periods of drought or deluge.

“The need for the greenhouses came about because of climate change and a lack of production in the summer season when you have more stressful conditions,” he said.

“Due to the changing climate we are having hotter summers and it’s a pretty difficult time when you have the plants being stressed and the fruits are falling from the trees.

“The greenhouse basically gives you that edge where you can better operate in terms of control, cutting down some of the humidity that you would have during the summer,” he explained.

Greenhouse farming, which is cultivation of plants inside a building with glass walls and roof under controlled conditions, has become necessary with climate change.

Temperature and humidity can be controlled, making it possible for farmers to grow crops year-round.

“The yield and lifespan basically are three times as much as open-field production,” said Cole, who has been a farmer for more than 30 years.

“We are doing crops which are running 12 months, so whereas you would have planted a field that is carrying us through 12 months, farmers in the open would have been planting three crops within that same length of time and their yield would be less.”

Farmers in Antigua stand to benefit from the Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) project being implemented by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The ministry of agriculture has identified the threat of heavy rainfall on cash crops such as lettuce and tomatoes,” Susanna Scott, coordinator of the RRACC project, said.

“A lot of damage could result from intense rainfall, which is expected to increase with climate change and also in time of drought the impact of the dry weather on these crops is severe as well,” she said. “So what we are looking at doing is investing in greenhouses to provide a protective area for crop growing.”

Antigua’s main agricultural exports include cotton to Japan and fruits and vegetables to other Caribbean territories.

Hot peppers and vegetables are also exported to the United Kingdom and Canada. Other agriculture products are bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, livestock and pineapples.

Agriculture is currently a rather insignificant part of the economy, making up just four percent of GDP. However, it appears that cultivation is on the rise, with approximately 300 acres of land planted with vegetables.

Antigua has also been campaigning to encourage more youth to get involved in agriculture and there is evidence of some success.

Oraine Halstead and Rhys Actie, who are both under the age of 25, are full-time farmers.

“As a boy growing up with my grandmother, she was involved in planting vegetables and I got a little knowledge of it and fell in love with it,” Actie, a national of St. Lucia who moved here at the age of nine years and is now 23, said.

Halstead, who has been a farmer for two and half years, said farming is a very fulfilling career.

“I love to be around plants, taking care of them. It’s a joy to see them grow to maturity and the food they produce,” he said.

In the wake of climate change, greenhouse farming is seen as the only way to protect crops and manage a better yield than in normal condition. Farming under controlled condition protects crops from wind, rain, sun and precipitation.

The advantages of vegetable production in tropical greenhouses include higher yield and quality; reduced risks for quality and yield; less susceptibility to disease and damage caused by heavy rainfall; extended harvest time; reduced water consumption; and better use of fertiliser and pesticides.

“People are more keen as to what they consume and where it’s coming from. We are doing vine ripening so the flavour is good. Consumers are knocking on our doors because of the quality and the taste of our tomatoes,” Cole said.

4/7/2014

Agrarian Reform

Filed under: agriculture,brazil — admin @ 6:52 am

Brazilian farmer Isabel Michi’s day starts before dawn, when she goes out to the organic garden on her small five-hectare farm that she runs with help from her husband and occasionally their children. Starting at 5 AM, the 42-year-old farmer of Japanese descent plows the soil, plants seeds and seedlings, fertilises, harvests, and carefully tends the plants in her greenhouse.

She acquired the farm in 2002 thanks to a swap in a settlement that emerged 10 years earlier as part of the government’s agrarian reform programme.

The settlement, Mutir„o Eldorado, is in the rural municipality of SeropÈdica, an area with 80,000 inhabitants located 70 km from Rio de Janeiro, a city that is home to agricultural research institutions and organisations that provide support to small farmers.

Six years ago, Michi took a radical step and decided to go 100 percent organic, abandoning all chemical products.

On average, chemical fertilisers and pesticides absorb 70 percent of the income of small farmers in Brazil, according to experts.

Michi is a cofounder of the group Serorg‚nico, made up of 15 small farmers, which has become a local leader in supplies of chemical-free seeds and seedlings.

The farmer, who is a Nisei – the term used for second-generation Japanese immigrants – said she was deeply affected by the death of one of her brothers at the age of 37. He died of lung cancer, even though he had never smoked. Michi blames his death on the intensive use of agrochemicals on the farm of their parents, who came to Brazil in the 1960s.

