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Notes from the Field
Posted by: Andisheh Nouraee at 3:10PM EST on June 25, 2012
Very often "fighting global poverty" and "protecting the environment" mean the exact same thing. This video about forests from our CARE colleagues in Denmark explains why.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:21PM EST on June 21, 2012
By Kevin Henry, Project Coordinator, "Where the Rain Falls"
In addition to coming to Rio to join my voice in solidarity with tens of thousands of other people from every corner of the globe committed to making the "Future We Want" a reality, I came specifically in connection with a project I lead on behalf of CARE France. This project, called "Where the Rain Falls" and funded by the AXA Group and the MacArthur Foundation, is a research and action project seeking to better understand, and then act on, the impact of climate change (specifically changes in rainfall patterns) on food security and human migration in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. To achieve these goals, CARE, in partnership with the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, has undertaken field research in eight countries (Guatemala, Peru, Ghana, Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam). The findings of our research will be published later this year in a series of country case study reports, followed by a global policy report to be launched at COP18 in Doha; the research will also inform the design of community-based climate change adaptation projects in Peru, Tanzania, India, and Thailand.
Why is this research on the impacts of climate change on food security and human migration important, and what are we learning? The answer to that question starts with the fact that the livelihoods of the great majority of the rural poor remain heavily dependent on agriculture (crops and livestock) and thus rely on "Mother Nature" and a healthy natural resource base. In many developing countries, including many of those included in the "Where the Rain Falls" (WtRF) research, smallholder agriculture remains largely rain-fed. Smallholder agriculture, central to the social, food, and economic systems in many countries, is already a tenuous proposition, particularly in arid and semi-arid zones. And it will only be made more tenuous by changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures.
While the findings of our research are still being analyzed, it is already clear that households in the very diverse research communities in the eight countries where the WtRF research was conducted do report having already observed significant changes in rainfall patterns over the last 20-30 years. These changes vary from site to site, but most often involve some combination of the following: a) delayed onset of rains and/or shorter rainy seasons; b) reduced number of rainy days; c) increased frequency of severe rainfall events, sometimes leading to flooding, landslides, and riverbank erosion; and d) generally more unpredictable rainfall patterns, making it difficult to plan their agricultural activities. Community members also observe other changes in local climate that affect food production, including milder winters, hotter summers, and, in some cases, increased incidence of high winds, hail, and other extreme weather events.
Reducing the vulnerability of poor households to the negative impacts of climate change requires providing them dignified choices to: stay where they are and be provided information and resources to adapt by developing more resilient livelihoods; or when necessary, to migrate elsewhere, with dignity, to secure a better future. Migration is already a strategy used by poor households in developing countries to both cope with (short-term) and adapt to (long-term) food and livelihood insecurity. The WtRF research shows clearly that poor households are already using migration as an important strategy to cope with both seasonal and chronic food insecurity. While local migration is within the reach of most poor households, there is the risk of some populations, particularly the most vulnerable households, being "trapped" and unable to either ensure their food security in situ or migrate.
The "threat" of increased environmentally-induced migration is thus very real and is likely to grow over time unless global efforts to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change are stepped up dramatically. But the "threat" is primarily to poor households in rural communities in developing countries, who will have to struggle to either eke out a meager existence at home or migrate, often under difficult and dangerous conditions, to either urban centers or other rural areas with better agricultural conditions or other employment opportunities.
It is because of the impacts climate change is already having on poor households, and the need to take action to better understand and respond to these changes, that I have traveled to Rio to share with and learn from others.
If you want to find out more about the "Where the Rain Falls" project, please visit the website: http://wheretherainfalls.org/
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:17PM EST on June 21, 2012
By Kit Vaughan CARE's Global Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator
Today it's raining outside, for the first time since I am here in Rio de Janeiro. The heat has broken but the fog remains. Helicopters are circling above us at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and security is very tight with police and military everywhere as the world's heads of state begin to arrive. Delegates and participants at Rio+20 now number above 30,000. The atmosphere has picked up, the food courts are full and there is no spare space to sit, charge a laptop or take a break. The media are here with their cameras up and the place is buzzing. But here is the thing: There is little to report about. Journalists keep asking what the story is. There is a story but it's a very dark one and in our hearts everybody is looking for a ray of sunshine from Rio+20. But there are worrying signs of the very real and severe failure of the negotiations.
