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rice_farms_climate_change

Climate change is having a profound effect on coastal rice farming. The resulting increase in pests, diseases, water scarcity, and salinity has been devastating to farmers.

Research conducted over the past decade demonstrates a strong relationship between climate change and the prevalence of disease and pests in rice paddies. Crop stressors like irregular rainfall often increase the virulence of rice blights such as brown spot and blast. Extreme weather, like flooding or drought, forces farmers into asynchronous, or unseasonal, cropping. Such practices, along with the weather events themselves, often lead to pest population explosions.

Water scarcity is another factor affecting rice production. As rice requires a certain amount of water to grow, even less-severe droughts can take a toll on production yields. Climate change continues to cause more frequent and more severe droughts, and rice farmers are starting to feel the pressure of drying rice paddies.

As higher temperatures and lower rainfall cause a decrease in ground water, sea levels continue to rise and intrude into fresh water areas. These factors cause a noted increase in salinity. Rice, particularly higher-yielding hybrids, is only moderately tolerant of salt. Thus, increases in the salinity usually see a decrease in yields for the affected paddies.

Drastic decreases in production are causing some farmers to abandon their fields. Several governments and NGOs, like Practical Action, a UK-based development organization, are launching initiatives to help these rice farmers cope with the growing challenges of climate change.

Practical Action partnered with farmers in southern Sri Lanka, a country that has seen significant effects of climate change over the past 20 years. The organization participated in farmer-led trials of traditional varieties of rice to assess each type’s resistance to temperature, pests, and salinity. The varieties were held against standards of crop duration, plant height, grain quality, and overall yield.

Sri Lanka has over 2,000 traditional varieties of rice. Most of these varieties had been abandoned for modern rice types and hybrids, but new climate challenges are turning many farmers back to indigenous varieties. The traditional rice is nutritional, some even having medicinal properties, and according to tests are more resilient in the face of climate change.

In fact, of the ten varieties tested by farmers in the Practical Action program, four scored high enough to now be officially promoted through farmer organizations as hardy and saline tolerant. The traditional rice cannot, generally, produce the high yields of hybrids, but its resilience and popularity in the consumer market still enable a farmer to generate profit.

It seems that for an agricultural community faced with emerging climate challenges, revisiting traditional methods could be the best solution.

– Lauren Brown

Sources: Practical Action
Photo: International Land Coalition

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For some who remain in poverty, the opportunity to enter more developed nations like the United Kingdom could positively impact the lives of their families for generations. Recently, however, the government of the United Kingdom has announced that they will soon begin to raise visa fees for those from high risk countries. Citizens of India, Ghana, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka will have to pay a £3,000 cash bond ($4,625 USD), almost double people renewing a visa from within the U.K. pay.

In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron initiated a per capita cash bond system across the board for immigrants applying for visas for additional members of their families. The reasoning behind the change was to ensure that income levels of sponsors were high enough, which was supposed to mean fewer people applying for residency in the U.K. become a burden to taxpayers later. Ideally, the bonds are also intended to deter overstaying and recover funds if the immigrants use public services.

An unnamed government official has said that the countries were chosen based on their “risk of abuse” of the immigration system. For instance, a recent report from the Daily Mail revealed that U.K. colleges and universities had reported 106,698 warnings to United Kingdom Border Agency for the 2011-2012 school year alone. Such abuses of the system included losing their sponsorship from the host school or dropping out altogether, both of which may be grounds for deportation on a student visa. However, barely one in 1,000 reported cases results in deportation, allowing over 100,000 people to remain in the country under false pretenses. Nevertheless, Cameron’s overall goal is to have the United Kingdom’s net annual migration down to 100,000 people by 2015.

Despite the abuses, the fact remains that such a change would adversely affect those from poor backgrounds. Such a high price for entering the UK will bar many from doing so, regardless of whether or not they are highly skilled or educated.

– Samantha Mauney
Source: The Sun, The Daily Mail, UKBA, NDTV
Photo: The Asians

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Poverty in Sri Lanka has been decreasing for years, and a recent study shows that this trend is continuing. Between 1990 and 2011, overall poverty in Sri Lanka plummeted from 26.1% to 8.9%. Much of this progress has been made in recent years, with the number of Sri Lankans stuck in poverty falling by over half between 2006 and 2012.

While Sri Lanka definitely deserves recognition for the astounding progress it has made, there are still some clear areas for improvement. For example, gains in the fight against poverty have been uneven across various population groups. While poverty rates have dropped significantly in both the urban and rural populations, poverty on Sri Lankan plantations has actually risen by roughly half. Sri Lanka is also being outpaced by some of its geographical neighbors. Growth rates of per capita income are far behind those of South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand. Studies focusing on Sri Lankan poverty also reveal a vicious cycle, in which people who cannot afford adequate nutrition are more likely to develop health problems later in life, which often drain them of any monetary resources they do have. Similarly, when people can’t afford education, they are less likely to gain access to highly profitable employment opportunities. Cycles such as this help organizations and governments understand why poor people tend to stay poor, enabling them to more effectively empower the poor to raise themselves out of poverty.

