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On Tuesday 8 February, during the World Social Forum, Caritas Internationalis held a workshop on migration as a consequence of climate change. Caritas members will return to this issue in their countries and contribute towards solutions.
Raymond Yoro, Secretary General of Caritas Niger
“Eighty per cent of Niger’s population are crop farmers. However, recently the rainy season has been getting shorter. Currently the north of the country only has one month of rainfall per year, which has a huge impact on agriculture and prevents it from developing. This has led many people in rural areas to move to the country’s centres of population, and even to leave Niger in the hope of finding more favourable places for farming. Therefore, the northern regions of Niger are emptying out and areas in the south are over-exploited. Livestock farming also takes place in Niger. However, stockbreeders in the north have been forced to leave their villages due to a lack of water points and grazing, which has led to extremely strained relations between crop farmers and stockbreeders. NGOs are encouraging people to seed early, as the rainy season is no longer guaranteed.
Caritas Niger is working with local people on making use of water points and creating food supplements. We’re also working with a number of women’s groups and organisations to this end, and trying to set up early seeding in some areas to enable efficient exploitation of rainfall.”
Francis Atul Sarker, Project Development Director at Caritas Bangladesh
“Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climate change as it is located on the world’s largest delta. The country also has a very high population density: 1,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. Our country is frequently hit by cyclones and flooding. Rising sea levels are also threatening us. Scientists estimate that by 2030 at least 3 million people will have to be displaced as a result of rising seal levels. And this exodus is already underway! Recently, 700 people have left three villages in the south of the country within the space of one year. Production of rice and other crops has declined as a result of high levels of salinity in the soil. Biodiversity and other natural resources have been weakened by this. Poverty levels have also risen. The north of the country, on the other hand, is suffering from drought due to the drying up of a river that we share with India. The water table is lowering and vegetation decreasing, which makes it more difficult for farmers to grow their crops. Bangladesh also has the largest number of landless peasants. At least 60 percent of the population are landless. Therefore, food security is a big problem. Finally, climate change also has negative effects on health: skin problems, dengue fever, malaria, cholera, etc., caused by encroaching salinity in the water.
“Caritas Bangladesh collaborates with a government organisation, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, which has developed two rice varieties, one tolerant to salinity and the other drought resistant. As we’re in contact with a large number of farmers, we’ve suggested they try using these seeds. Caritas Bangladesh has also developed small-scale water management technologies, such as rainwater collection and installation of water pumps and filters in ponds. We’ve also created new methods for growing vegetables, such as drip irrigation. This is how we’re trying to guarantee food security and prevent migration.”
Annette Chomba Malulu, head of the food security and income-generating activities programme at Caritas Zambia
“Zambia is strongly impacted by drought. In the south, farmers and communities only get 500 to 600 millimetres of rainfall per annum. Therefore, they’re obliged to move from this area to the northern regions where rain is abundant. We’re also subject to flooding, which affects crops. These floods also occur in urban areas. Residents are thus prevented from sending their children to school and are unable to leave their homes to go to market. They’re obliged to leave their homes and live elsewhere. In 2010 the government evacuated around 1,000 families. Given the cost of such an undertaking, people had to find accommodation using their own funds.
Caritas Zambia has set up a management programme for communities affected by natural disasters. Our members have discussions with communities and inform them about the best ways to reduce risk.”
Sok Sakhan is in charge of natural disaster response projects at Caritas Cambodia
“In the last 20 years, Cambodia has experienced drought, floods, storms and cyclones. The most difficult is drought, which lasts for several months. In addition, during the rainy season rivers burst their banks resulting in flooding of fields, houses and roads. Therefore, the 80 percent of the population who live off farming are no longer able to grow their crops properly. Some families are forces to sell their land and migrate within their district or to a neighbouring province, or even to another country such as Thailand. Such migration often leads to people trafficking, including slavery and prostitution of women.
Caritas Cambodia has drawn up an integrated development programme, in which we’ve incorporated a natural disaster emergency response programme. We’re also acting to reduce rural exodus and people trafficking. A development programme aimed at young people provides them with training so that they’re able to seek employment and stay in their villages. Caritas Cambodia is also trying to minimise the impacts of climate change by developing irrigation systems and supplying villages with water pumps.”
Interviews by Clémence Richard