Archive for September 4th, 2011

Last-ditch efforts to save dying Iran lake


Last-ditch efforts to save dying Iran lake


Posted 03 September 2011, by Staff (Agency France Presse), Google News,


TEHRAN — Efforts to stem the rapid drying up of Iran’s largest lake took a political turn this week after arrests were made in a local protest against the government?s inaction on the ecological disaster.

One of the largest salt lakes in the world and classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Lake Orumiyeh has lost more than half of its surface over the last two decades due to drought and the damming of rivers feeding it.

The lake could be dried out in the next two to four years and lead to apocalyptic consequences if no urgent action is taken, according to local officials and environmental experts.

The lake’s disappearance would leave behind 10 billion tons of salt and jeopardise the lives of millions of people as well as the local agriculture, according to Orumiyeh lawmaker Javad Jahangirzadeh.

The parliament refused in mid-August to fast-track a rescue plan presented by local lawmakers to save the lake, which is situated between East and West Azarbaijan provinces in the northwest.

The refusal provoked Orumiyeh residents to demonstrate on August 27, only to be repressed by force, according to several Iranian news websites.

The confrontation was criticised by Jahangirzadeh, who warned officials against politicising “an environmental issue.”

Lake Orumiyeh “should neither become a security issue nor should it be politicised. It is a social and environmental issue that should be solved,” he said at a meeting of experts on Friday carried by the conservative website

“We should not confront the protests. Instead, we should better think of a solution,” he said, while acknowledging that the demonstration was “illegal.”

Jahangirzadeh said 99 percent of his constituents considered the lake to be a sensitive issue.

The city’s Friday prayers leader also called on officials to heed the people’s demands, the Tehran Times reported Saturday.

“People are rightfully calling for measures (by the government) to save the lake and the officials should respond to the people’s demands,” Hojatoleslam Gholamreza Hassani said.

Another Orumiyeh lawmaker, Nader Qazipour, echoed the remarks, saying the citizens “have the right to pursue their social and environmental demands” but urged them to use “legal channels,” the paper reported.

Several opposition websites said the authorities were concerned about nationalist slogans in the August 27 protest and other smaller scale gatherings that preceded it.

Orumiyeh lies in a region close to Turkey and Azerbaijan and its inhabitants are mainly Azeri — the largest minority in Iran representing 20 percent of the total population.

Neither the authorities nor the state media have yet taken a stance on the issue.

The disappearance of Lake Orumiyeh could lead to the displacement of 14 million people, Jahangirzadeh warned, adding that the salt dust would endanger the ecosystem of all surrounding areas, whose economy relies on agriculture and tourism.

Hojatoleslam Hassani meanwhile said salt storms could make life difficult for neighbouring provinces, including Tehran, as well as neighbouring countries Iraq and Turkey.

“So far, the government has taken no action to resolve the issue,” Jahangirzadeh said. “Thus, I ask the people to continue this trend. (The protests) should not stop until they achieve their goal.”

The proposal rejected by the parliament envisaged feeding the lake with water from the River Arax, located on Iran’s border with Armenia and Azerbaijan some 70 kilometres (45 miles) to the north.

Copyright © 2011 AFP.

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Flaming Gorge pipeline would be disaster

Flaming Gorge pipeline would be disaster

Posted: 04 September 2011, by Dave Petersen, The Denver Post (MediaNews Group),

Hunting and angling are beloved ways of life for many Westerners, all-American passions that have been passed from generation to generation throughout the history of our nation. American sportsmen and -women embrace the challenges to be found in nature, cherish the memories acquired there, and anticipate the excitement of more outdoor adventures to come.

We are lucky to have a world-class fishery in our own extended backyard, on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Unfortunately, this great run of river is now threatened by a monumental boondoggle that could destroy one of the finest fishing destinations on the planet. Aaron Million’s proposed water pipeline would stretch from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and Utah, some 560 miles to the massive population centers of Colorado’s Front Range. After all, why should we worry about preserving what little is left in America of wild nature when water board members believe the river’s flows would be better used to maintain wasteful blue-grass lawns, golf courses, swimming pools and car washes around the Denver area?

In addition to the obvious self-centeredness and amorality of Million’s outrageous proposal, consider the construction cost, currently estimated by state agencies to run as high as $9 billion, with another $123 million per year, in perpetuity, required to operate and maintain the pipeline. Just what we need in a strapped economy! Nor would it be a bargain for Front Range residents, requiring farmers and homeowners to pay the highest fees ever for water.

Of particular importance to sportsmen are the numerous adverse impacts this plan would have on the surrounding environment, fish and wildlife.

The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is home to mule deer, elk, pronghorn, wild turkey, moose, and their predators, and consequently is hugely popular for big game hunting. Million’s proposed pipeline project could easily destroy this sportsmen’s paradise by raising water temperatures in the lake and thereby decreasing fish populations there and downstream, even as roads and other impacts from the construction and operation of the pipeline will fragment, diminish and in some areas destroy critical big game habitat, dry up wetlands, invite the ATV scourge and spread thistles and other invasive plant species.

In the end, what will be accomplished is the crippling of a sustainable annual $118 million recreation-based rural economy that local communities depend on for survival. And there are no big pay-offs for anyone in exchange for these many sacrifices.

None of this needs to happen, as there are several sensible water management plans on the table at a fraction of the price — including aggressive urban water conservation, water recycling, better land-use planning and growth management, voluntary sharing agreements between cities and agriculture, and some small-scale additions to local storage facilities.

Knowledgeable hunters and anglers unequivocally oppose Million’s pipeline plan.

More than 2 million people visit the Flaming Gorge area annually, participating in activities like fishing, hunting, boating, camping, hiking, horseback riding and scenic tours. It’s a magically unique place. Let’s not destroy this national gem in exchange for yet another needless and extravagantly expensive water boondoggle.

David Petersen is an award-winning writer and sportsman from Durango.

Beginning Women Farmers – Whole Farm Planning Training Program

Beginning Women Farmers- Whole Farm Planning Training Program


Posted02 September 2011, by Staff, Farming Magazine,


The Central New York Resource Conservation and Development Project, Inc. (CNYRC&D) recently completed the second year of a three year program to assist beginning women farmers, defined as those having less than 10 years farming experience.