“In my family we worked the land with many pesticides. We were young and the damages they caused were not well-known then,” Michi said during a visit to her farm. She was one of the youngest of eight siblings, from a family who settled in another part of the state of Rio de Janeiro. “We were very poor; we managed to harvest a truckload of food, but we didn’t have money,” she said.

“It was a really hard life,” said Michi, who has worked in the countryside since the age of 13.

Michi stopped using agrochemicals on her crops when she married Augusto Batista Xavier, 51, who she met in 1992, the first time she visited an organic farm in a neighbouring state.

“When we moved to this land, I was already thinking about agroecology, because for me, it’s the future,” she said.

The land in SeropÈdica is good for growing mandioc, okra, maize, pumpkin, sweet potato and banana.

Besides these vegetables and fruits, Michi is also growing 25,600 organic seedlings in her new greenhouse, to supply Serorg‚nico.

Her husband’s job managing a cattle farm ensures them a steady income. But he helps her with the heaviest tasks in his free time. Their three children, between the ages of 14 and 16, also lend a hand when school is out.

On average, Serorg‚nico produces three tonnes of food a month, most of which is sold in the circuit of organic farmers markets in wealthy neighbourhoods in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

For Michi, chemical-free farming is part of a holistic philosophy, which also takes into account the social and economic welfare of farmers and of consumers of fresh farm products.

But many organic farmers find it hard to survive in the face of competition from those who use more conventional farming methods at a much lower cost.

Although ecological products in Brazil cost between 30 and 50 percent more than food produced with agrochemicals, demand has grown approximately 30 percent in recent years.

JosÈ AntÙnio Azevedo EspÌndola, a researcher with the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, pointed out to IPS that the number of organic farmers is still limited.

“There is potential for growth, but there is also a long road ahead,” he said. “In the last few years, society’s concern about food quality has grown, from the point of view of the environment and of more sustainable, healthy production.”

EspÌndola is a researcher in EMBRAPA’s agrobiological unit, which is dedicated to developing ecological farming techniques and methods.

Organic farmers represent a mere one percent of agricultural producers in Brazil. In 2006, when the last agricultural census was carried out, there were 5,000 certified ecological farmers, most of them small-scale family producers.

EspÌndola estimates that there are now around 12,000 organic producers, who farm a combined total of 1.75 million hectares. But threats loom on all sides.

Michi’s small farm is one illustration of the problems organic farmers face. It scrapes along, surrounded by quarries, cattle ranches, a sanitary landfill and a projected orbital motorway to be built just two km away.

In other words, the neighbourhood endangers her ecological production.

Trucks hauling rocks and gravel rumble up and down the dirt road in front of her farm, trailing clouds of dust, while the dump gives off a terrible stench and brings swarms of flies. Chemicals used at the dump are also in the air, causing skin ailments among her family.

Given these difficulties, Michi’s family constantly debates whether to move away.

“Besides the bad smell, there is the danger of water pollution,” Michi says. “There are days when I can’t stand working in the garden because of the odours and the flies. We’re an organic community directly affected by developments that arrived here after us.”

Family famers in SeropÈdica are worried about being hemmed in by industrial endeavours, while they put up with pressure from companies interested in setting up shop in the area. “They made me an offer to buy my land, but I turned it down,” Michi said. “I’ll only leave here if I can buy the same thing elsewhere, where I can farm. I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Besides the challenges of using green-friendly farming methods, small-scale organic farmers have to overcome other obstacles, Michi said, like difficulties in access to credit and technical assistance from institutions dedicated to agricultural research and development.

The solution, according to EspÌndola, is for the different parties involved to be brought together by a public policy specifically providing support for the organic farming sector.

“If that doesn’t happen, there will always be a bottleneck limiting production levels,” he said.

Another EMBRAPA technician, Nilton Cesar Silva dos Santos, said that organic farming was undergoing a major restructuring.

“The conditions still don’t exist in Brazil for a 100 percent organic chain of food production,” said Santos, who is earning a graduate degree in sustainable development in rural settlements that emerge from the government’s land reform programme.

Not only the ecological farming sector but family agriculture as a whole is suffering from a scarcity of resources, said Santos, who is behind the first project to set up greenhouses on family farms in the state, with support from EMBRAPA.

Michi’s farm was one of the first four to have a greenhouse installed. Santos said it is possible to improve working conditions for organic farmers while at the same time getting the city “to look to the countryside once again.”

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