UK wind sets new record

On Sunday night, wind power in the United Kingdom supplied more electricity than domestic coal, biomass, and hydropower (combined) and set a new record for maximum hourly output. According to RenewableUK, this record was reached at 10pm when wind supplied an hourly average of 5 GW over an hour (17% of the total electricity demand on the UK power grid at that time). The new average was a 25% increase from one year ago, when generation hit 4 GW in August 2013. According to the UK Wind Energy Database, the nation has a total onshore wind power capacity topping 7.4 GW and approximately 3.7 GW in offshore capacity. As this wind power fleet reached its new record high on Sunday, nuclear and gas power plants were supplying the majority (57%) of the electricity going to the UK power grid. Remaining demand was met by coal (11%), hydropower (2%), biomass (2.5%), and imported power (10%).

California is walking

Californians now walk to their destination twice as much as they used to; the proportion of their trips made by foot is up from 8.4 percent in 2000 to 16.6 percent.
The study, which is based on the behavior of 109,000 people from more than 42,000 households over the course of 2012, also shows that more Californians are biking and using public transit to get around. In total, the amount of carless trips went from 11 percent in 2000 to 23 percent. The Federal Highway Administration has the nation’s trips by foot growing from 8.9 percent in 2001 to 11.5 percent in 2009. We hope this means America is speed-walking to catch up with California, which is often thought of as the national trendsetter for all things green.

CIA ‘kidnapped’ Soviet mooncraft for detailed study

during the Cold War race to the moon between the US and the former USSR, the former had “kidnapped” a Soviet mooncraft in the 60s called Lunik, studied it in detail and returned it intact. This operation was carried out by the CIA when the Soviets were moving the mooncraft from one exhibition to another in various cities. The US National Security Archive declassified the information recently by releasing a document detailing the operation. It’s called “The Kidnapping Of The Lunik.” In the 60s, the Soviet Union held exhibitions in several countries highlighting its achievements. The Lunik was a part of this show. These mooncraft were launched between 1959 and 1976, and 15 were successful and accomplished many firsts in space exploration. The Americans were keen on obtaining details of the Lunik.

Opposition to EU-US trade deal growing as negotiations start in Brussels

Trade unions and campaign groups have written to Vince Cable calling for a halt to negotiations on the EU-US trade deal. The groups, including the UK’s second biggest trade union UNISON, environmental, social justice and anti-poverty organisations, believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will undermine democracy, threaten public services and lead to lower standards in a range of areas including environmental protection, workers’ rights and food safety.

Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

Groningen, a city of about 192,000 people has the highest mode share of bicycle users of anywhere in the world. 50% of all trips in Groningen are done by bike. That number rises to just under 60% in the city centre.

React to the killing of innocents in Middle East

Also boycott following Israeli related companies

Intel, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard (HP),, IBM, Pampers, Coca-Cola, Caterpillar
GAP, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, BOSS, M&S, DKNY which uses Delta-Galils textile
Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Vicks, Old Spice, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, McDonald’s, Nestle, Milkmaid, Maggi, KitKat, L’Oréal

Please reduce oil use as energy source as well as fertilisers, plastics etc in the chemical industry.
This list is not complete.

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Dengue Surges In Latin America

As officials in Brazil frantically mount a last-minute campaign to combat the recent outbreak of dengue fever in the country before the beginning of the World Cup, new data has been released documenting the shocking resurgence of the disease.

Officials with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported this week that cases of dengue fever have nearly quintupled in Latin America, in just the last
10 years.

According to PAHO, in 2013 there were more than 2.3 million cases and 1,289 deaths. A decade ago, only 517,617 cases were documented in Latin America. Uncontrolled urbanization, absence of basic services, failure to control the environment and climate change, were blamed for the spread of the disease. The report said that nearly 500 million people in the Americas now live at risk of contracting dengue.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease with symptoms very similar to the flu. While there are four closely related viruses that can cause dengue fever, they are all carried by female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and in more northern regions, the Aedes albopictus. Dengue fever is most prevalent in South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia, Africa and the Western Pacific. Globally the prevalence of the disease has seen a dramatic uptick since the 1980s. Its spread has been linked to the changing climate as temperatures increase, rainfall patterns change and summers become longer, the range and active seasons for the mosquitoes that carry dengue have expanded.

In 2009-2010, Florida experienced the first dengue outbreak in the continental U.S. since the end of World War II. Last summer, there were 21 cases of dengue in the state and the mosquito that carries dengue was discovered for the first time in California. Texas now also routinely documents cases of locally-acquired dengue.

