Category Archives: Water, Forest & Land Resources

Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

fire-drone
fire-drone

MEDIA ADVISORY


Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

28 June 2016 – A new study of the forest and peatland fires that burned across maritime Southeast Asia in 2015 has found that the carbon emissions were the largest since 1997, when an even stronger El Niño also resulted in extended drought and widespread burning.

Using a pioneering combination of regional satellite observations, on-the-ground measurements in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework, the study’s authors determined that the daily carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 were higher than those of the entire European Union (EU) over the same period.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was carried out by a team led by Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Martin J. Wooster of King’s College London and the NERC National Center for Earth Observation, and included Daniel Murdiyarso and David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Read about the study on Forests News here.  Access the full paper here.

In September and October 2015, dry conditions and the delayed onset of seasonal rains contributed to extensive landscape fires, with the resulting smoke strongly impacting air quality in the region and the health of millions of people.

This research team is the very first to have measured the ground-level smoke composition from active peatland burning in the region. They combined that data with satellite information to derive the first greenhouse gas emissions estimates of the 2015 fires, finding that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.

Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were calculated by combining those measurements with the newly determined emission factors of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane measured at fires burning in October 2015 outside of Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan province – one of the hardest-hit fire sites.

“There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said Wooster.

The results indicate that regional carbon dioxide emissions from landscape fires were 11.3 million tons per day in September and October 2015, exceeding the EU’s daily rate of 8.9 million tons. Further, 77% of the regional fire carbon emissions for the year occurred during that time – at the peak of the fires.

The scientists also compared their results to those of the 1997 El Niño-related fires in the region.

“In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” said CIFOR scientist David Gaveau.

The study’s results have wide implications for future research, whether it is in respect to studies of landscape burning or the impacts of fire emissions on climate and public health, and they contribute to better understanding the need for fire prevention and improved landscape management.

“What is important is the applicability of a study like this in helping policy makers to use more accurate fire emission factors to design policy and act to prevent further fires and greenhouse gas emissions,” CIFOR scientist Daniel Murdiyarso said.


For more information about this article, please contact:

Contacts:
Martin J. Wooster
King’s College London and NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
Email: martin.wooster@kcl.ac.uk

Daniel Murdiyarso
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia and Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bogor Agricultural University, Bogor, Indonesia
Email: d.murdiyarso@cgiar.org; Tel: +62-251-8622622 (Office)



Article Disclaimer: This article was published at CIFOR on 26th June 2016 and retrieved on 7th July 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and findings in the article remains those of the authors. Please cite the original source and INDESEEM appropriately.


 

The environment gets its day in court

When an oil palm company was taken to court for lighting fires, people took notice. Aulia Erlangga
When an oil palm company was taken to court for lighting fires, people took notice. Aulia Erlangga

Written by: . Posted on: March 14, 2016


The message was clear: Don’t think you can get away with it.

In 2012 Indonesian palm oil company PT Kallista Alam sent 1000 hectares of Sumatran peat forest up in flames so they could use the land for agriculture.

The fires in Aceh’s Tripa forest threatened wildlife and human health, and sent vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. They were also illegal.

Although the Acehnese provincial government had issued the company a permit, the area should have been covered by Indonesia’s national moratorium on new concessions. In addition, the Tripa forests are part of the Leuser ecosystem – a globally important biodiversity hotspot, and the last area worldwide where orang-utans, tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist in the wild.

Still, companies had done worse before with few consequences.

This time, it was different.

Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment sued Kallista Alam for the harms it had caused the environment, and in September last year, the country’s Supreme Courtupheld an earlier verdict ordering the company to pay Rp. 366 billion (US$ 27 million) in fines and compensation for the damage.

It was a precedent-setting ruling that caught the attention of researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Environmental Law Institute (ELI).

The decision was potentially a game-changer, adding natural resource liability to the portfolio of tools the Indonesian government can use to address deforestation.

How widely was this tool used across the tropics, the researchers wondered.

ON THE BOOKS

In a new paper, they explore the status of natural resource liability law and its implementation in Indonesia and in other countries that struggle with deforestation.

“Environmental liability law is well established in the United States and the EU for things like oil spills and hazardous waste accidents, but is it being used for the environmental harms that tropical countries confront, such as deforestation and wildlife trafficking?” asked lead author Carol Adaire Jones from ELI, based in Washington, D.C.

