How Climate-Smart Strategies Revitalized Tanzania’s Livestock Sector

Africa, Africa Climate Wire, Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Change, Climate Change Justice, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Climate Change Justice

In a quest for survival, farmers and pastoralists living in Oldonyo Sambu, Tanzania’s northern Maasai Steppe, used to fight over every drop of water. However, 12 villages have now adopted climate-smart bylaws after months of negotiations, putting an end to hostilities.

A pastoralist gazes into the horizon while taking a break from grazing cattle in Ikolongo Village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

A pastoralist gazes into the horizon while taking a break from grazing cattle in Ikolongo Village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

IRINGA, Tanzania , Jul 16 2024 (IPS) – As the sun sets, its golden hues piece through the dusty haze, creating a dazzling display when a herd of livestock lazily roams on the arid landscape as they return home from grazing.

Dressed in shiny red robes, the youthful Maasai pastoralists routinely whistle as they steer cattle, goats and sheep to maintain a unified path.

The quest for survival has forced these herders in Oldonyo Sambu, Tanzania’s northern Maasai Steppe, jostling for dwindling water and pastures as they try to sustain their herds.

Surprisingly, 670 kilometres (416 miles) away in Ikolongo village, south of Tanzania, the plight of water consumers has improved, thanks to a community-led initiative that brought farmers and pastoralists together  to resolve their water woes.

Sitting under a baobab tree, 47-year-old Leinot Leboo watches his cattle drink from a pond. This tranquil moment contrasts sharply with the situation in Oldonyo Sambu, where farmers often clash with herders as they jostle for water.

“I don’t recall any fight between pastoralists and farmers here.We get enough pastures and water for our livestock,” says Leboo.

Unlike in Oldonyo Sambu, local villagers here have created specific grazing lands and water points for livestock to prevent clashes with farmers. “We often bring our cattle here and let them graze and drink without causing any disturbances,” says Leboo.

According to Ignas Mashaka, Ikolongo village chairman, the residents have created a system where pastoralists pay a small fee to feed their herds on rice husks produced by farmers, especially in the dry season.

“This arrangement provides a steady source of feed, but it also give farmers extra income,” says Mashaka

Cows drink from a pond used exclusively by pastoralists in Ikolongo village, Tanzania. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Cows drink from a pond used exclusively by pastoralists in Ikolongo village, Tanzania. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Strict Rules

After months of negotiation between local residents and local district authorities, the villagers enacted strict by-laws, which have now been adopted and ratified by 12 surrounding villages.

“These rules have helped to ease tensions over water use,” says Mashaka.

Under the initiative, local residents joined forces to construct dams and reservoirs which have reduced water scarcity, providing a reliable supply for farmers and pastoralists.

“We used to fight over every drop of water,” says Musa Chacha, a farmer at Ikolongo village. “But now, there’s enough for everyone and there’s no reason to fight,”

By working together and managing resources sustainably, Ikolongo villagers have built a strong and resilient community.

Female farmers in Ikolongo village learn horticulture to grow vegetables as part of their strategy to cope with drought. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Female farmers in Ikolongo village learn horticulture to grow vegetables as part of their strategy to cope with drought. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

The Bigger Picture

Despite having vast grazing lands, the east African country faces frequent conflicts over water and other resources due to climate change and weak land governance. Prolonged droughts often lead to clashes between farmers and pastoralists as they jostle for water and grazing space.

Tanzania’s livestock sector, a vital source of livelihood for millions, holds potential for growth in production and trade. With a cattle population of 36.6 million, the country ranks second in Africa, after Ethiopia. This accounts for 1.4% of the global cattle population and 11% of Africa’s. Beyond cattle, Tanzania also boasts large numbers of sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs, placing it among the continent’s top ten in overall livestock numbers.

However, the sector is plagued by many challenges due to climate risks and low investment, World Bank analysts say.

Transformative Initiative

As part of its broader efforts to improve the livestock sector, Tanzania has launched a new USD 546 million initiative to bolster productivity, increase resilience to climate change and improve the livestock industry. The initiative entails innovative strategies to curb extreme weather by constructing water reservoirs, introducing drought-resistant forage crops, and improving livestock breeds.

Challenges and Solutions

According to a recent World Bank report, “Harnessing the Opportunity for a Climate-Smart and Competitive Livestock Sector in Tanzania,” the pasture-based livestock sector in Tanzania faces serious challenges due to climate change and endemic livestock diseases, impacting animal health, productivity, and market access.

A herd of cattle grazes in a designated pastoralist area in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

A herd of cattle grazes in a designated pastoralist area in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Pastoralist’s Perspective

Saidi Juma, a 55-year-old pastoralist from Kilolo village, has witnessed changes in weather patterns over the years. “When I was young, the rains were predictable, and the grass was plenty,” he says. “But in recent years, we have struggled to find pasture for our animals, and the rivers dry up too soon.”

One aspect of the scheme is adopting climate-smart innovations, such as better animal husbandry practices, drought-resistant fodder, and efficient water management systems.

