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Who Is Addressing Sustainable Agriculture?

Q. What about agriculture? Current conventional practices often lead to land degradation and massive deforestation. What is happening to address non-sustainable agriculture on a global scale?

A.   The environmental pressures from global agriculture are indeed enormous.

The demand for food is rising, in large part because of population growth and rising incomes that give millions of once-low income people the means to eat richer diets. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down huge chunks of the Amazon rain forest.

Efforts are being made to tackle the problems, and a slew of announcements are coming this week at the Paris climate conference.

The biggest success has arguably been in Brazil, which adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.

Last year, scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.

Many forest experts at the Paris conference see the pledge as ambitious, but possible. And they say it is crucial that consumers keep up the pressure on companies from whom they buy products, from soap to ice cream.

Source: nytimes


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Who is using all the water in South Africa?

While Gauteng has briefly enjoyed some much needed rainfall (and hail), the water crisis in the country is expected to continue into 2016.

South Africa has experienced little to no rainfall since the beginning of the year, and as a result, drought conditions are being experienced across the country.

To date, five provinces are severely affected by the drought and have been declared disaster areas, with KwaZulu Natal the worst affected. Other provinces include Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA), South Africa experienced its worst drought in 1983 with the national average dam level at 34.0%.

“Currently our national average dam level is sitting at 63.3%. This means that our regional water supply dams and schemes remain water secure sitting with positive water balance,” it said.

South Africa receives an annual rainfall of 492 millimetres, close to half of the global average of 985 millimetres. It is therefore classified as a water-stressed nation.

To compound matters, the country’s water distribution is split between east and west – 43% of South Africa’s total rainfall occurs on only 13% of the land according to the DWA.

The DWA forecast in the mid-2000s that water demand would outstrip supply in Gauteng by 2013 – and the rest of the country by 2025 – but little has been done by industry and individuals to curb water wastage.

Water-levels-in-South-Africa

Water levels in South Africa 2015

Who’s using all the water

There are six major water use sectors, namely, irrigation, urban use, rural use, mining and bulk industrial, power generation, and afforestation.

Studies done by the department show that the vast majority of water in South Africa is used in agriculture, with over 60% of all available water going into the sector for irrigation.

As much as 30% of water in SA is for urban and rural use (including domestic use), while the rest is split among industrial, power generation and afforestation uses.

Sector %
Irrigation 59.0%
Urban use 25.1%
Mining and Bulk Industrial use 5.7%
Rural use 4.3%
Afforestation 3.7%
Power Generation 2.2%

About 12% of all water is used for domestic (home) use, in the country.

Urbanisation is a major problem – putting pressure on water systems, while  growing cities leads to deforestation and an increase of pollution, which ruins water quality, too.

While the profiles for rural and urban home use of water are very different, flushing toilets is the biggest water user in both areas.

Domestic Use Rural Urban
Toilets 73% 37%
Bath and Shower 19% 32%
Washing Machine N/A 17%
Other (Cooking, Cleaning, Washing Dishes, Drinking, etc) 8% 14%

Looking at homes with gardens, up to 46% of all water is used up taking care of it.

Homes with Gardens %
Gardening 46%
Other (See above) 54%

Source: businesstech


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Five Priorities for Greener Travel Industry – Report

Progress in reducing carbon intensity in the travel and tourism industry can be attributed to several actions, according to a new report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

“Our report notes that the impacts of climate change are already beginning to be experienced with lower crop yields and more intense storms and heat waves.

The overall warming across the past three decades has been concentrated in oceans, leading to expansion that is eroding coastlines and increasing sea levels. It is also leading to acidification, which threatens marine life,” David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC, told Fin24.

“The confluence of these factors may result in serious socio-economic ripple effects, which will bring challenges to food supply, health problems, displacement of people, increased poverty and geopolitical conflicts related to energy and natural resources.”

The latest report shows that many large role players in the industry have already improved their carbon efficiency by 20% in the last ten years and are on course to reach the target of a 25% reduction by 2020.

