Archive for December, 2011

Young Voices Speak Out

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 by

Neva Frecheville is the Coordinator of the UK Youth Climate Coalition Delegation to COP17. In this blog she tells us about what she learned from travelling to the climate change negotiations in Durban.

 

It’s not often we hear the voices of those most impacted by climate change. For young people across the world and especially those living in Africa, climate change severely impacts on their lives. But how often do they have the chance to share their experience?

‘African climate stories: voices from the front line of the climate crisis’ did exactly that by giving the young people affected the chance to share their story at a side event at the recent UN talks on climate change.

Young people from across Africa speak out at the climate negotiations in Durban

I’m from the UK. I’ve campaigned on climate change for the last few years because I understand it on a moral level, for future generations and because I’ve always cared deeply about the natural world. But I’d never heard directly from my peers on what it’s like to face the impacts of climate change every day.
Beatrice is 23. She comes from Nairobi, Kenya. Last year she graduated from university, studying engineering. Intelligent and articulate, she describes herself as one of the growing middle class in Kenya who are contributing to its increased stability and hopes of prosperity for the future.

                           Beatrice at the COP17 talks

Last year, water rationing began in her community. Water is now delivered once a week on Thursdays. As the youngest girl in her family, it’s her responsibility to collect the water containers from her house and to fill them up. Like recent graduates the world over, she interns with a big company for long hours on low pay to build experience and get more chance of career progression. If she returns home from work late and the communal reservoir has already run dry, she has to travel further afield until she finds a water source. She’s often exhausted the next day, meaning she wakes late and misses breakfast, one of her two meals a day. This has only been happening since May 2010 but there’s no end in sight. Sharing her story, she became emotional as she said ‘this is my life.’

I count myself lucky, not only for having access to clean water at the turn of a tap, but also for having had the opportunity to meet people across the world who are affected by climate change and understand why this young people across the world need to take action now.

Find out more about Practical Action’s work to help the world’s most vulnerable to adapt to climate change by clicking here.

Bermuda Triangle of economic empowerment

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 by

Read my review of the conversations, sharing and  learning that went on at the SEEP Network Annual Conference and find out what the Bermuda Triangle of economic empowerment is all about.

I presented Practical Action’s Bangladesh work in one of the Vulnerable Populations workshops. Alison Griffith and Lucho Osorio were also at the conference, presenting  lessons of engaging with the national level private sector in Nepal and managing complexity in market development, respectively.

Climate Change Should be prioritized by the Media as a Critical Concern

Monday, December 19th, 2011 by

As Kenya prepares for the first general elections in 2012 under the new Constitution, the media’s focus has been on politics. While this is important, the media should not forget other critical and pressing issues that need urgent attention. As agenda setters and opinion shapers, the media should not be swayed by politicians and their aggressive campaigns to get votes and gain favor among the electorate.

Climate change is one key issue that the media should focus on. The Horn of Africa experienced the worst famine in four decades this year and people are still reeling under its effects. It is laudable that the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern Africa (COMESA) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) launched a joint five-year programme on climate change adaptation and mitigation in early December, 2011. Aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change in the EAC, COMESA and SADC region through successful adaptation and mitigation actions to enhance economic and social resilience, member states need to urgently create policies to implement the programme. It is worth noting that the EAC has taken the lead and established the Climate Change Fund and the Climate Change Coordination Unit.

The media should come in to set the agenda and shape public opinion on climate change. For starters, the media needs to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change among the citizenry, development partners, the private sector and the government. Secondly, the media should provide a platform upon which the citizenry can engage the government on climate change, demanding and claiming their rights to cushion them from climate change impacts such as the famine and floods. Last but not least, the media should find a way of generating debate among key stakeholders on climate change including the government, development partners, the private sector, the civil society and the citizenry.

The impacts of climate change and the need for urgent attention cannot be overemphasized. According to a report by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) (Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries) the impacts of climate change in Africa are many. In regard to water, many countries will face water stress with 75-220 million people facing severe water shortages by 2020. In as far as agriculture and food security are concerned, agricultural production will be severely compromised due to uncertainty about what and when to plant as weather patterns will be unpredictable. Worse still, the report predicts that yields from rain-fed crops could be halved by 2020 in some countries with net revenues from crops falling by 90% by 2100. Last but not least, an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events, including droughts and floods are likely to occur.