The Brazil government and its negotiating team have railroaded the negotiations to finalise an outcome text last night for heads of state to sign-off. But there have been complaints from many countries that the Brazilians have pushed the process too far so it has been stripped of any ambition and substance. A senior negotiator from the UK delegation team stated that "there is almost nothing left now for the heads of state to negotiate and it's almost a done deal. But the real problem is this isn't a deal that anyway near addresses what we need." From analysing the text it's clear that the deal, as it stands right now, is a black hole of low ambition and little urgency. And we are all worrying that the black hole is gathering pace.
It's not just the Brazilians who bear responsibility. Leaders of the world's major economies came to Rio empty-handed with nothing to offer; no (financial) commitments and a dire lack of leadership. The current outcome text provides no clear targets for reducing climate emissions or reversing environmental degradation, there are no legally binding commitments and - more worrying - no new sources of finance. Without these elements as a foundation the Rio+20 outcome will be an epic failure on a planetary scale.
The science is clear: we can't continue to grow our economies by gobbling up and depleting our stocks of natural capital, be it for example fish, carbon or water. We are undermining the very foundation of our planetary survival and its natural capital. Increasingly the impacts of climate change and resource degradation are severely impacting the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. If we don't urgently tackle climate change as well as other environmental issues we will reverse development gains and lock out future generations from the development choices they so urgently need in order to escape from poverty.
But there is a slim chance to make a huge difference, if just a few world leaders could demonstrate bold political leadership and state that they are not happy to commit the planet to an unsustainable future and many millions more people to a future of grinding poverty. Without tackling climate change and poverty reduction there will be no sustainable future. Whether Rio+20 will be game over for the planet remains to be seen. There are two days left until the conference closes on Friday evening. Two days for leaders to act and deliver a roadmap for a sustainable future, and I just hope they have the courage and determination to deliver the future we want rather than the future we can't live with.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:11PM EST on June 21, 2012
June 19, 2012, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Most of the delegates and participants at the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development complain about the long bus rides from the city to the Rio Centro Conference center where most official activities are taking place. By contrast, I have found that the most interesting experiences, and the deepest conversations, I have had in my first five days at Rio have almost all taken place on the buses. While the official negotiators struggle to make progress at the conference center, tens of thousands of people from all over the world have gathered to share experience and ideas for how to make sustainable development for all, including the poorest and most marginalized members of global society, a reality.
The people with whom I have sat on the bus include: a South Korean professor of natural resources economics; a Swiss radio Journalist; officials from the Ministries of Environment of Ghana and Namibia; a British academic; the leader of a French non-governmental organization; and an idealistic young Canadian promoting spending six months in Brazil. Their interests range from how to engage their communities, whether government, academic or media, in global discussions about and action for a sustainable future, to promoting very concrete solutions and technologies to improve the lives of the poor through solar energy, sustainable agriculture, or low-cost housing. What does such a diverse group of people have in common? These global citizens, and many thousands more, have converged on Rio to express a common sentiment. In short, sustainable development, characterized by greater prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability, is not a luxury, but rather a necessity for the survival of our planet and the rights of future generations for a dignified life free of extreme poverty.
The actions of citizens from all over the world, and their passionate commitment to a better future, is perhaps the main sign of hope from this week’s gathering in Rio. Will our political leaders hear the voices of those gathered outside the closed rooms where the negotiations are taking place over the details of a text to be issued by Heads of State and Government at the end of the conference? And will all those gathered in Rio, both political leaders and members of civil society, remember that the 1.4 billion poor in today’s world deserve and expect more from all of us? To achieve the “Future We Want”, which is the theme of Rio+20, urgent and decisive action is required to address the threats that poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and climate change pose for our common humanity. No words in any text will be a substitute for such action.
