Activism

Oct 20, 2014

Oct Eating and talking food rights in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

20
2014

Tuesday evening, the paper dosa arrived – a large sheet of crisp and thin folded pastry about 30cms high and longer – filling the large metal plate. In small containers on the plate were spicy dips and coconut to go with the dosa. 

My partner, Teresa, and 12-year-old daughter, Zora, were having dinner with two friends who are from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

Swaad restaurant has good and reasonably priced food; it is three floors up on the roof of a building belonging to the Badminton Club and, yes, they do play badminton there. 

From our table we could look down on the end of Kisutu Street where most of the Hindu Temples in Dar es Salaam can be found. The food we were eating is another result of the community of Indian descent who have long been part of the society along the East African coast.

They have come as traders and later as labourers and administrators, especially when the British colonies in East Africa were administered from India. The lamb kadai and palak paneer were excellent, the Tanzanian rice typically tasty and we had to compete with Zora to get a piece of the garlic naan.

Our friends told us about the research they were doing on the sugar industry in Tanzania. It is an industry the Tanzanian government wants to expand and one involving a number of large companies like Illovo (one of the world’s biggest sugar producers) and numerous small farmers as well.

Sugar is one of the commercial crops in the controversial Southern Agricultural Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) public-private partnership scheme that Oxfam looked at in its research for the paper Moral Hazard: ‘Mega’ public-private partnerships in African agriculture.

Probably the biggest challenge this year has been the issuing of licences to import sugar into Tanzania. Now one finds sugar from India all over Dar es Salaam and local farmers who have increased their sugar production have not been able to sell their produce.  

The government of course wants to ensure that consumers can get sugar and at affordable prices, not least in the fast growing city of Dar es Salaam with its population of over 4 million people. On the other hand farmers, small and big, say that now they cannot sell their harvest, at least not at a price that covers their costs of production.

Without strong political and economic influence, it is the smaller farmers who are losing out more in access to limited processing capacity and markets.

During the day I had been at a popular tribunal-style event convened by the Tanzania Civil Society Forum on Climate Change (Forum CC) and Oxfam to hear community experiences of large land deals and the impact of climate change on their lives.

 

Photos: Top A schoolgirl addresses the crowd during the climate change march in Dar es Salaam. Bottom left: Eluka Kibona, Oxfam Economic Justice Campaign Manager in Tanzania, speaks to people at the climate change march. Bottom right: A woman joins the discussion at a tribunal-style event to hear community experiences of large land deals and the impact of climate change on their lives.

This was part of our Food and Climate Justice Campaign. A week earlier, while tens of thousands marched in New York and other parts of the world including Belfast and Dublin, young people also marched in Dar es Salaam to raise awareness of climate change in Tanzania and to add their voices to the global call for action on climate change.

The ‘tribunal’ was held in the historic Karimjee Hall in the centre of Dar es Salaam. This had been the seat of the first Parliament of Tanzania, back in the days of former leader Julius Nyerere when the tide of liberation from colonialism was sweeping across much of Africa. The hall with its parliamentary-style benches down each side and large seats for the presiding officers at the front created a fitting atmosphere to hear the serious stories that were shared. Judge Mizray of the land court led the panel hearing the cases. 

While the people’s tribunal was not a formal court and had no formal decision-making power, it was a rare opportunity for people from remote and impoverished communities to be heard and taken seriously. They reached not only the audience present in the hall, but also the public through the media – television, radio and newspapers – that covered the event.

Volunteers form ForumCC tweeted information (using #MahakamaYaWazi) from the tribunal and posted on Facebook. While they could not make binding orders, the judges were able to give advice to the communities on what they could do about their cases. 

We heard about local farmers who lost land they used to produce food on as a private school was built and expanded in their village. The school now controls over 500 acres of land. It was agreed that education is important, but if a school was needed people should be consulted and anyone who gives up land for the school should be compensated and receive alternative land.

None of this happened in this case and to make matters worse most of the land people have been removed from for the school is not currently being used.  

In another case a Dutch company acquired over 34,000 hectares with promises of community development and jobs. But the little support they started to provide, like school lunches in the local primary school, soon stopped and then the company ended all its operations, with the people who had gotten jobs losing them.

Despite the operations having been stopped, the company still holds onto the land and the community want it back. They have taken their case with the Ministry of Land and the Tanzania Investment Centre for some years, but with no success so far.

These were just a few of the cases heard on day one of the tribunal and many involved land rights violations and land conflicts. Land conflicts will become more common and harder to resolve as climate change affects rainfall, water availability and people’s ability to produce on the land, as evidenced by a video compiled for previous hearings. 

In my input to the tribunal I shared information on some of the international laws and conventions that our governments have all agreed to. The right to food is recognised as a fundamental human right. The right to land is also confirmed in international conventions and the violation of land rights is known to lead to other human rights violations, like violating the right to food for people who depend on the land to feed themselves. 