The introduction of drought-resilient Brachiaria grass at Ikolongo village has maintained better livestock health during dry spells. “We planted these grass because they are resilient to drought and provide enough food for our livestock,” says Mashaka.

According to him, drought-resistant forage crops has ensured a steady supply of nutritious feed for livestock in  dry seasons.

Expert Insights

In an interview with IPS, Malongo Mlozi, Professor of Agricultural studies and extension at Sokoine University of Agriculture, hailed the government initiative to revamp the ailing livestock sector by improving water management techniques.

“Water is life; by ensuring a reliable water supply, we can significantly improve the resilience of our livestock farmers against climate change,” he says

According to Mlozi, pastoralists must be trained to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to cope with the vagaries of the weather.

“When pastoralists understand the benefits of climate-smart practices, they are more likely to adopt them and see positive results,”

Mlozi says the government scheme is likely to improve food security.

“By increasing the productivity of our livestock sector, we can ensure a stable supply of meat, milk, and other livestock products,” says Mlozi

Leinot Leboo grazes his cattle in a bushy enclave in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Leinot Leboo grazes his cattle in a bushy enclave in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

“This will help in addressing the nutritional needs of our population and reduce dependency on imports.”

Under the initiative, the government will construct water harvesting structures and introduce solar-powered boreholes to provide an eco-friendly solution.

“Access to water has always been a problem for farmers and pastoralists.The solar-powered boreholes will provide enough water.”

The scheme is also aiming to improve market access for livestock products by improving value chains so pastoralists can fetch better prices in livestock markets closer to their communities.

Tanzania’s livestock sector is changing with climate-smart practices and community-led efforts, setting an example for other regions. By focusing on sustainability and innovation, Tanzania is improving the lives of pastoralists and promoting peace and cooperation.

“We have come a long way from those tough times. Now, we look forward to a future where our children can grow up without the fear of conflict and scarcity.”

This feature is published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Overwhelmed Healthcare Systems in Gaza Struggle Through Evacuation Orders

Aid, Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Middle East & North Africa, Migration & Refugees, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Humanitarian Emergencies

Displaced families in Gaza are on the move after the latest Israeli evacuation orders. Around nine in 10 Gazans have been displaced at least once since the war began. Photo: UNRWA

Displaced families in Gaza are on the move after the latest Israeli evacuation orders. Around nine in 10 Gazans have been displaced at least once since the war began. Photo: UNRWA

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2024 (IPS) – For nine months, over 2 million people in the Gaza Strip have been forcibly displaced in the wake of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. The ongoing fighting and displacement have put significant strain on humanitarian organizations on the ground to address even basic health needs.

The United Nations and other humanitarian organizations have stressed that the healthcare system in Gaza has collapsed or has suffered undue pressure as a result of the fighting. Out of 36 hospitals in the area, 13 remain open, operating with partial functionality.

This includes Nasser Hospital, which now stands as the last hospital providing comprehensive healthcare services. It has been overwhelmed with patients in the wake of evacuation orders issued on July 1 by Israeli authorities for the east and south of Khan Younis. Patients and medical personnel working in the Gaza European Hospital, located in Khan Younis, evacuated ahead of time.

Although an official from the Israeli defense force stated that patients and medical personnel were exempt from the evacuation order, this was not conveyed to the humanitarian groups on the ground. 

Andrea de Domenico, UN-OCHA’s Head of Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told reporters in a virtual press briefing on July 3 that OCHA was not informed. He stated that it was likely that those who evacuated acted based on past experiences where hospitals were specifically targeted for raids or military bombardment, and so they took preemptive measures to evacuate before the Israeli military moved in on Khan Younis.

Evacuation orders have devastating implications for the fragile health infrastructure by disrupting the functionality of health facilities within and adjacent to evacuation zones, as one spokesperson from the World Health Organization (WHO) told IPS. They impede access for both healthcare providers and patients, and they compromise the efficacy and security of humanitarian operations. In addition, this only increases the burden on other hospitals that are now charged with receiving patients from evacuated areas.

As one of the remaining hospitals providing comprehensive care, Nasser Hospital has been operating beyond capacity with limited supplies, amidst destruction in the surrounding area, which WHO staff on the ground have said is ‘indescribable’. The area surrounding the hospital is laden with heavy layers of debris, destroyed buildings, and no stretch of an intact road. Its pediatric ward has now hosted more than 120 patients since July 5, despite its 56-bed capacity.

OCHA and the World Health at Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza earlier this year. UN and other humanitarian agencies have been struggling to ensure health care continues. Credit: OCHA

OCHA and the World Health at Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza earlier this year. UN and other humanitarian agencies have been struggling to ensure health care continues. Credit: OCHA

It is also operating with dwindling medical supplies and holds responsibility for sterilizing equipment for the surrounding field hospitals, according to Doctors Without Borders (DWB). Despite the critical need for supplies, DWB trucks and convoys carrying these supplies have been unable to enter Gaza since April. As recently as July 3, trucks were denied entry due to ongoing fighting in the South.