If you want to find out more about the “Where the Rain Falls” project, please visit the website: http://wheretherainfalls.org/
Posted by: Andisheh Nouraee at 3:53PM EST on June 21, 2012
CARE climate change advocacy coordinator checks in from the Rio+20 conference.
Posted by: Andisheh Nouraee at 1:24PM EST on June 20, 2012
Global leaders including government officials, NGO members, activists and business leaders are in Brazil this week for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, a.k.a. Rio+20. The nickname Rio+20 isn't just a Twitter-friendly contrivance. It's also a reference to the first UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place in Rio 20 years ago. Feliz aniversário.
In the Huffington Post last week, our London-based CARE colleague Kit Vaughan wrote that since the first conference 20 years ago, global leaders have failed to promote sustainable economic growth in the world's poorest communities because they continue to pursue economic policies that promote environmental degradation. He urges conference attendees to acknowledge what he calls "the grave reality of the problems facing our one planet" and commit to sustainable economic development to alleviate poverty.
While they're in Rio, CARE's delegation is screening two short videos related to our Where The Rain Falls project. The videos and the entire project are powerful reminders that climate change isn't a theoretical thing that might happen in the future, but a real thing happening now to real people.
Save yourself a trip to Rio (it's winter there, after all!) and watch the video here:
You can follow Rio+20 on its official web site and via countless news sites. The best one I've found is the Guardian's impressive Rio+20 portal. If you find good coverage or commentary, please share it.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:03PM EST on June 18, 2012
Five years lost: Case studies looking back at life under the blockade
For the past five years, more than 1.6 million people in Gaza have been sealed in to 140 square miles, and big dreams have nowhere to go.
For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: "end the blockade now."
Living under the blockade: Meet the people
Khaleel says that he would like to return to citrus farming, but does not have the money to invest in replanting trees, which take 5 years to mature. He says that unless the situation changes he would be living with the uncertainty of new trees again being cut down. Still, he says he holds out hope that there are better days ahead. "All of us dream of this day where we live with freedom and I think it is still something we can achieve. Everything would be better if the occupation ended. In the past few years our life in Gaza was difficult. In the future I hope my family will be fine."
An international aid project initiated in 2010 planned to connect Siham's neighborhood to a sewage system, but the construction is stalled. The building contractors are still awaiting permission to bring in equipment for the wastewater pumping station through the Israeli-controlled crossings. The Israeli authorities have not explained the reason for the delays. Meanwhile Siham and her family dream of better days. "All I need is a dignified life for me and my family, but the blockade has destroyed my hope," she said.
Mona Abu Amer is 6 years old. She lives in Jabalia Refugee Camp in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Born with a congenital heart disease, she is one among 734 patients registered in the Union of Health Care Committees' (UHCC) medical records as a critical patient and hardship case requiring urgent medical support. Mona's mother, Zeinab, has found that the kind of care her daughter needs is just not available in Gaza. UHCC planned to build diagnostic, pediatric and state of the art specialty clinics. Without the necessary construction materials, new medical equipment, or ability to travel for training courses to learn hi tech health services, all they have been able to offer Mona over the years was diapers and milk. "When my daughter was born with this condition six years ago, I was expecting that social services would be available and that the government would help me get her advanced medical care. Six years later, I am hoping we can get the care and support she needs," says Zeinab.
In 2006, 38 year-old Hind Amal opened her own business. The divorced mother of four says the split from her unemployed husband inspired her to think big. "I planned to move forward and take care of myself, be a provider and role model for my children," she explained. With a combination of money she saved by doing odd jobs and taking a small loan from a local women's organization, Hind opened a beauty supply store. For the first year the store was a huge success and Hind was able to pay back her loan and see a profit. After the blockade started in 2007, business started to head downhill as Hind couldn't import the same products and people could not afford to pay retail prices. Determined to stick to her plan, Hind found creative ways to keep her shop afloat. She started making homemade creams and accessories and sold them at a lower price. As one of the only beauty supply stores still open in the Gaza Strip, she was making a profit again in 2008 – only to find a new competitor when the tunnel trade started in 2009. As cheap goods flooded the market, Hind's store lost its appeal and she was again struggling to make ends meet. "If I look back at these past five years I am right back where I started. There has been so much pressure on me to succeed but the situation won't allow it. I'm working so hard to give my kids what they need. I have become a stronger person, a strong woman, but it shouldn't have to be this hard."
