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Insight, debate and campaigning news from ActionAid

Land rights activist from Tanzania Elly Ahimidiwe: "Join me at the Big IF rally!"

The Tour De Future bicycle tour in Denmark, to raise awareness of the impact of biofuels
The Tour De Future bicycle tour in Denmark, to raise awareness of the impact of biofuels
Photo: ActionAid Denmark

Hi! I’m Elly Ahimidiwe from Moshi, Tanzania.

I arrived yesterday in the UK after a one month Tour De Future bicycle tour in Denmark to raise awareness of the impact of biofuels along with Joy and 4 other Activistas from East Africa. In April, I joined Action Aid campaigners and supporters from across Europe to lobby MEPs in Brussels to reform European biofuels policy to stop it fuelling hunger. I’m excited about meeting you and sharing my experience of land rights and food production issues with you.

I’m a youth trainer and facilitator and set up the Activista network in Tanzania. I’ve been volunteering with Action Action Aid since 2011 in the Tanzania Office as a blogger and developing case studies. The issue of land grabs is really important to me as it is something my own community in Kilimanjaro have experienced and I have witnessed clashes between farmers and pastoralists fighting due to land shortages in the area.

In my work with Action Aid, I’ve worked with communities such as those in Kisarawe and Kilwa District, where a UK company took land the size of 11,000 football pitches to establish a jatropha plantation (a biofuels crop) leaving local people without land to feed their families.

Over the next few weeks I will be campaigning on Enough Food For Everyone IF and I’m really looking forward to meeting other young people who are making noise so that world leaders and policy makers hear us and act. I will be attending the Big IF rally in London on 8th June-Make sure you join me!

Looking forward to meeting you soon!

You can also meet Elly in:



Joy Mghoi from Kenya: campaigning to tackle hunger

Joy Mghoi's picture Posted by Joy MghoiYouth Campaigner
Joy Mghoi is a Social Worker and part of the ActionAid Activista network in Kenya
Joy Mghoi is a Social Worker and part of the ActionAid Activista network in Kenya
Photo: Jokob Dall

Hello! I’m Joy Mghoi from Voi, Kenya.

I’ve just arrived in the UK from Denmark where I have spent the last month with 5 other young Activistas from across Africa, taking part in a nationwide bicycle tour organised by ActionAid Denmark to raise awareness of the impact of biofuels.

I am a Social Worker and part of the Activista network in Kenya and am particularly interested in land rights after volunteering on Action Aid’s programme on women and land rights in Taita, Kenya. I have seen how communities have been affected by land grabs and hunger and have campaigned on local land justice through peaceful demonstrations.

In the run up to the G8 I will be at a number of Enough Food For Everyone IF events. Come and meet me this Wednesday at the London IF event where I will be talking about my experience of campaigning on land rights with fellow Activista Elly Kimaro and Luke Harman, Tax Justice campaigner. We will be talking about why we need to push world leaders to tackle the causes of hunger, and how we can make it happen. Join me for the event  'IF You Add Your Voice Against Hunger' on Wednesday 22 May, 6.30pm, Body & Soul.

I became an activist to be a voice for the less privileged and poor who don’t have a voice in society.

Make sure you add your voice and join me at the G8 Rally in London on 8th June. The fight against hunger has just begun and we need to take action now!

I look forward to campaigning with you over the next month and sharing my stories with you.

Shifting away from land-based biofuels

Tim Rice's picture Posted by Tim RiceBiofuel Policy Advisor

Understanding EU politics isn't easy at the best of times. But an important debate is on-going about the future of biofuels in Europe, and in member states.

Thanks in part to the efforts of ActionAid supporters, there is growing recognition that the use of food crops to fuel cars is having a range of negative impacts. They are driving food prices higher, fuelling land grabs in developing countries - and many of these biofuels will not reduce any greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to fossil fuels they are replacing. Only industry remains largely in denial.

So the European Commission recommended that current food-to-fuel biofuels should be capped at 5%. Whilst there are many loopholes in this proposal - and ActionAid would like a cap set at 0% to cover all biofuels that are specifically grown on land - it is a step in the right direction. 

But the question remains, if we don’t want to use land-based biofuels, what are the alternatives? The UK is still obliged under EU legislation to find 10% of transport fuels from renewable energy by 2020. One option is electric vehicles – both vehicles and trains – always assuming they are powered by renewable electricity.

ActionAid commissioned the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) to also look into sustainable alternatives from more advanced biofuels that potentially could be available by 2020. These alternatives require a new technology and are not currently in commercial production. But one of their greatest advantages is that they can be produced from domestic wastes and residues, some of which is discarded. In short, these feedstocks do not directly use land or food crops.

Clearly, the UK needs to be producing a lot less waste; but there is potential for using, for example, food and other biological waste to produce biogas; and ethanol from agricultural straw as a substitute for petrol.

The IEEP report found that this domestic wastes could contribute over 3% of UK transport fuels in 2020. Under EU laws, they are allowed to count double (ie over 6%) towards the UKs 10% transport target. Together with electric vehicles, this could get us a long way towards the target.

This is always assuming they are produced sustainably, both in terms of volumes extracted and their environmental and social impact. Many of these wastes and residues already have existing and better uses; for example in the board or paper industries where effectively the carbon is locked away.

But the sustainability of these feedstocks is still not assured and ActionAid is demanding that the UK government undertakes a series of actions before we embark on greater use of wastes and residues. ActionAid is therefore not endorsing any particular advanced biofuel feedstock or technology.

