The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.

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By Josh Butler
Women organise themselves into small collectives, to better bargain and trade their produce. Credit: Helen Keller International
Women organise themselves into small collectives, to better bargain and trade their produce. Credit: Helen Keller International

Women organise themselves into small collectives, to better bargain and trade their produce. Credit: Helen Keller International

NEW YORK, Mar 1 2015 (IPS) - Women in Bangladesh are carving healthier, wealthier futures for themselves and their children – and they have chicken eggs and pineapples to thank.

Since 2009, the non-profit group Helen Keller International has overseen programmes in the eastern Bangladesh region of Chittagong, mentoring women in agriculture to produce food not only for their own families, but also to sell at market.

"It’s not just about growing their incomes, it’s about education leading to healthier and more productive lives.” -- Kathy Spahn

Kathy Spahn, president of HKI, said one-fifth of homes in Chittagong are considered hungry, while half the children are stunted and one-third are underweight due to poor nutrition. In the area HKI works, around 75 percent of people survive on just 12 dollars a month.

“The area is stigmatised and has little access to health services,” Spahn said at an event this week organised by Women Advancing Microfinance New York.

“We’re teaching women to grow nutritious fruit and vegetables, raise chickens for meat and eggs, and grow enough to sell at markets for extra money.”

The programme, ‘Making Markets Work For Women,’ or M2W2, gives both initial start-up capital and ongoing guidance. Women in Chittagong, who may have previously been viewed solely as homemakers, are given tools to grow nutrient-rich crops like spinach and carrots to feed their own families, as well as more lucrative crops like pineapple and maize to sell.

Chickens are raised, eggs are eaten and sold, ginger and turmeric are harvested and refined and packaged using supplied machinery; and women who never before had any control over family finances are suddenly bringing in their own income to pay for education and healthcare.

Helen Keller International – named for its founder, the inspirational deaf and blind author and activist – traditionally focused on sight and blindness projects, but today focuses on a broader gamut of health and nutrition issues, including blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency. The group now runs 180 programmes in more than 20 Asian and African countries.

“HKI has been working in Bangladesh since 1978, doing work on nutritional blindness. Doing nutrition surveillance there, we saw the deeper pockets of Vitamin A deficiency,” Spahn told IPS.

(Read)NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY: INTER PRESS SERVICE
February 27,2015 2:01 PM
In Brazil, one of the countries with the highest concentration of land ownership in the world, some 200,000 peasant farmers still have no plot of their own to farm – a problem that the first administration of President Dilma Rousseff did little to resolve. In its assessment of the situation in the 2011-2014 period, the […]
February 27,2015 1:03 PM
“One time my husband started slapping me hard on the face because I had not cooked the rice to his satisfaction,” Suruchi* told IPS. “He hit me so hard that my infant daughter fell from my arms to the ground.” For 20 years 47-year-old Suruchi, a resident of India’s coastal megacity Mumbai, faced physical and […]
February 27,2015 10:27 AM
Leon Anderson is a retired American businessman and author who worked extensively in international markets.
February 27,2015 4:32 AM
In this column, Emma Bonino, a former Italian foreign minister and former European Commissioner, argues that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the de facto representative of Europe in the world today, putting other European heads of states and institutions in the shade. Moreover, the economic and political measures taken by EU member countries since 2008 have aimed at “renationalising” their interests, and the author fears that a definitive crisis of the European federalist project is on the horizon.
February 27,2015 4:03 AM
The beautiful Mediterranean Sea laps gently onto the white sandy beach near Gaza City’s port. Fishing boats dot the beach as fishermen tend to their boats and fix their nets. However, this scenic and peaceful setting belies a depressing reality. Gaza’s once thriving fishing industry has been decimated by Israel’s blockade of the coastal territory […]
February 26,2015 5:56 PM
Social hostilities involving religion have declined worldwide, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the Washington-based Pew Research Center. The latest data show that after reaching a six-year peak in 2012, the state of religious tolerance improved in 2013 in most of the 198 countries analysed in the report. The share of countries with […]
February 26,2015 4:28 PM
Libya is teetering on the edge of all-out war, with a brutal stalemate and misery for civilians predicted unless a recent minor diplomatic breakthrough can be built upon. The International Crisis Group (ICG), a non-governmental organisation working to prevent and resolve conflict, warned Thursday of a “dramatic turning point” in the “deteriorating internal conflict,” with […]
February 26,2015 4:10 PM
As the call for the decriminalisation of drugs steadily picks up steam worldwide, a new study by a British charity concludes there has been no significant reduction in the global use of illicit drugs since the creation of three key U.N. anti-drug conventions, the first of which came into force over half a century ago. […]
February 26,2015 3:03 PM
Every morning, Raj Kumari Chaudhari walks from her home to the other end of Padnaha village, located in the Bardiya district of mid-west Nepal, to a big mango tree to offer prayers. The tree is majestic, its branches spreading as far as the eye can see. “This tree doesn’t bear fruit, but it saved my […]
By Mel Frykberg
Safa Subha and three-year-old Rahat rely on Oxfam aid for food to fight malnutrition after having been accustomed to living on a diet of bread and tea. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS
Safa Subha and three-year-old Rahat rely on Oxfam aid for food to fight malnutrition after having been accustomed to living on a diet of bread and tea. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