According to the report the global travel and tourism industry has made strong progress with accountability and responsibility, for instance, particularly in admitting to the challenge of tackling climate change and setting out plans to address and measure it.

WTTC members also demonstrated community engagement, charitable contributions, disaster relief or conservation efforts – deforestation in particular – while others focus on preserving coral reefs, hosting bee colonies on rooftops, managing waste, or ensuring sustainable sourcing.

The report, which comes in the run up to the COP21 climate change talks in Paris at the end of this year, also found that most travel and tourism companies now have branded sustainability programmes, often including customer engagement programmes. Most WTTC member companies have achieved green certification of some type.

Greening supply chains is another aspect WTTC members focus on, developing practical tools to help procurement from local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of this.

“While the sector has grown, added more jobs and contributed billions of dollars to economies all over the world, we have seen real commitment to sustainability from business as companies innovate and collaborate with others to reduce their overall impacts.”

In his view the next 20 years will be characterised by the industry fully integrating climate change and related issues into its business strategy, supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy, strengthening resilience at a local level against climate risks, promoting the value of responsible travel, and greening entire supply chains.

“To reach these long term goals, much still needs to be done across travel and tourism and other sectors, but we now have a common understanding and are ever-closer to agreement on the global actions necessary,” said Scowsill.

The WTTC report outlines five priority areas for the travel and tourism industry to support the overall target of halving emissions by 2035.

The first is to integrate climate change and related issues into business strategy. This can be done by disclosing climate change issues in mainstream financial reporting, utilising recognised frameworks and collaborating to harmonise the approach for disclosure within the industry.

Secondly, the leading practice of establishing an internal price of carbon, focusing on renewables for new investments, seeking low carbon financing mechanisms, contributing to local economies with carbon mitigation and catalysing the economies of scale to create a virtuous circle, must be followed.

The value that local natural and cultural heritage has for travel and tourism and forging partnerships to build resilience against climate risks, is the fourth priority area stipulated in the report.

Fourthly, travellers must be provided with the tools to be responsible travellers and be offered new experiences tied directly to low carbon solutions.

Last, there must be engagement across the value chain by focussing efforts on the biggest opportunities to reduce carbon emissions through mechanisms such as supplier screening and local procurement.

“Travel and tourism is in a unique position to build consumer awareness of the world’s key supply chain threats by engaging travellers to link the destinations they visit with the issues back home in their own purchasing decisions as consumers and professionals,” the report states.

Source: allafrica


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Tanzania’s unique park where tourists overflow over well conserved glaciers

For a tourist climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, some of the breathtaking tourism attractions feature is the permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.

