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Oxfam Fair Trade
Coffee is the second most-traded commodity and one of the most consumed drinks around the world. The consumption of coffee is a universal business within its own, for its demand is incredibly high worldwide. Drinking coffee has become almost second nature to many who can afford it. American author and journalist, Sarah Vowell, says that she realized that drinking a mocha, although seemingly trivial, was in fact “to gulp down the entire history of the New World.” She continues on to say that the modern mocha is nothing less than a “bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”

Taken into consideration how big of a role coffee plays in people’s lives today, one would think that people would know where their coffee was coming from and what kind of conditions it was produced in. However, the truth is to the contrary because many people have no idea what conditions coffee producers undergo. Approximately 25 million farmers depend on coffee production/sales to make their living, and many of them live in poverty. The coffee market is prone to severe fluctuations due to changes in climate which in turn affect the growth patterns of coffee plants. Due to the longevity of the growth of coffee plants, producers cannot react quickly to changes in coffee demand. Thus, this is where smart consumers can help poor people, and in particular, coffee producers.

As smart informed consumers, people can buy certified fair trade coffee which basically means that farmers and coffee producers are paid a fair and stable price regardless of changing conditions. A recent Oxfam Australia survey reports that more than 85% of consumers want more fair trade products in their supermarkets, and 60% believe that their consumer decisions can make a difference in the lives of producers and farmers in less-developed countries. Marcial Valladolid, from CACVRA, which is a small producer organization in Peru, expressed how coffee cultivation used to disappoint him because the money he made was not remotely close to cover the cost of his coffee production. CACVRA uses its fair trade premium to “support and improve organic cultivation and certification.” By joining this cooperative, Marcel is content that he was able to receive some profit, and he is hopeful for a future with more fair trade.

It is no wonder that coffee was once described by Neil Gaiman as “sweet as sin,” taking into account all the producers and farmers horribly affected by our enjoyment of their produce. Majority of coffee producers live in developing countries including Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Mexico. Luckily, our enjoyment can come as a better price as the conditions can change because certified fair trade products are becoming increasingly available and accessible through independent grocers, major supermarkets, and retail stores. Thus, making the switch to becoming a smart consumer could not be any easier today. Make the switch today and change people’s lives.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: AU News, Good Reads
Photo: Google, Google

Oxfam Raises World Hunger Awareness at Banquet
University of Central Missouri hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet to raise money to fight world poverty and hunger. The event raised $9,250, of which $9,000 was in the form of donated Sodexo swipes (student meal plans) and $250 in cash. Other donations included 150 pounds of food to be sent to developing countries.

The 100 students and other city residents who attended the banquet were educated on how to end global hunger through long-term development plans and emergency relief programs. Oxfam also emphasized the importance of implementing fair trade rules, combating global climate change, and standing up for human rights.

The Hunger Banquet emphasized access to food inequalities in the world by randomly assigning attendees to represent people in the world who were food insecure, consumed just enough calories for a healthy diet, or consumed more than the necessary amount of calories. To mimic real-world statistics, 15% of the people could eat a high amount of calories, 35% could consume the basic amount of calories, and 50% of attendees were food insecure.

Those who were given the lowest status had beans, rice, and a glass of water for dinner. The 15% of high-class people were served their dinner on China plates and crystal glass. The juxtaposition of people eating beans next to people consuming a fancy meal added a new outlook on world hunger for those who were present at the banquet.

Another alarming fact that attendees took home with them is that 16,000 children die every day from hunger. To put this in perspective, the town where the event was held, Warrensburg, has a population of 16,304. The Hunger Banquet was a huge success in terms of raising money and donations for the world’s poor and also because the attendees are now more aware of the struggles millions of people face every day. Many students left the banquet ready to take action against global hunger.

– Mary Penn

Source: digital Burg

Coldplay and Oxfam Fight Land Grabs With “In My Place”An acoustic version of the Coldplay song “In My Place” has been donated to Oxfam to create a new unique campaign video that will be used to bring awareness to the problem of land grabs all over the world.

Land grabs occur when people have pushed off a tract of land without consultation or compensation because corporations, governments, and banks buy up the land to generate large profits. People are in effect moved off the places they call home. Since 2001, at least 80 million hectares of land deals have occurred forcing many families to find somewhere else to stay. The project is part of the GROW campaign which is working to create a more just and more sustainable world.

Working on the music video is award-winning director Mat Whitecross. Whitecross, using video clips and photos donated by fans and friends of Oxfam, will create a video that very uniquely sends the message of what these land grabs do to poor families all over the world.

“The concept is really simple,” says Whitecross. “I want you to take a room in your house and move it somewhere else, somewhere unexpected.”

Land grabs exacerbate the problem of poverty and hunger by denying people the homes they live in and the land they use to grow their food. With the video, Oxfam hopes to send a message that action must be taken to prevent land grabs and put people before profit.

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Oxfam

Behind The Brands
PepsiCo, Nestle, and Kellog’s are just a few of the brands that many people are familiar with and have most likely purchased from in the past week. These are also brands ranked by Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign, a movement aimed at informing consumers on the living conditions of the farmers who are providing these companies with their products. The question posed by the campaign is: “what are they doing to clean up their supply chains?”