“Empowering Beginning Women Farmers in the Northeast through Whole Farm Planning” is funded by Holistic Management International through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.  Across the Northeast, over 150 women have graduated from the training giving them new tools, information and perspectives on how to succeed in farming.

This innovative program instructs participants on using a holistic approach to decision making on their farms.  Thirty participants (fifteen per year) from all across NY State met for ten sessions on topics such as goal setting, financial, business, and marketing plans, land and infrastructure planning, soil fertility, and planned grazing.  The final four sessions were located on farms to allow for hands-on learning.

According to participant Linda Haley Ross of Madison County, “The NE Beginning Women Farmer program allowed me to learn hands-on, in-classroom, and through peer discussion the real challenges I would be facing as a farmer today, while providing me the tools to address them. In addition, I leave with a lifelong support system and perpetually growing network of resources to guarantee my success.”

Participants are provided with a mentor and are connected with a network of other beginning women farmers throughout the Northeast for additional support.  Participants from previous classes continue to meet after graduation to stay connected, enjoy the camaraderie created by the training and expand their learning.

Applications for the third year of this program are due on September 30, 2011 and are available at or by contacting Lauren Lines, New York State Coordinator at  The sessions will begin in November and will be located in Central New York for the upcoming year.

Liberian Women Lead a Revolution in Agriculture

Liberian Women Lead a Revolution in Agriculture

Ambassador Ertharin Cousin serves as U.S. Representative to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome.


Posted 24 August 2011, by Ertharin Cousin, DipNote (United States Department of State),


As we continue to respond to the heartbreaking crisis in the Horn of Africa, it’s important to keep in mind that we are able to apply some lessons learned from our long term commitment to relief and development work elsewhere in Africa. The key, it seems to me, is to respond to the disaster while also building long term solutions to broader issues. Just before I visited refugee camps along the Somalia border last week, I traveled to Liberia to look into some of our longer term programs there. It was quite an amazing visit.

I was able to view firsthand the synergies between World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) programs there — programs which aim to improve the food security of Liberians as well as the Ivorian refugee populations they generously host.

Liberia has always had a special place in my heart, not only because of the American history we share, but particularly because of its future promise and potential. Liberia has just been approved as a priority country under President Obama’s flagship global hunger and food security initiative — Feed the Future — through which the United States promotes a twin-track approach to hunger: by providing emergency food assistance while simultaneously supporting efforts toward sustainable agricultural development.

The WFP and FAO programs being implemented in conjunction with the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and other partners are key in this effort, and support President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s commitment to progress. They also ensure that the needs of refugees fleeing conflict from neighboring Ivory Coast are being met.

Our first stop was at Arjay Farms in Kingsville, Careysburg District, which is a prime example of a successful private and public partnership. Here we met two incredible women. One was Minister of Agriculture Florence Chenoweth and the other was Josephine Francis, the owner of Arjay Farms, and the president of a 2,300 strong farmers association that employs more than 50 women. Thanks to Josephine Francis, the association was awarded a grant from the Gates Foundation to carry out seed multiplication with 39 farms.

Minister Chenoweth and Jospehine Francis are the epitome of the industrious, multi-tasking, multi-talented women of Liberia.

The U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to whom I am most grateful for the truly valuable insight she provided throughout the whole visit, and I joined Minister Chenoweth and Josephine, who were working hand-in-hand in the rice paddy with local farmers harvesting an abundant rice crop. In January 2011, Liberia declared itself rice seed sufficient thanks to the assistance of the United States and FAO, which have, since 2006, provided both input and technical support for Liberia to begin rice seed multiplication.

We then traveled to Gbedine where we made a stop at the new Center for Rice Research Institute to view the new offices of WFP, FAO, and the Ministry of Agriculture. It is an example of a country-led plan working closely with the national government — something we strongly support. We also visited Purchase for Progress (P4P) and Livelihood Asset Recovery sites jointly run by WFP and FAO.

P4P aims to create market opportunities for organized farmers’ groups by using a value chain approach. While there, we followed the entire supply chain process, from rice transplanting, to harvest and post-harvest processing — including parboiling. We spoke to some of the 250 men and 125 women who make up the Dokodan Farmers Cooperative. It is one of two cooperatives awarded P4P contracts, thanks to which they were able to receive training in rice processing and packaging, and purchase the two power tillers they proudly showed us.

I am excited to see the positive changes we can bring smallholder famers under P4P, such as seed multiplication, and improved milling and processing. I am also proud to see an increased number of women doing post-harvest processing.

At and around Bahn refugee camp, which houses thousands of refugees from the Ivory Coast, we met with Liberian hosts and refugees working hand-in-hand in their villages to improve their food security. We felt the strong sense of community whereby Liberian families are paying back the Ivoirian families who hosted them during Liberia’s many years of unrest. One Liberian man told us he was hosted by his Ivorian family for nine years, and therefore felt obligated to do the same for as long as his Ivorian relatives needed. And because many of the refugee families I spoke to said they are staying put in Liberia until the situation in the Ivory Coast is stabilized, it is imperative that the programs FAO implements in conjunction WFP build resilience. At and around Bahn Refugee Camp in Nimba County we saw examples of agricultural inputs given to both refugees and host families that produced lush rice plots as well as vegetable gardens aimed at diversifying and supplementing the general food aid diet as well as generating some income to restore lost livelihoods.

Our last visit was to the USAID/Food for Peace-funded LAUNCH (Liberian Agricultural Upgrading, Nutrition and Child Health) project run by ACDI-VOCA. Education is the cornerstone of stability for a country’s economic development. At the health and nutrition site, we learned that most of the women and girls present, members of a project Care Group, averaged between the 6th and 8th grade. The young pregnant or lactating girls and women who participate in this program are being trained on the importance of proper breastfeeding and child birth spacing, and other health and nutrition topics.

Finally, I want to congratulate Liberia for receiving a $46.5 million grant from the World Bank and Minister Chenoweth for being awarded the African Prize from the President of Malawi for her work in fighting hunger.

My visit to Liberia was crowned by my private meeting with its formidable President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. What an honor.

