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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Price of a Plate of Food - World Food Day

October 16th, 2018 marks World Food Day, an International Observance promoted by the United Nations and recognized by Globcal International. This article by Herve Verhoosel, Senior Spokesperson at the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and is republished from the Inter Press Service, News Agency to observe World Food Day.

True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the World

How much would you expect to pay for the most basic plate of food? The kind of thing you might whip up at home – nothing fancy, just enough to fill you up and meet a third of today’s calorie needs. A soup, maybe, or a simple stew – some beans or lentils, a handful of rice, bread, or corn?

In the rich Global North – say, in New York State, USA – such a meal would cost almost nothing to make: 0.6 percent of the average daily income, or US$1.20.

In parts of the developing world, by contrast, food affordability can shrink to the point of absurdity: in South Sudan, a country born out of war and disintegrating into more war, the meal-to-income ratio is 300 times that of industrialized countries.

It is, in other words, as if a New Yorker had to pay nearly US$348.36 for the privilege of cooking and eating that plate of food.

How do people in South Sudan afford it? It’s simple. They don’t.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) visited South Sudan in 2011 to estimate cereal production and assess the overall food-security situation. (Photo UN)

This is not a unique issue to South Sudan. Across the board, food is becoming ever less affordable in poorer countries that are subject to political instabilities.

Lack of access to food, and the costliness of it, have many causes: climate extremes, natural disasters, post-harvest losses, or bad governance, all of which can damage- or even shatter- farming supply chains and markets.

But, one overriding cause stands out: conflict. At WFP, we’ve long known that hunger and war are tragically symbiotic. Which makes it that much harder to eradicate the one without ending the other.

The 2018 edition of WFPs Counting the Beans: The True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the World index, now spanning 52 countries, underscores this clear correlation between food affordability costs and political stability and security.

The index looks at whether food costs for the original 33 countries analyzed in 2017 have risen or fallen, and compares costs for the same meal in some of the world’s poorest places with one of its richest, by using a New York baseline to highlight vast gaps in global food affordability.

In many countries, it was found that food affordability measured in this way has actually improved since 2017. This is situational, thanks to strong economic growth, political stability, and/or a better rainy season- or in the case of southern Africa- humanitarian assistance helping to offset the effects of severe drought.

Though despite such progress made in many countries through the past year, food costs are often still intensely disproportionate in relation to income. This is the case across much of Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and, to a lesser degree, of Latin America.

Among the countries surveyed for the study, Peru tops the list with the most affordable plate at the NY equivalent of US$ 3.44, just 1.6 percent of per capita income, vs. what that same plate would cost in New York, amounting to 0.6 percent of per capita income.

While Laos and Jordan are close runners-up to Peru, other countries have deteriorated. Almost invariably, these are nations where peace has been (further) eroded by violence, insecurity or political tension, including South Sudan- where the cost of a plate of food has soared from the exorbitant 155 percent of daily income in 2016 (USD $321.70) to 201.7 percent of daily income in 2018 (USD $348.36).

It now costs twice the national daily income to buy a plate of food in South Sudan. Northeast Nigeria took second to last place, at USD $222.05, or 128.6 percent of daily income in 2018, up from USD $200.32, or 121 percent of daily income in 2016.

These abysmal numbers highlight the vast gaps in global food affordability, where 821 million people go hungry while elsewhere one can get a simple nutritious meal with a just a handful of change.

The fact that this still occurs defies both reason and decency, and it’s why we – the World Food Programme and other humanitarian partners – are there.

However, the impact of WFP and other humanitarian actors in saving and changing lives cannot be sustained without political investment, good governance, transparent markets, and wider partnerships.

Societies cannot lift themselves out of the poverty trap if families are continuously priced out of providing their children with the nutritional meals essential for them to develop into healthy and productive adults, if climate degradation continues to threaten food security and development gains, and if protracted conflicts continue to destroy societies and force young talent elsewhere.

With a concerted global effort, the international community can achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and end hunger and malnutrition. Governments must engage with and support their developing country counterparts in peacebuilding, conflict resolution and disaster risk reduction.

The private sector must embrace that turning a profit can go hand in hand with advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through employing young people to boost incomes, sourcing from smallholder farms, and through working alongside leaders to strengthen supply chains.

The shocking and outraging numbers in this year’s “Counting the Beans” index highlight that peaceful societies and affordable food go hand in hand. We have the modern technological capacities to end world hunger, but first we must end the conflict that fosters it.

