Campaign blog

Last night, we lit up the Coliseum!

Kim Trathen's picture Kim Trathen International Campaigner

I’m here from the HungerFREE team in Rome for the World Summit on Food Security, where leaders are discussing the current food crisis. Over 150,000 people have taken action to call for an end to the crisis and last night to make our voices heard we lit up the Coliseum!

This only ever happens at significant global moments – with 1 billion people now hungry and the summit getting underway, last night was a significant global moment. Our candlelit vigil drew the newspaper photographers and TV crews, making our point hard for world leaders to ignore.

Lighting up The Coliseum

For the past two days we’ve been at the ‘People’s Food Sovereignty Now!’ forum with over 800 farmers and civil society representatives from across the world. We have the opportunity to put the voice of farmers and those who are actually experiencing hunger into the official summit discussions, so debates have been hot and lively.  

The summit kicked off this morning. We’ve heard that leaders from up to 60 countries around the world are coming. However, disappointingly Berlusconi from Italy is the only G8 (Group of 8 rich countries) leader to confirm attendance. What does that say about their commitment to ending hunger?  

Watch this space for news of the summit over the next couple of days!

Free Food!

Meredith Alexander's picture Meredith Alexander Head of Trade and Corporates

Rich countries waste around half of their food supplies. This is incredible in a world where more people than ever before are going hungry.

A fair chunk of this waste occurs in supermarket supply chains: for example slightly bendy carrots that don’t fit a uniform size and shape, or food that is nearing, but not necessarily at, its sell-by date. All supermarkets reject a portion of the produce they get from their suppliers and some surveys suggest it’s as much as 40%.

The food we waste is just part of the puzzle of our global food systems. We’ve been working with Tristram Stuart, a campaigner who has written a book all about it and right now we’re gearing up to the biggest ever event on food waste.

On 16 December Tristram, along with a host of celebrity chefs, will be Feeding the 5,000 with food that would otherwise have been wasted, and if you’re not squeamish about the shape of your carrots, you could be one of them.

What? Feeding the 5,000

Where? Trafalgar Square, London

When? 16 December

Let us know you're coming: email campaign@actionaid.org

Food waste is a massive issue but the good news is we can all do something about it, from making lunch out of our leftovers to campaigning for supermarkets to change their practices. We hope to see you there on 16 December!

Join The Wave

Eva Watkinson's picture Eva Watkinson Campaigns Engagement Manager

On Saturday 5 December, ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Copenhagen, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life will flow through the streets of London and Glasgow to demonstrate to the UK government their support for a fair and safe climate future for all.

The Wave

Where? Central London and Glasgow

When? 5 December Blue

How do I get there? Cheap travel from around the UK

Any other questions? www.stopclimatechaos.org

Let us know you're coming: email campaign@actionaid.org

More and more in our work around the world ActionAid is seeing the effects of climate change. The people who are least responsible, small-scale farmers in developing countries, are bearing the brunt. Last month our climate debt agents made the point that developing countries are in urgent need of funds to tackle climate change.

To avoid the worst we have to start reducing our carbon emissions, fast. As world leaders meet in Copenhagen we need to push them to act. Join ActionAid supporters and thousands of others and be part of ensuring a safe climate future for all.

Less self-conscious supporters might also want to join in the synchronised dance organised by ActionAid's youth team... 

See you there!

The Wave is organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

 

Toxic plants fail to feed people

Meredith Alexander's picture Meredith Alexander Head of Trade and Corporates

Assam in North East India is a green and fertile land. Travelling through it now I am seeing a profusion of healthy crops including the tea this region is famous for. The rice fields are turning from green to gold as the staple food crop matures.

I’ve only heard of one crop that isn’t thriving: jatropha. Jatropha is toxic to people and animals. It originates in Latin America. Jatropha has been brought here because its seeds have a high oil content. This oil is refined to make biodiesel, which can then be blended with regular diesel to fuel cars, tractors and other machines.

It sounds very green, but the reality is not so pretty. Scientists originally hoped using biofuels like jatropha would reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to using petrol. If that were true, biofuels would be a way to fight climate change. Sadly, scientists have realised that biofuels can actually cause higher emissions if you take their whole lifecycle into account. Not everyone is listening to the science, or taking into consideration the fact that biofuels are increasing hunger by driving up food prices. Governments, including ours in the UK and the one in India, are still pushing this supposed solution.

The government of India is trying to get farmers here to grow jatropha. But there is another problem. Assam contains many rivers, including the mighty Bramaputra. All this water is great for the rice fields. But jatropha is adapted to drier climates. North East India is too wet for it, and as a result jatropha plants here don’t produce as many seeds. In fact, the maximum yield here is less than half that found in other places.

Jatropha is poisonous, so the only way it can provide food is if you sell the seeds to buy what you need. Obviously the fewer seeds, the less you earn, and the less you can feed your family. In Assam, it seems a family relying on jatropha would be very hungry indeed. A government scientist researching jatropha in the area confirmed that he thinks large scale jatropha farming here would create very low incomes. I’m off to visit some villages here to see what the farmers themselves have to say.

Financial transaction tax?

Martin Hearson's picture Martin Hearson Tax Justice Campaign Manager

Gordon Brown has just given a speech, in which he’s hinted at a financial transaction tax – a small levy on financial transactions like currency trading. This is good news if it’s true, but only part of the tax picture.

Developing countries are suffering from the financial crisis, with shortfalls in government revenue amounting to billions of dollars. In addition, they need $200 billion each year for climate adaptation and mitigation.

A financial transaction tax is part of the solution, along with measures to help developing countries retain the revenues they lose through tax evasion in tax havens, which are still to come on the G20 agenda today.

Joining the dots

Martin Hearson's picture Martin Hearson Tax Justice Campaign Manager

G20 finance ministers are discussing financial regulation, climate finance for developing countries and tax havens.  But will they make the connection between the three?

Lax financial regulation in tax havens was a direct contributor to the banking crisis; and tax havens cost developing countries tens of billions of pounds every year in tax evasion.

At St Andrews, the G20 is discussing how to deliver on their promise, made at the London summit in April on the personal initiative of Gordon Brown, to find a way for developing countries to benefit from the tax haven crackdown.

Delivering on that commitment at St Andrew's today with a truly multilateral deal on tax information exchange will allow developing countries to claw back desperately needed money to fund schools, hospitals and poverty relief.