Jan 27, 2015

Jan Celebrating the Female Food Heroes of Nigeria

27
2015

Breakfast in Lagos, the same as the day before, two large slices of boiled yam (a root vegetable) with spicy egg sauce. Surprisingly it actually works as a breakfast and my stomach has been fine. The strong spices make the bland yam edible and I find myself enjoying the combination. Lunch and dinner will be more spicy soups and sauces along with fish or other meat and eaten with various porridges made from cassava and other crops. Nigeria, like the rest of West Africa, has a strong culinary history with a wide variety of dishes prepared from indigenous crops. Nigeria also has the hottest, spiciest food of any country in the world. If you have never tried it and especially if you have blocked sinuses, you need to try proper Nigerian hot pepper soup.

I was in Lagos for the 2014 Female Food Hero awards, a competition that began in Tanzania. These 12 great rural women came from all over Nigeria and were selected from more than 1,200 nominations. They, along with millions of other women, grow the crops, care for the livestock and in the end produce the food that makes up the exciting Nigerian cuisine I was enjoying. These 12 women spent a week together in Lagos in the build-up to the final award ceremony and announcement of the overall winners. In the past two years the awards were held only in certain states among women farmers that Oxfam and partners worked with, but this year for the first time it has become a national competition open to all women involved with primary food production.

During the week, the women joined together in morning exercises with Tony the trainer, who also works as a model and actor. They had training sessions with different people on a range of topics relevant for women and for farmers. They held discussions and went on field trips. To the end, even in celebrating the eventual winners, they demonstrated a unity that this large and complex country sometimes lacks. 

Clockwise from top-left: Catfish at urban fish farm in Lagos – this visit showed how nutritious food can be produced and made into a good business, even with limited space. An exhibition of farmer produce set up during the award ceremony. The 12 finalists of 2014 competition join winners from previous years and a representative of the farmers organisation on a field trip. From left to right: second runner-up Chinasa Asonye; first runner-up Monica Maigari; and Female Food Hero 2014 Marian Buhari. From left to right: Oxfam’s Acting Nigeria Country Director Evelyne Mere; first runner-up Monica Maigari; overall winner Marian Buhari; second runner-up Chinasa Asonye; Oxfam Food and Land Rights Advisor Marc Wegerif. The finalists visit the Tropical Naturals Ltd factory which turns agricultural products like shea butter and honey and turn them into creams and products for export.

These women also underwent health checks and received healthy living advice. Stress management was one of the favourite topics. There are so many stresses that rural women face that they are normally expected to simply cope with themselves. They learnt they have a right to care for themselves and be cared for. There were also meetings with celebrities, actors, singers and women leaders. There were dramas that the women themselves prepared and as well as the hard work, lighter moments and lots of singing. The whole process was filmed and is being produced into a series of TV programmes. 

The field trips included a visit to the inspiring factory of Tropical Naturals Ltd. They take agricultural products like shea butter and honey and turn them into creams and products like the famous Dudu-Oson black soap that is sold in Nigeria and exported. The dynamic Chief Executive Officer, Abiola Ogunrinde, stressed to the women the importance of adding value to all their agricultural products in order to get a greater return as farmers and for the nation.

An urban fish farm showed how nutritious food could be produced and made into a good business, even with limited space in a densely populated urban area. Some of the finalists are already involved with fish farming, others were inspired to start.

Nigeria is now the largest economy in Africa with 180 million people and famous for its oil industry, but agriculture remains a vital part of the economy. Agriculture makes up more than 30% of the economic activity and importantly 70% of all employment. Women provide most of the labour in the sector, but get little recognition and little support, something that these awards are working to change.

By highlighting the importance of women’s contribution to food production and the economy, the Female Food Hero awards help increase public support for women involved with food production. The awards also show the challenges women face, through the stories of the female food heroes themselves, told by themselves. We are asking for the creation of a more supportive environment for women food producers. Look what they have done despite all the challenges they face and imagine what they could do with a more enabling environment. The responses have been good and other women food producers have also been inspired.

