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Apr 23, 2013

Apr World’s biggest chocolate companies melt under consumer pressure

23
2013

More sweet news today for chocolate lovers: the biggest chocolate maker in the world, Mondelez International, has agreed to take steps to address inequality facing women in their cocoa supply chains — thanks to pressure from consumers like you.

More than 100,000 people around the world joined our Behind the Brands campaign, signing petitions and taking action to urge Mondelez (which owns Cadbury’s) and its competitors to tackle the hunger, poverty and unequal pay facing many women cocoa farmers and workers. You also made your voices heard by sending messages to the companies on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Today’s announcement by Mondelez follows commitments last month by Mars and Nestlé to address these issues. Together, Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé buy more than 30 per cent of the world’s cocoa — so changes in their policies could have huge effects for cocoa farmers and their families. 

Although they don’t employ or control them directly, they rely on farmers like Etchi Avla (43) in the Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer. She wants to be paid a fair price. “We do our best to do it well, but the price of cocoa is really low. And that makes it hard for us to take good care of our children and it is tiring.” 

 

Clockwise from top:  Etchi Avla on her cocoa farm in Botende, Ivory Coast. “As a woman I know that there are other women in other countries who would like to support us. As a woman when you see another woman is suffering you want to help.”  Portrait of Etchi Avla. The pulp is separated from cocoa. Photos: Peter DiCampo/Oxfam.
 
“Empowering women cocoa farmers has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people, some of whom are earning less than $2 a day,” said Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken. “We hope that the steps taken by Mars, Mondelez and Nestle offer an example to the rest of the food and beverage industry that consumers are paying attention to how companies impact the communities they work in.”
 
Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé are now taking the first steps to commit to the empowerment of women and to find out how women are being treated in their supply chains. They have committed to work towards signing on to the UN Global Compact’s Women’s Empowerment Principles. And they have agreed to publish the data from first-stage impact assessments in one year’s time and to publish concrete action plans to address the issues. 
 
We’re looking forward to working with Mondelez, Mars and Nestle to ensure they stick to their promises to women. So we can all watch and make sure they stay on track, we have produced a Road Map to highlight all the promises they have made and the dates they have committed to.  
 
You can also stay informed through Oxfam’s Behind the Brands scorecard to see how the giant companies that make your favourite brands (chocolate and otherwise) measure up.
 
Apr 16, 2013

Apr 'I get dizzy and have stomach pains when I‘m hungry'

16
2013

While negotiations to reduce carbon emissions are taking place at a snail’s pace, millions of people in the developing world are already suffering from the effects of climate change.  

In Malawi, dramatic fluctuations and weather patterns are already causing serious problems.

Zuze has lived in Balaka, southern Malawi, his whole life. He has seen many changes during his time there. But recent droughts have had a severe impact on his maize crop and the amount of food the family has. Zuze planted 3 times last year and only harvested four bags of maize, which lasted six months.

"The climate keeps on changing and if it doesn’t improve life will be hard on us and we will just be waiting for the time when are going to die. There won’t be any solution. We are just living on faith, hoping that things will change.”

 
Clocwise from top: Zuze stands in his field of failed crops. Zuze and whis wife at home. Zuze holds up his failed maize plants. Photos: Amy Christian/ Oxfam.
 
To survive, he is forced to work on other people's land to earn money and food for his family. The work is tough and often, because he is weak from a lack of food, he passes out while working.
 
“We planted for the first time when the rains came but it didn’t grow, we planted the second time and nothing happened and the third time a little bit survived. When the maize was growing there was a lot of sun and that’s why it died.”
 
According to Chiyamba Mataya, Humanitarian Coordinator with Oxfam in Malawi, longer than expected drought and increasingly erratic rainfall is affecting the ability of people to cope from one season to the next. 
 
“People are failing to produce because of the prolonged dry spells. The last production season, most of these people harvested maybe only one bag which they produced in one month.”
 
The impact of climate change is particularly hard on women, who do the majority of work on farms but are also responsible for the welfare of children and upkeep of their homes. 
 
Elizabeth supports her 4 children alone as she kicked her husband out after he became a drunk and regularly beat her.
 
“I give the children one meal a day because I want the food to last us longer. It’s not enough food for my children. It’s a big problem as they get very mal nourished, most of the time they are weak. When they go to school in the mornings they can’t concentrate in class as they are so weak.”
 
Clocwise from top: Elizabeth holds the remains of her failed maize. Elizabeth and her 12 year old son David outside their home. Elizabeth holds failed maize in her hands. Photos: Amy Christian/ Oxfam.
 