"I dream of new clothes. You can't buy good clothes here, everything comes from Egypt through the Rafah tunnels and it's not high quality. I told my father to take me to the beach for the day, but he said there isn't enough fuel for the car. When I got hurt I needed stitches, but the hospital didn't have the stitching thread. What can I do? "
-Bahaa' Ibrahim Abu Khdeer, 10, Al Qarara
"I have a sick brother. He needs to go to Germany for treatment but we can't take him there. My dream is for the Gaza airport to open again, to have open borders so we can travel, and to get treatment for my brother whom I love very much."
-Alaa' Mahmoud Al Najjar, 23, Al Maghazi
"Helping children was one of my biggest dreams in Gaza, along with building new green parks, cultural buildings, and community centers. I hope that I can achieve these dreams or at least I'll keep trying."
-Tawfeaq Abdelwahhab Hamad, 62, East Jabalia
"Success at school, building a new house, participating in artistic exhibitions abroad - any dreams that I have I couldn't achieve because of the situation in Gaza. We want to live like normal people."
-Jineen Hani Abu Isaa, 12, Juhor Al Deek
"My dream is to complete my graduate project, which is a design for recycling and producing gas. But such a project can't be constructed locally because of the blockade on Gaza. So, I stopped dreaming about it and I'm living the reality."
-Ranya Fawzi Al Jamal, 30, Rafah
"As a father responsible for five kids, I wanted to make sure they finished their education and that I helped them with marriage and building homes for them to live in. My dream was to give them a good and decent life. But I couldn't do any of that. I only was able to help pay for one of them to finish college and the rest quit school to work and help us financially."
-Jamal Mohammed Al Za'aneen, 60, Beit Hanoun
Donate now to CARE's poverty-fighting work >
Posted by: Andisheh Nouraee at 1:27PM EST on June 12, 2012
Keith West of Albuquerque, New Mexico doesn't wear his passionate support for CARE's work on his sleeve. He wears it under his sleeve. More precisely, he now wears it tattooed on his forearm.
Last week on Facebook West said the tattoo is a reminder "to do something everyday to empower women and girls!"
As you can imagine, this makes everyone at CARE who sees it feel proud. Thank you, Keith.
Posted by: Roger Burks at 5:02PM EST on June 7, 2012
It takes a lot of strength to carry 55 pounds of water for more than four hours across eastern Ethiopia’s arid highlands. It also takes particular strength to change the circumstances that force women to shoulder that burden.
Fatuma Muhammed is strong in both these ways, and more.
The 50-year-old mother of four lives in Muru Geda, a small village in Ethiopia’s chronically-dry East Haraghe zone. Water is so scarce here at women must walk huge distances to reach a small pond or stream. For much of her life, Fatuma spent at least 16 hours a week searching for water; after discussion with her neighbors, she would walk as much as four hours in the direction that held the best promise of a reliable water source, fill her large plastic container and then trudge four hours back home.
In those days, Fatuma’s best-case scenario was that she’d return with 25 liters of water that would last her family of six for three days – that’s less than a liter and a half of water per person per day. The worst-case scenario is difficult for her to discuss.
“If I ever came home without water – or with a container that wasn’t full – it was a big problem. My husband sometimes beat me,” Fatuma recalled. “It isn’t tradition for men to carry water; it falls on women. If men want it, we have to get it. That’s one of our greatest challenges here.”
