Proving it

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 29, 2013

Oct Technology changes everything

29
2013

This week, the Web Summit takes place in Dublin with some of the world’s most innovative start-ups and technology companies touching down in Ireland for the event. 

Founders from Dropbox, Evernote, Hootsuite and Wordpress will join the extensive line-up to explore one idea - technology is changing everything. And faster than at any other point in modern history.

This got us thinking, and we’d like to share some great examples of Oxfam's use of technology in its work to end poverty and injustice. 

Cambodia

Our innovative Pink Phones project gives mobile phones to women like Vansy (pictured) living in rural areas which they use to get the latest farming information, such as market prices for their crops and weather patterns, helping to plan the best time to harvest. Having access to this technology has transformed their lives, enabling them to sell more vegetables and build a sustainable livelihood. Simon Rawles/Oxfam

Haiti

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which struck the country in 2010, Natasha Mytal (pictured) was one of more than 4,000 people who received a cash transfer from Oxfam via her mobile phone in the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake. “The money has really helped me to do a lot,” she says. “I’ve been able to buy oil and other food for the children and other food that I can sell in the street to earn some money.” Jane Beesley/Oxfam

Ireland

We’re always looking at new ways to raise vital funds for our programmes around the world and earlier this year we launched the Born Again range of refurbished computers online and in many of our shops, with the help of Cathy Hacket (5), Ella Sharkey (5) and Chloe Sharkey (8). It’s the green way to get digital! Each one has been restored, tested and supplied with a fresh operating system. Prices start at just €120 / £99 for a desktop and €180 / £150 for a laptop. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Hacking for Good

We're delighted to say that Oxfam will be taking part in the Web Summit Hackathon - where over 150 of the world's leading engineers, designers, product builders and entrepreneurs will apply their technological expertise to solve humanitarian, disaster relief, environmental and hunger-related problems.  

So play your part and use technology to change the world. Start by sharing this post on social media!

Keith McManus is Oxfam Ireland’s Digital Communications Manager.

Jul 24, 2013

Jul The joy of clean water in DRC

24
2013

“There is no way we can thank you other than through song and dance,” says Victorine, a representative of the local water committee as we are welcomed in the remote village of Mambingi in the north eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Up until June of this year, the community could only get water, the most basic of all human rights, from an unprotected local spring. They had to pass through thick forest vegetation where women felt vulnerable to get there and were often bitten by snakes attracted to the surrounding palm oil trees.

Today, thanks to our supporters at home and our local partners Hyfro, Mambingi has some 16 water points spread throughout the village managed proudly by local committees.

Importantly, the water is clean and safe. This reduces the risk of spread of preventable diseases such as cholera and dysentery, which regularly plague communities forced to drink whatever water may flow nearby.

Clockwise from top: Oxfam Humanitarian Coordinator Michael O’Riordan measures the flow rate from a new water point constructed in DRC with the support of Irish Aid. Women in DRC often have to travel huge distances to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing. A young girl collects clean filtered water from the newly constructed water points in the village of Kahamba in DRC. A young boy demonstrates the use of simple innovative hand washing facilities made from locally available materials and a simple plastic container located next to a latrine. By pressing on the stick with his foot, the boy tilts the plastic container which causes water to flow shower like from holes made in the side. Good hygiene practice such as this greatly reduces the risk of spread of preventable communicable disease.  Photos: Colm Byrne / Oxfam.

Victorine laughs at me when we ask how long she now has to travel to get to water. Leaning across and stretching out her hand, she says: “No time at all. It is right beside us.”

Mambingi is just one of 12 villages in the region which have benefitted this year from new water distribution systems with the support of Oxfam.

In the process, community members have learned the skills needed to build and care for not only these new facilities but also 577 newly constructed latrines which ensure the safe disposal of human waste without infection of local water sources. Critically, such new skills ensure community well-being not only now but their capacity and independence in doing so well into the future.

Unfortunately, not all communities in DRC are so fortunate. Twenty years of conflict in the country have claimed the lives of millions and resulted in repeated mass movements of people within the country and across its borders.

The conflict, a product of complex international, national, local, ethnic and tribal interests frequently related to competition for the country’s particular mineral wealth, has undermined growth and development. In turn, this has created a fragile political, social and economic context where most people fail to benefit from the country’s rich natural resources and where the reach of state services such as water, health and agriculture is limited if present at all.

