Grassroots Voices Unite to Call for Climate Justice

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Environment, Global, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations

Civil Society

Shanti Decinis, one of 30,000+ participants expected at the 2024 World Social Forum, which advocates for a just world for all people. She described how in her village in Bihar, India, farmers are dealing with climate-induced unpredictability. Credit: Tanka Dhakal / IPS

KATHMANDU, Feb 16 2024 (IPS) – Kiprotich Peter from the East African country of Kenya is trying to convey his climate crisis message using the platform of the World Social Forum (WSF) taking place in the mountain nation of Nepal, which has also been battered by the impacts of climate change.


Youth activist Peter, who works for Green World in Kenya to promote environmental education and reforestation, is holding a placard that reads: “The World’s Poorest Countries are being forced to take out loans to respond to a climate crisis not of their making,” on Thursday, Day 1 of the WSF in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.

“I am here to raise my voice against loans to deal with the climate crisis. Small countries like Kenya and Nepal need grants to fight and mitigate the climate crisis, not loans,” he added. “The climate change is a real-time crisis in Africa, and I think in Nepal and other parts of the global South too.”

Low and mid-income countries like Nepal and Kenya have contributed just tiny amounts of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, but they are on the frontlines of its impacts, in the forms of droughts, flash floods and other extreme weather events.

According to the 2023 Kenya Country Climate and Development report, to maintain gains in poverty reduction, the country must act on climate change. “Inaction against climate change could result in up to 1.1 million additional poor in 2050, in a dry and hot climate future scenario.”

“Humanity of people is taken away”

Far from Kenya but close to Nepal in South Asia, one third of Pakistan was submerged because of a massive flood in 2022, affecting 33 million people. Pakistani historian and youth leader Ammar Ali Jan described the aftermath of that flood and the international community’s treatment as an ugly image of humanity.

“Almost a province was wiped out; we haven’t seen a flood like that. The way people were attacking food trucks, it was almost as if the humanity of people was taken away,” said the founder and president of the Haqooq-e-Khalq Party addressing a session called, Towards a Global Movement for Climate Justice, on Friday.

“People were in hunger without having anything to eat; they were stuck. It’s as if these people are becoming disposable human beings, and their deaths will not be mourned because their lives are not valued enough,” added the leader of his country’s new ‘Green’-inspired party.

Ali blamed an International Monetary Fund loan for the economic deterioration that followed the disaster. “The IMF’s loan was given after six months, not by saying ‘we will give you this grant and forgive your debt because you are affected by a crisis not of your making.’ They said ‘you must pay every penny to the international creditor.’ We need support, not loans.”

The party leader argues that a large chunk of humanity is lacking empathy, while retaining resources and political power. “To achieve climate justice, we need to find ways to make our agenda, the people’s agenda, heard,” he added. “Progressives need to take power.”

Shanti Devi was listening to Ali and nodding her head. “It’s what’s happening in our village in Bihar, India. We don’t get rainfall when needed, and floods hit at the time of harvesting,” said Devi, adding that she was attending the WSF to make her voice heard.

Kenyan youth climate activist Kiprotich Peter calls for grants instead of loans, for countries grappling with climate-induced crises at the World Social Forum in Kathmandu on 16 February 2024. Credit: Tanka Dhakal / IPS

Kenyan youth climate activist Kiprotich Peter calls for grants instead of loans, for countries grappling with climate-induced crises at the World Social Forum in Kathmandu on 16 February 2024. Credit: Tanka Dhakal / IPS

“No Forum Left Uncontested”

Indian researcher and science activist Soumya Dutta called for continuous pressure to make the voices of the frontline communities that live with the consequences of climate-induced changes heard in every forum. “We have long crossed climate change; we are in a climate crisis,” he said during a discussion on climate justice. “We need to elevate the social movement to create a larger political discourse.”

Other speakers and participants called for collaboration and support to address the world’s crises, including climate change. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutters also urged unity in his message to the WSF: “We need global solidarity to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals – and reform an outdated, dysfunctional and unfair global financial system. We must also rally together to address the climate crisis.”

While laying out the stark reality of climate change’s impacts on communities, water and climate change researcher Ajaya Dixit proposed a way forward. “We are still taking nature for granted, which needs to changed,” said the Nepal-based researcher, who collaborates with other researchers in South Asia. “To understand climate change, we have to understand the water and hydrological cycle, because the crisis we are facing is all connected with water one way or another.”

According to Dixit, to understand the ground reality of climate change, science and community must come together. “We still hesitate to recognize community knowledge, especially the historical knowledge of Indigenous people. Natural science, physical science and community knowledge need to be combined in our education systems; then we will be able to better understand climate change and act accordingly.”