On Friday 20th November the hall at the hotel was crowded and sometimes chaotic during an exciting celebration of the Ogbonge (strong, heroic, magnificent) Nigerian Women Food Heroes of 2014. As many speakers stressed, all the finalists are good representatives of the millions of hard-working women who produce most of the food in Nigeria. But everyone also wanted to know who would be the winner and walk away with the largest prizes.

Above, left-right: Some of the produce made by first runner-up Monica Maigari. Previous Female Food Hero award winner Gloria works out in the gym. Tony puts the women farmers through their paces in the gym. 

Guests included government officials, NGOs, farmer organisation representatives and private sector representatives. Jennifer Abuah of OLAM Nigeria Ltd noted that of 10,000 cocoa farmers they work with on sustainable cocoa production, only 500 are women. “We know they are there, but they are not visible”, she said. “Women don’t own their land, they are farming the land that belongs to the men in their families and women are doing so many other things besides farming.”

Karima Babangida, the Head of Gender and Youth in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, announced the winners for 2014, but not before she praised the “12 very beautiful hard-working women” who made it to the finals. She also committed the Ministry to providing start-up kits with fish for all the finalists to start or expand fish farming. 

The second runner-up was Chinasa Asonye from Lagos state. A young married woman with three children, she has gone from only cultivating ofada rice to now processing and packaging the rice, for which she gets a much better return. Chinasa leased land from Lagos state government under the Rice for Jobs Initiative and has also branched into fish farming. Last year, she harvested 31 sacks of rice and 5.2 tons of catfish.

The first runner-up was Monica Maigari from Kaduna state. She is a mother of four and farms soybeans, maize, guinea corn, rice, poultry and goats. In 2013, she produced and sold 34 sacks of grains, 130 birds, 360 crates of layers and eight goats.

It was hard to get any picture of the winner, Marian Buhari, when she was announced as people crowded around with cameras to capture the moment. Marian is from Kwara state. She is married with five children and farms cucumbers, maize, cassava, melons, tomatoes, cabbage and fish. She was assisted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to get started in fish farming with catfish fingerlings (young fish) and two bags of fish feed. Now in 2014, she harvested over 150 tons of produce. Like Chinasa, she had also relied on renting other people’s land for her production.

The best speakers of the day were the women farmers themselves. The past winners shared how much the awards had meant to them, including their activities as ambassadors for women farmers that had taken them to national events and international events in the United States and African Union meetings in Ethiopia. This year’s finalists called for women to get better access to inputs, machinery, finance and land with secure rights. 

As the finalists often chanted:

Ogbonge Women, Our Future! Ogbonge Women, Our Farmers! Ogbonge Women, Our Nigeria!

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. 

Jan 19, 2015

Jan By 2016 the top 1% will be richer than the rest of the world combined

19
2015
High up in the Alps, world leaders will later this week make their annual pilgrimage to the Swiss resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum annual meeting.
 
The threat posed by growing inequality – one acknowledged by a diversity of attendees – will again be one of the main talking points at the invite-only event where politicians rub shoulders with business leaders, social entrepreneurs, technology innovator, philanthropists, media and NGOs. 
 
The summit last year identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, while Oxfam reported that just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest 50 per cent – or 3.5 billion people. 
 
Our new research paper published today shows that shows inequality is getting even worse – the exclusive club has now shrunk to just 80 people, a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010.
 
 
Other key findings from the report – entitled Wealth: Having it all and wanting more – include: 
 
  • The richest 1 per cent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 per cent in 2009 to 48 per cent in 2014 
  • At this rate the richest 1% will own more than 50 per cent of global wealth in 2016. 
  • Almost all of the remaining 52% of global wealth is owned by the richest 20%. 
  • This leaves just 5.5%  of the global wealth for the remaining 80% of people in the world
  • The wealth of the richest 80 people doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.
  • More than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches.
 
This explosion in inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 (€1.07/82p)-a-day. 
 
Inequality is not inevitable – it is the result of policy choices. There are solutions, ones we will be highlighting at the Davos meeting, which Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima will co-chair.
 
