Monday, 9 December 2013
Stakeholders under the aegis of the Ministry of the Environment, Parks and Wildlife and its partners have gathered at the conference hall of the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) for a training workshop, designed to build the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The Inventory guidelines are expected to be used to ensure that The Gambia meets the demands of all the international conventions and treaties it has so far ratified on climate change and its related issues. The Environment, Parks and Wildlife minister, Fatou Ndey Gaye at the event, described the workshop as an important milestone in the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in The Gambia. The minister hastened to thank all the members of the National Climate Committee (NCC), the UNFCCC focal point and secretariat, as well as various national experts for their solid engagement in the development of the National Greenhouse Inventory Report (NIR) of the Third National Communications of The Gambia. She informed that The Gambia has prepared and submitted two Green House Gas (GHG) Inventories as a component of its Initial and Second National Communications. In line with the more recent developments of the UNFCCC, namely more regular reporting and emphasis on emissions/sinks and mitigation, she said it is felt that this process should now be institutionalised. The minister used the opportunity to reiterate that The Gambia has emitted about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2000, representing only about 0.01% of global emissions. Minister Gaye however lamented that the 'temperature warming' in The Gambia is projected to increase by about 4OC, while rainfall is projected to decrease by about 54% in 2100. Food and nutrition security of The Gambia, she added, would be seriously threatened by climate change, as crop production is likely to reduce by about 30%. "Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the single most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, contributing 64% to radioactive forcing by Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHGs). It is responsible for 84% of the increase in radioactive forcing over the past decade and 82% over the past five years. Atmospheric CO2 reached 141%of the pre-industrial level in 2012, primarily because of emission from combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation and other land use," she explained. The minister reminded participants that their task is to develop the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in The Gambia, stressing that they have to ensure that specific tasks relating to the national GHG inventory are carried out in a timely manner and ensure efficient coordination of outputs of consultants and national institutions. "The activities undertaken by the national institutions will contribute to strengthening institutional arrangements for compiling, archiving, updating and managing GHG inventories," she maintained. The UNFCCC focal person in The Gambia, Pa Ousman Jarju, who is also the director of Water Resources, said the objective of the UNFCCC is to achieve the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. He stressed that in order to achieve this, all parties shall develop and periodically update national greenhouse gas inventories, formulate, implement, publish and regularly update programmes containing mitigation and adaptation measures, while communicating information to the conference of the parties that is related to the implementation of commitments.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
The question about climate change is no longer whether it is real. The question is what the world is going to look like for generations yet unborn. Despite the global community's best intentions to keep global warming below a 2C increase from the pre-industrial climate, higher levels of warming are increasingly likely.
Scientists agree that countries' current emission pledges and commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change would most likely result in 3.5-4C warming. And the longer those pledges remain unmet, the more likely it is that we will be living in a world that is four degrees warmer by the end of this century. The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach for millions of people in the developing world; it also threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development. Care must be taken so as not to focus only on doomsday scenarios. In fact, there are tremendously exciting possibilities in what it would look like to live in a very low-carbon world. Our work on inclusive green growth shows that, through more efficient and smarter use of energy and natural resources, there are opportunities to drastically reduce the climate impact of development without slowing poverty alleviation or economic growth. Those initiatives include: putting of fossil fuel and other harmful subsidies to better use; factoring the value of the natural environment into economic decision-making; expanding public and private expenditures on green infrastructure that is able to withstand extreme weather; investing in urban public transport systems designed to minimise carbon emission and maximise access to jobs and services; supporting carbon pricing and international and national emissions trading schemes; and increasing energy efficiency – especially in buildings – and the share of renewable power produced. That is our challenge. The best and brightest companies and developed and developing countries should be encouraged to seize new opportunities connected to inclusive green growth. They must know that the path to economic growth could very well be engaging in finding new technologies and new approaches of mitigating climate change. Can we create an enormous market for new technologies focused on mitigation of climate change? I think there's only one answer: we simply must. We at GreenEco hope that the vision of economic opportunity arising from the need to create a low-carbon world inspires us to create new technologies. It is these technologies that can become drivers of economic growth as well as saviours of our planet from catastrophe.
