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FARM NEWS
Land grabs cause lingering SE Asia conflicts: report
By Marlowe HOOD
Stockholm (AFP) Oct 3, 2017


First global pact backing indigenous land rights launched
Stockholm (AFP) Oct 3, 2017 - Indigenous peoples could soon regain some control of their native forests with the creation of a new global institution dedicated to securing their land rights.

The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, formally launched in Stockholm on Tuesday, aims to help communities protect their land resources as well as combat climate change.

Funded by Sweden, Norway and the Ford Foundation, a US charity, the Tenure Facility has already provided grants and guidance for pilot projects in Peru, Mali, Indonesia and three other nations.

Disputes over resources can prove deadly. According to non-governmental organisation Global Witness, more than 200 environmental campaigners were murdered in 2016 alone -- nearly half from indigenous tribes.

A 2014 survey by US-based think tank World Resources Institute found restoring control of forests to original inhabitants can tackle global warming.

In Brazil, deforestation in indigenous community forests from 2000 to 2012 was less than one percent, compared to seven percent outside those areas.

- 'Unrelenting conflicts' -

Depleted tropical forests and emissions from agriculture and livestock have accounted for more than a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions in recent decades.

Ford Foundation president Darren Walker told AFP that climate change and inequality are "existential threats" on a global scale.

"Creating mechanisms that allow indigenous peoples and local communities to gain tenure over their land or forests is a way to tackle both these problems."

The Ford Foundation has pledged $5 million (4.2 million euros), and Norway announced Tuesday a grant of $20 million over the coming years. Sweden pitched in $10 million during the pilot phase and will fund future projects. Walker said he expects donations rise to $100 million overall within a year.

The project aims to boost forestland properly titled to indigenous peoples by 40 million hectares, an area twice the size of Spain, within a decade.

Such efforts, they calculate, would prevent deforestation of one million hectares and the release of 500 million tonnes of CO2, more than the annual emissions of Britain or Brazil.

- Corruption and abuses -

More than two billion people live on and manage half the world's land in customary or traditional systems, yet indigenous communities have formal legal ownership of just 10 percent.

And even where they do have title, corruption and abuses have led to protracted conflicts with local and national governments, companies and migrant workers.

Native populations can even run afoul of major green initiatives to fight climate change or stem biodiversity loss.

A controversial UN-backed programme known as REDD+ -- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation -- creates incentives to keep forests intact, paid for by rich nations or companies seeking to offset pollution under carbon trading schemes.

But critics say the projects REDD+ finances can push aside the needs and rights of indigenous peoples who are often most directly affected by the changes.

A peer-reviewed 2013 study concluded that less than half of some 50 projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia did anything to alleviate the poverty of forest-dependent peoples, though many did enhance their land rights.

Three-quarters of around 50 conflicts that have erupted in Southeast Asia since 2001 pitting mining, logging or agribusiness giants against indigenous peoples protesting land grabs are still lingering today, researchers reported Tuesday.

Only six such clashes have been resolved, while others have resulted in lawsuits, damaged corporate reputations, abandoned projects, and even loss of life, according to a report keyed to the launch of the first global institution dedicated to securing indigenous land rights.

Whether palm oil plantations in Indonesia, sugar farms in Cambodia, or hydroelectric dams in Myanmar, government-backed business ventures that drive local communities off their land tend to become festering hotspots.

"It's tragic that we still see governments and private sector partners grabbing land, forcing out the inhabitants and levelling their forests," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"Around the world, indigenous peoples are literally dying to project their lands."

Nearly half the disputes analysed in Southeast Asia involved violence, and a fifth resulted in fatalities, according to a report by business risk analysts TMP Systems.

More often than not, these conflicts also take a toll on companies' bottom line.

"There has always been a strong moral argument for respecting land tenure rights," said lead author Ben Bowie.

"We show that there are also hard-headed financial arguments for doing the right thing."

More than 50 percent of the conflicts across eight countries in Southeast Asia resulted in significant financial damage.

Some have also spawned name-and-shame campaigns by activist groups such as Oxfam or ActionAid targeting consumer brands that procure ingredients from companies embroiled in such disputes.

Two sugar-producing giants, British-based Tate & Lyle and Mitr Phol of Thailand, both became the subject of such campaigns.

"This has prompted upstream buyers such as Coca Cola and Pepsi to consider how much they source from these places," Bowie said.

"That pressure is feeding down to producers."

A parallel study of conflicts in Africa, published by TMP Systems earlier this year, found a similar pattern, though the level of violence was even higher.

On both continents, contested plantations were often close to national borders in remote zones where law enforcement is lax or absent, the studies revealed.

In Asia, Myanmar is emerging as a flashpoint as local communities battle land grabs by Chinese-owned energy projects, TMP Systems reported.

Backed by Norway, Sweden and major charities, the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility unveiled Tuesday provides funding and expertise to resolve conflicts over land tenure, drawing from methods tested in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

"The Facility is really vital," said Bowie, who has been tracking land-tenure conflicts for five years. "It can remove some of the preconditions to conflict."

The Interlaken Group, an informal association of corporations, investment banks and major NGOs, also works to resolve disputes stemming from the land claims of indigenous peoples.

FARM NEWS
Artificial light device boosts cows' milk yields by 9 percent
Washington (UPI) Oct 1, 2017
A new artificial light device developed in Ireland promises to increase cows' milk yields by 9 percent. In the latest tests, the technology, a mask, increased milk production among lactating bovines. The device was developed by Equilume, a company spun-out of the research labs at the University College Dublin in Ireland. For a few years, the company has been making light therapy masks f ... read more

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