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Tracking Global Development in Child Benefits Through New Monitoring and Information Platform

Active Citizens, Child Labour, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Gender, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Population, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Youth

Sustainable Development Goals

Students attending at the Souza Gare school in the Littoral region, Cameroon. The school hosts displaced children who have fled the violence in the North-West and South-West regions. Photo credits: ECW/Daniel Beloumou

Students attending class at the Souza Gare school in the Littoral region, Cameroon. The school hosts displaced children who have fled the violence in the North-West and South-West regions.
Credits: ECW/Daniel Beloumou

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 2024 (IPS) – Inclusive social protections for children would be a positive signifier of social development in a time where 1.4 billion children globally are denied them. A step towards realizing this has been taken through a new monitoring tool on current social protection and child poverty statistics.


The International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and Save the Children have partnered together to create the Global Child Benefits Tracker. This online platform will globally monitor children’s access to social protection and identify gaps in existing social protections systems in over 180 countries.

On Wednesday, this tool was launched at a side event on universal child benefits (UCBs) during the 62nd Commission for Social Development (CSoCD62) hosted in New York. One of the prevailing themes for this year was the use of digital transformation to promote inclusive growth and development. In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, the tracker would go forward to monitoring growth in poverty eradication by calling on governments to implement responsible and appropriate social protection systems for all by 2030.

The platform includes a breakdown of child poverty statistics by country, region, and income bracket. Notably, the percentage of children that currently have access to social protections is higher when compared to the percentage of the country’s population that is covered by benefits and the expenditures on these social protections. The platform also provides data on the percentage of children at risk of or experiencing monetary or multidimensional poverty. The purpose of this platform will be to serve as a knowledge tool for use in designing evidence-based child-sensitive social protections, intended for use by policymakers in government and international development programmes, social protection programmes, and civil society organizations. The tool would facilitate the exchange of best practices and inspire greater investment in child-sensitive social protection.

The platform also includes a community tab, where supplemental material can be shared as designed by experts and practitioners, such as blog posts, podcasts, videos, and links to resources. David Lambert Tumwesigye, the Global Policy & Advocacy Lead, Child Poverty, of Save the Children International, has urged members of government, academia, development partners, and practitioners to contribute to the community tab and expand the broader understanding of child poverty. “We aim to highlight the scale of global child poverty,”  he said.

Disruptions in the global economy, increased costs of living, and the COVID-19 pandemic are cited as some of the factors that have underlined the need for resilient and comprehensive social protections, especially for children at high risk of experiencing poverty. Yet, as was pointed out by speakers at the event, there have been limited investments in social protections for children, despite the general sentiment that these would be imperative. This was described as a “moral, social, and economic catastrophe,” by ILO Director in New York, Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon.

At the launch of the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and Save the Children's Global Child Benefits Tracker. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

At the launch of the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and Save the Children’s Global Child Benefits Tracker. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

“Life without social protection inflicts enormous social costs, and they result in squandered and prematurely shortened lives,” she said. “For children, social protection can literally be a lifesaver. It can make the difference between a healthy, happy, and long life or one that is punctuated by ill health, stress, and unrealized potential.”

The data on countries’ current social protections has been compiled through public studies and those conducted by the ILO and UNICEF. It reveals that social protection programmes in low-income countries reach less than 10 percent of their child population, in contrast to high-income countries, where their programmes reach more than 80 percent of their child population. Yet, the global average of children covered by social protection or benefits caps out at 28.1 percent. Although the evidence suggests that low-income countries struggle to provide universal child benefits, child poverty is still a global issue that affects all countries, regardless of their income group.

ILO, UNICEF, and Save the Children have urged policymakers and leaders to take the necessary measures to implement universal child benefits, or at least more inclusive, child-sensitive social protections. This includes building a social protection system that provides benefits to its citizens across the life cycle, from birth to old age, and securing financing for these programmes through increased public investments and mobilizing domestic resources.

A comparison of child benefits in South Africa compared to the region. Credit: Child Benefits Tracker

A comparison of child benefits in South Africa compared to the region. Credit: Child Benefits Tracker

The Global Child Benefits Tracker may be a step forward in monitoring progress towards social development when considering the progress that remains in achieving the SDGs. While it is still in its early days, the tool may benefit from expanding its coverage to include contributions from actors on the ground. Philip Alston, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, suggested that the platform should include qualitative evidence through testimonies to get a clearer sense of the challenges that hinder social protections and how governments have chosen to act.

There will remain challenges to implanting the sort of social protections and benefits that are being called for. There are still gaps in information, as not all countries are featured. At present, there is limited investment in child benefits. It was acknowledged that the fiscal space is a determining factor, and for the low- and middle-income countries in the Global South, this can be even more challenging due to the limitations in their financial state. It is here that solidarity from the international community and support from financing institutions would serve these countries.

