Deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

 

Photo credit: CIFOR

Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

More than meets the eye

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Amazon – Recently, I came across a much publicized article in The New York Times about the impact of two of the world’s biggest grain traders, Cargill and Bunge, on deforestation trends in the agricultural frontiers of Brazil and Bolivia. Since we have entered an era of private commitments to deforestation-free supply chains, this article shows that there is still a way to go for some companies to improve their performance.

Deforestation estimates in 2016 from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) indicate a resurgence of deforestation in the Amazon, and deforestation hotspots identified by the Word Resources Institute suggest increasing pressure on the savanna forests in the Cerrado region, a biodiversity-rich ecosystem. Additionally, while there are no official deforestation estimates in lowlands Bolivia, it has remained at high levels, according to Terra-I. This suggests a need to examine the culprits.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees

The article mentioned above discusses a new report by the environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth that identifies deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia linked to Cargill and Bunge. Drawing on satellite imagery and supply-chain mapping information processed by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the article makes the case that new large-scale forest-clearing by Bolivian and Brazilian farmers for soybean production is associated with the demand from these two American-based food giants.

It is interesting to note that companies like Cargill and Bunge still buy soybeans originating from forestlands converted to agriculture and fail to implement due diligence procedures to verify their origin. In some cases, these purchases directly trigger soybean expansion across Brazil and Bolivia’s frontiers. Cargill and Bunge have argued, in their defense, that their role is minor, and that deforestation is a complex issue that requires all major buyers — not just them — to get involved.

While it is useful that environmental groups like Mighty Earth track how company supply chains are ‘contaminated’ by ‘dirty supply’, it would be more helpful if they could place these trends within a wider context. This would foster more practical and durable solutions, because even if these two soybean traders stopped buying soybeans from the Matopiba region in Brazil and the eastern lowlands in Bolivia, it is likely that deforestation would continue to expand in both of these regions.

Read the full article: CIFOR

The burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shifting from rural areas to cities

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Food and nutrition are moving to the city

For too long, we have traded off calories for nutrition in our quest to end world hunger. While the numbers of people with caloric deficits is falling, the number with micronutrient deficiencies is stubbornly high – an estimated 2 billion people – and the number suffering from over-nutrition is rising distressingly fast.

The impact of these nutrition challenges on people’s quality of life and their productivity is devastating, and the impact on public sector budgets will continue to increase unless we find a way to achieve food security and improve nutrition. Sustainable Development Goal 2 — End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture — requires no less. That will be challenging enough.

In addition, for too long, most efforts by the agricultural development community to reduce hunger have only focused on rural areas. But already 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas and by 2050, more than two-thirds of those people are going to be in cities. This poses a new set of challenges.

The Global Food Policy Report 2017, published today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), one of our CGIAR research partners, makes that clear.

James Garrett, Bioversity International Senior Research Fellow who contributed to the book, explains that one in three stunted children now lives in a city. That proportion is likely to increase. In addition, overweight and obesity are also concentrated in urban areas. As the report notes, the burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shifting from rural areas to cities, and so we need to ensure that our efforts now and in the future respond to this new reality.

Read the full article: Bioversity International

Cattle grazing on pastures that were on an ecological knife edge and desertification.

 

Photo credit: International Business Times

The Sahara desert was lush and green 10,000 years ago. Within a few thousand years it became barren. Humans are now thought to have pushed it over the edge – Wonker / Flickr

Did humans turn the Sahara from a lush, green landscape into a desert?

Cattle grazing on pastures that were on an ecological knife edge could have pushed the Sahara onto the path of desertification.

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The Sahara used to be a fertile landscape with lush vegetation thousands of years ago, but something killed that landscape, leaving only desert behind. Neolithic humans may have played a role in pushing it over the edge of an ecological tipping point, an archaeological study finds.

The Sahara used to be a lush, green environment as little as 6,000 years ago, when humans grazed cattle on green pastures. Theories for what turned the Sahara into a desert in a period of just a few thousand years include shifting circulation in the tropical atmosphereand changes in the Earth’s tilt.

Archaeological evidence now suggests that Neolithic humans who grazed cattle on the Saharan pastures played a role as well. These pastoral communities pushed the delicate ecosystem past a tipping point that led to widespread desertification, according to a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science.

