Tag Archives: climate change

Are we environmental instructors or English teachers?

Rwanda, now a member of the Commonwealth, has recently abruptly changed its second official language from French to English. One can easily understand that this transition does not work as smoothly in real life as it does on paper, but in the cities one can happily observe the progress. Accordingly the current ACNR education project on climate change was developed in English, but we are prepared to switch to French if students’ understanding requires it. Particularly complicated issues can be explained in Kinyarwanda and usually this strategy works without problems.

Just occasionally we arrive at schools, like the Centre Scholaire de Gaseke in the very remote North of Rwanda, where the French-English transition problem seems to be an embarrassment of riches. Secondary students speak no English at all, very broken French and have difficulties even reading Kinyarwanda.

Coming there to teach climate change we find ourselves in a dilemma: If we carried out the workshop in Kinyarwanda, we would work against the government’s aim to create a bilingual nation. If teachers use the local language only to make their subjects clear, the rural communities will remain disadvantaged.

P1040610On the other hand, if we used English or French to explain the causes and consequences of climate change, our teaching would pass students without reaching their conscience and understanding. The Climate Change Education Program would have no impact where climate change affects people most: in the poorest, agriculturally dominated regions of Rwanda.

This is probably the time to let go of the beautiful picture of a multilingual Rwanda and face the reality: 80% of Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda only. At ACNR we are environmental instructors, not English teachers. Our goal is to get the environmental message across, this is our task and responsibility which we have to work for in all available possibilities. Don’t you think so?

Climate change, a Human rights Violation

Climate Change; A threat to Development; A human rights issue!

Within an international community based upon the rule of law and universal values of equality, human rights and dignity, it is surely wrong for small, vulnerable communities to suffer because of the actions of other more powerful resource-rich countries, actions over which they have no control, and little or no protection.‘ Gayoom, President of Maldives.

African farmers may safe the world”A coastal (Tureture) village in Papua New Guinea. later destroyed by water due to a sudden king tide (2007)”

People from the poorest countries are worst affected by global warming. Climate change impacts will definitely reverse the development prospects in these countries. Crop production is likely to reduce by half by 2020. This means the food crisis will get the African countries faster due to climate change. The people of the small island nations of the pacific (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands Fiji etc) find most of their land under water due to king tides or cyclones; the people in the highlands of Kenya, Rwanda wake up one morning to find their crops moved and destroyed in landslides. AS I write this, the Turkanas of Kenya have moved to Uganda in search of pastures because of the drought that has hit their homeland. The herders and the police reservists accompanying are facing disarmament from the Ugandan militias and this will leave them cheap prey for the cattle rustlers from the other side. If they don’t die there, they will definitely loose their livelihoods source-their cattle. The cause of all this is the variability in climate which the Turkanas know nothing about nor have their actions contributed anything to the situation.

Human rights to development require international support to come to fruition”

Climate change has led to all these socio-economic strive in the underdeveloped countries. Industrialized countries release huge amounts of green house gases into the atmosphere daily and are causing this untold suffering to the underdeveloped countries. While the heavy polluters have the ability to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change, the underdeveloped countries are highly vulnerable. They have little or no capacity to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change. Human rights activists led by Mary Robinson, president, “Realizing Rights” (former president of Ireland); put their voices together to lobby for the realization of this important human rights violation. This was during an African Climate Change conference held in Kigali between

10th and 11th of September 2008. The Workshop was organized by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) in partnership with the London School of Economics and

sponsored by the government of Rwanda, LSE Fund, BBC world Service Trust and Howell and Sharon. The conference brought together policy makers, civil society, academicians and politicians with an aim of strategizing on how the African poor can adapt or mitigate against the impacts of climate change. The government of Rwanda, led by president Paul Kagame has realized that climate variability threatens the livelihoods of her people and that an immediate action needs to be taken by all stakeholders to reduce their vulnerability. President Kagame said climate change was an issue that needed more attention by all to liberate the African people from the vicious circle of poverty. Obviously, this visionary leader has realized the weight of this issue and has given it the political weight it requires. He called on other African leaders and policy makers not to keep lamenting but see climate change as a challenge to economic development that needs to be addressed immediately.

Now, there is enough evidence that climate change is a human rights issue and the heavy polluters should pay to help support the development of the most vulnerable nations’ capacity to mitigate and adapt to these adverse impacts.

People from the poor underdeveloped countries are part of the more than 2000 million farmers in the world. The farmers are custodians of most what’s left of the world’s natural resources; holding in their hands the fate of thousands of threatened species as well as the world’s remaining forests.

“Under no Circumstances should a people be deprive of their right to a livelihood”

I concur with Julian Cribb (editor science alert) that these farmers could probably be the ones who can safe the world. The African farmer will not only need to feed the continent but also restore its forests, cleanse its waters, protect its wild species, improve its soils and absorb a substantial percentage of the carbon we all emit as we go about our lives. The farmers need first to be informed of this important role and be equipped with the right skills and ample funding to do this. The African continent has the potential to provide solutions to the climate change threats by replanting forests and sow new Agro-forests; design farming systems that enrich the soils with organic matter, thereby absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere instead of degrading it and releasing carbon; filter, cleanse and restore the fresh waters; use new science in some cases and re-apply old science in others to turn agriculture in much of the continent into the engine of economic growth and prosperity, thereby tackling the millennium goals of reducing poverty, hunger and disease. For example, by preparing and using humus, the farmers will facilitate arbiscular micorrhizal fungi to grow thereby absorbing a lot of organic carbon from the atmosphere and stabilizing the carbon cycle in the soil. This creates an economic commodity for farmers (sequestered carbon) and makes the land more valuable by improving soil and water conservation, thus enhancing both the economic and environmental components of adaptive capacity. The drier parts of Africa have the greatest potential of growing Jatropha trees which are a great source of bio-fuel, a clean source of energy that can run of most of the African economies. The pastoralists of semi-arid Africa could be holding the most important genes (in their livestock) that may safe the world in breeding animals that can adapt to hotter drier conditions we are definitely going to experience in the short to medium term.

