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Three Million in Three Years: Jamaicas Tree-Planting to Tackle Climate Change



Anna-Kay Brooks,a forest technician with the Forestry Department, shows some of the seedlings cultivated for future growth. Credit: Kate Chappellby Kate Chappell (kingston, jamaica)Tuesday, June 22, 2021Inter Press Service

“I am 77, I am retired, and it is good to do something that is nice and unselfish,” Dr. Parvataneni told IPS News in a telephone interview from his home in Portland, a green and lush rainy parish on the north coast of Jamaica. The medical doctor said he and workers he employs have planted mainly timber trees on the 450 acres of land he owns. He has received support from the Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, through its Forestry Department in the way of seedling bags and technical expertise. “Inherently it helps a lot of things,” he said of the many trees he has planted.

The country’s tree-planting initiative was announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in 2019, and to date, over 600,000 seedlings have been deposited in the ground. This effort is necessary, according to Jerome Smith, principal director, forest operations division with the government’s Forestry Department, because of climate change.

“The main reason for planting the trees was to assist with climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Smith said.“Persons are very enthusiastic, and we are getting a lot of support,” he said, adding that despite a lull in activity caused by COVID, the government is still confident it can meet the goal of three million trees planted by 2022.

Jamaica has been touted as a global leader when it comes to establishing climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, but the small island developing state also struggles to balance economic development like building resorts with prioritizing the protection of the environment.

Jamaica was one of the first countries to submit a second set of stronger “nationally determined contributions” (NDC) for the Paris climate accord. These include a commitment to reduce emissions from business as usual level by 25%, less reliance on heavy fossil fuels and more on green energy, retrofitting buildings, more efficient water usage, and the tree-planting initiative.

Over the past few decades, the country’s original, old forests have declined for a variety of reasons, among them, development, a phenomenon not unique to Jamaica.

The country of almost three million people ranks near the top in terms of forest cover, but it has in fact decreased in the recent past, Smith said.

“While even though persons on the outside may say Jamaica is well covered, we do realize that the impact of climate change and the impact of development on forests as it relates to sustainable development does come at a cost of the environment,” he said. A survey taken in 2012 shows that forest cover has increased from 30% to 40% since the 90s (mainly due to reforestation efforts and land formerly used for sugar cane production now used for tree planting). However, Smith said that if measured by “primary” forest cover (original forests that have not been replanted), that has actually decreased, according to satellite imagery. In keeping with its NDCs, the government has adopted a “no net loss” policy, which means any trees lost must be replaced, said Smith, adding “no net loss sounds good, but there is still an implication for degradation” of the environment.

Jamaica’s circumstances are not unique in the region. A 2020 study from the Inter-American Development Bankshows that in the Latin American and Caribbean region, between 2015 and 2020, South American lost three million hectares of forest per year (Figures for the Caribbean are difficult to determine as many countries have not conducted recent forest surveys). And an estimated 240 million hectares of tropical forests in the LAC is in a state of degradation, the report also notes.

And although the report says that deforestation rates have slowed over the past 15 years, it is still a tragic loss, given the benefits of forest cover. The LAC region contains a third of the world’s forests, half being tropical forests and a quarter being mangroves. (In Jamaica alone, another report found that over the past two decades, 770 hectares of coastal mangroves have been lost, mostly to development.)

This means the region, and the global ecosystem, is deprived of the many benefits of tree cover, including the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, protection from major storms, moderation of temperature, circulation of moisture and the provision of habitats for wildlife, as well as economic and cultural goods and services.

Jamaica’s initiative aims to plant three million trees, roughly to match the population of the country. Given that 75% of the country’s forests are on private land, the public will have to buy into the project. Another challenge is the Forestry Department’s lack of budget for the initiative. What it does possess, however, is some private and public sector support, four nurseries to provide the seedlings, as well as the technical expertise to assist people who are planting trees.

The private and non-profit sectors have both come on board with promises to plant hundreds of thousands of trees, and partnerships with schools and community groups are in place to fortify the efforts, said Smith. The trees are mainly ornamental and timber species, and are being planted in a wide range of areas, including schools, communities and parks.

Professor Rosalea Hamilton, CEO of the Lasco Chin Foundation, is collaborating with the Forestry Department to champion a region-wide tree-planting initiative. Dubbed the Caribbean Tree Planting Project (through the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance), it aims to build awareness of climate change through the planting of one million trees and other climate actions. The Alliance’s 19 countrymembers have planted over a million trees to date across the region.

