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IRIN TEDx Talk: Stop eating junk news

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:05:17 +0000

Over the last decade, we've awoken to the fact that junk food hurts us. It's time for a similar revolution in our news consumption. 

In this new TEDx Talk, IRIN Director Heba Aly takes on the role of ‘chief news nutritionist’. Fake news is one thing but Heba explains why we must stop consuming the more insidious, less obvious variety of junk news: “If classical junk news is your greasy double bacon cheeseburger, junk coverage of important news is the low fat blueberry muffin that looks healthy but is actually loaded with calories.”

A journalist covering humanitarian crises for the past 10 years, Heba highlights through personal experiences and powerful examples the dangers of simplistic narratives that can warp our views of conflicts and crises, affect realities on the ground and even impact peace negotiations.

“It has never been more important to understand our ever-complex world because we cannot prevent, respond to or resolve these crises if we do not properly understand them,” she says. 

“This isn’t just about a failure to understand the world around us. Junk news erodes our democracies because it fails to give us the information we need to be responsible, active citizens and to make informed decisions about our own lives.” 

IRIN’s mission is to put quality, independent journalism at the service of the most vulnerable people on earth. As Heba explains, “reliable journalism does exist - you just have to seek it out and consume it, and where possible support the journalists producing it.”

Food is fuel; knowledge is power. Better diets make us healthier. High quality news helps change the world for the better. Support IRIN’s journalism here.

Stop eating junk news | Heba Aly | TEDxChamonix

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Iran-Iraq earthquake live blog

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:13:36 +0000

A massive 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck at 1818 GMT on Sunday some 30 kilometres south of the Iraqi city of Halabja. The epicentre was in a mountainous region on the Iranian side of the border where hundreds of fatalities were reported. The toll is expected to rise further as relief efforts reach the remote area. November 15 (This live blog was closed at 1730 GMT on Wednesday 15th November) Advice for US Iranians keen to help Days after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit near the Iran-Iraq border, survivors are still struggling to cope with the aftermath, attending funerals for the dead and sleeping in tents or cars. Reporting from the worst-affected city of Sarpol-e Zahab and the surrounding villages, the New York Times painted a picture of destruction and shock, even in a region accustomed to earthquakes and war. In Tehran, volunteers were collecting food and blankets for the victims. In the United States, where there are around one million Iranian Americans, the National Iranian American Council advised how residents of a country with a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran could help without running afoul of sanctions laws. November 14 Unauthorised burials push toll higher The death toll in Iran following Sunday’s earthquake is now believed to be higher than previously thought because many of the victims were buried by their families before the authorities were notified. “Up to now, we have issued 430 death certificates… but an estimated number of 100 to 150 more people have been buried in quake-stricken villages and towns without permission… which raises the overall death toll to between 530 to 580 in Kermanshah,” Mohammad-Ali Monshizadeh, an official from Kermanshah province, told the state news agency IRNA. Powerful earthquake strikes Iran-Iraq border width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen=""> President Rouhani visits disaster zone Iranian President Hassan Rouhani toured the worst-hit town of Sarpol-e Zahab on Tuesday, offering his condolence to the families of the victims and pledging to personally oversee the reconstruction effort. "I call on all governmental and military officials and all NGOs to help the Housing Foundation and do not do separate work," Rouhani said in a statement, according to the president's official website. "This was painful for all Iranians," Rouhani said, urging people to rebuild their own homes but offering loans to help them. "The government will accelerate this process so that it can be done in the shortest time possible," he added. Iranian president visiting quake-hit areas in Kermanshah, vowing to accelerate relief efforts — Press TV (@PressTV) November 14, 2017 Facebook activates Safety Check Facebook has activated its suite of emergency-related offerings. The page for the earthquake includes the Safety Check feature, which allows people to tell their friends they are OK. A donate button steers public contributions to Global Giving, a funding organisation that lists no projects in Iran, but 12 in Iraq.    iraniraqepicentrebettersymbol.jpg Special Report Environment and Disasters Iran-Iraq earthquake live blog IRIN Iran Middle East and North Africa Iraq [...]

