Inflammation and stories on oxfam

The Oil4Food Campaign is a collaborative and innovative mission to mobilize support and make small-scale agriculture one of Ghana’s top priorities for the investment of oil and gas revenues.

It all began in 2013, when Oxfam began working with local Ghanaian organizations to mobilize communities and lobby the government to invest in small-scale agriculture.

Ghana is a nation of small-scale farmers, who represent 60 percent of the country’s economically active population. Many of these farmers are impoverished and many are women, who labor on very small plots of land with little to no say in agricultural policy and decision-making. Small-scale farmers thus do not have access to improved fertilizers and seeds, processing and storage facilities, and proper irrigation.

This lack of investment in small-scale agriculture is a very real problem.

Oxfam noted this, as well as the fact that Ghana’s oil exports are expected to generate an average of $1 billion per year over the next twenty years. Why not channel this revenue into something poverty-reducing and sustainable?

Thus came the Oil4Food Campaign, which called upon the Ghanaian government to increase agricultural spending from 8.5 percent to 14.1 percent of the total GDP, as well as focus this spending on impoverished small-scale farmers.

Word of the Oil4Food Campaign spread rapidly and gained a huge level of public support among villages across the country. A mobile phone petition proved highly successful, and was promoted in newspapers, TV, radio and public events. Urban youth in Ghana became an active constituency on the issue, spreading the message through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Oxfam also engaged the public by visiting over 200 rural communities, explaining the campaign and urging farmers to speak up. Paper ‘thumbprint’ petitions were even available to be signed by those not able to read or write.

Using these traditional and media platforms, the petition ended up collecting more than 20,000 signatures. One hundred farmers marched to Parliament to present it to the government.

The months spent campaigning paid off well for small-scale farmers when the 2014 Budget was presented on November 19, 2013. The following conditions were included:

  • Maintained agriculture as one of the four priority sectors to invest oil revenue in the next 3 years.
  • Allocated 15 percent of government-expected oil revenue in 2014 to agriculture under the Annual Budget Funding Allocation. This in addition to the mainstream budget allocation to the agricultural sector represents a 23 percent increase in agricultural budget allocation from 2013, with the vast majority of this money (94.5 percent) allocated on ‘poverty focused agriculture.’
  • Proposed to scale up the commercial agricultural insurance system established in 2011 on a pilot basis to cover multiple crops, weather and more regions.

The success of the campaign was celebrated across the nation on National Farmers Day in December.

The work of Oxfam and its Ghanaian partners, as well as the work of the Ghanaian people in mobilizing their fellow community members, shows how the collaboration of many in fighting for their rights can be a real cause to celebrate.

— Mollie O’Brien

Sources: OXFAM, OXFAM(2), Joy Online

Income inequality is one of the biggest issues facing the world today. There is not a nation on Earth that is not affected by it in some way or another. The United Kingdom is currently facing a food crisis of national proportions with hundreds of thousands having to access emergency shelter food. Income inequality is also driving a wedge deeper and deeper in the British economy, making daily life even more difficult for working class families.

According to a study that was published by the charity organization Oxfam, the United Kingdom’s richest .1% have had their own personal incomes grow by over four times what the lowest 90% of Britain’s population have. Oxfam’s study used Forbe’s latest list of billionaires, and goes on to say that the United Kingdom’s five richest families have a total worth of over 28.2 billion pounds while the lowest 20% of the United Kingdom’s population only accumulated 28.1 billion pounds.

The Duke of Westminster topped the list of the top richest families in the United Kingdom. Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor is worth over 7.9 billion pounds and owns over 100 acres in London and Belgravia. The second highest were the Reuben brothers who are deal in extremely profitable metal business deals. Their company Trans World Metals, at its peak, controlled over 5% of the world aluminum supply. The third family on the list are the Hinduja Brothers who are worth over 6 billion pounds. The Hinduja brothers gained their fortunate by creating the Hinduja Group, which is conglomerate that oversees more than 21 companies that range from banks, to transportation systems, to chemical plants.