Study author David Wright of Seoul National University, South Korea, mapped the spread of scrub vegetation, which is a precursor to full desertification, and evidence of Neolithic cattle grazing. As more and more vegetation was removed from the land, the albedo – or amount of light reflected from the ground – increased, changing the atmospheric conditions over the Sahara. This in turn made monsoon rains less frequent.

About 8,000 years ago, cattle-grazing communities originated near the River Nile and began gradually to spread to the west of the continent. Rather than the spread of the communities happening in response to desertification and loss of vegetation, the humans could have been actively driving the desertification, Wright suggests.

Read the full story: International Business Times

Innovative technologies for young agricultural entrepreneurs

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Turning the youth into agricultural entrepreneurs

Equipping the youth with innovative technologies could expand their business opportunities in agricultural value chain and turn many into entrepreneurs in Southern Africa.

This was one of the major impressions I got from Canadian Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) entrepreneurship and innovation training last month (21-24 February) in Lilongwe, Malawi, where I also learnt that youth in agriculture face limited access to natural and financial resources, inadequate opportunities for upward mobility skills and experience to run successful business.

This necessitated call of interest from youths on fish value chain to generate and test novel, creative and bold models that increase the participation of youth in fish industry in Malawi and Zambia and maize post-harvest agribusiness sector in Zimbabwe.

YAAD is of the view that the presence of the food science department within the campus will help them raise the bar in terms of standards, nutrient identification but also quality before marketing.

Priscilla Nsandu, YAAD

I gathered from the meeting that the review process was initially developed around five core evaluation criterion: product understanding, strategies for capturing the market, business vision, management and financial discipline.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

A part of the international response to prevent another famine in Somalia

 

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Women milking goats on the outskirts of the village of Qardho, Somalia. Photo: FAO/Karel Prinsloo

UN approves $22 million loan to boost agricultural work to prevent famine in Somalia

The United Nations agricultural agency will be further scaling up its activities in drought-hit regions of Somalia thanks to a $22 million loan approved this week by the UN emergency response fund.

“More than 2.9 million people are at risk of famine and many will predictably die from hunger if we do not act now,” said the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, in a news release.

As under-secretary-general, Mr. O’Brien heads the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which manages the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

“CERF is one of the fastest ways to enable urgent response to people most in need,” he said, explaining that the loan will bridge a crucial gap and allow FAO to immediately save lives and livelihoods of farmers and herders until additional funds from donors are received.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Wastewater, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater as well as energy and agriculture.

 

Photo credit: UN News Centre

A wastewater treatment facility in Manila, the Philippines. Photo: Danilo Pinzon / World Bank

Wastewater should be recognized as a valuable resource, UN says on World Water Day

In a world where the demand for water continues to grow and the resource is finite, a new United Nations report argues that wastewater, discarded into the environment every day, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater as well as for raw materials for energy and agriculture.

Needless to mention, treating wastewater and removing pollutants can also remarkably reduce the impact on the environment as well as on health.

“Improved wastewater management is as much about reducing pollution at the source, as removing contaminants from wastewater flows, reusing reclaimed water and recovering useful by-products [as it is about increasing] social acceptance of the use of wastewater,” noted Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General in her foreword to the World Water Development Report 2017 – Wastewater: An untapped resource.

The report, launched today in Durban, South Africa, on the occasion of World Water Day, also highlights that improved management of wastewater is essential in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It’s all about carefully managing and recycling the water that runs through our homes, factories, farms and cities,” said Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Chair of UN-Water, urging for reducing and safely reusing more wastewater.

“Everyone can do their bit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase safe water reuse by 2030.”

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) has specific targets on halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally (target 6.3) as well as supporting countries in wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies (target 6.a).

Read the full article: UN News Centre

600 millions of children lack access to safe water

 

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Photo: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

‘Nothing can grow without water,’ warns UNICEF, as 600 million children could face extreme shortages

Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scare water by 2040, the United Nations children’s agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children.

In its report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explores the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.

“This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a news release announcing the report, launched on World Water Day.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures,” he added.

According to the UN agency, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress.

Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems. These combined with increasing populations, higher demand of water primarily due to industrialization and urbanization are draining water resources worldwide. On top of these, conflicts in many parts of the world are also threatening access to safe water.

Read the full article: UN News Centre