In Liberia, as in Somalia and throughout the region, we are combining immediate relief with longer term solutions. It isn’t easy, it is never perfect, but based on what I saw on each step of my trip, we are definitely headed in the right direction and tapping into some very powerful and productive best practices.


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Monsoon 2011: Rains, flash floods kill scores, render thousands homeless

Monsoon 2011: Rains, flash floods kill scores, render thousands homeless

Over a million acres of standing crops have been washed away. ILLUSTRATION: MOHSIN ALAM


Posted 04 September 2011, by Abdul Manan / Sarfaraz Memon / Shehzad Baloch / Z Ali, The Express Tribune,


SUKKUR/HYDERABAD/QUETTA/LAHORE: The monsoon clouds are menacing, ominous, casting a gloomy shadow on the fields below and leaving massive devastation in their wake.

Reports of inundated villages, washed away katcha homes and destroyed crops gain momentum as the system travels up north, with torrential rains having battered lower Sindh, lashing upper Sindh and south Punjab and keeping central and upper Punjab on its edge. Flash floods have also been reported across eastern Balochistan.

Looting trucks, blocking roads in lower Sindh

Five days of downpours have killed more than 60 in lower Sindh, besides pervasive crop devastation, loss of livestock and collapse of thousands of katcha houses.

Eight deaths were reported on Saturday as heavy rains continued to lash Nawabshah, Dadu, Matiari, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Naushehro Feroze, Badin, Umerkot and Tando Muhammad Khan districts.

Badin, one of the worst-hit districts, witnessed looting of trucks carrying relief goods. Six women were injured when the police resorted to baton charge to disperse the crowd.

Separately, the National Highway was blocked by enraged locals for several hours in Nawabshah district.

“Rains have completely destroyed the standing crops in Tando Muhammad Khan,” said Federal Minister for Water and Power Syed Navid Qamar, who is elected from that district.

Although the agriculture department has not issued the details of crop losses but it is believed that rains have destroyed cotton crop sown over 1 million acres in the thirteen rain affected districts of lower Sindh.

The meteorological department has forecast 3 more days of heavy rainfall in Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas divisions.

Torrents flowing off hills in upper Sindh

At least eleven people were killed and hundreds injured as rains lashed upper Sindh, inundating villages, washing away katcha houses and rendering thousands homeless.

The devastating late monsoon rains, starting on the eve of August 30, have also destroyed the standing cotton crop, paddy, sugarcane and vegetables over thousands of acres.

While Khairpur stands drenched as the most affected district in upper Sindh, the monsoons have wreaked havoc across the region, including Sukkur, Rohri, Pannu Aquil, Ghotki, Mirpur Mathelo, Ubauro, Daharki, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Khairpur and Naushehro Feroze.

With over 2,000 katcha houses washed away and three to four feet high water in its fields, Nara taluka of district Khairpur is purportedly the worst affected.

Torrents flowing off hills have washed away hundreds of villages, said a revenue official from Nara taluka, Iqbal Ahmed Jandan, while talking to The Express Tribune.

While rain destroyed thousands of acres of paddy fields in Kashmore district, the fields in Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Larkana districts would benefit from the rains because crop was sown late in those districts, said general secretary Sindh Abadgar Board G M Khoso while talking to The Express Tribune.

Punjab largely spared, until now

Punjab has fared better than Sindh with three reported deaths and 6,196 displaced in flash floods during the last two months.

According to details from the PDMA, 32 villages have been affected so far while Mianwali, Khushab, Toba Tek Singh, Kasur and Sahiwal are the worst-affected cities.

While PDMA officials claimed that most of Southern Punjab has been largely spared, politicians from the area including MNA Jamshed Dasti and Dr Saeed Buzdar said that hundreds were displaced in Muzaffargarh and DG Khan when Indus and Chenab rivers swelled a few weeks ago. The Punjab government has not provided adequate funds for the strengthening of embankments on rivers and on canals, they said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party MPA from Rajanpur, Ather Khan Gorchani, told The Express Tribune that hill torrents in DG Khan and in Rajanpur have caused massive devastation in the area.

Director met department Muhammad Ajmal Shad said that more rains are expected, particularly in south Punjab and interior Sindh, before the system moves to central and upper Punjab where it would stay for five more days.  The monsoon season would end by mid-October, he said.

At present, around 30,000 cusecs of water is flowing in Sutlej River while another 250,000 cusecs is flowing in Indus River, he said, adding that both Mangla and Tarbela dams have been filled to capacity.

Flash floods in Balochistan

Torrential rains have left nine people dead across Balochistan, said director-general provincial disaster management authority (PDMA), Tahir Munir Minhas, while addressing a news conference in Quetta on Saturday.

Kalat, Khuzdar and Loralai are the worst-affected districts, he said, adding that 12 trucks carrying relief goods and medicine have been dispatched so far.

Breaches in the outfall drain inundated 13 villages in Jaffarabad, wreaking havoc on the standing crops and fertile fields.  The worst is not yet over, though. Around 56,000 cusecs of water passing through Nari River in Sibi could devastate the plains of Kachhi if the water level continues to rise.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.

Read more: floods2011


Hopi Tribe Sues City of Flagstaff

Hopi Tribe Sues City of Flagstaff


Posted 31 August 2011, by Staff, Native News Network,


FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA – In an attempt to stop the continued building of a pipeline to supply reclaimed wastewater from Flagstaff to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, the Hopi Tribe filed a lawsuit against the City of Flagstaff in Arizona Superior Court in Coconino County challenging the City’s decision in September 2010 not to amend or cancel the contract for the sale of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking.

The lawsuit states that the City’s contract to sell 1.5 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater per day to Snowbowl is illegal because it violates several Arizona laws that govern the proper use of reclaimed wastewater. The contract provides for the use of reclaimed wastewater in a mountain setting where runoff and overspray cannot be prevented, as Arizona law requires. Additionally, restrictions on limiting human contact with wastewater cannot be met, and harm to the unique alpine environment in the area, including rare animals and plants, cannot be prevented.

The contract is also illegal under Arizona law because it will result in unreasonable environmental degradation and will further deplete limited drinking water resources. As stated in the complaint, the use of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking will unreasonably harm the environment, create a public nuisance, and infringe upon the public’s, including the Hopi Tribe’s, use and enjoyment of the area around Snowbowl as well as infringe on the Hopi Tribe’s reserved water rights.

