20 October 2020
There’s a bright side to being stuck at home. The global lockdowns spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic have given many people the rare opportunity to finish their personal projects.
For a Pinoy game developer with zero programming experience, it was a videogame about the Vietnam War which took almost 20 years to complete.
“I was always interested in history and the Vietnam War in particular,” says game developer Tiger Yan. “I started creating The ‘Nam: Vietnam Combat Operations way back in 2003 but work and life were more important, so the project was mothballed for 17 years. Like everyone else, the COVID-19 outbreak forced me to stay home most of 2020. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to learn basic programming and finally finish what I started.”
Yan, who photographs people and animals in wild and rural areas around Asia, created the game as a free learning tool for people to experience commanding soldiers during the Vietnam War. He used his field experience investigating farm communities and wild areas to make the game as realistic as possible. “From irrigation dikes and rice paddies to barking dogs and crowing chickens, this game brings the Vietnamese countryside to life,” he says.
According to the game’s Facebook page, players can command US Marines, Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops, plus the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The Vietnam War ended in 1975 when the North Vietnamese and Vietcong unified Vietnam under communist rule.
Role of Filipino Troops Highlighted
The Philippines sent over 2000 soldiers to Vietnam as part of the Philippine Civic Action Group Vietnam (PHILCAGV), which can be seen in the game. Led by officers such as former President Fidel V. Ramos, PHILCAGV helped improve the lives of the South Vietnamese people by administering medical and civilian aid. Nine PHILCAGV soldiers died in battle.
The game has been receiving consistently good reviews in fora and Youtube channels. Though it can be downloaded online for free, Yan urges gamers to make a donation to APOPO, a nonprofit organization working to clear deadly landmines in Cambodia.
“In reality, the Vietnam War wrought great misery for the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. If this game can spur at least one good donation, then it would have been worth it,” adds Yan.
Though COVID-19 has paralyzed the world, people can look at the silver lining. The lockdowns have finally given many people a resource which for years has been in short supply – time. (END)
UN-inspired “carbon credits” launched by Bayer as incentives to farmers with “climate-smart” practices
October 17, 2020
Bayer’s Crop Science division reinforced its commitment to nature-friendly and sustainable food systems amid COVID-19 with its launch of the Bayer Carbon Initiative, which provides farmers incentives for adopting climate-smart practices.
As part of the company’s Future of Farming Dialogue virtual event series, Liam Condon, President of the Crop Science division of Bayer, emphasized the importance of the company’s sustainability commitments it set in 2019. Condon addressed how the impact of COVID-19 and the resulting economic instability reinforced the need to intensify the focus on agricultural innovation and help make agriculture part of the solution to climate change, while continuing to ensure food security for all.
“The agricultural industry is no stranger to adversity—from flooding to drought to pest infestations—and COVID-19 is yet another stark reminder of the need to create a more sustainable and resilient food system to ensure food security,” said Condon. “Innovation is key to not only solving the pandemic but also the present and future challenges facing farmers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic instability and a food crisis among many nations, especially for developing countries. Agriculture must become a pivotal part of the solution to address this challenge, including climate change.
The Bayer Carbon Initiative intends to help farmers generate revenue for adopting specific climate-smart practices. It was derived from the successful “carbon credit” model of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. One example is the use of no-till farming, which has been proven to reduce use and cost for fuel, labor, and equipment. It also improves soil structure, combats erosion as more surface soil is retained, and minimizes soil compaction.
In a statement, Bayer mentioned that it is paving the way towards a carbon-zero future for agriculture through this innovative, science-based and collaborative pilot program, and that it can deliver unmatched value to many more farmers through expansion in other countries.
The Future of Farming Dialogue features a variety of internationally renowned speakers and stakeholders from academia, industry and media. The focus of discussion is how to build more resilient food systems, accelerate sustainable-driven innovations and develop new business models that can reward farmers for their services to the ecosystem.
Condon commented on Bayer’s sustainability commitments: “Especially in challenging times, it’s our responsibility to help ensure food security and reduce our environmental footprint. We also need to help farmers do the same by providing the products, services and technologies needed to produce enough food while using less resources and caring for the environment. The key to this is innovation and this is what we continue to drive forward.”
In the Philippines, Bayer has experience in the company’s “Better Life Farming” initiative for remote agricultural areas where both farming and technical expertise are highly underdeveloped. The intention is to introduce farming know-how, inputs, and market access for smallholder rice farmers to improve their yields & income. One such project is their concept store in Alicia, Bohol where rice farmers are guided on the right crop management technologies and are now able to use the recommended inputs for their farm production.
