Pope urges inclusive and sustainable food systems


An article by Robin Gomes from Vatican News

As the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) kicks off its 4-day Conference on Monday, Pope Francis has pledged the support of the Holy See and the Catholic Church for their “dedication to a more just world, at the service of our defenseless and needy brothers and sisters”.  He urged special attention for the poor rural food producers, who are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and hunger. 

A vegetable and food vendor in a market in Jakarta, Indonesia  (ANSA)

The Pope made the remarks on Monday in a message to Michal Kurtyka, the Polish Minister of Climate and Environment, who is chairing FAO’s 42nd Conference at it headquarters in Rome, June 14-18.  While reviewing the state of food and agriculture in the world, the virtual session has as its overall theme, “Agriculture Food Systems Transformation: From Strategy to Action”.

Creating inclusive and sustainable food systems

FAO coordinates international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security. The Pope said that this task assumes a special prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, as “many of our brothers and sisters still do not have access to the food they need, either in quantity or quality”.  Last year, he noted, the number of these people was the highest in the last five years. With conflicts, extreme weather events, economic crises, together with the current health crisis, the future could be worse. Hence, policies capable of tackling the structural causes of these growing vulnerabilities need to be adopted.

In this regard, a circular economy, which guarantees resources for all, including future generations, and promotes the use of renewable energies, will help create resilient, inclusive and sustainable food systems that will provide healthy and affordable diets for everyone. However, the fundamental factor in recovering from the crisis that is ravaging us is an economy tailored to mankind, not subject only to profit, but anchored in the common good, friendly to ethics and respectful of the environment.

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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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Farming and rural communities

The reconstruction of post-pandemic economies should take into account the valuable role of family farming and rural communities. The Pope lamented that those who produce food are the ones who suffer from the lack or scarcity of food. “Three-quarters of the world’s poor”, he said, “live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods”.

However, due to lack of access to markets, land ownership, financial resources, infrastructure and technologies, they are most vulnerable to food insecurity.

Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the international community’s effort to enable individual countries achieve food autonomy while preserving local ecosystems and biodiversity. He urged innovative ways to support and help small producers improve their capacities and resilience.

Fraternity vs virus of indifference

As the world prepares to re-launch after the pandemic, Pope Francis said it is fundamental to promote a culture of care against the individualistic and aggressive tendency to discard, which is very present in our societies.

“While a few sow tensions, confrontations and falsehoods”, he said, “we, on the other hand, are invited to patiently and decisively build a culture of peace, which is directed towards initiatives that embrace all aspects of human life and help us to reject the virus of indifference”.

Pope Francis said mere outlining of programs is not enough. Tangible gestures are needed that have as their point of reference the common belonging to the human family and the fostering of fraternity. Gestures that facilitate the creation of a society that promotes education, dialogue and equity.

He urged that all welcome the current trial as an opportunity to prepare for a future for all without discarding anyone, warning, “without an all-embracing vision, there will be no future for anyone”.

The Conference is FAO’s supreme governing body whose main functions are to determine the policies of the Organization, approve the budget, and make recommendations to members and international organizations. 

Netherlands: Court orders Shell to cut carbon emissions 45% by 2030


An article by Laureen Fagan in Sustainability Times (creative commons license)

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell must reduce its carbon emissions by 45 percent by the end of 2030, according to a landmark ruling by the Rechtspraak court in The Hague on Wednesday. It’s being celebrated across the globe by climate advocates who filed the suit and millions who support them.

“This is a turning point in history,” said Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands. “This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting company to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters.”

Friends of the Earth, six other organizations and some 17,000 co-plaintiffs filed the suit, following initial requests made in April 2018 that the oil company align its operations and policies with the climate accord. The Paris Climate Agreement calls for no more than 1.5ºC in global temperature rise, in order to limit sea level rise, extreme storms and other harmful consequences to the environment.

