Monday, September 29, 2014

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan

By Nura A. Abboud, EcoMENA

Water scarcity is a reality in Jordan, as the country is counted among the world’s most arid countries. The current per capita water supply in Jordan is 200m3 per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that per capita water availability will decline to measly 90m3 by the year 2025. Thus, it is of paramount importance to augment water supply in addition to sustainable use of available water resources.

Augmenting Water Supply

There are couple of options to increase alternative water supply sources in Jordan – desalination of seawater and recycling of wastewater. Desalination can provide a safe drinking water to areas facing severe water scarcity, and may also help in resolving the conflict between urban and agricultural water requirement needs by providing a new independent water source.

The other way to counter water scarcity in Jordan is by recycling and reuse of municipal wastewater which is an attractive method in terms of water savings. Infact, the reuse of the treated wastewater in Jordan has reached one of the highest levels in the world. The treated wastewater flow in the country is returned to the Search River and the King Talal dam, where it is mixed with the surface flow and used in the pressurized irrigation distribution system in the Jordan valley.

Another cheap and natural option for wastewater reuse is the construction of wetlands, and surface water reservoirs, which are water storage facilities that are able to collect and hold rain water for later use during dry seasons for irrigation or even for fish farming purposes. To prevent water loss by evaporation, reservoirs should be covered in a specific way to allow air to enter but with minimum evaporation rate. Another option is to install floating solar panels above the reservoir which will not only reduce the evaporation rate but also produce clean energy.

However, technology-based solutions are also raising several environmental and health concerns. Seawater desalination and wastewater treatment are like large-scale industrial projects which are capital-intensive, energy-intensive and generate waste in one form or the other. The desalination process may be detrimental to the marine ecological system as it increases the salinity of seawater.

Similarly, irrigation using recycled municipal wastewater is causing public health concerns. For example, directly consumed vegetables and fruits are excluded from allowable crops. Further studies should be conducted so as to address health issues that might arise from municipal wastewater usage. Effluent irrigation standards should be broadened to encompass a wider range of pathogens, and appropriate public health guidelines need to be established for wastewater irrigation taking into consideration the elimination of steroids.

New Trends

New intervention is needed to satisfy local irrigation demands; irrigation water for agriculture makes up the largest part of total average water used, which accounted for 64% during 2010. The main period of water stress is during summer due to high irrigation demand, and there is therefore a conflict arising between the supply of water for urban use and agricultural consumption. There has to be a proper combination between improvement of irrigation methods and selection of crop types. Application of updated water techniques, such as micro-sprinkling, drip irrigation and nocturnal, can reduce water loss and improve irrigation efficiency. Infrastructure improvement is also necessary to improving efficiency and reducing water loss.

Crop substitution is another interesting method to increase water efficiency by growing new crop types that tolerate saline, brackish, and low irrigation requirements. Such approach is not only economically viable, but also is socially beneficial and viable to mankind in an arid ecosystem. Mulching system is also highly recommended to reduce evaporative loss of soil moisture and improve microbial activities and nutrient availability. Farmers should use organic manure, instead of chemical fertilizers, to increase quality of water and reduce risk of groundwater contamination and agricultural run-offs.

The industrial sector uses about 5 percent of water resources in Jordan, while releasing harmful substances to the environment (including water). Industries have to put together a water management plan to reduce water intake and control water pollution. For instance, the establishment of a local wastewater treatment plant within a hotel for irrigation purposes is a good solution. Traditional solutions, like Qanats, Mawasi and fog harvesting, can also be a good tool in fighting water scarcity in arid areas.

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Climate-Smart Agriculture is Corporate Green-Washing, Warn NGOs

By Thalif Deen, IPS News

On the sidelines of the U.N.’s heavily hyped Climate Summit, the newly-launched Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture announced plans to protect some 500 million farmers worldwide from climate change and “help achieve sustainable and equitable increases in agricultural productivity and incomes.”

