Category Archives: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

India strides towards clean energy leadership

.. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ..

An article by L. Michael Buchsbaum in Energy Transition: the Global Energiewende

It looked as if India’s plan to power up the country using coal would be a disaster for the environment. But renewables changed the game: they currently make up 20% of the energy mix and are growing fast. L. Michael Buchsbaum explains.


New solar and wind in India are now 20% cheaper to build than coal (Photo by Raj, edited,CC BY 2.0)

Illustrative of India’s economic miracle, just this spring, its last village without access to electricity was finally connected to the energy grid. But to fuel this growth, beginning in 2010 India rapidly initiated development of almost 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired energy. With the fifth largest domestic coal reserves worldwide, and Australian and Chinese mines eager to supply immediate demand, India’s economic miracle seemed like game over for the health of planet Earth.

But nearly simultaneous to their swift coal build up, India also began developing green energy. Though only 20% of the current energy mix, roughly 70 GW of renewable capacity has been installed and at least another 40 GW is under construction according to the latest government data.

With around 11,788 megawatts (MW) more being added between April 2017 and March 2018, India is now positioned 4th globally in wind, and 6thin solar. Additionally, last year the renewable energy sector created 47,000 new jobs while sustaining almost 400,000 more positions, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The sheer pace of India’s adoption of renewables has reduced aggregate installation and production costs by 50% over the last two years according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), flipping earlier economic projections and torpedoing plans for hundreds of megawatts of new coal power. Though coal still supplied 80% of the economy last year, new wind and solar is now 20% cheaper than existing coal-fired generation’s average wholesale power price. Moreover, rising domestic production costs, the doubling of imported coal prices and a crippling delivery shortage continues to plague the industry. Currently new renewable energy is less expensive to build than it costs to run most of the existing coal fired power in the nation—let alone construct new plants.

Case in point: in June the state owned utility, NTPC, the largest owner and developer of coal plants in India, cancelled its planned 4 GW Pudimadaka “Ultra Mega” Power Plant project in the state of Andhra Pradesh. No longer economical, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), since the 2010 build out announcement, India’s coal plant pipeline has shrunk by 547 GW.

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Question for this article:

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

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To put that into perspective, that figure amounts to almost three times Germany’s total installed capacity. And while 80 GW of new coal-fired capacity is still technically “progressing” through myriad approval processes, IEEFA estimates that no more than 10-20 GW might actually see the light of day. “That means more than 84% of India’s 2010 coal pipeline will have been cancelled when all is said and done,” said Tim Buckley, IEEFA’s Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia.

Moreover, under the nation’s 2018 National Energy Plan (NEP), India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has recently proposed closing nearly 50 GW of inefficient and heavily polluting coal capacity by 2027. Retrofitting those that remain open to achieve new compliance standards will cost millions more, forcing operators to reconsider future investments as renewables elbow them out.

So how will India keep both the existing lights on and enable millions more citizens to power up? The new NEP calls for an incredible 275 GW of total renewable energy capacity by 2027. In June the trajectory for the build-out was increased to no less than 227 GW by 2022. At these rates, clean energy is projected by BNEF to constitute 75% of total capacity by 2050, essentially inverting the status quo.

Illustrative of this leap forward, on June 21, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) R.K. Singh announced a 100GW solar tender, with an emphasis on battery storage and domestic solar manufacturing. This announcement follows on the heels of plans for 8-10GW of annual onshore wind installations, plus an ambitious 30GW of offshore wind by 2030. Under the Paris Climate agreement, India had already committed to produce 40% of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. Singh has since vowed to have over 55% installed by then.

While an enormous task, a large portion of the support and financing for this is coming from Japan’s richest man, SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, who has reportedly told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he will underwrite most of the 100GW of new solar with a US$60-100 billion investment.

But can this and the overall 275 GW target realistically be met on time? While not sure if the giant solar tender “makes a lot of sense”, IEEF director Buckley, offered instead that the plan is indeed a “brilliant statement of intent.” Certainly, by setting the aspirational goal, India has attracted investors and further spurred the development of their domestic manufacturing industry. Tulsi Tanti, chairman and managing director of the Suzlon Group, one of the nation’s leading wind energy suppliers, expects that there will be at least two million workers employed in the wind energy manufacturing industries by 2022. Suzlon currently commands a 35% share of the market since over 8,500 of their turbines with a cumulative generation capacity of 11,919 MW power it. “In the next financial year, a minimum of 1 GW more [of wind energy] installation will happen every month,” Tanti said as the nation ramps towards 50-60MW of total wind capacity.

