Raphael Nkhoma is a farmer in Malawai, an African country that depends heavily on agriculture. The 63-year-old grows maze, banana, beans and other vegetables in his farm. But, problems similar to those faced thousands of miles away in Bangladesh, have affected him as well.
“To grow crops, we depend on rain. But on many occasions, we don't have adequate rainfall when we need it,” the small farmer said at a conference in Lilongwe, the capital of the country. “But we also face heavy rainfall when we don't need it.”
He says the situation was different when he was young. He believes climate change is now affecting his agricultural output.
Like Raphael, around 200 participants from 45 countries joined the 12th edition of the conference on climate change's community-based adaptation (CBA) to share ideas and views on the issue. Many of the participants lauded Bangladesh's role in tackling the matter with its own resources.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around 80 percent of Malawi's populations (18.6 million) are small farmers who produce around 80 percent of the country's total food production. USAID says Malawi's agricultural-based economy is particularly susceptible to climate change's negative consequences, due to the country's high population growth, rapid deforestation, and widespread soil erosion.
Raphael, who lives in Zomba district, around 300kms off Lilongwe, said he joined the conference to learn how to tackle the problem.
The idea of CBA conference was pioneered by, among others, Saleemul Huq, director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Bangladesh. The first three conferences were held in Bangladesh. The later ones were organised in other countries in South Asia and Africa every year.
During this year's programme, the participants discussed community based climate change adaptation. They said the Bangladeshi experience was crucial to show the world that it was possible to adapt to climate change using their own funds.
Saleemul said, “It is not that only African people are learning from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. We are learning from each other.
“Actually it is a market place of sharing ideas, experience and knowledge,” he said about the conference, adding that they would take the new ideas and experiences from the conference to the annual UN climate change conference.
Asked how the experience from Bangladesh would help African people learn and practice climate change adaptation, Clare Shakya, director of International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said many of the African countries are facing climate issues similar to those in Bangladesh and other South African countries.
“So we are having very interesting sessions here. Like yesterday, Nepali participants presented how they are handling agriculture in hill slopes. In Africa, they have similar problems. Also people are interested in [learning] how Bangladesh is increasing its efficiency in water management and solar powered irrigation,” she told The Daily Star.
Susan Nandudddu, executive director, African Centre for Trade and Development, an organisation based in Uganda, echoed Clare's statement.
African farmers mainly grow banana, maze, beans and cassava, and they were losing crops to drought.
“So we are launching campaigns to make farmers listen to weather forecasts. We are also working with the government to help local communities,” she said.
Victor Orindi from ADA Consortium, Kenya, another fellow at the ICCCAD, said, “When we talk about tackling climate change, there are many things to learn from Bangladesh”.
Kenyan farmers are facing losses of crop and livestock as 80 percent of the country remains dry most of the time.
“So we are following the Bangladeshi example of taking collective action, along with the local community and the government. We are also working to grow new varieties of rice suitable for different climates,” he said.
And another good example Bangladesh showed to the world was creating its own Climate Change Trust Fund and tackling the problem with its own resources, instead of waiting for help from the developed world.
“We are also doing it the same way. Our county government [local government] has also allocated fund to tackle climate change impacts,” said Victor.
The CBA conference was organised by IIED in partnership with Climate Justice Resilience Fund, GIZ, Global Resilience Partnership, International Development Research Centre, IrishAid, Practical Action and the government of Malawi.
The four-day programme ended yesterday.