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Growing Amazon Deforestation a Grave Threat to Global Climate

sex, 26/11/2021 - 09:50

Brazil has a "green future," announced Environment Minister Joaquim Leite and Vice-President Hamilton Mourão, in a videoconference presentation from Brasilia at the Glasgow climate summit, in an attempt to shore up Brazil’s credibility, damaged by Amazon deforestation. The two officials concealed the fact that deforestation in the Amazon rose by 21.9 percent last year. CREDIT: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil-Fotos Públicas

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 26 2021 (IPS)

For three weeks, the Brazilian government concealed the fact that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest increased by nearly 22 percent last year, accentuating a trend that threatens to derail efforts to curb global warming.

The report by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) based on the data for the year covering August 2020 to July 2021 is dated Oct. 27, but the government did not release it until Thursday, Nov. 18.

It thus prevented the disaster from further undermining the credibility of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, already damaged by almost three years of anti-environmental policies and actions, ahead of and during the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the climate change convention, held in Glasgow, Scotland from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13.Brazil had managed to reduce Amazon deforestation since the 2004 total of 27,772 square kilometers. A concerted effort by environmental agencies reduced the total to 4,571 square kilometers in 2012. This shows that it is possible, but it depends on political will and adequate management.

INPE’s Satellite Monitoring of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon Project (Prodes) recorded 13,235 square kilometers of deforestation, 21.97 percent more than in the previous period and almost three times the 2012 total of 4,571 square kilometers.

The so-called Legal Amazon, a region covering 5.01 million square kilometers in Brazil, has already lost about 17 percent of its forest cover. In a similar sized area the forests were degraded, i.e. some species were cut down and biodiversity and biomass were reduced, according to the non-governmental Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (IMAZON).

Carlos Nobre, one of the country’s leading climatologists and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the world’s largest tropical forest is approaching irreversible degradation in a process of “savannization” (the gradual transition of tropical rainforest into savanna).

The point of no return is a 20 to 25 percent deforestation rate, estimates Nobre, a researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo and a member of the Brazilian and U.S. national academies of sciences.

Reaching that point would be a disaster for the planet. Amazon forests and soils store carbon equivalent to five years of global emissions, experts calculate. Forest collapse would release a large part of these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A similar risk comes from the permafrost, a layer of frozen subsoil beneath the Arctic and Greenland ice, for example, which is beginning to thaw in the face of global warming.

This is another gigantic carbon store that, if released, would seriously undermine the attempt to limit the increase in the Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

The Amazon rainforest, an immense biome spread over eight South American countries plus the territory of French Guiana, is therefore key in the search for solutions to the climate crisis.

Evolution of the deforested area in the Brazilian Amazon since 1988, with its ups and downs and an upward tendency in the last nine years. Policies to crack down on environmental crimes by strengthened public agencies were successful between 2004 and 2012. Graphic: INPE

Brazil, which accounts for 60 percent of the biome, plays a decisive role. And that is why it is the obvious target of the measure announced by the European Commission, which, with the expected approval of the European Parliament, aims to ban the import of agricultural products associated with deforestation or forest degradation.

The Commission, the executive body of the 27-nation European Union, does not distinguish between legal and illegal deforestation. It requires exporters to certify the exemption of their products by means of tracing suppliers.

Brazil is a leading agricultural exporter that is in the sights of environmentalists and leaders who, for commercial or environmental reasons, want to preserve the world’s remaining forests.

The 75 percent increase in Amazon deforestation in the nearly three years of the Bolsonaro administration exacerbates Brazil’s vulnerability to environmentally motivated trade restrictions.

This was the likely reason for a shift in the attitude of the governmental delegation in Glasgow during COP26.

Unexpectedly, Brazil adhered to the commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, a measure that affects cattle ranching, which accounts for 71.8 percent of the country’s emissions of this greenhouse gas.

As the world’s largest exporter of beef, which brought in 8.4 billion dollars for two million tons in 2020, Brazil had previously rejected proposals targeting methane, a gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in global warming.

Brazil also pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2028, two years ahead of the target, and stopped obstructing agreements such as the carbon market, in a totally different stance from the one it had taken in the previous two years.

The threat of trade barriers and the attempt to improve the government’s international reputation are behind the new attitude. The new ministers of Foreign Affairs, Carlos França, and Environment, Joaquim Leite, in office since April and June, respectively, are trying to mitigate the damage caused by their anti-diplomatic and anti-environmental predecessors.

But the new data on Amazon deforestation and the delay in its disclosure unleashed a new backlash.

President Jair Bolsonaro stated that the Amazon has kept its forests intact since 1500 and does not suffer from fires because it is humid, in a Nov. 15 speech during the Invest Brazil Forum, held in Dubai to attract capital to the country. He made this claim when he already knew that in the last year deforestation had grown by almost 22 percent. CREDIT: Alan Santos/PR-Fotos Públicas

Leite claimed not to have had prior knowledge of the INPE report, difficult to believe from a member of a government known for using fake news and disinformation. He announced that the government would take a “forceful” stance against environmental crimes in the Amazon, commenting on the “unacceptable” new deforestation figures.

Together with the Minister of Justice and Public Security Anderson Torres, who has the Federal Police under his administration, he promised to mobilize the necessary forces to combat illegal deforestation.

The reaction is tardy and of doubtful success, given the contrary stance taken by the president and the deactivation of the environmental bodies by the previous minister, Ricardo Salles, who defended illegal loggers against police action.

The former minister stripped the two institutes executing environmental policy, one for inspection and the other for biodiversity protection and management of conservation units, of resources and specialists. He also appointed unqualified people, such as military police, to command these bodies.

President Bolsonaro abolished councils and other mechanisms for public participation in environmental management, as in other sectors, and encouraged several illegal activities in the Amazon, such as “garimpo” (informal mining) and the invasion of indigenous areas and public lands.

The result could only be an increase in the deforestation and forest fires that spread the destruction in the last two years. The smoke from the “slash-and-burn” clearing technique polluted the air in cities more than 1,000 kilometers away.

Bolsonaro, however, declared on Nov. 15 in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, that fires do not occur in the Amazon due to the humidity of the rainforest and that 90 percent of the region remains “the same as in 1500,” when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil.

His vice-president, General Hamilton Mourão, acknowledged that “deforestation in the Amazon is real, the INPE data leave no doubt.” His unusual disagreement with the president arises from his experience in presiding over the National Council of the Legal Amazon, which proposes and coordinates actions in the region.

Brazil had managed to reduce Amazon deforestation since the 2004 total of 27,772 square kilometers. A concerted effort by environmental agencies reduced the total to 4,571 square kilometers in 2012. This shows that it is possible, but it depends on political will and adequate management.


No Vaccine for the Pandemic of Violence Against Women in Latin America

ter, 23/11/2021 - 22:35

Despite restrictions due to covid, women from various feminist, youth and civil society groups gathered in the central Plaza San Martin in Lima and marched several blocks demanding justice and protesting impunity for violence against women, on Nov. 25, 2020. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Nov 24 2021 (IPS)

Despite significant legal advances in Latin American countries to address gender-based violence, it continues to be a serious challenge, especially in a context of social crisis aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic, which hits women especially hard.

“Existing laws and regulations have not stopped the violence, including femicide (gender-based murders). There is a kind of paralysis at the Latin American level, on the part of the State and society, where we don’t want to take much notice of what is happening, and women are blamed,” said María Pessina Itriago, a professor and researcher and the director of the Gender Observatory at UTE University in Quito.

Pessina, a Venezuelan who lives in the Ecuadorian capital and spoke to IPS by telephone from the university, said violence against women is ageold, and “we are still considered second-class citizens who are not recognized as social subjects.” And this dates way back – to the slaughter of “witches” in Europe in the Middle Ages, for example, she added."It hasn’t been easy to achieve my independence, have my own income and raise my children. I have suffered humiliation and slander, but I knew who I was and what I wanted: to live in peace and have a home without violence." -- Teresa Farfán

“The genocide of women is something that has not stopped and now in the context of the pandemic has become more serious. I believe that, in reality, the pandemic that we have experienced for many years is precisely this, that of gender violence,” she remarked.

Her reflection came ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is celebrated on Thursday, Nov. 25 and kicks off 16 days of activism up until Dec. 10, World Human Rights Day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.N. Women warned in March that globally one in three women suffers gender-based violence. And that the problem, far from diminishing, had grown during the covid pandemic and the restrictions and lockdowns put in place to curb it.

The study “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence”, which analyzed data from 2000 to 2018, is the most far-reaching produced by WHO on the topic.

The report, published in March of this year, stresses that violence against women is “pervasive and devastating” and affects one in three women with varying degrees of severity.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the study puts the prevalence rate of violence among women aged 15 to 49 at 25 percent.

María Pessina Itriago is a professor, researcher and director of the Gender Observatory at UTE University in Quito. CREDIT: Courtesy of María Pessina

A regional epidemic during the global pandemic

With respect to femicides, the Gender Equality Observatory of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reports that 4640 women died from this cause in 2019. The organization also called attention to the intensification of violence against girls and women during the pandemic.

The panorama is compounded by the gendered impacts of the pandemic on employment, which reduces women’s economic autonomy and makes them more vulnerable to violence.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the region of the Americas experienced the largest reduction in female employment during covid, a situation that will not be reversed in 2021.

Peruvian sociologist Cecilia Olea, of the non-governmental Articulación Feminista Marcosur (AFM), which is made up of 17 organizations from 11 countries – nine South American nations, Mexico and the Dominican Republic – said there have been significant advances in the last 30 years in the fight against gender violence.

Among them, she cited the fact that States recognize their responsibility for the problem and no longer consider it a private matter.

She also pointed out that Latin America is the only region in the world with a specific human rights treaty on the issue: the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belem do Para after the Brazilian city where it was approved in 1994, which established women’s right to live free of violence and set the framework for national laws to address this violation of women’s rights.

However, Olea said in an interview with IPS in Lima that the legal and regulatory framework has not been accompanied by political strategies to change the social imaginary of masculinity and femininity, which would provide incentives to modify the culture of inequality between men and women; on the contrary, she said, the violence forms part of a culture of impunity.

“Males feel free to oppress and governments are failing in their responsibility to guarantee comprehensive sex education throughout the educational system, in primary school and technical and higher education; this program exists by law but implementation is deficient due to lack of training for teachers and the opportunity to train people in new forms of masculinity is lost, for example,” she remarked.

Olea, a feminist activist and one of the founders of the AFM, said that not only do governments have a responsibility to prevent, address and eradicate gender violence, but there is also an urgent need to ensure health services; justice with due diligence, as the current delays revictimize and inhibit the use of regulatory instruments; and budgets to correct the current shortfall that prevents a better response to this social problem.

Peruvian sociologist Cecilia Olea, a member of the Articulación Feminista Marcosur (AFM), which brings together feminist networks from 11 Latin American countries, takes part in a demonstration outside the Peruvian Health Ministry in Lima, demanding reproductive rights. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Cultural change in the new generations

Raised in a machista home, Pessina rebelled against gender norms from an early age and her constant questioning led her to come up with a new definition of how a good person should act.

“I believe that good people do not tolerate injustice or inequality of any kind, which is why I became a feminist about 15 years ago and I am very happy to be able to contribute a grain of sand with my students,” she said.

Pessina said the challenges to progress in the eradication of violence against women are to provide public policies with a budget to make them work; and to achieve an alliance between the State, civil society organizations and feminist movements to create a road map that incorporates excluded voices, such as those of indigenous women.

“The places where they can file reports are not near their towns, they have to go to other towns and when they get there they often cannot communicate in their own language because of the colonialist view that everything must be in Spanish, and there are no interpreters,” she complained.

Another part of the problem, she said, is that “the State itself blocks complaints and keeps these people marginalized, and they are not taken into account in the countries’ statistics on violence.”

The third challenge was to work with the media in Latin America because of their role in the construction of imaginaries, in order to generate the figure of the ombudsperson focused on gender to ensure that information is treated in a way that contributes to equality and does not reproduce discriminatory stereotypes.

Pessina said that what is needed is a cultural transformation driven by the new generations, in favor of gender equality.

“We see more young feminist women activists mobilizing to make it happen and they will make a turnaround; not now, but maybe in a decade we will be talking about other things. These new generations not only of women but of men, I think they are our hope for change,” she said.

Quechua Indian woman Teresa Farfán, in the foreground, stands with two other rural women with whom she shares work and experiences in her Andes highlands community in Peru. She is convinced that telling her personal story of gender-based violence can help other women in this situation to see that it is possible to escape from abuse. CREDIT: Courtesy of Teresa Farfán

“I wanted a home without violence”

Teresa Farfán reflects the lives of many Latin American women who are victims of machista violence, but with a difference: she left behind the circle of gender violence that so often takes place in the home itself.

She is 35 years old and describes herself as a peasant farmer, a single mother and a survivor of an attempted femicide. She was born and lives in the town of Lucre, an hour and a half drive from the city of Cuzco, the capital of ancient Peru, in the center of the country.

Like most of the local population, she is dedicated to family farming.

Nine years ago she separated from the father of her children who, she says, did not let her move forward.

“He wanted me just to take care of the cows, but I wanted to learn, to get training, and that made him angry. He even beat me and it was horrible, and at the police station they ignored my complaint. He kicked me out of the house and thought that out of fear I would come back, but I took my children and left,” she told IPS during a day of sharing with women in her community.

At her moment of need she didn’t receive the support of her family, who urged her to return, “because a woman must do what her husband says.”

But she did have supportive friends who gave her a hand, both inside and outside her community, as part of a sisterhood of Quechua indigenous peasant women like her in the Peruvian highlands.

“It hasn’t been easy to achieve my independence, have my own income and raise my children. I have suffered humiliation and slander, but I knew who I was and what I wanted: to live in peace and have a home without violence,” she said. A wish that remains elusive for millions of Latin American women.


This article is part of IPS coverage of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, which kicks off 16 days of activism on the issue around the world.

Corporate Fear Drives Caribbean Vaccine COVID-19 Mandates

seg, 22/11/2021 - 10:09

The private sector and some government agencies have demanded that staff vaccinate, especially in the tourism industry that drives many regional economies. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Nov 22 2021 (IPS)

When face-to-face Cabinet meetings resumed in Jamaica following more than a year of virtual meetings due to COVID-19, Ministers lined up to have their immunisation cards inspected.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the Government “has to lead the country towards normality”.

“The way to do it is for every Jamaican to comply with the infection, prevention and control measures that have been established, which will eventually be relaxed the higher the level of vaccination,” he said after the October 12 meeting.

In the current atmosphere, outbreaks, no-movement days that shut down commerce and vaccine hesitancy send ripples through the economy. So, while Jamaica has no national vaccine mandate, private sector companies and some government agencies are already demanding that staff vaccinate.

In addition to several vaccination drives that target employees, Jamaica Private Sector Organisation joined the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association to put their support solidly behind a campaign for a national mandate.

The groups say that with the low vaccination rates almost two years into the pandemic, Jamaica is being left behind in achieving population immunity, putting the country’s recovery at risk. The groups contend that the social and economic impact will be devastating, and “the ripple effects will continue for years to come”. But even with growing support for a mandate, opposition leader Mark Golding opposes one. Only about 17 percent of the Jamaican population is vaccinated.

Across the region, governments have already implemented mandates. In Guyana, nationals who want to enter any public buildings, including banks, restaurants, supermarkets and schools, must show proof of vaccination. In the twin-island state of Antigua Barbuda, opposition legislators accused House Speaker Sir Gerald Watt of acting beyond his powers after he prevented them from participating in the sitting of the Senate because they did not show proof of vaccination.

With each outbreak, concern for the tourism industry that drives many regional economies grows. Many countries now have vaccination policies for incoming adult travellers. These include Anguilla, Grenada, St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

And even as governments ponder mandates, they are also bracing for civil unrest and legal challenges from workers. In a recent opinion, the Jamaican Bar Association said nothing was preventing the Government or employers from implementing mandates. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States outlined its position in a 16-page document titled: “The Legal Dimensions of Mandatory/Compulsory Requirements for COVID-19 Vaccinations, August 2021”.

According to the report, that countries could legally pursue mandatory vaccination laws.
“Having demonstrated … that mandatory vaccination is constitutionally appropriate given the leeway granted in favour of public health imperatives, it is submitted that employers could justify a requirement in a pandemic context, at minimum where the workplace is a high-risk environment, such as health-care, or essential services, or for workers more at risk at the workplace, such as frontline workers interacting with the public,” the document said.

But while public health legislation specifically addresses restrictions in times of pandemic, those who oppose mandates argue that they are a breach of human rights.

President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Helene Davis-Whyte, is expecting a national mandate if efforts to boost vaccination numbers fail. She argued for a comprehensive public awareness programme with consultations before such a step is taken and cautioned that a “draconian approach” could discourage some people.