While coal will continue to constitute India’s baseload energy backbone for the next few decades as a hedge against intermittency, its role will diminish as the grid becomes better integrated, more decentralized and additional battery power comes on line. “We have missed the first and second industrial revolutions,” Minister Singh said recently. “We caught up with the digital revolution, but we need to lead this revolution towards clean energy and renewable energy.”

Faces Of Africa – Defenders of the Forest [Madagascar]

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from CGTN

Madagascar is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. The vast majority of its species of fauna and flora are endemic to the island. Much of Madagascar’s wildlife is under threat, particularly humid forest. The severe poverty that afflicts the island communities is causing serious damage to its environment. Turning these practices around will mean finding ways for locals to benefit from the natural environment. This is where Mitsinjo Association comes in. The organization is composed of the local conservationists who are dedicated towards the conservation of the island’s heritage.



Video

It all started when tourists would go into Andasibe village and requested to see the forest. Later in 1999, Mitsinjo was formed by local villagers. “We started as guides only, protecting the forest, trying to plant trees,” told Justin Claude – Mitsinjo Amphibian conservation director. When Justin joined Mitsinjo, he was only seventeen years old. He was the youngest founder in the group. The group embarked on planting trees and conserving the animals that were in danger of extinction. Each member is assigned a particular zone depending on their expertise. One of the members Youssouf Martin is in charge of tree nurseries while Justin is in charge of the Amphibians.

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Question for this article:

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?

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“Before, I was a guide and afterwards they asked me to help them do reforestation here. Because I was born here in this village I can do this work because I have much knowledge about the rainforest. This project is a program to plant more native trees. We’re restoring 25 hectares per year so we must grow 30, 000 seedlings with the 60 different species of the native tree,” told Youssouf – Mitsinjo tree nursery specialist.

Madagascar is thought to have more than three hundred species of frogs, ninety nine percent of which are endemic. These are one of the most critically endangered creatures on the Island. Hence in 2010, Justin started the amphibian conservation project. The project is the first one of its kind in Madagascar. In 2013, Justin went for training on amphibian conservation in the United States of America. Coming back to Madagascar, he established a breeding facility for the frogs. The facility remains under his supervision.

Besides the wildlife being under threat of endangerment, the environment faces serious threats too. Clearance of forests primarily for firewood and charcoal is rampant in Madagascar. Hence the group carries out sensitization forums with the locals to stress on the importance of conserving the forests.

This is where education comes in. Mitsinjo engages in a variety of education and capacity building programs for the communities they support, including schools. “Mitsinjo needed a head for environmental education, which also has a link to teaching. I accepted, because I was born here. The environment and love of nature are important to me too. We work with schools all over the region of Andasibe (their village). Over the holidays we create clubs for children who don’t have the money to travel”, said Irene Ramanantenasoa – Mitsinjo environmental education officer. This group of Andasibe local conservationists is working tirelessly to ensure that the glory of its forests is restored and conserved.

Coal Divestment Reaches Japan

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Treehugger

Nippon Life Insurance will become first major Japanese institutional investor to ditch coal.

News reported by Reuters that Nippon Life Insurance is going to stop financing coal-fired power plants  should be welcome news for all of us who care about the fate of the planet.

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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True, it might not be news quite on the magnitude of Ireland divesting from all fossil fuels. But for fossil fuel divestment to work we need it to spread and deepen — meaning more institutions, in more locations, divesting from an increasingly comprehensive list of fossil fuel-related interests. And—as The Church of England has taught us —we most urgently need to start with the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

As Japan’s largest life insurer, with assets of $667 billion, this is a significant announcement in and of itself. But the Reuters report also states that Japan as a whole is currently one of the biggest financiers of coal technology in the world. Given that Nippon Life Insurance is apparently the first institutional investor in Japan to make such a move, activists will surely be hoping that it has ripple effects across the country’s financial scene.

