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Climate crisis hitting bottom 50pct hardest, say London protesters

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 17 April 2019 16:21 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A shepherd grazes his sheep in a dried paddy field amid drought on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave

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Activists said they were using Wednesday's protest to highlight the links between global food production, land use and climate change

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, April 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The poorest 50 percent of the global population are being hit hardest by climate change - but have done the least to cause it, the leaders of a protest that has paralysed parts of London said on Wednesday.

Extinction Rebellion activists stopped trains and blocked roads on the third day of protests to force governments to reduce carbon emissions and avert what they say is a global climate crisis.

"The bottom 50 percent of the income ladder are not contributing to this crisis at all, they have a negligible impact on carbon emissions," said Sam Appleton, outreach coordinator for Extinction Rebellion Youth.

"Yet they are the ones that are dying first. If that isn't the greatest injustice that there has ever been then I don't know what is."

The activists said they were using Wednesday's protest to highlight the links between global food production and land use, with people in Ghana planting fruit and nut trees in public spaces in solidarity.

Ghanaian land rights activist Kofi Mawuli Klu said farming was becoming "virtually unsustainable" in poorer parts of the world.

"Climate change, for people in Africa and the global south, permeates every aspect of their lives," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It is ruining their livelihoods, they can't make ends meet, they can't afford proper healthcare ... they see everything collapsing."

Most of the world's farms are small scale, according to the United Nations, and smallholders supply 80 percent of overall food produced in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Traditional pastoralists are typically highly sustainable producers, but many are facing challenges as climate change drives more extreme weather such as droughts and floods, activists say.

They also face pressure from land grabs and competition from global agribusiness.

Aid money from Britain and other Western countries was being used to fund major agribusinesses that in some cases were forcing pastoralists off the land, said Giacomo Manca Di Villahermosa, an expert on agricultural development.

"As a subsistence farmer you depend on the land to survive and if you are kicked away from that land you lose your occupation as producer, you lose your ability to cultivate food for yourself and you lose your home," he said.

"In total it is a devastating loss of pretty much everything they have."

Klu said pressure on traditional farmers was contributing to a drift of young people away from rural areas into cities, where many struggled to survive.

Activists said they hoped the event would help campaigners and land rights defenders build links and drive demands for structural change.

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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