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Posts Tagged ‘womens empowerment’

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report this week on the increasing impacts of climate change around the world.  While there is really nothing new in the report, it does underscore the urgency of addressing the issue.

India is one country that will be especially hard hit.  An article by Nita Bhalla of Reuters lists ten ways that global warming will affect the sub-continent.  In the face of great poverty, weak gender rights, habitat loss, endangered species and more, climate change will only make things that much more difficult.

As you read over the list below, bear in mind that supporting local communities, recognizing traditional knowledge and empowering women are some of the best ways to adapt, not just in India but everywhere (see my post on women and climate change).  The good news (yes, there is some!) is that many people and organizations are already finding ways to cope.  Check out the work of groups such as the International Development Exchange and Navdanya to get an idea of what’s being done, and be thankful they are out there.

How climate change will hit India:

1. More severe cyclones hitting densely packed cities

[photo credit: cdkn.org]

[photo credit: cdkn.org]

The five most populous nations occupying low-lying coastal areas are developing and newly industrialised countries: Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia

Tropical cyclones will cause powerful winds, torrential rains, high waves and storm surge, all of which can have major impacts on society and ecosystems. Bangladesh and India account for 86 percent of deaths from tropical cyclones.

2. Lower crop yields

A rise in the amount of ozone in the troposphere, the lower atmosphere, since pre-industrial times has probably reduced global yields of major crops, by about 10 percent for wheat and soybean and three to five percent for maize and rice, compared with what they would have been without such a rise.

Impacts are most severe in India and China, but are also evident for soybean and maize in the United States.

3. Changes in breeding of river species

It is fairly clear that in India, changes in a number of climate variables including a rise in air temperature, regional monsoon variation and a regional increase in the frequency of severe storms, have led to changes in the behaviour of fish species in the River Ganga.

As a result, less fish spawn is available for aquaculture in the river Ganga, but the breeding period of carp has been brought forward and extended.

4. Less water, more energy consumption

Due to water shortages, water may require significant amounts of energy for lifting, transport and distribution and for the treatment needed to use it or rid it of pollution.

Groundwater accounts for 35 percent of total global water withdrawal and its use is generally more energy intensive than that of surface water, irrigated food production being the largest user. In India, 19 percent of total electricity use in 2012 was for farming, much of this for groundwater pumping.

5. Higher temperatures in cities

Some Indian cities that are particularly large and crowded will become Urban Heat Islands, markedly warmer than the surrounding countryside, as a result of climate change.

The current trend of increasingly frequent extreme events is expected to increase with climate change.

Some urban centres serving prosperous farming regions are particularly sensitive to climate change if water supply or particular crops are at risk.

Urban centres that are major tourism destinations may suffer when the weather becomes stormy or excessively hot, leading to a loss of revenue.

Indian rice farmer [photo credit: ccafs.cgiar.org]

Indian rice farmer [photo credit: ccafs.cgiar.org]

6. Livelihood pressures in rural areas

Climate variability and change interacts with, and sometimes adds to, existing pressures on living and working in rural areas, affecting economic policy, globalization, environmental degradation and HIV/AIDS, as has been shown in Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya and India.

Economic diversity of farming households within communities, in terms of farm and household size, crop choices and input use, will be important in determining the impact of climate change, as will social relations within households that affect production.

7. Tourism and recreation

One study combines a meteorological indicator of exposure with indicators of sensitivity and adaptive capacity, and uses this to rank the vulnerability of beach tourism in 51 countries. India stands out as the most vulnerable and Cyprus as the least vulnerable.

8. Human health

Extra costs will be incurred for treating additional cases of diarrhoea and malaria in India in 2030, depending on how greatly CO2 emissions rise.

9. Labour productivity

Higher temperatures are likely to impact work productivity, particularly in tropical and mid-latitude regions including India, Northern Australia, Southeastern USA.

10. Droughts and floods

More droughts and floods will intensify the pressure to send children out to work, impacting their education.

Indian women born during a drought or flood in the 1970s were 19 percent less likely ever to attend primary school than women of the same age who were not affected by natural disasters.

Studies in India have identified temporary migration as “the most important” coping strategy in times of drought in rural villages.

 

350.org event in New Delhi [photo credit: www. npr.org]

350.org event in New Delhi [photo credit: www. npr.org]

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[While the post below, originally written for my work blog 6 Degrees of Population, isn’t specifically on India, it does highlight the increase in poaching of endangered species around the world that must be stopped.]