The disease is known colloquially as “breakbone fever,” as extreme joint and muscle pain are the telltale symptoms, usually accompanied by headache and fever. While half of people who contract dengue fever experience no symptoms at all, about one percent die. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is the most dangerous form of the disease which can lead to organ failure and death. There is no treatment or vaccine for dengue. The World Health Organization estimates anywhere from 50 million to 100 million people contract the
disease globally every year.

Along with dengue fever, lyme disease, west nile, and chikungunya are all also spreading thanks to climate change.

— source

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France experiments with paying people to cycle to work

France has started a six-month experiment with paying people to cycle to work, joining other European governments in trying to boost bicycle use to boost people’s health, reduce air pollution and cut fossil fuel consumption.

Several countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Britain have bike-to-work schemes, with different kinds of incentives such as tax breaks, payments per kilometer and financial support for buying bicycles.

In France, some 20 companies and institutions employing a total of 10,000 people have signed up to pay their staff 25 euro cents (34 U.S. cents) per kilometer biked to work, the transport ministry said in a statement on Monday.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million km, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

The Brussels-based European Cyclists’ Federation has European Union funding to study best practices among various cycling incentive schemes, the group’s Bike2Work project manager Randy Rzewnicki said.

City bike-loan schemes have played a large role in boosting bicycle commuting and cities including Barcelona, London and Stockholm have followed the model of the Velib in Paris.

— source

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Dr. George Tiller

As Oklahoma enacts a law that could shutter all but one abortion clinic in the state and Louisiana is poised to follow suit, we turn to the legacy of Dr. George Tiller who was assassinated five years ago Saturday. Dr. Tiller was one of a handful of doctors in the country who provided abortions in the third trimester pregnancy. He faced constant threats and attacks. His clinic was fire bombed 1985. Eight years later, he survived an assassination attempt with gunshot wounds to both arms. Then on May 31, 2009, anti-choice extremist, Scott Roeder, entered Dr. Tiller’s church in Wichita, Kansas and shot him in the head. Dr. Tiller was 67 years old.

Dr. Chastine talking:

I travel to Wichita every week and I perform abortions for the women of Wichita and central and western Kansas as well as some of Oklahoma. We provide procedures up to the current Kansas legal limit, which is 20 weeks post conception or 21 weeks and six days post last menstrual period.

when I was in medical school I got the message that there is a shortage of abortion providers and that, therefore, if more of us, including myself, did not become providers, that there would be women who not be able to access abortion when they needed it. So when I got the call to help open this clinic, I felt a very strong pull of moral obligation that these are people who need abortions who will not be able to access them if I don’t do it. And so I asked myself, “If you don’t do this, who will?” I went to medical school to help people, same as all of us do. So I felt like these people have a need and I have the ability to fill that need, and so I could not in good conscience say no.

Kansas has strict laws that are nonetheless less strict than some of the surrounding states. So Kansas has a mandated 24-hour waiting period. The patient must be given a specific set of state mandated information that includes risks of abortion, some of which are not medically supported. Then she must wait at least 24 hours before she can have her procedure done. Kansas has bans not only on Medicaid coverage of abortion, but also on private insurance coverage of abortion. And so all of our patients are paying out-of-pocket for the procedure which is a significant amount, particularly for the women who disproportionately seek abortion who tend to be from lower income brackets. The patients are required by state law to meet privately with the physician and also to have an ultrasound and to be offered the opportunity to view the ultrasound. After meeting privately with the doctor, they’re required to wait at least 30 minutes before they can be given any medication. Kansas also requires dual notarized parental consent for anyone under age 18. And so the women I see are accepting of this, mostly, but they are very aware that the state is intruding into their relationship with the doctor so many will ask, “Why do I have to wait? Why do I have to do this?” And the answer is, because the State of Kansas is hoping that you will change your mind in this time period. But we have women, nonetheless, coming from all over the state of Kansas. Kansas has four clinics, counting ours; but three of them are in the Kansas City area which is in the northeast corner of the state so central and western Kansas is pretty much served by our clinic, by South Wind Women’s Center. We have patients come from Missouri, from Oklahoma, and we are even started see patients from Texas as the legal climate there and the availability of abortion becomes less.

I want to be very, very clear that the murder and other acts of violence against abortion providers are acts of terrorism. They are acts of violence directed at a few people designed to influence the actions of many people and so they’re putting the statement out there, using this language that is clearly intended to incite someone else, as they say elsewhere in that clip, to take action and to stop other providers. And so these are people who are, admittedly, on the fringe of the anti-choice movement, they are nonetheless encouraged by the mainstream movement. They are encouraged by rhetoric like comparing abortion to the Holocaust, comparing abortion to slavery. So these are extremists, but they’re operating within a very fertile ground of sentiment.