“Overall, it’s a comprehensive issue—from shortages of beds and supplies to the lack of surgeons. With yet another hospital closed, patients’ lives are even more at risk,” said medical team leader Javid Abdelmoneim, working in Nasser Hospital.

The issue of life-saving aid being restricted from entering Gaza has continued to persist and impact operations for humanitarian organizations on the ground, including the UN. As the WHO spokesperson told IPS, their trucks were unable to pass through last week as the Karem Shalom crossing remains closed.

Fuel has been identified as critical to the functionality of health facilities and aid operations, and yet shortages are rampant. A WHO spokesperson stated that hospitals have been forced to work with limited supplies of fuel, electricity and solar systems, and this has only hindered groups from properly functioning.

Power blackouts in newborn/ICU and kidney dialysis units place their patients at critical risk. The lack of fuel also impacts the water and sanitation sectors, which require at least seventy-thousand liters of fuel a day, and yet in the last few weeks, they have only received less than ten percent of what is needed.

Only 500,000 liters of fuel have been brought in during the first week of July, and 2 million liters were brought in in the month of June, which humanitarian organizations note is a fraction of the fuel needed to sustain humanitarian, medical, and WASH operations—at least 400,000 liters per day.

Trash and sewage buildup and a lack of clean water, among other factors, have all led to the spread of water-borne diseases and upper respiratory infections. According to the WHO, since mid-October 2023, they have reported cases of diarrhea, lice and scabies, skin rashes, impetigo and chicken pox.

“While a healthy body can more easily fight off diseases, a wasted and weakened body will struggle and become more susceptible,” one WHO spokesperson told IPS.

Meanwhile, acute food insecurity has ravaged Gaza. Since the start of the war, food insecurity has been a major concern for humanitarian actors in the region and globally.

The Integrated Phase Classification (IPC)’s special brief acute food insecurity projected that 96 percent of Gaza’s population, or 2.15 million people, would be experiencing extreme levels of food insecurity between June 16 and September 30, which includes over 495,000 people who face catastrophic food insecurity. More than half of the households reported that often, they did not have any food in the household, and more than 20 percent go full days and nights without eating. The violence and repeated displacement have challenged people’s ability to cope or to access humanitarian assistance.

This is further exacerbated when humanitarian workers are also forced to relocate for their own safety and move their operations. Domenico stated that the constant movement also means that warehouses containing fuel and supplies are abandoned as a result. In the case of UN agencies such as OCHA and its partners, humanitarian operations may be considered a parameter of activity that is (or should be) protected from military activity. Their presence is likely to signal to people that it may be safe to be there or that their basic needs will be met.

So far, 34 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those deaths, WHO notes that 28 of them are children. A group of independent experts has warned that famine has spread throughout the Gaza Strip, noting recent cases of children who have died due to hunger and malnutrition, one of whom was as young as six months old.

“With the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment in central Gaza, there is no doubt that famine has spread from northern Gaza into central and southern Gaza,” the experts said in a shared statement.

The IPC special brief notes that only a cessation of the armed conflict and sustained, uninterrupted humanitarian intervention could reduce the risk of famine. Humanitarian organizations have struggled to maintain their operations while hostilities have persisted in the Gaza Strip, endangering and displacing more than a million civilians multiple times over, along with humanitarian workers who have risked their lives to continue providing what little life-saving aid can cross the border. Military violence has continued despite international condemnation and repeated demands for a ceasefire.

Organizations such as WHO and Doctors Without Borders have coordinated with health partners and agencies on the ground, namely UNRWA, to provide primary care, support vaccination campaigns, and deploy emergency medical teams. As the WHO notes, however, these efforts can only support the health system; they cannot replace it.

IPS UN Bureau Report

Note: This feature was published with the support of the Riana Group.


Special Report: Exposing Afghanistan’s Pervasive, Methodical System of Gender Oppression

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Middle East & North Africa, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here

Richard Bennett during his oral statement at the Human Rights Council on June 18, 2024. Credit: Anne-Marie Colombet/Human Rights Council

Richard Bennett during his oral statement at the Human Rights Council on June 18, 2024. Credit: Anne-Marie Colombet/Human Rights Council

NAIROBI , Jul 1 2024 (IPS) – The UN Special Rapporteur’s annual report on human rights in Afghanistan lays bare the alarming phenomenon of an institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity and exclusion of women and girls.

In the new report, Richard Bennett, the UN’s Special Rapporteur, provides an intersectional analysis of the establishment and enforcement of this institutionalized system of unparalleled gender oppression. It paints a picture of a worsening situation for women and girls.

“The situation is that the de facto authorities, who control the country but are not yet recognized as a government, are not just failing to implement their obligations to human rights under the human rights treaties that they’ve signed. They are deliberately implementing policies and practices that flout those policies to create a society where women are permanently inferior to men,” says Bennett in an exclusive interview with IPS.

