Archive | December 12th, 2009

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Ultimatum for the Earth

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Hopenhagen. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch

Hopenhagen. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch

By Ignacio Ramonet, from Paris *

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) If Earth were the size of a football, the thickness of the atmosphere would be about two millimetres. We have forgotten the incredible thinness of this layer, which we tend to believe can absorb an unlimited quantity of toxic gases. As a result, we have created around our planet a filthy gaseous blanket that captures heat and literally functions as a greenhouse. Continue Reading

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Construyendo un nuevo modelo

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor


Cartel con Karl Marx. Crédito: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Cartel con Karl Marx. Crédito: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Por Daniela Estrada


COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) “Hay que fortalecer una gran alianza mundial de los movimientos sociales que estamos luchando contra el calentamiento climático y el modelo agroexportador industrializado, y que defendemos la pequeña agricultura”, dijo a TerraViva el hondureño Rafael Alegría, de la coordinadora internacional de La Vía Campesina. Continue Reading

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Portraits: European solidarity

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Clodimir Bogaert/Oxfam Belgium in Saturday's march. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

Clodimir Bogaert/Oxfam Belgium in Saturday's march. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

By Daniela Estrada

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) “We hope things change, because the (global warming) problem is urgent. We see that the first to suffer the effects of climate change are the poorest countries,” said Belgian activist Clodimir Bogaert, who works in educational projects with Oxfam Belgium.

He also said climate pollution would end up costing the world much more than what is needed to act now.

Bogaert came from his country specifically for Saturday’s march. “We are here with delegations from different non-governmental organizations, and different unions, and all of us came by train,” he told TerraViva.

“We are waiting to see what will happen in the last days (of COP15), when the big decisions are taken,” he said, with an air of optimism.

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Sun Comes Out to Greet “Flood for Climate Justice”

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

March in Copenhagen urging world political leaders to stop talking and act now. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

March in Copenhagen urging world political leaders to stop talking and act now. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Raúl Pierri

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – The sun came out in Copenhagen Saturday for the first time this week. But even though its rays were too weak to temper the bone-chilling cold, it shone brightly over the 5,000 people who braved the weather to participate in a demonstration organised by Friends of the Earth International (FOEI).

“Flood for Climate Justice” was the slogan that gathered activists from more than 20 countries around the world, and from a wide range of social, women’s, peasant and environmental organisations, along with dozens of young local people, who came out to voice their opposition to the carbon offsetting “solution.” Continue Reading

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Retratos: Desde el último rincón del mundo

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor


Alicia Muñoz. Crédito: Stephen Leahy

Alicia Muñoz. Crédito: Stephen Leahy/IPS

Por Daniela Estrada

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) La chilena Alicia Muñoz, integrante de La Vía Campesina, el movimiento mundial de pequeños y medianos agricultores, trabajadores y mujeres rurales y pueblos indígenas, lleva una semana en Copenhague participando en diferentes actividades del Klimaforum, la reunión de la sociedad civil paralela a la COP-15. Continue Reading

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Farmers Are in the Business of Managing Carbon

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies

Credit: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies

By Terna Gyuse

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – There’s a satisfying beauty to this phrase: “Productivity in perpetuity, without ecological harm.”

Professor M.S. Swaminathan, the celebrated giant of agricultural research from India, offered these words early on in a day devoted to farmers and sustainable food security here at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Life Sciences.

This important side meeting of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change had two clear objectives: to build consensus on what needs to be done to incorporate agriculture into the post-Copenhagen climate agenda, and to discuss strategies and action to address adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture sector.

The problem is straightforward. The world needs food production to more than double by 2050 to feed a growing population; a changing climate threatens to send agricultural output in the opposite direction, quickly adding to the billion people who already live with chronic hunger.

Agricultural activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions directly and indirectly; yet farmers could be an important part of the solution.

This is the backdrop against which farmers, scientists, policy-makers and activists met to discuss agriculture and rural development.

A key thread running from the keynote speakers through panelists and contributions from the floor was the idea that agriculture is where poverty reduction, food security and climate change intersect.

Yet Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, reminded participants that development assistance and support for agriculture have for so long declined while demand has risen. But Nwanze sees renewed interest in funding rural development by donors in the North and a fresh focus on agriculture by governments in the South, as the impending danger to political instability and food security becomes clearer.

