Climate-smart agricultural initiatives set to scale in India

India brought to light a new plan for promoting solar farming. With an allocation of USD 21.8 billion, the government plans to start building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands, providing 1.75 million off-grid agricultural solar pumps. Through the scheme, farmers’ income levels are projected to see a sharp rise as they will be given an option to sell surplus power generated to the local power distribution companies.

Research partners first set up a solar pump irrigator’s cooperative in Dhundi Village of Gujarat in 2015, as a model of reference to be scaled for attaining multiple benefits of income growth, regularization of power, sustainable ground water use and de-dieselizing of agriculture leading to a curb in carbon dioxide emissions.

Now their efforts have come full circle with the Finance Minister of India announcing the government will take necessary measures and encourage state governments to put in place a mechanism that their surplus solar power is purchased by the distribution companies or licensees at reasonably remunerative rates.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as a concept envisions the creation and implementation of innovative models for attaining multiple benefits and resilience not just for the farming community but a wide range of stakeholders. The power from the sun is fetching not just economic dividends for the farmers but also helping create a sustainable business model on the whole. By early 2016, enough surplus power was sold to earn the farmers an additional income of around USD 5,300. Importantly, such initiatives put to motion the attainment of the nation’s intended nationally determined contributions towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Refugee-made products on display at the world’s biggest trade fair

For the first time ever, refugee-made products will be on display at Ambiente, the leading international consumer goods trade show, from 9-13 February 2018, in Frankfurt, Germany. Twelve product lines created by refugee artisans and craft people from Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria will be presented.

This breakthrough is the result of MADE51, a new initiative by UNHCR and a global network of social enterprises to help talented makers fleeing war or persecution achieve greater self-reliance and access to the global marketplace. At Ambiente, potential buyers can view and order a variety of products, including:

  • bowls and jewelry created by Malian Tuareg refugees
  • cashmere throws, embroidered bags, block-printed scarves, lampshades and soft furnishings crafted by Syrian refugees
  • wall hangings and basketry woven by Burundian refugees
  • complex pile rugs, wool kilims and embroidered home textiles created by artisans who have returned to Afghanistan
  • scarves and bags hand-dyed by South Sudanese and Somali refugees
  • smoked bamboo lighting and embroidered jewelry made by refugees from Myanmar


The contribution of migration and displacement to urban growth

1: Are there more displaced people live in urban than rural areas? – You’d be forgiven for thinking that today the majority of displaced people live in cities. Nobody really knows whether there are more internally displaced people (IDPs) in urban than rural areas, or how long they stay there. Nor do we know what proportion of people newly displaced each year make their way to the world’s towns and cities.

2: Are urban IDPs more vulnerable than the urban poor? – It is also regularly suggested that urban IDPs face additional challenges specific to their displacement, and examples show that they are indeed at risk of exploitation and extortion. Yet, once in the city, displaced populations join the ranks of the broader urban poor and live in the same marginalized and precarious conditions.

3: Does urban displacement call for more humanitarian assistance? – Cities have attracted migrants and been sanctuaries for those displaced throughout history. Today, however, they are becoming hubs not only of opportunity but also of accumulated risk. This is particularly the case in hazard-prone regions, including parts of Africa and Asia where small and medium-sized cities are expected to experience the highest rates of urban growth in the coming years.

What role can humanitarians play in such situations? It would appear that a much broader and far-reaching response may be needed to reduce poverty and improve urban systems and services.

[Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre]