Education Cannot Wait’s #AfghanGirlsVoices global campaign highlights real-life testimonies of hope, courage and resilience by Afghan girls denied their right to education. Credit: ECW

Education Cannot Wait’s #AfghanGirlsVoices global campaign highlights real-life testimonies of hope, courage and resilience by Afghan girls denied their right to education. Credit: ECW

“Of course, there is sexism in every country, some worse than others, but this is very different from any other country.”

Bennett is referring to the distressing pattern of large-scale systematic violations and subjugation of women’s and girls’ fundamental rights that is unfolding, abetted by the Taliban’s discriminatory and misogynist policies and harsh enforcement methods such as gender apartheid and persecution.

“Only in Afghanistan has a government shut schools for girls above the age of 13, above the sixth grade, and does not allow women to go to universities. And this, combined with segregation, means that women are really suffering. For example, women can only get treatment from doctors who are women and the same applies to teaching. It is a very segregated society as a whole. Just today, a businesswoman told me that she could only do business with female customers. This is affecting not just the current situation and the current generation, but the future as well.”

The Special Rapporteur finds that the Taliban’s institutionalized system of discrimination is most visible through its relentless issuance and enforcement of edicts, decrees, declarations and orders that in and of themselves constitute severe deprivations of human rights and violations of international law.

Between June 2023 and March 2024, they issued an estimated 52 edicts. These include banning foreign non-governmental organizations from providing educational programmes, including community-based education. The Taliban banned women from participating in radio and television shows alongside male presenters.

In July 2023, female beauty salons were forced to close. In August 2023, women were prohibited from entering Band-e Amir National Park. In October 2023, women were excluded from holding directorships within non-governmental organizations. In February 2024, women on television were required to wear a black hijab, with their faces covered, leaving only their eyes visible.

“We are concerned about intergenerational issues, but also intersectional issues. There is discrimination against women and girls who are of an ethnic or religious or linguistic marginalized groups,  or persons with disabilities, or a woman heading a household. Travel requires accompaniment by a close male relative and some women do not have such a person available. All of this is extremely restrictive and will also affect future generations as it will lead to a lack of education and professions,” Bennett says.

The report finds that “women and girls are being maneuvered into increasingly narrow roles where the deep-rooted patriarchy, bolstered and legitimized by Taliban ideology, deems them to belong: as bearers and rearers of children, and as objects available for exploitation, including debt bondage, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and other forms of unremunerated or poorly remunerated labor.”

The UN Special Rapporteur stresses that there was progress in Afghanistan before the return of the Taliban.

“It was not perfect, but for 20 years there was notable progress. As a result, there are very many professional women in Afghanistan, and women who head households as the main income earners—the main breadwinners for their families. The restrictions are having very serious negative effects.”

Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur Afghanistan, advocates for the rights of every girl to education in Afghanistan. Credit: ECW

Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan, advocates for the rights of every girl to education in Afghanistan. Credit: ECW

Bennett is among the prominent supporters of the global #AfghanGirlsVoices campaign launched by Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises within the United Nations. Now in its second phase, the campaign aims to ensure unrestricted access to education for Afghan girls and young women.

After seizing power in 2021, the Taliban swiftly imposed a ban on secondary education for girls, subsequently expanding this restriction to encompass universities and, more recently, private learning centers. Young women have also been prevented from leaving Afghanistan to pursue tertiary education.

“There has never been universal education in Afghanistan, even in the 20 years preceding the return of the Taliban. However, the education system gradually improved, although not as much in remote or rural areas. Part of this was due to a lack of resources, as well as an ongoing internal conflict. So, it was insecure and difficult to maintain schools. But once the Taliban came back into power after August 2021, an education system built over two decades was quickly unraveling,” he says.

In addition to the school closures, he speaks of concerns about the quality of education from two perspectives. One is the alarm over an ongoing brain drain in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over. Many teachers and university lecturers have left the country.

The other concerns are changes to the curriculum and especially a notable increase in madrasa education. Madrasa education has always been a feature of life in Afghanistan. “But now there seems to be at least anecdotal information that the teaching is much more religious-based than a broad education. Girls can go to madrasas,” he says. 

On recommendations and urgent solutions moving forward, Bennett stresses that “no country should ban schools. We therefore continue to call for the reversal of this policy and the reopening of schools with a good quality education. My recommendations are what I call an all-tools approach, as only one approach or any one tool will not work.”

Overall, he says the report calls for justice and accountability, incorporating human rights and women’s voices in political processes and diplomatic engagement. Emphasizing that bolstering documentation of human rights abuses and violations is critical, as is reinforcing protection and solidarity for Afghan women, girls and human rights defenders.

Bennett has a direct message to the current rulers in Afghanistan, the Taliban, to reverse their policies and to comply with human rights. The second message is to the international community, urging them not to normalize or recognize Afghanistan’s unacceptable and worsening human rights situation.

