Inter Press Service » CLIMATE SOUTH: Developing Countries Coping With Climate Change http://www.ipsnews.net Journalism and Communication for Global Change Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:55:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Putting Local Climate Know-How on the Map http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/putting-local-climate-know-how-on-the-map/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-local-climate-know-how-on-the-map http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/putting-local-climate-know-how-on-the-map/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 16:22:16 +0000 Peter Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=116882 A new weapon in the arsenal against climate change is tapping local knowledge to bridge the policy gap and let communities make their own informed decisions about how to manage livelihoods, natural resources, culture and heritage. “In the past, most climate change initiatives have been top-down, coming from the government level,” says Martin Barriteau, executive […]

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A three-dimensional mapping exercise in St. Vincent aims to enhance local awareness of climate change. Participants apply paint to the model. Credit: Asher Andall/IPS

A three-dimensional mapping exercise in St. Vincent aims to enhance local awareness of climate change. Participants apply paint to the model. Credit: Asher Andall/IPS

By Peter Richards
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 5 2013 (IPS)

A new weapon in the arsenal against climate change is tapping local knowledge to bridge the policy gap and let communities make their own informed decisions about how to manage livelihoods, natural resources, culture and heritage.

“In the past, most climate change initiatives have been top-down, coming from the government level,” says Martin Barriteau, executive director of Sustainable Grenadines (Sus Gren), a trans-boundary non-governmental organisation committed to the conservation of the coastal and marine environment and sustainable livelihoods for the people between Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.Not only will climate change be costly, it could be the thing that cripples small island economies.

“[But] our communities, especially the ones on the coast, have been witnessing and adapting to the effects of climate changes over time,” he says.

Enter P3DM – participatory three-dimensional modelling, which merges conventional spatial information systems with local people’s own “mental maps” to produce scale relief models that can be used jointly with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Participatory 3D models are manufactured at the village level using paper and layered cardboard. Based on their personal knowledge of the area, informants depict land use and cover and other features on the model by the use of pencils, pushpins (points), yarns (lines) and/or paint (polygons). Once the model is completed, a scaled grid is applied to transpose spatial and georeferenced data into GIS.

For example, the models can bring communities together around priority areas such as flood zones, drought concerns, fish populations and mangrove protection.

The maps are also an educational tool for youth and children. Abdon White, a geography teacher at Union Island Secondary School, told IPS, “One of the first tasks we had, we did the tracing of the contour lines and that enabled us to actually build the P3DM model of Union island.

“One part of the CX syllabus is the map reading section and that they work with contours and distances and it will help them to get a better understanding to working with maps, distances, scales because the whole part of the entire project had to deal with legend and building the key to mapping. The entire exercise will be good for them to improving their overall map skills,” he said, referring to his pupils’ involvement and how he sees it benefiting them in writing the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exam.

In general, Barriteau says P3DM brings that “sense of awareness of climate change to these communities with the hope that they will be empowered in making decisions about climate which would [then] inform policy decisions”.

Last week, SusGren, in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), brought together members of local communities and regional and international organisations on Union Island, one of the Grenadine Islands, for a one-week participatory three-dimensional mapping exercise.

It’s no secret that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and other Caribbean islands are especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change and extreme climatic events, such as hurricanes and floods.

“Impacts of climate change in the Caribbean are projected to include sea level rise, ocean warming, and changing rainfall patterns,” the organisers said in a document circulated at the workshop.

“These are expected to have a significant economic and social impact. Threats from climate change and extreme climatic events are exacerbated by the ongoing problems caused by human development, including inappropriate land use and poorly planned physical development, inappropriate agricultural practices on slopes, point and non-point source pollution including from improper disposal of solid wastes.”

TNC’s “At the Water’s Edge” project focuses on helping small island states enhance their resilience to climate change by restoring and effectively managing their marine and coastal ecosystems and strengthening local capacity for adaptation.

The new mapping technology will aid this project by building local, national and regional capacity to support eco-based adaptation, empowering communities within the pilot sites in Grenada and Union Island, and developing the communications capacity of community-based organisations and NGOs.

On completion of the workshop, participants are expected to be in a position to discuss the value of local spatial and traditional knowledge as well as describe how P3DM can be used to document, geo-reference and visualise local knowledge. The four- by eight-foot model will belong to the community.

“Anyone wanting to use it must first seek the permission from the community. Sustainable Grenadines, which is leading the initiative on Union Island, would be working with the local community to develop ecosystem based solutions to deal with the effects of climate changes,” Barriteau says.

He said a suite of concrete climate change adaptation strategies will emerge from the P3DM initiative, and hopes it will not be viewed as just another overly technical, jargon-laden “fix” that obscures more than it enlightens.

“We hope that P3DM will put communities in the forefront on climate change issues. Not only are they bombarded, most times they are not involved. According to a Caribsave Climate Change study, sea level rise scenario 2050 is estimated at 489 million dollars to the economy of Grenada. Not only will climate change be costly, it could be the thing that cripples small island economies,” he added.

Tyrone Hall, a communications consultant at the Belize-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Climate Change Center (CCCCC), told IPS that the three-dimensional mapping is being done across the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region on a small-scale, “so sharing our experiences via new media tools such as social media allows us to make public in an accessible way our experience and the lessons learnt.

“We also see social media as a natural fit with this activity given its participatory nature. The CCCCC is in a position to use its broad online social media platforms to share this exercise with a wide audience, particularly given our strong relationship with the Small Island Developing States (SIDS DOCK) Secretariat that includes the Pacific islands,” he added.

Barriteau said that as part of the part of the Union Island P3DM process, a film will be developed that will be shown in other ACP countries while the CTA is “driving this methodology worldwide”.

Grenada will be the next Caribbean country in which the P3DM exercise will be held in April. Organisers says the core problem the project will tackle is that policies to address the impacts of climate change have been created largely without the effective engagement of local communities – from which useful traditional knowledge exists and among whom much of the adaptation action will need to be taken.

“The effect is that policy responses in the Caribbean have largely been at the general policy level, with few specific policies or plans developed to address priorities at the landscape or site level,” they say.

“Sectoral considerations or traditional knowledge have not been adequately considered, stakeholders are not effectively engaged and there has been little on the ground action to build resilience or to ‘climate proof’ key sectors such as tourism and agriculture.”

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Q&A: Climate Change Front and Centre in Cuban Development Model http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/qa-climate-change-front-and-centre-in-cuban-development-model/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-climate-change-front-and-centre-in-cuban-development-model http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/qa-climate-change-front-and-centre-in-cuban-development-model/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 18:21:35 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=116770 Ivet González interview with RICARDO BERRIZ, environmental educator

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Building Beaches Against the Sea http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/building-beaches-against-the-sea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-beaches-against-the-sea http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/building-beaches-against-the-sea/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 16:34:04 +0000 Helda Martinez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=116210 The government of this historic walled city, a bastion of tourism on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is widening beaches and building dual carriageways on its north side to protect against the ever-worsening impacts of climate change. Construction projects close to the Rafael Núñez international airport were begun in August 2010 and are due to […]

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Buildings near the coast, like these on the Bocagrande promenade, will no longer be permitted in Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

Buildings near the coast, like these on the Bocagrande promenade, will no longer be permitted in Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

By Helda Martínez
CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia, Feb 1 2013 (IPS)

The government of this historic walled city, a bastion of tourism on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is widening beaches and building dual carriageways on its north side to protect against the ever-worsening impacts of climate change.

Construction projects close to the Rafael Núñez international airport were begun in August 2010 and are due to be completed by 2014, but they are already sparking complaints among the artisanal fisherfolk in the area, who perceive them as threatening their livelihood.

The projects include widening Santander Avenue, in order to improve mobility, create a cycle route and help protect the coast, according to an open document posted by the local government of Cartagena de Indias in December 2009.

The widening of the road and the beach will cause “minimal (environmental) effects, according to the findings of more than 100 professionals in different disciplines, including marine biologists,” engineer Jaime Silva, the general coordinator of the infrastructure works being carried out by the private Consorcio Vía Al Mar, told IPS.

The dual carriageway already extends for seven kilometres out of the city of Cartagena de Indias, named after Cartagena in Spain and home to one million people. It originates in the neighbourhood of Crespo, where there is a tunnel 600 metres long, with an additional 400 metres for the entry and exit ramps.

Cartagena has almost 49 kilometres of coastline on the Caribbean sea. To combat erosion, its beaches are to be made 60 metres wider and protected with a rock wall for a distance of 2.3 kilometres. Furthermore, nine new sea walls will be created along this coastal stretch adjacent to Santander and Primera de Bocagrande Avenues.

“In coastal cities like ours, when sand has been eroded and material has to be dredged up from the sea, authorisation is needed from public bodies” at the national level, marine biologist Francisco Castillo, adviser to the Cartagena de Indias Planning Secretariat, told IPS.

These permits allow dredging of the sea bed, and sand to be brought from dunes several kilometres inland, to be used for widening the beach.

The project is part of a plan called “Integrating climate change adaptation into city planning in Cartagena de Indias”, which is aimed at countering problems like the gradual rise in sea level, more intense rainfall, frequent swells, flooding and other climate alterations that have been experienced so far this century.

“Permits are based on technical studies of the dunes, and bathymetric studies to measure the depths of the sea bed. It’s something like taking out a loan from the sea bed, to put sand on the coastline, and create a soft protective layer that guarantees the width of the beach,” said Castillo.

The fisherfolk do not need special studies or reports to know that the project affects them. They know it from their daily experience of fishing for a living.

“The construction works are harming us, because previously we had beaches. The water used to come up to here,” fisherman Pedro Pineda told IPS, indicating a line now covered with sand and heavy machinery, at the edge of an old sea wall.

But the sea walls lost strength and utility over the years because of “lack of maintenance”, and need replacing, Castillo said.

Eduardo Jiménez, who has been a fisherman for 40 of his 50 years, also said that “the works do us an injury, because just think, even with the present sea walls, when there is a swell, we can’t fish. And the swells come up at any moment.

“We knew they were going to carry out engineering works but they didn’t consult us beforehand. Lately they have talked to us, over in La Boquilla (an adjoining village) where I live, but people are not content. In any case, now, we have to go farther away to fish,” Jiménez said.

Nowadays, “on a good day,” he earns the equivalent of 10 dollars, he said.

“The fisherfolk and beach vendors, as well as all the local residents, were informed in an efficient and timely manner,” engineer Silva affirmed.

“We remain ready to respond to any questions from any person,” he said, and stressed that Consorcio Vía Al Mar is hiring construction workers, cleaning crews and security guards from among fisherfolk and those who used to work giving massages or selling products on the beach.

But “sometimes the work is very hard, or boring for us who are accustomed to the sea and the open air. Many of those who were hired first have already quit,” Pineda said.

Silva, for his part, pointed out that fisherfolk and other local people were being offered stable jobs until the works are completed.

He also said that the project has responded positively to proposals by workers, including informal labourers, residents and traders, and that the area is one of the zones of greatest economic growth in Cartagena in the last decade.

“Opposition and uncertainty have arisen largely because of a lack of sufficient information. But this is being solved in an effective manner, by planning and correcting social aspects,” said Castillo.

The planning adviser underlined that only at the beginning of the 2000s did the city begin to turn its gaze — however timidly — to the sea and its coastal development in the comprehensive way that was needed, including taking account of global warming.

“In revising urban planning schemes for the next few years, we will be working hard on the issue of flood risks,” he said.

“On top of the construction works, clear and convincing guidelines will be established to prevent any building on land at risk of flooding, virtually on the beach, as goes on today,” he said.

“I hope they finish it, because it’s a good thing,” a passerby walking along the edge of the beach told IPS.

“It’s true that people are uneasy about the delay in different works, like the mass transport system and the underwater outfall pipeline (to carry urban wastewater out to sea), which has been delayed for over a year,” Castillo admitted.

“But it’s normal, with large projects involving the sea and rough conditions, that planning schedules are sometimes upset, although in this case the timetable is going well,” he said.

“Cartagena is a city surrounded by the sea and made up of islands, like Manga, Manzanillo and Barú, which makes its urban and social features more complex,” the marine biologist said.

But Castillo was confident that “when these projects are completed, they will convince the community that Cartagena de Indias is growing out of its parochialism and becoming (part of) real geopolitical strategy in the Caribbean.”