Safa Subha and three-year-old Rahat rely on Oxfam aid for food to fight malnutrition after having been accustomed to living on a diet of bread and tea. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

BEIT LAHIYA, Northern Gaza Strip, Mar 1 2015 (IPS) - Extensive damage to Gaza’s environment as a result of the Israeli blockade and its devastating military campaign against the coastal territory during last year’s war from July to August, is negatively affecting the health of Gazans, especially their food security.

“We were living on bread and tea and my five children were badly malnourished as my husband and I couldn’t afford proper food,” Safa Subha, 37, from Beit Lahiya told IPS.

“My children were suffering from liver problems, anaemia and weak bones. It was only after I received regular food vouchers from Oxfam and was able to purchase eggs and yoghurt that my children are now healthier.

Lack of dietary diversity is an issue of concern, particularly for children and pregnant and lactating women, due to the lack of large-scale food assistance programmes and the high prices of fresh food and red meat

“But it is still a struggle as I have to ration out the food and my doctor has warned me to keep giving the children these foods to prevent the malnutrition returning,” said Safa.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in several communities, lack of dietary diversity was highlighted as an issue of concern, particularly for children and pregnant and lactating women, due to the lack of large-scale food assistance programmes and the high prices of fresh food and red meat.

Before the war, Safa’s husband Ashraf worked as a farmer, renting a piece of land on which he grew produce that he then sold.

“My husband used to earn about NIS 300 per week (about 75 dollars) from farming. After the land became too dangerous to farm, because of Israeli military fire and much of it destroyed in Israeli bombings, my husband tried to earn some money renting a taxi,” said Safa.

However, Ashraf’s attempts to support his family as a taxi driver did not provide sufficient income for their survival.

“He can only use the taxi a couple of days a week because it doesn’t belong to him and he often doesn’t have money to buy fuel because it is so expensive and Israel only allows limited amounts of fuel into Gaza because of the blockade,” said Safa.

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By Dr. Bradnee Chambers
Dead addax (white antelope) hunted by soldiers in Chad – “We should not underestimate the seriousness of wildlife crime”. Credit: John Newby/SCF
Dead addax (white antelope) hunted by soldiers in Chad – “We should not underestimate the seriousness of wildlife crime”. Credit: John Newby/SCF

With Mar. 3 designated as World Wildlife Day, Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, examines the problem of wildlife crime from the angle of asking what the individual citizen can do to help fight to save our living natural heritage.

Dead addax (white antelope) hunted by soldiers in Chad – “We should not underestimate the seriousness of wildlife crime”. Credit: John Newby/SCF

BONN, Mar 1 2015 (IPS) - It is no exaggeration to say that we are facing a “wildlife crisis”, and it is a crisis exacerbated by human activities, not least criminal ones.

Whatever our definition of wildlife crime, it is big business. In terms of annual turn-over it is up there narcotics, arms and human trafficking – and the proceeds run into billions of dollars each year, helping to finance criminal gangs and rebel organisations waging civil wars.

“Whatever our definition of wildlife crime, it is big business. In terms of annual turn-over it is up there with narcotics, arms and human trafficking – and the proceeds run into billions of dollars each year”

With seven billion people on the planet, it is tempting to shrug one’s shoulders and ask “What difference can any one individual make?”  Such an attitude means that we are in danger of repeating the “tragedy of the commons” – everyone making seemingly rational decisions in their own immediate interests – but this is a short-sighted approach that undermines the common good and ultimately sows the seeds of its own downfall.