 
Above: A twice-weekly vegetable market in the town of Bara Gaon, India. Inequality is rising at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 (€1.07/82p)-a-day. Photo: Tom Pietrasik / Oxfam
 
We propose a seven-point plan to tackle inequality:
 
  • Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals 
  • Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
  • Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth
  • Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  • Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  • Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
  • Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.
 
 
Above: Zambia is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies yet Barbara Chinyeu is living in poverty, like three-quarters of the population. While Barbara struggles to grow vegetables to support her family and walks four hours every day just to collect water, multinational mining companies make huge amounts of money in her country. These giant corporations use international tax rules to avoid paying their fair share, meaning that families like Barbara’s lose out. "We are better off if we are all at the same level... If we were all equal, we could all have control of our own affairs." Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Oxfam
 
Imagine the impact this could have. Cleaning up the toxic global tax system, to take one example, would give governments all over the world the vital revenues they have been deprived to invest in public services like health and education that can both help to fight poverty and reduce inequality. 
 
For example, the EU could receive an annual boost of €120/£100 billion in public money if Europe clamped down on tax dodging. €120/£100 billion is almost twice the annual global aid budget and this much cash could save the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five every year.
 
2015 presents a historic opportunity for world leaders to set a roadmap to eradicate extreme poverty and improve prospects for all citizens with the clock ticking for major decisions on the new UN development goals later this year. 
 
If we get it right, this generation can solve one of the major global challenges of our time and help people escape the stranglehold which keeps them in poverty.
Dec 1, 2014

Dec Rigged rules that create inequality can be changed

1
2014

Extracted from address given at a joint event hosted by Oxfam Ireland, the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA) and Irish Aid at the IIEA in Dublin on Thursday, November 27th. The theme of the discussion was 'Inequality: The defining challenge of our time'. The Millennium Development Goals were signed in 2000 with the intention of making substantial progress on human development by the year 2015.

From left to right: Michael Gaffey, Director General, Irish Aid; Cormac Lucey, Chartered Accountant and Lecturer in Finance at UCD, IMI and Chartered Accountants Ireland; Dearbhail McDonald, Associate Editor and Legal Editor of the Irish Independent; Alison O’Connor, Irish Examiner; Jim Clarken, CEO, Oxfam Ireland; Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Dr Colm O’Reardon, Economist and former Government Advisor at the inequality debate at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

2015 is almost upon us and next September, world leaders will be reflecting on the fact that during that period:

  • Extreme poverty was reduced by 50%
  • 90% of all children are now attending primary school
  • Maternal mortality has been reduced by 50%
  • We have reached the Millennium Development Goal target in relation to the number of people who have access to safe sanitation
  • We have made good progress on the fight against major killer diseases such as HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria
  • We are very slowly winning the fight against extreme poverty.

However, these successes and our realistic ambition to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to advance many other areas of human development during this next period are deeply threatened by the extreme and rising inequality.

The emergence of some parts of the world from what appears to be extreme poverty is heavily masked by the fact that wealthy elites in poor and middle income countries have become extremely wealthy whilst poor people have remained stuck in poverty.

Two countries that have emerged as economic powerhouses (albeit of differing scales and on different trajectories) in recent years are India and Brazil. In the past 20 years, India has emerged as one of the most important economies on the planet. Within the next couple of years, it will have more billionaires than the US and it has its own space programme. Yet 400 million Indian citizens live in extreme poverty. For most, the economic miracle has had little or no impact.

Brazil has also emerged as a global power with tremendous economic success. But it is a country where the bottom half did not get left behind – or certainly not to the same extent. The main reason why India is so unequal while Brazil is reducing inequality among its citizens is simple – government policy.

Brazil had a very focused investment in health, education and a social protection floor to protect people on the bottom rung, where India did not. The trajectory for most Brazilians is now one where optimism and hope for a better life is a reality. The same cannot be said for 400 million Indians.

Emerging from the financial crisis, the global economy is slowly strengthening and growing. Ireland too is currently emerging from the worst economic crisis in living memory. No part of society here has been spared from the impact of this but we know that those most well off were least affected.

