›May 31, 2011 // By Wilson Center StaffAnnie Murphy appeared on the International Reporting Project and NPR (follow the links for the accompanying audio track as well). Murphy appeared with three other IRP fellows at the Wilson Center on April 28 to talk about their experiences reporting abroad.
As developing countries grow, their need for raw materials grows, too.
This is the case for Brazil, a country that has much in common with the nation of Mozambique: Both have a mix of African and Portuguese influences; both are rich in natural resources; and both fought long and hard to throw off European colonialism.
Today, however, a Brazilian coal mine in Mozambique has some wondering what the energy demands of growing economies like Brazil really mean for African countries like Mozambique.
This coal mine in northwestern Mozambique is owned by the Brazilian company Vale — it’s a gaping, dark gray pit in the middle of a green, windswept savannah. Still under construction, it currently employees about 7,500 people.
Jose Manuel Guilengue, 23, a machine operator, says that he and a friend traveled 1,000 miles from the capital to get there, where they were both hired. That was a year ago. He now makes around $400 a month — which is more than four times the average salary in Mozambique.
According to the general manager overseeing construction, Osvaldo Adachi, this mine will produce about 11 million tons of coal each year, for at least three decades.
Continue reading and listen to the audio at the International Reporting Project.
Annie Murphy reported this story during a fellowship with the International Reporting Project (IRP). To hear more about Murphy and the IRP program, see the event summary for “Reporting on Global Health: A Conversation With the International Reporting Project Fellows.”
Photo Credit: Adapted from Mozambique, courtesy of flickr user F H Mira.
›Part one of the “Yemen Beyond the Headlines: Population, Health, Natural Resources, and Institutions” event, held at the Wilson Center on May 18.
“Ultimately, whether Yemen is able to achieve its goals for social and economic development, will to a large extent depend on its future population growth and size,” said Gary Cook, senior health advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development, in his opening address on Yemen’s population and development challenges at the Woodrow Wilson Center. [Video Below]
Cook was joined on the opening panel of the all-day conference, “Yemen Behind the Headlines: Population, Health, Natural Resources, and Institutions,” by Dalia Al-Eryani, former project officer for Pathfinder International’s Safe Age of Marriage Project, and T.S. Sunil, professor of sociology at the University of Texas San Antonio, to discuss issues related to population, reproductive health, and child marriage. Drawing speakers and participants form the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, the conference was part of the Wilson Center’s HELPS Project, a multi-year effort to deepen understanding of links among health, environment, livelihoods, population and security.
Yemen’s Population and Development Challenges
Since 1950, the population of Yemen has increased from 4.3 million to 24 million, with an annual population growth rate above three percent, Cook said. High fertility drives Yemen’s rapid population growth, with an average total fertility rate (TFR) of 5.5 births per woman. Rates are even higher in rural areas and among women with limited or no education, he said.
Future population growth will have tremendous impacts on the country’s economy, education, health, and natural resources, said Cook, and “there is a very large gap between the high fertility assumption and the low fertility assumption.”
An additional 1.5 million new people will be added to the labor force and 29 percent less income per person will drop by 29 percent by 2035 if current fertility rates persist, said Cook. Though Yemen has a national population policy that outlines TFR targets of 3.3 in 2025 and 2.1 by 2035, the latest UN Population Division projections suggest these expectations are optimistic. Education and health demands and expenditures will increase greatly, while per capita arable land and water will decrease, exacerbating ongoing land and water scarcity in Yemen.
“We do not have enough local and external resources to address the needs of a rapidly expanding population,” said Cook. “Helping couples who want to limit and space their births will also help the nation,” he added.
Law, Culture, and Child Marriage
“Enforced by law and culture alike,” early marriage in Yemen is common, said Al-Eryani, with over 50 percent of Yemeni women married before they are 17 years old, and 14 percent before they turn 14. Opponents of child marriage argue that children are neither emotionally nor physically ready for marriage and that the practice increases health risks and lowers educational opportunities for girls.
Currently, Yemen has no minimum age for marriage law, and recent attempts to pass such a law have failed, said Al-Eryani. “The practice never really has been questioned.”
“There is a belief that child marriage is a good thing – both for the girl and for the family,” she said. Early marriages are a way to build family honor and tribal ties, and many poor families see opportunity for financial gain in the form of a dowry. “These families see no socially acceptable alternatives for the girl…and all of this is supported by the belief that Islam condones child marriage,” she said.
Through awareness sessions, health fairs, and school plays, the community-based Safe Age of Marriage Project has helped to change social norms around child marriage in two districts in Yemen.
