Thursday, 31 March 2011

Supporting small-scale farmers: rights or markets?

International Institute for Environment and Develoment

Development support for small-scale farmers must be based on both the enforcement of basic human rights and a pro-poor development of markets. This was the conclusion of a seminar Rights-based versus market-based development: a false dichotomy for small-scale farmers? held in Stockholm, Sweden last week.

Rights-based approaches present a simplistic package of measures to tackle what are very diverse and complex problems on the ground. And they are not easily separated from markets — markets depend on rights and the way in which rights are constituted has profound implications for the way in which markets function, explained IIED researcher Diana Mitlin

Kimanzu of the of the Swedish Cooperative Centre echoed the need to support producer organizations as the most effective way of giving farmers a voice in markets. He talked about a programme in Costa Rica run by nongovernmental organization Sedeco that, by supporting an organic farmers association, has enabled small-scale farmers to compete with big multinationals such as Monsanto and penetrate the country’s organic production sector.

Brazil is not alone in focusing on school meal programmes to support smallholders. “There are many examples of countries that have built entire industries on these types of initiatives,” said Katarina Eriksson, from the Tetra Laval group. “Thailand, for example, has built its whole dairy industry on school milk and Iran is doing the same thing”.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rule of Law Assistance Directory

Demonstrations taking place in  several countries of the Middle East show us the importance to promote political liberalization and the establishment of modern legal systems, judicial institutions and constitutional governments in jurisdictions around the world.

The Rule of Law Assistance Directory created by the International Development Law Organization maps out the rule of law related activities to develop viable democratic institutions in developing countries since 2004. It includes projects and initiatives funded and/or implemented by a wide-range of stakeholders, including international and regional organizations, NGOs and private foundations.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Gender mainstreaming in the EU

Virginija Langbakk, Director of the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) based in Vilnius Lithuania, talked to the European Parliament's Women's Committee and urged action on gender issues. "I'm happy I was not born 100 years ago (but) we don’t have another 100 years. Europe can no longer afford to live with the existing gender gap."
The EU has come a long way towards closing the gender gap but women still make up only 14% of ambassadors, 9% of university deans, 3% of large company presidents and 2% of ministers. Women on average earn €2 an hour less than their male counterparts and do 13 hours more work in the home.
The institute will develop a Gender Equality Index aimed at assessing progress in gender equality in Member States. It encourages citizens to nominate candidates for its annual calendar on "Women inspiring Europe" and will use social media networks to spread positive role models of successful women.

The Social Watch network has already developed a similar index measuring gender discrimination in more than 150 countries

Saturday, 26 March 2011

InterAction developed map geotagging food security projects around the world

InterAction has developed a map providing information about 791 projects involving 50 organanizations around the world. Below you could find a screenshot of the original map.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Laureates Literature Nobel Prize

Successful sample of sustainable logging in Canada

While in the Philippines, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is set to investigate alleged death threats against a member of the government's task force (TF) on anti-illegal logging in the Caraga Region some months ago in Canada has been launched a documentary called Harmony dealing with the successful story of the Great Bear Rainforest agreements in British Columbia. In an area the size of Ireland, despite the beginning skeptical approaches it seems that an unprecedented collaboration between environmentalists, logging and mining industry, native groups and governments is bringing positive results.

Major milestones achieved in the final agreement, after weeks of intense negotiations in 2007 were:

- 2.1 million hectares, or 5 million acres, an area half the size of Switzerland, legally protected from logging;
- $120 million available to First Nation communities to help kick-start a new conservation economy as an alternative to logging throughout the rainforest, and;
- A new system of ‘lighter touch’ logging, based on Ecosystem-based Management (EBM), has been legislated.

Details of the area interested by the project
This system will maintain 50 per cent of the natural level of old growth forest in the region. This translates to an additional 700,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) of forest set aside from logging.

 A lot still need to be done in terms of creating a sustainable timber harvesting system and it will be important that all the parts will do again their best to contribute to the establishment of an effective ecosystem-based management for the area.  Despite the diffuculties to mutuate a project from one side of the world to another, it could be important to consider the re-elaboration of the main principles contributing to the succesful implementation of the project in  Canada in the countries affected by illegal logging practices.

further information
Illegal logging declining worldwide, but still 'major problem'

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Girl power at the EU Parliament - Greek MP Anni Podimata presented a resolution to introduce a tax on financial transactions

Anni Podimata, a Greek socialist EU MP, presented on the 8th of March to the European Parliament in Strasbourg a resolution to introduce a tax on financial transaction in the European Union.
Under the proposal, the tax would be levied on each financial transaction by banks based in the European Union at a rate of up to 0.05pc – raising as much as €200bn annually. Support for the tax has been gathering momentum in Brussels in recent months after initially being rejected as unworkable by the International Monetary Fund unless it secured global agreement.
Michel Barnier, EU internal markets commissioner, last month became the most prominent figure to endorse a Tobin tax, telling a German newspaper: “I personally consider this to be the right idea.” However, he added that it would have to be implemented worldwide.
The report submitted by the Greek MPto the EU Assembly was approved by 529 to 127, with 18 abstentions. Actually, this votation will not bring to a tax until the European Commission will approve it or adopt its own draft of financial transaction tax currently under consideration. Brussels insiders said that the Parliament is keen to change the way the EU is funded, drawing its funding directly rather than through member states.

