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Jun-05-2009 14:22printcomments

Protecting Natural Resources & Coping with Climate Change in Rural Africa

Africans find effective practical solutions—June 5th is World Environment Day.

Africa Greenhouse Gases
Associated Press / Khalil Senosi Courtesy:

(NEW YORK) - Africa, the world’s poorest continent, has the lowest emissions of greenhouse gases. Yet it’s is likely to be hardest hit by climate change. The UN estimates that, by 2020, as many as 750 million Africans will face water shortages, while in some countries rain-fed agricultural production may drop by 50 percent.

To remedy the situation, as much as $50 billion in annual spending may be required. But wealthy nations are not keeping up as it is with making good on a string of promises of much smaller sums in humanitarian and development aid for Africa.

Next December, at a UN conference in Copenhagen, countries are expected to sign a new pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Eager to ensure a meaningful place at the table, 30 African nations just agreed to a range of measures to adapt to climate change, pledging policy changes with regard to water, agriculture, forest management, marine resources and tourism.

“As NGOs, we have to do our part to assist these countries,” says Siobhan Walsh, executive director of Concern Worldwide US, an international humanitarian and development agency, “and help develop a range of effective local solutions that can be scaled up across countries and regions—at an affordable cost.” Concern is pursuing this approach in an environmental pilot program in rural Zambia.

In the country’s Western Province, Zambia’s poorest and most isolated region, excessive logging has depleted forests, over-use of fertilizer is threatening wet lands, poor fishing policies have damaged the ecosystem of lakes and streams, erratic heavy rainfall is causing floods, and there are longer, more extreme periods of drought.

The bulk of the area’s 880,000 inhabitants who are already impoverished were facing a sharp decline in agricultural and fishery production, a loss of means of livelihood and potentially extreme poverty.

But Concern’s “Community-led Disaster and Natural Resource Management” program is targeting 54,000 people in 70 communities across three districts with a comprehensive approach to tackling all the local vulnerabilities.

“This project does not cost millions of dollars—but it can potentially be replicated across Zambia and far beyond, creating results that money can’t buy,” said Walsh.

As in all of Concern’s programs around the world, explains Walsh, the communities themselves are active partners in all the work. Fifteen new Natural Resource Management Committees at both the village and district level are playing a crucial role.

Concern country staff, working closely with the committees, will enlist about 1000 farmers and give them specialized training—in tree planting and the management of tree nurseries; in organic farming methods that do not require fertilizer; safe and sustainable ways to boost agricultural production; the creation of fish farms; and alternative livelihood options during periods when fishing is banned, such as carpentry, crafts and honey production.

In addition, communities will clear 550 miles of neglected and clogged drainage canals to help prevent flooding of the Zambezi River and its tributaries.

Concerns works in 28 of the world’s poorest countries, including 17 sub-Saharan African nations, and reaches some 23 million people.

The organization’s goal is the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty and the reduction of suffering. Programs focus on emergency relief and long-term development work in the areas of health, HIV and AIDS, livelihoods and education.

Source: Concern Worldwide U.S.

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kerena June 6, 2009 12:56 am (Pacific time)

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