Proving it

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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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 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.

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