Caritas Canada on partnering with Caritas Zambia to study the impact of the extractive industry.

Luke Stocking of Caritas Canada has told Vatican News about projects supported by his organisation in Africa.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.

Members of Development and Peace–Caritas Canada recently visited Vatican News offices in Rome. They discussed some of their work with staff at Vatican News. Luke Stocking, a member of the management team at Development and Peace–Caritas Canada, among other issues, spoke about the work of Caritas Canada in Africa, over the years.

Caritas Canada: Inspired by Gospel values

Development and Peace–Caritas Canada is the official international development organisation of the Canadian Catholic Church and is a member of Caritas Internationalis.

Caritas Canada describes itself as a democratic movement for international solidarity that supports partners in the Global South in the pursuit of alternatives to unjust social, political and economic structures. Apart from that, the organisation educates Canadians about the causes of the impoverishment of people and mobilises them to act for change. Caritas Canada associates with social change groups in the struggle for human dignity. It is also a strong supporter of women, especially in the Global South, in their quest for social and economic justice. Caritas Canada’s projects and programmes are inspired by the values of the Gospel.

Caritas Zambia: Advocacy based on sound research

Reflecting on some of the key projects they have been involved with in the past and present, Mr Stocking explained why his organisation partnered with Caritas Zambia to study the impact of Zambia’s extractive industry.

“Caritas Canada worked with Caritas Zambia to study the effects of the extractive sector in order to do some good research, provide information and advocate for communities affected by the extractive sector, “Mr Stocking told Vatican News.

Zambia’s extractive industry: The challenges

Zambia is Africa’s second-largest copper producer. For years the mines were run by the Government. Pressured by international lending institutions, the Zambian Government in 1997 privatised its mining conglomerate -the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). The expected economic boom from efficiently run copper companies has proved elusive. In spite of increased copper production, as a result of investments from international mining giants, the country’s economy is still in dire straits.

With a combination of volatile copper prices, a poor tax regime, and meagre royalties paid by mining companies to the national treasury, the country has not really benefitted from all the copper investments. Paradoxically, international mining corporations are smiling all the way to the bank. In particular, Zambia’s Copperbelt Province has experienced an unprecedented crisis in terms of job losses and loss of social services that were once available to poor communities. Zambia wholly depends on copper, so the whole country has suffered.

The actual price paid by local communities

Communities in mining areas have paid a heavy price in environmental degradation. For this reason, Caritas Zambia has been carrying out advocacy and working with local communities who are marginalised or sometimes even evicted from their ancestral homes by new mine owners.

Poisoned water sources and pollution

In some of Zambia’s mining areas, the air and water have been polluted by smelter emissions, dust from mines, waste rock and chemicals. Children especially have been badly affected. Crop yields in surrounding areas have reduced as farmlands are contaminated and water sources polluted by chemicals.

Edmond Kangamungazi, Caritas Zambia’s Economic and Social Accountability Specialist, has long lamented the widespread lack of enforcement of environmental regulations in Zambia.

The advocacy work of Caritas Zambia and other NGOs in the extractive industry is of extreme importance. Partnerships from sister Caritas organisations such as Caritas Canada go a long way in sustaining local programmes and the much-needed advocacy of the Church.