Another grave challenge is health; even when women like Fatuma find water in this part of Ethiopia, it’s often dirty – open to the elements and shared with animals. When families aren’t aware of simple sanitation practices such as boiling or filtering, they run the risk of debilitating waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea and dysentery. These illnesses are dangerous and even deadly for those with weakened immune systems; three years ago, Fatuma spent 15 days at a local hospital after drinking contaminated water.
Excruciating distances, unreliable sources, the specter of illness and the threat of physical violence – an Ethiopian woman’s responsibility to bring home water both diminishes her dignity and wreaks havoc on her quality of life. That’s why CARE, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), created an extensive water system for the area around Fatuma’s home in Muru Geda.
Over the course of five months, we harnessed the flow of a local spring and laid more than 30 kilometers of pipe. This pipe leads to distribution points in five separate villages where women can get clean water from a tap with just a turn of the spigot. Hundreds of local families participated in the construction of this water system, contributing sand, rocks and hours of hard work.
Today, CARE still provides technical advice for the water system, but we’ve turned daily operations over to the communities the system serves – everything from maintenance to financial management. Households pay a fee of ten cents for 20 liters of fresh water; this money is placed in a bank account for future repairs and system improvements. This account is managed by a water committee consisting of four local men and three women – including Fatuma.
“People in my village nominated me to serve on this committee because I am strong, providing for my family even after my husband died,” she said. “I am resourceful, I have my own business and I can create success for myself and others.”
The committee meets every two weeks to discuss matters such as when water points will be open for use, rationing if the water supply is low, potential conflicts and community feedback. Fatuma is an active and vocal participant in these meetings, especially regarding the challenge she’s been familiar with all her life.
“I have initiated public discussions on how women suffer because of lack of water,” she explained. “We’ve organized as a group, and have gone to local government offices so that people can hear our voices as women.”
For many years, Fatuma Muhammed was strong enough to carry an unbearably heavy load of water for many hours across eastern Ethiopia’s blazing and parched terrain. Today, she’s using that strength to ease the burden for her region’s mothers, sisters and daughters.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 11:27AM EST on June 1, 2012
by Andisheh Nouraee
The World Economic Forum on East Asia opened today in Bangkok. Forum sessions will focus on physical and economic connectivity in East Asia and are available online at weforum.org.
We always try to follow meetings like these, but we're paying extra close attention this time because our president and CEO, Helene Gayle, is a forum co-chair (see photo below). I think it's the first time the head of an NGO has chaired the forum. I could be wrong. Regardless, it's an honor.
The event is getting more international press than usual because one of the attendees is Nobel laureate and newly-elected parliamentarian Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. It's her first trip outside Myanmar since 1988. In an interview with Voice of America, Dr. Gayle called Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's presence incredibly significant and an opportunity to improve her country's dialogue with the rest of the region. Forum attendee and Accenture Development Partnerships Executive Director Gib Bulloch described her slightly differently, dubbing her the "Davos man's answer to Lady Gaga."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:33AM EST on June 1, 2012
By Rodrigo Ordóñez
In the last few weeks, I have talked to families in several regions of Niger, while traveling on my own or when taking journalists to the field. Despite the variety of personal circumstances, certain elements appear often in people's stories.
Life has never been easy for these people. They've increasingly got used to enduring what others would consider unbearable. Their ability to eat has been highly dependent on weather and rains since they can remember. Most families have lost children because they couldn't feed them and they fell ill easily.
This cycle of poverty has become the ‘new normal' for them.
This is also the case for the people I talked to in Saran Maradi, a village in the region of Maradi, southern Niger.
This year has been harsher than usual, and crops were insufficient to feed their families. They couldn't afford to buy food in the markets either, because of the high prices. Only a few people in the village have grain left, but it's only for planting. Many sold their goats or sheep to buy food, but the prices are low, up to half of the standard price.
CARE is providing income to 61 families in Saran Maradi so they can buy food during what is commonly known as the ‘lean season,' the gap between the time people run out of food stocks and the next harvest. "It's a support that came at the right moment," says Achirou Inoussa, a 42-year-old man from Saran Maradi. People receive cash in exchange for part-time work in projects identified by their community, or as a handout in the cases where nobody in the family is able to perform manual labor.
