Talanoa Dialogues in Climate Negotiations

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The innovative Talanoa Dialogues in Climate Negotiations took place on Sunday 6 May 2018 in Bonn, sandwiched between the first and second weeks of the climate negotiations.  After the dialogue everyone was somewhat upbeat about how useful the experience was. Indeed, a delegate said that the Talanoa Dialogue (TD) offered representatives of countries the space to sit without tables and national flags, speak like humans and not as parties (to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC). Another delegate said that the TD was an inclusive and open process creating a new space for international diplomacy. Some said the process should continue beyond COP24.

The TD was a facilitative dialogue proposed by the Fijian President of COP23 to reflect the ‘Pacific spirit’ of sharing stories, problem solving and wise decision-making for the collective good. The Dialogue encouraged parties to speak freely to each other on three questions about the global climate crisis: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

Parties and non-state actors including businesses, youths, indigenous peoples, labour, women, and other civil society organisations gathered in three spaces for storytelling, echoing the Pacific processes for building empathy, conflict resolution and building consensus.

At the report back session from the Dialogue on Tuesday 8 May, the leader of the Nigerian delegation, Dr Peter Tarfa, stated that the TD had a positive outcome and that Nigeria will plan to replicate it at the national level. He stressed that the answer to the question of How do we get there can only be fashioned on trust and transparency.

A Dream Dialogue

On the whole, the fact remained that the dialogue aimed to prepare the hearts of the parties to the hard tasks of negotiations – to bring everyone to the point of hearing one another and understanding that we can only go far when we walk together. It reminds us of the saying by Martin Luther King Jnr that “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.” Hopefully the TD could soften some hearts.

While moderating a side event that took place before the TD, Meenakshi Raman of Third World Network, spoke the mind of many observers with regard to the blind side of the TD. She pointed out that a critical question was not on the table and that is how did we get here? That is the question that some parties are unwilling to talk about. It has to do with historical responsibility, with the core principles of the climate convention – that of equity and the common but differentiated responsibility and respective capacities.

Meenakshi Rama further stated that “Asking this question will point to historical emissions responsible for global warming. However, historical responsibility seems like a dirty word that is not being allowed to be mentioned in this space. We cannot ignore the historical perspective.”

The first week of the negotiations had already raised concerns among some delegates with regard to aspects of the Paris Agreement such as:  loss and damage, climate finance and the levels of ambition among the industrialised nations. Discussions on the matter of finance were testy as parties looked at how to identify information to be provided by Parties in accordance with Article 9.5. The Article provides that developed countries “shall biennially communicate indicative quantitative and qualitative information” related to the provision and mobilisation of financial resources “including as available, projected levels of public financial resources” to be provided to developing countries.

Talanoa

The Wake of the Dialogue

The report back session from the TD had plenty of bright as well as poignantly dark spots. The bright spots were the many stories of hope, trust, readiness to offer political support and commitment to be fair and to comply. It was also said that indigenous peoples and their knowledge would not be ignored. It was also interesting to hear the presentation of the TD as a storification of the Paris Agreement, with an emphasis on the fact that the story has just started. That makes a lot of sense when it is considered that most of what is being negotiated will only come into effect in 2020, two years down the stormy road.

The dark sports of the Dialogue etched in running conclusions from the various rapporteurs who brought word back from the dialogues. The dialogue on where we are complained that too much attention was paid to technicalities and too little to human values. However, it could actually be said that since voluntary emissions reduction pledges took the place of required emissions reduction based on science, technicalities are actually taking the back seat, except if we are talking of technicalities of semantics.

The TD brought up over 700 stories, but there were running threads in the summaries that should catch our attention. The first was that by 2050 the world should have negative or zero emissions achieved through technologies and forests as carbon sinks. Negative emissions through technologies and forests as carbon sinks imply carrying on with polluting technologies and merely ‘eliminating’ the pollution through sinks. It also suggests that forest dependent communities would be compelled to bear the burden of climate action and get dislocated from Nature’s gifts to them. The second statement said that the question of how do we get there will be answered by technology which was presented as the ultimate solution to tackle global warming.

If those are the takeaways from the Talanoa Dialogue, and if the technologies include geoengineering and the like, it does appear that the stories from the grassroots and from the streets are yet to be heard.