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During that 15 minute coffee break you took this morning, somewhere across the ocean an elephant was killed.  It is estimated that every 15 minutes an elephant is slaughtered, about 40,000 annually.

It makes you wonder how much longer wild elephants will roam the earth.  Because at this rate, with high global demand for ivory and high levels of poverty for people that live near these creatures, they won’t be around for much longer.

Elephant

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed by Carl Safina of the Blue Ocean Institute called “Blood Ivory” that highlighted the forces at play.  Certainly consumption and poverty are drivers, but Safina pointed out how international policy has failed elephants.  A loop-hole of sorts in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES – an international agreement that regulates the trade of endangered plants and wildlife), allows for one-time sales of ivory stockpiles, resulting in skyrocketing demand for ivory.  Ironically, a CITES ban on ivory in 1990 was successful in increasing elephant populations, yet this same multilateral environmental agreement is now feeding demand for ivory.

It is undeniably a bleak situation, yet there are some solutions – beyond ending the CITES loop-hole – that can begin to address and hopefully change the situation for the better, for both people and elephants.  Two solutions are empowering women and recognizing rights of nature.

Solution: Empowering Women

Addressing the needs of women can benefit communities and the environment.  Women are on the frontlines of coping with the effects of environmental degradation. In most countries around the world they are the main providers of food, water, and other resources for their families. When women are empowered, they can better support their families and adapt to environmental impacts, including climate change.

A woman’s decision on when and whether to have a child and her access to reproductive care, as well as education, are key components of a healthy and sustainable society.

In Tanzania, for example, family planning use has increased among married women since the early 1990s, yet it is still relatively low in the country, rising from 10 percent in the early 1990s to 34 percent in 2010, according to Population Reference Bureau.

Part of empowering women is addressing inequity.  Tanzania currently has 46 million people, estimated to increase to 82 million people by 2050. Most poachers are driven by grinding poverty, in a country where nearly 70 percent of the Tanzanians live on less than $1.25 per day. When people’s basic needs are met, they choose to invest in their families and communities.

Tanzanian Woman

Empowering Tanzanian women and families with reproductive rights, healthcare, education and sustainable and secure livelihoods can and will improve the situation and enable them to overcome challenges.

Of course, poachers tend to be men, and males with little education or few job prospects need to find ways to survive and feed their families.  Men need to be invested in and empowered too, to overcome poverty and a lack of quality jobs, and to have the right to an education.  Ultimately it comes down to empowering all people.

Solution: Rights of Nature

Earth does not exist for our species alone. Elephants and species all over the world are at grave risk due to human development and demand. The planet is undergoing its sixth mass extinction. Despite global conservation efforts, more species are lost every day. Worse, some like elephants and rhinos, are poached only for their tusks and left to die.

Given this situation, there is a growing movement around recognizing rights of nature that acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. This is another solution for protecting elephants. Under this thinking, nature is not viewed as property and something to be exploited by humans.

There is precedent. Ecuador has included rights of nature in its state constitution, recognizing the legal right of ecosystems to exist. Bolivia has passed a law of Mother Earth, mandating nature legal rights, specifically the rights to life, regeneration, biodiversity, water, clean air, balance, and restoration. Rights of nature has been upheld in Ecuadorian court.

Considering Tanzania again, which still has a somewhat viable elephant population, recognizing rights of nature could be one way to protect remaining numbers.  The country recently rescinded a proposal to sell a stock-pile of ivory under the CITES loophole.  If rights of nature laws were in place, then selling ivory could be found illegal.

Natural laws should be constructed to be in balance with the needs of local people; as stated above, even poachers need education and sustainable economic alternatives.  Currently though, neither elephants/nature, nor people, are winners in this terrible situation.

Ensuring a Brighter Future

Not to be overlooked is the role of consumption.  Educating and empowering women and girls, promoting economic and sustainable livelihoods for local populations, and pulling people out of poverty must be top priorities.  But if there are no consumers for a product, or if there is a ban, then the market theoretically disappears, as happened with the earlier CITES ban.  A ban on ivory trading must be reinstated across the board, no exceptions.  And consumer education must also be made a priority.  Buyers of ivory need to fully comprehend – and care – about the true costs of ivory.

