Wednesday, December 28, 2016

May the way be easy - and green

"In our gardens, it is our own responsibility to return waters, via compost or mulch, to the soil and plants. Around our homes we can catch water for garden use, but we rely on natural forested landscapes to provide the condenser leaves and clouds to keep rivers running with clean water, to maintain the global atmosphere and to lock up our gaseous pollutants.” (1988)

 Bill Mollison - Founder of Permaculture

"Permaculture offers a radical approach to food production and urban renewal, water, energy and pollution. It integrates ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture and agro-forestry in creating a rich and sustainable way of living. It uses appropriate technology giving high yields for low energy inputs, achieving a resource of great diversity and stability. The design principles are equally applicable to both urban and rural dwellers" - Bill Mollison

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Great Change: Trophic Cascades

The Great Change: Trophic Cascades: " Chinese youth are starting to wish they had not been lured into where they find themselves. It is best for all our sakes to encourage that impulse

We were expecting 25 students but got 40, and on some days it even goes up to 50. Initially our hosts wanted to have a Permaculture Design Course but after we told them such an undertaking would require 2 weeks, including 72 hours of classroom time, and multiple co-instructors, they asked instead for a week-long introduction to the Ecological Key, part of the Ecovillage Design one-month curriculum offered by the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education Associates. We helped author that module so we agreed, but then they needed to cut it to 6 days to factor in the national independence holiday and also asked if we could do an introduction to natural building as part of the course.

Reluctantly, we agreed, since it was only introductory workshop in any event, but then we had our expensive Japanese finishing trowel confiscated by airline security and lost our shiitake mushroom plug spawn to agricultural inspection in Beijing. Undeterred, we pushed on, arriving a day early to sleep off jet lag and get oriented to the venue.

Reluctantly, we agreed, since it was only introductory workshop in any event, but then we had our expensive Japanese finishing trowel confiscated by airline security and lost our shiitake mushroom plug spawn to agricultural inspection in Beijing. Undeterred, we pushed on, arriving a day early to sleep off jet lag and get oriented to the venue.

An able team of young Xu Ling villagers and volunteers rushed about cleaning up an old hall in the center of town, laying in bulk food for the cooks, re-wiring everything and setting up wifi, a PA system with bluetooth microphones, and a big projection screen. 

As we walked the steep stone steps of the village we saw essentially a ghost town. Eighty large family houses stood empty, abandoned to the elements. Skinny dogs picked through the central garbage bins, scattering plastics and bits of foil into the bubbling mountain brooks that wove through and under the ancient stone stairways. Chickens and ducks, apparently the only domestic animals raised for food here, wandered the streets and picked through scraps the dogs missed, or raided the kernels of corn laid out on cement terraces to dry. 

The old townspeople looked favorably towards the arrival of young ecovillagers but knew all too well that they were gardening greenhorns, unused to the seasonal ebbs and flows, city kids with city addictions, so they tried not to get too involved with them, not expecting they would last long. How many winter mass starvations had they witnessed in their long and difficult lives?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Global Soil Partnership


Are you ready to take part in the World Soil Day campaign ?

Here we are... 5 December 2016 is just around the corner! With this special GSP announcement, we would like to officially launch the World Soil Day campaign whose theme is "Soils & Pulses, symbiosis for life". This collective effort is aimed at bringing attention to the benefits we receive from soils.

Pulses are among the major contributors to ensuring and increasing soil health, especially by fixing atmospheric nitrogen and freeing soil-bound phosphorous and making essential nutrients available to plants, improving soil structure and enhancing soil biodiversity. As we are nearing the close of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, the striking symbiosis between soils and pulses is timely and central to the WSD2016 campaign, not to mention helpful in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management.

The GSP Secretariat encourages you to share the event in a variety of innovative ways to enhance public awareness of the critical influence soils and pulses exert on our lives.

We have prepared an array of stunning campaign materials to help create a buzz about World Soil Day 2016. 

The success of the World Soil Day depends on you. Please tell your friends and colleagues about it and help disseminate the WSD campaign page. More

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system

Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system
  The Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas— the outstanding reward of a 3-year global collaboration—was launched on 25 May 2016 in Nairobi. The launch, part of a symposium of the Second United Nations Environment Assembly, provided an opportunity for eminent speakers in the field to discuss the central role soil biodiversity plays in food security, environmental health, and the global sustainable development agenda.   Edmundo Barrios, the event’s lead organizer, is Senior Soil Ecosystem Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and one of the editors of the Atlas.   “Biodiversity is largely understood by society as that which lives above the ground and easily observed like trees, crops and birds. Much less is known about belowground biodiversity. In fact, the smaller the organism, the less we know about it,” said Barrios. By ignoring soil biodiversity, we might be missing the real picture of global biodiversity.” For instance, whereas around 88% of tree species and around half of all ant species have been described, less than 1.5% of microscopic soil bacteria are known to science, he explained.   But the situation is changing fast, thanks to new molecular technologies and powerful visualization tools which have been developed during the last decade, tools that allow a glimpse into a fascinating world beneath our feet.   “No longer is soil biodiversity a black box- we are cracking into that and moving fast about it,” said keynote speaker Diana Wall, Science Chair of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) and Professor at Colorado State University.          