Jones and colleagues looked at Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico and the Philippines, and found that all but Nigeria had established a statutory right to bring cases for damage for resources in the public domain.

They were surprised to find that in two ways, the law makes it easier to sue for damage to the environment in the tropical countries than in the US and the EU.

Firstly, in the US and EU only the government has the authority to file suits. But in many of the tropical countries, civil society can also bring cases.

This provision can help move cases forward faster, says co-author John Pendergrass.

“It may not be a priority for government prosecutors, either because they’re overworked or because they’re corrupt. If civil society is allowed to bring the case, it can get around both of those issues,” he says.


“You have to be able to monitor and detect violations, identify who the responsible parties are, and document the injuries to the environment” Carol Adaire Jones


Secondly, in the US liability laws only apply to hazardous activities, such as oil spills and toxic discharges; to protected places like national parks; or to protected species, such as migratory birds and endangered wildlife.

In many of the study countries, however, the laws cover the loss of any resources in the public domain – from deforestation as in the Kallista Alam case, to wetland destruction, illegal logging, and mining pollution.

So the laws are on the books – but they’re not always implemented consistently, the authors say.

“We have to acknowledge there are issues with rule of law, sometimes due to civil war and insurgencies, other times due to corruption or weak institutions,” Jones says.

“Promoting rule of law is important, by establishing laws and regulations that are clear, strengthening institutions, and promoting accountability through transparency.”

“But it’s also a question of capacity, in terms of using data and science to successfully bring a case to court,” Jones says. “You have to be able to monitor and detect violations, identify who the responsible parties are, and document the injuries to the environment.”

LAW SCHOOL

Judges and prosecutors need environmental training, too – something that is already happening in Indonesia. The country’s Supreme Court has established a ‘Green Bench’, training and certifying judges to deal with environmental legislation.

Foresters and inspectors – the people on the ground – also need training, adds Pendergrass.

“This needs to be something that’s a regular part of what professional foresters cover,” he says.

“So they understand there’s the possibility to restore the damaged area, and how much that’s going to cost, and understand all the reasons why this is important, so that they can be the advocate for bringing the case to the court.”

And once that happens, courts also need to value the harms to the environment correctly.

Jones highlights a 2014 case in the DRC where two mining companies dumped toxic waste (including arsenic and cyanide) into a river. It killed fish, contaminated drinking water and destroyed agriculture along a 200 kilometre stretch – and the companies were fined only US$ 6000 in damages.

“It had tremendous impact on people’s livelihoods over an extended period – so obviously $6000 is not the right amount,” Jones says. “Calculating the value of harms could definitely be improved across the study countries.”

Where the money goes once it’s collected also matters, the authors say.

In the US and many other countries, fines are placed in a specialised fund used to restore the damage to the environment, but in two of the study countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, the money goes straight into the Treasury.

That means there’s a risk that in cases like Kallista Alam, the $US27 million paid by the company might not get spent on restoring the damaged ecosystem – a huge task involving not just planting, but reviving the watershed that keeps peat damp.

“If the money goes to the Treasury it can get spent on anything,” Pendergrass says.

“If it doesn’t go to restoration, then you may still have a deterrent effect, but it also looks a lot like a revenue-raising scheme for the government – and I would expect there could be backlash from the responsible parties.”

Ultimately, Jones says, the power to bring cases like these is just part of the set of tools governments can use to stop deforestation.  Good policy – the rules of the game – is a key starting point.

“But if people fail to abide by those rules, or the rules are implemented in a very inconsistent way, then you have to bring enforcement actions.

“And then liability can be a very powerful tool.”


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Forest News an initiative of CIFOR and was retrieved and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only.The views and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

 

 

Poisoned, Marginalised, Bankrupt and Dead


Written by: COLIN TODHUNTER


It is becoming increasingly apparent that food and agriculture across the world is in crisis. Food is becoming denutrified, unhealthy and poisoned with chemicals and diets are becoming less diverse. There is a loss of plant and insect diversity, which threatens food security, soils are being degraded, water tables polluted and depleted and smallholder farmers, so vital to global food production, are being squeezed off their land and out of farming. A minority of the global population has access to so much food than it can afford to waste much of it, while food poverty and inequality have become a fact of life for hundreds of millions.

