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South Africa: Rural women demand action on climate change

[For more on the COP17 Durban climate talks, click HERE.]

Memorandum from the Rural Women's Assembly to the UNFCCC, the government of the Republic of South Africa and the governments of Africa

December 4, 2011 -- We the Rural Women's Assembly of Southern Africa, meeting in Durban on the event of the 17th Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in Durban [COP17] from November 30 to December 5, 2011, demand that governments take the following immediate steps to address the clear and present danger posed to rural communities by the climate crisis.

1. A climate deal that will take meaningful steps to halt the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions. Historical emitters who are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gases (GHGs) must face trade and investment sanctions if they refuse to cut emissions, particularly from African governments, as Africa has contributed least to climate change, but is the worst affected.

2. We demand proper recognition of women's critical role in fighting climate change and protecting livelihoods and the environment despite widespread violation of their equal right to land. Equal rights to land and natural resources is critical to fight climate change. As the Rural Women's Assembly we demand that governments implement the principle of 50/50 land to women through a radical program of land redisribution and agrarian reform.

3. Women produce 80 per cent of the food consumed by households in Africa. Seventy per cent of Africa's 600 million people are rural. Financial support for women farmers must be commensurate to their numbers and crucial role. We stress that adaptation strategies and building resilience starts at the household level. Governments must address the crisis in the care economy in order to build resilence to climate change. As women we demand that 50 per cent of funding training and other support to agriculture must go to women farmers secured by a special allocation within the Green Climate Fund and public budgets.

4. We demand that climate change solutions put indigenous knowledge systems at the centre of policies to promote biodiversity, rehabilitate our ecosystems and rebuild the livlihoods destroyed by colonialism, apartheid and economic imperialism. Rural women are the holders of indigenous knowledge--our marginalisation from economic production, scientific knowledge generation and social systems has resulted in the steady loss of such knowledge to Africa, thereby making us more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

5. We demand an end to false climate solutions which are resulting in a deterioration of our environments, the destruction of marine life as well as land and resource grabs and the take over of food systems by corporations and speculators. We reject the participation of Africa in carbon markets, GMO projects and biofuels farming. Climate change can only be addressed by a change in our current economic system which encourages unsustainable resource extraction and consumption.

We commit ourselves to continue forward with the struggle against the injustices of climate change and build our movement to end the shameful marginalisation of rural women. We will continue to strive for the recreation of equitable vibrant, prosperous and healthy rural communities.

Signed on this day of 4 November 2011 Rural Women's Assembly

Contact Constance Mogale, Land Access Movement of South Africa: Tel: +27825590632 Mercia Andrews, Trust for Community Outreach and Education Tel: +27823683429

Further contact details available from www.lamosa.org.za

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Riot Police Block Most Affected by Climate Change from Entering

Published on Friday, December 2, 2011 by Agence France Presse
by Alexander Joe and Marlowe Hood

DURBAN, South Africa ­ Bearing the message that their livelihoods were in peril, hundreds of women farmers tried Friday to gatecrash UN climate talks in Durban, where they were peacefully held back by police.

The women, from 10 countries across southern Africa, converged on the conference to testify how storms and heatwaves, intensified by climate change, were wreaking havoc on an already meagre sustenance.

Many wore green-on-black T-shirts reading “Rural Women Assembly” and carried hand-scrawled banners, including one that said: “Women Are the Guardians of Seed, Life and Earth.”

About 50 police in full riot gear prevented the women and other protesters from entering the venue.

There were no arrests or injuries, and the atmosphere was more festive than feisty. But the women — from Angola to Zimbabwe — had a serious appeal to make.

“We are getting a lot of difficulty and suffering with water,” said 75-year-old Betty Nagodi, from an arid region of northern South Africa.

“Now we don’t know when it will rain. And then when it does, the hail knocks down all the tomatoes, butternut and other things,” she said, fanning herself under the shade of a towering acacia.

Rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns could adversely affect water flows on the Limpopo river system, leading to production shortfalls and conflict over water use, according to a report earlier this month by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

“We have seen how climate change has disrupted the seasons, completely changing agricultural production cycles. It affects our lives very directly,” said Fatima Shabodien, an activist from Cape Town, South Africa, also taking part in the rally.

“We are here to call attention to the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of rural women.”

For Lilian Kujekeko of Zimbabwe, the diplomats and politicians negotiating behind closed doors — “most of them men” — needed to know that global warming was not an abstraction, and that in Africa it was women who were bearing the brunt.

“We are the ones who suffer most of the consequences of climate change. We look after families. So why are we not there in the conference?” she asked emphatically.

Weather in her home region has become increasingly erratic in recent decades, she said, with one recent heatwave peak topping 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

The region’s staple crop, maize (corn), is “very sensitive” to fluctuations in rainfall, she noted.

A report on climate change and extreme weather earlier this month by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts more droughts for large swathes of Africa, raising the spectre of famine in regions where daily life is already a hand-to-mouth experience for millions.

Factor in the biggest population boom of any continent over the next half-century and the danger of food “insecurity” in Africa becomes even greater, it cautions.

Some 15,000 diplomats, experts and campaigners at the talks under the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are trying to breathe life into international negotiations tasked with fighting the threat of climate change.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local grassroots groups have announced a protest march under the banner of “climate justice” for Saturday, and said they expect a turnout of up to 20,000.

The 12-day talks enter a high-level phase next week with the arrival of ministers, ending on December 9.
© 2011 AFP

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