In 2010 Germanwatch estimated that Bangladesh sustained losses of US$ 1.8 billion in damages between 1993 and 2012 from a variety of natural disasters at a cost equivalent to 1.8% of GDP. The 1998 flooding that affected over two-thirds of the country resulted in estimated damages and losses of over US$2.0 billion, about 4.8% of GDP. Research revealed that improve early warning and weather forecasting (EWF) can reduce loss and damage to lives and property at community level due to recurrent multiple disasters. A qualitative assessment shows that receiving voice messages via mobile phone saved crops with worth $50,000 for some flood vulnerable communities of Sirajganj, an upstream region in Bangladesh that recurrently faces flood. Voice messages were sent to 250 mobile phone users. This amplified to additional 10-15 households and motivated people living in areas at risk during the last year’s monsoon to prepare against an upcoming flood.
In 2015 dependency on nature and uncertainty of poor farmers like Anisur has changed because they received flood forecasts at community level. As a result they had the opportunity to plan for the flood and protect their lives and resources.
Practical Answers initiated this bulk voice messages system as an experiment during the monsoon in the Sirajganj district amongst people at risk. This service system was designed for the Zurich Flood Resilience project in Sirajgnaj district. The voice message from Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB, Flood Forecasting Centre) said that there was the possibility of raised water height and forecast a risk of flooding for the next five days for communities living by rivers such as Jamuna.
The original message created by BWDB was shared among a limited number of people. Practical Answers Zurich Flood project team collected the message and disseminated it to 250 stakeholders in vulnerable communities. It took an average of 36 hours to process and channell this message through a bulk voice message system to our responsive stakeholders.
Farmer, Anisur Rahman, lives in Paikpara village by the side of the river Jamuna in Sirajgonj district. He told us how he benefited from this flood forecasting system. He heard the flood forecasting information from a volunteer of the project named Asanur Begum.
“I have a small pond where I cultivate fish but that pond does not have sufficient boundaries that could protect my fish from flooding. When there was lower rainfall I could save the fish as the pond did not submerge. Asanur apa, a project volunteer, organized a group meeting and shared the voice message about the rising water of the Jamuna river. Listening to her advice and after hearing the voice SMS I caught most of the fish from my pond and sold them for TK 6000 (£6). Otherwise all my fish would be gone, as in past years and I could not get this amount of money. Short messages saved my fishes and helped me to earn money by selling the fish. So this message should be continued and we should all be responsive to the messages”.
Other contributors: Mokhlesur Rahman, Guru Das Biswas and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan3 Comments » | Add your comment
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) involves reducing disaster risks through efforts to analyse and reduce their underlying causes. On International Women’s day it is vital to the success of these efforts that the agency of women is not ignored nor overlooked.
Disasters affect men and women, the young and the old, differently. Due to entrenched socio-economic conditions, cultural beliefs and traditional practices, women are more likely to be disproportionately affected by disasters. Hence, the empowerment of women is a critical ingredient in building disaster resilience, risk reduction efforts planned by men will never be complete.
According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), while progress on gender equity has been made, serious gaps and challenges remain in delivering on the international community’s commitments to women’s rights in disaster risk reduction efforts. In too many contexts gender inequalities constrain the influence and control of women and girls over decisions governing their lives, their access to the resources they need and in the contingency planning for when things go wrong.
This need to change, the engagement and leadership of women as change agents in their societies is still overlooked. All too often women are categorized as one of the vulnerable groups and are not identified as an active participant with skills and knowledge to contribute to deliver more holistic risk reduction.
In Practical Action in efforts to overcome these barriers and to build on the agency of women we have developed a set of minimum standards for disaster risk reduction projects.
Sustainable and sustained DRR requires an accountability framework to measure progress and move towards implementation in our projects. If we are able to demonstrate the benefits of gender inclusive risk reduction and capture the lessons learned then we can influence gender thinking at local to national scales. This necessitates for greater availability and usage of gender-disaggregated data, research and programming not only from our projects but form the other actors. Only by working together will the gender gap be overturned leading to more gender-responsive and inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and response management.