After participating in the program, community members were significantly more likely to believe that delaying marriage gives girls more educational opportunities, empowers them to make decisions, and promotes healthy pregnancy and children, Al-Eryani said. Child marriage was banned in one of the communities, and the marriages of 53 girls and 26 boys were canceled as the result of the project. In the future, she hopes involving more religious and local leaders could further increase the program’s impact.
Youth and “The Reproductive Health Transition”
“When we talk about fertility transition, we only talk about the number of children born,” said Sunil. “A reproductive health transition takes into account not just total fertility rate, but a number of different dimensions.”
Women should have the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to reproduce, said Sunil, through access to safe, effective, affordable, and acceptable family planning methods. They also should have access to quality maternal health care throughout pregnancy and birth, he said.
“It’s a popular belief that Islamic societies with poor and limited resources are not compatible with a reproductive health transition,” said Sunil. “But the onset of a reproductive health transition is underway in Yemen.”
While the transition in Yemen is progressing more slowly than in other countries in the region, many positive trends can be seen among the country’s youth, said Sunil. Trends indicate a drop in fertility rates, especially among younger women; marriage of girls under 15 years old has declined; and contraceptive use among young women age 15 to 24 has increased significantly.
Government and international donor agencies “must capture the growing momentum among the younger cohort” and meet demands for better education, postponement of marriage, and healthcare services, said Sunil. Continued focus on adolescent reproductive health will be the key to achieving the reproductive health transition, he concluded. “From an economic and human perspective, the growing young population in Yemen is potentially a tremendous asset.”
See parts two and three of “Yemen Beyond the Headlines: Population, Health, Natural Resources, and Institutions” for more from this Wilson Center event.
Sources: Population Reference Bureau, UNICEF, U.S. Agency for International Development.
Image Credit: “Young girl with her mom – Sanaa,” courtesy of flickr user fveronsei1.
›Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen delivered the inaugural talk in the Lee Hamilton Lecture Series on Civil Discourse and Democracy at the Wilson Center yesterday where he spoke on the importance of “taking the long-view” on U.S. engagement with the world and the changing field of 21st century geopolitics.
Mullen, whose aides, Captain Wayne Porter and Colonel “Puck” Mykleby, wrote the recently launched Mr. Y paper on a new national strategic narrative, echoed many of the same sentiments.
“[The Mr. paper] has some interesting things to say about how we are seeing a shift away from 20th century concepts of power and control to that of promoting strength and influence,” Mullen said. “Frankly, in this small, flatter, and faster world, I think any nation that believes it can, in a very clinical way, control events does so at their own peril.”
“The narrative also happens to share my long-held belief that we must remain engaged internationally if we wish to pursue the world that our children [and] our grandchildren deserve,” he continued:
As challenging as engaging others with different views may be, the alternative of abandoning these partners in these regions is far worse. We’ve gone down that road before, and it is one that leads to isolation and resentment, ultimately making our nation less secure as we deceive ourselves into believing that ignoring these challenges will somehow make them go away.Mullen also agreed with the Mr. Y authors’ view on adopting a more holistic view of national security:
Until we restore a sense of hope in these challenged regions, we will see again and again that security without prosperity is ultimately unsustainable.
Wayne and Puck put it well when they said we must recognize that security means more than defense. And sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests, and interdependencies. We must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries and that a winner does not demand a loser.The military’s energy initiatives are an important focus as well, Mullen said. “We’re the biggest consumer of energy in the U.S. government…and I don’t think we’ll ever get to a position where that’s not the case, but we certainly ought to recognize that and figure out a way to do it more effectively, efficiently, and at a much reduced cost.”
What we learned in Iraq is “there were too many people getting killed in long convoys,” Mullen said. The Marines were able to adapt to that threat by developing self-contained green cooling kits, and “that’s where we’re headed,” he said. “Our focus on and investments in the green world has taken off.”
“Now it is really mainstream: The service chiefs, combatant commanders, [they] talk about it,” Mullen continued. “There are investments being made, both from an S&T; standpoint – science and technology – as well as research and development.”
Read the transcript in its entirety here for the Chairman’s remarks on the continued importance of the UN, G-20, and NATO; the short-term intractability of challenges in Iran and North Korea; the rise of China; continued American military dominance; the defense budget; and the Arab Spring, which he called the “most significant change afoot in the world today.”
Photo Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, courtesy of David Hawxhurst/Wilson Center.
