Sharing of Knowledge Through Indigenous Peoples Platform

IPOBIn an exciting side event, the indigenous peoples (IP) of Bolivia and Chad shared experiences related to the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) implementation. The Bolivian Platform of Indigenous Originary Campesino Peoples Against Climate Change took a deep dive into the plurinational state of Bolivia. The Indigenous peoples of Africa Committee (IPACC) with the support of GIZ showcased a similar case-study in Chad.

The IP of Bolivia provided a brief history of how their lands were taken away from them. The area in the highlands and lowlands of Bolivia was described as “our Bolivia.” The original land inhabited by the indigenous peoples went all the way up into what is now Alaska. They “lived without problems without discrimination, harmoniously.” When the Spaniards arrived a fight for water and natural resources became continuous. “It was very expensive.”

The fight for their lands took time and was difficult, but progress has been made. IP are now recognized in the Constitution and an assembly made up of fifty percent women and fifty percent men was created. The country before had never had plurality and now they do.

“IP have always struggled,” a panelist said. Their fight for Mother Earth is just beginning and actors must come together to counteract climate change. “Mother Earth needs to be cared for.” “Within South America, we need to work harder to defend our land, territory, and water. “That’s how we will fight back climate change.”

2018-04-09_ibrahim_0Ms. Hindou Ibrahim Oumarou provided knowledge and experience from the perspective of an IP from Chad. In Chad, the IP live by a nomadic way of life. Which means they move from one place to another, depending on the season. They possess the knowledge to find water, to understand the weather, and how to adapt to climate change. The IP of Chad want to share their knowledge and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) helps them to do this.



Africa Day at COP24


Africa Day is a traditional day where the African countries bring awareness to the impacts of climate change on their peoples. This day is a way for African countries to make concrete commitments for addressing climate change. At COP24, Africa Day is used to table all the climate change issues African countries face, and learn how to effectively present them to all the other COP parties. Today, African nations hosted multiple presentations addressing their efforts and challenges in implementing their NDCs. Of the many discussed, I want to highlight two important issues: international support and the power of the next generation.

1. (Lack of) International Support

One presenter joked about how Africans should have intellectual property rights over the term “poverty” because everyone thinks everywhere in Africa is basically poor. In all seriousness, the presenters did make some valid arguments in response to the lack of international (mostly financial) support for implementation of African NDCs. Collectively, the continent of Africa only emits about 2-3% of global GHG emissions. Here, African officials expressed their frustration with other Parties’ expectations from African countries, yet do not want to assist the African countries financially to achieve those expectations. Moreover, African countries stressed the importance of including adaptation measures in their NDCs, whereas most developing countries would like to focus more on mitigation. It’ll be very interesting to hear the negotiations on whether to mandate adaption in NDCs, and I will be sure to keep you all updated on that process.

2. African Youth

Several African students and young professionals used these sessions as opportunities to confront their nations’ leaders on improving conditions to keep more young people in Africa. Last year alone, about 17 million young Africans migrated to Europe in search of food, work, and education. Both the young advocates and officials had constructive dialogue on how to keep more youth in Africa while tackling tough climate change issues. Some suggested to restructure budget allocations so the majority of funding no longer goes to agriculture. Food security is very important, but, according to the youth at this event, not at the expense of stimulating the economy or educating the next generation to lead the African nations.

Intentions and Realities: A case for better fund management

Uganda ChildrenOne of the biggest hang-ups to addressing climate change is finance.  How are research projects funded?  How are solutions funded so that they can be implemented at a meaningful scale?  While finance was not my area of focus at COP 23, it certainly came up concerning “agriculture, forestry, and other land use” issues (AFOLU).  One of the most impressionable moments I had at COP 23 concerned finance for adaptation in agriculture.

At a side event for “addressing climate change for a world free of hunger, malnutrition and poverty,” the conversation among the facilitators and stakeholders seemed collaborative.  Then, Kagandga John, the Executive Director of Kikandwa Environmental Association (KEA) of Uganda, spoke.  He started slowly, thanking the Chair and other members joining the roundtable discussion.  He expressed his gratitude that finally agriculture and food security were being talked about seriously.  Then his voice escalated.  “You sit here and talk about funding innovative projects in agriculture.  You even continue to suggest new pilot projects for our region.”  At this point, he became animated, his voice nearing a crescendo.  “But I will tell you now that WE ALREADY KNOW how to adapt our farming to climate change!  Stop funding new pilot projects!  Start funding projects that already work.  Come to Uganda, we will show you.”