Saturday, 7 December 2013
Agricultural biodiversity entails growing a variety of plants on a smallholding or farm instead of a large expanse of a single plant in monocultures of maize or soybean or plantations of oil palms. Biodiversity can not only provide food and a nutritious varied diet, but also fodder and ecosystem services like pest control by encouraging beneficial predators and fertilization by planting legumes and fertilizer trees. Biodiversity is also the basis and the result, of a good forest conservation policy. A common misconception is that sound agricultural policies cannot go hand in hand with the protection of forested areas. A smallholder rotating cereals and vegetables, growing coffee under a canopy of fruit or cocoa trees or oil palms will contribute to their household’s food security and nutrition by hedging their bets – if one crop fails, others can fill the gap and provide the family with a varied diet. Furthermore forest canopies continue to be protected and important corridors maintained for wildlife. Any surplus fruit or cash crops of coffee and cocoa can supplement the family income. By relying on biodiversity to deter pest infestations and provide fertilisation, the smallholder reduces reliance on external inputs, like expensive chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which in turn prevents the pollution of soil and water and even improves the household balance sheet. Ecological farming relies on agro-biodiversity by working with nature. In contrast, uncontrolled industrial agriculture threatens to suppress biodiversity by promoting an agricultural model that relies on monocultures of plants like GE cereals or plantations of oil palm or cocoa, to the exclusion of any other plant. The lack of biodiversity increases the vulnerability of the monoculture to pest infestations, that industrial agriculture usually "solves" by selling toxic chemical pesticides, which often kill organisms indiscriminately, including beneficial insects like pest predators and pollinators such as bees .By following a strategy of "Zero deforestation" countries that are home to large forested areas can ensure food sovereignty for their people by making the most of their natural resources without putting them at risk. If smallholders are growing a variety of plants that provide a varied diet, they won’t be suffering from nutrient deficiency. This will sap demand for one of the latest technology fixes being developed by Big Food to make more money from our broken food system - biofortification. It would also provide a raison d’etre for releasing GMOs into the environment. There will be no market for these false solutions if smallholders embrace agro-biodiversity. "The best solution to tackle Vitamin A Deficiency already exists and it’s called vegetables."
Thinking about farming in Africa, one of the major goals is to see local farmers being able to grow safe and healthy food in balance with nature. It is called ecological farming, and it would not only feed Africa’s people but also maintain livelihoods, alleviate poverty, and prevent the corporate takeover of agriculture currently happening across the continent. Ecological farming is about nurturing our soils, cultivating diversity, and supplying families with safe and nutritious food. It is the only way to effectively address the serious triple crises of food insecurity, water scarcity, and climate change. Today Africa is increasingly being targeted as the new market for industrial agriculture: an agriculture driven by corporate interests and supported by governments in the North and South. Industrial agriculture relies on farmers using inputs for their crops. These inputs include synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and genetically engineered (GE) seeds – and they are very expensive. Using them often results in debt and economic insecurity for farmers. This debt-driven agriculture is also a big contributor to global climate change, and it destroys biodiversity, degrades soils, and pollutes land, freshwater, and coastlines. From field to fork, chemically intensive industrial agriculture is bad for Africa. The invasion of agribusiness in Africa’s agriculture is threatening this control and the ability of small-scale farmers, who are mostly women, to continue feeding the majority of Africa’s people. Stakeholders who are contributing to agricultural development in Africa support and the millions of farmers who grow Africa’s food and feed Africa directly, have supported ecological farming. Using ecological farming, local farmers can nurture the soil that feeds the crops and which ultimately feeds the continent. Voices of African farmers should be heard on the development of our continent’s agriculture.
Given the challenges posed by climate change, here is an idea that makes a lot of sense: grain reserves. Why? Because grain reserves are a relatively cheap public insurance policy in the face of tremendous uncertainty, when the risks of failure include starvation. Governments can use a reserves policy to invest in storage and transportation infrastructure; to work with the private sector to cover gaps and market failures; to provide farmers with guarantees that encourage investment; and to increase transparency to discourage hoarding and speculation.
Confronted with the reality of climate change, governments must take a smarter approach towards managing our food supply. Grain reserves have an impressive pedigree. For thousands of years, households and governments have stored some of each harvest as an insurance against the uncertainties of the next. Food reserves respond to inherent characteristics of agriculture, particularly the presence of relatively constant, inelastic demand coupled with much more variable short-term supply. Unregulated agricultural markets often over-produce, leading to a pattern of many years of declining prices, interrupted by short, sharp, upward spikes. Food reserves can lessen the unwanted consequences of unstable agricultural markets.
