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NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) – A major overhaul of the global food system is urgently needed if the world is to combat hunger, use natural resources more efficiently and stem environmental damage, the International Resource Panel (IRP) says.
In its latest report, the IRP – a consortium of 34 internationally renowned scientists, over 30 national governments and other groups hosted by UNEP – calls for a switch to a “resource-smart” food system that changes the way food is grown, harvested, processed, traded, transported, stored, sold and consumed.
Current food systems, which the IRP says are “inefficient” and “unsustainable”, are responsible for 60 per cent of global terrestrial biodiversity loss and about 24 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
They are also responsible for the overfishing of 29 per cent of commercial fish populations and the overexploitation of 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers.
Although food production has increased across the world, more than 800 million people remain hungry, more than two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies – mainly vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc – and more than two billion people are overweight or obese, the report notes.
Compounding the problem, pressure on natural resources is expected to rise as populations grow and demand for food increases.
To combat these problems, the IRP says a “resource-smart” food system should be adopted, a system that adheres to three principles: low environmental impacts, the sustainable use of renewable resources and the efficient use of all resources.
“We have the knowledge and the tools at our disposal to feed all the people in the world while minimising harm to the environment. A better, more sustainable food system can allow us to produce and consume food without the detrimental effects on our natural resources,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.
He added, “The environment is not the only beneficiary of this system. More sustainable consumption and production of food will also be a boon to human health and the goal to end hunger throughout the world.”
To help the world shifts to a more sustainable food system, the IRP has come up with a list of 12 key recommendations for governments, private companies, civil society and citizens.
They include reducing food loss and waste and moving away from resource-intensive products such as meat, ‘empty calories’ and highly processed food.
Governments also need to connect rural and urban centres, especially in developing regions, where urban actors (for example supermarkets) could invest in regional supply chains and improve the position of smallholders.
Urban consumers should also be connected with how their food is produced and how it reaches their plates, and inform them about both the health and environmental consequences of dietary choices.
Other recommendations include protecting peri-urban zones around cities and use them for local food production and decoupling food production from resource use and environmental impacts, and replace certain inputs (such as pesticides) with ecosystem services.
The IRP report also recommends removing harmful subsidies, such as fossil fuel subsidies, that encourage unsustainable production and practices.
“The need for housing that involves using sand to make bricks should be banned. Taking sand from river banks messes up river water cycles, taking away top soil that is crucial for agriculture,” said Ashok Khosla, former IRP co-chair.
He called for adoption of traditional food production systems to protect the environment.
“In the past, our parents used one calorie to produce 300 calories of food. Today it is the reverse. We need to go back to the past because there was limited destruction of ecosystems,” he said.
Compounding current problems, rising wealth in developing countries will lead people to adopt diets that are richer in resource-intensive products – meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and highly processed foods – at a time when climate change will make producing food increasingly difficult.
As per-capita income rises, people’s diets change from one that is largely rich in carbohydrates to a diet richer in calories, sugars, and lipids, with more livestock-based products. In combination with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, this has led to a sharp increase in obesity, the report states.
The report blames the high consumption of animal-based products and highly processed foods for triggering “disproportionate environmental costs” while undermining public health due to obesity related disease.
Globally, chicken meat and dairy consumption are expected to increase by 20 per cent over the next 10 years while the consumption of pig meat and beef is also projected to increase, both by around 14 per cent, according to the report.
Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director said the use of resources by humanity is not sustainable and scientific knowledge is key to finding solutions to the problem.
“We have a dilemma because we must feed billions of people without depleting the natural resources,” Thiaw said.
Janez Potocnik, IRP’s co-chair said the world’s population will be 9.7 billion in 2050 yet 60 per cent of the ecosystems are already degraded.
“Current food systems must change because they are unsustainable. Currently, 24 per cent of global gas emissions are related to food production,” he said.
He added, “We need to produce food sustainably with no land degradation, no depletion and efficiently with high productivity and low environmental damage. This is so because one billion people depend on traditional food systems, four billion depend on intermediaries and two billion on modern food systems bought in supermarkets.”
The report lists various options which at different points of intervention and by diverse actors throughout the system, could lead to resource efficiency gains of up to 30 per cent for certain resources and impacts.
Some of these options include sustainable intensification’ of crop production – higher yields without increasing environmental impacts.
Better feed conversion and higher productivity of pastoral systems and higher nutrient efficiency along the food chain – better recycling of minerals in animal manure and use of by-products or food waste as feed or compost.
Other recommendations are more efficient aquaculture systems – lower nutrient losses and less impact on coastal systems and reduction of overconsumption and change of unhealthy dietary patterns – shift in affluent societies from animal-based to more plant-based diets.
“If the above changes are not made, land degradation, the depletion of aquifers and fish stocks and contamination of the environment will lower future food production capacity. It will undermine the food systems upon which our food security depends, as well as cause further degradation of other ecosystem functions,” the report warns.