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Between Drought and Floods – A Year of Extremes in Sri Lanka http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/between-drought-and-floods-a-year-of-extremes-in-sri-lanka/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=between-drought-and-floods-a-year-of-extremes-in-sri-lanka http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/between-drought-and-floods-a-year-of-extremes-in-sri-lanka/#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:26:32 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=115541 Wild elephants are usually the primary attraction in the remote shrub jungles of Udawalawe, about 180 kilometres southeast of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. But this Christmas season, the massive Udawalawe dam stole the limelight from the lumbering beasts. By the end of December, heavy rains had brought water levels in the Udawalawe reservoir close to […]

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Water, too much and too little of it, will be the biggest climate-induced factor determining Sri Lanka’s future in an era of extreme weather. Credit: Amantha Perera

Water, too much and too little of it, will be the biggest climate-induced factor determining Sri Lanka’s future in an era of extreme weather. Credit: Amantha Perera

By Amantha Perera
UDAWALAWE, Sri Lanka, Dec 30 2012 (IPS)

Wild elephants are usually the primary attraction in the remote shrub jungles of Udawalawe, about 180 kilometres southeast of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. But this Christmas season, the massive Udawalawe dam stole the limelight from the lumbering beasts.

By the end of December, heavy rains had brought water levels in the Udawalawe reservoir close to spilling point, forcing irrigation engineers to open the sluice gates.

Despite these efforts, the massive tank continued to spill over, creating a gigantic flood downstream.

People drove in cars, vans, motorcycles, lorries and even bullock carts to witness the spectacle, which was but a minor footnote compared to the impact of the rains elsewhere in this South Asian island nation.

Between Dec. 17 and 26, cyclone-level rains left 34 dead, nine unaccounted for and 328,000 stranded. Over 8,000 homes were damaged and roughly 4,000 were completely destroyed.

“No one expected this much rain,” Lal Kumara, deputy director at the government’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), the main public body tasked with early warnings and post-disaster relief efforts in Sri Lanka, told IPS.

But someone should have expected the rains, based on the extreme weather events that ripped through the country in 2012, forcing Sri Lankans to come face to face with the disastrous impact of changing climate patterns. The end-of-year torrential rains were not the first time the country experienced unexpected floods, nor will it be the last, experts say.

In the first week of November, sudden rains brought on by Cyclone Nisha left over 200,000 people stranded, 15,000 displaced and nine dead. Over 5,000 homes were also destroyed.

Just prior to the November rains, much of the country had been hit by a 10-month-long drought. Close to a million people were affected, according to the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC), which recently launched a million-dollar international appeal to assist over 125,000 drought-affected people in Sri Lanka.

The drought destroyed 23 percent of the secondary rice harvest, the Ministry of Agriculture said, putting thousands of farmers at risk of starvation.

“More and more people are being forced to think about climate change and evaluate the impact,” Bob McKerrow, head of the IFRC delegation in Sri Lanka, told IPS.

The Northwestern Puttalam District provides a salient example of the extent of weather fluctuations within a matter of months.

During the December floods, parts of the district were submerged under eight feet of water, forcing 36,000 displaced persons to take shelter in over 60 government camps.

Yet just three months prior to the floods, people in the district were walking miles to dig holes in dried-out tank beds and wait overnight to collect the water.

“Water, the lack of it and too much of it, will be the biggest climate induced (factor) determining the way Sri Lankans live in the future,” W L Sumathipala, former head of the climate change unit of the ministry of environment, told IPS.

And though the signs are evident for all to see, hardly any action is being taken to mitigate the likelihood of future intense weather events.

The Meteorological Department still lacks the capacity to provide detailed forecasts, leaving the public to decipher cryptic notices, like the one that appeared on Dec. 20 stating, “There will be showers or thundershowers at times in the Northern, Eastern, North Central and Uva provinces and in the eastern slopes of the central hills and in the Hambantota district. Fairly heavy falls are also expected in some places.

“Showers or thundershowers will develop (in) several places elsewhere, particularly during the afternoon or evening,” the bulletin concluded.

Even officials at the DMC bemoaned the fact that they were not given detailed accounts of how much rain to expect, which would have enabled them to issue more precise warnings.

S H Kariyawasam, director general of the Meteorological Department, told IPS that the department lacked the technical and personnel capacity to give out such forecasts.

Erratic weather also continues to plague the vital paddy sector. In 2011, the country lost close to 17 percent of the total harvest to floods, followed by a bumper harvest the year after. The 2012 drought ignited fears of another lost crop, but heavy rains this month are forcing experts to rethink their forecasts yet again.

Initial reports said the rains had caused substantial damages to paddy storage facilities.

Farmers have yet to change their practices to accommodate the volatile weather, and paddy cultivation continues to follow the traditional cycle of planting and harvesting according to the two monsoons.

“Maybe if this trend continues we will have to think of adjusting the crop cycles,” said L Rupasena, additional secretary at the government-run Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Training Research Institute.

According to McKerrow, the nature of incremental climate change over decades, and sometimes generations, means people pay less attention to the patterns that they should. “Slow moving disasters are the hardest for people to understand,” he said.

But for those who gathered in close proximity to the gushing torrents under the Udawalawe dam, there was no doubt about the need for urgent action.

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Guyana Hits Paydirt on Low Carbon Development Path http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/guyana-hits-paydirt-on-low-carbon-development-path/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyana-hits-paydirt-on-low-carbon-development-path http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/guyana-hits-paydirt-on-low-carbon-development-path/#comments Wed, 26 Dec 2012 16:42:36 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=115470 Imagine Guyana and Dominica without forests and rivers, or Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia without beaches. Atherton Martin, a conservationist and former minister of agriculture in Dominica, says climate change should be forcing Caribbean countries to take a hard look at how they are managing their natural resources, lest they eventually disappear. “What the climate […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 26 2012 (IPS)

Imagine Guyana and Dominica without forests and rivers, or Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia without beaches.

Atherton Martin, a conservationist and former minister of agriculture in Dominica, says climate change should be forcing Caribbean countries to take a hard look at how they are managing their natural resources, lest they eventually disappear.

“What the climate change principles tell us is that basically when your natural resource systems are debilitated, weakened or destroyed by climate change, your economy is thereby destroyed,” he told IPS.

But all is not bleak. Martin believes climate change could potentially benefit the Caribbean in two ways – firstly, by forcing a change in mindset where countries take the lead instead of simply reacting; and secondly, by allowing governments to build stronger economies by accessing millions of dollars in climate change funding.

He pointed to Guyana’s push to become a low carbon economy, noting that it has already drawn down more than 70 million dollars from carbon credits on just 10 percent of its forest systems.

“They expect to draw down a total of over 250 million dollars over the next year and this is a deal made on carbon credits and sequestration valuation with just one country, Norway,” Martin said.

In July 2009, Guyana launched a low carbon strategy aimed at promoting economic development, while at the same time combating climate change.

At the launch, then President Bharrat Jagdeo called for a platform on which developing countries like Guyana are not seen as mere recipients of aid, but as equal partners in the search for climate solutions.

A low carbon economy is one where economic activities are geared to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, and where other activities and lifestyles seek to minimise the effects of climate change.

About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, or some 15 million hectares, has remained untouched over time. An expert study commissioned by Guyana estimates that the country would earn some 580 million dollars annually if it were to engage in economic activities that could lead to the destruction of the forests, but the economic value to the world, if these same forests were left standing, would be equivalent to 40 billion dollars.

Jagdeo has described Guyana’s forests as a global asset, home to at least 8,000 plant and animal species that make it one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. The forests also act as a sink to absorb carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

With the right low-deforestation economic incentives, Guyana would avoid emissions of 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 a year.

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved an institutional strengthening project for Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy. The approval means that nearly six million dollars will flow to Guyana for implementation, following an initial sum of 1.06 million dollars released to the country from Norway for preparatory work.

Guyana’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Investment Fund, dubbed GRIF, was established in October 2010 in order to fund projects of the country’s low-carbon strategy.

The project will strengthen the technical and administrative capacity of those institutions responsible for implanting the strategy, and develop an MRV (Monitoring, Reporting and Verification) system on a national level.

The partnership between Norway and Guyana is the second-biggest REDD+ partnership in the world, according to the Guyanese government.

Martin pointed out that there are arrangements with the World Bank, the Organisation of American States (OAS), other financial institutions and the United Nations that could allow Caribbean countries to earn financing as a result of their climate change resilience activities.

“They could value their natural resources on the basis of their sequestration of CO2 and then convert that sequestration property into hard cash, as Guyana is doing, or convert it into expanded negotiating room on debt reduction and expanded negotiating room on getting more concessionary loans,” he said.

President and founder of the Dominica-based Waitkbuli Ecological Foundation, Bernard Wiltshire, an attorney, agrees that a new way of thinking is necessary.

He told IPS that Caribbean countries now need to build “appropriate industries” and get involved in “the right kind of tourism”, for example.

“Dominica could have a tourism industry that could far outstrip Antigua. Antigua has the sun, sand and sea and so on, but Dominica has the sea and in addition to that it has a lot more than Antigua,” Wiltshire said.

“Everybody is saying sun, sand and sea are what you need for tourism and are ignoring nature tourism, adventure tourism, heritage tourism and wellness tourism,” he said.

“These things are growing. Just slouching, drinking rum under a palm tree – that is going out of fashion. The tourism industry in the Caribbean is going downhill because we are competing with the larger countries. Tourists are going farther afield, they want more adventurous things,” Wilshire added.

He pointed to Southeast Asia and the jungles of Burma as new hotspots, adding that “Dominica has its own Caribbean jungle right here” and could attract thousands of people who are looking for a jungle adventure.

Martin lamented that a region like the Caribbean, with so many extraordinary opportunities, has such financially strapped economies.

“You have countries with national annual budgets of 600 million dollars. If you can draw down in a year or two years half of that or even more from converting the silent work of your natural systems into hard dollars from the international financial community, you are home free,” he told IPS.

He said that the Caribbean could very rapidly turn itself around purely on the basis of taking that climate-resilient look at its natural systems by understanding how vulnerable it is and hence how vital it is to reorganise the way in which it manages its natural resources.

“The expertise is available to you to do the calculations that would get the rest of the world to finally begin to reward you for conserving your forests, conserving your reefs, conserving your water systems and so on,” Martin said.

“That’s a no-brainer and climate change is just begging the question. It’s saying to us, ‘hey guys, you have an option, and guess what, for once this option is to the advantage of small islands like ours’,” he added.

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Forests, Fruit and Fish Could Save Coastal Communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/forests-fruit-and-fish-could-save-coastal-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-fruit-and-fish-could-save-coastal-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/forests-fruit-and-fish-could-save-coastal-communities/#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2012 05:17:51 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=115385 Scientists predict that in the coming years, Bangladesh will be battered by even more climate disasters than it has already endured. Global warming has caused devastating damage in this lower Himalayan delta country of 150 million people, where seawater intrusion, increasingly intense cyclones, dried up rivers and extreme weather events have become the norm. Crop production […]

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Mohammad Jamal Hossain shows off vegetables grown on his “dike” garden. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Mohammad Jamal Hossain shows off vegetables grown on his “dike” garden. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BARGUNA, Bangladesh , Dec 21 2012 (IPS)

Scientists predict that in the coming years, Bangladesh will be battered by even more climate disasters than it has already endured. Global warming has caused devastating damage in this lower Himalayan delta country of 150 million people, where seawater intrusion, increasingly intense cyclones, dried up rivers and extreme weather events have become the norm.

Crop production is said to have declined by 30 percent and if seawater inundation continues at its current rate, 16 percent of the country’s coastal areas will be underwater by 2050.

It is also estimated that by 2050 some 18.5 million inhabitants of coastal Bangladesh will face hunger, homelessness and poverty as a result of climate change.

Despite the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, widely recognised as the leading cause of global warming, industrialised nations have been unmoved.

As the recent United Nations climate summit in Doha, Qatar, made clear, appeals and tragedies have not been sufficient to prompt binding agreements on emissions cuts.

But faced with the threat of a massive humanitarian and ecological crisis in the coming decades, the government of Bangladesh is no longer willing to remain silent.

Since 2009 it has poured 350 million dollars into projects to address climate change, including devising better adaptation and mitigation models.

Community-based adaptation to climate change through coastal afforestation is one such model that has attracted global attention for its unique approach to adaptation and sustainability and is now being practiced in Bangladesh.

What started off as a pilot project in 2009 has now provided some 80 landless families in the coastal Sonatola village in the southwestern Barguna district with state-owned fallow land on which to cultivate fruit and vegetables, grow timber trees and rear fish.

Located about 480 kilometres from the capital Dhaka, this district was chosen for its past experiences of being hit by both Aila and Sidr, two of this century’s deadliest cyclones.

A mangrove forest planted along the seashore to protect coastal communities from flooding, cyclones and storms. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Along with growing fruits and cultivating fish for livelihood purposes, the project also included planting wild mangrove forests, locally known as golpata and kewra, to protect the coastal communities from cyclones.

The government also erected an embankment along the coastline to prevent seawater intrusion and shelter inhabitants from storms, surges and wind.