“For each one degree rise in temperature, the wheat yield in India will be six million tonnes less,” said Swaminathan, a loss equivalent to 1.5 billion dollars. Without effective adaptation, 44 percent of agricultural productivity could be lost.

Swaminathan, who was instrumental in developing and introducing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India, spoke of the importance of anticipatory research to counter this – conserving seeds to ensure the genetic resources needed for resilient crops are not lost, and studying and improving our knowledge of growing food in coastal regions vulnerable to influxes of salt water.

Gordon Conway, professor of international development at Imperial College, London says the drivers of global warming are still ill-understood.

It’s not that there’s doubt that there will be significant changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, it’s that researchers still do not know precisely how, for example, the El Niño/La Niña ocean current, monsoons, and changing tropical convection patterns interact to affect temperature and rainfall patterns.

Conway said we need to downscale global predictions of climate models to local levels in order to guide appropriate action. “We need projections of weather variables that mean something to farmers,” not just climatologists, such as “‘the first rains, how many days will they last?’”

That information would allow scientists, governments and farmers themselves to develop appropriately resilient crops, as well as livestock and farming systems suited to new conditions, and to set up and manage water resources better.

Lindiwe Sibanda, director of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Advocacy Network based in South Africa, underlined the central importance of involving farmers in finding solutions. She called for an increase in locally-generated research, and the effective communication of findings and recommendations to farmers themselves.

Speaking from the floor of one session, a farmer from southern Ontario said simply, “Farmers are in the business of managing carbon.” For thousands of years, farmers have bred crop varieties to suit an incredible range of environments; the food on our table comes to us all through their hands.

“We may be 14 percent of the problem,” he said, referring to agriculture’s contribution to total carbon emissions, “but we could be 25 percent of the solution.”

A range of ways to enable this transformation were put forward for consideration in a consolidated statement that the people gathered here will present at a side event at the Bella Center, the main conference venue, on Dec. 14.

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientist spoke of the need to properly synthesize the vast body of knowledge that already exists to practically understand ways forward; simple and effective tools with which to measure carbon stored in agricultural activities.

There were arguments in favour of focusing on farmers in the global South, as well as calls to remember that farmers everywhere are challenged by climate change.

Conway invoked what he said was Chinese president Hu Jintao’s maxim on agricultural development: “Try something. If it doesn’t work, forget it. If it does work, try it again on a bigger scale.”

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Portraits: No more false solutions

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Marta Zogbi of FOEI. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

Marta Zogbi of FOEI. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

By Daniela Estrada

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) “We have an enormous influence, because the issue of climate change has been carried forward by organised civil society. The corporate lobby is also very powerful, which is why society cannot advance as fast as it would like,” said Argentine activist Marta Zogbi of Friends of the Earth International, one of the organisers of the march. Continue Reading

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Portraits: From every corner of the world

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Via Campesina's Alicia Muñoz. Credit: Stephen Leahy/IPS.

Via Campesina's Alicia Muñoz. Credit: Stephen Leahy/IPS.

By Daniela Estrada

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Chilean activist Alicia Muñoz of Via Campesina, the global movement of small- and medium-scale farmers, rural women and indigenous people, has been in Copenhagen for a week taking part in different activities in Klimaforum, the civil society meet held parallel to COP15.

“It is very clear to Via Campesina that we have to apply pressure for an agreement to be reached, because we know the negotiations are not coming up with positive results,” Muñoz, one of the few Chilean activists in Copenhagen, told TerraViva.

“The people cannot continue to pay for this problem,” said Muñoz, president of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI) of Chile. “We are completely sure that this demonstration will have an influence on the world’s leaders,” added the activist, recalling the record of battles she says have been won by Via Campesina.

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El sol saludó “avalancha por la justicia climática”

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Manifestantes saliendo del Klimaforum. Crédito: Ana Libisch/IPS

Manifestantes saliendo del Klimaforum. Crédito: Ana Libisch/IPS

Por Raúl Pierri

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) El sol salió en Copenhague el sábado por primera vez esta semana, y aunque no bastó para atemperar el frío penetrante, iluminó a más de 5.000 personas que se movilizaron en la mañana convocadas por Amigos de la Tierra Internacional.

