by Zar Gomez, Caritas Asia coordinator

The team in Doha

Now on its third day since the start of the UNFCCC meeting in Doha, Qatar, the exhibit booth of the 4-member delegation of Caritas Internationalis proves to be among the largest crowd-drawers at the Exhibit Hall 4 of the Qatar National Convention Centre.

Featuring a wide array of display items, including newsletters, video documentaries, posters, stickers, pictures, articles and a lot more, the Caritas booth provides all visitors with educational and information materials that enable them to learn about the Caritas confederation across the globe. It also showcases sample products of various development programmes undertaken by Caritas organisations, notably the organic agricultural products that were brought in by Dr. Haridas Varikkottil Raman of Caritas India.

The organic products from Caritas India give guests a general glimpse of the sustainable agriculture programmes of Caritas Asia. They virtually relay the message that Caritas is supporting efforts that bats for agro-ecology in the UNFCCC talks. The booth manifests the call of Caritas that agriculture should be given serious consideration by State Parties in the UNFCCC negotiations. The exhibit booth also features select video documentaries providing case studies of various community programs that respond to the need for adaptation to climate change.

Being among the exhibits of State Parties, NGOs, research and other institutions at COP18, the Caritas exhibit booth visibly delivers the message that Caritas is working on promoting sustainable agriculture, with a firm conviction that organic farming, which is one of the components of agro-ecology, is a concrete and effective step towards achieving food security and food sovereignty. The booth also projects the aim of Caritas of bringing the voices of the marginalized communities, the small farmers in particular, to the UNFCCC talks. The Caritas team at COP18 aims to bring to the fore the Caritas claim that local communities, especially the small farm holders, should be given an active role in adaptation and mitigation measures regulated by the Parties of the UNFCCC.

Since its opening on Monday, the Caritas exhibition booth has attracted numerous visitors from all corners of the world.

An African lady stopped by and was delighted to see the items displayed in the booth, because, she said, they reminded her of the days when she was a volunteer at Caritas Niger. She said that her experience with Caritas had been so memorable.

An experienced former negotiator from Uganda also stopped by and stayed for an engaging conversation. He told the Caritas team members about the problem of water scarcity in his country, and how easy it would be to help small farm holders. “You don’t need a lot of money for climate-resilient projects” he said “all you need is your mind”.

On a break from negotiation sessions, Party delegates could be seen roaming in the exhibit areas, looking for inspiring ideas. One of them was the Head of the Philippines Delegation, Mr. Heherson Alvarez, who warmly approached the booth. He talked about “ECO-Village”, a pilot project on climate change mitigation in island communities in the Philippines, as well as of his personal battle with the car industry sector to remove led from fuel. He established a national commission on environmental matters, including four Bishops, and praised Caritas for all its good work in this field.

In sum, the Caritas exhibit booth has proved an excellent opportunity to meet, learn and share with, virtually, the whole world. It has also proved, once again, that Caritas is a highly-esteemed organisation who is able to catalyze the attention and commitment of people at all levels, in all continents.