After wading across the low tide mudflats at the Port of Angoche, and into knee-deep water to climb into the fiberglass boat, the big Yamaha outboard wouldn’t start. While we bobbed lazily in the hot sun and I fretted about how nothing in Africa ever goes as planned, the boat skipper removed the rusty sparkplugs and cleaned them in the bailing bucket with a little boat gas and an old toothbrush. Ten minutes later we were bouncing through the swell, heading seaward toward the mouth of the Angoche estuary, flying past the flocks of canoes and dhows sailing these waters. Nothing ever goes as planned, but everything works out in the end.
Cremildo Armando, the marine coordinator of the CARE-WWF Primeiras and Segundas Program, was our guide this afternoon, and we were going to Ilha dos Búzios, an island where Cyclone Jokwe, in March 2008, had destroyed a hundred houses in a small coastal village. We didn’t go ashore, but passed slowly up and down the mangroveless beach in front of the former village. This was Lesson #1 of the importance of maintaining the fringe of mangroves that surround and protect all of the shoreline here around Angoche, and the whole coast of Mozambique: “Ten-Thousand Mangroves Could Save A Village!”
Imported food is changing people’s dietary habits and introducing lifestyle diseases in many of the world’s tropical island states. One reason is that the transition to a modern economy has made food self-sufficiency both unprofitable and unnecessary. At the same time, this aspect of globalization has reduced hunger and may become a necessary part of climate change adaptation.
“Traditionally, fishermen in Belize combined fishing and farming, and were largely self-sufficient. Today, farming brings in too little [money] to be worthwhile, while fish exports and tourism provide revenue for society,” explains Marianne Karlsson of CICERO (the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo).
Karlsson and Elizabeth McLean (of the University of Rhode Island) interviewed fishermen in Belize and the Dominican Republic about how they are experiencing climate change and vulnerability as part of the Many Strong Voices programme (MSV). Actually more of a constellation of researchers and organizations, the programme aims to communicate the complexities of climate change, and to gather information that makes islanders capable of making knowledge-based decisions.
With COP17-CM7 underway in Durban, agriculture has a high place on the agenda. The world’s population has just passed 7 billion people, and is due to reach 8 billion in 14 years’ time. As if the challenge of population growth is not enough, agriculture is having to adapt to a changing climate. Farmers have long been noticing the changes, and are attempting to respond accordingly. But they are often impeded by barriers that could be removed by effective policy and political commitment. Southern Africa is one region where climate change is projected to have substantial consequences for agriculture.
Variations in climate conditions are nothing new for farmers in southern Africa. The region has long been characterised by variations in temperature and rainfall from year to year (and often within years), punctuated by climate extremes, such as floods and droughts. But recent research by Oxfam and Kulima Integrated Development Solutions with over 200 farmers in southern Africa highlights how recent observed changes are different in magnitude to what they experienced in the past.
Farmers have widely kept observations of increased temperatures and greater rainfall variability, which are consistent with meteorological records, and in-keeping with what is expected under climate change. Hotter conditions year round and changes in the rainy season, such as the rains starting later and finishing earlier, as well as rain falling in more intense bursts, have implications for the growing season and increase the risks of poor yields or crop failure. This affects subsistence farmers and commercial farmers, as well as farm labourers, whose employment is often indirectly dependent upon weather conditions. Continue reading
For the past four years, the organization that I work for, The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG), has been running a series of Climate Futures Forums in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The Forums are essentially based on the principles of Community Based Adaptation (CBA) and we have found them to be an effective means for bridging the gap between climate scientists and local decision-makers. In addition, the Forums demonstrate the value of bringing local experts into the community adaptation planning process: these “experts” are individuals that may not necessarily have academic training on climate change or adaptation, but who have observational and experiential expertise. They live, work and play in these communities and know them well. While the Forums have proven to be extremely instrumental for adaptation planning in the Pacific Northwest, I hope that by sharing the process and lessons learned here, other organizations may be interested in replication.
Twin works in partnership with over 50 farmer organisations world wide, facilitating market access and helping to build business and organisational capacity. We are currently developing our strategy to support smallholder producer organisations to effectively plan adaptation interventions with their members; an initial project with Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative Enterprises in Uganda is already underway.
Gumutindo: Climate Change is Here Now.
