Category Archives: Environment

Haiti: Liberation Ecology: Poo to compost to nutrition and sustainable living

World Toilet Day! [19th November] reports that 40% of the world’s population do not have access to toilets which is about 1 in 3 people.  Sanitation and waste disposal is a human right but like most rights, exist only on paper and in echo chambers of  election promises, UN organisations and NGOs. The consequences are sickness, death, and for women the increased risk of sexual violence and the loss of dignity in having to piss on the streets, behind parked vehicles or some small little corner of space.   The alternative is to have to hold your bladder for hours on end till either night or when somewhere private can be found which results in excruciating pain and repeated infections.  Repeatedly we hear of ‘development’ measured in the number of mobile phones in the global south particularly in Africa where we are told the growth is astronomical and bringing positive changes to  the lives of everyone.  Why not begin to measure developing and rising countries in the numbers of people who have everyday easy access to toilets and water?

The Africas are rising  and here in Haiti, which is now also open for business, the largely unregulated construction industry is booming at huge environmental costs, along with new garment factories opening every few months.  You may now have a job, albeit a low paid one, but still there is no private, safe, sanitary  place to shit.  Still there are no houses being built and there are no government plans to improve sanitation.  As I wrote in “BAYAKOU, Why I Am Talking Shit on World Water Day

 We know that in certain situations shit can kill and the poorer you are the more likely you could die of a shit related illness CHOLERA is a prime example, so shit is a poverty issue and a class issue.  We know there are issues of privacy, access to ‘toilets’ especially at night and sexual violence in unlit densely populated urban areas, so shit is also a gender issue…….

The crisis in toilets is exacerbated by the accompanying crisis in access to water both for sanitation and for consumption.   To meet both these challenges in Haiti, SOIL [Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods] was formed in 2006 by Sasha Kramer and Sarah Brownell.  A small venture which began with installing compost toilets, one toilet at a time for compounds and households in Cap Haitian in the north of the country.

SOIL Poop Truck
SOIL Poop Truck

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, SOIL was approached by Oxfam to build 200 toilets across the internally displaced people’s camps in Port-au-Prince.  I recently met with Sasha to discuss SOILs progress over the past three years and the move from building compost toilets to using human waste as a fertilizer and then  to full scale production  of compost for both their own small scale garden use and commercial sale.

“SOIL first began  producing compost towards the end of 2010 and since then 100,000 gallons of compost has been generated from the emergency response. The primary buyers are local nurseries, NGOs working on agricultural projects which is somewhat a false market and not necessarily a sustainable market, but a market nonetheless. Also resellers  and backyard gardeners – people who buy a few bags for their own use.

The next step after compost toilets was then to focus on  on refining our composting process, testing and trying to make the process as operationally efficient as possible.  The third year has been focusing on getting the compost back into agriculture and testing it on various crops for efficiency and then marketing and generating revenue as well as reducing cost of the whole process.

Sasha’s logic about using human waste as a fertilizer was that if she was eating nutrient rich food then surely she would produce nutrient rich poop and all that was necessary was to find a way to kill off the unwanted pathogens and  reuse the nutrients.  Although this made sense,  I was still skeptical as most human poo is produced by carnivores  which seems unsuitable,  so is there a history of recycling human waste?

Interesting there is an ancient history of using recycling human waste for agriculture and because its based on biological process on decomposition its always happened.  Before we had sanitation our waste was always naturally recycled.  In China they had this organized for over 5000 years where people would collect human waste for farming.  However they were not using a compost process and where putting it on raw which has risks due to human pathogens which can make you sick.  And now the US some 50% of human waste is recycled back onto farms and in Europe the percentage is even higher.

Like the Bayakou who are responsible for cleaning the septic tanks in Haiti, shit, poo, poop is not something we  talk about in daily conversation.  I was surprised to learn from Sasha that  human waste in the US and UK is used for farming and often used as untreated sludge and as she points out, there is considerable controversy around this process.  However this is different to composting human waste which is growing as a commercial process through heating and removing dangerous pathogens.  As far as SOIL is concerned the process of producing the compost is itself low tech and very safe.

SOIL is the largest scale operation of composting human waste outside of the US and Europe.  The interesting thing with meat and human waste is that even though people say your poop smells more if you eat meat which is probably true but if you eat meat you are probably eating more protein unless you are careful with your beans and nuts intake.  So naturally you are then excreting more nutrients so there isn’t any risk as long as the waste is heated to at least 122F for at least a week which kills all the pathogens.  Actually the poop heats itself when its mixed with sugar cane waste so all the moisture, carbon, nitrogen mix and reproduce. and naturally heats itself up.   The process takes two months for the pathogens are removed then a further 6 months till decomposition.

The next stage in SOIL’s development of human waste as as fertilizer was to carry out various tests and experiments on different crops which is still ongoing so a large part of their work could be seen as research.   SOIL also have their own gardens where they grow vegetables and some fruits.  The process of composting toilet waste is a long one and can take up to 12 months but once ready it is a fine rich black texture and proven to be effective as the photos below show.

Rich compost ready for use as fertilizer
Rich compost ready for use as fertilizer

3/4 gallon compost

3/4 gallon compost
1/4 gallon compost
1/4 gallon compost

SOIL has  now shifted its focus from building toilets which they see as the role of the government and or private entrepreneurs, to that of promoting and demonstrating the functionality and sanitary benefits of installing compost toilets. I mentioned to Sasha the experience of SOPUDEP school with their compost toilets installed by Give Love.   Due to lack of support and maintenance, last month the school decided to remove the toilets and return to traditional latrines.   The problem was with 700 children it was impossible to maintain the toilets daily and they could not afford to pay someone to do this.   Also the waste compost was stored only yards from the toilets and the kindergarten classrooms – a classic case of NGOs installing technology and then failing to follow up with support.   We both agreed that follow up and in this case collection of poo on a regular basis is essential.

SOIL is presently at a turning point in their organization as the plan is to move away from implementation towards research and in doing so recognizing that we as people are responsible for the earth and its ability to reproduce or not.