Ogoni Clean-Up: An Engagement in Social Engineering

AvisittoOgale,GoiandBodoRiversstate(129of182)Ogoni Clean up – An Engagement in Social Engineering , a step towards reclaiming our future. Pollution is the number one killer in the world today. It is deadlier than the wars in the world today, than smoking, malnutrition and others. This was the finding published by one of the world’s most respected medical journals, on October 19, 2017. The research looked into air and water pollution, among others.[1]

We all know that the Niger Delta is classified among the top ten most polluted places in the world. And we all know some of the key findings of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the assessment of the Ogoni environment. All water bodies are polluted with hydrocarbons, soils polluted to a depth of 5 metres at a number of places and benzene is found at levels 900 times above World Health Organisation standards[2]. We all know that the Niger Delta has the lowest life expectancy level in Nigeria. This is why the clamour for a clean-up of the region has been a long-drawn struggle.

The history of the struggle for the clean-up of Ogoni environment is that of the struggle for environmental, socio-economic and political justice. This struggle picked steam in the late 1980s and peaked in the early and mid 1990s. The enterprise can be characterized as a struggle for the right to live in dignity, pursue self-actualization and build a future for upcoming generations. The bedrock was the demand for justice. This was captured through well-articulated demands for the remediation of the damaged Ogoni environment. With cautious and robustly peaceful organising, the demands were catalogued in a carefully crafted Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) of 1990.[3]

The Bill noted that although crude oil had been extracted from Ogoniland from 1958, its inhabitants had received NOTHING in return. Articles 15-18 of the OBR illustrate some of the complaints of the people:

  • That the search for oil has caused severe land and food shortages in Ogoni— one of the most densely populated areas of Africa (average: 1,500 per square mile; national average: 300 per square mile.)
  • That neglectful environmental pollution laws and sub-standard inspection techniques of the Federal authorities have led to the complete degradation of the Ogoni environment, turning our homeland into an ecological disaster.
  • That the Ogoni people lack education, health and other social facilities.
  • That it is intolerable that one of the richest areas of Nigeria should wallow in abject poverty and destitution.

This Bill of Rights was the precursor to the Kaiama Declaration of the Ijaws, lkwerre Rescue Charter, Aklaka Declaration for the Egi, the Urhobo Economic Summit, Oron Bill of Rights and other demands of peoples’ organisations in the Niger Delta. It became an organising document for the Ogoni people and also eventually inspired other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta to produce similar charters as a peaceful way of prodding the government into dialogue and action.[4]

Although the OBR has never been directly addressed by government, the detailed assessment of the Ogoni environment that culminated in the release of the now famous United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on 4 August 2011 can be said to be a response to some of the demands of the OBR. We note at this point that before the report was released information leaked out that the bulk of the blame for the pollution of Ogoni had been placed on the people. This led to a flurry of protests and by the time the report was eventually released the blame for the massive environmental destruction was more acceptably situated. It could not have been otherwise because the payment for the study was made on the basis of the polluter-pays principle by the lead international oil company (Shell Petroleum Development Company – SPDC) that operated in the area.

RESILIENT AND SUCCESSFUL STRUGGLES

Community organising succeeds where the people have identifiable goals that address their needs or issues. The resilience of a struggle is assured when the people and their leaders have a clear strategy, are able to adapt to unfolding situations, and are willing to change tactics as may be necessary without repudiating the core of what brought them together. This flexibility is possible when the people have a shared understanding of what their collective objectives are and what sacrifices may need to be made to attain the targets. The Ogoni struggle, through the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) has been an exemplary case study for other nationalities to learn from.

Understanding the depth of the crisis and determining to speak truth to power was aptly captured in one of the last poems, Silence Would be Treason, that Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote while in prison:

But while the land is ravaged

And our pure air poisoned

When streams choke with pollution

Silence would be treason[5]

As we consider the Ogoni clean-up today, we bear in mind that Ogoni has become a global metaphor for resilient community organizing against impunity. Saro-Wiwa foresaw this when he wrote in his prison memoir, A Month and A Day:

In virtually every nation state there are several ‘Ogonis’—despairing and disappearing people suffering the yoke of political marginalisation, economic strangulation and environmental degradation, or a combination of these, unable to lift a finger to save themselves. What is their future?[6]

The global component of the Ogoni situation has important implications for those who see it as a local struggle. It also has implications for those whose geographies are outside the limits of Ogoni. Those within must understand that their success charts the path that would lead to the clean-up of other regions. For those looking in from the outside, the stakes are no less because of the interconnectedness of our environment.

