You are on page 1of 14

VSO and Climate Change

VSO/Simon Rawles

VSO and Climate Change


VSO and Climate Change

Introduction Our vision for action on climate change VSOs approach to climate change work Focusing on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable Building adaptive capacity to climate change at the community level Community-based adaptation Working with government Low carbon development Reducing deforestation Disaster risk reduction Integrating climate change into existing programmes Committing to gender sensitivity, gender equity, and gender equality Bringing people together Where we will see change Strengthened communities Empowered and effective partners Enlightened government policy and action A strong and responsible VSO Case study: Nigeria, climate change and VSO Case study: Addressing climate change impacts in Bangladesh Case study: Community-based adaptation in Kenya Glossary Key sources 1 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 5 6 6 7 7 7 8 8 9 9 10 11 12

VSO and Climate Change

Human-induced climatic change is happening now. The scientific evidence for both past and current climate change is unequivocal. Climate models predict a future world which is warmer and it is very likely that the changes in the 21st century will be greater than those which took place in the 20th. Tragically, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people, communities and countries who bear the brunt of climate change impacts. This is not surprising, since vulnerabilities caused by climate change compound vulnerabilities that exist already due to poverty, food insecurity, degraded natural resources, gender inequity, and disability.
Many of the impacts of future climate change are likely to be devastating for populations in the developing world. Sea level rise is eroding coastlines, inundating fresh water sources and soils with salt water, and swallowing land in low-lying areas. Entire nations in the South Pacific, such as Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and the Cook Islands, are at risk from land loss and degradation under rising sea levels. Precipitation patterns are predicted to change, potentially making agriculturally-vital seasonal patterns less predictable. In some cases when rains do arrive they are likely to do so with much greater intensity. Likewise dry periods are likely to increase in severity and frequency. More frequent and more intense storms will lead to more devastating floods, such as those experienced over the past few years in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mozambique, Brazil, Honduras, and elsewhere. Many arid and semi-arid areas, notably the Middle East and the Sahel region of Africa, are getting hotter and drier, resulting in direct impacts on already-compromised food security and indirect impacts on human health and security. Though the consequences are already serious for many, a lot can be done to ensure that both the scale of the changes and their impact on people and ecosystems are minimized. Humanity still has a choice to experience a lot of climate change or a little climate change, based on the amount of greenhouse gases we collectively emit, and every country must take responsibility and act to ensure that we confront this global challenge. Those with the highest emissions will need to reduce them significantly, those with resources will have to assist others in their efforts, and all will have to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people get the support that they require to adapt to the changes they face. In other words, global cooperation of a kind and on a scale never seen before will have to emerge in order to tackle this challenge head on. VSO will play a role in facing this challenge, by assisting those most vulnerable to climate change. VSO and Climate Change outlines the vision, principles, and approach to our work, helping communities to be less vulnerable and more adaptive to climatic changes that are happening now and predicted to get worse over the coming decades. The first section lays out VSOs vision for a world where those who are most at risk are supported to overcome their vulnerabilities, where those who are most responsible for the problem do their fair share, and where VSO plays a meaningful role in implementing solutions. The second section describes VSOs approach to climate change work, in terms of target populations, our method of developing programmes, the priority activities to be undertaken, and the tools that allow VSO to use its strengths and contribute its expertise. The final section explains where we want and expect to see changein people, partners, and government policies as well as within VSO itself.