But Royal Dutch Shell documents cited in the full court ruling established the company’s Net Carbon Footprint targets – that is, the total emissions from both producing fossil fuel products and the emissions from end users – at just 20 percent reduction by 2035 and 50 percent in 2050. Shell also assured stakeholders that there would be no stranded asset losses across a longer transition timeline, with continued operations on that basis.

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Question for this article:
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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The Rechtspraak ruling stopped short of finding that Royal Dutch Shell is already in breach of its climate obligations, as the plaintiffs had argued. But the court concluded that breach was imminent because although Royal Dutch Shell is making progress, the company policies don’t actually reflect the changes necessary to realistically achieve the Paris targets.

“The Shell group is nevertheless heading towards more instead of less CO2 emissions in 2030, because of the growth strategy for the oil and gas activities, which has been set out until at least 2030, with a production increase of 38 percent,” the court said in its ruling.

“The policy, policy intentions and ambitions of Royal Dutch Shell for the Shell group largely amount to little concrete, yet to be elaborated and non-binding intentions for the longer term (2050),” the court continued. “Moreover, those intentions are not unconditional, but – as can be read in the disclaimers and cautionary notes with the Shell documentation – depending on the pace at which global society moves towards the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Targets for emission reduction by 2030 are completely lacking.”

The court-mandated target of 45 percent emissions reduction by 2030 also includes its suppliers and customers within its compliance, and holds Royal Dutch Shell accountable for any human rights violations arising from environmental and supply chain impacts. It also calls on the company to begin compliance immediately.

In response to the decision Royal Dutch Shell spokesman Harry Brekelmans said the company was disappointed by the ruling and expects to appeal. He reiterated the company’s goal of net-zero operations by 2050.

Although environmental lawyers and activists are jubilant over this decision, they’re already looking to the future.

“This is a historic victory for the climate and everyone affected by the climate crisis,” said Andy Palmen, interim director of Greenpeace Netherlands. “Coal, oil and gas must remain in the ground. People all over the world are demanding climate justice. Today the judge has confirmed that we are in our right. Multinationals can be held liable for the climate crisis.”

Think African Podcast Episode 1: Planting Seeds


A podcast from African Arguments

African Arguments is delighted to partner with the Think African podcast series, created by Sound Africa.

Click here for podcast

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Question for this article

Can the women of Africa lead the continent to peace?

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Think African examines the big questions that define the world from an unapologetically African point of view. It is platform on which African thinkers can critically engage with contentious, fraught and messy conversations, and grapple with the complexities of the continent’s history and present. Episodes are released twice a month and are hosted by Jedi Ramalapa, Editor in Chief of Sound Africa.

The inaugural season of Think African is inspired by Nobel Prize Winner Wangari Maathai’s political philosophy, which she likened to a traditional African stool, comprising a seat and three legs. First leg: Inclusive Democracy. Second leg: Sustainability. Third leg: ” a culture of peace”; fairness, respect, compassion, forgiveness, recompense and justice.

The first episode features Kenyan climate change activist Elizabeth Wathuti. She is the founder of the Green Generation Initiative, which nurtures young people to be environmentally conscious from a young age and has planted 30,000 tree seedlings in Kenya.

France: March for the Climate: Thousands Demonstrate in Paris


An article from BFM TV (translation by CPNN)

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated this Sunday in Paris for a more ambitious climate law , while doubts are emerging on a referendum to include the fight against climate change in the Constitution.

Frame from video of BFM TV

The demonstrators gathered behind a banner “Climate law = failure of the five-year term.” They marched from Place de le République to the Bastille via Châtelet.

Emmanuel Macron committed in front of the members of the Citizen’s Convention for the Climate (CCC) to send to parliamentarians their proposal to modify Article 1 of the Constitution but, faced with the reluctance of the Senate on the wording (the text must be voted on in the same terms by both chambers to be able to be submitted to a referendum), the JDD affirms that the president has renounced the ballot.

The Elysee assured that the constitutional amendment was “in no way buried”, without however mentioning a referendum.

“What I am the guarantor” is that “there will be no abandonment. This text will live its parliamentary life, which alone allows to go to the referendum if the senators and the deputies agree “, then insisted the Head of State, on the sidelines of a trip to Strasbourg .