The Ogoni Environment is not isolated from the wider Niger Delta environment. Polluted ground water or polluted air does not obey political or traditional or cultural boundaries. When one part is cleaned up there is the urgent necessity to step to the next spot. Seeing everyplace as  discrete and separate would only lead to living in a fool’s paradise believing that the land is clean whereas pollution from elsewhere would be doing its deadly job, unseen, unnoticed except in the festival of funerals that would persist.

OIL DAMAGE NARRATIVES

There was a time when the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta could not boldly claim that the hydrocarbons pollution in the area is caused by local peoples. There was copious evidence of the ill-maintained pipelines and flow stations. Oil spills from equipment failure were the norm. Poorly handled toxic wastes and produced water could not be hidden. And, of course, gas flares continue to stick their sooty fingers in the air as criminal giant cigarettes. The oil companies laboured in vain to shift blames. Reports from communities, the media and environmental justice campaigners continued to pile up evidence of the guilt of the oil companies.

The tide began to change with the rise of violent militancy in the oil fields. Oil infrastructure became targets and the pollution that emanated from the conflicts could neither be hidden nor denied. In fact, the explosions were marked as badges of achievement by the groups that carried out the attacks. Violent militancy achieved aspects of their objectives: gaining attention of the governments that are demonstrably more interested in pipelines and petrodollars than in the peoples and their environment. The militarization of the Niger Delta rather than bring peace is contributory to the insecurity of lives and infrastructure in the region.

And so the environment suffered and new sources of pollution became entrenched in the region. Oil companies found a plank on which to hang blames for the pervading environmental degradation. They also found excuse in their operational locations being “inaccessible” due to insecurity and with that oil spills could go unchecked for any length of time.

The Amnesty Programme in its first and second coming helped to curtail deliberate tampering with oil facilities. But, a non-violent but equally deadly version of interferences crept in by way of what is generally called illegal refineries, but which we prefer to call bush refineries.

The bush refineries are incredibly polluting. The operators either do not know how toxic the environment in which they work is or they simply do not care. Obviously, the refineries meet the need for petroleum products in zone of perpetual shortages and high costs. Obviously, the operators have economic gains from the enterprise. However, what does it profit a person to make piles of money and not live to enjoy it? What does it benefit a person to accumulate wealth and pollution and sentence entire communities and future generations to death?

Today, when anyone thinks of the pollution of the Niger Delta, decades of incontrovertible pollution by oil companies are now forgotten and all fingers are pointed at thebush refineries.

It is so bad that even when the Port Harcourt refinery continually belches smoke into the atmosphere, fingers are pointed at the bush refineries as the cause of the soot in the atmosphere. The burning, bombing and strafing of bush refineries’ drums and barges of refined or unrefined petroleum products by security forces are accepted as signs of operational successes. We tend to think that pollution does not matter. How wrong can we get!

All the oil companies have to do today to ensure the narrative is shifted away from them is to take some journalists on their choppers for pollution tours, picking out the awful patches destroyed by bush refiners.Who would not do that? The fact that industrial scale oil theft has been going on for decades is hardly spoken of these days because of the visible and graphic horrors of the bush refineries.

DEADLY IMPACTS

The Niger Delta is so scarred, so polluted today that what we have on our hand is an environmental emergency, no less. Our air, water and land are all polluted. We plant crops and end up with poisoned harvests. We cast our nets and hurl in poisoned fish, when we see any. We breathe and our nostrils are blackened by soot. Our rivers, streams, creeks and ponds are clearly polluted, yet we drink the waters for lack of choice. All these have deadly impacts.

Oil pollution[7]causes habitat loses, biodiversity degradation, loss of livelihoods and loss of lives.

The heavy metals extracted along with crude oil include cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, copper, iron, barium and many others. These have serious risks to human health and wildlife. Health risks include abdominal pains, kidney diseases, nervous problems, bronchitis, fragility of bones, prostate and lung cancer. They can also cause brain malformations as well as pregnancy and birth complications.