Aid reform in the Pacific held up by power, purse strings, and trust

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 03:15:41 +0000

Furious winds shredded entire villages, stripping off roofs and walls, flinging debris through the air, and burying people under the rubble. It was the 20th of February 2016 and Fiji was on its knees. When all was said and done, Cyclone Winston had crashed through half the population and churned up $1 billion in damages. As the extent of the destruction from the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere became clear, the head of the Fiji Red Cross, Filipe Nainoca, ran through an enormous list of tasks: shelter, water systems, logistics – all of it on an unfathomable scale. He knew the Red Cross, his country even, couldn’t do it alone. “None of us – none of us in Fiji – had ever experienced it before,” Nainoca recalled in an interview with IRIN. “We all needed help. Everybody.”  But Nainoca also had something else on his mind. The international response a year earlier in neighbouring Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam, had been completely overpowering. International aid agencies, donors, and the United Nations swept in, bringing their own systems and ways of doing things. For Pacific Islanders in the aid community, it was a watershed moment that shaped how subsequent disasters have been managed. When Cyclone Winston struck, Fiji’s government was determined not to let the same thing happen, Nainoca said. And so was he. Nainoca asked the Red Cross umbrella organisation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for specific expertise. But the foreign aid workers, he cautioned, would have to integrate with his team, not run it. “I made sure that we stayed in control of our response,” he said. Nainoca has a clearly articulated vision of what “localisation” – the aid sector’s latest buzzword for overhauling humanitarian aid – means to him. “It’s our local plan; not a plan that is designed for us.” The debate over locally driven aid takes on added urgency in the Pacific Islands, a region lashed by cyclones, floods, and frequent drought. Rooted in the belief that locals know best what their communities need, “localisation” aims to empower them – whether it be indigenous peoples, community organisations, local NGOs, municipal authorities, or national governments – to lead responses to crises on their own turf. But when it comes to localising aid, the international community has been slow to loosen its own grip on power. ‘Our way’ There’s a particular way disaster response is supposed to work. When a disaster strikes, the government assesses the damage and, if necessary, asks the aid community for support. International agencies are expected to fall in line under a nationally led response. "It means giving up power. It means moving resources" Loti Yates, who leads disaster management for the Solomon Islands government, told IRIN how he sees it: “Whoever comes in will have to work within our context, not the [other] countries working within their [own] context.” But the reality is often far more tangled. When Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu, it also brought in a torrent of NGOs, surge staff, and the aid sector’s labyrinthine coordination system. Some new arrivals had minimal experience working in the Pacific region, let alone Vanuatu. In interviews with IRIN, multiple people from NGOs, governments, and the UN described a response that was overwhelmed and effectively taken over by international staff – to the chagrin of national authorities in Vanuatu, and the anxiety of other Pacific Island nations. “The Cyclone Pam response suggests that despite all of the rhetoric in recent years about the need to ‘localise the humanitarian response’, when we are presented with an opportunity to do this, we struggle to step back and not have things done our way,” a review of the relief efforts by four prominent NGOs concluded. Vlad Sokhin/UNICEF Two children stand near their collapsed home following Cyclone Winston, whi[...]

In the eye of the storm: small island states call for action at climate change summit

