Lilian’s Story

And baby comes too

This is our story too. Our Lilian is the local birth attendant.
Thanks to our friends at Seeds of Hope for the words

As Lillian rises, she peers at her sleeping family. She steps out of their home onto a path that she hopes will lead to water. The early morning sun creeps toward the horizon and the stillness belies the bustle that will soon begin once the sun has fully risen. Her steps are graceful and quick, and she is soon joined by friends, sisters, nieces and aunties. The path leads them miles away from their homes to the stream that is the only source of water for their community. She swirls her jerry can across the surface of the murky water, and finally fills it before hoisting the 25kg container onto her head. By the time she returns home, the sun is shining brightly, and she must begin the work of cooking, cleaning, and caring for her family with the water she has collected.
Lillian is one of over millions of women throughout the developing world who will make this water walk today, and every day for most of their lives.
In honor of World Water Day, we mirrored this type of unnesserary drudgery by walking the 5 km from Heuston station to the O2, highlighting the important role empowering women with access to clean water plays in sustainable development. Women in places like rural Malawi can spend many hours a day searching for water, and the water they walk miles to find is often contaminated or insufficient to meet all of a family’s daily needs. When there is not enough water, these women are unable to promote lifesaving hygiene practices. When the water is contaminated, there is often nothing they can do to keep their children from contracting water borne diseases like cholera and schistosomiasis resulting in vulnerable members of their families suffer and sometimes die from preventable diseases.

Providing communities with clean water enables women to introduce practices like regular hand washing and sanitation into their families’ lives. They are empowered to spend their time on income-producing activities and given the dignity that comes with knowing their efforts bring health rather than sickness to their children. Women in the developing world typically bear the responsibility of meeting many of the basic needs that enable people to successfully and consistently engage in community development projects. Having safe, clean water changes this responsibility from a back-breaking burden to a hope-bringing freedom.


There is always more GOOD news than you think

The reason I love Malawi so much, is that there is always a possibility of good news, a chance to be amazed, smiles on faces, very little media annoyance and people rarely, if ever, complain, in total contrast to life here at the moment.
In contrast with the view that bad news is the only news, I have two pieces of exciting news: well exciting for Wells for Zoe.
Anyone who follows our blog will know about our research and teaching farm in Lusangazi. Over the past year we added two fish ponds, and stocked them with fingerlings bought from our neighbours Kondwani and his wife Lioness, who have 3 fishponds. Lioness recently represented Malawi at a conference of fish farming.
Even though this initial visit is for education on fish farming, I would hope that in the future, more World Vision clients will return for courses on vegetable growing, seed production, grafting, budding, irrigation and chicken rearing.
The hostel was built with this idea in mind as most times volunteers come and help in return for education.
We have just employed a full time agriculturalist to teach and also to look at crops which are best suited to income generation.

The second piece of good news is about Áras Kate. Since the beginning of the year we have been working with the City Assembly on increasing our involvement in Salisbury line, which is one of the poorest and most deprived areas in the city of Mzuzu. It has all the downsides of poor urban areas anywhere in the world, like lack of education, very young single mothers, substance abuse, alcoholism, physical abuse, with the added bonus of Aids and orphans.
At the moment we have 250, two to five year olds in two rooms with 10 staff.
In hoping to add two more rooms, we asked the city assembly for more land, they asked us to produce what they call a Memorandum of Understanding, we did, they got excited; Charity and Mary got to work and yesterday after meetings with the Chief Executive, Planners, Surveyors and Chiefs, Harisen and Charity tell us that they are prepared to designate an extra 2 hectares for Educational and Amenities, with Áras Kate as the central focus.
It will mean building our two extra rooms, sports fields and a primary school, all to be used as a model for the city.
Money may not be to hand yet, but support has come from all sides, with teachers, social care and early child development people agreeing to come and volunteer this Summer. Added to the Irish contingent, we have an art teacher from Scotland, a Nurse from Canada, and a doctor from Australia.
Professor Dr Noirin Hayes from DIT has agreed to come to Mzuzu at the end of June to look at the possibility of personal and DIT involvement in the project.
I nearly overlooked the beginning of adult education at Áras Kate. Our first 15 students started their new life on Monday last March 15. Charity and Miriam have done the course sponsored by some arm of the Ministry of Education.
Nine of these mothers are starting at the equivalent of Junior Infants, and the rest are a little further on. They all got their copies, pencils and sharpeners and the process of learning to read and write begins. They have to start somewhere and we wish them luck.
There is already a knitting club, a netball club, and classes on health care and nutrition. We hope to keep expanding our horizons with the hope that this community will eventually be able to manage their own schools.
We have made a start and others will follow, and thanks to all our supporters for making this possible with your donations and encouragement.