Strange as it may sound, some tourists and researchers walking to the roof of Africa would like to know why the white capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is just 300km from the equator, yet glaciers exist! Explains Chief Park Warden for Kilimanjaro National Park, Erastus Lufungulo.
He said under normal circumstances its location near the equator and permanent snow cover throughout the year is a wonder to many tourists because one does not expect to find glaciers on the Mountain which is just 300km from the equator where   temperature is usually hot.
As a result he said there have been a big number of tourists traveling all the way from Europe, America and Africa just to see and enjoy the glaciers.
Despite this uniqueness and the role the glaciers play to attract tourists, yet increased human activities at village, district, regional, national and international level have severely affected the glaciers causing it to shrink.
The mountain forest has been subjected to logging of indigenous trees for construction purposes, charcoal, fires, mushrooming of squatters and unsustainable agriculture which has partly contributed to the receding of the glaciers.
“Unlike the past, currently, Kilimanjaro is very populated. For example, Moshi District population density stands at 240 per square km, which means there is very high demand for land,” he said.
“Warmer global temperatures, increased industrial activities and green houses effect have also partly contributed to climate change which in turn is causing the shrinking of the mountain glaciers.
According to the Chief Park Warden, glaciers depended very on the natural and conserved surrounding environment. In the past, the air moisture from the Ocean would move horizontally through the mountain forest towards the peak of the mountain.
This caused regular rains and snow that would accumulate on the mountain peaks, keeping the glaciers in its natural form.
Moshi, Marangu
Chairman of Kisangesangeni village, Kahe ward, Moshi District, Gerald Mlay and a villager Joyce Mushi together with residents of Marangu Arisi village near the mountain, explained that in the past the mountain forest was intact.
They said Marangu would be filled with snow and at times they would use sharp objects to rub out the snow spread on the house walls.
“It was too cold here, snow everywhere covered the thick forest, but we started experiencing drought some 20 years ago due to increased deforestation.
Currently the rains are unpredictable and in order to increase food production, one has to dig borehole for irrigation during absence of rains which is very expensive,” said Mlay .
Research findings
According to Lufungulo, a research conducted by the Department of Geosciences of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the United States of America has revealed shrinking of the glaciers.
He explained that the research findings showed that Kilimanjaro glaciers began shrinking towards the end of the 19th century-prior to the first ascent in 1889 from what was likely their greatest extent of the Holocene epoch.
He said that according to the research, the total ice covered area dropped nearly 90 percent from approximately 20km2 to 2.5km2 in 2000 over the next nine years the glacier area shrank by another 30 percent.
Satellite imagery reveals the best estimate of ice area in June 2011 to be 1.76 km2. Glacier shrinkage will almost certainly continue, and Kilimanjaro could be without glaciers within several decades.” concludes the research findings.
Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)
Commenting on the shrinking of the glaciers, Professor Clavery Tungaraza from the faculty of Science at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) who has conducted a research on the shrinking of the glaciers said that the shrinking of the glaciers is to a large extent contributed by global warming.
Warmer global temperatures, air and wind that pass through the top of the Mountain from other parts of the world have also played a big part.” he said.
Prof Tungaraza said it is a responsibility of everybody, institution, and every country to play its part in the restoration of the Mountain Glaciers.
Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG)
The Executive Director for Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) Charles Meshark said climate change is definitely responsible for the loss of glacier ice mass on Kilimanjaro.
 “I believe deforestation and forest degradation at the foot of the mountain is a contributing factor to slow disappearance of glaciers of Kilimanjaro Mountain. The drivers of deforestation include harvesting timber, wildfires and livestock grazing in different areas, with total impunity,” he noted.
He said that changes in the local vegetation around Kilimanjaro, which has lost much of it’s forests, may have affected the cloudiness and amount of snow that falls on the mountain. However, scientists believe that warmer global temperatures have had a bigger impact on the rate at which its glaciers are melting.
Whatever the reasons, if Kilimanjaro is to lose its snowy top, the repercussions would be extremely serious. Kilimanjaro glaciers are essential to the survival of the local villages. They supply drinking water, water to irrigate their crops and produce hydroelectric power; never mind the blow the loss of the snow-cap would affect tourism, he said.
For his part, Former Director of Forestry and Beekeeping division of the Ministry of Natural Resource and Tourism Dr Felician Kilahama said that the shrinking of the glaciers is due to global warming, which is a result of negative impacts of climate change.
Dr Kilahama said experiences show that temperatures globally have been on the rise because the atmosphere is filled with undesirable gases of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a result of increased refrigeration, air conditioning, and similar applications.
The greatest contributor of global warming is carbon dioxide generated from industrial production using fossil fuels, increased transportation activities also heavily relying on fossil fuels.
In Africa and other developing countries climate change reports indicate that most of the carbon dioxide is due to unsustainable use of natural forests.
Deforestation and forest degradation due to various human activities cause carbon dioxide emissions globally estimated to be about 23 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions.
Besides USA and other developed countries, countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa are nowadays noted to contribute significantly to carbon dioxide  emissions; adding additional threats to global warming.
He suggested that there is a need to seriously regulate and stop deforestation throughout the country saying this will happen only if there shall be a strong political will.
He also said that there is a need to expand conservation efforts and the global political leaders must agree to significantly reduce Carbon dioxide emissions.