Each of the beneficiaries received about 23 decimals of land (about 1o,000 square feet) for the purpose of excavating a deep ditch and constructing a dike alongside it to confine the water.

Locals call it the ‘ditch and dike project’, though its official name is ‘Forest, Fruit, Fish’ or the ‘Triple F’ model.

Peasants planted fruit and timber trees along the embankment and released fish, including several carp varieties, into the ditches that lie parallel to each other.

Benefits to the community

The Triple F model has been a godsend for the once impoverished community.

The soil in Naltola, an area comprising a cluster of small villages from which many of the project’s beneficiaries hailed, had become too salty for growing crops, with soil quality worsening at an alarming pace, according to numerous scientists.

Local coastal farmers told IPS that, until the project began, their main source of livelihood had been disappearing fast, as they had been forced to give up growing crops.

 

Beneficiaries of the “dike and ditch” project hold up their fish catch. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

“Local fish stocks were also depleting due to high salinity. So the ‘ditch and dike project’ has really come to our rescue,” Shajahan Mallik, a 53-year-old former fisherman, who heads a committee of the new landowners, told IPS.

Twenty-three-year-old Mohammad Jamal Hossain, another of the project’s beneficiaries, told IPS he recently earned about 125 dollars selling four types of carp species in Naltola bazaar, a small fishing and farming village just four kilometres from the Bay of Bengal.

“I had virtually no income before this project but now I earn a regular income selling vegetables like cabbage, gourd, peas, beans, spinach and radish. Fish is in high demand here, and the big varieties I catch fetch good prices,” said Jamal, who lives with his mother and sisters.

Jamal’s neighbours made similar fortunes growing vegetables and cultivating fish. The fruit trees are not yet matured so the beneficiaries may have to wait another two years before they can start selling fruits.

Masuda Begum (33), one of the poorest women in the village, said, “I earned about 150 dollars last summer from the sale of fish and vegetables.”

Masuda’s neighbour Rahima (35) told IPS, “When I need to buy something I don’t have to worry about cash. I ask my son to catch fish and trade them for necessary commodities in the market.”

In fact, many of the families have stopped shopping for daily essentials except for some spices and rice, since fresh vegetables and fish are now plentiful. The trees also provide enough dry leaves and twigs for fires.

Some families have even bought ducks and released them into the fresh water ditches, hoping that the birds’ eggs bring even more profitability. This innovation bodes well for the project’s sustainability.

Observing the project’s success from afar, thousands of landless farmers in the surrounding villages have appealed for similar allocations of land on which to cultivate sustainable livelihoods.

“We are preparing a proposal for expanding the programme,” Mohammad Abdul Wahhab Bhuiyan, deputy commissioner of the Barguna district, told IPS, adding that the only way to cope with the enourmous number of requests is to replicate the project in the most vulnerable communities across Bangladesh.

Aparup Chowdhury, additional secretary of the ministry of environment and forests, told IPS, “The project has already received international recognition thanks to our State Minister for Environment and Forests, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, who has been an enthusiastic supporter all the way through.”

“We are now planning to take the lessons from Barguna to other coastal districts like Noakhali, Cox’s Bazar, Bagerhat, Bhola and Khulna, which would greatly help thousands of farmers there,” Chowdhury added.

This past April, the Triple F model received the renowned international ‘Earth Care’ award in recognition of its mitigation and adaptation efforts.

(END)

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Tiny Barbuda Fears Increasingly Hostile Climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/11/tiny-barbuda-fears-increasingly-hostile-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tiny-barbuda-fears-increasingly-hostile-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/11/tiny-barbuda-fears-increasingly-hostile-climate/#comments Fri, 30 Nov 2012 15:21:36 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=114684 Local scientists are warning the tiny 62-square-mile island of Barbuda is becoming one of the most vulnerable spots on earth to the consequences of climate change. “We are small, we are flat…and if the climate change predictions come true, especially with respect to sea level rise, you are looking at potentially a third of the […]

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A barge transports sand from Barbuda. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A barge transports sand from Barbuda. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CODRINGTON, Barbuda, Nov 30 2012 (IPS)

Local scientists are warning the tiny 62-square-mile island of Barbuda is becoming one of the most vulnerable spots on earth to the consequences of climate change.

“We are small, we are flat…and if the climate change predictions come true, especially with respect to sea level rise, you are looking at potentially a third of the island being not available for the sort of things we are using it for right now,” marine biologist John Mussington told IPS.

Worsening the problem is the long-time practice of sand removal from the island, he says.

“You have land, sand and water, and when you take sand out of the system, sand will move from somewhere else to replace that which is moved. So the amount of sand which has been taken out of Barbuda over the years has impacted our shoreline.

“We already have accelerated erosion taking place because of the sea level rise, and added to that you are taking sand out of the system so what you find happening, that beautiful beach that stretches all the way from the north come around to the south, most of those areas where 10 years ago you had grape trees and coconut trees, they are just not there anymore and you are actually seeing the collapse of the vegetation into the water,” he added.

In July 2011, Barbuda renamed a three-mile stretch of beach after the late Princess Diana of Wales, who was a frequent visitor. Mussington says the island could well lose that very beach, along with others that attract tourists and boost economic growth.

“You experience the sea level rise which is being predicted, and one of the ways in which the shoreline responds to that is that the shoreline will move so the beaches will recede closer to the solid land,” he told IPS.

“The low-lying area which is created by all that sand being excavated, that now potentially is an area that becomes flooded with every storm. The last serious ground swell we had three years ago was sufficient to flood the entire area for quite a few weeks.”

Dr. Brian Cooper, who heads the Antigua and Barbuda Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), said both islands have been experiencing their share of extreme weather conditions – one of the consequences predicted by climate change scientists.

Dr. Cooper told IPS extremes of weather inflict human trauma, cause economic damage and destabilise agriculture.

“We need first of all to look at our agriculture and our food supply, because the way the world is going, the way the population is increasing, and if these predictions about climate change come about, a lot of the world’s food-producing areas are probably going to be affected,” he said.

“I think we need to take our own food production very seriously and that to me means we ought to be looking very, very critically at the agricultural land we are putting into housing,” he said. “I think too much of that has happened already.”

Dr. Cooper also said the country needs look at the water supply for agriculture because if droughts are going to be serious and prolonged, this would affect food production.

“We have desalination but the cost of desalinated water is really not amenable to wide-scale use for agriculture and we’ve done very little to look at increasing our other sources of surface water or ground water, and ground water itself is likely to be affected by rising sea levels because all our well-fed areas are very close to the coast,” he said.

He pointed to recent floods in Russia and Pakistan, and weather extremes in the United States and Canada as clear evidence that climate change is real and happening now.

“It’s really falling in line very much with what was predicted…we get extremes of weather anyway, things go in cycles, you have various climatic cycles coming together and giving you exceptional weather conditions, but all those things are exacerbated by the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, at least that is what the climate change scientists are more or less unanimously agreed on,” Cooper said.

Dale Destin, a climatologist at the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service, told IPS that over the past two years, the country saw a period of wet conditions that has now transitioned into what may become a mild drought.

“These things would generally happen in cycles but with climate change some of these observations become more extreme,” he said.

Mussington said despite the grim predictions, climate change need not be a death sentence, adding that Small Island Developing States like Antigua and Barbuda have to adapt.

However, he laments that the adaptation issue is not being taken seriously and is absent from policies governing certain critical areas.

“Do we have a policy on agriculture?” he asked. “Do we have a policy on tourism which takes into consideration what is predicted to happen?

“So, for example, tourism they say is where our economy benefits the most from, so if you know that climate change is happening, the common sense thing is that you should have a policy in place as of yesterday to say that ‘okay, we expect that our coastline is going to be most severely impacted so that any existing hotels we can’t do anything about but future development should be done away from the shoreline’,” he said.

“We are not hearing that yet. You look at the same thing in agriculture; you are going to have a lot more of your coastal areas being salinated.

“We need to apply crops that can withstand the higher temperate and higher salinity and so on – these are the things we need to put into our policies and start implementing them now and if we don’t we are basically just running to the cliff and jumping off blindly,” he warned.

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Some Caribbean Hotels Back Away from Battered Coastlines http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/10/some-caribbean-hotels-back-away-from-battered-coastlines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=some-caribbean-hotels-back-away-from-battered-coastlines http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/10/some-caribbean-hotels-back-away-from-battered-coastlines/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2012 17:01:14 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=113477 The postcards portray sand, sea and sun. But key players in the Caribbean tourism industry are warning that it’s time to shift gears away from the region’s threatened coastlines and instead promote inland attractions like biodiversity. “Climate change is one of the things that is affecting the hotel industry, and the fact that most of […]

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Hotel in Antigua. Most hotels in the Caribbean are built on the beaches and coasts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Hotel in Antigua. Most hotels in the Caribbean are built on the beaches and coasts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Oct 17 2012 (IPS)

The postcards portray sand, sea and sun. But key players in the Caribbean tourism industry are warning that it’s time to shift gears away from the region’s threatened coastlines and instead promote inland attractions like biodiversity.

“Climate change is one of the things that is affecting the hotel industry, and the fact that most of our hotels are right on the beaches (means) they are subject to violent storms, the frequency of which has been projected to increase due to climate change issues,” hotelier and social entrepreneur Valmiki Kempadoo told IPS.

“Outside of Trinidad and maybe a large country like Jamaica, tourism is by far the largest economic driver of these smaller islands…and we have to seek new solutions, new business models that could take this thing into the 21st century,” he said.

Kempadoo is urging his regional counterparts to move their properties away from the beaches, noting that in light of the effects of climate change “having a hotel at 500 feet or 1,000 feet above sea level can help in that general direction”.

He said while the Caribbean is known best for its beaches, there are also lots of other experiences the different islands can offer.

“The climate away from the beaches is much better. It’s an incredibly fertile place where we can grow all these amazing exotic tropical fruits and vegetables that we have a world class collection of,” he said.

“We can offer beautiful hikes, we can offer beautiful views and a beautiful experience without the high humidity and the other things that come with having a hotel on the seaside,” Kempadoo added.

Dominica’s Tourism Minister Ian Douglas knows only too well the devastating effects of climate change on the tourism-dependent economies of the Caribbean.

In fact, he told IPS Dominica is probably one of the islands most affected by this global phenomenon.

“The islands are hit by hurricanes every year and that costs the islands millions (of dollars) to the point where governments have to look at some kind of disaster risk fund to mitigate against the damage,” he said.

“At least one of the islands gets hit every year and Dominica is no exception. In fact we are seeing a new phenomenon in Dominica right now where we are have massive flooding, something that was never before seen, and last year this caused considerable damage even to some of our tourism plants and equipment.”

Douglas noted that Dominica, with most of its hotels on the west coast on the Caribbean Sea, “takes a beating every year”.

And he said the island now has to grapple not only with sea surges and rising sea levels, but also severe flooding in its 365 waterways.

“We have about three of our rivers within the Canefield to Layou area experiencing massive flooding and villages had to be evacuated. Riverbanks were flooded out, bridges and homes were destroyed to the point where government had to actually give families grants for short-term replacements.

“I’ve said all of that to tell you how much climate change continues to affect Dominica. It’s an issue that we continue to grapple with. We actually have a department formulated specifically for dealing with the challenges posed by climate change,” he added.

Sam Raphael, the owner of Jungle Bay Hotel in Dominica, smiles at the suggestion from Valmiki Kempadoo.

He said when he established his jungle resort several years ago, “it was out of an acknowledgement that it is imperative that we make some radical changes and improvement to our tourism industry if it is to survive.

“A few years ago, our industry accepted a false choice between enterprise development and protecting our fragile natural environment. The empowerment and capacity building of our people to be the entrepreneur drivers of the primary industry of our region, our daily bread, was not a priority,” he said.

Nestled in the forests along Dominica’s east coast, the Jungle Bay Hotel focuses on nature-based activities and wellness of guests.

Grenada is also moving to diversify its sun, sand and sea tourism product. And as the island moves towards greater sustainability, Tourism Minister Dr. George Vincent points to the importance of the energy sector.

“We are working with the electricity company to produce alternative energy in the form of wind. We are encouraging the hotels to do solar energy to replace fuel costs. But the sustainable tourism thing is where we’re heading,” he said.

“I tell folks — long ago things like IT and languages were important. Now, they are only platforms to build on. So we are building a sustainable platform, and we will. Everything down the road is supposed to be sustainable, green, eco-friendly. So we have the energy, we have the preservation, we have the rainforest, and we have a number of marine parks that are well-preserved.

“So we’re doing fine in the area of preservation, and we are now going to convert that preservation to use, and make it work for us. So we feel that Grenada benefits greatly from preservation and conservation,” Dr. Vincent, who took over the tourism portfolio in May of this year, added.