I can’t live my life that way. I get up in the morning and there are patients that need me and if I allow myself to be deterred during this work, then I am allowing a victory for terrorism. Yes, I am aware that there is a risk associated with what I am doing; but I don’t allow it to paralyze me.

— source

Cheryl Chastine, is the medical director and primary abortion provider at South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas–the former clinic of Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated five years ago.

[They are right. Killing god create life is wrong. But what about fossil fuels? God burried it deep down. Is it right to drill and get it back and burn?]

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Bihar fast-tracks nuclear power plant

Bihar is sparing no effort to establish a nuclear power plant in the state.

The proposal to set up the first power plant in eastern India was mooted sometime back. But the project at Rajauli in Nawada district ran into trouble last year because of non-availability of water.

With the state water resources department agreeing to provide 160 cusecs of water from the Phulwaria dam reservoir, the power project is back on track.

The state proposes to generate 1,400 MW power from the plant. The agreement letter from the water resources department has been sent to the Central Water Commission for final approval, said officials. The letter says water would be made available for the project.

The letter also promises to provide 12,785 cubic metre water per hour for the plant through combined sources. “We are awaiting final approval from the Central Water Commission to take the next step,” HR Pandey, spokesperson for Bihar State Power Holding Company Ltd (BSPHCL), said.

The department has already identified 1,275 hectares (ha) of land for the proposed power plant near the dam. In May last year, a team from the Atomic Energy Commission of India had inspected the site and also took stock of the water availability. In 2007, a team from Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited had also visited the site and raised concerns over water availability for the plant.

The proposed plant would be constructed at a cost of Rs 22,400 crore.

BSPHCL has also started survey work for installing water pipelines for the power plant. A letter of intent has been issued for the survey.

Bihar has been facing acute power crisis in recent years. Former chief minister, Nitish Kumar, who recently resigned had announced that he would not contest election if Bihar does not becomes self reliant in power generation.

— source

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Canadian Scientists March on Ottawa to Protest the “Death of Evidence”

The best governments are pragmatic and evidence-based. They do their best to solicit the help of the experts who know most and gather all relevant facts, and then they try to make informed decisions based on the evidence. If the known facts change or evolve, they are open to changing their minds. The worst governments are ideology-based (and sadly, that can happen all over the political spectrum, as history has shown us multiple times) and start with the answers and then try to work backwards to create rationalizations and justifications for what they wanted to do all along. To them the ability to change your mind is a flaw rather than a virtue.

Today, many Canadian scientists are marching on the parliament in Ottawa, the federal capital, to protest against what they call the “death of evidence”. The rally is designed as a funeral procession with “evidence” as the deceased. Participants are instructed to wear either a lab coat or black clothing.

This ‘death’ englobes the result of many policies by the Harper government, such as cuts to important scientific research, and policies that destroy the environment without considering the risks, as well as transparent attempts to silence critics. So with this government, ideology seems to have taken over, and rather than follow the evidence where it leads, it seems to attempt to kill evidence. Here’s an example:

[The Harper] government is also accused of jeopardising Canada’s scientific reputation by shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a research station that produced critical evidence to help stop acid rain. [...]
Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, was even more pointed. “It’s not about saving money. It’s about imposing ideology,” he said. “What’s happening here is that the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the Alberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water, and eliminate any barriers that stand in their way.” (source)

We wrote about it last month: Canadian Government Shuts Down Freshwater Research After 40 Years of Groundbreaking Science
Katie Gibbs, a Ph.D. student in the biology department of the University of Ottawa, my alma mater, told the Tyee: “We want to let Canadians know that these aren’t just part of regular budget cuts. We think that what’s happening here is a systematic campaign to reduce the flow of scientific information to Canadians.”

But sadly, there are many other examples, such as:

Cutting the mandatory long-form national census.
Major budget reductions to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Decisions to close major natural and social science research institutions such as the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area, the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.
Closing of The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut

- source

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US is targeting India’s patent law

To have one country challenge the mainstream view on intellectual property rights (IPR) may not be such a threat. It is quite another matter when more nations begin to follow suit. Then you are looking at the beginnings of a global insurrection that could undermine the basis of Western supremacy. Or so the US believes. This helps explain why the US trade authorities and powerful business lobbies targeted India on its IPR regime.

That the entire trade machinery of the world’s mightiest economy should have been galvanised just because two European firms ran afoul of India’s patent laws stretches credulity. The celebrated cases involve Basel-based Novartis which was denied a patent for its cancer drug Glivec because it lacked novelty and Bayer of Germany on whose costly Nexavar cancer drug a compulsory licence was issued.