Together, we can work towards reversing the figures in this year’s index, and ensure that in the future, nobody will have to work a day and a half to afford a simple meal.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fair-Trade Award Winning Coffee from India

Indigenous Indians Fight Deforestation Threat with Gourmet Coffee

Article by Rina Chandran, Reuters

Once forbidden by colonialists from cultivating coffee, indigenous people in southern India have won a prestigious award for their bean, which they farm while fighting deforestation.

Adivasi indigenous peoples harvesting coffee in the Araku Valley in India 

Araku Valley Coffee won gold in the Prix Epicures (Award) in Paris earlier this month. The beans are grown by Adivasis - or “original inhabitants” - of southern Andhra Pradesh state through a cooperative set up by the Naandi Foundation.

The organic farming model has benefited more than 45,000 Adivasi families, with profits from the high-grade coffee put into schools, healthcare and other needs of the remote community, according to Manoj Kumar, who founded Naandi.

The initiative has been a success because it built on the strong connection that Adivasis have to the forest, he said.

“They fully embraced the concept of biodynamic farming, because it is a holistic approach that benefits the eco-system, and is in tune with their traditional beliefs of caring for the community and the forest,” he said.

“This is not just about food security; it is also about pride in living without government handouts, and conserving the forest,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.

The Adivasis are also countering deforestation by planting millions of mango, papaya and orange trees to provide shade for their coffee crops, as well as in other areas, with support from the Paris-based Global Livelihoods Funds.

While India has pledged to keep a third of its total land area under forest and tree cover, a growing population and increasing demand for land for mining and other industrial activities are placing greater stress on forests.

Activists say a new forest law favoring commercial plantations would undermine indigenous rights over forests and lead to more logging.

Coffee estates thrived in the Araku valley’s cool climate during the British colonial period, but Adivasis were prevented from growing it and did not take up the crop after independence, according to Kumar.

That changed after the Naandi Foundation began working in the region 18 years ago, first setting up schools and healthcare facilities, and then helping to organize a cooperative to farm and market coffee.

Araku Valley Coffee soon commanded high prices in global auctions, and opened its first cafe and shop last year in Paris.

But the real challenge for the Adivasis is not picking coffee beans the right shade of red or deciding on a marketing plan; they face a more existential threat as forests disappear, Kumar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The Adivasis have such a deep spiritual connection with the land and the forest,” he said.

“Taking that away from them is taking away their life.”

Report (Article) by Rina Chandran @rinachandran. Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tibet, the Water Tower of Asia

Tibet, the Water Tower of Asia

Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration, is increasing the efforts to raise awareness about the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet. Recently he visited Scandinavia and Canada and last week he visited the United States to discuss the Tibet issue and the U.S.-China bilateral relationship.

Globcal International's Goodwill Ambassador Maria Veneke Ylikomi had the great honour to interview Lobsang Sangay, or "Sikyong" as his Tibetan title is, during the president's visit in Sweden. The interview was made for the Swedish magazine Gränslöst, with the theme of human rights, democracy and tolerance. News about justice – for all.




"What we say is that we want to walk with the Chinese government, we want to talk with the Chinese government and we want a mutually acceptable solution with the Chinese government. It is to seek genuine autonomy as per Chinese laws for the Tibetan people", said Lobsang Sangay.

Sikyong studied International Law at Harvard Law School in the United States. In 2011, he got elected as president of the Tibetan-government-in-exile, Central Tibetan Administration, based in Dharamsala, India.

"I spent 16 years in America and learned quite a bit. And 2011 I ran for the election. I didn’t think I would win, my mother didn’t think I would win, no one thought I would win, but I won. And then I decided to move to India, to leave Harvard and leave my job in America. I didn’t find it that difficult, mental adjustment."

Below is the article which was published in the Swedish magazine Gränslöst:

Tibet’s president in exile – visiting Sweden

Tibet’s President in exile, Dr Lobsang Sangay, or “Sikyong” as his Tibetan title is, visited Sweden on November 14–15. The Swedish visit was arranged by the Swedish Tibet Committee together with the Tibetan Community in Sweden. The President had a hectic program during the two days in Sweden. The magazine Gränslöst received an exclusive interview with the Tibetan leader.