“Avalancha por la justicia climática” fue el lema de la convocatoria a la que se adhirieron activistas de más de 20 países, organizaciones sociales, de mujeres, campesinas y ambientalistas, así como decenas de jóvenes daneses que protestaron contra el sistema de compensación de emisiones de carbono. Continue Reading

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Closing the Distance Between Copenhagen and the Rainforest

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Poster from Conversations with the Earth - Indigenous Voices on Climate Change multi-media exhibit in Copenhagen. Credit: Stephen Leahy/TerraViva

Poster from Conversations with the Earth - Indigenous Voices on Climate Change multi-media exhibit in Copenhagen. Credit: Stephen Leahy/TerraViva

By Enrique Gili

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) As delegates deliberate over the extent carbon emissions will be curbed in the closing days of the U.N. summit here, the environmental ramifications of that agreement are likely to be felt in places far removed from the negotiating table, particularly among indigenous people on the front lines of climate change.

In order to showcase the issues facing native people, the Indigenous Voices on Climate Change film festival is focusing a critical lens on global warming, with the assistance of some of the world’s most vulnerable people struggling to maintain traditional ways of life.

Indigenous Voices premiered at the Danish National Museum on Dec. 9 to a small audience, largely composed of delegates and NGO workers, who mingled with filmmakers and native storytellers.

Human beings have adapted to climate change since the dawn of time, crossing frozen land bridges and African grasslands in search of game.

But instead of temperatures rising slowly over the course of millennia, the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere is now expected to rise rapidly 1.4 to 6.0 degrees C. by the end of the 21st century.

According to climate model predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a leading scientific authority, this range represents the difference between mild climate disruption and near total failure of Earth’s natural systems.

“Things are happening fast and they are happening now,” said Ulf Dahre, director of the ethnographic collection at the Danish museum, on hand to watch the first installment of the Dec. 9-13 festival.

The films showcase stories from around the world through the eyes of people living in the world’s remaining rainforests and remote mountain highlands.

“Indigenous people are on the front lines of climate change,” said Citt Williams, a film producer who, in collaboration with the Tokyo-based United Nations University, scoured the globe to illustrate the problems native people face.

“These are participatory films, I would say,” Williams noted, speaking of the short films she shot and edited over the course of the past year in close collaboration with the indigenous people profiled.

In total, 22 films will be screened over five days, revealing the vast complexity of problems faced by local communities, from desertification in the Sahel to small islands submerged by rising seas.

Deforestation and regional conflicts between indigenous cultures and mining companies are now becoming a global concern as the linkages between habitat destruction and climate change become ever clearer.

According to the IPCC’s latest findings, deforestation for agricultural production accounts for 25 percent of heat-trapping emissions, while transport and industry account for 14 percent each.

Marilyn Wallace, a land conservation coordinator from New Queensland, Australia and a member of the Kuku Nyungkal clan, said she and her band were given a new beginning after being granted autonomy over their homelands. She urged the official delegates to take the time to “stop, look, listen and learn”.

Wallace and 14 other forest rangers manage their homelands in collaboration with Australian resource officials. The team is in the process of conducting a biological inventory of their range, incorporating traditional knowledge with cutting edge GIS digital mapping systems.

“We are preserving the wisdom of the elders with modern technology,” she said, a reminder that native people are not just victims of climate change but key players in the protection and preservation of ecosystems.

In keeping with the digital meme, many of the short documentaries can be downloaded and viewed on the OurWorld 2.0 website, further narrowing the distance between Copenhagen and the rainforest.

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Small Farmers Can Cool the World

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Alicia Muñoz of La Via Campesina in Chile. Credit: TerraViva/A. Libisch

Alicia Muñoz of La Via Campesina in Chile. Credit: TerraViva/A. Libisch

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Industrial agriculture may emit nearly half of climate-heating greenhouse gases, but that reality has gone unrecognised by negotiators at the climate treaty talks here, say farmers with La Via Campesina, an international movement of hundreds of millions of small-scale peasant farmers.

“Small-scale farmers use 80 percent less energy than large monocultures,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian farmer with Mouvement de Paysan, through a translator.

“Peasant farmers from La Via Campesina and others can help cool the planet,” Jean-Baptiste told a press conference at the Klimaforum09, the alternative climate action talks being held here in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.

Unlike the official talks, set in a remote location surrounded by police and razor wire, Klimaforum09 is being held in the city’s community centre and is free and open to the public.

“System Change for Climate Change” – that’s the phrase most often heard at the Klimaforum09 and in parts of Copenhagen.

La Via Campesina’s claim that industrial agriculture is by far the biggest source of carbon emissions is based on a recent study that looked at all emissions from the global food system.

