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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Biofuels and the scramble for farmland in Africa

The European Union has been urged to drop its pledge to produce 10 per cent of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 because of the effect this has had on the purchase of African land by multinational companies.

According to a report released on August 30 by a UK-based campaign group, Friends of the Earth, the amount of land being taken in Africa to meet the EU’s rising demand for biofuels “is underestimated and out of control.”

Its report echoes findings from another UK aid agency, Action Aid, which predicts that the EU biofuels target could result in up to 100 million more hungry people across the continent, increased food prices and landlessness.

The report’s findings are challenged by companies who argue that they typically farm land not destined or suitable for food crops.

It’s an argument rejected by the Friends of the Earth report, which argues that biofuel crops — including non-edible ones such as jatropha — “are competing directly with food crops for fertile land.

“The African continent is increasingly being targeted as a source of agricultural land and natural resources for the rest of the world.

“National governments, private companies and investment funds are buying up access to land across the continent to grow crops for food and fuel.”

The FoE report concentrates on 11 African countries, including Kenya and Tanzania, where it says that around 40 foreign owned companies have invested in agro-fuel developments.

It says that many of the activities are actually raising carbon emissions because virgin forests are being chopped down to make way for the crops.

This report looks in detail at the deals for agrofuels and questions the impacts on local communities and the environment.

It finds that although information is limited, there is growing evidence that significant levels of farmland are being acquired for fuel crops, in some cases without the consent of local communities and often without a full assessment of the impact on the local environment.

The FoE report estimates that a third of the land sold or acquired in Africa is intended for fuel crops — some 5 million hectares.

While some of this land is sold outright — to private companies, state companies or investment funds — most is leased and some is obtained through contracting with the farmer to grow specific crops (known as “outgrowing”).

Downsides

A number of, often small, EU companies are involved, sometimes with support or involvement from their national government.

Many are keen to vaunt the social and environmental benefits of their business, offering employment and the promise of development to rural areas.

But FoE says there is also a growing awareness of the downsides of this agrofuel boom. As scientists and international institutions challenge the climate benefits of this alternative fuel source, local communities and in some cases national governments are waking up to the impact of land grabs on the environment and on local livelihoods.

In Tanzania, Madagascar and Ghana, there have already been protests following land grabs by foreign companies.

Companies have been accused of providing misleading information to local farmers, of obtaining land from fraudulent community landowners and of bypassing environmental protection laws.

Agrofuels are competing with food crops for farmland, and agrofuel development companies are competing with farmers for access to that land.

And this appears to be as much the case for jatropha, as for other crops, despite the claim that it grows on non-agricultural land.

The result however is that because of losing their access to traditional land, local communities face growing food insecurity and hunger — “their human right to food is threatened,” the report says.

Pressure on farmland has led to forests being cleared to make way for agrofuel plantations, destroying valuable natural resources and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. In Ethiopia, land inside an elephant sanctuary was cleared to make way for agrofuels.

Farmers have found that the much vaunted wonder crop jatropha, rather than bringing a guaranteed income, in fact takes valuable water resources and needs expensive pesticides.

In some cases, food crops have been cleared to plant jatropha, leaving farmers with no income and no source of food.

But the Guardian quoted Sun Biofuels, a UK company named by Friends of the Earth, as saying the reports findings were “emotional and anecdotal.”

Chief executive Richard Morgan said that biofuel production offered “an opportunity to get investment into local communities in an ethical way.”

The FoE report however disagrees, saying that this is an issue which is likely to become fiercely political over the coming decade.

“While (African) politicians promise that agrofuels will bring locally sourced energy supplies to their countries, the reality is that most of the foreign companies are developing agrofuels to sell on the international market,” the report concludes.

“Just as African economies have seen fossil fuels and other natural resources exploited for the benefit of other countries, there is a risk that agrofuels will be exported abroad with minimal benefit for local communities and national economies. Countries will be left with depleted soils, rivers that have been drained and forests that have been destroyed.”

http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/-/2560/1004094/-/item/1/-/akvgra/-/index.html

Se soigner par les fruits, les légumes et les plantes médicinales

Se soigner par les fruits, les légumes et les plantes médicinales  -
05/09/2010
Originaire d'Afrique, le sésame (nom botanique : Sesamum indicum et nom
vietnamien : cây vung ) est cultivé dans les régions tropicales et
subtropicales. C'est une plante annuelle à feuilles lancéolées ou ovales, à
fleurs blanches, roses ou mauves et à capsules contenant de petites graines
grises.
* Parties utilisées : graines, huile des graines, racine. On récolte la
racine en été et les graines lorsque les capsules qui les contiennent
prennent une teinte brun - noir.
* Constituants connus :
Dans les graines : 50% d'huile renfermant des acides gras insaturés (environ
43% pour chacun des 2 acides oléique et linoléique), 26% de protéines, de la
vitamine A, de l'acide foléique et des sels minéraux (dont du calcium) et
lignanes.
* Effets et usages médicinaux :
En Chine, le sésame est avant tout utilisé comme aliment et aromate ; mais
il sert aussi à rééquilibrer "les états de déficience", notamment hépatiques
et rénaux.
On prescrit les graines dans les troubles, tels qu'étourdissements ,
bourdonnements d'oreilles ou vision trouble (provoquée par l'anémie) ainsi
qu'en cas de constipation "sèche" en raison de leur pouvoir lubrifiant sur
l'appareil digestif.
Ces graines stimulent la lactation. L'huile de sésame entre, comme
excipient, dans la fabrication de produits cosmétiques.
Des expériences ont révélé que les graines de sésame abaissent le taux de
glucose dans le sang et augmentent les réserves de sucre dans le foie et les
muscles.
Dans l'Égypte ancienne, on pressait les graines pour en extraire de l'huile,
qui servait à l'alimentation des lampes et à la fabrication d'onguents. En
Chine et en Inde, on consomme du sésame depuis des millénaires.
Dr Doàn Van Tân/CVN
http://lecourrier.vnagency.com.vn/default.asp?page=newsdetail&newsid=65498

Une plante sur cinq menacée de disparition

Une plante sur cinq dans le monde est menacée de disparition, et l'homme est responsable à travers ses activités de 80% de l'extinction en cours, selon la première évaluation scientifique conduite sur un échantillon des 380 000 plantes connues sur la planète.



A un mois du sommet sur la biodiversité de Nagoya au Japon (18-20 octobre), les Jardins botaniques royaux de Kew Gardens, le Museum d'histoire naturelle britannique et l'Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature (UICN) ont présenté lors d'une conférence de presse la première Liste rouge basée sur un échantillon représentatif.

L'étude, qui a duré 5 ans, a retenu 1500 espèces par grande famille de plantes (des mousses et lichens aux légumineuses en passant par les conifères et orchidées).



Sur les 4000 espèces examinées, 22% sont classées comme «menacées». Sur ce total, 4% sont «en danger critique», 7% «en danger» et 11% «vulnérables».