Mercury canrapidly penetrate and accumulate in the food chain.  Acute poisoning produces gastroenteritis,inflammation of the gums, vomiting and irritation of the skin with dermatitis which can turn into ulcers.

The  flared associated gases cause a cocktail of dangerous health impacts including conjunctivitis, bronchitis, asthma, diarrhoea, headaches, confusion, paralysis and others. Of course, we know of the acid rain that occurs when sulphur and nitrous oxides mix with moisture in the atmosphere.

Poorly handled produced water contaminates creeks, rivers, lakes, aquifers and other water sources.  This causes the salination of these waters, soil and associated biodiversity. Salts and metals present can include cyanide which can cause immediate death if ingested. Cyanide in low doses can lead to intense headaches, sour taste, and loss of smell and taste, dizziness, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, anxiety, convulsions, loss of consciousness. In chronic intoxication it can produce goitre.

Clearly, it is extremely unsafe for untrained and unprotected persons to go near crude oil spills and materials used in the extraction processes. Seeing our people literally swim in crude oil and fire in the bush refineries is absolutely appalling.

CLEANING UP TODAY FOR TOMORROW

The Ogoni clean-up exercise is an intergenerational investment.

For the short time he was alive and in office, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso understood that a people that cannot feed themselves are not truly free. He also saw the direct link between environmental sanity and social justice. In analysis of the work of this great son of Africa, Amber Murrey states:

Liberation is incomplete when people hunger daily. Environmental protection and sustainability were therefore crucial to Sankara’s strategic thinking. Today, the continent faces serious environmental and climatic challenges that affect food production, access to water and public health. These challenges include water pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, droughts, floods, desertification, insect infestation, and wetland degradation. Environment protection is inextricably linked to social security, poverty eradication, and health.[8]

The clean-up process has many components and many actors. While the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and other levels of government have various roles to play, there are also the contractors, consultants and the community leaders and people. We have individual responsibilities as well as collective responsibilities. The federal government and its agencies have responsibilities and so do the State and Local governments. The clean-up is a complex social engineering project that goes beyond the technicalities that we will soon be seeing with machines, chemicals and diverse equipments. We refer to this exercise as social engineering because apart from remediation the environment we have to decolonize our thinking and relationships. All these require some work.

First, we have to understand that the clean-up is primarily for the sake of our children and future generations. If this fails we could as well look forward to a future in which the Niger Delta will be a museum with no inhabitants because not just the people, but the ecological systems would all be dead. This places a moral burden on all of us. On policy makers, on leaders and on us the people.

Successful social engineering calls for the spirit of sacrifice. The clean-up will produce new skill sets, new jobs and massive employment that would stretch for several years if we get this first steps right. Again, we emphasize that this will require sacrifice. If anyone approaches this sacred task of building an environment for future generations with the aim of profiteering, thievery or self aggrandizement, you can be sure that the entire scheme will ship wreck.

No contractor should cut corners. No individual or company should trigger new pollutions. As my friend, Inemo Semiama, says, “you cannot successfully mop the floor with the tap running.”

WISDOM

This epic social engineering will require the wisdom of our peoples. It will require local knowledge. The youths must embrace the spirit of sacrifice for it is the way to build the moral authority that will be needed to question activities and actions that may occur in the process of the clean-up implementation. These could include the calls for transparency, for ensuring the availability of funds and for insisting that delivered jobs match specifications, expectations and set milestones.

This effort will also demand and require collective wisdom through popular consultations. The Ogonis have the critical advantage that makes this possible because of the existence of the mass organ, MOSOP – with its youth, women and other arms. Working organically together, there will be no shortage of diversity of wisdom to tackle even the most intractable problems.

Ogoni is a laboratory, a classroom. A careful implementation of this massive social engineering programme will illustrate how the oppressed can escape from being put down by the wielders of privilege and power.

GOING FORWARD

Halting production never halted pollution. Those responsible must continue to bear the responsibility. Those instigating new sources of pollution must halt such acts for the sake of our children, our tomorrow and for the sake of other beings with which we share the planet.  We cannot build a liveable tomorrow on a polluted today.

Our slogan as the exercise takes roots should be: A Clean Ogoni: Zero Tolerance for Old and New Pollution.

We have a right to claim what belongs to us as ours. However, taking steps that end up killing us or destroying our environment for the sake of expressing our right of ownership is both a false reasoning and a false economic move. When we do things that compound our problems we are simply playing into the hands of the forces of exploitation.