The idea is that over the next three to five years is to move from being an implementation organization to a research and consultancy organization where we will work on training people in Haiti who are interested in business opportunities in sanitation and composting.    The idea of moving from toilets to composting developed around the question how could we create a great sanitation system in Haiti that not only addresses sanitation but also begins to get all that human waste that’s polluting rivers, streams and the sea and get it back onto the soil so that it can be used to rebuild the soil that is being lost.  So how can we not only address sanitation but also livelihoods, malnutrition and so many of the problems that are really tied into the fact that we are not closing the loop we are eating all this food,  we’re stripping nutrients  from the lands, we excrete them and they go into the water instead of recycling and using them.

In addition to selling their compost to NGOs and local gardeners SOIL recently sold $30,000 of compost to Heineken [ last year they bought the Haitian beer, Prestige] who will be using it for the production of Malta as well as for research testing it on Sorghum.  Whilst SOIL has focused on urban needs and big business I was interested to know if they had been able to work with farmers in rural areas.

Compost is very tricky for small farmers living on the edge economically as its expensive to produce so in order for them to benefit it has to be subsidized from one end to the other.  Either you subsidize the production and sell it at a cheaper price or just cut your price and loose on the money.  So its a difficult situation. We have to decided that we have this quality product which we can sell to a high end market and that then makes our sanitation services cheaper so we can reach more people with sanitation.  or do we sell it at lower price which makes our sanitation more costly.

Its a tricky one. There are two ways to support small farmers. First is to train them in how to produce the compost which is the most effective and the other way is through the Heineken model where they buy it at the price and sell it or distribute to the small farmers. So either the government or big business supporting the small farmers.

Finally I asked Sasha what she felt was the relationship between SOIL’s work in sanitation, recycling,  creating compost and agriculture to the issue of preventative health in Haiti.

I’m glad you said preventative because it really is important because sanitation addresses diarrhea  diseases which are the leading cause of death of children under five and then agriculture addresses good nutrition. even in the case of mental health just the tremendous amount of stress families feel due to the medical issues they are dealing with  has to be enormous. So preventive health around physical issues also impacts on mental health.

SOIL’s success is lies in the fact they started small with one specific tasks, installing compost toilets in Cap Haitian.   They then grew according to local needs and in dialogue with the communities where they worked.  Over the years they have included the training of Haitian staff at all levels and developed an excellent understanding of the environment including WASH and the socioeconomic landscape in which they work.

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Haiti: Occasional Musings 21, Environmental cost of construction boom [Photo Essay]

The construction boom in Haiti driven by Diasporan money, UN [MINUSTAH] and government funds is destroying the local environment around the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Hillsides are being cut away and river beds decimated to feed the huge demand for rock and gravel for personal homes, warehouses and post earthquake reconstruction by the government – in short everything but low cost housing.

I took these photos of the river Grise at Fatimah on the edge of Pernier where I live. In 2010 you could cross the river and take one step up to the village which you can see in the distance. Now the river bed has been dug as much as 30ft deep in some places forcing villages to make a steep perilous climb after negotiating the river which at times can be deep and fast flowing [See last photo]. Neither the government nor the companies have bothered to build steps or a platform for local people to access their village.

The mining of the river bed takes place 24/7 and there are four companies operating in this location. They pay a government tax for the privileged of destroying the river. The construction boom has also brought an influx of monster trucks in various states of disrepair plowing the narrow streets and blowing out thick black smoke.

Earlier this year local residents, mainly small family farmers who rely on the river for their irrigation and water for animals, held a series of protests against the mining of the river and the trucks which operate day and night. One person was shot and killed by the police which for the moment ended the protests.

In years to come Haitians will again be blamed for destroying their rivers and hills much in the same way they are blamed for destroying the trees but when you investigate it is not the people but big business and corrupt governments who are to blame.   Writing in 1968,   Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s [born in 1916] “Love Anger Madness: A Haitian Trilogy”, describes how foreigners, forced Haitian peasants to cut down their trees for sale or starve.  We don’t hear this story.    Rather its always poor Haitians cutting trees for firewood whereas thousands of trees were cut by corporate greed and government corruption.  The farmers knew this would destroy their land and tried to protest, but their lives were worth less than the trees!   Then charities arrive with food, clothing and the bible to save those whose land and livelihood were destroyed.

The irony is that whilst the real river beds are being eroded, the construction of roads which usually lasts for a cycle of two or maybe three weeks is making the roads into river beds with deposits of silt and pebbles mixed in with flood water such as the road from Frere to Clericine via Tabarre.

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Farmland at Grise

Grazing goats at Grise

Village access to river
This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

After the bees and the frogs we are not far behind

In an August 2013 report, Haiti Grassroots Watch wrote that Haiti’s mineral wealth could be worth as much as $US 20 billion and for this already land has already been given to US and Canadian businesses fronted by Haitian firms.   These awards have been taking place over the past five years and behind closed doors with no oversight.

The “gold rush” in Haiti has been going on for the past five years or so, since the price of gold and other minerals rose. Until last year, the government and the companies cut their deals behind closed doors. After an investigation revealed that 15 percent of the county was under contract, on February 20, 2013 the Haitian Senate adopted a resolution demanding all activities cease in order to allow for a national debate and for analysis of all contracts.

Writer Edwidge Danticat goes further by tracing the quest for Haiti’s gold back to Christopher Columbus who set in motion and ongoing disaster for Haiti  culminating in the present day unregulated quest for gold.   People have already been displaced, land will be destroyed which forebodes a warning for something more to come such as the disappearance of frogs along with the disappearance of people.

The land has been  destroyed, the rivers, and all of nature.   Greed has no respect for any of these – It  takes  and takes and takes till there is nothing left, then pockets full of dollars,  moves on to somewhere else and repeats.

From The Coffin Factory an interview with Edwidge Danticat ….

The Coffin Factory: You have this whole environmental aspect of Claire that I haven’t seen in the other books. There are what initially seem to be surreal, almost magical, elements, like the exploding frogs. But then you explain that this is part of climate change.