Les espèces menacées représentent «cinq fois la flore des Iles britanniques», relève Neil Brummitt, chercheur à Kew Gardens.



L'homme est clairement le principal responsable de la disparition des plantes sauvages: l'agriculture, l'élevage, la déforestation, l'urbanisation contribuent pour 81% de l'extinction, contre moins de 20% pour les causes naturelles (incendies...).



La famille des conifères est la plus menacée, et la forêt tropicale humide le milieu le plus dégradé.

33% des espèces ne sont pas assez connues pour établir un état de conservation.

On estime qu'au total 20 à 30% des plantes sur Terre n'ont pas encore été répertoriées, et les chercheurs craignent que certaines disparaissent avant même d'avoir été découvertes.



Les plantes sont plus menacées que les oiseaux et autant que les mammifères, qui reçoivent pourtant beaucoup plus d'attention dans l'opinion publique.



Pourtant, elles sont essentielles dans l'écosystème. «Nous ne pouvons pas rester là les bras croisés à regarder les plantes disparaître. Elles sont la base de toute la vie, elles fournissent l'air sain, l'eau, la nourriture et l'énergie», a commenté le directeur des jardins botaniques Stephen Hopper.

Notre étude «va donner un point de départ pour mesurer à l'avenir la perte de biodiversité», a souligné Eimear Nic Lughadha, chef du projet.



Jusqu'à présent, la seule estimation reposait sur le travail collectif de milliers de scientifiques et de bénévoles contribuant à la Liste rouge de l'UICN.



«Bien sûr, ces volontaires étaient anxieux de faire figurer sur la liste les espèces les plus menacées, ce qui explique qu'elles soient sur-représentées», a expliqué à l'AFP Craig Hilton Taylor de l'UICN. De fait, selon la Liste rouge de l'UICN, 70% des plantes étaient menacées, mais sur un échantillon représentatif de seulement 3% de la totalité des plantes.



La communauté internationale «a échoué dans l'objectif qu'elle s'était fixé en 2002» de freiner d'ici 2010 la perte de biodiversité, a reconnu Craig Hilton Taylor, représentant de l'UICN à la conférence de presse mardi.

Un objectif «plus ambitieux», visant à empêcher d'ici 2020 l'extinction des espèces reconnues aujourd'hui comme menacées, sera proposé à l'adoption de la conférence sur la biodiversité à Nagoya, a-t-il indiqué.

«La liste rouge publiée aujourd'hui sera présentée à Nagoya, et nous ferons tout pour que les plantes ne soient pas oubliées», a souligné M. Taylor.

Source :











Une plante sur cinq menacée de disparition

Une plante sur cinq dans le monde est menacée de disparition, et l'homme est responsable à travers ses activités de 80% de l'extinction en cours, selon la première évaluation scientifique conduite sur un échantillon des 380 000 plantes connues sur la planète.

A un mois du sommet sur la biodiversité de Nagoya au Japon (18-20 octobre), les Jardins botaniques royaux de Kew Gardens, le Museum d'histoire naturelle britannique et l'Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature (UICN) ont présenté lors d'une conférence de presse la première Liste rouge basée sur un échantillon représentatif.

L'étude, qui a duré 5 ans, a retenu 1500 espèces par grande famille de plantes (des mousses et lichens aux légumineuses en passant par les conifères et orchidées).

Sur les 4000 espèces examinées, 22% sont classées comme «menacées». Sur ce total, 4% sont «en danger critique», 7% «en danger» et 11% «vulnérables».

Les espèces menacées représentent «cinq fois la flore des Iles britanniques», relève Neil Brummitt, chercheur à Kew Gardens.

L'homme est clairement le principal responsable de la disparition des plantes sauvages: l'agriculture, l'élevage, la déforestation, l'urbanisation contribuent pour 81% de l'extinction, contre moins de 20% pour les causes naturelles (incendies...).

La famille des conifères est la plus menacée, et la forêt tropicale humide le milieu le plus dégradé.

33% des espèces ne sont pas assez connues pour établir un état de conservation.

On estime qu'au total 20 à 30% des plantes sur Terre n'ont pas encore été répertoriées, et les chercheurs craignent que certaines disparaissent avant même d'avoir été découvertes.

Les plantes sont plus menacées que les oiseaux et autant que les mammifères, qui reçoivent pourtant beaucoup plus d'attention dans l'opinion publique.

Pourtant, elles sont essentielles dans l'écosystème. «Nous ne pouvons pas rester là les bras croisés à regarder les plantes disparaître. Elles sont la base de toute la vie, elles fournissent l'air sain, l'eau, la nourriture et l'énergie», a commenté le directeur des jardins botaniques Stephen Hopper.

Notre étude «va donner un point de départ pour mesurer à l'avenir la perte de biodiversité», a souligné Eimear Nic Lughadha, chef du projet.

Jusqu'à présent, la seule estimation reposait sur le travail collectif de milliers de scientifiques et de bénévoles contribuant à la Liste rouge de l'UICN.

«Bien sûr, ces volontaires étaient anxieux de faire figurer sur la liste les espèces les plus menacées, ce qui explique qu'elles soient sur-représentées», a expliqué à l'AFP Craig Hilton Taylor de l'UICN. De fait, selon la Liste rouge de l'UICN, 70% des plantes étaient menacées, mais sur un échantillon représentatif de seulement 3% de la totalité des plantes.

La communauté internationale «a échoué dans l'objectif qu'elle s'était fixé en 2002» de freiner d'ici 2010 la perte de biodiversité, a reconnu Craig Hilton Taylor, représentant de l'UICN à la conférence de presse mardi.

Un objectif «plus ambitieux», visant à empêcher d'ici 2020 l'extinction des espèces reconnues aujourd'hui comme menacées, sera proposé à l'adoption de la conférence sur la biodiversité à Nagoya, a-t-il indiqué.

«La liste rouge publiée aujourd'hui sera présentée à Nagoya, et nous ferons tout pour que les plantes ne soient pas oubliées», a souligné M. Taylor.

Source :

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/environnement/201009/28/01-4327516-une-plante-sur-cinq-menacee-de-disparition.php

Environment and gender equality: the keys to achieving Millennium Development Goals

Source: http://cms.iucn.org/?uNewsID=6065

20 September 2010 News - Press Release

Achieving gender equality is fundamental to sustainable development and to attaining the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the eradication of poverty and hunger. This is expected to be one of the major conclusions of world leaders and development experts at the 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, to be held this week at the UN Headquarters in New York.

At a high level event on 21 September in New York, speakers including UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro and IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre, will explain how the latest research and thinking point ever more to the urgent need for the equality and empowerment of women —who make up 70 percent of the world’s poor — at all levels of society worldwide.

“As we all know, the third Millennium Development Goal is dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. But when we look at the other seven goals, it is clear that none of them are possible without the inclusion of gender considerations and an improved situation for the women of the world,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “We can eradicate poverty and hunger, but only if we fully involve women’s voices in the decisions that are made on, for example, agriculture and biodiversity, since they provide up to 90 percent of the rural poor’s food and up to 80 percent of food in developing countries.”

