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Philippines: Vibrant Agriculture is Key to Faster Recovery and Poverty Reduction

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Transforming Philippine agriculture into a dynamic, high-growth sector is essential for the country to speed up recovery, poverty reduction and inclusive growth, according to the latest report released by the World Bank.

Titled “Transforming Philippine Agriculture During Covid-19 and Beyond,” the report says that transforming the country’s farming and food systems is even more important during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure strong food value chains, affordable and nutritious food, and a vibrant rural economy.

“Modernizing the country’s agricultural sector is a very important agenda for the Philippines,” said Ndiame Diop, World Bank Country Director Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. “With the exception of a few small natural resource-rich countries, no country has successfully transitioned from middle- to high-income status without having achieved an effective transformation of their agri-food systems. Transforming agriculture and food systems is always challenging. But the country’s new vision for agriculture, it’s current thrust for diversification and use of modern technologies, and its effective management of food supply during this pandemic clearly indicate that the country is well-equipped to overcome the challenge.”

“Our vision is a food-secure and resilient Philippines with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said. “Realizing this vision will require dedicated efforts among major agri-fishery industry stakeholders, led by the Department of Agriculture, to continuously empower farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural entrepreneurs, and the private sector to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, taking into account sustainability and resilience.”

The report, which was prepared as part of World Bank support to the Department of Agriculture’s “new thinking” in agricultural development, suggests shifting away from a heavy focus on specific crops towards improving the overall resilience, competitiveness, and sustainability of the rural sector.

In the past, spending has gone mostly toward price supports for selected crops and goods, as well as subsidies on inputs such as fertilizer, planting materials, and machines. Global experience shows that while ensuring the availability of key inputs remain important, reorienting significant public spending toward investments in public goods—including research and development (R&D), infrastructure, innovation systems, market information systems, and biosecurity systems—results in faster poverty reduction and greater productivity gains through an overall modernization of agriculture.

The report says that small farmers have difficulty accessing inputs and markets for their produce, while buyers such as agribusiness enterprises and wholesalers find it difficult to get the quantity and quality of produce that they need for processing on a timely basis. Government support can help overcome this market failure by bringing together buyers and producer organizations and providing support for the preparation and implementation of profitable business plans that benefit both parties.

In situations where farmers need support to help them access markets and improve their livelihood, or when compensation measures are needed for farmers affected by trade policies such as the rice liberalization in the Philippines, direct cash payments or cash transfers can be a better option, as practiced in many countries like Turkey, European Union, and the US, says the report. These direct payments have many advantages, such as giving farmers more choices and encouraging private sector development in upstream (inputs and agricultural services) and downstream (processing, marketing) markets, thereby helping farmers connect to these markets and opportunities.

The report says that interventions like farm consolidation (including cooperative farming schemes for instance), better extension services, e-commerce, and investments in agribusiness start-ups can further advance modernization of Philippine agriculture.

“These paradigm shifts will be crucial to meet the emerging domestic and global market opportunities, while creating jobs, raising farmer incomes and ensuring the food security needs of the country and meeting the new challenges of climate change,” said Dina Umali-Deininger, World Bank Practice Manager for Agriculture and Food for East Asia and the Pacific.

World Bank’s support to the Philippines includes long-running programs aiming to raise agricultural productivity and reduce poverty in rural communities.  A current example of this is the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) which aims to help increase rural incomes and enhance farm and fishery productivity.

Several projects are in the pipeline to help raise agricultural productivity, resiliency and access to markets of farmers and fisherfolk in selected ancestral domains in Mindanao and improve management of coastal fishery resources in selected coastal communities.

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Environment

Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

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forest

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all dubious logging concessions, including the 6 granted in September 2020. Greenpeace Africa, one of the civil society organizations that denounced these concessions, applauds the decision taken by the Head of State and encourages him to remain vigilant and ensure its effective execution by Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Eve Bazaiba.

Greenpeace Africa reiterates its call for maintaining the moratorium on new industrial logging concessions to prevent a human rights and climate catastrophe. This logging sector, characterized by bad governance, favors corruption and remains out of touch with the socio-economic needs of the Congolese people and the climate crisis we live in.

Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Head of the International Congo Basin Forest Project of Greenpeace: “The decision of H.E. President Tshisekedi against the illegal actions of former Minister Nyamugabo sends an important message to the Congolese people and their government. It is also a red light for the plans of Ms. Ève Bazaiba, current Minister of the Environment, to open a highway to deforestation by multinational logging companies through lifting the moratorium on new industrial concessions.”

The President asks to “Suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of an audit and report them to the government at the next cabinet meeting.” Greenpeace Africa maintains that the review of illegalities in the forest sector must be transparent, independent, and open to comments from civil society organizations.

Ms. Wabiwa adds that “Both the protection of the rights of Congolese peoples and the success of COP26 require that the moratorium on granting new forest titles be strengthened. We again call on President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 presidential decree to extend the moratorium.”

Ms. Wabiwa concludes that “instead of allowing new avenues of destruction, the DRC needs a permanent forest protection plan, taking into account the management by the local and indigenous populations who live there and depend on them for their survival.”

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Tech News

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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