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 04:24:47 +0000

Salome Raqiyawa has witnessed three life-changing calamities in a single year. For her, climate change is more than CO2 emissions, scientific projections and grave predictions for tomorrow: It’s her only explanation for what’s happening now to her tiny village perched along the side of a highway on Fiji’s main island. “It’s the changing of the weather patterns that we are facing now. It’s not like before,” she said, sitting on the wooden-slat floors of her home, repaired in time for the start of a new cyclone season. Last year, Cyclone Winston ripped off half her roof and tore her walls away. But after the cyclone came a withering drought, and after the drought, another storm that sent flood waters lapping up to the edge of her front door — and submerged her neighbours’ homes so that the entire village was a sea with only rooftops poking above the water. “From that we can know that the weather is changing,” she said. “It’s true. Climate change is happening.” Leaders from small island nations like Fiji will be bringing the urgency of this message to Bonn and COP23, this year’s iteration of the annual UN-led climate change summit. With Fiji presiding over the meetings, the issues confronting small island nations will be at the forefront of the agenda, underscoring the link between climate change and the natural disasters that impact people like Raqiyawa. But this year’s summit arrives amid foreboding trends: Concentrations of climate change-fuelling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged to record levels last year, while a UN analysis found current commitments made by countries under the Paris Agreement will fall short of goals to limit global temperature rise — only a year after the climate accord came into force. Irwin Loy/IRIN Salome Raqiyawa’s village in Fiji was hit by cyclones, drought, and floods during 2016. This year, another lengthy drought means she has to fetch water from a nearby river, which overflowed and submerged most of her village only a few months before. Shifting the focus As president of this year’s climate summit, Fiji will put a spotlight on the impacts of natural disasters on smaller island nations, which have fewer resources and high exposure to hazards. The small island developing states, or SIDS, including nations and territories dotted throughout the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the African coast, are some of the world’s most vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters. Devastating storms, unusually heavy rainfall, and extensive and lingering drought have overwhelmed smaller island nations in recent months — often in quick succession.   frameborder="1" height="450" scrolling="yes" src="" width="100%"> Countries like Fiji and Haiti saw multiple disasters that knocked back recovery just as communities were picking up the pieces after previous setbacks. The impacts of such disasters are jarringly unequal. In an analysis of climate-linked displacement between 2008 and 2016, Oxfam estimated that extreme weather disasters were five times more likely to displace people in poorer countries as people in higher-income nations.   frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> Recent research on risk also underscores this inequality. A risk assessment by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated that 13.9 million people each year could be displaced by sudden-onset disasters — the majority through floods and tropical cyclones. Populous countries like India, China and Bangladesh top the list. When factoring in relative population sizes, however, a different picture emerges. Each country or territory with the highest per capita displacement risk is a small island developing state, either in the Caribbean or the Pacific. The Bahamas, at the top of the list, can expect an average of 5.9 p[...]

Oil-rich yet on edge in Turkana

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:49:58 +0000

Rebecca Ekale doesn’t believe anything good can come from the black gold bonanza that will bring untold riches to arid Turkana, the poorest county in Kenya. “I have no interest in oil,” the mother of six told IRIN outside her brick-and-thatch home in the village of Lomokamar. Like many pastoralist herders, Ekale has been hit hard by a fierce and prolonged drought: the bones of 16 goats lie on the ground nearby. But life here is hard at the best of times. Around 90 percent of the county’s 1.3 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and some 80 percent have never attended school. Chronic marginalisation has left Turkana with a dearth of basic services, and there are few opportunities in the private sector for making a living outside the precarious realm of pastoralism. Yet unimaginable wealth lies beneath the county’s soil: an estimated 750 million recoverable barrels of oil. In early 2021, construction is set to begin on an 820-kilometre, $2.1 billion pipeline from Turkana to the Kenyan coast. Within a few years, this is expected to start generating billions of dollars annually for the Kenyan state, with at least five percent (there is an almighty row over the figure) earmarked for local communities and 20 percent going to the county government – an entity set up in a landmark devolutionary constitution adopted in 2010. Opinion is divided between those who think the oil boom will provide Turkana with an economic lifeline and those who fear production will exacerbate existing conflicts driven by competition over scarce pasture and water resources. “Nothing but a curse” Ekale already seems to have made her mind up. “It has brought us nothing but a curse,” she said, as a pungent smell wafted through her homestead. Ekale said the stench came from a tailings dump just two kilometres away. “It’s killing our goats and I have not seen the national or county government coming to our rescue,” she complained. Other local residents told IRIN that when it rains, chemicals enter water sources and make their animals sick. Tullow Oil, the British firm that discovered Turkana’s oil in 2012, operates (in some blocs in partnership with Africa Oil) across 48,000 square kilometres of Kenya leased from various county governments. Exploration and appraisal is taking place in several dozen sites located within community-owned land in Turkana. One of these sites lies 14 kilometres from Ekale’s home. Tullow denies releasing toxic waste, but told IRIN it temporarily stores mud residue from drill sites in a manner approved by the National Environmental Management Authority, and that it conducts environmental and social impact assessments before starting any new projects. Restricted mobility Aside from the disputed issue of waste, a common complaint about the oil installations is that they get in the way. “Our animals have no access to pasture,” explained Ekale. To keep their millions of animals healthy, Turkana’s pastoralists have to be able to herd them across long distances to reach water and, since they are picky eaters, the right kind and sufficient quantity of grass. Oil is just one of many barriers to this “strategic mobility”. Sites where oil is already being extracted – in the South Lokichar Basin – have been fenced off (Tullow didn’t specify exactly how much land is involved). According to Thomas Nyapid, a livestock herder who also runs a peacebuilding and sustainability programme in Lodwar, the county capital, Tullow has failed to fully take into account local dynamics. For instance, he said, South Lokichar Basin has long been used as a dry-season grazing reserve. Sophia Mbugua/IRIN Rebecca Ekale, who lost 16 goats to drought, doubts oil will make her life easier Ahead of the oil operations, “no one took an interest in telling us what was happening, or understanding how we used the land and how it would a[...]