The City’s sale of reclaimed wastewater to the Snowbowl will cover a portion of the San Francisco Peaks with artificial snow made from reclaimed wastewater. The San Francisco Peaks, and in particular Snowbowl, is ecologically unique and contains rare types of habitat and species. The City’s illegal contract allows wastewater to run off and spray into wilderness areas specifically used by the Hopi Tribe and others, impeding and infringing on the use and enjoyment of these areas by the Hopi Tribe and others.

Reclaimed wastewater is water that has been used and processed through the City’s wastewater system. Snowmelt from artificial snow made from reclaimed wastewater will be environmentally harmful because it contains chemicals including endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with natural hormone levels and processes in humans and animals. Negative impacts of endocrine disrupters include aberrant sexual development, behavioral and reproductive problems. Key species in the San Francisco Peaks ecosystem, such as frogs, are particularly susceptible to these harmful effects.

“The health and safety of the Hopi people is indistinguishable from the health and safety of the environment – protection of the environment on the San Francisco Peaks is central to the Tribe’s existence,” said Hopi Tribe Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa, as he stressed the importance of the case for his Tribe.

“The use of reclaimed sewage on the San Francisco Peaks as planned by the City of Flagstaff and Snowbowl will have a direct negative impact on the Hopi Tribe’s frequent and vital uses of the Peaks”

The Hopi Tribe maintains that the small increase in profits anticipated by the Snowbowl and minimal economic benefits to the area are far outweighed by much higher costs, including environmental damage, for the San Francisco Peaks’ community, including the Hopi Tribe. The effects of the reclaimed wastewater cannot be confined to the ski area and, therefore, users of the Peaks in the vital and accessible areas around Snowbowl will be harmed if the illegal contract is allowed to stand.

The Hopi Tribe seeks a judicial order prohibiting performance on this contract to sell reclaimed wastewater to Snowbowl, as the contract is for an illegal purpose and contrary to public policy.

posted August 31, 2011 6:50 am edt

(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for additional content associated with this article.)

Sustainability gets cozy and to the point


Sustainability gets cozy and to the point


Posted 04 September 2011, by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News,


One problem with the environmental movement, according to Eden Vardy, founder of the nonprofit Aspen T.R.E.E., is that it’s too often focused on energy, which is an abstract, intangible concept to most people.

So that’s why getting your hands dirty at T.R.E.E.’s Cozy Point Ranch Sustainable Farmyard is so important, and instructive, to the hundreds of kids who have come through in the demonstration project’s first year as part of the ranch’s summer camp programs.

The plot of land carved out of horse pasture next to Cozy Point’s equestrian facilities, which is owned by the city of Aspen, located off of Highway 82 just downvalley of Brush Creek Road, is an outdoor classroom. The curriculum is the philosophy of permaculture, which teaches that agricultural ecosystems should be self-sustaining and self-sufficient. Some 50 varieties of plants, along with chickens, turkeys, pigs and goats are the textbooks.

Anything that might be thought of as waste has a purpose, such as the animal poop used for fertilizer and the compost piles that add nutrients to the soil. Smelly and spicy plants like arugula are planted next to more sensitive ones like tomatoes to deter pests. There also are techniques to adapt to Aspen’s high-altitude climate, such as lining the raised garden beds with basketball-sized rocks, which act as thermal insulators, trapping in enough heat to extend the growing season by a week or two, Vardy said.

A young boy used to joke with his father upon returning from the supermarket with a car full of groceries — “Hunt good. Many buffalo,” the boy would say, in a faux-Native American voice.

Fact is, the joke was about as close as the boy came to grasping the disconnect most people have between their food and its source.

Vardy, 25, who was raised in Aspen, founded Aspen T.R.E.E. three years ago to address that disconnect between modern society and the natural world and animal kingdom that surrounds and supports it. Critically, the organization focuses on positive solutions, as Vardy identifies too much negativity as another of the environmental movement’s ails.

“We focus on sustainable solutions,” he said. It doesn’t hurt to be creative and artistic while you are at it either, Vardy, believes, as “that will inspire people.”

T.R.E.E. stands for “together regenerating the environment through education.” The nonprofit is responsible for the annual Tuesday-before-Thanksgiving free organic community meal served at Aspen High School (this year’s birds are trotting around Cozy Point right now) that serves up to 700. It also offers programs such as custom garden consulting and “nature nannies,” which is basically a child care service that specializes in introducing kids to the outdoors and wholesome foods. T.R.E.E. also will build you an earthen pizza oven.

Vardy became interested in the concepts that would form T.R.E.E. a decade ago as an Aspen High School student. He took science teacher Travis Moore’s ecological literacy and resource efficiency course “and got really excited,” he said, and pursued the field in college. At Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., Vardy earned a degree in sustainable food systems, and he has a master’s in integrative ecosocial design with a focus on regenerative leadership and nonprofit management from Gaia University. Part of his master’s coursework with the nontraditional university included setting up a permaculture demonstration site at a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda. He also has worked in Asia and Israel on sustainable farms.

Aspen called Vardy back, however.

Eden Vardy, director of Aspen T.R.E.E., explains the unique features of the garden. Raised garden beds are curved to mimic nature and maximize capacity in a minimal space while improving nutrient control, as well as providing easier access to participants in the program. Designed as a sheet mulch garden, soil is comprised of composted manure, topsoil and peat moss from the Ice Age dig in Snowmass. The large rocks bordering the garden help contain heat and extend the growing season in Aspen’s colder climate.. Photo: Chris Council/Aspen Daily News.

“It’s so beautiful here, it touches my heart,” Vardy said.

Aspen also is  “such a magnifying glass,” he said. The idea was that if he could get T.R.E.E. successfully off the ground here, the concept could be packaged and exported to other communities. One day, Vardy hopes to see, for example, a Los Angeles T.R.E.E. and a Miami T.R.E.E.

He has now returned to Aspen High School and Moore’s classroom, where he is leading 72 hours of coursework on permaculture design, as part of the ecological literacy class.

“It’s quite an honor to go back to the class that started it all,” Vardy said.