On the pump front we are getting our first export orders ready for Tanzania and Zambia.

Who does all this work, you may ask?
Volunteers here and Malawians there.

1 Billion people don’t have clean water, should Enda Kenny resign?

From: Cassie Delaney, DIT

As fear of a national water shortage loomed, many a panicked Paddy Irishman filled every accessible pot, pan and pint glass with water.

“Emergency supplies” sat on counter tops around the concerned country. The fear was evident in supermarkets nationwide, in a crisis that may go down in history as the “Battle for Ballygowan.”

Frank McDonald, Environmental Editor of the Irish Independent wrote about being in “the grip of a water crisis”.

Fortunately, this country has only seen a fraction of the harrowing effects of water shortage. For the people of Malawi, the access to safe water is a daily struggle.

Next month, a small group of 15 DIT students will travel to Malawi with Wells for Zoe. The group, led by Elaine Bolger and Liam Stewart, was selected after an application and interview process in early December.

Wells for Zoe is a small Irish humanitarian organisation. Set up in 2005, the organisation concentrates on low cost, small scale, appropriate and sustainable water technology.

Wells for Zoë strives to offer the people of Malawi a hand up rather than a hand out. With this belief, the charity has invested funds in building a water pump factory in Mzuzu. Continuous efforts are being made by the charity to train locals in pump manufacturing and installation.

Without pumps, women and children are forced to walk for hours in search of a clean water supply. A local water supply benefits community as children are free attend school and the women will have more time to tend and irrigate the much-needed crops.

On March 22nd, DIT and Wells for Zoe will be supporting World Water Day with a H2O walk. The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

H2O walks occur globally, but have failed to build support in Ireland. This year Wells for Zoe will be promoting a walk from Heuston Station to The O2 music venue. The aim of the walk is to highlight the efforts made by women globally, each day, as they strive to access clean water. The march will be promoted around colleges closer to the date.

For more information regarding the march or Wells for Zoe contact Elaine at


Sustainable? (Bah humbug)

I was fortunate, at the beginning of my career in the water business to have met and been advised by professor Richard Carter, who not alone advised us but also came to Malawi, at his own expense to help us with our fledlegling organisation. When I first went to meet him in Cranfield University he asked my ideas about repairs and maintenance and I feel I passed the test!.
My view was and is “don’t put in the pump unless you have a programme in place to keep it working”
In my first visit to Malawi, I witnessed major celebrations when new wells gushed water for the first time and the entire village attended and celebrated. Coming back a year later to the same places, really rattled me, the joy all gone when the pump had broken down and no one in the village knowing where to find or how to install the spare part required to get the water flowing again.
This is a story that is repeated thousands of times a year in developing countries where water pumps have broken down. Now, it’s not for lack of caring, but many pumps are installed by well-intentioned non-profit organizations, religious groups, philanthropic groups and individuals, who neglect one basic principle; always have an exit strategy! Maybe the biggest problem is that people appear, put in a pump for free, enjoy the celebrations and just as quickly disappear, fooling themselves that the pump will last forever.
The bottom line according to Prof Carter: the only thing that works for water in gravity, machines all fail at some time!!
Our Canzee pump which we manufacture in Mzuzu, has a great record of ticking most of the boxes. It’s design, the materials used and the ease with it can be repaired by village women makes it ideal for a low tech world.
But even this can suffer an odd wobbly and even though the women can fix the minor problems occurring, sometimes we need to return and we are always readily available to oblige. It’s part of our commitment to the communities we serve. Since we also work on irrigation and farming we have constant contact with communities anyway and are in a position to help with any pump problems.
We see catastrophic failure rates, in pumps, around Malawi, where we have now learned to fix the broken pumps, installed by others, we find, in cooperation with the communities. One organisation, we work with, estimates that only 40% of their pumps, installed over the past 15 years, work, on any given day.
Global estimates indicate that 50,000 water points in Africa are broken on any given day, equating to between $215 and $360 million in wasted investment.
Even now, in the early stages of our development, we are training people to fix pumps and restore or protect existing wells. Long term we see possible businesses for local plumbing entrepreneurs to take on the task supported initially by W4Z, but later on in private business. A strong bike, a few tools and a mobile phone with a solar charger and your off.
Naturally we will source and stock the various parts, for many pump types and encourage the communities to contribute. These MP’s (mobile Plumbers) can revolutionise the pump sustainability effort, even in remote rural Malawi, collecting a call out charge, and keeping the water flowing. The women will love the time they save by not having to collect water and, the businesses they are able to create will enable then to pay for the service
In August last, we identified 200 broken or non functioning water pumps, installed over the years with a maintenance contract. We have already looked after half, sometimes repairing, sometimes replacing and always doing little training workshops, mainly with the women, to enable them to understand how their pumps work and how to fix them. Unfortunately many pumps are not maintainable at village level which is a major issue. This type of work won’t get the banners, photo ops, singing, dancing and nice things surrounding the initial major impact developments, but we find new friends and give them clean water for life, teach them and let them know how to reach us.
There are two disturbing words misused, over used and abused in our type of work; sustainability and village level maintainable, words which are at best misleading and at worst plain lies.
We consider a pump to be sustainable when we go back after 5 or 10 years to find it’s still doing the job it was designed for. Village level maintainable (VLM) should mean just that. It should mean that the women (and they’re the real custodians) have the information, skill and simple tools to do the job. If any of these components are missing, forget it.
The answer is not more and more millions, but spending a little on fixing what’s there, for a start at least, and don’t use the word sustainable or maintainable, if you don’t know what they really mean (in a developing world, context)