Edwidge Danticat: The Cuban writer Mayra Montero published a wonderful novel a few years ago called In the Palm of Darkness, which is about two men, one Haitian and one foreigner, who are looking for a very rare kind of frog in Haiti. Every once in a while some rare species of frogs are discovered in Haiti, which are either endangered or extinct elsewhere. Given how little tree cover there is now in Haiti, something like less than five percent, it is amazing that something like this is even possible. I did some research and it seems that frogs, like bees, are a bellwether species. Like the Jean de la Fontaine poem the radio personality quotes in the book, when all these types of animals start disappearing, we can’t be far behind. So the facts that the frogs are disappearing in Ville Rose is a sign that something big is going to happen, something even more environmentally drastic—and everyone knows it. In a way, you have this ongoing disaster in Haiti that started with Columbus’s quest for gold and continues through the renewed interest in Haiti’s gold mines today.

 

 

 

 

Growing Haiti – Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li.

Growing Haiti is a South-South collaboration which focuses on strengthening Haitian women and families via sustainable micro gardening initiatives.   With the support of friends and family, Mark Jacobs- a Guyanese farmer, writer, and educator has been working with Haitian people growing vegetables and other sustainable agriculture related initiatives. One of the main focus is income generation from selling excess produce. The second is training in sustainable urban [micro] gardening including working with children in schools and neighborhoods.
School garden, Port-au-Prince
Building raised beds for planting
Getting ready for the market
In Guyanese Creolese or Haitian Kreyol, the message is the same: Love and liberation- yesterday, today, and forever. Wan wan dutty build dam. Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li. Little by little, the bird builds its nest.

Haiti – Cholera still an emergency issue

From Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) a report on the deplorable condition of cholera related healthcare in four departments in Haiti.   Part of the problem is that increasingly over the past 18 months cholera has been downgraded to a ‘development’ issue rather than an emergency one.  However as the report states there has been an  increase in mortality rates  in part of the country of 4%  towards the end of 2012.  Another factor which has the potential to exacerbate the cholera situation is the downsizing of DINEPA staff responsible for all aspects of monitoring water and sanitation in the ‘official’ camps.

A lack of funds and supplies has crippled cholera treatment programs in Haiti, leading to unnecessary deaths and increasing the risk of greater outbreaks during the upcoming rainy season, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

In recent evaluations of public health facilities in four Haitian departments–Artibonite, Nippes, Southeast, and North–MSF found that the quality of cholera treatment declined significantly in the last year due to funding shortfalls.

“Some of the staff at the cholera treatment centers have not been paid for several months,” said Dr. Mamady Traoré, MSF deputy medical coordinator, who participated in the Artibonite assessment in late December 2012. “Infrastructure and equipment are worn out because they haven’t been maintained and there are frequent shortages of medical supplies. As a result, hygiene precautions that are essential to limiting the spread of the disease are no longer enforced. Sometimes patients are left without treatment or must pay to obtain it. That is intolerable.”

Cholera-related mortality has risen since late 2012 in Haiti’s North Department. “The mortality rate exceeds 4 percent in certain treatment centers–this is four times the acceptable rate,” said Joan Arnan, who was in charge of the evaluation. “This reveals the shortcomings in treatment. Cholera is not difficult to treat if it’s done promptly. But sometimes there are only two nurses to manage 50 patients. That’s not nearly enough to ensure quality care.”

In December 2012, the United Nations launched an appeal for $2.2 billion to fund a plan by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) to eliminate cholera by 2022. The plan is yet to be funded, leaving many current cholera patients without adequate treatment.

“Cholera now appears to be seen as a development issue to be resolved over the next 10 years, whereas the current situation still calls for an emergency medical response,” said Duncan McLean, MSF program manager in New York. “The necessary resources for such a response are becoming increasingly scarce.”

The deplorable state of the treatment centers suggests that the worst is yet to come with the looming rainy season. In 2011 and 2012, rains led to sudden localized epidemic spikes between May and November. MSF responded within the limits of its resources.

“Prevention–by improving water, sanitation, hygiene conditions and vaccinations–is obviously the long-term solution, but sufficient resources are still needed today to treat patients and prevent deaths,” said Oliver Schulz, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “The priority today must be to strengthen the treatment centers and the early warning and rapid response systems. The Haitian government and international donors need to ensure that existing treatment sites are equipped and staffed before the rains. That means as soon as possible.”

Since the cholera outbreak was identified in late October 2010, MSF has treated nearly 200,000 patients at a total cost of approximately $60 million and with a mortality rate below 1 percent. During 2011, MSF gradually handed over responsibility to Haitian health authorities for treatment centers outside the area affected by the January 12, 2010, earthquake, after training Haitian staff and donating supplies and equipment. MSF continues to provide cholera treatment in Port-au-Prince and Léogâne, with 23,000 patients treated in 2012.

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Haiti: Occasional Musings, 11 – International Women’s Day

I have a general wariness around national and international days which are set aside to remind us of a particular issue or celebration such as the Day of the Child, Human Rights Day, Water Day, Day Against Homophobia and International Women’s Day [IWD]. There seems to be something condescending about such designations not least of all because we often have no historical or other context for such days. I had thought to mark IWD 2013 with a profile of four Haitian women activists, three I have known for a number of years and one I just met this January. However after talking with each of them and considering the impact of their work in their communities I felt I needed to bring something deeper to my understanding of the relationship between IWD, feminism and activism in an Haitian context.

I started by reading on the history of IWD which I had always believed to be a post WWII creation along with the various declarations around human rights. Not so. IWD was born within the European and Russian socialist politic of the late 19th century along with May Day, as a celebration and recognition of working class struggles including ‘universal women’s suffrage’. In other words IWD was created out of the the intersection of class and gender and was formalised at the August 1910 at the “International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen”.

“In agreement with the class-conscious political and trade organisations of the proletariat in their respective countries, the socialist women of all nationalities will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to socialist precepts. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully. Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, and other comrades

In her lecture “Wars Against Women” Angela Davis points to the multiple origins of IWD so in addition to the 1910 Socialist International there was the

“ Russian women’s strike for bread and peace in 1917 against the wishes of the revolutionary leadership which [later] helped to bring down the Czar. There was the triangle shirtwaist factory fire in New York in 1911 during which 140 women, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants were killed. There was also a 1857 strike on March 8th in New York by women in the garment and textile industry, in which they demanded, better wages, shorter working hours and generally better working conditions.”