T.R.E.E. had a similar permaculture demonstration site last summer at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Rock Bottom Ranch near Carbondale, which it still maintains.

Earlier this year, Monroe Summers, head of the company that manages Cozy Point Ranch for the city, contacted Vardy about setting up a demonstration site at the ranch and contributing to the ranch’s summer camp offerings.

The reality is that Cozy Point’s equestrian focus only appeals to a certain segment of the community, Summers said, so the ranch tries to broaden its outreach when possible. T.R.E.E. and Vardy, who were introduced to Summers by Seth Sachson of the Aspen Animal Shelter, seemed like a good fit, he said.

T.R.E.E. was established and working with the campers by July. Summers gives T.R.E.E. the land for its demonstration project at no cost, and in exchange, T.R.E.E. provides instruction in “healthy living, local foods, animal husbandry and so forth” for interested campers, Summers said. The “We-Green-Riders” program in particular, which introduces 4- to 6-year-olds to basic equestrian skills while getting them some time in the garden, “took off like gangbusters,” Summers said. Cozy Point’s summer camp business this year was double or triple what it was last year, which was the camp’s first year, Summers said.

The nonprofit has similarly grown, with a budget that has doubled in the last year, Vardy said. He brought on six interns to help out this summer, and the organization is overseen by a five-member board of directors and an advisory committee that includes pro skier Nick DeVore and former Pitkin County Commissioner Patty Clapper.

T.R.E.E. is currently funded by about a 50-50 split of donations and earned income for products and services. Vardy said he’d like to see that become more of a two-thirds, one-third breakdown in favor of earned income.

With school back in session, the summer camp programs at the ranch have wrapped up. In the coming weeks, Summers said he plans to sit down with Vardy to debrief on the season and talk about how to improve and grow the partnership.

Ideas in the works include building a four-season greenhouse at the ranch, to add some variety to the concept of eating local in the winter months — otherwise true locavores don’t have much to choose from other than eggs and hunted game meat.

Other ideas include a Cozy Point farmers market, a bigger community garden and collaboration with the “slow foods movement.” Vardy also is testing out a number of different strains of quinoa in the garden, to determine what is best suited to grow in the high country elements.

“We have the sunshine, we have the land, the soil and good fertilizer — and we’re looking for ways to capitalize on that,” Summers said. In regards to T.R.E.E., “We see our role as a facilitator and a sort of big brother, to help them reach their goals and aspirations. They are young and just getting started, but they are doing some things that are really important.”

Slavery, Empire and Tomato Pickers

Slavery, Empire and Tomato Pickers


Posted 01 September 2011, by scission, InfoShop News,


Global Capital is eliminating the significance of national borders, but not so much in a good way.  As millions of the multitudes are on the move around the world trying to find a way to live, it turns out more often then not is that all they find is another way to die.  Yes, the Empire opens its doors to all races, creeds, religions, what have you and isn’t it swell.  What is happening to these marginalized and migrant workers in Italy is nothing out of the ordinary today and whatchya gonna do about it?

And I didn’t even mention the children of tomato pickers in the USA whose children are being born with birth defects of all kinds thanks to their mothers’ unwanted exposure to toxic chemicals at work.

But what else is new?

The following is from the Ecologist.

Scandal of the ‘tomato slaves’ harvesting crop exported to UK

Andrew Wasley

Across Italy an invisible army of migrant workers harvests tomatoes destined for our dinner plates. Paid poverty wages and living in squalor, medical charities have described conditions as ‘hell’. Andrew Wasley reports from Basilicata, southern Italy

In the parched countryside outside the town of Venosa, in Basilicata, southern Italy, along a rough track fifteen minutes’ drive from the nearest road, you come to a series of ruined farmhouses. Overgrown and run down, the brickwork crumbling, and surrounded by the detritus of poverty – rubbish, abandoned water butts, washing draped out of windows, dogs roaming – at first glance it’s difficult to believe anyone lives here.

The slums are in fact home to several hundred migrant workers about to harvest the region’s abundant tomato crop. Every August, thousands of itinerants, mostly from Africa, some from Eastern Europe, descend on southern Italy to scratch a living picking tomatoes that will eventually be processed and exported across Europe – including to the UK – to be sold in tins, or as pastes, purees or passatas, or used as an ingredient in other food products.

But an Ecologist investigation has revealed how the lucrative trade is blighted by exploitation and abuse: workers – some of them illegal immigrants – are forced to toil for up to 14 hours a day picking tomatoes in harsh conditions for meagre wages, frequently under the control of a network of gangmasters who make excessive deductions or charge inflated rates for transport, accommodation, food and other ‘services’. Those complaining can face violence and intimidation.

Workers frequently live in appalling squalor: home is often a derelict building without power or any form of effective sanitation. As many as thirty people can be crammed into a single, filthy, one floor house. Healthcare is virtually non-existent and contact with the outside world minimal.

So bad are the living and working conditions endured by the migrants that campaigners have dubbed them ‘Europe’s tomato slaves’.

Most seek out the precarious employment in order to send money to family back home, but find themselves caught up in a brutal spiral of poverty and exploitation. Unable to save sufficiently to transfer any money – or pay for a flight out of Europe – the workers become trapped and are forced to seek out similarly low paid and back-breaking work harvesting oranges, lemons, olives or strawberries in order to survive.

Human rights groups and unions say as many 50,000 migrant workers could be affected, toiling in the agricultural regions of Puglia, Basilicata and Campania, amongst others. The figure could be much higher as many migrants are thought to be in the country illegally.

Conditions are so poor that the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – more usually associated with providing medical aid in conflict zones – has sent mobile clinics to treat migrants in some areas, and issued a scathing report describing the workers’ experiences as ‘hell’.

Suffering and squalor

Those living in the first house the Ecologist visited didn’t want to talk. There had been rumours of television cameras coming, and – in a clear sign many were in Italy without visas – fears that the ‘authorities’ could be conducting inspections. One man refuses to look up from gutting the carcass of an unknown animal that’s hanging from the shack’s roof.