If you have any thoughts on our ambition to capture disaggregated data or suggestions on how to build women’s agency in DRR we would welcome your feedbackNo Comments » | Add your comment
At least, a smile means something;
The satisfaction of being the reason of it,
The happiness to see someone happy,
The accomplishment of honest efforts,
The realization of contributing for a cause
All these matters, all this you count
When you are young, Young at heart!
It’s neither the space you work,
Rather the environment of positivity,
Which propels you
Towards goodness and inspires.
The spirit of an action hero
To being the saviour
Not in a dream but by action.
This is what you fantasise
This is what makes you Young
Young at heart.
The philosophy of a Visionary
Visions of Change and prosperity
Traveled through countries
Enabling lives better and happier
Translating the words into action
Action being real; being Practical.
Creating comrades of development
Young Minds and young thoughts,
Because, we are Young at 50.
Lights, life and Livelihood
Water, toilet and self-respect
Disaster, fights and self-sustain
Agriculture and caring the climate
Its power to you, energising lives
In-hand with Tech-Justice
Hopes multiplied and lives dignified.
Aging is just a myth.
We are 50, Young at heart.
No Comments » | Add your comment
Technology can greatly enhance the ability of disaster-affected communities to reduce their risk thus preventing natural hazards turning into human disasters.
Technology has driven our development. Key technological innovations have heralded revolutions in the way we interact with the environment, but this drive for development has now started to threaten our future. Many scientists are proposing that we have now entered a new epoch “The Anthropocene”. This started when human activities began to have a significant impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Climate change is a symptom of the anthropocene, as unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels threatens the future viability of this planet as a home for us and future generations.
The consequences of this global imbalance is felt most by those who are least responsible for causing the problem in the first place. Climate change threatens to deprive poor people of their livelihoods, damage infrastructure, lower productivity and ignite social tensions. The response to climate change will consume resources that could otherwise be directed towards productive activities, and can wipe out years of development in seconds. Humanitarian assistance often arrives too late, when loss and damage has already occurred. Practical Action believes that the goal of development should be to create sustainable wellbeing for all, wellbeing that is resilient and not easily eroded by external shocks and stresses. We must not rely on humanitarian response alone. Communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate should be prioritised for action and under the Paris agreement technology will be central to how the global community responds to climate change. But the way in which technology is accessed, innovated and used is critical to the effectiveness of this response, especially for communities who face extreme or recurrent natural hazards.
Technologies exist that have the potential to reduce the exposure of poor and vulnerable populations around the world, but technologies are either not rolled out or are not functioning to provide communities with usable information about their risk. Technologies can manifest in different ways to alter community risk. Technology is central to monitoring risk exposure and technology is central to support people to respond to risk. But poor communities continue to be hit by regular disasters with no advance warning. What are the underlying conditions that create this disconnect between technology and vulnerability?
It is clear that access to technology and its benefits are not equally shared. The current innovation system is not working. Without change, it will continue to drive injustice, inequality and lead to avoidable damage and destruction. It is time to overhaul how technology and its innovation are governed, in order to ensure the wellbeing of all people and the planet.
Be part of a movement for Technology Justice. Check out our call and be part of the change!
No Comments » | Add your comment
The historic moment finally came on Saturday 13 December 2015, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
While every party was not able to get all their demands, overall the agreement is a good balance between the different positions of the negotiating groups and a commendable outcome of the process. The consensus suits the diverse legal structures of the parties thus improving the odds for speedy ratification.
There is much to be done to make the document perfect but even more so to implement the various provisions of the legal instrument and the decisions. One of the most exciting aspects to me is the recognition of adaptation as a global priority and the commission of all countries to communicate their adaptation actions thus making adaptation a global priority.
The further commitment towards putting global warming below 1.5°C to accompany the current hard limit of 2°C is another really big plus especially for the African group which stood firmly on this warming ambition target, benchmarking domestic climate commitments set out in the submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). This presents a balanced priority on mitigation and adaptation, further augmented by the decision for all countries to communicate their adaptation actions while also reporting on their mitigation activities and support, both given and received.