A recent State of the Industry Conference, held here Oct. 10-12, was facilitated by the region’s tourism development agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

Secretary General Hugh Riley told delegates the Caribbean is experiencing the toughest economic conditions since the Great Depression. He urged hoteliers and other tourism stakeholders to assemble all the creativity, discipline and collective resources they have and use them wisely for the good of the region.

“We have to determine what it takes for small, vulnerable tourism economies to effectively compete in an arena that is populated by large industrialised countries with vastly superior budgets and the power to pass legislation that discriminates against us, impacts our competitive position and further shifts the balance of power in the direction of the already powerful,” he said.

“The good news is that we in the Caribbean have more than a few cards to play. We in this cluster of small populations are bold enough to assemble and decide that we can come together as One Caribbean, enlist some of this industry’s sharpest minds, elect leaders, thrash out ideas and mold them into actions that allow us to win in this environment,” he said.

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Communities Organise to Confront Climate Change in El Salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/10/communities-organise-to-confront-climate-change-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=communities-organise-to-confront-climate-change-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/10/communities-organise-to-confront-climate-change-in-el-salvador/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:50:30 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=113473 Summary: The river clean-up and mangrove recovery work in the Lower Lempa River Basin reflects the organisational traditions of the local communities.

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Local residents cleaning up a river in the Lower Lempa River Basin. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Local residents cleaning up a river in the Lower Lempa River Basin. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN NICOLÁS LEMPA, El Salvador , Oct 17 2012 (IPS)

Armed with chainsaws, machetes and shovels, local residents of El Salvador’s Lower Lempa River Basin, near the Pacific Ocean, are unblocking the flow of rivers and pruning the branches of trees on riverbanks to keep them from falling into the chocolate-colored water.

One team is working on clearing the El Espino River. Another is doing the same in El Borbollón, also located in the Lower Lempa River Basin in the department of Usulután, in southwest El Salvador.

When the water flows more freely, there is less chance of the rivers overflowing and flooding nearby crops, an increasingly frequent occurrence due to alterations in the cycle of rains and dry spells.

Several kilometres to the south, in the mangrove forests of Jiquilisco Bay, Brenda Arely Sánchez walks waist-deep in water along a channel in the Cuche de Monte swamp, which she and a small army of women have reopened with machetes in order to improve the flow of saltwater and promote the recovery of the mangrove trees.

The channel, blocked for years by roots and sediment, no longer allowed seawater to flow in during high tide. As a result, 70 hectares of mangrove trees were slowing dying, because these species need a saltwater environment to survive.

“With pure hard work, we removed all of the mud and roots from the channel in plastic containers,” said Sánchez, one of 30 women who participated in the effort.

These women and men are part of the Mangle Association, based in the Lower Lempa River Basin and Jiquilisco Bay, an area declared as the Xiriualtique Jiquilisco Biosphere Reserve in 2007 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The Mangle Association’s efforts range from the protection of biological diversity to risk management to reduce vulnerability to the floods that are growing more severe year after year.

The once-fertile lands of the Lower Lempa basin – a coastal plain that encompasses the largest stretch of mangroves in El Salvador – were used by large landholders for cotton plantations until the 1970s, when production declined.

When the Salvadoran civil war was ended by the peace agreements of 1992, many former combatants from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), then a guerrilla group and now the ruling political party, were given parcels of land in this area to facilitate their reintegration into civilian life.

This explains the abundance of community organisations. Local residents say that the organisational traditions developed in times of war are now being applied to social and environmental projects, primarily to confront what everyone identifies as the effects of climate change.

“In the past we knew that the rains would start in May and end in October. Now nobody knows when they will start or end, if there is going to be a drought or a storm,” Carlos Barahona, the coordinator of the river clean-up work and the opening of the channel in Cuche de Monte, told Tierramérica.*

Up until now, half of the dredging of 4.2 km of the El Espino and El Borbollón Rivers has been completed. The work began in July and was financed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources after the destruction wrought by Tropical Depression 12-E in October 2011.

The storm was the most severe weather event ever recorded in El Salvador, dumping 1,513 mm of rain, the equivalent of 42 percent of the average annual rainfall during the 1971-2000 period, according to an October 2011 assessment by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

There were 35 deaths and an estimated 900 million dollars in losses and damages. The area hardest hit was the Lower Lempa basin.

“Hurricane Mitch (1998) was bad, but this was worse. We left our houses and headed for the shelters when the water was almost up to our necks,” recalled Sánchez.

Climate change has been linked to the variations in precipitation patterns and heavier rainfalls. But flooding in this area lasts longer because the drainage channels, constructed during the cotton boom, are unable to empty out properly in the sediment-filled El Espino and El Borbollón Rivers.

Another cause of flooding is the water released from the 15 de Septiembre hydroelectric dam, located upstream on the Lempa River, when torrential rains make it necessary to open the floodgates to prevent it from collapsing.

The gates are often opened without prior warning, the local residents complain. As a result, the lower stretch of the Lempa, the country’s longest river, overflows and floods some 20 communities.

“We are always going to have floods, but now that the rivers have been cleared, the water will drain away more quickly,” stressed Barahona.
In addition, these rivers will be navigable once again, which means farmers and fisherfolk will be able to transport their products in canoes.

The opening of the channel in the Cuche de Monte swamp, stretching four kilometres, has been bearing fruit since the work began in July. The death of 70 hectares of mangrove trees has been halted; new mangrove shoots have begun sprouting, and the fish and shellfish that disappeared when the channel was blocked have returned.

Red snapper, catfish, bass and shrimps are among the species observed in the waters of the swamp, said José Manuel González, a biosphere reserve warden and Lower Lempa native.

Due to the importance of the species found here, the reserve has been protected since 2005 by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.

“The project is already helping people, because everyone benefits from the recovery of the mangrove forest, and at the same time, it is providing employment for the families involved in the work,” González told Tierramérica.

The efforts are supported through the El Salvador Fund for the Americas Initiative, an agreement signed in 1993 by the governments of El Salvador and the United States to provide debt relief for the Central American country in exchange for investment in environmental projects.

The fund created for this purpose is endowed with 41.4 million dollars.

The goal in Cuche de Monte is for the ecosystem to regenerate naturally through ecological mangrove restoration (ERM). Instead of manual planting of one or more species of mangrove trees, this method involves identifying the causes of damage and subsequently working to remedy them.

ERM is taught in the area by experts from the Mangrove Action Project (MAP). “Nature knows best which mangrove species should be growing there,” said Barahona.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.

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New Plans to Protect Nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/new-plans-to-protect-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-plans-to-protect-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/new-plans-to-protect-nature/#comments Tue, 18 Sep 2012 07:54:40 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=112587 At the close of the ten-day World Conservation Congress that ran from Sept. 6-15 on the South Korean island of Jeju, members of the convening International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) agreed on an ambitious four-year action plan for protecting global natural resources. Taking the form of a 24-page document, the four-year programme focuses […]

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The conflicting role of big businesses did not go unnoticed by activists at Jeju. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The conflicting role of big businesses did not go unnoticed by activists at Jeju. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
JEJU, South Korea, Sep 18 2012 (IPS)

At the close of the ten-day World Conservation Congress that ran from Sept. 6-15 on the South Korean island of Jeju, members of the convening International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) agreed on an ambitious four-year action plan for protecting global natural resources.

Taking the form of a 24-page document, the four-year programme focuses on the two main themes that dominated discussions among 10,000 participants at Jeju last week – that natural resources are stretched dangerously thin and that nature itself could hold the solutions to the crisis.

“The new IUCN Programme aims to mobilise and unite communities working for biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and poverty reduction in common efforts to halt biodiversity loss and apply nature-based solutions,” the IUCN stated on Saturday.

The challenge now, according to IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre, is ensuring that the programme actually gets implemented.

Promoting nature-based solutions for industries as well as communities was the main thrust at the congress, from getting multinational companies to adopt sustainable solutions, to pressing governments to safeguard protected areas, or announcing a partnership with IT giant Microsoft to track extinction threats worldwide.

Experts agreed that the mega congress has the potential to set the agenda not only for the conservation community but for the entire global community to face up to threats brought on by changing climates.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told IPS that the congress was the best forum to assess whether there was hope beyond “the political stalemate paralysing the current capacity of nation states to move on issues like climate change”.

Steiner added that this June’s U.N. summit on sustainable development (Rio+20) reiterated the unfortunate fact that the politically divided world still lacks the capacity to act in unison on saving the environment.

“None of us want to wait, but we are forced to wait,” Steiner said.

IUCN can step into this bubble of inaction and make its membership of 89 states, 124 government agencies and 1018 non-governmental organisations count.

The Union believes its primary strength is that it reflects the cutting edge of the conservation community and has the power to set a radical agenda.

An assessment titled ‘A Review of the Impact of IUCN Resolutions on International Conservation Efforts’ recalls that it was the IUCN meeting in Ashkhabad, held in the former Soviet Union in 1978, that gave birth to the term ‘sustainable development’,  which has now permeated the vocabulary of every leading international institution concerned with the impact of development on the natural world.

“This phrase has now entered the mainstream of development thinking and has had a profound influence on the design and operation of conservation and development practice throughout the world,” according to the report.

Braulio F. de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), has much more recent examples of the IUCN’s influence on the world stage.

“All the progress we have made on the CBD agenda has been very much influenced by the results of discussions at IUCN congresses,” Dias told IPS, adding that the programme of protected areas, which the CDB set up in 2007, was a direct result of a proposal that came out of the previous IUCN congress.

Public-private partnerships

At the congress last week the emphasis fell unambiguously on getting businesses big and small to adopt sustainable solutions.

“It is great that they have come,” Marton-Lefèvre told IPS, referring to the overwhelming presence of businesses like Holcim and Nestle’s Nespresso who were showcasing their programmes at the congress.

Experts like Steiner and Dias were much more cautious in their praise of the multinationals, but acknowledged that the business community showing an inclination to be “green friendly” was welcome, given the paralysis of national governments.

Dias told IPS that environmental groups and activists were increasingly coming to the realisation that it was better to at least enter into dialogue with big businesses rather than keep up an endless stream of criticism.

“More and more organisations are seeing that they can be much more effective if they establish partnerships to discuss actual results,” he said.

Interactions between business groups and the conservation community is likely to lead to a better understanding of each other, according to Naoko Ishii, chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a Washington-based public fund that supports projects related to environment and sustainable development.

“I am confident that the discussions will influence action on a broader level,” Ishii, who has previously served as Japan’s deputy finance minister and country head of the World Bank in Sri Lanka, added.

However, Steiner cautioned against the expectation of results immediately after the congress.

“Let us be clear, to ask the private sector to lead change in the absence of corresponding public policy is not going to work,” he told IPS.

Dias, his colleague from the CBD, struck a much more positive tone, but he too admitted that once the talking stops, the real challenge will be to get all parties – governments, businesses and activists – onto one platform.

“Overall we are still losing biodiversity, and we have to scale up action,” he warned.

(END)

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China Puts Up a Green Shield Against Sandstorms http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/china-puts-up-a-green-shield-against-sandstorms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-puts-up-a-green-shield-against-sandstorms http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/china-puts-up-a-green-shield-against-sandstorms/#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2012 07:01:22 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=112393 The setting sun is still streaming in through the poplars along the shelter belts, but Horquin Lianjun is done with farm work for the day. The desert wind has turned bone chilling. Lianjun’s half hectare of farmland sports neat spaced-out rows of maize crops, as in that of Hua Limei, his neighbouring farm owner, and […]

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Kyoto Protocol May End With the Year http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/kyoto-protocol-may-end-with-the-year/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kyoto-protocol-may-end-with-the-year http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/kyoto-protocol-may-end-with-the-year/#comments Sun, 09 Sep 2012 07:53:00 +0000 Marwaan Macan-Markar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=112371 As government negotiators from the world’s poorest countries ended a round of United Nations climate change talks in the Thai capital, they sounded a grave note about what appears imminent when they assemble in November in Doha – the reading of the last rites of the Kyoto Protocol. “We are concerned that the environmental integrity […]

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By Marwaan Macan-Markar
BANGKOK, Sep 9 2012 (IPS)

As government negotiators from the world’s poorest countries ended a round of United Nations climate change talks in the Thai capital, they sounded a grave note about what appears imminent when they assemble in November in Doha – the reading of the last rites of the Kyoto Protocol.

“We are concerned that the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only international treaty that binds developed nations to lower (greenhouse gas) emissions, and thus our lone assurance that action will be taken, is eroding before our eyes,” declared a statement released by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Africa Group, which represent over a billion people vulnerable to the ravages of extreme weather.