Further down the track there is another, almost identical, building. A dozen young African men are gathered around; some smoking, some lounging in the stifling Italian heat. These guys are happier to talk: this house is ‘home’ to fifteen migrants at present, mostly from West Africa –  countries such as Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

There’s no running water or electricity. The men appear to sleep communally on mattresses spread out across the stone floor. The workers cook, wash and shit outdoors (there’s no toilets here; as we left one worker was squatting just yards from the house). The tomato harvest begins in late  August in Basilicata; when it does, these men will be joined in the house by up to fifteen more workers. They say it will be so overcrowded that some will have to sleep outside.
The men tell us they are here for one thing: to work. Some had been in Italy for several months, some for several years. Most had no idea of when – or how – they’ll return home. When not harvesting tomatoes they might be picking oranges or other fruit, or might go back to Naples, where much of Italy’s itinerant workforce dwells when not actively harvesting. Some migrants beg on the city’s streets.

Asked whether this what he expected to find when he set out for Italy, one worker, Joseph, from Ghana, tells us: ‘It’s not what we expected to find that matters, but what we found,’ gesturing at the surroundings.

Another migrant, Armel, from Birkina Fasa, says ‘It’s not better here [than Africa], we’re not used to this type of work.’ He says it’s not easy to send money home as prices [paid for work] are very low – and they have to buy food and other items for everyday living. ‘Every harvest is the same, the orange harvest is even worse… there’s too many people for the work [available]’.

Daniel, also from Birkina Fasa, tells us that once the harvest gets underway in the coming days, he expects to spend between ten and twelve hours a day in the exposed tomato fields, picking by hand; bending, plucking and carrying the filled crates. The work is arduous, repetitive and hot. The temperature can reach 40C degrees.

Contracts are non-existent for most tomato pickers. The migrants are paid on a piece-rate system based on the amount of tomatoes successfully harvested. Although it can vary from location to location, Daniel, Armel and Joseph can expect to earn between 20 -30 Euros (£17 – £26) per day – the current going ‘rate’ – depending on the number of crates picked. The crates are heavy, holding as many as 350 kg of tomatoes when full.

‘But there’s only enough work for three days [per week]’, Daniel says. ‘The other days are spent here.’ This means, in practice, that some workers here could earn no more than 51 Euros (£45) per week. And that’s before a gangmaster has taken his cut or workers have paid for essential items.

Strict hierarchy 

In common with seasonal horticultural operations across Europe – and the US – gangmasters are central to Italy’s tomato harvest. They broker deals with farmers and producers, and supply the workforce, as well as providing transport, organising accommodation, food, water and other essentials for the workers.

The relationship between gangmasters and producers in Italy is complex with a strict hierarchy governing those involved in the supply of seasonal labour. In many cases an Italian gangmaster, known as a capo bianco (white chief), will approach a tomato farmer, or collection of farmers, to establish a business relationship. They will then agree the quantity of land to be harvested, and negotiate an overall price and the number of workers needed.

The capo bianco will then typically instruct one of a number of other gangmasters he manages – usually a foreign national from a country that is home to migrant workers; these are known as capo neros (black chiefs) – to physically recruit and manage the required workforce.

The capo nero usually lives alongside workers, but doesn’t actively take part in the harvest, instead ensuring the correct number of migrants are delivered to the fields, providing their transport, accommodation, food and water, and paying the wages.

Some deduct money from wages upfront for workers’ food, accommodation and transport. Others charge for these essentials after they’ve been paid. Other ‘services’ and supplies must also be paid for – charging a mobile phone, organising clean drinking water, supplying a bike – with many enterprising gangmasters ensuring they take a cut on each sale. Often, a capo nero will take the first crate of tomatoes picked in a day as additional payment for his services.

A capo nero is present when the Ecologist visits. He’s unrecognisable apart from being marginally better dressed than his peers, and being one of few who say they’ve managed to return home – in his case Ivory Coast – since arriving in Italy. His presence means these workers are nervous about openly discussing financial details, although one young migrant complains that ‘too much money’ is sometimes charged for basic items.

Intimidation and violence

Relations between gangmasters and workers frequently break down as resentment over exploitative practices spills over; in recent years there have been regular reports of intimidation and violent attacks on workers who have spoken out, according to campaigners.

Union officials told the Ecologist they are currently concerned about the whereabouts of one African migrant who had been living in the Venosa area after it became known he had written a letter complaining about poor conditions. And in the Lecce region of Puglia (another hotspot for migrant labour) seasonal workers have recently complained about poor treatment by gangmasters and are currently ‘striking’ in protest.

In a groundbreaking investigation for ‘L’espresso in 2006, Italian journalist Fabrizio Gatti first revealed how African and Eastern European migrant workers harvesting tomatoes in Puglia were frequently threatened, beaten up and racially abused by gangmasters and farm owners.

In one disturbing incident, a Romanian worker was allegedly savagely beaten by a gangmaster before being left to die – he was later secretly fed by fellow workers and eventually taken to hospital where, after a major operation, he was handed over to police for deportation.

He was lucky to have received treatment at all.  MSF has reported that many immigrant workers employed in southern Italy’s tomato and citrus fruit harvests have been turned away from hospitals whilst seeking treatment, and that others, without permission to be in Italy,  have been too afraid to access medical attention for fear of being reported.

The organisation, which has documented disturbing patterns of poor health amongst migrant workers, including skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, became so alarmed by conditions that it provided mobile health clinics and other humanitarian assistance to workers in several regions, including Basilicata.

Although the situation in Basilicata is poor, campaigners says conditions are worse – and the scale of the problem even greater – in Puglia, in the Foggia and Lecce regions in particular. It’s estimated that there are as many as 15,000 migrant workers in Foggia, around 2,000 in Lecce. When the Ecologist visited Baslicata the figures were much lower, less than a 1,000, although that number is expected to swell as the harvest begins in earnest.

Gervasio Ungolo, from the advocacy group Osservatorio Migranti, which works to improve conditions for migrant communities, says that although many of the tomato workers are in Italy legally – he estimates around 80 per cent, with the remainder in the country illegally – conditions are so poor and the future so bleak that many migrants simply despair. ‘They reach the bottom of the scale, the bottom of the barrel,’ he says ‘they lose all self respect.’