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

As Clouds Head for the Poles, Time to Prepare for Food and Water Shocks

As Clouds Head for the Poles, Time to Prepare for Food and Water Shocks
  A changing climate means less rain and lower water supplies in regions where many people live and much of the planet’s food is produced: the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, including the U.S. Southwest, southern Europe and parts of the Middle East, southern Africa, Australia and Chile. As WRI-Aqueduct’s future scenarios for water supply show, diminished water supplies will be apparent in these areas by 2020 – less than four years away -- and are expected to grow worse by 2030 and 2040.   Now a new study in the journal Nature provides some of the first evidence that this widely-predicted phenomenon – the movement of clouds and rainfall from the mid-latitudes towards the North and South poles -- is already taking place. Just like the retreat of glaciers and polar sea ice, now clouds and rain are retreating poleward.   This will have huge implications for agricultural production, industrial and energy output, and municipal water provisioning. Many irrigated agricultural areas are already facing water stress. The climate-driven shift of clouds and rain – known as Hadley Cell expansion – will put those areas under even greater stress in the future. Rain-fed agriculture, which many poor people depend upon, will also suffer as a result of reduced rainfall in the mid-latitude regions.   A recent WRI study finds that sub-Saharan Africa will need to more than triple crop production by 2050 in order to feed its growing population. This hard-to-reach target will become more difficult in places like southern Africa and the western Sahel, where water supply is projected to fall.     In addition to worsening water stress and undermining food security, decreasing water supply in the world’s mid-latitudes may also help destabilize nations in these regions, adding to pre-existing political tensions, and helping contribute to armed conflict and migration, as we have seen in places like Syria. More  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Climate change will affect farmers bottom line

Climate change will affect farmers' bottom line -- ScienceDaily
Arizona Farm
  Over the next 70 to 100 years, our climate is projected to change dramatically, with major impacts on a wide variety of economic sectors. But the sector that is most likely to be affected by these changes is agriculture. A number of studies support this assertion, but relatively few look at the effect of climate change on agriculture from a comprehensive economic perspective.   An interdisciplinary team from the University of Illinois recently investigated the effects of climate change on farmland values in the Southwestern United States.   "We chose to look at farmland values because they reflect the sum of future expected profits and account for adaptation. And that's exactly what climate change is about: long-term change and adaptation," explains U of I economist Sandy Dall'Erba.   The team focused on a single climate region, the U.S. Southwest, where climate changes are expected to make farming even more difficult than in other regions. The predictions say that places like Arizona will get hotter overall, with more frequent heat waves and more sudden and extreme rainfall events that could lead to periodic flooding. But even within that one climate zone, the team expected some variation. To capture that, they separated out the effects on lowland counties versus highland counties.   What's new about the work is that the team used an economic model that allowed them to look across production systems, so they could evaluate farmland values for soybean producers and cattle ranchers alike. The model, known as the Ricardian approach, also allowed for adaptation on the part of the farmer.   "Farmers are smart; you can't assume that in 100 years they're going to still be farming corn like they are now," Dall'Erba says. "Climate is changing, new practices and new technologies develop, so they may switch to another production system. The Ricardian approach assumes farmers will adapt."   Further, they were able to integrate what they called "spillover" effects: the influence of one farmer's practices on another. "A simple example is irrigation -- the amount of water you get is very much dependent on how much the farmer upstream from you is taking away. That element has been pretty much overlooked in this framework so far," Dall'Erba notes. Another example of spillover is communication between farmers about farm practices and the availability of certain subsidies.   Finally, the team evaluated multiple climate change scenarios. In most socioeconomic research relating to climate change, a single scenario is tested. Dall'Erba's co-author, U of I atmospheric scientist Francina Dominguez, knew that it was important to provide a range of what the future climate will look like. As such, the researchers worked with seven scenarios of future climate data derived from several global and regional climate models.     Taking all of these factors into account, the team found that irrigation, population density, and farm subsidies all increased farmland value, but subsidies had an effect in highland counties only. In addition, heat waves were found to hurt productivity. More

Thursday, May 12, 2016

65.000 person opposition against Syngenta patent on tomatoes




65.000 x opposition against Syngenta patent on tomatoes

All-time record high for mass opposition filed at the European Patent Office

12 May 2016 / A mass opposition will today be filed against a patent on tomatoes held by the Swiss company Syngenta. 65.000 individuals from 59 countries and 32 organisations are supporting the opposition. Never before have so many people been involved in an opposition at the European Patent Office (EPO). They are all opposing the Syngenta patent, which claims tomato seeds, plants and fruit as an invention, but which actually originate from crossings with tomato plants discovered in Peru and Chile. 

“This is an all-time record number of opponents involved in a case at the European Patent Office. The huge support for this opposition will send a very strong signal to European politicians to take much stronger action against patents on plants and animals,” Iga Niznik says for Arche Noah in Austria, who will be a member of the delegation filing the opposition today.