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By Haidee Swanby and Maran Bassey Orovwuje
“There is no doubt that African small-scale producers need much greater support in their efforts, but GM seeds which are designed for large-scale industrial production have no place in smallholder systems”. Credit: La Via Campesina/2007/Creative Commons
“There is no doubt that African small-scale producers need much greater support in their efforts, but GM seeds which are designed for large-scale industrial production have no place in smallholder systems”. Credit: La Via Campesina/2007/Creative Commons

Haidee Swanby is a researcher with the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), a non-profit organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The ACB’s work is centred on dismantling structural inequities in food and agriculture systems in Africa and directed towards the attainment of food sovereignty. Mariann Bassey Orovwuje is a lawyer, as well as an environmental, human and food rights advocate. She is Programme Manager for the Food Sovereignty Programme for Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Africa’s Food Sovereignty Programme Campaign.

“There is no doubt that African small-scale producers need much greater support in their efforts, but GM seeds which are designed for large-scale industrial production have no place in smallholder systems”. Credit: La Via Campesina/2007/Creative Commons

JOHANNESBURG, Mar 1 2015 (IPS) - The most persistent myth about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that they are necessary to feed a growing global population.

Highly effective marketing campaigns have drilled it into our heads that GMOs will produce more food on less land in an environmentally friendly manner. The mantra has been repeated so often that it is considered to be truth.

Now this mantra has come to Africa, sung by the United States administration and multinational corporations like Monsanto, seeking to open new markets for a product that has been rejected by so many others around the globe.

“It may be tempting to believe that hunger can be solved with technology, but African social movements have pointed out that skewed power relations are the bedrock of hunger in Africa”

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By Jeffrey Moyo
Bamboo nursery in Africa. There is debate over whether commercially-grown bamboo could help reverse the effects of deforestation and land degradation that has spread harm across the African continent. Credit: EcoPlanet Bamboo
Bamboo nursery in Africa. There is debate over whether commercially-grown bamboo could help reverse the effects of deforestation and land degradation that has spread harm across the African continent. Credit: EcoPlanet Bamboo

Bamboo nursery in Africa. There is debate over whether commercially-grown bamboo could help reverse the effects of deforestation and land degradation that has spread harm across the African continent. Credit: EcoPlanet Bamboo

HARARE, Feb 28 2015 (IPS) - Deforestation is haunting the African continent as industrial growth paves over public commons and puts more hectares into private hands.

According to the Environmental News Network, a web-based resource, Africa loses forest cover equal to the size of Switzerland every year, or approximately 41 000 square kilometres.

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By Ivet Gonzalez
Tobacco pickers carry leaves to one of the sheds where they are cured on the Rosario plantation in San Juan y Martínez, in Vuelta Abajo, a western Cuban region famous for producing premium cigars. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS
Tobacco pickers carry leaves to one of the sheds where they are cured on the Rosario plantation in San Juan y Martínez, in Vuelta Abajo, a western Cuban region famous for producing premium cigars. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Tobacco pickers carry leaves to one of the sheds where they are cured on the Rosario plantation in San Juan y Martínez, in Vuelta Abajo, a western Cuban region famous for producing premium cigars. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

SAN JUAN Y MARTÍNEZ, Cuba , Feb 28 2015 (IPS) - “We have to wait and see,” “There isn’t a lot of talk about it,” are the responses from tobacco workers in this rural area in western Cuba when asked about the prospect of an opening of the U.S. market to Cuban cigars.

“If the company sells more, I think they would pay us better,” said Berta Borrego, who has been hanging and sorting tobacco leaves for over 30 years in San Juan y Martínez in the province of Pinar del Río, 180 km west of Havana.

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By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
A women-led village council in rural Bangladesh prepares a “social map” of the local community. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS
A women-led village council in rural Bangladesh prepares a “social map” of the local community. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the executive director of UN Women

A women-led village council in rural Bangladesh prepares a “social map” of the local community. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 27 2015 (IPS) - This weekend, at the invitation of President Michelle Bachelet and myself, women leaders from across the world are meeting in Santiago de Chile. We will applaud their achievements. We will remind ourselves of their contributions. And we will chart a way forward to correct the historical record. History has not been fair to women – but then, women usually didn’t write it.

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