Gränslöst Magazine: Interview with the President of Tibet

by Maria Veneke Ylikomi, for the Swedish magazine Gränslöst, 2017-11-22

It is a sunny morning in November when Gränslöst meets Lobsang Sangay at a hotel in Stockholm. He talks about the challenges that the Tibetan people are facing. He says that human rights violations are the most pressing issues today.

– There is political repression, cultural assimilation, environmental destruction, social discrimination and economic marginalization.

As an example of cultural assimilation, Sikyong mentions the Tibetan language.

– The Chinese law says that Tibetan language should be not only used but should be encouraged. But in practice, it is discouraged and not used.

Lobsang Sangay says that 150 Tibetans have burned themselves to death.

– Few young students burned themselves saying we want to use Tibetan language in Tibetan schools. That is severe.

Lobsang Sangay explains that Tibet totally lacks independent media.

– Reporters without Borders have said that it’s more difficult to have access to Tibet for journalists than North Korea. So, if you try to get a visa as a journalist to go to Tibet, Chinese Embassy will say no, you cannot go.

Lobsang Sangay thinks that the water issue is very important not only for Tibet but for the whole Asia.

– Tibet is called the water tower of Asia. The ten major rivers of Asia flow from the Tibetan Plateau.

As examples of rivers flowing from Tibet, Sikyong mentions the rivers Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Yangtze and Yellow River.

– Yellow River is the cradle of Chinese civilization. 1.4 billion people depend on freshwater flowing from Tibet. So it’s very serious. China has 19 per cent of the world population but only 12 per cent of freshwater, which means already 400 million Chinese are facing scarcity of water. The situation in other parts of Asia is bad.

Sikyong explains that China wants to divert the Tibetan rivers to the inner parts of China.

– There was one report that they want to divert Brahmaputra River, which is a lifeline for northeast of India and Bangladesh. They want to divert to Xinjiang, which is a very dry area. If that river is diverted, millions of people in northeast of India and Bangladesh will suffer.

The Tibetan Plateau is sometimes called “The Third Pole”.

– After Antarctic and Arctic, Tibet has the third highest reserve of ice. And Tibet also acts like the cooler or the refrigerator of the world. It is so high and so cold, covered in snow. Tibet has 46 000 glaciers. Nasa says, by 2100, one third will disappear, or even as high as two thirds will disappear. If two thirds of Tibetan glaciers disappear, what will happen to 1.4 billion people who are depending on water from the Tibetan Plateau? It is a very serious issue. One scientist in University of California said “if you want to understand climate change and global warming, it won’t be complete without understanding the Tibetan Plateau”.

Sikyong says that Chinese environmentalists are proposing to declare Tibet as the Third Pole National Park.

– Chinese government is not listening, so all the big companies are exploiting mineral resources of Tibet. And they are also exploiting all other kinds of minerals, cutting down trees and building a lot of hydro projects in Tibet regions and rivers. It is Chinese companies and Chinese leaders and officials who are profiting from all this kind of businesses.

Lobsang Sangay explains that deforestation causes natural disasters and floods.

– The Tibetan Plateau affects the climate all the way to Europe, whether the Sweden winter is cold or warm, whether there is heat wave in Europe or not, is partly determined by the climate change on the Tibetan Plateau. So the Tibet issue is a global environmental issue.

For the Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay, Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy, ahimsa, is the right way to go.

– There is so much violence already in the world. If you can solve the issue, any issue, based on ahimsa and non-violence, it is always good. We are advocating this. There are people who are interested, there are people who are supportive, but unfortunately the Chinese government and Chinese leaders are not listening, so that’s where the challenge is.

Photo: Office of Tibet

Sikyong explains that Tibetan Buddhists are not given the right to peaceful demonstrations.

– Larung Gar monastery had 12 000 monks and nuns. From last year August to this year August, it was destroyed and reduced to 5 000 monks and nuns. 7 000 were expelled. Three nuns committed suicide. So you can clearly see, peaceful demonstration by Buddhist monks and nuns is impossible. Larung Gar and the surrounding mountains are surrounded by troops.

Sikyong believes that rise of nationalism is a global challenge.

– There is decrease in internationalism and there is rise of nationalism. In North America, Europe, Asia, it is a reality. And the Chinese nationalism is a new thing. So how we handle that is a big test. That’s the big challenge for the globe, for the whole world. We must continue the path of internationalism and liberalism. The world is getting smaller in the sense we all are integrated, the borders become porous, are intermingling. The liberal pulse is the best way to go. The rise of nationalism and extremism is creating more obstacles for general peace and harmony in the world.