Given that Africa and East Africa in particular have low adaptive capacity to both climate variability and climate change, it is important that the mass media use their power to help address these issues. This is urgent and important because the situation is exacerbated by the existing challenges including endemic widespread poverty, limited access to capital, including markets, infrastructure and technology, complex disasters and conflicts.

Climate change should be prioritized by the media as a critical concern

Monday, December 19th, 2011 by

As Kenya prepares for the first general elections in 2012 under the new Constitution, the media’s focus has been on politics. While this is important, the media should not forget other critical and pressing issues that need urgent attention. As agenda setters and opinion shapers, the media should not be swayed by politicians and their aggressive campaigns to get votes and gain favor among the electorate.

Climate change is one key issue that the media should focus on. The Horn of Africa experienced the worst famine in four decades this year and people are still reeling under its effects. It is laudable that the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern Africa (COMESA) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) launched a joint five-year programme on climate change adaptation and mitigation in early December, 2011. Aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change in the EAC, COMESA and SADC region through successful adaptation and mitigation actions to enhance economic and social resilience, member states need to urgently create policies to implement the programme. It is worth noting that the EAC has taken the lead and established the Climate Change Fund and the Climate Change Coordination Unit.

The media should come in to set the agenda and shape public opinion on climate change. For starters, the media needs to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change among the citizenry, development partners, the private sector and the government. Secondly, the media should provide a platform upon which the citizenry can engage the government on climate change, demanding and claiming their rights to cushion them from climate change impacts such as the famine and floods. Last but not least, the media should find a way of generating debate among key stakeholders on climate change including the government, development partners, the private sector, the civil society and the citizenry

The impacts of climate change and the need for urgent attention cannot be overemphasized. According to a report by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) (Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries) the impacts of climate change in Africa are many. In regard to water, many countries will face water stress with 75-220 million people facing severe water shortages by 2020. In as far as agriculture and food security are concerned, agricultural production will be severely compromised due to uncertainty about what and when to plant as weather patterns will be unpredictable. Worse still, the report predicts that yields from rain-fed crops could be halved by 2020 in some countries with net revenues from crops falling by 90% by 2100. Last but not least, an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events, including droughts and floods are likely to occur.

Given that Africa and East Africa in particular have low adaptive capacity to both climate variability and climate change, it is important that the mass media use their power to help address these issues. This is urgent and important because the situation is exacerbated by the existing challenges including endemic widespread poverty, limited access to capital, including markets, infrastructure and technology, complex disasters and conflicts.

People help the people

Friday, December 16th, 2011 by

I have always been a Christmassy person. One of my friends calls me her Christmas friend for my propensity to tie bows and ribbons on everything all year long.

I think it’s the twinkle I love: the glisten of decorations and the golden glow of fairy lights. In the depths of darkest winter, the whole of life somehow seems more sparkly.

And I love Christmas foods; mountains of rich, boozy mince pies and heart-warming vats of cinnamon-scented mulled wine. I love the first deep breath of a fragrant Christmas tree, and the sweet tanginess of a freshly peeled tangerine fished from my stocking on Christmas morning.

And I love being with my family. Admittedly it’s not always peaceful or perfect, but there is always a great deal of jolliness.

But mostly I love the feeling of love that seems to infuse every heart in the world.

I am approaching Christmas 2011 with more sadness and a little less joy than usual though. It has been a year of loss for me and for my family; the loss of loved ones.

When I think of the people I have lost – whether through death or by other means – I remember the women who I met in Africa this summer. Most of them had suffered loss too – the loss of their husbands or their children. I spoke to one mother in Mandera county who had walked for 10 days from Somalia to find food and water in neighbouring Kenya. She carried her two year old son on her back for the entire journey. And then he died of malnutrition the day after she reached help.

I think about that woman and I wonder what she is doing now. It’s raining in Mandera at the moment – the longed-for rains, thankfully, have come. Is she still in Kenya? Or has she returned to her village in Somalia? Has she found her husband? Are the rest of her children healthy, or has she lost more? Has she been able to find enough food to sustain her family? I hope with every molecule of my body that she is safe and well, and that her family is thriving.