“The reason we took this on is we feel that this is a way every single citizen can contribute to this problem. We are also concerned about broader social and economic development issues. We want to not just plant trees, but also address employment, address livelihood challenges, and we are all the more committed after COVID,”Hamilton said. The Alliance points to tree-planting as a partial means to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, as well as a 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendation to plant 1 billion hectares of forest to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C by 2050.

“Across the region, we are concerned about the rate of deforestation, that it is outpacing our replanting efforts,” Hamilton said. To adress this, authorities must avoid a top-down approach to governance, she added. “The voices of these people who are most affected will not be heard. We get a development initiative that is devoid of and not adequately representing the will of the people. It is very complex, because many persons want jobs and income, so if government says ‘We are going to do this initiative, and jobs are being promised’, a lot of people will support that.”

Eleanor Terrelonge, a Phd student in molecular biology at the University of the West Indies and director for the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council, said that while Jamaica’s tree planting initiative is a positive step, she has doubts that it is sufficient.

“The government is saying all the right things when it comes to climate change, but I’m not sure all of those are translating in to action. Yes, it is a good initiative, but if the government is rapidly deforesting our existing forests, it is kind of counter- productive on a whole. We have a lot of tech expertise in Jamaica, but I don’t know if there is enough political will.” Terrelonge also wondered whether there will be adequate maintenance for the trees now being planted. “I think it is a good initiative, but it won’t solve the problem if we wont be able to offset the tress we are cutting down.”

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Digital Media on the Frontline: Supporting the Ones who Support the Rest



Sarita Das found some solace in creativity on the Fuzia platform (handout Fuzia) by Fairuz Ahmed (new york)Tuesday, June 22, 2021Inter Press Service

Khan has not seen her family for more than six months, she said in an exclusive interview with Inter Press Service (IPS).

“I was working extra hours and saw death up close. It was nerve-wracking to see my patients at this stage. It has been over six months that I have not seen my family,” she says, recalling the impact of the disease on herself and the community she serves. “The only solace I had was to talk with my mother, who is 67, and with my nieces over Facetime.”

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the way we work, engage, and communicate. The crisis put communication at the front of all priorities and has made it imperative to have real-time information available. For most organisations – online or offline – efforts to keep people informed and engaged became the new “must-haves”.

Shraddha Varma, the co-founder of online platform Fuzia and a resident of Maharashtra, India, where the COVID-19 pandemic hit hardest, says the impact on frontline workers was the worst.

“The situation was already bad as we were recovering from the first wave of the coronavirus, but (then) it went out of control during the second wave. It had catastrophic effects on the world, especially with frontline workers,” Varma said. “They had to act as shields to keep us safe. Moreover, they faced isolation, stress and had to cope up with all the chaos surrounding them.”

Discussing how Fuzia, a global platform aimed at connecting humans in a non-judgmental space, supported frontline workers, Shraddha says the platform made a point of standing beside those who risked their lives each day.

“Fuzia was able to assist women frontline workers all over the world with creating events, information sessions, live connections, and we served them with a space to speak, learn and even vent. We wanted to have their backs and be there as a platform where they can engage and have some comfort.”

Khan says the isolation from family and community was devastating but being connected helped.

“I also used to speak with other doctors and learn about the latest updates on a few social media platform groups. Seeing people all around the world sharing their stories during the pandemic, I could connect and realign myself.”

A recent study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) dealt with both frontline worker stress and the additional burden employees often felt working from home and splitting their roles between work and family.

Sarita Das found some solace in creativity on the Fuzia platform (handout Fuzia)

Frontline workers were most concerned about “increased workloads, longer working hours, and reduced rest periods”.

In addition, the study found “they may be worried about getting infected at work and passing the virus to family, friends, and others at work, in particular, if appropriate protective measures are not in place.”

For those working from home, there was a desperate need for support. The ILO study found that 41 percent of people who worked from home “considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25 percent of those who worked on-site.”

Fuzia wasn’t alone in recognising the needs of workers, and big tech companies like Amazon and Facebook prioritised assisting and informing the frontline workers with updated news, data, safety protocols, vaccination information, and more.

For non-profit charitable organisations, Facebook launched Workplace for Good, helping organisations like Save the Children, It Gets Better, War Child and others. It also helped small to large organisations stay connected with their employees.