Such concern about the fate of the Kyoto Protocol in the capital of Qatar, where negotiators from over 190 countries will gather for a U.N. climate summit, is with reason. The upcoming 18th conference of the parties (CoP 18) will be the last meeting before the clock runs out on Dec. 31for the world’s industrialised countries to meet their initial, legally-binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and to announce new legally binding cuts for the second period as 2013 dawns.

But as analysts who followed the week-long talks in Bangkok noted, the world’s richer nations appear determined to walk away from the leadership they have been expected to demonstrate under the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty, which entered into force in 2005 after nearly a decade of negotiations.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, a cornerstone of the U.N.’s international climate change architecture – the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFFC) – the world’s 37 industrialised nations and the European Union (EU) pledged to reduce their greenhouse gases by five percent, measured against 1990 levels by the end of 2012, when the first phase of the protocol ends.

During the climate talks here, which ran from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, the “Annex 1 countries” as the bloc of industrialised countries are dubbed under the Kyoto Protocol, offered little hope to the developing world that the talks will produce new, legally binding emission cuts that are higher than the prevailing five percent to cover a period from 2013-2020.

“The negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol need to be concluded successfully, and that means having the second commitment period in place by the Doha CoP,” says Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based intergovernmental policy think tank of developing countries. “It was meant to be revealed at the last Cop in Durban, but it was postponed by a year.

“That is why the Doha talks will have to be about the Kyoto Protocol; if not what is the point in all these negotiations,” he tells IPS. “The disappointment of developing country negotiators was evident during the final session at the Bangkok talks. They realised that the developed countries are not showing any leadership to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.”

Even the EU’s offer to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over an eight-year period from 2013 onwards was dismissed by environmental activists. “The Kyoto Protocol that the European Union wants here is one that is not legal, but merely a ‘political decision’,” says Asad Rehman, head of international climate at Friends of the Earth, a global green campaigner. “The 20 percent target the EU is offering is ‘business as usual,’ and business as usual is killing the climate – it is criminal.”

Environmental activists are fortified by scientific reports that call for more emission cuts to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising to levels that could cause environmental havoc. The Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for global emission cuts of 25 to 40 percent by 2020 to keep the world’s temperature from not rising about two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age mark.

And other critics of the industrial countries argue that a climate regime being pushed by the world’s biggest polluters, accounting for 70 percent of the GHGs from 1890 to 2007, could condemn the planet to a worse fate. “What was agreed (at the last CoP in 2011) in Durban is a regime of ‘laissez faire’ until 2020, where only ‘voluntary pledges’ for emission reductions will be done,” wrote leading members of Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based think tank, in a commentary in the Bangkok Post.

“The tragedy is that these pledges are going to represent only a 13 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels,” says Pablo Solon, executive director, and Walden Bell, a co-founder, of Focus on the Global South. “This will lead to an increase in the global temperature of at least four to six degrees Celsius in this century.”

The United States, despite being the world’s worst polluter, stood its ground during the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol’s greenhouse gas cuts by refusing to sign onto the legally binding five percent target. And now, it is flexing its muscle to steamroll over expectations the developing world had for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

“The U.S. government is opposed to a top-down structure under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period,” says Meena Raman, legal advisor to the Third World Network, a think tank lobbying for developing country interests, based in Penang, Malaysia. “The U.S. is for a voluntary pledging system to cut emissions that is not based on science nor based on equity.”

Yet even if the deadlock over the future of the Kyoto Protocol is broken in Doha, the scenarios that will unfold leave little room for optimism for the worst affected from climate-related disasters – the world’s poor. “Even if we see a second commitment period emerge, it will look even bleaker, since the targets under the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period have not been met,” says Dorothy-Grace Guerrero, coordinator of the climate and environment justice programme at Focus on the Global South.

“AOSIS has placed numbers on the negotiating table for the survival of small island states from rising sea level,” she tells IPS. “They want Annex 1 countries to slash their emissions by 50 percent from 1990 levels for the second commitment period.”

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“The Truth is That All Problems Have Solutions” – Even Climate Change in Ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/the-truth-is-that-all-problems-have-solutions-even-climate-change-in-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-truth-is-that-all-problems-have-solutions-even-climate-change-in-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/the-truth-is-that-all-problems-have-solutions-even-climate-change-in-ethiopia/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 16:03:46 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=111968 Eight years ago Kenbesh Mengesha earned an uncertain income collecting firewood from local government forests and selling them to her fellow slum-dwellers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She would earn on average about 50 cents a day, if she was lucky. But now she is part of a successful women’s farming project that is a model […]

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A successful women’s farming project in Ethiopia is a model for training other urban farmer groups all over Africa on how to adapt to climate change. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

A successful women’s farming project in Ethiopia is a model for training other urban farmer groups all over Africa on how to adapt to climate change. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
ADDIS ABABA, Aug 24 2012 (IPS)

Eight years ago Kenbesh Mengesha earned an uncertain income collecting firewood from local government forests and selling them to her fellow slum-dwellers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She would earn on average about 50 cents a day, if she was lucky.

But now she is part of a successful women’s farming project that is a model for training other urban farmer groups all over Africa on how to adapt to climate change.

According to the World Bank, Ethiopia is extremely vulnerable to drought and other natural disasters such as floods, heavy rains, frost and heat waves. Global warming has worsened this, as global circulation models predict a 1.7 to 2.1 degree centigrade rise in the country’s mean temperature by 2050.

This is expected to have a significant impact on food security. As recently as 2011 the country and the entire Horn of Africa were hit by the worst drought in 60 years. It resulted in a severe food crisis, with the United Nations declaring famine in the region.

The World Bank estimates that food insecurity will cost Ethiopia 75 to 100 billion dollars each year to adapt to climate change from 2010 until 2050.  

So when Mengesha and 29 other women who also used to earn a living collecting firewood formed a local community organisation, it became the start of a safer and more sustainable way of life.

“Collecting firewood was and still is a risky job. I know of several women who have been raped by men who take advantage of them while in the bush collecting the firewood,” she says.

But today life is less uncertain for Mengesha. And she is no longer cutting down the country’s natural resources in order to get by.

Known as the Gurara Women’s Association, which now has a membership of 200, the group farms almost two hectares of free government-leased land near Gurara slum in Addis Ababa by practicing what it calls an integrated bioeconomy system.

Community self-help groups here are allowed to apply for government land through the local government and the sub-city administration – if the project is to be implemented within city environs. The women’s group has a five-year renewable lease.

This group of women has discovered innovative ways of handling the ever-changing climatic conditions and combating food insecurity.

They were trained by the non-governmental organisation Bioeconomy Africa, which runs the Africa Bioeconomy Capacity Development or ABCD Institute. The women underwent two weeks of training on different integrated techniques in small-scale agriculture.

And it has proved successful as it has earned the members of this association enough money to feed their families, pay school fees for their children and even create employment opportunities for others.

This in itself is a significant feat in this East African nation, which has a population of 82 million people and is the second-poorest country in the world. According to the Multidimensional Poverty Index, developed by Oxford University, 90 percent of Ethiopians live in utter poverty, with 39 percent surviving on 1.25 dollars a day.

“We learned how to utilise the least space whether fertile or not, for maximum agricultural production,” said Fantanesh Atnafic, one of the founding members of the organisation.

“In the recent past, we have seen environmental conditions change – drastically. Rainfall is no longer reliable as it was some 20 years ago. Yet when the dry spell comes, it is usually more prolonged than normal, which has a negative effect on agriculture in general,” she said.

But a changing climate does mean defeat for smallholder farmers, according to Dr. Getachew Tikubet, the director of operations at Bioeconomy Africa.

“It is true that the climatic conditions are changing, which is a huge setback for many African farmers. But the truth is that all problems have solutions. And that is what we are trying to address with African smallholder farmers,” he said.

The women’s association uses different methods of intensive farming that create an ideal environment for their crops.

“We usually blend indigenous knowledge of farming, such as use of manure, with scientific techniques learned from different organisations and individuals, which include extraction of biogas and methane gas from the cow dung before using the residue as manure,” said Atnafic, a mother of six whose husband was killed in the military 20 years ago.

The gases are used as fuel to replace the use of firewood.

“We have learned many things. For example, during hotter climatic conditions like what we are experiencing at the moment, we construct structures that are roofed using black nets in order to keep moisture in the soils,” explained Ihite Wolde Mariam, the association’s chairperson.

Black net roofing has been shown to reduce the amount of heat on the ground.

“Naturally, the black colour absorbs heat. And when we make a greenhouse with a black net, or make ordinary farm roofing using the black net above the crops, we actually reduce the heat underneath by 40 percent. This eventually reduces the evaporation rate, hence saving the soil moisture for the crops,” explained Tikubet.

The women’s group has managed to purchase 10 Friesian dairy cows for milk production.

The members currently grow various types of vegetables such as spinach, kale, tomatoes and carrots, as well as crops for commercial purposes. The fresh produce is used in the kitchen of the on-site restaurant they opened to the public.

“We also use cow dung to produce biogas that is used in the restaurant for cooking. After that, the dung is then converted into organic manure to be used for horticulture,” explained Mariam.

For further income generation, the group has started a poultry project, with 500 laying hens. It also has 12 beehives for honey production and four commercial bathrooms where slum-dwellers shower for a fee.

“This is one of the most successful urban farmer projects that has benefited from our training programme. They have become a model for training other farmer groups from all over Africa,” said Tikubet.

“They have clearly demonstrated that small-scale farming is the way to go, in order to achieve the much desired green revolution in Africa,” he said. “Unfortunately, modernisation neglects smallholder farmers.”

And each member of the group earns between 300 and 350 Birr (16 to 19 dollars) in dividends every month, in addition to the three dollars a day that they are paid for working on the farming project.

“The dividend is already good enough. It has enabled me to see my last-born son through secondary school, and it allows me to afford basic necessities and provide for my grandchildren as well,” said Mengesha, a mother of five.

*This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

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Climate-Battered South Asia Looks to Rio+20 Formula http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/climate-battered-south-asia-looks-to-rio20-formula/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-battered-south-asia-looks-to-rio20-formula http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/climate-battered-south-asia-looks-to-rio20-formula/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 15:54:14 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=111483 Far-flung South Asian communities, from the high Himalayan slopes to the Indian Ocean coasts, united in the face of extreme and uncertain weather, continue to hold on to the hope that the Rio+20 focus on disaster risk reduction (DRR) will positively influence national policies. “There is hope in India, the biggest country in the region, […]

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Fishermen dock their boats on a thin strip of sand at Kollam, in Kerala state of south India. Credit: Max Martin/IPS

Fishermen dock their boats on a thin strip of sand at Kollam, in Kerala state of south India. Credit: Max Martin/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Aug 3 2012 (IPS)

Far-flung South Asian communities, from the high Himalayan slopes to the Indian Ocean coasts, united in the face of extreme and uncertain weather, continue to hold on to the hope that the Rio+20 focus on disaster risk reduction (DRR) will positively influence national policies.

“There is hope in India, the biggest country in the region, that the final statement at the Rio+20 summit titled ‘The Future We Want’ gets translated into national policy before it is too late,” Vinod Chandra Menon, former member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, told IPS.

Menon, now disaster management consultant to several international bodies, said the current severe drought in South Asia, caused by the failure of this year’s monsoon, should compel policy makers in the region to “walk the Rio+20 talk” and recognise that man-made activities are contributing to climate change.

“For decades there have been warnings that reckless extraction of groundwater was not only lowering the water table drastically but also disturbing the sensitive rain cycle of precipitation, condensation and recharge with serious consequences for rain-fed agriculture,” Menon said.

“It is not far-fetched to say that agricultural distress, marked by the spectacle of farmers committing suicide by the tens of thousands, is the result of an inability to translate climate change knowledge into policy,” Menon said.

According to G. Padmanabhan, emergency analyst and officer-in-charge of the disaster management unit at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New Delhi, the Rio+20 statement’s value lies in the call for “a renewed sense of urgency” and “adequate, timely and predictable resources” to build resilient communities.

“South Asia is exposed to a variety of hydro-meteorological hazards, and is high on the priority list for risk reduction measures, especially in the context of climate change,” Padmanabhan  said, adding that the DDR call has special relevance for South Asia.

The statement favoured integration of DRR with sustainable development policies and planning, strengthening of institutions and better preparedness, warning, response and recovery. It also stressed the importance of integrating DRR with climate change adaptation.

“Rather than merely focusing on mitigation and its physical aspects, Rio+ 20 invited countries to build resilience through a more holistic approach,” Padmanabhan told IPS.

Such an approach is backed by scientific perceptions.

A 2011 report of the UN climate panel — The IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) — noted that climate extremes and even a series of non-extreme events threaten people’s lives and livelihoods, making communities vulnerable and exposed to greater risks.

“A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent and duration of weather and climate extremes, and can result in unprecedented extremes,” noted a 2012 Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) report summarising SREX with an Asian perspective.

