Activism

Apr 1, 2014

Apr 5 critical things we learned from the latest IPCC report on climate change

1
2014

Yesterday leading international experts on climate change, the IPCC, presented their latest report on the impacts of climate change on humanity, and what we can do about it. It’s a lengthy report, so we’ve boiled it down to Oxfam's five key takeaways on climate change and hunger.

1. Climate change: the impacts on crops are worse than we thought.

Climate change has already meant declines in global yields of staple crops, and it is set to get worse.

Not so long ago, some people suggested crops could actually grow better because of climate change. Not any more. The IPCC is clear that we are already seeing the effect of climate change on food production. That will come as no surprise to farmers like Vladimir or Auntie Jacoba. But what is more striking is that the IPCC finds that climate change has meant significant declines not just in some areas in developing countries, but in aggregate global yields for staple crops like wheat and maize. Harvests will continue to be hit hard in the future, both in developing countries and in major crop exporters, at the same time as demand for crops is expected to rise rapidly. That doesn't add up to a more food secure future for our planet.

2. Climate change also means higher food prices for most people.

Most people will feel the impact of climate change on food through the price they pay at their local market or supermarket.

In the years since the last IPCC report, there have been 3 global food price spikes, each linked in part to extreme weather that hit harvests hard. The IPCC gives a cautious estimate that food prices may rise due to climate change by 3-84% by 2050. Oxfam expects food prices to approximately double by 2030, with around half due to climate change, with further spikes linked to extreme weather to come on top of that. That's a massive problem for anyone spending upwards of 50% of their income on food, but increasingly we'll all feel the pinch of higher prices for things like premium coffee or chocolate.

3. Without action, climate change will reverse the fight against hunger – perhaps by several decades.

Right now hunger levels worldwide are going down, though not nearly fast enough. But the IPCC cites studies which project a reversal of this progress. 

By 2050 an extra 50 million people – that's the population of Spain – could be at risk of hunger because of climate change, and an extra 25 million under-fives malnourished – that's the same as all the under-fives in the US and Canada combined. Availability of calories per person is set to fall lower than the levels in 2000. If we are serious about getting to zero hunger by 2025 and staying there, we need a huge increase in climate action – both in adaptation and cutting emissions.

 

 

4. It is not too late to act, but we need to get serious about adaptation.

We must over-come major adaptation deficits to cope with climate impacts on food in the near-term. 

Eradicating hunger by 2025 will take a massive increase in efforts to adapt our food systems to climate change. But as we outlined in a briefing last week, the world is currently woefully unprepared. The IPCC for the first time recognises a funding gap between the finance needed for adaptation – in the order of $100bn per year – and the amounts that are actually flowing (something Oxfam has long shouted about). The countries that have done most to cause climate change should help to pay this bill in poorer countries. But Oxfam estimates countries have received only around 2% of the money they need from the adaptation funds provided to them in the three years since the Copenhagen climate summit.

5. We must cut greenhouse gas emissions now.

Unless we cut greenhouse gas emissions now too, we will surpass our capacity to adapt in the second half of this century. The IPCC is clear that adaptation alone will not be enough. 

By 2050, on our current path, risks to food security in many countries will pass “beyond projected adaptive capacity”. This means there is little we can do to prevent permanent and irreversible damage to food production or the means by which people can buy food. The IPCC suggests this will result in “large risks to food security, globally and regionally” and may mean “current agricultural practices can no longer support large human civilizations”. 

Oxfam is starting to see the limits to adaptation in our own work even today. In Zimbabwe, a previously successful irrigation scheme that has helped farmers to thrive in spite of more erratic rainfall hit the buffers when water levels dropped too low as a result of extreme drought. The IPCC describes the biological temperature limits of crops, beyond which they simply will not grow. The implication is clear: unless we rapidly reduce our emissions now, alongside a huge increase in adaptation efforts, runaway climate change will end our chances of winning the fight against hunger. Will ours be the generation to let that happen?

Nov 8, 2013

Nov You Spoke. Coca-Cola listened.

8
2013

What does it take to make a global sugar giant promise to improve its policies on land? You. And 192,000 others too.

