SBSTTA and SBI—Biodiversity Meetings Crucial for the Global South Begin

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Biodiversity

More than 1,400 delegates are present at two crucial meetings, where the topic of preserving the planet’s ongoing biodiversity for the benefit of humanity is under discussion. Under the spotlight are the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, synthetic biology, the detection and identification of living modified organisms, and, critically, biodiversity and health.

Over 1,400 delegates, including 600 representing parties or signatories from over 150 countries and a significant delegation of Indigenous Peoples and other observer organizations, including women’s groups are attending two crucial biodiversity meetings in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Over 1,400 delegates, including 600 representing parties or signatories from over 150 countries and a significant delegation of Indigenous Peoples and other observer organizations, including women’s groups are attending two crucial biodiversity meetings in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

NAIROBI, May 14 2024 (IPS) – The 26th meeting of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advisors (SBSTTA) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) started in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday. Over 1,400 delegates, including 600 representing signatories or parties from over 150 countries, are present for the seven-day meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). A large number of members from Indigenous Peoples and other observer organizations, including women’s groups, are also attending the meetings.


SBSTTA will be followed by the meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), another subsidiary body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The SBI will take place from May 20–29 at the same venue.

Opening the meeting on Monday morning, David Cooper, the Acting Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, called on the delegates for a successful meeting.

“A key part of ensuring the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework is to monitor the progress and that’s why finalizing a monitoring framework includes authenticators for the parties to report on. I would like to give my sincere appreciation to all those working on putting together a comprehensive set of authenticators. I encourage you to make full use of what we have achieved so far and let’s make this meeting a success,” Cooper said.

IPS, which is exclusively covering the meetings, has insights into the meetings and presents here the brief history of both the meetings and their significance in larger global biodiversity protection, especially in the global south, including the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the legally binding international biodiversity treaty adopted by the nations in December 2022

SBSTTA: History, Mandate and Role in the COP

SBSTTA was established 30 years ago, in 1994, as a subsidiary body of the CBD during the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD in Nassau, Bahamas. Article 25 of the CBD, which mandated its creation, tasked it with giving the COP timely advice regarding the application of the Convention.

Since then, SBSTTA ‘s main role has been providing assessments of scientific, technical, and technological information relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It typically meets once or twice a year to review and assess relevant scientific information, including reports submitted by Parties, relevant organizations, and stakeholders. Its discussions cover a wide range of topics, including biodiversity loss, ecosystem services, invasive species, genetic resources, and biotechnology.

The main output of SBSTTA meetings is a set of recommendations to the COP, which are based on the scientific and technical assessments conducted during its sessions. These recommendations provide guidance to Parties and other stakeholders on key issues related to the implementation of the CBD.

For example, in 2007, SBSTTA recommended that the biodiversity COP consider the potential impacts of synthetic biology on biodiversity and ecosystems and encourage Parties to undertake further research, risk assessments, and regulatory measures to address any potential risks associated with the release of synthetic organisms into the environment.

This recommendation was later taken up by the CBD COP, leading to the adoption of decisions on synthetic biology, including Decision XIII/17, which encouraged Parties to continue their efforts to address the potential positive and negative impacts of synthetic biology on biodiversity, and take a  precautionary approach.

A more recent example is the SBSTTA’s recommendation from 2018 that the COP should encourage Parties to mainstream biodiversity considerations into sectoral and cross-sectoral policies, plans, and programs, including those pertaining to agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, energy, and infrastructure.

The CBD COP later agreed with this suggestion, which led to the adoption of decisions and guidelines on mainstreaming biodiversity across sectors. One of these was Decision XIV/4, which asked Parties to do more to mainstream biodiversity into relevant sectors and to encourage synergies between the goals of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

SBSTTA and Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

SBSTTA-26 has a large number of issues on its agenda. Most prominent among them are: 1) creating a monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework; 2) synthetic biology; 3) detection and identification of living modified organisms; and 4) biodiversity and health.

It is expected that under the detection and identification of living modified organisms, genetically engineered mosquitoes for Malaria prevention will be discussed. Research on genetically engineered mosquitoes for malaria control has been an area of interest and investigation for several years, although little information is available on it in the public domain.

Scientists in many countries, including in the United States and Brazil, have been exploring various genetic modification techniques to create mosquitoes that are resistant to the malaria parasite or are unable to transmit the disease. One approach involves genetically modifying mosquitoes to produce antibodies that neutralize the malaria parasite when it enters their bodies.

The other approach is to use “Gene Drive Technology,” which involves modifying mosquitoes in a way that ensures the modified genes are passed on to a high proportion of their offspring. Already, many field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes have been conducted or are underway in different parts of the world, most notably those conducted by the company Oxitec in Brazil and the Cayman Islands.

At the SBSTTA, scientific and technical advisors will look closely at the important environmental and ethical considerations related to GE mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization’s 2023 World Malaria Report, there has been an increase in malaria infections all over the world as a result of climate change. However, several countries and organizations have serious reservations against the release of GM mosquitoes, which they believe may have an irreversible and devastating impact on local biodiversity. One of the most vocal organizations against GE/GM mosquitoes has been Friends of the Earth, a US-based environmental advocacy group. Dana Perls, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth, said, “Significant scientific research on genetically engineered mosquitoes is still needed to understand the potential public health and environmental threats associated with the release of this novel genetically engineered insect.”