The fourth richest family in Britain is the Cadogan Family; the Viscount and Viscountess of Chelsea and their net worth of over 4 billion pounds. The fifth name on the list is Mike Ashley, owner of the prestigious football club Newcastle United who brought up the rear at 3.3 billion pounds.

The wealth that these families have accumulated is both astounding and impressive. However, in 2014 one of the biggest issues to both world leaders and citizens alike is the ever present issue of income inequality. The World Economic Forum declared that income inequality is one of the biggest threats that the world is facing today. Jennifer Blanke, the World Economic Forum’s Chief Economist cited the Arab Spring, as well as recent issues in both Brazil and South Africa as examples of how “…people are not going to stand for it anymore.”

The news that the top five richest families in Britain have accrued as much wealth as the bottom 20% is another piece of the income inequality puzzle that needs to be addressed and examined in a timely manner. The continuing rift between the rich and poor in every country around the world must be a main focus for the world’s leaders in order to take steps to address this issue.

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: The Guardian, The Independent, The Independent, The Guardian
Photo: Salon

Scarlett Johansson’s recent success in movies such as “The Avengers” and the 2014 Academy Award nominee for best picture, “Her,” has made Johansson a household name. Off the screen, Johansson has made the most of her celebrity status by influencing political leaders and everyday citizens to stand up and fight the ongoing war on poverty.

Recently though, Johansson parted ways with Oxfam, a global organization who assists impoverished nations with finding innovative ways to pull their people out of poverty. Serving as the Oxfam Ambassador since 2007, Johansson has provided much support for the organization by increasing awareness, participating in fundraising, promoting advocacy and profile-raising activities.

While this breakup is unfortunate for the parties involved, what remains a positive aspect in the situation is the good that Oxfam and Johansson have mutually accomplished over the past 8 years where she served as their Global Ambassador. Johansson’s motivation to get involved with humanitarian efforts spawned after she made a life-changing trip to India and Sri Lanka. There she met tsunami survivors and witnessed several Oxfam-funded projects whose purpose was to rebuild ravaged communities in the area.

Over the years, Johansson joined forces with a plethora of different movements such as the “We Can” campaign that aimed at shifting attitudes which support violence against women in India and Sri Lanka. Johansson was also involved in Oxfam’s GROW campaign which advocated reforming bad policies and increasing ways to make food sustainability more efficient.

“Sharing food is one of life’s pleasures. On a global scale, we don’t share fairly. Close to a billion people go to bed hungry every night. The fact is: the global food system is a broken one. All of us, from Kentucky to Kenya, deserve enough to eat,” said Johansson.

Oxfam accepted Johansson’s resignation after much controversy was stirred from her participation in a SodaStream commercial which was set to air during the Super Bowl. Her affiliation with the Tel Aviv-based soda machine company which operates in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim was criticized by several pro-Palestinian groups as well as Oxfam itself, who are opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements deeming them illegal under international law.

“While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Johansson stated that Oxfam and her had “a fundamental difference of opinions,” when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the 29-year-old actress has parted ways with the organization, she reassured the public that she remains, “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

Regardless of the fallout, the one thing that can’t be denied is the effects Johansson’s efforts have had on many struggling communities. From providing funding for underprivileged students seeking education, to increasing US consumer interest, Johansson has made a significant difference when it comes to fighting global poverty.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: Oxfam, LA Times, Oxfam
Photo: Business Insider

The global income inequality numbers are staggering. According to a new report from Oxfam International, 85 people control as much wealth as half the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people.

The study also found that 70 percent of all people live in countries where this income gap is growing. Oxfam calls this economic trend “ a major risk to human progress.”

The research, focused on the global stage, echoes the sentiment of both United States President Barack Obama, who called American income inequality, “the defining challenge of our time” and Pope Francis’ indictment of global capitalism. It now seems the whole world is paying attention to the growing divide between rich and poor.

However, in spite of growing awareness, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

The Oxfam report raises concerns about the effects of economic inequality on democratic systems of government, saying that the concentration of money in the hands of a few undermines the influence of ordinary people.

They argue that markets are not impartial phenomena, but are the construction of the wealthy elite—rigged to move more money and assets into their hands. The report goes on to provide short, specific examples from across the globe indicating how capital corrupts (and breaks) political processes.