Her crops failed three times last year, forcing her to take on extra work for food to feed her family. 
 
‘When I haven’t eaten for two or three days I am very weak and I have constant stomach pains. When you have to sleep on an empty stomach and then in the morning you have to go and do manual work it’s really hard. I go and get a gallon of water and that’s what I rely on. When the sun is very high I sit on a tree and wait for it to cool down and then I can continue. It is very hard on me.'
 
Madelena has similar problems. She has four children who she supports alone. To survive she has resorted to catching field mice to supplement the little Nsima (flour and water) she gives the children.
 
“There have always been droughts but these last three years are the worst. When everything is ok I harvest around six to seven bags of maize. When we have seven bags it can last us up to 10 months.”
 
Last year, she harvested two bags. 
 
 
Clocwise from top: Madelena stands where her house once did. Madelena has 4 children whom she supports alone. In the last three years succesive drought have affected her ability to provide for them. Madelena holds the remains of her failed crop. Photos: Amy Christian/ Oxfam.
 
“I get dizzy and have stomach pains when I‘m hungry. But the main problem is the children, when they are hungry they just cry and so I worry that they are having the same problems, that they are dizzy and in pain. Sometimes when I feel dizzy I have to lie down for a while and wait for it to go. When I drink water it doesn’t help as there is nothing in the stomach, there is no food. Sometimes I go a day without food, sometimes two days.”
 
Oxfam Ireland is supporting projects in Balaka and Blantyre rural districts, where it is helping the most vulnerable communities adapt and build resilience to changing weather patterns, enabling them to meet their needs all year round. 
 
The project will help improve farmers’ agricultural production by supporting them to grow more drought resistant crops, developing irrigation systems and providing training in water management and soil conservation techniques. 
 
However, more support must be given to funding climate mitigation schemes so that countries have the resources to respond to climate change. 
 
Speaking to RTE’s Tony Connolly from Malawi, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said that it is critical that we scale up funding in line with UN commitments.
 
“As a matter of urgency, we need to see funding into a proper adaptation fund so that countries like Malawi can do something about it and strengthen their own ability to cope every day.” 
 
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Apr 9, 2013

Apr Syria crisis: A struggle for survival

9
2013
The Syria crisis is rapidly spiralling out of control. More than 1.3 million people have now fled the conflict into neighbouring countries, leaving the organisations trying to help overstretched and struggling to cope with a massive surge in refugee numbers. 
 
With the number of refugees expected to rise to three million by the end of 2013 and promised funds yet to arrive on the ground, the scale of the crisis is outstripping the response. 
 
We are reaching a point where the crisis risks overwhelming the ability of host governments and agencies to respond.
Oxfam aims to reach 120,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. With your support, we can help people like Omayya (30), her husband, son Mohammed (9) and daughter Ghazal (3). 
 
 
Left-right: Ghazal at the door to the family tent in Zaatari camp. Like 90,000 fellow Syrians now living in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, Hussein has been forced to leave his home because of the worsening security situation. Mum Omayya has had to find a new way of making ends meet and supporting her family. Her daughter Ghazal has a medical condition that requires expensive treatment so Omayya has started making and selling popcorn from her tent. Photos: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam
 
Ghazal had a pacemaker and a hearing aid fitted when she was very young in Syria. But when a problem with it emerged, it was too dangerous to travel to the Syrian capital Damascus to have it fixed. 
 
In August 2012, they came to Zaatari camp in Jordan where Ghazal had a second pacemaker operation in January. The medical bills are taken care of. But the batteries for the pacemaker and cables for the hearing aid need to be replaced and paid for, which is increasingly difficult now as they cost 50 Jordian dinar (approx. €54/£46) a month but she makes just 25 JD a month.
 
“I make popcorn from the tent to earn money to help. I sell small bags for 5-10 piastres and I can make around 100 bags a day.
 
“There are three main reasons I have to do this. One is my daughter is the most important thing to me than anything else in the world. Second, my mother is old – she has diabetes and high blood pressure and is not able to do anything and needs my help; and thirdly, in terms of solidarity in our family and anyone else in need. Everyone is in need here; things are very expensive in the camp. Whoever can work should work to help other people.
 
“Also this work involves the whole family; everyone gathers around when I make the popcorn. Someone fries, someone packs the bags; it’s become something all the family can engage in.
 
“It makes me feel happy because I feel you need to get used to wherever you live to survive. It’s not life that helps us get used to circumstances, we need to get used to our circumstances and work on this. 
 