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(Click here for the original article in French

Question for this article:

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

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“A missed meeting for the climate”

Despite Elysian assurances, ecologists, left parties and unions saw it as further proof of the denials of the executive, even as they demonstrated to denounce as “a failed meeting for the climate” the law “climate and resilience” adopted Tuesday in the Assembly .

A text meant to translate part of the 149 proposals of the CCC, convened by Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the crisis of the “Gilets Jaunes” to reduce French greenhouse gas emissions by 40% “in a spirit of social justice”.

According to the organizers, 115,000 people in total participated in 163 parades across the country, including 56,000 in Paris, a little more than claimed during the previous movement at the end of March, just before the start of the review of the climate law. Police counts were not immediately available.

“It is a question of continuing to denounce the lack of ambition of the climate law and, since this morning, the almost certain abandonment of the referendum which constitutes a further step backwards”, summed up the director and activist Cyril Dion, “guarantor “of the CCC, present in the last Parisian procession with a banner” Climate law = failure of the five-year term “.

Gatherings also took place in Besançon, Chartres, Cherbourg, Lannion, Laval, Lille, Martigues, Nantes, Quimper, Saint-Brieuc, Strasbourg and even Valenciennes …

The right has accused the head of state of “hypocrisy”, against a background of tension around the next regional and attempted macronist takeover on the moderate right electorate for 2022.

“Even before the Senate has voted anything and the discussion with the National Assembly begins, Emmanuel Macron accuses us of blocking to justify the cancellation of a referendum he did not want”, tweeted senator leader LR Bruno Retailleau.

Biden’s Climate Summit Falls Short : Lofty Words But Where is the Plan?


A press release from

350 teams from across the globe share their reactions to Bidens Leaders Summit. 

40 world leaders gathered to participate in the Biden Administration’s first step onto the international climate stage. The Leaders Summit on Climate took place on April 22nd/ 23rd. The summit saw global leaders making big promises on carbon emission reduction, but the biggest red flag from climate activists is the overall lack of explicit commitments to stop financing fossil fuel projects, one of the key areas that can speed up the transition away from fossil fuel energy. 

Agnes Hall, Global Campaigns Director at said 

“There can be no meaningful climate action if world leaders don’t make a decisive move to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. It’s one thing to make climate goals, but governments simply can’t afford to keep on funding the flames by pouring money into subsidizing coal, oil and gas. The Biden Summit is a critical meeting of world leaders ahead of COP26 this November. Talk of “net-zero” emissions won’t cut it: we demand more from our world leaders than the false promises, false solutions and empty negotiations we heard at Biden’s Climate Summit. The task now is to hold politicians to their lofty words,  and to do that the global climate movement needs to keep up the pressure on our governments at home as well as on the international stage to take urgent action now to reduce carbon emissions and ensure a Just Recovery from the global COVID-19, economic and climate crises by creating a sustainable, fossil-free world ”. 

Pacific Pacific Managing Director Joseph Sikulu issued the following statement:

“In a world recovering from COVID-19 and the climate crisis, governments need to quickly divest from the fossil fuel industry and begin investing in a just recovery for all. Countries with high emissions, such as the United States and Australia, must stop subsidizing oil, gas and coal and direct their investments toward clean and just renewable energy so that we can limit Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees.

To date, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not announced a concrete plan to reduce emissions. Instead, he thinks that fossil fuel companies can solve the climate crisis, which is a massive irony. The Summit is an excellent opportunity for him and other leaders to look on the leadership of the Marshall Islands – the only Pacific island nation present. Australia must recognize that they have few options: either catch up by COP26 or remain a climate laggard who contributes to climate disaster.”

Japan – Japan Finance Campaigner Eri Watanabe issued the following statement:

“This goal is highly insufficient if we want to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the warming of the Earth to 1.5 degrees. I strongly urge the Japanese government to set a more ambitious target with a minimum of a 62% reduction from 2013’s emissions. This is based on research published by Climate Action Tracker.