“We are not necessarily opposed, but what we are saying is that you have to do more work because we don’t think that enough work has been done,” she told journalists recently.

And so, armed with their individual legal opinions, governments have been implementing the rules they say will protect their countries. By October 2021, at least seven governments across the region had instituted COVID-19 mandates for government workers.

In August, in Guyana, police were called to evict staff members in the education ministry’s head office who had entered the building without proof of vaccination. Earlier that month, there were mass protests in St. Vincent and Barbados. And in July, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was hit on the head and injured by an angry protestor during anti-mandate demonstrations in St Vincent.

Barbados, like Jamaica, has not officially backed a vaccine mandate, but Holness acknowledges he may have to make the decision soon. But even with no national mandate in Jamaica increasingly, civil servants find they must be vaccinated to work.

The Ministry of Tourism has raced ahead to vaccinate the 170,000 people who work in the sector. Already workers who come in contact with cruise ship visitors must be fully inoculated.

And as the country eyes a return to full-time school, it’s the turn of teachers and school staff. Medical workers have already been issued a mandate. In the private sector, more than 80 per cent of staff are vaccinated.

In the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, where several companies became hotspots during the height of the first wave, vaccination is compulsory. In Jamaica, COVID-19 restrictions and 14-days of lockdown cost the sector US$42 million (J$5.88 billion) in revenue.

But it is in the region’s tourism industry that mandates have become the norm. Hoteliers and other service providers seek to prevent lawsuits and shutdowns by demanding that staff be fully vaccinated. In the Bahamas, workers and visitors must be fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated visitors face a 14-day quarantine. Jamaica is aiming for a 100 per cent vaccinated workforce.

A growing number of countries have instituted vaccination policies for incoming adult travellers. These include Anguilla, Grenada, St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

Meanwhile, the private sector’s desire for a return to normalcy and increased economic activity could push many toward a vaccine faster than any government mandate could.


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Why Seed Companies Fear México

qui, 18/11/2021 - 09:23

Maize drying in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ernesto Hernández-López 
ORANGE, California, US, Nov 18 2021 (IPS)

Last month México’s Supreme Court provided hope for biodiversity, especially in the Global South, while flaming fear for seed companies. In a historic step, it ruled for corn advocates and against genetically modified (GMO) corn. The decision was a momentous act in country where maíz (corn) carries daily and sacred significance.  

This promises a way out of stale GMO debates that plague us. One side argues that genetic changes to seeds increase harvests. Seed companies and industrial agriculture make up this side. Another side says GMOs damage plant DNA.

Small-scale farmers and environmentalists stand on this side. Neither addresses the other. This standstill keeps GMO policies ineffective. The court’s decision offers a path out of this by cutting at seed company positions. We should follow slow grown Mexican resistance to GMOs.

By emphasizing biodiversity, the ruling fuels sustainable farming worldwide. In legal terms, the decision found that it is constitutional for courts to block commercial permits for GMO corn. Seed companies, like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and PHI, need these to sell seeds in México. They lost.  

But much more is at stake than permits and court orders. These agrochemical companies pursue a global push for GMO agriculture, not just in México. Farmers worldwide worry that companies control GMO seed use (not growers) and that seeds cause permanent environmental harm. Frustrations persistently spread, evident at this year’s UN COP26 and UN global food summit.

The fear is that wind carries pollen from genetically modified plants to mix with non-GMO corn, called maíz nativo. Even if unintentional, this can’t be undone and threatens corn’s genetic variety. GMOs threaten biodiversity, required for plants to adapt to drought, climate change, and varied soil conditions

Luckily law and science are on the side of anti-GMO advocates. Because of this, México offers an example of effective legal resistance. The court stated that biodiversity is needed to allow corn plants to grow, mix genes, and adapt, as done for centuries. In other words, biodiversity is necessary for corn as a plant species to survive.

GMOs permanently hurt this. The fear is that wind carries pollen from genetically modified plants to mix with non-GMO corn, called maíz nativo. Even if unintentional, this can’t be undone and threatens corn’s genetic variety. GMOs threaten biodiversity, required for plants to adapt to drought, climate change, and varied soil conditions.

GMO proponents paint this reasoning as unscientific and emotional. They are wrong. They prejudge one country’s democratic and scientific process used to support sustainable farming.

This debate is not new. GMOs have lost in Mexican courts for years. In 2013, the Colectividad del Maíz, representing farmers, indigenous communities, environmentalists, and scientists, sued in court to halt government review of permit requests.

They argued that there were unauthorized releases of GMO genes surpassing levels permitted by México’s biosecurity law. Their central claims were that genetically modified plants mix with maíz nativo. This risks permanent damage to México’s over fifty maíz nativo varieties. Eight years ago, a trial court sided with the Colectividad. Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed, after giving the Colectividad and seed companies since 2017 to make their case.

The court explained that the Precautionary Principle authorizes GMO controls to protect biodiversity. With this international law principle, governments prohibit technologies if their safety is scientifically uncertain. Think of it as way for governments to address risks in environmental, public health, or biosecurity predicaments.

Employing it, México blocks seed permits as a precaution to curtail GMO damage. This is explicitly permitted in México’s biosecurity law, passed with agrochemical industry backing in 2005. Precautionary measures are similarly supported by international laws on GMOs (2003), biodiversity (1993), and the environment (1992). In fact, Global South countries insisted that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety explicitly include Precautionary Principle provisions.

GMO interests discount these laws to evade biosecurity measures. They deflect and tout innovation. Insisting GMOs are safe,seed companies refute environmental impacts. Deny, deny, deny, does not work.

GMO proponents flout science. Colectividad lawyers explain that seed companies preferred to not submit scientific evidence on GMO safety. This was an unforced litigation error, signaling larger problems. Observers label company justifications as fake science, because they show that GMO controls on farms fail.

For decadesmultilateral organizations and scientific studies show how GMOs threaten corn. Moreover, there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety. Put simply, GMOs damage plant genes. Scientists say that they hurt the environment and are harmful to eat.

The power of México’s ruling goes way beyond permits. It emboldens national plans to phase-out GMO corn and glyphosate, not just seeds, by 2024. So far, GMO voices stick to losing playbooks, saying this plan is not based on science. Controversies over toxic glyphosate raise more alarm. GMO farming needs this chemical herbicide. A UN agency and American courtsfound it to be carcinogenic. This has resulted court ordered payouts, creating a headache for Bayer that acquired glyphosate’s producer Monsanto.

All of this inspires sustainable farming globally. Hundreds of countries have agreed to treaties with Precautionary Principle provisions. The principle was central to crafting Mexican biosecurity measures. It can guide more governments to implement effective GMO, biodiversity, and environmental policies. Seed companies agonize thinking if more courts, regulators, or legislatures copy México.

In short, sustainable farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and most importantly policymakers across the globe should follow México’s example. Evident in the Colectividad’s determination, resistance is the seed to sustainable success, when it combines legal, cultural, and political efforts.

Seed companies should learn that there are bigger losses than unrealized seed sales. In the long term, markets for popular legitimacy and trust from governments are far larger than demand for myopic tales on science and laws. Discussing corn, free trade ideologue David Ricardo explained the law of diminishing returns, when business choices become counterproductive. This should inspire seed makers to stop opposing precaution.

Ernesto Hernández-López is a Professor of Law at the Fowler School of Law, Chapman University (California, United States) who writes about international law and food law. 

Indigenous Communities & Human Rights Defenders Under Siege in Colombia

qua, 03/11/2021 - 04:24

Celia Umenza Velasco at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security. Credit: United Nations

By Celia Umenza Velasco

On 21 October, I had the honor of addressing the UN Security Council at the annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security. I spoke as a member of Cxhab Wala Kiwe, which means “Great People’s Territory” in the Nasa Yuwe language, also known as ACIN—Association of Indigenous Councils of the North of Cauca—in Colombia.

I am an Indigenous activist dedicated to my people, our territory, the environment and the cause of peace.

I spoke on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, and as a representative of Indigenous women and women in all their diversity—campesinas, Afro-descendant women, LGBTQI+ persons, refugee and migrant women, women with disabilities and women from countries around the world who suffer from war, poverty and discrimination.

As I said in my remarks, I continue to affirm my solidarity with the women and LGBTQI+ people of Afghanistan who continue to risk their lives fighting for their rights and equal place in Afghan society. We stand with you.

Colombia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for defenders of human rights and of land and territorial rights. Attacks on human rights defenders, especially women, LGBTQI+, campesino, Afro-descendant and Indigenous leaders have continued, including in response to the recent protests in Colombia against extreme inequality, violence and scant implementation of the Peace Accord.

On average, at least one Indigenous defender is killed every week. In my territory of Cauca, three Indigenous women leaders whom I worked with were killed in 2020. Their brutal murders illustrate how women often pay a terrible price for their leadership.

For an Indigenous person, land means everything to us. We are nourished by it, and it is a part of our identity and our history. Indigenous communities oppose logging, mining, agribusiness and other large-scale extractive and infrastructure projects—many of which are actively supported by the Government of Colombia—because they threaten the environment and deplete our natural resources.

Indigenous defenders in Colombia are viewed as a threat because we challenge powerful economic interests. My people are killed for protecting our waterways and forests, our flowers and fauna, when their courage and dedication should be held up as a model in the non-violent struggle for territorial rights.

Celia Umenza Velasco

Violence against our communities also demonstrates the devastating impact of militarized responses to social crises. Indigenous communities in Colombia have been calling for demilitarization for decades. Much of the war was waged on our land, and much of the violence continues in our territories today.

Although we have peace in name, lack of implementation of the Peace Accord has refueled conflict. At one point in the war, an Indigenous person was killed every 72 hours, most often caught in the crossfire between armed actors.

Today, the state continues to use militarized force through its security apparatus, particularly in rural areas. The only state presence we see in our territories is the military and the police, who often appear to protect the economic interests of powerful sectors, rather than the rights of local populations.

This represents a failure to comply with the provisions of the Peace Accord. Furthermore, during the recent national protests, police used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators across the country, particularly in Cali where a greater percentage of the population is Afro-descendant and where our Indigenous guard was attacked.

State forces have committed sexual and gender-based violence. Peaceful protestors have been subject to torture, illegal detention, disappearances and killings, echoing the violence that has marked over five decades of war. The gravity of this situation led the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to call for the overall demilitarization of the police in Colombia.

The Peace Accord, with 130 provisions on gender equality and women’s rights, was achieved due to the determined struggle of Colombian feminist movements. On paper, the Peace Accord provides the foundation for a democratic country.

However, five years since its adoption, implementation is at a standstill, especially of its gender provisions and the Ethnic Chapter. The Special Forum of Women and the High Level Forum for Ethnic Peoples are both underfunded and lack political support, and members of the Special Forum of Women have been threatened and attacked.

Implementation is most delayed in provisions for Comprehensive Rural Reform, which would give women access to land and enable them to chart a path to inclusive and holistic development for their communities.

This has allowed the expansion of extractive activities that exploit natural resources, violate territorial rights, exacerbate conflict, and increase violence against human rights defenders, especially those who defend their land.

Colombia’s Peace Accord may be unprecedented in its incorporation of international standards of gender equality—but what good are agreements and promises if they are not kept?

Threats faced by women peacebuilders and human rights defenders in one community are a threat to women everywhere. Despite ten resolutions and repeated affirmations of the value of civil society, the issue of women human rights defenders remains a critical gap in the Security Council’s implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.

Colombia is no different—although Security Council members have regularly condemned the targeting of human rights defenders and social leaders, they have not done enough to turn words into action.

Ending attacks against women human rights defenders, not only in Colombia, but in all conflicts on its agenda, and ensuring the full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership of women in all their diversity, is essential for sustainable peace.

I urged the Security Council to call on the Colombian Government to:

    • Fully implement and resource the Peace Accord, in particular the Ethnic Chapter and gender provisions. This includes ensuring regular consultations with, as well as resources and technical assistance for, the High-Level Forum for Ethnic Peoples and the Special Forum of Women, as well as for campesino, Afro-descendant, Indigenous and women’s organizations to monitor the Peace Accord’s implementation.

    • Adhere to free, prior and informed consent processes with campesino, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, including regularly consulting with their authorities and community organizations, with regards to economic development in their territories, and ensure that development processes comply with international human rights principles and law, and with the Peace Accord.

    • Address the crisis of violence against human rights defenders, including by ensuring: accountability of perpetrators when such attacks occur, and full resourcing for the development of collective and territorial self-protection measures for Indigenous, campesino and Afro-descendant communities, as well as support for their permanent presence in fora where protection policies are discussed, especially the National Commission for Security Guarantees and the Intersectoral Commission for Guarantees for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders.

    • Immediately demilitarize the police force by moving the National Police out of the Ministry of Defense, dismantle the Mobile Antiriot Squad of the National Police (ESMAD) and redirect funding to support social investment.

    • Ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women leaders in the implementation of the Peace Accord and in negotiations with other armed actors in Colombia.

Peace is more than the absence of war. To Indigenous women, it means an end to discrimination, respect for human rights, justice, economic equality, and transformative change with human life at its center.

As the primary international body responsible for peace and security, I urged the Security Council not to allow this year’s open debate to be yet another occasion where they listen to women civil society, but fail to act on our concerns.

The plight of Afghan women illustrates all too clearly the cost of doing so. Women around the world show daily that they have courage and the conviction to fight for peace. We call on the Security Council, and leaders at all levels, to fight for us all.


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Obtaining Water, a Daily Battle in Argentina’s El Impenetrable Region

ter, 02/11/2021 - 16:15

Francisco Montes shows the cement tank where he collects rainwater in El Impenetrable. Scarce rainfall in the last two years has created serious trouble for the inhabitants of this four-million-hectare ecoregion, who are scattered around the Chaco region of northern Argentina. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
GENERAL GÜEMES, Argentina , Nov 2 2021 (IPS)

Next to the brick or adobe houses of El Impenetrable, a wild area of forest and grasslands in northern Argentina, loom huge plastic barrels where rainwater collected from the corrugated iron roofs of the houses is stored. However, the barrels are empty, because it has hardly rained for two years, local residents complain.

“Things have been very bad recently. It rained one day in September, but very little,” said Francisco Montes, who has lived for 35 years in a house in a large open area in the middle of a monotonous landscape of trees and bushes, several kilometres from his nearest neighbours.

On the dirt road leading to his house, it is rare to run into a person or a vehicle, but it is easy to come across cows, goats, horses and even pigs, since domestic animals are raised loose in this area, to roam freely in their arduous search for green pastures.

Located in the Argentine portion of the Chaco – the great sparsely forested plain covering more than one million square kilometres, shared with Paraguay and Bolivia – El Impenetrable was so named not only because of the thick brush and the scarcity of roads.

The ecosystem covering some four million hectares also owes its name precisely to the lack of water, which turns most of the vegetation a yellowish hue and is made more dramatic by the combination with temperatures that can be suffocating.

From droughts to floods

Rainfall in the area usually comes in just three months, during the southern hemisphere summer. And rains have been scarce for as long as anyone can remember in this part of the Chaco.

But for two years now the situation has been worse than usual, because the drought has been especially bad, after severe flooding in 2018 and 2019 that wrought havoc among local residents and their livestock, when it rained three times the historical average.

In the absence of piped water, Montes, who lives on his remote property with his wife, is one of the best equipped in the area to deal with the complex scenario, because in his field he not only has a large cement tank with a capacity to store thousands of litres of rainwater, which lately has been of little use. He also has an 11-metre deep well that allows them to extract groundwater.

But this is not enough either. “The water is very brackish. You would have to go at least 20 metres down to get good water,” he told IPS.

Montes, however, at the age of 73, has the resignation of someone who has lived a lifetime knowing that water is a scarce commodity. “Back then we used to take water directly from the river or from a well, when it was available,” he recalled.

He was referring to one of the branches of the Bermejo, one of the biggest rivers in the La Plata basin, which originates in Bolivia and passes about 500 metres from his field. The Bermejito – or “little Bermejo”, as the branch is known locally – is one of the few rivers in El Impenetrable, and the vegetation on its banks is a deep green colour that is not usual in this region.

Goats cross a dirt road in El Impenetrable, an ecosystem of four million hectares, where livestock is raised loose, to roam the area in search of pasture. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

A few kilometres from Montes’ home, near the entrance to the El Impenetrable National Park -a 128,000-hectare protected area created in 2014 – there is a 160 square metre rainwater collector sheet metal roof facility with two tanks that can store up to 40,000 litres.

It was built in 2019 to supply local residents, as part of the “Native Forests and Community” programme.

This Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development programme was supported by a 58.7-million-dollar loan from the World Bank and 2.5 million dollars from the national government and seeks to generate community roots in areas where there are no sources of employment.