According to Social Justice Ireland Budget Review 2015, more than 750,000 people live in poverty (including one in five children) and Budget 2015 has widened the rich/poor gap in Ireland by €499 per year.

Too much of today’s global growth is neither inclusive nor sustainable. Governments, institutions and corporations have a collective responsibility to tackle extreme inequality.

And the right policy choices are crucial in changing the tide and allowing many more millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty instead of condemning future generations to it.

Above: Leonard Kufeketa (39), a brush seller, stands in front of Ferarri in Parkhurst, an expensive suburb of Johannesburg. “Things are changing in South Africa for the worst,” he says. “The public schools are no good. Those in the government, they are very rich, the rest of us are poor.” South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. Zed Nelson/Oxfam

Oxfam’s new report, Even it Up: Time to end extreme inequality, shows the scale of the problem of extreme economic inequality, and reveals the multiple dangers it poses to people everywhere.

Most importantly, the report highlights some of the concrete steps that can be taken to change things. So, let’s talk about the solutions.

These measures are:

1. Support a global goal to end extreme economic inequality in every country by 2030. (The effect of curbing inequality would be as dramatic as would be the failure to act. In India, for example, halting the recent increase in inequality could enable 90 million more people escape extreme poverty by 2019).

2. Act decisively on the toxic global taxation system which has been denying citizens in developing countries and in this part of the world the resource which is duly theirs.

3. Aim to achieve universal free public services by 2020. People’s right to free public health and education should be a cornerstone of policy and investment in health and education makes a huge impact on the lives of poorer people.

4. Pay workers a living wage instead of minimum wage (a fair amount to allow them to live rather than just survive) and close the income inequality gap.

5. Promote women’s economic equality and women’s rights (Women in many countries won’t be paid as much as men for another 75 years) and within that focus on a woman’s right to live free from violence.

6. Implement a universal social protection floor.

7. Target development finance at reducing inequality and poverty.

While all these measures deserve a full debate, I’d like to particularly focus on taxation as a key tool.

There is evidence that globally our economic system is set up to facilitate tax dodging by multinationals and wealthy individuals.

Governments around the world are losing €120 billion in revenue each year, according to a 2013 Oxfam study, putting more pressure on their finances as they look to balance their budgets by hitting ordinary citizens with higher taxes.

The tax gap for developing countries – the amount of unpaid tax liability of companies – is estimated at $104bn every year, including profits shifted in and out of tax havens.

Until the rules are changed and there is a fairer global governance of tax matters, tax dodging will continue to drain public budgets and undermine the ability of governments to tackle inequality.

To give a specific example, the world is now grappling with the Ebola crisis. Liberia is one of the worst affected countries. Liberia has 51 doctors for its entire population. This is a country the same size as Ireland. If Liberia received what it is entitled to it would be much better equipped to handle this crisis.

Above: Children learn about the importance of hand-washing training through an Oxfam Ebola programme in Liberia where there are only 51 doctors for a population of 4.2 million people. Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The economic inequality demonstrated in Liberia also highlights the fact that the world’s poorest citizens are also the world’s most vulnerable citizens – without the resilience and support systems to be able to cope with crisis. Oxfam sees evidence of this in every emergency response we carry out – responding to disasters costs a lot more than preventing them in the first place. Reducing inequality would reduce the need for support when a disaster strikes.

Inequality is not inevitable – it’s the result of years of rigged rules, like rigged tax rules that allow the richest people and corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

But these rules can be changed in favour of the many.

There is a lot to do. Tonight, one in every seven of us sharing this planet will go to bed hungry. Tomorrow morning, there will be 60 million children of primary school age who won’t be going to school. It is not so long ago that people across Ireland were in a similar position.

The answer is justice: fair use of the world’s natural resources; a global economy that reduces inequality; a world that does not discriminate against women or minorities.

Inequality and sustainability are unifying global concerns. People across all walks of life, across the political spectrum, and even the richest people on earth are close to agreement that major change is needed.

So we have a shared agenda. Now what's needed is a shared plan of action. If we don’t take action fast, we will soon live in a world where equal opportunity is just a dream.