This target may be higher than previously at a 26% reduction, but if we look closely – this is a numbers game1. Compared to the United Kingdom’s and European Union’s targets, which are 78% in 2035 and 55% in 2030 respectively compared to emission levels in 1990, Japan’s target is much lower.

When the Paris Agreement was signed, we agreed that there were “common but differentiated responsibilities” across the world. As the world’s fifth-highest emitting country with a large amount of historic emissions, Japan owes the world a carbon debt. This makes it necessary for our country to reduce as much carbon emissions as possible — or more than half of 2010’s emissions in order to be a solution to the climate crisis. We must start urgently setting bold and ambitious targets, and strengthening the measures necessary to achieve them. 

One of the policies urgently needed is a rapid phase out of coal infrastructure. Another to direct Japanese banks to rule out fossil finance. Japan is the biggest lender to the global coal industry, and they must cut the flow of money to reduce their emissions.

Only if Japan government walks the talk, can they show climate leadership.”

Bangladesh Organizer Shibayan said:

“We are heartened by the Chair’s response and his ambitious goals of targeting a 100% renewable transition by 2050. For Bangladesh to have a just recovery from the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change, this transition away from coal must exclude gas, and bring about a Green New Deal focusing on clean and just energy such as solar and wind. At the upcoming Leaders Summit for Climate, we hope to see countries that have built their wealth based on fossil fuels such as the US working hand in hand with most affected countries such as Bangladesh. World leaders must start cooperating and sharing resources to combat the climate crisis. They need to act now, while there is still time.”

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Question for this article:
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Africa  Landry Ninteretse, the Africa Director of said:

“During the virtual summit, the world’s major economies will share their efforts to reduce emissions during this critical decade to keep a limit to warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.

1.5 degrees is our global beacon for climate action. The safety and wellbeing of millions of Africans depends on keeping below it. But it is slipping from our grasp and we need to urgently halve global emissions by 2030, which means that we need to limit fossil fuel consumption and stop new developments such as the EACOP and Mozambique LNG projects that threaten this climate ambition.

Fixing the climate crisis requires more than simply cutting carbon; we need bold action that prioritizes alternative sources of energy that meet the needs of the people and accelerate investments in real climate solutions with the aim of driving a fast and sustainable transition away from fossil fuels.”

 Canada Amara Possian, Canada Campaigns Director with

The problem with Justin Trudeau’s new climate pledge can be summed up in two words – fossil fuels. Neither Trudeau’s new climate plan, nor his budget, nor this new climate promise include a plan to tackle soaring emissions from tar sands, fracking and other fossil fuel expansion that makes Canada the only G7 country whose emissions have gone up since signing the Paris Agreement. Canada needs to cut our emissions at least 60% by 2030 and pass legislation like a Just Transition Act to make sure we meet our Paris commitment and leave no one behind.  

Since Justin Trudeau won’t act at the pace and scale of the climate emergency, we need the NDP and the Greens to form a Climate Emergency Alliance ahead of the next election to push Canada to set ambitious targets and follow through with the policies to meet them. It’s not too late for Canada to do what’s necessary, but we can’t afford four more years of Trudeau’s status quo”. 

US Natalie Mebane, Policy Director of

“On Day 1 in office, Biden canceled Keystone XL. Now he must follow through on his promises and do the same with Line 3, the Dakota Access pipeline, and all new fossil fuel projects. A 50% emissions reduction falls short of the United States’ fair share, and should be seen as the floor, not the ceiling. Ambitious climate action requires keeping all fossil fuels in the ground. Biden must show the world that the U.S. is serious about tackling the climate crisis at scale, centering communities most impacted, and creating millions of good, green jobs in the process.”

Brazil: Ilan Zugman, Latin America Managing Director of, based in Curitiba, 

“Bolsonaro lied when he said that Brazil is at the forefront of the climate efforts. It may have been true someday, but not in his government, which has been consistently attacking the policies and state agencies necessary to stop deforestation and lead the energy transition. He talked much about the past achievements of Brazil and too little about the future, not to mention that in the present, his environmental record is a disaster.”