“Our oppositions shows that European citizens no longer want to let the big corporations to take control of our food production through patent rights. We have to stop these patents now,” says Jörg Rohwedder from the European campaign network WeMove.

In 2015, the European Patent Office (EPO) granted patent EP 1515600 to Syngenta, which claims tomatoes with a high content of so-called flavonols. These compounds are supposedly beneficial to health. The patent covers the plants, the seeds and the fruits. This so-called “invention”, however, is simply a product of crossing tomatoes originally from Peru and Chile with varieties currently grown in the industrialised countries. European patent law is meant to prohibit patents on plant varieties and on conventional breeding. For this reason, the opponents want the patent to be revoked completely. All in all, around 1400 patent applications on conventional breeding have been filed at the EPO so far, and around 180 patents have already been granted.

“Such patents are endangering the future of conventional plant breeding,” says Ulrike Behrendt, a professional tomato breeder, “The patent does not meet the requirements to claim an invention, but simply describes existing characteristics of plants. Future plant breeding and plant breeders will be negatively affected by such patent monopolies. The financial risks and legal uncertainties can negatively impact future innovation in plant breeding, especially for small and medium plant breeders.”

Development organisations have also been warning about the consequences of patents on plants and animals. “This patent constitutes hidden biopiracy,” says François Meienberg for Bern Declaration, “The tomatoes were originally discovered in Peru and Chile, before seed samples were taken to the US and conserved. From there Syngenta had access to the seeds and then claimed further breeding as its 'invention'. The countries of origin are basically being robbed of their biological treasures.”

Members of the European Patent Organisation refused to agree to a meeting with the opponents as requested. Today, the Committee on Patent Law is also holding a meeting at the EPO. This Committee includes delegates from member states of the European Patent Organisation. At the meeting, the Committee will discuss the implementation of current prohibitions in patent law, which exclude patents on plant and animal varieties and conventional breeding. Currently, these prohibitions are applied by the EPO in a way that renders them ineffective. The organisations behind the mass opposition are demanding that the member states of the European Patent Organisation now take decisive action to stop further patents on plants and animals. The Administrative Council, which can make decisions on rules of implementation of the prohibitions will have its next meeting at the end of June.

“We will continue to fight seed monopolists and our resistance is growing. Nobody should be allowed to claim living beings as their invention,” says Ruth Tippe, who is closely monitoring patents on plants and animals for No Patents on Life!

The opponents include the following organisations: Arche Noah (AU), Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) (DE), Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Umweltbeauftragten der Gliedkirchen in der EKD (AGU) (DE), Associacio de varietas locals de les illes Baleares (ES), Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall (DE), BioForum Vlaanderen (NL), Brot für die Welt (DE), Bionext (NL), Bund Naturschutz in Bayern (DE), Campact (DE), Ecologistas en Acción (ES), Ecologistas en Acción – Palencia (ES), Confederation Paysanne (FR), Erklärung von Bern (CH), Evangelischer Dienst auf dem Lande (De), Federation Nationale de l´ Agriculture Biologique (FNAB) (FR), GAIA - Environmental Action and Intervention Group (PT), Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (DE), IG Nachbau (DE), Katholische Landvolkbewegung Freiburg (DE), Kultursaat e.V. (DE), No Patents on Life! (DE), No Patents on Seeds! (EU), ProSpecie Rara (CH), Red Andaluza de Semillas "Cultivando Biodiversidad" (ES), Red Canaria De Semillas (ES), Red de Semillas "Resembrando e Intercambiando" (ES), Reseau Semences Paysannes (FR), SWISSAID (CH), Utviklingsfondet (NO), WeMove (EU), Zentrum Gesellschaftliche Verantwortung der EKHN (DE), Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft (DE).

Contacts and informations:

Iga Niznik, Arche Noah, +43 650 999 13 Jörg Rohwedder, WeMoveTel +49 178 Ulrike Behrendt, Kultursaat: + 49 1786358188 François Meienberg, Berne Declaration: +41 (0)44 277 70 Ruth Tippe, No Patents on Life!: + 49 (0) 173

