May 17, 2010 News
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy may offer some guidance to the Oxford Famine relief Committee (OXFAM) on adapting to climate change.
So says Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, in his response to a recently released OXFAM report on its findings of a study on climate change adaption.
The report, released last April, centered on persons living in poverty.
Minister Persaud pointed out that although the report drew on case studies from a number of countries with economic conditions similar to Guyana’s in terms of poverty levels there would still be distinctions based on country characteristics.
Minister Persaud pointed out that there were a number of valuable lessons that Guyana could learn from the study. But he also posited that Guyana could offer “some useful guidance” to OXFAM as well.
According to the Agriculture Minister, the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy “contained specific approaches and projects which will make our country and economy climate resilient and goes beyond some of the regular analysis and prescriptions in preparing countries for the effects of climate change.”
The report which is titled: “Climate Change Adaptation – Enabling People Living in Poverty to Adapt”, studies rural communities in poor nations that are unable to meaningfully adjust to the conditions being created by global climatic change.
It examines situations that exist and suggests a number of interventions that may mitigate the impact of the phenomenon. The study is undertaken from the ground at an individual level, reaching out to the people being affected by the problem and not just studying them collectively. It also attacks the issue at a policy-making level, presenting interventions that may be applied by Governments in addressing climate change centered issues.
According to the report, “geographic location is not the only or even the most influential factor of climate risk. Institutions matter much more.” It noted that the severity of the damage wrought by these changes depends on a given population’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and their ability to respond. The report then went on to say that countries that relied on “climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries are particularly vulnerable to any changes in climate conditions.” However, the researchers at OXFAM went even further to posit that, “Poverty, more than any other factor, determines vulnerability to climate change and limits adaptive capacity.”
The report studied climate change related occurrences and strategies that were implemented to address them in countries such as India, Honduras, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With reference to the differences in conditions and practices he noted that, “… some of the approaches may not be applicable or may have to be modified for contextual implementation.”
The study looked at impacts such as heat stress on crops and livestock, saline intrusion, flooding, unpredictable seasons – with crop damage being induced by drought conditions and unseasonably heavy downpours.
According to Persaud, it recommended interventions that have “already been identified for Guyana, particularly in the agriculture sector”. These include “access to forecasts (and) access to locally adaptable technologies targeted to the needs of the poorest, enabling rural adaptation.”
He noted that these initiatives have already “been mainstreamed in our on-going programme to adapt to the effects of climate change.”
The report also studies groups that are affected to an even greater extent such as women and children who already have to deal with the disadvantages of living in a state of poverty. On the issue of gender roles, the report had this to say: “In every society, women and men have different roles inside and outside the house hold, and different resources to deliver them. In the rural communities of the developing countries where Oxfam works, men’s roles typically focus on earning cash by growing food, trading, or selling their labour.
“But it is largely the role of women to provide the food, fuel, water, and the care that the family needs (all for no pay), in addition to earning some cash.”
According to the report, this situation is exacerbated by the fact that these women have to work with fewer physical and financial resources which forces them to rely on natural resources – the very same resources that are being adversely affected by climate change.
In this light, Minister Persaud noted that “considering the large number of women involved in some level of agriculture work (farmer, trader, processing etc.) and their special socio-economic vulnerabilities …” assessments such as the ones outlined in the report would be “timely”.
He indicated that the Ministry is looking into this area of analysis and said, “Under the Rural Enterprise for Agriculture Development component of our agriculture diversification programme, we expect to carry out similar reviews.”
Another area of relevance to Guyana is that of Disaster Risk Reduction which the report addresses in a general context using the Hyogo Framework for Action that represents a globally accepted disaster management plan.
Minister Persaud said on this aspect “the efforts of the Government through the Civil Defence Commission to build disaster prevention/response capacity would give Guyana a sturdier footing in this critical area as we now see more frequent extreme climatic events.”
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