As I’ve argued before, the real test for divestment will be when folks divest not because of ethical pressures, but because continuing to pour money into the technologies of the past no longer makes financial sense. But every move like this brings that moment closer to fruition.

Emerald Isle Goes Green: Ireland just voted to divest from fossil fuel companies

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Casey O’Brien for the Sierra Club ©2018 Sierra Club. All Rights Reserved – reproduced from a Sierra Club website with permission of the Sierra Club

The global fossil fuel divestment movement just got a huge push from an unexpected place—Ireland. On July 12, Ireland became the first country to vote to shed its financial holdings in oil, gas, and coal corporations. The measure calling for the country to sell off its estimated $370 million in fossil fuel investments “as soon as is practicable” passed the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland with support from all parties. The vote marks a major milestone in the effort to move capital away from the largest carbon polluters.  


People celebrate July 12 after the passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill in Ireland. (Mark Stedman). Photo from National Catholic Reporter

“This is the next step in a progression . . . of what people considered impossible and unprecedented, but it makes perfect sense that that’s what’s happening,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of the socially responsible investment firm As You Sow. 

Ireland’s move is the latest surge in the rising tide of the divestment movement, which now includes universities across the United States, dozens of Catholic institutions, and New York City, which earlier this year announced it is investigating selling off its fossil fuel holdings. Go Fossil Free, a group that advocates for fossil fuel divestment, estimates that $6.15 trillion worth of fossil fuel assets have been sold off since the movement started in 2010. “First we had student movements, then we had mission-driven organizations—faith based and philanthropy—and now we have entire countries,” said Clara Vondrich, global director of Divest Invest, which provides institutions with guidance on how to move their money away from fossil fuel corporations.  

The move surprised some people, as Ireland has something of a reputation for being slow to act on climate, in comparison to other European nations. Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, tweeted that the news of the vote “staggered him.” The Climate Action Network recently declared Ireland the second-worst country in the EU for climate change management. The only other country to consider such a move is much-wealthier Norway, which has proposed divesting its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund but hasn’t done so yet. 

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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Ireland’s vote is particularly important because it reflects a major shift in the divestment movement, Vondrich explained. Originally, fossil fuel divestment was entirely driven by moral concerns—institutions pulled their money out of oil, gas, and coal companies because they didn’t want to be contributing to the destruction of a stable climate. Now, divestment is increasingly seen as a smart financial move for investors; Ireland’s divestment is as much a fiduciary decision as it is a chance to demonstrate its principles. “The divestment movement now stands on a strong three-legged stool of moral, fiduciary, and financial arguments,” Vondrich said.   

A recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) illustrates Vondrich’s point. The report states, “The financial case for fossil fuel divestment is strong. Over the past three and five years, respectively, global stock indexes without fossil fuel holdings have outperformed otherwise identical indexes that include fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel companies once led the economy and world stock markets. They now lag.”    

Energy stocks were the second-worst performing sector in 2017, states IEEFA’s report, outpaced by health, technology, and other industries even as the price of oil stabilized from a low of $28 a barrel in 2016 to $75 today. Fossil fuel companies’ relatively weak performance is crucial, given that some investment institutions are required, by their charters, to prioritize profit performance and fiduciary responsibility above all other concerns. Ireland’s vote, Vondrich said, solidifies the argument that divestment is the financially savvy choice for investment managers.  

While Ireland’s vote only affects a relatively small amount of money (as national investment funds go), Behar and Vondrich agree that it carries significant symbolic value. “What started on a handful of college campuses is now the policy of nations,” Vondrich said. “Ireland’s pledge to divest takes the movement to the next level, where activists and heads of state work hand-in-hand to save the world.”  

Behar said, “This is a political statement. The fund is relatively small . . . but I think that having it decided in that venue is really important. It’s sort of like when California decided that they wanted CalPERS, the pension fund, to divest. That was a vote in the California legislature.” Behar continued, “I would equate it to when the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation made [their divestment] announcement at the 2014 climate summit in New York. That was a major moment, when the heirs of the Exxon fortune said, ‘We’re going to sell our Exxon [stocks].’” 