The cost of this type of emergency project is relatively low, but it has a very tangible impact.
"Normally, around this time of the year, all the young people are gone," says Moussa Garba, an elderly man who claims to be over 80, although he doesn't know exactly. Sitting under a tree, he and other men explain to a visitor that during the nine months of the dry season most men in the village go to Nigeria to work in low-qualification jobs; as porters, water sellers, or emptying septic tanks. This year, however, some came back when they found out about CARE's project and the opportunity to earn a living in their doorstep.
Apart from preventing seasonal migration, cash-for-work projects bring extra benefits to the communities. In Saran Maradi, people are turning an unused piece of land into pasture. After removing weeds, they sow grains which will germinate during the rainy season and create a new area for cattle to graze.
I was interested in knowing more about the impact of this project in the homes, so I talked to women; they are generally the ones who face directly the difficulties to feed their families in times of hardship. I wanted to know what they were eating before and after this project started.
Delou, Halima, Maka, Mariama, Sahara and Sakina benefitted from this project. They are mothers and grandmothers between the ages of 25 and 80.
All combined, they have 41 children, although their families could have been larger. Through the years, these six women have suffered the loss of 24 sons and daughters in total. Sahara Mahama, 40, lost four children; one of them was only 14 days old. "I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn't have enough to eat," she laments.
All of them emphasize that this year there wasn't enough rain, and little to eat. "Two years ago at least there were people who harvested spikes of millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners," says Delou Ibrahim, 70.
CARE's support has allowed them to feed their families at a critical time.
"Before this support, I couldn't; I was eating leaves," explains Maka Ali, an 80-year-old widow. "Not only can we buy millet and sorghum now, but also corn and condiments," explains Mariama Oumarou, 55.
"With this support, we get to eat abundantly," explains Halima Abdou, 25. She and the other women I talked to are now able to give their children two daily meals; porridge in the morning and sorghum paste in the evening.
Delou Ibrahim has four children and suffered the loss of nine. She has about 40 grandchildren, 16 of which live with her.
"I've seen several crises. The famine in 1984 was the hardest. Rains were very weak. The stems of millet came out but the spikes gave no grain - nothing," she recalls. "Two years ago at least there were people who harvested millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners."
Delou's last crop was 30kg, which only provided food for about two days. Delou and her family receive cash from CARE. "I get to buy cereal to feed my family, particularly my grandchildren." They have two daily meals, porridge in the morning and sorghum paste in the evening.
Halima Abdou has five children. Sakina Moudi has six children and suffered the loss of one.
Last year they harvested 40kg of cereal. "It only lasted for five days," says Sakina. This year they didn't get any crops.
In the periods without food, their husband collects and sells wood to buy yam flour. Now their husband participates in CARE's cash-for-work project and continues to sell firewood to get additional income. "With this support, we get to eat abundantly," explains Halima. "We buy millet, sorghum, and corn." They serve their children two meals per day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Maka Ali has been a widow for twenty years. She has eight children and about twenty grandchildren. She has experienced the loss of six children, four of them at an early age. "I was alone taking care of them, so I cannot say their deaths weren't related to lack of food," Maka recalls.
Nobody in her family can work, so she receives a cash transfer from CARE. "When I receive the payment, I buy sorghum and maize," Maka explains. "Before this support, I couldn't; I was eating leaves."
Sahara Mahama has seven sons and a daughter. She lost four other children; one of them was only 14 days old. "I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn't have enough to eat."
Eating has become increasingly harder through the years, recalls Sahara. "When I was a kid, we used to have three meals: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.” However, one meal a day has now become the norm. "It's never guaranteed, but we try."
Sahara participates in CARE's cash-for-work project. With the money she receives, she buys cereal and gives her children two meals per day.
Mariama Oumarou has ten children and three grandchildren. Through the years she has lost four children and two grandchildren. She participates in CARE's cash-for-work project. "Not only can we buy millet and sorghum now, but also corn and condiments."