In Bangladesh, Christian Aid support is empowering people to cope better with the current and future impacts of climate change. One such example is a three year climate change adaptation project, being implemented by the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) with local partners GKT, Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) and Rupantor. The overall goal of the project is to build a climate resilient society better able to adapt their lives and livelihoods to the dangers and risks associated with climate change in Bangladesh. The project focuses on the poorest in society who are increasingly the hardest hit by climate change precisely because they are poor and lack the voice, assets, services and information necessary to adapt.
Through the project, BCAS and its local partners are working with vulnerable groups in the following three districts:
1. Manikganj (central floodplain): an area affected by floods, river bank erosion, water logging, hot spells and drought.
2. Gopalgani (south central Bangladesh): increasingly experiences prolonged flooding, water logging, heavy rainfall, the salination of water sources, rising temperatures and cyclones.
3. Bagerhat (coastal villages): water salination, river bank erosion, tidal surges, cyclones, rising sea levels, water logging and unpredictable rainfall.
In these three districts, BCAS and its partners have carried out participatory research, working with the most marginalized in the community such as women, the elderly and the disabled, along with farmers, fishermen, landless labourers, shrimp cultivators and rickshaw pullers. By sharing their own perspectives, people are better able to map the hazards and resources in their communities, as well as identify what they could do differently, immediately or in the long term, to improve the situation.
Having mapped out all the issues and risks facing them, the communities, with the support of our partners, are developing local strategies and action plans. Examples of adaptation methods supported by the BCAS Climate Change Adaptation project in 08/09:
Floating allotments: floating beds are prepared using water hyacinth, weeds, algae and bamboo in areas affected by water logging. Vegetables and spices such as pumpkin, ochra, garlic and ginger are cultivated on floating allotments. Growth and crop yields are higher than normal farming practices and the floating allotments can withstand prolonged flooding. BCAS and its partners have trained poor farmers and provided financial support to some of the farmers to prepare floating allotments.
Tree planting: planting trees improves the environment by preventing erosion, as well as providing income generating opportunities. People have received training and support to plant and care for saplings of a variety of local tree and plant species that are able to thrive in wetland and coastal ecosystems.
Duck rearing: in the flood plain and other areas, duck rearing is an effective alternative livelihood, especially for women. 16 individuals from each of the three districts have received training and support to get them started in rearing ducks.
Crab fattening: farming crabs is an excellent income generating activity for people living in areas affected by water salination, tidal surges and the rising sea levels. BCAS and its partners have trained 15 groups of people in how to care for or fatten up crabs and sell them for money.
Over the next 12-18 months, BCAS and its partners will continue to support and train the communities in adaptation methods, and build partnerships though which the communities can share their experiences and encourage the adoption of these techniques in other climate affected areas in Bangladesh and elsewhere.
Fortunately the Caribbean has had a very quiet hurricane season so far. Last year (2008), there were four major storms in the space of just four weeks in this region. This year Jamaica has not yet been hit by any major storms. The season lasts until November, and we are hopeful that things will remain calm.
Jamaica has been hard hit by the global economic crisis, and the government cannot cover its budget. The government has had to request a loan of $1.2 billion from the IMF.
The UN’s climate change panel warned in 2007 that storms in the Caribbean basin were likely to become more frequent and more intense, because of climate change.
In the run-up to Copenhagen, Christian Aid and several local partners in Jamaica are taking part in a project called ‘Voices for Climate Change’, lead by the National Environmental Education Committee (NEEC) and Panos Caribbean.
The project is delivering a national communication and education strategy to raise awareness of climate change and lobby the government on the importance of this issue.
One of the campaign’s key demands is for Jamaican Prime Minister to personally attend the climate talks in Copenhagen in December. This echoes Christian Aid’s own climate campaigning in the UK – where we have been demanding that Prime Minister Gordon Brown attends the Copenhagen talks in person. He has now committed to doing so.
Partner update: Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ)
JFJ helps people understand their human rights and how to claim them. This involves, for example, explaining how communities can engage with local government structures to demand that the government deliver the services it has promised.
The low-income community of Springfield, St. Thomas, has recently had two big successes on this front. Residents have successfully lobbied their local government to repair a community centre and to set up an adult literacy centre.
JFJ is now also working with two state departments, the Ministry of National Security and the Social Development Commission, to help them include key human rights concepts in state-run community programmes.
In October 2009, the Executive Director of JFJ, Dr Jennifer Carolyn Gomes, will receive the Order of Jamaica, the country’s fourth highest honour, in recognition of her human rights advocacy work.
Increasing need for food aid
Latest UN figures anticipating the number of people who will need food aid in 2010 stand at 2.5 million, which some are seeing as positive in light of the seven million people who this year depended on food aid to survive. But William Anderson, Zimbabwe country manager warns that any optimism should be tempered. ‘Yet again the UN are going to be providing food aid, now the eighth year in a row and the numbers will undoubtedly exceed the predictions of 2.5 million people,’ he says. ‘From the perspective of promoting good governance, the state should be providing social welfare and so this is unacceptable.’
Working with another Christian Aid partner, ZimPro, Dabane Trust has been able to reach some of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable communities in Matabeleland, an area which has seen little investment in development over the last decade. By providing training and seeds before the rains begin in October they expect more than 20,000 men, women and children to need no food assistance in just a few years time.
With partners’ ongoing assistance, including helping people protect themselves from health risks that compromise their ability to work, such as cholera and HIV, they can ensure farming becomes profitable and so an end to poverty.
The generous support of the United Reformed Church has been critical to ensuring we can continue this work and our wider programme in Zimbabwe. Stephen Hussey, Director of the Dabane Trust, says, ‘Thank you to Christian Aid and to the United Reformed Church. We are grateful that you care. ‘
ACTION 5 December The Wave: Come to the service at Westminster Central Hall and hear the Archbishop of Canterbury and then join the March to encircle Parliament. Bring the family, wearing blue and make a wave at 3pm to show you care about the world God created. Why not bring a banner telling us which Church you represent?
Less than 50 days till Copenhagen. Ask your MP to sign EDM 2052- tackle the climate crisis. http://the-wave.org.uk
Linda Mead – Commitment for Life Programme Co-ordinator,
Mission Team, United Reformed Church
Commitment for Life is here to help United Reformed Churches work for a fairer world and for peace with justice, recognising that change and response starts with each one of us. www.cforl.org.uk