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Making Maize Markets Work For All in Southern Africa

September 9, 2016

In most of sub-Saharan Africa, maize is a staple food crop - grown on some 33 million hectares of the total 194 million hectares of cultivated land. Southern African also has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Small-scale maize producers in the region face numerous obstacles and are both buyers and sellers of maize. So how maize markets work is fundamentally important - and currently they work badly.This paper explores some of the reasons why and argues that a major reason markets fail is because there is so little trust or cooperation between governments and private traders, both large and small. It concludes that unless the trust deficit is addressed, markets will continue to operate at woeful levels of inefficiency, no matter what other reforms are undertaken. 

El Niño Key Messages: Urgent action now can prevent major suffering and loss

November 20, 2015

Millions of poor and vulnerable people face hunger and poverty this year and next because of record global temperatures, droughts and erratic rains in 2014 and 2015, followed by the development of possibly the most powerful El Niño on record.This briefing makes the case to urgently scale up humanitarian response in countries already in crisis. It also draws on the experience of the super El Nino in 1997-98, and the inadequate response to the Horn of Africa drought of 2011, to push for early action to save livelihoods elsewhere. Long-term approaches to reduce food insecurity must be found, and climate change, which is super-charging the effects of El Niño, must be tackled at the UN climate conference in Paris and beyond.

Entering Uncharted Waters: El Niño and the threat to food security

September 28, 2015

Millions of poor people in Southern Africa, Asia and Central America face hunger and poverty this year and next because of droughts and erratic rains as global temperatures reach new records, and because of the onset of a powerful El Niño - the climate phenomenon that develops in the tropical Pacific and brings extreme weather to several regions of the world. The combination of record warmth one year followed by an El Niño the next is unique and the climatic implications are uncertain. If 2016 follows a similar pattern, we are entering uncharted waters.Recently leaders adopted an historic new goal of eradicating hunger by 2030, as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals. This unfolding crisis shows the scale of the threat that climate change poses to its realization. Governments and agencies must scale up emergency preparedness measures to prevent what are still manageable food crises developing into major humanitarian disasters. December's UN climate talks in Paris will be a crucial opportunity to strike an agreement that delivers for the women, men and children on the frontlines of climate change.This briefing has been updated to reflect revised information from the Government of Ethiopia, as well as new figures from Papua New Guinea and the increasing risks from El Niño faced by Pacific island communities.

Coffee Rust Fungus Threatens Employment Collapse in Central America

August 13, 2014

Coffee rust is having a serious impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor people in Central America who earn their income from growing coffee or working on coffee farms. Rising temperatures due to climate change have encouraged the fungus to spread, however the fundamental problem is the underlying vulnerability of the sector, as coffee growers struggle with poverty, low prices and lack of government support. Oxfam and partners undertook research on the impacts of the fungus on the livelihoods of workers and growers in six areas in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.This issue briefing presents key findings and suggestions on how to revive the sector and diversify livelihoods to reduce vulnerability in coffee growing areas of Central America.

Growing disruption: Climate change, food, and the fight against hunger

September 19, 2013

This briefing paper explores how the failure to tackle climate change threatens all aspects of food security - availability, access, utilisation, and stability. The changing climate is already jeopardising gains in the fight against hunger, and it looks set to worsen. It threatens the production and distribution of food. It threatens people's ability to access food by undermining livelihoods and destabilising prices, and it damages diets by harming human health and putting at risk the quality of food produced. Finally, the paper sets out how these impacts can be averted, through urgent action to avoid dangerous climate change, address our broken food system, and strengthen its resilience.

Two Degrees, One Chance: The urgent need to curb global warming

November 8, 2010

Human-induced climate change is already happening. People - particularly poor people - struggle with its impacts every day. Whilst world leaders argue over how to tackle this immense issue, one thing must be agreed on now: the level of change the world needs to avoid. For millions, 'safe' levels of change have already been exceeded and international efforts must be ramped up to support the affected communities. But above 2°C the impacts will become progressively less manageable, perhaps uncontrollable. This paper explains why global average temperature rise must be kept as far below 2°C as possible (from pre-industrial levels), based on a review of evidence of the impacts at different temperature ranges. It explains how impacts on water resources, food production and ecosystems become catastrophic above that threshold, and how dangerous feedback mechanisms are much more likely to kick in, resulting in even faster warming.

Climate Alarm: Disasters increase as climate change bites

October 29, 2010

Climatic disasters are increasing as temperatures climb and rainfall intensifies. A rise in small- and medium-scale disasters is a particularly worrying trend. Yet even extreme weather need not bring disasters; it is poverty and powerlessness that make people vulnerable. Though more emergency aid is needed, humanitarian response must do more than save lives: it has to link to climate change adaptation and bolster poor people's livelihoods through social protection and disaster risk reduction approaches.

Crisis in Southern Africa

October 29, 2010

Nearly 13 million people in Southern Africa face extreme food shortages between now and April 2003. Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia are particularly affected. Donor countries need to fund a major emergency food aid operation immediately. But in the long-term the food crisis will recur unless the right to food for all is put top of the agenda of international financial institutions and governments both inside and outside the region, and policies changed. The magnitude and centrality of the food crisis in Zimbabwe poses a special challenge.

Climate Change Impacts on Development: A note of Oxfam's experiences for the Stern Review

September 28, 2010

Climate change - in the sense of rapid, large-scale and noticeable climate change, unusual in people's experience - is happening already. This is having important economic and social effects. It is making life more precarious for many people, particularly those who are already the poorest. Yet people are not passive, but are changing their lives in various ways in order to adapt. Climate change has been implicated in a growing number of disasters to which Oxfam has to respond, from hurricanes to droughts. However, this paper looks rather at some impacts of climate change on people's day-to-day lives in the "development" sphere. It is based on Oxfam experience.