The latest evidence provided by IUCN at the event draws from across the globe. In India, for example, women provide 75 percent of labour for transplanting and weeding rice, yet fewer than 10 percent actually own land. During rainfall shortages in India, more girls die than boys, and the nutrition of girls suffers more during periods of a shortage of food and rising food prices.

An analysis of credit schemes in five African countries found that women received less than 10 percent of the amount of credit awarded to male smallholders.

In Kenya, an irrigation scheme handed control to male managers. Women lost rights to land they had traditionally used to grow subsistence food crops. This inequality causes further gender imbalances as women are forced to turn to their husbands to buy food.

“Women play a key role in managing local biodiversity to meet food and health needs. In many countries, they also play a crucial role in managing agriculture and are primary savers and managers of seeds,” says Lorena Aguilar, IUCN Global Senior Gender Advisor. “They are also responsible for the control, development and transmission of significant traditional knowledge. As men are increasingly drawn to seek remunerated work away from their lands and resources, women’s role in farming and in the management of family and community biological resources, as well as the protection of traditional knowledge is increasing.”

The United Nations official 2010 report on progress made towards development makes its verdict clear: “Gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the heart of the MDGs and are preconditions for overcoming poverty, hunger and disease. But progress has been sluggish on all fronts—from education to access to political decision making.”


For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Brian Thomson, Manager IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 721 8326, e http://brian.thomson@iucn.org
Nicki Chadwick, IUCN Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0229, m +41 79 528 3486, e http://nicki.chadwick@iucn.org%20

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Clean stoves can save women's lives in Asia, Africa

Clean stoves can save women's lives in Asia, Africa

New York - Every day millions of women in Asia, Africa and Latin America spend hours hunched over smoke-spewing stoves in poorly ventilated homes with walls layered with thick soot. But cooking the food that will nourish and comfort their families is proving fatal for these mothers.

Every year an estimated 2 million women, and the babies strapped to their backs or the children who sit by them as they cook, die from inhaling the toxic smoke. That's close to one death every 16 seconds, health experts say.

The smoke contributes to a wide range of chronic illnesses such as pneumonia

, the number one killer of children worldwide; emphysema; lung cancer; bronchitis; cardiovascular disease and low birth weight.

The staggeringly high number of deaths related to smoke inhalation is a little-discussed statistic at a summit where maternal and child health has generated a lot of attention, and targets met and missed are being carefully calibrated.

Many of the discussions at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) special session at the United Nations have focused on maternal mortality rates globally - one of the eight goals is to reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio and achieve universal access to reproductive health.

But when US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talks about clean-burning cooking stoves, the world sits up and takes notice.

On Tuesday, an initiative for such stoves in the developing world was announced by Clinton, who has been a powerful advocate for improving women's health all over the world.

An estimated three billion people - or nearly half the world's population - are affected by stoves that are fuelled by coal, wood, agricultural waste and dung. The goal of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, announced by Clinton, is for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates stove smoke to be the fourth-worst health risk in developing nations, following dirty water and lack of sanitation, unsafe sex and poor nutrition.

Clinton made the announcement at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, the philanthropic organization of her husband, former US president Bill Clinton.

'People have cooked over open fires and dirty stoves for all of human history, but the simple fact is they are slowly killing millions of people and polluting the environment,' Clinton said.

'But today, because of technological breakthroughs, new carbon financing tools, and growing private sector engagement, we can finally envision a future in which open fires and dirty stoves are replaced by clean, efficient and affordable stoves and fuels all over the world - stoves that still cost as little as 25 dollars.'

The United States has committed 50.82 million dollars over the next five years towards this private-public partnership, whose collaborators range from the US State Department, Energy Department and Centres for Disease Control to the UN Foundation, WHO and the governments of Germany, Peru and Norway.

The dependence on such fuels is both a cause and a result of poverty, WHO says, as poor households often do not have the resources to obtain cleaner, more efficient fuels and appliances.

The Environmental Protection Agency is to lead cookstove design innovations and conduct stove tests in the laboratory and field.

'By upgrading these dirty stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved. Clean stoves could be as transformative as bed nets or vaccines,' Clinton said.

The National Institutes of Health will accelerate its research on the cookstove-related effects on lung and heart diseases and the relationship between indoor air pollution and low birth weight.

There are other, well-documented effects of the reliance on biomass for cooking - it increases pressure on natural resources and as these dwindle it forces women and children to spend hours collecting firewood, which becomes an especially dangerous task for women and girls in refugee camps and conflict zones, putting them at increased risk of sexual assault.

The smoke is also harmful for the environment as it contributes to climate change by producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane, and aerosols such as black carbon.

The initiative will also contribute towards reducing deforestation in the developing world by curbing the massive quantities of wood and other biomass used to make charcoal.

Efficient cook stoves will have both health and climate benefits, said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme.

'Inefficient cooking stoves are estimated to be responsible for approximately 25 per cent of emissions of black carbon, particles often known as soot, of which 40 per cent is linked to wood burning,' he said.

'Black carbon could now be responsible for a significant level of current climate change,' according to UNEP research.

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/health/features/article_1586162.php/Clean-stoves-can-save-women-s-lives-in-Asia-Africa-Feature

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Des ONG appellent l'Afrique à se doter d'un centre de la biodiversité

17/09/2010 4:11 pm
LIBREVILLE (AFP) - Des organisations non gouvernementales ont appelé
l'Afrique à se doter d'un centre de la biodiversité, qui permettrait au
continent de mieux connaître ses espèces et gérer leur exploitation, lors
d'une conférence sur la biodiversité qui s'achève vendredi à Libreville.
"Pour la société civile, nous avons insisté pour la mise en place d'un
centre régional africain de la biodiversité" lors des travaux des experts,
tenus du 13 au 15 septembre et cette demande a été transmise aux ministres
africains de l'Environnement réunis depuis jeudi, a déclaré à l'AFP Nicaise
Moulombi, président du Haut Conseil des acteurs non étatiques (ONG) du
Gabon.
"Un des déficits africains est la connaissance réelle de sa ressource
génétique. (...) Ce centre nous permettrait de faire du «monitoring»
(surveillance), parce que nous avons tout mais nous n'avons pas la
connaissance de la ressource", a ajouté M. Moulombi, également président de
l'ONG environnementale gabonaise Croissance Saine Environnement.
"Il y a de grands laboratoires qui gagnent énormément d'argent en Afrique
grâce au prélèvement des espèces. Donc, il y a vraiment besoin d'un centre
de la biodiversité", a-t-il dit.
Selon le comité d'organisation, 36 pays - dont une vingtaine au niveau
ministériel - sont représentés à la conférence de Libreville, qui doit
notamment permettre de définir une position commune de l'Afrique sur la
biodiversité avant l'Assemblée générale de l'ONU prévue la semaine
prochaine, et le sommet de l'ONU sur la diversité biologique, du 18 au 29
octobre à Nagoya (Japon)
Outre la création d'un centre africain sur la biodiversité, les ONG
souhaitent aussi "le renforcement des cadres réglementaires et législatifs
en matière d'accès à la ressource génétique", a encore indiqué Nicaise
Moulombi.
L'objectif est de "permettre aux populations autochtones, qui vivent encore
de chasse et de cueillette, d'avoir une contrepartie. (...) Malheureusement,
ce partage équitable ne se fait pas", a-t-il poursuivi.
Par rapport au sommet de Nagoya, a-t-il précisé, les ONG sont "toutefois
inquiètes vis-à-vis de l'échec de Copenhague" où s'est tenu fin 2009 un
sommet de l'ONU sur les changements climatiques.
Négocié à la hâte dans les dernières heures de ce sommet qui a failli
tourner au fiasco complet, l'accord de Copenhague prévoit, pour aider les
pays les plus vulnérables, 30 milliards de dollars sur trois ans (2010, 2011
et 2012), puis une montée en puissance pour arriver à 100 milliards de
dollars d'ici à 2020.
Début mai, l'Afrique a indiqué qu'elle s'opposerait à un accord mondial sur
le climat si les pays développés ne tenaient pas leurs engagements sur ce
point.
© AFP