Vondrich said the strategy going forward is to continue to push for divestment decisions as well as divest-invest pledges in which divested funds are reinvested in enterprises committed to sustainability and clean energy. Ultimately, the goal is to demonstrate that buying shares of fossil fuel corporations is not a wise investment. 

“The fossil fuel industry is really in the long term, nonviable. So you want to get out as early as possible,” Behar said. “Our goal is removing the social license for these companies to exist.” 

North America: Greentrees Sequesters Another 1 Million+ Tons of Carbon via Reforestation; Wins Award

. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Revitalization: the Journal of Urban, Rural and Enviornmental Resilience

GreenTrees® claims to be the largest reforestation program in North America, with over 120,000 acres of trees restored via its 500 landowner partners. These plantings produceg over 1,000,000 tons annually on The American Carbon Registry.

GreenTrees recently completed its latest verification for 1,273,866 metric tons on the American Carbon Registry (ACR). This marks the second consecutive issuance of over one million tons.


Photo credit: GreenTrees.

ACR has had fifteen issuances over a million forestry tons for both compliance and voluntary markets. This includes IFM, Avoided Conversion and Afforestation/Reforestation project types. Of the fifteen issuances, GreenTrees has two of them. Only three of the fifteen issuances are from afforestation/reforestation projects, with the remaining one from an international project.

The GreenTrees River System approach is setting the standard for how reforestation can achieve scale and impact and does it with small and medium-sized landowners. Reforestation provides a continuous loop of scaled impact while bending the climate curve.

On behalf of landowners—whose properties range from 7 to 1700+ acres–the company quantifies their positive impact being made in cleaning up the air, building equity in the landscape, filtering the water and enhancing wildlife habitat.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?

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Ultimately, reforestation is about repairing past and growing future with nature’s own solar-powered carbon sequestration technology: trees.

On April 5, 2018, GreenTrees was awarded The American Carbon Registry’s Innovation Award. The American Carbon Registry (ACR) is a nonprofit enterprise of Winrock International.

GreenTrees received ACR’s Innovation award in recognition of exceptional implementation of the world’s largest reforestation project both in terms of volume of high-quality verified emissions reductions issued and number of participating landowners and acres. The GreenTrees project is a one-million-acre conservation initiative that aims to plant over 500 million new trees for ecosystem repair and climate impact in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, North America’s largest rainforest and waterfowl migratory corridor.

By partnering with close to 500 landowners on over 120,000 acres to date to reforest their degraded lands, GreenTrees has enhanced wildlife habitat, improved water and soil quality and delivered local economic development benefits in addition to generating over 2.5 million tonnes of verified carbon offsets for partners including Norfolk Southern, Duke Energy, United Airlines, Arbor Day Foundation, Blue Mountain Brewery and Skyway Air Taxi, among others.

“We highly value this award and thank the American Carbon Registry for its keen understanding of research and market-based programs, our corporate clients and carbon buyers for endorsing our work, our conservation community friends for their wonderful counsel over the years, and our landowners as partners. Their stake as equity brokers with us is the chief factor creating the prairie fire of steadily expanding healthy forest ecosystems, which is the leading reforestation co-benefit for our time,” said Jerry Van Voorhis, president and chief executive officer of GreenTrees.

“We believe that ecosystem change in forestry alone will help bend the climate curve back most, replenish our earth, and let the tools of capitalism work for the greater good of the planet,” he concluded.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Continent’s free trade deal a game-changer for Africa

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Independent Online (© Independent On-line 2018, All rights reserved, Reprinted with no commercial purpose)

South Africa has joined more than 50 African states in signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) agreement, which is aimed at facilitating a single market for goods and services on the continent.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the agreement during the official opening of the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, capital of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.


President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement in Nouakchott

The Presidency said the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and Peace and Security was introduced by the former chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, at the AU Summit held in Sandton in June 2015.

“It included issues related to the Union’s self-financing, the streamlining of the organisation’s summits and working methods. These efforts precipitated the current discussions on the African Union’s Institutional Reforms.

“The July 2016 Assembly of the African Union in Kigali subsequently mandated President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to prepare a study on the institutional reform of the African Union, with a view of putting in place a system of governance capable of addressing the challenges facing the Union,’’ said the Presidency.