Currently, we are in a food, energy, and climate crisis. Drastically increased food production and energy investments are needed by 2030 to meet projected growing demand. Competition for land and water consumption is quickly increasing as well. Inescapable complications due to climate change will further add to all these problems. Most of the impact of resource scarcity and climate change will fall on the poor living in developing countries that are more susceptible to rising prices for food and fuel. Behind the Brands is bringing awareness about the 500 million farmers in developing countries who work to produce food for 2 billion people.

Quite recently, Oxfam released a briefing paper on the “Big 10” food and beverage companies, assessing how well they regarded the workers who supplied the land and labor that made these companies prosperous. The companies that make up the top 10 include Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez International (previously Kraft), Nestle, PepsiCo, and Unilever. Oxfam released scorecards critically assessing the social and environmental policies of these companies and called on them to create a “just food system.” Seven themes make up these scorecards: transparency, women, workers, farmers, land, water, and climate. The lowest of the Big 10 ratings were General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Associated British Foods with grades of 23 percent, 23 percent, and 19 percent respectively, with low scores on land, women, and farmer rights.

On International Women’s Day on March 8th, activists nationwide organized  to advocate for justice for women cocoa farmers working for the top 3 big chocolate companies of Nestle, Mars and Mondelez, which buy more than 30% of the world’s cocoa supply. Chocolate is a $100 billion industry, yet most of the cocoa farmers working for these companies survive on less than $2 per day. Earlier this month, Oxfam received a response from Nestle, which currently holds a score of 54% with high ratings on transparency, water and climate but low ratings on land and women.  In the form of a public letter, Nestle affirmed their commitment to alleviate problems of gender inequality and make a commitment towards sustainable and just practices. As the result of Oxfam’s efforts, Nestle’s supply chain structure is currently being amended with the idea of a “human rights approach together with a human development approach” in mind.

The policies implemented by these companies could do much to lift the people that work with them out of poverty. Both Nestle and Mars have agreed to work with Oxfam to improve their policies. Oxfam will continue reaching out to Nestle, Mars and Mondelez to address issues of human rights and sustainability. Behind the Brands is intended to be a continuous effort, acting as a watchdog by constantly reviewing companies’ performances on the indicators that make up the scoreboard.

Behind the Brands is part of Oxfam’s global GROW campaign which is on a mission to accomplish two objectives: an end to global hunger and to live within the ecological boundaries of our planet. The earth’s growing population is projected to reach a total of nine billion by the year 2050. The GROW campaign hopes to build a better food system that will allow us to sustainably live within our means and empower the poor to prosper. At the core of the GROW campaign is the idea that it is unacceptable that anyone in the world go hungry due to imbalances in resources like land, water, and food.

– Rafael Panlilio

Sources: Behind The BrandsOxfamOxfam Blogs

Kellogg's Falls ShortIt is unfortunate to read about some of the world’s favorite and most popular brands failing to meet basic work ethics. In an article about big food companies’ failure to meet ethical standards, the Guardian mentions how Kellogg’s falls short. Associated British Foods (ABF), seemed to lead this standard of failure by receiving the lowest ratings on the general “commitment to protect farmers, local communities and the environment.” The highest rating that can be achieved is 70, and ABF scored a total of 13. The second-lowest rating was received by Kellogg’s and General Mills, who own Haagen-Dazs, both scoring 16 out of 70.

It seems that these companies are falling short in three main standards: land-use concerns, failure of worker protection, especially of women, and lack of transparency as to the companies’ source of ingredients. These companies mark the biggest 10 in the food market chain and all of them have recognized the need to meet these standards, but yet, failed to do so. An Oxfam chief, Barbara Stocking, expresses how it is time for consumers to know the truth about how their food is being produced under poor conditions that harm workers. Stocking also asserts that these 10 companies are dominating shelves at supermarkets and accounting for $1 billion of revenue per day while 1 in 8 people sleep hungry every night.

An ABF spokesman defended the company’s stance regarding “human cost of its supply chain,” and asserted that the company treats its producers with respect and that ABF’s transparency would improve in the 2013 fall reports. The main goals are to get consumers to recognize these shortcomings and know that human lives are being impacted greatly and to use a louder voice to demand better policies.

Leen Abdallah

Source: Guardian
Photo: Google

Does International Aid Help Or Not?
In the never-ending debate about whether international aid helps or not, Al-Jazeera’s Counting the Cost gets four experts’ insight. Will Ruddick, a young scholar at the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability who has spent time in Kenya, argues that such resource-rich countries might not need as much as 300 million dollars in food aid every year. He argues that it’s not the aid itself, it’s the Western economic model which has been proven inefficient when it comes to international aid and development.

Ruddick thinks that a new economic model is needed, one that’s similar to the Swiss model, where there are monetary innovations to reach the goals of sustainable development. He says that micro-finance lending and entrepreneurial models are causing more social stratification thereby amounting to more debt. Ruddick suggests policies that move to something that creates more networks and communities, an implementation that involves the local affected and recipient communities.