“In the days before the Climate Summit, there was an impressive flow of open letters and social media campaigns in Brazil asking President Biden not to close any agreement with President Bolsonaro without hearing the Brazilian civil society first, and it seems to have worked. There is a very justified concern, based on the current attitude of the Brazilian government towards the environment, that no matter what the Bolsonaro government promises, it will be just empty words, and that an agreement with the US would end up endorsing the destruction of the Amazon and other biomes.”

“Brazil has the potential to be a global leader in the efforts to solve the climate crisis, and in fact it has been a very important voice in this conversation for many years, since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. However, the Bolsonaro government shrank Brazil’s ability to take climate action, by dismantling major policies against deforestation in the Amazon and threatening conservation in Indigenous Lands and Protected Areas. The key to take Brazil back to its leading role in the climate efforts is to empower and support the civil society, especially Indigenous leaders, and strengthen community-based solutions as opposed to ignoring or even encouraging the irresponsible expansion of mining and agribusiness, as President Bolsonaro has been doing”, said Ilan Zugman, Latin America Managing Director of 

Argentina Ignacio Zavaleta, Campaigner 

“What stood out in President Fernández’s speech was the fact that he did not mention any change in the government’s policies of investment in the expansion of oil and gas extraction in the Vaca Muerta area. Taxpayers’ money has been subsidizing a highly ineffective and environmentally harmful operation, which benefits a few foreign companies and brings no development to the country or even the region where it is based. These billion dollars wasted every year in fossil fuels should be redirected to policies of the energy transition, that are able to create more jobs in a moment when Argentinians desperately need it”, said Ignacio Zavaleta, Campaigner in Argentina.

Yellen pledges U.S. international cooperation, calls for global minimum tax


An article by David Lawder from Reuters (Reprinted by permission)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday that she is working with G20 countries to agree on a global corporate minimum tax rate and pledged that restoring U.S. multilateral leadership would strengthen the global economy and advance U.S. interests.

Reuters File Photo : U.S. Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

In a speech ahead of her first International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings as Treasury chief, Yellen signaled stronger U.S. engagement on issues from climate change to human rights to tax base erosion.

A global minimum tax proposed by the Biden administration could help to end a “thirty-year race to the bottom on corporate tax rates,” Yellen told an online event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The proposal is a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan, which calls for an increase in the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28% while eliminating some deductions associated with overseas profits.

Without a global minimum, the United States would again have higher rates than a number of other major economies, tax experts say, while the U.S. proposal could help jump-start negotiations for a tax deal among major economies.

World Bank President David Malpass said finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies on Wednesday would discuss global tax issues, including for digital services, adding that international attitudes were shifting away from continual tax reductions.

“Taxes matter to development, and it’s important that the world get it right,” Malpass told CNBC television.

Separately, a group of Democratic senators unveiled a legislative proposal to roll back parts of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 U.S. tax cuts.

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Question for this article:

Opposing tax havens and global exploitation: part of the culture of peace?

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Yellen also said she would use the IMF and World Bank meetings this week to advance discussions on climate change, improve vaccine access for poor countries and push countries to do more to support a strong global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will fare better if we work together and support each other,” Yellen said.

Her more cooperative approach marks a sharp contrast to the ‘America First’ approach of her Trump administration predecessor, Steven Mnuchin. She has backed a $650 billion increase in IMF monetary reserves that Mnuchin opposed last year, and said she will work with international institutions and partners on carbon emission reduction targets.

Mnuchin had routinely opposed any climate change references in G20 and other communiques issued from large multilateral gatherings.

Yellen also has dropped here a key Mnuchin demand from international tax negotiations – a provision that would allow large U.S. technology companies to opt out of any new rules on taxation of digital services.


The new Treasury chief said it was important to “end the pressures of tax competition” and make sure governments “have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenues in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”

Separately, a U.S. Treasury official told reporters that it was important to have the world’s major economies on board with a global minimum tax to make it effective, but did not say how many countries were needed for this.