VSO and Climate Change

Our vision for action on climate change

VSOs vision is that of a world where all people, especially the poor and marginalized, are able to fulfill their fundamental human rights to health, well-being, and security, despite facing hazards from climate change. This means that communities everywhere have the resilience to withstand climate change impacts over the short term and the capacity to adapt to increasing or changing hazards and impacts over the longer term. Necessary actions to realize this vision include not only the provision of resourcessocial, financial, and technologicalto communities at the forefront of climate change impacts, but also efforts that contribute to a dramatic reduction in the emissions that cause climate change.
Assisting communities in building resilience and adaptive capacity in the face of climate change is not sufficient. Many in the developing world live in poverty and have no or inadequate access to energy resources. These people have the right to social and economic development, including a sufficient supply of energy. These new energy sources, however, need to use technologies that do not add significantly to increased greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Otherwise, paradoxically, widespread energy development risks making the challenge of climate change even greater and the plight of the poor even worse. Those with a high standard of living have an important, historical responsibility to uphold since their infrastructure development and accumulation of wealth were achieved by overloading the atmosphere with greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Countries with the highest per capita emissions must therefore take the lead in reducing them. Industrialized countries also have the responsibilityand have made so-far unrealized commitmentsto provide resources for the poor and vulnerable to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change and to develop sustainable energy technologies. VSO will contribute meaningfully to this vision. We will ensure that development activities we undertake today do not inadvertently make communities more vulnerable to climate change impacts tomorrow. Instead, VSO will enable climate change considerations, present and future, to be integrated into our programmes. VSO will continue to work with and through partners to build the capacity of those most in need so they are able to face their challenges and overcome barriers standing between them and social and economic security. We will use a gender-sensitive approach to strive for gender equity and equality in our efforts. And we will build global awareness of the challenges of climate change, the responsibilities that we all hold, and the solutions that are available. Finally, VSO will take responsibility for its contribution to global climate change. As an organization with a large staff and many offices and one that relies on volunteers, staff, and partners to travel extensively, our ecological footprint will be tangibly and convincingly addressed.

VSO/Simon Rawles

VSO and Climate Change

VSOs approach to climate change work

In many ways, VSOs efforts to address climate change will be very similar to our existing development work. The values and principles that guide our work, the expertise that the organization has gained, and the tools that we rely upon will all be used to help tackle this new challenge.

Focusing on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable

VSOs overarching goal is to eradicate poverty. The challenge that climate change presents is that its impact is felt most by those who are already poor and marginalized. For example, the rural poor live in environments of marginal natural resources that are most susceptible to the impacts of climate change. When human health is impacted by climate change-induced heat stress or a higher incidence of certain diseases, the poor and marginalized are least able to obtain the health services needed for their well-being and have very little influence over the way they are provided. When extreme weather events occur, the poor are more likely to be living in areas prone to flooding or drought and are less likely to have adequate resources to recover from these events. This is why the work that VSO undertakes will target individuals and communities that are already the most vulnerable. In different contexts, individuals who may be most vulnerable include women, children and youth, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and people living with HIV and AIDS. Their vulnerability can stem from not having access to decision-making or to resources that others in society do, or because they are excluded in other ways. Vulnerability can also exist at the community level due to inadequate access to water, infertile agricultural soils, or poor infrastructure such as schools and roads. A participatory and inclusive approach is necessary to identify and target the poorest and most vulnerable. At every stage of project developmentanalysis, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluationVSO and its partners will use approaches that explicitly seek out and integrate the views and experiences of those who are most vulnerable. This will ensure that the issues faced by individuals and communities are well understood and that solutions that are developed will be appropriate and effective.

Building adaptive capacity to climate change at the community level

Every developing country has significant challenges in adapting to climate change and there are many activities that can be undertaken to help address those challenges. Programmes will be driven by country needs and partner priorities. Priorities will be identified through analysis that uses high-level science and policy, such as country-wide vulnerability assessments or national adaptation strategies, informed by community-based, participatory approaches that incorporate local knowledge of how the local climate has changed, what vulnerabilities exist at the local level, and what are the potential solutions. Many of VSOs climate change programmes will be developed in one country alone through its programme office. However, common climate change issues and concerns exist across regions and, as such, regional initiatives are being developed by governments and civil society organizations, for example in Southeast Asia and Central America. As appropriate and strategic, VSO will contribute to existing regional processes or develop our own regional initiatives.

