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As we mark World Environment Day (5th June 2019), we are starting to change mindsets but we still have a long way to go before alleviating our footprint on our planet. Misean Cara’s Project Officer Don Lucey highlights some of our funded projects that are making good inroads in the area of developing climate resilient communities in countries of the Global South. Read Don’s blog below.

Building Climate Resilient Communities

Climate change continues to have a major impact on the livelihoods of the poor. Over the coming decades, most of the growth in the world’s population will be in the Global South, where many people depend on rain-fed agriculture for their survival. Africa’s population is expected to double to 2.4 billion people by 2050. The demand for livelihoods and food security is on the rise. Even though two-thirds of the uncultivated arable land in the world is in Africa, the African farmer is increasingly susceptible to climate change. Notably, women and girls are more severely affected by climate change than men. They constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force in small-scale and subsistence farming, and encounter its effects at first hand. When food is scarce, female family members often get the smallest portions, thus compromising their health and well-being.

Today due to climate change and the diversion of water to the Rose industry, the water table has dropped and the local river has dried up. Photo: Don Lucey.

Our members’ focus on, empowering small-scale farmers, especially those who are furthest behind, to make them more resilient to climate trends and climate shocks such as more intense dry and wet seasons, droughts and floods. It complements the goals of the Irish Government’s policy for international development “A Better World”, to reduce humanitarian need, increase climate action and gender equality. It is also in line with SDG Goal 1 ‘Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’ and Goal 2 ‘Ending hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture’ and Goal 13 to ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.’

In 2018, Twenty-five projects applied technologies aimed at adapting to the effects of climate change and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, such as the use of hydroponics in crop production in Peru and restoring a silted-up lagoon in Indonesia. In Lima city, Peru, the Presentation Sisters have successfully run a Hydroponics pilot project, which is producing nutritious food in the slum hills without any soil.

Sr. Regina Toomey and members of ADSOPUR visit a hydroponic vegetable production unit in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima. Photo: Adsopur

In Cilacap Regency, Indonesia, the Oblate Fathers are working with the local rice farming community to be more climate resilient through sustainable farming on 150 hectares of failing rice fields. The project is diverting damaging silt run-off from reaching the Lagoon and the fish spawning grounds and mangroves, thus reversing the environmental damage. The nutrient-rich silt is an excellent fertiliser for the rice fields. They are also supporting people to grow mangrove trees from seed and sell plants to Government agencies for a planting program further downstream in the delta, as recommended in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report. The project team have also persuaded the government to plant trees and shrubs in the uplands to lessen soil erosion into the lagoon.

In another example, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary are empowering small-scale farmers in Uganda and Zambia to be more climate resilient, training them, for example, in the use of Indigenous Micro Organisms (IMO). This natural technology can be used for a variety of purposes such as removing unpleasant odours from chicken coops and pigpens; to hasten decomposition in compost heaps; or to control pests and serve as foliar fertiliser. In Uganda, some project participants gave IMO to pigs and prevented the spread of swine flu which had affected neighbouring pig farms.

Maureen O’Dwyer, Missionary Development Officer with the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, explains the use of indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) to Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, at the Creative Responses to Climate Change: a Marketplace for Ideas conference organised by the French Embassy in Ireland in November 2018. IMOs can be used for a variety of purposes including removing unpleasant odours from chicken coops and pigpens; hastening decomposition in compost heaps; or controlling pests and serving as a foliar fertiliser. With support from Misean Cara, the Sisters promote the use of IMOs as part of their work in sustainable livelihoods in Uganda. Photo: French Embassy in Ireland.

The longer-term impact of climate resilient interventions is evident in the Tana River region in Kenya, where three Misean Cara members, the Augustinians, the Spiritans, and the Jesuits, are working in line with the National Environmental Management Authority and the National Drought Management Authority to improve the water security, climate resilience and livelihoods of over 7,000 people. Already, the time spent fetching water daily has been halved, freeing up time (especially for women and children) for other activities such as education. One of the project’s lead farmers, through the application of improved irrigation and sustainable agriculture technology, has succeeded in producing four harvests in a year. In addition, the local clinics have seen a 90% reduction in cases of water-borne diseases, due to improved access to water and the creation of Village Water Committees that manage and protect the supply which is building their climate resilience and increasing the community’s adaptive capacity to climate change.

Sr. Geraldine Henry (MDO) and Sr. Abeba Kidane (Project Manager) from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and local Water engineers show off the new water point with filter system. Photo: Don Lucey.

Photo Caption: Esther from Makere village, Wenje, Kenya collects vegetables from her irrigation plot. Wenje receives very little rainfall. Esther is a farmer and like most farmers in the area, she used to rely on seasonal flooding of the Tana River to grow her crops. She would wait for the river to flood, then plant her crops as the floods receded. This farming system has become highly unpredictable due to more erratic rainfall. Misean Cara member organisation The Spiritans changed this when they started a water irrigation project so that farmers like Esther could grow crops throughout the year. Photo: Stewart Gee, C12 Consultants.