Workers interviewed near Venosa concur: ‘The situation in Africa is not so good, but the basis is still respect; not here… here there is no respect’, says Armel.  Another migrant, Raul, tells us: ‘We want to go back to Africa, we need people to help us go home. Life should be better… this is not life.’

As we leave, two of the younger migrants approach discreetly. Despite insisting that they are in Italy, and thus Europe, legally, they want to know whether it’s possible to reach the UK and work unofficially: ‘how do you get there? do you need paperwork? is it possible to work without a passport? is the work better than here?’

Keeping costs down

Few Italian tomato farmers will freely admit to employing migrant workers despite it being an ‘open secret’ within the industry. One grower interviewed by the Ecologistacknowledged however that the practice was common, particularly when weather conditions are poor and machines (increasingly being used by larger farms to mechanically harvest) cannot operate.

The farmer, Giovanni Lagana, based near the Basilicatan town of Lavello – a major hub for tomato growing – says that foreign workers have been employed during the Basilicata tomato harvest for years. ‘Twenty years ago, in the beginning, they were from North Africa, now it’s Central or Western Africa,’ he says. ‘Tunisian students came to train and learn the harvest.’

He says the migrant workers he uses are 80 per cent African, 20 per cent Eastern European – Italians apparently don’t want to do the work – and that all are supplied by a gangmaster. ‘It’s necessary [to use gangmasters] so I don’t have to talk to forty people, just one, to arrange the work. They say “how many workers do you need?”, we negotiate the price for a box, it’s a guarantee for the workers and farmers – they take care of everything.’

Lagana, who cultivates up to 900 tonnes of tomatoes each season, some of which are supplied to major processing companies for export and sale as tinned tomatoes overseas, says there is an economic imperative to keep costs, including labour costs, down: ‘The price we have now in 2011 [for tomatoes] is the same as 30 years ago, but the [production] costs have risen.’

The farmer says tomato growers are under acute pressure as plants, irrigation systems, fertilisers, pesticides, and the harvest, all have to be paid upfront, and that the prices paid by the food industry are too low. Each year, the price for a tonne of tomatoes is fixed by Italian food industry representatives and local producers organisations, he says. These regional organisations, or co-operatives, of which most growers are members, then meet with processing companies to set up a deal and agree prices for the season.

‘It’s a bad life, tomato production with this system is destined to disappear. Prices are too low; maybe they are going to lower them more and more because of Chinese production,’ says Lagana. Although still one of the world’s leading suppliers of tomatoes – and tomato products – Italy is facing stiff competition from other growing nations, including China, to keep prices competitive and this pressure trickles down to individual farmers.

A representative from one regional producers’ organisation told the Ecologist that the ‘wider market’ is to blame, and that if a major retailer says it is going to pay a certain amount per tin, ‘the industry has to follow this price’. He made no correlation between the need to keep costs low and the apparently widespread use of migrant workers however; in fact, he denied that foreign workers were used in Basilicata to harvest tomatoes at all.

Culture of impunity

Although acknowledging that tomato farmers face increasing pressures, human rights groups and unions argue that many growers simply turn a blind eye to exploitation: ‘Farmers?  They don’t care, they know about the inhumane conditions,’  Vincenzo Esposito, from the Flai-Cgil union, says. The union is behind a major campaign Oro Rosso – Red Gold – to raise awareness of the problem in Basilicata, Puglia and elsewhere.

Esposito says there are two principal problems – the number of workers, and the payment system: ‘There’s too many workers, too many people, immigrants from elsewhere coming here, yet they cannot always get work here,’ he says. ‘Every year the Basilicata region deals with an emergency situation with the arrival of hundreds of workers. The situation in Puglia is worse, and the gangmasters are more aggressive.’

Flai-Cgil is calling for an industry wide protocol, akin to a certification scheme, to be adopted by national tomato producers, in order to agree minimum standards and an ethical code. On September 28th they are planning a national day of action to promote the scheme.

Gervasio Ungolo, from Osservatorio Migranti, says there’s a culture of inpunity around the issue: ‘It’s like in World War Two, when you had the trains [carrying Jews to the death camps]; everyone knew but didn’t act because of fear, it’s exactly the same with the tomato slaves.’

Ungolo used to cultivate tomatoes but left the sector after witnessing abuses: ‘ I used to see workers in the fields, slavery among workers, and bags of money [changing hands] – and decided to get out of this game,’ he says.

Mechanical harvest

Tomatoes – and processed tomatoes in particular – are big business in Italy: the country produces up to 4 million tonnes each year with as many as 90 per cent destined for processing. Italian tinned tomato exports were estimated to be worth more than $900 million in 2008. The country is responsible for around 75 per cent of the world’s canned tomato exports. Britain is the largest importer of tinned tomatoes in the world – with more than 80 per cent of its processed tomato products coming from Italy.

The trade is dominated by a handful of large companies. Leading suppliers deny any involvement in the migrant workers scandal.

Conserve Italia, manufacturer of the popular Cirio brand, processes approximately 300,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually, including some cultivated in Puglia and Basilicata. The company sells to Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrison’s, as well as supplying cash and carry outlets and specialist Italian delicatessens.

Conserve Italia admitted that some of its tomato suppliers use migrant labour but said they are employed by farmers and not directly associated with the company. The company also stated that a strict code conduct prevents abuses in their supply chain.

‘Conserve Italia has an associated cooperative in Apulia [Puglia] that provides 50 per cent of the total amount of fresh tomato processed in our factory in Apulia. This cooperative associated to Conserve Italia guarantees that all the production is made in compliance with our code of ethics, which prescribes to the associated farmers to produce and harvest the tomato without exploitation of illegal labour,’ a statement said.

‘Moreover of the total quality processed in Mesagne [in Puglia] factory, 80 per cent is harvested by machines and only 20 per cent is harvested by hand, with workers that are legally employed by the farmers not associated to Conserve Italia. The suppliers subscribe a commitment with Conserve Italia that engages them to respect all regulations in terms of use of labour. Most of the workers employed by our suppliers are Romanians and Bulgarians,’ the statement continued

La Doria, which through its subsidiary LDH Ltd, supplies many of the large UK supermarkets – including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – with tinned tomatoes and other tomato products for ‘own brand’ items, has a major processing plant situated in Lavello, Basilicata, but denied using any migrant labour for its harvest.