But the announcement by the Global Alliance, which includes more than 20 governments, 30 organisations and corporations, including Fortune 500 companies McDonald’s and Kelloggs, was greeted with apprehension by a coalition of over 100 civil society organisations (CSOs).
"These companies will do all they can to maintain their market dominance and prevent genuine agroecology agriculture from gaining ground in countries." -- Meenakshi Raman of Third World Network

It is a backhanded gesture, warned the coalition, which “rejected” the announcement as “a deceptive and deeply contradictory initiative.”

“The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture will not deliver the solutions that we so urgently need. Instead, climate-smart agriculture provides a dangerous platform for corporations to implement the very activities we oppose,” the coalition said.

“By endorsing the activities of the planet’s worst climate offenders in agribusiness and industrial agriculture, the Alliance will undermine the very objectives that it claims to aim for.”

The 107 CSOs include ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth International, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication, the Third World Network, the Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Biofuel Watch and the National Network on Right to Food.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who gave his blessing to the Global Alliance, said: “I am glad to see action that will increase agricultural productivity, build resilience for farmers and reduce carbon emissions.”

These efforts, he said, will improve food and nutrition security for billions of people.

With demand for food set to increase 60 per cent by 2050, agricultural practices are transforming to meet the challenge of food security for the world’s 9.0 billion people while reducing emissions, he asserted.

But the coalition said: “Although some organisations have constructively engaged in good faith for several months with the Global Alliance to express serious concerns, these concerns have been ignored.”

Instead, the Alliance “is clearly being structured to serve big business interests, not to address the climate crisis,” the coalition said.

The coalition also pointed out that companies with activities resulting in dire social impacts on farmers and communities, such as those driving land grabbing or promoting genetically modified (GM) seeds, already claim they are climate-smart.

Yara (the world’s largest fertiliser manufacturer), Syngenta (GM seeds), McDonald’s, and Walmart are all at the climate-smart table, it added. “Climate-smart agriculture will serve as a new promotional space for the planet’s worst social and environmental offenders in agriculture.

“The proposed Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture seems to be yet another strategy by powerful players to prop up industrial agriculture, which undermines the basic human right to food. It is nothing new, nothing innovative, and not what we need,” the coalition declared.

Meenakshi Raman, coordinator of the Climate Change Programme at the Malaysia-based Third World Network, told IPS the world seed, agrochemical and biotechnology markets are dominated by a few mega companies.

She said these companies have a vested interest in maintaining monoculture farming systems which are carbon intensive and depend on external inputs.

“These companies will do all they can to maintain their market dominance and prevent genuine agroecology agriculture from gaining ground in countries,” she said.

It is vital that such oligopoly practices are disallowed and regulated, said Raman. “Hence the need for radical overhaul of the current unfair systems in place with real reform at the international level.”

Meanwhile, the Washington-based Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), said the world’s foremost agriculture experts have determined that preventing climate change from damaging food production and destabilising some of the world’s most volatile regions will require reaching out to at least half a billion farmers, fishers, pastoralists, livestock keepers and foresters.

The goal is to help them learn farming techniques and obtain farming technologies that will allow them to adapt to more stressful production conditions and also reduce their own contributions to climate change, said CGIAR.

These researchers are already working with farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to refine new climate-oriented technologies and techniques via what are essentially outdoor laboratories for innovations called climate-smart villages.

The villages’ approach to crafting climate change solutions is proving extremely popular with all involved, and now the Indian state of Maharashtra (population 112.3 million) plans to set up 1,000 climate smart villages, CGIAR said.

Asked for specifics, Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), told IPS countries in the tropics will be particularly impacted, especially those that are already under-developed because such countries don’t have the resources to adapt and respond to extreme weather conditions.

These include many countries in the Sahel region, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia, plus countries in Latin America.

Asked if these countries are succeeding in coping with the impending crisis, he said there are good cases of isolated successes, but in general they are not coping.

For example, one success is in Niger where five million trees have been planted, that help both adaptation and mitigation, but an enormous number of other activities are needed, he added.