How will China’s ambitious new Silk Road impact climate change?

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:43:56 +0000

China is pushing the largest economic development project the world has ever seen. Stretching through Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe, the Belt and Road project is a sophisticated network of corridors, ports, power plants, and industrial infrastructure that promises to share the benefits of more than $1 trillion in economic development with communities and governments across 65 nations. But such a gargantuan project also has the potential to severely disrupt the environment and contribute to climate change, and at a crucial time when the world is debating how to limit impacts and stick to promises under the Paris Agreement. A record surge in atmopsheric CO2 levels has added fresh impetus to the implementation of the accord as governments convene in Bonn, Germany next week for the next round of talks, COP23. While US leadership on climate issues has waned under the sceptical administration of President Donald Trump, China has, to some extent, looked to fill the void, becoming a leader in renewable energy and vowing to honour its climate commitments. However, the massive Chinese-funded projects along its modern-day Silk Road will also facilitate the circulation and use of climate-damaging fossil fuels. So, given that Paris Agreement goals can only be met through a drastic reduction in global emissions, an important question remains: Is the ambitious Belt and Road project the start of a new, greener development model – or will it just promote unchecked growth? All about the oil Much like the ancient Silk Road, the Belt and Road initiative is, at its core, a network of roads and maritime routes designed to facilitate trade, increase transport efficiency, and in some cases, bypass geopolitical deadlocks. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), worth $62 billion, hinges on one of the most strategic nodes of the Belt and Road landscape: the deepwater port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Through improvements of the port and the roads connecting the Pakistani coast to the Chinese region of Xinjiang, China hopes to achieve the double goal of easing tensions along the maritime routes of the South China Sea and increasing shipping efficiency. Once the port is fully operational, analysts say China will be able to halve the length of time it takes to import a barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia – where 16 percent of China’s oil imports originate. "It currently takes 25 days for a barrel of oil to go all the way through to China,” said Henry Tillman, chairman and chief executive officer at the investment bank Grisons Peak. “Gwadar port would cut that time in half for every one of the 1.4 billion of barrels that China imports daily.” Carbon-heavy contradictions But China’s Pakistan plans show the Belt and Road project’s inherent contradictions when it comes to environmental impacts. The CPEC blueprint is peppered with renewable projects; but carbon dioxide-emitting coal power plants still form a major role. Most importantly, the Pakistan project is poised to facilitate the circulation of fossil fuels, which remain vital to China's economy. frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> "I don't think that this climate policy commitment China has taken under the Paris Agreement… is strong enough in the context of what they plan for the Belt and Road,” said Susanne Droege, a climate policy and international trade expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "It's such an economy-driven agenda". An analysis by the Chinese NGO Global Environmental Institute estimates that China was involved in 240 coal-fired power projects in 25 of the Belt and Road countries by the end of 2016. With 52 projects in the pipeline, Chinese-funded coal projects in Belt and Road countries alone accounted for 12.66 percent of the world’s planned projects; the 114 plants already in operation represent 4.5 percent of[...]