This is our opportunity to reclaim our humanity. It is time to reclaim our dignity. It is time for all of us in the Niger Delta, nay, Nigeria to stand together in solidarity. There is no part of this nation that is not crying for environmental remediation. From the polluted creeks of the Niger Delta to the contaminated lagoons of Lagos and the rivers in the north, to the Sambisa Forest polluted with military armaments and erosion ravaged lands of the east, we are united by our ecological challenges.

The clean-up is a positive alternative vision. It is time for vigilance based on knowledge. Not a time for complacency. Not a time to be silent. It is time to hold government and its agencies, oil companies and our leaders accountable. It is time to demand accountability and responsibility of ourselves.

The clean-up is an opportunity to build and consolidate environmental justice. Together we can leverage the opportunity. It is a path we must walk together and not alone. As the African proverb says, you may go fast by going alone, but you can only go far by going together. We are that intertwined and interconnected.

Notes

[1]See the Lancet report at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/

[2]Nsisioken, Ogale

[3]“MOSOP (1990) Ogoni Bill of Rights. https://www.mosop.org.ng/publications/35-documents/496-the-ogoni-bill-of-rights

[4]Nnimmo Bassey (2016) Oil Politics – Echoes of Ecological Wars, Daraja Press

[5]Ken Saro-Wiwa (2017) Silence Would Be Treason – Last Writings Of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Íde Corley, Helen Fallon, Laurence Cox, eds. Daraja Press

[6]Ken Saro-Wiwa. (2015) A Month and a Day and Letters Oxford: Ayebia Clark Publishing Limited, 2005 page 123

[7]For more on health impacts of crude oil, gas flares, etc. see HOMEF’s Community Guide to Environmental Monitoringat http://www.homef.org/publication/community-guide-environmental-monitoring-and-reporting

[8]Amber Murrey, ed (2018) A Certain Amount of Madness- The Life, Politics and Legacies of Thomas Sankara. London: Pluto press.

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Speaking notes by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation used at the Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Building Trust and Common Ground for a Successful Clean-Up held on 3rdMay 2018 at Port Harcourt, Nigeria

 

Healing the Earth, Healing Society, Healing Self

E9EED5DF-8F17-44D5-A104-6BF51CC4787AHealing the Earth, Healing Society, Healing Self. Health and Wellbeing are central in Sustainable Development Goal 3 (“SDG 3”). But do we know what the art of healing is; are we aware of the four dimensions of health: physical, mental, social and spiritual health? And do you know the mystery of genuine happiness beyond ‘wellbeing’? Mother Earth needs to be healed, society requires radical transformation but we can only make change happen when we start with our own simple selves and the mindsets that cause the challenges of the 21st century. Ultimately we can join hands to address SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals. Right Livelihood public lecture and workshop with Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria, Right Livelihood Award laureate 2010.

CURLS 2018
21 July – 4 August with public lectures Saturday 21 July and Thursday 2 August.

The Chulalongkorn University Right Livelihood Summerschool is hosted by Sulak Sivaraksa, Right Livelihood Award laureate 1995; with public lecture and workshop by: Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria, Africa, Right Livelihood Award lecture; introduction by Anwar Fazal, Malaysia; Daw Seng Raw Lahpai, Myanmar, Magsaysay Award laureate Sombath Somphone lecture with introduction by Shui-Meng Ng; Dasho Karma Ura and Dorji Wangchuk, Bhutan; and from Thailand: Prapart Pintobtang and Surat Horachaikul, Chulalongkorn University; Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South; Anupan Pluckpankhajee, Seven Arts Inner Place and Makhampom theatre group.

Download the full brochure CURLS 2018 Healing the Earth.