Christmas inspires both gratitude for what we already have and sparks a certain greater openness to generosity, kindness and compassion. Charles Dickens wrote in the most festive of novels, ‘A Christmas Carol’, that Christmas is “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable pleasant time: the only time…in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.’

As I prepare to leave my desk for two whole weeks of festive celebration, my heart is with all the people I met when I was in Africa, and for every vulnerable, forgotten, underprivileged woman, man and child around the world. As the embers of 2011 settle and the bright lights of 2012 beckon, I am sending them all of my love and good wishes.

Next year I hope we can all do more to help build a fairer world, one which is free from poverty and injustice.  Two billion people live in abject poverty, with less than 80 pence a day. That’s two billion too many. People, please help the people.

Thank you – and happy Christmas.

Nepalese couple defied the odds

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by

Nirmala Bogati and her husband Shyam Bogati are a sought after couple in their village. Both Nirmala and Shyam are dairy farmers from Chitwan District and are confident that they can earn better in their own village than their neighbours who often resort to foreign employment.

Recently, Nirmala and Shyam shared their story of success to Radio Audio’s Khulduli.com programme.  Through khulduli.com their stories were broadcasted to 35 districts in Nepal. This is a story of a regular couple who defied odds and ditched foreign employment to work on their farm instead. 

Shyam states, “I had been raising cows and selling milk for the past 15 years. I lost four cows in a month and that is when we hit the lowest point in our lives. I thought of going to a foreign country but luckily our future had something better in store for us.”

Nirmala heard about the MASF-Dairy component Project providing series of training sessions on livestock management, shed management, techniques to increase milk production, feed and fodders, mineral blocks as well as practical knowledge on overall dairy value in Nepal. She immediately shared the information with her husband and decided Nirmala would attend the training classes.

“As soon as I attended the classes I was confident I could improve our living standard. My husband and I started growing quality grass for our livestock, we kept our livestock clean, we sought timely medical care, and we provided the livestock with the mineral blocks which helps in digestion and provides essential nutrients. And in time the milk production increased and our income too. In a year we have added two cows which totals to four milking cows. We sell NPR 200,000 worth milk and our net profit is NPR 120,000. Our monthly income is around NPR 20,000,” said Nirmala.

Through the radio programme both Nirmala and Shyam share the importance of home grown opportunities. They also state that they are earning much more and are happy that the whole family is together. Nirmala and Shyam encourage those seeking foreign jobs to work and seek opportunities in Nepal and Shyam hands out his mobile number to those seeking information on good practices of dairy farming.

You can listen to their story at http://www.aradioaudio.com/index.php?pageName=taaza&nid=255

Nirmala and Shyam have shown that if there is a will there is a way out. 

 

Energy crisis in Nepal

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by

A recent study by Practical Action indicates that about 61 per cent households in Nepal do not have access to minimum energy required for lighting. Addressing Nepal’s energy problems requires an increase in access to modern form of energy.

Devi has three children to look after. All day long she has many chores to complete – cook and clean. By the time she finishes her daily chores its already dark. She does not have kerosene left to light her room and she cannot afford it either. She wants to comb her hair, wash her face, and change into something comfortable for a good nights sleep but she cant because she cannot see a thing; forget finding anything. You and I can still do many things after dark but Devi’s day ends once the sun sets.

The only source of lighting left is the kitchen fire, once the fire is out there is not even a single source of light left in the house. You and I have access to many kinds of energy to light our homes as we have the resources but Devi does not.

Devi has to walk an hour to get to the nearest motor able road access and wait for a taxi (which may or may not come) to take her to the nearest market which is an hour drive. But she also needs money to buy kerosene and money is scarce. With little money she has she purchases basic necessity such as salt, sugar and cooking oil. Devi’s life is hard. Can you imagine living like her in the dark after the sun sets?

Recently, Practical Action installed a 400 watt vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) in her village of six households. All six households now have access to clean energy.

“My life is so much better now that we have clean energy for lighting in our homes. We could barely afford the trip to buy kerosene,” s aysDevi.