It is estimated that Africa has lost close to 90 percent of its elephants in the last fifty years.  There is still a small window of opportunity to change this picture and protect elephants and the people who share the land with them.  This is not negotiable; this is how a civilized society should function.  The global community knows what to do – fully implement a ban on ivory, invest in people’s rights and livelihoods, and protect and respect nature.

(Elephant photo credit: Derek Keats, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dkeats/6026172562/sizes/m/in/photostream/)

(Tanzanian woman photo credit: NewsHour, http://www.flickr.com/photos/newshour/3724432128/sizes/m/in/photostream/)

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In 2012 I was very fortunate to attend several prominent international conferences where population issues – including human rights, the environment, and the global economic reality – were discussed. These events were the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Rio+20 Earth Summit and the Montreal International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas.

iStock_000014852074XSmall Earth

My current work is writing on many issues related to population, especially rights and the environment. We live in a world with 7 billion people that is predicted to be between 8 to 10 billion by 2050.  And we face many pressing problems that need solutions grounded in fairness, equality, and respect for life.

After attending these conferences, along with other events, experiences, and research, I decided to write a report on inclusive, holistic approaches to covering this subject. The result is People’s Rights, Planet’s Rights: Holistic Approaches to a Sustainable Population. It recommends focusing on the following issues to create a path to a sustainable population:

  • Women’s Rights – providing voluntary family planning services to the 222 million women in developing countries who want access to family planning services but do not have access to contraceptives;
  • Youth Rights – providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to the nearly 3 billion young adults under the age of 25;
  • Rights of Nature – recognizing the legal right of ecosystems to exist;
  • Rethinking the Economy – accepting that endless economic growth is unsustainable and more efficient global indicators of human and environmental well-being should be adopted.

While there has been much focus, and rightly so, of the need to empower women as the answer to stabilizing population numbers, I think that other issues are sometimes overlooked. One is recognizing the rights of youth to reproductive health and education. Another – the need to reassess our endless growth economy – isn’t often mentioned as a solution in conjunction with human rights. Lastly, the concept of rights of nature is barely mentioned at all.

This report is my attempt to bring these issues together as a way to craft policies to better our communities and our world. Certainly it could have a big impact on India, which is soon to have the world’s biggest population. Balancing human rights with nature’s rights would help tigers and other endangered species. Creating local, sustainable economies with quality livelihoods would help people and the environment.

The same applies for the U.S. and developed countries. The situations might be slightly different, but in the end, they are not really so different; after all, we all share the same planet.

In my opinion, implementing policies based on the points above are worth undertaking and we have nothing to lose by doing so. It just might make the world a better place, which is what most of us want.

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Mention India and many contradictory images are often conjured up – poverty and Rajput castles, rich and exotic foods and begging mothers and children, the Himalayan mountains and Rajasthani deserts.

But there is no contradiction on the importance of the Indian monsoon. Indian agriculture and much of Indian culture are intertwined with the seasonal rains. And the future outlook on the reliability of monsoons does not look promising.

The monsoon months of June to September bring three-quarters of India’s annual rainfall. Yet alarmingly, more experts are predicting that due to climate change, the coming decades will bring erratic monsoon seasons in South Asia. This is bad news for Indian farmers, especially rural farmer communities. It is also bad news for food and water security in a country destined to be the world’s most populous by 2030.

A study in the journal Environmental Research Letters from researchers at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany found that the monsoons are likely to be 40-70 percent below normal levels and fail more often over the next two centuries. And between 2150 and 2200, the study predicts the monsoons could fail every 5 years.

Specifically, the study’s authors found that rising temperatures and a change in strength of a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern known as the Pacific Walker circulation in spring could cause more frequent and severe changes in monsoon rains.

In 2009 monsoon rains were 22 percent below average and Indians faced widespread drought. The country had to import large amounts of sugar, pushing global prices to 30-year highs.

India is a predominantly rural country, with over 600 million of its 1.2 billion citizens relying directly on agriculture. Nearly two-thirds of Indian fields are fed only by rain.

Krishna Kumar Kanikicharla, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, told the Yale University blog Environment360 that in a country where more than half of the population works in agriculture, “Livelihoods, water security, and energy security are all tied to volume and timely arrival of monsoon season.”