The Road to Food Sovereignty

land and agricThe Road to Food Sovereignty. Peasant Farming, Not Industrial Food Production.
Industrial agriculture isn’t the efficient beast it’s made out to be. Peasant farming, not industrial food production, is the way to feed the world, argue Pat Mooney and Nnimmo Bassey.
Time is running out if the world is going to slash greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep us below a 1.5°c temperature rise by 2100, an aspiration set by the Paris climate accords.
Two conferences this autumn tackled different ends of the problem, in splendid isolation from each other. The UN Committee on World Food Security held its annual meeting in Rome in mid-October, alarmed that the number of hungry people on the planet has suddenly climbed by 40 million in the past year – much of it due to the direct and indirect effects of climate change – and fearful that an unpredictable climate will cut global food production still more sharply in the decades ahead.
Meanwhile, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) met in Bonn and high on its agenda was the need to cut agriculture’s GHG emissions which experts say account for anywhere from one third to more than half of global warming. So, what for Rome delegates is a problem of food security is for Bonn delegates a problem of climate security.
The solution for both climate and food sovereignty is to dismantle the global industrial agri-food system (which we call the ‘industrial food chain’) and for governments to give more space to the already growing and resilient ‘peasant food web’ – the interlinked network of small-scale farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, fishers and urban producers who, our research shows, already feed most of the world.
Global land use and food production: industrial agriculture and peasant farming compared
Global land use and food production: industrial agriculture and peasant farming compared. Picture: New Internationalist. Data: ETC Group, Who Will Feed Us? Report
In our report delivered to policymakers in both Rome and Bonn, Who Will Feed Us?, ETC Group (the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) provides original data about the importance of peasant food systems and the real economic, environmental and social cost of industrial agriculture.
The industrial food chain is using at least 75 per cent of the world’s agricultural land and most of agriculture’s fossil fuel and freshwater resources to feed barely 30 per cent of the world’s population. Conversely, more than 500 million peasant farms around the world are using less than 25 per cent of the land – and almost no fossil fuels or chemicals – to feed 70 per cent of humanity.
Aside from burning vast quantities of fossil carbon, industry is also wasting money that could be directed to supporting equitable agroecological production while still lowering food prices for the world’s marginalized consumers.
The statistics are staggering. Consumers pay $7.5 trillion each year for industrially produced food. But between a third and half of this production is wasted along the way to the consumer or at the table: spoiled in the field or in transport, rejected from grocers because of blemishes, or left on the plate because of over-serving.
Conversely, households in OECD countries consume about a quarter more food than is needed – leading to obesity and related health problems.
The total food overproduced each year is worth $3.8 trillion – a combination of $2.49 trillion worth of food waste and $1.26 trillion of over-consumption (see footnote 191 of the report). Burgeoning waists worldwide also have both human and economic costs.
When the wider environmental damages – including contaminated soils and water, greenhouse gas emissions – are added to the health and social impacts, the harm done by the industrial food chain is almost $5 trillion (see footnote 193). For every dollar consumers spent in supermarkets, health and environmental damages cost two dollars more.
Added to the amount spent by consumers, this makes the real cost of industrial food $12.4 trillion annually.
Policymakers negotiating the future of food and climate may wonder if it is possible to make such a dramatic change in our food production. Peasants may feed 70 per cent of the world’s population now but can they adapt quickly enough to climate change to feed us in 2100? Which system, the industrial food chain or the peasant food web, has the track record, innovative capacity, speed and flexibility needed to get us through the unparalleled threat of an unpredictable climate?
The answer is clear. Take experience: over the last century, the industrial food chain has not introduced a single new crop or livestock species to production but has cut the genetic diversity of our crops by 75 per cent, reduced the number of species by about one third, and reduced the nutritional value of our crops by up to 40 per cent. The peasant web has introduced 2.1 million new plant varieties where industrial agriculture has only introduced 100,000 over the same time frame.
The industrial food chain works with only 137 crop species and five main livestock species. Stunningly, 45 per cent of the industry’s research and development targets just one crop: maize. By contrast, the peasant web is breeding and growing 7,000 different crop species and 34 livestock species – like the alpaca, ñandu, and guinea pig.
Peasants also have the track record of dealing with new conditions quickly and effectively. Recent history is replete with evidence that peasant producers – before there were telegraphs or telephones or railways – have adapted new food species (through selective breeding) to an extraordinary range of different climatic conditions within the span of only a few human generations.
This process of seed and knowledge sharing from farmer to farmer is how maize spread across most of the regions of Africa and how sweet potatoes were planted everywhere in Papua New Guinea from mangrove swamps to mountain tops – all in less than a century – and how immigrants brought seeds from Europe that were growing across the Western Hemisphere within a generation.
When we compare the track record of the industrial food chain to the peasant food web we must conclude that our century-long experience with the chain shows that it is just too expensive, and it can’t scale up. Meanwhile, with almost no support from governments, the peasant food web is already feeding 70 per cent of us (see page 12) – and could do much more, while producing drastically less greenhouse gas emissions than industrial methods.
To be clear, ‘peasant farming as usual’ is not an option. Climate change will mean our over 10,000 years of agriculture has to deal with growing conditions that the world hasn’t seen for three million years.
There is no reason to be sanguine about the problems ahead.
Peasants can scale up if the industrial chain gets off their backs. Governments must recognize peasants’ rights to their land and seeds and support fair, peasant-led rural development and trade policies. We need to cut waste and shift our financial resources to strengthening the peasant food web and both tackling climate change and ensuring food sovereignty.
IMG_8781
This article was first published in the New Internationalist
The ETC Group’s publication, Who Will Feed Us? which compared peasant farming and industrial agriculture, can be downloaded in English and Spanish from ETC’s website.

