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Tackling Climate and Disaster Risks in Development Cooperation

Agricultural Project in Haiti: Strategies of Sustainable Economic Management as a Means of Adaptation to Climatic Changes

, by Pain pour le prochain , BHEND Jonas, KUNZLER Marion

Climate change affects poor people in particular. They often rely heavily on natural resources and have very limited capacities to adapt. The rapidly changing climatic conditions hence put years of development efforts at peril. Development projects, on the other hand, strengthen the adaptive capacities of local communities and contribute to reduce or increase greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, climate change is often not considered explicitly in planning and managing development projects.

Bread for all and HEKS take climate change more formally into account through a tandem of measures. The project’s impact on the adaptive capacity of the local communities and on net greenhouse gas emissions is assessed in a comprehensive and structured analysis. The Climate Proofing Tool provides guidance to carry out this analysis. Climate change workshops for partners in developing countries provide the basics needed to analyze development projects. Furthermore, the workshops raise awareness on the topic of climate change among the project coordinators and they foster the cooperation between different institutions working on climate change.

Underdeveloped and Prone to Disasters

Haïti, covering the western third of the Caribbean Island La Hispaniola, became the world’s first black-led republic after a successful slave rebellion in the early 19th century. Despite the early start into sovereignty, decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability, and dictatorship, have left Haiti as the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Of the 10 Million inhabitants, 72% have to live of less than 2 dollar a day, 46% are undernourished, and only 58% have access to an improved water sourcei. The economy is dominated by small-scale subsistence farming. The agricultural activities, however, are insufficient to feed the population, and Haiti relies heavily on imported food. Furthermore, the remittances by Haitians living overseas account for one quarter of the total GDP of the country.

Haiti is very vulnerable to climate risks. The cyclones Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike caused almost 800 deaths in 2008. In contrast, the death toll in the neighboring Dominican Republic was significantly smaller. Comparative analyses of the two countries highlight the importance of deforestation, poverty, and reduced access to health care in lowering Haiti’s resilience to natural disasters. Apart from hurricanes and the accompanying floods, mudslides, and erosion, important climate risks and impacts in Haiti include the periodic droughts that reduce agricultural yields and strong winds that erode the arable land, damage infrastructure and boost diseases.

Analysis of a Development Project in Gomier

HEKS and Bread for all support several development projects in the Grand’Anse region in southwestern Haiti. The project analyzed with the Climate Proofing Tool aims at improving the agricultural production and commercialization in the village of Gomier at the shores of the Caribbean Ocean. At the heart of the project’s activities to achieve the overarching goal is the local development program for the network of producer organizations, ROPAGA. The three producer associations in Gomier that belong to ROPAGA benefit from credits issued by the network, organizational capacity building, support in commercializing fruits and other products, and the distribution of seedlings for reforestation and fruit trees.

Field trip during the workshop in Jérémie

In consultations with the beneficiaries of the project, the most important climate risks, impacts, current coping strategies, and resources important for dealing with climate risks have been identified. The consultations have been carried out with men and women separated, in order to account for the different responsibilities and daily routines and tasks and to reduce the influence of gender inequality. Women identified cyclones as the most important risk, whereas men highlighted droughts. Floods and the strong northerly winds called “Nordé” threaten the village of Gomier as well. Coping strategies to deal with most of the impacts exist. However, only some are sustainable and readily available to the inhabitants of Gomier and all of these strategies are reactive rather than preventive. Against losses in agricultural yields, the farmers replant their seeds, which is costly and takes two to three months. In addition, food is bought on credit to reduce hunger. This illustrates the fact, that most strategies are strongly based on credits. Not surprisingly, the majority of the population of Gomier is heavily indebted, and some have already lost all their assets.

The project’s activities support the adaptive capacity of the population of Gomier. Increasing the commercialization of agricultural yields and access to credits at affordable rates, help provide the financial resources needed for most coping strategies. Agricultural diversification and reforestation further help to reduce the vulnerability: Fruit trees are less affected by floods and droughts. Reforestation of the hills around Gomier reduces soil erosion. The overall impact of the project, however, is rather small. People still have to get credits from the local bank in Jérémie at horrendous rates, and only 2000 seedlings have been distributed so far.

The limited outreach of the project’s activities represents the major potential for improving the project. The most important resource to coping strategies are credits. Thus increasing the availability of credits at affordable rates and/or strengthening sources of income less prone to climate risks strongly supports the adaptive capacities of the local community. Beekeeping and fruit trees as alternative sources of income and food should be further promoted, as these are much less vulnerable to natural hazards than the traditional agriculture. Drought resistant varieties should be introduced, as droughts will likely become more frequent due to climate change. Apart from these mostly reactive measures, risk prevention should be strongly promoted. Prevention measures such as securing buildings and roads and protecting fertile soils from erosion can help to reduce losses in the case of a disaster.

Mitigation of global climate change – that is, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or the increase of carbon sequestration – is no priority of the rural poor. Nevertheless, the analysis with the Climate Proofing Tool indicates that the projects net greenhouse effect is slightly positive. The increased sequestration of carbon in soils and biomass through soil conservation and reforestation measures – though small – outweighs the emissions from cars and buildings, as the main greenhouse gas sources in the project. So far there exists no mitigation project eligible to trade carbon credits on the international markets in Haiti. Therefore, there is little potential for commercializing the mitigation aspects of development projects to date. In the near future, however, new funding schemes for mitigating emissions from deforestation will be developed, and the aspect of mitigation in community-level development projects could become much more important.

Workshop in Jérémie

The climate change workshop for partners in Jérémie took place in December 2009. The numerous participants attending the workshop come from various organizations and development agencies. Coordinators of projects supported by Bread for all and HEKS participated along with various local experts from development agencies active in the region to former members of the government.

The climate change workshop aims at providing basic information on climate change, at sensitizing the participants, at supporting project revisions or new projects that take climate change into account, and it aims at stimulating cooperation and discussion among the various groups of actors. Various presentations on the different topics relevant in the climate change/development context have been held by local experts whenever possible or else by the climate change consultant of Bread for all. These presentations provide the basics on climate change, its causes and effects both at the global and regional scale, adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management, mitigation of climate change, and national and international climate politics. In a series of exercises, the participants learn to analyze a development project with the Climate Proofing Tool of HEKS and Bread for all. These exercises culminate in a draft project proposal for a climate-related development project in the participants’ region of origin. In addition, the participants have been given the possibility to apply what they have learned so far during a visit of a conservation and resource management project on the third day of the workshop.

The participants appreciated the stimulating introduction into the topic of climate change and the training on the Climate Proofing Tool. As in the other workshops held so far, the participants complained about the packed schedule. Furthermore, the translation of the contents to the local language Creole has been insufficient according to some of the participants.

For further information: Marion Künzler / Bread for all, In charge of the « Climate » workshops: kuenzler@bfa-ppp.ch

Commentaires

«I was not aware of how many issues are threatening our environment. Now that I learned it, I will do my best to tackle climate change and pass on the information.» Workshop participant, Jérémie

This article is available in french Les Stratégies de gestion économique d’un projet agricole en Haiti comme moyen d’adaptation au changement climatique

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