The patent The opposition


Monday, April 11, 2016

Regional Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean

Regional Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean     Last year in this publication I wrote on the subject of Water Security. This year I will try and cover the other half of the equation, Food Security. “Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”, she [the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver] told a packed audience in Amsterdam. One billion people globally are hungry, she declared, before calling on governments to support a transition to “agricultural democracy” which would empower rural small farmers.” “The 2009 global food crisis signaled the need for a turning point in the global food system”, she said at the event hosted by the Transnational Institute (TNI), a leading international think tank.      In the Caribbean region we are going to be affected by climate change,  as  we all realize,  or should realize, climate change has already started affecting most countries. In the Caribbean the IPCC states ‘By mid-century, climate change is expected to reduce water resources in many small islands, e.g. in the Caribbean and Pacific, to the point where they become insufficient to meet demand during low-rainfall periods’. To this we have to add the likelihood of an increase of cyclone / hurricane activity that can negatively impact agriculture.  During a FAO hosted a two-day International Symposium on Agroecology  for Food Security and Nutrition,18 -19 September 2014 in Rome , FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stated [as]  “Agroecology continues to grow, both in science and in policies it is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed,”    For those not familiar with Permaculture, here is a definition; Permaculture is a conscious integrated design system based on ecology and sustainability principles to create resource efficient and productive human environments and reduce our footprint on the earth. Permaculture provides a framework for consciously designed landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature that provide diversity, stability, and resilience. These systems yield an abundance of shelter, water, energy, and food for the provision of local needs.      Globally, small farmers produce seventy percent of the food for  the of the worlds population. However, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the world needs to produce more food with fewer resources.  This is especially true for the Caribbean (and less so for Latin America) given that today a large portion of our foodstuff is imported. Importation means that we become dependent on resource pricing from another region of the world. If we take California as an example, where they are suffering from a drought, Water Year 2014 – overlapping with California's driest calendar year -- ended on September 30 as the state's third driest in 119 years of record, based on statewide precipitation.  Needless to say the price have increased on lettuce, tomatoes, fruit and nuts produced in the state. California's agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables.  In Florida orange juice prices have historically been affected by freezing winter temperatures, furthermore, crop diseases and blights can easily wipeout regional mono-crops, which are favored by the corporate agriculture industry. Chicken is now been shipped from the United States to China for processing, which adds food miles and raises the potential for contamination, as the world has witnessed in the past. In small island developing states (SIDS) we may also suffer from salt water intrusion into our water tables, where the freshwater floats on top of the salt water. This is already effecting traditional agriculture in some Pacific island states.  “The nutritional value of food is largely a function of its vitamin and mineral content. In this regard, organically grown food is dramatically superior in mineral content to that grown by modern conventional methods. Because it fosters the life of the soil organic farming reaps the benefits soil life offers in greatly facilitated plant access to soil nutrients. Healthy plants mean healthy people, and such better nourished plants provide better nourishment to people and animals alike .”     Genetically Modified Crops.  In the United States legislation covering GMO crops and ingredients do not mandate listing ingredients, meaning consumers are unable to identify GMO ingredients of food products they are purchasing.  In Canada and the USA labeling is voluntary, while in Europe all food (including processed food) or feed that contains greater than 0.9% of GMOs must be labelled .     Fish Stock Depletion According to the Nature Conservancy website, it's [Jamaica’s Pedro Banks are] also the primary harvesting area for the largest export of Queen Conch from the Caribbean region and a potential refuge for several endangered coral species. With an estimated 99 per cent of mainland Jamaica's reefs in danger, the coral reefs on Pedro Bank are vital to long-term reef conservation in the country. In July 2004, the bank was declared an underwater cultural heritage site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust .  A BBC article dated 2012 entitled How The Worlds Oceans Could Be Running Out Of Fish states ‘Global fish stocks are exploited or depleted to such an extent that without urgent measures we may be the last generation to catch food from the oceans . In light of this fact perhaps regionally  we should be emulating Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste who came together in 2009 to form the multilateral Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) partnership, and agreed on a Regional Plan of Action, with a suite of collaborative and national actions to support productive, sustainable fisheries. And it’s part of the reason why WWF has continued to invest in programmes in the Coral Triangle for the better part of 20 years . The  tiny Island Nation of Palau  is burning illegal fishing boats to prove a point, as it wants to protect its 230,000 square miles of pristine waters for tourism, “Illegal fishing operations waste as much as 2 billion pounds of inadvertently caught fish a year in the United States alone, indiscriminately killing sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks”. Establishing marine sanctuaries as Palau has done in ecologically sensitive locations can reverse declining fish populations, support food [security and] production, and bring new tourism opportunities, such as scuba diving and snorkeling .      Transportation In the event of a spike in oil prices, imported food, and in fact all imported goods, will rise in price. In the last few weeks there have been two bombings in Eastern Saudi Arabia at Shia Mosques, and yesterday thirty-eight Saudi military personnel were killed in Anbar province. This could be the work of the Islamic State, or could be seen by the Shia majority in Eastern Saudi Arabia, as a Fundamentalist Salafi initiative against them. Whatever the case may be,  rising social tensions leading to conflict would rapidly drive petroleum prices upward. One must be cognizant of the fact that today’s low petroleum prices  are a political ploy undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America against Iran and Russia. According to the Eurasia Group’s  president Ian Bremmer it’s been decades since the geopolitical state of the world was what it is today, “I happen to believe that we are entering into this period of geopolitical creative destruction,” Bremmer told Business Insider in a sit-down interview. “The last time we’ve seen something like that was after WWII. I believe this is a G-Zero environment.” Bremmer argues that the world has grown more dangerous and increasingly multi-polar over the last twenty-five years .  Furthermore, there is a strong argument put forward by the late Matthew Simmons  stating that the Saudi oil reserves, which are a State Secret, are much smaller that the Saudi government would have you believe. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has not made a find of any major oil field of significance in forty years.  Ghawar Field  (Arabic: الغوار) is an oil field located in Al-Ahsa Governorate, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. Measuring 280 by 30 km (174 by 19 miles), it is by far the largest conventional oil field in the world,  and accounts for more than half of the cumulative oil production of Saudi Arabia. Ghawar was discovered in 1948 and put on stream in 1951. This field has a rate of decline of 8% per annum.    It is interesting to note that KSA is installing huge amounts of solar power and have been negotiating with the French nuclear company Areva for two nuclear power plants.   In conclusion, having looked at the benefits of growing ones own organic, non-GMO crops with superior nutrition, available with no food miles or transportation costs, the argument in favor of locally produced crops using permaculture is overwhelming. Furthermore, supporting our local farming community and small farmers is a win-win situation. © Caribbean / Latin America Disaster Preparedness Manual      