This crisis stems from food and agriculture being wedded to power structures that serve the interests of the powerful agribusiness corporations in the Western countries, especially the US. Over the last 60 years or so, Washington’s plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world. And this plan has been geopolitical in nature: subjugating nations by getting them to rely more on US imports rather and grow less of their own food. What happened in Mexico under the banner of ‘free trade’ is outlined further on in this article.

Agriculture and food production and distribution have become globalised and tied to an international system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the international market, indebtedness to international financial institutions (IMF/World Bank) and the need for nations to boost foreign exchange (US dollar) reserves to repay debt (which neatly boosts demand for the dollar, the lynch pin of US global dominance). This has resulted in food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on (US) agricultural imports and strings-attached aid. Food deficits in the global South mirror food surpluses in the West.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes related to debt repayment, as occurred in Africa, bilateral trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the devastation of traditional, indigenous agriculture.

Integral to all of this has been the imposition of the green revolution. Farmers were encouraged to purchase seeds from corporations that were dependent on petrochemical fertilisers and pesticides to boost yields. They required loans to purchase these corporate inputs and governments borrowed to finance irrigation and dam building projects for what was a water-intensive model.

While the green revolution was sold to governments and farmers on the basis it would increase productivity and earnings and would be more efficient, we are now in a position to see that it served to incorporate nations and farmers into a system of international capitalism based on dependency, deregulated and manipulated commodity markets, unfair subsidies and inherent food insecurity.

As part of a wider ‘development’ plan for the global South, millions of farmers have been forced out of agriculture to become cheap factory labour (for outsourced units from the West) or, as is increasingly the case, unemployed or underemployed slum dwellers. And many of those who remain in agriculture find themselves being steadily squeezed out as farming becomes increasingly financially non-viable due to falling incomes, the impact cheap subsidised imports and policies deliberately designed to run down smallholder agriculture.

Aside from the geopolitical shift in favour of the Western nations resulting from the programmed destruction of traditional agriculture, the corporate-controlled, chemical-laden green revolution has adversely impacted the nature of food, soil, human health and the environment. Sold on the promise of increased yields, this has been overstated. And the often stated ‘humanitarian’ intent and outcome (‘millions of lives saved’) has had more to do with PR rather than the reality of cold commercial interest.

Moreover, if internationally farmers found themselves beholden to a US centric system of trade and agriculture, at home they were also having to cater to the needs of a distant and expanding urban population whose food needs were different to local rural-based communities. In addition to a focus on export oriented farming, crops were being grown for the urban market, regardless of farmers’ needs or the dietary requirements of local rural markets.

Impacts of the green revolution on the farm

In an open letter written in 2006 to policy makers in India, farmer and campaigner Bhaskar Save summarised some of the impacts of green revolution farming in India. He argued that the actual reason for pushing the green revolution was the much narrower goal of increasing marketable surplus of a few relatively less perishable cereals to fuel the urban-industrial expansion favoured by the government and a few industries at the expense of a more diverse and nutrient-sufficient agriculture, which rural folk – who make up the bulk of India’s population – had long benefited from.

Before, Indian farmers had been largely self-sufficient and even produced surpluses, though generally smaller quantities of many more items. These, particularly perishables, were tougher to supply urban markets. And so the nation’s farmers were steered to grow chemically cultivated monocultures of a few cash-crops like wheat, rice, or sugar, rather than their traditional polycultures that needed no purchased inputs.

Tall, indigenous varieties of grain provided more biomass, shaded the soil from the sun and protected against its erosion under heavy monsoon rains, but these very replaced with dwarf varieties, which led to more vigorous growth of weeds and were able to compete successfully with the new stunted crops for sunlight. As a result, the farmer had to spend more labour and money in weeding, or spraying herbicides. Moreover, straw growth with the dwarf grain crops fell and much less organic matter was locally available to recycle the fertility of the soil, leading to an artificial need for externally procured inputs. Inevitably, the farmers resorted to use more chemicals and soil degradation and erosion set in.

The exotic varieties, grown with chemical fertilisers, were more susceptible to ‘pests and diseases’, leading to yet more chemicals being poured. But the attacked insect species developed resistance and reproduced prolifically. Their predators – spiders, frogs, etc. – that fed on these insects and controlled their populations were exterminated. So were many beneficial species like the earthworms and bees.

Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, the soil is alive and porous and at least half of the rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers or groundwater tables. The living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs. Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

While the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages, and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

More than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. For example, one acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. Save argued this could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

The colonisation of Mexico by US agribusiness 

If Bhaskar Save helped open people’s eyes to what has happened on the farm and to ecology as a result of the green revolution, a2015 report by GRAIN provides a wider overview of how US agribusiness has hijacked an entire nation’s food and agriculture under the banner of ‘free trade’ to the detriment of the environment, health and farmers.

In 2012, Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health released the results of a national survey of food security and nutrition. Between 1988 and 2012, the proportion of overweight women between the ages of 20 and 49 increased from 25 to 35% and the number of obese women in this age group increased from 9 to 37%. Some 29% of Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 11 were found to be overweight, as were 35% of the youngsters between 11 and 19, while one in 10 school age children suffered from anaemia. The Mexican Diabetes Federation says that more than 7% of the Mexican population has diabetes. Diabetes is now the third most common cause of death in Mexico, directly or indirectly.

The various free trade agreements that Mexico has signed over the past two decades have had a profound impact on the country’s food system and people’s health. After his mission to Mexico in 2012, the then Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, concluded that the trade policies in place favour greater reliance on heavily processed and refined foods with a long shelf life rather than on the consumption of fresh and more perishable foods, particularly fruit and vegetables.

He added that the overweight and obesity emergency that Mexico is facing could have been avoided, or largely mitigated, if the health concerns linked to shifting diets had been integrated into the design of those policies.

The North America Free Trade Agreement led to the direct investment in food processing and a change in the retail structure (notably the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores) as well as the emergence of global agribusiness and transnational food companies in Mexico. The country has witnessed an explosive growth of chain supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores. Local small-scale vendors have been replaced by corporate retailers that offer the processed food companies greater opportunities for sales and profits. Oxxo (owned by Coca-cola subsidiary Femsa) tripled its stores to 3,500 between 1999 and 2004. It was scheduled to open its 14 thousandth store sometime during 2015.

De Schutter believes a programme that deals effectively with hunger and malnutrition has to focus on Mexico’s small farmers and peasants. They constitute a substantial percentage of the country’s poor and are the ones that can best supply both rural and urban populations with nutritious foods. Mexico could recover its self-sufficiency in food if there were to be official support for peasant agriculture backed with amounts comparable to the support granted to the big corporations.

In Mexico, the loss of food sovereignty has induced catastrophic changes in the nation’s diet and has had dire consequences for agricultural workers who lost their jobs and for the nation in general. Those who have benefited include US food and agribusiness interests, drugcartels and US banks and arms manufacturers.

The writing is on the wall for other countries because what happened in Mexico is being played out across the world under the banner of ‘free trade’.

GMOs a bogus techno quick-fix to further benefit global agribusiness

Transnational agribusiness has lobbied for, directed and profited from the very policies that have caused the agrarian/food crisis. And what we now see is these corporations (and their supporters) espousing cynical and fake concern for the plight of the poor and hungry (and the environment which they have done so much to degrade), and offering more (second or third generation… we have lost count) chemicals and corporate-patented GM wonder seeds to supposedly ‘solve’ the problem of world hunger. GM represents the final stranglehold of transnational agribusiness over the control of seeds and food.

The misrepresentation of the plight of the indigenous edible oils sector in India encapsulates the duplicity at work surrounding GM. After trade rules and cheap imports conspired to destroy farmers and the jobs of people involved in local food processing activities for the benefit of global agribusiness, including commodity trading and food processer companies ADM and Cargill, the same companies are now leading a campaign to force GM into India on the basis that Indian agriculture is unproductive and thus the country has to rely on imports. This conveniently ignores the fact that prior to neoliberal trade rules in the mid-1990s, India was almost self-sufficient in edible oils.

In collusion with the Gates Foundation, these corporate interests are now seeking to secure full spectrum dominance throughout much of Africa as well. Western seed, fertiliser and pesticide manufacturers and dealers and food processing companies are in the process of securing changes to legislation and are building up logistics and infrastructure to allow them to recast food and farming in their own images.