But it is not all finger pointing. Oxfam does offer specific recommendations as to how people can face this problem in the coming years. Their policy recommendations include tax reform, living wages, labor safety and healthcare legislation, stronger regulation and the reduced political influence of capital.

The cost of not adopting these recommendations, the claim, will likely prove catastrophic for the world’s poor and for democracy abroad.

– Chase Colton

Sources: Oxfam, Al Jazeera, NPR
Photo: Borgen Project

Celebrities know how to party, and this December a jet-load of stars attended an extravagant gala in Dubia. The event, “One Night to Change” Lives was held at Dubai’s Armani Hotel and is the third annual gala thrown by the Dubai International Film Festival. Most attractive about this event, besides the numerous film stars in attendance, is the fact that all proceeds from the auction go to the philanthropic organization Dubai Cares, and world development firm Oxfam.

Mark Ruffalo, most recently known for his role in “The Avengers and Now You See Me,” hosted the auction and encouraged high value bids from the star-studded audience. The fundraiser generated over $1 million that will benefit people struggling with poverty and disease during the present situation in Syria. Scarlett Johansson has previously travelled with Oxfam to visit refugees in devastated countries, and donated exclusive world-premiere tickets to the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The money raised at One Night to Change Lives for Dubai Cares and Oxfam will go to providing desperately needed supplies for refugees and their families in Syria. Winter is one of the harshest seasons in that part of the world and Oxfam is supplying people with winter coats, food, blankets and access to hygiene and sanitation.

Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai is the founder of Dubai Cares, which focuses primarily on giving children in developing countries the ability to go to school and become educated. The organization does this by solving problems that prevent children from going to school and provides access to clean water, renovates school buildings, and implements teacher training programs.

Oxfam is a network of organizations in over 90 countries that work together to reduce global poverty by providing international aid. The organization uses a variety of techniques to provide help and assistance. Many critics of the celebrity lifestyle and wealth turn away from using their fame for aid, but Oxfam knows how beneficial these types of people can be. Educating women in their own communities and striving for gender equality and an end to oppression is one way Oxfam works to enhance the lives of others.

Petitioning governments and spreading awareness for the need of local laws to end corruption and promote fair trade of natural resources as well as providing disaster relief in the aftermath of global crisis are other ways that Oxfam operates. The Dubai Film Festival is only part of what Oxfam is involved in regarding the fight against global poverty, and that $1 million is only part of what they can and will continue to contribute.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Dubai Film Festival, Politics of Poverty, Oxfam
Photo: Brits United

Oxfam is an international confederation of organizations that aims to eradicate poverty in countries all over the globe. Oxfam’s most recent effort, entitled Behind the Brands, urges the world’s largest food and beverage companies to consider the social and environmental impact of their actions. The companies targeted include Coca-Cola, Betty Crocker, Oreo, Pepsi, Trident, Minute Maid, Cheerios and Mazola. According to Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, fewer than 500 companies control 70% of the major decisions in the food system including prices, quality standards and investments in technology. This process allows CEOs to extract wealth from the company while the lower levels of the hierarchy, including farmers and women, face most of the hardships and risks. Given this relationship, it is no surprise that 80% of the world’s hungry live in rural areas.

Oxfam has utilized petitions and social media campaigns to call attention to the wrongdoings of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, who have a lot to lose in our increasingly conscientious world. In a survey by Cone Communications, nine of ten consumers said that they would boycott brands that partake in “irresponsible behavior” and this trend has been depicted within the brand preferences of consumers within the last year.

As a result of Oxfam’s efforts, Coca-Cola has agreed to address the main issue of Oxfam’s report entitled, “Nothing Sweet About It.” The report highlights the tendency of the world’s largest sugar supply chains to “land grab.” These sugar companies are forcing poor communities across the globe off their land without just compensation or prior consultation in order to gain more land for sugar plantations. In order to tackle this issue, Coca-Cola has committed to disclose the top three countries and suppliers of its cane sugar conduct, publish human rights assessments and engage with suppliers in order to ensure that the community’s concerns are attended to.