The SBSTTA is expected to witness passionate discussions, especially from environmental NGOs and faith-based organizations, including the need to ensure that communities are properly informed and engaged in decision-making processes, especially in the global south.

The agenda for the meetings includes creating a monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, synthetic biology, detection and identification of living modified organisms, and biodiversity and health. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The agenda for the meetings includes creating a monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, synthetic biology, detection and identification of living modified organisms, and biodiversity and health. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

SBI: Most Crucial Agenda Items

The SBI was established under the CBD during the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD in 1996. The SBI’s mandate includes providing guidance and recommendations to the COP on matters related to the implementation of the CBD as well as identifying obstacles and challenges that may hinder effective implementation.

Like SBSTTA, SBI also typically meets once or twice a year to conduct its work. Its discussions cover a wide range of topics related to the implementation of the CBD, including national biodiversity strategies and action plans, financial resources and mechanisms, capacity-building, and technology transfer.

Chaired by Chirra Achalender Reddy of India, the SBI in Nairobi has placed several items on its agenda. However, the most crucial ones among them are: 1) resource mobilization and financial mechanisms; 2) a review of the progress in national target setting; and 3) the updating of national biodiversity strategies and action plans.

As IPS recently reported, only a handful of countries have so far been able to submit their updated biodiversity action plans, while the rest are said to be facing multiple challenges in doing so, including a lack of capacity. In fact, Kenya, the host country of these meetings, has not been able to submit their updated action plan yet.

On Monday, in her inaugural address during the opening ceremony of SBSTTA, Ingrid Andersen, the Executive Director of UNEP, acknowledged that a lack of capacity to revise and update their action plans has been reported by several member states. “Capacity building is a serious issue and at the SBSTTA and SBI, this will be seriously discussed,” Andersen said.

David Ainsworth, the Communications Director of UNCBD, said that the capacity is lacking in several areas, including communications (where countries do not know how to communicate to different ministries the need for working together to develop their biodiversity action plans), finance (lack of funding, budgetary constraints), and knowledge.

“Perhaps the most crucial of these is finance and this will be seriously discussed at the SBI,” Ainsworth said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 

Rainy Chiloé, in Southern Chile, Faces Drinking Water Crisis

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Water & Sanitation

Residents of the municipality of Castro, in Chiloé, an archipelago in southern Chile, demonstrate in the streets of their city, in front of the Gamboa Bridge, expressing their fear of threats to the water supply that they attribute to the lack of protection of peatlands, which are key to supplying water for the island's rivers. CREDIT: Courtesy of Chiloé en defensa del Agua

Residents of the municipality of Castro, in Chiloé, an archipelago in southern Chile, demonstrate in the streets of their city, in front of the Gamboa Bridge, expressing their fear of threats to the water supply that they attribute to the lack of protection of peatlands, which are key to supplying water for the island’s rivers. CREDIT: Courtesy of Chiloé en defensa del Agua

SANTIAGO, May 2 2024 (IPS) – The drinking water supply in the southern island of Chiloé, one of Chile’s rainiest areas, is threatened by damage to its peatlands, affected by sales of peat and by a series of electricity projects, especially wind farms.


The peat bog (Moss sphagnum magellanicum) known as “pompon” in Chile absorbs and retains a great deal of water, releasing it drop by drop when there is no rain. In southern Chile there are about 3.1 million hectares of peatlands.

“We condemn the fact that the extraction of peat is permitted in Chiloé when there is no scientifically proven way for peat to be reproduced or planted…. there is no evidence of how it can regenerate.” ¨– Daniela Gumucio

Peat is a mixture of plant debris or dead organic matter, in varying degrees of decomposition, neither mineral nor fossilized, that has accumulated under waterlogged conditions.

The pompon is the main source of water for the short rivers in Chiloé, an archipelago of 9181 square kilometers and 168,000 inhabitants, located 1200 kilometers south of Santiago. The local population makes a living from agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing and tourism, in that order.

“We don’t have glaciers, or thaws. Our water system is totally different from that of the entire continent and the rest of Chile. Since we don’t have glaciers or snow, our rivers function on the basis of rain and peat bogs that retain water and in times of scarcity release it,” Daniela Gumucio told IPS by telephone.

The 36-year-old history and geography teacher said that the Chiloé community is concerned about the supply of drinking water for consumption and for small family subsistence farming.

Gumucio is a leader of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri) and chairs the Environmental Committee of Chonchi, the municipality where she lives in the center of the island.

This long narrow South American country, which stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, has 19.5 million inhabitants and is facing one of the worst droughts in its history.

It’s strange to talk about water scarcity in Chiloé because it has a rainy climate. In 2011 more than 3000 millimeters of water fell there, but since 2015 rainfall began to decline.

In 2015 rainfall totaled 2483 millimeters, but by 2023 the amount had dropped to 1598 and so far this year only 316, according to data from the Quellón station reported to IPS by the Chilean Meteorological Directorate.

The forecast for April, May, and June 2024 is that below-normal rainfall will continue.

A water emergency was declared in the region in January and the residents of nine municipalities are supplied by water trucks.

To supply water to the inhabitants of the 10 municipalities of Chiloé, the State spent 1.12 million dollars to hire water trucks between 2019 and 2024. In Ancud alone, one of the municipalities, the expenditure was 345,000 dollars in that period.