Part of the financing problem appears to be the mismanagement of available funds.  Is this possible?  For developing countries like Uganda, this inefficiency must be very frustrating.  After the meeting, I spoke with Kagandga John.  I learned that the education center in the Mityana district of Uganda that educates children about the environment and climate change must close due to lack of financial support from the local and international community.

Surely there is a better way to manage funds for developing nations.

Climate Change and Indigenous Governance

CMARI Reservation, the location of the pilot project of RIA in Colombia. Photo by Rodrigo Durán Bahamón

CMARI Reservation, the location of the pilot project of RIA in Colombia. Photo by Rodrigo Durán Bahamón

COP23 commenced its series of Thematic Days with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which included a series of side events on the protection of traditional indigenous knowledge and how this knowledge is being used in climate change action. Indigenous people are directly connected with the land and therefore feel the effects of climate change on the ground very acutely, although they are not typically involved in the climate change policymaking process. As indigenous communities are uprooted and impacted by climate change, these cultures and their traditional knowledge are threatened.

Loss of cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge has been classified as a noneconomic form of Loss and Damage (L&D). L&D is broadly defined as the unavoidable and irreversible effects of climate change and encompasses both extreme weather and slow onset events. Examples of slow onset events include sea level rise, desertification, ocean acidification, and loss of ecosystem services. L&D is also categorized by economic losses – such as loss of property, infrastructure, and agricultural production – and noneconomic losses. Some noneconomic losses are loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, human displacement, and the loss of heritage, culture, and indigenous knowledge. However, far from being entirely about loss, Indigenous Peoples’ Day highlighted the protection of traditional knowledge currently undertaken by indigenous communities around the world.  

The side event “Traditional Knowledge, Paris Agreement and Indigenous Territorial Organizations” featured Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA), an indigenous organization that works for the protection and security of indigenous territories within the Amazon Basin. Indigenous peoples have revered and relied on the Amazon for hundreds of years. Research through Rede Amazônica de Informação Socioambiental Georreferenciada (RAISG) found that indigenous territories only contribute to 8% of all deforestation in the Amazon, and 90% of deforestation takes place in unprotected areas in the remaining 48% of land. Initiatives, like REDD+ Indigenous Amazonian (RIA), promote shared management between indigenous peoples and governments where indigenous land protection knowledge is implemented utilizing government capacity.

The side event “Protecting and promoting indigenous territories and knowledge” highlighted indigenous practices in Africa that are working on climate change adaptation. Here, too, speakers highlighted that good governance must be based on the integration of local indigenous values and management systems with resources from the state. A speaker from the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) highlighted several examples of traditional knowledge for adaptation. One example is a traditional grazing practice in Morocco called Agdal, which seeks to create a balance of biodiversity by closing off areas to grazing during certain times of year.

A request that IPACC had for COP23 was the creation of a list of indigenous practices on climate change action. The hope is that this list would be shared internationally and eventually included in school books so the knowledge could be passed on through generations. RIA and other governance initiatives also serve as a model for governments and indigenous communities around the world. These efforts, from just two parts of the world, highlight the incredible emerging role for indigenous involvement in climate change governance.

Conflict & Climate Change: The Real Triple C

You read this title and say to yourself, “There is no war in climate change!” “What? Scientists don’t go to war!”  Often the discussions on climate change center around the environmental effects. Experts do not attribute climate change as a direct cause of war, but it is a catalyst for conflict. The connection between conflict and climate change is not a game of six degrees of separation. Many governments and NGOs have already generated reports on the effects of climate change and security.

Climate change causes sea-level rise, natural resource scarcity, and natural disasters. These external pressures pose a considerable threat, particularly to developing nations. Climate change makes forced migration and climate refugees more prevalent. Climate change can contribute to armed conflict in two ways. First, scarcity of natural resources can change the political economy of a state. Second, climate impacts can stimulate conflict by changes in social systems. Climate change causes environmental stress which asserts an influence on peace and security.



Sudan. The conflict in Darfur began because of an ecological crisis that arose from climate change. Southern Sudan started experiencing drought as a result of sea level temperature rise in the Indian Ocean. This drought caused scarcity in food and water resources, and heightened tensions between the Arab herders and nomadic farmers. The conflict in Darfur arose during this drought when there was not enough food and water for all.