A month ago, we launched the second action of our Behind the Brands campaign asking three of the biggest companies in the sugar industry – Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods – to commit to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs. 

In just a few weeks tens of thousands of you took action – adding your name to the petition as well as sending messages and photos to the companies to get their attention.

And the result? It’s working! With almost 200,000 of you putting your names behind the campaign, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest purchaser of sugar, has done what you asked – commit to “zero tolerance” for land grabs. 

 

Coke is the first of the ‘Big 3’ to agree to do more to respect communities’ land rights throughout their supply chain – and these moves are happening because of the pressure you applied. 

Coca-Cola has said it will do sweeping social and environmental assessments across its supply chains beginning with Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil, then moving on to India, South Africa and other countries, and that it will publicly reveal its biggest sugarcane suppliers. 

“Today one of the biggest companies in the world stood up to take greater responsibility for the impacts of its operations,” said Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive. “Coca-Cola has taken an important step to show its customers and the communities it relies upon that it aims to be a part of the solution to land grabs. This will resonate throughout the industry.

“The public response to the campaign has been tremendous. This commitment is further evidence that no company is too big to listen to its customers. The biggest food giants in the world are changing how they operate because consumers are demanding it.”

We’ll be closely tracking Coca-Cola to make sure they follow through on their promises. In particular we will continue to advocate for appropriate resolution for the communities in Brazil and Cambodia who continue to struggle to regain the rights to their land. 

The time is now. 

Edilza Duarte (24) is a Guaraní-Kaiowá mother of two, living in Ponta Porã, Mato Grosso do Sul. Her community's land, Jatayvary, was taken from them 40 years ago. Now it's all covered in sugar cane.  

Above: Edilza Duarte, her daughter Stephanie and her son Jason are among the Guarani Kaiowá people who live at Jatayvary Indigenous Land Ponta Porã in Brazil. She says that the sugar plantations have put an end to her culture by clearing the forest and spreading 'poison' (the chemicals sprayed on the sugar plantations). Tatiana Cardeal/Oxfam

"They should stop doing this. They have damaged our lives enough. That's why we need our land back; so we can plant and eat. We want our land back."

Land grabs like this are the sugar industry's bitter secret – and this is not just happening in Brazil. In countries like Cambodia and around the world, families are facing the same fight for their land. 

Now is the moment.

Now that Coca-Cola (which sells over 20,000 drinks every second across the world) has committed to make sure the sugar in its products don’t lead to land grabs, Pepsi and Associated British Foods have no excuses to keep lagging behind. 

And with Pepsi’s shareholder filing deadline is coming up, now’s the moment to start increasing the pressure on them specifically. We need you to blast their inboxes with messages, telling them to keep up with Coca-Cola and commit to zero tolerance for land grabs.

Over to you, Pepsi and Associated British Foods.

Mary Quinn is Oxfam Ireland’s Campaigns and Outreach Executive.

 

Oct 17, 2013

Oct What families around the world will eat in one week

17
2013

‘Where do you do your shopping? How much are you paying for groceries? Do you shop around?’

As the recession continues to bite, the food we eat, where we buy it and how much for seem to be fast replacing the weather as the most popular topic of conversation.

Shiny supermarkets leaflets showcasing ‘2 for 1’ deals falling out of every newspaper, the rise in the number of people splitting their weekly shop in multiple supermarkets to maximise these special offers, the growth in growing vegetables at home  and the popularity of blogs such as CheapEats.ie (tagline: ‘tough times, great food’) and activist Jack Monroe’s A Girl Called Jack (documenting the challenges of feeding herself and her three-year-old son on a weekly budget of just £10/€11.70) prove as much.

In a world where there is enough for everyone to eat, 870 million of us go to bed hungry every night. It’s a place where food banks are springing up at home but where food waste is still startlingly high (a third of food bought in Ireland ends up the bin, costing the average household up to €1,000/£850 a year).

