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Paying the school fees, one butterfly at a time

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Once upon a time, there was a tropical forest that stretched all the way from Somalia to Mozambique. Today, there isn’t much left. In Kenya all that’s left of the forest is 42,000 hectares on the coast called the Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

“Arabuko Sokoke has a very rich biodiversity with more than 600 different tree species, 250 bird species such as the Clarke’s weaver, 230 species of mammals and different insects species, including more than 230 different butterflies,” says Elvis Katana Fondo, assistant ecosystem conservator for the Kenya Forest Service in Kilifi. “In addition to a rich terrestrial ecosystem, it also boasts a unique marine ecosystem, with more than 8,000 hectares of mangroves. That is part of what makes this forest so special and why it is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage site.”

In order to preserve this unique forest, the Kenya Forest Service decided to work with local communities in line with the 2005 Forest Act which states that communities whose livelihood depends on the forest around them should be included in all decisions about the forest. The UN-REDD Programme, through the United Nations Development Programme, introduced rules for free, prior and informed consent that lay out a series of guidelines on how to make this happen.

In practice, this means that people living up to 5 kilometres from the forest have to organize themselves into Community Forest Associations, allowing the the Kenya Forest Service to work with them and give them rights to collect firewood, water and herbal medicines within 1 kilometre of the forest periphery. This forest was one of the first places in Kenya where participatory forest management was piloted.

Charo Ngumbao, chairman for one of three Community Forest Associations in Arabuko, has 1500 members, of whom 85 per cent are women. “Examples of the various user groups that we have in my group are people working on eco-tourism such as bird watching. Other groups are involved with beekeeping, tree planting and tree nurseries; others act as community scouts to assist the forest guides and last but not least, there is a group of women involved in butterfly farming.”

Butterfly farming was introduced in Arabuko Sokoke in 1993 as a local community project to directly generate income to the community from the forest so as to enhance conservation of the forest resources which were threated from over exploitation. Jan Godon, the former head of Nature Kenya, set up the export of butterfly pupas (cocoons) to Stratford upon Avon in the United Kingdom and recently new markets have been added, including the United States, Turkey and Dubai. There are weekly shipments and the price varies from US$0.50 to almost US$2 per butterfly.

“The butterflies, called kipepeo in Kiswahili, will hatch upon arrival at their destination and are used for wedding ceremonies, exhibitions and collectors. Their very short lifespan (up to ten days) makes it a delicate export. Each species of butterfly has its own value depending on colour, pattern and how difficult it is to breed, and each species breeds in a specific indigenous tree. Keeping the forest healthy is therefore essential to the survival of the butterflies. We’ve come to realize that we don’t want the forest to be cleared,” says Emily Katana, a butterfly farmer. “It’s our treasure and source of income.”

Butterfly farming has its challenges. “We are trained to trap them from 9 a.m. using bananas and mangoes that are placed inside the traps in the forest. In the evening, we return to the forest to remove the trapped butterflies and take them to our breeding places where we feed them until they lay their eggs, which then hatch into caterpillars. The caterpillars eat leaves until they turn into the pupae state, where they cocoon themselves. It is at this point that we sell them before they hatch into butterflies,” says Katana.

Katana and other butterfly farmers sell the pupae to Kipepeo Butterflies House (KBH), a company that buys and sells butterflies to the international market. “It’s a fragile product, but it pays our kids’ school fees, their clothes and even desks for the local schools,” says Chenola Tabou, another member of the butterfly famers group.

The Kipepeo project started in 1993 with an inception fund of US$50,000 provided by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme, but these days, they have a yearly revenue of about US$100,000. “We pay the farmers weekly based on what has reached the customers in good shape,” says project manager, Hussein Adulai. “Since it’s a fragile product, there is no guarantee of payment. But still, the business has been growing since 2016 despite competition from Costa Rica, Nepal and the Philippines. We are now self-sustainable and there are 870 people living from it.”

“Ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, and encourage economic growth, in an environmentally sustainable way. Helping to provide alternative livelihoods for communities living near forests can not only reduce poverty, but also conserve forests and help tackle climate change,” says Judith Walcott from the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre on behalf of the UN-REDD Programme.

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Promoters who sent a letter to Elon Musk are wanted by Russia

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The promoters from the Aboriginal Forum who sent a letter to Elon Musk asking him not to buy Norilsk Nickel metals are wanted by Russia. Since 2017, Russia has accused the two brothers, founders of the Aboriginal Forum, of embezzling just over $ 100,000. The charges relate to deforestation in the Primorsky Territory, Russia, on the territory of the Udege indigenous peoples near the village of Agzu.

Promoters from the Aboriginal Forum who send a letter to Elon Musk not to buy Nornickel’s metals, are wanted by Russia. Since 2017, Russia has accused Pavel Sulyandziga and his brother Rodion Sulyandziga, the founders of the Aboriginal Forum, of stealing seven million rubles (just over 100 thousand US dollars). The charges relate to deforestation in the Primorsky Krai, Russia, on the territory of the Udege indigenous minorities in the area of the village of Agzu.

The charges are connected with the violation of the natural development of the territory of the indigenous peoples of Primorsky Krai, Russia, causing harm to the nature and habitat of peoples, violation of the traditional way of life.

The charges were brought forward by the Russian authorities in 2017. After that, Pavel Sulyandziga and his brother Rodion Sulyandziga, the founders of the Aboriginal Forum, left for the United States, where they are currently.

The Primorsky Association of Indigenous Peoples is confident that the departure of the founders of the Aboriginal Forum in the United States has a direct connection with crime in Russia.

Residents of Agzu village are sure that the brothers deceived them.