Further details on the "Report on innovative financing at global and European level" are available at the following page of the European Parliament website

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Zai in Sahel region. A traditional farming practice to face desertification and climate change

In the West Sahel Region, particularly in Burkina Faso (former Alto Volta), Mali and Niger local cultivation techniques used by farmers for centuries have been adapted to the new climate conditions. Sahelian farmers dig holes called Zai with dimensions varying with the type of soil. Pits are dug during the dry season from November until May and the number of Zai pits per hectare varies from 12,000 to 25,000.(The number of zai per hectare and their dimensions determine how much water they harvest. The bigger the number and the smaller their size, the less water they each harvest.)
After digging the pits, composted organic matter is added and after the first rainfall, the matter is covered with a thin layer of soil and the seeds placed in the middle of the pit.
Zai fulfils three functions: soil and water conservation and erosion control for encrusted soils.
By concentrating water and fertility in pits, crop yields increase. Tiny trees began to sprout amid his rows of millet and sorghum, thanks to seeds contained in the manure. It became apparent that the trees–now a few feet high–were further increasing crop yields while also restoring soil fertility.

The tree-based farming technique adopted in the Sahel could help millions coping with climate change. Already these practices have spread across vast portions of Burkina Faso and neighboring Niger and Mali, turning millions of acres of what had become semi-desert in the 1980s until th 2000s into more productive land.

Further information:

Pirates of the Caribbean style in Indian Ocean

The primary threat from piracy and armed robbery was found in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. There, with the leadership of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the dedicated efforts of countries in the region, the international shipping industry and non-governmental organizations, a number of multilateral initiatives have resulted in improved maritime safety, security, and environmental protection in the Straits. But just as progress was being realized in Southeast Asia, a dramatic and alarming surge in piracy and armed robbery occurred in the waters off the coast of Somalia. Fueled by the violent political and economic instability in Somalia, the lack of institutions and the continued proliferation of small arms and light weapons piracy and armed robbery have increasingly endangered legitimate shipping in the waters off the coast of Somalia. In particular,the Gulf of Aden.

Some years ago newly appointed president of Puntland Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, a former finance minister and banker, defeated seven other candidates and will lead the northern region for four years.
"I will eliminate the piracy... and will deal with the security," he said. Promises remained on the table.

In contrast to more traditional forms of piracy, the pirates hijack commercial ships off Somalia and hold the ships and their crews hostage for ransom. Somali pirates attacking beginning of February a vessell operated by a Malaysian company, owned by a Japanese firm, have been arrested and charged in Kuala Lumpur. Attacks on ships and yachts have increased. Unfortunately, last 22 February 4 American tourists taken from their yacht have been shot dead.

As stated in an article published the 1st of March on the Financial Times: "anti-piracy operations..., it's like a crime in France where you have to call in police from Austria"

And as always there is people transforming a problem in a business creating a t-shirts line. Hope at least part of the revenues will go for aid projects in Somalia, but I doubt...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Gender quotas: helping women participate in the political life of their countriesght!

IDEA International has created the Global Database of Quotas for Women to measure political participation of women around worldwide jurisdictions. Women's participation and representation in decision making bodies at executive and legislative levels has increased over the past decades, this has been slow and uneven across the world. In national parliaments, the global average of seats held by women is only 18.4 percent.

Given the slow speed by which the number of women in politics is growing, there are increased calls for more efficient methods reach a gender balance in political institutions. Quotas present one such mechanism. The introduction of quota systems for women represents a qualitative jump into a policy of exact goals and means. Because of its relative efficiency, the hope for a dramatic increase in women's representation by using this system is strong.

The core idea behind quota systems is to recruit women into political positions and to ensure that women are not only a few tokens in political life. The database distinguishes between three types of gender quotas used in politics:

  • Reserved seats (constitutional and/or legislative)
  • Legal candidate quotas (constitutional and/or legislative)
  • Political party quotas (voluntary)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Rise of Asia's Middle Class

The Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010 is the flagship annual statistical data book of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It presents the latest available economic, financial, social, environmental, and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) indicators for regional members of ADB.

full text
The ADB report defines middle class as those earnings between US$2 and US$20 a day measured in international dollars, which is adjusted for purchasing power parity.
It also divided the middle class into three sub-sections; those in the US$2-US$4 a day range are considered as lower-middle class, those in the range of between US$4 and US$10 are middle-middle class and the those in the US$10 and US$20 are categorised as upper-middle class.
Five Asian countries with the largest middle class by population shares are Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Georgia. China and India are the top two in absolute numbers. Consumer spending in developing Asia was surprisingly resilient even during the “great recession” in the US and Europe in 2008 and 2009, ADB says.

China's middle class stampede for luxury handbags
Frustration brews as middle-class struggles to afford homes (Malaysia)
Middle class population to touch 267 mn in 5 yrs (India)