Native Forests and Community benefits vulnerable rural communities, both indigenous and non-indigenous, through infrastructure works and training for the sustainable management of natural resources.

One of the programme’s priorities is to promote the use of renewable energies, and it has installed solar panels for electricity generation and solar stoves in areas where the most commonly used fuel is firewood.

According to official figures, the initiative has so far benefited 1,200 families from 60 communities in different provinces of the country, most of them in El Chaco and the rest of northern Argentina.

A community solar panel and rainwater harvesting roof installation near the El Impenetrable National Park in northern Argentina was built in 2019 by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, with support from the World Bank. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Esteban Argañaraz lives only 100 metres from the rainwater collector. Sometimes he goes to fetch water from the community tanks, although he cannot get enough there either, so he resorts to buying drinking water in the nearest town, Miraflores, which is 60 kilometres from his home down a dusty dirt road.

“This year I brought an 8,000-litre water tank. It cost 700 pesos (about seven dollars), but the complicated part was transporting it, which cost 4,000 pesos (40 dollars),” Argañaraz explained to IPS, while showing the well that was dug in front of his house to accumulate water for the animals and irrigation, which is completely dry.

Argañaraz, 60, and his wife have a garden at home to grow vegetables and fruits. But they have had to practically abandon it since 2020, due to the lack of water. Skinny cows and goats are another reflection of the severe drought.

The inhabitants of El Impenetrable rarely manage to sell any animals and almost everyone survives on social assistance. This ecosystem – environmentally degraded by the extractive economy – is part of Argentina’s Northeast region, which has the highest poverty rates in the country, with 45.4 percent of the population living in poverty.

But the situation is complicated in urban areas as well. In fact, the provincial capital Resistencia, with a population of 300,000, has the highest poverty rate in Argentina, at 51.9 percent.

Unpredictability is the rule

“The main characteristic of rainfall in (Argentina’s Chaco province) is its high variability: there are cycles of dry, normal and wet years. The other important aspect is that most of it is concentrated in one part of the year: in the case of El Impenetrable, the rainy season lasts only three months,” water resources engineer Hugo Rohrmann, former president of the Chaco Provincial Water Administration, told IPS.

Jorge Luna, a family farmer raising cows, goats and pigs in El Impenetrable in northern Argentina, stands next to plastic barrels where he collects rainwater and a solar panel that provides electricity. Rainwater harvesting is a very limited solution for families in the El Impenetrable ecoregion due to the lack of rain. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The expert pointed to another important fact: rainfall in El Impenetrable is usually between 600 and 800 millimetres per year, but evaporation, due to heat that can reach 50 degrees C in summer, is much higher – up to 1,100 millimetres.

“That is why neither wetlands nor aquifers with the capacity to supply a population are formed and there is no other choice but to collect rainwater, which is also scarce. The lack of water is becoming more and more evident and makes life more and more difficult for the local population,” Rohrmann added from Resistencia.

Constanza Mozzoni, a biologist from Buenos Aires who has been living in El Impenetrable for two years doing social work, has a categorical answer when asked what life is like for the local population, both indigenous and non-indigenous people: “Everything revolves around how to get water,” she told IPS.

Mozzoni works for the Rewilding Argentina Foundation, an environmental conservation organisation that works in and around the El Impenetrable National Park, and lives in a prefabricated house that also has a rainwater harvesting roof.

The foundation, however, provides all its staff with bottled water that is brought from the town of Miraflores, along the only safe road in El Impenetrable.

FRANCE: Translating a Harlem Renaissance Writer

ter, 02/11/2021 - 14:18

PARIS, Nov 2 2021 (IPS)

Claude McKay is having something of a rebirth in France, thanks to independent publishers and to translators such as Jean-Baptiste Naudy.

Naudy is the French translator of McKay’s novel Amiable with Big Teeth (Les Brebis noires de Dieu), one of two translations that have hit bookstores in 2021, generating renewed interest in the work of the Jamaican-born writer (1890-1948). McKay was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a “cultural nomad” who spent time in Europe during the 1920s and 30s, and the author of the famous poem “If We Must Die”.

The first of the two recent translations – Romance in Marseille (Héliotropismes) – was published under its English title last spring, while Naudy’s Les Brebis Noires de Dieu came out at the end of summer during the so called rentrée, the return to routine after the holidays.

A third McKay novel, Home to Harlem (Retour à Harlem, Nada Éditions), has meanwhile been newly translated and is scheduled for publication in early 2022.

This feast of McKay’s work has resulted in profiles of the writer in French newspapers such as Libération, with Naudy’s expert translation receiving particular attention because of the intriguing story behind Amiable with Big Teeth.

The celebrated “forgotten” work – a “colourful, dramatic novel” that “centres on the efforts by Harlem intelligentsia to organize support for the liberation of fascist-controlled Ethiopia,” as Penguin Books describes it – was discovered only in 2009 by then graduate student Jean-Christophe Cloutier while doing research. His discovery came 40 years after McKay had completed the manuscript.

Cloutier and his advisor Brent Hayes Edwards went on to confirm the authenticity of the work, and it was published by Penguin in 2017. Fully aware of this history, Naudy said it was “mind-blowing” to translate the novel, and he drew upon his own background for the rendering into French.

Born in Paris, Naudy studied Francophone literature at the Sorbonne University and design at the Jan van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands. He describes himself as a publisher, translator and “text experimentalist”, and he coordinates “Déborder”, a book series published by independent publishing house Nouvelles Éditions Place. Within this series, he has translated African Journey by Eslanda Goode Robeson (2020) and now the McKay novel.

As a writer, Naudy, under the name of Société Réaliste, has himself published two books, in addition to essays and experimental texts in journals and reviews; and as an artist he has exhibited work in both solo and group shows internationally. One can find examples of his public art pieces around Paris.


Jean-Baptiste Naudy in Paris (photo by AM)


The following edited interview with Naudy, conducted by email and in person, is part of SWAN’s series about translators of Caribbean literature, done in collaboration with the Caribbean Translation Project.

SWAN: How did the translating of Aimable with Big Teeth come about?

Jean-Baptiste Naudy: In 2019, Sarah Frioux-Salgas and I were invited by Cyrille Zola-Place, director of Nouvelles Éditions Place in Paris, to curate a book series dealing with unclassifiable texts, overreaching genres, intertwining topics. Our common interest for the internationalisation of political and poetical scopes in the 20th century, via the publication of books largely ignored by the classical Western frame of reference, gave birth to this book series, entitled Déborder (To overflow).

The first book to be included was a reprint of Negro Anthology, edited by Nancy Cunard in 1934, a massive collection of poetry, fiction and essays about the Black Atlantic, for which she collaborated with paramount artists and scholars of those years, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, George Padmore and dozens of others.

Since then, we have published five more books in this frame, like the first French translation of Eslanda Robeson’s African Journey, or Sismographie des luttes (Seismography of Struggles), a kind of world history of anticolonial journals, amazingly edited by art historian and writer Zahia Rahmani.

At the beginning of 2020, Sarah told me the story of a newfound book by Claude McKay, Amiable with Big Teeth, edited by Brent Hayes Edwards and Jean-Christophe Cloutier for Penguin Books in 2017.

Searching the archives of a rather obscure New York publisher, Cloutier had found the complete and ready-to-be-published manuscript of a completely unknown novel by McKay. The very fact that such a story was possible – to find out of the blue a full book by a major writer of the 20th century – was unfathomable to me. Nouvelles Éditions Place immediately agreed to the idea of publishing the book in French.

SWAN: Including your translation, there will be three novels by McKay published in French this year and next. Can you explain this surge of international interest in his work?

JBN: The renewed interest in Claude McKay’s oeuvre is global for sure, but also at times pretty local. The critical deconstruction of the Western ideological frame of thought has called for the exposure of another cultural grounding, a counter-narrative of modernity, other stories and histories encompassing the plurality and complexity of dominated voices, visions, sensibilities, positions on their path to liberation.

What was interesting for me was to try to understand or feel what the colonial condition was doing to the language itself. How writing or expressing oneself in a foreign language, an imperial language imposed upon a great variety of cultures, was transforming the language in return

To that extent, McKay is an immense writer, whose very life was bound to this intertwining. Like most of the key figures of the Black Atlantic, he has been largely ignored or under-appreciated by the 20th century literary canon. More than ever, he is a lighthouse for those interested in the interwoven problematics of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

But he is as well a singular figure of displacement, a critically productive internationalist, being at first a Jamaican in New York, then a Caribbean from Harlem in Europe, then a Black writer from France in Morocco, and finally back to the United States, a Black Atlantic wanderer.

Which is also the point of his renewed presence in the French contemporary cultural landscape. The very fact that one of the most preeminent actors of the Harlem Renaissance was, first, a Jamaican, and second, writing from France about the Americas and the global Black diaspora is irresistibly intriguing.

Another important factor is the crucial influence that McKay’s writings had on a number of Francophone literary figures of the 1930s, including the founders of the Négritude movement, the Nardal sisters, Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, Léon Gontran Damas, René Ménil, and many others.

In a nutshell, I would argue that McKay captivates nowadays for all those reasons at the same time. He epitomizes the Black international radical current that rose in the 1920s and 1930s, his critical scope is extremely contemporary, and he is representative of a certain blend of political and cultural cosmopolitanism that happened to exist in the French imperial metropole during the interwar years.

It is interesting to notice that the three books being published now in France deal with different periods of his life: Home to Harlem, his 1928 bestseller (translated Retour à Harlem in the new French translation to be published by Nada Éditions) is a luxurious portrait of Harlem in the 1920s, written while he was in France. Romance in Marseille, released last April by Héliotropismes, another previously unpublished novel from the early 1930s, revolves around the central themes of his most famous novel also set in Marseilles, Banjo. And thus, Amiable with Big Teeth, dating from 1941, being his last fiction and only novel ever written in the United States.

SWAN: In addition to your native French, you speak English and Spanish. Where and how did you begin learning other languages?

JBN: Where I grew up, English and Spanish were mandatory at school. So, I grasped some elements there, quite poorly. Then I had to travel. So, I learned most of my English with Ukrainian artists in Lisbon and bits of Spanish with Brazilian anarchists in Athens. How romantic…

SWAN: How did your interest in translation start?

JBN: My first encounter with the need to translate something happened I guess when I went to London for the first time, in 1997. Following a totally random move – because I liked his name – I bought a washed-out copy of Kamau Brathwaite’s Middle Passages. I had never read anything like that. For sure it sounded like street music to me, half a drunkard rant, half an esoteric psalmody, but the polyphony at work in this single text, the sound and visual poetics of patwa mesmerized me.

So, for the last 25 years, I have been trying to translate exactly that, the very sensation I had in front of this palimpsest of languages. A rant that would be a psalmody, at times unintelligible, at times neat as a scalpel slice. How language can be haunted by the spectre of the past while echoing potentially emancipated futures. What Rimbaud called “the long, immense, rational derangement of the senses”, inscribed on a page where words are sounds are signs are ciphers are colours are noises are tastes are notes and nevertheless, never more than words.

SWAN: Can you tell us more about other works that you’ve translated and how you selected these?

JBN: Last year, I translated African Journey by Eslanda Goode Robeson, and it was a delight. I have an intense admiration for Eslanda Robeson, an amazing transnational feminist networker and anticolonial advocate.

This book was a great success in the USA when it was published in 1945, the first popular book about Africa written by an African American writer. It is a travel diary, at the same time complex and honest, but I particularly liked how Robeson used this genre to create commonality between Africans and Americans.

For the anecdote, Eslanda Robeson and Claude McKay really disliked each other, their writing styles are almost opposite, as well as their social backgrounds and cultural framings; however, I think they were aiming at the same liberation and I love them both!

SWAN: How important is translation for today’s world, especially for publishing underrepresented communities? In the Caribbean, as in other regions, it sometimes feels as if countries are divided by language. How can people in the literary and education spheres help to bridge these linguistic “borders”?

JBN: When I was a student, I had the opportunity to study what we call in my country “Francophone literature”, so literature written by former and present subjects of the French colonial project. Or raised in the postcolonial remains of the French empire.

What was interesting for me was to try to understand or feel what the colonial condition was doing to the language itself. How writing or expressing oneself in a foreign language, an imperial language imposed upon a great variety of cultures, was transforming the language in return.

At its core, Francophone literature has a poetical abundance and a political tumult that always seemed to me in synchronization with the modern condition. Whatever be the scale and the observation point. What people from my neighbourhood in Paris, coming from all corners of the world, were doing via the vernacular popular French slang we were talking every day, the “Francophone” writers were doing the same to literature itself.

Upgrading it to a world-scale. As any other imperial language, French does not belong to French people, fortunately, and that is the main source of its current literary potency as well as the only sound reason to continue to use it.

The political side effects of this linguistic colonial and then postcolonial condition astonished me as well: how this shared imperial language allowed Caribbean peoples, Arabs, Africans, Indochinese, Indians, Guyanese, to relate and elaborate a common ground.

This tremendous poetic force and its radical cosmopolitan perspective bound me to translation, especially when I experimentally realized that the situation was exactly the same with all the other imperial languages, English, Spanish, etc. Suzanne Césaire was maybe one of the first poets to see the Caribbean not so much as separated islands (divided by bodies of water, empires, languages, political status) but as an archipelago, an extremely complex panorama whose unity is undersea and underseen. I consider that my task as a literary translator working on the Atlantic world is to help languages undersee each other. I aim to be a pidginizer.

SWAN: What are your next projects?

JBN: I am working on several translation projects. First of all, an amazingly powerful collection of short stories by South African wonder writer Stacy Hardy. Then, a beautiful and crucial book by Annette Joseph-Gabriel, Reimagining Liberation, dealing with the key role played by Black women in the decolonization of the French empire.

Finally, I will work on the first French translation of The Practice of Diaspora, an essential book by Brent Hayes Edwards, focusing on Paris as a node of the Black Atlantic culture in the interwar years. Its subtitle says it all: Literature, translation and the rise of Black internationalism. This masterwork constructs an analytical frame to relate together René Maran, Alain Locke, Paulette Nardal, Claude McKay, Lamine Senghor, George Padmore, Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes, C.L.R. James, Tiemoko Garan Kouyaté, and so many more. As you can easily imagine, it is a mind-blowing book, and I am extremely proud to work on it. – AM /SWAN


Risky business: Why Sustainability is now Central to Mitigating Risk

seg, 01/11/2021 - 04:05

Sun sets in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. Credit: WMO/Ali Alhawas

By Lany Harijanti
AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands, Nov 1 2021 (IPS)

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused the largest economic and societal shock the world has experienced this century. Yet it was not unforeseen.

As far back as 2006, the annual Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum warned that a pandemic was an ‘acute threat’ across all industries globally. This year’s WEF report expands into new dimensions of risk, such as the consequences of digital inequality and cybersecurity failure.

Meanwhile, the 2021 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded a ‘code red for humanity’ – setting out in the starkest terms that the risks of inaction on climate change are now irrefutable.

What all of these risks have in common is that they threaten or disrupt not only economies but, more importantly, the wellbeing and sustainability of humanity and the planet. It’s logical, therefore, to conclude that they are challenges that demand global cooperation and societal cohesion to overcome.

Getting to grips with sustainability impacts

At the corporate-level, effective, pre-emptive, and dynamic enterprise risk management is more relevant than ever. That is why the role of risk manager is no longer confined to traditional financial risks and regulatory expectations but progressively is contributing more into how to support a sustainable business model.

The GRI Standards – the world’s most widely used and comprehensive sustainability reporting standards – enable organizations to assess and communicate their impacts, which is increasingly relevant from the perspective of risk management.

The revised Universal Standards – launched this month – re-emphasized the scope of impact needs to be inclusive of potential risk.

Credit: United Nations

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) describes sustainability risks as uncertain social or environmental conditions that could cause significant negative impacts on the company.

As the pandemic has proven, these risks can pose existential threats to companies. Or, as former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice put it: “sustainability is a multiplier of risk”, exponentially increasing volatility and uncertainty.

What this means is that, to be successful over the long-term, businesses must not lose sight of their sustainability risks. Against this backdrop, a recent GRI webinar, Aligning Sustainability and Risk Management, explored the ways that the integration of sustainability was shaping the role of risk managers, increasingly their relevance to the organizational transformation process.

Here we share some of the insights from the session, which was the second in our Building Leadership for Sustainable Business Expert Series.

Incentivizing risk analysis

Constant Van Aerschot, Director of WBCSD Asia Pacific, pointed out that many companies tend to treat sustainability issues separately from risk issues.

A recent WBCSD report on integrating sustainability and enterprise risk revealed that companies recognize that the material topics in their sustainability reports have a financial impact – yet these same companies often fail to address ESG-related risks in their annual risk filings.