Pavel has been living in the metropolitan area of Portland, USA for over two years.

Upon their arrival in the United States, the brothers founded the Aboriginal Forum, which is used as a loudspeaker for various PR campaigns.

Russia’s Indigenous Peoples Chief Grigory Ledkov, when asked about the alleged plea from an Aboriginal Forum to Elon Musk not to buy Nornickel’s metals, said on Friday:

“We live in Russia and we see the whole situation unlike the coordinators of this virtual platform – Aboriginal Forum – who are focused purely on Western countries and live there themselves. Let’s go to the Tundra! Come to Russia! Let’s work together!”

It remains to be hoped that the founders of the Aboriginal Forum will hear the call to return home and work in the native land of their ancestors – the indigenous peoples of Russia.

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How environmental policy can drive gender equality

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Environmental degradation has gendered impacts which need to be properly assessed and monitored to understand and adopt gender-responsive strategies and policies. While designing these, it is essential that measures targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment are adequately formulated and mainstreamed.  

To facilitate experience sharing and learning from good practices, on the 9th of September, the UNECE hosted a webinar on Gender Mainstreaming in Environmental Policies and Strategies. Ms. Astrid Krumwiede, head of the unit in charge of the development and application of gender aspects in environmental policy in the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, shared experiences from Germany, which considers gender equality to be a cross cutting issue for all areas of environmental policy. On the national level, the Ministry for the Environment has sought to integrate gender equality in various ways, such as through dialogues, meetings, guidelines, education and policies. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the fragility of progress made in gender equality, the Federal Government adopted an economic stimulus package that includes measures to provide financial assistance for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Germany has also strived for the implementation of gender mainstreaming in environmental policy at the international level, which is especially true in the field of climate change in the context of measures and strategies concerning the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement.

Despite progress made, there are still some long-standing barriers to implementing gender mainstreaming. These include a lack of political support, a lack of women in decision making and leadership positions, insufficient representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics related professions, and outdated stereotypes. Moving forward, capacity building and equality impact assessment trainings need to be gender responsive so that suitable incentives are provided which enable women to participate. Communication and promotion are of vital importance, especially in finding new ways to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that gender equality remains a focal issue. Incorporating an intersectional approach to gender equality in environmental policy is also essential, since ignoring this in policymaking can create a system that creates and reinforces different forms of discrimination.

Looking to the future, in the words of Ms. Astrid Krumwiede, “it is time for tailor made environmental policies which reflect different needs and requirements for different people”.

The webinar was complemented by perspectives from UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews and the Protocol on Water and Health on the specific examples of gender mainstreaming in environmental reviews and water, sanitation and hygiene.

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Climate Heat Maps Show How Hot It Could Get for Today’s Tweens

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Climate-related impacts such as the wildfires in the western United States will only become more severe if we allow the worst-case scenario to unfold by 2100. A new EarthTime visualization shows just how hot the world may become in 2100, within the life expectancy of today’s tween, 10-12-year olds.

The findings, announced at the fourth World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit, place even more urgency on business and government leaders to fast-track solutions and act now to prevent such a scenario unfolding.

Experts attempting to rank the severity of climate change scenarios likely to play out by the year 2100 refer to the worst of them as “RCP 8.5.” This entails more than 4°C in warming above pre-industrial levels, rising emissions, hundreds of millions of people being forced to migrate, and a big increase in forested area prone to the type of fires that have raged this summer (due to a phenomenon dubbed the “moisture deficit”).

The World Economic Forum has used data from the Climate Impact Lab, Climate Central, the Washington Post, and NASA satellites to create a visualization of this worst-case scenario.

The data model shows that by 2100:

Average June-August temperatures reach 38°C (100.4°F) for many parts of the world

New Delhi, India, has eight months a year with temperatures averaging 32ºC (89.6°F) up from six

Phoenix, Arizona, has nearly 200 days a year of temperatures hitting at least 32ºC (89.6°F)

Regions of southern Europe average June-August temperatures of 30°C (86°F)

Viet Nam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia’s June-August temperatures average more than 30°C (86°F)

Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, disappear under water due to rising sea levels

“Longer-term trends can often seem abstract and intangible,” said Stephan Mergenthaler, Head of Strategic Intelligence at the World Economic Forum. “Visualizing the effects of these trends, based on the latest scientific data, can help people take action and work towards shared goals.”

Experts agree that the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided if we limit global warming to below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Effective climate policies, fighting efforts to discredit legitimate science, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or offsetting it by planting new forests, and upgrading transportation and energy systems can all be part of the equation.

“To speed up the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and create change, we need to get as many people involved as possible,” said John Dutton, Head of UpLink at the World Economic Forum. “Anyone can make an impact. We have seen the next generation of change-markers and social entrepreneurs stand up and create action plans on the UpLink platform to make sure we don’t see this visualization come true. Connecting these ideas to funding sources, scaling up impact and creating a community of support will help us address the critical opportunities ahead for this generation.”

Innovative projects on the UpLink platform include how to reduce emissions by buying and selling unused shipping container space, how to use waste management and data analytics to reduce plastic in the ocean, and how to create packaging made from sustainably farmed seaweed. Projects allow start-ups to flag what they need to succeed and connect them with software developers, funders, or resources to deliver impact.

80 EarthTime Stories

The climate visualization is one of nearly 80 EarthTime stories that have so far been published alongside hundreds of related topics on the Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform. They cover a broad range of issues including environmental protection, technology development, intellectual property trends and systemic racism. These visualizations are intended to help illustrate important global trends and dynamics in an easy-to-understand, readily accessible way.

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