Par Kané Illa
Le samedi 18 juin dernier, le Centre de presse de la station régionale de l’ORTN (Office de Radiodiffusion et Télévision du Niger) de Dosso, à 150 kilomètres à l’est de Niamey, a servi de cadre à un atelier de formation des animateurs des radios communautaires des régions de Dosso, Niamey et Tillabéry sur les changements climatiques.
Cet atelier a été organisé par le Réseau des Journalistes pour un Environnement Sain (RJES), dans le cadre de son projet «Conscientiser les populations rurales du Niger sur les changements climatiques, à travers les radios communautaires», financé par l’Ambassade de France au Niger à travers le Fonds d’Appui à la Société Civile du Sud (FASCS).
Lors de la cérémonie d’ouverture de l’atelier, le Coordonnateur national du RJES, M. Illa Kané, a précisé que le projet en question vise à outiller les animateurs des radios communautaires sur les questions des changements climatiques pour qu’à leur tour ils puissent sensibiliser les populations rurales sur les effets néfastes de ces changements climatiques et les mesures d’adaptation qu’elles doivent prendre pour y faire face.
Le Coordonnateur du RJES a ajouté qu’en plus des ateliers, le projet comporte aussi l’élaboration, en français et dans les différentes langues nationales du Niger, des émissions de sensibilisation et des lexiques sur les changements climatiques qui seront mis à la disposition des radios communautaires pour leur diffusion. Dans son discours d’ouverture de l’atelier, le Gouverneur de la région de Dosso, M. Abdoulaye Issa, a déclaré qu’à l’instar des autres pays, dont ceux du tiers-monde, «le Niger subit malheureusement les effets néfastes des changements climatiques».
Il a poursuivi en rappelant que dans sa Contribution prévue déterminée au niveau nationale (CPDN), soumise à la Convention cadre des Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques (CCUNCC) à l’occasion de la 21ème Conférence des parties (COP) tenue à Paris (France) au mois de décembre dernier, «le Niger a retenu plusieurs actions d’atténuation et d’adaptation aux changements climatiques».
Parmi les actions d’atténuation, il a cité, entre autres, la séquestration du carbone ; l’aménagement durable des formations forestières ; l’amélioration du taux d’accès à l’électricité ; la réduction de la demande en bois énergie et la promotion des énergies renouvelables. S’agissant des actions d’adaptation, le Gouverneur Abdoulaye Issa a parlé, entre autres, de la restauration des terres agro-sylvo-pastorales ; de la régénération naturelle assistée ; de la fixation des dunes, l’aménagement des forêts naturelles ; de la plantation des haies vives et des espèces à usages multiples, ainsi que de la promotion de la foresterie privée.
Il a indiqué qu’au vu de toutes ses actions, le Niger «n’est pas resté les bras croisés face au phénomène des changements climatiques qui mobilise tous les pays du monde», même s’il a reconnu que «tous les efforts déjà accomplis et ceux à venir n’auront de véritables impacts que si les populations, notamment celles vivant en milieu rural et qui subissent directement les conséquences des changements climatiques, ne prennent véritablement conscience des dangers de ce phénomène».C’est pourquoi le Gouverneur Abdoulaye Issa a salué l’initiative du RJES qui, a-t-il expliqué, «est d’autant plus porteuse que les radios communautaires sont très proches des populations, parce qu’elles sont non seulement installés dans des villages, mais aussi et surtout parce qu’elles diffusent dans les langues du terroir».
La formation a été assurée par deux experts du Secrétariat Exécutif du Conseil National de l’Environnement pour un Développement Durable (CNEDD), assurant le point focal national des trois Conventions post Rio, dont celle sur les Changements climatiques. Il s’agit de M. Gousmane Moussa de la division changements climatiques du CNEDD et de Mme Issa Hamsatou Kaïlou, chargée de communication et des relations publiques du CNEDD. Le premier a fait une présentation d’ensemble sur les changements climatiques, tandis que la seconde a axé sa communication sur les techniques d’élaboration des émissions radiophoniques sur les changements climatiques.
By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (PAMACC News) – Extreme droughts, floods and other climate challenges are leading to an increase in both the number and intensity of disasters all over the world and in Africa in particular. Countries in the Sahel regions in Africa are worst affected, experts have revealed.
Participants at a technical meeting in the 6th Africa Water Week in Dar es Salam on July 19, 2016, agreed early warning systems adapted to the realities of different countries will help governments cope with the huge climate challenges plaguing Africa.
“African countries are barely able to cope with the massive climate challenges, but we think the institution of early warning systems adapted to the realities of each country is cardinal,” noted Mohamed Gilla of the Lake Chad Basin Commission at the meeting.
He said combining local and expert knowledge in addressing the challenges will yield more fruitful results.