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Limiting catch to one type of fish could help save coral reefs, research finds

Limiting the take of just one type of fish could protect coral reefs around the world from the most serious immediate impacts of climate change, researchers have found.
Studying Caribbean coral reefs, Peter Mumby and colleagues from the University of Queensland found that enforcing a rule limiting the fishing of a single type of herbivorous fish – parrotfish – would allow coral reefs there to continue to grow, despite bleaching and other impacts associated with climate change. Coral reefs damaged by bleaching or storms can recover when new baby corals settle and grow on the dead old corals. But the new recruits must compete with seaweed. If the seaweed outcompetes the coral, the reef can be lost forever, transforming into a seaweed-dominated ecosystem, where most of the biodiversity is lost. But herbivorous fish can eat the seaweed, giving the baby corals a fighting chance. Banning the taking of parrotfish under 30cm, and limiting total catch to 10% of the mass of the total population, would allow the reefs to cope with climate change until at least 2030, the researchers found. The Caribbean reefs were perfect for the study, but the results were not directly applicable to Australian reefs, Mumby said. “It’s relatively simple – it has one tenth the number of species of coral and fish than we have here in Australia,” he told Guardian Australia. “In the Caribbean, the parrotfish are the most important herbivores.” However, the results indicated Australia should also consider limiting the catch of herbivorous fish, he said. It is the first time scientists have identified how many reef-saving fish you can catch without severely affecting the reef’s ability to recover. Climate change is increasing the regularity with which damaging events hit coral reefs around the world: the number of severe cyclones is increasing, and with increased water temperatures, corals are much more prone to bleaching when there are bursts of even warmer water. The future of the reefs depended on how well they could recover from those events, Mumby said. The researchers produced a model intended to predict how the parrotfish population would respond to different fishing rules, and how the reefs would then respond to the fish populations. They then tested the model and showed it could reproduce striking changes that occurred to fish populations and reef health in the region. For example, in Bermuda, trap fishing was rampant until 1990, when it was banned. The traps would only catch fish over 15cm in length. Plugging those variables into the model, it reproduced a change in population that happened when the traps were banned. Mumby said the current model applied only to the Caribbean reefs, but the results were relevant to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is a much more complex ecosystem, and is in the middle of one of the worst bleaching events on record. Few herbivorous fish are caught in Australia, since people prefer the larger carnivorous ones. Mumby said that meant it was important to ban the catching of herbivorous fish now. “People’s dietary preferences change. Were some of the other species like coral trout to decline even further, you would expect then there would be a diversification of fisheries – people would start to harvest a broader range of fish. “Everywhere in the world, pretty much, has eventually developed herbivore fisheries if they haven’t maintained their other fisheries effectively. So how many times do we have to learn this lesson internationally?” “So Australia is in a very time now to take some action so this doesn’t become an issue in the future,” Mumby said. “It would be a pragmatic issue to deal with now while there isn’t going to be a lot of pushback from stakeholders who are exploiting parrotfish. “It would be one thing to safeguard reefs for the future,” he said. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fishing and the future of coral reefs

New fishery regulations based on science are needed in the Caribbean to give coral reefs a fighting chance against climate change, according to an international study published today. The study, led by University of Queensland researchers, reveals that Caribbean coral reefs are experiencing mounting pressure from global warming, local pollution and over-fishing of herbivorous fish. Study author Dr Yves-Marie Bozec, from UQ's School of Biological Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said herbivorous parrotfish were needed because they eat seaweed, which can smother coral and prevent corals from recovering. "While several countries in the Caribbean have taken the bold step of banning the fishing of parrotfish (including Belize, Bonaire, Turks and Caicos Islands), parrotfish fisheries remain in much of the region," Dr Bozec said. The research team analysed the effects of fishing on parrotfish and combined this with an analysis of the role of parrotfish on coral reefs. "We conclude that unregulated fisheries will seriously reduce the resilience of coral reefs," Dr Bozec said. "However, implementation of size limits and catch limits to less than 10 per cent of the fishable stock provide a far better outlook for reefs, while also allowing the fishery to persist." Study co-author Professor Peter Mumby from UQ's School of Biological Sciences said a number of countries wanted to modify their fisheries to reduce impacts on reefs. "What we've done is identify fisheries' policies that might help achieve this," Professor Mumby said. The new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that science should be used to revise current fisheries practices for herbivorous fish. The authors have provided tools to help fisheries managers make such changes. "Ultimately, the more we do to maintain healthy coral reefs, the more likely it is that fishers' livelihoods will be sustained into the future," Professor Mumby said. "We already know that failure to maintain coral habitats will lead to at least a threefold reduction in future fish catches." Explore further: Coral Reefs: Ever Closer to Cliff's Edge More information: Tradeoffs between fisheries harvest and the resilience of coral reefs, PNAS,  Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences   Provided by: University of Queensland