Community-based adaptation
VSOs priority will be to work on community-based adaptation, work whose primary objective is to improve the capacity of local communities to adapt to climate change impacts. This community-level work builds on VSOs experience and strengths in assessing and working to reduce vulnerability. Focusing on adaptation is an explicit recognition that those in the developing world, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable, face tremendous challenges in responding to the escalating impacts of climate change. It is clear that climate change has impacts across a wide range of development issues (see section below: Integrating climate change into existing programmes). However, there are certain areas of VSOs work where vulnerabilities are already

VSO and Climate Change

significant and urgency is warranted. For example, water availability is a challenge in many regions and predicted to get worse due to a hotter, drier climate or less predictable rainfall. Food security is a long-standing challenge in the developing world and one that is exacerbated by climate change. And climate change is having impacts on biodiversity and the management of natural resources, including forests, especially for populations dependent on them.

Low carbon development

Other activities, such as the development of sustainable energy technologies, also called low carbon development, may also be undertaken by programme offices with interest and expertise. The focus of sustainable energy development will be to provide (more secure) energy resources to those who presently do not have access to them, thus ensuring that benefits reach those most in need. In most cases, therefore, the intent of developing sustainable energy sources will not be to replace existing, higher emitting energy sources (often called mitigation, since it involves a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions) but rather contributing energy resources towards the goal of social and economic development. Mitigation should be a much lower priority for poor people in the developing world, whose emissions are already very low and therefore make virtually no contribution to the problem of climate change.

Working with government

A second priority will be to partner with and advocate to in-country government agencies. Though the beneficiaries of our work will be those at the community level, VSO has shown in the past that real and sustainable change can best be accomplished through work that is multi-faceted and occurs at different political scales within a country. National, state and local government are usually best placed to overcome systemic challenges related to climate change, so it will be important in some cases to work with government. This will involve two main activities. The first will be working directly with government, either by having a volunteer placed within a government agency or having volunteers participate in and support policy development or implementation. The latter could be through an advisory committee or stakeholder group or some other institutional body that gives guidance to government agencies. Second, VSO will also aim to build the capacity of local partners such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or community groups to advocate for climate change policy development or implementation. Local representatives, if well supported and empowered with the necessary skills and knowledge, can often be the most effective advocates with local, state and national governments for the needs of the community. VSO will contribute to this support through, for example, the placement of research or advocacy volunteers, funding for the production of evidence, or knowledge sharing from other regions or countries.

Reducing deforestation
Activities that strive to reduce deforestation and otherwise preserve biodiversity may also be undertaken by VSO as adaptive measures. For communities that depend upon the services provided by forests and other ecosystems, their preservation is essential and a key factor in building those communities adaptive capacity. These projects, whether or not they generate credits or revenue, must be participatory and transparent and benefit the poor. Community members need to have a say in how the project is undertaken and the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities must be preserved.

Disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk reduction may also be a goal undertaken by VSO programme offices to assist communities in becoming less vulnerable to climate change. Disaster risk reduction involves supporting communities to prepare in advance for impacts that are specific to extreme weather events and implementing mechanisms to reduce those vulnerabilities. In some cases, this will involve building physical infrastructure such as shelters that people can go to in the event of floods, landslides, or storm surges. It may also involve developing early warning systems so people know that storms or floods are coming.