The company said: ‘100 per cent of the tomatoes processed by La Doria are mechanically harvested where prices and contracts have been agreed, with approved growers in March this year prior to the planting of the crop. In the La Doria factories 100 per cent of seasonal workers are Italian and contracted to La Doria. La Doria have an ethical code which is not only followed throughout the group but also given to the contracted growers for them to respect. In addition a team of La Doria agronomists work closely with the growers to monitor closely all aspects of the cultivation and harvesting of the crop.’

A spokeswoman for Waitrose told the Ecologist: ‘We take very seriously the welfare of all workers in our supply chain. Our expectations on labour standards and working conditions are outlined in our Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice, which all suppliers are expected to comply with – this includes branded suppliers such as Cirio.

‘La Doria supplies us with canned tomatoes, and as a Waitrose supplier is engaged in our ethical compliance programme and expected to comply with our Responsible Sourcing Code… in addition, the tomatoes grown for Waitrose are mechanically harvested, which is much less labour intensive than manual harvesting, therefore bypassing the need for a large workforce.

‘We build our supplier relationships on honesty, fairness and mutual respect and expect all our suppliers to respect the rights and well-being of their employees. As such we have immediately begun a thorough investigation to make sure our code of practice is being adhered to.’

Sainsburys said: ‘Sainsbury’s was a founder member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and expects all suppliers to follow our Code of Conduct for Ethical Trade, which incorporates the ETI Base Code… Sainsbury’s has a clear approach to corporate responsibility to ensure that we do business in an ethical and sustainable way.’

A spokesperson for Tesco said: ‘We work in partnership with our suppliers to ensure our products are sourced responsibly and will work to resolve any problems we find without delay. We have investigated these reports and do not believe our supplier is affected.’

Back in Basilicata, driving past the arid tomato fields around Venosa, Vincenzo Esposito is hoping their efforts to establish some sort of certification scheme will prove successful – soon: ‘We’ve got immigrants living without water, without electricity… they are treated like animals.’

In the main square at the centre of Venosa, we take a break, waiting for contacts to come back to us with news. We order a coffee and a cheese and salad sandwich from one of few cafes open at this – scorching – time of day. The owner’s very sorry, our translator says, however, ‘he’s run out of tomatoes.’

Additional reporting and translation: Gianluca Martelliano

*The names of all workers and farmers have been changed to protect their identity

The Rebellion in Chile

The Rebellion in Chile


Posted 02 September 2011, by WorkerFreedom, infoShop News,


While much of the world’s attention this year has been turned toward events in the Northern Hemisphere—the Arab Spring, the Spanish and Greek street assemblies, the riots in the UK, the violence in Libya—an equally interesting and potentially more radical movement has been taking place in Chile. Chilean students and the poor who have been excluded from “the Chilean miracle” of American-trained free marketeers have waged fierce battles with the cops, and now have paid the highest price: one protester has been killed in the streets.

The Rebellion in Chile

A number of groups in the San Francisco Bay Area will hold a vigil and protest in front of the Chilean Consulate in San Francisco on September 9 at 4 p.m.. This flier explains our purpose in organizing this action. We are awaiting further endorsements from anti-authoritarians in the Bay Area.


While much of the world’s attention this year has been turned toward events in the Northern Hemisphere—the Arab Spring, the Spanish and Greek street assemblies, the riots in the UK, the violence in Libya—an equally interesting and potentially more radical movement has been taking place in Chile. Chilean students and the poor who have been excluded from “the Chilean miracle” of American-trained free marketeers have waged fierce battles with the cops, and now have paid the highest price: one protester has been killed in the streets.

This has been accomplished in the throes of winter, with young people going out into the icy streets, braving the elements, of course, and, more importantly, directly challenging the Chilean state and its gendarmes, showing determination and resolve in the face of the military police. These cops are the carabineros of sinister memory under Pinochet. Their vehicles include armored personnel carriers, and they shoot water cannons at demonstrators. They more resemble an occupying army than a riot squad.

We want to remember Manuel Guttíerrez Reinoso, the teenager shot down on the night of August 24 in a neighborhood of Santiago. And not simply because he was a victim, but because he was a rebel, and because we also see something in the Chilean protest movement that we identify with: it is a struggle that is ours as well. The Chilean struggle began as a student protest movement demanding the right to public education, and at no cost to the student, even at the university level. The protests began on a whimsical note, with mass “kiss ins” and other creative gestures. What made Chile different than California was that Chilean workers and the poor saw the students’ fight as one they should support as well. And as the movement spread, it encountered stiff resistance from the state and its armed wing, the police. What started with a kind of poetry turned into social war.

Chilean anarchists with banner reading, “Since the system won’t surrender, let us build popular power. Long live those who struggle!”


Pitched battles have taken place on the streets of neighborhoods in Santiago and elsewhere in the past two weeks. At its most radical level, the Chilean struggle is a fight against capitalism and the state, a fight against the misery spread by a system whose financial house of cards is shaking. In fact, the movement’s radical wing has already opposed the efforts of student union bureaucrats (including the media darling, Camila Vallejo) to cut a deal with the Chilean government and achieve merely a reform of the education system. The radicals have promoted self-organization and a practical autonomy that has expressed itself in neighborhoods and regions, recalling the anti-authoritarian aspects of the Chilean Revolution of the 1970s.

It is on the basis of this radicalism that we make common cause with the Chilean rebellion, and not out of an empty notion of “solidarity,” but from a deep conviction that we need to open a front in the social war here where we live. We do not want to be trapped underneath the rubble when capitalism’s house of cards collapses. We want to deal out new cards, new ideas, and make a new and different world. We invite you to join us. Bring your own banners, signs, and ideas. It will be an open ended protest, whose features will be determined by those who participate in it. Those endorsing this action may not necessarily agree on an entire program or philosophy, but we do agree on this: it is important to stand up for those who have already accomplished so much, and at great risk to themselves, in Chile.

Text by CR: 9/2/2011

Friday September 9, 2011: 4 p.m.
Consulate General of Chile: 870 Market Street, San Francisco
Collective Reinventions, MAIZ (Movimiento de Accíon Inspirando Servicio, San Jose) and Voz de Lucha