Priya Bellino, Ernst and Young’s ASEAN Head of Sustainability and ESG for Financial Services Consulting, emphasized the role of financial institutions in encouraging companies to manage sustainability risks. The example she shared was in the real estate sector.

Climate change and extreme weather events are exposing physical assets to a much higher risk, which affects the value of real estate portfolios. As a consequence, we are seeing more incentivization through green building financing and the adoption of green certifications.

To access new opportunities, companies need to measure and monitor “investment-grade sustainability performance”. That cannot be achieved without reliable and comparable disclosure – with Priya acknowledging that GRI reporting helps the company to deliver the required ESG data.

Yet – as Tony Rooke, Director of Climate Transition Risk at Willis Towers Watson, set out – determining the right ESG data points is a crucial step on the journey to understanding risks and achieving sustainable business outcomes.

Tony went on to share that, for companies to begin to understand their role in tackling global risks, such as climate change, the market needs to further develop or create a reward system for those who transition to zero carbon business models.

The future of risk management

According to the 2020 State of Risk Oversight report, from the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative, 54% of large organizations and 58% of public companies have appointed a Chief Risk Officer (CRO). With the growth of the role, we have also seen increases in scope – helping organizations identify, analyze and mitigate their risk exposure.

So, it is clear that many organizations are recognizing effective risk management as a key ingredient to the long-term wellbeing of the business.

Where the CRO evolution can and must deepen is in the correlation between enterprise risk and sustainability risk. Having a CRO that leads on sustainability is a good sign that a company is resolute in its sustainability commitment.

The CRO does not have to be a know-it-all; more important is that they have the competencies to lead and build a team, collaborate with external stakeholders such as investors and regulators, bringing the ESG and conventional risks strands together into a single, meaningful narrative.

As Ricardo Nicanor N. Jacinto, Trustee of the Institute of Corporate Directors Philippines, articulated, the CRO is fast becoming “both the risk culture custodian and champion”. That is increasingly significant as the challenges of COVID-19 underline that we live in a volatile, uncertain and complex world.

Therefore, whatever is up next on the risk forecast – be it this pandemic, the climate crisis or a yet to be defined new threat – having the expertise to assess the multiple and concurrent sustainability risks facing the business is more essential than ever before.

Lany Harijanti is the Regional Program Manager of the GRI ASEAN Hub. She has been with GRI since 2018 and has a remit to build the capacity of sustainability reporting among first-time reporters and SMEs in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Lany has worked in international development for the last 20 years, including previous roles with the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing the global common language to report those impacts. The GRI Standards, which are provided as a free public good, are the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards.


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The Middle East Green Initiative launched in Saudi Arabia last month was hailed by the UN’s deputy chief as a valuable commitment and strategic vision, to transition regional economies away from unsustainable development, to a model “fit for the challenges of the 21st century”

Combating Energy Poverty in Chile with Community Inclusion

sex, 29/10/2021 - 14:33

Schoolteacher Marta Pérez stands in front of her house near the solar thermo panel that has allowed her and her family to enjoy hot water again, because the high cost of electricity made it unaffordable in the past. There are a total of 70 beneficiaries of the solar water heater project in the town of Renca, to the north of Santiago, Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Oct 29 2021 (IPS)

More than 90 percent of Chile’s 17.5 million people have access to electricity. But many live in energy poverty because they do not have access to hot water, have unsafe connections, houses without thermal insulation and with indoor pollution, or can’t afford to pay the monthly bill.

This description came from Nicola Borregaard, who holds a PhD in natural resource economics and is manager of EBP Chile, a sustainability consultancy in the field of energy, water resources and climate change. The consultancy takes on projects that range from strategic to concrete initiatives that reflect what is happening around the country.

Borregaard is promoting a Latin American energy inclusion programme (PIE) that aims to address energy poverty reflected in low thermal comfort, high energy costs, risk of fire and electrocution, respiratory diseases and lack of access to clean energy.

She explained in an interview with IPS that the consultancy applies financial engineering to address the needs and requirements with alliances and connections through networks with different actors, in order to make the projects viable.

In Chile “we are very close to reaching 100 percent access to electricity. This does not always mean that people have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many have intermittent access that lasts a couple of hours, with interruptions,” she said.

For Borregaard, energy poverty is a multifaceted issue and is not only overcome by having access to electricity.

“More than 10 percent of the population does not have access to hot water. And there is no electrical safety…. in many homes there is a risk of electrocution and fire due to poor installations,” she said.

She added that “66 percent of homes do not have adequate thermal insulation. They suffer from heat and cold and spend on heating and air conditioning. The most vulnerable do not have adequate houses and suffer from the heat. And there are no parks in most of their municipalities.”

“The other kind of energy poverty is the inability to afford to pay the bill which often is huge, with as much as 20 percent of a family’s income going towards electricity and gas,” she added.

The picture is completed “with indoor pollution because many people heat with coal, wood or kerosene in very small spaces and this contributes to respiratory diseases.”

Solar water heaters

Marta Pérez, a 50-year-old primary school teacher, lives with her parents in the low-income Nueva Victoria neighbourhood in the municipality of Renca, on the northern outskirts of Santiago, some 22 kilometres from the city.

“I had health problems. We have an electric water heater, but because the bills were so high we disconnected it….but because the water was so cold I got pneumonia. I got really sick. That was until last year when they installed a solar thermal panel in my house. Since December I have been using hot water to bathe,” she told IPS at her home.

Her family used to pay 125 dollars a month on their electricity bill, but now they pay 75 dollars a month. In Renca, the project installed 40 solar systems consisting of a solar panel and a tank that holds 80 litres of hot water.

Each beneficiary family paid approximately 250 dollars for the installation and received the thermo panel – which costs 1,125 dollars – as a donation.

A total of 70 households made up of 292 people received five types of energy improvements aimed at energy efficient homes. In addition to the thermo panels, other families received refrigeration and thermal insulation systems for their homes.

“I wish that all of Chile could have access to a solar thermo panel, and that they could become widespread for showers and basic needs. It is the energy of the future and takes advantage of what we have most: sunlight,” said Pérez.

“And I hope they soon install solar panels on the rooftops because it cuts down the electric bill and harnesses the sun’s energy for power. We must use sources such as wind, geothermal and solar energy. That would be a present with a vision for the future of humanity,” said the kindergarten teacher.

On two hectares of this rugged land in Rungue, a town of 1,200 inhabitants some 54 km from the Chilean capital, a community Renewable Energy Cooperative hopes to install rows of solar panels close to the electricity grid in order to transfer the surplus. The 50 kW photovoltaic plant will generate 102,000 kWh per year and will initially lift 40 families out of energy poverty. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Cooperative to the rescue

In Rungue, a village 54 kilometres north of Santiago, EBP Chile promoted the creation of a cooperative for low-income households to install a community solar plant.

The solar panel plant will have a nominal capacity of 50 kW and will generate 102,000 kWh per year, providing energy for 40 households.

“We started two years ago, with the encouragement of a pioneer, to help alleviate the costs paid by the most vulnerable families,” said Leandro Astudillo, the 41-year-old manager of the Rungue Renewable Energy Cooperative.

At a meeting with IPS in Rungue, he explained that “based on people familiar with the needs of local residents, the Cooperative organised people born and raised in this community. The Neighbourhood Council, the school’s Parents’ Centre, the Housing Centre, the sports club and Rural Potable Water are represented, all of them sensitised to the project.”

“We have already registered 40 families who will benefit. Priority was given to senior citizens who have very small pensions and to people who find it difficult to pay their electric bill. Also to women and single mothers with large families,” he explained.

Each beneficiary is supposed to pay a little over 300 dollars, but the Cooperative is taking steps to waive this payment and reduce each beneficiary’s monthly contribution to zero.

The dry, arid village is still suffering the consequences of a metal refining plant called Refimet, which is no longer operating but contaminated with arsenic the waters of a dam and reservoir built in the 1950s for the irrigation of local agriculture.

Rungue is home to 1,200 people who mainly work in nearby companies and in several markets set up in the area, because there is almost no local agricultural production anymore.

View of the Santiago Solar Photovoltaic Park near Rungue, on the freeway linking the cities of Santiago and Valparaíso in central Chile, which the members of the local renewable energy cooperative are seeking to partially imitate. The Park takes advantage of the strong sunlight in the area by means of 33,600 solar panels installed on 202 hectares, with nine MW of power and a generation capacity of 210 GWh. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Energy inclusion and clean sources

To address the energy insecurity in Renca, Rungue and numerous other Chilean localities, Borregaard proposes an energy inclusion programme aimed at affordable, sustainable, safe, equitable and clean energy.

“Energy inclusion implies identifying, networking, implementing concrete projects, fomenting and promoting. The idea is to scale all of these up,” she said.

The EBN programme, she said, “is carried out in partnership with several institutions, including the Swiss Embassy, the Energy Poverty Network (RedPE), the EGEA (Emprendimientos y Generación de Energías Alternativas – Alternative Energies Generation and Ventures) foundation, and numerous companies in the energy sector, including ENEL (an energy holding company) and AME (focused on solar energy and gas).”

Borregaard explained that “energy inclusion projects seek to democratise investment in renewable energy, accelerate the energy transition, reduce energy consumption and costs, encourage investment in projects with an environmental impact and contribute to sustainable development.”

Non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE) represent 24.5 percent of Chile’s energy mix. In September 2021 they accounted for 31.8 percent of electricity generation. In total there were 2071 GWh of generation, of which 952 came from solar power and 767 from wind power.

Installed NCRE capacity totalled 10,842 MW in September.

Distributed or decentralised generation, which allows self-generation of energy based on NCREs and efficient cogeneration, reached 95.3 MW in August in 8759 installations throughout Chile, of which 2354 are in Santiago.

Borregaard proposes raising the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction tax from five to 30 dollars for each ton of polluting gas emitted to generate offset projects or finance pilot initiatives such as those of Renca, Rungue or similar ones.

Other ongoing initiatives

One example of such projects is a community modular refrigeration plant on Juan Fernandez Island, 800 kilometres off the coast of the city of Valparaiso in central Chile.

It consists of a refrigeration system using solar energy to preserve marine products and foment sustainable artisanal fishing. It was built in conjunction with the Confederation of Artisanal Fishermen of Chile and is aimed at the conservation of lobsters, fish, octopus, and crab.

The facilities have 3015 Watts of installed power and the refrigeration chamber is 10 cubic metres with 1.5 HP equipment.

In towns near Mamiña, in the desert region of Tarapacá in the extreme north of the country, there is an adaptive infrastructure project to promote community resilience and optimise the management of resources, based on water, energy and waste.

In the indigenous communities of Quipisca and Macaya, near the Cerro Colorado mine in the same region, the plan is to install solar panel systems to exchange surplus energy.

Monitoring systems and flexible battery systems are aimed at reducing the cost of energy, providing access to clean energy efficiently and generating new ventures.

In all the localities where the projects are being carried out, the objective is the same: to provide greater autonomy and reduce energy poverty through community empowerment and improved resource management capacity in this long, narrow South American country sandwiched between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Climate Crisis Fuels Exodus to Mexico, Both Waystation and Destination

qua, 27/10/2021 - 15:42

Every day, dozens of migrants from Central America, Haiti and Venezuela come early in the morning to the offices of the governmental Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid in downtown Mexico City to apply for asylum. Mexico is overwhelmed by the influx of migrants, to whom it has begun to apply harsh restrictions. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Oct 27 2021 (IPS)

In September, 31-year-old Yesenia decided to leave her home on the outskirts of the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, driven out by violence and the lack of water.

“The maras (gangs) were threatening me, and it hadn’t rained, there was very little water. I had to leave, I had to go somewhere, anywhere. I want to stay wherever they let me,” the mother of a seven-year-old girl, who was a homemaker in one of the most violent cities in the world, told IPS.

It was the first time she had left her country. She reached the southern Mexican state of Chiapas (bordering Guatemala), and continued on by bus and hitchhiking. “We slept in the bushes, walked, went hungry, got rained on and sometimes froze,” she said, describing the journey she made with her daughter.

Yesenia, who is short and dark-haired with a round face, now lives in an area that she does not name for security reasons, and is applying for refugee status in the capital of Mexico, a country that has historically been a huge source of migrants to the United States as well as a transit route for people from other countries heading there as well. It has also become, over the last decade, a growing recipient of undocumented migrants.

Due to the large number of requests for asylum, which has stretched Mexico’s immigration and refugee system to the limit, it takes a long time for cases to be resolved. Although immigration advocacy organisations provide assistance in the form of money, food, lodging and clothing, these resources are limited and the aid eventually comes to an end.

Driven out by poverty, lack of basic services, violence and climate-related phenomena, millions of people leave their countries in Central America every year, heading mainly to the United States, to find work and to reunite with family.

But in the face of the increasing crackdown on immigration in the U.S. since 2016 under the administrations of Donald Trump (2016-January 2021) and current President Joe Biden, many undocumented migrants have opted to stay in places that were previously only transit points, such as Mexico.

The problem is that Mexico also tightened the screws, as part of the role it agreed with the U.S. to perform during the times of Trump, who successfully pressured the governments of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-December 2018) and current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to step up their own anti-immigration measures. And this has not changed since Biden took office.

Like the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico and the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) are highly vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. Drought and devastating hurricanes drive people from their homes to safer areas or across borders in search of better lives.

Honduras is one illustration of this phenomenon. Since 1970, more than 30 major tropical storms have hit the country, leaving a trail of deaths and billions of dollars in property damage. Hurricanes Eta and Iota struck in 2020. For this year, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) predicted 17 hurricanes on the Atlantic side before the official end of hurricane season on Nov. 30.

In early September, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández also declared a drought emergency, another increasingly recurrent and intense phenomenon in Central America.

The refugee club

Caribbean island nations such as Haiti are also suffering from the climate emergency. The country was hit by Hurricane Elsa in June and by Tropical Storm Fred and Hurricane Grace in August, on top of an Aug. 14 earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale that claimed thousands of lives.

In 2017, a particularly lethal year, hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck Haiti. As a result, Sadaam decided to leave, heading first to Chile that year and now to Mexico, where he has applied for humanitarian asylum.

“Things got very difficult. The hardware store where I worked had to close because of the rains and I couldn’t work. I can do any kind of job and that’s all I ask for: work,” the 30-year-old Haitian migrant told IPS.

Tall and lean, Sadaam, originally from Port-au-Prince, also arrived in Mexico in September, with his wife and his son, as well as his brother and sister-in-law and their daughter. They are living temporarily in a hotel, with support from humanitarian organisations.

On Oct. 6, the Mexican government deported 129 Haitians to Port-au-Prince on a chartered flight from Tapachula, a city in the southern state of Chiapas. The measure was criticised by social organisations, while the U.N. called for an evaluation of the need for protection of Haitians and the risks of returning them to their country. CREDIT: INM

Climate disaster = displacement

Recent studies and migration statistics show that the paths followed by migrants and climate disasters in the region are intertwined.

Between 2000 and 2019, Cuba, Mexico and Haiti were the hardest hit, by a total of 110 storms which caused 39 billion dollars in damage, affected 29 million people and left 5,000 dead, 85 percent of them in Haiti, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In 2020, internal and external displacement due to disasters soared in El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras. But the international migratory framework has not yet accepted the official category of climate refugee, despite growing clamor for its inclusion.

Armelle Gouritin, an academic at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences-Mexico, told IPS that the scientific community has linked the sudden events to the climate emergency, whose influence on internal and external migration flows is growing.

“There is evidence that they are increasing. It is quite difficult to say to what extent the volume of migration is growing, because there is little quantitative data. It is hard to compare. It tends to be invisible, especially because of slow onset processes such as drought and desertification,” she explained.

In her 2021 book “The protection of internal climate migrants; a pending task in Mexico”, the expert described scenarios linked to migration, such as gradual-onset phenomena, sudden-onset disasters (hurricanes or violence generated by water shortages), relocations decided by the authorities, sea level rise and the impact of renewable energy megaprojects.

As Mexico has become a magnet for migration, measures against immigration have been stiffened. This year, through August alone, immigration authorities detained 148,903 people, almost twice as many as in all of 2020, when the total was 82,379.

Of the current total, according to official data, 67,847 came from Honduras, 44,712 from Guatemala, 12,010 from El Salvador and 7,172 from Haiti.

Deportations are also on the rise, as up to August, Mexico removed 65,799 undocumented migrants, compared to 60,315 in the whole of 2020. Of these, 25,660 were from Honduras, 25,660 from Guatemala, 2,583 from El Salvador and 223 from Haiti.

The Haitian influx was triggered after the United States announced in August that it would halt deportations of those already in the country because of the earthquake, which drew thousands of Haitians who were in Brazil and Chile, where they had migrated earlier and where policies against them had been tightened.