Bayer also provided seeds and crop protection inputs along with market assistance and support for health and safety needs due to COVID-19 for smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
These efforts – on top of many others – are already helping Bayer fulfill its commitments to empower 100 million smallholder farmers through access, agronomic knowledge, tools and partnerships; reduce field greenhouse gas emissions produced by key crops in major agricultural markets by 30 percent; and reduce the environmental impact of crop protection 30 percent by 2030.
“By integrating sustainability into our core business, we are able to not only help ensure food security, but also transform agriculture so that it can become part of the solution for climate change,” added Condon.
Bayer will continue to host its Future of Farming Dialogue in a virtual series throughout 2020 and into 2021. End
PHOTO United Nations-modeled ‚‘“Carbon Credits“ launched by Bayer as incentive to farmers; PHOTO Credit: viridis.energy
PH posts high mortality ratio of 111 maternal deaths per 100,000; POPCOM digitalizes Family Planning education
The Philippines has recorded a relatively high mortality rate of 111 maternal deaths per 100,000 women giving birth, prompting health authorities to step up to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing the mortality ratio to 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.
Heightened focus on helping poor families cope with a further worsening poverty situation due to COVID-19 has prompted the government to maximize the use of digital platforms to deliver family planning services as part of efforts to curb this high maternal death rate.
“The large number of unmet need for family planning in the country still translates to around 2,000 women dying of maternal related causes,” said Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH, Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) executive director, at Bayer’s Asia Pacific Virtual Forum on Women’s Health, Empowerment, and Progress (VHEP). “Our maternal mortality ratio is at around 111 per hundred thousand women giving birth.”
While the country has achieved success in reducing unmet family planning need early this decade from 2013, such success is being eroded by the limited access by the poor.
According to the National Demographic and Health Survey 2017, the unmet need for family planning has already decreased to 17%. This accounts for 2 million Filipino women who have difficulty accessing family planning and contraceptive methods due to financial means or other hindrances. Current movement limitations on transportation and health services due to the pandemic is again raising this rate of unmet family planning need.
“What we’ve seen on the ground is that because of lockdowns and restrictions, there is limited public transport, particularly in Metro Manila and in nearby regions,” added Dr. Perez during the Bayer-hosted forum. “The less fortunate rely heavily on this mode of transportation to get the services they need.”
Limitations: Women across Asia Pacific are experiencing difficulties accessing family planning services due to the global crisis. However, the worst is being felt by developing countries like the Philippines with its already large population at 109 million.
“Among higher-income countries and territories such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, women have long enjoyed great access to sexual reproductive health. They have seen smaller family sizes and low levels of fertility,” Dr. Ashish Bajracharya, South East Asia Population Council Deputy Director also said during the same virtual forum. “For lower- and middle-income countries, it continues to be a challenge for women to access sexual reproductive health and family planning services. There are higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, particularly for vulnerable groups such as adolescents.”
COVID-19 has also caused budget restrictions, as focus is now on testing, treatment, and quarantine measures. Dr. Perez commented, “We have a lot in place for which we have prioritized resources, but because of the constraints due to our situation, we may have to bring down the budget a bit for next year, and that is a concern for [us at POPCOM].”
Online help: Prior to the pandemic, the number of women using family planning has doubled from 4 to 8 million, according to the POPCOM chief. “Our gap is now only at 2 million women—the last mile, you might say. But with COVID-19 restrictions, we had to set up help lines and social media platforms. Women can call a number and arrange for a meeting between the midwives who can deliver the service. They can access such by visiting www.popcom.gov.ph. We also have active chat facilities in our Facebook pages: @OfficialPOPCOM and @UsapTayoSaFamilyPlanning.”
He further stated, “POPCOM health workers are going the extra mile of delivering contraceptives to the homes of poor women who are quarantined within their communities.”
Dr. Perez mentioned that they are looking to other channels to augment their efforts: “Digital means of delivering family planning services will still be one of our priorities. Women and their maternal health are priorities of great importance in our health plans.”
“Women take on many burdens. They work at home and they take on income-generating tasks, which makes them an important facet for the household economy,” remarked the undersecretary. “An unplanned pregnancy will lead to economic deprivation and an untimely use of savings. With this, women should have a choice when it comes to reproductive health to maintain that status of contributing to the economy.” End
PHOTO Couples with unmet Family Planning needs, 2016