Jim Clarken is Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland

Jim Clarken on inequality

RTE’s Morning Ireland interview with Jim Clarken on inequality and Lux Leaks

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Nov 25, 2014

Nov Christmas at Oxfam

25
2014

There is something for everyone at Oxfam Ireland this Christmas with the Christmas at Oxfam gift range. From refurbished iPads and retro games to the gift of clean water or Fairtrade chocolates, there’s the perfect present for that big box under the tree as well as a host of novelty stocking-fillers and festive essentials.

We’ve also got the ideal gift for the person who has everything with the Unwrapped range, which supports our life-changing work worldwide and helps those who have lost everything by providing cooking stoves that keep families safe and warm in emergencies as well as helping poor farmers to thrive and lots more besides. 

oxfam unwrapped

By purchasing an Unwrapped gift, you’ll be helping people like Yang Pal who lives in UN House in Juba, a camp for internally displaced people. Yang Pal is one of 1.5 million people forced to flee their homes after fighting broke out in South Sudan last December. 

Above: Yang Pal at an Oxfam cooking stove distribution, UN House, South Sudan Photo: Mackenzie Knowles Coursin / Oxfam

A fuel-efficient cooking stove (€9/£8) means that Yang Pal can cook more economically and efficiently as well as keep warm. It also helps keep her safe by reducing the need for women like her to venture out in search of firewood into areas where they are at risk of attack. 

Yang says: “[The cooking stove] saves time, as you don’t have to keep adding charcoal and it saves money because you don’t have to keep buying charcoal after the vouchers [also distributed by Oxfam] have been used.”

 
Above: Melissa Cameron, Oxfam Unwrapped supporter and shop volunteer: "I've always supported Unwrapped. My parents have been supporting Oxfam Canada and buying Unwrapped gifts at Christmas time for as long as I can remember, since I was a kid, so when I moved to Ireland it was just a natural thing to do. You could say it’s a family tradition.
 
I’ve already bought all my Unwrapped gifts for this year - my sister-in-law is getting Care for a Baby because she just had a baby. My brother is getting School Books and my grandmother is getting Educate a Girl - they both used to be school teachers. I'm vegetarian and I'm making my husband be vegetarian with me so that's why he’s getting A Clutch of Chicks this year. And I’m getting A Goat for my parents as they love animals and a Cooking Stove for my in-laws.
 
They're great gifts for people who are really hard to buy for or who already have everything. They always love reading about how the gifts help and where the money is going.”  Photo: Brian Malone / Oxfam
 

Whatever Unwrapped gift you decide to buy, Oxfam will ensure that your money has the best possible impact on the communities who need it most. To find out more click here, call 1850 30 40 55 (ROI) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (NI) or visit your local Oxfam shop.

 

our new gift range

This Christmas, we’ve also added the iPad 2 to our Born Again range of refurbished computers. Priced at just €299/£235, the iPads have been fully restored, tested and given a new lease of life and are the ideal gift for kids, teenagers, students and silver surfers. Born Again iPads and computers (laptops from €189/£149 and desktops from €125/£99) are available online here or at selected Oxfam shops across Ireland.  

The rest of the Christmas at Oxfam range is on sale now at Oxfam Ireland’s fifty shops nationwide, with stocking fillers that include ladies and men’s festive socks (€2.49/£1.99), retro games like Jacks, Noughts and Crosses and Tiddlywinks (from €5.99/£4.99) and Fairtrade stationery such as sparkly pens (€1.99/£1.49) and notebooks (€3.49/£2.49), among other gifts.

And for the foodies, there’s a delicious range of festive treats, including Fairtrade Divine Ginger Thins (€4.99/£3.99) and Fairtrade Divine Dark/Milk Chocolate Coins (€2.49/£1.99) as well as Mulled Wine Spices (€3.49/£2.99) – the perfect addition to any Christmas hamper!

There are also Christmas cards (from €1/£0.99 - €5/£3.99), advent calendars (from €3.99/£3.49) and crackers (from €4.99/£3.99) on sale as well as a selection of decorative bells in red and white (€4.99/£3.99). 

