Wednesday October 18, 2017
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California Drought: Regulators announce largest water cuts in state’s history

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Caught in one of the worst droughts it has ever encountered, the California state regulators have decided to introduce the largest cuts in the state’s history by ordering farmers and others to reduce their water consumption.

Over 100 water rights holders have been ordered to stop all pumping from three major waterways in one of the country’s prime farm regions by the State Water Resources Control Board.

114 entities, including individual landowners and water districts serving farmers and small communities, with claims dating back to 1914 or before, have been served the curtailment order.

This will force thousands of  water users in the state to tap groundwater, buy it at rising costs, use previously stored water or go dry.

“It’s going to be a different story for each one of them, and a struggle for all of them” acknowledged executive director of the water board Thomas Howard.

Economists and agriculture experts say that the cuts are expected to have little immediate impact on food prices, with the growing of some crops to shift to regions with more  water in the short-term.

“We are now at the point where demand in our system is outstripping supply for even the most senior water rights holders,” said Caren Trgovcich, chief deputy director of the water board.

In order to prevent the board’s action, Jeanne Zolezzi, an attorney for two small irrigation districts serving farmers in the San Joaquin area, has decided to go to court.

“We are not talking about a 25 per cent cut like imposed on urban. This is a 100 per cent cut, no water supplies. A lot of trees would die, and a lot of people would go out of business,” said Zolezzi.

According to Jonas Minton, an advisor at the private Planning and Conservation League environmental group, the droughts of such scale are not unprecedented in California.

“The difference is that the state has grown in population to 38 million and has vast acres of farmland to irrigate, a problem with which the state cannot be blamed”, said Minton

“Today’s curtailments are not being done by choice. They’re a reaction to the reality of the shrinking water supply”, Minton added.

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California Becomes the first US State to allow Gender-neutral Birth Certificates

The so-called "nonbinary" gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more "genders."

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The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents. Pixabay

California, October 17, 2017 : California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state senate bill, allowing a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates and driver’s licenses starting from 2019.

California thus became the first state in the US to allow a “nonbinary” gender to be marked on birth certificates, Xinhua news agency reported.

The so-called “nonbinary” gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more “genders.”

According to the Gender Recognition Act approved on Sunday, California will offer a gender-neutral option on state documents for those who are transgender, intersex and others who are not identified as male or female.

ALSO READ Finding their place in the world; Oxford Dictionary to include honorific Mx for transgenders

The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents.

“Existing law authorises a person who was born in this state and who has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition to obtain a new birth certificate from the State Registrar,” the bill read.

The Golden State is now also the second state in the US to allow residents to be identified by a gender marker other than “F” or “M” on their driver’s license.

Oregon and the District of Columbia had earlier issued the gender-neutral option on their driver’s licenses.

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Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy

The aggregate growth in the agricultural sector determines that the future of the agrarian economy is not bleak

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Agriculture in India. Wikimedia.
  • Despite people shifting their occupations from agriculture, UN states that India ranks second in the agricultural production in the world
  • India’s horticulture production has also increased

Sep 20, 2017: Indian agriculture is facing a huge crisis since many years. Despite continuous reports suggesting that the agrarian economy of India is getting affected, as people are shifting away from the agricultural sector and are moving towards industrial sector development, the food and agriculture organization of United Nations (UN) has stated that India ranks second in the agricultural production of the World. In the past 11 years, the country’s agricultural production has increased from $87 billion in the financial year 2004-05 to $322 billion in the fiscal year 2015-16.

Interestingly this is not just the only positive point being witnessed about the agricultural situation of the nation. The country’s horticulture production has also increased with the passage of time. The horticultural production includes fruits, vegetables, plantation crops, and spices. The increasing demand of fruits and vegetables has augmented the production estimate to 295 million tonnes in 2016-17, which is 3.2 % higher than the production in 2015-16.

Also Read: WHO says Millions of People are Dying Pre-mature Deaths Due to Non-Communicable Diseases.

Earlier in May, the agriculture ministry released a second advance estimate of horticulture production, stating that the farm area under the horticulture crops has recorded an increase. The increase was from 245 lakh hectares of farm in 2015-16 to 249 lakh hectares in 2016-17. The Indian economy’s earnings from agriculture as compared to the service sector has been absolutely great. The net export from agriculture was noted $16 billion, and those from the commercial service were 9% in 2014.

