Tag Archives: FAO

Haiti’s urban disaster becomes rural?

The sudden destruction of Port au Prince has had such powerful symbolic value that it has arguably obscured the extent to which the informal urban neighborhoods that now lay in ruins sprang up in reaction to generations of rural misery and natural disasters. As the focus shifts from relief to reconstruction, the fact that nearly 600,000 urban dwellers have fled to the countryside – e.g., that long-term urbanization flows have essentially gone into reverse – has begun to register.

On one hand, some commentators such as Robert Maguire and Robert Muggah in a recent CSM opinion piece, have seen this trend as an opportunity to prevent the reconstitution of urban slums by promoting both sustainable rural livelihoods and decentralized governance:

Close to 1 million Haitians have already fled Port-au-Prince for towns and villages from which they originally migrated since the 1960s. But if conditions in the countryside are not improved, and quickly, these people will drift back to Port-au-Prince and rebuild as before. The Haitian government’s proposal to provide real opportunities in 200 towns and villages equipped with “welcome centers” merits support. These centers will issue short-term relief, and bundle health, education, job-creation, and investment services to help the rural economy take off.

This view is part of a larger debate related to the appropriate role of assertive, well-funded international actors in a near-collapsed state with little capacity or resources of its own. The authors propose decentralization as part of a set of recommendations meant to fall between the more interventionist ‘build back better’ views of development thinkers such as Paul Collier (who recently advocated the creation of a new Haitian aid coordination agency to monitor the work of donors) and schools of thought starkly critical of the utility of development funding in light of fundamental imbalances of power and trade.

However, the presence of one million disaster IDPs in the countryside does not only have long-term implications for Haiti’s governance and development path. FAO and CARE pointed out recently that the strain on host families is not only threatening immediate food supplies but also the next season’s harvest, raising serious food security concerns:

Rapid assessments undertaken by FAO and its partners in the Agriculture Cluster have shown that “host families” caring for displaced people are spending their meagre savings to feed new arrivals and consuming food stocks.

In many cases these poor people are resorting to eating the seeds they have stored for the next planting season and eating or selling their livestock, in particular goats.

Even as the crisis in Haiti recedes from the headlines, it also appears to have receded to some degree from the highly visible scenes of destruction in Port au Prince, creating a potentially dangerous double invisibility for both the displaced survivors themselves and the families who have taken them in.

FAO Gender and Land Rights Database

FAO recently announced the launching of a new database focusing on gender equality in land relations. The Gender and Land Rights Database can be searched by both country and thematic issues, including national and international legal frameworks, customary law, land tenure institutions, civil society institutions and land-related statistics. The FAO press release announcing the launch noted that the database was developed in response to consist demand for information on this topic, which, as FAO notes, is a good sign in and of itself:

“Disparity in land access is one of the major causes for social and economic inequalities between males and females in rural areas. It jeopardizes food security at the household and community levels, and has an impact on national food security and development. It is vital information for policy makers. But until now, finding information on this phenomenon in one place has been difficult to come by,” Marcela Villarreal, Director, FAO Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division said as the new database was placed online.

The new information tool, available to anyone with access to the Internet, provides policymakers and other users with a better picture of the major social, economic, political and cultural factors which affect access to land and enforcement of women’s land rights.

As with any new initiative (this blog included), there are likely to be growing pains. I took my first foray into the new database with a somewhat random request for the full country reports on Afghanistan and Cambodia. While Afghanistan came back blank, the Cambodia report was a pretty impressive compilation of information – relevant, well-organized, quite up to date at first blush and well-sourced, with footnoted and hyper-linked citations.

Pastoral peoples’ rights and livelihoods

This week’s earlier posts have focused fairly extensively on the recent “Endorois communication”, by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, in a case that involved the land rights of of pastoral indigenous group in central Kenya. Among other sources, the decision relies on the findings of the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Communities/Populations. This body drafted a report that was adopted by the Commission in 2003 as its official policy on indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa. One interesting detail in the report (also cited in para. 150 of the Endorois case) is its identification of pastoralism as one of the specific characteristics of African indigenous groups.

… those groups of peoples or communities throughout Africa who are identifying themselves as indigenous
peoples or communities and who are linking up with the global indigenous rights movement are first and foremost (but not exclusively) different groups of hunter-gatherers or former hunter-gatherers and certain groups of pastoralists. (page 89)

There has been a good deal of attention to pastoralism in Africa recently, including the OCHA-led Pastoral Voices project which released a report yesterday focusing on mobility in the Horn of Africa in light of drought conditions and security issues:

An on-going collaboration between UN-OCHA, United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is taking this concern forward through the Security in Mobility project. The inter-agency project promotes pastoralists’ internal and cross-border mobility needs as a climate change adaptation. And it also advocates for regional cross-border security needs to be reconciled with pastoralists livelihood needs.

Meanwhile, at a more global level, the FAO yesterday released its State of Food and Agriculture report, which focuses on the need for greater investment, research and governance “to ensure that the world’s livestock sector responds to a growing demand for animal products and at the same time contributes to poverty reduction, food security, environmental sustainability and human health”. Here, again, land issues and climate change adaption measures figure in strongly:

There is a need to enhance the efficiency of natural-resource use in the sector and to reduce the environmental footprint of livestock production, the report says. The goal is to ensure that continued growth in livestock production does not create undue pressure on ecosystems, biodiversity, land and forest resources and water quality and does not contribute to global warming.

Not to be left out, the pastoralists of the world themselves appear to be uniting and have started not one but (at least) two websites, namely those of the League for Pastoral Peoples and the Pastoralist Communication Initiative.