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Throughout the world, it tends to be people living in poverty who bear the brunt of the disastrous effects of climate change.
According to the Global Carbon Project, the 23 highest income economies in the world, which include the United States, Canada, UK, Germany and others, are responsible for half of all planet warming greenhouse gases released via fossil fuels and industry over the past 170 years. For reference, lower countries only make up 12% of the world’s population. To add further context, the wealthiest 10% of people are responsible for nearly half the world’s CO2 emissions, while the poorest 50% of the global population contribute only 7.2% of emissions per capita.
Extreme weather events become more intense and frequent as a result of climate change, destroying lives, industry and infrastructure and deepening the poverty that vulnerable communities within poorer countries face. To illustrate how stark the situation is, over the last 50 years, 69% of worldwide deaths caused by climate-related disasters occurred in lower income countries.
However, for many vulnerable communities affected by climate change, people are adapting to its pressures. Here, we highlight how the communities we work with are implementing methods to better cope with climate change.
How people in Bangladesh are adapting to climate change
Bangladesh has been cited by the World Bank and other organisations as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. In 2022 powerful and continuous rainfall caused the worst flooding in more than a century in Bangladesh, displacing nearly four million people.
The floods, according to scientists, were exasperated by climate change, with rising global temperatures affecting the low-lying country severely by increasing the strength of storms, monsoon flooding and raising the sea level.
It is estimated that due to the catastrophic effects of climate change, tens of millions of people will be forced to relocate in the coming years to ostensibly more climate resilient areas. A staggering 30 million people may be forced to flee their homes by 2100 if sea levels rise to the projected 80 cm or higher.
But displacement is a tragic way of adapting to crisis. For examples of ingenuity, we can turn towards how Bangladeshi programme participants are working with Concern to forge more climate resilient communities.
Climate resilience in Bangladesh
Concern Worldwide has been implementing a Flood Resilience Programme in Bangladesh alongside local development partners and is working with vulnerable communities to improve flood resilience practices. In Rangpur district in northern Bangladesh, flooding is a huge issue and for Malika Begum, a resident, she faced difficulties in protecting her children from dangerous floodwaters. Malika joined the Flood Resilience Programme and as part of a local self-help group, her and other members of her community prepare for the flood by reducing the loss and damage from the flooding. They achieve this through practical measures to mitigate damage, such as bringing livestock indoors to avoid being destroyed by flooding or mudslides and constructing sturdy and low cost bamboo bridges to better traverse flooded environments.
Communities are also making use of new water pumps built by Concern that provide access to clean water, and use Concern-provided megaphones to alert their towns and villages of potential flooding.
How rooftop gardens saved a father’s livelihood
Another programme participant, Nuruzzaman, who also lives in the Rangpur district, also suffered from severe flooding. “I experienced huge suffering from not being able to cook food, not being able to sleep because of the water…The flooding used to come suddenly because we had no early warning…It was so difficult, we had to decide whether we are saving our own life or we are saving the life of the cattle and livestock.”
Concern have helped support Nuruzzaman to use local technology and training to build a rooftop garden to grow his vegetables in a more flood resilient manner. Now Nuruzzaman can not only keep his livelihood intact, but he has also implemented architectural measures in the house to prevent flood damage. We are also responding to the climate crisis by helping locals construct bamboo walkways that provide an easily accessible path for residents to cross over water.
Avoiding flood damage in Afghanistan
In Takhar province, Afghanistan, for as long as people in the rural village of Totak can remember, floods have continuously caused loss of life and have destroyed farmland and homes. However, to deter damages from flooding, people in Totak constructed watersheds (terraced farming plots) around the village and have planted trees to keep the rushing water at bay. Concern have been working with villagers in Totak to ensure that their watersheds are working and circumvent flooding.
Seed fairs in South Sudan
South Sudan, and much of East Africa, has recently faced the worst drought in years, with over 35 million people needing lifesaving assistance due to hunger. For affected communities vulnerable to drought and hunger, some South Sudanese people are adapting by planting fast-maturing crops. Communities are coming together to hold ‘Seed Fairs’ events which promote market linkages between farmers and seed suppliers. Farmers can select suitable preferred drought-resistant seeds during the fair and local vendors can experience a boost in sales, which stimulates the local economy and gives them economic independence.
Concern Worldwide has been supporting communities to recover from the impact of climate change by delivering nutritional assistance, supporting the implementation of climate-smart measures and by improving water accessibility.
We have also been vaccinating livestock against diseases and providing emergency cash transfers to affected communities to help people buy nutritious food.