We have a simple booklet to give some ideas of ways we can all act at household, farm and community levels to reduce our damaging impacts on the environment, and also to help vulnerable people adapt to climate change impacts. The ideas are useful for all of us to try out, so have a look at the booklet here: climate-change-actions
What can we do about climate change? We have two main options to address climate change: one is to reduce our negative impacts on the atmosphere by doing things differently so we minimise the changes we are causing; and the other is to adapt our activities so we become resilient to the now inevitable impacts of climate change. We need to do both.
Mitigation. This encompasses the changes we must make to our activities so we cut emissions of greenhouse gases at source and stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. It also includes actions that protect forests so they can continue their work of absorbing carbon dioxide. Mitigation is particularly important in developed countries where the majority of emissions have historically been produced. Some examples of mitigation measures include switching power production from oil and gas to solar energy; reducing our use of private cars by taking the bus, train, trotro, or walking and cycling instead. In southern countries, we can switch from cooking with woodfuel and charcoal to using solar cookers, or switch to using a fuel efficient stove. Both these will also reduce our fuel costs. But the greatest emissions cuts must come from developed countries, as they are the greatest emitters. They’re frustratingly stubborn though, because the leaders and big industries fear it will damage their economies and businesses. Developed countries also have a duty to support developing countries by transferring clean and sustainable technologies, and investing in renewable energies. After all…there’s a lot of sunshine in Africa, but it’s not being used to its full potential.
Protecting the forests is important not only as carbon sinks and as habitats for a wealth of different species, but also because they are home to some 300 million people across the world who gain food and sustenance from the forests’ resources, and 1.6 billion people who depend on them for their livelihoods (UN stats). Many of these forest dependent people live in developing countries. In Ghana alone, 3 million people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and around 70% of the energy needs of Ghanaians are met by wood fuel and charcoal. Forests are also home to a particularly wide diversity of plant and animal species.
Adaptation. Mitigation is critical, especially by the big emitters. But for Africa and many other developing countries, building capacities to adapt to climate change is more important because the impacts have already started and they are only going to get worse. Impacts such as more severe flooding, higher temperatures and prolonged and harsher droughts are already being felt, and communities need to build their resilience so they become less vulnerable and can adapt their livelihoods to these shocks.
Adaptation means changing the way we do things, for example changing our agricultural practices towards more diverse and sustainable farming systems, so that we minimise the risks of impacts posed by climate change, and even take advantage of the changes when possible. As the livelihoods of poor people, especially women, are more sensitive to climate change because of their close dependence on the environment and natural resources, supporting them in
adaptation is crucially important. People facing these challenges have already developed their own adaptation techniques suited to their local environments. They are cost-effective approaches that are easily disseminated, and they mustn’t be overlooked. We must create channels for sharing them. Women’s knowledge is particularly important because of their close dependence on natural resources. They know what they need. But they lack a voice. Their knowledge and needs must be integrated into planning and implementing adaptation strategies.
There’s a huge range of ways that rural communities can adapt to climate change. Some are listed below, focussing particularly on food and water security and sustainable resource use.
- Community seed banks to protect biodiversity, save seeds as a protection against lost harvests, and preserve indigenous seed varieties
- Switch to organic farming methods, e.g. cover cropping, mulching, intercropping with leguminous crops, composting etc
- Plant trees with crops for agroforestry
- Use high-yielding, drought or flood tolerant, and/or quick maturing crop varieties
- Increase crop diversity to reduce the risks of total crop failure
- Practice soil and water conservation
- Harvest and store rainwater
- Construct dams, wells and small scale irrigation systems
- Switch to small livestock more resilient to dry conditions, e.g. goats and poultry
- Increase food processing and storage
- Strengthen agricultural extension services that build small-farmers’ adaptation capacities
- Implement early warning systems to disseminate information on expected drought and heavy rains so people have time for disaster preparedness
- Migrate to more productive lands and resources, though this could lead to conflict and violence
- Diversify livelihoods away from agriculture to earn an income and meet needs through the market.
- Establish community-based forest management to encourage dependence on forest resources for food and sustenance and away from dependence on agriculture
- Support sustainable joint forest management between communities, logging companies and government so communities have access to forest resources in reserves and logging concessions
- Plant trees and establish agroforestry systems
- Enable natural forest regeneration
- Establish buffer zones to reduce soil and water erosion.
Governments, development partners, NGOs, CBOs, agricultural extension advisers and researchers should support communities with training in organic farming and agroforestry, providing seeds and tools, giving advice, and disseminating information frequently on weather, climates and risks to agriculture so communities can be better prepared.
We have two projects that are working with farmers to address their environmental and climate change needs and concerns:
Communities and civil society empowerment for environmental governance in rural areas. Funded by the Commonwealth Foundation in the UK, this project is increasing women farmers’ capacities to advocate and lobby policy makers for participation in agricultural and environmental policy and decision making that will help them adapt to the environmental and climate change impacts they are experiencing. Read more…
Climate change adaptation, poverty & women subsistence farmers. Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID), we are supporting around 1,000 women farmers to improve the sustainability of their farming systems and helping them adapt to climate change impacts. This will contribute to improving their farm productivity and also the food security of their families and communities. We are also providing communities with facilities such as water boreholes for potable water. Read more…