Today, governments continue to collude with big agribusiness corporations, which seek to eradicate the small farmer and subject countries to the vagaries of rigged global markets. Agritech corporations are being allowed to shape government policy by being granted a strategic role in trade negotiations and are increasingly framing the policy/knowledge agenda by funding and determining the nature of research carried out in public universities and institutes.

Bhaskar Save:

“This country has more than 150 agricultural universities. But every year, each churns out several hundred ‘educated’ unemployables, trained only in misguiding farmers and spreading ecological degradation. In all the six years a student spends for an M.Sc. in agriculture, the only goal is short-term – and narrowly perceived – ‘productivity’. For this, the farmer is urged to do and buy a hundred things. But not a thought is spared to what a farmer must never do so that the land remains unharmed for future generations and other creatures. It is time our people and government wake up to the realisation that this industry-driven way of farming – promoted by our institutions – is inherently criminal and suicidal!”

At the end of the above quote, Save is referring to the near 300,000 farmer suicides that have taken place in India over the past two decades due to economic distress resulting from debt, a shift to (GM)cash crops and economic ‘liberalisation’(see this report about a peer-reviewed study, which directly links suicides to GM cotton).

The current global system of chemical-industrial agriculture, World Trade Organisation rules and bilateral trade agreements that agritech companies helped draw up for their benefit are a major cause of structural hunger, poverty, illness and environmental destruction. By its very design, the system is parasitical.

Agroecology as a credible force for change

Across the world, we are seeing farmers and communities continuing to resist the corporate takeover of seeds, soils, water and food. And we are also witnessing inspiring stories about the successes of agroecology: a model of agriculture based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests.

Reflecting what Bhaskar Save achieved on his farm in Gujarat, the system combines sound ecological management, including minimising the use of toxic inputs, by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers’ livelihoods.

Agroecology is based on scientific research grounded in the natural sciences but marries this with farmer-generated knowledge and grass-root participation that challenges top-down approaches to research and policy making. It can also involve moving beyond the  dynamics of the farm itself to become part of a wider agenda, which addresses the broader political and economic issues that impact farmers and agriculture (see this description of the various modes of thought that underpin agroecolgy).

Last year the Oakland Institute released a report on 33 case studies which highlighted the success of agroecological agriculture across Africa in the face of climate change, hunger and poverty. The studies provide facts and figures on how agricultural transformation can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while ensuring climate justice and restoring soils and the environment. The research highlight the multiple benefits of agroecology, including affordable and sustainable ways to boost agricultural yields while increasing farmers’ incomes, food security and resilience.

The report described how agroecology uses a wide variety of techniques and practices, including plant diversification, intercropping, the application of mulch, manure or compost for soil fertility, the natural management of pests and diseases, agroforestry and the construction of water management structures. There are many other examples of successful agroecology and of farmers abandoning green revolution thought and practices to embrace it (see this report about El Salvador and this from South India).

Various official reports have argued that to feed the hungry and secure food security in low income regions we need to support small farms and diverse, sustainable agro-ecological methods of farming and strengthen local food economies (see this report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and this (IAASTD) peer-reviewed report).

Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food:

“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live especially in unfavorable environments.”

De Schutter’s report indicated that small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest. The report calls on states to implement a fundamental shift towards agroecology.

The success stories of agroecology indicate what can be achieved when development is placed firmly in the hands of farmers themselves. The expansion of agroecological practices can generate a rapid, fair and inclusive development that can be sustained for future generations. This model entails policies and activities that come from the bottom-up and which the state must invest in and facilitate.

Proponents of agroecology appreciate that a decentralised system of domestic food production with access to local rural markets supported by proper roads, storage and other infrastructure must take priority ahead of exploitative international markets dominated and designed to serve the needs of global capital. Small farms are per area more productive than large-scale industrial farms and create a more resilient, diverse food system. If policy makers were to prioritise this sector and promote agroecology to the extent ‘green revolution’ practices and technology have been pushed, many of the problems surrounding poverty, unemployment, rising population and urban migration could be solved.

While many argue in favour of agroecology and regard it as a strategy for radical social change, some are happier for it to bring certain benefits to farmers and local communities and see nothing wrong with it being integrated within a globalised system of capitalism that continues to centralise power and generally serve the interests of the global seed, food processing and retail players. And that is the danger: a model of agriculture with so much potential being incorporated into a corrupt system designed to suit the needs of these corporate interests.