Raman told IPS there are many rules in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) agriculture agreement that threaten small-scale agriculture and agroecology farming systems in the developing world.

She said developed countries are allowed to provide billions of dollars in subsidies to their agricultural producers whose products are then exported and dumped on developing countries, whose farming systems are then displaced or threatened with artificially cheap products.

Many developing countries, she pointed out, were also forced to remove the protection they had or have for their domestic agriculture, either through the WTO, the World Bank policies under structural adjustment and free trade agreements.

“These policies do not allow developing country governments to protect small farmers and their domestic agriculture,” she said.

Such rules and policies are unfair and unethical and should not be allowed as they undermine small farmers and agroecology systems, Raman declared.

Climate-Smart Agriculture is Corporate Green-Washing, Warn NGOs

Friday, September 26, 2014

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaking at the UN Climate Leaders...

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaks on behalf of civil society during the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Leaders Summit in New York City.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

7 areas of climate action at the UN climate summit


By Sophie Yeo, RTCC

Feeling overwhelmed by the UN climate summit and its outcomes?

We’ve summarised some of the main action areas where governments, business and civil society have pledged new action on climate change.

1. Food security

Over 20 governments and 30 organisations have announced new actions to ensure food security by joining the UN’s Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. This coalition seeks to create food systems that are more resilient to global warming, as well as reduce the emissions associated with agriculture.

Countries joining the alliance represent millions of farmers, at least a quarter of the world cereal production, 43 million undernourished people and 16% of total agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

Specific actions include pledges from Walmart, McDonald’s and Kelloggs to increase the amount of food in their supply chains that are produced with climate smart approaches.

The World Bank announced that 100% of its agricultural investment portfolio would be climate-smart by 2018.

2. Forests

More than 130 governments, companies civil society and indigenous people have endorsed a New York Declaration on Forests, pledging to cut forest loss in half by 2020 and completely wipe it out by 2030. It also calls for the restoration of more than 350 million hectares of forests and croplands.

Combined, this could avoid between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year by 2030, or the equivalent from removing one billion cars from the road.

To this end, more than 20 companies, including Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts, have committed to using only deforestation-free palm oil. Several of Europe’s largest countries have likewise agreed to develop new procurement policies to ensure that palm oil, soy, beef and timber are all sustainably sourced.

3. Finance

Leaders from governments, finance and investment announced that they will mobilise US$ 200 billion by the end of 2015 in support of climate action.

Announcements encompass both a mix of public and private funding, including pledges from donor and developing countries towards the Green Climate Fund, giving a significant boost to efforts to mobilise a promised $100 billion per year from 2020.

Developed and developing countries pledged billions of dollars, while on the private finance side, commercial banks announced they would provide $30 billion in new climate finance by the end of 2015 by issuing green bonds and other financing instruments.

Over 50 countries and 500 companies also came out in support of carbon pricing.

4. Short lived pollutants

Governments, energy companies and green groups have joined forces to reduce the emissions of short-lived, but extremely potent, greenhouse gases.

Five announcements were made today, aimed at reducing methane, soot and HFCs.

A new oil & gas methane partnership aims to provide companies with a cost-effective way to reduce their methane emissions. Signatories include ENI of Italy, Norway’s Statoil Group and the BG Group. Major oil producing countries on board include the US, UK, France, Norway and Russia.

Meanwhile, more than 25 cities committed to develop action plans to reduce short-lived climate pollutants from the waste sector by 2020.

5. Renewable energy

A coalition of leaders from government, business and civil society announced they would scale up two initiatives to expand access to clean and renewable energy in Africa and small island states.

The Africa Clean Energy Corridor aims to expand the portion of renewable energy used by the in eastern and southern Africa from its current 12% to at least 40% by 2030.

The Small Island Developing States Lighthouse Initiative will boost clean energy, aiming to mobilise $500 million and install about 120 megawatts of renewable energy in these countries by 2019. This will deliver a cleaner energy mix to around 4.7 million people.