The first IWD was in 1911 under the banner of ‘equal rights, protection of working woman and women’s suffrage. The ideology behind the early IWD was driven by a desire to end capitalism which was seen as the barrier to equality, to internationalize the struggle of women and workers and to oppose the impending war in Europe [WWI]. By the 1970s, IWD, which grew out of a socialist workers international was appropriated and incorporated into global capitalism through the institution of the UN, which despite the tensions of the east west cold war period, was always leveraged as an instrument of global capital. The first global recognition of IWD and women’s struggles, was through the UN Commission on the Status of Women which held a series of ‘internationals’ in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

Another interesting  example of the early IWD socialist connection took place  following the first UN  sponsored international in Mexico which designated March 8th as IWD.

“Cuba marked the occasion by launching it’s attack against the second shift – the shift women do when they get home from work and began to address some of the major issues that confront working women within a feminist framework.” [Angela Davis]

Davis also asks us to recognize the importance of the global in “recognizing the recognition of women’s pivotable role” in creating hope for a better future. I would add that these internationals also led to  the recognition of the ‘pivotable role’ played by women from the global south in the independence movements in the 1930s onwards and of course in post-colonial struggles. It is within this international or global history as well as Haiti’s own revolutionary history that I would like to view the activism of the Haitian women. Each of the four women’s organizing grew out of the struggle of the popular masses against the subjugation and brutality of the 1930s US Occupation, Duvalierism, militarisation and the desire to reclaim the revolutionary narrative which had long since been appropriated by Haitian elites, imperialist forces as well as local patriarchies.

Each of the women prioritise women’s struggles in the context of a broader activism of an inclusive movement of the popular masses.  So water rights, land rights, food insecurity, an end to the UN occupation, an increase in the minimum wage, free accessible education, sit alongside issues of gender discrimination, sexual violence, domestic violence, imprisonment of girls and women for extended periods often with delayed trials or years, access to healthcare,  and adult literacy.

Globalised Women

The clothes we wear the majority of which are made in China or the global south by women are invariably manufactured under extremely exploitative labour conditions. Even in Europe and the US, it is immigrant and often undocumented women’s labour that is used.   The food we eat.  Most of the sugar imported into the US comes from the Dominican Republic where Haitian men, women and children many of whom have been trafficked across the border,  work in slavery conditions on huge plantations.  The conditions are horrendous, there are few schools, clinics or access to alternative employment.  The petrol we use to travel has destroyed the livelihood of women in rural Niger Delta.

At the beginning of this post I said I was wary about the ‘celebration’ of designated international Days though I wasnt sure where or why my ambivalence.  But understanding the history of IWDs particularly learning the socialist history has given IWD a much needed context.

Redux: Odi & Filling Nigeria’s Memory Hole

After 14 years, Nigerian courts have ordered the government to pay compensation to Odi Town in the sum of nearly $240 million within 21 days. He described the attack on Odi as

“brazen violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims to movement, life and to own property and live peacefully in their ancestral home.”

Odi Town Massacre

In addition to the compensation the people of Odi town have demanded an apology and the rebuilding of the town.  Odi town was one of many towns and villages invaded, destroyed, burnt, people were killed and injured during the rule of Olusegun Obasanjo – hopefully now they will one by one begin to receive justice.

Odi Town Massacre.

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

Mother and child outside their burnt home in Odi

In the original report on the invasion of Odi the term used for those who killed the police was “criminal gang’. This has now been revised in line with the ubiquitous use of the ‘war on terror’ narrative, to ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’ by both President Obasanjo and Jonathan. Remember this was in 1999 and rather than put an end to militancy – there wasn’t any at this time, it is very likely the action gave birth to the militancy they now claim was the reason for the invasion. In response to Jonathan’s claim that the massacre of Odi people did not put an end to “terrorist’ acts Femi Fani-Kayode wrote

“The Governor [Alamieyeseigha, the then Bayelsa State governor] said that he was unable to do so and President Obasanjo, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took the position that security personnel could not be killed with impunity under his watch without a strong and appropriate response from the Federal Government. Consequently he sent the military in, to uproot and kill the terrorists and to destroy their operational base which was the town of Odi. The operation was carried out with military precision and efficiency and it’s objectives were fully achieved. The terrorists were either killed and those that were not killed fled their operational base in Odi.” The people of Odi town have denied the charge that the men were militants and that Odi was ‘an operational base’.

I use the invasion of Odi as an example of the extent to which militarism pervades governance and all aspects of Nigerian society – cultural, social, economic and gender justice, in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian governments both military and civilian have always chosen violent responses, under the guise of protecting citizens, to silence political protests, punish ethnic and religious conflict, evict street vendors, destroy informal settlements and remove beggars from the streets.

Group of elderly Odi women after the invasion

The award winning environmental and human rights activist, Nnimmo Bassey describes the responses to the Odi massacre and destruction of property and livelihoods in the Niger Delta as a’Blanket of Silence”. The impunity with which the murder of civilians and the extra judicial execution of alleged  criminals is never questioned.  Such is the desensitization to violence. No where in the media reports or in any other statement on the invasion, does anyone question the use of collective punishment – the massacre of 2,483 people and the total destruction of a town which can only be described as a war crime.  What arrogance and shamefulness it is that an ex-President can attempt to justify the murder of 2,483 unarmed women, children and elderly men.

When I speak of violence, I am speaking of an inclusive violence. Women have been at the center of this violence and they continue to be so.   Women have always been at the center of these acts of violence which are psychological, sexual, physical, emotional and verbal, as well as  the fear of those acts.   The true nature of the gendered violence which comes from the relationship between the militarized ruling elite and multinational oil companies, is obscured by the focus on supposed militants and or criminal gangs. In June 2009 the government of the late President Yar’Adua bombed Oporoza town, Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Delta state supposedly to ‘root out’ militants. Yet not a single militant was killed and there is no real evidence that any were present. Once again women, children and elderly men were killed and driven out of the town to hide in the swamps. Many trekked for days before reaching the city.  Later some 2000 women and children were placed in a refugee camp outside Warri run by women’s rights activists from Rivers State.

In the post amnesty period, 2009 to the present much of the violence against women has come from cultist and criminal gangs empowered by the culture of violence around the protection of oil production and bunkering. At the same time women have become increasingly disempowered through the perpetual violence and the loss of their livelihoods as market traders, farmers and fishing. Many women have had to move to Port Harcourt and despite the hardship and poverty of living in the city, they remain fearful of returning to their villages.

