It’s no secret that climate related hazards like flooding, droughts, cyclones, storms, and extreme weather are on the rise.
And it’s no secret rich countries produce most of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and yet it’s the poorest countries that are feeling the effects most acutely.
And while the UN-sponsored talks in Copenhagen in 2009 followed by the disappointing climate agreement that came out of Cancún in 2010 brought more awareness to the urgency of climate change, the talks also revealed there is much work to be done.
IDEX is investing in the right of local communities, those on the frontlines of climate change, to participate in shaping solutions.
For many of the communities where IDEX partners work, “climate change” is more than just a topic of discussion. Climate change means that erratic weather patterns and increasing natural disasters are already affecting their ability to grow enough food and sustain their families.
Though poor communities contribute least to climate change, they are the most vulnerable since they rely most on the availability of sustainable natural resources for their livelihoods and have few resources to withstand disasters when they occur.
Climate Crisis Response Takes a New Direction
The good news is that alternatives are already under way.
People’s mobilizations – indigenous communities, environmental activists, grassroots leaders from the global south are paving the way forward with their own action against climate change.
At IDEX, we believe that grassroots groups are well positioned to lead the movement for true climate action.
In Rajasthan, India for example, our partner Sayhog is taking early action to reduce their vulnerability to disaster and mitigate climate change´s current effects on daily life.
Though the land in this region of India is rich in minerals, and was once fertile and covered in trees, commercial and illegal logging and mining have scarred the landscape, caused erosion, and greatly diminished the capacity for farming.
To compound the problem, growing demand and extensive use of groundwater for irrigation are reducing the water level at an alarming rate, posing a serious threat.
Climate change means erratic rains are playing havoc with planting seasons. Farmers used to rely on local weather patterns to know when to plant their crops. But climate change renders this knowledge useless.
Communities are now learning new techniques to monitor and collect data on rainfall, temperatures and wind in order to determine to best times to plant. They are preparing for rainfall fluctuations and restoring degraded land. They work to control soil erosion and build soil quality.
From Mexico to South Africa: Supporting Vulnerable Communities in Adapting to Climate Threats
But mining, logging, petroleum and tourism industries are eager to access lands and resources with little concern for the indigenous communities that call this region home.
Deforestation, for example, has become a big issue, due in large part from logging companies eager to cut down precious hardwoods.
Impoverished indigenous communities that are merely trying to survive are cutting down trees as well, while receiving a disproportionate level of blame for the deforestation.
IDEX partners EduPaz and DESMI work with communities on activities that take into account climate change. They are helping communities to manage the land, water, and seeds on which their livelihoods -and very survival- depend.
To diminish the need to cut down the forests, for example, communities are adopting sustainable grazing practices. To restore the land on which communities depend, they are using sustainable non-toxic methods of agriculture.
They are developing sustainable and culturally appropriate energy sources, too. Like implementing low-cost wood-saving stoves, which also drastically reduces the need to cut down firewood.
Leading the movement for Climate Action: Developing Strategies to Cope with Environmental Challenges
From Biowatch in South Africa to ASHA in Nepal, many IDEX partners work with indigenous communities to improve food supplies and health and nutrition while at the same time helping communities to manage the land, water, and seeds on which their livelihoods – and very survival – depend, both now and in the future.
In promoting environmental sustainability through everyday activities, such as farming, IDEX partners are fostering long-term solutions to ecological problems.
They are reclaiming traditions that were lost to the lure of genetically-modified seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which has led to soil erosion, and polluted water sources, and decreasing crop yields.
These very same communities now boast a variety of crops and the health of their soil has improved – not to mention improvements in their
own health, nutrition levels and quality of life.
IDEX Grants Build Long-term Resiliency
Our long-standing relationships with grassroots partners have allowed us to see how, over time, communities are successfully improving the health and sustainability of their land, improving the health of their animals while preserving the environment.
While sustainable agriculture and livestock-rearing play a key role in rural communities, partners also help communities build business infrastructure – pharmacies, bakeries, general stores – as well as income-generation activities.
Sustained economic development builds and protects livelihoods for the long haul. Families and entire communities are building resiliency when shocks do occur.
Spotlight: Advocating for Climate Justice in South Africa
Not only are IDEX partners – local organizations with deep community roots – working to address the growing urgency around climate change, they are fighting poverty and powerlessness that make people vulnerable in the first place.
In what is referred to as “the Toxic Hub of South Africa,” IDEX partner South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) works to empower community members- especially women and youth- to engage in environmental issues and fight against man-made climate threats.
In South Durban, minority communities live in the shadows of over a hundred “smokestack industries” that are producing petroleum and other chemical products. Oil spills, industrial accidents, and illegal dumping of toxic wastes are commonplace. People contend with toxic emissions in the air, water and land – and high rates of cancer and asthma.
Like many of our partners, SDCEA takes a rights-based approach to environmental justice. For SDCEA, this means training everyday citizens on air quality monitoring and environmental awareness.
SDCEA trains community members to use a low-tech system called a “bucket brigade” which takes soil samples to gather evidence of pollution. These results are used to lobby the government and companies to take responsibility for their environmental degradation.
IDEX´s Role in Climate Action
While IDEX is not a direct aid or relief-oriented organization, we play a critical role in funding locally led organizations on the front lines of climate change.
Instead of crisis-driven funding, our role is in bolstering these organizations so they can continue with their adaptive solutions and prepare for the future.
We fund our partners on a long term basis so our partners work can continue to build from one year to the next. This means consideration of the environment lives on beyond a specific project or program. We also plan to play facilitative role in connecting our partners to direct relief agencies in the event of emergencies.
Here locally in the Bay Area, IDEX sponsors events and participates in panels and workshops to bring awareness to the urgency of climate action and the work our partners are doing to lead the movement for climate action.
Read more about IDEX’s work on climate justice on our blog.