Gaps on Loss and Damage and climate finance
The agreement however leaves a lot of gaps on Loss and Damage. It excludes liability or compensation for losses and damages even though it directs countries to create a special process to address those that stem from unavoidable climate impacts which overwhelm the limits of adaptation, following the procedures laid out in the Warsaw International Mechanism.
A similar dilemma is in the climate finance element where despite the pledge of an annual minimum $100 billion from developed countries by 2020, it is not yet clear which finance mechanism will be used. However the shared vision is that this may be through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and/or Least Developed Countries Fund which essentially are the financial decision making bodies of the COP. The Adaptation Fund may eventually be part of the GCF but that’s for us to wait and see. It also not yet clear what the determinants of the $100b floor target are as it is not backed by any scientific or technical ground. So whether it will be enough or too little is hard to say at this stage.
Ambitious and broad INDCs, especially for the African countries that submitted individual targets, will need to inform national development agendas to be consistent with the agreement. Donors and supporting countries have further pledged to support a climate proof development agenda, reinforcing the need have a climate lens in planning for development in all the sectors where Practical Action works. This can already be seen with the DFID SUED programme for example.
The GCF and the Adaptation Fund have also pledged to work on improving their efficiency and opportunities for direct access. Coupled to this is a great commitment towards green energy in Africa as well as opportunities that create wealth, generate jobs and multiply the capital injected.1 Comment » | Add your comment
It was almost 10pm in Paris, as a tired looking Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, said “I see no objections”, barely glancing at the rows of country delegates packing the room, then sharply banged his gavel bring the Paris Agreement to life. After more than 20 years of negotiations by 196 countries, a global climate deal had finally been sealed. On Saturday 12th December 2015, rich and poor countries alike agreed to differ, but in the process adopted 31 pages of dense, legal text which, just possibly, could set the world on a different, cleaner, safer, development path.
In recognition of climate change as a symptom of unsustainable development, the world met in Paris over the last two weeks to negotiate the text for a new global climate agreement to combat the threat of climate change and indirectly put development on a more sustainable pathway. At several moments during the last few days such an agreement appeared impossible, but finally after an extension of one day the Paris Agreement was struck.
The French delegation along with UN Sec Gen Ban Ki-Moon and Christiana Figueres celebrate the moment
So what is in the agreement? The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to at most 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit them to 1.5°C, recognising that this would significantly reduce risks and the impact of climate change. The agreement also established a system to review each country’s emissions every five years, and conduct regular global “stocktakes” of the targets. To facilitate the process the developed countries have committed to provide $100 billion a year of finance by 2020 to support developing countries. So with a target, a longer term ambition and a mechanism to monitor and “ratchet up” ambition every five years, the basics have been put in place to reverse decades of fossil fuel dependency.
During the closing speeches the role of civil society in the successful outcome of the deal was recognised by many of the parties attending. Civil society organisations, such as Practical Action who participated in many of the annual meetings and sub-committees, were recognised for their contribution to the debate, especially their assistance to developing country delegations. Presentations made at side panels and questions asked of country delegations help to highlight the challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable. This interaction helps to put a human face on what can become faceless negotiations. But in addition to our project experience civil society will also have a key role to play to ensure the political promises are delivered. Organisations such as Climate Tracker, that monitor governments performance in decarbonisation and reforestation using global monitoring systems, are vital to hold governments to account on their climate actions.
Overall the Paris Agreement sets us on a new path, hopefully one that is not only more sustainable, but one that is fair, just and equitable. The global fall in oil prices may finally be bringing home the message that we need a new global system and a new economic model. The fall probably has more to do with over production, falling demand and a glut in stored capacity, than the ramifications of the agreement in Paris, but the #Keepitintheground campaign among others highlighted the risks we are taking. Financial resources and research capacity should be focused not on fracking and identifying new fossil fuel reserves, but instead at answering the challenges of renewable energy storage and distribution, necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.
We need to start to thinking outside the box. Our current economic structures and processes were designed by thinkers who lived over a century ago; that world no longer exists. The agreement signed on Saturday has changed this world, by establishing a finite barrier of temperature increase. This agreement must send a clear message to investors, businesses and citizens that the fossil fuel age is over. We must ensure the transition to renewable energy is made as quickly as possible, and ensure this is done in a way that does not limit the development aspirations of those less fortunate than ourselves. As our founder said over half a century ago “Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility” E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful.