There are many models to choose from—indeed, most governments have some form of reserve in place—though most have been scaled back considerably since the days when food reserves were the norm. In the past, some of the major exporting countries (notably Canada and the U.S., in the case of wheat) held reserves that effectively both established a price floor for their growers and gave wheat importers confi dence that the grain supply was safe, even if one year’s harvest was poor.
In other cases, national governments have operated domestic focused reserves. Many such national reserves in sub-Saharan Africa were troubled by poor finance and oversight. Even those that worked relatively well were dismantled over the 1990s, largely because they did not fi t in the model of economic liberalization that dominated donor thinking at the time. But there are compelling reasons to consider their re-establishment given the vital nature of food security, the effects of climate change on agricultural production, and the failure of purely market-based approaches to provide an adequate and appropriate food supply and distribution. Countries can learn from their experiences in establishing independent and accountable central banks, which in the past were similarly crippled by poor governance and a lack of accountability. They can also benefit from the dramatic changes in information technology, communications and transportation to build reserves that are flexible, and that are responsive to change in market conditions.
Electronic gadgets can make our lives better, but the rate at which we collectively purchase and discard them is having a serious impact on our planet. So people often ask us: "Who is the greenest tech company?" Often the greenest option for people is to buy only what they truly need, to buy used electronics, and to extend the life of their devices by upgrading parts or replacing a weak battery. The greenest electronic gadget is usually the one you don't buy.
However, when people do need to purchase a new product, there is some good news to report: many electronic companies have improved at removing toxic chemicals from mobile phones, computers and tablets, an important step in the right direction. This change did not happen by accident or altruism; companies changed in large part because of creative people-powered campaigns.
The next big challenge for the tech sector is to address the dirty energy embedded in the devices’ manufacturing and supply chains that causes climate change. With an expected 1 trillion USD in sales in 2012, the industry can prevent a lot of global warming pollution if it moves to clean energy in its manufacturing processes. These companies need to lead so that they can prevent electronic waste from piling up in places such as China, and can ensure that their products are made from clean power, not dirty energy. Electronic companies have also gained political power in many countries, meaning their advocacy for clean energy can have a big impact on government policies. All of us – companies and individuals alike – have a responsibility to make our planet more sustainable.
The causes of hunger range from extreme weather events, predictable cycles of drought, food price volatility, ineffective or discriminatory distribution of food supplies, corporate dominance of the global food system and international trade policies, to chronic poverty and lack of social protection. Taken together, they point to national and international policies that fail to adequately address – let alone ensure – food and nutrition security.
Now the response.
We produce enough food, but our production, distribution and consumption patterns are neither just nor sustainable. Continued high rates of hunger demonstrate that most mainstream approaches to food production have failed us.
Large-scale, industrial agriculture and GMOs have not been successful in solving global food security challenges. Rather, these practices have degraded our soils, polluted our water, and reduced biodiversity through the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and through clear-cutting practices for monocropping. Sustainable agroecological food production methods (also called ecological farming) aim to increase productivity through enhancing natural and sustainable processes, using local knowledge and resources.
In contrast to industrial and chemical agriculture, which is a linear system that relies on costly external inputs (pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, etc.), agroecology is a closed loop system of production, which recycles organic materials into the soil to increase nutrients over time, making food systems less dependent on fossils fuel-based fertilizers.
Therefore the answer is leveraging the potential of sustainable agriculture methods with policies designed to scale up and mainstream the systems that have proven records of success in terms of sustainable productivity and resilience, and linking these systems to markets that enhance livelihoods and communities. This will not only preserve land and other natural resources for future generations but help restore depleted soils and protect the precious biodiversity that still remains to us. Such a holistic and ecological approach to food security is needed now more than ever.
Agroecology is simply a better way to fight hunger while protecting the environment and helping communities to prosper.