“Even without taking climate change into account, disaster risk will continue to increase in many countries as more vulnerable people and assets are exposed to weather extremes. In absolute terms, for example, Asia already has more than 90 percent of the global population exposed to tropical cyclones.”

The Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2012 compiled by the charity Germanwatch termed Bangladesh and Myanmar — along with Honduras — as “most affected” by extreme weather during 1991-2010.

In Bangladesh, 251 events over these 20 years caused an annual average of 7,814 deaths (5.51 per 100,000 inhabitants) and losses of 2,091 million dollars (on purchase level parity, or PPP, a relative value).

More than 80 percent of the deaths occurred in 1991 when 140,000 people died in a cyclone.

In Myanmar (also Burma), 33 events killed, on average, 7,130 people (14.06 per 100,000 inhabitants) a year, causing an annual loss of 659 million dollars (on PPP).

For 2010, Pakistan topped the list due to a severe flood.

The SREX showed a trend of more frequent and intense precipitation days over parts of South Asia. Earlier studies by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have also indicated such a trend.

Climate change and human development

According to SREX, extensive (low-impact/high-frequency) disasters affect human development. For instance, affected areas in Nepal recorded lower primary school enrollment rates and more malnourished children.  

A 2010 study covering 15 districts of Bhutan, India, and Nepal suggested that communities perceive a decrease in annual precipitation and resultant increase in the intensity of dry spells.

The study, undertaken by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), was part of an International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) programme.

The communities also reported an increase in erratic rainfall patterns and heavy showers when it does rain, Dhrupad Choudhury, the programme coordinator, told IPS. They also found winters warmer with reduced snowfall.

The Rio+20 ‘Future’ document talked about such changes in different geographies. As deforestation, forest degradation, glacier retreat and natural disasters hit the mountains, it called for collaborative efforts to achieve conservation, food security and poverty alleviation.

“The text provides rationale for action,” David Molden, director general of ICIMOD, told IPS. “Mountains are home to only 12 percent of the word’s population; but 40 percent indirectly depend on them for water, hydroelectricity, timber, biodiversity and niche products, mineral resources, recreation, and flood control.”

Professor Saleemul Huq at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka, added, “The Rio+20 outcome on green economy holds promise for Bangladesh as it will enable the country to develop its own green development pathway.”

The green economy concept values nature and environmental services and promotes technologies that address the root cause of climate change – global warming due to too much fossil fuel burning.

Mizanur Rahman, programme officer of Islamic Relief Worldwide in Dhaka, said Rio+20 favours a top-down, government-oriented approach and it works. “For countries like Bangladesh, strengthening people’s capacity is also very important, but unfortunately it has not been highlighted.”

Speaking over telephone from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala state, T.  Peter, the secretary of the National Fishworkers Forum, which represents the interests of artisanal fishers, told IPS, “Getting money, under green economy or climate adaptation initiatives, is not important – but how it is spent for the safety and wellbeing of marginal people like us is.”

Peter and his colleagues are actively resisting displacement of fishers for conservation, development and DRR initiatives.

In the south Indian technology hub of Bangalore, Prof. J Srinivasan, chairperson of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Science, echoed the scepticism of the global green lobby. He said when the industrialised West is excused from responsibility, all other efforts naturally become weak.

“The biggest bottleneck,” Huq said, “is the reluctance of global leaders to realise that the current economic growth paradigm is unsustainable and needs to be pointed down a more sustainable pathway.”

*Max Martin contributed to this report.

(END)

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Trash Collectors Become Zimbabwe’s Unlikely Climate Change Ambassadors http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/trash-collectors-become-zimbabwes-unlikely-climate-change-ambassadors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trash-collectors-become-zimbabwes-unlikely-climate-change-ambassadors http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/trash-collectors-become-zimbabwes-unlikely-climate-change-ambassadors/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2012 05:33:04 +0000 Stanley Kwenda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=111408 Tomson Chikowero was ashamed of his job. He did not want anyone finding out what he did to earn a living, so he used to wake up early every morning and leave his home in Hatfield, a residential suburb in Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, under the cover of darkness. And he would return only after […]

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By Stanley Kwenda
HARARE, Aug 1 2012 (IPS)

Tomson Chikowero was ashamed of his job. He did not want anyone finding out what he did to earn a living, so he used to wake up early every morning and leave his home in Hatfield, a residential suburb in Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, under the cover of darkness.

And he would return only after sunset when no one could see him carrying the bags of plastic bottles that he collected from people’s trash that day.

Tomson Chikowero carrying the bags of plastic bottles that he collected from people’s trash for recycling. People like him have become Zimbabwe’s unlikely climate change ambassadors. Credit: Stanley Kwenda/IPS

For the middle-class Chikowero, who was formerly employed as a builder but lost his job in 2010, collecting plastic and cardboard boxes from people’s trash to resell was embarrassing at first. But now he has become one of a handful of unlikely climate change ambassadors here.

Climate change has already had an impact on the country, with the Meteorological Service Department confirming that rainfall here has declined, while temperatures have risen in the past few years. It will, according to a study released on Mar. 21 titled Strengthening national capacity for climate change programme in Zimbabwe, place the country’s food security and economic growth at risk.

However, trash has a role to play in climate change mitigation in this southern African nation. A 2010 publication by the United Nations Environment Programme titled Waste and Climate Change said: “after waste prevention, recycling has been shown to result in the highest climate benefit compared to other waste management approaches. This appears to be the case … also in developing countries.”

Barnabas Mawire, the country director for Environment Africa, an environmental NGO, agreed that recycling is important for Zimbabwe.

“Recycling helps climate change (mitigation) a great deal…If industries recycle plastic bottles and scrap materials they will not use the same amount of energy they would use if they were making plastic or metal from scratch. If they recycle, they would use less raw materials and energy and that has been proven to reduce the carbon footprint,” he told IPS.

The United States’ Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) factsheet on recycling stated that “recycling plastics uses only roughly 10 percent of the energy it takes to make a pound of plastic from virgin materials.”

While there are no estimates on how much Zimbabwe would save in greenhouse gas emissions, recycling in the United Kingdom currently saves more than 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the annual emissions of 177,879 passenger vehicles.

But many Zimbabweans are not aware of climate change or mitigation efforts. This southern African country has no climate change policy, though it is in the process of formulating one with the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

So when Chikowero first started collecting trash he, along with the hundreds of others who sort through people’s trash to collect plastic and cardboard boxes for resale, merely did it to earn a living in a country with an unemployment rate of 70 percent. A kilogramme of plastic can be sold for between seven and 10 dollars.

While there are no official figures on how many people earn a living from this, the sight of people collecting trash from Harare’s suburbs is a common one. Plastic buyers at the Mbare Musika market in Harare told IPS that they deal with over 200 garbage collectors every day.

The market is the biggest in the city, and has an organised area for buyers of recyclable material. In addition, Mukundi Plastics, a packaging and recycling company in Harare’s industrial area, said that they receive deliveries from about 100 people a day.

Recycling is important to the country. According to the Environmental Management Authority, a government body set up to protect environmental services and goods, Zimbabwe is running out of landfill sites.

In addition, the Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa 2011 said that Zimbabwean households generate solid waste amounting to 2.7 kg per day, of which only 47 percent is biodegradable. Authorities often resort to burning trash as a way of disposing it, a practice considered harmful to the environment.

Recycling is a great way to combat this.

Chikowero first learnt about climate change and how recycling can reduce carbon emissions when a buyer mentioned it to him and other trash collectors as a way of encouraging them to continue their work.

“We were just doing this for the money when we started, and I wondered why people are interested in buying plastic bottles and cardboard boxes, until we were told what happens once the plastic is bought from us,” Chikowero said. It is recycled by both local and international companies for the manufacture of soft drink bottles and cereal boxes.

He also did not realise that by encouraging domestic workers in the homes he collected trash from to separate paper from plastic, he was helping Zimbabwe with climate change mitigation.

According to the study Strengthening national capacity for climate change programme in Zimbabwe, commissioned by the government and U.N. agencies, the nation lacks the capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“I asked them to separate plastic bottles from the waste that they put in their rubbish bins. At first they were hostile to the idea, but with time when they became familiar with me and understood why I was asking them to do so, it became easy,” said Chikowero.

The more people embraced the idea, the easier his job became. And he is now able to collect larger amounts of plastic in less time, thereby earning more money.

Currently he collects plastic from 50 blocks of residential flats in Harare’s city centre and the outlying areas of Eastlea.

The caretakers of these flats are also fast becoming part of his sphere of influence. “They help me a lot and that makes my job easy,” said Chikowero as he pointed to a notice by the caretaker encouraging residents to separate their paper and plastic from the rest of their waste on a wall at the St. Tropez Flats in Eastlea.

Here, housemaids Idah Ndadziyira and Tatenda Munjoma told IPS that three other plastic collectors passed through the building on a regular basis, and that they, like Chikowero, taught them about climate change and the importance of recycling.

“I did not know what it was about. In fact I thought it could only happen in other countries and not in Zimbabwe until the plastic collectors educated me about it… I am now sharing the information with other people,” Ndadziyira told IPS.

Chikowero has now gotten every third house in the Eastlea suburb to recycle their plastic, and other households are steadily catching up.

“It’s now a way of life. That’s why this movement is growing,” said Chikowero.

Even the country’s National Climate Change Committee coordinator, Dr. Toddy Ngara, acknowledged the efforts of trash collectors like Chikowero.

“Their work is commendable, they have helped a lot in cleaning our cities and are now helping to clean the environment with their contribution to the recycling industry,” Ngara told IPS.

The government’s climate adaptation committee has promised to consult and use them as ambassadors in developing a national climate change strategy.

The director of environment at the Ministry of Environment, Irvin Kunene, said at a climate change policy meeting in Harare in early May that “all stakeholders including trash collectors will be consulted in crafting the country’s national climate change policy.”

And it has made Chikowero proud of his job.

“Now, I am no longer ashamed,” he told IPS.

* This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

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Africa Must Earn Its Climate Change Adaptation Finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/africa-must-earn-its-climate-change-adaptation-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-must-earn-its-climate-change-adaptation-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/africa-must-earn-its-climate-change-adaptation-finance/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2012 07:36:46 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=111297 With the United Nations Climate Change Conference less than four months away, African countries need to present convincing arguments and successful adaptation projects to attract competitive funding for adjusting to changes in global weather patterns, climate finance experts say. “Africa needs to focus on developing strong arguments for COP 18 and beyond based on clear […]

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Anita Onumah displays green chili for export in Accra, Ghana. Experts say that small climate adaptation projects are key for Africa’s success. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Anita Onumah displays green chili for export in Accra, Ghana. Experts say that small climate adaptation projects are key for Africa’s success. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Busani Bafana
HARARE, Jul 27 2012 (IPS)

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference less than four months away, African countries need to present convincing arguments and successful adaptation projects to attract competitive funding for adjusting to changes in global weather patterns, climate finance experts say.

“Africa needs to focus on developing strong arguments for COP 18 and beyond based on clear evidence,” climate change and finance expert, and chief executive of OneWorld, Belynda Petrie, told IPS *. The 18th Conference of Parties or COP 18 will take place in Doha, Qatar in late November.

Progress on climate change talks will only be measured by how much pressure developing countries can exert on developed nations to agree on a binding outcome in Qatar.

The last climate change talks held in Durban, South Africa in November 2011 ended with an empty Green Climate Fund, which is intended to direct funding for developing countries to cope with climate change.

According to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, poor countries will need nearly 60 billion dollars a year by 2030 to adapt to climate change. Though the World Bank estimates the figure to be between 20 to 100 billion dollars.

The Green Climate Fund was agreed to in Copenhagen in 2009 and commits to making available 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. However, it is still not clear where the money for the fund will come from.

“COP 18 alone is unlikely to yield major outcomes on climate finance. There is simply not enough time between decisions made during COP 17 in Durban and COP 18 to see major progress by then,” Petrie told IPS.

The answer to the question of funding is particlarly pertinent for developing nations, especially those on the African continent.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the continent is “highly vulnerable to the various manifestations of climate change.”

As a result, the panel says, Africa faces food insecurity from declines in agricultural production and an uncertain climate; vector- and water-borne diseases, especially in areas with inadequate health infrastructure; it is vulnerable to sea-level rise and; will see the exacerbation of desertification.

The panel has predicted that Africa’s warming trend would be 1.5 times more than the global trend, with Southern Africa expected to be about three to four degrees warmer by the close of the century as a result of climate change. In addition, the panel predicted that the African continent would experience increased water stress by 2020.

The outcome of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio + 20 summit, held recently in Brazil, has triggered mixed reactions as it had no relevance for climate change negotiations, and the effects of climate change across Africa.