Something I suspected

Wish you weren’t here: The devastating effects of the new colonialists
A new breed of colonialism is rampaging across the world, with rich nations buying up the natural resources of developing countries that can ill afford to sell. Some staggering deals have already been done, says Paul Vallely, but angry locals are now trying to stop the landgrabs

Sunday, 9 August 2009: Independent on Sunday

Thousand of protesters took to the streets, waving the orange flags of the opposition. Before long, looting began. Buildings were set on fire. But the turning point came when a crowd moved from the main square towards the presidential palace. Amid the confusion, someone panicked and gave the order to the troops guarding the palace to open fire. Scores died. The leaders of the army decided they’d had enough and stormed the palace, causing the president to flee.
A typical African coup d’état? Not quite. Certainly there were allegations of corruption in high places. The president had bought a private jet – from a member of the Disney family – for his own personal use. He was accused of unnecessary extravagance, of mismanaging public funds and confusing the interests of the state with his own. But something else had whipped up the protesters in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, earlier this year, when the government of Marc Ravalomanana was overthrown in the former French colony.
The urban poor were angry at the price of food, which had been high since the massive rise in global prices of wheat and rice the year before. Food-price rises hit the poor worse than the rest of us because they spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. But what whipped them into action was news of a deal the government had recently signed with a giant Korean multinational, Daewoo, leasing 1.3 million hectares of farmland – an area almost half the size of Belgium and about half of all arable land on the island – to the foreign company for 99 years. Daewoo had announced plans to grow maize and palm oil there – and send all the harvests back to South Korea.
Terms of the deal had not originally been made public. But then the news leaked, via the Financial Times in London, that the firm had paid nothing for the lease. Daewoo had promised to improve the island’s infrastructure in support of its investment. “We will provide jobs for them by farming it, which is good for Madagascar,” a Daewoo spokesman said. But the direct cash benefit to Madagascar would be zero – in a country which can barely produce enough food to feed itself: nearly half of the island’s children under the age of five are malnourished.
The government of President Ravalomanana became the first in the world to be toppled because of what the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization recently described as “landgrabbing”. The Daewoo deal is only one of more than 100 land deals which have, over the past 12 months, seen massive tracts of cultivable farmland across the globe bought up by wealthy countries and international corporations. The phenomenon is accelerating at an alarming rate, with an area half the size of Europe’s farmland targeted in just the past six months.
To understand the impotent fury that provokes in impoverished farmers, consider the reaction if something similar happened in Britain. The international development policy consultant Mark Weston has a vivid image to help: “Imagine if China, following a brief negotiation with a British government desperate for foreign cash after the collapse of the economy, bought up the whole of Wales, replaced most of its inhabitants with Chinese workers, turned the entire country into an enormous rice field, and sent all the rice produced there for the next 99 years back to China,” he suggests.
“Imagine that neither the evicted Welsh nor the rest of the British public knew what they were getting in return for this, having to content themselves with vague promises that the new landlords would upgrade a few ports and roads and create jobs for local people.
“Then, imagine that, after a few years – and bearing in mind that recession and the plummeting pound have already made it difficult for Britain to buy food from abroad – an oil-price spike or an environmental disaster in one of the world’s big grain-producing nations drives global food prices sharply upwards, and beyond the reach of many Britons. While the Chinese next door in Wales continue sending rice back to China, the starving British look helplessly on, ruing the day their government sold off half their arable land. Some of them plot the violent recapture of the Welsh valleys.”
Change the place names to Africa and the scenario is much less far-fetched. It is happening already, which is why many, including Jacques Diouf, head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has warned that the world may be slipping into a “neo-colonial” system. Even that great champion of the free market, the FT, described the Daewoo deal as “rapacious” and warned it is but the most “brazen example of a wider phenomenon” as rich nations seek to buy up the natural resources of poor countries.