The Christmas at Oxfam range offers high-quality gifts that give back. The profits from the sale of each Christmas gift will support our work worldwide, helping to give hope this season to families and communities living in extreme poverty or affected by emergency situations like South Sudan or Syria.

The Christmas at Oxfam gift range is available at Oxfam shops nationwide. Find your nearest Oxfam shop.

 

 

Full range of Christmas gifts from Oxfam Ireland:

Festive socks – Ladies and men’s novelty socks: €2.49/£1.99
Retro games – Jacks: €5.99/£4.99
Retro games – Noughts and Crosses: €6.99/£5.99
Retro games – Tiddilywinks: €6.99/£5.99
Sparkly pens: €1.99/£1.49
Sparkly pen pot: €4.99/£3.99
Felt brooch (assorted colours): €3.49/£2.99
Set of three gold coloured elephants: €6.99/£5.99
Sparkly Compact Mirror: €2.99/£2.49
Paper covered notebook: €3.49/£2.99
Angels in a Bottle: €3.49/£2.99
Worry Dolls: €3.49/£2.99
Bell Curved Red/White: €4.99/£3.99
Bell Straight White/Grey: €4.99/£3.99
Advent Calendar Fairground Pop-up XM14: €3.99/£3.49
Chocolate advent calendar: €4.99/£3.99
Cracker MYO Kraft: €4.99/£3.99
Cracker Mini: €4.99/£3.99
Milk Chocolate Coins: €2.49/£1.99
Dark Chocolate Coins: €2.49/£1.99
Ginger Thins: €4.99/£3.99
Mulled Wine Spices: €3.49/£2.99

Oct 23, 2014

Oct Hunger and conflict pushing South Sudan to the brink of famine

23
2014
As humanitarian crises in the Middle East dominate news headlines and the world rallies to tackle the ebola outbreak, hunger and conflict have combined to push South Sudan – the world’s newest country – to the very brink of famine.
 
The recent Scottish referendum is a stark reminder that even in times of peace and democracy, the path to independence can divide a nation. In Ireland, we know too well the enduring struggles the journey towards independence can bring.
 
South Sudan became the newest country in the world in 2011 following two decades of civil war in what was then part of Sudan. A green country not unlike our own where the River Nile flows, independence brought optimism for a brighter future.
 
 
But the high hopes of just three years ago now lie in tatters. At least 10,000 people have lost their lives and over one million have fled their homes. Around four million people (more than the population of Leinster and Munster combined) are struggling to find enough to eat.
 
In a report titled ‘From Crisis to Catastrophe’, Oxfam Ireland and other aid agencies including Christian Aid, Concern, Goal, Trócaire, Tearfund and World Vision have warned that the number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger is expected to increase by 1 million between January and March next year.
 
They are not the victims of nature, but of a disaster which is the result of a political dispute between two leaders that has escalated into a conflict rooted in the unresolved tensions of the Sudan civil war combined with the proliferation of arms and the lack of development in what is one of the poorest countries in the world.
 
There are fears among those working on the ground that efforts so far this year to prevent the crisis from deteriorating will falter as rival sides are regrouping ready to resume violence once the rainy seasons end this month. The threat of famine is very real.
 
Despite this, the sheer number and scale of crises worldwide – Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, the Central African Republic and now the ebola virus among them – means the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Sudan has slipped off the news agenda.
 
The UN has declared South Sudan the world’s worst food crisis. But if we wait for an official declaration of famine to put South Sudan in the global spotlight, it will be too late. By the time famine was declared in Somalia and the Horn of Africa in July 2011, more than 125,000 people, half of the famine’s victims, had already died.
 
Since the violence broke out in December, men, women and children have been targeted because of their ethnicity and many have lost the people they love most in the world. They are scared and hungry.
 
Many have had to leave behind their possessions, crops and livestock or sell their assets to escape and have no means to buy food, water and other essentials. The conflict has meant that people were not able to plant crops. Camps are becoming overcrowded and poor sanitation is increasing the risk of disease.
 