This includes oil-dependent industrial farming, together with the expansion of the meat industry, the destruction of world’s savannahs and forests to grow agricultural commodities, the use of fossil fuel energy to transport and process food, and the extensive use of chemical fertilisers.

The study was conducted by GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation that promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity to support local communities.

“These results are horrifying. So much carbon is lost from the soil using monoculture practices,” said Camila Montecinos, the lead GRAIN researcher from Santiago, Chile.

The study looked at all the available scientific literature and worked with soil scientists to arrive at this “rough” but thorough estimate, Montecinos told TerraViva.

The study does not include methane emissions from animals and their manure because studies conflict and incorporating manure into the soil increases fertility and soil carbon, she explained.

Surprisingly, one-third of the emissions come from food processing and transport, although the former is responsible for most. The bulk of emissions come from land use changes – conversions of forest and grasslands – and from direct agricultural production like fuel use, fertiliser and tillage.

Calculations in the report show that policies oriented towards agriculture in the hands of small farmers and focused on restoring soil fertility could, over the next 50 years, capture about 450 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is more than two-thirds of the current excess in the atmosphere.

“The evidence is irrefutable. If we can change the way we farm and the way we produce and distribute food, then we have a powerful solution for combating the climate crisis. There are no technical hurdles to achieving these results, it is only a matter of political will,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, in a release.

Governmental policies and trade agreements the world over support industrial agriculture production and the study shows this must change in order to stabilise the climate, Montecinos said. “No governments are talking about this,” she noted.

Worse still, many of those policies are pushing small farmers off the land, the ones who are by far the most efficient in terms of carbon emissions and energy use, she said.

Ending such policies and giving the lands back to small farmers could result in major emission reductions on the order of 50 to 66 percent, said La Via Campesina in a news release.

“Such a transformation of world agriculture would not only greatly contribute to solving the climate crisis – it would also provide healthy food for all – as well as provide livelihoods to millions of women and men,” the group said.

When asked what he would like to tell the negotiators at the official climate talks, Jean-Baptiste said: “We have to change the model of production and consumption, especially in the northern half of the world.”

“Corporate control and concentration has not provided any solutions. Instead people suffering more than ever,” Alicia Muñoz from Via Campesina in Chile told TerraViva. “The men standing up there [at the official negotiations] will never solve the problems of poverty and climate change.”

“Women need to be involved and part of the solution,” she stressed.

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Asian Delegates Want ‘Political Accord’, For Now

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

By Athar Parvaiz

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Most Asian delegations to the ongoing global negotiations on climate change are insisting that a political agreement must be reached to pave the way for a legally binding treaty in the near future.

“Though we realise that it is highly unlikely to arrive at a consensus here in Copenhagen for a legally binding treaty, we are quite hopeful of a political accord,” Akira Yamada, Japan’s deputy director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs, told IPS. He said this would lay the foundation for a legally binding treaty.

Akira stressed that Japan wants a treaty that should be signed by both the United States and China, “the largest emitters of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Most negotiators from the Asia-Pacific region interviewed  by IPS said they would only settle for a political accord, believing it will ensure the adoption of a legally binding treaty. But pressure groups are insisting that a legally enforceable agreement should be the outcome of negotiations on climate change as “mere political promises would not do.”

“A politically binding treaty amounts to a love affair while the legally binding treaty is a proper wedlock. This is the simplest expression one can use to tell the difference between the two,” said Mike Shanahan, senior press officer at the London-based independent policy research centre International Institute of Environment and Development.

“No government at any time in any country can deviate from the legally binding treaty while promises through political statements are no guarantee,” he added.

“Although the speed of negotiations is very slow, we are making efforts to make a political agreement, which would later become a legal agreement,” said Kim Chan Woo, director general of South Korea’s ministry of environment.

Both least developed and developing countries want the industrialised nations to pay their “climate debt” through funding commitments and measures to reduce emissions drastically while allow the developed countries to grow.

A Danish draft of a climate change agreement, leaked to the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ early this week, was summarily rejected by the developing countries, because it tilts the balance of mitigation obligations away from the developed nations, deemed a violation of the spirit and substance of the United Nations Framework Convention and the Bali Action Plan.

“The Danish text is an extremely dangerous text for developing countries. It robs them of an equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space,” said Lumumba Di-Aping, who chairs the largest of the negotiation blocks — G77/China, comprising more than 130 countries.