Many African scientists have done very well in research in many areas including climate change. However, their skills and knowledge have not been utilized beyond the certificate in their briefcases and the research papers on their shelves. The African voices are seriously lacking on the negotiation tables like the Kyoto discussions. Grace Akumu of Climate Network Africa said that it is now important for African leaders to mainstream climate change in all economic development plans and take a lead in negotiating over the issue in the discussions. She further noted that more (donor funding) should be directed at supporting capacity to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change for more sustainable development.

“More of and active African Voices are needed on the negotiating tables. The heavy polluters have to realize that their emissions lead to violation of a fundamental human right- the right to live, among the underdeveloped countries” A united Africa can challenge the wet- the biggest polluters to slow down their rates of green house emissions while supporting the poor countries capacity to adapt and mitigate the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The forum observed that the climate human rights linkage needs more appropriate research to develop a model that can place responsibility on individual actors including the private sector. An international enforcement mechanism needs to be designed.

The media can play an important role in creating awareness and training people on how to adapt and mitigate climate change. Christine K of BBC World Service Trust advised journalists that the climate change should be appropriately presented to the African public. Climate change should not be presented as an environmental apocalypse but as a serious scenario which everyone in the world can do something to improve. The African people have a right to access of the right information regarding climate change and all forms of media should be used to bridge the gap.

The conference made a number of recommendations. More important is that more of African voices need to be heard more on the negotiating forums and more funding be availed to build the capacity of Africa to adapt to climate variability and climate change. Adaptation should not be used as a substitute to mitigation. Both are options for reducing the impacts of climate change in the short and long run and should be employed together.

All the necessary efforts should be made to respect and protect the fundamental human rights of poor, weaker and the marginalised, including the indigenous people; both locally and internationally.

AFRICA: Climate Change will affect us Too!

Is Africa Prepared to deal with impacts of Climate Change?

No will be the correct answer to this question. Africa in general is overwhelmed with other problems. HIV AIDS, poverty reduction and political instability and general governance issues seem to take centre stage in Africa. To a large extent, it has been forgotten that all these have a direct relationship to the environment and impacts of climate change may make the situation worse. Sustainable economic development can not be achieved without realizing and incorporating the ecological component in all the strategies employed to deal with the problems developing economies and the world in general face.

However, hope exist! Concerned stake holders have realized the need to be actively involved in designing strategies to deal with the likely impacts of climate change. Using scientific modelling, they have modelled the likely climate change over the next 100 years. The situation is seriously worrying and a lot of effort is required to deal with it.Many species are projected to suffer a reduction in range size and a small proportion may go extinct completely.

Regal Sunbird, an Albertine Rift endemic and a species predicted to move altitudinally due to climate change

One of the most important things now is concerted efforts in scientific research, involving african conservationists/researchers and then followed by policy makers and implementers. Such (pioneering) research to help biodiversity survive the impacts of climate change across Africa was announced at a workshop in held in Kigali, Rwanda between 9th and 11th July 2008 and hosted by the Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (BirdLife in Rwanda) on behalf of the BirdLife Africa Partnership. The workshop brought together the BirdLife Africa Partnership, RSPB, Durham University (UK), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and was funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

The project mapped the current and future distributions of all bird species on mainland Africa by using climate change models to determine the distance and direction of shifts for each species in the future.

A particular emphasis of the work was understanding how well the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) network in Africa can sustain the continent’s bird with future climate change. Dr Julius Arinaitwe, BirdLife International’s Regional IBA Manager for Africa, said “There are very few plans to protect biodiversity from the effects of climate change anywhere in the world. BirdLife International is leading the drive to develop strategies to protect our unique wildlife for future generations.”

“BirdLife International is leading the drive to develop strategies to protect our unique wildlife for future generations” -Dr Julius Arinaitwe, BirdLife’s Regional IBA Manager for Africa

More detailed analysis is being carried out within the Albertine Rift region of Africa to identify actions that will increase the resilience of the IBA network to future climate change.

The workshop in Rwanda brings together governments, academic institutions, NGOs and local community from Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all of which are included within the Albertine Rift mountains complex.

Dr Steve Willis, a lecturer at Durham University’s Environmental Change Research Group, and a leading expert on climate change modelling commented: “In the Albertine Rift, our models project that species will move upwards altitudinally, and clearly the higher up a mountain you go, the less land area there is. We need to start acting now to prevent these unique species disappearing altogether.”

The main challenge is to try to protect the birds where they are now and at the same time to help them to follow a shifting climate. We need to start planning their conservation in areas where they currently do not even occur. The problems are huge but we cannot simply sit back and watch our natural heritage disappear,

Important Bird Areas are essential for the livelihoods of many people in Africa, and are the backbone of the tourism industry, a major source of revenue for African economies. Most of these areas are also key reservoirs for water and pollinators and so their protection is an important component of adaptation to climate change in other fields such as agriculture, demography, energy, and urbanisation.

3-D representation – looking north “up” the Albertine Rift – of the modelled distribution of Regal Sunbird Nectarinia regia for a) the present; b) 2025, and; c) 2085. The red indicates areas with suitable environmental condition for the species. The grey scale background is a digital elevation, with light grey representing higher altitudes.