Members of Gumutindo Cooperative live in the upland valleys of Mount Elgon, where they produce high quality organic and Fairtrade certified coffee. Climate change presents a serious threat to smallholder coffee farmers since coffee trees are highly vulnerable to changes in their environment and only thrive within a narrow temperature range and under the right rainfall conditions. In Uganda, coffee farmers are extremely worried about the future since they are already suffering from increased climate variability including longer drought periods and heavier rainfall leading to poor quality cherry, low yields and severe erosion. In March 2010 following extremely heavy rains, a devastating landslide killed over 300 people that live and farm on Mount Elgon. This season farmers suffered from an unusually long drought season and extremely late rains, threatening food security.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond is a world-renowned expert on ancient societies. His now famous book, Collapse, is a study of the choices societies have made throughout history in the face of change – climate change, as well as others — and the consequences of such choices.
In early 2011, my colleague, John Matthews, and I had a chance to sit down with Diamond to talk about climate change, the challenges presented to conservation and development practitioners, and the opportunities he sees in confronting them.
Three years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a non-government organization in implementing development projects funded by official development assistance. One of the main objectives of the project was to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) through a participatory coastal resources management approach (PCRM) in the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines. In doing so, we hoped to provide an enabling environment for good governance, peace, and development. We partnered with local government units, including the barangays (the smallest administrative division in the Philippines), municipalities and provinces, as well as peoples’ organizations and other community stakeholders.
The process of implementing the project moved these stakeholders from simply being participants in the CRM project to being CRMpractitioners. In the beginning, the communities found managing their MPAs truly burdensome, as they needed to dedicate some of their time to helping patrol the MPAs on top of finding alternative areas to fish. But as they persevered with the project they began to observe a decrease in illegal fishing activities, an increased awareness among local folks on the significance of MPAs, and eventually a witnessed increase in their fish catch.
Three Bengali women in Dhaka. By Ahron de Leeuw via Wikimedia Commons
Last year marked the three-year anniversary of Cyclone Sidr, which ravaged the southern coast of Bangladesh and claimed the lives of 3,500 people. Loss of life was exacerbated by loss of development potential as the fierce storm decimated the mud and thatch homes of countless families, destroyed key infrastructure, and damaged productive land, leaving millions of poor individuals more vulnerable to climate change than ever before. In the wake of Cyclone Sidr, questions were raised about how to build resilience to climate change without compromising national development goals. So now, more than three years later, is Bangladesh developing differently? What lessons can be learned from the Bangladeshi experience to reframe development and climate action as mutually supportive objectives?
One can consider these questions and measure development progress from several angles. As climate change affects men and women differently, understanding the gender dimensions of climate change can provide valuable clues for designing development interventions that build resilience to climate impacts, and are effective and equitable for all.
Ecosystem-based Adaptation. If you understand what adaptation is, then the term “ecosystem-based adaptation,” or EbA, should be self-explanatory. But it’s not. There is perhaps no concept more confusing or misunderstood than this one. So what does Ecosystem-based Adaptation really mean and why are we so confused about it?
To understand the source of this confusion, we must first look at another term – Community-based Adaptation, or CbA. As far as I can tell, there is no universally accepted definition of CbA. Each development organization that employs CbA seems to have its own way of defining it. One definition that I like states that “CbA is a community-led process based on communities’ priorities, needs, knowledge, and capacities, which should empower people to plan for and cope with the impacts of climate change.” (Hannah Reid, Mozaharul Alam, Rachel Berger, Terry Cannon, Saleemul Huq, and Angela Milligan, Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change: an Overview, 2010)
The Maldives is a country with many pseudonyms and identities. The great Venetian explorer Marco Polo referred to the Maldives as the “flower of the Indies”; to the scores of holidaymakers and honeymooners the island nation is popularly known as the “pearls of the Indian Ocean”. In recent years, as the grave threat of climate change has become more apparent, the Maldives has attracted a new identity – that of a nation facing an existential threat.
Vulnerability to climate change
In the short-term, the Maldives is already facing increasing exposure to extreme weather events such as sea-swells and coastal erosion, both of which damage homes, infrastructure and economic development. In the medium term, exposure to increasing CO2 deposits and warming of ocean temperatures threaten the prized coral reef system, exacerbating existing human impacts from fishing, construction, pollution and tourism. In the long-term the Maldives is facing an existential crisis. The majority of the one hundred and ninety inhabited islands in the archipelago lie less than one meter above sea level. According to IPCC scenarios sea-level rise by the end of the century could be as much as ninety centimeters. If this proves correct the nation would become uninhabitable.