Further stressing that the global community should strongly resist normalizing diplomatic relations or accepting the Taliban into the UN unless and until they meet concrete, measurable, verifiable benchmarks on human rights and the rights of women and girls.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Sawantwadi’s Traditional Handmade Toys Struggle for Survival

Arts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Cooperatives, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment


Shashikant Rane with his wooden fruits. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

Shashikant Rane with his wooden fruits. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

PUNE, Jun 14 2024 (IPS) – Sawantwadi in Maharashtra, on the western coast of India, bordering Goa, has always been known for its wooden toys. A picturesque town amid hills and lush greenery, Sawantwadi retains an old-world charm to this day.  The regal Sawantwadi Palace holds pride of place, with colleges, schools, and temples cloistered around the periphery of the lake, which was once an extension of the royal grounds.  In the centre of the town is the Ubha Bazaar, or Hanging Market, which houses rows of shops selling the iconic wooden toys that are a hallmark of Sawantwadi.

The wooden toys of Sawantwadi are a legacy that the previous rulers nurtured, and they reflect the spirit of the area. Generations of children in Maharashtra and Goa have grown up playing with the life-like depictions of fruits, people, and the pull-along toys that were a necessary part of growing up. But today, these painstakingly carved, hand-made toys made of Pongamia and mango wood are struggling for survival. The once-bustling hilltop market in downtown Sawantwadi, known as Ubha Bazaar (Hanging Market), is now a ghost of what it once was. The artisan families who manufactured and sold these toys from their workshops-cum-homes are now reduced to a handful.

So, what caused the busy hands of these artisans to fall silent?

By the looks of it, several factors are responsible.

Female musicians in concert. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

Female musicians in concert. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS


Unlike the cheap machine-made toys that flood the market today, toys are a traditional craft in India, commanding a hoary lineage from the era of the Indus Valley civilization. Like many other centers in India, Sawantwadi always boasted gifted artisans capable of painstakingly breathing life into wood and carving out an array of life-like figures inspired by everyday life. Over the decades, the life-like depiction of fruits and vegetables was always been a specialty of Sawantwadi craftsmen. Of course, there were other toys too, for every age group of children: pull-along toys for toddlers, kitchen sets for little girls, bullock carts and other vehicles for bigger children, as well as spoons, cutters, and ladles used in the kitchen. What always made these toys stand out was the environment-friendly techniques and colors that were used to produce them.

Toy-making in Sawantwadi had its origins in the arrival of  Telangana Brahmins in the 17th century, who visited the kingdom to take part in religious debates with the then ruler, Khem Sawant II, who was extremely well-versed in Hindu religious scriptures and philosophy. The Chitrali artisans who arrived with the Brahmins brought the craft of toy-making and ganjifa (playing cards) to Sawantwadi.

Ideally suited to the greenery and scenic landscape of Sawantwadi, toy-making here made use of Pongamia and mango wood, which thrived in the thick forests here. The wood used for the toys would be collected in the summer and, after being washed and dried, left out to get thoroughly soaked during the entire monsoon. After thorough drying, they would be carved as per the desired shape. Once the toys were carved out, they would be covered with five layers of earth and left aside for a certain period of time. The lathe would then be used in this stage to impart the desired shape and finish. They would be painted with a powdery mixture made of tamarind and other seeds once dusted off and smoothed with sandpaper. After applying several coats of paint, a coat of lacquer and natural gum would add the finishing touches.  To this day, the lacquer used in Sawantwadi toys is their special feature. It is durable and never fades or chips away, no matter how roughly the toys are used. When toy-making was on the verge of fading out at one point in time, the local royal family gave it an impetus in the early 1970s. Primarily responsible for this shot in the arm were the Queen, Maharani Satvashila Devi and her husband, the reigning king, Rajesaheb Khem Sawant VI, Lt Colonel Shivram Sawant Bhonsale. The reigning royal family also set up a workshop to make hand-painted ganjifa cards at the palace, which is functional to this day.

Sawantwadi Palace grounds. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

Sawantwadi Palace grounds. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

Difficulties in Procuring Inputs

Historically, Sawantwadi was a vassal state of the mighty Maratha empire. When the British defeated the Marathas, Sawantwadi continued to exist as a small principality with a benign ruler during the British Raj.  The erstwhile British Resident’s home in downtown Sawantwadi, at a stone’s throw from the Palace, testifies to those bygone days. The early years of the 20th century saw Sawantwadi thrive in matters of education and culture, with the rulers also making efforts to nurture traditional crafts and artisans.

In recent times, however, deforestation has made it difficult to get adequate supplies of pangara (Pongamia) wood, while mango is not suitable for products that need the lathe machine.  Artisans have now turned to Acacia, Shivan (Gmelina Arborea) and Glyricidea, compromising on the quality of the toys.  Glyricidea has particularly emerged as a favorite, notwithstanding its being environmentally unsound and causing rats to overrun homes.

Lack of skilled artisans

The painstaking nature of the job, the difficulties in procuring wood and other inputs, and an uncertain market that cannot guarantee earnings in keeping with the efforts put in have resulted in many skilled artisans moving out of the industry and opting for employment elsewhere.  Industrialization in the neighboring districts has also been a big draw, while government initiatives to train young artisans in wood carving have been lackadaisical at best.