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa has committed states to ensure they “provide women with access to clean drinking water, sources of domestic fuel, land, and the means of producing nutritious food” and “promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land”.

Yet many of the cases presented at the tribunal highlighted the way women suffer more from the impacts of land grabs and climate changes.

The United Nations Guiding principles on business and human rights confirm that states must protect people’s human rights and business must respect human rights (that is not violate any one’s rights) and further that there must be remedy for victims of any violations.

Sadly we heard how, far from protecting people’s rights, the Tanzanian government has too often collaborated with companies that for their part have not respected people’s rights. And for those who shared their stories at the tribunal, there has been no remedy. 

Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, has argued that climate change is a human rights issue as it is violating people’s right to food. 

The challenge is making these rights real in people’s lives, as Judge Mziray says: “The decisions of the courts need to be respected, the courts hear cases and make orders to defend people’s rights, but too often they are not implemented.”

Back to the restaurant, my daughter Zora was getting tired and bored with talk of agriculture, land rights and food security. It was time to go home. My family, friends and I were lucky enough to be able to enjoy the good food we did that evening, not something any of us should take for granted. 

Marc Wegerif is a South African, currently based in Tanzania, who has worked on development and human rights issues in a range of organisations for over 25 years and has a Masters in Land and Agrarian Studies from the University of the Western Cape. Marc has focused on land rights issues for much of his professional life and is currently Food and Land Rights Advisor with Oxfam Ireland. In this role Marc is involved with international advocacy and running several multi-country projects. He is married with two daughters. This blog is a personal reflection and the views expressed are not necessarily those of Oxfam. 

 
Oct 16, 2014

Oct Gap between rich and poor widening – and it’s not just us saying it

16
2014

Inequality is rising – to the detriment of us all. You might expect an organisation like Oxfam to say that, but it’s not just us.

In the past year everyone from Barack Obama to Pope Francis, IMF chief Christine Lagarde to UN head Ban Ki-Moon have highlighted the dangers caused by extreme inequality and how it holds back billions of people from reaching their full potential and getting out of poverty.

We revealed earlier this year that 85 people in the world hold as much wealth as half of the entire population of the planet. Just this week, Credit Suisse reported the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population is getting wealthier, owning more than 48 per cent of global wealth, and warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.

There are those who argue that inequality is a good thing – it motivates people to work hard and those who are wealthy are simply enjoying the fruits of their labour.

The problem is the rules are rigged against the poorest and in fact against everyone except the wealthy, making equality of opportunity a myth. As writer and activist George Monbiot put it: “If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.”

Inequality is not inevitable – it’s the result of years of deliberate policies and rules that have been rigged in favour of the few. But strategies to bring about economic recovery after the financial crisis have been skewed in favour of the wealthiest. In poor countries, rising inequality means the difference between children getting the chance to go to school and sick people getting life-saving medicines.

For prosperity to be sustained it must be shared more equally. To do that we need make the rules fair, rules like taxation, so that everyone pays a fair share and loopholes are closed. We campaign for basic healthcare and education to be provided for all – it’s a basic right and also means that everyone has a fighting chance in life. We need transparent and accountable government so that wealthy special interests can’t use their power to rig the rules. We know that these rules can be changed to benefit everyone, and that together, we can tackle inequality.

More and more people are joining Oxfam in talking about inequality and how we can tackle it for everyone’s benefit. Today is Global Blog Action Day when thousands of bloggers are joining the conversation on inequality to share ideas. Get involved here.

Follow #BAD14 on Twitter for more updates on Blog Action Day 2014.

Aug 14, 2014

Aug Kellogg stepping up to tackle climate change

14
2014

Kellogg announced it is stepping up to address climate change in a very big way. It has committed to reduce harmful emissions across both its supply chain and operations, help smallholder farmers adapt and push for real advocacy across the private sector and government.  Thanks to your voice, and those of 238,000 other consumers, Kellogg is doing the right thing. 

This is a swift response and it is due to the supporters who stepped up to take action.

Specifically, Kellogg has agreed to:

  1. Define and disclose total supply chain GHG reduction targets, including agricultural emissions by December 2015
  2. Require key suppliers to measure and publically disclose their emissions and reduction targets. 
  3. Create a climate adaptation strategy that incorporates the needs of smallholder farmers by December 2015
  4. Achieve zero net deforestation for soy, palm oil and timber by 2020
  5. Deeply engage peers and other industry sector leaders to take action on climate change
  6. Join the industry and government initiative Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) to push forward climate legislation in the USA
  7. Disclose top three suppliers of palm oil, soy, and sugar cane, key drivers of deforestation and land use change.
  8. Participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project, including annual reporting on Scope 3 emissions data and responding to the Forests Information Request. 
  9. Regularly review company statements and policies to ensure they are aligned with mitigation targets, plans, and adaptation initiatives. 
  10. Include climate and deforestation policies in Supplier Code of Conduct and supplier expectations. 
  11. Address issues raised by Oxfam and its partners about its palm oil suppliers in Indonesia and Liberia.
  12. You can read how Kellogg intends to deliver on these promises over the next few years in our Kellogg roadmap. 