Donor club set to snub Britain on Caribbean "aid"

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 13:07:15 +0000

A British demand to use aid money to repair hurricane damage to its semi-autonomous territories in the Caribbean looks set to be blocked. Donor countries meeting today in Paris to hammer out new rules on international aid will not agree the proposals, but may consider them later, according to multiple sources. The British want spending to help Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands to come from its aid budget. This could then count towards the 0.7 percent of gross national income target set by UK law. Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel argued that hurricanes Maria and Irma justified a waiver: “this unprecedented event shows the need to consider how the impact of a natural disaster on a territory should lead to a change in how that territory [is] defined in ODA terms.”   Britain needs other major donor countries to agree by consensus any change to what counts as aid, or Official Development Assistance (ODA). Britain uses definitions agreed at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and cannot change them unilaterally. Spending in middle- and low-income countries can count as ODA. However, the three Caribbean territories Patel mentioned fall in the high-income category, so any assistance sent to them cannot be accounted for as part of the global $146 billion annual ODA spend. The details get thrashed out in the OECD’s 30-member Development Assistance Committee (DAC), whose annual high-level meeting opened today. Update 1 November: Communique from the meeting London faces large bills in repairing damage from the hurricanes and already deployed relief and military clean-up teams. The shock to the islands might in time drive them temporarily into middle-income status, but the statistics will take years to show the change, so the British argue that getting them back on their feet should count as ODA. Some high-income small island states such as Barbados also support an ODA rule change due to their vulnerability.   The measure was never likely to pass immediately, given the slow pace of decision-making at the OECD, and the UK’s failure to pick up support in the key donor club before this week’s meeting, several sources said. DAC members may feel "uncomfortable", and that it's "premature" to "improvise" ODA eligibility rules at such short notice, according to Julie Seghers, OECD advocacy officer with Oxfam. Another analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, said pressure from the British populist press drove Patel’s ill-judged negotiating strategy.   Observers say the proposal is now likely to be rolled into a broader discussion (and possibly return to the agenda at next year’s meeting) about how disasters and economic shocks can cause setbacks to higher-income countries that are ineligible for aid.   Aid “diluted”   It's a "difficult time” for the defenders of aid, said Seghers, alluding to the pressure donor agencies are under, for example to use aid budgets to meet political priorities about migration and security.   Amy Dodd, director of the lobby group UK Aid Network, told IRIN the DAC has a key role to hold the line on "what you count and how you count it" and to ensure a level playing field amongst donors. The DAC is "fundamentally an accounting exercise", she said, describing it as "inherently political but quite technical".   Overall, there's a "risk of ODA being diluted" away from core poverty reduction and sustainable development, Seghers warned, adding that DAC members ought to be the "custodians" of a principled approach, of keeping "clear boundaries" on what should and should not count as aid.   Even before dealing with the British waiver concept, DAC members were at least "keen to move ahead" with "clearer rules" on other outstanding issues, Seghers said. However, sources told IRIN that despite two years of discussion, agree[...]