Why concerted efforts are needed to conserve the Mountain
According to the Chief Park Warden, apart from glaciers that attract tourists, Mount Kilimanjaro provides direct and indirect socio-economic and cultural values to the surrounding communities, Tanzanians, neighbouring countries like Kenya, Africa and the world at large.
Tourism attraction
The Park is endowed with diverse varieties of attractions ranging from terrestrial wilderness to permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.
The chief park warden said that there are three peaks namely Kibo, the highest peak (5,895m), which is covered by snow throughout the year, Mawenzi (5,149m) and Shira (3,962).
Being the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro attracts visitors from all over the world said Chief Park Warden.
The number of tourists hiking Mount Kilimanjaro has been increasing in recent years although in 2013/14 the number decreased.
For example, he said that in 2009/10, the number of non residents were 41,213 where as residents were 2,974. In 2010/11 the number of non residents were 49,515 where as residents were 3181. In 2011/12 the number of non residents were 54,320 where as residents were 3,136.
He further said that in 2012/2013, the number of non residents were 51,835 where as the residents were 3,718. In 2013/2014 the number of non residents were 48,813 where as the residents were 2,021.
Provision of social services
Besides tourism attraction, the Mountain is famous water catchment for both Tanzania and Kenya. Forest belt forms the major source of water flowing from Mount Kilimanjaro.
He said that this benefits human population for domestic use, irrigation agriculture, industrial activities and for generation of hydroelectric power.
Citing an example, the Chief Park warden said that the Pangani River is one of the Tanzania’s largest rivers drains water to the hydropower plants.
He named the plants as Nyumba ya Mungu (8MW), Hale (17 MW), and Pangani falls (66 MW) which generates about 20 percent of Tanzania’s total electricity output.
He further explained that water from the forest supports traditional furrow irrigation systems for coffee and banana plantations in densely populated area with over one million inhabitants in the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
He named other benefits as conducting research studies, provision of employment to TANAPA workers, tour guides, porters, and hoteliers among many others.
Efforts by Kilimanjaro National Park to address the situation
According to the Chief Park Warden, in recent years, the Park in collaboration with the government has put in place comprehensive plans and strategies that have started bearing fruits.
Smoking out the poachers and cattle
The Chief Park Warden explained that most poachers in Kilimanjaro National Park are those looking for forest products. However, wild animal poachers are in the west at a game controlled area in the boundary with Amboseli Park in Kenya.
“This poaching is trans-boundary; some poachers come from Kenya hunting the Elephants, Buffaloes, Giraffes, and Antelopes. They hunt Elephants that migrate from the dry areas of Amboseli in Kenya following water in Kilimanjaro National Park,” he said.
He said that Kilimanjaro National Parks in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have launched intelligence system of exchanging information and they meet once every year to assess the situation and put new strategies.
He also said that the Park in collaboration with the Kilimanjaro Regional Authorities launched regular patrols to smoke out the poachers in the forest. Citing an example, he said that in 2012/2013, KINAPA’s patrol team arrested a total of 426 poachers.
“During the same period, we arrested a total of 2239 timbers, 94 ordinary wood saws and 5 chain saws. The Park also arrested and smoked out 102, Cows, 23 Goats and 27 Sheep.”
In 2013/14, the park arrested 337 poachers, 105 ordinary wood saws, 3 chain saws, 755 timbers, 45 cows, 22 goats, and 46 sheep
“During the operation, the regional commissioner Leonidas Gama gave us a very big support. We also work closely with law enforcement organs such as the police, the court and government state Attorneys,” he revealed.
Community participation
Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Outreach Programme: This involves provision of social services by the authorities while local communities support conservation through community policing and intelligence to counter illegal activities such as poaching.
To enhance community participation, TANAPA conducts conservation education and awareness campaigns to the local communities.  This makes the surrounding communities part of the conservation of the Mountain.
The Park’s Outreach Programme warden, Charles Ngendo explained that the Park established community outreach department where the Park is conducting regular training on conservation education of the Park.
“If we have good cooperation with the adjacent communities it is easy to win their support and dissolve some conflicts that arises between the Park and the surrounding communities,” he added.
About community projects
According to Ngendo, the projects are initiated by the communities themselves according to their preference. He said that they are bottom-up approach.
In realising this goal, seven percent of the recurrent budget is set aside to support different community projects. It is like corporate social responsibility,” he said.
In these projects, KINAPA contributes 70 percent and the community 30 percent of the total cost of the project. “Communities contribute some amount so that they don’t perceive KINAPA as a donor agent but feel a sense of ownership and for sustainability of the project” he said.
He said since the programme started in early 1990’s, the Park has supported a total of 120 different projects ranging from construction of classrooms to health projects in Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions. Districts supported include Hai, Moshi Rural District, Rombo, Siha and Longido.
The views of the government
The Chairman of Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment James Lembeli said that conservation should be given first priority because that will attract more tourists in the Park.
“Everyone should play his role in the fight against poachers, there should be no politics in this issue because without conservation there shall be no tourists” said Kahama Lawmaker.
The Minister for Natural Resource and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu explained that as the Ministry plans to rebrand tourists attraction, conservation of Tanzania National Parks is a must.
He explained that the government is determined on this matter and will continue working with local communities and the international community to adequately implement its anti-poaching drive in its different national parks.
Source: IPP Media 

