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August 2009

CWS Update August 2009

Dates to note:

  • 6 August -Hiroshima Day
  • 9 August - Peace Sunday (download worship materials), Indigenous Peoples Day
  • 23 August - Rememberance of slave trade and abolition

>> Zimbabwe - Beating the odds: A report from CWS staff member, Mandla Akhe, on a recent visit to his homeland and how people are managing to survive. Read more
>>Moruroa - Anniversary of atomic explosion: 43 years after French nuclear testing started, former workers are still seeking compensation for radiation related illnesses. Read more
>>Climate change - Health impacts on poor nations. Read more
>>Africa - helping small African farmers feed a continent Read more
>>India - Good news for child labourers Read more
>>World March for Peace: CWS is supporting the march, which starts in New Zealand in October Read more
>>Congo/DRC – How your donations are helping displaced people Read more
>>Peru - Preserving the ‘lungs of the planet’.  A victory for indigenous people protecting the Amazon from logging and oil exploration. Read more

Zimbabwe : How to Beat the Desperate Odds
CWS staff member, Zimbabwean Mandla Akhe, who has recently returned from a visit to his homeland, says his overall impression was of a massive collapse of the public infrastructure.  For instance, visiting relatives where both parents are teachers, he found the father of the family rising at 3am in the morning to bathe in the short period when some power and water are available.  His sons, aged 10 and 7, together with the rest of the family cannot be expected to rise at that hour, so 5 litres of water are heated in a bucket on an outside fire and shared with everyone.  Obtaining firewood to heat the water, of course, is also a difficult problem.  Anyone travelling into the countryside is asked to bring back firewood as a priority.
In spite of such harsh conditions, however, Zimbabweans seem to be finding ways through the obstacles.  Almost everyone has some form of self-financing.  For instance in a family living in a suburb of Harare, the capital, where the husband is the general manager of an insurance firm and the wife principal of a kindergarten, the mainstay of the family is their vegetable garden and their chickens - not just for their own consumption, but to ‘sell’ their surplus.  Before the recent switch to foreign currencies like the US dollar and away from the worthless Zimbabwe dollar, the selling often amounted to barter. Nevertheless the family was able to invest in a peanut butter-making machine and they barter their vegetables for peanuts.  The husband admits that on returning from work each day he immediately goes to the garden and says that it is worth more to the family than their combined salaries.
For Mandla the conditions faced by his people, which he found stressful to deal with personally, are overwhelming. He admires and celebrates the way Zimbabweans invest time in such things as gardening and finding ways around the shortages.  But, he asks, is this a normal life? And in the long-run is it sustainable, especially in regard to the environment? Hopefully with new development assistance as the international community sees changes in the political situation, the long-suffering Zimbabwean people will find hope and respite from their struggles.

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Moruroa :  43rd Anniversary of Atomic Explosion
On  July 2 1966 the first atmospheric atomic bomb test was carried out in French Polynesia. Moruroa e Tatou, the association of former workers, which CWS supports, says from that date things have never been the same in their country, healthwise, socially, economically, environmentally and culturally.  Forty- three years later the local workers who, with their families have suffered from the effects of the tests, are still trying to get compensation from  the French Government.  

Moruroa e Tatou submitted eight dossiers to the Papeete Labour Court seeking compension for former test site workers. Five only were accepted and only four will be examined by a French expert to determine whether their illness is really due to the nuclear tests.  The court did rule that the Atomic Energy Commission had failed in its duty as an employer and awarded US$11,000 each to three children of a deceased veteran.

“Yes we’re disappointed but we keep up the fight,” said John Doom of Moruroa e Tatou. He said they hope to take further action following the passing of a new law at present before the French parliament. This will update old legislation which prevented workers getting compensation.

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Climate Change:  Health Impacts in Poor Nations
The International Institute for Environment and Development, UK, describes some of the direct and indirect impacts that climate change could have on health in poorer countries.  These include heat stress and the effects of disasters and vector-borne diseases like malaria. There are already between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria in the world each year, and some estimate that between 260 and 320 million more people are likely to find themselves living in areas with malaria potential by the year 2080. Other effects include food and water-borne diseases. These will be especially strong in poor nations where limited healthcare infrastructure, high disease burdens, regular droughts and floods, widespread poverty and a high dependence on natural resources compound vulnerability.

The International Panel on Climate Change is unequivocal: ‘The impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within all countries, thereby exacerbating inequalities in health status and access to adequate food,clean water and other resources.’ Malnutrition could increase as a result of declining food yields as the health of those who need to work the land to provide food and income for their families is compromised. Climate change could also seriously undermine the health-related Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  
- See Take action/climate change for more information CWS’s Climate Change Campaign, resources and the petition on climate change in the Pacific region.

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Africa: Helping Small Farmers Feed a Continent

President Obama has called for more democracy and for aid to boost food production in Africa, but large-scale agro-industries are not the answer. Future food security lies in the efforts of the people themselves. There is a need to take account of the realities on the ground because, according to the UN, more than 70 percent of Africans depend on agriculture to live.  And at a recent African Union summit on agricultural investments, donors and non-profit organisations called attention to the role smallholder farmers – mostly women – can have in feeding their communities.
However, agriculture is an overlooked ‘emergency’ that deserves as much attention as the global financial crisis, according to Oxfam in Dakar, Senegal. Nearly US$9 trillion has been injected into the global financial sector since January 2009, compared with $4 billion in global overseas development assistance (ODA) to agriculture. That is small change relative to the scale of the problem. Decades of declining production have pushed more families into hunger and disease, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). It calculates that 18 percent of ODA in 1980 went to agriculture, compared with 4 percent in 2006.  Small farms bear the brunt of these cuts.
Namanga Ngongi of AGRA says, while he recognises the term ‘green revolution’ recalls memories of failed agricultural investments,running away from the word does not solve productivity problems. “We cannot tinker around the margins.  Africa’s agricultural problems need massive investments – nothing short of a revolution.”