“Other women who know me from Syria know that I’m a fighter; I’m a strong woman who feels that I need to work wherever I can and feels that I need to provide for my daughter. 
 
“I still need to find special treatment for her. She barely speaks and needs therapy; she can only say a few words. I’m not the kind of woman who just sits idly doing nothing. No! I will never give up.”
 
In Zaatari camp in Jordan, we are installing water and sanitation facilities such as toilets, showers, laundry areas to help to more than 15,114 people and will help to build a new water system that will supply water to all 90,000 camp residents. 
 
 
Clockwise from top: A boy plays at an Oxfam water tank at Zaatari refugee camp. A girl collects water from a tap stand in the camp. Syrian children at the Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan. Photos: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam
 
We have also carried out assessments to see how we can help the vulnerable refugees who are living outside the camp and in host communities over the next few months. Your support is vital.
 
Despite the investments by NGOs and governments, the conditions in the camps are dire. But people continue to flee to Syria. 
 
Hussein (47) had just arrived at the camp with his family: “We left Syria because the bombings were getting so bad. We tried to stay as long as possible, but things are getting worse and worse; the bombings and security was getting worse all the time.
 
“Here, it’s hard too but at least there are no sounds of bombs and we all feel more secure; that's the most important thing. If we were not so frightened, we would never have left Syria.
 
“Things seem quite chaotic here, we arrived last night. I didn't think there would be such a fight for everything.”
 
Please give what you can to our Syria appeal - even the smallest amount can make a huge difference. 
 
€8 will buy hygiene items for one person for one month
 
€20 will buy food for one person for one month
 
€115 will subsidise the rental costs for a family of 5 for one month 

 

Apr 4, 2013

Apr The sweet benefits of pineapples

4
2013

Fresh pineapple is rich in vitamins and minerals. In Rwanda, its benefits are even sweeter for women farmers.

 
The home of Godelive Nyirabakobwa (58) in Nyakigandu village is neat and clean but sparse. The house has good walls and comfortable chairs with a single electric bulb hanging from a wire. To have electricity and a water tap at home is a sign that things are going well.
 
Life wasn’t always this way, however.
 
 
Clockwise from top: Godelive Nyirabakobwa in her pineapple field. Godelive Nyirabakobua says her pineapple suckers are sought-after as they’re locally grown rather than imported. Xaverine Mukarunyana (left), Godelive Nyirabakobua (middle) and Daphrose Nyirankundabanyanga (right) all grow and sell pineapple ‘suckers’ – high quality planting material needed by pineapple farmers. Photos: Simon Rawles/Oxfam.
 
“I’ve always been a farmer,” Godelive says. “Before now I was a beans and maize farmer until I learnt about pineapples. I moved here two years ago after living very far away in a rural place. I used to live a very bad life in the bush but today we are better off in this village. I had malaria all the time, actually so did my children and my husband. I could get a good harvest but we had no access to healthcare or good water.” 
 
Thanks to an Oxfam-supported project, Godelive and 800 other women have set themselves up as pineapple sucker growers and sellers. Pineapple suckers are what pineapple plants, and eventually the fruit, grow from. They are the starting point for any pineapple product.
 
“In the training I learnt how to multiply the suckers, how to care for them and the new technique. We’re using it as the new way to make the suckers. In the old way we just planted all the crops up together but now we grow bananas and pineapples separately. It means it’s a lot better to farm and they grow well. Now I can weed and harvest easily.”
 
In the past, pineapple farmers in Rwanda have been reliant on buying suckers from other neighbouring countries such as Uganda. Due to the distances travelled the quality was unreliable, it raised their costs and plant disease was common.
 
With growing national demand for suckers as more people move into pineapple production due to government agricultural support, we spotted a new work opportunity for farmers living in poverty, particularly women. Instead of families trying to grow crops on small areas of land and getting very small yields, a different use of the same land could bring much higher returns. 
 
“People come to me to buy suckers because they know they are free from disease and are good. Sometimes we use products to protect the suckers from disease and I’m vigilant; if I see suckers which are infected I remove them and throw them away so they aren’t among the others which aren’t affected.
 
“For me, I think soon I will be calm, as all my life will be resolved. In my heart I’ll be happy because I will be eating pineapple and drinking the juice. Personally I tell any woman not to be afraid. Start growing pineapples and I’ll show you how to do it and how to open your own bank account.”
 
Godelive is firmly focused on developing her business plans and improving life for her family.
 