Amazon invested in supporting employees, customers, and communities during the pandemic, from enhancing safety measures to increasing paid time-off and helped to ensure that their employees and their communities have access to COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.

Amazon provided more than $2.5 billion in bonuses and incentives for teams globally in 2020 and established a $25 million relief fund for partners such as delivery drivers and seasonal associates facing financial hardship or quarantine.

Fuzia also recognised that many had lost jobs and collaborated with Wishes and Blessings, an NGO raising funds for their COVID relief project operating in seven states in India. The initiative was aimed at serving three meals a day to thousands of homeless and daily wage earners and providing nutritional aid to about 4000 at-risk families affected by the lockdown. The project was active in Assam, Delhi, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

The shift to the virtual world or work resulted in burnout among employees. An article published last year in Microsoft Stories Asia documented the increased burnout as workers struggled to find a work-life balance.

The decrease in work and personal life boundaries added stress. On average, close to one-third of workers in the Asia Pacific cited increased rates of burnout. Surveying over 6,000 information and frontline workers across eight countries globally, including Australia, Japan, India, and Singapore, the study found that Singapore and India were the top two countries where workers complained of burnout.

Sarita Das, a Fuzia user, says the site helped her during the pandemic.

“Communicating with other Fuziaites really helped me get out of my head. There was so much bad news circulating online that it increased my anxiety levels,” she said, finding the creative element in the site most soothing.

“I found a way to relieve my stress and joined the Fuzia Talent events. I found painting a much better distraction than browsing online. It requires focus, stops you from obsessively checking the news and gives you a sense of accomplishment as you paint your own creation.”

This article is a sponsored feature.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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Link between education and well-being never clearer, UN pushes for ‘health-promoting’ schools



Tuesday, June 22, 2021UN News

There has been increased stress, anxiety and other mental health issues, while an estimated 365 million primary school students have gone without school meals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN specialized agency handling education issues, UNESCO.  

Based on a set of eight global benchmarks, Global Standards for Health-promoting Schools, calls for all classrooms to promote life skills, cognitive and socioemotional skills and healthy lifestyles for learners.   

WHO and @UNESCO urge countries to make every school a health-promoting school, following the Global Standards for Health-promoting Schools that aim to ensure all schools promote life skills, cognitive & socioemotional skills & healthy lifestyles.

— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO)

June 22, 2021

“These newly launched global standards are designed to create schools that nurture education and health, and that equip students with the knowledge and skills for their future health and well-being, employability and life prospects”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  

Linking schools and health 

Clear evidence shows that comprehensive health and nutrition programmes in schools, have significant impacts among students.  

“Schools play a vital role in the well-being of students, families and their communities, and the link between education and health has never been more evident”, Tedros added. 

The new standards, which will be piloted in Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Paraguay, contribute to WHO’s target of making one billion people healthier by 2023 and the global Education 2030 Agenda coordinated by UNESCO.  

“Education and health are interdependent basic human rights for all, at the core of any human right, and essential to social and economic development”, said UNESCO Director General, Audrey Azouley.   

Making the case 

School health and nutrition interventions in low-income areas where impediments such as parasitic worms or anemia are prevalent, can lead to 2.5 years of additional schooling, according to the UN agencies. 

Moreover, malaria prevention interventions can result in a 62 per cent reduction in absenteeism; nutritious school meals upped enrolment rates by nine per cent, and attendance by eight per cent on average; and free screening and eyeglasses have raised the probability of students passing standardized reading and math tests by five per cent.  

And promoting handwashing has cut gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses between 21 and 61 per cent in low income countries, resulting in fewer absentees.  

“A school that is not health-promoting is no longer justifiable and acceptable”, said Ms. Azouley.   

Promote health in schools 

Comprehensive sex education encourages healthier behaviour, promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improves outcomes such as a reduction in HIV infection and adolescent pregnancies, WHO and UNESCO said. 

A school that is not health-promoting is no longer justifiable and acceptable — UNESCO chief

By enhancing water and sanitation (WASH) services and supplies in school, as well as educating on menstrual hygiene, girls can maintain themselves with dignity and may even miss less school while menstruating. 

“I call for all of us to affirm our commitment and role, to make every school a health-promoting school”, underscored the UNESCO chief. 

Upping the standards 

The Health Promoting Schools approach was introduced by WHO, UNESCO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1995 and adopted in over 90 countries and territories.   

However, only a small number of countries have implemented it at scale, and even fewer have effectively adapted their education systems to include health promotion. 