The official said the United States would use its own tax legislation to prevent companies from shifting profits or residency to tax haven countries and would encourage other major economies to do the same.

The Biden plan proposes a 21% minimum corporate tax rate, coupled with eliminating exemptions on income from countries that do not enact a minimum tax. The administration says the plan will discourage the shifting of jobs and profits overseas.

Yellen said in her remarks that while advanced economies had successfully supported their economies through the COVID-19 pandemic, it was too early to declare victory, and more support was needed for low income countries to gain access to vaccines.

Cameroon: A radio station for the protection of the Waza biosphere reserve


An article from L’UNESCO

The Waza biosphere, the oldest in Cameroon, is located in the Lake Chad basin, in the Far North region. It is classified as a forest reserve, wildlife reserve, national park and sanctuary. This special status justified its reclassification in 1979 to the rank of biosphere reserve, recognized by UNESCO.

With its 170,000 hectares in area, the Waza biosphere offers ideal conditions for offering quality ecotourism, in particular thanks to the numerous presence on site of elephants, giraffes, large colonies of different species of birds and felines, among which are lions. Unfortunately, the Waza biosphere is also considered a dangerous place because it is traversed by terrorist groups which constitute a threat to social cohesion.

The biosphere of Waza, this tourist wealth of Cameroon, has been damaged in recent years at the hands of its local communities, threatening its biological, hydraulic and cultural heritage. Despite a certain involvement of these same communities in the management of Waza, there is still a difficult compromise with regard to the direct needs of local residents and the requirements of sustainable management of this rich but fragile biodiversity.

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(Click here for the french version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

How can tourism promote a culture of peace?

Islamic extremism, how should it be opposed?

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Almost 30 years after the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity, the need to manage biodiversity resources in a sustainable manner appears to be a priority more than ever. In this regard, initiatives aimed at making the concept of sustainable management operational have multiplied.

It is within this framework that the UNESCO Regional Office for Central Africa supports the countries of the Lake Chad Basin (Cameroon, Niger, Central African Republic and Chad), to strengthen the resilience of communities in the face of security and climate challenges.

UNESCO, through the BIOPALT project, is supporting the establishment of a community radio station in the Waza biosphere. To ensure the success of this support, the BIOPALT project team made an exchange visit and experience sharing with the local team, which focused on the potential positive impacts of the local radio tool within from the community. In addition, UNESCO is considering other support actions, in particular the restructuring of the building to house the radio but also training, the acquisition of radio equipment and their installation.

In this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, radio appears more than ever essential in the dynamics of mobilization and support of beneficiaries around local initiatives. It also facilitates the creation of favorable conditions for dialogue between communities and improves the dissemination of useful information to residents, in order to promote the culture of peace and contribute to civic education.

The radio is expected to support, in addition, policies and measures to combat poverty and the search for solutions for lasting peace, particularly in the park and areas prey to Boko-Haram attacks in the region.

The BIOPALT initiative, financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), places particular emphasis on the transmission of knowledge and the sharing of experiences in order to encourage the neighboring populations to adopt and enhance the practices of sustainable development to preserve the biosphere reserve and improve the socio-economic well-being of local communities.

In Central Africa, Villages Join an Experiment To Save the World’s Second-Largest Rainforest


An article from the Pulitzer Center

NKALA, Congo —  Amid a dawn chorus of crickets, mosquitoes and the “jee-ow!” of the great blue turaco, the forest canopy began to shake as a screech rang out.

Peering up through his binoculars, Nioka Monsiu spotted a pair of young bonobos tumbling in the treetops under the eye of their mother.

“Before, these species were menaced and hunted to near extinction,” he said. “But we protect them here in our forest.”

The population of Nkala is approximately 300. Image by Peter Yeung/The Los Angeles Times. Congo, 2020.

That protection is part of an experiment unfolding here in the Congo Basin: giving power to the people in an attempt to preserve the world’s second-largest rainforest.