6. Sustainable transport

Four global transport alliances have launched schemes designed to increase the uptake of sustainable, low carbon vehicles. These initiatives are designed to increase the number of electric vehicles, increase the efficiency of rail transport and air travel, while providing sustainable public transport around the world.

For instance, a new Urban Electric Mobility Initiative was launched today, aiming to increase the number of electric vehicles in cities to at least 30% of all new vehicles sold every year by 2030, and develop the recharging infrastructure to support them. The initiative is supported by Michelin, BYD, Mahindra Reva, as well as UN-Habitat.

The International Union of Railways, meanwhile, launched the Low Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge. This will see its 240 members – including the major railways of Europe, China, Russia, India and the US – trying to meet targets of emission reduction of 50% by 2030 and 75% by 2050.

7. Cities

A new global Compact of Mayors was launched today, which brings together over 2,000 cities in an alliance intended to help curb greenhouse gases. This Compact creates a standardized reporting process and a public data portal, allowing for better collaboration among city networks.

Over 200 of the cities included in the Compact already have strategies in place for greenhouse gas reduction, which will see them reduce their emissions by 454 megatons by 2020.

Other announcements include a City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, launched by about 20 partners including the World Bank and Bank of America. This intends to stimulate investments in low carbon and climate resistance infrastructure in cities across low- and middle-income countries.

Source

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Open statement: Call of G7 Civil Society Organizations to their Governments on the New Alliance

By Heidi Chow,
By Heidi Cho
By Heidi Chow, World Development Movement

More than two years after the launch of the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, what we have seen of its ‘progress’ does not change our assessment that the New Alliance actually undermines food security, nutrition and the progressive realization of the right to food in Africa. First on-the-ground research suggests a dramatic gap between development rhetoric and impacts. There is no sign that the New Alliance is lifting African people out of poverty, but the promise to “unleash the power of the private sector” is very visibly being fulfilled. Although the New Alliance rhetorically refers to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), we clearly see that the processes and components of CAADP targeted to the benefits small-scale food producers are sidelined.

When the New Alliance was inaugurated in the US in Camp David in 2012, it immediately became obvious that this initiative essentially served to enable private corporations to influence agricultural policy to advance their own interests. It is pressuring African governments to adopt domestic policy reforms that will facilitate large corporations’ investments in agriculture and discriminate against those who actually make the bulk of the investments, namely small-scale producers themselves.

Such profound legislative and policy changes threaten small-scale farmers control over land and seeds, marginalize local markets and cause loss of biodiversity and soil fertility, to the detriment of the livelihoods of local communities. They will exacerbate future climate and economic shocks for

small-scale farmers, instead of building their resilience to cope with such shocks. They are being made without national debate, thereby undermining democratic structures.

Lack of transparency in the New Alliance - where donor and corporate commitments and implementation are, as in the Progress Report 2013-14, only reported at summary level - makes it extremely difficult for civil society to get a full picture of the New Alliance implementation. However, first concrete cases indicate that the New Alliance is far from serving as an effective tool to support small-scale farmers.

For instance:

• In Burkina Faso the commitment to develop and rehabilitate irrigated land in the Bagré Growth Pole Project is mostly reserved for large-scale agribusiness investors, with only 22% (2790ha) of the land available for small-scale farming. Usually these farmers are only granted 1 to 4 ha of land with hardly any opportunity to scale up

• In Malawi, the enlargement of tobacco investments by multinational companies is presented as a contribution to food security and the commitment to improve access to land has been implemented by making 200.000 ha of land available to agribusiness; meanwhile the need to adopt the Tenancy Labour Bill as a core instrument to ensure minimum tenants and worker’s rights have been ignored in the cooperation framework agreement

• In Tanzania and Mozambique, new seed laws are going to be introduced that will criminalizefarmer to farmer seed exchange in the future. In other countries, such as Ghana and Malawi, similar processes are under way.