The extent of this new colonialism is vast. The buyers are wealthy countries that are unable to grow their own food. The Gulf states are at the forefront of new investments. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar – which between them control nearly 45 per cent of the world’s oil – are snapping up agricultural land in fertile countries such as Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Egypt. But they are ‘ also targeting the world’s poorest countries, such as Ethiopia, Cameroon, Uganda, Zambia and Cambodia.
The amounts of land involved are staggering. South Korean companies have bought 690,000 hectares in Sudan, where at least six other countries are known to have secured large land-holdings – and where food supplies for the local population are among the least secure anywhere in the world. The Saudis are negotiating 500,000 hectares in Tanzania. Firms from the United Arab Emirates have landed 324,000 hectares in Pakistan.
But they are not the only buyers. Countries with large populations such as China, South Korea and even India are acquiring swathes of African farmland to produce food for export. The Indian government has lent money to 80 companies to buy 350,000 hectares in Africa and recently lowered the tariffs under which Ethiopian agri-products can enter India. One of the biggest holdings of agriculture land in the world is a Bangalore-based company, Karuturi Global, which has recently bought huge areas in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Food is not all the new colonialists are after. About a fifth of the massive new deals are for land on which to grow biofuels. British, US and German companies with names such as Flora Ecopower have bought land in Tanzania and Ethiopia. The country whose name became a byword for famine at the time of the Live Aid concerts has had more than 50 investors sign deals or register an interest in the cultivation of biofuel crops on its soil.
From Ethiopia’s point of view, the economic logic is straightforward: the country is an importer of oil and is therefore vulnerable to price fluctuations on the world market; if it can produce biofuels it will lessen that dependency. But at a cost. To keep the foreign biofuel investors happy, the government doesn’t force any companies to carry out environmental impact assessments. Local activists claim that 75 per cent of the land allocated to foreign biofuel firms are covered in forests that will be cut down.
More worrying is the plan by a Norwegian biofuel company to create “the largest jatropha plantation in the world” by deforesting large tracts of land in northern Ghana. Jatropha, which can be cultivated in poor soil, produces oily seeds that can produce biodiesel. A local activist, Bakari Nyari, of the African Biodiversity Network, has accused the company of “using methods that hark back to the darkest days of colonialism… by deceiving an illiterate chief to sign away 38,000 hectares with his thumbprint”. The company claims the scheme will bring jobs, but the extensive deforestation which would result would deprive local people of their traditional income from gathering forest products such as shea nuts.
The failed Daewoo land deal in Madagascar may have been intended to be the biggest landgrab planned to date, but it is far from the only one.
So what is the cause of this sudden explosion of land acquisition across the globe? It has its roots in the food crisis of 2007/8, when prices of rice, wheat and other cereals skyrocketed across the world, triggering riots from Haiti to Senegal. The price spike also led food-growing countries to slap export tariffs on staple crops to minimise the amounts that left their countries. That tightened the supply still further, meaning food prices were driven up more by a situation of policy-created scarcity than by supply and demand.
This situation also made many rich countries that are reliant on massive food imports question one of the fundamentals of the global economy: the idea that every country should concentrate on its best products and then trade. Suddenly having unimaginable quantities of cash from oil was not enough to guarantee you all the food you needed. The oil sheikhs of the Gulf states found that food imports had doubled in cost over less than five years. In the future it might get even worse. You could no longer rely on regional and global markets, they concluded. The rush to grab land began.
The logic was clear. The highly populous South Korea is the world’s fourth-biggest importer of maize; the Madagascar deal would replace about half of Korea’s maize imports, a Daewoo spokesman boasted. The Gulf states were equally open: control of foreign farmland would not only secure food supplies, it would eliminate the cut taken by middlemen and reduce its food-import bills by more than 20 per cent.
And the benefits could only increase. The fundamental conditions that had led to the global food crisis were unchanged, and might easily worsen. The UN predicts that by 2050, the world population will have grown by 50 per cent. Growing the food to feed nine billion people will place enormous pressure on the Earth, eroding soils, denuding forests and draining rivers. Climate change will make all that worse. Oil prices will continue to rise, and with them the cost of fertiliser and tractor fuel. Demand for biofuels would further cut land available for food crops. The 2007/8 price crunch might just be a foretaste of something worse. The times of plenty are already over. Next, there might not be enough food to go round, even for those with lots of money.
