From: SciDev
Published February 27, 2009 08:41 AM

Poor communities get help with climate adaptation

 A new global initiative will generate and share knowhow on strategies to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Global Initiative on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change was announced by Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the UK-based International Institute for Environment Development (IIED), at an international conference on community-based adaptation to climate change in Dhaka, Bangladesh yesterday (24 February).

It will be made up of representatives of donor agencies, research institutes and nongovernmental organisations from 50 countries, including the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and the IIED.

The initiative will support an online platform, Community Based Adaptation Exchange, where stakeholders can share experiences and information about the kind of adaptation strategies that work best — and could be replicated and scaled-up elsewhere. They will also hold a number of conferences to share best practice, with the first in Tanzania in September 2009.

Delegates of the conference stressed, among other measures, the need to use simple, low-cost technologies to enable poor communities to cope with climate change.

But adaptation should not focus excessively on short-term "palliative" adaptation strategies that yield immediate results but might not be sustainable in the long run, warned Ian Burton, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, Canada, and scientist emeritus at the Meteorological Service of Canada.

"It is important to avoid maladaptation or adaptation that will make the situation worse in the long term as we are focused on what will work in the short term," Burton said.

Potential adaptation techniques include crop varieties that can tolerate drought, floods and high salinity; drip and other irrigation techniques to conserve scarce water; building storm and cyclone shelters; changing crop growing cycles; and diversifying from crops to fish, shrimp, crab and livestock farming.

The meeting heard about a range of successful experiences from across Africa and Asia. An unusual example from Bangladesh is "floating gardens" — using a base of aquatic weeds to grow vegetables — which allow cultivation in waterlogged and flooded areas.

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In Nepal, local farmers are using their knowledge of traditional varieties and neglected and underutilised crops to breed suitable plants and improve incomes.

And in Lower Ouémé valley in Benin, communities are seeking solutions such as cultivating fast-growing crops in dried areas of swamp forests.

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