Increased action is needed to achieve universal energy access before 2030
No Comments » | Add your comment
The weather is always a great conversation topic for us here in the UK. And when it is as extreme as Storm Desmond in the north of England, our hearts go out to those affected. But listening on the radio this morning to Marcus Davidson of Corbridge in Northumbria, I couldn’t help comparing his experience with those of families in Bangladesh.
Shaylo and her son Gias are just one of hundreds of thousands of families in Bangladesh living with the everyday reality of devastating floods. Not just once, but almost every year. They’ve moved five times, not because they were moving into a nicer part of town or so they could have an extra bedroom; but because the floods have destroyed their home.
I really can’t imagine what it must be like to rebuild your home on what seems to be an annual basis; and not just the functional structure of a house, it’s all the other bits that make it your home. The little trinkets that are filled with memories: the drawing your child has brought home from school where you kind of look like a potato – but you don’t mind because it was a present from them to you, so you love it anyway. How do you start over again and again with all that? And climate change will make these events more frequent.
The experience of losing your home and personal treasures to flooding is equally bad for families in England and in Bangladesh. It is in the aftermath that make things are so much worse for Shaylo. She has no insurance or savings, there is little local authority support or helpful service providers to help her get her back on her feet. She is reliant on the support of her community, most of whom are as poor as she is.
|Shaylo Balo, 50, Bangladesh
Marital status: Widow
Job: Labourer, seasonal
Dependents: Gias, aged 14
An average working day for Shaylo involves some physical labour during the harvest season. She could be cutting mud for roads or husking peanuts, and will take home 80 taka (less than £1) for a 12 hour day.
Shaylo usually gets one meal a day, consisting of potatoes or rice. Like any mother would, Shaylo often gives up that meal to make sure Gias is getting enough food.
Shaylo is expecting this year to move for the sixth time in six years. Her home is usually built using materials left behind from the floods, and she and Gias will do the work to rebuild themselves.
How can we help these families get themselves out of this desperate situation?
What on earth can you grow in sand left behind by floods? This summer, despite having perfect soil and great weather conditions for them, I failed miserably at growing some courgettes. I say growing, but what I really mean is replanting a courgette plant from a pot into my garden. Anyway, the fruits of my labour were pitiful and barely worth mentioning. So, again I ask – what can you grow in sand?
As a charity focused on using really simple technology for problems just like this, Practical Action has a solution. Pumpkins. Yep, that’s right. The humble pumpkin is the hero of this story, usually only brought out for Halloween or Thanksgiving, to be carved or turned into a pie, and no doubt thrown away afterwards. Pumpkins grow really well in sand. Not only that, they then provide the much needed nourishment families in Bangladesh are struggling to get – and can also provide a source of income for them. What’s more, the seeds can be regrown, so it’s a long-term, sustainable solution to the problem.
£38.26 is all it takes to give a family everything they need to start growing their own pumpkins in Bangladesh. Less than £40. I’ve been known to spend twice that on my vain attempts to de-frizz my hair, or on a new pair of shoes that have some kind of sparkly element to them. Less than £40 can change lives in Bangladesh.
I would urge you to read more about this wonderfully simple solution and about how you can help to change their lives, and really know you’ve helped someone who needed it.
The UK Government will be matching your donations, pound for pound up until 31 December, so if you donate now, your impact will be doubled – and the number of people that can be helped will be doubled too.No Comments » | Add your comment
It’s been a busy time at COP21 for the Kenya (and Africa) delegation. We had the African CSO’s ‘demonstration’ demands on adaptation finance – a push informed by the apparent exclusion of adaptation financing from the ADP negotiation text and the obvious lack of commitment from annex 1 countries’ commitment to adaptation.
This was followed by a high level side event on opportunities and actions in developing countries where Prof Judy Wakhungu presented on lessons from Kenya.