Very few can carve wood now, unlike in the past. So, instead of carving out a toy, the prevailing trend is to fill up sawdust into ready moulds. This also helps keep costs low and is not labour-intensive.  Shashikant Rane, one of the very few remaining master craftsmen in Sawantwadi, who the government approached about opening a Hastkala (handicrafts) Kendra (centre), tells me, “I entered the profession in the early 1960s, thanks to my father, who had received special training from Abha Gawde, a well-known master in the craft. Traditional toy-making requires a great deal of patience, starting with the procurement of the right wood. You procure the wood in May but cannot work on it until a few months later. In these times of quick turnarounds and massive profits, few are willing to put in the effort,” he points out.

Rane has been training 30 youngsters in the craft every year at his modest workshop-cum-home and is a much sought-after craftsman for prominent projects all over India. Referring to the government’s lackadaisical approach to training artisans, Rane tells me,  “The Minister-In-Charge had identified the venue for setting up the Hastkala Kendra and spoken to me about his vision at length.  But it is over a year now, and the plan still awaits finalization.”

Unfair Competition and Dwindling Demand

There are other factors, too. Cheap Chinese machine-made toys have also made consumers move away from these beautiful, hand-carved toys, which, owing to rising input costs, sell at higher rates. One also perceives a change in taste. P D Kanekar and Company, a prominent seller of toys in Sawantwadi, has moved to manufacture non-traditional toys in recent years.  Ankita Kanekar, from the Kanekar family, tells me, “Pangara (Pongamia) wood was always used to make life-like fruits and vegetables in the past. But no one is interested in playing with those now, unlike the previous generation.  Pangara trees are only available in a few villages now. Besides, a single set takes around one and a half months to be made. The work is painstaking and exacting, and the return is very little. There are very few good artisans practicing the trade.”

She also blames the current transport infrastructure for dwindling sales. “Earlier, the road links from Mumbai and Pune passed through Sawantwadi. But the highways now skirt our town.”

Changing tastes are evident when one browses through the shops today. Imitations of machine-made toys hold pride of place as compared to the artistic depictions of musicians, vegetable -sellers, or fishermen in traditional attire. It is tough to spot a bunch of bananas or betelnuts either.

Lack of government support is another major factor.

The active support of the ruling royal family had bolstered the toy industry in the previous century. This kind of support is no longer forthcoming. The lack of a strong toymakers’ cooperative or guild is also partly to blame. “There is no unity among the various people in the trade to negotiate in one voice with the authorities and demand guarantees or protective subsidies,” rues a prominent toymaker, requesting anonymity.

Consequently, Sawantwadi toys were devoid of geographic identification (GI) until now.

Light at the End of a Tunnel

As I write this, toymakers are jubilant about a GI tag having been granted to Sawantwadi wooden toys on March 30, 2024. This opens up a new vista for them. Toymakers like PD Kanekar have already taken to selling their toys online. “ We started selling online during the pandemic when everything shut down,” Ankita Kanekar tells me. The Kanekars sell through the DirectCreate platform to buyers all over India. Otherwise, sales are made to wholesalers based in Goa, who, in turn, sell to those traveling to India. This is because “international courier services are not yet developed from Sawantwadi. ”

Even so, with Goa’s newly-opened MOPA airport just 15–16 km away, international tourists often come down to Sawantwadi to buy these iconic toys.

One could well say that the GI tag and the inclusivity it bestows on these beautiful handcrafted toys are a good beginning. However, a lot more needs to be done if these toys are to capture the attention of a global market. Improving the courier services as well as government subsidies to the makers could go a long way here.

IPS UN Bureau Report

IPS UN Bureau, IPS UN Bureau Report, India


African Activists Call on the West to Finance Climate Action

Africa, Civil Society, Climate Change Finance, Climate Change Justice, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Climate Change Finance

Activists at Bonn accuse developed countries of frustrating the process on climate finance. Pictured here are Danni Taaffe, Head of Communications at Climate Action Network (CAN), Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa and Sven Harmeling, Head of Climate at CAN. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Activists at Bonn accuse developed countries of frustrating the process on climate finance. Pictured here are Danni Taaffe, Head of Communications at Climate Action Network (CAN), Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa and Sven Harmeling, Head of Climate at CAN. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

BONN, Jun 13 2024 (IPS) – As the technical session of the global climate negotiations enters the final stretch in Bonn, Germany, climate activists from Africa have expressed fears that negotiators from the developed world are dragging their feet in a way to avoid paying their fair share to tackle the climate crisis.

“I think we will be unfair to the snail if we say that the Bonn talks have all along moved at a snail pace,” quipped Mohammed Adow, the Director, Power Shift Africa.

“Ideally, there will be no climate action anywhere without climate finance. Yet what we have seen is that developed countries are frustrating the process, blocking the UAE annual dialogues, which were agreed upon last year in Dubai, to focus on the delivery of finance so as to give confidence to developing countries to implement climate actions,” said Adow.