In his speech on institutional reforms of the African Union yesterday, Kagame said: “The Continental Free Trade Agreement, championed by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, is among the most historic achievements of the African Union.

“Forty-four countries signed in Kigali, while four more are signing in Nouakchott. It is going to become a reality before much longer.

“This drive emerges from the same logic that led to the institutional reform. In a deeper sense, an African Union capable of delivering a functional free-trade area is actually the end point of the reform.

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Question related to this article:

Can the African Union help bring a culture of peace to Africa?

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“Our partners welcomed the Continental Free Trade Area, in part because they doubted it would ever be implemented. Our track record provided ample evidence for that.

“As that perception increasingly proves to be outdated, interests will be recalculated. This is where the reform’s emphasis of speaking with one voice as a continent will emerge as perhaps the most important provision of all.”

The agreement has been welcomed in the country, with experts saying that it will benefit the continent and enhance intra-african trade.

Chairman of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council Dr Iqbal Survé said the agreement would open opportunities for African entrepreneurs.

“I think this is a good move for the country. Intra-African trade at the moment sits at approximately 10%, whereas intra-European and Intra-North American trade sits at 30% to 40% within those continents.

“I think we should increase intra-African trade to 30% over the next decade. It will be good for the continent, its countries, job creation and its development,” said Survé.

He said the agreement would reduce tariffs and benefit entrepreneurs, including medium to small businesses, “because they’re the ones who often find tariffs difficult to overcome because it is very costly. It will be an opportunity for entrepreneurs from African countries to start working together with each other in a trade tariff free environment”.

“By accepting that the best way to go forward is to have an intercontinental agreement, I think that is the strongest point being achieved. It will take many years to translate this new policy into effective continental trade.

“The most important thing now is that we have reached an agreement between the majority of African countries to achieve this,” said Survé.

The agreement will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union. It will be the world’s largest free-trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce has also welcomed the agreement, saying that it would promote trade with African countries.

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said: “The African move came at a time when there was an increasing risk of a full-scale trade war, largely triggered by US President Donald Trump imposing heavy duties on imported products.”

African Union: Tourism sector supports about 21 million jobs in Africa

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Vanguard

The African Union, AU, says the tourism sector supports about 21 million jobs in Africa with a value of over $160 million, exceeding manufacturing and banking sectors combined.

Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, the AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Tourism, disclosed this at the just- concluded 61st UN World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa Conference in Abuja.


Dr Amani Abou-Zeid – photo from International Hydropower Association

Abou-Zeid said tourism was an engine for inclusive growth and economic development on the continent.

“In the African continent, tourism supports about 21 million jobs translating to one in 14 jobs; this is how important tourism is. That is why we are making sure it takes its due place.

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Question related to this article:

How can tourism promote a culture of peace?

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“The value of the industry now stands at over $160 billion accounting for almost eight per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

“So, it exceeds the contributions from manufacturing and banking sectors.

“Tourism industry accounts for more than six per cent of the total investments valued at $29 billion and employs over 20 million people, hence accounting for 6.5 per cent of the total work force,” she said.

The AU commissioner said it was projected that five per cent of the tourism industry would grow much faster than the 4.8 per cent economic growth forecast for the continent over the next 10 years.

She, therefore, called for tourism promotion strategies through improvement of Africa’s image in the global media.

“Our priority on the continent now should be to optimise the role of tourism based on the agenda of NEPAD/AU action plan.

“On that, we have the responsibility to coordinate and facilitate the implementation and of course collaborations with UNWTO and other key partners.

“We have finalised the first agenda for 2063, the focus now is on strategy for implementation.

“We are particularly keen to see that tourism is very much high in the priority of the action plan,’’ she said.

‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ transforms arid Pakistan region into green gold

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from The Hindu (Copyright THG Publishing Private Limited, reprinted as non-commercial use)

Around the region of Heroshah, previously arid hills are now covered with forest as far as the horizon. In northwestern Pakistan, hundreds of millions of trees have been planted to fight deforestation.