“We know that Denmark’s prime minister is desperate for a deal in Copenhagen, but it should be a balanced deal,” he said. “We hope that common sense and wisdom will prevail.”

Countries like China and India reacted to the draft in the same manner, saying it was not acceptable to them. The backlash ultimately prompted the Danish government to say that it “was a discussion paper, not a draft.”

“We feel that both the developed and developing countries should contribute to combating climate change, but the nature of contribution should be different,” South Korea’s Kim told IPS.

Indonesian delegate Angus Purnomo said his country has begun enforcing certain climate mitigation measures like reducing emissions. “But we need financial and technological assistance from developed countries. And this is the forum where we should get us a guarantee of every kind of assistance in black and white.”

“We have come here to engage very constructively in the multilateral negotiations under the United Nations system, and we are confident that there will be good outcomes, which must be consistent with the convention principles,” Vijay Sharma, a delegate from India, told IPS.

“We are having discussions on two separate tracks: one on long-term visions, Long-term Cooperative Action, under which mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology would be dealt with. And on the other hand, we are discussing how to enhance and get quantitative targets from Annex 1 [or industrialised] countries under the Kyoto Protocol.”

Less than a week is left for the negotiators to arrive at conclusions before the high-level segments of the ongoing climate talks. Developing countries, particularly the more vulnerable among them, are keen to see the foundations of a legally binding treaty here in the Danish capital.

“We are not responsible at all for the global warming. But when we look at who is suffering the most, it is the least developed countries like Bangladesh and other small island states that are going to suffer the most,” Manzoor-ul-Hanan Khan, the coordinator of the Bangladeshi delegation, said in an interview with IPS.

“Therefore we want a written assurance from the developed countries that they would make efforts to secure our future.”

“Being a poor country, we also want financial and technological assistance for mitigation and adaptation so that we achieve development without any environmental costs,” he said. “We have only one earth; there we need an effective treaty to save it.”

Purushottam Ghimire, a negotiator from Nepal, said his country is facing a major challenge, with melting glaciers threatening millions. “We are here for a consensus and concrete agreement,” he stressed.

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Copenhague, trop loin pour préoccuper la presse?

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

par Fulgence Zamblé

ABIDJAN (IPS/TerraViva) – En l’absence de reporters à Copenhague pour couvrir les négociations sur les changements climatiques, la presse ivoirienne dans son ensemble, observe à distance ce qui s’y déroule. Sans toutefois daigner en faire de larges extraits dans leurs différentes parutions, ou encore dans leurs journaux parlés et télévisés.

Les journaux ivoiriens ont consacré quelques petites pages à l’annonce du début des discussions sur le changement climatique.

Les journaux ivoiriens ont consacré quelques petites pages à l’annonce du début des discussions sur le changement climatique.

Depuis que le sommet a ouvert ses portes, la télévision nationale ne s’est contentée que de donner l’information dans ses trois jours du lundi dernier. Tout comme la radio nationale. Les journaux, pour leur part, ont consacré quelques petites pages à l’annonce du début des discussions sur le changement climatique.

«C’est dommage que la presse ivoirienne ne soit pas préoccupée par cet important rendez-vous», fustige Aline Kouamé, étudiante en science économique à l’université de Cocody-Abidjan. «Elle peut ne pas avoir des envoyés spéciaux à ce sommet, mais relayer au moins ce que leurs confrères rapportent de Copenhague. Elle (la presse) oublie que nous sommes plus concernés par le danger que ces questions de politique qui ne rapportent rien », ajoute-t-elle.

En 2007, la capitale économique ivoirienne avait subit dans le quartier de Port-Bouët (sud-est d’Abidjan) les conséquences d’une montée du niveau de la mer. Une dizaine de personnes avaient perdu la vie, quand de familles étaient restées sans abris.

En juin dernier, à la suite de pluies diluviennes qui ont causé un éboulement de terrain, 19 personnes avaient été tuées à Yopougon (quartier populeux d’Abidjan).

A Issia (centre-ouest du pays) les variations saisonnières ont causé une sécheresse locale imprévue qui a anéanti de nombreux projets agricoles. «La presse locale a évoqué ces différents sujets, mais juste le temps d’une semaine. Cela n’est pas suffisant», soutient Karim Konaté, sans emploi.

«Nous pensons que les journaux opté pour la logique des élections. Ils font l’écho de la bataille des hommes pour le pouvoir plutôt que d’aborder des problèmes qui préoccupent les populations», indique à IPS, Francis Domo, responsable des journaux au Conseil national de la presse (CNP, organe de régulation).