VSO and Climate Change

Integrating climate change into existing programmes

VSO has a number of existing thematic areas of work and climate change has the potential to undermine progress in each of them. For example, climate change hazards add further complexity to the range of factors that create vulnerability for poor peoples livelihoods, particularly those dependent upon agriculture and natural resources. Higher and more variable temperatures, less predictability in precipitation patterns, the potential for more frequent and intense storms and/or drought in some geographical regions are disrupting agricultural production and other livelihoods activities, exacerbating poverty and hungerunless communities are able to access support required to adapt to the changing climate. Increased competition for scarce water resources can also aggravate other tensions within or between communities, potentially leading to violence and insecurity. Climate change also has direct and indirect impacts on human health, such as an increase in vector- and water-borne diseases due to changes in the amount or intensity of precipitation, kidney disease due to heat stress and lack of water resources, and malnutrition due to loss of agricultural crops. Climate change also increases vulnerability to HIV and AIDS. Food insecurity, one of the impacts of climate change, can lead people into risky survival activities. They may migrate to find food; they may scavenge markets and industrial sites for food and risk falling prey to sexual demands; they may exchange sex for money or food; and children may be taken out of school prematurely to gather food or to work. In the case of girls, early marriages may be entered into to reduce the burden on a family or boost household income. For people already living with HIV, good nutrition is essential to slow the progress of illness, increase effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs and allow for greater resistance to opportunistic infections. People living with disabilities can be particularly hard hit by climate change for several reasons. Disability and poverty are closely linked, and poverty is a significant contributor to vulnerability from climate change. People with disabilities also experience exclusion from services, including those related to climate change impacts, because they are not provided in a way that is accessible to that group. More specifically, people living with disabilities (and HIV/AIDS) that restrict mobility are also more vulnerable to climate-related disasters such as storm surges or flooding that displace individuals or communities and that are becoming more frequent in many places due to climate change.

School programs can be disrupted by natural disasters, since schools are often used as shelters when climate-related disasters strike. Educational objectives can be compromised by food insecurity and poor nutrition in children. Educational retention and attendance rates are also adversely affected when children have to spend a large part of their day collecting water or working in the fields, or compensating in some way for adverse climate change effects. However, both formal and informal education can play an important role in raising awareness of the causes of and solutions to climate change. The school environment and a flexible approach to the curriculum can be used as an opportunity for increased interactive learning on climate change issues. Active citizenship, the participation of communities and citizens in decision-making on climate change programmes and policies, can ensure those decisions help to build the adaptive capacity of communities dealing with climate change and better support the poorest and most vulnerable people within those communities. The same is true of good governance of civil society organizations and governments. The reverse is true as well, that a lack of inclusion in decisionmaking and poor governance at the community level and in government can add to individual and community vulnerabilities. Because of this connection to VSOs existing thematic activities, many programme offices will focus on integrating climate change into their existing programmes. In many ways, this will be a continuation of VSOs existing work, while adding a climate change lens to project development by, for example, including climate change-induced vulnerabilities. Existing tools will be used to assist VSO and its partners in undertaking this integration. Some programme offices, for strategic reasons, will undertake programmes that are specific to climate change and that are labeled as such. The relative importance of climate change to each programme area will vary based on social, economic and ecological considerations. Programme offices and project proponents will determine the relevance of climate change to the work and what actions are necessary to integrate those considerations into the work.

VSO and Climate Change

Committing to gender sensitivity, gender equity, and gender equality

Climate change affects men and women differently, because of socio-cultural differences in gender roles and the differing access to resources, including land, money, credit, education and training. Climate change can often magnify gender inequalities by exacerbating existing differences between men and women in their vulnerability and their ability to cope. Men and women will also be affected differently and will respond differently to climate change policies, programmes and projects. For example, early warning systems that are intended to alert communities of an oncoming flood may use technologies that are not accessible by women. Programmes that attempt to make livelihoods more resilient may target economic activities that are dominated by men. For these reasons VSOs climate change work will be gender sensitive and strive for gender equity and equality. That is, it will recognize the important differences between women and men and take these differences into account when climate change interventions are designed and implemented. The success of climate change programming that is able to target the poorest and most vulnerable requires a solid understanding of gender roles, the varying impacts of climate change in regard to gender, and the differing access to social, economic and environmental resources by men and women. Success also depends on the meaningful participation of both women and men. VSO is committed to gender equity and equality in the design, delivery, and outcomes of climate change-related projects, and to undertaking campaigns for greater gender equity and equality and the enhanced participation of women in discussions related to climate change and development.