Child benefits can be part of the wider social protection systems, and it has been proven that they can positively contribute towards food security and improved access to basic social services, according to UNICEF’s Global Director of Social Policy and Social Protection, Natalia Winder Rossi. Not only can they directly benefit children and their families, but they can also contribute to their communities and local economies.

“The investment is clear, the evidence is clear, but we continue to face challenges in convincing our own policymakers that this is a wide choice,” she said. “I think the Tracker provides some of that progress, to track some of those results… At UNICEF, this is part of our very strong commitment to closing the coverage gap for children. To make sure that we have systems that are strong and inclusive, we must make sure that every child is part of them and receives adequate benefits. But also that systems are adequately responding to crises.”

Visit the Global Child Benefits Tracker here.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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Landlocked Developing Countries Conference to Address Development

Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Global, Headlines, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Conferences

Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries will be an opportunity to address the issues these countries face.

Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries will be an opportunity to address the issues these countries face.

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 6 2024 (IPS) – Landlocked developing countries need greater support from the international community so that they are no longer left behind when it comes to progressing with the SDGs, says the UN High Representative of the Least Developed Countries.


The Third UN Conference of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC3) is set to be hosted in Kigali, Rwanda, in June. A preparatory committee for the conference has been established and convened its first meeting on Monday. 

The overarching theme of the conference, “Driving Progress through Partnerships,” is expected to highlight the importance of support from the global community in enabling LLDCs to meet their potential and achieve the SDGs. The conference invites the participation of multiple stakeholders, including heads of state and government, the private sector, and civil society. Several senior leaders in the UN system, including Secretary-General António Guterres, are expected to attend the LLDC3 Conference.

Thirty-two countries are classified as LLDCs, 17 of which are also classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Sixteen are in Africa, and the remaining are located across Asia, Europe, and South America. This year will mark the first time that the LLDC Conference will be hosted in Africa.

Rabab Fatima, Under Secretary-General and High Representative of the Office for the Least Developed Countries, and the Secretary-General of the LLDC3 Conference, remarked that this conference would be a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” for the global community to address the needs of the LLDCs in order to “ensure that nobody is left behind.”

“The 32 landlocked developing countries are grappling with unique challenges due to their geographical and structural constraints and lack of integration into world trade and global value chains. Their situation has been further exacerbated by the lingering effects of the pandemic, climate change, and conflict,” she said.

The lack of direct access to coastal ports means that LLDCs rely on transit countries to connect them with international markets. This can lead to high trade costs and delays in the movement of goods. In other cases, many of the LLDCs’ transit neighbors are also developing countries with their own economic challenges. According to Fatima, the average cargo travel time for LLDCs was twelve days, compared to seven days for transit countries.

As a result of the slow progress in development, twenty-eight percent of people in LLDCs live in poverty. At least a third of the people are at a high risk of or already live with some form of debt distress, and fifty-eight percent of people deal with moderate to severe food insecurity.

Enkhbold Vorshilov, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN, noted that the conference would be a “critical juncture” for the LLDCs. He also serves as the co-chair of the preparatory committee along with the Permanent Representative of Austria. He added, “Despite our varied cultural and economic structures, we share common challenges that impede our development and economic growth.”

The Preparatory Committee will negotiate the details of the conference’s outcome document, which has been prepared to “encapsulate the challenges and aspirations of the LLDCs,” according to Gladys Mokhawa, Permanent Representative for Botswana and the Chair of the Global Group of Landlocked Developing Countries. Mokhawa expressed that the document has so far received general support from member states and that the final draft would be comprehensive and committed to addressing the challenges that LLDCs face “that align with their specific needs and aspirations.”

“A vision is clear: to transform the geographical challenges and to ensure that our landlocked status is nothing more than a detail of geography,” she said. “We believe that our collective efforts can and will make a difference.”

“Our goal is not merely to draft a document but to build positive, genuine partnerships that will empower landlocked developing countries to overcome their challenges and achieve sustainable prosperity,” said Vorshilov. He added that, along with support from neighboring transit countries, cooperation from development partners and financial institutions would be important to mobilize the resources needed to support the LLDCs.

The document is intended to serve as a guideline for the LLDCs for the next decade and will touch on several areas of interest. In addition to addressing transport and trade, it will focus on emerging issues, such as science, technology, and innovation, and improving capacity and resilience against issues arising from climate change.

Earlier meetings, including the first meeting of the committee, have seen delegations express solidarity with the LLDCs and support for the agenda of the upcoming conference. Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, Permanent Representative of the European Union Delegation to the UN, stated that the development challenges call for “more efficient allocation of financial resources on the path toward the SDGs” and that an “essential element” of their partnership would be the development of connections and transport corridors for the benefit of all peoples.

Speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, Ambassador Marc Hermanne Araba of Benin noted that Africa has faced the brunt of the challenges faced by the LLDCs and their neighboring transit countries. He added that the present moment was an opportunity to “chart a transformative agenda for the LLDCs,” and therefore it is important for the global community to reaffirm its’ commitment to address the LLDCs’ challenges together to “ensure that these countries are not left behind.”.

Fatima welcomed the media as a “key partner,” through which the voices of LLDCs would have a platform, and to bridge the gap between the conference and those communities who will be most affected by the outcomes by sharing their perspectives.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 

Moimuna Nursing Institute Ushers Hope for Vulnerable Rural Girls in Bangladesh

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Inequality, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Youth

Active Citizens

Dr MA Sayed conducts a practical with his students at the Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Dr MA Sayed conducts a practical class with his students at the
Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

THAKURGAON, Bangladesh, Feb 6 2024 (IPS) – After passing her secondary school certificate (SCC) in 2019, Sweety Akter went door-to-door to collect money to enroll in a college, but she wasn’t successful.

Born to an extremely poor family in Fultala village under Baliadangi upazila in Thakurgaon district, Akter saw her dream of studying fading as she was unable to enroll in a college because of a lack of funding, despite her good results at school.


“I went to many places but did not get the opportunity for admission. I did not have the financial support to study at a private college or an educational institute.”

Then Sweety’s fortune changed.

“I luckily got a chance to study for a nursing diploma free of charge at Moimuna Nursing Institute (MNI),” she told IPS.

Two sisters, Sweety Akter (left) and Shikha Akter (right) enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute, Sweety has already completed a nursing diploma with financial support from the institute and Shikha is now a second-year student. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Two sisters, Sweety Akter (left) and Shikha Akter (right), are enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute. Sweety has already completed a nursing diploma with financial support from the institute, and Shikha is now a second-year student. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Explaining her financial hardships, the 22-year-old Akter said her father is a gambler who had sold all the family’s assets to gamble, and he had even sold their lone homestead, where they are currently living.

“My father does not give me and my younger sister any money for education. My mother works as domestic help at the houses of people and is bearing the costs for our four-member family,” she said.

Sweety said that if she had not had the opportunity to enroll at MNI, it would have been impossible for her to pursue tertiary education, and she would have been forced to marry.

Overcoming all the odds and passing the nursing diploma, she is now pursuing an internship at Rangpur Medical College and Hospital (RMCH) with financial support from the institute, which paves the way for former students to get jobs at hospitals.

Shikha Akhter (19) enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute in Thakurgaon, northwest Bangladesh, to pursue a diploma in nursing science and midwifery with the encouragement of her sister, Sweety.

Shikha said she enrolled in the institute at a minimum fee, and now she is enjoying more facilities than other students as her elder sister also studied there.

“I am studying the nursing diploma and staying at the MNI’s hostel, which makes my life easy. I want to be a good nurse and serve people,” she added.

Joya Rani, a 20-year-old girl from poverty-stricken Kaliganj village under Deviganj upazila, also studied the nursing diploma with financial support from the institute.

“My father is physically challenged, so he cannot work. My mother is the only breadwinner for our family, and she supports the family by rearing cattle. That’s why she cannot give me any money (for study),” she told IPS.

Joya, who is currently doing an internship at RMCH, said she received a stipend of Taka 2,000 (USD 19) from the institute over the past two years, and if she had not received the stipend, it would not have been possible for her to continue studying.

Moimuna Nursing Institute, located 460 kilometers away from the capital Dhaka, is a non-profit approved by the Bangladesh Council of Nursing and Midwifery and offers a three-year diploma in nursing for about USD 1,500, which includes tuition fees, accommodation, uniforms, and books.

Thakurgaon is a poor district in Bangladesh, with a poverty rate of 36.7 percent against 18.7 percent at the national level. Of them, about 19.7 percent of people in the district live in extreme poverty, which prevents many from continuing their education, particularly the girls.

Since the start of its journey in 2019–20, the MNI has been providing financial support, including stipends and need-based scholarships, for students coming from underprivileged families.

MNI’s managing director, Dr. MA Sayed, said the institute authorities are providing a handful of scholarships, with three poor students receiving stipends in each batch so that they can continue their nursing education.

In distributing scholarships and stipends, a committee of the institute inspects the houses of their students. If the committee finds evidence of acute financial hardship, the MNI provides support.

Even after completing the nursing diploma, the institute’s support continues, and it facilitates sending the former students to public hospitals to do internships.

