Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand on climate change in rural Nepal

by Martin de Jong, Caritas New Zealand 

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and Caritas Nepal have recently completed production of a 15-minute video looking at climate change in rural Nepal.

The video will provide a core resource for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand’s programme in schools for Lent 2011, and is also expected to interest a wider audience.

In the film, Caritas Nepal regional manager Anil Chitrakar takes the viewer through community-based efforts at forest regeneration, sustainable agriculture and training.

It focuses particularly on communities in the Syangja district of the western mountainous region of Nepal.

(Carbon offset donations by New Zealand pilgrims to World Youth Day 2008 have already contributed towards community forestry plantings in the district.)

Caritas Nepal has for several years been training local farmers in integrated pest management techniques, which rely on natural solutions to pest problems. It is leading to much higher yields for rice and vegetables enabling more people to feed themselves for longer in the year. However, they are noticing changes with warmer weather and less rain, and question whether these improvements can be maintained in the face of climate change.

For example, an area that used to get regular snowfalls has not seen snow for three years. A water source that used to run all year has been dry for the same period. And each of the last two years has seen unusually long, dry periods of 7-8 months. It is also affecting the survival rate of the plantings in a community forestry area that provides much needed resources for the people.

Local villagers may not necessarily understand the science, nor link their experience to global issues, but they do know that their climate is changing. They are coming together to use their natural resources as best they can to adapt. However, now it is the time for the whole world to act as one.

We are also currently reviewing our Environmental Policy, which covers paper and energy use as well as domestic and international travel. In particular, we are looking at concrete ways to measure, reduce and offset our carbon emissions.

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