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NEPAL: Climate Change Vulnerability Training

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By Cynthia Awuor, CARE Climate Change Focal Point for Eastern and Central Africa

Having recently joined CARE International to work on climate change issues in Eastern and Central Africa region, I was excited by the prospect of traveling to Nepal to co-facilitate the Climate Change Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment and CRiSTAL training workshop.

This was my first trip to Nepal and considered myself fortunate to get a good view of the beautiful, snow-peaked Himalaya Mountains as we flew in to the capital city, Kathmandu. On my way to the hotel, I caught the sights and sounds of Kathmandu. Besides the stunning backdrop of the hills and mountains, I noticed that car hooting was much less than what I heard in other Asian capitals. It was fascinating to see how skillfully the many vehicles, motorcycles, tuk tuks, rickshaws and pedestrians weaved past each other.

Soon after I arrived I had the chance to interact with CARE colleagues from Nepal, Vietnam and Ghana. They were helpful, warm and courteous. Our initial conversations on global affairs went a long way in making me feel at home and at ease.

On the second day, we descended from the valley and headed towards the workshop venue in Bharatpur; Chitwan Province. The journey was smooth. I basked on the views of tree-covered and human-settled hillsides, valleys and wide rivers with clear waters. As we meandered down the slope, we passed by small, colorful towns dotted with traders and customers going about their daily business.

In the training I played the dual role of participant and co-facilitator. My learning experience was rich and intense. I learnt about the Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (CVCA) tool, what it is and how it is applied on an ongoing project in Nepal.

The CVCA tool combines local knowledge and scientific climate information to help practitioners analyze and understand climate risks that affect the lives and livelihoods of community members. As they apply the tool, community members identify their most valuable livelihood resources and the key hazards that affect them. They rank the hazards that have the greatest impacts on their most important livelihood resources, and discuss and agree upon feasible adaptation options and strategies. For example, a farming community in a lowland area may rank floods as a key hazard that negatively affects land and crops. Together, they will identify a suitable adaptation strategy such as diversification of crop and seed varieties combined with shifting agricultural practices.

In Nepal I also took refresher training course on the application of the Community-based Risk Screening Tool-Adaptation and Livelihoods (CRiSTAL). This tool analyses the links that exist between local livelihoods and climate; assesses an ongoing project”s impact on resources that are important to climate change adaptation; and finally identifies adjustments needed for improving a project”s impact on livelihood resources important for adaptation.

I was eager to learn because I will be conducting similar training in Eastern and Central Africa in future. My trip also provided me with insight on how CARE confronts the challenges posed by climate change to poor communities.

For instance, CARE is partnering with other organizations to implement projects aimed at enhancing the resilience of poor and vulnerable communities to climate change in various countries such as Bangladesh. In addition, the organization is generating a suite of tools, including the CVCA, that aim to facilitate better theoretical understanding of adaptation, and support integration of climate change adaptation into projects and programs.

At the end of the training, I saw how participants plan to utilize what they learned in the workshop to integrate climate change adaptation into ongoing and new projects. I also learnt about the history, politics and culture of Nepal. It was interesting, for instance, to find out that Nepal was never colonized and that various poor and socially excluded groups are now lobbying for their rights to be recognized and included in the national constitution that is being developed.

Personally, I wanted to find out how climate change is affecting various bio-physical regions and communities in Nepal and compare this with my own country, Kenya. In both places there is increased warming, with higher temperatures being felt all year-round. Erratic rainfall patterns negatively affect rain-fed agriculture in both countries, with increased incidences of droughts and floods. Frequent floods not only damage crops and the infrastructure, but also increase the incidence of water borne diseases such as cholera. The geographical area where malaria is endemic is also spreading. Short term migration is a coping strategy applied in both countries, especially during natural disasters such as floods and droughts.

In both countries too much demand for water has led to reduced water levels in the hydro-power dams and subsequent rationing of electricity. This has had a negative impact on commerce, industry and household consumption. Reduced water has also changed biodiversity and wildlife habitats, leading to migration and an increased threat of extinction of various species of flora and fauna.

It was interesting for me to learn that some Nepalese farmers, just like in Kenya, are changing the varieties of crops that they plant, like drought-tolerant maize varieties, as a response to climate change. I also learnt that in Nepal, bio-engineering is used to control floods. Kenya could greatly benefit from this technology and know how to control more effectively the severe annual floods that occurs in Western Kenya.

By far, the most exciting part of the training for me was the field exercise where participants assisted local community members in developing a vulnerability matrix. The exercise gave me a practical understanding of how to apply the CVCA tool. It also highlighted broad socio-economic issues that exacerbate social vulnerability of poor and marginalized communities. One such example is the caste system that in Nepal has led to the discrimination of some communities and their exclusion from mainstream development.

From the discussions, I gained valuable insights on various advocacy messages that Civil Society Organizations can articulate to policy and decision makers in the country. For instance, one participant said he would link representatives of the Bote Community residing within Chitwan National Park to human rights organizations to help them to lobby for their indigenous rights. Towards the end participants made real commitments on follow up actions that include training colleagues on the CVCA and CRiSTAL tools and applying these in existing livelihood projects. It will be interesting to see one year down the road how participants have used their knowledge and the tools they were trained on.

Posted by webmaster on Feb 4, 2009 2:30 PM US/Eastern

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