In Mexico, according to official figures refugee applications increased from 70,406 in all of 2019 to 90,314 this year up to and including September, of which 26,007 were filed by Haitian migrants. Migrants from Honduras, Haiti, Cuba, El Salvador, and Venezuela account for the largest number of applications.

Despite the large rise in applications, Mexico only approved 13,100 permanent refugees in September: 5,755 from Honduras, 1,454 from El Salvador, 733 from Haiti and 524 from Guatemala.

On the night of Oct. 7, a military checkpoint found 800 migrants from Central America in three truck trailers on a highway in the state of Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico, bordering the United States, where they were headed. CREDIT: Elefante Blanco/Pie de Página

Fleeing the climate emergency

The World Bank study “Groundswell: Acting on Internal Climate Migration” warns that Mexico must prepare for the confluence of climate disasters and migration flows, and projects 86 million internal climate migrants in the world by 2050, including 17 million in Latin America.

The report, published on Sept. 13, estimates that the number of climate migrants will grow between 2020 and 2050, when between 1.4 and 2.1 million people will migrate in Mexico and Central America. Mexico’s central valley, where the capital city is located, and the western highlands of Guatemala will receive migrants, while people will flee arid, agricultural and low-lying coastal areas.

Although several international bodies link migration and the climate crisis, the concept of climate migrant or refugee does not exist in the international legal framework.

Gouritin understands the international reluctance to address the issue. “There are three narratives for mobility: responsibility, security and human rights. States are not willing to head towards the responsibility narrative. The security narrative predominates, we have seen it with the caravans from Central America (on the way to the United States through Mexico),” she said.

Few countries are prepared to address the climate dimension of migration, as is the case of Mexico. The general laws on Climate Change, of 2012, and on Forced Internal Displacement, of 2020, mention climate impacts but do not include measures or define people internally displaced by climate phenomena.

In the United States, undocumented Mexicans are experiencing the same thing, as deportations of Mexicans could well exceed the levels of all of 2020, since 184,402 people were deported that year compared to 148,584 as of last August alone.

Yesenia and Sadaam are two migrants who are suffering the statistics in the flesh, as victims of their own governments and the Mexican response.

“I’ll stay wherever I can get a job to support and educate my daughter,” said Yesenia. With refugee status, migrants can work freely.

Sadaam said: “I was offered a job as a cleaner in a hotel, but they asked me for a refugee card. The government told me that I have to wait for the call for the appointment. If I get a job, I will stay here.”

But above and beyond the detentions, deportations and refugee applications, migration will continue, as long as droughts, floods and storms devastate their places of origin.

Latin America Heads to Glasgow Climate Summit with Half-Empty Hands

seg, 25/10/2021 - 19:25

A solar power plant in El Salvador, with 320,000 panels, is one of the largest such installations in Central America, whose countries are striving to convert the energy mix to renewable sources, but whose plans were slowed by the covid pandemic. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Oct 25 2021 (IPS)

Latin America and the Caribbean are heading to a new climate summit with a menu of insufficient measures to address the effects of the crisis, in the midst of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.

The world’s most unequal region, which is the hardest hit by the effects of climate change and highly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, has yet to engage in the fight against this emergency head-on, according to analysts and studies.

Tania Miranda, director of Policy and Stakeholder Engagement in the Environment and Climate Change Programme of the U.S.-based non-governmental Institute of the Americas, said Latin America’s high climate ambitions have not been supported by the measures necessary to reduce emissions.

“Goals are aspirational. If they are not backed up with policies and financing, they remain empty promises. There is a need for financing and the implementation of strategies and public policies that will lead them to fulfill their commitments. Billions of dollars are needed,” the researcher told IPS from San Diego, California, where the Institute is based.

Miranda is the author of the report “Nationally Determined Contributions Across the Americas. A Comparative Hemispheric Analysis,” which evaluates the climate targets of 16 countries, including the United States and Canada.

In her study, she analyses pollutant emission reduction targets, plans for adaptation to the climate crisis, dependence on external financing, long-term carbon neutrality commitments and the state of pollution abatement.

Climate policies will be the focus of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland in the north of the United Kingdom, after being postponed in that same month in 2020 due to the pandemic.

COP26 will address rules for carbon markets, at least 100 billion dollars annually in climate finance, the gaps between nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and the necessary reductions, strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050, adaptation plans, and the local communities and indigenous peoples platform.

A parallel alternative summit will also be held, bringing together social movements from around the world, advocating an early phase-out of fossil fuels, rejecting so-called “false solutions” such as carbon markets, and calling for a just energy transition and reparations for damage and redistribution of funds to indigenous communities and countries of the global South.

The Glasgow conference is considered the most important climate summit, due to the need to accelerate action in the face of alarming data on global warming since the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21, held in December 2015 in the French capital.

A zero-emission electric bus is parked on a downtown street in Montevideo. Public transport is beginning to electrify in Latin America’s cities as a way to contain CO2 emissions, but plans have been delayed and cut back due to the covid pandemic. CREDIT: Inés Acosta/IPS

Since then, 192 signatories to the binding treaty have submitted their first NDCs.

But just 13 countries worldwide sent their new climate contributions in 2020 to the UNFCCC Secretariat based in Bonn, despite calls from its secretary, Patricia Espinosa of Mexico, for all parties to the treaty to do so that year.

Of these, only four from this region – Argentina, Grenada, Mexico and Suriname – submitted the second updated version of their contributions.

Although they are voluntary commitments, the NDCs are a core part of the Paris Agreement, based on the goal of curbing the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, considered the minimum and indispensable target to avoid irreversible climate disasters and, consequently, human catastrophes.

In the NDCs, nations must set their goals for 2030 and 2050 to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions responsible for global warming, taking a specific year as a baseline, outline the way they will achieve these goals, establish the peak year of their emissions and when they would achieve net zero emissions, i.e. absorb as many gases as they release into the atmosphere.

In addition, to contain the spread of the coronavirus and its impacts, the region has taken emergency economic decisions, such as providing support for companies of all sizes, as well as for vulnerable workers.

But these post-pandemic recovery packages lack green components, such as commitments to sustainable and cleaner production.

A street in Mexico City shows reduced traffic due to covid restrictions. Automotive transport is one of the largest generators of polluting emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the transition to a cleaner vehicle fleet, with the increase in the number of electric vehicles and other alternatives, is moving very slowly. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Shared irresponsibilities

While some countries, such as Argentina and Chile, improved their pledges, others like Brazil and Mexico scaled down or kept their pledges unchanged.

The measures of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are in code red, as they are highly insufficient to contain global warming, according to the Climate Action Tracker.

In the case of the first three, the largest Latin American economies, the governments are prioritising the financing of increased fossil fuel exploitation, which would result in a rise in emissions in 2030, the Tracker highlights.

Chile’s and Peru’s measures are classified as insufficient and Costa Rica’s as almost sufficient.

That Central American nation, Colombia and Peru are on track to meet their commitments by 2030 and 2050, the Tracker notes.

In the case of Argentina, Chile and Ecuador, they would need additional measures to achieve their goals. At the other extreme are Brazil and Mexico, the biggest regional polluters, which have strayed from the medium- and long-term path.

Enrique Maurtúa, senior climate policy advisor for the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), said that Argentina is an example of the countries in the region that are caught between these contradictions.

“Argentina follows the line of what is happening in several countries in the region. In terms of commitments, it does its homework, what it is supposed to do, it is preparing a long-term strategy. But those commitments are not in line with what Argentina is doing behind closed doors,” the expert told IPS from Buenos Aires, where the Foundation is based.

As part of this approach, the Argentine Congress is debating a draft Hydrocarbon Investment Promotion Regime to provide fiscal stability to the sector for the next 20 years.

In addition, the government weakened the carbon tax, which averages a 10 dollar charge, through exemptions and the exclusion of gas, and is preparing a sustainable mobility strategy that dispenses with hydrogen.

Mexico is following a similar path, as the government favours support for the state-owned oil company Pemex and the government’s electric utility Comisión Federal de Electricidad, is building a refinery in the state of Tabasco, on the southeastern coast of the country, and has stalled actions aimed at an energy transition.

On Dec. 29, 2020, Mexico released its updated NDC, without increasing the emissions reduction target, to the disappointment of environmental organisations, and in contravention of the Paris Agreement and its own climate change law.

But on Oct. 1 it was reported that a federal court annulled the update, considering that there was an illegal reduction in the mitigation goals, so the 2016 measures remain in force until the government improves on them.

Isabel Bustamante, a member of the Fridays for Future Mexico movement who will attend COP26, questioned Mexico’s climate stance.

“It does not take a solid stance. We need declarations of climate emergency throughout the country and to make resources more readily available. We are concerned about the focus on more fossil fuel production,” she told IPS from the southeastern city of Mérida.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is facing pressure from the environmental sector, but does not seem adept at changing course. He is even sending mixed signals, such as his announcement on Oct. 18 that the country will raise climate targets in 2022.

At most service stations in Brazil, consumers can choose between gasoline and ethanol, the price of which is attractive when it does not exceed 70 percent of that of gasoline. But users only opt for biofuel when it is economically attractive, so it does not contribute to alleviating the emission of polluting gases. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The COP and the question marks it raises for the region

The UNFCCC stated in September that the NDCs presented are insufficient to curb warming to 1.5 degrees C.

Miranda believes COP26 could be beneficial for the region.

“Expectations are very high. We need the big polluters to be present. There will be pressure for tangible results. The region knows where its needs are, it has many opportunities to use ecosystems to reduce emissions,” she said.

Maurtúa, for his part, stresses that the main results will depend on the concrete financing and means of implementation of the Paris Agreement.

“Developed countries have to make financial contributions to the transition in developing countries. Industrialised nations are asking for more ambition, but they have to provide financing,” he argued.

In the expert’s opinion, “it is what the region needs. There are signs of willingness in Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile. But that is not happening in the case of Argentina or Mexico.”

For young people like Bustamante, the summit needs to offer more real action and fewer empty offers. “We expect an urgent climate action agenda to emerge. We need to stop investments in fossil fuel infrastructure, which compromises our near future. We will not stop until we do,” she said.

Under pressure due to the urgency of pending matters and within the constraints imposed by the pandemic, Glasgow could be a defining benchmark of a real global commitment to address the climate emergency, which is causing more and more destruction.

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This article is part of IPS coverage ahead of the COP26 climate change conference, to be held Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Glasgow.

For Girls, the Biggest Danger of Sexual Violence Lurks at Home

sex, 22/10/2021 - 15:56

Girls' sexual and reproductive rights activist Mía Calderón stands on San Martín Avenue in San Juan de Lurigancho, the most populous municipality of Peru's capital. She complained that the pandemic once again highlighted the fact that sexual violence against girls comes mainly from someone close to home and that the girls are often not believed. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 22 2021 (IPS)

“During the pandemic, sexual violence against girls has grown because they have been confined with their abusers. If the home is not a safe place for them, what is then, the streets?” Mía Calderón, a young activist for sexual and reproductive rights in the capital of Peru, remarks with indignation.

The 19-year-old university student, whose audiovisual communications studies have been interrupted due to the restrictions set in place to curb the covid-19 pandemic, is an activist who belongs to the youth collective Vayamos in San Juan de Lurigancho, the district of Lima where she lives.

Located to the northeast of the capital, it is a district of valleys and highlands areas higher than 2200 metres above sea level, where water is a scarce commodity and is supplied by tanker trucks. San Juan de Lurigancho was created 54 years ago and its population of 1,117,629 inhabitants, according to official figures, is mostly made up of families who have come to the capital from the country’s hinterland.

Lima’s 43 districts are home to a total of 9.7 million people, and San Juan de Lurigancho has by far the largest population.

In an interview with IPS during a walk through the streets of her district, Calderón said she helped one of her friends during the mandatory social isolation decreed in this Andean nation between March and July 2020, which has been followed by further restrictions on mobility at times of new covid-19 outbreaks.

Since then, classrooms have been closed and education has continued virtually from home, where girls spend most of their time.

“She was in lockdown with her two sisters, her mother and stepfather. But she left before her stepfather could rape her; the harassment had become unbearable. Now she is very afraid of what might happen to her little sisters because he’s still living at home,” she said.

But not all girls and adolescents at risk of sexual abuse have support networks to rely on.

An intersection with hardly any passers-by in San Juan de Lurigancho, one of the 43 districts of the Peruvian capital. There are now fewer children on the streets because schools have been closed since the beginning of the covid pandemic and they receive their education virtually. This keeps them safe from violence in public spaces, but increases the abuse they suffer at home. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Data that exposes the violence

Official statistics reveal a devastating reality: Between early 2020 and August of this year there have been 1763 births to girls under 14 years of age, according to the Health Ministry’s birth registration system (CNV).

All of these pregnancies and births are considered to be the result of rape, as the concept of sexual consent does not apply to girls under 14, who are protected by Peruvian law.

Looking at CNV figures from 2018 to August 2021, the total number increases to 4483, which would mean that on average five girls under the age of 14 give birth in Peru every day.

This is also the conclusion reached by the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights (Cladem), which in September completed a nationwide study on forced child pregnancy in Peru, published on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

For Cladem, forced child pregnancy is any pregnancy of a minor under 14 years of age resulting from rape, who was not guaranteed access to therapeutic abortion, which in the case of Peru is the only form of legal termination of pregnancy.

“These figures are unacceptable, but we know they may be even worse because of underreporting,” Lizbeth Guillén, who until August was the Peruvian coordinator of this Latin American network whose regional headquarters are in Lima, told IPS by telephone.

The activist headed up the project “Monitoring and advocacy for the prevention, care and punishment of forced child pregnancy” which was funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women between 2018 and August 2021.

An aggravating factor for at risk girls and adolescents was that during the months of lockdown, public services for addressing violence against women were suspended and the only thing available was toll-free telephone numbers, which made it more difficult for victims to file complaints.

“What we have experienced shows us once again that homes are the riskiest places for girls,” said Guillén.

The Cladem study also reveals that the number of births to girls under 10 years of age practically tripled, climbing from nine cases in 2019 to 24 in 2020. And the situation remains worrisome, as seven cases had already been documented this year as of August.

Julia Vargas, 61, works in the municipality of Villa El Salvador, south of Lima, where she has lived since the age of 11 and where she maintains her vocation of service as a health promoter. Through this work she knows first-hand about sexual violence against girls and adolescents, which she says has worsened during the pandemic since they have been confined to their homes with their potential abusers. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

One district’s experience

“Sexual violence against girls has been indescribable during this period, worse than covid-19 itself. Men have been taking advantage of their daughters, they think they have authority over them,” said Julia Vargas, a local resident of Villa El Salvador.

This municipality, which emerged as a self-managed experience five decades ago to the south of the capital, offers health promotion as part of its public services to the community.

Vargas, a 61-year-old mother of four grown children, is proud to be a health promoter, for which she has received training from the Health Ministry and from non-governmental organisations such as the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Centre.

“It’s hard to conceive of so much violence against girls,” she told IPS indignantly at a meeting in her district, “and the worst thing is that many times the mothers turn a blind eye; they say if he (their partner) leaves, who is going to support me.”

Studies indicate that women’s economic dependence is a factor that prevents them from exercising autonomy and reinforces unequal power relations that sustain gender-based violence.

Vargas continued: “There was a case of a father who got his three daughters pregnant and made them have clandestine abortions, and do you think the justice system did anything? Nothing! It said there was consent, how can a young girl give consent?!”

“Girls can’t be mistreated this way, they have rights,” she said.

Mía Calderón, a 19-year-old youth activist with the Vayamos collective, demands more and better measures in Peru to defend girls from sexual violence, fueled by the closure of schools since the beginning of the pandemic, which keeps them isolated and in homes where they sometimes live with their abusers. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

The culprit nearby

Calderón is also familiar with this situation. “The pandemic has highlighted the fact that sexual violence comes mainly from someone close to home and that many times the girls are not believed: ‘you provoked your uncle, your stepfather’, they are told by their families, instead of focusing on the abuser,” she said.

Her collective Vayamos works to help girls have the right to enjoy every stage of their lives. Due to the pandemic, the group had to restrict its face-to-face activities, but as a counterbalance, it increased the publication of content on social networks.

“No girl or adolescent should live in fear of sexual violence or should face any such risk,” she said.

However, Cladem’s research indicates that between 2018 and 2020, there were 12,677 complaints of sexual violence against girls under 14 in the country, the cause of many forced pregnancies.

But official statistics do not differentiate between child and adolescent pregnancy.

The 2019 National Health Survey reported that of the female population between 15 and 19 years of age, 12.6 percent had been pregnant or were already mothers. The percentage in rural areas was higher than the national rate: 22.7 percent.

Youth activist Mia Calderón, health promoter Julia Vargas and Cladem member Lizbeth Guillén all agree on the proposal to decriminalise abortion in cases of rape and on the need for timely delivery of emergency kits by public health services to prevent forced pregnancies and maternity.

