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As concerns about global food security are on the rise, there are many questions as to how the world will face growing demands for a sustainable food supply. While poverty and food distribution seem to underlie many of the challenges regarding food security, biotechnology in the form of genetically modified seeds could continue to play an increasing role in how food is grown and traded in both developed and less developed countries.
Does patenting seeds create new risks to food security or provide a way of securing the world food supply through centralisation? Are we simply looking at a new way of meeting the demands placed upon agriculture or a new way for chemical corporations such as Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Chemical and others to place new demands on society? Most importantly, where does this leave farmers and the communities they support?
Typhoon Haiyan has caused severe devastation in the Philippines leaving an unknown number of people dead. While early estimates have been made, the number of fatalities is likely to rise. Survivors are without food, clean drinking water or shelter. Immediate global support, especially funding, is needed for providing assistance to affected communities.
Durham University Professor and IHRR Co-Director Lena Dominelli, a sociologist and international social worker in disaster resilience, is in touch with survivors of the typhoon disaster in the Philippines who she says are desperately in need of humanitarian aid.
“It’s absolutely essential that money is sent to people for buying food, clean drinking water, and medical supplies for those who have critical conditions. A lot of the areas destroyed by the typhoon have no power supplies and no communications except by satellite phone,” said Dominelli. Read the rest of this entry »
Elena E. Burgos-Martínez is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University writing from her field site on the Celebes Sea in the province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Here she is living amongst the indigenous Bajo people who live a nomadic lifestyle on the sea, making them highly attune to environmental change.
In 1948 different groups of ‘sea nomads’ arrive to Nain Island, known as the ‘Ninth Island’ during the colonial period. They are looking for better sources of fish, fruit, vegetables and drinking water. In a timely effort to join the ‘Indonesian National Awakening’ they settle and build houses on stilts over the white sand of Nain’s beach and call it ‘Nain Induk’ (mothership Nain).
The Bajo of Nain Island and the Celebes Sea represent what I call ‘post-indigenous’, a culture that originates in the intersection of different groups of ‘sea nomads’ who arrived to Nain Island from the regions of East Kalimatan/Makassar Strait (the Bajau), the Sulu Archipielago/Sulu Sea (the Sinama) and Central Sulawesi/Molucca Sea (the Bajoe). The terms ‘Bajau’, ‘Bajoe’ and ‘Bajo’, largely used to refer to the ‘sea nomads’ of Indonesia, are not different spellings of the same word; these names refer to distinct groups whose culture and language has been and continues to be shaped by their environment.
Bajo language (Baon Sama) and Bajo culture spread around the Celebes Sea. The coast of Manado, Aracan, Tumbak and a number of other locations become the ‘land and sea of the Bajo’ as families grow and new marriages take place. Although culture is embedded in these areas, it is not limited to a set of geographical coordinates.
Trials of the first vaccine to show evidence of full protection against the deadly disease Malaria will take place at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, who are working with the developer of the new vaccine, the private company Sanaria. Some postgraduate researchers with IHRR who have also worked at Ifakara have concentrated on preventing the spread of malaria, (such as providing bed nets) including Christina Makungu, a Moyes Postgraduate Fellow who completed her dissertation on the health of young people in self-care in Tanzania. Prevention is still likely the best way in combating the spread of the deadly disease that has plagued less developed countries. A vaccine would be most welcome.
While researchers have expressed ‘cautious optimism’ about the results, this scientific advance is clearly great news. The new vaccine (PfSPZ) ‘uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response’, something that was previously thought too difficult to achieve. It was produced from 850 mosquitoes that were dissected in about one hour by six researchers. Six subjects given five doses of the vaccine were completely protected against malaria, compared to three of nine who were given four doses. The vaccine must be given intravenously, which is not as efficient as injection or oral administration, but the dosage is small (.5 ml) and researchers are working on improving the delivery of the vaccine. Read the rest of this entry »
Professor Lena Dominelli, a Co-Director of IHRR, has authored two new guides on disaster intervention and humanitarian aid that are freely available. The first is a Handbook on Disaster Intervention and Humanitarian Aid, the second provides ethical guidelines for research into disaster and humanitarian aid interventions. Parts of the handbook are based on Durham University research into the impacts of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Sri Lanka. This ESRC-funded research project considered both the immediate and long-term impacts of disaster interventions as instances of institutionalising practices on those living in disaster affected areas. The handbook provides solid advice to practitioners and policymakers who are faced with complex, uncertain circumstances that must be dealt with quickly and effectively.
The research introduced at the Breaking the Mould Conference at Durham University, covers 386 transcripts of interviews and focus groups, 38 sets of field notes and 45 questionnaires from NGOs. One of the main findings about disaster interventions in the case of the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka is that the effectiveness of humanitarian aid depends on many things including ‘context, intentions of donors and recipients, cultural expectations, opportunities for local people to exercise agency and the resources and skills held by or are available to disaster survivors’. Importantly, there are also risks to aid workers that should be considered: ‘…humanitarian aid workers themselves can be endangered through ordinary everyday routines as well as have their lives threatened’. Read the rest of this entry »