 

Ending Slavery in Libya; Rebuilding African Economies

Reading Statement1

Statement being read at WE-Africa Conference, Pretoria


WE-Africa Condemns Slavery in Libya and calls for Wellbeing Economy in Africa. 
Members of Wellbeing Economy Africa Network (WE-Africa) rose from their meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa, 27-29 November 2017, with a strong call to put an end to modern day enslavement of migrants and refugees in Libya and for the prosecution of those complicit in the dehumanising acts for crimes against humanity. WE-Africa is an action-research alliance of likeminded scholars and practitioners who share a common concern about the current socio-economic conditions in which we live and are willing to work together to promote a transition to a wellbeing-based economy for Africa. WE-Africa works to consolidate evidence for change while focusing on building a new economy and promoting alternative development policies.

WE-Africa recognises that the abominable events in Libya are a culmination of a number of factors, none of which, however, excuses the inhuman acts. Such factors include the fact that most African nations are riddled with conflicts and dependent on wasteful economic policies that do not meet the basic needs of their citizens. Some of these refugees were thus seeking an escape from poverty, war, unemployment and environmental destruction. They had already endured the hazards of passing through the hostile Sahara Desert before being held in Libya, with Europe turning a blind eye to such gross human rights violations. Their journeys into slavery began as migrants as well as economic, political and climate refugees hoping to make their ways to the Mediterranean coasts of Libya and crossing over to Europe.

WE-Africa recognizes that facilitating the downfall of regimes through external military intervention without creating the necessary conditions for a democratic transition has created a fertile condition for serious humanitarian disasters and human rights abuses. An example is the military intervention in Libya by NATO, which has contributed to the present situation, adding to centuries of colonialism and decades of neo-colonialism that have led to ecological mayhem and rising inequality in Africa.

PNG image-5FF5F8F2F35B-1

Mallence Bar Williams speaking on “From Charity to Sharity”

Against the backdrop of the Euro-Africa summit taking place in Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire), WE-Africa Ne calls on the European Union to recall its complicity in what is happening in Libya and not to forget their long-standing relations with Africa, including historical, ecological and climate debts, and ease access to their territory as this would eliminate the power of illicit cartels trading in human misery.

WE-Africa regrets that at a time when economies of African nations are said to be ‘growing’, the social and economic realities of citizens remain abysmal.

We call on the African Union and African governments to:

  1. Request the United Nations Human Rights Commission to conduct a detailed investigation and bring those who are accountable for this terrible and inhuman act to justice.
  2. Go beyond demanding for a probe of the subhuman treatment being meted to Africans by other Africans on our continent and take an immediate diplomatic and political actions to stop these inhuman acts
  3. To carry out investigations on why their citizens prefer to embark on the hazardous journey to Libya rather than remain in their home countries
  4. Urgently put in place pro-people measures that ensures full employment, security, access to health, education and other social needs.
  5. Urgently recognize and utilize the rich human resources and gifts of Nature in the continent to derive alternatives pathways to wellbeing, including increased human development indices.
  6. Question the use of indices such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that give false notions of growth while citizens groan under the weight of unjust and inequitable economic relations.
  7. Embrace a difference approach to development inspired by the concept of ‘Wellbeing Economy’ to build the pathway to an egalitarian future and entrenched in the spirit of Ubuntu.

We cannot be silent. African governments cannot be silent. Time to act is now!