Solutions must be tailored to small-scale producers’ needs. For instance if smaller packages of fertilisers, seeds and tools were available, people who can only afford small quantities are more likely to buy. The readily available packages weighing up to 100kg are impractical for farmers – most often women – travelling in precarious transport over long distances on poor roads. Farmers are forced to travel long distances to get seeds and fertilisers because there are not enough small traders in rural areas. In western Kenya where AGRA has implemented agro-leadership programmes to train traders, farmers are now walking on average 4km to buy inputs, compared with 17km previously.
Cash-strapped governments are unable to back loans to small farms. Banks need risk assurances. For instance a loan-assurance programme in Kenya backed by AGRA and the UK Department for International Development agreed to lend US$50 million to small-scale farmers over three years. In a recent report on cash transfers in southern Niger, the NGO Save the Children UK wrote: “Providing agricultural inputs alone is not sufficient to help the poorest households increase their food production. Inputs must be accompanied by economic support (cash or food) so that able-bodied adults can spend sufficient time working in their own fields.”

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India: Good News for Child Labourers

From the Global March Against Child Labour International Secretariat comes news about one of its partners in Bachpan Bachao Andolan, BBA Save the Childhood Movement ) which filed a case on the rescue and rehabilitation of child labourers and prosecution of employers in the Delhi High Court.  A landmark judgment has been passed by the Court which will strengthen rehabilitation and repatriation of rescued child abourers.

An Action Plan for the total elimination of child labour, with detailed roles and responsibilities of Government officials, was approved. The Court also said due compensation of Rs20,000 (about NZ$650) must be immediately recovered from those employing children.  Prosecution of employers, recovery of fines from the employers and traffickers, and rehabilitation of children under all the laws will be required to be done simultaneously following the judgement.

Global March workers believe that the judgement should go a long way towards the elimination of child labour, not only from Delhi, but also can be used as a precedent for their work in other states.

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World March for Peace
CWS is supporting the World March for Peace and Nonviolence which will open with a blessing ceremony on Rekohu (Chatham Islands), home to Moriori, who have a 500-year tradition of peace-keeping, and will officially start in Wellington on United Nations International Day of Non-violence, October 2nd, 2009.    It will then journey through 90 countries in all seven continents including Antarctica, involving millions of people, before ending in Argentina on January 2nd, 2010.

Organisers of the march have chosen Aotearoa-New Zealand as the starting point in honour of our country’s history of peace leadership, including: the non-violent peace-making traditions of Moriori and Parihaka; being the first country to grant women the vote; being the only country to have a Minister for Disarmament; our inclusion of peace studies in the school curriculum; the establishment of Peace Cities throughout the country; our moves towards peaceful resolution of past injustices to Tangata Whenua and other ethnic communities, our prohibition of nuclear weapons; and our support for the United Nations. See www.worldmarch.co.nz

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Congo/DRC : Help for Displaced People

“Congo, Can you hear it?” in last month’s Update told something of the plight of people in north-east Congo (DRC) hounded from place to place, their belongings and farms pillaged, their women and girls raped in the ongoing conflict there.  Thanks to your donations and an emergency grant from the New Zealand government, CWS has been able to contribute $55,000 to a relief programme being carried out in the area by partners in ACT International (Action by Churches Together).  Its purpose is to ensure the affected people in selected areas of North and South Kivu, numbering about 350,000, have improved and safe access to clean water and sanitation facilities, are aware of safe hygiene practices, feel protected from violence and have improved overall physical and psychological health.
The programme involves the construction and maintenance of reticulated emergency water treatment and distribution systems. Proper operation and maintenance of systems is ensured through training and financing local staff (both women and men) and water committees in sustainable water supplies.  Construction of emergency latrines and shower facilities is done by local labour or trades people in places agreed upon by the men, women and children involved and technically-experienced personnel.  It also supports women through existing women’s groups and continues to add programmes to meet their needs, including support for women in small businesses and trading ventures. It is addressing the high mortality rate in child birth (26%) by strengthening the local birth attendees system.

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Peru: Preserving the ‘Lungs of the Planet’

Many New Zealanders will have followed on TV the travels of Bruce Parry in the Amazon region and also heard of the recent disturbances in the Peruvian sector.  These came about because earlier this year the President of Peru, Alan García, sold the rights to explore, log and drill 70% of his country’s portion of the Amazon rainforest to international oil and gas companies, saying “There are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle.” But indigenous people live there. They protested peacefully for two months and blockaded the rivers and roads to keep the companies out.

President García responded by declaring a state of emergency and sending in the military. On June 5th they opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition and stun grenades: so far, nothing surprising. But then something surprising did happen. The Peruvian Congress, presumably shamed by this incident, repealed the laws that allowed oil company drilling, by a margin of 82 votes to 12. Garcia was forced to apologise. The protesters have celebrated and returned to their homes in the Amazon. But of course the battle is not over as the multi-national companies denied the rights will certainly try again and there is need for international support to prevent the destruction of this forest, which is important for the whole planet.     

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