These kits contain emergency contraceptive pills, HIV and hepatitis tests, among other components for comprehensive health protection for victims.

“There are regulatory advances such as this joint action protocol between the Ministry of Women and the Health Ministry for a girl victim of violence to access the emergency kit, but in practice it is not complied with due to the personal conceptions of some operators and they deprive the victims of this right,” explained Guillén.

She stressed that in order to overcome the weak response of the State to such a serious problem, it is also necessary to adequately implement existing regulations, guarantee access to therapeutic abortion for girls and adapt prevention strategies, since the danger often lies directly in the home.

10 Days to Defeat 2547 Miles of Pain

qua, 20/10/2021 - 03:49

By Rosi Orozco
MEXICO CITY, Oct 20 2021 (IPS)

They call it the Tlaxcala-New York Route. Between one end and the other, there are 2547 miles. An infamous road that today is one of the most important channel for human trafficking gangs. And a route seemingly impossible to destroy because of its million-dollar profits.

Rosi Orozco

The victims traveling along this route from Mexico to the United States experience in their bones what experts call “the globalization of organized crime”, one of the biggest obstacles to ending this crime.

The route is longer than itself. Sometimes it starts in South America, where victims are lured with dream jobs or a love story in Mexico. And it has a stopover in Mexico’s smallest state, Tlaxcala, where human traffickers kidnap their victims to prepare them for their journey north to the United States.

The worst part is in the next 2547 miles, which includes several horror stops throughout Mexico. The victims will be raped on table dances, brothels, bars, even trailer boxes and roadside tents.

If they survive and show endurance, at least 500 of them will be forced to cross illegally into the United States every year.

In New York, the exploitative clients will be of all nationalities: Mexicans, Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans… sex tourists who will take back home a piece of humanity as a souvenir.

They are even likely to record those rapes and the videos will end up on porn sites with untraceable IP addresses that profit from a $97 billion a year industry. And when the authorities want to rescue one of those victims, two questions will overwhelm them. Where do we start? What is the origin of all this?

Since the beginning of the 21st century, organized crime has demonstrated that they know how to go global and evade the isolated efforts of individual countries. Their modus operandi imposes a new vision: if traffickers think internationally, justice must think globally. The “10 Days of Anti-Trafficking Activism” event was dedicated to that task.

Between July 26 and August 6, survivors, activists, and decision-makers debated online and face-to-face in Washigton, Miami and Mexico City for more than 240 hours on how to face the new challenges that impose this old crime and how to stay one step ahead.

Jeremy Vallerand, Rescue Freedom CEO, reminded us that human trafficking is a social problem that is not natural but created by human beings, so it is up to us to end it.

The Executive Director of Global Sustainability Network (GSN), Asmita Satyarthi, called for a global count of victims — there are about 25 million people in human trafficking networks and 30% of them are children.

Héma Sibi, CAP International’s Advocacy Coordinator, asked that we all demand a change of laws at an international level. New laws that punishes exploitative clients, not people who are forced into prostitution.

Chancellor Minister Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, youth leaders such as Alina Luz —Miss Universo Argentina 2020, influencers such as Valentina de la Cuesta, magistrates, mayors, legislators, and more joined events and conferences that can be consulted at www.hojaenblanco.org and the conclusions indicate the way to effectively fight human trafficking.

It is urgent to create international laws that punish trafficking as a crime against humanity. To train police officers with the capacity to investigate this crime beyond national borders. To establish international agreements for financial intelligence units to return to the victims’ money obtained by traffickers, whatever country they are in.

Pivotal actions must go beyond prosecution. More and better prevention campaigns must be created to build bridges between rich and developing countries because that is where the exploiting clients and the exploited person are. National campaigns are no longer enough. The challenge is to build messages thinking about the origin and destination of the victims.

We need more determined participation of society to train new activists with a global perspective and place this topic on the world agenda with the same urgency as other problems faced by humanity, such as climate change or the equitable distribution of food.

Above all, there is an urgency to pass the megaphone to those who have a story that must be heard, because each victim in silence means the loss of a missing ally in the fight against this crime.

The “10 Days of Anti-Trafficking Activism” is one of those crucial events that help us begin to solve those questions that overwhelm us: Where do we start? What is the origin of all this? And by questioning ourselves, we will be able to find how to end those 2547 miles of suffering between Tlaxcala and New York.

So that one day, the seemingly impossible path to defeat will be a memory and the evidence that millions of dollars are not more powerful than millions of people fighting for a world without slavery.

The author is a human rights activist who opened the first shelter for girls and teenagers rescued from sexual commercial exploitation in Mexico. She has published five books on preventing human trafficking; she is the elected Representative of GSN Global Sustainability Network in Latin America.


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We Will Never Give Up the Slavery Reparations Fight, say Caribbean Rastafarians

seg, 18/10/2021 - 10:45

Ras Bongo Wisely Tafari (far right) holds on to the CARICOM’s symbol of the reparatory justice movement, the reparations baton, in Castries, Saint Lucia. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

By Alison Kentish
DOMINICA, Oct 18 2021 (IPS)

The Rastafarian organizations in the Caribbean are determined that the issue of slavery reparations will emerge from the eclipse of COVID-19.

As the world deals with the impacts of efforts to contain the virus’ spread and regional governments tackle vaccine hesitancy and a wave of misinformation, issues not directly related to COVID-19 have had to be temporarily shelved.

However, members of the Caribbean Rastafari Organization are determined to keep the movement for slavery reparations in the minds of citizens and on the agenda of policymakers.

“From the time of emancipation in 1834, our ancestors have been clamoring for reparations. Some leaders have taken heed to the calling, some have ignored it, but the Rastafari nation from its inception has been appealing for reparations, and up to today, we are on that platform,” chairperson of the Caribbean Rastafari Organization, Burnet Sealy told IPS.

Sealy is known as Ras Bongo Wisely Tafari – part of a move by members of the Rastafarian faith to change the colonial names given at birth and advance the internal healing aspect of the reparations process.

He is a member of the Reparations Committee of Saint Lucia, one of 15 national reparations organizations in the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) bloc.

In 2013, the group of nations established the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), a body charged with making the ‘moral, ethical and legal’ argument for reparatory justice for organizations of the Caribbean Community.

The CRC is headed by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

“It is the greatest crime ever committed against humanity – a crime whose harm and suffering continue to haunt humanity in this 21st century. A crime that has anchored the 21st century within a legacy of untold human suffering, and there is no carpet in the world that is big enough to brush this under,” Sir Hilary told a Slave Trade Remembrance Day online discussion earlier this year.

The movement for reparations in the Caribbean has risen and waned in the last decade. Changes in administration on some islands, with ensuing shifts in policy directions and budgetary priorities, meant that funding for national committees has also been wavered.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its consequent limitations on movement and in-person gatherings have added another obstacle to the movement.

However, Ras Bongo Wisely Tafari says that despite the challenges, the Rastafarian movement remains committed to healing from the effects of slavery.

“Reparations Cannot Die,” he told IPS.

“We have been educating the masses on what reparations are all about. People think that reparation is just about money, but we are letting them know that this is not true. Reparations really mean repairing the damage that was done as a result of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery, continuing to colonial rule. The damage was done mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, culturally.”

CARICOM, which is home to about 16 million people, has its reparations battle fought as part of a 10-Point Plan. Signed in 2013, the plan calls for:

• A full, formal apology for slavery by the governments of Europe;
• A repatriation program to resettle descendants of the over 10 million Africans who were forcefully transported to the Caribbean;
• An Indigenous Peoples Development Program to begin healing for genocide on the native Caribbean populations;
• The establishment of cultural institutions like museums and research centers;
• A program to remedy the public health crisis includes the African descended population in the Caribbean, which has the highest incidence of hypertension and type 2 diabetes globally. Regional health experts and historians say this is directly related to the ‘nutritional experience, physical and emotional brutality and overall stress profiles associated with slavery, genocide, and apartheid;
• Programs to eradicate the high levels of illiteracy that stem from slavery;
• The establishment of an African Knowledge Program;
• Psychological rehabilitation programs;
• Technology transfer;
• Debt cancellation.

“The argument has been won that reparatory justice is inevitable. The issue is how best to achieve it. Who should have the authority to conceptualize and structure it and how to ensure that while it has a reparatory function, it is also at the same time creating a greater sense of justice and humanity in the world,” says Beckles.

The road to reparatory justice has been tough to conceptualize in the Caribbean, and in the face of issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, and a global pandemic, slavery reparations often plummet on the list of priorities for governments.

For champions of the cause, however, the commitment is unwavering.

“It is our responsibility to maintain that focus of our ancestors and see to it that we have reparations,” Ras Bongo Wisely Tafari told IPS.

“This is not a quick fix. It is a long journey, but we refuse to give up. We will never give up the fight. Reparations are a must.”


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Argentina’s Small Farming Communities Reach Consumers Online

qui, 14/10/2021 - 17:06

One of the Argentine small farmer groups participating in the digital marketing project uses agroecological irrigation and tomato crushing techniques in the province of Mendoza. CREDIT: Nicolás Heredia/Alma Nativa

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 14 2021 (IPS)

“The biggest problem for family farmers has always been to market and sell what they produce, at a fair price,” says Natalia Manini, a member of the Union of Landless Rural Workers (UST), a small farmers organisation in Argentina that has been taking steps to forge direct ties with consumers.

The UST, which groups producers of fresh vegetables, preserves and honey, as well as goat and sheep breeders, from the western province of Mendoza, opened its own premises in April in the provincial capital of the same name.

In addition, it has just joined Alma Nativa (“native soul”), a network created to market and sell products from peasant and indigenous organisations, which brings together more than 4,300 producers grouped in 21 organisations, and now sells its products over the Internet.

“Selling wholesale to a distributor is simple, but the problem is that a large part of the income does not reach the producer,” Manini told IPS from the town of Lavalle in Mendoza province."The aim is to mobilise consumers to buy products from Latin American ecosystems that are made with respect for the environment, while small producers benefit from visibility and logistical support so that local products reach the entire country.” -- Guadalupe Marín

The rural leader argues that, due to cost considerations, farmers can only access fair trade through collective projects, which have received a boost from the acceleration of digital changes generated by the covid-19 pandemic.

Alma Nativa is a marketing and sales solution formally created in 2018 by two Argentine non-governmental organisations (NGOs) focused on socio-environmental issues: Fibo Social Impact and the Cultural Association for Integral Development (ACDI). Their approach was to go a step beyond the scheme of economic support for productive development projects.

“Back in 2014 we began to ask ourselves why small farmer and indigenous communities could not secure profitable prices for the food and handicrafts they produce, and to think about how to get farmers to stop depending on donations and subsidies from NGOs and the state,” Fibo director Gabriela Sbarra told IPS in an interview in Buenos Aires.

Sbarra was a regular participant in regional community product fairs, which prior to the restrictions put in place due to the pandemic were often organised in Argentina by the authorities, who financed the setting up of the stands, accommodation and travel costs from their communities for farmers and craftspeople.

It was only thanks to this economic aid that farmers and artisans were able to make a profit.

“The effort was geared towards finding a genuine market for these products, which could not be sold online because it is very difficult to generate traffic on the Internet and they cannot reach supermarkets either, because they have no production volume. Informality was leaving communities out of the market,” Sbarra explained.

Three cooperatives in the Chaco region, the great forested plain that Argentina shares with Bolivia and Paraguay, are dedicated to honey production and are part of the Alma Nativa project, through which they sell their products to consumers throughout the country via the Internet. CREDIT: Nicolás Heredia/Alma Nativa

E-commerce, the new market

So the founders of Alma Nativa knocked on the doors of Mercado Libre, an e-commerce giant born in Argentina that has expanded throughout most of Latin America. The company agreed not to charge commissions for sales by an online store of agroecological food produced by local communities.

Alma Nativa then set up a warehouse in the town of Villa Madero, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where products arriving from rural communities throughout the country are labeled for distribution.

“The pandemic has created an opportunity, because it helped to open a debate about what we eat. Many people began to question how food is produced and even forced agribusiness companies to think about more sustainable production systems,” said Manini.

Norberto Gugliotta, manager of the Cosar Beekeeping Cooperative, emphasised that the pandemic not only accelerated the process of digitalisation of producers and consumers, but also fueled the search by a growing part of society for healthy food produced in a socially responsible manner.

“We were prepared to seize the opportunity, because our products were ready, so we joined Alma Nativa this year,” said the beekeeper from the town of Sauce Viejo. Gugliotta is the visible face of a cooperative made up of some 120 producers in the province of Santa Fe, in the centre of this South American country, who produce certified organic, fair trade honey.

Argentina, Latin America’s third largest economy, is an agricultural powerhouse, with a powerful agribusiness sector whose main products are soybeans, corn and soybean oil, which in 2020 generated 26.3 billion dollars in exports, according to official figures.

Behind the success lies a huge universe of family farmers and peasant and indigenous communities. According to the latest National Agricultural Census, carried out in 2018, more than 90 percent of the country’s 250,881 farms are family-run.

But the infrastructure and technological lag in rural areas is significant, as demonstrated by the fact that only 35 percent of farms have Internet access.

The deprivation is particularly acute in the Chaco, a neglected region in the north of the country, home to some 200,000 indigenous people belonging to nine groups whose economy is closely linked to natural resources, according to the non-governmental Fundapaz.

Indigenous artisans from the Pilagá community in the northern province of Formosa, within the Gran Chaco region, have begun selling their baskets online throughout Argentina. CREDIT: Rosario Bobbio/Alma Nativa

New platform for indigenous handicrafts

Communities from the Chaco, a vast region of low forests and savannas and rich biodiversity covering more than one million square km in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, which is home to a diversity of native peoples, also began to market their handicrafts over Mercado Libre in the last few weeks.

“This initiative originated in Brazil with the ‘Amazonia em Pé’ programme and today we are replicating it in Argentina, in the Gran Chaco area. It seeks to build bridges between local artisans and consumers throughout the country,” explained Guadalupe Marín, director of sustainability at Mercado Libre.

“The aim is to mobilise consumers to buy products from Latin American ecosystems that are made with respect for the environment, while small producers benefit from visibility and logistical support so that local products reach the entire country,” she told IPS in Buenos Aires.

On Sept. 27, Mercado Libre launched the campaign “From the Gran Chaco, for you”, which offers for sale more than 2,500 products in 200 categories, such as baskets, indigenous and local art, decorative elements made with natural fibers, honey, weavings and handmade games.

It includes not only Alma Nativa, but also Emprendedores por Naturaleza (“entrepreneurs by/for nature”), a programme launched by the environmental foundation Rewilding Argentina, which works for the conservation of the Chaco and now promotes the sale of products made by 60 families living in rural areas adjacent to the El Impenetrable national park, the largest protected area in the region.

“The idea for the project arose last year, after we conducted a socioeconomic survey among 250 families in the area that found that the only income of 98 percent of them comes from welfare,” said Fatima Hollmann, regional coordinator of the Rewilding Argentina Communities Programme.

She told IPS that “people raise livestock for subsistence and sometimes work on fencing a field or some other temporary task, but there are no steady sources of employment in El Impenetrable.”

“That is why we are trying to generate income for local residents,” Hollmann explained in an interview in Buenos Aires. “Our production lines are focused on ceramics, since most people have built their houses there with adobe. Many also know how to make bricks and we have held trainings to teach people to turn a brick into an artistic piece, inspired by native fauna, which transmits the importance of conserving the forest.”

According to the figures released by the expert during the first week of the programme “From the Gran Chaco, for you” in early October, 644 products were offered for sale, of which 382 were sold to buyers from more than 10 Argentine provinces, including 100 percent of the textiles available and 76 percent of the wooden handicrafts.

“The alternative is to cut down the native forests,” Hollmann says. “We are proposing a transition from an extractivist economy to a regenerative one, which contributes to the reconstruction of the ecosystem, and gives consumers in the cities the chance to contribute to that goal.”


This article is part of IPS' coverage of World Food Day, celebrated Oct. 16, whose 2021 theme is: Grow, nourish, sustain. Together.

Cuba’s Power Crisis Drives Home Need to Accelerate Energy Transition

qua, 13/10/2021 - 21:43

A worker walks through the facilities of the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes thermoelectric plant in the central province of Cienfuegos. Most of Cuba's thermoelectric plants, almost all of which were built with technology from the now defunct Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist bloc, have a lifespan of 30 to 35 years, and it would take 40 to 80 million dollars to repair and upgrade each one, according to industry executives. CREDIT: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Luis Brizuela
HAVANA, Oct 14 2021 (IPS)

With aging infrastructure and problems with fuel supplies, Cuba is facing a crisis in its electric power generation system, which could accelerate plans to increase the share of renewable sources in the energy mix.