We have not really noticed it here, because the UK, like the US, still instinctively seems to place unlimited faith in the ability of the market to provide. But other countries have begun to devise a long-term strategic response.
The clearest public sign of that came in June when, just before the meeting of world leaders at the G8 in Italy, the Japanese prime minister, Taro Aso, asked: “Is the current food crisis just another market vagary?” He replied to his own question: “Evidence suggests not; we are undergoing a transition to a new equilibrium, reflecting a new economic, climatic, demographic and ecological reality.”
But the market is having its say, too: the cost of land is rising. Prices have jumped 16 per cent in Brazil, 31 per cent in Poland, and 15 per cent in the midwestern United States. Veteran speculators such as George Soros, Jim Rogers and Lord Jacob Rothschild are snapping up farmland right now. Rogers – who between 1970 and 1980 increased the value of his equities portfolio by 4,200 per cent, and who made another fortune predicting the commodities rally in 1999 – last month said: “I’m convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time.”
After the disastrous involvement of financial speculators in housing – the global recession had its roots in the development of mortgage-based derivatives – it is hardly reassuring that the same financial whiz-kids are turning to land as a new source of profit. “The food and financial crises combined,” says the Philippines-based food lobby group Grain, “have turned agricultural land into a new strategic asset.”
In one way, that ought to be a good thing for poor countries. Land is what they have in plenty. And the agricultural sector in developing countries is in urgent need of capital. Aid once provided this, but the share of that which goes to farming fell from $20bn a year in the 1980s to just $5bn a year in 2007, according to Oxfam. A mere 5 per cent of aid now goes to rural-development agriculture, even though in the poorest places such as Africa, more than 70 per cent of the population rely on farming for their income. Decades of low investment have meant stagnating production and productivity.
Landgrab deals ought, at least, to rectify that by injecting much-needed investment into agriculture in these countries. That ought to bring new jobs and a steady income to the rural poor. It should bring new technology and know-how to local farmers. It should develop rural infrastructure, such as roads and grain-storage systems, to the good of the entire community. It should build new schools and health posts that will benefit all. It should give African governments much-needed taxes to invest in developing their countries. All of which should lessen dependency of food aid. Landgrabs should produce a win-win situation.
That was the kind of big billing which the government in Kenya gave to the deal it did recently with the state of Qatar. Just one per cent of land in the Arab emirate is cultivable, so Qatar is heavily reliant on food imports. The deal was that Qatar would get 40,000 hectares of land to grow food in return for building a $2.5bn deep-water port at Lamu in Kenya.
Unfortunately, even as the negotiations with Qatar proceeded, the Kenyan government was forced to announce a state of emergency because a third of Kenya’s population of 34 million was facing food shortages. President Mwai Kibaki declared the situation a national disaster and appealed for international food relief. Hungry voters often fail to understand the long-term attractions of the economic advantages which could be brought to Kenya by creating what would be only its second deep-water port and opening up a third of the country – in the arid and neglected north-east – to development. This is a country, after all, where people kill for land, as was shown after the botched elections in 2007.
If the world food crisis tightens, as everyone seems to predict, it will become ever more unpalatable politically for a government such as Kenya’s to countenance the massive export of food at a time of shortage. That is even more true in a continent as politically unstable as Africa.
There is, in any case, already fierce opposition from many to projects like this. The land offered to Qatar is in the Tana River delta. It is fertile with abundant fresh water but it is home to 150,000 farming and pastoralist families who regard the land as communal and graze 60,000 cattle there. They have threatened armed resistance. They are supported by opposition activists, who object less to the land being developed, but want it to grow food for hungry Kenyans. Then there are the environmentalists, who say a pristine ecosystem of mangrove swamps, savannah and forests will be destroyed.
The environment is another major worry in many of the great rash of land deals. Growing food crops in huge plantations is dominated by large-scale intensive monoculture production using large quantities of fertiliser and pesticides. The results are spectacular at first – which might satisfy the yen of the outside investors for short-term profit. But it risks damaging the long-term sustainability of tropical soils unsuited for intensive cultivation and can do serious damage to the local water table. It reduces the diversity of plants, animals and insect life and threatens the long-term fertility of the land through soil erosion, waterlogging or increased salinity. The intensive use of agrochemicals could lead to water-quality problems, and irrigating the land-holdings of foreign investors may take water away from other users.
