Climate change and disasters threaten the livelihood of poor people in particular. Often, the population in developing countries does not have the means to protect itself against the increasing climate and disaster risks. This also puts the outcome of the long-standing development cooperation at risk. On the other hand, the project work strengthens the adaptability to climate and disaster risks. Hence, Bread for All and HEKS integrate both topics using the specifically developed Climate Proofing Tool in their development work. The attained findings serve as a basis for appropriate project adaptations. The data for the analysis is compiled in workshops with the project beneficiaries, while projects are adequately adjusted. The southern partner’s project staff is trained in the knowledge base as well as the application of the instrument.
With over 195 million people, Brazil is the most populous country in South America and comprises almost half the South American continent. Even though Brazil has South America’s strongest economy, 10 percent of the population lives on less than two US dollars a day.
Brazil plays a key role when it comes to climate change: While the rainforest is one of the world’s largest CO2 reservoirs, Brazil is also the world’s fourth largest greenhouse gas producer, mainly due to the massive deforestation. After the rainforest, the Cerrado Savanna region in Central Brazil is the country’s second largest ecosystem. The region plays a key role as a CO2 reservoir due to its rich biodiversity. The large-scale agro-industry poses a big threat to the Cerrado. This is especially true since it does not get the same level of protection as the rainforest.
The changing rainfall amounts and temperatures can cause an increase in floods, droughts and forest fires. In addition, a “savannazation” of large areas of rainforest, an increase in extreme events and a loss of biodiversity are feared.
Agricultural Project in Cerrado
The analyzed Heks-project is located in Cerrado, in the north of the state of Minas Gerais. The focus of the project is the “development of rural communities.” This includes:
Defending land rights of various population groups with the help of information sessions, organizational development and legal consultations.
Advocating ecological agriculture through education, consultation and knowledge exchange between families of farmers regarding cultivation and processing.
Establishing a commercialization network for Cerrado products such as medicinal plants or fruit as well as advancing organic and fair trade certification.
Promote farmer leaders in national and regional government entities.
An organic farmer women standing in front of her water retention pond.
Climate and Disaster Risk Analysis of the Project
Small-scale farmers of Tapera Village discussed during a three-day workshop, which was separated by gender, the climate and disaster risks of the region, their effects and coping strategies. The people of Tapera nod vigorously when talking about climate change. They can feel the changes. The rainy season has become erratic: While they could previously rely on rainfalls beginning in October, they now start later. When it rains, flood risk increases. However, the rain does not last as long as it used to, during the months of January and February aridity prevails. Crop shortfalls are the consequence. Only a small portion is left for sale after meeting personal needs.
Climate change is not the only concern. Eucalyptus plantations, which are spreading rapidly in the area, worry farmer families. The fast growing Eucalyptus causes the groundwater level to decline and springs to run dry. The agro-industry is supplanting the Cerrado, which constitutes a livelihood for families of farmers, offering diversity in fruits and medicinal plants. The combination of the two main problems of drought and Eucalyptus plantations will exacerbate Tapera’s existing problems in the future.
Small-scale farmers have already taken measures to cope with climate change. With the help of the Heks-partner, water retention ponds have been dug, which prevent the flooding of fields in case of strong rainfalls while serving as watering holes and irrigation sources during droughts.
Previous project activities are already enhancing the adaptability of farmer families to climate change. Similarly, the project contributes to the protection of the Cerrado as well as the climate by advocating ecological cultivation and supporting lobby work.
Nevertheless, there is an urgent need for action in Tapera: Residents demand more water retention ponds and improved sugar cane processing. These simple measures reduce crop loss and diversify the incomes of farm families. Likewise, gathering should be expanded in the drought resistant Cerrado. This is only feasible however, if the village community shows political and social resistance to impending projects of the agro-industry.
Farmers of Tapera Village draw a climate and disaster hazard map of the region.
Training in Bahia, Salvador
The training, which Bread for All and Heks financed, took place in March 2011, in Salvador da Bahia. Participants included Brazilian partner organizations of Heks and Fastenopfer. International and local experts conveyed basic knowledge on climate change and disasters, their effects and how to cope with the change. In several group exercises, participants learned the practical application of the Climate Proofing Tool in order to later perform independent project analyses.
Finally, participants discussed various activities, which will enable them to tackle the fight against climate change as a group, integrated into their projects. This includes the establishment of an information exchange network among participants, the adaptation of the Tool to local conditions as well as utilizing climate change to lobby for project goals. In practice this means that sustainable agriculture in Cerrado should be promoted as an essential contribution to CO2 storage. The indigenous people take better care of their land than owners of large Eucalyptus plantations, who are interested in short-term big returns at the expense of the environment and climate protection.
The training was a hot topic in the local media and has enhanced the information exchange among participants. A project of a partner organization is already in implementation, in which the Tool will be applied together with further partners as preparation for Rio+20 in 2012.
This article is available in french Projet agricole au Brésil : Sécurité alimentaire et développement des communautés rurales
“We can directly feel the climate change. Due to irregular rainfalls during the rainy season we experience more crop loss. This year I have lost over 60 percent of my corn and bean harvest.”
Cristiano, small-scale farmer in Tapera and workshop participant
“The project analysis was an excellent thought exercise. It helps us to develop new strategies. While the drought has worsened our cultivation methods have remained the same. We have come to realize that we need to change something.” Custódio, resident of Tapera Village and training participan
For further information: Marion Künzler / Bread for all, In charge of the « Climate » workshops: email@example.com