Initial signatories:

  1. Lorenzo Fioramonti (South Africa)
  2. Ifeoma Malo (Nigeria)
  3. Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria)
  4. Desta Mebratu (Ethiopia)
  5. Samuel Bankole (Nigeria)
  6. Mamadou lamine Ba (Senegal)
  7. Misgana Elias Kallore (Ethiopia)
  8. Kane Racine (Senegal)
  9. Hope Kasedde (Uganda)
  10. Fidelis Allen (Nigeria)
  11. Verengai Mabika (Zimbabwe)
  12. Mao Amis (South Africa)
  13. Pat Pillai (South Africa)
  14. Ruth Moraa (Kenya)
  15. Bernard Osawa (Kenya)
  16. Henry J. Roman (South Africa)
  17. Katherine Trebeck (Namibia)
  18. Ndubuisi Ekekwe (Nigeria)
  19. Masechaba Mabilu (South Africa)
  20. Gamelihle Sibanda (Zimbabwe)
  21. Lisa Heldsinger (South Africa)
  22. Rehana Moosajee (South Africa)
  23. Marjolein Brasz
  24. Christelle Terreblanche (South Africa)
  25. Handaik Crouge (South Africa)
  26. Paul Sutton (United States)
  27. Kate Pickett (United Kingdom)
  28. Richard Wilkinson (United Kingdom)
  29. Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir (Iceland)
  30. Robert Costanza (Australia)
  31. Stewart Wallis (United Kingdom)
  32. Ida Kubiszewski (Australia)
  33. Pedro Tabensky (South Africa)
  34. Megan Seneque (South Africa)
  35. Martin Kalungu Banda (Zambia)
  36. Wiebke Koenig (Germany)
  37. Najma Mohamed (South Africa)
  38. Dirk Philipsen (Germany/USA)
  39. Janine Schall-Emden (Germany)
  40. Sidney Luckett (South Africa)

 

 

The Inevitable Shift from Oil

Of the many human driven positive changes in the world today, the gradual shift from dependence on fossil fuels (oil gas and coal) may be the most important. The implication for Nigeria is severe, because of our unpreparedness to grapple with the change.

Our economy still depends heavily on revenue from oil and gas. Although much revenue has been generated over the six decades of oil exploitation, our national savings account still reads $1 billion, a paltry amount compared to Norway’s $1 trillion Sovereign Wealth Fund. Once a financially buoyant nation, Nigeria has fallen to one that borrows or seeks to borrow for almost any serious project or programme.

For the Niger Delta, the consequences of oil and gas exploration and exploitation have been dire. The level of ecological degradation is so high that we are not far from the truth when we say that some parts of the region are environmental dead zones.

Granted that the Niger Delta has dedicated agencies to tackle her challenges, we have not made much progress due partly to a lack of deep analysis of the very meaning of the concept of development as well as a lack of serious evaluation of the programmatic and project paths chosen and implemented. It is time for us to ask the inevitable questions: what is development? And, using current understanding, do we need development alternatives or is it that we actually need alternatives to development?

In undertaking the HOMEF project, Beyond Oil Dialogue – Re-imagining the Development of the Niger Delta, our objective has been to review/evaluate the development efforts of governments in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States. This has uncovered the fundamental reasons why programmes succeed or fail. In doing that, we have teased out possible pathways that would yield positive results.

The project has also afforded us the space to look at opportunities for building the socio-economic future of the region using the rich biodiversity base as a key starting point. In all scenarios, popular participation in inception, planning and execution of whatever schemes are to be embarked on is fundamental if such schemes are to succeed and be accepted by the people.

How can the Niger Delta economy be made greener, the environment safer and the rich biodiversity endowment enhanced and preserved? What can be done to prepare and insulate the region from the coming shocks of a global shift from a fossil fuel based economy and as oil and gas resources lose value and as energy transition to renewable sources gains speed?

What will become of the abandoned oil fields and will the massive pollution in the region be cleaned-up or abandoned?

These are some of the questions we grappled with in the report under review today. It was put together by a team of researchers, development practitioners as well as energy and biodiversity experts. We are happy that government representatives are here with us, because our objective is to go beyond oil dialogue and enter a phase of action on the basis of a preferred future agreed to by our peoples.

Uyo, 20 October 2017