Dominica's devastation and recovery in pictures

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 11:34:58 +0000

The destruction Hurricane Maria unleashed on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica on the 19th of September, 2017 was absolute. Survivor Ivonne Salbon recalls the wind roaring like a “howling demon at the end of the world”. A month later, the first seedlings of felled trees are once again sprouting, but it will be years if not decades before island life returns to normal. “Dominicans are a people born from resistance,” says Salbon, clutching a cutlass to control the growth around her sprouting banana garden. “We faced down every adversity in our history; we can come out from under this nightmare too.” Living on Mero Beach under the meagre shelter of an almond tree in bloom, his home obliterated by the storm, Glennsworth Irving finds shade but also hope: “If this tree can survive, we can survive,” he says. “If this tree can bear fruit, so will our island. All in due time.” A woman walks over the wreckage of the landslide that decimated the village of Pointe Michel. A month after the hurricane, there is no access to potable water for the vast majority of Dominicans. The destruction is most severe in the southern and eastern quarters of the country where Maria made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane with sustatined winds of 160-175 mph (260-280 kph). Government-led efforts to clear the debris have been overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe. Houses in the New Town area of the capital, Roseau, saw extensive flooding damage but were also hit by landslides due to the unstable, mountainous terrain above. Not a village was spared on the island, population 70,000. Many trees were uprooted and nearly all were rendered leafless. An official post-storm government survey, said every house in the country has been damaged to some degree, including these properties perched on the edge of a ravine in Mor. Security forces from larger islands in the eastern Caribbean (Barbados, St. Lucia, and Antigua) were deployed to Dominica to prevent looting in Maria’s chaotic aftermath. The unrest was quickly quelled, but a 6pm curfew remains in place in Roseau, along with a state of emergency. Soldiers and police monitor businesses around the island, such as this supermarket in Roseau. Dominicans now have to wait for hours under the hot sun to top up their phones, withdraw cash from ATMs, and purchase supplies for their households. Mass flooding and debris-laden landslides destroyed several main roads and bridges across the island. This bridge near Mero was already badly damaged by Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. Parts of Dominica had yet to recover from that storm when Maria struck and took the destruction to a whole new level. Dust is kicked up as a helicopter carries aid into Windsor Stadium from foreign support ships anchored off the coast. A fetid odour of burning rubbish and rot hangs over the capital. An extremely rare red-necked (Jaco) parrot scavenges for food in one of the thrashed rainforests. These birds are only found on Dominica – known for its lush tropical vegetation and vibrant birds of paradise, it is often referred to as Nature Island. Since Maria, sightings of the bird, which features on the country's flag, have been scarce. The 280 kph winds denuded the ancient forests that cover every canyon and valley on the island. Pockets of foliage remain, but Dominica's very identity is at stake. A thousand hues of green have been stripped into a single shade of brown. Dominicans mourn the loss of their woodlands, but they know, having survived Erika – not to mention the ravages of Hurricane David in the 1970s – that the emerald canopy will grow back. A man clears debris from his home outside Roseau. Most Dominicans aren’t waiting for assistance from the central government, overwhelmed as it is. They’re taking to the streets with axes and shovels[...]

The Catch-22 delaying the reconstruction of hurricane-hit Barbuda

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 13:37:11 +0000

“I'm a bit nervous,” says Juleen Punter, a 29-year-old librarian, fidgeting with her phone. The catamaran ferrying Antiguan volunteers and Hurricane Irma evacuees eases up on approach to Codrington’s wharf, Barbuda’s only functioning dock. Like most former residents, Juleen hasn’t set foot on the island since it was pulverised and she was evacuated along with some 1,800 others.   Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, declared the island barely habitable in the days following the 6 September hurricane. A full-scale evacuation meant the territory was briefly without a single inhabitant for the first time in more than 300 years.   Juleen hasn’t been back since Irma; very few Barbudans have. The government lifted the mandatory evacuation a month ago, but Barbudans are still reluctant to return. Lack of money and supplies to rebuild their homes, and apprehension at the government’s still-to-be unveiled strategy, especially about land (IRIN has more reporting on this issue here), are the most common reasons. Juleen, however, says she simply wasn’t able to find a ride on the infrequent and limited transport from Antigua. Tomás Ayuso/IRIN The main population center on Barbuda, Codrington, was made a ghost town after Irma forced an evacuation of the islands 1,800 residents. Houses were left in ruins, cars damaged and animals abandoned in the scramble to find sanctuary in Antigua Reconstruction plans   The waterfront at Codrington, Barbuda’s largest settlement, is a staging area for military personnel, aid workers, and returnees. The majority of people here these days are security forces and clean-up crews. A large tent stacked with aid supplies dominates the dock.   Some residents are attempting to fix their mangled homes. A soldier tells IRIN only a couple of hundred Barbudans have returned full-time. Most of the rest of the population remain on the sister island of Antigua, which was largely spared by Irma.   Juleen walks onto the dock carrying a big plastic box she hopes to fill with whatever she can salvage from her home. Two friends accompany her on foot towards her neighbourhood, in the southern part of Codrington. Passing house after damaged house, she rattles off the names of neighbours and friends. Every single structure has suffered. Many have been blown roofless, and some crushed by toppled utility poles.   “How are we going to come back from this?” she asks. “Barbuda is finished!” Assessments released by the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) estimate that out of 1,082 pre-Irma buildings, only 150 are currently habitable. An additional 257 have been partially damaged but are still fixable. These are categorised as level 1 and 2 respectively. The remaining 650-plus buildings have been tagged as level 3, which means they are unsalvageable.   NODS Director Philmore Mullins has ordered a phased restoration process.   During the first phase, level one or level two houses are to have temporary repairs to make them habitable. NODS hopes residents and homeowners will come back to help clear their properties of debris to expedite this process so it can be completed by mid-December.   Phase two will then proceed by demolishing level 3 buildings. Finally, phase three will see temporarily restored level 1 and level 2 houses permanently prepared and brought up to new post-Irma building codes.NODS hasn’t given a timeline as to how phase two and three will develop, but a lengthy process is expected.   In an interview, Mullins described the silver lining that should come out of all these demolitions: A stricter building code that ensures new houses are built with hurricane resilience in mind. Tomás Ayuso/IRIN Before heading to [...]