But there is only so much that can be achieved at grass-root level by ordinary people, often facilitated by non-governmental agencies. As long as politicians at national and regional levels are co-opted by the US and its corporations, seeds will continue to be appropriated, lands taken, water diverted, legislation enacted, research institutes funded and policy devised to benefit global agribusiness.


Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.



Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Counter Punch and was retrieved on March 10, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views, comments and thoughts expressed in the article remains thoughts of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

Researcher examines biochar use in forests

Matthew Weaver/Capital PressRockford, Wash., farmer David Gady holds biochar made from bluegrass screenings January 2014 on his farm. Researchers are looking at the use of biochar in forests.
Matthew Weaver/Capital PressRockford, Wash., farmer David Gady holds biochar made from bluegrass screenings January 2014 on his farm. Researchers are looking at the use of biochar in forests.

Reported by: Matthew Weaver


Research is underway that could lead to more uses for waste wood, a U.S. Forest Service researcher says.

Instead of thinning stands to boost productivity and burning the resulting slashpiles, researchers believe turning it into biochar — a supplement made of charred biological matter — would be better for long-term carbon storage and boosting soil’s nutrient- and moisture-holding capacities.

“We’re hoping we can make a change in forest management,” said Deborah Page-Dumroese, research soil scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho. “Instead of making slashpiles, we can actually use that waste wood for a benefit.”

Textured soils with little organic matter content responded better than soils with higher organic content. Agricultural soils typically show better response to biochar because they’re lower in organic matter, Page-Dumroese said.

Biochar is applied differently on forest soils. It is added to the surface instead of being incorporated into farm land. It takes several years for biochar to move into forest soils.

As more areas experience drought, an increase in water-holding capacity extends the growing season, Page-Dumroese said. Organic matter also acts as a sponge during flooding, retaining more moisture.

Page-Dumroese plans to continue her research. The biggest benefit of biochar is carbon sequestration, she said.

Researchers primarily focus on matching biochar to the proper site. Some forest sites do show an increase in the growth of overstory trees.

“We see small changes, but we still see above-ground growth changes,” Page-Dumroese said.

The sites most likely to require biochar include mine land sites, overgrazed areas and highly compacted forest sites with organic matter removed due to fire.

Page-Dumroese said some mine sites are showing an increase in plant survival.

She uses a mixed conifer feedstock or a mix of pinyon pine and juniper for biochar.

Page-Dumroese said roughly 30 percent of materials used to make biochar on an acre should be returned to that particular acre, but the rest could be sold for use on gardens or farms. She advised potential customers to consider the source of the biochar and its pH levels.

Howard Boyte, CEO of Walking Point Farms, a veteran-owned agritech business in Tigard, Ore., said the forest service approached him several years about commercializing biochar. The company plans to market a commercial product.

Page-Dumroese’s lab is the lead on researching the project with Oregon State University, Boyte said.

Biochar is expensive right now, Boyte said. The government would need to require biochar use for food it purchases for prisons, military and USDA food programs for it to gain traction with farmers, he said.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Capital Press and was retrieved on March 9, 2016 and posted here for educational and information purposes only. The views, findings and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

 

Indonesia developing mega coal mine five times larger than Singapore

Indonesian coal mining firm PT Adaro has partnered with Australian group BHP Billiton to develop a mining complex that would produce about 1.27 billion tonnes of coal resources. Image: Adaro
Indonesian coal mining firm PT Adaro has partnered with Australian group BHP Billiton to develop a mining complex that would produce about 1.27 billion tonnes of coal resources. Image: Adaro

Global miner BHP Billiton and Indonesian partner PT Adaro are developing what could become the single largest mine in Indonesia in terms of land area, with BHP owning 75 per cent.

The IndoMet mine complex in Central and East Kalimantan provinces on Borneo comprises seven coal concessions, which cover 350,000 hectares, or about five times the size of Singapore.

In total, the area has an estimated 1.27 billion metric tonnes of coal resources, according to Adaro, mainly coking coal used to make steel.

In detailed responses to questions, BHP says it is making progress on developing the first mine in the complex, called Haju. Infrastructure development is underway, including road works and a port along the Barito River. Haju is planned to produce one million metric tonnes of coal per year.