›On May 23 the Middle East Program, ECSP, and the Global Health Initiative of the Woodrow Wilson Center, along with the Global Health Technical Assistance Project, hosted a panel of speakers discussing the past 30 years of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s health and population initiatives in Egypt, as outlined in the new Egypt Health and Population Legacy Review. Geoffrey Dabelko, director of ECSP and coordinator of the Global Health Initiative at the Wilson Center, moderated the event. [Video Below]
Peter McPherson, former administrator of USAID during the Reagan administration, and George Laudato, the administrator’s special assistant for the Middle East, presented on the historical context behind USAID in Egypt and the results of their efforts. McPherson pointed to three lessons that can be drawn from the recent report:
- “Big payoffs” require long-term efforts; and
- Economic support for a country can have a dramatic impact; but
- The host country’s commitments and investments are still important.
Motaz Zahran, political counselor for the Embassy of Egypt, noted that USAID efforts were “just one sector of a fruitful partnership” between the United States and Egypt that he hoped would continue. He said the success story outlined by the report was reflective of improvements in coordination and addressing specific goals.
Other panelists outlined the successes of USAID in Egypt as related to their own areas of expertise. Leslie B. Curtin, co-author of the review and an expert in demographics and health outcomes, noted the dramatic improvements in a range of health sectors, in particular the rise in contraceptive prevalence and immunization rates and decrease in both maternal and infant mortality rates.
Nahed Matta, MD, senior maternal and newborn health officer at USAID, focused on improvements to the quality of maternal health, which she said were made possibly through better technology and increased fact-gathering to identify the key factors regarding maternal health trends. Sameh El-Saharty, MD, senior health policy specialist at the World Bank and Health Legacy Review Committee member, credited the increased number of health professionals in Egypt, better information gathering on health systems, and restructured models of health insurance, as successful strategies.
Concluding the session, Amie Batson, deputy assistant administrator for Global Health at USAID, discussed the lessons that other development initiatives can draw from the legacy of USAID efforts in Egypt. She highlighted the importance of country ownership, in which the developing country engages with other institutions and religious and political leaders at both national and local levels, and of policies that fund routine monitoring and evaluation. She also outlined the possibilities of innovation and south-to-south sharing on the local and international scale, referencing inroads made by two recent initiatives: the “MAMA” mobile device program, launched by Secretary Clinton in May 2011 to assist with disseminating maternal health information, and the Saving Lives at Birth initiative, launched by USAID in partnership with several other organizations in March 2011.
Laura Rostad is an intern for the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Image Credit: Adapted from cover of the Egypt Health and Population Legacy Review, courtesy of USAID; cover photo courtesy of Leslie Curtin.
›May 26, 2011 // By Wilson Center StaffThe original version of this article, by Elizabeth C. Economy, appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog.
It has only taken 90 years, but China’s leaders have finally admitted that the Three Gorges Dam is a disaster. With Wen Jiabao at the helm, the State Council noted last week that there were “urgent problems” concerning the relocation effort, the environment and disaster prevention that would now require an infusion of US$23 billion on top of the $45 billion spent already.
Despite high-level support for the project since Sun Yat-sen first proposed it in 1919, the dam has had serious critics within China all along. One of China’s earliest and most renowned environmental activists, Dai Qing, published the book Yangtze! Yangtze! in 1989, which explored the engineering and social costs of the proposed dam. The book was a hit among Tiananmen Square protestors, and Dai spent a year in prison for her truth-telling. In 1992, when the dam came up for a vote in the National People’s Congress, an unprecedented one-third of the delegates voted against the plan.
Once the construction began in 1994, the problems mounted. The forced relocation of 1.4 million Chinese was plagued with corruption; former Premier Zhu Rongji accused the construction companies of shoddy engineering, and little of the pollution control measures that were planned were actually taken. Water pollution skyrocketed in the reservoir. As Chinese officials acknowledged a few years back, “The Three Gorges Dam project has caused an array of ecological ills, including more frequent landslides and pollution, and if preventive measures are not taken, there could be an environmental catastrophe.”
It would be easy to argue that the State Council’s admission was too little too late. However, the new transparency matters for at least two reasons. First, it plays into the hands of environmentalists who have been arguing against Beijing’s aggressive plans for additional large-scale hydropower plants. Premier Wen, who has tried to slow the approval process for dams over the past several years, now has a bit more ammunition. Second, any acknowledgement by the Party that mistakes have been made is an important step toward the public’s right to question future policies. Let’s hope that more such transparency is on the way.
Elizabeth C. Economy is the C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Photo Credit: Adapted from “Construction of the Three Gorges Dam,” courtesy of flickr user Harald Groven.