Monday, March 21, 2016

International Day of Forests and Water

On the March 21st, International Day of Forests, FAO HQ will host a special celebration in recognition of ‘Forests and Water’. During the event the Land and Water Division will present ‘Forests and Water in Practice’ with examples of watershed management dealing with changes in rural production processes in a framework of market-driven agricultural development.

Watch the webcast LIVE: Monday 21 March 2016 - 12PM CET >>


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

LAC Countries Take Action Towards Ending Hunger by 2025

3 March 2016: The 34th Session of the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) adopted a number of measures to achieve the region's goal to eradicate hunger by 2025, five years ahead of the deadline agreed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Goal 2 is End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, and the Goal's first target calls to, "by 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round."

The LAC conference focused on three priorities: consolidating regional efforts towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition; promoting family farming, inclusive food systems and sustainable rural development; and the sustainable use of natural resources in the context of adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management.

In his address to the Conference, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva commended the region's advances in combating hunger, and said LAC countries have an opportunity to be the first region to achieve SDG 2. He said FAO will continue supporting key activities such as the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean initiative, and the Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Conference delegates decided to develop a priority regional initiative on the sustainable use of natural resources in the context of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, which will focus on climate change adaptation in Latin America's Dry Corridor, a region experiencing more frequent and erratic droughts caused by climate change. Other outcomes include: agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to support implementation of the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), which took place in 2014; agreement with Consumers International on strengthening action to reduce obesity in the region; and a new initiative to support family agriculture, inclusive food systems and sustainable rural development.

The FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean takes place every two years to coordinate efforts in eradicating hunger and establishing FAO's regional priorities. The 34th session took place from 29 February to 3 March 2016, in Mexico City, Mexico. [FAO Press Release, 25 Feb] [FAO Press Release, 1 Mar] [FAO Press Release, 3 Mar] [Conference Website] [Video Coverage (in Spanish)] [Hunger Free LAC Initiative] [CELAC Plan for Food and Nutrition Security and Eradication of Hunger 2025] [IISD RS Story on 2016 CELAC Summit]

read more:


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Permaculture Design for International Development

Here is the announcement for Quail Springs permaculture design certification (PDC). course for International Development at Quail Springs this May.

We just heard there is a chance that Steve Gliessman, the grandfather of Agroecology, may be able to teach. We will get confirmation in April as to whether he will be able teach here this year.

Permaculture Design Course for International Development

Quail Springs Permaculture

Southern California, USA

May 9-22, 2016

For More Information

Monday, February 15, 2016

El Niño dries up water in Honduras

Although there is no official estimate, it is expected that about 170,000 children under 5 are facing malnutrition and disease due to the lack of clean water in Honduras.

So far this year, El Niño has affected 1.4 million Hondurans, or 16 percent of the total population, according to the Permanent Commission of Contingencies (COPECO).

"The drought is so intense in southern Honduras that surface water in many places are deepening and groundwater reserves are depleted at a faster rate," said Javier Mayorga, Project Coordinator of Water and Sanitation World Vision Honduras .

Without enough water, children are susceptible to disease and both children and their mothers spend more time fetching water from distant sources.

In some communities, near Choluteca, in southern Honduras, natural water sources have almost dried-up completely, creating a crisis that is affecting children and their families, animals and eventually the land, which is losing some of its production potential. The drought is also increasing the demand for health services due to the upsurge in cases of dengue, chikungunya, diarrhoea and the Zika virus. More


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Farming Like the Incas

The Incas were masters of their harsh climate, archaeologists are finding—and the ancient civilization has a lot to teach us today

Inspired by recent archaeological
research, the people in the Cuzco
region of Peru are rebuilding
terraces and irrigation systems and
reclaiming traditional crops and
methods of planting. (Cynthia Graber)

The Andes are some of the tallest, starkest mountains in the world. Yet the Incas, and the civilizations before them, coaxed harvests from the Andes’ sharp slopes and intermittent waterways. They developed resilient breeds of crops such as potatoes, quinoa and corn. They built cisterns and irrigation canals that snaked and angled down and around the mountains. And they cut terraces into the hillsides, progressively steeper, from the valleys up the slopes. At the Incan civilization’s height in the 1400s, the system of terraces covered about a million hectares throughout Peru and fed the vast empire.

Over the centuries, cisterns fell into disrepair, canal beds dried up and terraces were abandoned. This process began when the Spanish imposed their own crops and forced people off traditional lands to farm and mine for the conquistadors. The local populations were devastated by war and, more significantly, by disease. Some researchers estimate that as many as half of the Incan population died soon after the Spanish conquest. Much of the traditional farming knowledge and engineering expertise was lost.