In recent weeks, blackouts have been widespread in the 15 provinces of this Caribbean island nation.

Breakdowns in several of the eight thermoelectric plants and delayed maintenance in 18 of its 20 generating blocks are the cause of the generation deficits, according to the authorities.

In addition, there are malfunctions in the distribution systems – lines, substations, transformers – due to the lack of spare parts.

Cuba produces half of the fuel burned in several of its thermoelectric plants, but a significant portion depends on imports.

Under bilateral agreements, Cuba should receive some 53,000 barrels per day of oil and derivatives from Venezuela. But the collapse of that South American country under the weight of its lingering crisis means that shipments are irregular, according to media reports, although the local government does not provide precise figures."The operating reserves in the power system are low and at times have been below what is required to meet consumer energy demand, which means the power supply is necessarily and inevitably affected.” -- Liván Arronte

There is also a reported decrease in the volumes of natural gas associated with oil, used in facilities on the northwest coast, a deficit that can only be overcome by means of new oil wells, according to industry executives.

“The operating reserves in the power system are low and at times have been below what is required to meet consumer energy demand, which means the power supply is necessarily and inevitably affected,” Minister of Energy and Mines Liván Arronte said on television on Sept. 14.

For Cuban families, the current crisis is reminiscent of the prolonged power outages of the early 1990s, when after the collapse of the then Soviet Union, the island lost its main fuel supplier.

In September 2019, another energy crisis occurred when the administration of then President Donald Trump (2017-Jan 2021) took steps to prevent the arrival of tankers to the island, as part of measures to stiffen the economic and financial embargo that the United States has had in place against Cuba since 1962.

“The U.S. government has dedicated itself to threatening and blackmailing companies that supply fuel to Cuba, and this is a qualitative leap in the intensification and application of unconventional measures against those involved in international transportation, without any legal or moral authority,” stated the 2020 annual report on the embargo.

Authorities in Cuba argue that the sanctions hinder access to credit to purchase parts and other inputs, which delays the necessary maintenance of the thermal plants.

Cuba’s dwindling coffers are in no condition to take on extra expenses, given the effects of three decades of economic crisis and the impact of the covid-19 pandemic that has made it necessary to prioritise imports of medical supplies and food.

The power grid is in critical condition and the still high level of dependence on fuel imports is a factor of vulnerability and undermines the country’s projected energy sovereignty and independence, analysts warn.

A wind farm located near the city of Gibara, in the eastern province of Holguín. Cuba has set a goal of steadily reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing the use of renewable sources in electricity generation to 24 percent, by 2030. CREDIT: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Aging infrastructure

Cuba has an installed potential of more than 6500 MW/h, but the real generation capacity is only half of that, and when several generator units are disconnected from the National Electric System (SEN), it is impossible to meet peak demand of 3300 to 3500 MW/h.

The country has eight thermal power plants with 20 generation blocks and a total capacity of some 2600 MW/h, equivalent to 40 percent of the electricity that can potentially be generated in this island nation of 11.2 million people.

Several of them are able to handle Cuba’s extra-heavy crude (between seven and 18 degrees API), whose sulphur content of seven to eight percent increases corrosion in the boilers, making it necessary to reduce the time between routine maintenance, to 50 to 70 days a year.

Cuba has an oil and accompanying gas production equivalent to 3.5 million tons per year (22 million barrels), from which 2.6 million tons (16.3 million barrels) of crude oil and approximately one billion cubic meters of natural gas are obtained, according to 2020 data released by the official media.

The network of power plants forms the backbone of a system that is complemented in the 15 provinces with fuel oil engines and diesel generators, which have also been hit by the shortage in spare parts and which use part of the 150 to 200 million dollars a month in fuel imports, according to official reports.

The rest of Cuba’s electricity comes from local liquefied petroleum gas (nearly eight percent), renewable sources (five percent) and three percent from floating units (patanas), which also use fossil fuels, in Mariel Bay, 45 km west of Havana.

With one exception, the thermoelectric plants, mainly built with technology from the defunct Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist bloc, have passed their 30 to 35 year lifespan, and 40 to 80 million dollars are needed to repair each plant, according to industry leaders.

To alleviate the current crisis, the government announced an investment scheme aimed at reactivating currently unused generation potential and prioritising the staggered maintenance programme.

“The strategy’s projects include four thermal generation blocks of 200 MW/h each, which will use national crude oil and … today there are projects in different stages to produce 3500 MW/h from renewable sources, which have been affected by the current crisis,” said Arronte.

The Belgian company BDC-Log Servicios Logísticos y Transporte is optimising its operation through the use of solar panels installed on the roofs of its warehouses in the Mariel Special Development Zone, in the western province of Artemisa. The policy for the development of renewable sources in Cuba, approved in 2014, aims to encourage foreign investment in large and small projects, in order to boost energy efficiency and self-sufficiency. CREDIT: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Renewable energies: ups and downs

In 2014, the Cuban government approved a “Policy for the development of renewable energy sources and efficient energy use by 2030”, which aims to gradually reduce the use of fossil fuels and sets a target for 24 percent of energy to come from clean sources by that year.

The policy is also geared towards fomenting foreign investment, in both large and small local projects, with the objective of improving energy efficiency and self-sufficiency, with installations mainly connected to the national grid.

According to some estimates, more than three billion dollars in financing will be needed in order to develop more than 2000 MW/h of new capacity in renewable sources over the next nine years.

Decree-Law No. 345 passed in 2019 on the development of renewable sources contains incentives to promote self-supply from clean energy, the sale of surplus energy to the national grid, as well as tariff and tax benefits for individuals and legal entities that use these sources.

The law also proposes the installation of the most efficient LED bulbs in public streetlights, the sale of solar water heaters and efficient appliances, as well as public education campaigns on the need to save energy.

Cuba ended 2020 with an installed capacity of almost 300 MW/h from renewable sources, some of whose installations were supported by international projects and institutions.

Studies indicate that the expansion of renewable sources could reduce the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation by 2.3 million tons a year and could cut carbon dioxide emissions by eight million tons.

However, these projections clash with the high cost of technologies to obtain energy from sunlight, wind, water and biomass.

In Cuba, which aims to develop all of these sources, the solar energy programme is the most advanced, in a country with average solar radiation of more than five kilowatts per square meter per day, which is considered high.

In late July, resolutions were published allowing people to import solar power systems, free of customs duties and without commercial purposes, as well as equipment, parts and components that generate or operate as renewable energy sources.

Some chain stores also sell solar panels for more than 1,500 dollars per unit, compared to the monthly salaries of Cubans that range from 87 to 400 dollars.

Although the state can buy surplus energy from private consumers, people consulted by IPS said it was not worth the cost of purchasing and setting up a photovoltaic system and the several years needed to recover the initial investment.

Another pending issue is the technology to accumulate solar energy for use at night.

Pandemic Highlights Urgent Need to Improve Sanitation in Brazil

sex, 08/10/2021 - 13:58

Many people living on the banks of rivers in the Amazon rainforest live in stilt houses over the water. Water into which garbage and other waste is dumped – the same water that is used for human consumption, with important consequences on their health, whose magnitude was underlined by the Covid pandemic. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Oct 8 2021 (IPS)

Basic sanitation, a sector that is undervalued because, according to politicians, it does not bring in votes, has gained relevance in Brazil due to the pandemic that has hit the poor especially hard and the drought that threatens millions of people.

Brazil has made very little progress in sewerage construction in the last decade. In 2010, only 45.4 percent of the population had sewer service, a proportion that rose to 54.1 percent in 2019. Access to treated water increased from 81 to 83.7 percent in the same period.

During that time, however, hospitalisations due to waterborne diseases decreased by 54.7 percent, from 603,623 to 273,403, according to the study “Sanitation and Waterborne Diseases” by the Trata Brasil Institute, released on Oct. 5 in the city of São Paulo.

Among children under four, who represent 30 percent of the patients requiring hospital admission, the reduction was slightly more pronounced, 59.1 percent.

“The data make it clear that any improvement in the public’s access to drinking water, collection and treatment of wastewater results in great benefits to public health,” the Institute’s president, Édison Carlos, stated in the report.

Covid-19 has underscored the country’s social and economic inequalities by disproportionately affecting the poor, who for one thing are the least likely to have sewerage services.

This is reflected in the distribution of basic sanitation infrastructure by region in Brazil. In the North, only 12.3 percent of the population was served by a sewer system in 2019, the last year data was available from the governmental National Sanitation Information System (SNIS), which served as the basis for the study.

As a result, it is the region with the highest rate of hospitalisations, 22.9 per 10,000 inhabitants. It is also the region that concentrates the country’s most generous water resources, as it is located entirely in the Amazon basin.

But the presence of so many large rivers does not mean the local population has drinking water. In fact only a little more than half of the population has access to clean water.

The result is a high incidence of diarrhea, dengue fever, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, malaria and yellow fever, all of which are waterborne diseases.

One of the favelas or shantytowns of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, where local residents have turned a stream into an open-air garbage dump and a source of frequent flooding due to lack of sewage and garbage collection. Nor do favelas in Brazil’s cities have piped water. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

At the other extreme, the Northeast region suffers from water scarcity in most of its semiarid territory. With only 28.3 percent of the local population served by sewer systems and 73.9 percent with access to treated water, it recorded 19.9 cases of hospitalisation per 10,000 inhabitants in 2019.

Part of the progress in sanitation in the region is due to the more than 1.2 million rainwater storage tanks that have been set up in rural areas by the Articulação do Semiárido (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations created in 1999.

The semiarid ecoregion, an area of 1,130,000 square kilometres (most of it in the Northeast) that is home to 27 million people, suffered the longest drought on record from 2012 to 2017, and even until 2019 in some parts.

But this time the hunger, violence and exodus to other regions triggered by similar calamities in the past did not occur.

Disparities in health

A comparison of Brazil’s 26 states reveals more alarming disparities. The northeastern state of Maranhão, on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, registered 54.04 hospitalisations per 10,000 inhabitants, far higher than its Amazonian neighbour to the west, Pará, with 32.62.

“Maranhão faces huge challenges in sanitation, as does Pará, but it has higher population density, more people living close together and in contact with dirty water in the open air, for example. Its beaches, often polluted by irregular waste, are another factor to consider,” said Rubens Filho, head of communications at the Trata Brasil Institute and coordinator of its new study.

At the other end of the scale, Rio de Janeiro stands out with the lowest rate of hospitalisations, only 2.84 per 10,000 inhabitants, even though some of its low-income municipalities are among those with the poorest sanitation coverage.

“It is possible that some municipalities do not register cases of waterborne diseases or that people do not seek medical assistance,” Filho told IPS from São Paulo, in an attempt to put the low rate of hospitalisations into context.

“Above and beyond the differences between states, Brazil still has more than 270,000 hospitalisations for preventable diseases; these are costs that could be drastically reduced if everyone had sanitation coverage,” he stressed.

Rainwater harvesting tanks are now part of the landscape in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast, thanks to recent initiatives to help people live with drought. There are some 200,000 tanks for irrigating crops, like those of farmer Abel Manto, and 1.2 million to store drinking water. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The North and Northeast are the poorest regions in the country, despite the enormous contrast in terms of their ecosystems – rainforest vs semiarid. They are both far from the goal of near universal sanitation in the country by 2033, set by a law – the Legal Framework for Sanitation – passed in 2020.

More precisely, the aim is to bring treated water to 99 percent of the population and sewerage to 90 percent in this enormous country of 213 million people.

The three regions least affected by the lack of such infrastructure, the Midwest, South and Southeast, are suffering this year from the effects of reduced rainfall, apparently due to climate change and no longer to occasional, short-lived droughts.

The low rainfall began in 2020 and since then has caused interruptions in the water supply in cities such as Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Paraná, and an increase in forest fires in the Pantanal, wetlands on the border with Bolivia and Paraguay, and in the southern Amazon jungle.

This year, many cities in the southeastern state of São Paulo began rationing water. In the state capital, São Paulo, and surrounding urban areas, the local sanitation company reduces the pressure in the pipes at night, a measure that prevents leaks but leaves some areas without water.

The fear is that there will be a repeat of the 2014 and 2015 water shortage crisis, which was similar to other shortages that have occurred this century. Twenty years ago a similar drought caused blackouts and ushered in energy rationing for nine months, starting in June 2001.

Brazil depends heavily on rivers for its electricity supply. Even though the proportion was much higher two decades ago, hydroelectric power plants still account for 63 percent of total installed generation capacity.

Reforestation and recovery of springs and headwaters have become part of the country’s sanitation and energy policy.

The frequency of droughts in south-central Brazil confirms the role of the lush Amazon rainforest in increasing rainfall in large areas of this country and neighbouring Argentina and Paraguay.

So-called “flying rivers” carry moisture from the Amazon to South America’s most productive agricultural lands and to watersheds that play a key role in the production of hydroelectricity. But deforestation of the world’s largest tropical forest is taking its toll.

A view of the shantytown in São Bernardo do Campo, the hub of Brazil’s automobile industry, near São Paulo. A common sight in the poor neighbourhoods in Brazil’s cities: unpainted cinderblock houses are stacked on top of each other over streams, into which they dump their debris and garbage. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Lessons learned from Covid-19

Covid-19 has highlighted the urgent need for sanitation. There is a consensus among epidemiologists that the lack of sanitation is one of the factors in the unequal spread and lethality of the coronavirus, to the detriment of the poor, by limiting access to proper hygiene as a preventive measure.

With 598,152 deaths recognised by the Ministry of Health up to Oct. 4, Brazil’s death toll is second only to that of the United States, which counts more than 703,000 deaths due to Covid. But in proportional terms, 280 Brazilians have died per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 214 in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland., which keeps a global record on the pandemic.

The need for improved sanitation infrastructure is also gaining momentum for financial reasons. Brazil’s states, whose governments control the main sanitation companies, see privatisation as a source of revenue to overcome their fiscal imbalance and possibly give the sector a boost.

The 2020 Legal Framework for Sanitation encourages the concession of the service to the private sector as a way to attract investment and meet the goal of near universal coverage.

Companies in four Brazilian states have already been privatised. In Rio de Janeiro, on Apr. 30, 2021, the sanitation services of three of the four areas into which the state was divided will be handed over to private groups for 4.2 billion dollars, 133 percent more than expected.

The fourth area is to be privatised later this year. The 35-year concession requires larger investments than the sums paid for the operation of the services.

Cleaning up rivers, lakes and bays, expanding and repairing the pipeline network, improving water quality and reducing distribution losses, estimated at 41 percent, are tasks that will fall to the new owners.

The Plight of Haiti

qui, 30/09/2021 - 11:12

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Sep 30 2021 (IPS)

I assume channel surfing and internet browsing contribute to a decrease in people’s attention span. I am not familiar with any scientific proof, though while working as a teacher I found that some students may be exhausted when five minutes of a lesson has passed and begin fingering on their smartphones. They might also complain if a text is longer than half a page, while finding it almost impossible to read a book.

Maybe we are all incapable of keeping a focus. For a while, Afghanistan overshadowed the media stream, though interest faded when the tragic scenes at the airport of Kabul were not there anymore. New catastrophes await the attention of world media.

Attention to Haiti comes and disappears in short flashes. Most recently, we were regaled with pictures of how US horse-mounted patrollers by the Mexican border were roping in Haitian immigrants, reminding us of how runaway slaves were caught 150 years ago. Three days later the US special envoy to Haiti resigned in protest of an ongoing large-scale, forced repatriation of Haitian migrants to a homeland wrecked by civil strife and natural disaster. Daniel Foote was appointed after the assassination of Haiti’s president. His letter of resignation reflects a deep concern for Washington’s disinterest in improving conditions in Haiti:

“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life. Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”

The deportation of Haitians is one of the swiftest, mass expulsions ever. The US is presently receiving thousands of Afghans while sending Haitians to a country which humanitarian crisis is intimately related to earlier US interventionist policies; military occupation and meddling in internal affairs, often through support to dictators. Haiti is reeling from the 7 July assassination of its president, facing an escalation in gang violence, while some 4.4 million people, or nearly 46 per cent of its population suffer acute food insecurity. On 14 August, an earthquake shock Haiti; at least 2,200 people were killed, more than 12,200 injured, at least 137,500 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and an estimated 650,000 people are currently in need of assistance. Three days after the catastrophe a tropical storms disrupted access to water, shelter, and other basic services, while flooding and mudslides worsened the situation for already vulnerable families.

Haiti is one of the most overpopulated countries on earth. The US has a population density of 70 persons per square mile, Cuba has 235, while Haiti’s population density is almost 600 people per square mile. Agriculture is not producing enough to feed a population harassed by political instability, connected with a small, but highly influential political and economic elite, often supported by foreign stakeholders. The international community, which historically has contemplated Haiti through a lens distorted by racism and disinterest, is not doing much to mitigate a worsening situation, triggering immigration movements towards countries like the US, which government apparently assume that a solution to the problem will be to send migrants back to their misery.