Selon lui «ils n’ont pas besoin de dépêcher un journaliste sur place. Il y a des sources d’informations qu’ils peuvent exploiter en restant dans leurs rédactions ici et consacrer au moins un dossier aux faits et présenter les enjeux de ces négociations qui sont très importantes pour une bonne partie de la population».

Dans sa parution du jour, le quotidien indépendant L’Intelligent d’Abidjan a juste annoncé que le ministre ivoirien des Affaires Etrangères représentera le pays au sommet de Copenhague, sans donner plus de détails.

«Parce qu’il n’y a pas de journalistes spécialiste des questions environnementales. Si nous devons traiter de la question, il n’est pas certain que nous allions en profondeur pour satisfaire le public. Et puis actuellement l’actualité politique par rapport aux élections est très fournie, on fait donc le choix », explique à IPS, Stanislas Miézan, responsable de rédaction.


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Adaptation Funds Must Reach Africa’s Women Farmers

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

200811_SwaziInputTradeFairs_EditedBy Mantoe Phakathi

COPENHAGEN (IPS/Terraviva) – One of the key components of global action on climate change will be measures to adapt to changes that are already unavoidable. The Global Gender and Climate Alliance argues that specific attention be paid to the needs of women.

“With climate change taking away their source of livelihood because of the erratic weather patterns preventing them from farming, women must find another means of making a living,” said Rachel Harris, the media coordinator for GGCA.

Women make up a majority of smallholder farmers in Africa and in other developing countries. In contrast to the options open to many men, few women can respond to drought, for example, by relocating to cities or other rural areas in search of work. Women are often tied down by the need to care for children, or social obstacles to mobility; they are also frequently without even the smallest cash savings of their own or assets to sell to bridge hard times.

Rodney Cooke, the director of the Technical Advisory Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), admitted that previous funding mechanisms overlooked women farmers. 
“We’ve made mistakes before,” said Cooke. “Women make up 70 percent of smallholder farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but somehow funding targets were disproportionately directed towards men.”

Cooke’s employer, IFAD, is the U.N. agency charged with financially supporting rural livelihoods; the organisation was set up in response to a crisis of food security in the 1970s.
Cooke said there were no clear guidelines attached to previous funding on how women would benefit.

The alliance isn’t waiting for a deal to be reached to complain that gender blind funding is failing the women who may need it most. Instead they are initiating proposals that will ensure women are the agents of change, able to create and adopt new agricultural options and explore other entrepreneurial ventures as a way of adapting to climate change.

Constance Okelletti and Rachel Harris at the GGCA stand in Copenhagen. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

Constance Okelletti and Rachel Harris at the GGCA stand in Copenhagen. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

Constance Okeletti, a smallholder farmer from Uganda, said women have a lot of knowledge useful for adaptation because they work with the environment through their household duties: include fetching water, gathering firewood and fruits and farming.

“We’ve been trying to adapt since climate change started to affect us. With the money we can do more,” she said.

Okelleti observed that most development aid to African countries does not penetrate to the women at grassroots level because there are no specific provisions of how much of it should go to the poor.

“We don’t know whether it’s eaten by politicians or the workers in the cities,” said Okelleti, who is representing a network of 40 groups of small-scale farmers in Uganda.

“Women fail to hold those in authority to account because we don’t even know how much was meant for helping out women,” she continued.

“We expect the final text of the declaration to emphasise the percentage of the funds that are expected to assist women projects so that they adapt to climate change,” said Okelleti.

GGCA, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has come up with a women’s Green Business Initiative to promote women’s entrepreneurship opportunities in the sphere of climate change adaptation and mitigation to try and tap into the climate change funding.

“For example through the initiative a local women’s group in Rwanda uses a voluntary carbon credit grant to implement a bamboo project for income generation and environmental protections,” said Lucy Wanjiru UNDP’s gender and climate change and GGCA.

She said with funding from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Adaptation Fund, and new money coming from reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) schemes, women could be the ones accessing funds to start ecologically sustainable projects – be that planting trees or managing eco-tourism ventures – and earn a living.

“Agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to climate change,” said Cooke. “An extra two million people in sub-Saharan Africa are going to be affected by water shortages and the majority of these are women.”

If a deal reached at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change is to achieve its objectives, he said, it will have to incorporate a gendered perspetive.


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