Somalia. Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, which is particularly susceptible to climate change. Somalia has subtle connections between drought, food insecurity, and conflict. Drought and food insecurity plague Somalia, which has caused food crises. The food crises result in internal displacement within Somalia. Civil conflicts have coincided with the food crises. Militant groups have taken advantage of the current environmental vulnerabilities to expand their power, making climate change an external pressure on Somalia.

Syria. Similar to Sudan, the civil war in Syria arose in a time of drought. The drought was ongoing between 2006-2009 in the fertile crescent. As a result, rural Syrians along with Iraqi refugees were forced to migrate to larger cities. After the drought, the Syrian conflict arose in 2011.  Scientists believe that the drought played a role in Syrian unrest because food became expensive and water scarce. The expensive food and water scarcity put external pressures on the political climate in Syria.

The effects of climate change place external pressure on the political climate of nations. As nations seek to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, we face the challenges of how climate change impacts affect security and civil unrest. As we go into climate change negotiations, we should realize the threat of armed conflict that climate change poses.

The Need to Close the Gap Between Smallholder Farmers and Climate-Smart Agriculture

Panelists today from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Fertilizer Canada, and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), among others, explored the role of farmers in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. As was expected based on the affiliations of a majority of panel members, the discussion focused mainly on the role fertilizers play in achieving global food security and in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In terms of global food security, the panelists agreed that organic farming alone cannot sustain the world’s growing population, which is expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. They dismissed any substantive discussion on the viability of organic farming, and instead pushed for the use of manufactured fertilizers as the answer to food security, adaptation, and mitigation questions—much to the dismay of several audience members. They propose, using Fertilizer Canada’s international 4R partnership as an example, to bring climate-smart agriculture to smallholder farmers in areas such as Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Fertilizer Canada’s 4R program promotes nutrient stewardship programs and fertilizer best management practices that are implemented through the 4Rs: by applying the right source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place. To develop site-specific nutrient plans, Fertilizer Canada’s 4R program involves NGOs, governments, food companies, scientists, and farmers. In response to 4R’s plan, one audience member politely commented that too many layers exist between the farmers [in Africa] and the organizations developing these fertilizer plans, making the plans difficult to implement on the ground. If a combination of organic farming and farming with manufactured fertilizers is the solution to increasing food security in the wake of a growing population, the gap needs to close between smallholder farmers and access to climate-smart agriculture.


The Role of On-Farm Rainwater Harvesting in Agriculture as an Adaptation to Climate Change

The countries most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change require creative, affordable, and sustainable solutions to adaptation. Especially in the agriculture sector, these countries rely on local knowledge to develop and implement adaptation solutions. Today, a representative from World Vision Kenya (WVK) presented four technologies that drought-prone Kenya utilizes to harvest rainwater for use on farms as an adaptation to climate change.zai pits

  1. Subsoilers: Devices that help to break down hardpan soil and improve water infiltration into the soil.
  2. Zai pits: Pits that are generally 2×2 feet and are well fertilized with deeply loosened soil, which enables intensive planting and results in high yields from a small unit of land.
  3. Sunken beds: Well fertilized beds with deeply loosened soil that are especially suitable for vegetable gardening. Kenya instructs that they be no more than 1 meter wide to avoid people from trampling inside the beds.sunken beds
  4. Farm reservoir: Devices that trap road runoff for use on crops.

The representative from WVK acknowledged that these technologies all have their drawbacks—some can be tedious, costly, or time-consuming. Another challenge is a lack of national coordination and inadequate legislation to encourage use of these technologies. Despite their downsides, these are promising technologies that reduce runoff and soil erosion and could increase crop yield. In Africa, where food production is already stressed and the population is predicted to grow over 50% by 2050, agricultural growth and stability is essential. These four technologies currently in use in Kenya build on local knowledge to prevent further degradation of soil and water resources.

Sparks Fly as G77 and China Clash With Developed Countries Over Climate Finance

4820321_6_aa7c_la-sud-africaine-nozipho-mxakato-diseko-parle_c9a54ee2845b833d2f8e309d8e8f0516Thursday’s ADP Contact Group stocktaking meeting took an unexpected turn when Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa took the floor with sharp words for developed countries that she accused of obstructing today’s Spin Off Group on Adaptation. Importantly, Ms. Mxakato-Diseko spoke in her capacity as Chair of the G77 negotiating group, which represents 137 developing countries plus China and includes the majority of the world’s poor. Bolivia also spoke on behalf of this group, accusing the developed countries of negotiating in “bad faith.”