Various organizations, including the United Nations Development Program, have worked alongside the Sri Lankan government to make this progress possible. Much of their success has been with programs to improve the efficiency of agriculture and fishing businesses. These programs include an initiative to advocate for struggling plantation workers that make up an increasing percentage of the population, and the building of an ice plant so fishermen can store their catch in order to get a better market price. Another significantly effective strategy in Sri Lanka’s fight against poverty has been to encourage political stability. These efforts have included the building of a new courthouse, and improved training of Sri Lankan police officers. Efforts such as these take a holistic approach to poverty. They arise from careful consideration of the myriad factors that contribute to poverty on both individual and societal levels, and they work to address those factors. Innovative work such as this, and the encouraging results it has produced thus far, serve as an inspiration in the global effort to end extreme poverty.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: CEPA, Journal of Competitiveness, World Bank, UNDP
Photo: Photopin

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Foreign aid organizations are often thought of as those that provide supplies of food, water, and medicine to those around the world who need it. The HALO Trust, however, was set up to improve the process of relief as well as defend civilians. The HALO Trust was formed in March 1988 in order to provide assistance to those in areas of war (Pakistan and the Horn of Africa) that were scattered with anti-personnel landmines.

Since 1988, the HALO staff in Afghanistan has grown to over 3,600, and has cleared over 700,000 mines from fields and stockpiles. HALO’s programs have reached many other countries as well such as Cambodia, Mozambique, Chechnya, Georgia, and more recently Sri Lanka and Colombia. As the “world’s oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization”, HALO is leading the way in making war zones safe for civilians and for transport of goods and services through trade. Their policy of “Road Threat Reduction” has since cleared 5,196 km of anti-tank mines off of roads in Angola.

HALO Trust also supports links between their usual mine clearance and development initiatives. Because these mines make it more difficult for development actors to visit and aid them, they are especially in need of help rebuilding their villages. First, however, mines need to be cleared in order to have safe ways to raise livestock and prevent killing or maiming of civilians. Their policy is to link development to demining, rather than demining to development.

While demining is their major effort, they also train their promoted staff as paramedics in order to make comprehensive medical knowledge a part of every team. Their funds are allocated to certain teams for a certain period of time as well as being spent on equipment and other expenses. Each donor ends up knowing exactly what they funded in terms of mines destroyed, amount of land cleared, and number of people that have benefited. Administration salaries are paid with an extra administration charge given to institutional donors.

Overall, the organization is a great help to those living in war zones, and continues to clear mines and work across the world to ensure the safety of civilians.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: HALO Trust
Photo: Telegraph

Canadian Research Fund Fights World HungerTechnology, science and research are integral tools in the fight against world hunger and poverty.  The Canadian government has taken important steps toward funding new efforts to fight global poverty and hunger. Last week the Canadian government announced its contribution to the second phase of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, also known as CIFSRF.  This fund is using science and technology partnerships to try to find new solutions to battle the global epidemic of hunger and poverty.

The Canadian government is committed to improving food security for those most in need around the globe. They are using collaborative efforts contributed by universities, businesses, and non-governmental organizations to bring new perspectives to the problem. The Canadian research fund is developing a strategy that many other countries could learn from- the United States included. Canada’s research fund is striving to work with developing country researchers to respond to not only the immediate food needs on the ground but also working towards providing long-term strategies to effectively combat long-lasting poverty problems.

The second phase of the CIFSRF is working towards connecting research results to public and private sector organizations for distribution on a larger scale. Additionally, this stage has called for greater participation by women, a vital step in the eradication of global poverty. A majority of the world’s poor are women, and increased participation in the labor force is an incredibly important step in helping women escape the cycle of poverty.

The ultimate goal of CIFSRF is to provide sustainable results that will create long-term solutions in developing nations. Along with economic benefits, the Canadian organization would like to help bring about positive social change. It is refreshing to see results and improvement. This program has already managed to use nanotechnology to create an innovative packaging system that was able to significantly reduce the post-harvest loss of mangoes for farmers in India and Sri Lanka. It will be exciting to see what the second phase of the program will be able to produce.

Caitlin Zusy
Source Nano Werk
Photo AP/Aijaz Rahi

Youth SolutionsA South Asia regional grant competition called “Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment” will grant four young individuals the chance to carry out an innovative project. Organized by the World Bank and Microsoft, Youth Solutions is looking for ideas on how to effectively and imaginatively utilize the information and communications technology abilities of youth living in the South Asian region and provide them with employment opportunities.

In South Asia, around twenty percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 24. The region suffers from a lack of employment opportunities and with a projection of more than a million youth entering the labor force every month over the next twenty years, this is a problem that will only intensify. The idea behind this project is that the solution to massive unemployment should come from the youth themselves.

The World Bank and Microsoft are launching the project in Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka calling for proposals on how to use the information and communications technology to address the problems of lack of skills development and unemployment. One grant of US$10,000 to $20,000 will be given to each of these countries to the winners for use in carrying out their projects.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: World Bank