›Many villagers in Baaba, a community of 600 in South Darfur, remember a shady forest of mango and guava trees that provided food and a valuable income for the villagers and a pleasant picnic spot for people in Nyala, the nearby state capital. Over the last decade, that forest has degraded into eroded brush dotted by the occasional baobab – a transformation that is unfortunately a familiar sight throughout Darfur.
Most of Baaba’s trees have become firewood and charcoal for the people living in nearby internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Baaba’s residents, who themselves returned from the camps to try to rebuild their lives at home, struggle to coax enough food from the soil, which has largely eroded away following deforestation. Afraid to venture any further than necessary from home for fear of violence and banditry in the countryside, they farm and graze the same land year after year without fallow periods – further depleting the soil and driving yields ever lower.
Baaba is like hundreds of Darfuri villages, which face a brutal mix of insecurity and environmental decline that leaves them one poor harvest away from being forced into the IDP camps. Baaba, however, is also a pilot participant in a new approach – the Community Environmental Action Plan – that aims to rehabilitate the local environment, enable people to sustainably manage natural resources, and ultimately to make communities more prosperous and resilient.
Most of Darfur has always been marginal land where farming and herding provide a meager livelihood and natural resources are few. Even before war broke out in 2003, soaring population growth (total population has quintupled since the 1970s) was putting intolerable pressure on the land, water, and trees of Darfur. The conflict in Darfur has since heavily disrupted traditional methods for sharing and maintaining natural resources, leading to environmental devastation. The worsening effects of climate change – though hard to separate from local environmental depletion – are also beginning to disrupt weather patterns and farming. The disheartening result is that even where fighting has subsided and displaced persons return home, they often find that the land no longer sustains them.
Traditional humanitarian aid and infrastructure projects are ill-suited to help, since persistent insecurity deprives humanitarian actors of access to communities for weeks or months at a time. Environmental decline didn’t start the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, but it threatens to prolong it and put a sustainable peace out of reach.
Community Environmental Action Plans
International Organization for Migration (IOM), mandated to work on IDP and return issues in Darfur, aimed to address these challenges with Community Environmental Action Plans (CEAPs) in three pilot villages. CEAPs build comprehensive local capacity, enabling communities to manage natural resources sustainably and address environmental problems themselves without relying on outside support. The ultimate goal is to build the resilience and adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities. IOM worked with Baaba and two other villages to implement CEAPs, in partnership with the Swiss-based environmental NGO ProAct, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the government of South Darfur, and Darfuri environmental organizations. The project, funded by the Government of Japan, ran from early 2009 until mid-2010.
The CEAP process trains communities to understand the connections between a healthy ecosystem and a prosperous community and to promote livelihoods by rehabilitating the environment. Each participating village formed a CEAP governance committee, which was then trained to understand the environment as a single integrated system and to see how damaging one resource like trees can devastate other ecosystem services – such as pollination, groundwater retention, and soil fertility – that enable and promote human livelihoods. The communities then identified essential needs, including reforestation, water harvesting, and improved sanitation, and worked with IOM to develop appropriate responses. These activities were all implemented by the villages themselves, with technical and material support from IOM and its partners.
Building Local Capacity
The communities built low-tech but highly productive tree nurseries, producing and planting over 200,000 seedlings to restore damaged land and provide a sustainable wood supply. Local women learned how to make highly fuel-efficient stoves using locally available materials, cutting their need for firewood and allowing them to sell stoves in the nearby Nyala market.
Farmers received extensive training in sustainable agriculture techniques, including water harvesting, composting, agro-forestry, and intercropping (mixing complementary plant species together in the same fields). Volunteers were trained in effective hygiene practices and built latrines for each household. Water committees were trained to repair and maintain the villages’ indispensable but fragile water hand pumps, ensuring a more reliable source of drinking water. Each of these activities was governed by a community committee, including women and youth, trained to manage the projects for the benefit of the entire community and continue the work after the project’s end.
Through this approach, all three villages significantly boosted their livelihoods and agricultural productivity while becoming less dependent on the unsustainable exploitation of their fragile environment. The CEAP approach benefits greatly from focusing on capacity-building and local implementation, which fosters a strong sense of community ownership that persists after the project ends. Equally important, CEAPs attempt to address most or all of a community’s environmental issues simultaneously, reducing the risk that neglected environmental problems – particularly agricultural failure – will critically destabilize and displace a community in the future.