It is now 2012, the militants have been given amnesty yet the region remains heavily militarised and it is impossible to move by water or land from village to village or town to town without facing a checkpoint. In a 2011 audit of security forces carried out by myself and Emem Okon of Kebetkachie Womens Resource Center, Port Harcourt,  we listed the following security in the region.

Nigerian security forces: The River’s State Internal Security Task Force – used against the Ogoni people. The Special Naval Task Force, regular forces of the Nigerian Army, Mobile Police and police units, and more recently the Joint Task Force [JTF].

On the militant’s side there were [are] two main militias: the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force led by Asari Dokobo and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [which has a number of splinter groups]. In addition there are various other militias some being splinter groups of the main two such as the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta (CMND), South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), Movement for the Sovereign State of the Niger Delta (MOSSEND), DE Gbam, DE Well, Niger Delta Vigilante, and Meninbutus. There has also been at various times a Joint Revolutionary Council whose aim was to bring together leaders from all the militias.

The multinationals [Shell, Chevron, Agip, Elf, Mobil] all have their own private security personnel as well as a close political, economic and general working relationship with the various Nigerian security forces. Since the 2009 amnesty many of the ex militants have been employed by oil companies as security. In addition there are criminal / cultist gangs at work in urban centers and villages especially in those where there are oil facilities; There are also ex militants, church and other institutional security forces.

The culture of militarism is thus an all pervasive one which impacts directly on the rights of women as it extends into the domestic sphere, traditional spaces and the environment through a systemic destruction of the ecological system.

* The phrase ‘Memory Hole’ is taken from an article by William Finnegan in the New Yorker.

Banks, multinationals, billionaires buying up water

You’ve heard about the massive land grabs taking place across the global south including across Africa – see here and here and the push towards water privatization.   There are two additional ‘disturbing trends’ around the supply and access to water.  The first is the multinationals and banks buying up water, lakes, water rights, acquirers and water technology.  The second trend is governments limiting our ability to become ‘water self-sufficient’.  In addition to billionaires you will find the usual banking suspects – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Barclays and HSBC

It’s a strange New World Order in which multibillionaires and elitist banks can own aquifers and lakes, but ordinary citizens cannot even collect rainwater and snow runoff in their own backyards and private lands.

“Water is the oil of the 21st century.”
Andrew Liveris, CEO of DOW Chemical Company (quoted in The Economist magazine, August 21, 2008)

In 2008, I wrote an article, “Why Big Banks May Be Buying up Your Public Water System,” in which I detailed how both mainstream and alternative media coverage on water has tended to focus on individual corporations and super-investors seeking to control water by buying up water rights and water utilities. But paradoxically the hidden story is a far more complicated one. I argued that the real story of the global water sector is a convoluted one involving “interlocking globalized capital”: Wall Street and global investment firms, banks, and other elite private-equity firms — often transcending national boundaries to partner with each other, with banks and hedge funds, with technology corporations and insurance giants, with regional public-sector pension funds, and with sovereign wealth funds — are moving rapidly into the water sector to buy up not only water rights and water-treatment technologies, but also to privatize public water utilities and infrastructure.

Now, in 2012, we are seeing this trend of global consolidation of water by elite banks and tycoons accelerating. In a JP Morgan equity research document, it states clearly that “Wall Street appears well aware of the investment opportunities in water supply infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and demand management technologies.” Indeed, Wall Street is preparing to cash in on the global water grab in the coming decades. For example, Goldman Sachs has amassed more than $10 billion since 2006 for infrastructure investments, which include water. A 2008 New York Times article mentioned Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and the Carlyle Group, to have
“amassed an estimated an estimated $250 billion war chest — must of it raised in the last two years — to finance a tidal wave of infrastructure projects in the United States and overseas.”

By “water,” I mean that it includes water rights (i.e., the right to tap groundwater, aquifers, and rivers), land with bodies of water on it or under it (i.e., lakes, ponds, and natural springs on the surface, or groundwater underneath), desalination projects, water-purification and treatment technologies (e.g., desalination, treatment chemicals and equipment), irrigation and well-drilling technologies, water and sanitation services and utilities, water infrastructure maintenance and construction (from pipes and distribution to all scales of treatment plants for residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal uses), water engineering services (e.g., those involved in the design and construction of water-related facilities), and retail water sector (such as those involved in the production, operation, and sales of bottled water, water vending machines, bottled water subscription and delivery services, water trucks, and water tankers)…..

Goldman Sachs: Water Is Still the Next Petroleum

In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water “the petroleum for the next century” and those investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom will reap huge rewards, during its annual “Top Five Risks” conference. Water is a U.S.$425 billion industry, and a calamitous water shortage could be a more serious threat to humanity in the 21st century than food and energy shortages, according to Goldman Sachs’s conference panel. Goldman Sachs has convened numerous conferences and also published lengthy, insightful analyses of water and other critical sectors (food, energy). Goldman Sachs is positioning itself to gobble up water utilities, water engineering companies, and water resources worldwide. Since 2006, Goldman Sachs has become one of the largest infrastructure investment fund managers and has amassed a $10 billion capital for infrastructure, including water.
In March 2012, Goldman Sachs was eyeing Veolia’s UK water utility business, estimated at £1.2 billion, and in July it successfully bought Veolia Water, which serves 3.5 million people in southeastern England.
Previously, in September 2003, Goldman Sachs partnered with one of the world’s largest private-equity firm Blackstone Group and Apollo Management to acquire Ondeo Nalco (a leading company in providing water-treatment and process chemicals and services, with more than 10,000 employees and operations in 130 countries) from French water corporation Suez S.A. for U.S.$4.2 billion.
In October 2007, Goldman Sachs teamed up with Deutsche Bank and several partners to bid, unsuccessfully, for U.K.’s Southern Water. In November 2007, Goldman Sachs was also unsuccessful in bidding for U.K. water utility Kelda. But Goldman Sachs is still looking to buy other water utilities.
In January 2008, Goldman Sachs led a team of funds (including Liberty Harbor Master Fund and the Pinnacle Fund) to buy U.S.$50 million of convertible notes in China Water and Drinks Inc., which supplies purified water to name-brand vendors like Coca-Cola and Taiwan’s top beverage company Uni-President. China Water and Drinks is also a leading producer and distributor of bottled water in China and also makes private-labeled bottled water (e.g., for Sands Casino, Macau). Since China has one of the worse water problems in Asia and a large emerging middle class, its bottled-water sector is the fastest-growing in the world and it’s seeing enormous profits. Additionally, China’s acute water shortages and serious pollution could “buoy demand for clean water for years to come, with China’s $14.2 billion water industry a long-term investment destination” (Reuters, January 28, 2008).
The City of Reno, Nevada, was approached by Goldman Sachs for “a long-term asset leasing that could potentially generate significant cash for the three TMWA [Truckee Meadows Water Authority] entities. The program would allow TMWA to lease its assets for 50 years and receive an up-front cash payment” (Reno News & Review, August 28, 2008). Essentially, Goldman Sachs wants to privatize Reno’s water utility for 50 years. Given Reno’s revenue shortfall, this proposal was financially attractive. But the water board eventually rejected the proposal due to strong public opposition and outcry.