Bringing people together

VSOs effectiveness rests on its ability to bring people together to share and exchange ideas, experiences, expertise, and perspectives. Our work on climate change is no different. One of VSOs primary approaches to international development is sending volunteers. Currently, VSO volunteers have been effective at contributing their expertise to increase communities capacity to adapt to climatic change impacts in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Bangladesh (see case studies below). International volunteers will continue to collaborate with partners and local communities to assist them in their adaptation efforts. Where appropriate, there will also be a role for national volunteers in climate change-related programmes. National volunteering refers to VSOs inclusion of people volunteering within their own countries, e.g. Bangladeshis volunteering in Bangladesh. National volunteers, given their knowledge and understanding of local language and culture, can be invaluable in undertaking community-based adaptation work. National volunteers can be particularly valuable in awareness raising campaigns, since they can have a better appreciation for the methods of communication that would be effective, and since they are often youth who have a lot of energy and passion for environmental issues. Diaspora volunteering can also be a powerful tool that can be used for climate change-relevant projects. Similar to national volunteering, Diaspora volunteers can bring cultural knowledge to climate change adaptation work. Diaspora volunteers may also be able to play an important advocacy role upon return to their adopted countries, communicating to their communities and to governments the importance of industrialized countries contributing to climate change efforts in the developing world. Similarly, south-north visits can bring the experiences and perspectives of those living with climate change in the developing world to citizens and governments in the industrialized world. VSO will also continue to explore knowledge partnerships with universities and researchers who can bring academic expertise on climate change science and adaptation practices. This knowledge and experience will be important inputs to the development of forward-looking adaptation strategies. Knowledge partnerships can also happen in the field, with practitioners from NGOs who have a long history of applied experience in this field.

VSO/Ben Langdon

Finally, VSO will bring people together in other ways to exchange information about, perspectives on, and lessons from climate change, including knowledge sharing initiatives, study tours of climate-related work and different types of exchanges: north-south, south-north, and south-south.

VSO and Climate Change

Where we will see change

Strengthened communities
The aim of VSOs community-based adaptation work is to bring multiple benefits to individuals and communities, especially those who are marginalized and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Communities will have greater resilience so they can absorb and recover from climate change impacts as they occur. More importantly, communities will also build their capacity to respond to ongoing climate changes that will require adaptation across many sectors and over time. Communities will be able to look ahead and modify their behaviour in order to be better prepared and less vulnerable to climate change impacts, even as they intensify. Adopting a long-term approach to climate change is needed to move beyond short-term coping strategies to ongoing adaptation actions. All of this will be facilitated by public engagement/sensitization campaigns that will be undertaken as part of climaterelated projects. Community members will be able make the connection between the changes they experience and the impacts predicted by climate change science. Increased awareness will also help them understand that climate change impacts are unlikely to go away, so that waiting for the climate to go back to the way it was is not an option. With this understanding will come greater buy-in from the community, improved skills to foresee and prepare for future climatic changes, and an ability to become more effective advocates for the policies and resources needed from local and national governments and other stakeholders. work on community-based adaptation will become proficient at integrating climate change into development projects and mainstreaming gender into climate-related projects. Second, VSO partners will also build their skills and capacity in developing and implementing research, advocacy, and public engagement campaigns on climate change. Partners need specific skills on policy development and lobbying in order to engage with decision makers, and need communications skills to carry out public engagement activities on climate change at the community level. Other international NGOs who already have experience and expertise working on climate change adaptation could also benefit from partnerships with VSO. These strategic partnerships would combine the strengths of partner organizations to increase the effectiveness of adaptation work. VSO can build its skills on climate change adaptation while also contributing its vast experience in community-based projects, capacity building at the local level, and the use of volunteers. Partnerships between NGOs and within networks or consortia are increasingly being viewed favourably by institutional funders. Finally, local, state and national governments can build their capacity to implement climate change strategies at the local level. By working with VSO, governments will have a greater understanding of how programmes and policies can be implemented so they benefit those most in need. They can also learn from joint pilot projects undertaken with VSO in order to effectively scale up their programmes and policies to other communities, across states, or nationally