At the stocktaking, the G77 and China expressed two chief concerns about negotiations to date. First, it noted that developed countries continuously fail to give attention to “Loss and Damage” associated with climate change, an issue critical to the LDC and SIDS groups who are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The second source of contention related to whether and at what levels rich countries were willing to provide climate financing to poor countries to enable them to cut emissions and cope with the effects of global warming.

As of now, the developed countries, particularly the U.S., do not want mention of Loss and Damage in the final agreement. As for climate financing, one article of the draft agreement would require countries to make plans for adapting to climate change, and states that: “Developing country parties are eligible for support in the implementation of this article.” However, it is unclear whether rich nations will provide fixed levels of financial assistance.

After presenting these grievances to the ADP Co-Chairs Thursday, the G77 and China suspended the meeting to “huddle” for just over 20 minutes. Fortunately, instead of threatening to withdraw from further negotiations, the G77 and China returned and proposed a procedural path forward, in which the ADP Co-Chairs would produce a clean draft agreement text to the Parties for review Friday to allow for a comprehensive view of all of the issues.

While these meetings will pick up Friday morning, time is of the essence. Parties must work to finalize the latest draft of the agreement and decision by Saturday midday. This deadline comes from COP President Laurent Fabius who charged the ADP with cleaning up the draft agreement and decision text by reducing the number of options.

Fun fact: our delegation left the venue Thursday night with Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko as meeting attendees traveled home on the COP21 shuttle.


Expanding Energy Access in Africa


With the assistance of the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, Helio implemented a two-year program to address Energy, Ecodevelopment and Resilience in Africa (EERA) in 2013. Ending next month, EERA aimed to create a Smart Energy Path (SEP) in Togo, Mali, and Benin to increase capacity and develop economically beneficial energy projects. Currently only 9% of rural and peri-urban health centers in Togo have energy services. In a survey, Togolese said that providing electricity to these centers was their highest energy priority.

Lessons from EERA suggested that projects focus on energy services and smart technologies. Smart technologies can include diverse, renewable energy sources and climate resilient projects. Helio stressed that these technologies should be economically accessible across the region. Further, developing energy systems in these countries must be driven by sustainable development, prioritized, and respect climate vulnerability.


The Fossils of the Day

photo 1Today Australia and the European Union (EU) took home the Fossil of the Day Award presented by Climate Action Network (CAN). Australia received the gold medal after stating in an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) session that loss and damage should be an element of adaptation, not a stand alone part of the Paris Agreement.  This stands in direct contrast to the positions of the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts. Developing countries, including those from Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Africa Group, and Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), want to see the agreement feature loss and damage as a separate issue, not bundled into adaptation. Developing countries argue that it is not possible to adapt to losing your land due to rising sea levels, nor is it possible to adapt to farmland lost to desertification.

The EU won the silver Fossil of the Day Award, calling for a ten-year commitment period. Critics claim this is a sure fire way to lock in low ambition in the future climate deal. The length of the current five-year commitment period for climate action is key to an effective 2015 climate agreement in Paris. Proponents of a five-year commitment period say a shorter commitment period avoids locking in low ambition, incentivizes early action, avoids delay tactics, and maintains political accountability. Those calling for progressive climate action urge Parties to decide on a common five-year period here and now in Lima.

Africa on track to contribute to majority of global particulate matter

A study co-authored by researchers from France and Cote d’Ivoire concludes that Africa will contribute as much as 55% of the world’s particle pollutants by 2030.  In 2005, the continent accounted for 5% of suAfrica_Climatelphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions and 20% of organic carbon emissions.  These particles come from petrol and diesel fuel combustion for transportation, and coal, fuel wood, charcoal, and animal waste incineration for heating and cooking.   By 2100, Africa will represent 40% of the world population, with its urban population doubling from 2000 to 2030.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than two million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles in indoor and outdoor air pollution.  These particles can cause asthma and allergies, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

What to do?  The study recommends two strategies to fit the continent’s geography and development:  Increased use of biofuels to decrease domestic emissions in west and east Africa, and decreased reliance on coal as a source of industrial and power plant emissions in southern Africa.