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Hope and Concern in Environmental Justice
Members of the Shagungu women cooperative
Frieda of the Shagungu women cooperative
As we celebrate Human Rights Day, there are three special updates I want to share with you.
Hope in Crops: protecting the environment and empowering women
Protecting the Kakamega Forest, Kenya's last remaining rain forest, from deforestation is the greatest passion of UUSC's partner SoilFarm Multi-Culture Group (SFMG). In the '80s and '90s, members of SFMG endured severe opposition to their work to protect the forest from government development, but they emerged successful. Recently, they discovered that communities around the forest had been cutting trees for income and for firewood. SFMG realized that they cannot protect the forest without also addressing the extreme poverty that has bedeviled forest communities.
SFMG has brought environmental protection and livelihood support together in a grassroots project called Hope in Crops. The project seeks to protect the rainforest and mitigate the impacts of climate change on the forest and neighboring communities — and provide income-generating activities for its members — through the planting of trees and indigenous crops, basket weaving, raising cattle for milk production, bee keeping, and environmental education.
Over 300 families headed by women have benefitted from Hope in Crops. Frieda, a member of the Shagungu women cooperative, said about the project: "The food crops help give us alternative so we do not deforest by cutting trees for firewood. Trees also provide shade during the sunny and dry season when planted around the home. Cassava is good for children for lunch. As for the sweet potatoes we sell some and get the necessities that we do not have. This is helping reduce poverty. We're now putting our land to good use because of what we're learning. Money realized from selling also help us buy items for school for our children." And not only that, SFMG is also using the Hope in Crops project to eliminate female genital mutilation among the Nandi people who live nearby the Kakamega Forest.
This holiday season, UUSC is supporting the Hope in Crops project by selling hand-woven baskets made by a SFMG cooperative, ornaments that represent the bee-keeping project, and a Hope in Crops gift bag. Please visit our online store if you will like to support Hope in Crops.
UUSC partners advocate for change in Cancun
UUSC partners the Asia Pacific Research Network (Philippines), the Center for Human Rights and the Environment (Argentina), and Habitat International Coalition (Mexico) are participating in the United Nations Climate Change conference (COP-16) taking place in Cancun, Mexico, November 29-December 10, 2010. Together with other human-rights and social-justice activists from around the world, UUSC's partners are advocating for governments to keep their commitments to reduce carbon emissions; recognize and address the impact of climate change on human rights; and keep their commitments to people in less developed countries. UUSC is proud of the commitments of its partners to a more secure and just world.
Water activist killed in Philippines
It is not all good news as we celebrate Human Rights Day this year. UUSC's partner and ally the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) and the Water for the People Network lost committed activist Carlo "Caloy" Rodriguez. The third water activist to be killed in the Philippines, Rodriguez was shot while on his way home on November 12, 2010. Carlo was president of the workers' union of the Calamba Water District and a strong supporter of the country's nationwide campaign against water privatization. While colleagues in APRN and the Water for the People Network mourn his death and are advocating for a full, impartial investigation, they also continue their important efforts on climate change and water justice. Read UUSC's official statement of concern and condolence.