The history and impacts of hydropower

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Water and power: Mega-dams, mega-damage?

 

‘Water grabbing’ refers to a situation in which public or private entities are able to take control of, or reallocate, precious water resources for profit or for power — and at the expense of local communities and the ecosystems on which their livelihoods are based.

The effects have been well-documented: examples include families driven away from their villages to make room for mega dams, privatization of water sources that fails to improve access for the public, and industrial activity that damages water quality.

This piece, taken from the atlas “Watergrabbing – a Story of Water”, part of a project funded by the European Journalism Centre, outlines the history and impacts of hydropower as well as planned mega dams in key locations across the globe.

Water for energy

The industries that drive the use of water in the energy sector are hydropower, electric energy production from fossil fuels, and nuclear power.

Water is being used by power plants indirectly, for cooling. An estimated 583 billion cubic meters of water is extracted for use in plants that produce energy from fossil fuel and natural gas — that’s 15 per cent of all water extracted. Some 66 billion cubic meters of this water does not return to the supply source. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2035 water extraction is projected to increase by 20 per cent and consumption (for energy) by 85 per cent, a trend driven by construction of new power plants that extract less water but consume more energy per unit of electricity produced.

Deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

 

Photo credit: CIFOR

Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

More than meets the eye

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PABLO PACHECO – http://blog.cifor.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Pablo-Pacheco.jpg

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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http://www.bioversityinternational.org/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_African_Leafy_Veg_seedlings_211a0a88e4.jpg

 

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

Social shifts, not just technological

 

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While scientific research is an important component of the development of an agricultural innovation system, it is not enough. – http://www.cimmyt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/brenda-wawa-tela_1.jpg

New Publications: Successful agricultural interventions require social shifts, not just technological

Traditionally, agricultural research organizations measured impact by the number of technologies developed, with less attention given to whether or not these technologies were adopted by farmers and the impact they had in communities.

Today organizations must clearly demonstrate impact in farmers’ fields. Research and extension approaches based on agricultural innovation systems, or networks of organizations within an economic system that are directly involved in the creation, diffusion and use of scientific and technological knowledge, as well as the organizations responsible for the coordination and support of these processes.

This shift represents a new focus on innovation as a social process, as opposed to a research-driven process of technology transfer.

Despite growing interest in agricultural innovation system, little is still known about the most effective ways to operationalize these systems, especially within short and medium timeframes, according to researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in a new paper “Agricultural research organisations’ role in the emergence of agricultural innovation systems.”

The study claims that external input is often needed to generate an agricultural innovation system, and that network brokers – actors like NGOs and others, who catalyze collective action by enhancing farmers’ access to information and technical assistance – play a crucial role.

Read the full article: CIMMYT

Possibilities to eliminate the issues relating to wastewater.

 

Photo credit: AZO Cleantech

Caution, no drinking water. Only 0.3 % of the water on the Earth�s surface is suited for use as drinking water. KIT scientists study possibilities of improving wastewater use. (Photo: KIT)

KIT Researchers Propose New Ways to Utilize Wastewater

Written by AZoCleantech

A team of researchers from the “Water-Energy Group” of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are studying possibilities to eliminate the issues relating to wastewater.

Wastewater is considered to be of no use. Washing water is said to an average temperature of 30 °C. Toilet water can be used not only for producing fertilizers or biogas but also as valuable resources that otherwise is dumped in the sewer system unused. What is worse is that annually, over 2 million people die from diarrheal diseases because of the wrong use of wastewater.

Although water covers around 72% of the Earth’s surface, only 0.3% can be utilized as drinking water.

Read the full article: AZO Cleantech

With that in mind, wastewater is no waste. It contains thermal energy, chemical energy in the form of carbon compounds, and valuable plant nutrients. Now, we have to develop processes for the use of these resources.

Helmut Lehn, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)

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