Deforestation rates have accelerated over the last decade, raising fears that the Congo Basin could one day suffer the fate of the Amazon rainforest, which has been devastated by logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.

The research initiative Global Forest Watch found that since 2010, nearly 11 million acres of primary forest — the oldest, densest and most ecologically significant kind — have been lost in the Congo Basin to logging, agriculture, mining and oil drilling. That’s roughly triple what was lost in the previous decade.

Experts say that if nothing is done, the more than 400 million remaining acres — which stretch across six countries in Central Africa — will disappear by the end of the century.

There is time to head off disaster. The Democratic Republic of Congo has become the focal point of conservation efforts, because nearly 60% of the forest falls within its borders.

In early 2016, the government passed a law setting aside an estimated 185 million acres of forest — it did not specify how much is primary forest — to distribute to individual villages, with the expectation that local ownership leads to sustainable management.

“We believe that strengthening the rights of forest communities will be an effective way of both protecting rainforests and fighting poverty,” said Fifi Likunde Mboyo, who heads the program at Congo’s Ministry of Environment.

So far, 70 communities  have been allocated a total of 3.5 million acres. The 300 people of Nkala, where Monsiu lives, received 12,000 acres in late 2018.

The village sits 150 miles northeast of the capital, Kinshasa; reaching it requires driving for three days on unforgiving dirt roads or taking a narrow, wooden boat up the Congo River. For the people there, trapping wildlife in the forest has long been a way of life.

“Our grandparents used to live off hunting and fishing, but they did it too much, and they left us with almost nothing,” said Kinzoma Gaspard, the village chief.

In recent decades, outsiders have played a greater role in exploiting the region’s natural resources.

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Question for this article:

What is the relation between the environment and peace

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“Foreign logging companies used to come with the permission of the government, but without our permission, and yet cut down our forests,” said Paulin Ebabu, a village elder.

Under the community forest program, a local conservation group and the regional government helped the village decide how to divide its land between protected areas — where the forest can regenerate, and wildlife goes untouched — and development areas, where small-scale agriculture and hunting are permitted. The concession is managed by 11 elected villagers.

The bonobos are a big part of the plan. Last year, 30 tourists each paid $100 for up-close, guided encounters with the endangered great apes. The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled efforts to draw more visitors.

Monsiu, 28, is one of a dozen trackers. Trained by the World Wildlife Fund, the trackers follow the bonobos every day to monitor their health and behavior, as well as keeping tabs on their location, in order to hike in with tourists for visits. Each tracker earns $150 a month, a good income in a country where 72% of people live on less than $1.90 a day. For now, the WWF pays most of the salaries, but the hope is to eventually draw enough tourists to make the project self-sustaining.

Another part of the forest has been set aside to grow arrowroot trees. Women use the leaves to make mats, which they sell in nearby towns through a newly formed cooperative.

“My grandparents did it too,” said Hortense Wasa-Nziabo, a 21-year-old artisan. “It’s our heritage, and now it’s what nourishes us.”

Nkala has also diversified its crops, adding peanuts, corn and pineapples to its plantations in an effort to improve nutrition and protect the food supply from droughts and uneven rains. The WWF helped build a mill to turn cassava, a hearty root vegetable, into flour.

Villagers speak with pride about the changes and say their living standards are rising, though the project is still in its early stages and remains highly dependent on investment by outside groups.

The fate of the rainforest matters not only for villages like Nkala but for the world’s climate. Forests are major carbon sinks, and only the Amazon stores more than the Congo Basin.

Environmentalists view local ownership and management as a small but significant part of the solution to saving the rainforest.

“If the blueprint can be applied across the country, a huge source of deforestation would be eliminated,” said Innocent Leti, regional coordinator for Mbou-Mon-Tour, a Congolese nonprofit that helped Nkala develop its land-use plans.

But whether that can be achieved is a big question mark. The vast majority of the land set aside for villages has yet to be allocated. Many remote communities don’t know about the law, and even if they do, navigating the legalities to obtain concessions requires close technical support from provincial officials and outside organizations.