Empowered and effective partners

Collaborative and strategic partnerships that address climate change will allow both VSO and its partners to learn from one another and build their knowledge and capacity to work on climate change-related projects. Partners will benefit from learning opportunities related to climate change such as training sessions, workshops, study tours, and action researchlearning by doing. Capacity development within partners is already happening in areas related to service delivery, financial management, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, and other skills. Partners will build their capacity within two additional areas related to climate change. First, partner organizations who

VSO and Climate Change

Enlightened government policy and action

Systematic and widespread adaptation to climate change requires governments to develop and implement national plans and policies. Without this, progress to build adaptive capacity at the community level risks being piecemeal and unsustainable. With national policies and plans, governments will be better able to access and coordinate available international funding and reallocate internal resources to address climate change priorities. Therefore, VSO will provide support to partners to develop in-country advocacy strategies. Targeted and proactive advocacy undertaken by VSO partners will engage governments to develop and implement pro-poor climate change policies. However, government policies and plans are not sufficient. They also need to be implemented. VSO partners will strive to play an important role in advocating to and supporting governments implementation of climate change programs to ensure resources and actions get to those who most need them at the community level. Changes in national policies are needed in the industrialized world as well. As VSO builds its expertise on climate change, it will be able to speak from experience about the need for strong policies and action on climate change and share stories about how to make communities in the developing world more secure and resilient. A number of different advocacy initiativesoften by VSO in coalition with other networks, or through Diaspora and returned volunteerswill try to compel governments in the global North to implement policies and measures that reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and support the efforts of those in the developing world in adaptation, mitigation, and low carbon energy development. There may also be strategic opportunities to engage in regional or international policy discussions or, in the future, to undertake a global campaign as an organization. However, these should be undertaken only where VSO has a niche that allows both access and influence, and could therefore have an impact on the outcome. Returned volunteers can be encouraged to support international advocacy campaigns that are undertaken by VSO or other international development organizations doing climate change advocacy.

A strong and responsible VSO

Change will happen within VSO as well. It will be clear from our programmes, communications, and day-to-day office policies and procedures that climate change has been adopted as a key priority. Efforts will be taken to clearly communicate the importance of VSOs climate change work, especially since many interventions will be integrating climate change into programme goal areas rather than developing programmes that carry the climate change label. Stakeholders and the general public must come to understand that climate change work is an important part of VSOs activities. VSO will also build its knowledge and capacity on issues related to climate change. This will include hiring staff that have that expertise as well as providing training and resources to existing staff and volunteers. Expertise will be built in areas related to climate change impacts in countries where we operate, the design and implementation of community-based, gendersensitive adaptation projects, including the use of relevant toolkits, and the development of public engagement initiatives. VSO will also take responsibility for its impact on the environment and, specifically, its contribution to climate change in a more comprehensive way. We will measure our ecological footprint and build on environmental initiatives already undertaken by implementing policies to reduce that footprint across the organization, reflecting our concern for those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Various strategies will be used. VSO will build on the office policies already implemented across the federation to further reduce the use of energy and resources. We will investigate opportunities to develop and use sustainable sources of energy. We will undertake an analysis to identify strategies that will reduce staff, volunteer, and partner travel, including commuting. Initiatives could include building our national volunteering programme (which is already providing volunteers at lower environmental costs), expanding green travel policies already in place in London, and developing an e-volunteering programme. Finally, we will explore options for using highquality offsets for those greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be reduced.

