Sheep at the UN

Are sheep more ecologically friendly for cutting the grass than lawnmowers? The UN certainly thinks so and difficult not to agree. A herd of sheep will shortly occupy a meadow outside the International Labour Organization (ILO) for a three week period. In so doing the sheep will according to the UN information circular be “cutting the grass in an ecologically sustainable manner and providing natural fertilizer for the grass and flowers that will grow in the spring”.

Here is a picture of the sheep (courtesy of the UN) in the autumnal field overlooking Lake Geneva


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Resilience in Pakistan

I listened to this video today by Shoail Malik on the challenges facing Pakistan – very informative. My notes follow:

Challenges facing are immense. Range of social, economic, environment risks which Pakistan faces most.

  • Beset with shocks (debt crisis, energy crisis, looming water crisis that many are not aware of.)
  • Poor governance
  • Inadequate policy analysis
  • M and E absent
  • No learning from the past.
  • Increasing reliance on donors
  • Politicians fire fighting not making policy
  • Earthquakes, floods, terrorism

Inherent inequalities. Esp land which is translated into power. Growing population. Young people lacking marketable skills. Education piece of paper to get govt job. At 21 want a govt job to win entitlements and pension.

Political backsliding on programs and policy. Political system returns the same people again and again. Educated people have to work out what can we do for ourselves.

Pakistan has weak level of resilience. Linked to agriculture.

Low productivity

Percentage of agriculture as proportioni of GDP. Natural decline but percent share coming from growth rate in ag declining. The important crops dominant and remain constant. Yields per hectare by own farmer and international levels are low except for maize which came from outside the system (lessons to be learnt)

While share of ag value added declining, share of labour in ag not declining – still 44% meaning still hugely low productivity. We know the answers but policies not cognisant of this aspect

Policies favour large farmers

Compare the data from ag census. In 1960. Under 5 ha accounted for under 19% of total.. 2010 account for 65%. “hard fact of Pakistan”. Our policies are made for large farmers. Subsidize wheat rural sector yet 26% of wheat farmers are net sellers – the rest consume. Net maize consumers are worse off.

Limited diversification in agriculture

USAID focused on value added agriculture. Type of agriculture that will benefit small farmers. Diversification limited due to policy disconnect. Policy ignores variability across regions. Pakistan is diverse. Agro climatic zones variable so one policy does not fit all.

Why are Pakistanis resilient

Slavery taught us to get us what we can

Religion teaches us to accept and give thanks for what our state is. But forget individual equity and access to justice (eg. reflected in prices /distortions). Have to seek knowledge and work hard for social good because private good dependent on social good. Social good lost in the private.

Resilience programming targets weakest nodes in the system. A people centred approach. They have to define the approach. They have the knowledge. The quickest way to build resilience. Need to strengthen nutrition networks. Traditional system is now broken. No way to access information. Skewed consumption patterns. Bulk coming from fat oils and sugar with decline of vegetables.

Silos between agencies that want exclusivity in order to show attribution. Need to build integrated, demand driven system. Agricultural growth for Pakistan essential for nutrition and rural development. Value addition is what will generate jobs for the 44%. Advocates a systems approach to development with farmers, NGOs, policy makers working together.

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Talking trash in Geneva

Last week, I participated in a panel hosted by the WTO to explore the linkages between trade and waste. This press release from the WTO captures some of the main points from the presentations which ranged from the challenges of climate change, innovation, international treaties on waste, plastic pollution in the oceans and helping exporters to reduce energy use and waste.


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The Geneva Environment pub quiz – celeb vegans, the Doors and Paris

Last night President Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement. In other news, the Geneva Environment Pub Quiz organized by UN Environment and the Geneva Environment Network. took place. ITC (my employer) fielded two teams finishing 7th and 8th out of 24. Our teams had a wide range of ages and interests which seemed to work in our favour. So we won points from questions that you might expect in an “environment” quiz like identifying tree species and knowing Canada’s largest animal (blue whale). However, we could also name Leona Lewis (who?) in the “celebs who are vegans” questions. We aced the last section to name 10 songs with an animal in the title (e.g. Peace Frog by the Doors) thanks to my colleague’s husband who owns 2,500 vinyl records.

Congrats to the winners colleagues from UN Environment who had a cool prize to meet the CEO of SIG, Geneva’s local energy provider. It would have been good to meet him for sure, not just to find out how to reduce my energy bill, but to hear his thoughts on what it means for all of us with the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

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Catfish – finding ways to eradicate an invasive species in Lake Geneva

The Geneva Tribune reports that catfish have colonized the Rhone river and Lake Geneva. It is unclear how much of a pest they really are and if they attack other fish. The local authorities have asked fishermen to kill them when they are caught, but it appears the fishermen do not want to either because they view them as beautiful creatures or that it creates a big bloody mess.

Fishermen are prohibited from selling fish caught in the lake so there is no financial incentive to kill them. According to the article catfish taste good smoked, so maybe about time to change the regulations so that fisherman can supply local food companies to smoke the fish and at the same time remove an invasive species from the lake.


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