“We don’t have the capacity to help everyone,” said Inoussa Njumboket, a program officer for WWF in Congo who has worked in Nkala and the surrounding villages since 2010. “What value does that land have if the community doesn’t have the basic resources to take advantage of it?”

Even in Nkala, which is widely touted as a success, there have been problems. Unemployed villagers have been found hunting in protected territory, and there have been disputes among communities over resources.

“Women from other villages have been coming to our stream and taking our fish,” said Mafi Esefa, who collects wood and cassava leaves from the forest near Nkala to sell in other villages.

Still, her overall assessment is positive.

“The system works well,” she said. “It’s allowed me to become a businesswoman. It’s given me freedom.”

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Emails Reveal: U.S. Officials Sided With Agrochemical Giant Bayer to Overturn Mexico’s Glyphosate Ban


An article by Kenny Stancilde from Ecowatch

While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given farmers in the country a 2024 deadline to stop using glyphosate, The Guardian reported  Tuesday that agrochemical company Bayer, industry lobbyist CropLife America, and U.S. officials have been pressuring Mexico’s government to drop its proposed ban on the carcinogenic pesticide.

The corporate and U.S.-backed attempt to coerce Mexico into maintaining its glyphosate imports past 2024 has unfolded, as journalist Carey Gillam detailed in the newspaper, “over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11 billion settlement of legal claims brought by people in the U.S. who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure” to glyphosate-based products, such as Roundup.

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Question for this article:
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Roundup, one of the world’s mostly widely-used herbicides, was created by Monsanto which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.

According to The Guardian, which obtained internal documents via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), “The pressure on
Mexico is similar to actions  Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weed killer, but reversed course after U.S. threats about trade disruption.”

In addition to instructing Mexico’s farmers to stop using glyphosate by 2024, the López Obrador administration on Dec. 31, 2020 issued a “final decree” calling for “a phase-out  of the planting and consumption of genetically engineered corn, which farmers often spray with glyphosate, a practice that often leaves residues of the pesticide in finished food products,” the news outlet noted.

The Mexican government has characterized  the restrictions as an effort to improve the nation’s “food security and sovereignty” and to protect its wealth of biological as well as cultural diversity and farming communities.

Mexico’s promotion of human and environmental health, however, “has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agricultural exports, especially Bayer’s glyphosate products,” Gillam wrote.

Colombia: Impulse Travel – Sustainable tourism committed to Peace


An article from Caracol Radio (translation by CPNN)

Impulse Travel, a sustainable tourism company that has been working in the industry for 10 years, was a winner in the category of “Peace, Social Justice and Solid Institutions” in the SDGs Global Startup Competition, a competition of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Since the signing of the Peace Agreement, this company has focused on peace-building.  They have worked with different post-conflict populations for peace, productivity and sustainability processes, adding them to their value chain and giving them a share of the tourism market.

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(Click here for the Spanish version)

Questions related to this article:
How can tourism promote a culture of peace?

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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“We see these communities as partners, as a social enterprise that are part of the Value chain.  We work with social leaders who are leaders for changes in a community that are productive, cultural, gastronomic (…) we seek these social transformation projects and adapt them to our business ”, says Rodrigo Atuesta, CEO of Impulse Travel.

In addition, Lizeth Riaño, leader of strategy and impact product, sees in sustainable tourism “an opportunity to convince travelers that their tourism contributes to these communities by generating income for the territories. We see it as an opportunity and a challenge, to convince Colombians to get to know these regions and invest in them ”

The company recognizes that these are not experiences for everyone, since most visitors from abroad come for the first time and may be very clear about the type of experiences they want to live. ” The most important thing is to find the audience that vibrates with the same frequency as us, ” continues Atuesta.

This year, after a 2020 pandemic, Impulse Travel is working in a branch dedicated to finding these initiatives in communities in the process of social transformation, and giving them comprehensive support in addition to the tourism dimension.  It’s a great challenge to understand how initiatives work and to link them directly to the market.