QSA Notes: Helping communities meet the challenge of climate change
Fleur Bayley, QSA Project Manager, Cambodia
Water pit constructon in Uganda SOURCE: St Jude Family Project
Earthcare is a Quaker testimony, and Quakers seek to “develop a culture of caring for the planet, preparing for future generations of living things, and honouring the gifts of sustainable life offered by the earth.” Climate change and environmental impact are critical criteria for assessing all QSA projects, most of which are agriculture based, aiming to help participants adapt to climate change and reduce the impact of natural disasters through training in new agricultural techniques.
In Tamil Nadu, India, QSA partner PBRC focuses on environmental education, sustainability, and organic agricultural reforms. This region experienced extreme weather events in the past year which seriously reduced crop yields – cyclonic winds and intense monsoon rainfall far above previous years. Training in organic methods encourages farmers to maintain a close relationship with soil health and structure so plants develop deeper, stronger roots to withstand climate extremes. Crop variants have been trialled and assessed for different climates, and training in seed-saving techniques provides more options for farmers.
Cattle and goats standing in water has increased the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease in areas subject to flooding. Immune-enhancing herbal compounds within this project have kept this disease from the region despite its prevalence in nearby areas. Using low-fuel stoves for cooking is encouraged to reduce emissions and deforestation. In addition, indigenous trees are planted in denuded forests to provide fruits, medicinal products and shade and to increase carbon absorption.
Watering young indigenous trees planted in denuded forests to increase carbon absorption SOURCE: QSA
In Cambodia, most agriculture involves a single weather-dependent rice crop that uses large quantities of pesticides and fertilisers. Three projects teach permaculture techniques including crop selection, seed-saving, water use and management, and the development and use of natural fertilisers and pesticides. Participants (mostly women) establish home food gardens achieving year-round food security. These skills enable farmers to reduce reliance on traditional agriculture susceptible to climate change.
A declining water table is an ongoing problem in Cambodia due to climate change and increased demand. Water levels in streams, ponds, rivers and underground are declining, and many farmers have problems sourcing water, even if they sink wells. Projects in Pursat and Kampong Thom prioritise pump wells that provide much-needed water for households and to irrigate home food gardens. They also prioritise growing low water-use vegetables and using household wastewater during the dry season.
In Kandal Province, Khmer Community Development encourages participants to plant trees around their homes to reduce dust, provide food and reduce the impact of increasing heat due to climate change.
Pump wells for household use and home food gardens in Cambodia. SOURCE Department of Women’s Affairs, Kampong Thom
Climate adaptation and resilience is integral in the farming methods taught in Ugandan projects, particularly soil and water conservation, to reduce the impact of extreme and unpredictable climatic variations. Most methods also mitigate climate change as they contribute towards carbon sequestration, retention of moisture, lowering of ground temperatures, and slowing of deforestation.
The intensity and duration of drought affecting parts of Uganda increasingly challenges achieving year-round water security. Dream Farm’s farmers in Kiruhura have not experienced droughts as severe as in many parts of the Greater Masaka region where St Jude’s farmers are situated. Apart from rainwater harvesting methods practised by farmers, St Jude also advises farmers to save and invest in household water pits.
QSA is a member of the Australian Council for International Development and is a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct. The purpose of QSA is to express in a practical way the concern of Australian Quakers for the building of a more peaceful, equitable, just and compassionate world. To this end QSA works with communities in need to improve their quality of life with projects which are culturally sensitive, as well as being economically and environmentally appropriate and sustainable.
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