The ghost of the Incas’ farming achievements still shadows the Andes. The remnants of ancient terraces appear as lines of green on the mountains. Former irrigation canals carve hollows into the land. Today, in a corner of the Andes, people are breathing new life into ancient practices. Inspired by recent archaeological research, they are rebuilding terraces and irrigation systems and reclaiming traditional crops and methods of planting. They do this in part because Incan agricultural techniques are more productive and more efficient in terms of water use. But these modern farmers also believe the Incan ways can offer simple solutions to help protect communities’ food supply in the face of climate change.

Archaeologist Ann Kendall began studying terraces in the Cuzco region of Peru in 1968. She intended to focus on Incan architecture and stonework, but she was soon captivated by the dry canal beds and terraces that beckoned from across the valley. “I thought about the problem that local people had no water and didn’t cultivate this [agricultural system],” she says. She remembers thinking, “if only one could study traditional technology and rehabilitate all this in the Andes, wouldn’t it be wonderful.”

She decided to study the development and technology of the Incan agricultural systems with the idea of rehabilitating them. Over the years, she learned how the Incan builders employed stones of different heights, widths and angles to create the best structures and water retention and drainage systems, and how they filled the terraces with dirt, gravel and sand.

In the 1600s, Garcilaso de la Vega, the child of a conquistador father and an Incan noblewoman, described the Incan terracing system in The Royal Commentaries of the Incas: “In this way the whole hill was gradually brought under cultivation, the platforms being flattened out like stairs in a staircase, and all the cultivable and irrigable land being put to use.”

The terraces leveled the planting area, but they also had several unexpected advantages, Kendall discovered. The stone retaining walls heat up during the day and slowly release that heat to the soil as temperatures plunge at night, keeping sensitive plant roots warm during the sometimes frosty nights and expanding the growing season. And the terraces are extremely efficient at conserving scarce water from rain or irrigation canals, says Kendall. “We’ve excavated terraces, for example, six months after they’ve been irrigated, and they’re still damp inside. So if you have drought, they’re the best possible mechanism.” If the soil weren’t mixed with gravel, points out Kendall, “when it rained the water would log inside, and the soil would expand and it would push out the wall.” Kendall says that the Incan terraces are even today probably the most sophisticated in the world, as they build on knowledge developed over about 11,000 years of farming in the region.

Over the past three decades, using archaeological details about the construction of terraces and irrigation systems, a development charity called the Cusichaca Trust, which Kendall formed in 1977, rehabilitated and irrigated 160 hectares of terraces and canals in the Patacancha Valley, near Cuzco. The project was a success: it improved water access and agricultural production, and local families maintain the structures today. Lessons from the Patacancha Valley are now being employed to restore Incan agricultural systems in other areas of Peru.

The thud of hammer on rock reverberates in a remote valley in the Apurímac region. A worker from a nearby village swings a mallet and chips off the edges from a massive stone that has been hauled into the bed of an ancient irrigation channel. That rock will form one wall of the repaired channel. He and a half-dozen workers have been hard at work for a month already, and have rebuilt about a third of the channel.

The work is part of a two-year project to mitigate the effects of climate change. Kendall and her local partners in Cusichaca Andina (an independent Peruvian nonprofit formed in 2003) began activities in the remote regions of Apurímac and Ayacucho because they wanted to expand past Cusco. The area is blanketed with terraces, most unused for centuries. It also was the center of power for the Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, during the 1980s and early 1990s. Many locals fled from the guerrilla fighters, abandoning farms and leaving the area with little farming expertise.

The exact age of this particular channel hasn’t been determined, but Adripino Jayo, the regional director of Cusichaca Andina, which leads the restoration with funding from the World Bank, estimates that it’s been used to funnel water from a nearby spring perhaps since the time of the Wari, whose civilization spread over the Andes for hundreds of years before the Incan empire.

Trainers from Cusichaca Andina schooled the community on how to repair the canal using local materials, which are cheaper than concrete and avoid the need to import materials from the city. One worker swings a pickax to carve out dirt and then shovels it aside. Another worker lines up stones evenly on the channel’s sides. They use local clay to fill the gaps between boulders and alongside the earthen banks. When it hardens, the clay is watertight. More


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WEF: 2016 Year of Implementation on Climate Change, SDGs

23 January 2016: The World Economic Forum's (WEF) Annual Meeting convened under the theme, 'Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,' with the aim of building a shared understanding of current changes and shaping a collective future that places humans at the center.

Participants reflected that 2016 must be a year of implementation on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The WEF Annual Meeting addressed, among other topics: climate change; environmental protection and resource scarcity; food security and agriculture; inclusive, sustainable growth and security; employment, skills and human capital; and gender parity. It also showcased the private sector's role in achieving the SDGs. The event brought together over 40 Heads of State and government with 2,500 leaders from UN agencies, business and civil society.