“I feel like an entrepreneur because one day I sat and thought: ‘what if I get pineapple suckers, multiply them and try to generate income from them?’, and I got pineapple plants, divided each into four suckers and grew them.”
 
The success of Godelive and her fellow female farmers has had a wider impact beyond their fields.
 
“Now the women in Rwanda today are more open,” she explains. “In the past it used to be that if you wanted to start something you had to wait for your husband’s approval to start. Today any of us can just start something.”
 
Supporters across the island of Ireland are helping to support this project and others like it in Rwanda. Thank you for making a positive difference.
Mar 13, 2013

Mar ‘Why I left private sector to help Syrian refugees with Oxfam’

13
2013
Amid a sea of male construction and site workers in Jordan’s sprawling Zaatari desert camp, female engineer Farah Al-Basha stands out from the crowd. 
 
The energetic 27 year-old Jordanian joined our team earlier this year, quitting her job at a private engineering company to work for Oxfam. 
 
Instead of working on military and defence contracts and designing underground bunkers, she now helps to oversee work building toilet and shower blocks and installing water tanks at Zataari’s refugee camp. She’s been involved in drawing up quality, safety and inspection plans; liaising with and advising contractors; and carrying out on-site inspections to ensure standards are met at every stage along the construction project.   

 
Clockwise from top: Farah describes her role as an Oxfam engineer as “a life-changing experience”. Farah oversees and inspects the work of the all-male labourers and ensures everything goes to plan. Farah has written the word ‘rejected’ on this cement floor, which means the contractors will have to rebuild it to a higher standard. She carries out on-site inspections to ensure standards are met at every stage along the construction project. Photos: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam.
 
“I wanted to work with an NGO to help people here, to try to do something more for the community. For me, work shouldn’t just be about the money,” she says. 
 
But Farah admits her first visit to the camp was a bit of a shock. “It was the first time I have ever been to a refugee camp and, honestly, it was overwhelming”, she said. “I had only seen this on television, not first-hand. I realised this job was going to be totally different in terms of what it required of me than my previous work.   
“It’s been a life-changing experience for me. Helping to change people’s lives is not an easy thing to do. It’s also a difficult thing to realise that, as much as you want, you can’t help everyone everywhere.” 
 
In Zaatari camp, Farah is a woman on a mission: determined to show that women engineers are just as capable as their male counterparts and making sure she is up to date on all the latest reading and research to make sure that no-one can fault her. Her day-to-day work involves overseeing and inspecting the work of the (all-male) labourers and making sure everything goes to plan – or if it doesn’t, finding solutions to daily problems.   
 
“Every day is crazy and every day is really busy,” says Farah. 
 
When I visit, she points out wide cracks in the cement floor of a new block which will house toilets and showers. “Look, the cracks are so wide,” she says, pointing to the floor where she has marked in red ink the words “rejected”.   
 
“This will cause problems… the contractors will have to fix it,” she says, shaking her head.     
 
She’s firm but polite as she speaks to the contractors, pointing out the problem. But they accept what she says. “I’m very demanding and quite strict, but they respect me. They realise I am not here for a fashion show, but I’m an expert and know what I’m talking about.   
 
“Every day, big groups of women and children follow me as I work in the camp,” she says. “The girls say they see me as a kind of role model and say they’d like to do work like me when they are older. 
 
“The children in the camp love to see us work: they make sure they are awake and up and about when we arrive in the camp for our day’s work.” 
 
Farah had hoped to recruit an all-female team to work with her: but the first female junior engineer she hired quit after a few days into the job. “There are many women engineers in Jordan, but most chose not work on-site but stay working in offices. I’ve been working as an engineer for the last six years and I’m always the only female engineer on site.” 
 
Undaunted by some of the setbacks, Farah is full of plans and ideas. She’s hoping to pass on some basic engineering and plumbing skills to some people in the camp; and to get women there more involved with the work Oxfam is doing. 
 
Spending most of her days in the camp, she says, is a tiring but rewarding experience. 
 
“We’re surrounded by children for most of the day. We walk together, we eat together, we share stories and dreams. When the time comes to leave the camp, we get into our car, tired and exhausted with messy hair and dirty jeans, with our faces a bit more darkened by the sun than the day before.   
 
“We’re thinking about how lovely a bubbly shower will be, but before closing the doors, the kids come and say: ‘See you tomorrow’ and we close the doors with a big smile, forget about how dirty we are, or how lovely this bubbly shower will be and we start thinking about what can we do next for those kids.”
 

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