Land Grab in Africa Endangers Food Security

SATURDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 2010 15:58

WRITTEN BY JEROME MWANDA

http://www.international.to/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=755:land-grab-in-africa-endangers-food-security&catid=36:news&Itemid=74

NAIROBI (IDN) - Whereas the World Bank's new and much anticipated report on the global farmland grab provides very little new and solid data about how these land grab deals are playing out on the ground, new investigations by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) point out that the amount of land being taken in Africa to meet industrialised countries' increasing demand for biofuels is underestimated and out of control.

The FoEI research looked at 11 African countries and found that at least five million hectares of land -- an area the size of Denmark -- is being acquired by foreign companies to produce biofuels.

The report, 'Africa: Up For Grabs' reveals how local communities are having their land taken and there are few safeguards for local community land rights. Forests and natural vegetation are being cleared, and biofuels are competing with food crops for farmland.

According to the 36-page study released on August 30, 2010 eight days ahead of the World Bank's largely disappointing study presented on September 7, hunger for foreign investment and economic development is driving a number of African countries to welcome agrofuel developers onto their land.

Most of these developers are European companies, looking to grow agrofuel crops to meet European Union targets for agrofuel use in transport fuel. Demand for agrofuels threatens food supplies away from consumers for fuel in the case of crops such as cassava, peanuts, sweet sorghum and maize.

FoEI points out that non-edible agrofuel crops such as jatropha are competing directly with food crops for fertile land. The result threatens food supplies in poor communities and pushes up the cost of available food. Farmers who switch to agrofuel crops run the risk of being unable to feed their families.

"While foreign companies pay lip service to the need for 'sustainable development', agrofuel production and demand for land is resulting in the loss of pasture and forests, destroying natural habitat and probably causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions," says the report.

It adds: Just as African economies have seen fossil fuels and other natural resources exploited for the benefit of other countries, there is a risk that agrofuels will be exported abroad with minimal benefit for local communities and national economies. Countries will be left with depleted soils, rivers that have been drained and forests that have been destroyed.

Access to land provides food and livelihoods for billions of people around the world, but as the availability of fertile land and water is threatened by climate change, mismanagement and consumption patterns, demand for land has been increasing.

"Land grabs" -- where land traditionally used by local communities is leased or sold to outside investors (from corporations and from governments) are becoming increasingly common across Africa. Whilst many of these deals are for food cultivation, there is a growing interest in growing crops for fuel -- agrofuels -- particularly to supply the growing EU market.

These land grabs have been taking place against a backdrop of rising food prices which led to the food crisis in 2008. There were food riots in some developing countries and in Haiti and Madagascar the governments were overthrown as a result of the crisis. Crops being used for agrofuels was a major factor in the rising price of food.

GREEN OPEC

According to the report, many of the host countries have encouraged land grab as investment, keen to develop a potentially lucrative export crop. Fifteen African nations joined forces to set up what has been described as a 'Green OPEC' and a number of national governments have also introduced domestic targets and strategies for agrofuel use at home.

But there is also a growing awareness of the downsides of this agrofuel boom. As scientists and international institutions challenge the climate benefits of this alternative fuel source, local communities and in some cases national governments are waking up to the impact of land grabs on the environment and on local livelihoods.

The report points out that in Tanzania, Madagascar and Ghana there have been protests following land grabs by foreign companies. Companies have been accused of providing misleading information to local farmers, of obtaining land from fraudulent community land owners and of bypassing environmental protection laws.

Pressure on farmland has led to forest being cleared to make way for agrofuel plantations, destroying valuable natural resources and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. In Ethiopia, land inside an elephant sanctuary was cleared to make way for agrofuels.

Farmers have found that the much vaunted wonder crop jatropha, rather than bringing a guaranteed income, in fact takes valuable water resources and needs expensive pesticides. In some cases, food crops have been cleared to plant jatropha, leaving farmers with no income and no source of food.

What is more, there are concerns that biotech companies, keen to find new outlets for their products, will see agrofuels as a way into the African market. Research is on-going into genetically modified (GM) varieties which might be suitable for agrofuels, and biotech companies are eager to claim that their products can help tackle climate change.

Growing European and international demand for agrofuels as a transport fuel is creating market demand for agrofuels. While African politicians may promise that agrofuels will bring locally sourced energy supplies to their countries, the reality is that most of the foreign companies are developing agrofuels to sell on the international market. The EU's mandatory target for increasing agrofuels is a clear driver to the land grabbing in Africa.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The report's recommendations for action are:

1. Put a brake on land grabbing
Stopping the drivers -- political targets that increase demand for agrofuels should be scrapped, in particular the EU's mandatory target. African states should immediately suspend further land acquisitions and investments in agrofuels.

2. The real political priorities
Farming revolution -- Investments and priorities given to develop food sovereignty-- the right of people to adequate, healthy, locally produced and controlled food.

Energy revolution -- the reduction of energy use in transport through the rapid development of more efficient vehicles and investment in sustainable societies through the use of public transport, walking and cycling.

3. Dealing with land grabbers
Full environmental and social impact assessments of land use changes before any land sale or lease takes place must be carried out with the participation of local communities. These need to take into account the impacts on biodiversity, natural resources, genetic erosion, food sovereignty, gender, access to productive resources of the local communities (including pastoralists or itinerant farmers) and impacts of new technologies and investments in infrastructure.

Full legal liability of companies and investors: Any land deals should include clear, legally-binding and enforceable obligations on the investor. Investors should pay into an obligatory liability fund to cover
for cases of non-compliance. Independent and participatory ex post impact assessments should be
made at pre-defined intervals.

Full agreement of communities and the protection of indigenous people: Any land sales or leases can only take place with the free, prior and informed consent of the local communities concerned. The customary rights of communities and the protection of indigenous people are fundamental.