A close-up shot of a peat bog in a watershed on the island of Chiloé, which has the ability to absorb water 10 times its weight. Because of this property, those who extract it today, without any oversight, dry it, crush it and pack it in sacks to sell it to traders who export it or sell it in local gardening shops. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

A close-up shot of a peat bog in a watershed on the island of Chiloé, which has the ability to absorb water 10 times its weight. Because of this property, those who extract it today, without any oversight, dry it, crush it and pack it in sacks to sell it to traders who export it or sell it in local gardening shops. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Alert among social activists

The concern among the people of Chiloé over their water supply comes from the major boost for wind energy projects installed on the peat bogs and new legislation that prohibits the extraction of peat, but opens the doors to its use by those who present sustainable management plans.

Several energy projects are located in the Piuchén mountain range, in the west of Chiloé, where peat bogs are abundant.

“They want to extend a high voltage line from Castro to Chonchi. And there are two very large wind farm projects. But to install the turbines they have to dynamite the peat bog. This is a direct attack on our water resource and on our ways of obtaining water,” Gumucio said.

In 2020, the French company Engie bought three wind farms in Chiloé for 77 million dollars: San Pedro 1 and San Pedro 2, with a total of 31 wind turbines that will produce 101 megawatts (MW), and a third wind farm that will produce an additional 151 MW.

In addition, 18 kilometers of lines will be installed to carry energy to a substation in Gamboa Alto, in the municipality of Castro, and from there to the national power grid.

Another 92 turbines are included in the Tabla Ruca project, between the municipalities of Chonchi and Quellón.

Peat bogs accumulate and retain rainwater in the wetlands of Chiloé and release it drop by drop to river beds in times of drought. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Peat bogs accumulate and retain rainwater in the wetlands of Chiloé and release it drop by drop to river beds in times of drought. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Engie describes its initiatives as part of the transition to a world with zero net greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to the production of clean or green energy.

Leaders of 14 social and community organizations expressed their concerns in meetings with regional authorities, but to no avail. Now they have informed their communities and called on the region’s authorities to protect their main water source.

Local residents marched in protest on Mar. 22 in Ancud and demonstrated on Apr. 22 in Puente Gamboa, in Castro, the main municipality of the archipelago.

Thanks to peatlands, the rivers of Chiloé do not dry up. The peat bogs accumulate rainwater on the surface, horizontally, and begin to release it slowly when rainfall is scarce.

For the same reason, peat is dup up and sold for gardening. In 2019 Chile exported 4600 tons of peat.

The wind energy projects are set up in areas of raised peat bogs, known as ombrotophic, located at the origin of the hydrographic basins.

“We have had a good response in the municipal council of Chonchi, where the mayor and councilors publicly expressed their opposition to approving these projects,” said Gumucio.

Dozens of trees have been felled in Chiloé to install wind turbines and make way for high-voltage towers that will transmit green energy to Chile's national power grid, without benefiting the inhabitants of the Chiloé archipelago. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Dozens of trees have been felled in Chiloé to install wind turbines and make way for high-voltage towers that will transmit green energy to Chile’s national power grid, without benefiting the inhabitants of the Chiloé archipelago. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

The other threat to peatlands

The second threat to the Chiloé peat bogs comes from Law 21.660 on environmental protection of peatlands, published in Chile’s Official Gazette on Apr. 10.

This law prohibits the extraction of peat in the entire territory, but also establishes rules to authorize its use if sustainable management plans are presented and approved by the Agricultural and Livestock Service, depending on a favorable report from the new Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service.

The peatland management plan aims to avoid the permanent alteration of its structure and functions.

Those requesting permits must prove that they have the necessary skills to monitor the regeneration process of the vegetation layer and comply with the harvesting methodology outlined for sustainable use.

But local residents doubt the government’s oversight and enforcement capacity

Dozens of trees have been felled in Chiloé to install wind turbines and make way for high-voltage towers that will transmit green energy to Chile's national power grid, without benefiting the inhabitants of the Chiloé archipelago. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Dozens of trees have been felled in Chiloé to install wind turbines and make way for high-voltage towers that will transmit green energy to Chile’s national power grid, without benefiting the inhabitants of the Chiloé archipelago. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

“We condemn the fact that the extraction of peat is permitted in Chiloé when there is no scientifically proven way for peat to be reproduced or planted…. there is no evidence of how it can regenerate,” said Gumucio.

The activist does not believe that sustainable management is viable and complained that the government did not accept a petition for the law to not be applied in Chiloé.

“We have a different water system and if this law is to be implemented, it should be on the mainland where there are other sources of water,” she said.

But according to Gumucio, everything seems to be aligned to deepen the water crisis in Chiloé.

“The logging of the forest, the extraction of peat, and the installation of energy projects all contribute to the drying up of our aquifers and basins. And in that sense, there is tremendous neglect by the State, which is not looking after our welfare and our right to have water,” she argued.

Peatland is part of the vegetation of the island of Chiloé, but is threatened by unsupervised exploitation, which the authorities hope to curb with a recently approved law, whose regulations are to be ready within the next two years. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Peatland is part of the vegetation of the island of Chiloé, but is threatened by unsupervised exploitation, which the authorities hope to curb with a recently approved law, whose regulations are to be ready within the next two years. CREDIT: Courtesy of Gaspar Espinoza

Scientists express their view

Six scientists from various Chilean universities issued a public statement asserting that the new law is a step in the right direction to protect Chile’s peatlands.