Water is a key issue. In a sense, these aren’t landgrabs so much as water grabs, suggests the chief executive of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. With the land comes the right to draw the water beneath it, which could be the most valuable part of the deal. “Water withdrawals for agriculture continue to increase rapidly. In some of the most fertile regions of the world (America, southern Europe, northern India, north-eastern China), over-use of water, mainly for agriculture, is leading to sinking water tables. Groundwater is being withdrawn, no longer as a buffer over the year, but in a structural way, mainly because water is seen as a free good.”
The world needs to begin to think more urgently about water. The average person in the world uses between 3,000 and 6,000 litres a day. Barely a tenth of that is used for hygiene or manufacturing. The rest is used in farming. And the world’s lifestyle, with factors such as increased meat-eating, is exacerbating the problem. Meat requires 10 times more water per calorie than plants. Biofuels are one of the most thirsty products on the planet; it takes up to 9,100 litres of water to grow the soya for one litre of biodiesel, and up to 4,000 litres for the corn to be transformed into bioethanol. “Under present conditions, and with the way water is being managed,” the Nestlé chief says, “we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel”.
Indeed, in many places underground, aquifers are falling; in some regions by several metres a year. Rivers are running dry due to over-use. And the worst problems are in some of the world’s most important agricultural areas. If current trends hold, Frank Rijsberman of the International Water Management Institute has warned, soon “we could be facing annual losses equivalent to the entire grain crops of India and the US combined”. Between them, they produce a third of all the world’s cereals.
Is there a way forward? The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute believes so. It has recently produced a report containing recommendations for a binding code of conduct to promote what Japan, the world’s largest food importer, called for at the G8 in Italy – responsible foreign investment in agriculture in the face of the current pandemic of landgrabs.
It wants a code “with teeth” to ensure that smallholders being displaced from their land can negotiate mutually beneficial terms with foreign governments and multinationals. It wants measures to enforce any agreement, if promised jobs, wage levels or local facilities fail to materialise. It wants transparency, and it wants legal action in their home countries against firms that use bribes, rather than relying on prosecutions in the Third World. It wants respect for existing land rights – not just those which are written, but those which exist through custom and practice. It wants compulsory sharing of benefits, so that schools and hospitals get built and those living in areas around landgrabs get properly fed. It suggests shorter-term leases to provide a regular income to farmers whose land is taken away for other uses. Or, better still, it would like to see contract farming that leaves smallholders in control of their land but under contract to provide to the outside investor. It demands proper environmental impact assessments. And it says foreign investors should not have a right to export during an acute national food crisis.
No one is fooled that this will be easy. The local elites in developing countries have a vested interest in the lucrative deals on offer. The government in Cambodia has massively promoted landgrabbing, taking advantage of the fact that many land titles were destroyed under the terror of the Khmer Rouge. Mozambique has signed a $2bn deal that will involve 10,000 Chinese “settlers” on its land in return for $3m in military aid from Beijing. The strategic considerations are clear. “Food can be a weapon in this world,” as Hong Jong-wan, a manager at Daewoo, put it.
But things are ratcheting up on the other side, too. Landgrabs are “a grave violation of the human right to food”, in the words of Constanze von Oppeln of the big German development agency Welthungerhilfe, one of the most prominent campaigners in the field. She speaks for many who have no voice internationally – although they are making their presence felt well enough in their own countries. A huge public outcry erupted in Uganda when its government began talking to Egypt’s ministry of agriculture about leasing nearly a million hectares to Egyptian firms for the production of wheat and maize destined for Cairo. Mozambicans have similarly resisted the settlement of the thousands of Chinese agricultural workers on its leased lands. Earlier this year, angry Filipinos successfully blocked a deal by the Philippines government with China which involved an astounding 1,240,000 hectares. And last month the same activists exposed what they call a “secret agricultural pact” between their government and Bahrain. With 80 per cent of the 90 million population landless, the deal is “unlawful and immoral”, activists there say.
Food touches something very deep in the human psyche. Do not expect either side to give up without a fight.