VSO and Climate Change

Case study: Nigeria, climate change and VSO

One of the only programmes that VSO has undertaken to date that explicitly focuses on climate change is Building Nigerias Response to Climate Change (BNRCC), a partnership between CUSO-VSO (the North American federation member of VSO), Marbek (a Canadian consulting firm), and the Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team or NEST (the main NGO partner in Nigeria). BNRCC, a programme undertaken between 2007 and 2011, has different components including academic research on the socio-economic impact of climate change and the application of climate change models to more local scales in Nigeria; media and communications strategies to bring climate change stories to journalists and the general public; a policy contribution to the development of Nigerias national adaptation strategy; and 15 community-based adaptation projects in different regions of the country. Every community project in Nigeria has unique challenges, but there have been common themes. For example, water availability is currently an important challenge in the semiarid, central part of Nigeria, and even more so in the arid north. In cooperation with NEST and seven local partner organizations, VSO volunteers have supported communities in becoming less vulnerable to water scarcity. In one community alone, rooftop water harvesting systems were installed, water storage tanks were built, water filtration systems were set up, and the capacity of local micro dams was increased. These interventions brought important benefits to this community, especially for the women, who are responsible for water collection and previously had to walk long distances to supply water for their households. The BNRCCs community-based projects undertook a number of other initiatives, all driven by the stated priorities of community members and the vulnerabilities and impacts they were facing. New drought-resistant and early-maturing varieties of sorghum, millet, beans, maize, cassava and rice were introduced to address changing climatic conditions. More efficient, wood-burning stoves were distributed to women to decrease wood usage, improve indoor air quality, and reduce cooking times. Alternative livelihoods, such as fish farming, snail farming, and small-scale irrigation, were also developed. The lessons learned in Nigeria have been shared with the Ministry through a policy dialogue based on expertise gained at the grassroots level, and this has been able to influence the development of climate change adaptation policy in Nigeria at the national level. Lessons are also being shared with other programme offices and their partners in order to inform the development of their climate change programmes.

Case study: Addressing climate change impacts in Bangladesh

Bangladesh faces several hazards related to climate change, many of them related to water. Significant portions of the country flood every year due to more intense precipitation events and increased river flows due to melting glaciers in the Himalayas. Along the coastal belt, sea level rise and storm surges from more frequent typhoons have caused salination of soils and water sources. These hazards are likely most severe for Bangladeshs agriculture sector and, with 80% of its citizens dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, climate change poses major problems for the country. VSO-Bangladesh understands these vulnerabilities and is working to assist communities be more adaptive. Shahana Hayat, country director for Bangladesh puts it this way:

People who are already vulnerable and food insecure are likely to be the first affected. Agriculture-based livelihood systems that are already vulnerable to food insecurity face immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases, lack of appropriate seeds and planting material, and loss of livestock. People living on the coasts and floodplains are most at risk.
VSO-Bangladesh is working to help communities by making research accessible to smallholder farmers at a local level through living laboratory approaches to action research. The increased salination of agricultural land is increasing poverty levels. Recognizing that local communities need to develop alternative sources of incomes, in 2010 a VSO volunteer worked with these communities to identify viable options, which included adapting the cultivation of sweet water fish species to cultivation in salt water. The volunteer then worked with local fishermen, youth club members and the Fisheries Department to develop a model of cultivating sweet water fish in the saline water, which was appropriate to the local context. Eighty community and youth club members have now been trained on this model and are able to pass on skills for fish cultivation to other communities also affected by salt water intrusion.

VSO and Climate Change

Case study: Community-based adaptation in Kenya

VSOs current work in the Kajiado District of southern Kenya highlights our potential contribution to communitybased adaptation. Though not labeled climate change the work of the volunteers and partners, undertaken since 2009, is community-based adaptation since it is supporting communities and citizens groups to adapt to the increasingly frequent droughts in this semi-arid region. VSO volunteers are using their skills and knowledge to build capacity in a number of ways in the farming and pastoral communities and the partner organizations that support them. Conservation agricultureproducing high crop yields while conserving soil fertilityis being used to make agriculture more productive in the face of hotter, drier conditions. Fermented fruit juice, made using the stalks of banana trees, is getting great reviews as a natural fertilizer for crops. Intercropping traditional crops such as maize with cash crops like tomatoes has brought multiple benefits: the maize provides shade for the tomato plants and is used as a food staple, its stalks are fed to cattle, and the tomatoes provide a revenue stream for farmers when sold at the local market. Nitrogen-fixing trees are being planted alongside agricultural plots. The nitrogen increases the fertility of the soil and the trees provide shade for the crops during the hot, dry season. Volunteers are also supporting the introduction of alternative livelihoods with local community members, including citizens groups. These include beekeeping and honey production; breeding and raising goats; camel herding; and fish farming. Alternative sources of income decrease the vulnerability that the community faces from more prevalent droughts. Capacity is also being built within the local partner, a savings and credit co-operative. A VSO volunteer has supported the partner in its strategic planning and set up computer systems and a network for its branches, making the co-operative more efficient and effective at providing financial and technical support to its members, mostly farmers and pastoralists.