In 2015 and 2016, some 16,000 labourers planted more than 9,00,000 fast-growing eucalyptus trees at regular, geometric intervals in Heroshah — and the titanic task is just a fraction of the effort across the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Greenery all around: Pervaiz Manan, head of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forest department, who oversaw the re-vegetation of Heroshah district.   Photo Credit: AFP

Control against erosion

“Before it was completely burnt land. Now they have green gold in their hands,” commented forest manager Pervaiz Manan as he displayed pictures of the site previously, when only sparse blades of tall grass interrupted the monotonous landscape.

The new trees will reinvigorate the area’s scenic beauty, act as a control against erosion, help mitigate climate change, decrease the chances of floods and increase the chances of precipitation, says Mr. Manan, who oversaw the re-vegetation of Heroshah.

Residents also see them as an economic boost — which, officials hope, will deter them from cutting the new growth down to use as firewood in a region where electricity can be sparse.

“Now our hills are useful, our fields became useful,” says driver Ajbir Shah. “It is a huge benefit for us.”

Further north, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat, many of the high valleys were denuded by the Pakistan Taliban during their reign from 2006 to 2009.

Now they are covered in pine saplings. “You can’t walk without stepping on a seedling,” smiles Yusufa Khan, another forest department worker.

The Heroshah and Swat plantations are part of the “Billion Tree Tsunami”, a provincial government programme that has seen a total of 300 million trees of 42 different species planted across the province.

A further 150 million plants were given to landowners, while strict forest regeneration measures have allowed the regrowth of 730 million trees — roughly 1.2 billion new trees in total, says the programme’s management.

Kamran Hussain, a manager of the Pakistani branch of the World Wildlife Fund, who conducted an independent audit of the project, says their figures showed slightly less — but still above target at 1.06 billion trees.

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Question for this article:

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?

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“We are 100% confident that the figure about the billion trees is correct,” he said, highlighting the transparency of the process. “Everything is online. Everyone has access to this information.”

The programme has been praised by the head of the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a green NGO, which called it a “true conservation success story”.

Initially mocked for what critics said were unrealistic objectives, it is a welcome change to the situation elsewhere in the country.

Pakistani authorities say just 5.2% of the country is covered by forest, against the 12% recommended by the United Nations.

Just one big tree remains in the poverty-stricken village of Garhi Bit in the southern province of Sindh, shading its small mosque.

It has stood there for a century, locals say.

“Before, there were big trees, many kinds of them,” says Dad Mohammad, a 43-year-old farmer.

“But they started to dry because of the lack of water, so we cut them,” he says, pointing to hundreds of metres of cultivated land where previously there stood a forest. More than 60% of the forests lining Sindh’s riverbanks have disappeared in the last 60 years, mainly due to river depletion and massive logging during the 1980s, says Riaz Ahmed Wagan, of the provincial forest department. “It is a disaster,” he says, adding that forestry remains the lowest priority on the agenda of the provincial governments.

The “Billion Tree Tsunami”, which cost the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government $169 million, started in November 2014. Officials say they are still implementing maintenance safeguards such as fire protection, with the project due to be completed in June 2020.

Green Pakistan Project

In early 2017, the federal government announced its own Green Pakistan Project, which aims to plant 100 million trees in five years across the country.

It ranges from “legislative reforms” to “wildlife protection”, according to its leader Ibrahim Khan, who works under the authority of the Ministry for Climate Change. More than a quarter of the work was done by the end of April 2018, he says.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is ruled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the political party headed by former cricketer Imran Khan, which is the main challenger to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the country heads into a general election in July 2018.

Mr. Imran Khan has vowed to make the environment an election issue, and to plant a total of 10 billion trees across the country. “Every child in Pakistan should be aware of the environmental issue which, until now, has been a non-issue,” he told AFP.

But it is yet to be seen whether his ambitions will translate into votes.

Pakistani environmental lawyer and activist Ahmad Rafay Allam says that in a country where the electorate is often swayed by infrastructure projects rather than the environment, he has doubts.

“It would be a first,” he told AFP.

In Latin America, agroecology is a deeply political struggle

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Florence Poznanski for Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia (translation by CPNN)

Agroecology is a new model of development based on farming and land use practices in an ecological and common good perspective centered around traditional and popular knowledge and culture. In Brazil, the National Association of Agroecology (ANA) has brought together several hundred farmers’, women’s, artists’ and activists’ organizations over the course of the last fifteen years. Every four years they organize a national meeting of agroecology (RNA) in order to strengthen this network and share the know-how. The fourth edition was held this year between May 31 and June 3 in the city of Belo Horizonte (south-east Brazil) with the theme of the link between the city and the countryside for the production of a healthier diet. In addition to 2000 participants from different regions of Brazil, there were also about fifty people from 14 other countries.