In the midst of worrisome news about droughts, desertification, unreliable monsoons and growing concerns around water security around the world, the announcement by the UNESCO and Kenyan officials at the recent International Water Security Conference in Nairobi was anything but gloomy. The finding of potentially huge groundwater resources in northwestern Kenya is indeed a blessing, not only for the herding communities of drought-prone Turkana, but also for the region as a whole. Until very recently the region was best known to the global water community both for the lack of access to water that mark the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities that live there, and for their efforts to save Turkana Lake, the largest permanent desert lake in the world according to International Rivers. But a recent survey by RTI, a company hired by U.N., found groundwater systems with a potential of storing about 250 billion cubic meters (or about 66 trillion gallons) in the Kachoda, Gatome, Nkalale and Lockichar areas, with the largest aquifer being located in the Lokitipi Basin—all of them in Turkana county, one of the 47 counties in Kenya. Of these, the three smaller aquifers combined are estimated to store about 30 billion cubic meters of water, once confirmed by drilling. But the Lotikipi Basin Aquifer, the largest of them—it has already been confirmed—is likely to store about 207 billion cubic meters, and has a recharge rate of 1.2 billion cubic meters or about 317 billion gallons a year, equivalent to 40 percent of the current annual water use in Kenya. Kenyan water resource planners, with their ability to estimate the recharge rate, are in a better position today to plan and keep the water withdrawal below this rate. The Kenyan government, which has ushered in policy reforms in several sectors, might be in a position to ensure this environmental cap. Yet, some of the issues I raised in an earlier blog come to mind. Referring to a Guardian report on a study that looked at rising sea levels from a new angle, we urged caution. That study found that efforts to meet increasing freshwater demand by harnessing “fossil” groundwater [which cannot be replenished for millennia under current climate conditions] contributes more to rising sea levels than melting glaciers. The authors were particularly concerned about deep tube-well drilling—a technology adapted from the oil industry—which has contributed to a number of problems associated with irrigated agriculture. New initiatives in groundwater development could learn from past lessons (India, China and the United States to list a few), and in view of these experiences the temptation to promote groundwater development in Kenya needs to be tempered with caution. This is especially important in the Kenyan context. Along with the new ground water resources, RTI has also located some oil reserves in the region. As far as the Kenyan government is concerned, the temptation to exploit oil will be high, as will the temptation to extract water to ensure food security. As far as international investors and international institutions are concerned, the temptation to appropriate the newfound wealth for global good will be high. Turkana is also the poorest county in the country, ranking 47th in poverty rate (94.3 percent, while the national average is 47.2 percent as per the Kenya Household and Budget Survey). Most people who live there, especially in the rural areas, belong to herding/ fishing communities which have a different relation with natural resources as well as with cash economy. As the state and private sector begin investing in the region, it is up to democratic institutions in Kenya to ensure that marginalized groups amongst the Turkana inhabitants have a say in the development of these water resources.
False Solutions to refer to those solutions which reinforce the systems which have resulted in climate change and the food and energy crisis.
Industrial agriculture and the food system, which are becoming larger and more centralised, not only destroys biodiversity, soils, nutrition and local food systems, but are responsible for at least 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which trigger climate change. And in addition to this destruction, an estimated 20 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain during its journey from chemical drenched fields to the plate. Research shows that a third of the world's entire food supply could be saved by reducing waste - that's enough to feed 3 billion people.
Why then do advocates for industrial agriculture continually raise the alarm about feeding the growing global population, and the need for them to have more land, technology, investment so that they can "feed the world"? Is this because they have become charitable organisations? Or because they have to find ways to grow their markets, to grow their profits?
Genetically Modified crops are patended because corporations claim that they have engineered a new variety of seed by introducing foreign genes into the seed. They therefore claim that they can "own" seed - and treat it as any other patented commodity. But Nature's Laws defy ownership and control. These seeds multiply and cross-polinate with other non-GM seeds. The companies controlling their patents have reacted to this by suing farmers with land where there are any who have traces of "their" GMO seeds without license or purchase. These farmers have little chance of survival against the corporate legal teams who push for ever more stringent laws to further the interests of their clients, against all odds.
These monocultures offer farmers and our increasingly fragile food system, little resilience to the volatile climate of today. Resilience is found in the diversity of locally adapted seeds. With the loss of seed diversity comes the loss of local and indigenous knowledge and practices which enhance seed diversity. These complex farming systems, which have evolved over thousands of years, have stood the test of time by following the laws of Nature. The GMO experiment, driven by corporations rather than independent scientists, is a few decades old, yet its proponents want us to put our food security in their hands.