Nestle, another large food and beverage provider, has also addressed Oxfam’s complaints regarding women in the cocoa supply chain. Often times, women in third world nations farm the cocoa that is consumed across the globe; however, they never receive any compensation or income for their work. Nestle has agreed to explore how the company can more positively affect women by incorporating gender indicators into the company’s framework and supporting women’s farmer associations.

The efforts by the aforementioned companies depicts how the food and beverage industries have become more socially conscientious; however, many other large businesses have yet to respond to Oxfam’s urges. By utilizing social media and contacting the companies listed on Oxfam’s Behind The Brands proposal, we can encourage social responsibility and help farmers all across the globe.

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: Oxfam, Nestle, Global Post
Photo: The Guardian

Here are 5 simple ways to help the poor this holiday season.

1. Give Presents that Make a Difference

Instead of giving your mom a gift that will ultimately end up in the back of her closet, why not give her something that will help put a dent in global poverty? Non-profit organizations like Heifer International and Oxfam America have programs that let people donate money to worthwhile causes in the name of a family member or friend.

Simply visit the organization’s online catalog and browse through the “gifts” they offer. Gift options vary widely, but may include buying a cow for a poor family in Guatemala, buying books for a school in South Africa, or sponsoring a child in India to attend school for a year.  Prices for gifts range from about $10 to well over $500. Choose a cause your intended recipient is passionate about and purchase a gift supporting that cause. Whether your family member is passionate about women’s rights, education, or sustainable farming, you can find a gift that supports it.

The organization will usually let you send a customized message to your recipient by mail or e-mail to make it more personal.

2. Think Locally

Do your part to combat hunger in your local community. There are many people here in the United States that struggle to keep food on the table and this struggle doesn’t end just because it’s the holiday season. You can help alleviate this hunger by volunteering to sort donations or prepare hot meals at your local soup kitchen, food bank, or community center.  If you’re feeling extra inspired, organize a food drive in your own neighborhood and donate the proceeds to your local food bank.

3. Participate in Sub for Santa

Almost every community has their own Sub for Santa program during the holidays. It’s a popular program and for good reason. Sub for Santa provides clothes and toys for thousands of needy children every year, many of whom would receive nothing if not for the program.

You can sign up to sponsor a child by visiting your local elementary school or community center. They will provide you with the name, gender, and age of a needy child in your local area. Buy a few presents and feel good knowing you helped brighten a child’s holiday season.

4. Donate Old Clothes

Instead of throwing away your old clothes, donate them! Raid your closet and round up the sweaters, coats, and jeans that you no longer wear. If they’re in relatively good condition, donate them to your local homeless shelter or Salvation Army.

You have no idea how much your contribution could mean to a person who would otherwise have no warm clothes to wear this winter.

5. Raise Awareness

Teach your children, friends, neighbors (and anybody else who will listen) about the importance of being engaged in the local community. Encourage your kids to donate part of their allowance to a local charity. Organize a fundraiser with your neighbors and have a competition to see who can raise the most money. Attend your local city council meeting and make a speech about local charities that need volunteers and donations.

Helping the poor this holiday season doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult. Simply donating your old clothes or volunteering at the local food bank is all it takes to make a difference in someone’s life.

– Allison Johnson
Sources: Oxfam, Heifer International
Photo: Bethlehem Wales

Want to make a difference on campus while also building your resume? Apply to become an Oxfam Change Leader, a program that trains college students to become social justice advocates.

Why Oxfam?

Oxfam America is recognized as one of the world’s most effective humanitarian aid organizations. They provide food and shelter to thousands of people every year during humanitarian situations like natural disasters and armed conflicts. They also work to eradicate extreme poverty and improve access to healthcare services and clean drinking water worldwide.

What is the Change Program?

Founded in 2000, the Change Initiative is a program that trains college students from around the country to undertake year-long Oxfam campaigns on their college campuses. Selected students attend an intensive week-long leadership conference in Boston sponsored by Oxfam to learn more about social justice and poverty.