The Africa Progress Panel has said that the lack of commitment to defined and measurable sustainable development goals is a profoundly disturbing outcome. The panel consists of 10 distinguished individuals from the private and public sector, who advocate on global issues of importance for Africa and the world. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is its chair.

“The scenario for adaptation funding looks grim,” agreed ActionAid’s International Climate Justice Coordinator, Harjeet Singh.

“Fast Start Finance is coming to an end in 2012 and no new and additional money for adaptation post 2012 has been committed yet,” he told IPS.

But African civil society groups are not sitting idly by. Currently experts from the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a network of the continent’s civil society groups, are drafting a policy response to the Rio+20 conference outcomes.

“There are many things within the Rio document that we do not agree with because they are not pro-poor,” said Mithika Mwenda, the coordinator of PACJA. The alliance plans to exert pressure on African political leaders during the U.N. African Ministerial Conference on the Environment to be held in Arusha, Tanzania in September.

Senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development’s climate change group, Saleemul Huq, agreed that the Rio+20 outcome document “means very little for climate change or specifically for Africa.”

“I think that developing countries in Africa and elsewhere will be able to get more international finance from global funds, such as the Green Climate Fund, if they start to pursue adaptation actions. The more they are able to prove they can actually do it, the more they are likely to attract in global finance.”

Though this raises another contested issue – how the World Bank and the international community select projects for climate change financing.

Mwenda said that existing projects do not have a direct impact on the majority, and the poor.

“In Africa, we have major projects such as the Olkaria Geothermal power project in Kenya; the Medupi power station in South Africa; the Clean Development Mechanism Fertiliser plant in Egypt among others. All these projects are mitigation projects. But they do not have a direct impact on small communities that are highly affected by climate change and need to adapt to its impact,” said Mwenda.

He said that the African group was keen to see funding for small adaptation projects that directly targeted communities.

Meanwhile, Petrie told IPS that developed countries, which are largely responsible for climate change, should make available finance for adaptation in Africa in the form of grants or soft loans.

“Accessibility is key,” said Petrie.

She said that the negotiators of developing countries should ensure Africa’s easy and direct access to the Green Climate Fund.

“The negotiations are about creating ease of access, but at the same time those providing the sources of finance, for example, donor countries, will insist on stringent requirements,” said Petrie.

“It is our job as Africans too ensure that there is transparency both on developing and developed country sides and that the requirements are the most appropriate to a given situation. We also need to get our house in order and prepare ourselves for direct access.”

Dr. Dennis Garrity, the Drylands Ambassador at the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, supported the move by the civil society, and said that Africa’s hope post Rio+20 lies with the people.

“The world is generating ways in which organisations and movements can have influence in forcing decisions, and they need to exercise such powers in order to bring change,” he said.

*Additional reporting by Isaiah Esipisu in Nairobi.  This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

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Bolivia in Need of Coordinated Climate Change Policies* http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/bolivia-in-need-of-coordinated-climate-change-policies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bolivia-in-need-of-coordinated-climate-change-policies http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/bolivia-in-need-of-coordinated-climate-change-policies/#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 17:55:16 +0000 Franz Chavez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=110503 The effects of climate change are causing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in losses of crops, livestock and housing in Bolivia. But the few climate change adaptation and prevention policies adopted by the authorities are piecemeal and fragmented, experts say. In the June 2011 to May 2012 agricultural season, 0.3 percent (21,000 hectares) […]

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The ski run on Chacaltaya glacier is just a memory now. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

The ski run on Chacaltaya glacier is just a memory now. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Franz Chávez
LA PAZ, Jun 29 2012 (IPS)

The effects of climate change are causing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in losses of crops, livestock and housing in Bolivia. But the few climate change adaptation and prevention policies adopted by the authorities are piecemeal and fragmented, experts say.

In the June 2011 to May 2012 agricultural season, 0.3 percent (21,000 hectares) of the country’s farmland suffered flooding, hail or drought, according to the Ministry of Rural Development’s contingency unit.

And a total of 20,449 families in 72 of Bolivia’s 328 municipalities lost income or had problems putting food on their table, according to government statistics.

The damages may seem mild compared to previous years: In 2007, the impacts of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather phenomenon affected a surface area nine times bigger than over the past year, with 185,432 hectares damaged. And from mid-2008 to mid-2010, the farmland where crops were destroyed totalled 162,045 and 164,963 hectares, respectively.

But the impact of these disasters is magnified by Bolivia’s vulnerability: this nation of Amazon rainforest and Andes highlands has a great variety of ecosystems, and over half of the population lives in poverty.

Poor native communities in rural areas bear the brunt of flooding and drought, Mirna Inés Fernández, an activist with the group Reacción Climática, told IPS.

This year, the area most heavily damaged by flooding was the pastureland on the plains in the northern province of Beni, while Chaco, in the south, has suffered from intense drought, the contingency unit reported.

The Beni plains were still cut off from the rest of the country in mid-June, Zamira Cortez, the head of the early warning system, told IPS from the municipality of Santa Ana del Yacuma.

The road between that town and the provincial capital, Trinidad, was still covered in water, and the 291-km drive, which usually takes five hours by car, took up to three days by boat.

In that livestock-raising area, the growing season is short, from September to December, and farmers have to weather cycles of drought and flooding, which make it impossible to produce large volumes of food.

Extreme weather events “have caused between 300 and 400 million dollars a year in losses of goods and trade flows since 2006,” says “Tras las huellas del cambio climático en Bolivia”, a report on climate change in Bolivia published in 2011 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The average temperature in this country’s tropical Andean region rose by 10 to 11 tenths of a degree Celsius per decade starting in 1939. But in the last 25 years, it has risen between 32 and 34 tenths of a degree every 10 years.

In the Amazon region in the north and northeast of the country, the temperature rose eight tenths of a degree per decade between 1901 and 2001.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report 2007 forecast a higher rise in temperatures in the future, and said that warming in the Andean region accelerated the retreat of glaciers, affecting water and electricity supplies.

The glacier on the top of the 5,400-metre Chacaltaya mountain, 30 km from La Paz, disappeared in 2009, even earlier than scientists had predicted. The glacier, the world’s highest ski area until a little over a decade ago, was one of the first to melt due to climate change.

The UNDP warns that there is little research on climate change in Bolivia. The report said it drew on “specific scientific observations, and local perceptions based on very little systematisation and generated from climate models that still reflect high levels of uncertainty.”

Last year, an on-line forum on agricultural risk management organised by the Ministry of Rural Development concluded that “the position of this country is still in the process of construction, and subject to ongoing adjustments (associated with) the National Development Plan, which in its design will take into account the effects of climate change.”

In 2009, Bolivia organised the World People’s Conference on Climate Change, which called for global justice with respect to rich nations’ responsibility for global warming.

But the country’s domestic institutions and laws are disjointed, fragmented and compartmentalised, with specific actions developed for specific areas, but with no coordination, the UNDP says.

“There is awareness in the communities that leadership is needed, in order to confront these conditions. But the state has not adopted measures,” María René Pinto, the coordinator of the Environmental Defence League’s (LIDEMA) programme for the reduction of vulnerability to climate change, told IPS.

A study by LIDEMA found that the problems of productive infrastructure and water sources have increased the vulnerability of the livelihoods of small farmers from 51 communities in 15 municipalities in the country’s nine departments or provinces.

The study sought to identify roles related to productive, social and environmental development, with the aim of proposing sustainable climate change adaptation measures.

In her visits to the municipalities, Pinto observed an absence of leadership in dealing with climate-related difficulties, but saw an increase in community organising around the issue.

In the highlands, the study found a reduction in incomes, a growing tendency of the population to move away from their home regions, family breakdown, preponderance of monoculture, the generation of conflicts, and shortages of food and water for agriculture and human consumption, due to the shrinking of glaciers.

And in the country’s central valley, conflicts over water sources broke out between communities, family incomes shrank, more and more people moved away, and soil erosion increased.

On the plains in the north and east of the country, many families lost their homes, land and livestock, fell ill from diseases caused by stagnant floodwater, and are isolated because roads are underwater or were destroyed by the flooding.

Citing these findings, the researcher stressed that the country should develop and strengthen its capacities and improve the performance of its institutions, to tackle the problem of adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

She also said it is necessary to put a new value on traditional indigenous knowledge, promote dialogue between different generations of farmers, for the sake of transferring and sharing technologies and know-how, and create prevention strategies.

Technical experts from the Ministry of Rural Development contingency unit told IPS that an integral system of information for small farmers was being designed. The information will include agro-meteorological data, local knowledge, and indigenous wisdom.

* This article is part of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).

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Mapping out Climate Change Adaptation Plans on Kenya’s Airwaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/mapping-out-climate-change-adaptation-plans-on-kenyas-airwaves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mapping-out-climate-change-adaptation-plans-on-kenyas-airwaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/mapping-out-climate-change-adaptation-plans-on-kenyas-airwaves/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 15:07:56 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=110459 On a Wednesday morning in Mutitu-Andei township in Makueni County, one of Kenya’s driest areas, smallholder farmer Josephine Mutiso tunes into Radio Mang’elete 89.1 FM and listens as meteorological experts discuss the changes in rainfall patterns in the county. In the past Mutiso has implemented much of the advice from the community station and has […]

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Festus Kaleli of Radio Mang'elete interviews a young farmer in Makueni County. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Festus Kaleli of Radio Mang'elete interviews a young farmer in Makueni County. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
MAKUENI, Kenya, Jun 28 2012 (IPS)

On a Wednesday morning in Mutitu-Andei township in Makueni County, one of Kenya’s driest areas, smallholder farmer Josephine Mutiso tunes into Radio Mang’elete 89.1 FM and listens as meteorological experts discuss the changes in rainfall patterns in the county.

In the past Mutiso has implemented much of the advice from the community station and has been able to successfully use “Zai” pit farming to rehabilitate her dry farmland.

This is a traditional technique which involves digging pits about 30 centimetres deep and filling them with manure and topsoil. When it rains, the mixture of topsoil and manure is able to retain moisture for a longer period, and it ensures that the crop nutrients are concentrated in the pits.

“I’m in the process of trying it on my one hectare plot for the first time, and it is clear that the spinach crops I planted in the pits are healthier than those planted in furrows,” said Mutiso, a 32-year-old mother of one.

While Makueni County in Kenya’s Eastern Province has always been an arid area, over the last 15 years there has been a significant change in rainfall patterns, which have become more erratic. As a result Mutiso and other farmers here have had to resort to alternative farming methods.

Michael Arunga, the World Vision Emergency Communications Advisor – Africa, says that out of 10 rainy seasons in Makueni County and the greater eastern Kenya, only one season yields enough rainfall to sustain agricultural growth.

“This is an emerging pattern that never existed three decades ago when rains would fail only once every two years,” he said.

Locals here agree.

“From the beginning of 2009 towards the end of 2011 there was no rainfall to warrant the planting of anything,” Mzee Francis Kioko, a smallholder farmer from Mutitu-Andei township, told IPS through a translator.

Makueni County suffers with persistent drought and famine, and 56 percent of the population lives below the poverty line here.

In June 2011 the drought in the region was declared a national disaster and many harvests failed. As a result, the dependence on food aid has increased. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, over two million people in Kenya alone were given emergency food aid towards the end of 2011.

The constant food insecurity in Makueni County and in Eastern Province is one of the reasons why Radio Mang’elete was set up in 2009.

The Mang’elete Community Integrated Development Programme (MCIDP), a network that brings together 33 women’s self-help groups from the Nthongoni constituency in Makueni County, owns the station.

“The world is changing very fast. New challenges are emerging … We have new diseases, new technologies, new climatic conditions, and as a result the world is completely new. Yet to survive in the new world, we thought that we needed a tool that would guide us as we cope with it,” said Sabina Mwete, chairperson of the MCIDP.

The station’s producers schedule much of their programming around climate change adaptation.

The station has been able to address topics like how to plant drought-tolerant crops and keep drought-resistant animals such as goats. They have also discussed the integration of emerging agricultural technologies with traditional methods of farming, the use of appropriate farm inputs, and new methods of pest and disease control.

“We usually invite people who are either experts or have the relevant experience on such issues into the studio to share their knowledge with our audience,” said Dominic Mutua, the head of programmes at Radio Mang’elete.

“For example, to inform the community about the timing for planting, we have been forced to integrate the scientific meteorological forecasts with indigenous weather prediction knowledge.”

And it is something that is greatly needed in rural Kenya. According to a 2010 study by the Heinrich Böll Foundation titled “Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Preparedness in Kenya”, climate change awareness in Kenya is still very low. The research quoted the results of an opinion poll carried out between 2007 and 2008 by Gallup, which found that only 56 percent of Kenyans reported knowledge about global warming. A majority of those unaware of the situation, the study said, were the rural poor.