Investments have to be made in education and health, as well as in support of enterprises capable of providing sustainable income, while governmental institutions need to be strengthened to promote human development for all sectors of society. Emigration cannot be the only means to brake Haiti’s chain of down-spiraling events, but it helps – currently, 35 percent of Haiti’s GDP is constituted by the roughly 3.8 billion USD worth of remittances the diaspora provides every year.

The recently murdered president, Jovenel Moïse, was originally not a member of the traditional elite, but an entrepreneur acting outside the political sphere. He developed an agricultural project of organic banana production and partnered with Mulligan Water, a US based global water treatment company, to establish a water plant for distribution of drinkable water to Haiti’s northern departments. In 2017, Moïse participated in the general elections on a platform promoting universal education and health care, as well as energy reform, rule of law, sustainable jobs, and environmental protection. He won with a slight margin. Since then, numerous roads have been built, reconstructed and paved. Haiti’s second largest hydro-power plant and several agricultural water reservoirs have been constructed, producing electricity and water for increased agricultural production.

Protests against Moïse’s regime had been mounting, among accusations of widespread corruption and a continued negligence of damages caused by the 2010 earthquake, when more than 200,000 persons were killed and 1.5 million left homeless. This natural disaster was preceded by a hurricane which in 2008 wiped out 70 percent of Haiti’s crops. In 2016, hurricane Matthew was almost as devastating.

Dangers to Moïse’s government furthermore lurked among members of the wealthy, small and powerful elite and not the least – increasingly menacing crime syndicates. Foremost among them is the one controlled by former police officer Jimmy Chérizier, alias Barbecue, leader of G9 and Family, a criminal federation of nine of the strongest gangs in Haiti’s capital.

Chérizier has been known to support Moïse’s party, Tèt Kale, and being backed by corrupt members of the police force. After being behind several armed attacks on rivaling gangs and innocent individuals, who live in fear of extortion, arson, theft and rape committed by his thugs, Chérizier has disclaimed all political affiliations and called for a ”popular uprising”, marching with his men through the slums of La Saline, while openly brandishing sophisticated weaponry.

Even if Jovenel Moïse described criminal gangs as Haiti’s “own demons”, his government’s actions have been considered as negligible. Moïse declared: “We prioritize dialogue, even in our fight with bandits and gangs. I am the president of all Haitians, the good and the bad.”

So far, 44 individuals have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Moïse, on the run is a former official in the Justice Ministry’s anti-corruption unit. Haitian police states that the killing squad consisted of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans. The Colombians were all former soldiers. Retired Colombian military personell are currently employed by security firms around the world, which value their training and fighting experience. Moïse’s killers were allegedly hired by an obscure, self-described doctor, Christian Sanon, through a US firm called Corporate Training Unlimited (CTU). No explanation has been given to how a man with a negligible income and 400,000 USD in debt could be the organizer of a complex and expensive plot to murder Haiti’s president. A further twist to the story is that Haiti’s interim Prime Minister, neurosurgeon and former Minister of Health, Ariel Henry, a few days ago sacked his Minister of Justice, since he supported a prosecutor who sought charges against Henry over the murder of Moïse. Everything remains shrouded in mystery.

Why Haitians turn up along the US-Mexican border is easier to explain. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, several Haitians arrived in Brazil, attracted by a building boom partly in connection with Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. When those jobs dried up, several construction workers ended up in other Latin American countries, especially Chile. Others crossed the border to the Dominican Republic, which currently host about 1 million Haitians. All over Latin America strict migration policies are now enforced, while Haitians move towards the US, fearing that misery awaits them if they return to their impoverished homeland. Some 19,000 undocumented migrants, mainly Haitians, are stuck in Colombia, trying to enter Panama and continue to Mexico, where approximately 12,000 migrants are waiting to be processed by US immigration agents, which most likely will refuse entry.

Historically speaking, the small island nation of Haiti has been important to the Americas. In 1804, it became after the US the first independent republic of the Americas. In spite of winning its war of liberation, Haiti was forced to compensate France, a debt paid until 1947. The French Saint-Domingue was one of the world’s most brutally efficient slave colonies; one-third of newly imported Africans died within a few years and a policy of ”better buy than bread” kept the slave population young and limited. After liberation an export oriented mono-cultivation of mainly sugarcane was through a land reform changed into family based small holder subsistence farming and the population increased rapidly. With an unyielding black government Haiti suffered until the 1830s of European non-recognition and it was not until the late 1860s it was accepted as a nation by the US and other American countries, while continuously being depicted as barbaric and uncivilized.

In 1822, Haiti conquered the Spanish part of the island, abolishing slavery there. The president Boyer welcomed 6,000 US former slaves, as well as political exiles from the Americas. He supplied Simón Bolívar with 1,000 rifles, munitions, supplies, a printing press, and hundreds of Haitian soldiers to support him in his effort to” free Latin America” and abolish slavery. Between 1915 and 1935 the US occupied Haiti, resulting in several thousand Haitians killed and numerous human rights violations, including torture, summary executions and forced labour. The occupation was, as has been customary with most colonial and exploitative enterprises, defended as a “civilization process”.

Painting, sculpture, dance and music have always flourished in Haiti. It was the Creole culture emanating among exiled Haitians in New Orleans that influenced the creation of jazz, which since then have had such a great impact on American culture. And … while listening to the depressing news about Haitian suffering it might be advisable to enjoy the works of Haiti’s great authors, like Jacques Roumain, Stephen Alexis, and René Depestre, and not the least women writers like Marie Vieux-Chauvet and Edwige Danticat. An attention span well worth the effort, particularly since it increases our knowledge of the problems harassing Haiti. Hopefully would such reading bolster the international community’s realization of the gravity of the plight of the Haitian people and contribute to end its long sufferings.


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Mexican Illustrators Blur Art Lines in Paris Show

seg, 27/09/2021 - 09:42

Maru Aguzzi at the exhibition in Paris, in front of works by Alejandro Magallanes (photo by SWAN).

PARIS, Sep 27 2021 (IPS)

So, what’s the difference between illustration and “art”?  When asked this question, Maru Aguzzi replies with a wry smile: “Perhaps the price?”

Aguzzi is the curator of Gran Salón México-Paris – Contemporary Mexican Illustration, an exhibition taking place at the Mexican Cultural Institute in the French capital until Oct. 26. The show brings together some 40 illustrators, whose work includes painting, drawing, print-making, video and other genres.

‘Autorretrato’ by Rocca Luis Cesar, photo courtesy of Gran Salón México.

The pieces are strikingly artistic, even if they’re being presented as illustrations. All are “original” works created especially for this exhibition, which is the first in France from Gran Salón México, an annual art fair that Aguzzi created in 2014.

The fair’s mission, she says, is to offer a glimpse into the country’s growing illustration “wave”, and to bring to the public some of the best contemporary works in this category – a field that actually “plays” with the limits of art.

“Saying that price makes the difference is perhaps the funny answer, but you can go deeper and see how illustrators choose to explore content or not,” Aguzzi told SWAN. “The way the work is presented, viewers don’t have to dig for content or meaning as with contemporary art, where the work requires some kind of engagement from the viewer for completion. Illustration has an immediate impact, and viewers can like what they see or not. It’s that simple.”

Gran Salón’s participating illustrators use a variety of media just like their “artist” peers, she said. Works in the show range from oil and acrylic paintings on canvas to charcoal drawings on paper. In between, viewers can enjoy watercolours, collage, animation and digital art.

In fact, some of the illustrators do exhibit in art fairs as well, further blurring distinctions, Aguzzi said. They draw on a long tradition of Mexican artists working in various genres, as did renowned painters Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo – whose influence can be felt in the current show, alongside that of multi-genre Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, for instance.

‘Creciendo juntos’ by María Ponce, photo courtesy of Gran Salón México.

Picasso and his paintings of women are evoked with a twist in the illustrations of Rocca Luis Cesar (born in Guadalajara in 1986), while the more “veteran” Carlos Rodríguez (born in La Soledad, San Luis Potosí, 1980) draws upon images – such as the watermelon – that appear in the paintings of Tamayo.

Both illustrators convey a strong artistic sensibility, with Rodríguez in particular being inspired by “classical painting, mythology, naïve art and porn” – as his bio states. His two vibrant, erotic paintings in the show were created specifically to conjure a Latin American ambience in Paris, Aguzzi said.

Another notable aspect of the exhibition is its sense of humour or satire, in addition to the addressing of serious topics, such as climate change and language rights. One of the youngest illustrators, María Ponce, born in Oaxaca in 1994, exemplifies this with her colour drawings about daily life and with her “Creciendo juntos” piece, which conveys the message that we have to take care of the environment and trees if we too wish to keep thriving.

Meanwhile, illustrator and filmmaker Gabriela Badillo (born in 1979) uses her work to highlight Mexico’s indigenous languages through her 68 Voces project, a video series with stories told in these languages. Badillo co-founded audiovisual production company Hola Combo with a belief in the social responsibility of media, according to the exhibition, and she and her colleagues have worked with indigenous groups, including children, on creative initiatives.

Her videos, and other film clips and works of animation, add to the unexpected scope of the Gran Salón show.

“The work that illustrators are producing in Mexico includes numerous genres, and I really wanted to show this range,” Aguzzi told SWAN.

Additional information:

https://icm.sre.gob.mx/francia/index.php/fr/ & https://gran.salon/ 

Rural Water Boards Play Vital Role for Salvadoran Farmers

dom, 26/09/2021 - 23:52

Members of the Cangrejera Drinking Water Association in the Desvío de Amayo village, La Libertad municipality in central El Salvador, stand at the foot of the tank from which water flows by gravity to the nine villages that benefit from this community project. There are an estimated 2,500 rural water boards in the country, which provide service to 1.6 million people. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
LA LIBERTAD, El Salvador , Sep 27 2021 (IPS)

After climbing a steep hill along winding paths, you reach a huge water tank at the top that supplies peasant farmer families who had no water and instead set up their own community project on this coastal strip in central El Salvador.

“It wasn’t easy to carry out our project; building the tank was tough because we had to carry the materials up the hill on our shoulders: the gravel, cement, sand and iron,” José Dolores Romero, treasurer of the Cangrejera Drinking Water Association, told IPS.

The association is located in the village of Desvío de Amayo, in the canton of Cangrejera, part of the municipality and department of La Libertad.

The system, which began operating in 1985, provides water to 468 families in this and eight other nearby villages.

This is what hundreds of rural communities and villages have done to gain access to drinking water, as the government has failed to provide service to every corner of this impoverished nation of 6.7 million people.

Faced with the lack of service, families have organised in “juntas de agua”: rural water boards that are community associations that on their own manage to drill a well and build a tank and the rest of the system.

In El Salvador there are about 2,500 rural water boards, which provide service to 25 percent of the population, or some 1.6 million people, according to data from the non-governmental Foro del Agua (Water Forum), which promotes equitable and participatory water management.

The boards receive no government support, despite the fact that they provide a public service that should fall to the National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers (Anda).

María Ofelia Pineda, 58, washes a frying pan and other dishes she used to prepare lunch at her home in the village of Las Victorias in Cangrejera on El Salvador’s coastal strip. Families like hers benefit from the water provided by the Cangrejera Drinking Water Association, which has been operating for 36 years. For seven dollars a month, the residents of this rural town receive 20 cubic metres of water. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A community project

In the village of Desvío de Amayo, located at the centre of the country’s coastal strip, families used to dig their own wells in their backyards, but the water was not potable, and caused health problems as a result.

“It’s true that when you drill a well here you find water, but it isn’t drinkable, and the springs in the coastal area are contaminated with feces,” said Romero, who along with several other members of the water board met with IPS for a tour of the area.

The water in the tank is made potable by adding chlorine, a task carried out by José Hernán Moreno, 66, who described himself as the “valvulero”, responsible for the tank, which has a capacity of 200 cubic metres.

When there is a mishap with one of the pipelines running to one of the communities, it is Moreno who is in charge of closing the necessary valves.

With a quiet chuckle, he recalled that on one occasion he “killed” some fish that a local resident was raising in a pond, hinting that he may have put in more chlorine than he should have.

“They got mad at me, they blamed me, but my duty is to pour in the necessary chlorine,” Moreno said.

The well drilled by the association is 60 metres deep, and the water is pumped four km uphill to the tank from the village using a pump driven by a 20-horsepower engine.

From there, it is gravity-fed to the nine villages it serves.

“We have water all day and all night, and what we pay depends on how much we use,” one of the beneficiaries, Ana María Landaverde, a 62-year-old mother of five, told IPS.

Carlos Enrique Rosales stands in front of the lighting panel of the community water system. He is in charge of maintaining the well, pump, motor and other parts of the system, located in the Desvío de Amayo village in Cangrejera, in the Salvadoran municipality of La Libertad. The project provides water to 468 families in this and eight other villages, which the government does not supply. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Each family pays seven dollars for 20 cubic metres a month, the equivalent of about 20 barrels or 20,000 gallons. If they consume more than that, they pay 50 cents per cubic metre.

But water was not always available 24 hours a day.

Years ago they received only a couple of hours a day of service because, as there were no metres to measure water consumption, many families wasted water, while others received little.

Some used it to irrigate home gardens and even small fields where they grow corn, beans and other crops.

“Before there was a lot of water waste, that’s why the micro-metres were installed,” said Landaverde. The 20 cubic metres are enough to cover the needs of her family, which now has six members, including several grandchildren.

Since these devices were installed to measure consumption, families have used water more rationally and now there is enough for everyone, 24 hours a day.

“We know that we have to take care of it, with or without metres we have always taken care of it,” Ana Leticia Orantes, 59, told IPS.

She lives in the village of La Ceiba, which is also in Cangrejera. She and one of her sons grow crops like corn, beans, yucca and chili peppers on a 2.7-hectare plot of land.

“This little piece of land gives us enough to live on,” she said.

However, not everyone was happy when the metres were installed. People who were using it irrationally, to irrigate crops for example, were furious, said Romero, the treasurer.

“We had serious problems because they were used to wasting water and suddenly we restricted their water use with the metres, measuring consumption,” he said. “I made a lot of enemies, they almost killed me.”

With the money received for the water service, the association has managed to become self-sustainable, and has the necessary financial resources to pay for repairs and equipment maintenance.

This is important because the system has been operating for 36 years and, as with a car, breakdowns can happen at any time.

The well of the community water system in Cangrejera, in central El Salvador, is 60 metres deep, and a 20-horsepower motor drives the pump that directs the liquid to a tank four kilometres uphill. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Strength through unity

The Cangrejera project initiative is part of the Association of Autonomous Drinking Water and Sanitation Systems (Asaps), a group of 15 water boards located in four municipalities in the department of La Libertad.

The four municipalities are La Libertad, Huizúcar, Villa Nueva and Santa Tecla. The idea is to support each other when technical or other problems arise.

“There are problems that we can’t solve on our own, we need other people to lend us a hand,” said Romero.

Asaps is also part of a cooperative in which two other community water associations participate, one located in Suchitoto, in the department of Cuscatlán, in the centre of the country, and another in Chalatenango, in the north.

The aim is that through the cooperative, materials and equipment can be acquired at a lower cost than if the associations were to purchase them on their own.

The boards are also part of the Water Forum, a nationwide citizens’ organisation that, among other questions, is pushing for a water law in the country to achieve equitable and sustainable use.

The draft law has been debated in the legislature for more than a decade, but it has stalled over the issue of who should control the governing body: whether only state agencies or representatives of the business community should be included as well.

The latter would include members of the powerful industry of producers of carbonated beverages, juices, beer and bottled water.

The government of Nayib Bukele, in power since June 2019, introduced a new proposal in the legislature last June, and has enough votes to pass it: the 56 out of 84 seats held by the ruling party, New Ideas.

Social organisations and the water boards themselves see the government proposal as a sort of veiled privatisation, since one of the articles grants exploitation rights to private entities for 473,043 cubic metres per year, for periods ranging from 10 to 15 years.

Experts say this amount could supply an entire town.

“How much profit will those barbarians who bottle and sell it make from the water?” complained Romero.

The water boards are demanding to be included in the government proposal, arguing that they play an important role in providing a service not offered by the State.

“We are doing a job that should fall to the government, and what does it give us in return? Nothing,” he added.

María Ofelia Pineda, a 58-year-old native of the village of Las Victorias, also in Cangrejera, said the service received from the community water system changed their lives forever.

“It’s a great thing to have the water right here in the house, we don’t have to go to the river anymore. When it rained we couldn’t go, we were in danger because of the floods,” she told IPS, while washing a frying pan and other dishes she used to make lunch.

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