When the country is facing even greater challenges like farmer suicides, protests, and monsoon failure, figures like these tend to bring smiles on our faces, even if it is for a short time. The aggregate development can never alleviate the plight of farmers.
The percentage growth may satisfy the government and us both, but does it really satisfy the farmers? A wiser approach like good law and order towards the handling of problems and crisis should be taken, and then only can there be a better future in the agriculture.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.

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WeFarm- a Farmer to Farmer Digital Network – is Helping Farmers in remote villages of Kenya

WeFarm helps connect farmers via Text Messages

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A farmer herds his cattle at sunset near Kisumu, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2008.
A farmer herds his cattle at sunset near Kisumu, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2008. VOA

When she woke up one morning in February, Catherine Kagendo realized that one of her cows could not stand.

“It was lying on its side, had lost its appetite and was breathing heavily,” she told Reuters from her farm in Meru, in eastern Kenya.

With her husband, she decided to turn to WeFarm, a text-based network of small-scale farmers, for help.

Within an hour, their text — “one of my lactating cows cannot stand” — generated a flurry of suggestions, from “feed your cow with minerals rich in calcium” to “make sure the cow shed is clean and well-drained so the animals don’t slip.”

“I realized our cow had milk fever, so gave it calcium-rich feed and it was standing again within hours,” Kagendo explained.

She is one of many Kenyan small-scale farmers who lack good information — mostly due to a lack of internet access — on how to manage problems from dry spells to diseases, local farm experts say.

As a result, such farmers often lose their harvest or animals, they said.

But WeFarm, a farmers’ network launched in Kenya in 2014 and more recently expanded to Uganda and Peru, allows people to ask a question by text message and receive advice from their peers.

The service, whose Scottish co-founder Kenny Ewan describes it as “the internet for people with no internet,” is free to use and only requires a mobile phone.

Farmers text questions to a local number, and WeFarm transmits the message to users with similar interests in the area, tapping into their knowledge.

“We want farmers to get answers to their problems without needing to access the internet, so the information is available to all,” said Mwinyi Bwika, head of marketing at WeFarm.

Although the platform also exists online, over 95 percent of users choose to use it offline, he said.

Information gap

Kagendo said that when her animals were ill or her maize crops too dry, she used to have to hire an extension officer to help solve the problem.

“But we had to pay a fee ranging from 500 to 2,000 Kenyan shillings ($5-$20), and most of the time the officer didn’t even explain their diagnosis,” she said.

That cut into her family’s income and left them no better able to understand the diseases facing their cattle and their crops.

“We cannot even afford a smartphone to go online, so finding credible information was near impossible,” she said.

According to Bwika, small-scale farmers often lack the information they need because of a lack of cash — most live on less than a dollar a day — as well as poor internet connection and low literacy levels.

“Ewan realized that farmers living just a few miles from each other were facing the same challenges, but with no way to communicate about them. So, he created a platform to connect them,” Bwika said.

Joseph Kinyua, another farmer from Meru who grows vegetables, said he spends at least 30 minutes per day using WeFarm.

“It’s taught me anything from using pest control traps to ensuring that my sprinklers don’t put out too much water,” he said. “And I know the methods are proven and tested by other farmers.”

The knowledge has helped improve the quality of the kale he grows, he said, enough that “I can now sell a kilo at the market at 70 shillings [$0.70] compared to 50 [$0.50] previously.”

Preventing problems

While the platform might receive dozens of replies to a question, it only sends out to the user a selection of answers judged correct, Bwika said.

But it uses the questions and advice received to help track disease outbreaks or extreme weather spells, and shares those insights with governments and non-governmental organizations, Bwika said.

“In doing so, we hope to prevent disease outbreaks and track problems before they occur,” he said.

Not everyone shares this optimism, however.

Mary Nkatha, a farmer from Meru, said she found it hard to implement some of the recommendations she received from WeFarm without the practical guidance of an expert.

“If I am told to inject my cow with something, how do I make sure I do it in the right place? And where do I find the equipment?” she asked.

Fredrick Ochido, a Kenya-based consultant on dairy farming, also worries that the platform may be entrenching farmers’ poor use of technology, rather than helping them keep up with new trends.

The WeFarm platform has over 100,000 current users in Kenya, Uganda and Peru, and its operators hopes to reach one million farmers in the next year. They also aim to expand the effort to other countries, including Tanzania. (VOA)