- Norway, USA and UK have signed an MoU to cooperate on private sector engagement in addressing climate change issues
- All sectors (agriculture, water, education, transport etc.) are required to mainstream climate change and all sectoral financing is required to be climate smart.
- There is a likely to be a financing gap on adaptation. We will need to leverage on other finance instruments to meet adaptation needs (this is still a big debate here)
- Kenya finally passed the National Climate Change Bill last week – it is awaiting presidential assent.
- Kenya government focus on improving forest and land use management
So far the greatest achievement has been to pull some of the developed nations into the 1.5° C warming target and the acknowledgement of climate smart actions across all sectors is indeed a big plus.
There is progress and (dare I say it!) some unanimity on low carbon and climate resilient development pathways at COP21. The biggest hurdles remain clarity on climate financing instruments and mechanisms for supporting adaptation and other means of implementation.
Africa reiterated their position for parity between Adaptation and Mitigation on Africa Day. The demand was for operationalization of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) through clear and binding means of implementation, technology transfer, finance and capacity building.
Of direct importance to us is the commitment by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to prioritize renewable energy and agriculture and establish a transformational budget of at least $5 billion a year for the next five years to support implementation of the African INDC’s. There is a likelihood of great opportunities for co-investment with private sector ‘and governments’ in exploring and taking advantage of this financing instrument.
There’s also a big plus in having 53 (out of 54) African countries to have submitted their INDCS (only Libya have not). These are expected to re-define the national development plans and more specifically sectoral investments especially in agriculture, energy, forestry, transport and infrastructure. This fits well within our Agro-ecology and renewable energy aspirations. The EAC actually gave a commitment of setting up an East Africa Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency under the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and modelled around such a centre within the ECOWAS.
It was also a big day for the Adaptation Fund, with the commitment and pledges of financing from:
- Sweden: 17 Million Euros
- Germany: 50 Million Euros
- Italy: 2 Million Euros
- Belgium : 1 Million Euro
This is a positive shot at addressing the increasing adaptation needs and enabling more effective delivery of adaptation programmes considering that the sustainable future of the Adaptation Fund is not yet assured. Next week we will be meeting under the Adaptation Fund NGO network to provide suggestions to the Board on how to make this fund more accessible and effective. The mechanisms so far in place have made it very obscure thus relegating its importance in the climate finance negotiations and commitments.
Later today I will be attending the Green Climate Fund side event to pick on the plans for 2016 and also the AMCEN meeting to review the draft agreement text and hope to feedback tomorrow.
No Comments » | Add your comment
Week 2 Day 2; UN Climate Change Conference, are we there yet?
With 48 hours left to reach agreement on the text for a climate change agreement the atmosphere in Paris is mixed with some believing an agreement will be reached, while many are worried that it will not be robust enough to deliver. The negotiations started on a high note with 150 heads of state making bold statements outlining the urgency of action and the potential threat if we fail to tackle climate change. Many leaders highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the need to stand by the poorest and most vulnerable as they face the consequences of changing climates.
David Cameron made an opening address and Nicola Sturgeon spoke at a side event on Scotland’s commitments
The numerous side events supported by parties and observers have highlighted the consequences of inaction on climate change. We have heard from poor people in coastal areas whose livelihoods have been disrupted by powerful cyclones and fish stocks decimated by ocean acidification. In the negotiations the small island states have eloquently reported on the migration challenge they face as sea level rise threatens their land. Poor farmers from Africa, Asia and Latin America have taken to the podium to speak about the loss of their crops due to failure of rains or harvests decimated by unknown outbreaks of pests and diseases. The 5th report of the IPCC documents the scientific basis for climate change, unfortunately this report also highlights that we are not all equally impacted, that not everyone has access to the resources and services to respond when disaster strikes.
So given the recognised urgency and apparent political will why is an agreement at risk? Key challenges remain around differentiation, finance and means of implementation. Differentiation is recognition that not everyone is equally responsible for the mess we are in. If we take historical emissions into account the developed world is responsible for at least 60% of global emissions. The recent economic development in nations such as China and India is adding to the global carbon budget, so what is needed now is a mechanism whereby some nations reduce emissions quickly to provide enough carbon space for developing economies to eradicate extreme poverty and meet their development potential. To resolve differentiation needs equity to allocate fair shares of the carbon budget. For countries that have used their carbon budget in the past they will have less in the future and vice-versa. This would allow every country to know their limits and thus develop clear targets on mitigation – developed or developing – in their national development plans.