Farmer and environment friendly farming: Priority also needs to be given to investing and developing farming in Africa that supports small farmers and small-scale ecological agriculture. The farming system developed shall respect ecological limits, not lead to climate changing emissions, depletion of the soil and prevent the exhaustion of water supplies. Such systems naturally forbid the use of genetically modified crops or trees.

Farming for the local community: Due to the historic negative impacts created by instable international markets, and to reduce reliance on food aid, any new uses of land should be focused on supplying the local market. One suggestion put forward recently is to ensure that all land deals include a legal obligation that a certain minimum percentage of crops produced should be sold on the local market.

Food is a natural right and agricultural products should not be treated as commodities whose ultimate purpose is the generation of business profits rather than meeting needs of the people. Family and small-scale farmers should be encouraged and strengthened in a deliberate push to sustain the populations in urban and rural areas.

Protection of farm workers: Agricultural waged workers should be provided with adequate protection and their fundamental human and labour rights should be stipulated in legislation and enforced in practice, consistent with the applicable ILO (International Labour Organisation) instruments. Increasing protection would contribute to enhancing their ability and that of their families to procure access to sufficient and adequate food. (IDN-InDepthNews/24.09.2010)

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Calls for African biodiversity centre

Calls for African biodiversity centre

(AFP) - Sep 17, 2010

LIBREVILLE - Non-governmental organisations have called for a biodiversity
centre to be set up in Africa to study species and control their
exploitation, on the sidelines of a pan-African ministerial meeting.
"On behalf of civil society, we insisted on the establishment of a regional
African centre on biodiversity" when experts met in Gabon from Monday to
Wednesday, ahead of the ministerial conference, Nicaise Moulombi, the head
of the High Council of Non State Parties, told AFP on Friday.

"One of Africa's deficits is its real knowledge of its genetic resources
(...) This centre would enable us to conduct monitoring because (...) we
don't know what the resources are," added Moulombi, who also heads the
Gabonese NGO Growth for a Healthy Environment.
"There are big laboratories which earn enormous amounts of money in Africa
from taking samples of species. So there really is a need for a centre on
biodiversity."
According to the organising committee, 36 countries are taking part in the
Libreville conference aimed notably at agreeing on a common African stance
on biodiversity before the UN General Assembly meets next week, and before a
UN summit on biological diversity due to take place at Nagoya in Japan on
October 18-19.
The ministers' meeting in Gabon was due to end later Friday.
Mouloumbi said that NGOs he represented also called for "a strengthening of
the regulatory and legislative frameworks covering access to genetic
resources" and the means of "enabling indigenous populations, which still
live off hunting and gathering, to have their share. Unfortunately, at the
moment there is no equitable distribution."
He added that in looking ahead to the Nagoya summit, NGOs were concerned
because of the failure of Copenhagen, where a global summit on climate
change took place at the end of 2009. Mouloumbi hoped that the Nagoya
meeting would be different.
During last-minute negotiations in Copenhagen, an agreement was reached to
help the countries most vulnerable to climate change to the tune of 30
billion dollars (23 billion euros) over three years (2010, 2011 and 2012),
then more funds to reach the sum of 100 billion dollars by 2020.
At the beginning of May, African leaders warned that they would oppose a
global accord on climate change if the developed nations did not keep their
financing commitments.
Copyright C 2010 AFP. All rights reserved. More >

Cooking shouldn't kill you -- but in developing countries it does

For more than 3 billion people, exposure to smoke is an inescapable
byproduct of the daily task of preparing a meal over an open fire or a
wood-burning stove. World Health Organization research has found that
cookstove smoke is responsible for 1.9 million premature deaths annually
across Asia, Africa and South America. It's one of the top five health risks
in developing countries, predominantly affecting women and children, and
contributes to a range of chronic illnesses, including lung cancer, heart
disease, pneumonia, and low birth weight. Think about that: A kitchen is
literally one of the most dangerous places to be in the developing world.

This week leaders from around the world have convened in New York for the UN
General Assembly. They are assessing the progress that has been made toward
meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- an urgent global "to do
list" to combat poverty, disease, and access to education. Also targeted are
maternal health, gender equity, child mortality, and environmental
sustainability. Each of these MDGs would be easier to reach if more
households had cleaner cookstoves and fuels.

Five hundred million households rely on firewood and other biomass for fuel.
Apart from the grave health effects, inefficient combustion means much of
that wood is wasted -- even as its collection degrades natural resources,
accelerates deforestation, and contributes to climate change. What's more,
the time-consuming task of gathering wood falls almost exclusively upon
women and girls -- time that could be spent on education or generating
income. As they forage for fuel away from their villages or refugee camps,
women and girls also risk personal attack. If they are forced to buy wood,
they have to use precious income that could otherwise go to other urgent
needs.

Recent advances in cookstove design, testing, and monitoring, assisted by an
injection of business DNA from new commercial players, suggest that the
moment has arrived to take clean cookstoves to scale. They are increasingly
affordable, last longer, and better meet consumer preferences. The growing
need for effective near- and long-term action to address climate change at
the local and regional level has also prioritized stoves as a mitigation
tool; they are becoming an important component of energy and climate
policies in countries across the globe, including the United States. New
national cookstove programs are being undertaken in India, Mexico, and Peru.

For these reasons a new partnership was launched with a landmark
announcement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week in New York.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a bold new initiative to save
lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by
creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking
solutions. The Alliance will help overcome the market barriers that
currently impede the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in
the developing world. The Alliance's '100 by 20' goal calls for 100 million
homes to have clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020, toward a
long-term vision of universal adoption.
Founding Partners of the Alliance include the United Nations Foundation and
Morgan Stanley, the Shell Foundation, the State Department and EPA, the
German government, the World Health Organization, and several other UN
agencies.
This extraordinary coalition has come together around one core belief: The
time is right for the world to focus on this issue.
The Alliance needs others to step up. The global community needs to make
cookstoves a priority. If it does, progress will be made toward the MDGs,
millions of lives will be saved, and the global environment protected.
Cooking shouldn't kill. It shouldn't kill women and children. It shouldn't
kill the environment.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-bushkin-calvin/the-silent-killer-in-the-
_b_738451.html

Friday, 24 September 2010

MDG7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were derived from the United Nations Millennium Declaration, adopted by 189 nations in 2000. Most of the goals and targets were set to be achieved by the year 2015 on the basis of the global situation during the 1990s. It was during that decade that a number of global conferences had taken place and the main objectives of the development agenda had been defined. The baseline for the assessment of progress is therefore 1990 for most of the MDG targets.

The Millennium Development Goals are the world's time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions—income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion—while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They are also basic human rights—the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security.

http://www.eoearth.org/articles/view/154616/

UN Millennium Development Goals Expand to Include Biodiversity

NEW YORK, New York, September 29, 2008 (ENS) - For the first time, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is monitoring the world's plants and animals using the Red List Index developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN. Based on the comprehensive IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the index shows trends in the overall extinction risk for sets of species at global, regional and national levels.