According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) dialogue was created to focus on climate finance in relation to implementing the first Global Stoke Take (GST-1) outcomes, with the rationale of serving as a follow up mechanism dedicated to climate finance, ensuring response to and/or monitoring of, as may be appropriate and necessary, all climate finance items under the GST

The two-week Bonn technical session of Subsidiary Bodies (SB60) was expected to develop an infrastructure for the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG), a climate change funding mechanism to raise the floor of climate finance for developing countries above the current $100 billion annual target.

In 2009, during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, developed countries agreed that by 2020, they would collectively mobilize $100 billion per year to support priorities for developing countries in terms of adaptation to climate crisis, loss and damage, just energy transition and climate change mitigation.

When parties endorsed the Paris Agreement at COP 21 in 2015, they found it wise to set up the NCQG, which has to be implemented at the forthcoming COP 29, whose agenda has to be set at the SB60 in Bonn, providing scientific and technological advice, thereby shaping negotiations in Azerbaijan.

However, activists feel that the agenda being set in Bonn is likely to undermine key outcomes of previous negotiations, especially on climate finance.

“We came to Bonn with renewed hope that the NCQG discussions will be honest and frank with all parties committed to seeing that the finance mechanism will be based on the priorities and needs of developing countries and support country-driven strategies, with a focus on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs),” said Memory Zonde-Kachambwa, the Executive Director, FEMNET.

“Seeing the devastation climate change is causing in our countries in terms of floods, storms, and droughts, among other calamities, it was our hope that the rich countries would be eager and willing to indicate the Quantum as per Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement so as to allow developing countries to plan their climate action,” she said.

So far, negotiators from the North have been pushing for collective “mobilization of financial resources,” which African activists believe is merely the privatization of climate finance within NCQG, thus surrendering poor countries to climate-debt speculators and further impoverishing countries clutching onto debt.

Also in the spotlight was the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), where the activists feel that the means of implementation is being vehemently fought by the parties from developed countries.

“Adaptation must be funded from public resources and must not be seen as a business opportunity open to private sector players,” said Dr. Augustine Njamnshi, an environmental policy and governance law expert and the Executive Secretary of the African Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access. “Without clear indications on the means of implementation, GGA is an empty shell and it is not fit-for-purpose.”

According to Ambassador Ali Mohammed, the incoming Chair for the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), the SB60 is an opportunity to rebuild trust in the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

“That trust can only be rebuilt if we come out of Bonn with a quantum that adequately covers the needs of the continent,” he said, noting that the figure Africa is asking for, which is to be part of the agenda for COP29, is USD 1.3 trillion per year by 2030.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Biodiversity Meetings in Nairobi End, All Eyes Are Now on COP16

Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Environment, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Natural Resources, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


A banner demanding an end to harmful subsidies is on display on the last day of the SBI meeting in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A banner demanding an end to harmful subsidies is on display on the last day of the SBI meeting in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

NAIROBI, Jun 3 2024 (IPS) – Regions struggling to revise and update their National Biodiversity Plans aligning them with the Global Biodiversity Framework adopted at COP15, will now be given the technical and scientific support to develop and submit their plans on time.

This was one of the key decisions of the 4th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI)—the crucial pre-COP meetings of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (UNCBD)—to review the status and challenges of implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which started on May 22 and ended in Nairobi late in the evening of May 29, 2024.

More than 1000 participants from 143 countries gathered for the nine-day meeting, which UNCBD referred to as one of the “largest SBI meetings ever,” to discuss a variety of issues pertaining to the timely implementation of the GBF. As the meeting ended, the participants came up with a list of recommendations that will be presented for nations to consider at the next Biodiversity COP (COP16), scheduled to be held in October in Cali, Colombia.

IPS provided coverage of the twin meetings of SBI and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advisors (SBSTTA), which took place earlier on May 13–18.  In this article, we bring you the key issues that topped the agenda of the SBI and the biggest recommendations that were made.

National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans

In December 2022, at the COP15, parties agreed to revise and update their national biodiversity plans (NBSAP), aligning the targets with the global biodiversity framework that was adopted at the COP. These updated plans are to be submitted to UNCBD by or before the next COP, scheduled to be held in October.

However, as earlier reported by IPS, despite being just five months away from the next COP, only 11 countries have submitted their NBSAPs, while the majority of the countries have not, citing various reasons, including a lack of capacity and resources.

The top agenda item of the SBI has been reviewing these reasons and recommending steps that can help countries close this gap and complete the task of submitting their plans on time.

David Cooper, acting Executive Director of UN Biodiversity and Chirra Achalendar Reddy, chair of SBI-4, address the press conference. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

David Cooper, acting Executive Director of UN Biodiversity and Chirra Achalendar Reddy, chair of SBI-4, address the press conference. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Capacity Building

After the nine-day discussions, delegates at the SBI decided that it would be necessary to provide all countries with specific technical and scientific support that can help them develop their NBSAPs and submit them on time. To provide this support, SBI decided that a network of technical and scientific support centers would be set up at regional and sub-regional level.