But the upside of moving towards these sustainable biofuels is that they would create green jobs, potentially up to 10,000 by 2020. They have much better GHG savings compared to conventional biofuels, and they wouldn’t push up food prices or fuel land grabs because land and food are not directly involved.

Sustainable and domestic biofuels will always be in limited quantities. One of the most efficient and quickest ways to reduce our dependence on oil and save greenhouse gas emissions is to have much greater fuel efficiency in vehicles. But first we must wean developed nations off their thirst for food-to-fuel biofuels; the G8 in June is the next opportunity.

Book your space for exciting campaigner events!

Ema Jackson's picture Posted by Ema JacksonCampaigns Assistant

I am really excited to say that on Monday we have two brilliant young African ActionAid campaigners joining us here in the London office – Elly Ahimidiwe from Tanzania and Joy Mwakisambi from Kenya. They are in the UK for a month to join us on the Enough Food For Everyone.. IF campaign in the run up to the G8 summit in June.

I can’t wait to meet Elly and Joy and hear all about their experiences of campaigning in their own countries. And you can meet them too – we are holding 4 events in the coming weeks which will give you the opportunity to hear from them. 

The first event is in London on Wednesday 22 May and will discuss why we need to push the G8 leaders to tackle the causes of hunger, and how we can do this. It will also be a brilliant opportunity to meet other supporters of the IF campaign and ask any questions you may have. I hope to see you there!

The second event is in Manchester on Thursday 23 May and will be an evening of conversation and films learning more about land being taken without permission in East Africa. This is an issue with which Elly and Joy have a lot of first-hand experience so will be really interesting to hear their perspective.

The next event is in Edinburgh on Thursday 30 May and will be a film screening of ‘A River Changes Course’ and panel discussion. The film has been described as breathtakingly beautiful, and the panel includes Humza Yousaf Scottish Minister for International Development, so this promises to be a great evening.

And finally, if you can’t make it to any of these locations then worry not – we are holding an online event too. We are running an online panel discussion on 29th May at 7pm which will be available live on YouTube. For this event Elly and Joy, plus some other exciting IF campaign speakers, will be answering your questions you have about the issues central to the campaign. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter for more details, which will be released in the next week.

So do come along and meet the brilliant Elly and Joy, or submit a question for the online discussion, and join me in welcoming them to the UK. I am sure that they will have loads of interesting stories and inspiring campaigning ideas that we can learn from.

“Food Not Fuel” field of wheat springs up outside Parliament

ActionAid campaigners take the call for Food Not Fuel to Westminster
ActionAid Campaigners take your call for Food Not Fuel to Westminster
Photo: Kristian Bruus/ActionAid

Almost 9,000 of you from across the UK have taken action over the last year to stamp out the use of biofuels that cause hunger. This week we took your call for Food Not Fuel to the heart of Westminster.

Thank you to the 9,000 supporters from across the UK who have taken action over the last year to stamp out the use of biofuels that cause hunger. This week we took your call for Food Not Fuel to the heart of Westminster.

Yesterday the ActionAid Campaigns team woke up at the crack of dawn to build a giant ‘field of wheat’ on the doorstep of Parliament, ready to greet MPs on their arrival at work, each symbolic grain representing a pledge of support.

We invited MPs to come and show their support, and we were really pleased with the response. Loads of MPs from across the Parties came over - some even getting inside the field, which was no mean feat!

Check out and share some of the fantastic images on Facebook and Twitter.

As we told MPs, there’s a crucial vote coming up in Europe in June on the future of European biofuels policy, so the UK Government has a huge opportunity now to take a lead and ensure we end the use of food for fuel.

With the UK hosting the G8 summit this year, and committing to act on the causes of hunger, we’re calling for the UK to use this international stage and push for action from other G8 nations.

Join us to send this message to David Cameron loud and clear, and rally against hunger at The Big IF event in Hyde Park on Saturday 8 June. Let’s tell our leaders we won’t tolerate the injustice of global hunger in a world where there is enough food for everyone.

The elephant in the room

Chris Jordan's picture Posted by Chris Jordan Tax Justice Campaign Manager

The UK is responsible for one in 5 of the world’s tax havens. That puts our government in the perfect position to stop tax havens enabling companies to dodge their taxes in poor countries.

The UK has been roundly criticised by other governments, with the Austrian Finance Minister saying "Great Britain has many money laundering centres and tax havens in its immediate legal remit - the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands. These are all hot spots for tax evasion and money laundering."

Chancellor George Osborne responded by announcing a new deal to make some of the UK’s tax havens share tax information – but only with 5 European powers. This deal will do nothing to help the world’s poorest countries claim what’s rightfully due.

Tomorrow, George Osborne will host a meeting with G7 Finance Ministers from the world’s most powerful countries. But the impact of the UK’s very own tax havens on poor countries is unlikely to be discussed.

Elephant in the roomTo remind him that for the developing world, UK tax havens remain the elephant in the room, the IF campaign decided to catch his attention with a life sized elephant right outside the Treasury offices.

George Osborne sat reading the newspaper outside the Treasury - ignoring the giant elephant in his room that is the UK's tax havens.

Meanwhile campaigners dressed as elephants stood outside handing out flyers reminding Osborne that we can tackle global hunger IF we crack down on tax havens. It certainly caught the attention of everyone who passed by!