In their statement, scientists Carolina León, Jorge Pérez Quezada, Roy Mackenzie, María Paz Martínez, Pablo Marquet and Verónica Delgado emphasize that the new law “will require the presentation of a sustainable management plan” to exploit peat that is currently extracted without any controls.

They add that management plans must now be approved by the competent authorities and that those who extract peat will be asked to “ensure that the structure and functions of the peatlands are not permanently modified.”

They also say that the regulations of the law, which are to be issued within two years, “must establish the form of peat harvesting and post-harvest monitoring of the peat bog to protect the regeneration of the plant, something that has not been taken into consideration until now.”

They point out that the new law will improve oversight because it allows monitoring of intermediaries and exporters who could be fined if they do not comply with the legislation.

“While it is true that there is concern among certain communities and environmental groups, we believe that these concerns can be taken into account during the discussion of the regulations,” they say.

The scientists reiterate, however, that “peatlands are key ecosystems for mitigating the national and planetary climate and biodiversity crisis” and admit that “significant challenges remain to protect them, although this is a big step in the right direction.”

  Source

Harnessing Science-Policy Collaboration: The Vital Role of IPBES Stakeholders in Achieving Global Nature Targets

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Opinion

Dr. Anne Larigauderie, IPBES Executive Secretary

Dr. Anne Larigauderie, IPBES Executive Secretary

BONN, Germany, Apr 26 2024 (IPS) – In December 2022, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) saw governments worldwide unite behind a set of ambitious targets aimed at addressing biodiversity loss and restoring natural ecosystems, through the Global Biodiversity Framework – known now as the Biodiversity Plan.


As the world gears up to meet these critical commitments for people and nature, success depends very directly on the concrete choices and actions of people from every region, across all disciplines and at every level of decision-making. In this collaborative effort, non-governmental stakeholders of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) are vital actors, in addition to the 146 Governments who are members of IPBES.

But who are IPBES stakeholders? Any individual or organization that can benefit from or contribute to the science-policy work of IPBES is an IPBES stakeholder. They include individual scientists, knowledge-holders, experts and practitioners, as well as institutions, organizations, and groups operating within and beyond the fields of biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people.

There are two main self-organized groups of IPBES stakeholders: ONet and IIFBES. ONet provides a broad space for individuals and organizations to exchange knowledge, align actions and deepen engagement with the work of IPBES—with subgroups from the social sciences, young career researchers and many more. IIFBES is a network to bring together the expertise, perspectives and interests of Indigenous Peoples and local communities interested in IPBES’s work. Both of these ‘umbrella’ groups are instrumental in amplifying diverse voices, knowledge systems, and experience, to strengthen science-policy for biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. This is important not only in support of IPBES, but also to the success of the Biodiversity Plan.

IPBES stakeholders contribute to the achievement of the Biodiversity Plan in three distinct ways. Firstly, they fortify the scientific foundations underpinning policies to protect biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Their expertise, channeled into the IPBES assessments, was instrumental in shaping the targets and indicators of the Biodiversity Plan. IPBES stakeholders will also continue to play a central role in ensuring that the actions to meet these targets are grounded in robust scientific knowledge and evidence.

Secondly, IPBES stakeholders are equipped with the resources and tools provided by IPBES: including Assessment Reports and their summaries for policymakers, to advocate for and effect change. These resources offer invaluable insights into national, regional, and global thematic issues. When considered by decision-makers, they become catalysts for evidence-based policies. Effective dissemination and uptake of these resources are paramount in translating global targets into tangible, on-the-ground initiatives that address local challenges. Consequently, stakeholders can make a substantial contribution by widely disseminating IPBES products and providing information for their effective use.

Thirdly, IPBES stakeholders have a tremendous opportunity to engage in the international forums where policy decisions are explored and made. Their active involvement and participation in decision-making bodies within these forums, coupled with their own extensive networks, foster the exchange of knowledge and resources. Collaborations forged in these settings bridge the gap between science and policy. Many IPBES stakeholders are active participants in the CBD processes, for instance, facilitating the exchange of information between these two bodies and thereby driving the Biodiversity Plan’s effective implementation.

Only through collective action and close collaboration between international institutions, policy actors, scientists, local and Indigenous communities, and other relevant stakeholders can we seamlessly translate science into policy and practice, ultimately achieving the goals of the Biodiversity Plan. This is why more individuals and organizations should seize the opportunity to become active IPBES stakeholders. Joining the IPBES community is not only a commitment to a sustainable future for people and nature but is also a positive response to the pressing global biodiversity crisis.

Dr. Anne Larigauderie is the Executive Secretary of IPBES (www.ipbes.net) – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which provides objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the contributions they make to people, as well as options and actions to protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets.