Lobsang Sangay’s parents fled to India from Tibet in 1959.

– I grew up in a small village, in a place called Darjeeling. Darjeeling is known for tea. But I was not from the town. I was from the village. My family did not have much, only one acre of land, two–three cows, one dozen chicken. On my winter vacation I cut grass for cows, cut wood for home. I went to a refugee school, studied hard and worked hard.

Later in life, Lobsang Sangay received a Fulbright Scholarship to study International Law at Harvard Law School in the United States, where he got a doctorate degree. In 2011, he got elected as President of the Tibetan-government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India. He left America, Harvard, and went to Dharamsala to work for the Central Tibetan Administration.

– Since childhood, when you hear the stories from your parents, how much they suffered, how difficult it was, that inculcate some sense of responsibility in you.

Sikyong explains that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a good helping hand.

– He thinks I am doing okay, helping the Tibetan cause. I meet him regularly. Just one week before I travelled to this part of the world, I met him twice in one week. I inform him and he advise me, so I get to meet regularly. He is a good support for me in everything I do.

In conclusion, Sikyong says he likes nature.

– I like forests, I like mountains, I like fresh air. And I like cows.

Gränslöst (borderless/limitless in the Swedish language) is a Swedish magazine with the theme of human rights, democracy and tolerance. News about justice – for all.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Sami People Adopt the Indigenous Unity Flag for Solidarity

International Indigenous Unity Flag in Stockholm

By Maria Veneke Ylikomi, Author and Goodwill Ambassador

At Riksbron bridge in Stockholm, Sweden, every Thursday between 11 and 12 o'clock, there is a group of devoted people who fight for land rights, clean water and a living cultural heritage. In all weathers, they stand up for the rights of indigenous peoples and protest against Sweden’s current mineral regulations. On Thursday, October 26th, Pierre Åhrén received the International Indigenous Unity Flag. The International Indigenous Unity Flag is an international symbol uniting all indigenous peoples in world peace calling for the need to unite to protect indigeneity and the planet earth (mother nature). The flag was created in 2012 by aboriginal Canadian, Col. Michael Lawrence Sher, one of the commissioning founders of the organization Globcal International.

Tidningen Gränslöst is a magazine published in Sweden, this article was published original article: "Riksbron every Thursday"

Pierre Åhrén became a Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples Unity.

After demonstrating for 3 years with a homemade banner of the International Indigenous Unity Flag on Thursday, October 26th, Pierre Åhren received a genuine flag, representing unity among indigenous peoples, world peace and how we must become united to protect our planet. The gift was facilitated by goodwill ambassadors of Globcal International.

It all started in November 2013

Pierre Åhrén explains the background to the activities that take place on the Riksbron bridge every Thursday. It all started in November 2013 when activists demonstrated against the mining project in Gállok outside Jokkmokk during the summer. When Pierre stood there demonstrating he came to think of the women in Argentina, Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, whose children disappeared between 1976 and 1983, and who march on Thursday every week. Pierre decided that he also can march once a week, on Thursdays, and other people followed him.

The Poisonous and Destructive Mining Industry

Pierre is on the bridge half an hour before the other demonstrators arrive to prepare the activities. Through the years, they have had protest placards supporting different peoples and places in the world, for example Brazil. The purpose is to protect the earth from deforestation and destruction. The mining industry is poisonous to nature and contaminates our drinking water. The mass consumption society is destroying our planet.

If you follow the chain starting from the mine in the mine you extract metals, from the metal things are made that people should buy, then the things are thrown away and new things are bought. This is going on all over the world, says Pierre.

In Sweden, many of the mines are located in the Sami reindeer herding areas.

The Sami Cultural Heritage

Despite the severe problems with the mining industry, Pierre is quite hopeful when it comes to young Sami people. He means that young Sami people readopt the Sami languages and the Sami art. The young Sami people are the ones who feel the urgent need to protect their cultural heritage.

Kinship with all Indigenous Peoples


When talking about the Indigenous Unity Flag and the event on the Riksbron bridge on October 26th when Pierre Åhrén received the flag from Erica Lundström, he gets emotional.

I feel kinship with all the world’s indigenous peoples.

On October 26th Pierre Åhrén was awarded a medallion to acknowledge and recognize his contribution to the advocacy of human rights and future of indigenous peoples in Sweden.