“During their internship, we are providing financial support for some selected poor students so that they can accomplish their goals,” Sayed said.

He said the MNI provides a residential facility for its students to ensure a smooth environment for education, resulting in a 100 percent pass rate, which makes it the first in Thakurgaon district.

“We also carry out career counseling for students to encourage them to consider a higher education in nursing,” he added.

Teachers, students and staff of Moimuna Nursing Institute pose for a photo in front of its main building on the campus. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Teachers, students, and staff of Moimuna Nursing Institute pose for a photo in front of its main building on the campus. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Nirmola Toppa, mother of Nila Kispotta, who recently completed a nursing diploma from the MNI, said after her daughter passed the SSC examination, she tried to marry her off because she could not afford to pay for her daughter’s educational expenses.

But a scholarship meant Nila could complete her diploma, and she is now getting a stipend of Taka 2,000 (USD19) per month from MNI to complete her six-month internship at RMCH.

Nirmala said Nila received Taka 6,000 (USD 57) to enroll in the internship too.

Founder of Moimuna Nursing Institute, Dr. Saifullah Syed, said in Thakurgaon, many rural underprivileged girls and those coming from minority and ethnic communities pass the entrance exam (SSC) to enroll in nursing institutes but do not enroll due to financial constraints.

Also, there are many who could qualify but do not take the entrance exam, thinking that they may not be able to afford the educational expenses to become nurses and midwives, he said.

“That’s why I founded Moimuna Nursing Institute to ensure that qualified poor rural girls, particularly those coming from minority and ethnic communities, get the opportunity to become nurses and midwives,” Syed told IPS.

He asserted that his institute has established an endowment fund under the control of a Board of Trustees, provides need-based scholarships, and arranges sponsors.

The MNI welcomes donations as it means more students may be assisted.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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Solar Energy Gives Important Boost to Small-scale Farmers in Chile

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Projects, Regional Categories, Water & Sanitation

Energy

Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas stand next to one of the three greenhouses on their farm, where tomatoes are growing, anticipating an optimal harvest this year. The couple uses no chemical fertilizers to ensure the healthy development of thousands of plants on their farm in Mostazal, a municipality in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas stand next to one of the three greenhouses on their farm, where tomatoes are growing, anticipating an optimal harvest this year. The couple uses no chemical fertilizers to ensure the healthy development of thousands of plants on their farm in Mostazal, a municipality in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

MOSTAZAL, Chile , Feb 2 2024 (IPS) – The installation of photovoltaic panels to use solar energy to irrigate small farms is expanding quickly in Chile because it lowers costs and optimizes the use of scarce water resources.


This long, narrow South American country that stretches from the northern Atacama Desert to the southern Patagonia region and from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean is extremely rich in renewable energies, especially solar and wind power.

“Solar panels have made an immensely important contribution to our energy expenditure. Without them we would consume a lot of electricity.” — Myriam Miller

Last year, 36.6 percent of Chile’s electricity mix was made up of Non-Conventional Renewable Energies (NCREs), whose generation in May 2023 totaled 2392 gigawatt hours (GWh), including 1190 GWh of solar power.

This boom in the development of alternative energies has been mainly led by large companies that have installed solar panels throughout the country, including the desert. The phenomenon has also reached small farmers throughout this South American country who use solar energy.

In family farming, solar energy converted into electricity is installed with the help of resources from the government’s Agricultural Development Institute (Indap), which promotes sustainable production of healthy food among small farmers, incorporating new irrigation techniques.

In 2020 alone, the last year for which the institute provides data, Indap promoted 206 new irrigation projects that incorporated NCREs with an investment of more than 2.1 million dollars.

That year, of the projects financed and implemented, 182 formed part of the Intra-predial Irrigation Program, 17 of the Minor Works Irrigation Program and seven of the Associative Irrigation Program. The investment includes solar panels for irrigation systems.

Within this framework, 2025 photovoltaic panels with an installed capacity of 668 kilowatts were installed, producing 1002 megawatt hours and preventing the emission of 234 tons of carbon dioxide.

The six solar panels installed on the small farm of Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas, in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile, allow them to pump water to their three greenhouses with thousands of tomato plants and to their vegetable garden. They also drastically reduced their electric energy expenditure. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The six solar panels installed on the small farm of Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas, in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile, allow them to pump water to their three greenhouses with thousands of tomato plants and to their vegetable garden. They also drastically reduced their electric energy expenditure. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

An experience in Mostazal

“Solar panels have made an immensely important contribution to our energy expenditure. Without them we would consume a lot of electricity,” 50-year-old farmer Myriam Miller told IPS at her farm in the municipality of Mostazal, 66 km south of Santiago, where some 54,000 people live in different communities.