IPS UN Bureau

 

Solar Power and Biogas Empower Women Farmers in Brazil

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Energy

Leide Aparecida Souza, president of the Association of Residents of the Genipapo Settlement in the rural area of Acreúna, a municipality in central-western Brazil, stands next to breads and pastries from the bakery where 14 rural women work. The women's empowerment and self-esteem have been boosted by the fact that they earn their own income, which is more stable than from farming, and provide an important service to their community. CREDIT: Marina Carolina / IPS

Leide Aparecida Souza, president of the Association of Residents of the Genipapo Settlement in the rural area of Acreúna, a municipality in central-western Brazil, stands next to breads and pastries from the bakery where 14 rural women work. The women’s empowerment and self-esteem have been boosted by the fact that they earn their own income, which is more stable than from farming, and provide an important service to their community. CREDIT: Marina Carolina / IPS

ACREÚNA/ORIZONA, Brazil , Apr 16 2024 (IPS) – A bakery, fruit pulp processing and water pumped from springs are empowering women farmers in Goiás, a central-eastern state of Brazil. New renewable energy sources are driving the process.


“We work in the shade and have a secure, stable income, not an unsteady one like in farming. We cannot control the price of milk, nor droughts or pests in the crops,” said Leide Aparecida Souza, who runs a bakery in the rural area of Acreúna, a municipality of 21,500 inhabitants in central Goiás.

“The Network is the link between the valorization of rural women, family farming and the energy transition. We chose family farmers because they are the ones who produce healthy food.” — Jessyane Ribeiro

The bakery supplies a variety of breads, including cheese buns and hot dog buns, as well as pastries, cakes and biscuits to some 3,000 students in the municipality’s school network, for the government’s school feeding program, which provides family farming with at least 30 percent of its purchases. Welfare institutions are also customers.

The bakery is an initiative of the women of the Genipapo Settlement, established in 1999 by 27 families, as part of the agrarian reform program implemented in Brazil after the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, which has so far settled 1.3 million families on land of their own.

Genipapo, the name chosen for the settlement, is a fruit of the Cerrado, the savannah that dominates a large central area of Brazil. Each settled family received 44 hectares of land and local production is concentrated on soybeans, cassava and its flour, corn, dairy cattle and poultry.

Six solar panels will reduce the costs of the women's bakery, installed on the former estate where 27 families were given land in Acreúna, in the Brazilian state of Goiás, as part of the country's ongoing agrarian reform program. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

Six solar panels will reduce the costs of the women’s bakery, installed on the former estate where 27 families were given land in Acreúna, in the Brazilian state of Goiás, as part of the country’s ongoing agrarian reform program. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

Bakery empowers rural women

The women of the Association of Residents of the Genipapo Settlement decided to create a bakery as a new source of income 16 years ago. They also gained self-esteem and autonomy by earning their own money. In general, agricultural and livestock income is controlled by the husbands.

Each of the women working at the bakery earns about 1,500 reais (300 dollars) a month, six percent more than the national minimum wage. “We started with 21 participants, now we have 14 available for work, because some moved or quit,” Souza said.

A year ago, the project obtained a solar energy system with six photovoltaic panels from the Women of the Earth Energy project, promoted by the Gepaaf Rural Consultancy, with support from the Socio-environmental Fund of the Caixa Econômica Federal, the regional bank focused on social questions, and the public Federal University of Goiás (UFG).

Gepaaf is the acronym for Management and Project Development in Family Farming Consultancy and its origin is a study group at the UFG. The company is headquartered in Inhumas, a city of 52,000 people, 180 km from Acreúna.

Due to difficulties with the inverter, a device needed to connect the generator to the electricity distribution network, the plant only began operating in March. Now they will see if the savings will suffice to cover the approximately 300 reais (60 dollars) that the bakery’s electricity costs.

Iná de Cubas stands next to the biodigester that she got from the Women of the Earth Energy project in the municipality of Orizona, in the center-east of the Brazilian state of Goiás. The biogas generated benefits the productive activities of small farmers in rural settlements, as do solar plants on a family or community scale. Image: Mario Osava / IPS

Iná de Cubas stands next to the biodigester that she got from the Women of the Earth Energy project in the municipality of Orizona, in the center-east of the Brazilian state of Goiás. The biogas generated benefits the productive activities of small farmers in rural settlements, as do solar plants on a family or community scale. Image: Mario Osava / IPS

“It’s not that much money, but for us every penny counts,” Souza said. Electricity is cheap in their case because it is rural and nocturnal consumption. Bread production starts at 5:00 p.m. and ends at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. from Monday to Thursday, according to Maristela Vieira de Sousa, the group’s secretary.

The industrial oven they use is low-consumption and wood-burning. There is another, gas-fired oven, which is only used in emergencies, “because it is expensive,” said de Sousa. Biogas is a possibility for the future, which would use the settlement’s abundant agricultural waste products.

Alternative energies make agribusiness viable

Iná de Cubas, another beneficiary of the Women of the Earth Energy project, has a biodigester that supplies her stove, in addition to eight solar panels. They generate the energy to produce fruit pulp that also supplies the schools of Orizona, a municipality of 16,000 inhabitants in central-eastern Goiás.

The solar plant, installed two years ago, made the business viable by eliminating the electricity bill, which was high because the two refrigerators needed to store fruit and pulp consume a lot of electricity.

The abundance of fruit residues provides the inputs for biogas production, an innovation in a region where manure is more commonly used.

The refrigerators in which Iná de Cubas keeps the fruit and fruit pulp that she prepares for sale to schools in Orizona in central Brazil consume a great deal of electricity. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

The refrigerators in which Iná de Cubas keeps the fruit and fruit pulp that she prepares for sale to schools in Orizona in central Brazil consume a great deal of electricity. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

“I only use an additional load of animal feces when I need more biogas,” said Cubas, who gets the manure from her neighbor’s cows, since she does not raise livestock.