So why were the Americans making such a ruckus over India’s patent law which is fully compliant with global rules on IPRs? Admittedly, some key provisions of the landmark Patents (Amendment) Act of 2005 have raised the bar for multinational drug companies wanting to extend their patents beyond the original 20 years on incremental changes to a molecule they have discovered. But the true reason for the onslaughts on India’s patent regime are to be found in the testimony of Roy F Waldron, chief intellectual property counsel of US-based Pfizer.

In a written submission to the House ways and means subcommittee, Waldron had let the cat out of the bag when he said that India’s leadership in this sphere was making US companies nervous. “Since many other countries look to India as a leader and an example, India’s actions reverberate far beyond its borders. We have seen several countries adopt policies similar to India’s, which are leading to a worldwide deteriorating trend on intellectual property.”

The last bit, of course, is an exaggeration. There is the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) hectoring annual review of the IPR record of trading partners that forces most countries to fall in line. And yet, a significant clutch of countries appear to have been inspired by India’s clear-cut norms on what is patentable to change, chop and alter their own regulations on pharma patents. This becomes clear from the USTR’s Super 301 Report which complains about the rules in countries as diverse as Brazil and Canada.

The most troublesome of the Indian provisions for drug multinationals is Section 3d which bars patents for incremental changes to an existing drug unless these can prove enhanced efficacy. It is this key safeguard that appears to have inspired a handful of other countries to define patentability of drugs in no-nonsense terms. Argentina, for instance, has tightened the criteria for the granting of patents by putting compositions, dosages, salts, esters and ethers, polymorphs, and other derivates of a molecule under a strict scanner. The guidelines used by the South American nation are a carbon copy of India’s Section 3d. Then there is Brazil whose actions are making the US distinctly edgy. Its health authority, the National Sanitary Regulatory Agency, has been authorised to review drug patent applications for patentability requirements. Canada appears to have gone a step further with its judiciary imposing heightened utility requirements for patents.

It is absolutely vital that more such countries band together to establish a balanced approach to patents before a lethal trade agreement is concluded. Under negotiation is the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty through which the US is seeking to advance its most ambitious IP maximalist agenda. It goes way beyond what the World Trade Organization rules demand and it needs to be stopped.

— source Latha Jishnu

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Detroit Water Crisis

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UK Group Debuts DELIVER Electric Delivery Van

Green Automotive Company announces that its European based subsidiary, Liberty Electric Cars, has successfully completed the build of the first fully functioning example of “DELIVER” – an electric delivery vehicle funded by the European Commissions’ 7th Framework Programme which brings together ten partner companies from across Europe. DELIVER will have its world Premiere at FISITA World Automotive Congress, which starts on 2nd June 2014 in Maastricht (NL).
The DELIVER project started in November 2011 with the goal to reduce the environmental impact in urban areas by 40 % and thus design and construct an electric light commercial vehicle which perfectly combines the needs of inner city traffic with the advantages of electric vehicles.

The result is a light weight commercial vehicle of 2,200 kg GVW and a payload of 700 kg, with a host of innovative features for the delivery driver and 18% additional capacity when compared with today’s vans of a similar wheelbase. The concept deploys the latest electric vehicle technologies with its fully electric drive train featuring in-wheel motors with 2-speed transmission and 80 prismatic Li-NMC cells in its battery pack to increase energy efficiency and total range. The vehicle perfectly meets the demands of today’s busy delivery drivers. Thanks to its flexible ergonomic cabin concept and removal of the B pillar on the kerb side, there is a decrease in both workload and the duration of the delivery process itself. The ability for the driver to easily exit the vehicle on the kerb side not only minimises walking distances around the vehicle, but improves driver safety. The “Walk in door” concept reduces potential obstacles caused by the door sills. With a minimum range of 100 km and a top speed of 100 km/h, DELIVER represents an attractive proposition for light commercial vehicles with urban and intra urban applications such as postal, parcel, supermarket and city council service operations.

After executing a broad conceptual design study which started by establishing initial design specifications and continued right through to the detailed virtual performance assessment of the final fully electric vehicle concept, a driving demonstrator concept vehicle was built by Liberty Electric Cars to demonstrate as many of the new vehicle innovations as possible. Liberty Electric Cars, chosen to participate because of its extensive experience in electric commercial vehicle engineering, were nominated Chief Engineers of the design of the vehicle and played a key role in the development of the battery, the battery management system and the integration of all the vehicle electrical systems in the development of this vehicle.