COP 20: The cost of climate change

As negotiators gather in Peru, we count the cost of carbon emissions and ask what can be done to combat climate change.

Global climate negotiators have gathered in Lima, Peru, for the annual United Nations climate change conference COP 20, to discuss how to combat climate change and who should pay for curbing the world’s fossil fuel emissions.

There is a prevailing theory it should be the rich industrialised nations as they have been responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases. And five years ago, they were pledging to increase funding by $100bn a year by the year 2020.

The UN estimates as much as $175bn has been transferred over the last two years to developing nations, although there is a dispute about whether it is on track to hit that 2020 target.

Developing nations are stepping up but not together. China has said emissions will peak by 2030, while India chose to put economic growth ahead of emissions caps.

Low-lying nations may never be saved as sea levels rise and it is in Asia where some of the poorest nations will be hardest hit by climate change.

The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is a city under threat as it is sinking at a rate of seven centimetres every year. By 2030, according to experts, half of the city will be below sea level. Step Vassen reports from the Indonesian capital.

So what can be done to combat climate change? Will world leaders ever manage to act together? And why is it so difficult to reach a consensus on climate change?

Griffin Carpenter from the New Economics Foundation joins Counting the Cost to talk about COP 20 and the climate challenge.

The danger of deforestation

The preservation of the Amazon rainforest is considered central in the battle against global warming. But in Peru, the venue for this year’s crucial climate change conference, illegal logging continues at unprecedented rates.

“Mostly everyone here makes their money from illegal logging. You pay off the police and the right people,” Romelo Sangan, an illegal logger from Peru told Al Jazeera.

Deforestation has many causes – from slashing and burning for agriculture, to harvesting precious hardwoods for the construction industry.

In South Sudan, many people are chopping down trees just to exist. The country’s oilfields generate billions of dollars a year, but all the oil is exported, leaving millions of people to rely on wood and charcoal for fuel. The current rate of deforestation will mean no forest will be left in South Sudan within three or four decades.

Al Jazeera’s environment editor Nick Clark reports more on illegal logging in Peru and deforestation in South Sudan.

Oil and ISIL: The business behind the violence

As the armed group ISIL pushes to dominate more territory in Iraq and Syria, many think that the fighters who have joined ISIL must be motivated by a fanatical commitment to ideology.

But in an extraordinary look inside ISIL with rare access to key figures in the organisation, Al Jazeera correspondent Nick Shifrin found that ISIL’s management, organisation, and wealth are all dependent on foot soldiers whose main motivation is income.

Source: Al Jazeera