The conference combines group activities, panel discussions and workshops with a rigorous teaching curriculum to educate students on these important issues.  After the conclusion of the conference, students receive continual training and guidance from Oxfam throughout the school year.

Oxfam Change Leaders are expected to promote Oxfam’s mission on their college campuses by forming Oxfam clubs, organizing fundraising events and sponsoring hunger banquets. Other possible activities include hosting campus awareness events like panel discussions and art exhibits.

What’s Involved in the Application Process?  

Students must submit an application in order to be considered to participate in the program. Students must be entering their sophomore or junior year of college and must attend an accredited university in the United States to be eligible to apply.

The program is highly selective and only 50 students are chosen to participate each year.  The application process consists of writing an essay and getting a letter of recommendation from a professor or faculty member. The recommender serves as the student’s mentor throughout the year-long program.

Applications and letters of recommendations are due in April of each year. Selected students are usually notified by late May. The training conference takes place in Boston in late July.

What are the Benefits of Participating?  

While being an Oxfam Change Leader does require a significant time commitment, there are many benefits to participating in the program. First of all, it’s a great way to gain some practical experience if you want to pursue a career in international development.  Oxfam is an internationally recognized organization and being affiliated with them might help you get your foot in the door after college.

Even if you don’t want to pursue a career in development, there are many other benefits to participating including:

  • Gain leadership skills
  • Become more influential on your college campus
  • Build your resume
  • Make valuable contacts with professors and community leaders

For more information on the Oxfam Change Initiative, please visit: Oxfam.

– Allison Johnson 

Sources: Oxfam, BYU
Photo: Daily Mail

Unlike most musicians, indie rock band Ra Ra Riot endorses more than just good music and a rockstar lifestyle during their world tours.

Formed in 2006 at Syracuse University, Ra Ra Riot has included the humanitarian organization Oxfam International at their concerts since their earliest shows. Ra Ra Riot band members Rebecca Zeller and Mathieu Santos have spoken openly in support of Oxfam’s mission to end poverty, hunger, and injustice across the globe, saying that they believe it is important to connect the cause to their music.

But allowing for tabling at concerts isn’t the only way that Ra Ra Riot shows its support for Oxfam and alleviating global poverty. In 2011, the band partnered with streaming music service Songza to raise money for Oxfam. For each person that became a “fan” of the Ra Ra Riot music station, Songza donated $0.50 to Oxfam America.

The indie band has also held concerts, such as ThrillCall’s Launch Party with Lissy Trullie, where all ticket proceeds were donated to Oxfam. Recently, Oxfam America released its annual Summer Jams album, featuring artists such as Ra Ra Riot, Wilco, and Calexico to help raise awareness about their work.

Music brings people of all different backgrounds together and makes them feel connected to each other. Ra Ra Riot has not only brought their listeners together in support of their music, but also in support of the world’s poor. What more can be asked of a band?

– Tara Young

Sources: Music for Good, OxFam America
Photo: OxFam America

The Sandy River Foundation, founded in 2008, works to bring physical and spiritual wholesomeness to all nations. It achieves this by providing nonprofit organizations with funding in order to focus on their initiatives rather than on fundraising to keep the organization going.

Nonprofits that wish to receive this funding must meet the guidelines of the Sandy River Foundation and complete an application process, but only after being invited by the foundation itself. Some of the organizations that have accepted funding include Heifer International, the Long Island Community Foundation, Oxfam America, and Acción International.

The mission of Heifer International is to end both hunger and poverty by providing families with a cow. This provides a source of food to families from the milk the animal provides. The families can also sell the excess products to gain a reliable source of income, and after saving this income, can start a small business or even join an agricultural cooperative with other families nearby.

By providing small businesses with microfinancing, Acción International hopes to strengthen businesses with both financial and managerial support. Once those microfinance institutions have grown and become financially independent of donors, the economy of the surrounding area will increase and the jobs of those working at the company will be secured. Acción International has provided its support to countries across the globe including India, China, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Colombia.

The Sandy River Foundation donates

to nonprofits in order to create a positive impact across the globe.

– Alessandra Wike

Sources: Accion, Heifer International, Sandy River Foundation