Haju mine itself will cover 660 hectares and initial production is expected in 2015, BHP says.


IndoMet mine complex in Central and East Kalimantan provinces on Borneo comprises seven coal concessions, which cover 350,000 hectares, or about five times the size of Singapore


 

The company says the current area covered by the seven concessions will be reduced over time and returned to the government, in line with regulations that mandate 50 per cent of the exploration area be returned within a set timeframe. That means the mandated maximum holding of the total area of the seven concessions is expected to be no more than about 175,000 hectares, BHP says.

Conservation groups, such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (or Walhi) fear the project will cause widespread deforestation in an area of the province that still has large areas of rainforest.

“It is expected that only a fraction of this area will be actively mined at any given time, about 5,000 hectares. Additionally, there are other restrictions on how much of this can be used, for example under forestry laws,” BHP said.

“The total area required for the Haju Mine is 660 hectares, all of which is overlapped by logging concessions. Not all of this will need to be cleared. Where possible the Haju Mine project will make use of existing logging roads, with only 7.5 kilometers (5 miles) of new road required outside the mine area to join an existing road network,” BHP said.

According to the company, an environmental and social impact assessment was approved in 2006. In addition, biodiversity and water management plans have been implemented for the Haju project. Regular monitoring of air and water quality, noise, river sediment, aquatic life, terrestrial fauna and flora in the Haju area will be carried out, the company says, along with extensive engagement with local communities.

BHP says it is supporting conservation initiatives, starting with a two-year project with Fauna and Flora International. Part of this project includes funding for an orangutan reintroduction program managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). This program helps orangutans that have been displaced from their habitat in other parts of Central Kalimantan.

The company says it funded the construction of a quarantine facility for up to 50 orangutans at the BOSF Nyaru Menteng Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Central Kalimantan and has been involved in the safe release of more than 260 orangutans into the wild.

The mine is hundreds of kilometers from the coast and will rely on barges to transport the coal to a port for loading onto ships. This is costly and river transport is available for about nine months of the year because of fluctuating water levels.

A $2.3 billion coal railway to the coast is being considered by the central and provincial governments, but it is unclear if BHP and Adaro would be customers.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Eco-Business on retrieved on March 9, 2016 and shared here for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents and materials used in this article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

Uganda: Harvesting water to build community resilience in Karamoja

 


By Lydia Wamala; 10 Jul 2015 Source(s):World Food Programme (WFP)


Nayese Village, Karamoja – As Regina Nakwang, Veronica Locham, Lina Sagal and Cecilia Kapel look down at the completed sand dam, their pride is clear to see.

“For now it may look like just a wall and dormant water, but come back in the dry season and you will see,” Regina said with a knowing smile. “It will just be a wall and sand, which is currently accumulating under the water. The water will have disappeared into the sand, which is able to retain it for months through the dry season for us and our animals.”

The families in the community are very happy to see that a new source of water has been created for their animals, which are a major source of livelihood. Some 138 households, nearly 700 people, worked together to construct the dam and will benefit from it.

“The water has been flowing away each rainy season, leaving behind a dry environment for months,” explained Lina. “But now we will be able to stop and store the water and then dig it out when we need it in the dry season.”

Requesting a dam

Veronica and Cecilia explained that the community harvested water in the past and knew the retention potential of the Nayese area. So, when WFP asked what type of community assets it could help them build, they requested a traditional dam. Knowing that traditional dams did not typically hold water beyond two months after the rainy season, WFP suggested an innovation which the community had never heard of, a sand dam. The community agreed.

“On our own we could not do it. We did not have the skills or knowledge to build such advanced infrastructure; neither did we have the means to buy the cement and tools,” said Cecilia.

Karamoja, Uganda’s only semi-arid region, suffers from inter-connected challenges ranging from chronic food shortages, acute and chronic malnutrition and poor access to social services. Frequent droughts and erratic rains, caused by the impact of climate change, have resulted in the inability of soil to retain water.

Building resilience

The Nayese sand dam is one of many water harvesting and catchment projects that WFP is supporting amongst communities in four districts of Karamoja to help build their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Sustainability is embedded into projects because the communities themselves help identify the problems to be tackled and develop a sense of ownership as they work to implement them. The involvement of local leaders also ensures the projects complement the district development plans.