Martin Willaume, Paulo Petersen and Patrícia Candela Orozco. Photos by Lucas Bois

International networks of agroecology

The Catholic Committee against Hunger and Development (CCFD) was one of the participants who made the trip. The French organization has defended the right to land on all continents for more than 50 years. Its presence is due to the institutional support partnership that was signed with ANA in 2016 as part of a global program on ecological transition based on the knowledge of traditional communities. In Latin America, in addition to Brazil, CCFD supports organizations in 10 other countries including Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Haiti.

“The Latin American experience is of great interest to us because it develops a political approach to agroecology that goes far beyond the sole issue of agriculture. In addition to the debate on organic food production and soil protection, the movement manages to link other central axes such as decent work, gender equality or the struggle for democracy”, explains Martin Willaume of CCFD. “This approach does not exist in other parts of the world, for example in Africa where the movement works in a mainly technical line. We are interested in understanding how this articulation is built to then bring the experience there, “he adds.

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(Click here for the Spanish version of this article or here for the French version.)

Question for this article:

What is the relation between movements for food sovereignty and the global movement for a culture of peace?

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Willaume reports that there are several agroecological experiences on the continent that intertwine with other political agendas. In Bolivia, for example, agroecology has become a central focus in the process of building indigenous self-government in accordance with the Plurinational State’s legislation. In Peru, the movements build agroecology as a means of fighting against mining, and in Colombia, the agroecological movement combines the issues of the peace process in the struggle.

To face the empires of agribusiness, an international union is needed

Paulo Petersen, member of the ANA Executive Committee, explains how important these international alliances are, especially in the context of Brazil today. “The very nature of agroecology is transversal. If we take the 17 Sustainable Development Goals [adopted by the United Nations], we realize that agroecology covers the majority: climate, water, the fight for gender equality, against poverty, hunger, decent work, etc., “commented Peterson.

Completing Willaume’s reflection on the political dimension of agroecology, he points out that “it is not possible to think agroecology without thinking about the defense of democracy. We are talking about processes that do not correspond to a market logic. Agroecology is linked to the common good. It is a global challenge because the companies we fight are global empires and the answer is more autonomy, more sovereignty to get closer to nature and create new social relationships.”

Peterson explains that several Latin American organizations have contacted the ANA to participate in the RNA and also underlines that these exchanges of knowledge are important to allow the movement to continue to innovate and enrich new ideas.

Brazil is a pioneering articulation force on the continent.

Among the Latin American representatives was Colombian Patrícia Candela Orozco who went to Brazil to learn about the RNA experience. She represents the Instituto Mayor Campesino (IMCA), located in the Valle del Cauca region, near Cali, an organization that has been working for 57 years with peasant communities.

According to Patrícia, Brazil is a pioneer in the development of agroecology in Latin America. She says she was very impressed with the methodology called “mystic”, which is developed with music, theater and poetry. This is used to welcome meeting participants, to celebrate victories, to strengthen struggles or to introduce or contextualize debates in diverse spaces, in addition to fostering greater interaction with and among participants. “The fact of adding the spiritual part of the people gives more strength to the messages of that struggle. If each one lives this message inside of himself, he will be able to transmit it more easily to the rest of the people”, she says.

The broad participation in the fourth ENA was another point that impressed Candela. In Colombia, the IMCA was involved in the construction of the first national farmers’ meeting, which took place in 2017 and involved various civil society organizations. Patrícia highlights how difficult it is to hold an event of this size. The Brazilian experience in the ENA left her inspired.

(Thank you to Kiki Chauvin, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Issa Sikiti da Silva for the Inter Press Service (reprinted by permission)

Hope, smiles and new vitality seem to be returning slowly but surely in various parts of the Sahel region, where the mighty Sahara Desert has all but ‘eaten’ and degraded huge parts of landscapes, destroying livelihoods and subjecting many communities to extreme poverty.