Until now, the seventh Millennium Development Goal, to ensure environmental sustainability, has not included any mention of biodiversity or the need to save species as a critical contribution to human development.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2008/2008-09-29-01.asp

The Millennium Development Goals and natural resources management: reconciling sustainable livelihoods and

resource conservation or fuelling a divide?

Natural resource management is central to the achievement of most of the Millennium Development Goals. Natural resources provide food and a wide range of other goods (fuel, fodder,

timber, medicines, building materials, inputs to industries, etc).

Natural resources provide services on which all human activity depends (including watersheds, carbon sequestration and soil fertility). Natural resource exploitation provides the livelihoods for a high proportion of the world’s population.(2) This includes not only agriculture in rural areas; 1.6 billion people rely on forest resources for all or part of their livelihoods,(3) while around 150 million people count wildlife as a valuable livelihood asset(4) and 200 million derive part or all their livelihood from

http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/G00448.pdf

MDG7: Ensure environmental sustainability - Professor Tony Allan, SOAS and King's College London

This presentation provided some basic definitions of environmental sustainability. It also identified the players that can determine the pace at which sustainability may be achieved. It was shown that there are a number of different ways of 'knowing' sustainability and 'doing something about' bringing it about. The role of consumption was highlighted, and the challenges of changing behaviour in both the South and the North. This framework contributed to the analysis of MDG 7 and provided an explanation of outcomes and the basis of a critique. The review focused on water - on both water resources and on water supply and sanitation. It was shown that the MDG targets are not being met in many countries in Africa. Problems of getting resources mobilised effectively were exemplified at many administrative and social levels. The importance of deploying international assistance by fully and effectively engaged intermediaries such as WaterAid was also noted.

Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Professor Tony Allan, of SOAS and King's College London, raised the importance of politics and governance at LIDC's conference on 5 November as he discussed MDG7's aim of environmental sustainability. He stressed the complexity of understanding society and urged academics to think beyond their own disciplines at the event called No Goals at Half-time: What Next for the Millennium Development Goals?

Allan began by referring to the broad scope of MDG7 and said it should provoke soul-searching in the rich world because it concerns consumption patterns which are far greater in the developed world than the developing world. MDG7's targets include integrating sustainable development into country policies, reducing biodiversity loss, reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and achieving significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Water usage

Allan highlighted how the water needed for human consumption is "tiny", but it has to be in the right place, and most countries, including the UK, are short of water. He showed how the requirements for different uses vary enormously. Every year a person needs one cubic metre of water for drinking, 100 cubic metres for washing and 1,000 cubic metres for growing food. Allan emphasised how vegetarians require half as much water as meat-eaters for the production of their food as meat consumers generate a demand that requires large quantities of grain to be fed to livestock. Fodder production - like all crop production - is very water intensive.

He then explained how countries can "import" water to overcome shortages by buying food and products abroad. Such an understanding of the trade in water resources was introduced in 1993 when Allan identified the concept of "virtual water" - the pioneering idea that water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products.

Allan also stressed the impact of Chinese demographic policy, which has reduced the country's projected population by 300 million. This is the equivalent of the total current population of the Middle East, which will double, or of the population of old Europe. No other water demand management measure can match this controversial Chinese initiative.

Assessing progress towards MDG7

Allan showed how the world, apart from sub-Saharan Africa, is on track to meet the target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015. Problems undermining the campaign in sub-Saharan Africa include high population growth rates, low government expenditure, conflict and political instability. The situation is more serious regarding the target of halving the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation. If trends since 1990 continue the world is likely to miss the target by almost 600 million people, and the most severe difficulties are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The role of governance

Allan continued by showing how politics and governance, which determine water policy, are forged by the interactions of civil society, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), business and government. He said: "Knowing my science, my hydrology originally, doesn't really matter at all. Understanding what society 'thinks' is much more important. The politics are pretty mean and difficult". His analysis showed how ideas originating within the NGO sector, especially WaterAid, influence policy and how important it is to support such advocacy groups. Allan commented that the day's analysis and discussion had been "politics lite" and suggested that there appears to be an absence of awareness on the part of those analysing MDG outcomes of the role of politics and social processes in achieving the MDGs.

Professor Tony Allan of SOAS and King's College London won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize this year for his ground-breaking invention of the concept of "virtual water". He introduced the idea in 1993 by showing how water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products. He has advised governments, the World Bank and the European Union about water management and is widely seen as one of the most influential thinkers in the global water sector.

The greening of water law: Managing Freshwater Resources for People and the Environment

 

One of the central challenges facing many governments, communities and companies is how to bring sustainability to the management of freshwater resources in order to meet the needs of a growing global population while sustaining flows to the ‘ecological infrastructure’ that often supplies that water in the first place. Freshwater resources are among the 11 sectors being addressed under UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative which are central to the delivery of resource efficient, 21st century economies within the goal of sustainable development.

 

They also form a central pillar in The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) which UNEP hosts and which dovetails with the Green Economy work.

Transforming laws and policies to reflect the multiple benefits of more intelligent freshwater management will be among the keys to addressing the challenges and realising the opportunities.

This publication, The Greening of Water Law: Managing Freshwater Resources for People and the Environment, cites many examples at both the

national and international level that others may wish to consider.

 

Namibia’s Water Resources Act requires consideration of environmental effects during the application for water abstraction and effluent discharge permits. The Act also empowers the country’s water minister to establish ‘safe yields’ when determining the use of aquifers.

 

http://www.unep.org/delc/PDF/UNEP_Greening_water_law.pdf

 

Fresh Energy Animates Work Toward Millenium Development Goals

 

NEW YORK, New York, September 13, 2010 (ENS) - World leaders, bankers, executives and celebrities are engaged in an all-out push for accelerated progress towards the Millenium Development Goals - to slash poverty and hunger, improve health and education, and ensure environmental sustainability by 2015. The eight interlinked goals were agreed by world leaders in the year 2000 to usher in the new millenium.

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to attend a summit at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 20-22 to take stock and accelerate progress towards achieving the goals.

The World Bank Group today announced billons of dollars in new funding for agriculture, health, and education to help countries achieve their goals by the global target date.

 

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2010/2010-09-13-01.html

Improving freshwater management in Africa

An improved legal and institutional context with enhanced transparency and accountability could contribute to more effective resource management, and at the same time maximize available opportunities and ensure the fair and equitable distribution of benefits. This would have positive spinoffs at multiple levels, including for human well-being and in particular health and nutrition, livelihoods and economic development.

An improved governance framework will need to address:

• Basic principles, such as equity and efficiency in water allocation and distribution, the need for integrated management approaches using the catchment and basin as basic units, and the need to balance the different water uses (eg for socioeconomic development versus maintenance of ecosystem integrity);

• The roles of government, civil society and the private sector and their responsibilities regarding management and administration of water resources;

• Regulatory regimes (eg water tariffs and subsidies to resource users and polluters) and;

• Risk management of water-related disasters, and climate variability and change

More at: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Improving_freshwater_management_in_Africa

Africa's First Big Forestry Project Registered Under Kyoto Protocol

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 9, 2010 - Ethiopia has become the first African country to register a large-scale forestry project under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.