A Replicable Model
CEAPs aren’t a panacea, particularly in the conflict-prone areas where they are most needed. Insecurity, particularly a series of abductions of humanitarian workers from several organizations in 2010, cut off IOM’s access to the communities late in the project. Though the core activities were completed by working through local partners with more reliable access, the security situation left few opportunities for follow-up activities. Longer-term threats, particularly unrestrained population growth – which requires a comprehensive approach that includes addressing unmet need for family planning services – could undo much of the good that CEAPs accomplish.
Though insecurity prevented IOM from continuing the project, other organizations including UNEP are implementing and refining the CEAP approach elsewhere in Darfur and other regions in sub-Saharan Africa. As climate changes intensifies and the potential for related conflicts looms, the CEAP approach should be considered as a powerful and flexible tool to rehabilitate the environment and strengthen vulnerable communities.
Paul Rushton is a consultant for the International Organization for Migration, Sudan, and worked as a Programme Officer managing the CEAP projects in South Darfur from 2009 to 2010.
Sources: International Organization for Migration, UN.
Photo Credit: Camels graze in a destroyed and degraded village in Western Darfur, courtesy of UNEP; and pictures from CEAP sites in Southern Darfur, courtesy of Paul Rushton.
›May 24, 2011 // By Schuyler Null“There’s a belief, often amongst political scientists and social scientists, that demography is somehow passive and that it doesn’t really matter,” said Eric Kaufmann, author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth: Demography and Politics in the 21st Century and professor at Birkbeck College, University of London in this interview with ECSP. “Part of the message of this book is that demography can lead to social and political change.”
“In this case what I’m looking at is the way that demography can change the religious landscape,” Kaufmann said. “It can actually enhance the power of religion, especially religious fundamentalism in societies throughout the world.”
“Purely secular people, who have no religious affiliation, they are leading the move towards very low levels of fertility, even down to the level of one child per woman,” Kaufmann said. On the other hand, fundamentalists are reacting to this trend and deliberately deciding not to make the demographic transition, he said. “In doing so, the gap between secular and religious widens” and is actually more pronounced in places where the two groups collide.
“You can see this in the Muslim world,” said Kaufmann. “If you look at urban areas such as the Nile Delta and Cairo, in those urban cities, women are who are most in favor of Shariah have twice the family size of women who are most opposed to Shariah, whereas in the Egyptian countryside, the difference is much less because they haven’t been exposed to the same modernizing pressures.”
These dynamics affect the Western world as well, especially when you factor in migration, said Kaufmann: “The fact that almost all the world’s population growth is occurring in the developing world, which is largely religious, means that a lot of people are moving from religious parts of the world to secular parts of the world,” he said. “That effects, for example, countries like the United States or in Western Europe, which are receiving immigrants, and it means in the case of Western Europe – which is a very secular environment – that immigrants bring not only ethnic change but on the back of that, religious change; they make their societies more religious.”
›May 24, 2011 // By Wilson Center Stafforiginal version of this article, by Joan Melcher, appeared on ChinaDialogue.
The cultivation of biofuels – fuels derived from animal or plant matter – on marginal lands could meet up to half of the world’s current fuel consumption needs without affecting food crops or pastureland, environmental engineering researchers from America’s University of Illinois have concluded following a three-year study. The findings, according to lead author Ximing Cai, have significant implications not only for the production of biofuels but also the environmental quality of degraded lands.The study, the final report of which was published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology late last year, comes at a time of increasing global interest in biomass. The International Energy Agency predicts that biomass energy’s share of global energy supply will treble by 2050, to 30 percent. In March, the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development called on national governments to take a “more sophisticated” approach to the energy source, putting it at the heart of energy strategies and ramping up investment in new technologies and research programs.
The University of Illinois project used cutting-edge land-use data collection methods to try to determine the potential for second-generation biofuels and perennial grasses, which do not compete with food crops and can be grown with less fertilizer and pesticide than conventional biofuels. They are considered to be an alternative to corn ethanol – a “first generation” biofuel – which has been criticized for the high amount of energy required to grow and harvest it, its intensive irrigation needs and the fact that corn used for biofuel now accounts for about 40 percent of the United States entire corn crop.
A critical concept of the study was that it only considered marginal land, defined as abandoned or degraded or of low quality for agricultural uses, Cai, who is civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Illinois in the mid-western United States, told ChinaDialogue.
The team considered cultivation of three crops: switchgrass, miscanthus, and a class of perennial grasses referred to as low-impact high-diversity (LIHD).
Continue reading on ChinaDialogue.
Sources: Sources: International Energy Agency, Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, Reuters, University of Illinois.
Photo Credit: Adapted from “Biofuels,” courtesy jurvetson.
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