VSO/Ben Langdon

VSO and Climate Change

Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems to moderate the harm or exploit beneficial opportunities associated with climate change. Adaptation is usually a longer-term livelihood strategy, as opposed to short-term coping activity, and is a continuous process where results are sustained. Adaptive capacity: The potential of individuals, communities, and societies to be actively involved in the processes of change, to minimize negative impacts and maximize any benefits from changes in the climate. Climate change: Any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Current global concern is focused on climate change resulting from human activity, and specifically from the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Climate change impact: The effect of a climate change hazard on people or ecosystems, e.g. crop failure, lack of access to clean water, increased incidence of disease. Climate change vulnerability: The degree to which a system is susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, and that systems resilience and adaptive capacity. Community-based adaptation: Activities whose primary objective is to improve the capacity of local communities to adapt to climatic changes. Conservation agriculture: Resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment. Diaspora volunteering: The linking of members of a Diaspora community with their countries of origin through volunteering. Ecological footprint: A measure of the environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions, of an organization or entity. Gender equality: A situation where men and women have equal opportunities to realize their individual potential both to contribute to their countrys economic and social development, and to benefit equally from their participation in society. Gender equality does not mean that men and women will become the same, but rather that the interests and needs of women and men are weighed equally, as both sexes are valued equally. Gender equity: Being fair to both sexes by recognizing different needs, interests, and power and addressing them. Gender equity asserts that different treatment may be required for men and women, and believes in the necessity of redistributing power based on past disadvantages and injustices. Hazard: An event with the potential to cause harm. Examples of climate hazards found in the literature include tropical cyclones, droughts, floods, sea level rise or conditions leading to an outbreak of disease. Mitigation: The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change. National volunteering: Encouraging people to understand, influence, and own the development of their own communities and countries through volunteering. Resilience: The ability of a system (human or natural) to resist, absorb and recover from the effects of hazards in a timely and efficient manner, preserving or restoring its essential basic structures, functions and identity.


VSO and Climate Change

Key Sources
Adams, Barbara and Gretchen Luchsinger. 2009. Climate Justice for a Changing Planet: A Primer for Policy Makers and NGOs. UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service. Geneva and New York. Aguilar, Lorena. 2009. Training Manual on Gender and Climate Change. International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Development Programme. CARE International. 2010. Toolkit for Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Projects: Digital Toolkit, Version 1.0. Ensor, Jonathan and Rachel Berger. 2009. Understanding Climate Change Adaptation: Lessons from community-based approaches. Practical Action Publishing. Warwickshire, UK. Hahn, Marlene and Alexander Frode. 2010. Climate Proofing for Development: Adapting to Climate Change, Reducing Risk. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). Jones, Lindsey, Eva Ludi, and Simon Levine. Towards a characterisation of adaptive capacity: a framework for analysing adaptive capacity at the local level. Overseas Development Institute. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2009. Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Cooperation: Policy Guidance. OECD Publishing. Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds). 2007. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. REN21 Renewable Energy Policy Network. 2005. Energy For Development: The Potential Role of Renewable Energy in Meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Washington, D.C. Worldwatch Institute. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 2007. Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities And Adaptation In Developing Countries. UN Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. 2005. Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. World Conference on Disaster Reduction, January 2005, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

Carlton House, 27A Carlton Drive Putney, London SW15 2BS, UK +44 (0)20 8780 7500
VSO is a registered charity in England and in Wales (313757) and in Scotland (SC039117) Published 2011

VSO Bahaginan VSO Ireland VSO Jitolee