Miller has half a hectare of land, with a small portion set aside for three greenhouses with nearly 1,500 tomato plants. Other tomato plants grow in rows outdoors, including heirloom varieties whose seeds she works to preserve, such as oxheart and pink tomatoes.

Indap provided 7780 dollars in financing to install the solar panels on her land. Meanwhile, she and her husband, Freddy Vargas, 51, who run their farm together, contributed 10 percent of the total cost.

In 2023, Miller and Vargas built a third greenhouse to increase their production, which they sell on their own land.

“We’re producing around 8,000 kilos of tomatoes per season. This year we will exceed that goal. We’re happy because we’re moving ahead little by little and improving our production year,” Miller said as she picked tomatoes.

On the land next to the tomato plants, the couple grows vegetables, mainly lettuce, some 7,000 heads a year. They also have fruit trees.

Vargas told IPS that they needed electricity to irrigate the greenhouses because “it’s not easy to do it by hand.”

Freddy Vargas turns the soil on his farm in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile. Lettuce is his star vegetable, with thousands of heads sold on the farm. The farmer plans to buy a mini-tractor to alleviate the work of plowing the land. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Freddy Vargas turns the soil on his farm in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile. Lettuce is his star vegetable, with thousands of heads sold on the farm. The farmer plans to buy a mini-tractor to alleviate the work of plowing the land. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The farm has two wells that hold about 30,000 liters of water that arrives once a week from a dam located two kilometers away. This is the water they use to power the pumps to irrigate the greenhouses.

“We have water rights and Indap provided us with solar panels and tools to automate irrigation. They gave us four panels and we made an additional investment, with our own funds, and installed six,” Vargas explained.

The couple consumes between 250 and 300 kilowatts per month and the surplus energy they generate is injected into the household grid.

“We don’t have storage batteries, which are more expensive. Every month the electric company sends us a bill detailing the total we have injected into the grid and what we have consumed. They calculate it and we pay the difference,” Vargas said.

The average savings in the cost of consumption is 80 percent.

“I haven’t paid anything in the (southern hemisphere) summer for years. In the winter I spend 30,000 to 40,000 pesos (between 33 and 44 dollars) but I only pay between 5,000 and 10,000 pesos a month (5.5 to 11 dollars) thanks to the energy I generate,” the farmer said.

Above and beyond the savings, Miller stressed the “personal growth and social contribution we make with our products that go to households that need healthier food. We feel good about contributing to the environment.”

“We have a network, still small, of agroecological producers. There is a lack of information among the public about what people eat,” she added.

Their tomatoes are highly prized. “People come to buy them because of their flavor and because they are very juicy. Once people taste them, they come back and recommend them by word of mouth,” Miller said.

She is optimistic and believes that in the municipalities of Mostazal and nearby Codegua, young people are more and more interested in contributing to the planet, producing their own food and selling the surplus.

“We just need a little support and more interest in youth projects in agriculture to raise awareness that just as we take care of the land, it also gives to us,” she said.

Valentina Martínez stands on her father's small plot of land in the municipality of María Pinto, north of Santiago, Chile. The fruit trees provide the shade needed to keep the planted vegetables from being scorched by the strong southern hemisphere summer sun in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Valentina Martínez stands on her father’s small plot of land in the municipality of María Pinto, north of Santiago, Chile. The fruit trees provide the shade needed to keep the planted vegetables from being scorched by the strong southern hemisphere summer sun in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

A pesticide-free new generation

Valentina Martínez, 32, is an environmental engineer. Together with her father, Simón, 75, they work as small farmers in the municipality of María Pinto, 60 kilometers north of Santiago. She has a 0.45 hectare plot and her father has a 0.35 hectare plot.

Both have just obtained funding from the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture (TAS) project, which operates within Indap, and they are excited about production without chemical fertilizers and are trying to meet the goal of securing another larger loan that would enable them to build a greenhouse and expand fruit and vegetable production on the two farms.

“It’s a two-year program. In the first year you apply and they give you an incentive of 450,000 pesos (500 dollars) focused on buying technology. I’ve invested in plants, fruit trees, worms, and containers for making preserves,” Valentina told IPS.

In the second year, depending on the results of the first year, they will apply for a fund of 3900 dollars for each plot, to invest in their production.

“This year my father and I will apply for solar panels to improve irrigation,” said Valentina, who is currently dedicated to producing seedlings.

“My father liked the idea of producing without agrochemicals to combat pests,” she said about Simón, who has a fruit tree orchard and also grows vegetables.

In María Pinto there are 380 small farmers on the census, but the real number is estimated at about 500. Another 300 are medium-sized farmers.

