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An African Afternoon

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Farmers in Africa

c/o Oxfam

Students of the Politics department at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) were treated to a discussion session with a theme around international development and poverty in Africa. The event was organised by MMU principal lecturer in Politics, Dr Janet Mather.

In her introduction, Dr Mather explained that the afternoon had been organised for the benefit of her final year students, who were studying the module ‘Politics of Hunger: globalisation, governance and greed’. The focus of the module is Africa. This, according to Dr Mather, is because the continent continues to suffer from the negative effects of Globalisation.

Two guest speakers were invited to attend, Nicholas Ives and Rachel Edwards, both MMU alumni, taught by Dr Mather. Nicholas is currently employed by the Busoga Trust, and he presented a talk based on the work that he and his colleagues are doing in Uganda.

Founded in 1982 and named after a diocese in Uganda, the Busoga Trust cites its core principles as being sustainability, cost effectiveness and transparency, integration of water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as community participation.

Fishermen in Uganda

c/o Busoga Trust

Nicholas gave a summary of the political history of Uganda from 1864 when it was a British protectorate, through to 2014 under the current government of President Museveni who has been in power since 1986.  While explaining the basis for the work that the Busoga Trust does, Nicholas said, “In Uganda, 8.5 million people don’t have access to safe water and 22 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation.”

The Trust works with local communities to educate and improve the lives of those communities in terms of water supply and sanitation awareness.

A question and answer session followed the talk. Some students wanted to know if the Busoga Trust had faced any resistance or antagonism from the government or community leaders. Students also wanted to know if the work of the Trust had been obstructed in any way by the authorities in Uganda.

Nicholas’s response was that he was not aware of the Trust facing resistance from the authorities in Uganda. He also said that this could be due to the fact that the Busoga Trust works with the people as opposed to attempting to dictate to communities with regard to their needs.

In the second half of the afternoon, Rachel Edwards, who is currently working for Oxfam, with particular interest in Africa,  spoke about Oxfam and the organisation’s GROW campaign. GROW is a campaign that was run last year highlighting the issue of land grab, with an emphasis of food, life, and planet.

Rachel said, “There are a lot of issues in the global south to do with land reform…a lot of people that live on land in the region don’t actually own the rights to the land and because of that it is easier for governments to prove that they don’t own the land…”

This in turn means, that it then becomes easier for those governments to reclaim the land that people and their families have lived on for generations. By doing this, state authorities deprive communities of their homes and, in most cases, they also deprive them of an important source of their livelihood.

Speaking further about the six month land grab campaign, Rachel explained that it was timed to coincide with the World Bank’s meeting cycle. Oxfam’s aim was to stop land and water grabs by powerful corporations and countries.

Dr Janet MatherThe organisation used a combination of advocacy, public campaigns and media strategies and tactics. The campaign was also supported by fans of the group Coldplay, who demonstrated their concerns about land grab in the form of short video recordings of them holding signs and placards. The clips were recorded by fans across the world and were collated to form a single musical mass demonstration in the form of a video clip.

It was a successful campaign. The World Bank reviewed its policies on land grab and met the demands of Oxfam in April 2013.

The afternoon concluded with an invitation from Dr Mather to all final year students who were encouraged to raise any concerns about their research into the African countries that would form the subject of their individual projects.

Countries the students are researching include Tanzania, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigerian, Kenya, and Madagascar.

The intention is to raise the profile of these studies with the possibility of publishing them.  By doing this, the studies can be used as reference sources for others who may be interested in the research that has been conducted on each country.

Feyi Raimi-Abraham is a legally qualified employee relations specialist and is currently training as a journalist. Passionate about art, Feyi promotes the arts through her blog Zaynnah Magazine. Previous Zaynnah Magazine interviewees include the artist El Anatsui, the radio presenter Rosemary Laryea, the Japan based afrobeat band Kingdom Afrocks, as well as the reggae artist Tarrus Riley. You can follow Feyi on Twitter @zayynah1.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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