An extended testing phase on the test tracks at the Aldenhoven Testing Center, RWTH Aachen University’s new testing ground, enabled the project partners to analyse performance indicators such as energy efficiency, dynamic & static structural performance, active & passive safety, ergonomics or range.

The project, which is co-funded by the European Commission as part of the European Green Vehicles Initiative, is coordinated by Institute for Automotive Engineering (ika) of RWTH Aachen University and gathers ten partners from across Europe, including major OEMs, research partners and cities’ representatives. The consortium comprises Fiat (IT), Volkswagen (DE), Liberty Electric Cars (UK), Michelin (CH), Polis Network (BE), SP – Technical Research Institute of Sweden (SE), HPL Prototypes (UK) as well as CADEM (TR) und Mobit (TR).

— source

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Land reform in reverse

The world is increasingly hungry because small farmers are losing access to farmland.

Small farmers produce most of the world’s food but are now squeezed onto less than 25% of the world’s farmland, a new report reveals. Corporate and commercial farms, big biofuel operations and land speculators are pushing millions off their land.

“Small farmers are losing land at a tremendous rate. It’s a land reform movement in reverse”, said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers.

“The overwhelming majority of farming families today have less than two hectares to cultivate and that share is shrinking”, Hobbelink told IPS. “If we do nothing to reverse this trend, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself.”

Small farms are now down to 17% of the world’s farmland

GRAIN’s Hungry for Land report provides new data to show small farms occupy less than 25% of the world’s farmland today – just 17%, if farms in India and China are excluded. Despite this they still provide most of the world’s food because they are often much more productive than large corporate farms.

If all farms in Central America matched the output of small farms the region would produce three times as much food, the report said.

“Every day we are exposed to the systematic expulsion from our land”, said Marina Dos Santos of the National Coordination of the Brazilian Landless Movement.

“We want the land in order to live and to produce, as these are our basic rights against land-grabbing corporations who seek only speculation and profit”, she said.

FAO’s wild over-estimate corrected

With the launch of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and many agriculture experts acknowledged how important small farms are for feeding the world. However, they wildly overestimate how much land is being farmed by smallholders.

“I couldn’t believe it when the FAO said family farms manage 70% of all farmland. This contradicts all of our experience with small farms around the world”, said Hobbelink.

Researchers at GRAIN dug into mountains of data from every country as well as FAO statistics and information to find out who owns what. In many countries farmland ownership is very difficult to determine and there are varying definitions of what is a small farm or a family farm. Some giant corporate farms are family-owned.

“Our report outlines how we did our analysis. We checked our findings with other sources and this is closer to reality than the FAO number”, he said.

Small farmers can feed 9 billion – but only if they have the land!

“It’s an important report and corresponds to our own research”, agreed Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute, a US-based policy think tank focused on global land and food issues.

Small farmers can feed the future 9 billion people on the planet if they have the land, Mousseau told IPS.

“The current global food system is set up to provide fuels and food for western markets”, he said. “It’s not about feeding the most people.”

Zimbabwe was harshly criticised by the international community for redistributing farmland to smallholders in 2000. They now produce over 90% of the nation’s food crops, compared to 60-70% before 2000.

In Zimbabwe, “More women own land in their own right, which is key to food sovereignty everywhere”, said Elizabeth Mpofu, general coordinator of La Via Campesina.

The global land rush

Since the 2008-2009 food crisis there has been a rush to buy up farmland all around the world by Wall St and financial institutions, said Mousseau.

In developing countries an estimated 250 million hectares worth of land investment, also known as ‘land grabbing’, has occurred between 2000 and 2011. The same thing is happening in the US.

In many areas the price of land has shot upwards pushing many farmers off their land. “US farms are increasingly run by corporate farm managers who hire farm workers not farmers”, he said.

Investors see farmland as a safe and secure investment, especially in the US, with its multi-billion dollar farm subsidies. As a result, an estimated $10 billion in capital is already looking for access to US farmland, according to the Oakland Institute’s Down on the Farm report.

Over the next 20 years, 400 million acres, or nearly half of all US farmland, is set to change hands as the current generation retires. Institutional investors are eagerly waiting to buy, the report said.

Bad news for food production

That will be bad news for food production, farmland, the environment and the economy. The US and far too many other countries have bought into agribusiness propaganda and financial lobbying that commercial, large-scale agriculture is how to feed the world, create jobs and grow the economy, said Mousseau.

“Instead government policies need to be aligned to favour small farmers, not corporations”, he added.

The hard evidence from many studies shows that small farmers practicing agroecological farming produce more food, protect soil and water, have far lower CO2 emissions and provide better livelihoods, said Hobbelink.

“Small farmers give each hectare of their precious land far more attention and care”, he stressed.

— source

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