Citigroup: The Water Market Will Soon Eclipse Oil, Agriculture, and Precious Metals

Citigroup’s top economist Willem Buitler said in 2011 that the water market will soon be hotter the oil market (for example, see this and this):
“Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.”
In its recent 2012 Water Investment Conference, Citigroup has identified top 10 trends in the water sector, as follows:

1. Desalination systems
2. Water reuse technologies
3. Produced water / water utilities
4. Membranes for filtration
5. Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection
6. Ballast-water treatment technologies
7. Forward osmosis used in desalination
8. Water-efficiency technologies and products
9. Point-of-use treatment systems
10. Chinese competitors in water

Continue reading here

 

Interactive Land Matrix – Resource in documenting land grab across Africa

Over the past five years there has been a staggering increase in land for investment deals across Africa by foreign governments and private investors. The Oakland Institute has been researching and documenting land grab investments..

While only fractions of arable land in developing regions are being used for agriculture, demand for strategic swats next to irrigation and shipping sites is growing with greater investment. These areas and other lands are frequently in use even though occupants’ have no legal rights to the land or access to legal institutions. As demand for land assets increases and governments and multilateral institutions promote investment in national lands, displacement and affected livelihoods are becoming serious sources of international concern.

The interactive land matrix is an online database that allows anyone to contribute to information and data on land deals. The video below explains how this works and for more information see their website Land Portal

Via Tactical Tech Collective

#16Days: – Nigeria’s Memory Hole*

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

In the original report on the invasion of Odi the term used for those who killed the police was “criminal gang’. This has now been revised in line with the ubiquitous use of the ‘war on terror’ narrative, to ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’ by both President Obasanjo and Jonathan. Remember this was in 1999 and rather than put an end to militancy – there wasn’t any at this time, it is very likely the action gave birth to the militancy they now claim was the reason for the invasion. In response to Jonathan’s claim that the massacre of Odi people did not put an end to “terrorist’ acts Femi Fani-Kayode wrote

“The Governor [Alamieyeseigha, the then Bayelsa State governor] said that he was unable to do so and President Obasanjo, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took the position that security personnel could not be killed with impunity under his watch without a strong and appropriate response from the Federal Government. Consequently he sent the military in, to uproot and kill the terrorists and to destroy their operational base which was the town of Odi. The operation was carried out with military precision and efficiency and it’s objectives were fully achieved. The terrorists were either killed and those that were not killed fled their operational base in Odi.” The people of Odi town have denied the charge that the men were militants and that Odi was ‘an operational base’.

I use the invasion of Odi as an example of the extent to which militarism pervades governance and all aspects of Nigerian society – cultural, social, economic and gender justice, in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian governments both military and civilian have always chosen violent responses, under the guise of protecting citizens, to silence political protests, punish ethnic and religious conflict, evict street vendors, destroy informal settlements and remove beggars from the streets.

The award winning environmental and human rights activist, Nnimmo Bassey describes the responses to the Odi massacre and destruction of property and livelihoods in the Niger Delta as a’Blanket of Silence”. The impunity with which the murder of civilians and the extra judicial execution of alleged  criminals is never questioned.  Such is the desensitization to violence. No where in the media reports or in any other statement on the invasion, does anyone question the use of collective punishment – the massacre of 2,483 people and the total destruction of a town which can only be described as a war crime.  What arrogance and shamefulness it is that an ex-President can attempt to justify the murder of 2,483 unarmed women, children and elderly men.

When I speak of violence, I am speaking of an inclusive violence. Women have been at the center of this violence and they continue to be so.   Women have always been at the center of these acts of violence which are psychological, sexual, physical, emotional and verbal, as well as  the fear of those acts.   The true nature of the gendered violence which comes from the relationship between the militarized ruling elite and multinational oil companies, is obscured by the focus on supposed militants and or criminal gangs. In June 2009 the government of the late President Yar’Adua bombed Oporoza town, Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Delta state supposedly to ‘root out’ militants. Yet not a single militant was killed and there is no real evidence that any were present. Once again women, children and elderly men were killed and driven out of the town to hide in the swamps. Many trekked for days before reaching the city.  Later some 2000 women and children were placed in a refugee camp outside Warri run by women’s rights activists from Rivers State.

In the post amnesty period, 2009 to the present much of the violence against women has come from cultist and criminal gangs empowered by the culture of violence around the protection of oil production and bunkering. At the same time women have become increasingly disempowered through the perpetual violence and the loss of their livelihoods as market traders, farmers and fishing. Many women have had to move to Port Harcourt and despite the hardship and poverty of living in the city, they remain fearful of returning to their villages.

It is now 2012, the militants have been given amnesty yet the region remains heavily militarised and it is impossible to move by water or land from village to village or town to town without facing a checkpoint. In a 2011 audit of security forces carried out by myself and Emem Okon of Kebetkachie Womens Resource Center, Port Harcourt,  we listed the following security in the region.

Nigerian security forces: The River’s State Internal Security Task Force – used against the Ogoni people. The Special Naval Task Force, regular forces of the Nigerian Army, Mobile Police and police units, and more recently the Joint Task Force [JTF].