This evidence supports our analysis that the New Alliance sidelines the diverse and sustainable food systems of small-scale farmers which offer the real potential for food security and nutrition in Africa. Instead, it promotes environmentally damaging approaches to agriculture that entrench corporate power.

We therefore urge you to review your engagement in the New Alliance, and take the following steps:

1. Stop any legal and policy changes that facilitate large-scale land investments and that impede small-scale farmers ability to save, exchange and sell their seeds.

2. Stop any further expansion of the New Alliance. No further cooperation framework agreements should be developed.

3. Review existing projects and policy reform indicators with the meaningful involvement of the populations most affected, and withdraw from those that fail to promote the right to food and the legitimate tenure rights of women and communities, or that prioritize business interests over vulnerable people and the environment.

4. Make the letters of intent of the companies participating in the New Alliance public immediately in order to enable a legitimate public debate about likely impacts and assessment of the New Alliance.

5. Support small-scale producers’ own investments as advised by the Committee on World Food Security, by putting women, small-scale farmers and other marginalised groups at the center of any future strategy and project for food security and nutrition in Africa; making sure that human rights and environmental impact assessments are carried out to ensure that projects only move forward if they are found not to have negative impacts on human rights and the environment.

6. Support adoption of agroecological practices by small-scale farmers to build resilience through: participatory research in agroecology; dissemination of ecological farming knowledge via farmer-to-farmer networks; and capacity-building of extension services to advise farmers on how to practice ecological farming.

Open statement: Call of G7 Civil Society Organizations to their Governments on the New Alliance

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Demanding Climate Justice, Taking Action Now

By Mary Ann Manahan

More than 300,000 people from the climate justice movements—frontline communities, indigenous peoples, labor, families, students, farmers, anti-corporate campaigners, youth, peace and justice activists, scientists, interfaith, the LGBTI, and more—from the global North and South converged at Columbus Circle to demand climate justice, reclaim power and stop climate profiteering.

Organized by many movements led by the Climate Justice Alliance, New York Environmental Justice Alliance and UPROSE, the People’s Climate March was perhaps the largest mobilization around climate justice in recent years. It was not only a celebration of resistance struggles, but more importantly, the march highlighted the role of low-income and communities of color that are on the front lines of the climate crisis. People in these communities, especially from the global South, are the most affected by storms, droughts, floods and other extreme weather events, and they are also at the forefront of change.

There was a very strong contingent from the youth and indigenous movements, too. One indigenous youth leader addressing a crowd of other young people said, “you must not save us, you have to stand with us.” He pointed out that indigenous communities have often been treated as victims rather than as agents of change. Amid the diversity of slogans and demands— from food justice to save our seas and water, the reverberating political message was clear: “The time to address climate change is here and now.”

Climate justice was the main call of the people that flooded the streets of New York. Climate justice is about the struggle over land, forest, water, culture, water, food sovereignty, collective and social rights. Justice is the heart of any solution to the deepening climate crisis. It supports climate solutions that are found in the knowledge, practices, and ways of life of those who are struggling to defend and protect their lives, livelihoods and environment. Climate justice is especially about the urgent need for genuine, systemic change and transformation—one that challenges the roots of the problem; capitalism, overconsumption and overproduction.

The march was a testament to the growing power of a movement to reclaim power in response to the corporate capture of the climate agenda. It’s a movement that offers various solutions to climate change—from a just transition away from big, dirty energy toward living local and resilient economies that work for the people and planet, to systemic solutions that are based on food and water justice, energy democracy, and climate jobs. It also demands accountability and historical responsibility on the part of the biggest polluters, who must shoulder the greatest share of global emissions cuts rather than passing it on to those who are most vulnerable and most affected by the climate crisis.

The big question now is how to sustain this successful mobilization and transform it into an inclusive, participatory and powerful platform and a real force to reckon with. What is certain is that climate justice is an idea, a practice and a movement whose time has come.

Demanding Climate Justice, Taking Action Now