The unexpected relief has come from the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI), an eight-billion-dollar project launched by the African Union (AU) with the blessing of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the backing of organizations such as the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: greatgreenwall.org

(Editor’s note: The Great Green Wall was initiated by Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Mathai as described in a CPNN article in 2011.)

The Sahara, an area of 3.5 million square miles, is the largest ‘hot’ desert in the world and home to some 70 species of mammals, 90 species of resident birds and 100 species of reptiles, according to DesertUSA.
 
Restoring landscapes

The GGW aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions. This will be done by, among others, planting a wall of trees in more than 20 countries – westward from Gambia to eastward in Djibouti – over 7,600 km long and 15 km wide across the continent.

The countries include Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Senegal. There is also Algeria, Egypt, Gambia, Eritrea, Somalia, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Popularity

Elvis Paul Nfor Tangem, AU’s GGWSSI coordinator, told IPS that the project was doing well, gaining popularity and generating many other ideas as the implementation gains momentum.

Tangem also said that the AU had begun working with the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Namibian government for the extension of the GGWSSI concept to the dry lands of the Southern Africa region.

Namibia, which borders South Africa, is located between the Namib and Kalahari deserts. Namib, from which the country draws its name, is believed to be the world’s oldest desert.
 
Largest project ever

If the GGW is indeed extended to Southern Africa, it will take the number of countries drawn to the project to over 20, making it one of the world’s largest projects ever.

Fundraising for beneficiaries countries is being done through bilateral negotiations, as well as through national investments, the AU said.

International partners including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Sahara and Sahel Observatory (SSO), among others, are also playing a critical role to ensure that the project is being successfully implemented, and upon its completion by 2030 will become the world’s largest living structure and a new Wonder of the World.

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Question for this article:

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?

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Food security

The GGW is set to create thousands of jobs for those who live along its path and boost food security and resilience to climate change in the Sahel, one of the driest parts of the world, where the FAO said an estimated 29.2 million people are food insecure.

The project founders said that by 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon.

Asked if the project is being implementing one country after the other, Elvis replied: “The implementation of the initiative is first and famous country-based, meaning all the countries are undertaking implementation at their levels.

“However, the common factor among all the countries is the fact that their activities are based on the Harmonized Regional Strategy and their National Action Plans (NAP). We are supporting the production of the NAP in Cameroon and Ghana and also working on the SADC region.”

Returning home?

In Senegal, a total of 75 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs, including in the nurseries sector and multipurpose gardens, have already been created through the GGW in the last six years, according to official statistics.

Also in Senegal, where desertification has slashed 34% of its area, the GGW has since ‘recovered’ just over 40,000 hectares out of the 817,500 hectares planned for the project.

This is good news for people like Ibrahima Ba and his family who left their homeland to move to Dakar in the quest of greener pastures.

Now, he is contemplating a return home. “I’m planning to go back towards the end of the year to rebuild my shattered life. The Sahara hasn’t done anybody any favor by taking away our livelihood,” Ba, a livestock farmer Peul from northern Senegal, told IPS.

An estimated 300,000 people live in the three provinces crossed by the GGW in Senegal.
 
Participatory approach

However, Marine Gauthier, an environmental expert for the Rights and Resources’ Initiative, (RRI) said a participatory approach was needed if the project was to be implemented successfully.

“In a conflictual region, where people depend on the land for their survival and where there are numerous transhumance activities from herders peoples (Peuls) potentially impacted by the project, a careful participatory approach is needed,” Gauthier said.

“Conflicts have already arisen a couple of years ago with Peuls (herders practicing transhumance, whose travels were to be restrained by the project). Just like any other environmental protection project, its capacity to engage with local communities, to make them first beneficiaries of the project, is the key to its success on the long term.

“Participatory mapping is a very successful tool that has been used within other projects and that could be of great help in defining and establishing the Great Green Wall,” Gauthier said.

Furthermore, Gauthier said empowering communities would be very interesting at the scale of the Great Green Wall. “It would take a lot of efforts, consultations, financial and human resources. It is however the only way to ensure that this project, which people are talking about for more than 10 years now, reaches its goal.

“Because when the communities are empowered and when their rights on the land are secured, it benefits directly to the environment and to preserving this land from more damage.”

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)