“While expert knowledge with innovations is a key driver, the use of local and indigenous knowledge cannot be left out,” Mohamed said.
Convened by UNESCO and Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institution, the event focused on the theme “Early warning systems for water extremes and climate change information in Africa.”
Panelists highlighted ongoing tools and methodologies in addressing floods, droughts and other water related climate disasters in Africa and suggested ways of improving on them.
One of the key elements in any early warning system it was agreed is communication of the right information and training.
“Getting the right information to the relevant target audience is capital. Also of no less importance is capacity building of both the indigenous population and the experts,” the panelists noted.
Extreme climate affects agriculture dependent livelihoods, thus building and improving the capacities of farmers on early warning intricacies and techniques will help them better stand the challenges experts said.
Use of local knowledge and resource persons
The creation and training of a committee of local volunteers to assists regularly in activities to improve on existing warning systems such as measurement of water level of rivers, streams and sending on the data for analysis to existing weather forecasting centers was also highlighted.
Networking with local resource persons and knowledge has yielded positive results in early warning methodologies in many countries in Africa, experts said.
“If there are any irregularities, these local vigilant committees inform the first-aiders in the villages, who warn people via local radio and phones if a disaster is imminent. In the event of flooding, they help to evacuate the villagers to higher ground,” said Obrigada Joana of Waternet Trust in a presentation at the meeting.
In many countries where such local organization exist like the case of Mozambique, these early local committees are an important step in adapting to climate change, she revealed.
Expert however agree the use of early warning technologies like weather forecast centers have their limitations given that climate science is not exact science with stated formula.
Countries in the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zones for example,witness intense thunderstorms around the equator where the trade winds from both hemispheres meet frequently. They thus experience heavy showers and thunderstorms which develop and dissipate very suddenly.
In the tropics, the weather systems are largely driven by prevailing winds whereby small changes in the wind speed and direction can result in significant changes in weather. The problem is compounded because winds near the equator are generally quite light and variable, and thus more difficult to predict, experts explained.
In Chad for example wrong signals of predicted heavy winds in 2010 caused state authorities to close down the use of the airport for over a week causing the state heavy loss as the winds never came.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (PAMACC News) – Use of mobile telephone technologies and community radio services has been cited as some of the best methods of sharing and disseminating climate information for effective early warning, and adaptation.
Experts attending the sixth session of the Africa Water Week (AWW) in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania have pointed out that early warning systems can be set up to avoid or reduce the impact of hazards such as floods, landslides, storms, and forest fires. However, the significance of an effective system lies in the recognition of its benefits by local people.
According to Dr Abdourahman H-Gaba Maki, of the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), early warning system is a major element of disaster risk reduction, and helps in preventing loss of life and properties. “This also ensures there is a constant state of preparedness,” he told the AWW.
To make the system effective and relevant to the people, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has developed a mobile telephone application (app) known as “IGAD-ASIGN”, through which mobile phone owners have an opportunity to contribute towards disaster preparedness by taking and sending photos of given geographical situation, in relation to an impending, or a particular disaster.
“The IGAD-ASIGN is an important smart-phone application because it facilitates interaction and feedback from the ground,” said Maki.
The photos taken by volunteers are used as field validation of IGAD and other partners’ satellite image analyses, thus contributing to accurate and efficient disaster risk reduction solutions. This has helped vulnerable countries in the Greater Horn of Africa region to make better and faster decisions.
In the same vein, Maki pointed out the RANET radio networks operated by the Meteorological Department in Kenya, through which farmers and residents are able to access climate related information via community based radio stations, which usually broadcast in local languages.
‘RANET’ is an international collaboration of meteorological and similar services working to improve rural and remote community access to weather, climate, and related information.
Less than two years after it went on air, Nganyi RANET Community Radio in Western Kenya for example, has become a valuable asset to the community, where many people keep glued on their radio sets listening to different programs, while other access the signal via mobile phones.
Through this radio station, the community served by the station can now understand when it is likely to rain, whether the rainfall will be heavy to cause floods, when the dry spell is likely to begin, hence, helping them prepare for the eventualities.
It helps farmers know when to plant and the type of seeds to plant depending on the amount of rainfall expected.
The Horn of Africa region has been noted to be one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change in the world (IPCC, AR5, 2014) due to the inadequacy of resources to adapt socially, technologically and financially.
Use of radio and mobile phones therefore ensures that the required information reach the people on the ground, as a way of reducing the negative impact of climate change.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, early warning systems have limitations in terms of saving lives if they are not combined with “people-centred” networks.
To be effective, says the federation, warnings will have little value unless they reach the people most at risk, who need to be trained to respond appropriately to an approaching hazard.
And now, with the bigger percentage of people in rural areas having access to community radio, and some of them to smart-phones, it has become easier to interact between the government, the people and the experts.