Here we visit families from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe to see what they will eat in one week:

AZERBAIJAN

Mirza (47) and Zarkhara (37) Bakhishov and sons Khasay (18) and Elchin (15) with a week's worth of food outside their home in Shahveller village. Mirza says: “Our small cattle and poultry is everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them. The main problems for us are related to agricultural water and irrigation of our crops. We used to have problems obtaining animal feed, but now thanks to Oxfam and [partner organisation] Aktivta, our problem is solved.” David Levene/Oxfam

ETHIOPIA

Bayush photographed with her daughter Genet (14) and son Destaw (11) and week's supply of food outside their home in the village of Amba Sebat. The food includes vegetable oil, maize, sugar and shiro (chickpea flour). They live in a small thatched hut without running water or electricity. Bayush is part of a cooperative of 31 women who collectively own land on which they farm vegetables. Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam

LIBERIA

Blagnon Gnepa Herve (43) and Elise Gnamlin Boe (41) and children – (left to right) Ezechiel (21), Ange (18), Isaac (13), Jonathan (15), Moise (6) and Paul (3) – with their food rations. They’re standing outside their tent in a temporary refugee camp for people fleeing violence across the border in the Ivory Coast.

PAKISTAN

Husna La Shari, her husband and seven children live in the village of Khawand Bax La Shari. Husna is responsible for providing for her entire family as her husband is too old to work. Floods destroyed the fields she relied on for farming and harvesting. “It was difficult for me before the flood and now it is more difficult for me as there is no farming or harvesting… I am scared for how I will feed my children," she says. Timothy Allen/Oxfam

SRI LANKA

The Kumarapar family – (left to right) Thangalatchmy (44). Saratha (34), Surkitha (30) and Selvern (70) – outside their house in the village of Muruganwr with a week’s supply of food. They have thampala (a green leafy vegetable), tomatoes, potatoes, onion, chilli, spinach, leeks, cabbage, pumpkin, rice, flour and chicken. Their village is located on the border of what used to be a conflict zone. They have seen their neighbours’ homes set alight and at one point the conflict became so bad they were forced to leave and live in a refugee camp. In 2009 the conflict ended and now the family are rebuilding their lives. Abir Abdullah/Oxfam

TAJIKISTAN

BiBi-Faiz Miralieba (centre) and her family – (left to right) Siyoushi (11), niece Gulnoya Shdova (14), Jomakhon (6), Shodmon (9) and Jamila (13) – with a week’s total food supply in Kaftakharna village. Like many women in rural areas, her husband has migrated to Russia to find work, as there is not enough work for them in Tajikistan to feed their families. Andy Hall/Oxfam

ZIMBABWE

Three generations of the extended Mudzingwa family outside their home in Gutu District with their typical supply of food for a week – a bucket of ground nuts waiting to be shelled by hand and a bucket of maize flour that's turned into a porridge-style paste for every meal. They have been given a plot of land in an Oxfam-supported project and had just planted their first crop when this photograph was taken. Annie Bungeroth/Oxfam

We are helping to ensure people have enough to eat in three ways: by providing emergency food supplies in humanitarian disasters, through long-term development projects that develop sustainable farming methods and with our campaigning that gives a voice to the vulnerable, such as the women farmers who feed their communities and those who provide the raw ingredients for some of the world’s biggest brands.

But we couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you.

Oct 2, 2013

Oct The truth behind sugar: anything but sweet

2
2013

Too often, the sugar in your favourite food and drinks is sourced by kicking farmers and their families off their land. This leaves people homeless and hungry. But you can change this.

Tell Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods (ABF) to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs.

As global demand for sugar increases, so does the rush for land to grow it.

Oxfam has found that, in countries like Brazil and Cambodia, companies that supply sugar to Coke, Pepsi and other food and beverage giants are kicking poor farmers off their land and robbing them of their rights. Elsewhere, ABF - the biggest sugar producer in Africa - is reported as linked to a range of other unresolved land disputes.

The power of you

More than 120,000 people around the world have already called on the world’s biggest food companies to change the way they do business in our Behind the Brands campaign. And it’s working.

And with the support of more than 50,000 people and Coldplay, we’ve already won some important victories in the fight against land grabs. Our campaigning pushed the World Bank to review its policies on land and commit to a new UN standard on land rights.

Now it’s time for these three sugar giants to act first and fast in phase two of our Behind the Brands campaign.