Kellogg did the right thing for millions of farmers worldwide who are coping with the effects of erratic weather caused by climate change. Now we can all feel better about sitting down to a bowl of Cornflakes knowing that Kellogg is helping to stop climate change from making people hungry. 

In addition to the speed of these back to back campaign wins on climate change, we’re also making progress protecting farmers worldwide from land grabs. Nestlé recently announced a zero tolerance  for land grabs policy. 

And we aren’t done yet: we’ll continue to push the Big 10 to make sure that the way they do business is good for people and the planet. But for now, we say thank you and onward! 

Share this great news with your friends and ask them to join our campaign. 

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Jul 28, 2014

Jul Here's how you convinced General Mills to act on climate change

28
2014

After 2 months of campaigning we are thrilled to announce that General Mills — once ranked last on climate change policies on our Behind the Brands scorecard — has committed to setting targets to reduce emissions, participate in real climate advocacy, and become a true climate leader. And we have you to thank!

There is no way General Mills - the maker of brands like Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs and Green Giant - would have made these commitments without your support: The new policy comes after more than 230,000 people like you signed petitions and took action as part of Oxfam’s campaign to urge food and beverage companies to help stop climate change from making people hungry.

The fact that so many of us came together makes this victory that much sweeter!

As one of the 10 largest food and beverage companies in the world, General Mills took a bold step forward today as the first among the Big 10 to agree to cut emissions from both its operations and its agricultural supply chains. That’s huge!

And as a global player, General Mills’ action will be felt across the food and beverage sector—serving as a model for what others can do. In fact, General Mills has agreed to take on a leadership role to push for strong climate policy changes with governments and within the industry.

Specifically, General Mills has pledged to:

  1. “Know and show” by disclosing their emissions as well as their suppliers of sugar cane and palm oil.
  2. Set emissions reductions targets by 2015 and put in place stronger safeguards against deforestation.
  3. Advocate by taking a leadership role in addressing climate change with businesses and governments.

In the coming months we will continue to work with General Mills to make sure they reach their goals; you can follow their progress with us on our Climate Roadmap. These commitments will make a real difference in the lives of farmers around the world.

Soon more companies will have to act too. And we have our eye on just who is next: Kellogg.

Kellogg, one of General Mills’ main competitors, has not yet stepped up their game. They need a wake-up call.

 

Give Kellogg's a wake up call!

 
Now, it's time for Kellogg's to step up and make similar commitments to help stop climate change from making people hungry. Will you pick up the phone and call Kellogg's today? 
 
Kellogg Customer Care Repuclic of Ireland: 1800 626 066
 
Kellogg Customer Care UK: 0800 626 066
 
If Behind the Brands supporters from around the world make these calls, Kellogg will really feel the pressure. It's quick and easy to make this call - and so important. Everything you'll need is here: the phone number, a script to guide your conversation, and other tips and tricks. Please call today! 
 
With 25 million more children at risk of going hungry by 2050, Kellogg has to take responsibility and cut their emissions. If General Mills can do it, they can too. 
 
It's quick and easy to make this call – and so important. Everything you'll need is here: the phone number, a script to guide your conversation, and other tips and tricks.
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Jul 2, 2014

Jul Behind the Brands at Body & Soul

2
2014

This was our first year at Body and Soul  - and what an amazing first it was! Our team of volunteer activists spoke to festival goers about the climate action on Behind the Brands, raising awareness about climate justice and asking people to add their voice to a global campaign calling on Kellogg and General Mills to implement better climate practices in their production and supply lines.

We had a fantastic time speaking to festival goers about the campaign over the three days and met some really interesting people who were excited to add their voice to our campaign. If you signed our petition and took a photo with Tony the Tiger or Green Giant have a look at our Facebook photos and see if you can spot yourself or tag a friend!

Body and Soul was also the first festival where we had the pleasure of working with This is Collective - an amazing group of collaborative artists. The artists brought our climate justice campaign to reality with their ‘Bring your voice to the table’ engagement piece. Supporters were encouraged to write a message of hope or inspiration about the campaign on a piece of recycled material and weave this into a table top – the more voices were added the stronger the table became.

Oxfam Ireland is bringing the Behind the Brands campaign to more festivals around the island this year – so keep an eye out for us, we'd love to see you!

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