Simón Martínez, 75, proudly shows some of the citrus fruits harvested on his farm where he practices agroecology and does not use agrochemicals. He and his daughter Valentina won a contest to continue improving the sustainability of their farming practices on their adjoining plots, located outside the Chilean town of María Pinto. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Simón Martínez, 75, proudly shows some of the citrus fruits harvested on his farm where he practices agroecology and does not use agrochemicals. He and his daughter Valentina won a contest to continue improving the sustainability of their farming practices on their adjoining plots, located outside the Chilean town of María Pinto. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The rest of the area is monopolized by large agricultural companies dedicated to monocultures for export. Most of them have citrus, avocado, cherry and peach trees, as well as some walnut trees, and they all make intensive use of chemical fertilizers.

Chile exports mainly copper, followed by iron. But it also stands out for its sales of fish, cellulose pulp and fruit. In 2023, it exported 2.3 million tons of fruit, produced by large farms and bringing in 5.04 billion dollars. Agriculture represents 4.3 percent of the country’s GDP.

Family farming consists of some 260,000 small farms, which account for 98 percent of the country’s farms, according to the government’s Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (Odepa).

Family farms produce 40 percent of annual crops and 22 percent of total agricultural production, which is key to feeding the country’s 19.7 million people.

Valentina is excited about TAS and the meetings she has had with other young farmers.

“It’s fun. We’re all on the same page and interested in what each other is doing. We start in December and January and it lasts all year. The young people are learning about sustainable agriculture and that there are more projects to apply for,” she explained.

She said that 15 young people in María Pinto have projects with pistachio trees, fruit trees, greenhouse gardens, outdoor gardens, animal husbandry and orchards. They are all different and receive group and individual training.

The training is provided by Indap and the Local Development Program (Prodesal), its regional representatives and the Foundation for the Promotion and Development of Women (Prodemu).

“The idea is that more people can learn about and realize the benefits of sustainable agriculture for their own health and for their land, which in a few years will be impossible due to the spraying of monocultures,” Valentina said.

It targets large entrepreneurs who produce avocado and broccoli in up to four harvests a year, both water-intensive crops, even on high hillsides.

“We need to come together, do things properly and recruit more people to create a legal group to reach other places and be able to organize projects. When you exist as an organization, you can also reach other places and say I am no longer one person, we are 15, we are 20, 100 and we need this,” she said.

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The Ghost of Oil Haunts Mexico’s Lacandona Jungle

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Lacandona, the great Mayan jungle that extends through the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, is home to natural wealth and indigenous peoples' settlements that are once again threatened by the probable reactivation of abandoned oil wells. Image: Ceiba

Lacandona, the great Mayan jungle that extends through the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, is home to natural wealth and indigenous peoples’ settlements that are once again threatened by the probable reactivation of abandoned oil wells. Image: Ceiba

MEXICO CITY, Jan 19 2024 (IPS) – The Lacandona jungle in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas is home to 769 species of butterflies, 573 species of trees, 464 species of birds, 114 species of mammals, 119 species of amphibians and reptiles, and several abandoned oil wells.


The oil wells have been a source of concern for the communities of the great Mayan jungle and environmental organizations since the 1970s, when oil prospecting began in the area and gradually left at least five wells inactive, whether plugged or not.

“The situation is always complex, due to legal loopholes that do not delimit the jungle, the natural protected areas are not delimited, it has been a historical mess. The search for oil has always been there.” — Fermín Domínguez

Now, Mexico’s policy of increasing oil production, promoted by the federal government, is reviving the threat of reactivating oil industry activity in the jungle ecosystem of some 500,000 hectares located in the east of the state, which has lost 70 percent of its forest in recent decades due to deforestation.

A resident of the Benemérito de las Américas municipality, some 1,100 kilometers south of Mexico City, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told IPS that a Mexican oil services company has contacted some members of the ejidos – communities on formerly public land granted to farm individually or cooperatively – trying to buy land around the inactive wells.

“They say they are offering work. We are concerned that they are trying to restart oil exploration, because it is a natural area that could be damaged and already has problems,” he said.

Adjacent to Benemérito de las Américas, which has 23,603 inhabitants according to the latest records, the area where the inactive wells are located is within the 18,348 square kilometers of the protected Lacandona Jungle Region.

It is one of the seven reserves of the ecosystem that the Mexican government decreed in 2016 and where oil activity in its subsoil is banned.

Between 1903 and 2014, the state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) drilled five wells in the Lacandona jungle, inhabited by some 200,000 people, according to the autonomous governmental National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), in charge of allocating hydrocarbon lots and approving oil and gas exploration plans. At least two of these deposits are now closed, according to the CNH.