 

The Humbo Assisted Natural Regeneration Project has restored more than 2,700 hectares of degraded land in the impoverished highlands of southwestern Ethiopia since 2007.

 

Registration of the project by the United Nations enables the future sale of over 338,000 metric tonnes worth of carbon credits by 2017, furthering the goal of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2010/2010-03-09-01.html

 

Climate Change Threatens Southern Africa's Food Security

 

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, December 6, 2005 (ENS) - Climate changes have led to a drastic fall in agricultural production in Malawi and other southern African countries delegates to the ongoing UN climate change conference are learning. Already over-burdened with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, unprecedented drought has hit these countries, pressuring them to import huge amounts of food.

In a moving statement to the Adaptation and Development Seminar at the conference, Lands Secretary George Mkondiwa of Malawi, said the time when Malawians were able to feed themselves, after independence in 1964, is long gone.

As I speak, some five million Malawians, nearly half of the entire population, face starvation and require food aid," said Mkondiwa. "The more vulnerable sections of the population are subsisting on unpalatable wild foods."

 

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2005/2005-12-06-01.html

Health Inequities, Environmental Insecurity and the Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case Study of Zambia

Health Inequities, Environmental Insecurity and the Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case Study of Zambia

 

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a series of 8 goals and 18 targets aimed at ending extreme poverty by 2015, and there are 48 quantifiable indicators for monitoring the process. Most of the MDGs are health or health-related goals. Though the MDGs might sound ambitious, it is imperative that the world, and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, wake up to the persistent and unacceptably high rates of extreme poverty that populations live in, and find lasting solutions to age-old problems. Extreme poverty is a cause and consequence of low income, food insecurity and hunger, education and gender inequities, high disease burden, environmental degradation, insecure shelter, and lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. It is also directly linked to unsound governance and inequitable distribution of public wealth. While many regions in the world will strive to attain the MDGs by 2015, most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with major human development challenges associated with socio-economic disparities, will not. Zambia’s MDG progress reports of 2003 and 2005 show that despite laudable political commitment and some advances made towards achieving universal primary education, gender equality, improvement of child health and management of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is not likely that Zambia will achieve even half of the goals.

 

Zambia’s systems have been weakened by high disease burden and excess mortality, natural and man-made environmental threats and some negative effects of globalization such as huge external debt, low world prices for commodities and the human resource “brain drain”, among others. Urgent action must follow political will, and some tried and tested strategies or “quick wins” that have been proven to produce high positive impact in the short term, need to be rapidly embarked upon by Zambia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa if they are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

 

http://mdpi.net/ijerph/papers/ijerph2006030026.pdf

 

DOMESTICATING INDIGENOUS FRUIT TREES AS A CONTRIBUTION TO POVERTY REDUCTION

 

DOMESTICATING INDIGENOUS FRUIT TREES AS A CONTRIBUTION TO POVERTY REDUCTION

 

The contribution that domesticated indigenous fruit trees make to many farmers’ livelihoods is often not acknowledged in either national- or international-level poverty reduction strategies. Current agricultural data tend to be restricted to a narrow range of exotic fruit (e.g. mango, avocado, citrus). Existing data on indigenous fruit are often not presented in the kinds of income-related terms used in the policy debate, nor are they linked to simple policy recommendations. Drawing predominantly on the examples of Dacryodes edulis and Irvingia gabonensis in Cameroon and Nigeria, this paper presents evidence for the contribution of these fruit trees to poverty reduction. Evidence on the numbers and types of people obtaining an income from indigenous fruit trees, the proportion and value of that income and whether the income acts as a safety-net or can help to move people out of poverty, is presented. Non-income related impacts on health and the environment are also discussed. Finally, key policy interventions required to sustain and increase the already valuable contribution of domesticated indigenous fruit trees are outlined.

 

http://www.frameweb.org/adl/en-US/2421/file/268/Indigenous_Fruit_and_Poverty_Reduction_Schreckenberg_2006_(2).pdf

 

Global environmental change and health: impacts, inequalities, and the health sector

 

Human pressures on the environment are damaging the world’s biophysical and ecological systems. A J McMichael and colleagues discuss the resulting unequal effects on health and set out strategies to help prevent and lessen the harm.

 

Human actions are changing many of the world’s natural environmental systems, including the climate system. These systems are intrinsic to life processes and fundamental to human health, and their disruption and depletion make it more difficult to tackle health inequalities. Indeed, we will not achieve the UN millennium development health goals if environmental destruction continues. Health professionals have a vital contributory role in preventing and reducing the health effects of global environmental change.

 

Problems of focus

 

In 2000 the United Nations set out eight development goals to improve the lives of the world’s disadvantaged populations. The goals seek reductions in poverty, illiteracy, sex inequality, malnutrition, child deaths, maternal mortality, and major infections as well creation of environmental stability and a global partnership for development.2 One problem of this itemisation of goals is that it separates environmental considerations from health considerations. Poverty cannot be eliminated while environmental degradation exacerbates malnutrition, disease, and injury. Food supplies need continuing soil fertility, climatic stability, freshwater supplies, and ecological support (such as pollination). Infectious diseases cannot be stabilised in circumstances of climatic instability, refugee flows, and impoverishment.

 

The seventh millennium development goal also takes a limited view of environmental sustainability, focusing primarily on traditional localised physical, chemical, and microbial hazards. Those hazards, which are associated with industrialisation, urbanisation, and agriculture in lower income countries, remain important as they impinge most on poor and vulnerable communities.3 Exposure to indoor air pollution, for example, varies substantially between rich and poor in urban and rural populations.4 5 And the World Health Organization estimates that a quarter of the global burden of disease, including over one third of childhood burden, is due to modifiable factors in air, water, soil, and food.6 This estimated environment related burden is much greater in low income than high income countries overall (25% versus 17% of deaths-and widening further to a twofold difference in percentages between the highest and lowest risk countries). Heavy metals and chemical residues contaminate local foods, urban air pollution causes premature deaths, and waterborne enteric pathogens kill two million children annually.

 

These relatively localised environmental health hazards, though, are mostly remediable. Meanwhile, a larger scale, less remediable, and potentially irreversible category of environmental health hazard is emerging. Human pressures on the natural environment, reflecting global population growth and intensified economic activities, are now so great that many of the world’s biophysical and ecological systems are being impaired. Examples of these global environmental changes include climate change, freshwater shortages, loss of biodiversity (with consequent changes to functioning of ecosystems), and exhaustion of fisheries. These changes are unprecedented in scale, and the resultant risks to population health need urgent response by health professionals and the health sector at large.