On her five hectares of land, Cubas produces numerous species of fruit for her cottage industry.

In addition to typical Brazilian fruits, such as cajá or hog plum (Spondias mombin), pequi or souari nut (Caryocar brasiliense) and jabuticaba from the grapetree (Plinia cauliflora), she grows lemons, mangoes, oranges, guava and avocado, among others.

For the pulp, she also uses fruit from neighbors, mostly relatives. The distribution of her products is done through the Agroecological Association of the State of Goias (Aesagro), which groups 53 families from Orizona and surrounding areas.

Agroecology is the system used on her farm, where the family also grows rice, beans and garlic. The crops are irrigated with water pumped from nearby springs that were recovered by the diversion of a road and by fences to block access by cattle, which used to trample the banks.

“The overall aim is to strengthen family farming, the quality of life in the countryside, incomes, and care for the environment, and to offer healthy food, without poisonous chemicals, especially for schools,” explained Iná de Cubas.

Biodigesters made of steel and cement, solar energy for different purposes, including pumping water, rainwater collection and harvesting, are part of the “technologies” that the Women of the Earth Energy project is trying to disseminate, said Gessyane Ribeiro, Gepaaf’s administrator.

In the area where Iná de Cubas lives, the project installed five biodigesters and seven solar pumps for farming families, in addition to solar plants in schools, she said.

The eight solar panels on the roof of the Cubas family’s house, in the rural area of Orizona, make small agro-industrial processes viable, adding value to the wide diversity of native fruits from different Brazilian ecosystems, such as the Cerrado savannah and the Amazon rainforest, along with species imported throughout the country’s history. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

Network of rural women

The Women of the Earth Energy Network, brought together by the project and coordinated by Ribeiro, operates in six areas defined by the government based on environmental, economic, social and cultural similarities. In all, it involves 42 organizations in 27 municipalities in Goiás.

The local councils choose the beneficiaries of the projects, all implemented with collective work and focused on women’s productive activities and the preservation of the Cerrado. All the beneficiaries commit themselves to contribute to a solidarity fund to finance new projects, explained agronomist Ribeiro.

“The Network is the link between the valorization of rural women, family farming and the energy transition,” she said. “We chose family farmers because they are the ones who produce healthy food.”

“We offer technological solutions that rely on the links between food, water and energy, to move towards an energy transition that can actually address climate change,” said sociologist Agnes Santos, a researcher and communicator for the Network.

Recovering and protecting springs is another of the Women’s Network’s activities.

Two solar panels run a pump installed in a spring in the forest to pump the water needed by the 29 cows owned by Nubia Lacerda Matias' family in Orizona, in the state of Goiás, near Brasilia. Thus the cows stopped drinking water in the springs, which are now fenced off, vital to protect the water source for local families living downstream. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

Two solar panels run a pump installed in a spring in the forest to pump the water needed by the 29 cows owned by Nubia Lacerda Matias’ family in Orizona, in the state of Goiás, near Brasilia. Thus the cows stopped drinking water in the springs, which are now fenced off, vital to protect the water source for local families living downstream. CREDIT: Mario Osava / IPS

Nubia Lacerda Matias celebrates the moment she was invited to join the movement. She won a solar pump, made up of two solar panels and pipes, which bring water to her cattle that used to damage the spring, now protected by a fence and a small forest.

“It’s important not only for my family, but for the people living downhill” where a stream flows, fed by various springs along the way, she said.

But the milk from the 29 cows and corn crops on her 9.4-hectare farm are not enough to support the family with two young children. Her husband, Wanderley dos Anjos, works as a school bus driver.

Iná de Cubas’ partner, Rosalino Lopes, also works as a technician for the Pastoral Land Commission, a Catholic organization dedicated to rural workers.

In his spare time, Lopes invents agricultural machines. He assembles and combines parts of motorcycles, tractors and other tools, in an effort to fill a gap in small agriculture, undervalued by the mechanical industry and scientific research in Brazil.

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Bali’s Ancient Canine Guardians on the Brink of Extinction

Asia-Pacific, Biodiversity, Civil Society, Conservation, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Conservation

Indigenous Bali dogs hold the potential to unlock hidden secrets about ancestral dog diversity. Credit: Sonny Inbaraj/IPS

Indigenous Bali dogs hold the potential to unlock hidden secrets about ancestral dog diversity. Credit: Sonny Inbaraj/IPS

BALI, Indonesia, Feb 28 2024 (IPS) – Bali’s Island’s ancient canine guardians, the proud descendants of lineages tracing back tens of thousands of years, stand on the brink of extinction. Culling triggered by rabies outbreaks and interbreeding is pushing these living cultural treasures towards a tragic end.


For generations, traditional Bali Heritage Dogs have woven themselves into the fabric of the predominantly Hindu Balinese society. A tapestry woven with ancient folktales binds Bali dogs and the Balinese in a unique bond.

“Guided by the Tri Hita Karana’s principles of harmony and respect, Balinese Hindus forge a unique bond with dogs,” Ida Bawati Sari Budangga, a priest in Dusun Puchang in East Bali’s Desa Ban at the foot of the Gunung Agung volcano, told IPS.

Tri Hita Karana weaves harmony between humans and their environment, evident in offerings to deities and respect for nature’s bounty. Tri Hita Karana also serves as a powerful model for sustainable development, inspiring initiatives that balance human needs with environmental respect.