The newly installed wind turbine supplies energy equivalent to 2 light bulbs for each 6 households in Devi’s village. She is happy with the change and say “We can also charge our mobile phones and watch TV.”

Devi’s niece now has light to study and complete her homework.

 

This is a power station operator showing us how he controls the flow of power to each household. The wind turbine is integrated with 260 watt peak of solar energy system.

“I am so happy now,” says Devi. “I can do so much even after the sun sets. I don’t have to hurry and finish my chores and we don’t eat dinner at 5pm anymore. We have the luxury of eating when we want. Time is no more a restriction, all thanks to the wind energy.”

Most of the rural hilly villages in Nepal are not connected to the national grid. Go to www.practicalaction.org and see how you can donate and change the lives of women like Devi.

Watch more success stories from rural Nepal at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgg3s3m-7sQ

Putting the global into science

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 by

We are attending two great science conferences early next year

The ASE conference is an annual must for all science teachers interested in finding out what the latest science resources available are for keeping up to date on current policy and practice.  On 5-7th January we will be there to show teachers the great resources we produce and how they can enhance their science teaching.  If you are attending do please come and see us, we’d love to find out what you like about our work and what else you’d like us to produce,  go to http://www.ase.org.uk/conferences/annual-conference/

Then on 25th February if’s off to the ‘What is science for? ’ conference in Widnes , which will focus on the importance of global issues in science teaching. Sessions will include:

  • Andrew Hunt – Making sense of our global interdependence through science
  • Prof Malcolm Dando – Bioethics and biological weapons
  • Eric Fewster – Science and engineering for relief and development
  • Prof Justin Dillon – “Doing” science versus “Being” a scientist: Making sense of young people’s aspirations and attitudes to science
  • Prof Justin Dillon (Workshop) – Climate change education within the new National Curriculum: threats and opportunities for teachers and students.

To book for this conference please go to  www.whatissciencefor.eventbrite.com

 

The long road ahead after Durban

Monday, December 12th, 2011 by

Buried amongst the acres of coverage of the financial crisis and whether or not the UK is in the EU any more, it’s hard to tell exactly what the outcome of the Durban Climate Change Summit really is. That is the problem. Hardly anyone cares any more – or so you would be led to believe. Green house gas emissions are still shooting up despite this global economic crisis. According to the World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report, if all the coal-fired plants scheduled to be built worldwide in the next 25 years come into operation, their lifetime CO2 emissions will equal those of all coal burning since the start of the Industrial Revolution. It hardly bears thinking about.

Flooding in Bangladesh

Durban seems to have set us off on a journey towards a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas in a decade’s time, but to get everybody even to start seems to have involved accepting delay and avoiding the key decisions about who should make cuts and when. This is in a context where even the International Energy Agency, reckons that we need to have got our investment in low carbon energy infrastructure sorted by 2017 at the latest to have any prospect of hitting the 2°C limit on global temperature rises.

The Durban agreement doesn’t look to me as if it has done anything to help us achieve that. Once again we have ducked the issues and planet and people will pay for it.

Aftermath at Durban

Sunday, December 11th, 2011 by

Around dawn today, Sunday 11th December, the COP President banged the gavel down on the final session of negotiators at the climate summit in Durban. What was agreed? well, it isn’t a complete disaster. The Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding agreement to reduce emissions, will continue into a second commitment period. In parallel, a process for building a more comprehensive and ambitious treaty regime was launched – one that will include all countries in binding commitments to reduce emissions. Important decisions were made on adaptation, finance, and technology. On adaptation (the negotations track I have been following for 6 years) there is now a clear framework for supporting developing countries in accessing information to help them adapt, in preparing national adptation plans, and in working towards arrangements for loss and damage following climate change-related disasters such as droughts, floods and hurricanes in the most vulenrable countries. On finance, while arrangements for the Green Cllimate Fund are now agreed – there was no agreement on how to raise money for the fund! and without strong commitments on reducing emissions from the largest polluting countries, no amount of arrangements for adaptation will be effective, in the face of rising temperatures.

So, while the Durban conference avoided total failure, and has perhaps staved off future climate disaster, governments by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change. The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed. It’s high time governments stopped catering to the pressure of the oil and coal lobby, and started acting to protect people and planet.