Sustainable farming might sound pretty dull, but seeing it in action is really inspiring. This morning I saw how women in a landless people’s settlement can make use of every part of a locally grown coconut.
Babacul nuts come in an extremely hard shell the size of an orange. The nuts can be pressed into oil that can be used for cooking or sold to make cosmetics. The oil is the most valuable product, but all of its parts are used.
The hard shells are turned into charcoal, which is used in processing the oil or sold. Part of the inner shell can be used to make flour that is especially good for malnourished children. Finally, they also make animal feed out of what is left over when the oil is extracted.
ActionAid supports a group of women who built a small centre to process these nuts. Instead of selling the nuts, the women are able to sell the products. As a result, they get a much better price.
Last night was an introduction to the real Brazilian culture: I spent the evening watching local soap operas while a colleague had her nails done. We even watched a bit of Big Brother Brazil.
Five of us from ActionAid stayed with a family in Vila Diamante. This is a permanent settlement where land has been reclaimed for the poor. The people here arrived in 1989 with nothing and have built a great community. They grow enough to feed themselves and are able to sell some produce to buy other goods. After many years of struggle, they can now educate their children through the 8th grade. They also have access to basic healthcare.
More than this, they now have a vibrant community with interests like any other. Children play games. Parents talk about tv shows as well as politics. Women work hard to claim their rights, but some of them enjoy taking time to get a manicure. By spending the night here, I get to see many more facets of people’s lives than just the problems they face.
Our campaign call for a supermarket watchdog was taken right to the top today. Lib Dem MP Andrew George asked Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions if he intends to make sure the watchdog gets put in place soon.
The timing of this is really useful, with supermarkets like Tesco and the others still dragging their feet about signing up, we need the government to stand firm and insist that it happens.
The Prime Minister replied saying “He is absolutely right to highlight this problem. First of all, we are asking supermarkets to change their practice and introduce early payment to their suppliers. Secondly, in relation to developing countries, we have been in talks with supermarkets like Asda about how they can source their produce from these countries at a fair price. We will continue to push for this as quickly as possible.”
While this is a bit evasive on the Competition Commission front, it's encouraging that he recognises the problems that suppliers are facing at the hands of supermarkets - especially in developing countries. We’ll try to find out what that his pledge to push for action as “quickly as possible" really means and get back to you…
ActionAid had a photographer on the day of action last week. These pictures are by Andrew Tellas, and really capture the energy of the day - and the weather!
Photos: ActionAid/Andrew Tellas
The people with purple flags are feminists as are those with the facepaint and leopard skin outfits. Lots of people were wearing the mouth masks- they say “the mouth is the most important weapon against fundamentalisms”.
The World Social Forum (WSF) is coming to its end tomorrow. As a result, seminars now focus on drawing together the outputs of previous meetings to come up with final statements and proposals. As a result, you can hear a summary of the key debates on an issue quickly. I attended one such session on climate change.
The most interesting point was a philosophical one. Previously, progressive movements assumed that the future belongs to them. The passage of time brings us closer to a better world. But climate change turns this rosy view upside down. Time is running out and the disastrous effects of climate change could make the future worse for the poor.
Climate change is the result of an excess of greenhouse gasses, especially carbon dioxide caused by burning fuels like coal and oil. Europe, the US and other rich countries have historically been responsible for the vast majority of these emissions. But the impact of climate change, in the form of more frequent storms, increased droughts, rising sea levels et cetera will be felt most acutely by the poor. Small scale farmers are particularly vulnerable.
On Wednesday the stage was set for Europe’s top climate bureaucrats to announce their grand plan for getting a new global deal on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of this year. But while Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas managed to turn up and issue some punchy soundbites the actual document that outlined the European Commission’s ideas was nowhere to be seen. At the time of writing an official final draft still doesn’t seem to exist.
Usually the Commission is more progressive on climate change than Europe’s governments so the first draft made for disappointing reading. Perhaps the bureaucrats were paying too much attention to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who said last year that tackling climate change in a recession was like visiting the hairdresser when you’re suffering from pneumonia. Certainly Europe’s ambition seemed to be ratcheting down just as Barack Obama was announcing the end of the United State’s head-in-the-sand stance on global warming.
The first draft came up with a number for how much public money the world should dedicate to tackling climate change in developing countries – the countries who are being hit first and worst by global warming. That number was €30 billion (£27 billion) a year by 2020 comprising €10 billion (£9 billion) for adaptation, €10 billion to combat deforestation and €10 billion for clean technology.
Big numbers always sound impressive out of context but €30 billion a year is less than a quarter of what most credible independent estimates suggest is needed. The UN says that $86 billion (€65 billion, £60 billion) a year is needed by 2015 for adaptation alone – so the Commission’s figure is less than one sixth of what’s required to help poor countries adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.€40 billion (£36 billion) a year is required for clean technology – four times the Commission’s number and €20 billion (£18 billion) a year is required to combat deforestation – twice the Commission’s number (deforestation accounts for up to a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions).
The total amount required is €125 billion (£112 billion) a year by 2020 – so the Commission’s number falls short by €95 billion (£85 billion) a year.
But the only thing worse than bad numbers is no numbers. In the latest draft, labelled ‘informal advance version’ the numbers had disappeared, requiring us to change the title of our press release from ‘Europe’s new climate numbers fail to add up’ to ‘Europe’s new climate numbers fail to materialise’. Commissioner Dimas said “no money, no deal” in his press conference. Europe has put forward no money, so where does that leave the deal?