Agrofuels - or Biofuels - are fuels produced from organic matter, such as palm oil plants. They are cultivated in large-scale monocultures and have been promoted as the answer to our fossil fuel dependent societies; a 'green' fuel which can be used in place of petrol or diesel. They may purport to be a solution to climate change, but in actual fact they emit more CO2 in their production and processing than fossil fuels. The push for biofuels is leading to large-scale deforestation, and a global land grab which has contibuted to the global food crises as land for food is converted into land for fuel.
There are numerous other 'solutions' being proposed to deal climate change and food insecurity. These are founded on the same principles as industrial agriculture, GMOs and agrofuels; large-scale moncrops, hi-tech investment, and chemical input systems which require capital and centralised control. All believe the market will deliver the solutions.
Carbon offsets, Geo-engineering, Biochar, Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology are all promoted at the expense of the decentralised, culturally and biologically diverse systems and responses which peoples movements across the world are re-building from the grassroots up. These systems provide solutions which are challenging the thinking that has driven us into the multiple crises we now face. They are demonstrating that there is a more socially, ecologically and economically just way to solve these problems; a way which decentralises control and capital. This goes to the heart of the challenge.
Thursday, 5 December 2013
Some of the most minor changes around your home can benefit our planet, increase your own wellbeing, and bring happiness to your wallet. With green products and techniques no longer part of a boutique industry, the chance to plant your own footprint into making a difference has never been easier.
Here are few ideas to improve your home’s efficiency so you can live in an environmentally friendly home.
When greening your home the number one consideration is windows. Because much of your home’s energy loss is through them, ensuring you have coated glass or energy efficient curtains or blinds is important.
Most window coverings offer some sort of insulation, but some perform more efficiently than others—lowering heating and cooling costs without compromising your décor and design. For those that want the best of both worlds, curtains and blinds, such as readymade roman blinds, make for a fantastic choice giving the luxurious appearance of curtains combined with the mechanisms of blinds.
The amount of light that enters the room can easily be controlled through the type of fabric providing an energy efficient solution. To keep your home cooler in summer it’s a good idea to make sure your east and west windows are shaded.
The frame of your windows can also play a big part in green living as the commonly used material UPVC (unplasticized poly vinyl chloride) can release toxic compounds. Wood-framed windows are a much greener alternative – they are more insulated, easier to repair and last longer.
Green Up Your Appliances
If your appliances are more than 10 years old, it’s a good idea to start working towards replacing them with energy efficient models that display the “Energy Star” logo. Every device normally has a label that shows how much power it consumes, so the old fridge out the back holding just a carton of beer could be costing you $200 a year.
Once you have studied your power bill, cross checked with these labels, you will be able to figure out how much each appliance costs to run and whether replacing it would be a cheaper option. For appliances that don’t require replacing, make sure you do a regular check for leaky parts and get them repaired as soon as possible. This will help significantly on your water saving too.
Energy Efficiency Lighting
LED are the most durable and eco-friendly of lighting options. Not only will they save you on the power bills, but they are low maintenance and super pleasant on the environment.
As opposed to standard halogen lights, LEDs consumer a fraction of the energy, providing more light and less heat and energy. Because of the significant drop in temperature from these lights, it lowers the use of air conditioning making it very cost effective.
Reduce Your Water Use
To reduce your outdoor water use, optimize your lawn watering schedule and adjust your sprinklers to minimize waste.
Running your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full will also help in reducing water wastage.
Clean Air Conditioning
When you’re doing your regular spring clean, not many people will think to put the air conditioner on the list of things to do – but you should. Cleaning out the filters of your air conditioning or replacing them regularly will ensure the airflow is doing its job properly.
Keep Your Garden Green
Creating compost is a great way to keep your garden even greener with its multiple eco-friendly benefits. Scraps such as eggshells, fruit and vegetable peels, tea bags and stale bread are the perfect food for your compost pile and can improve the health of your soil whilst giving back to the environment and controlling household waste.
Going green isn’t a tough task to achieve and even just applying one or two of the above points can make a world of difference. What are you going to do to leave your imprint on the environment?