Finance is potentially the biggest hurdle to an agreement by Friday. The historic failure of the developed economies to meet previous promises and lack of clarity on future promised finance threaten to derail an agreement. If the leaders were honest about international cooperation the developed world need to be clear on its commitment to help those who are not to blame for the present climate problem. One simple way to achieve this goal would be to cancel subsidies to fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency tells us that to keep to 2oC target – as agreed in Copenhagen – we need to keep 2/3 of all know fossil fuels in the ground. So why do we continue to invest billions to identify new fossil fuel deposits and why are we wasting money on fracking?
Means of implementation includes the legal mechanism, how the agreement will be monitored and enforced and the issue of loss and damage. The agreement needs to describe a process that delivers the finance and support necessary so that we stay on track. In particular the agreement must have checks and balances to ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind.
- Read more about Practical Action’s work at COP21
- Delivering on Loss and Damage – The Critical Role of Technology Justice
- IPCC 5th Assessment Report
- Fossil fuel subsidies exceed Green Climate Fund support 40:1
No Comments » | Add your comment
Not a history lesson but a reminder of the urgency of moving from talk to practical action.
In 1972 a group of scientists at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a highly respected US university) published a report ‘The last call’. In it they argued that the planets resources were finite and we were getting close to the limit. We could slow down, change course, find a new pattern to our existence slowly or continue as now eventually leading to catastrophic change.
Whichever way change was coming.
A few months ago I sat in the House of Commons and watched a film about the report and what followed. The Club of Rome published a book called ‘The Limits to Growth’ which sold 30 million copies. President Carter embraced the idea and talked to the American people about change. But President Reagan who followed revoked the idea, insisting growth was good, growth was essential to the American way of life.
Forty plus years on it was a history lesson. But in some ways the Carter – Reagan tension continues played out on a bigger, now global scale.
Change is happening.
For many poor communities catastrophic change is already happening with the increased frequency and strength of cyclones, more flooding, more drought. In Ethiopia they are facing the worst drought for 30 years. In Zimbabwe when I was there earlier this year I heard people talking about changes in rainfall patterns that were devastating harvests.
In the UK this weekend in the North of England and Scotland we’re experiencing severe flooding. And over the past decade in the UK we’ve seen record breaking rainfall (and our records go back to 1879). It’s impossible to link any individual severe weather event with climate change – but these increases in the severity of rain i.e. harder, more intense rainfall, tie in with the predicted impacts.
The reality is that poorest and therefore most vulnerable people – whether in the developing world or in the UK – feel the impact of climate change first and hardest . We need to take action.
The Time for Change is now.
The perceived tension between protecting our planet and economic growth continues to polarise the climate change debate. But if we grow in a way that destroys our ability to inhabit our planet – how does that make sense?
As world leaders gather in Paris for the UNFCCC meeting I read in the press that there’s optimism a deal can be agreed – not enough to keep warming below the vital limit of 2 degrees but a step in the right direction.
I also read that we may have hit a peak in emissions.
And that renewable energy is now outperforming fossil fuels.
Maybe change is starting?
But for change to happen it needs to move beyond political agreement
Agreement in Paris will be a first step in the right direction. But even if there is agreement the ‘devil will be in the detail.’ Fine words are relatively easy but implementation more difficult – and sometimes easy to ignore, or just too difficult to make happen.
So sadly to repeat the words of MIT 43 years ago – change is coming, it will happen, we can plan or we can have it forced upon us but the days of choice are getting shorter and the human stakes much higher.
I believe that if we care about poverty reduction, about people and our planet, we will make immediate, deep and binding change happen now. And plan so that what I hope will be the amazing rhetoric of the UNFCCC conference, the great agreement becomes experienced reality.
This next week is a time of opportunity – lets hope our world leaders step up and make change happen.
No Comments » | Add your comment