Balinese treat dogs with care, valuing their presence in their lives and communities. Credit: Dewa Made Suarjana/BAWA

Balinese treat dogs with care, valuing their presence in their lives and communities. Credit: Dewa Made Suarjana/BAWA

“This isn’t merely pet ownership, but an embodiment of their deep connection to all living beings. From sharing meals to participating in temple rituals together, dogs are woven into the fabric of Balinese life, reflecting their reverence for the natural world and its creator,” added the priest.

In Balinese culture, the Mahabharata story of King Yudhistira and his loyal dog plays a significant role in understanding their deep respect for dogs. When Dharma, disguised as the king’s ill-kept dog, is denied entry to heaven by Indra, Yudhistira refuses to enter without him. This act of unwavering loyalty reveals Dharma’s true form as the God of righteousness, highlighting the importance of compassion and connection with all beings. This story continues to inspire the Balinese to treat dogs with respect and care, valuing their presence in their lives and communities.

Driven by interest in the Bali dog’s distinct genetic ancestry, studies such as the University of California, Davis 2005 study “Genetic Variation Analysis of the Bali Street Dog Using Microsatellites” reveal the wide diversity contained in their DNA. Microsatellites is a lab technique that uses genetic markers for studying genealogy, population organization, genome diversity, the process of evolution, and fingerprinting from extracted DNA samples.

The study found that dog populations on Bali had been separated for an estimated 12,000 years and this protracted isolation has shaped Bali’s dog genetics, resulting in distinct genetic variants absent elsewhere in other dogs.

UC Davis’ groundbreaking study unveiled an intriguing genetic link between Bali dogs and ancient Asian breeds such as the Dingo and Chow Chow. This fascinating lineage can be traced back to the Austronesian migration and colonization of South Indochina, which occurred before the last glaciation period when Bali was connected to the mainland through a land bridge that eventually submerged.

“As a result of their genetic isolation, indigenous Bali dogs hold the potential to unlock hidden secrets about ancestral dog diversity, and even shed light on ancient human migration patterns and trade routes,” commented UC Davis’ Dr Benjamin Sacks, adjunct professor, at the university’s school of veterinary medicine.

However, Sacks warned in response to the 2005 study and a study done in 2011: “We don’t have all the questions yet to ask, but they’re emerging every day, and if we lose these populations, we lose the ability to answer those questions.”

In 2008,

 The indigenous Bali dog population has plunged from a staggering 800,000 to a mere 20,000. Credit: Sonny Inbaraj/IPS

The indigenous Bali dog population has plunged from a staggering 800,000 to a mere 20,000. Credit: Sonny Inbaraj/IPS

Bali’s unique indigenous dog breed suffered a brutal blow with the knee-jerk reaction of mass culling, which continues to this day following rabies outbreaks. In a widespread plan to eliminate free-roaming dogs, the indigenous Bali dogs were not spared. Just like in other countries in Asia and Africa, rabies in Indonesia is being sustained within the domestic dog population. It’s not surprising that the public commonly associates rabies with dogs and dog bites.

According to the World Health Organization rabies is endemic in 26 provinces in Indonesia, including Bali, with 74 cases of human rabies out of 66,170 bite cases from suspected rabid animals reported in the country from January to July 2023.

Bali Island had never experienced rabies before, until 2008. Lax surveillance allowed a rabid dog to slip through from Flores, an island ravaged by endemic canine rabies since 1997, setting the stage for Bali’s own struggle with the animal-borne disease.

“Before the outbreak of rabies in 2008, the island had one of the highest dog-to-human ratios in the world,” said Janice Girardi, founder of the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA).

“Mass culling was the first action that the local government authorities took in response to the rabies epidemic. They utilized teams that were armed with blow darts and baits that contained strychnine,” she added.

Culling on its own has never had an effect on rabies in dogs or humans or dog population growth, said Dr Darryn Knobel, professor at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts.

“If you’re culling, you’re going to be diverting resources away from vaccination. The only thing that works is vaccination and you need to vaccinate at least 70 percent of all dogs to get what we term herd immunity,” he explained.

An indigenous Bali dog in East Bali. Credit: Sonny Inbaraj/IPS

An indigenous Bali dog in East Bali. Credit: Sonny Inbaraj/IPS

From 2005 to 2008, the Bali dog population was estimated to be between 600,000 and 800,000, according to a 2018 study. However, due to culling following the 2008 rabies epidemic in Bali, the population of free-ranging dogs has decreased by at least 25 percent, according to the study.

BAWA’s Girardi issued a stark warning about the indigenous Bali dog population, which has now plunged further from a staggering 800,000 to a mere 20,000, according to the NGO’s mapping.

“With such dwindling numbers,” she emphasized, “the chances of purebred dogs finding mates and perpetuating their lineage are vanishingly small, akin to winning the lottery.”

The interbreeding of native Bali dogs with dogs of other breeds that have been introduced to the island is another cause for concern. This occurred when the government of Bali, in 2004, abolished an ancient piece of legislation from 1926 that had been issued by Dutch colonialists to prevent the introduction of rabies into Bali from other islands within the archipelago.

For Balinese seeking outward signs of affluence, Western breeds and crossbreeds trump the indigenous Bali dog, deemed unworthy of attention and left wanting.