Gwada Joseph (27) walks through open sewers in the Malakal camp for internally displaced people in the Upper Nile province, where heavy rains are making life intolerable for civilians. Gwada fled her home in Malakal town during the second rebel attack on her town in February 2014. Her husband was unable to escape and died in the fighting, while Gwada, her mother and four children made it to the safety of the UN camp.
 
 
Above: Gwada Joseph, 27, with son Mark, 1, in the Malakal IDP camp, South Sudan, where recent rains are making life intolerable for civilians. Photo: Simon Rawles/ Oxfam
 
Her home in the camp routinely floods in the rains, making life unbearable for her and her children. The rains in Malakal mean flooding is a regular occurrence and it is common to see people having to wade through water and mud that’s knee deep with little escape from mosquitoes, sewage and disease.
 
International aid – including Ireland’s contribution – has had a significant and positive impact on Gwada and her people’s lives. Food distributions make the difference in people eating even one meal a day and clean water has prevented more serious outbreaks of disease, while the distribution of solar lamps is helping keep girls and women safe.
 
Yet a massive funding gap remains (the UN World Food Programme estimates that $78 million is needed each month to deliver assistance) and the outlook for 2015 is of great concern, with news that 2.5 million people are projected to be in crisis or emergency from January to March 2015.
 
Sadly, this is not a crisis that will be ended simply with more aid. There needs to be political pressure to end this conflict. If the international community really wants to avert a famine then it must take a stronger stance towards the leaders of South Sudan increasing diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.
 
The UN Security Council must impose an embargo on the arms and ammunition that are sustaining the conflict and ensure that it is rigorously enforced. Every political negotiation should focus on the most important priorities; overcoming the obstacles that South Sudan’s people face in reaching aid; ending the violence immediately; and searching for a sustainable political solution.
 
The world must protect South Sudan’s people from violence; without ending the violence, the threat of famine will never be far away. With more vigorous diplomacy and swift action to convene a political solution inclusive of all people in South Sudan, the world has a chance to prevent that.
 
Otherwise 50,000 children will die from malnutrition unless we wake the world up and act now.
 
Because declaring a famine is like declaring a car crash – once it happens, it’s too late.
 
 

South Sudan: From the Other Side of the War

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.

Oct 10, 2014

Oct Six Simple Steps For Successful Decluttering

10
2014

We recently teamed up with Declutter Therapist Breda Stack to help you to organise your closet, stop unnecessary hoarding and to declutter your life.

 

Decluttering your closet and organising your life can have lots of great benefits

Above: Breda Stack, The Declutter Therapist.

Breda defines clutter as “anything physical, mental or emotional that doesn’t serve us or make us feel good. By letting go of anything that doesn’t enhance our life, decluttering helps us to make room for better things.

“It reduces stress and makes us feel happier and in control – I hear the words ‘freedom’ and ‘relief’ a lot. Giving to charity is also a feel-good exercise and a great way to extend the life of our unwanted possessions.”

Breda has made it her mission to raise awareness about the holistic benefits of decluttering and organising your home, not just in terms of physical space but also mental and emotional wellbeing.

Clutter may not enhance your life but at our Oxfam shops we can use it to transform lives. For example, the sale of a dress for €8 could help purify around 2,000 litres of water, making it safe to drink for South Sudanese families living in makeshift camps.

To help you with your decluttering and to show how to organise your life, Breda shared her Six Simple Steps for successful decluttering:

  1. Become aware of what doesn’t make you feel good. Your clutter threshold depends on your physical space, lifestyle and tastes
  2. Plan in advance. To prevent getting quickly disillusioned, work to a simple, step-by-step system that’s realistic for you
  3. Be patient. Decluttering is a process that requires time, energy and a reprioritisation of what’s important in your life
  4. Believe you can do it. Although becoming clutter-free and organised may not come naturally, trust that you can learn these skills
  5. Be honest with yourself. Let go of any guilt and follow your gut when making decisions – if in doubt, it needs to go
  6. Stay focused. Keep in mind the physical transformation as well as the many holistic benefits you’ll enjoy after you’ve decluttered

By Breda Stack, The Declutter Therapist

Why not give it a go today and let go, feel good and change lives?

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