 

Who will be affected

 

The health effects of global environmental change will vary between countries. Loss of healthy life years in low income African countries, for example, is predicted to be 500 times that in Europe. The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that adverse health effects are much more likely in low income countries and vulnerable subpopulations.7 These disparities may well increase in coming decades, not only because of regional differences in the intensity of environmental changes (such as water shortages and soil erosion), but also because of exacerbations of differentials in economic conditions, levels of social and human capital, political power, and local environmental dependency.8 9

These differential health risks also reflect the wider issue of access to global and local “public goods.” Most of the world’s arable land has now been privatised; stocks of wild species (fish, animals, and wild plants) are declining as population pressures and commercial activities intensify; and freshwater is increasingly becoming subject to market pricing. Social policies should therefore pay particular attention to the health inequalities that flow from unequal access to environmental fundamentals.

 

Availability of safe drinking water illustrates the point about access to what, historically, was common property: 1.1 billion people lack safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.10 Beyond diarrhoeal disease, water related health risks also arise from chemical contamination - such as arsenic as a cause of skin pigmentation, hyperkeratosis, cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and cancer.

 

http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7637/191.full

 

 

 

Understanding MDG- 7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

 

Understanding MDG- 7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

 

Target 1:

 

Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

 

• The rate of deforestation shows signs of decreasing, but is still alarmingly high

• A decisive response to climate change is urgently needed

• The unparalleled success of the Montreal Protocol shows that action on climate change is within our grasp

 

Target 2:

 

Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

 

• The world has missed the 2010 target for biodiversity conservation, with potentially grave consequences

• Key habitats for threatened species are not being adequately protected

• The number of species facing extinction is growing by the day, especially in developing countries

• Overexploitation of global fisheries has stabilized, but steep challenges remain to ensure their sustainability

 

Target 3:

 

Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

 

• The world is on track to meet the drinking water target, though much remains to be done in some regions

• Accelerated and targeted efforts are needed to bring drinking water to all rural households

• Safe water supply remains a challenge in many parts of the world

• With half the population of developing regions without sanitation, the 2015 target appears to be out of reach

• Disparities in urban and rural sanitation coverage remain daunting

• Improvements in sanitation are bypassing the poor

 

Target 4:

 

By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

 

• Slum improvements, though considerable, are failing to keep pace with the growing ranks of the urban poor

• Slum prevalence remains high in sub-Saharan Africa and increases in countries affected by conflict

 

Opportunities and risks of genetically modified crops in Africa

There is much controversy about the opportunities and risks posed by genetic modification (GM) technology. This results in part from the lack of information to support policymakers and the public in evaluating the options. Much of the information that is available is oversimplified and may focus on just one aspect of the debate, thus making it an unreliable source. Better scientific information is often inaccessible to non-GM specialists. A key challenge facing African countries is how to deal with this information gap and how to evaluate the contradictory information that is available.

An IUCN – The World Conservation Union (IUCN) report finds that the controversies are essentially in three areas:

  • The interpretation of science and specifically whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are inherently safe or inherently dangerous from a human and environmental perspective;
  • Economic analysis and in particular how to evaluate the cost-and-benefits associated with GMOs; and
  • Socio-cultural impacts and biosafety implications revolving around issues of food production and security, livelihoods, and human

http://www.eoearth.org/article/Opportunities_and_risks_of_genetically_modified_crops_in_Africa

 

 

Global environmental change and health: impacts, inequalities, and the health sector

Global environmental change and health: impacts, inequalities, and the health sector

Human pressures on the environment are damaging the world’s biophysical and ecological systems. A J McMichael and colleagues discuss the resulting unequal effects on health and set out strategies to help prevent and lessen the harm.

Human actions are changing many of the world’s natural environmental systems, including the climate system. These systems are intrinsic to life processes and fundamental to human health, and their disruption and depletion make it more difficult to tackle health inequalities. Indeed, we will not achieve the UN millennium development health goals if environmental destruction continues. Health professionals have a vital contributory role in preventing and reducing the health effects of global environmental change.

Problems of focus

In 2000 the United Nations set out eight development goals to improve the lives of the world’s disadvantaged populations. The goals seek reductions in poverty, illiteracy, sex inequality, malnutrition, child deaths, maternal mortality, and major infections as well creation of environmental stability and a global partnership for development.2 One problem of this itemisation of goals is that it separates environmental considerations from health considerations. Poverty cannot be eliminated while environmental degradation exacerbates malnutrition, disease, and injury. Food supplies need continuing soil fertility, climatic stability, freshwater supplies, and ecological support (such as pollination). Infectious diseases cannot be stabilised in circumstances of climatic instability, refugee flows, and impoverishment.

The seventh millennium development goal also takes a limited view of environmental sustainability, focusing primarily on traditional localised physical, chemical, and microbial hazards. Those hazards, which are associated with industrialisation, urbanisation, and agriculture in lower income countries, remain important as they impinge most on poor and vulnerable communities.3 Exposure to indoor air pollution, for example, varies substantially between rich and poor in urban and rural populations.4 5 And the World Health Organization estimates that a quarter of the global burden of disease, including over one third of childhood burden, is due to modifiable factors in air, water, soil, and food.6 This estimated environment related burden is much greater in low income than high income countries overall (25% versus 17% of deaths-and widening further to a twofold difference in percentages between the highest and lowest risk countries). Heavy metals and chemical residues contaminate local foods, urban air pollution causes premature deaths, and waterborne enteric pathogens kill two million children annually.

These relatively localised environmental health hazards, though, are mostly remediable. Meanwhile, a larger scale, less remediable, and potentially irreversible category of environmental health hazard is emerging. Human pressures on the natural environment, reflecting global population growth and intensified economic activities, are now so great that many of the world’s biophysical and ecological systems are being impaired. Examples of these global environmental changes include climate change, freshwater shortages, loss of biodiversity (with consequent changes to functioning of ecosystems), and exhaustion of fisheries. These changes are unprecedented in scale, and the resultant risks to population health need urgent response by health professionals and the health sector at large.

Who will be affected

The health effects of global environmental change will vary between countries. Loss of healthy life years in low income African countries, for example, is predicted to be 500 times that in Europe. The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that adverse health effects are much more likely in low income countries and vulnerable subpopulations.7 These disparities may well increase in coming decades, not only because of regional differences in the intensity of environmental changes (such as water shortages and soil erosion), but also because of exacerbations of differentials in economic conditions, levels of social and human capital, political power, and local environmental dependency.8 9

These differential health risks also reflect the wider issue of access to global and local “public goods.” Most of the world’s arable land has now been privatised; stocks of wild species (fish, animals, and wild plants) are declining as population pressures and commercial activities intensify; and freshwater is increasingly becoming subject to market pricing. Social policies should therefore pay particular attention to the health inequalities that flow from unequal access to environmental fundamentals.

Availability of safe drinking water illustrates the point about access to what, historically, was common property: 1.1 billion people lack safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.10 Beyond diarrhoeal disease, water related health risks also arise from chemical contamination - such as arsenic as a cause of skin pigmentation, hyperkeratosis, cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and cancer.

http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7637/191.full

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