Pastoralism and its future

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:26:56 +0000

In dryland areas across the world, tens of millions of people raise domesticated animals on open rangeland. Extreme variations in weather mean such pastoralists have to be highly adaptive and deploy a range of specialised skills. Climate change is making this way of life increasingly precarious. This factfile sets out some of the key issues: What is pastoralism? Pastoralism is a type of livelihood in which income and social status depend mostly on livestock grazed on communal open rangeland where the availability of nutrients and water vary greatly over both time and space. In other words, pastoralists are herders (mostly of cows, sheep, goats and camels, but also of yaks, horses, llamas, alpacas, reindeer and vicunas) who are frequently on the move in inherently unstable environments. This defining characteristic of pastoralism is known as “strategic mobility.” It’s “strategic” because, while appearing aimless or haphazard to the untrained eye, its motive is to enhance production and herd size by ensuring livestock consumes the most nutritional grass available. When this mobility takes the form of regular back-and-forth trips between the same departure and destination areas, it is known as “transhumance”, whereas “nomadism” describes journeys that vary according to the location of the best resources. Pastoralism is therefore a very specialised system that requires extensive social networks and deep knowledge – honed over centuries – of weather patterns, breeding techniques, herd management, and the intricate characteristics of different species of animal and vegetation. Put in economic terms, pastoralism is a complex exercise in the perpetual analysis and management of costs, risks, and benefits. But what is being tested now more than ever is the ability of pastoralists to constantly adapt to changing circumstances. Why is it important? What chiefly distinguishes pastoralism from sedentary agriculture is that, thanks to strategic mobility, environmental variations are (except in times of drought) seen as an asset rather than a problem: If you can move, good grass is always within reach. In dryland environments, pastoralism tends to deliver better food security than crops and produces edible proteins more efficiently than intensive livestock systems. Pastoralist regions are often undervalued or even ignored by national governments. As African countries decolonised in the 1960s, development policies tended to borrow from European models, emphasising “modernisation” and the commercialisation of agriculture and privatisation of pastoral rangelands. Yet the contributions pastoralist systems make to national economies are frequently considerable: As well as supplying meat and milk to growing urban populations, they often provide jobs in the transport and food sectors, for example. How many pastoralists are there? Estimates of the total number of people living a pastoral livelihood vary widely. A 2006 study published by the Food and Agriculture Organization put the number at 120 million, which includes some people who also grow crops (known as “agro-pastoralists”). Of these, 50 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, 31 million in the Middle East and North Africa, 25 million in Central Asia, 10 million in South Asia, and five million in South and Central America. Not long after the FAO published its study the International Fund for Agricultural Development said there were 200 million pastoralists in the world. A 2007 estimate put the number of animals raised in pastoral production systems in Kenya alone at 14.1 million, with a value of $860 million. Why is it under threat? In many parts of the world, government policy poses significant hurdles for pastoralists. For example, a 2015 paper by the Forced Migration Review explains how the governments of Oman and[...]