On the militant’s side there were [are] two main militias: the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force led by Asari Dokobo and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [which has a number of splinter groups]. In addition there are various other militias some being splinter groups of the main two such as the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta (CMND), South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), Movement for the Sovereign State of the Niger Delta (MOSSEND), DE Gbam, DE Well, Niger Delta Vigilante, and Meninbutus. There has also been at various times a Joint Revolutionary Council whose aim was to bring together leaders from all the militias.

The multinationals [Shell, Chevron, Agip, Elf, Mobil] all have their own private security personnel as well as a close political, economic and general working relationship with the various Nigerian security forces. Since the 2009 amnesty many of the ex militants have been employed by oil companies as security. In addition there are criminal / cultist gangs at work in urban centers and villages especially in those where there are oil facilities; There are also ex militants, church and other institutional security forces.

The culture of militarism is thus an all pervasive one which impacts directly on the rights of women as it extends into the domestic sphere, traditional spaces and the environment through a systemic destruction of the ecological system.

* The phrase ‘Memory Hole’ is taken from an article by William Finnegan in the New Yorker.

Africa still pumping oil in the age of solar!

An insightful talk by Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey  - “Africa still pumping oil in the age of solar”.

Nnimmo advocates keeping the oil in the soil and strong discounts the argument that oil is in any way beneficial to Nigeria or any other African country -

Oil has been the destruction of the Nigerian economy. It destroys the relation between the people and the state….”People say that crude oil is an easy and cheap form of energy. But it’s not the truth. Crude oil may be cheap but only because people are not paying the price. If you see what is going on in the oil fields: The pollution, the degradation, the human rights abuses, the murders and the killings – I would like you to tell me how much one drop of oil should cost.” (4:07)

 

Africa is surrounded by water and located at the center of the world -  the Chinese from the east, the US from the west and Europeans from the north.  Historically it  has always been an “accessible store house for energy”, from human energy to palm oil to biofuel and agrofuel to the present exploitation of gas.  In the Niger Delta alone  violence against oil communities can be traced back 100 years,  for example the destruction of Akassa in 1895 by the British to stop palm oil  merchants selling their produce direct to Europe.

Bassey points out the power of multinationals such as Shell and Exxon which have taken over the colonisation project begun by imperial powers such as Britain and France.  Such is their power that neither Nigeria nor the US can stand up to Shell and other giant multinationals. So the question and the challenge facing us is how to destroy the power of the corporations and in effect “socialise them”

Listen to the full talk here. 

Not a pretty picture: A short documentary on Nigeria

Via Sahara Reporters TV

Ken Saro-Wiwa on how it was, how it remains & how it could be

KSW reminds us of a struggle Nigerians have largely ignored or at best dismissed. The Nigerian media [pre social media] has to take major responsibility for the lack of information and analysis no doubt bullied as usual by military and pseudo military governments including Goodluck Jonathan’s. He reminds us of our right to stand up to oppressive leaders. He reminds of the misery oil has brought to people’s lives and how this has been ignored by multinationals and western governments. He reminds us of the existence of a ‘political cabal’ and an ‘oil cabal’. He reminds of our right to the fruits of our land and our resources and that we as people are part of an ecology system not outside of it.

We know that nothing has changed since this interview in 1995 except today we the people have the media in our hands. We can, if we choose and are prepared to make the effort and the sacrifice, do things differently so people do not have to feel they have no stake in this geospace called Nigeria and therefore have to chip a bit off and create their own space. The Niger Delta IS an Occupy Nigeria issue so far as it is part of Nigeria and so far as it is the source of all Nigeria’s income for the past 55 years. Oil is and has always been central to the Nigerian political economy and one cannot act and speak as if the source of that oil is not central to the oil equation.

There is no such thing as a “Niger Delta” issue that is not a Nigerian issue – to say so is to imply that the region is not part of the country and the people are not Nigerians. To do so is to disconnect the misery oil production has brought to millions of Nigerians from those who have benefited at their expense; from the benefit of free flowing oil including fuel subsidies; from political corruption, government waste, the terrible poverty in the north, south east and west and all the other social and economic ills we have faced as a nation.

This could be an opportunity for Nigerians to finally stand up and support the struggle of all Nigerians not just their own little corner and this works all ways. I hope people will have the imagination and vision to really move beyond the status quo. Because if petrol returns to N65 and political salaries are halved, fraudulent oil marketers are prosecuted but gas flaring and oil spills continue to destroy peoples lives, then we havent moved very far!

Part I

Part II

Video via @zulagroup

On the condition of Nigeria by Nigerians….

Three excellent insightful articles by Nigerians on Nigeria with my brief comments.

“People In The Niger Delta Now Recognize That Jonathan Is A Waste Of Time” — Isaac Osuoka

Issac Osuoka is a long time environmental and social justice activist from the Niger Delta and a founding member of the IYC and more recently Social Action. He is someone I have great respect for. Here he is interviewed by Sahara Reporters about the Occupy Nigeria movement and President Jonathan’s standing in Nigeria and significantly in the Niger Delta his home region. His conclusion is that Jonathan is “the worst president that the ruling class ever fostered on Nigeria” He is clueless, inept, passionless and with the mentality of a “local government committee chairman”. Based on two brief conversations with colleagues in Port Harcourt yesterday and following Twitter there seems to be very little protest actions in the region except for in Delta State [Warri and Sapele] or in the south east generally. There could be a number of reasons for this such as the lack of support or consciousness by Nigerians with the 20 year struggle in the region and maybe people dont feel they are part of what is happening. Maybe they dont feel they are part of the country. Maybe they are against the fuel subsidy being removed but dont want to be seen to be critical of the president. These are just suppositions and personally I am disappointed with what appears to be the low level of participation in the Niger Delta core states and hope I am either wrong or this changes over the next few days. UPDATE:  [5.15 GMT+1] Pleased to see I was proved [partially] wrong as total shut down in Port Harcourt:

 

 

 

“IO: The removal of fuel subsidy demonstrates again that the Jonathan presidency does not care a bit about the welfare of Nigerians. Can you imagine the puerile argument that fuel subsidy does not benefit the majority of the Nigerian people? Only those that see benefit in terms of how much you loot can make such a stupid argument. You see, since they know that the figures of how much the government is expending on subsidies is over bloated because of the corruption in the system, and they know the few individuals that have benefited from all the fraud, they have come to associate benefit with whose hands are in the lucre. That is all they see. The loot. That is all they are interested in. From their exalted position, they don’t see the mass of the Nigerian people who are mostly unemployed or have the lowest incomes anywhere in the world. That is why World Bank sponsored economists like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will ask during one of her meetings with the NLC why people were so worried over subsidy removal when about 70 per cent of Nigerians don’t own cars! Continued…

Niyi Osundare on religion and politics in Nigeria
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Beyond COP17 – language and grassroots realities

A clip from a roundtable discussion on the South African media’s reporting on Climate Change which has failed to amplify the voices of those most affected.