The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, in the Lacandona jungle in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, faces the threat of oil exploration, which would add to phenomena such as deforestation, drought and forest fires that have occurred in recent years. Image: Semarnat

The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, in the Lacandona jungle in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, faces the threat of oil exploration, which would add to phenomena such as deforestation, drought and forest fires that have occurred in recent years. Image: Semarnat

The Lacantun well is located between a small group of houses and the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve (RBMA), the most megadiverse in the country, part of Lacandona and near the border with Guatemala. The CNH estimates the well’s proven oil reserves at 15.42 million barrels and gas reserves at 2.62 million cubic feet.

Chole, Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Lacandon Indians inhabit the jungle.

Other inactive deposits in the Benemérito de las Américas area are Cantil-101 and Bonampak-1, whose reserves are unknown.

In the rural areas of the municipality, the local population grows corn, beans and coffee and manages ecotourism sites. But violence has driven people out of Chiapas communities, as has been the case for weeks in the southern mountainous areas of the state due to border disputes and illegal business between criminal groups.

In addition, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), an indigenous organization that staged an uprising on Jan. 1, 1994 against the marginalization and poverty suffered by the native communities, is still present in the region.

Chiapas, where oil was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, is among the five main territories in terms of production of crude oil and gas in this Latin American country, with 10 hydrocarbon blocks in the northern strip of the state.

In November, Mexico extracted 1.64 million barrels of oil and 4.9 billion cubic feet of gas daily. The country currently ranks 20th in the world in terms of proven oil reserves and 41st in gas.

Historically, local communities have suffered water, soil and air pollution from Pemex operations.

As of November, there were 6,933 operational wells in the country, while Pemex has sealed 122 of the wells drilled since 2019, although none in Chiapas, according to a public information request filed by IPS.

Since taking office in December 2018, leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has strengthened Pemex and the also state-owned Federal Electricity Commission by promoting the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, to the detriment of renewable energy.

The state of Chiapas is home to hydroelectric power plants, mining projects, hydrocarbon exploitation blocks and a section of the Mayan Train, the most emblematic megaproject of the current Mexican government. Image: Center for Zoque Language and Culture AC

The state of Chiapas is home to hydroelectric power plants, mining projects, hydrocarbon exploitation blocks and a section of the Mayan Train, the most emblematic megaproject of the current Mexican government. Image: Center for Zoque Language and Culture AC

Territory under siege

The RBMA is one of Mexico’s 225 natural protected areas (NPAs) and its 331,000 hectares are home to 20 percent of the country’s plant species, 30 percent of its birds, 27 percent of its mammals and 17 percent of its freshwater fish.

Like all of the Lacandona rainforest, the RBMA faces deforestation, the expansion of cattle ranching, wildlife trafficking, drought, and forest fires.

Fermín Ledesma, an academic at the public Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, said possible oil exploration could aggravate existing social and environmental conflicts in the state, in addition to growing criminal violence and the historical absence of the State.

“The situation is always complex, due to legal loopholes that do not delimit the jungle, the natural protected areas are not delimited, it has been a historical mess. The search for oil has always been there,” he told IPS from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of Chiapas.

The researcher said “it is a very complex area, with a 50-year agrarian conflict between indigenous peoples, often generated by the government itself, which created an overlapping of plans and lands.”

Ledesma pointed to a contradiction between the idea of PNAs that are depopulated in order to protect them and the historical presence of native peoples.

From 2001 to 2022, Chiapas lost 748,000 hectares of tree cover, equivalent to a 15 percent decrease since 2000, one of the largest sites of deforestation in Mexico, according to the international monitoring platform Global Forest Watch. In 2022 alone, 26,800 hectares of natural forest disappeared.

In addition, this state, one of the most impoverished in the country, has suffered from the presence of mining, the construction of three hydroelectric plants and, now, the Mayan Train, the Mexican government’s most emblematic megaproject inaugurated on Dec. 15, one of the seven sections of which runs through the north of the state.

But there are also stories of local resistance against oil production. In 2017, Zoque indigenous people prevented the auction of two blocks on some 84,000 hectares in nine municipalities that sought to obtain 437.8 million barrels of crude oil equivalent.

The anonymous source expressed hope for a repeat of that victory and highlighted the argument of conducting an indigenous consultation prior to the projects, free of pressure and with the fullest possible information. “With that we can stop the wells, as occurred in 2017. We are not going to let them move forward,” he said.

Ledesma the researcher questioned the argument of local development driven by natural resource extraction and territorial degradation as a pretext.

“They say it’s the only way to do it, but that’s not true. It leaves a trail of environmental damage, damage to human health, present and future damage. It is much easier for the population to accept compensation or give up the land, because they see it is degraded. A narrative is created that they live in an impoverished area and therefore they have to relocate. This has happened in other areas,” he said.

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