Not long after meeting Victorine, as we prepare to leave the region, word reaches us that still more fighting has broken out and that tens of thousands of people only a few hours’ drive away have been forced to flee across the border to Uganda. Yet another tragic event in the history of DRC where life, like the water that sustains it, remains as precious as ever.

Colm Byrne is Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

Jul 18, 2013

Jul Shroom to grow: Helping women in Rwanda to thrive

18
2013

The ancient Romans believed mushrooms provided their warriors with extra strength and today in Rwanda they are helping modern superwomen like Mediatrice Mukantwari to thrive.

She has learned new farming skills thanks to Oxfam’s partner G7 Enterprises in Kirehe, Rwanda.

Clockwise from top: Mediatrice Mukantwari, mother, mushroom producer and community facilitator, sitting with her son, Kevin. As a result of growing, harvesting and selling mushrooms, women mushrom producers like Mediatrice have been able to dramatically increase their incomes and improve their status and independence. Mediatrice feeding the family's rabbits at home. Photos: Simon Rawles / Oxfam.
 

The company makes mushroom tubes which are then bought by local women who grow them close to their homes.

As a result of growing, harvesting and selling their mushrooms, women producers like Mediatrice have dramatically increased their income.

They either sell the mushrooms to neighbours or sell them back to G7 Enterprises, who can sell in bulk to restaurants and hotels or further afield.

Mediatrice says: “It’s really important for us as women to be independent in life… I know if I need something for myself I can just sell mushrooms and be independent".

 
Clockwise from top: Mediatrice selecting leaves from her vegetable patch. Mediatrice preparing a meal using mushrooms for her family. Mushrooms are a new crop for many in Rwanda but growing in popularity. Photos: Simon Rawles / Oxfam.

In 2012, 1,513 small-holder women farmers in Rwanda were supported to make a sustainable way of living through greater access to credit, training on new agricultural techniques and new business partnerships between the women and medium–sized enterprises engaged in horticulture.

This project is one of many changing lives for the better around the world.

The Romans believed mushrooms made them strong. At Oxfam, we know what our real strength is – supporters like you who are making amazing things happen every single day.

Thank you.

Jun 21, 2013

Jun The G8 is over, so what's the verdict?

21
2013

The G8 is over, the politicians have gone and Enniskillen can return to being a quiet market town at the far end of Northern Ireland.

But as the TV Crews return to London, New York and Tokyo, this quite hamlet in the Northern Irish countryside might be returning to normal but the world is not.

Tax dodging

The Leaders of 8 of the world’s 11 largest economies (India, China and Brazil are not part of the G8) recognised that tax dodging is a problem and something needs to be done about it.  They acknowleged that developing countries are losing much needed funds through the practice, and recognised that countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders.

Above: Oxfam organised a range of stunts to highlight key issues during the G8 Summit.  Top, Oxfam's 'Big Head' G8 leaders attempt to crack the recipe to end golobal hunger.  Middle, our Syria stunt highlighted the number of lives lost so far in that crisis.  Bottom, our closing stunt asked it G8 leaders scored a hole in one on global hunger.

Land grabs

The G8 Summit put the issue of land on the agenda for the first time. Commitments to improve transparency in land investments and establish partnerships with developing countries to advance land rights in line with UN-standards are a step in the right direction.

And the verdict?

While it is encouraging that reform on the issues of tax and land, which Oxfam campaigned heavily for, have received political backing, it is only the first step in a much wider campaign against the scandal of global poverty and hunger, which are exacerbated by these problems.

“Poor people will be left behind in the race for tax reform unless the G8 seriously ups its game and goes beyond secret lists that cannot tackle secrecy" said Jim Clarken, Oxfam's CEO.  "With a gold standard on global automatic tax information exchange fast becoming a reality, we need more than warm words on how poor countries get a fair deal.”

On land, more ambition is needed beyond this Summit if we are to end the scandal that has led to an area of land 12 times the size of the island of Ireland has been sold to foreign investors between 2000 and 2010.

“G8 leaders must now work towards a truly ambitious global initiative on land by 2015 that gets the right people round the table to smash the wall of secrecy that leads to land grabs.”

What we need now is for the strong rhetoric to be followed by action. Oxfam’s campaigns for tax justice and land rights for people in the developing world, along with our participation in the IF campaign in Northern Ireland, has resonated strongly with the public

It is time for governments to recognise this and take real action.

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