 

Stop land grabs

To make sure that their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs, Coke, Pepsi and ABF need to:

  • Know how their sugar impacts communities’ access to land, and whether they and their suppliers are respecting land rights;
  • Show where the ingredients they use come from – and who grows them;
  • Act by committing to zero tolerance for land grabs, throughout their supply chains and their own operations.

Work with governments and others to do the same. It’s time to put a stop to land grabs. Sign the petition now.

Mary Quinn is Oxfam Ireland’s Campaign and Outreach Executive.

Sep 23, 2013

Sep Afghan women at risk while police force remains 99 per cent male

23
2013

Only 1 per cent of the Afghan National Police is female. More women are urgently needed in the Afghan police force in order to reduce violence against women and ensure the safety of all Afghans.

Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, and as we near the end of a war which was supposed to liberate them, Afghan women are still not safe in their homes or their country.

Abused, harassed, discriminated against, raped, forced into marriage and jailed for so called “moral crimes” such as running away or sex outside marriage, women in Afghanistan need protection more than ever before. 

Afghan women police

Top: Director Mary Akrimi, a well-known women’s rights activist, head of the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC) which runs programs such as women’s shelters and gender training for police. Mary Akrimi also advises the Ministry of Interior on women and the police in Afghanistan. Bottom: 28-year-old Pari Gul has been a policewoman for 7 years and is the only woman at the Jalalabad checkpoint, checking women and cars, from 7am-5pm each day. Pari Gul counts herself lucky to have the support of her male colleagues and her boss, Colonel Samsoor. Photo: Ellie Kealey/Oxfam 

I recently met a teacher called Mariam who had been sexually abused by her own husband. She went to her local police station three times and each time turned back because she could not bring herself to tell the male officer what was happening to her. Every time she returned home, the violence continued. 

After it escalated further and caused the pregnant Mariam to miscarry, a friend encouraged her to again go to the police. When Mariam explained she had tried many times before, her friend found a female officer from another police station who listened to her situation, investigated her case and referred it to a prosecution unit. The eventual prosecution happened because of the presence of this female police officer; Mariam was finally able to get the help she needed and her life was saved. 

Over the last few years it has become clear that Afghan women need a police force that will give them the justice and security they need. Most importantly, they need more women police.

A new Oxfam report, Women and the Afghan Police, shows that many women who join the police are faced with abuse and discrimination from colleagues and superiors; they lack proper training and female-only facilities, even basic equipment and uniforms. Much more needs to be done to ensure policewomen are effective and safe in their jobs. 

One of the key findings from Oxfam’s report is that Afghanistan has only one female police officer for every 10,000 Afghan women. Many Afghan women will never see a policewoman, let alone be able to report a crime to one.

But this is not just an issue of justice for women. 

Peace and security will be impossible in Afghanistan until the police gain the trust of communities - and policewomen are crucial to obtaining this trust. Policewomen are more effective in dealing with families and communicating with women and children. They are seen as less threatening, can help de-escalate conflicts in arrests and house searches, and ensure greater cooperation with the police.

Public confidence in the police in Afghanistan is extremely low. With the police focus on counter-insurgency for so many years, they are perceived as a paramilitary force by ordinary Afghans. This is compounded by the fact that the police are often seen to be the cause of so much violence in the communities they are supposed to protect. 

The contempt of the police mixed with society’s disregard of women means that police women face a particularly brutal form of stigma in Afghanistan.  They are not respected, nor is their job deemed respectable. Many are threatened and abused, even by their own families because of their work, and some have been killed.

This has to change, and it can if the right steps are taken. Reforms are already putting a focus on community policing. If more women join this reformed force, and are seen to be dealing with crime and helping stop violence, they will be viewed as valuable members of the community. 

 

Afghan Women Need Afghan Women Police

While the majority of NATO forces will withdraw next year, NATO countries will continue to hold the purse strings for the Afghan security forces. They must take responsibility and ensure that the Afghan government commits to reforms of the police force and the urgent recruitment and training of more policewomen. 

The next 18 months are critical for Afghanistan, and especially for Afghan women. A simple change to the way we police our communities and keep women safe has the potential to lead Afghanistan in the right direction. 

Wahzma Frogh is an Afghan activist and co-founder and director of the Afghan organization Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

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