“I have one Bali dog now, but I’m planning to either get a Golden Retriever or a small long-haired crossbreed. They’re unique and good for our image,” 14-year-old I Kenang Sunia in Desa Jatituhun, Ban, in east Bali, told IPS.

Battling extinction, BAWA deploys its sterilization program to remote Balinese villages, targeting non-purebred dogs in a critical effort to conserve the dwindling population of the purebred Bali dog.

“We sterilise as many non-pure Bali dogs as possible in each area (to prevent interbreeding) in order to save the remaining indigenous dogs in Bali before they are lost forever,” said Girardi.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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New Era: Unlocking Africa’s Agriculture Potential Through CGIAR TAAT Model

Africa, Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Change, COP28, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Food and Agriculture

Transforming food systems is key to solving food insecurity on the African continent. A powerful and unified effort is needed to ensure food systems are transformed to be robust enough to support the population. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Transforming food systems is key to solving food insecurity on the African continent. A powerful and unified effort is needed to ensure food systems are transformed to be robust enough to support the population. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

NAIROBI, Jan 16 2024 (IPS) – As hunger and food insecurity deepen, Africa is confronting an unprecedented food crisis. Estimates show that nearly 282 million people on the continent, or 20 percent of the population, are undernourished. Numerous challenges across the African continent threaten the race to achieve food security; research and innovative strategies are urgently needed to transform current systems as they are inadequate to address the food crisis.


Transforming food systems is key. A powerful and unified effort is needed to equip food systems to advance human and planetary health to their full potential. This was the message as CGIAR entered a new era under the leadership of Dr Ismahane Elouafi, the Executive Managing Director. Named one of the most influential Africans of 2023, she continues to stress the need to use science and innovation to unlock Africa’s potential to meet its food needs.

Dr Ismahane Elouafi, the CGIAR’s newly appointed Executive Managing Director. Credit: FAO

Dr Ismahane Elouafi, the CGIAR’s newly appointed Executive Managing Director. Credit: FAO

During her inaugural field visit to an IITA center in Ibadan, Nigeria, alongside Dr Simeon Ehui, IITA’s Director General and CGIAR Regional Director for Continental Africa, she oversaw extensive discussions on transforming food systems and leveraging science and technology.

“At COP28 in Dubai, UAE, there was high-level recognition and a wonderful spotlight on science and innovation. CGIAR has an opportunity to represent science and innovation at large, representing the whole community at large. We can cut down poverty and stop malnutrition, and we have the tools—we just need to bring them to the farmers,” she said.

CGIAR continues to create linkages between agricultural and tech stakeholders, emphasizing digital innovation for agricultural development. CGIAR-IITA explores leveraging ICTs to tackle agricultural challenges, boost productivity, ensure sustainability, and enhance food security, featuring presentations, discussions, workshops, and networking across sectors.

There was a significant focus on the CGIAR TAAT model as a tool to use technology to address Africa’s worsening food crisis. TAAT Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) is a key flagship programme of the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa strategy for 2016 to 2025.

“We have the technology, and all hands are on deck to ensure that no one sleeps hungry. There are severe food insecurities on the continent today, deepening rural poverty and malnutrition. We have the capacity to achieve food security,” Ehui emphasized.

IITA’s Dr Kenton Dashiell spoke about TAAT in the context of strategic discussions around policy and government engagement. Emphasizing the need for the government, private sector, and other key stakeholders to create effective and efficient food systems transformation paths. As a major continent-wide initiative designed to boost agricultural productivity across the continent by rapidly delivering proven technologies to millions of farmers, TAAT can deliver a food-secure continent.

Elouafi stressed the need to ensure that technology is in the hands of farmers. in line with TAAT, which aims to double crop, livestock, and fish productivity by expanding access to productivity-increasing technologies to more than 40 million smallholder farmers across Africa by 2025. In addition, TAAT seeks to generate an additional 120 million metric tons.

IITA’s Bernard Vanlauwe spoke about sustainable intensification with the aim of increasing production and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers are increasingly dealing with higher temperatures and shorter rainy seasons, affecting the production of staple foods such as maize. Further stressing the need for improved crop varieties to meet Africa’s pressing food insecurities.

Elouafi stressed that the needs are great, in particular, eliminating extreme poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, turning Africa into a net food exporter, and positioning Africa at the top of the agricultural value chains. She emphasized the need to leverage progress made thus far, building on the commitments of Dakar 1, the 1st Summit of the World’s Regions on Food Security held in Dakar in January 2010, where representatives and associations of regional governments from the five continents noted that the commitments made at the World Food Summit in 2002 had had little effect and that the food crisis had only worsened.

Elouafi said the UN Food System Summit in 2021 and the 2023 Dakar 2 Summit, with an emphasis on building sustainable food systems and aligning government resources, development partners, and private sector financing to unleash Africa’s food production potential, were important meetings to build on. The commitments made at these high-level meetings had already created a pathway towards ending hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition and transforming food systems to meet the most pressing food needs today.

It is estimated that Africa’s agricultural output could increase from USD 280 billion per year to USD 1 trillion by 2030. The visit and ensuing discussions highlighted how investing in raising agricultural productivity, supporting infrastructure, and climate-smart agricultural systems, with private sector investments, government support, and resources from multinational financial institutions, all along the food value chain, can help turn Africa into a breadbasket for the world. Private sector actors will be particularly urged to commit to the development of critical value chains.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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