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Stories Of Resilience From The Grassroots

Green paddy fields in Manipur (TFM PHOTO)

At the end of the day, the term ‘adaption’ comes down to the level of the local communities’ understanding on how to adapt to their local conditions as best as their traditional knowledge and wisdom permits, adapting to a fast changing lifestyle based on the eroding natural world and the harsh impacts of drastically changing climatic conditions.

 By Salam Rajesh

Stories of resilience from the ground speak on how local communities, more specifically the marginalized sections of society, are coming up with strategies of their own to cope with the challenges of everyday life in the face of climate change impacts and the threats of global warming.

Stories from Asia and Africa recount how local communities are struggling to cope with the harsh realities of changing climatic regimes, wherein droughts, floods and wildfires are continuously ravaging homes and families to the level of starvation and abject poverty.

The weather watchdog, Skymet, recently posted a brief warning-of-sort indicating that this monsoon there is likely to be below-normal in the volume of expected rainfall, thus pre-warning farmers in particular that they are more than likely going to face unprecedented drought-like condition and the possible failures of crops these summer months.

There correspondingly is also the likelihood that many parts of the world are going to experience extreme weather event where heat waves are going to strike left and right, sparing none. The weather forecast is distraught with the fair warning that heat stress is on the cards. This would affect marginalized societies drastically, in particular those whom are already exposed to poverty and entirely dependent on agriculture for their sustenance.

In the face of such expectations in extreme weather events, are the stories of resilience from the ground, as is reported from Bangladesh, Malawi, India, Mexico, Namibia, and South Africa amongst many nations as is being profiled by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in their recent report “Stories of Resilience: Lessons from Local Adaptation Practice” (2022).

The report captures examples of case stories where local communities have come up with their own knowledge system on adapting to the changing climatic conditions to find alternatives to their livelihoods, such as adapting to low-cost technology in harnessing drinking water from saline water as in Bangladesh, or adapting to a forestry model where communities conserve forests to avail their food supplements and secure their livelihoods.

The GCA in their report outlines a model of “Principles for Locally Led Adaptation”, highlighting eight Locally Led Adaptation (LLA) Principles that were developed by the Global Commission on Adaptation and duly launched at the Climate Adaptation Summit in 2021.

The first principle seeks devolving decision making to the lowest appropriate level, while giving local institutions and communities more ‘direct access to finance and decision making power over how adaptation actions are defined, prioritized, designed, and implemented; how progress is monitored; and how success is evaluated’.

The second principle addresses structural inequalities faced by women, youth, children, disabled, displaced, Indigenous Peoples and marginalized ethnic groups. It seeks ‘Integrating gender-based, economic, and political inequalities that are root causes of vulnerability into the core of adaptation action and encouraging vulnerable and marginalized individuals to meaningfully participate in and lead adaptation decisions’.

The third principle stresses on ‘Providing patient and predictable funding that can be accessed more easily, while supporting long term development of local governance processes, capacity, and institutions through simpler access modalities and longer term and more predictable funding horizons, to ensure that communities can effectively implement adaptation actions’.

The fourth principle outlines ‘Investing in local capabilities to leave an institutional legacy, while improving the capabilities of local institutions to ensure they can understand climate risks and uncertainties, generate solutions, and facilitate and manage adaptation initiatives over the long term without being dependent on project based donor funding’.

The fifth principle stresses on ‘Building a robust understanding of climate risk and uncertainty, while informing adaptation decisions through a combination of local, traditional, Indigenous, generational and scientific knowledge that can enable resilience under a range of future climate scenarios’.

The sixth principle outlines ‘Flexible programming and learning, while enabling adaptive management to address the inherent uncertainty in adaptation, especially through robust monitoring and learning systems, flexible finance, and flexible programming’.

The seventh principle is more focused on ‘Ensuring transparency and accountability, while making processes of financing, designing, and delivering programs more transparent and accountable downward to local stakeholders’.

The eight principle seeks ‘Collaborative action and investment, with collaborations across sectors, initiatives and levels to ensure that different initiatives and different sources of funding (humanitarian assistance, development, disaster risk reduction, green recovery funds, etc.) support each other, and their activities avoid duplication, to enhance efficiencies and good practice’.

Dr Patrick Verkooijen, Chief Executive Officer of Global Center on Adaptation, reflects that, “The latest forecast is that we are on track for up to 2.6°C temperature rise by 2100 – an outcome that is quite simply catastrophic. Countries’ targets fall far short of the 45% cut in emissions needed by 2030 to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C. And the fatal effects of global warming are already evident”.

Dr Patrick’s reflection sounds pretty bad on the global agenda, whereas, the growing evidence on the ground is a mix of the ever increasing evidences on the diverse impacts of global warming, and climate change processes, on humans and the natural environment while many governments are seen faltering in their policies and strategies to tackle the climate issues.

At the global circuit, there had been much criticism recently that the global level negotiations at the forum of the United Nations had failed to achieve much substantive agreement on how to collectively address the threat of an ever increasing global temperature.

The threat filters down to the evident stories on deaths and sufferings due to unprecedented drought situations in sub-Saharan regions, in Asia, in Latin America, and many other places, more specifically in these past few years. The threat is the reason for which the UN seeks urgency in its mission to contain the global temperature rise, wishfully limiting it by 1.5 degree Celsius by the year 2050.

At the end of the day, the term ‘adaption’ comes down to the level of the local communities’ understanding on how to adapt to their local conditions as best as their traditional knowledge and wisdom permits, adapting to a fast changing lifestyle based on the eroding natural world and the harsh impacts of drastically changing climatic conditions.

(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])


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