In Keyna, there is a wide dependence on anti-retroviral drugs for HIV as opposed to development. Ruddick argues that there should be more of a push from international aid organizations to help these people develop the needed drugs locally; aid and development aren’t necessarily linked. Networks must be encouraged and created to help local people help each other. According to Ruddick, Kenya is exporting 3 billion dollars worth of food to Europe, and yet every year, with the consistency of food aid to Kenya, people are still underfed and starving.

In Jerusalem, Palestine, Dr. Nora Murad argues that “aid” is subsidizing the Israeli occupation that it’s allowing the Israeli army to occupy cost-free because every time a road, a school, or a hospital is destroyed, the international community pays for it rather than have the Israeli army replace it. Thus, in places like Palestine, the international community needs to politically intervene to better implement any aid that goes to Palestine. “The Israeli occupation costs the Palestinian economy 6.8 billion dollars per year,” Dr. Murad argues. She also argues that recipients of aid, in her case she’s talking about Palestinian communities specifically, should have control over their own development resources and be able to make development decisions.

Alan Duncan, the British minister of state in the department of international development, argues that they don’t deal directly with untrusted governments, they focus on the “real economies” of “real people,” that they are the “engine of development,” and such a development is precisely what his department is pushing for. He explains that the private sector is so important and that the existent aid model isn’t flawed, and that they “underpin the basic building blocks of an agricultural economy,” to help the underdeveloped internal economy of Africa. In regards to Palestine, he says that the kind of aid that goes to Palestine is to equip the Palestinian Authority to be a future government, the development is thus working in such specific political circumstances.

The head of development finance and public services at Oxfam, Emma Seery, comments by saying that her organization is more focused on development than aid, they focus on policies in an effort to put an end to extreme inequality. So the question is this: we know that foreign aid helps, and that poor countries are appreciative of this gift but are the right policies being implemented to sustain growth and development? Is there a need for a new more efficient economic model?

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Al Jazeera
Photo: Google

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm

Oxfam Cracks Down On Tax Dodging
On January 31, Oxfam came out with a statement revealing that a third of the unpaid corporate tax belonging to developing countries could end world hunger. The amount lost to corporate tax dodgers is estimated at around $160 billion, more than three times the $50.2 billion needed a year to end hunger globally.

Tax dodging practices are possible through a combination of legal and illegal activities such as tax havens, price manipulation across borders, and false invoicing. Oxfam has urged the UK government to close loopholes that allow corporate tax dodging to continue. Chief Executive of Oxfam Barbara Stocking, regarding UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s attendance at the U.N. high panel meeting last week, said that “David Cameron should be pushing for an end to global hunger by 2025, and an end to tax dodging which could pay for this and much more. These companies are effectively taking food from hungry mouths.”

A week before the U.N. high panel meeting, Cameron spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland promising to prioritize tax evasion.“This is an issue whose time has come,” said Cameron. “After years of abuse, people across the planet are rightly calling for more action and most importantly there is gathering political will to actually do something about it.”

Oxfam was one of 100 organizations to launch the Enough Food for Everyone If campaign. The campaign plans to hold Cameron to his “commitment to lead the world in a battle against hunger.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Gov.UKOxfam
Photo: Oxfam

Billionaires_end_poverty_Warren_buffett
According to Oxfam, an international NGO committed to fighting poverty, the money made by the world’s top 100 billionaires in the last year alone could end global poverty four times over.

Oxfam asserts that the wealth amassed by the world’s richest is encouraging inequality and deepening a divide between those in abject poverty and the rest of the world – making it even more difficult to end poverty once and for all. They assert that the world’s rich are getting richer at the expense of those in extreme poverty, and that the $240 billion that was collected in 2012 by the wealthiest 100 billionaires could end global poverty four times over.

Although a few American billionaires have already pledged to donate much of their wealth back into the public sphere, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the exact figure has not been disclosed, and foreign billionaires have not made any such pledge to match those given by Gates and Buffet.

The Chief Executive for Oxfam GB Barbara Stocking cites a report that will be unveiled at the upcoming World Economic Forum. The report, titled “The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All”, found that within the last 20 years, the wealthiest 1% have increased their wealth by 60%. Stocking points out that this trend has led to extreme poverty as low-income earners have taken home an even smaller share of the total income as the rich get richer, which has also stifled growth and investment.

The report states that this trend has affected even Westernized countries, citing levels of high income inequality in the UK and South Africa. The report points out that top earners in China own over 60% of the overall income, similar to the situation in South Africa, where income inequality has risen even past levels seen at the end of apartheid.

Income inequality also persists across the United States, where the portion of total national income going to the top 1% has doubled within the last 30 years – the top 1% now take home 20% of the national income.

Oxfam is urging global leaders to committ to lowering income inequality levels to those seen in the 1990s, and Stocking asserts that doing away with tax havens, which reportedly would create $189 billion in additional tax revenues, would help alleviate the problem.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have taken a similar stance, saying that income inequality hinders development and growth, and say that they aim to fund projects that limit the perpetual cycle of inequality.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: The Guardian