While smallholder farmers in the region are benefitting from the knowledge broadcast on Radio Mang’elete, the MCIDP has also profited. Each of its 33-member groups are involved in various agricultural and climate-related projects that include initiatives in horticulture, and projects that focus on irrigation and domestic water use.

“We have seen positive change, especially in how people are adapting to climate change. And they attribute it to the information learnt from Radio Mang’elete. This gives us much pride,” said Mwete.

Susan Wambua is one of the rural smallholder farmers who are now very aware of the changing rainfall patterns in this country.

The 66-year-old mother of six has a one-hectare piece of land in Makongeni village in Nthongoni constituency.

“It didn’t rain in this area for eight months,” said Wambua of her experience last year. But then this February, on the second day of the month, the rains finally came.

And Wambua had been expecting it. Radio Mang’elete’s meteorological experts had made the prediction and following their advice Wambua had planted her maize seed in the dry soil the very day before it rained.

Though the predictions are not always accurate, Wambua is ready to take the risk.

Wambua admitted that she has had losses as well. It happened last June when the rains fell one and a half weeks after they were predicted and she had already cast her seed in the soil.

“We have seen people wait until it rains before they plant. But they sometimes end up losing out because in many cases the rainfall is not sufficient or, as we have witnessed in the recent past, it may rain just once.”

But, Wambua said, in February she planted ahead of the rainfall and had a crop to harvest, while many who waited for the rain to fall first before planting lost out.

“It is better to risk with the seed than to risk with the harvest. That is why I’m preparing for planting at any time now, because from what we heard from the radio, and from our own indigenous knowledge, I believe that it will rain in not less than six days from today,” she said.

It is hard to believe. The soil on her land appears arid and even the weeds here have dried up because of the blazing sun. And when IPS visits her, there still appears to be no rain in sight. The skies are clear.

But, five days after her interview with IPS, it rained.

Just as Wambua predicted.

* This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

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Environment in Trouble in Most Biodiverse African Country http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/environment-in-trouble-in-most-biodiverse-african-country/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=environment-in-trouble-in-most-biodiverse-african-country http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/environment-in-trouble-in-most-biodiverse-african-country/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2012 22:17:54 +0000 Baudry Aluma http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=110126 Ranked fifth in the world in terms of animal and plant diversity, the Democratic Republic of Congo is considered to be a treasure chest of biodiversity and a vital regulator of global warming. DRC is the African country with the greatest variety of mammals and birds, and its plant life ranks third on the continent. […]

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By Baudry Aluma
BUKAVU, DR Congo, Jun 19 2012 (IPS)

Ranked fifth in the world in terms of animal and plant diversity, the Democratic Republic of Congo is considered to be a treasure chest of biodiversity and a vital regulator of global warming.

DRC is the African country with the greatest variety of mammals and birds, and its plant life ranks third on the continent. Credit: Chrissy Olson/CC by 2.0

DRC is the African country with the greatest variety of mammals and birds, and its plant life ranks third on the continent.

Analysts regard DRC as one of the most important countries for the future of the planet and in terms of safeguarding the environment. But the country needs a strong legal and institutional framework to ensure sustainable solutions for the conservation of these immense but threatened natural resources.

DRC is ranked dead last among the 187 countries on the Human Development Index. The 2011 HDI report, titled “Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All”, provides many reasons for the country’s low score: weaknesses in governance; recurring armed conflicts, particularly in the east; inadequate environmental services; and a lack of public investment.

The Congo and Nile river basins – which both have their headwaters in the Kivu region, in eastern DRC – need urgent attention if aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are to be stabilised.

The displacement of hundreds of thousands of people by successive wars has placed a strain on forests and rivers, as the local population seeks refuge and a means of survival. Armed groups have directly contributed to environmental damage through poaching and unregulated mining and logging.

However, it is possible to reverse this tendency, according to the former Congolese environment minister, José Endundo, who says that DRC’s natural resource policy has come a long way.

Addressing a steering committee developing national policies for conservation, forest management and biodiversity in Kinshasa in March, Endundo said the country put a new forest code in place in August 2002, which incorporated modern principles for management of natural resources and international conventions on the environment.

Until 1982, when the government tabled a first draft to reform forest legislation, the sector was regulated by a colonial-era law of 1949 whose application was proving difficult in light of political, economic, social and cultural changes in the country.

The 2002 forest code is considered an ambitious one by some Congolese experts, who caution that it has not been followed up by implementation on the ground.

But Endundo insists the country has come a long way. 

Interviewed by IPS, Sandra Kavira, an agronomist with the International Fertiliser Development Center (IFDC), a Dutch non-governmental organisation working in the Great Lakes region, said the threats to the environment in the Kivu region come from the traditional agricultural practices of smallholder farmers, which do not respect the rules of conservation: burning of wooded areas and grasslands, chopping down trees to open new land for farming, the ravenous search for wood for fuel, and a lack of efforts to prevent erosion.

According to Kavira, these are just some of the harmful practices that damage the natural resources of this large Central African country. She said the rapid degradation of the environment in Kivu has already noticeably reduced rainfall and lowered atmospheric humidity.

Kavira's NGO is working to popularise an approach called Integrated Soil Fertility Management. This involves the use of mineral and organic fertilisers in such a way as to sustainably and cumulatively improve the fertility and productivity of the soil. Improving soil fertility is a crucial part of CATALIST, IFDC's broader regional programme to promote productive and sustainable agriculture along with marketing opportunities to strengthen agricultural livelihoods.

IFDC estimates that the loss of soil nutrients from cultivated land in the region is enormous: nearly 100 kilogrammes per hectare per year.

"This is one of the highest rates in the world," Samson Chirhuza, the national coordinator for the CATALIST programme in DRC, told IPS. "In such a situation, the management and protection of the environment becomes impossible."

According to the director of research and planning at the Environment Ministry, José Ilanga, many major reforms have been put into practice. For example, nearly 3,000 forestry agents were retired to make way for the recruitment of around 1,000 new, better qualified officials, increasing the number of university-trained officers capable of responding to the DRC’s modern environmental challenges by 10 percent.

New draft legislation has been tabled in parliament, covering management and protection of the environment, conservation of nature, and tourism. A new Water Act for the country is also expected soon.

On the ground, important projects have been successfully implemented by the ministry, including the DRC Satellite Monitoring of Forest Cover Programme, with support from Japan.

In a phone interview, Marc Kabunda, director of parks for ICCN (the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature), said several new conservation areas have been created.

According to Kabunda, the Protected Areas Rehabilitation Project was launched in 2005, covering 16 reserves, including five pilot zones: Salonga, Virunga, Garamba, Upemba and Maiko. It is jointly financed by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme.

In addition, planners, political decision-makers and other actors have been made aware of the importance of taking into account questions of climate change in policy and programmes for development.

Ilanga said the 125-million-hectare Congo Basin covers half of the country’s area, representing 47 percent of the continent’s tropical forest – six percent of the global total. The basin extends beyond DRC’s borders into Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic and Angola.

But the environment in DRC remains seriously threatened by the expected growth in mining and oil exploitation in the years to come. The east of DRC, particularly the Kivu region, is blessed with an abundance of water and lakes, including the rich fisheries of Lake Tanganyika. The region also possesses a wealth of petrol, methane gas, coltan, gold and diamonds.

But the region has special needs for environmental protection due to the recurring armed conflicts. The wars have provided cover for unregulated exploitation by armed groups of valuable minerals and many types of timber.

The country is already feeling the effects of environmental destruction: the degradation of forests and erosion of the soil, aggravated by climate changes in the Congo basin, with strong heat waves and irregularities in the length of the rainy and dry seasons.

Patrick Nyamatomwa, an environmental activist in South Kivu, says that for the moment, the management of natural resources in DRC falls far short of meeting international standards for sustainable management of forests. He says forestry operators are only interested in financial gain, at the cost of ecological sustainability and taking into account the needs of forest communities.

This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

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Saving the Mangroves Front http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/saving-the-mangroves-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saving-the-mangroves-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/06/saving-the-mangroves-front/#comments Fri, 15 Jun 2012 06:14:03 +0000 Marwaan Macan-Markar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=109993 On a humid islet covered with mangroves, Lucena Duman and her neighbours have found a route out of poverty. They work as conservationists and tour guides in this isolated corner of the Philippines. After feeding her goats, which were once her only source of income, the 46-year-old Duman dons a wide-brimmed sun hat, slips into […]

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Lucena Duman readies for her tour-guide role on Ang Pulo island. Credit: Marwaan Macan-Markar/IPS.

Lucena Duman readies for her tour-guide role on Ang Pulo island. Credit: Marwaan Macan-Markar/IPS.

By Marwaan Macan-Markar
ANG PULO, Philippines, Jun 15 2012 (IPS)

On a humid islet covered with mangroves, Lucena Duman and her neighbours have found a route out of poverty. They work as conservationists and tour guides in this isolated corner of the Philippines.

After feeding her goats, which were once her only source of income, the 46-year-old Duman dons a wide-brimmed sun hat, slips into a yellow guides T-shirt and heads out on her bamboo raft. She is going from her village of small-scale fishers and farmers to Ang Pulo island in the South China Sea.

Her work on the 7.5 hectare islet has brought a new appreciation of mangroves. “All I knew of mangroves before was that they were a source of firewood and food – snails,” she admitted during a break from guiding visitors to plant mangrove seedlings. “But after being trained, we realise it is a richer place for us if we protect mangroves.”

The sea change since late 2009 is not limited to the Philippines. Similar accounts are heard across Southeast Asia as regional and international organisations promoting biodiversity encourage local communities to become foot soldiers to defend what is left of some 63,000 sq km of mangrove forests.

“This is a phenomenon spreading across the forestry eco-system in Southeast Asia and the rest of the continent,” says Simmathiri Appanah, forestry officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Asia and Pacific office in Bangkok. “Communities living close to forests are being drawn to manage and preserve them, and what is happening with mangroves reflects this.”

The new formula offers communities an economic incentive to protect mangroves and, at times, the special rights as co-owners of mangroves. “It is better than policies that prevailed before, where government agencies played a dominant role in managing mangroves, ignoring the people who lived nearby,” Appanah tells IPS.

All ten countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional bloc, have programmes to protect these salt-tolerant trees and shrubs with their thick roots. Local communities, school children and even the private sector have been drawn to this effort.

In Indonesia, the largest country in the region and home to 62 percent of mangrove cover in ASEAN, college students rallying under the banner Green Community are involved in managing the coastal ecosystems near their schools, according to the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), an intergovernmental body promoting conservation in the regional bloc. “They plant mangroves with a number of partners.”

In Malaysia, a mangrove conservation project supported by a private bank has “resulted in an alternative source of income for the communities through the establishment of mangrove nurseries,” adds the ACB. In neighbouring Singapore “children (are being taught) how to appreciate its mangrove ecosystem.”

“The territory occupied by the Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN member states houses a third of the world’s mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass areas,” says Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of ACB, based in the Philippines city Los Banos. “These ecosystems support the highest concentration of coastal and marine fauna and flora in the planet.”

Consequently, the economic value of mangroves needs to be seen in a different light as offering a “stream of ecosystem services” that matter to the fishing and tourism sectors, he explains in an interview. “This paradigm shift is happening now, putting a full value to mangroves to benefit an estimated 600 million people in the ASEAN region who depend on these resources for food and income.”

But there are other benefits, too. Mangroves serve as an important buffer for coastal communities hit by storms that churn up tidal surges, and as a frontline defence of expected sea level rises due to global warming.

Research in Malaysia offers another feature about mangroves helping the planet combat climate change – a high capacity for sequestering carbon. “They represent a potentially vast carbon sink, absorbing and storing excess carbon from the atmosphere,” states Dicky Simorangkir, international advisor to a biodiversity project run by the German international development agency (GIZ). “They are able to sequester some 1.5 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.”

Yet, such growing appreciation for mangroves is not universal, Simorangkir admits. He points to the steady loss of mangroves for firewood, to produce charcoal, and wood chips and timber for sale. Mangroves are also felled in large swathes to make way for shrimp farms. “About 150,000 hectares of mangroves are lost a year around the globe.”

And so the Ang Pulo mangrove conservation park matters in Southeast Asia, which has seen its coastlines lose some 600 sq km of mangroves annually for the last 20 years. “Only one percent of mangroves are protected globally, like the Ang Pulo reserve,” says Simorangkir.

For Duman, it means guiding those who visit the islet, from university students to Filipinos driving from Manila for a weekend holiday, to discover the signs of a mangrove on the mend after trunks were slashed years ago. “There are more crabs and shrimp and over 20 different types of birds now,” she says. “These mangroves are our future.”

The post Saving the Mangroves Front appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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