In October, Christian Aid’s partner, the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB), marked a significant milestone in its work to empower the extreme rural poor and, in particular, women. It is now two years since the launch of its largest development initiative the Comprehensive Poverty Reduction Programme (CPRP). The anniversary was an opportunity for reflection on progress achieved and to identify the major hurdles that remain and the challenges that lie ahead. An external team led a mid-term review of the CPRP, their research included discussions with forum members. Their findings are summarised in this update.
The CPRP helps to organise people into groups or forums and, through training and mentoring, to equip them with skills to give them confidence to become a sustainable social force in their communities.
There are 62,924 people organised into 1,193 forums in 15 districts. The forums have motivated members to increase their livelihood options either by improving what they do already or by trying new ways of earning a living. Each forum member makes a regular contribution, 10 to 20 pence per week, to a savings fund from which they are able to take out loans to invest in their homes and livelihoods. The review identified an on-going and very gradual shift in the way that people earn a living, from natural resource-based activities such as agriculture and fishing towards service activities such as retailing, van driving and tailoring. Other achievements have included:
Many households now possess latrines and tube wells; an increase in ownership of poultry and livestock; Saplings of fruit trees and medicinal plants supplied by CCDB have resulted in more trees growing around villages;
Some forum members now possess new agricultural equipment such as irrigation pumps and threshing machines; and other forum members have invested in capital assets such as shops, vehicles and sewing machines. As well as improving livelihoods, the forums have played an instrumental role in transforming children’s lives through education and improved nutrition.
Many forum members remain concerned about their vulnerability to changes that can threaten their livelihoods and families. In particular, they highlighted concerns about natural disasters, access to clean water, chronic diseases and poultry disease, as well as seasonal fluctuations in wage rates and the depletion of natural resources.
Increasingly, climate change is threatening livelihoods, and its affects are manifested in prolonged droughts and irregular and prolonged rainfall and flooding.
The forums provide a space to help communities find solutions to issues that they face. And the review has recommended that local measures for adapting to climate change should be explored through discussion with communities and technical experts. Other recommendations from the review include placing an increased focus on developing skills to help people find sustainable livelihood options beyond traditional activities such as farming. The learning from the review is helping to reinvigorate the CPRP initiative and to ensure that the next stage can effectively tackle the effects of poverty, as well as the causes that keep people poor. Support from Commitment for Life has enabled Christian Aid to provide long term support to partners such as CCDB as they embark on long term and ambitious initiatives like the CPRP.
2008 was a horrendous year for Zimbabwe. After the first election, which was fairly peaceful, the situation spiralled out of control.
‘The undercurrent of anarchy that exists in Zimbabwe came to the fore,’ explains country manager William Anderson. ‘Paid militia had control, particularly in the rural areas but also coming into Harare as well. Many of our partner staff were arrested; some had to leave the country following arrests because they were in fear of their life. Understandably, it has been a very difficult year coming out of that.’
William continues: ‘Things are more peaceful now, following this inclusive government, but still the potential is there for the violence to return. Literally at the click of a finger, Mugabe can ensure that violence can return to Zimbabwe, and this is what we’re all worried about; this is why there is still great concern about Zimbabwe at the moment.’
Christian Aid is not making predictions on when the next elections will take place (the current ‘unity’ government is meant only as a temporary solution). However the election can take place any time up to 2013 and we do not anticipate it will happen any time soon.
We are now entering the worst months of Zimbabwe’s annual hunger season (Jan-March) when the poorest families begin running out of food to the extent that they depend on food aid to survive. Last year the numbers reliant on food aid peaked at around seven million – approximately half of the population.
In spite of a more peaceful atmosphere and the inclusive government, William says ‘the food security situation is not able to improve, because the thing people need most at the moment is seed and seed is not available – you are not able to buy them freely on the market, particularly in the rural areas. So the prospects for their harvests come March are very grim. That’s one particularly good thing about Christian Aid’s support at the moment – we’ve been able to provide these essential items.’
Hurricane Season – the season is now over and there were no major storms affecting the island. On the contrary, rainfall has been very scarce and the country is officially in a drought period, which is expected to last for the next 4-5 months at the least. Residents are being encouraged to conserve water, and there are regular water lock-offs in Kingston and environs to enforce conservation. The agriculture sector is expected to be hardest hit, and if this happens, food prices may rise in coming months.
Climate change – CA supported the participation of a representative from the Mocho Community Group as part of Panos-Caribbean’s delegation to Copenhagen
We continue to partner in strengthening civil society dialogue on the issue through collaboration with the Panos-led Voices project. A sector workshop was held in November with representatives of the insurance industry on their response after severe weather (expected to increase with climate change), especially regarding crop insurance, policies for vulnerable or key productive sectors (e.g. agriculture, tourism) and support for adaptation and mitigation efforts. The sector representatives were open to further dialogue and collaboration with other state agencies and civil society organisations.
WROC (Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre): Christian Aid has recently signed a contract for additional funding from the European Commission to strengthen the programme in St. Thomas for another 2 years. The total project cost is Euro 420,000, with Christian Aid’s contribution Euro 105,000 over 2 years. WROC will continue to implement the project. The need to find this level of funding from the budget underscores how much the Commitment for Life funding is appreciated, and how easily it can be used by the programme!
Fairtrade Fortnight – 22 February to 7 March.
For this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight the Fairtrade Foundation is asking the nation to join in The Big Swap. For two whole weeks they will be asking people swap their usual stuff for Fairtrade stuff, your usual bananas for Fairtrade bananas, your usual cotton socks for Fairtrade cotton socks, and your usual cuppa for a Fairtrade cuppa. The Big Swap website is now live and packed with lots of resources to download and use to help them reach their target of one million and one swaps to Fairtrade certified products. Two billion people – a third of humanity – survive on less than $2 a day. Unfair trade rules keep them in poverty, but they face the global challenges of food shortages and climate change too.
Look out for our Lenten resource ‘Counting the Cost’ at www.cforl.org.uk from Ash Wednesday, readings, reflections and facts.
Linda Mead – Commitment for Life Programme Co-ordinator,
Mission Team, United Reformed Church
Commitment for Life is here to help United Reformed Churches work for a fairer world and for peace with justice, recognising that change and response starts with each one of us. www.cforl.org.uk