WFP targets moderately food insecure households that have at least one member who is able to work. WFP provides food or cash support to every household whose members voluntarily participate in building the community assets. The food enables the households to overcome hunger in the short run, during the lean season. Extremely food insecure households – those headed by children or elderly and chronically ill persons – meanwhile benefit from unconditional food assistance.

Before the sand dam is put to use, the women’s community has started to plant vegetables, taking advantage of the increased moisture of the surrounding ground. The women are already scooping the fringes of dam, testing and proving that the new technology will provide even clean water, which they can boil and use at home. There is a plan to build a cattle trough nearby, which will be used to feed animals.

Importance of animals

Gilbert Buzu, who heads WFP’s programme in Kotido district says, “Animals are very important in Karamoja as not only do they provide income but milk and blood that boosts children’s nutrition. But, the locals have been taking their animals to far away land to find water in the rainy season. WFP’s water harvesting technologies are helping to keep the animals closer to home.”

Gilbert says the sand dam technology has worked elsewhere in other dry areas in Karamoja and in Kenya and will work in Nayese and at other new sites planned this year. He says while communities traditionally drew water from sand in the seasonal river beds after the rain is gone, the WFP-sponsored sand dams guarantee higher volumes of sand, water and a way out of vulnerability.

Additional information

http://www.wfp.org/stories/harvesting-water-build-community-…

Keywords

  • Themes:Climate Change, Community-based DRR, Economics of DRR, Food Security & Agriculture, Water
  • Hazards:Drought
  • Countries/Regions:Uganda
  • Short URL:http://preventionweb.net/go/45100

This article was published online by the World Food Programme (WFP) and retrieved on 09/15/2015 and posted here for information and educational purposes only.


 

Can role-playing support better water management in Nepal?

Photo credit: Tom van Cakenberghe

Role-playing games have moved into water management in Nepal’s Koshi River basin, northeast of Kathmandu. A new report demonstrates how this type of game can help water experts understand some of the complexities of water management and test different policies.

The game focused on the interactions between water storage, male migration and changing social relations in several rural villages in the Koshi River basin. The villages in this part of the country are highly vulnerable to climate change and are experiencing increases in drought during both the wet and dry seasons. According to the report, water storage could help lessen the impacts on food production and livelihoods. But this type of intervention first requires an evaluation of the complex and rapidly changing social structure of each site.

For example, out-migration of labor is a growing trend in Nepal, and this is having a significant impact on households and village life because it tends to decrease the pool of resources and skills available in the community. While it is sometimes seen as an ‘adaptive strategy’ to poverty – migrating family members often send home remittances – it can also leave those remaining on the homestead struggling to balance more responsibilities. This in turn can affect the success of efforts to improve water storage: with less labor to construct storage infrastructure and fewer people involved in community decision making, interventions of this kind can easily run into pitfalls.

It is important for decision makers to be aware of unexpected impacts and respond to them in a well-informed manner The game highlighted in the report was played by a mix of technical and policy experts as part of a final meeting between the Nepal Department of Irrigation and other government stakeholders, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the University of British Colombia as the closing workshop for the project Preparing for an uncertain water future in Nepal through sustainable storage development.

The players were provided key information about the area, policy options and budget allocations. The teams entered their policy decisions into the game at each turn, which simulated 10 years. A spokesperson from each team explained the reasoning behind their policy choice, and at the end of the game, the impacts of these policies on average household income and village population were revealed to all of the participants, who then voted to decide the winning team.

Photo credit: Jim Holmes-IWMI

The winners focused on equitable policies that helped ‘smooth the transition’ for households with migrating family members when faced with limited local opportunities while also supporting those who stayed. According to the report, migration is not necessarily a bad, nor a modern phenomenon. It is part of economic development, and better policies can ensure more ‘wins’ across the board.

The authors of the report believe that role-playing games can help. By playing out different scenarios, water experts can get a better idea of how communities will respond to policy changes. This can help raise awareness of challenges and opportunities and support better communication across sectors.

“It is important for decision makers to be aware of unexpected impacts and respond to them in a well-informed manner,” said Fraser Sugden, IWMI. “They can use the lessons they learn in the games and apply them to the real world.”


Fraser Sugden is a Researcher – Social Science at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Kathmandu, Nepal.

This work has been undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).