'The New Climate and Development Imperative' session addressed the implications of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, drivers for action for development and climate targets, and the role of technology in improving ambition over time. Speaking at the session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that “The SDGs and climate change must go together.” He outlined five steps forward: conversion of national climate plans into bankable investment strategies and projects; financing for developing countries to use low-carbon sources to meet high energy demands; increased attention and resources for climate resilience; increased climate actions at all levels, including public-private partnerships; and ratification of the Paris Agreement. Also addressing the session, Norway's Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, stated that “We will never manage to reach climate targets if we don't create social fairness in the world.”

Another session on 'A New Climate for Doing Business' reflected on the opportunities and responsibilities for business, entrepreneurship and innovation as a result of the Paris Agreement. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighted the potential for change in developing countries, which she said “represent our biggest opportunity to support…growth in a clean, predictable and safe way.” Observing that the world needs US$5.5 trillion per year to meet the Paris Agreement commitments, Stuart Gulliver, HSBC Holdings, expressed confidence that “there is enough money in the private sector to do this.” Panelists shared their companies' efforts to, inter alia: transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy; advocate for a new climate economy; and put a price on carbon for internal operations and supply chains.

In a keynote speech delivered at the Global Goals Dinner, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Mogens Lykketoft called for a “focus on getting off to the best start possible” in achieving the SDGs. He underlined the importance of signals that “those with power and privilege will live up to their responsibilities” to achieve the Goals and ensure the SDGs gain traction. Lykketoft explained that he will host a high-level meeting in April to showcase implementation. He asked world leaders to come prepared to share their country plans to achieve the Goals and called upon the private sector to align their business practices with the Goals, including on issues such as the environment and taxation.

At a Global Compact event, Ban underscored the business community's “enormous power to create decent jobs, open access to education and basic services, unlock energy solutions and end discrimination…[and] drive global progress.” He stressed 2016 as critical in “turning global promises into reality,” calling on governments to “take the lead with decisive steps” and business to “provide essential solutions and resources that put our world on a more sustainable path.” Ban welcomed the Global Compact's steps to translate the SDGs into action and innovation, highlighting the potential of its 85 Global Compact Local Networks to further mobilize action.

“There is no business case for enduring poverty,” observed Unilever CEO Paul Polman at WEF press conference. He called for tackling poverty, inequality and environmental challenges, saying “every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the SDGs.” Polman and former UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown launched The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development, which aims to articulate the economic case for businesses to engage in the SDGs. The Commission will present a report in 2017 that: analyzes how business models can align profitability with social purpose; maps financial tools for aligning economic and social returns; shows how collaboration among governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector can build a future where businesses can promote job creation and inclusive, sustainable growth; and examines the risks to business performance and stability from not addressing the SDGs.

In a blog post on the WEF, Paul Ladd, Director of the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), suggests three ways for business leaders to commit to the SDGs and increase resilience to future shocks. Ladd describes the positive feedback loops between technology and taxes while cautioning that advances in technology can exacerbate inequalities and the politics of tax reform “are slow and difficult.” He highlights universal social protection as critical in supporting people through their active working lives and beyond, including ensuring a minimum level of income to support socially acceptable standards of living, access to essential services and opportunities for lifelong education and training.

On business and growth, participants called for a new model of growth beyond a country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Economist Joseph Stiglitz stressed, “What we measure informs what we do. And if we're measuring the wrong thing, we're going to do the wrong thing.” Similarly, MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson said GDP does not measure “how well we are all doing” but “counts the things that we're buying and selling.”

On gender equality, a panel convened on 'Progress Towards Parity.' Sheryl Sanberg, Facebook, described the “toddler wage gap,” saying gender inequality starts very young. Actress Emma Watson observed that full female participation in the workforce would be “the single biggest stimulus to the economy” and stressed that the world will never achieve gender equality unless everyone—women and men, girls and boys, are involved.

“Women are chronically under-represented in leadership roles and in formal employment overall,” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the launch of the inaugural ‘HeforShe Parity Report,' which finds that the proportion of senior leadership roles held by women ranges from 11 to 33% among the world's ten leading companies. The report presents data on gender diversity in the workforce, including data on board membership, leadership roles and new hires among ten companies.

Sessions also convened on, inter alia: financing and operationalizing the SDGs; the global science outlook; and regional and national economic outlooks. Briefings took place on WEF Issue Briefs, including on the plastics economy, the gender gap and jobs. Ban appointed 17 SDG Advocates and launched a panel on women's economic empowerment. More

WEF 46 took place in Davos, Switzerland, from 20-23 January 2016. [UN Secretary-General Statement] [WEF Press Release on A New Climate for Doing Business] [UNFCCC Executive Secretary Reflection on WEF] [UNGA President Statement at Global Goals Dinner] [UN Press Release 20 January/ on Global Compact] [WEF News on Gender Parity] [WEF Press Release on Watson Statement] [Sandberg Statement] [UN Women Press Release 22 January] [UN Women Executive Director Statement] [WEF Recap] [WEF Press Release on Commission Launch] [IISD RS Story on Launch of SDG Advocates]