Women will feel the brunt of changes to the monsoon the most. In India, nearly eighty percent of women work in agriculture (mainly as smallholder, rural farmers) and will have to cope with droughts, floods, and erratic rains.

Adding to the water scarcity concern is the status of aquifers, a heavily relied upon source of water in India that is at risk. The groundwater is being pumped primarily for irrigating agricultural lands and as a source of drinking water; aquifers are being depleted faster than can be replenished by nature.

The past 200 years of ever increasing reliance on fossil fuels is altering the climate in ways yet unknown. The pattern is not likely to change unless the world commits to renewable, alternative energy sources and less carbon intensive solutions. So much already exists and only needs the will of governments to push new energy policies forward.

The time to act is now. The International Energy Agency just issued its annual World Energy Outlook 2012 report that states the world is failing to move towards a more sustainable path for energy, as it continues its addiction to fossil fuels in the face of climate change and growing water scarcity.

There are organizations in India working to empower communities – especially women – via small-scale and organic farming methods, as well as traditional measures to cope with droughts. One example is the Green Foundation, a grassroots organization that works to empower south Indian women to build resilient communities in the face of climate change and sustain rural livelihoods without damaging the ecosystem.

Another example is GRAVIS, based in the state of Rajasthan. The organization promotes sustainable rural development via capacity building, community and women’s empowerment, social justice, and protecting the environment. GRAVIS empowers rural desert communities via a traditional source of water storage, called taankas.

The consequences for continuing business as usual are great. In 2012 the monsoon came late, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people. Imagine if it doesn’t come at all. The effects of an erratic monsoon season would be felt beyond India of course, from creating climate refugees to a decline in tea production to threatened global security. Empowering communities and implementing local efforts are a key part of the solution. The overall solution though, is reducing global fossil fuel usage and emissions, which is the challenge facing the whole world.

[Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/friskodude/1177241/]

Original posted at 6degreesofpopulation.org

 

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Women Farmers Training 2011 (photo: WEA)

Nearly eighty percent of Indian women work in agriculture, and less than seven percent of have land tenure.

Small farmers livelihoods in India are threatened by industrial agriculture, which degrades the environment and negatively impacts the role of women in agriculture. Women have traditionally been seed keepers who preserve the biological diversity and health of crops.

The good news is that many people are working to protect and improve the lives of women farmers. I attended a talk recently given by Rucha Chitnis of the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) on the “Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training” Program, which works to connect rural women farmers and help them overcome the many challenges they face, with climate change and food security at the top of the list. This program focuses on ecological farming, rights education, traditional knowledge, just livelihoods, and adapting to climate change.

WEA does incredible work, and this program promotes the idea that women are not victims but instead are the ones holding down the fort and finding ways to improve lives. Through peer-to-peer/farmer-to-farmer exchanges, women come together around empowerment, self-reliance, and to learn from one another.

One training participant, Manju Devi, is a single mother of three from Bihar who has trained over 144 women in five villages in organic farming and seed saving. She has also set up her own organic kitchen garden site, which she uses for demonstrations.

Another Indian woman farmer’s success story was that of Ram Ratti. A decade ago she was fortunate enough to receive training from the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (and now WEA’s partner in the Women, Food Security and Climate Change program) in sustainable farming practices. Today she grows over 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables and has trained 200 women in organic agriculture and seed saving. Ninety of these women are now smallholder organic farmers with a diverse group of crops cultivated from local seed varieties.

Both of these women understand that sharing women’s knowledge is an integral part of food security, especially in the face of climate change. And they are making use of women’s intimate knowledge of farming, natural pesticides, and medicine. In Rucha’s words, these “women are reclaiming “green” from the green revolution.”

Ultimately, it is women who are the primary caretakers of natural resources. By empowering them with property rights, economic opportunities, and decision-making authority our environment and communities will be better off. I know some of the women farmers I met in Maharashtra a couple of years ago talked about these same things.

The theme of the presentation and of the women’s training revolved around unity, sharing and empowerment. These are concepts that we should all use to guide our lives in light of the challenges facing the planet.

Countries all over the world can raise women’s status by educating girls and by improving women’s access to credit, land, jobs, and training. This is exactly what WEA’s India program is doing, but taking it a step further by bringing women together to learn from each other. And they are having great success.

Watch here WEA’s short video on the training, and get ready to be inspired!

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