Another Jumbo will crash in 4 hours

Clean water is the Key

The Water Crisis

Water. It is at the heart of a daily crisis faced by a billion of the world’s most vulnerable people—a crisis that threatens life and destroys livelihoods on a devastating scale.

Unlike war and terrorism, the global water and sanitation crisis does not make media headlines, despite the fact that it kills more children than the equivalent of a full jumbo jet crashing every four hours. Unlike natural disasters, it does not get concerted international action, despite the fact that more people die each year from drinking dirty water than from the world’s hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes combined.

This is a silent crisis experienced by the poor, and tolerated by those with the resources, technology, and the political power to end it. Yet this is a crisis that is holding back human progress, consigning large segments of humanity to lives of poverty, vulnerability, and insecurity.

At Wells for Zoe, we are addressing this most basic of needs by helping deprived communities acquire safe, clean water. In our own small way we are trying to ease the crisis.

Women Can’t

Where are the sisters?

Every day Life for girls

Lack of access to clean water seriously diminishes opportunities for women, and girls in the developing world.

In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs – collecting water for domestic use. This lost productivity is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at WalMart, UPS, McDonald’s, IBM, Target, and Kroger.
This in itself is a sorry commercial fact and certainly a diminution of human rights, but the more serious life and death side is that this water is very often contaminated.

While the water crisis largely goes unnoticed, it is the everyday reality for women in much of the rest of the world, including Africa, South Asia and Central America. “The water crisis isn’t just a world crisis, it’s a women’s crisis.”

That’s why we’re walking

Women can do nothing
Women can aspire to nothing
Women can achieve nothing
If they spend so much of their lives locating and carrying, what we might loosely call water.

In most developed nations, we take access to safe water for granted. But this wasn’t always the case. A little more than 100 years ago, New York, London and Paris were centres of infectious disease. Child death rates were as high then as they are now in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was sweeping reforms in water and sanitation that enabled human progress to leap forward. It should come as no surprise that in 2007, a poll by the British Medical Journal found that clean water and sanitation comprised the most important medical advancement since 1840.

The health and economic impacts of today’s global water crisis are staggering.
More than 3.5 million people die each year from water-related disease; 84 percent are children. Nearly all deaths, 98 percent, occur in the developing world.
Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours!.

Millions of women and children spend several hours each day collecting water from distant, often polluted sources. This is time not spent working at an income-generating job, caring for family members, or attending school.
443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related illness.

Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
Children in poor environments often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies at any time.
1.4 million children die as a result of diarrhoea each year.
90% of all deaths caused by diarrheal diseases are children under 5 years of age, mostly in developing countries.

It even makes economic sense to invest in clean water. If we look at the dreaded statistics on the bottom line, on average, every dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return of eight dollars. An investment of US$11.3 billion per year is needed to meet the drinking water and sanitation target of the Millennium Development Goals, yielding a total payback for US$ 84 billion a year.
Other estimated economic benefits of investing in drinking-water and sanitation are
272 million school attendance days a year and 1.5 billion healthy days for children under five years of age

It is past time for women help other women, so let’s, at least show we care, by walking, the H2O walk, on World Water Day, March 22