China emerging as a serious player in humanitarian aid

China is becoming a bigger player in humanitarian aid and emergency relief:
– China has demonstrated a preference to respond to natural disasters — rather than “complex emergencies” — and may concentrate its funding on just one or two major crises each year, the paper shows.
– China’s foreign aid spending was channeled to 4,300 projects in 140 countries. The top five recipients for Chinese aid were Cuba, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Cameroon.
– Less than a quarter of China’s total foreign spending of $350 billion from 2000 to 2014 was comprised of official development assistance — compared to the United States, which allocated 93 percent of its spending to ODA during this time period.
-China’s diplomatic interest in countries is considered the “most important” factor in guiding its aid, according to the ODI — a connection evidenced by the fact that African countries that vote with China at the U.N. get an average increase of 86 percent in aid, as AidData shows.
– But Beijing does also look beyond political allegiances and gains when responding to some emergencies, like the Haiti earthquake in 2011, even though the Haitian government is an ally of Taiwan, as Andreas Fuchs, a senior economics researcher at Heidelberg University’s Alfred-Weber-Institute for Economics notes.
– Adds Fuch: “The purpose of China’s aid activities and aid is to win heart, it is about its reputation and of course now the changes in the U.S. administration is understood as an opportunity to increase China’s influence. It is about promoting China’s image around the world.”
– Says Xiaoqing Boynton, a senior director at the global advisory group ASG: “I think the trajectory will continue to develop and I think China will continue to grow its aid and to grow its soft power influence in Africa, and also in places like Latin America and neighboring countries,” she said. “An area I want to watch is how China really becomes more integrated in the traditional, international donor society, with governments like the U.S. and major European donors and works to improve transparency in aid.”

[Read full Devex article]

7 issues that will shape the humanitarian agenda in 2018

Highlights of an article by Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

Syria enters its seventh year of fighting in 2018. Hunger and disease will affect millions of people in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Around the world people will flee conflict only to become trapped in misery, as seen in Libya. People will suffer from immediate and long-term effects of conflict and violence, as I witnessed in Central African Republic earlier this month. We believe the following seven key issues will shape the humanitarian agenda in 2018:

  1. The international community’s report card on conflict – The international community’s efforts and successes in addressing conflict will be critical in shaping the political agenda and the humanitarian response in 2018. The international community must offer a fresh perspective for peace – in high-profile and neglected conflicts.
  2. Rebuilding urban battlefields – Fifty million people are bearing the brunt of war in cities around the world. Reconstruction is a vast challenge in populated locations and goes beyond rebuilding streets and houses to include water, sewer and electrical systems.
  3. Transforming humanitarian funding – In protracted conflicts we work on a dual timeline, conducting urgent relief and looking towards the 2030 horizon of long-term needs. Conflicts are not temporary interruptions, they are structural, socio-economic catastrophes, and funding must be allocated accordingly.
  4. International Humanitarian Law – We see violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) on the news every day. But the fact that IHL has changed wartime behavior over the decades is drastically under-reported. In 2018 we must strengthen consensus around the law as a stabilizing force.
  5. Forgotten people – Sixty-five million people have been forced to flee their homes globally, including over 40 million in their own countries, people often neglected and unable to access aid.
  6. Cyber attacks and new weapons of war – New technologies are rapidly giving rise to unprecedented methods of warfare. Innovations that yesterday were science fiction could cause catastrophe tomorrow, including nanotechnologies, combat robots, and laser weapons. Think of the humanitarian consequences of air traffic control systems, oil pipeline systems, or nuclear plants being hacked.
  7. 7. Tech for good – The Fourth Industrial Revolution does not just entail risks; it also brings solutions to humanitarian problems. For example, the ICRC is partnering with Microsoft to use facial recognition technology to help reunite families separated

What southern Africa can learn from other countries about adapting to drought

The total annual rainfall in southern Africa doesn’t seem to have changed much over the last century since measurements began. But it has become more variable: droughts and floods are more frequent than before. The region’s urban authorities, industries, farmers and other citizens will have to adapt to these conditions.

The experience of other countries may offer useful lessons. Some arid countries, Australia and Israel for example, have been forced to develop novel technologies and strategies to survive extremely dry conditions. After drought from 1997 to 2009 forced Melbourne to take drastic measures to conserve water, residents changed the way they used water – and that behavior has persisted. On average, they still use only a quarter of the water used by the average Californian.

Australia encouraged households to save water through technology and behavior. It provided rebates for residential greywater (water that is relatively clean enough to be reused e.g. from bath, sink or washing machine, in contrast to black water which is water from toilets) systems for gardening, encouraged investment in rainwater tanks and implemented water restrictions.

Israel has, over many decades, developed a centralized water management system. It has invested in continuous technological innovations, improvements in practice and development of long-term management plans. Its greatest innovation relates to irrigation. It has developed an efficient drip irrigation system that uses up to 75% less water than some other irrigation techniques.

Countries in southern Africa must also start using the water they have more efficiently.


Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals

We fixed a time frame (2030) [as to when] every citizen around the world should have functioning water and sanitation services within reach. That is at least what countries agreed on when they adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I am convinced that by 2021 at the latest, all countries serious about the SDGs need to have strong monitoring systems in place. How else will they know what path to follow to achieve water, sanitation and hygiene services for all?

The present monitoring and evaluation systems in place in many countries are not designed to respond to the challenges around the SDGs. Take Niger, where the government thought that 69.5 percent of the population had adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services. Estimates given by the Ministry of Water and Sanitation in 2016 showed, however, that the country has provided only 18% percent of the population with basic services. This is disruptive and shocking data for officials. Officials in Niger are reflecting on how to deal with this.

If you want real change, if you want the ambition of the SDGs to really happen, then you need to have a monitoring system that properly weights the problems, defines actions accordingly and measures progress and effectiveness.  It exposes problems you thought were fixed, obstacles and bottlenecks in your country’s system you had no idea of, or you have no data to illustrate a situation. It shows that people in the city have much better access to WASH services than villagers. And it might show that, as is the case in Mali, you do not have enough trained mechanics in place to fix a tap or hand pump.

Monitoring is the backbone to achieving the SDGs. Without it, reaching the SDGs is a blind struggle.

[Juste Nansi, IRC article]

CDC anticipating a loss of 80% of its funding for international outbreak prevention work

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operational interventions were key to ending the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

About two weeks ago, an internal memo leaked from the CDC informing personnel that the center was anticipating a loss of approximately 80% of its funding for international outbreak prevention work. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported in more detail  that starting in September 2019, the CDC will narrow its focus and eliminate many of its foreign country programs.

The CDC works overseas in two different ways. It funds programming that it is implemented by international NGOs and companies that support disease surveillance and preparedness, and it works government-to-government with health agencies and departments that fight infectious disease.

The programming that CDC supports around the world does things like improve the capacity of national laboratories to diagnoses illnesses like HIV, TB, Hepatitis, and Zika. It helps countries build better national disease surveillance systems so that they can catch outbreaks early and stop them before they turn epidemic. And it builds health information systems, so data can be shared across regions, and internationally.

The government-to-government relationships are equally important. CDC’s role as the lead US government institution on epidemiology gives it unique status and credibility overseas. Their US role means that foreign counterparts recognize them as colleagues and treat them accordingly.

From October 2019, CDC will support overseas programs in only ten countries. By contract, in October 2017, CDC was operational in 124 countries. That’s a massive decrease. This 80% to CDC”s foreign operations cut may save some money in the short term, but it comes at the expense of enhanced security and possibly the health of Americans in the homeland.

[UN Dispatch]

Five cities selected to develop global water resilience framework

Cities from five continents have been selected to contribute to the development of a global framework for water resilience. The City Water Resilience Framework (CWRF), developed by Arup with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, will help cities better prepare for and respond to shocks and stresses to their water systems.

Amman, Cape Town, Mexico City, Miami, and Hull were selected because they represent the range of water challenges facing cities around the world. As part of this partnership, the project will explore each city’s specific water concerns through field research and stakeholder interviews. Data and findings will be used to establish qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure city water resilience, for use in any city, anywhere, enabling cities to diagnose challenges related to water and utilize that information to inform planning and investment decisions.

  • Amman, the capital city of Jordan with a population of 4 million, is not located near sources of water and regularly experiences drought. The city also experiences unusually heavy rains, leading to flooding in the lower-lying areas of the city.
  • Cape Town, in South Africa with a population of 3.7 million has been experiencing severe drought, due to three years of low rain fall. Officials have warned that there are fewer than 90 days left before the city’s water supply runs dry.
  • Mexico City, the largest of the cities participating, has a population of 21.3 million. The rapidly growing city is heavily reliant on underground aquifers, and is at serious risk of running out of water in the future. Mexico City is also located on land that was once a lake, making it particularly prone to flooding.
  • Greater Miami, and the Beaches, with a population of 5.9 million, is a coastal location with a high groundwater table and complex canal system, making it particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
  • Hull located in Yorkshire United Kingdom, has a population of 323,000. With 90 per cent of the city standing below the high-tide line it is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.