According to Chirra Achalender Reddy, Secretary, National Biodiversity Authority, India, and the chair of the SBI-4 meeting, the recommendation to set up these support centers was one of the key decisions made at the meeting.

“I thank the parties for their commitment to implementation of the Convention, as demonstrated by their engagement during the negotiations this week.  While we have many issues to resolve at COP16, the foundation is laid for our discussions in Cali, Colombia, later this year,” said Reddy.

Elaborating further on the decision, David Cooper, Acting Executive Director of the UNCBD, said that 18 regional organizations have been selected worldwide as the support centers. “They will foster and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation as countries harness science, technology and innovation to help halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.”

Cooper also expressed hope that, in the future, these 18 organizations could create more such support centers, expanding the network from regional and sub-regional to national level.

“These subregional support centers will also promote technology transfer among countries, including through joint research programs and joint technology development ventures, acting as “one-stop service centers” offering wide-ranging resources to help meet Biodiversity Plan targets.  The centers are expected to help expand, scale up, and accelerate efforts such as the existing Bio-Bridge initiative,” Cooper added.

Resource Mobilization

In the Global Biodiversity Framework, the financial ambitions set out include investing USD 200 billion a year from both public and private sources until 2030. In addition, the goal also includes saving another USD 500 billion by ending subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity yet are still practiced by countries. This will bring the total available finance for biodiversity conservation to USD 700 billion per year until 2030, the deadline to achieve all GBF targets.

At the SBI, there was an intense discussion on resource mobilization. Several countries complained that, despite being signatories to the GBF, they had not been able to access any resources meant for biodiversity conservation, especially the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF), which was launched last year and is managed by the Global Environment Facility.

Delegates from Syria, who spearheaded this discussion, revealed that their country had not been able to receive any money and suggested that the final document prepared by the CBD Secretariat reflect this. Syria’s voice was amplified by Russia, which said that Syria’s inability to access resources should be interpreted as a denial of resources.

Almost all the governments also discussed their own parameters for national biodiversity finance plans, the role of multilateral development banks, existing UN initiatives, and private finance.

An important discussion that took place was about setting up a new Global Biodiversity Fund, separate from the current Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF).

Women4Biodiversity, a group of women-led NGOs and gender champions, launched a training module on how to mainstream gender at the Global Biodiversity Framework meeting. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women4Biodiversity, a group of women-led NGOs and gender champions, launched a training module on how to mainstream gender at the Global Biodiversity Framework meeting. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Gender and Indigenous Peoples

One of the most interesting developments that took place on the sidelines of the SBI meeting was the launch of a training module by Women4Biodiversity, a group that advocates for gender mainstreaming across all 23 targets of the GBF and participates in the meetings as an observer.

Titled “Training Module on Advancing Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the Implementation of the Kunming Montreal-Global Biodiversity Framework,” the document was prepared in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Speaking to the press about the training module, Alejandra Duarte, Policy Associate at Women4Biodiversity, said the main objective of the publication was to serve as a source of information for decision-makers, negotiators, indigenous peoples and local communities, women, youth, civil society, businesses, and the whole of society who are engaged in the planning, monitoring, and implementation of the Biodiversity Plan.

Mrinalini Rai, Director of Women4Biodiversity, also explained that the module was created to be understood by all and customized as per the context, community, or country.

Supporting Rai’s comments, Cristina Eghenter, senior global governance policy expert at WWF, said, “I hope that the module will help understand the gaps and what needs to be done for women to be a part of the Biodiversity Plan.”

Rodah Rotino, an indigenous community leader and President of the Pastoral Communities Empowerment Programme (PACEP), a Kenya-based women-led NGO, highlighted the contribution of indigenous women to biodiversity conservation across the world, including Africa.

“In my community, we have started a seed bank that preserves indigenous tree seeds. We plant indigenous plants that help preserve and conserve the local biodiversity and help community members benefit from their many uses, as they have done for centuries,” Rotino said, citing the example of her own community in West Pokot County, where women have started several initiatives. “We even promote the use of our traditional food systems, including the use of traditional indigenous crops, fruits, and vegetables, and we are seeing that after using these, our people, especially women and children, have many health improvements and quick recovery from some ailments. In short, we are going ahead with using our indigenous knowledge without even waiting for the formal implementation of the GBF.”

What’s Next

In Cali, Colombia, the CBD secretariat will present the decisions of the SBI-4 and the SBSTTA to the nations for their consideration and adoption.

However, just before the COP begins, yet another SBI meeting (SBI-5) will be held in Cali. The sole focus of that meeting will be to review the latest status of the national biodiversity plans and the plans that will be submitted between now and the COP.

“Right now, countries are in various stages of developing their NBSAPs and by October, we expect most of them to complete and make the submissions. The SBI-5 will review the plans and the status then,” Cooper explained.

IPS UN Bureau Report