With the agriculture sector absorbing nearly 30 per cent of the country’s labour force, while providing livelihoods to 70 per cent of the country’s rural population, a majority of our communities are at the unrelenting mercy of inevitable climate shocks.
The Mahaweli River Basin, the largest draining area of Sri Lanka’s extensive collection of rivers, is home to a large proportion of the small rain-fed farming communities on the island. And, unsurprisingly, climate shocks have exacerbated the prevalent poverty and food insecurity within these communities.
Natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts
In 2018, natural disasters including drought, cyclones and floods forced almost 2.6 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa to flee their homes. This triggers competition over depleted natural resources which can spark conflict between communities or compound pre-existing vulnerabilities.
In West and Central Africa, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is at the heart of the climate action for building resilience to climate change and peace promotion.
It’s half past midday in Kawama Village in Northwestern Zambia and Mildred Kikwanda is busy preparing 'Nshima' – the staple maize meal – with chicken stew and vegetables, using a non-traditional means of cooking – a wood-saving, earth-block stove popularly known as the energy-saving stove.
Beaming with a smile, and with a blue colourful ‘chitenge’ (wrapper) tied around her waist, she takes some ‘mealie meal’ (maize flour) from a sachet and sprinkles it into a boiling water while briskly stirring it with a cooking stick to make it thicker.
Across the globe, the impacts of anthropogenic action are pervasive as never before: in the Maghreb, crops grown on marginal lands are failing; in Egypt, rising sea levels are impacting impoverished neighbourhoods; in Jordan, competition and tensions over resources is predicted to only intensify as warming temperatures further heighten
The day the cyclone hit, we accommodated five neighbour families who sought refuge after the cyclone winds destroyed their houses. A total of 33 people sat in our small sitting room and I had to climb up the roof to place stone blocks to prevent the roof of being swept away.
Working with UNICEF as a UN volunteer over the past year, my assignment included building awareness among staff on climate change, its impact and how we can mitigate its effects. I also advocate for sustainable practices in the way people consume energy and resources and manage waste both at work and in their personal lives. These efforts are in line with one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 13: to improve education, awareness-raising, human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
Drawing from a recently published book by Dr Richard Munang, Regional Climate Change Coordinator for Africa at UN Environment (UNEP) titled “Making Africa Work Through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism”, the key take-aways of the inaugural event were:
Africa is at a demographic and development tipping point
Currently, Africa’s population stands at almost 16 per cent of the world’s total population. By 2050, the United Nations projects that Africa will account for half of the world population growth.
For COP 23, UN Volunteers has recruited more than 650 volunteers to support a wide range of operational tasks throughout the event. They all attended a full-day training on October 30.
Follow the involvement of volunteers during COP 23 here (hover over the image and scroll down):
The UN Climate Change Conference COP 23 is taking place in Bonn, Germany, between 6 and 17 November. UNV is also present in different ways to make sure volunteerism is part of the conversation around the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change.
The Global Environment Facility project on which I am working endorses the "farmer-field-school" approach to train farmers in how to adapt to climate change. It is an outdoor school where learning and sharing takes place through hands-on practical training.