Excuse me while I die

We are 4 days into the 16 Days of Activist Against Violence Against Women which dates back to 1999. Fourteen years of days and weeks where the world supposedly focuses on violence against women will end on Human Rights Day, the 10th December. In Durban the 17th UN Climate Change conference begins today and continues until 9th December. So much activity!

The campaign to end violence against women hardly mentions [here I think I am being generous] the violence unleashed by changes in climate and environmental degradation; land grab by investment bankers in New York and London; the purchase of large tracks of land by governments such as Saudi Arabia Kuwait; gentrification or rather ethnic and class cleansing of urban spaces. Is it really that difficult to make the connections by providing a broader more realistic interpretation of violence against women? Abahlali baseMjondolo go some way to doing this
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Normalisation of oil pollution and violence in the Niger Delta

A new series of photos from Nigerian photo activist George Osodi presented at Bamako 2011. The series shows “the duality of life” in the Niger Delta where oil pollution and violence have become a normalised everyday part of life


 

Japan to donate food from Fukushima region to global south countries

NHK [Japan National Broadcasting] reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is proposing to purchase industrial and canned fish products from disaster hit areas, Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate as “a means to tackle harmful rumor against their products”. The Ministry applied for a budget $65 million for this purpose under overseas development aid[ODA]. These products have a high risk of being contaminated yet the Japanese government are intending to send them to countries in the global south! Not done with killing their own people they now want to spread their nuclear death under the disguise of aid – in other words kill and make even more people really sick!

Six days after the Fukushima diaster the Japanese government increased the allowable limit of radiation for water and other drinks to 200Bq/cesium. In the US the limit is 0.111 Bq/litre and the WHO standard 10 Bq/L – I dont know what these figures mean but there is a huge gap between 200 and 10 and 0.11. In addition families who wish to evacuate from outside of the supposedly safe area have to finance themselves and since most cannot afford to do so they are forced to remain. Karori Izumi of “Shut Tomari” and “Save Fukushima Children — Hokkaido” comments on the present state of the Fukushima region and demands that children be allowed to evacuate the contaminated areas plus the shut down of all 10 nuclear power plants…

Our country and we are are contaminated with fallouts , nuclear waste, contaminated water and food, and now our government is trying to contaminate people in developing countries under a name of “developing aid”. Please note that 3400 teraBq contaminated water was discharged from Fukushima Daiichi to the sea by the end of May, affecting all living creatures in the sea. Radiation does not respect national boundaries.

Our government does not let Fukushima children evacuate, exposing them to high level of radiation, and furthermore they are now trying to contaminate people and children in developing countries with contaminated food and industrial goods under ODA, using Japanese tax payers money. This is totally unacceptable. There are several specific claims and petitions to be put forward and separate actions to be taken during the sit in. Stop sending contaminated food under ODA is one of them.

For more on the contamination of food see here.

Report finds Shell complicit in human rights abuses & payments to militants

A new report has found that Shell fuelled human rights abuses in Nigeria by paying huge contracts to armed militants. The report, called Counting the Cost, is published by Platform and a coalition of NGOs and featured in todays UK Guardian.

The report, uncovers how Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbated conflicts, in one case leading to the destruction of Rumuekpe town. There are four oil companies operating in Rumuekpe including Shell. In July this year I visited Rumuekpe and spoke with a large group of women activists from the town. The women explained how the towns people were terrorised by competing militants which led to the estimated deaths of 60 people. Eventually the whole population had to run from the town leaving behind their homes, properties and farms. What is left is a ghost town and on the day we visited, the women and ourselves were fearful that we were being watched and it was too dangerous for us to stay for any length of time or walk through the town center.

Shell also continues to rely on Nigerian government forces who have perpetrated systematic human rights abuses against local residents, including unlawful killings, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. This has been further exacerbated in recent years by war lordism across the region which has particularly led to violence against women, rape and forced prostitution. The women of Rumuekpe and Okrika Town pointed out that those towns where there were no oil companies were free of militarised and environmental violence and people were able to live in peace.

What writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa dubbed the “slick alliance” between oil multinationals and the Nigerian military is alive and harmful as ever. Shell’s operations remain inextricably linked to human rights violations committed by government forces. The Nigerian government, driven to keep oil revenues flowing and working in close partnership with oil multinationals, has heavily militarised the Delta. Shell alone has hired over 1,300 government forces as armed guards. For communities, the impacts have been devastating and are in addition to ongoing environmental damage from oil spills and gas flaring.
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Visionary and extraordinary woman: RIP Wangari Maathai

In her honour let us continue to plant trees, plant seeds of life, plant good governance, plant love of each other

 

Gukira has an excellent post honouring Wangari Maathai “Wangari’s Daughters”

Over the past few years, it has been my immense privilege to meet and come to know women I now think of as Wangari Maathai’s daughters: Sitawa Namwalie, Wambui Mwangi, Shailja Patel, Njeri Wangari, Muthoni Garland, Mshai Mwangola–there are many others. I mean daughters in a sense perhaps best expressed in the founding Gikuyu myth: women of consequence who have the power to move and shape nations. Women for whom nations will be named and re-named.

I think of these women today on learning that Wangari Maathai has died. I think of them not only because of the sense of loss they must be experiencing, but because they are, to my mind, one of Wangari’s most precious legacies to Kenya and to the world. These are, I confess, overly bold claims to make for my friends. But they are claims that need to be made.