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

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Time running out to prevent ‘worst case scenario’ arising in Afghanistan



Tuesday, June 22, 2021UN News

From politics to security, the peace process to the economy, Deborah Lyons, Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the “possible slide toward dire scenarios is undeniable”. 

“The relentless spirit of the Afghans and their incredible resilience is being severely tested”, she said, reminding that what happens there is “of global consequence”, and the Security Council needed to be fully aware of the gravity of the situation.  

“There is only one acceptable direction for Afghanistan – away from the battlefield and back to the negotiating table,” UN envoy @DeborahLyonsUN told Security Council today on the situation in #Afghanistan. Full remarks here:

— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews)

June 22, 2021

Unfolding reality 

She described the mid-April announcement, led by the United States, of troop withdrawal after two decades of war as a “seismic tremor” for the country, which had happened unexpectedly fast.  

The decision to pull out was part of the February 2020 agreement between the US and the Taliban to create space for peace among Afghans, instead, “actions on the battlefield have been far greater than progress at the negotiating table”, she added. 

She told ambassadors that the public and the diplomatic community in Kabul have been “alarmed at the lack of political unity”, which must be addressed or risk contributing to further Taliban territorial advances.  

Taliban advance 

Through its intensified military campaign, the Taliban has taken more than 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts since the beginning of May. 

“Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn”, warned the Special Representative, calling it “a tragic course of action” that would lead to “increased and prolonged violence” and threaten to destroy much of what has been built and hard won over the past 20 years.  

However, she noted that any efforts to install a militarily imposed Government in Kabul would “go against the will of the Afghan people and against the stated positions of the regional countries and the broader international community”. 

Multiple crises 

Meanwhile, nearly one-third of Afghans face emergency levels of food insecurity, as drought worsens, and internal displacements increases. 

“The World Bank has estimated that as a result of the conflict, and the severe third wave of COVID, the drought, the weakened social fabric, and other factors, Afghanistan’s poverty rate could rise from 50 per cent to more than 70 per cent”, warned Ms. Lyons.  

Yet, despite highlighting the importance of international humanitarian aid, recent contributions toward the 2021 appeal for $1.3 billion, remains only 30 per cent funded. 

Civilian casualties 

In the first quarter of the year, civilian casualties increased by 29 per cent compared to that of last year, the UNAMA chief said, noting that women casualties increased by 37 per cent and children by 23 per cent. 

“Parties must immediately…implement civilian protection measures”, she stressed. 

And preserving women’s rights remains “a paramount concern” that must not be used as “a bargaining chip at the negotiating table”, added Ms. Lyons. 

“Human rights are not negotiable”, she underscored, calling on the international community and regional countries to “reiterate the importance of these rights in the peace negotiations”. 

The relentless spirit of the Afghans and their incredible resilience is being severely tested — UN Special Representative

Ticking clock 

The UN official said there was barely time left “to prevent a worse-case scenario from materializing”, pointing to the reality that “increased conflict in Afghanistan means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far”. 

“A fragmented conflict creates a more permissive environment for terrorist groups to recruit, finance, plan and conduct operations with a global reach”, she attested, adding that one of UNAMA’s key objectives is to “continue to work with all partners”. 

Any future Government will need international engagement and support, she said, upholding that this is “not the time to weaken our resolve or, worse, to contribute even inadvertently to the ongoing signals of despair”. 

“There is only one acceptable direction for Afghanistan…away from the battlefield and back to the negotiating table”, concluded the UNAMA chief. 


Ghada Fathy Ismail Waly, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) briefed ambassadors on cooperative agreements between her agency and UNAMA, including anti-corruption measures.   

Recalling the political declaration from the General Assembly’s discussion on corruption, she highlighted UNODC’s cross-border efforts to combat drug-related crimes and preserve Afghan’s “hard won gains.” 

Ms. Waly also drew attention to alliances between criminal and terrorist elements pointing out that they have yielded the world’s highest levels of casualties from terror attacks.   

Drug crops 

Noting that the pandemic had not impacted large poppy harvests to fuel the world’s supply of heroin, Ms. Waly linked the low prices to the degree with which the “illicit economy threatens peace.”    

She urged that “evidence-based prevention and treatment” for narcotics be made a priority and called better guidance for Afghan police “imperative”. 

Against this backdrop, the UNODC chief stressed the need for prompt action in the countryside to help limit production.

Click here to watch the meeting in its entirety.

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News


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