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After Copenhagen: DM2009 Winner Has a Message for World Leaders

Leonardo Rosario (beneath banner in photo) of the Philippines was a winner at DM2009 with his Trowel Development Foundation's project to protect subsistence fishing communities from climate change, while also improving their production and marketing and restoring mangrove forests.  Here's his message for leaders at the international climate talks in Copenhagen.

How I wish the finalists of DM 2009 could have presented their “100 Ideas to Save the Planet” to international leaders gathered at the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

What those leaders would have seen would have been not only passion and commitment but also solutions that were innovative, pragmatic, and cost-efficient.

It’s too late to go to Copenhagen.  But Copenhagen is only the beginning of the search by world leaders for climate adaptation solutions that are worthy of their support. 

The DM2009 finalists’ projects meet all the objectives of that search.  They enhance and strengthen people’s capacity to manage climate risks and adapt to changing climate patterns, and even to build community resiliency among the most vulnerable – Indigenous Peoples, women and children, marginalized farmers, and small-scale fishers.

Building disaster-resilient communities may seem far-fetched to skeptics, but it is do-able.  With innovative, community-based management of natural resources as well as the synergy of ancient and traditional knowledge systems combined with modern technology, a quarter of the DM finalists showed how it can be done.  The main objective of the projects was to show how food, which is most important in times of disaster, can be secured.  The techniques included climate-adapted production systems, participatory plant breeding, introduction of “Family EarthBox,” bioculture systems, cultivation of drought-resistant rainforest tree food, and merging traditional indigenous production practices with environment-friendly modern farming technologies.

The same finalists showed that indigenous knowledge and practices for weather forecasting can be combined with modern knowledge such as use of pluviographs, thermometers, and satellites to reduce the adverse impact of climate change on the traditional way of life of indigenous communities.

Almost half of the finalists offer innovative, simple, and low-cost solutions to specific problems associated with climate change like flooding, salt water intrusion, sudden occurrence of dry periods, frequent frost and hail, fires, and total darkness.  These same solutions also will secure food sources, increase income and improve livelihoods, enhance local biodiversity, and even curb emission of greenhouse gases and sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Even more, they will improve governance by building unity and cooperation among climate stakeholders.
From Cambodia to Bangladesh to Ecuador

The innovative solutions for flood-prone communities and those affected by rising sea levels include green-concept floating villages (Cambodia), flood–resilient shelters (India), floating flood shelters (Bangladesh), and elevated bamboo houses (Ecuador).

Floating gardens and granaries (Laos PDR), floating hydroponic gardens over fish pens (Bangladesh), and contained vegetable farming and disaster-resilient aquaculture (Philippines) will enable farmers and small-scale fishers to continue working on their livelihoods and even improve income despite floods and rising sea-levels.

A number of finalists even saw opportunities from heavy precipitation through rainwater harvesting (Kenya) and deeper water storage for fish farming and full utilization of upland water (the Philippines). In Rwanda, introduction of high-value temperate fruit trees will not only reduce runoff by impeding the flow of rain water down the slope but also control soil erosion and improve water quality.

Other unique solutions from the DM finalists combat salt-water intrusion with desalination infrastructure using solar energy (Djibouti and Vanuatu), improve local food production with raised “not till” gardening in Maldives, and companion agro-forestry using mixes of salt-tolerant fruit trees to create protective belts with fodder and vegetables (Vietnam).

From Peru to Ethiopia to Uganda

To address the impact of prolonged dry spells attributed to changing climate in Peru, ichu grass would be a protective measure to reduce production losses in maca cultivation.  In Ethiopia, the innovative solution involves clay-pot micro-irrigation in dry highland villages.  In Uganda, drought is addressed through a community water-harvesting system that channels runoff water from roadways and other surfaces to underground ferro-cement tanks, with the collected water used for irrigation powered by bio-fueled motors.

An integrated approach involving hydrological enhancement, social mobilization, micro credit, appropriate technology and marketing innovation is proposed by a Pakistan finalist to develop community resilience against drought.  In Peru, recovering and adapting proven strategies of late pre-Hispanic cultures to conserve water using locally available materials and labor is introduced to manage the reduction of water available for irrigation during the dry months. In the Himalayas of Nepal, coping with changing precipitation pattern is done by improving traditional water management practices through drip irrigation, waste water management, and shifting to high value agroforestry.  In Bolivia, values formation activities encourage children and adolescents to establish and practice water conservation technologies specifically in areas affected by water shortages.
Other finalists address the impact of climate change on people’s health and well-being.  Oxfam America proposed a low-cost approach to maintain healthy drinking water supplies during extreme climatic events by providing healthy wells and sealed composting latrines. In Bangladesh, a low-cost water filter was designed to stem arsenic poisoning.  Use of medicinal tree farms is innovative in reducing malnutrition and malaria infection as well as for purifying water and production of safe water in remote villages in Cambodia.

From Philippines to Chile to Guatemala to Belize

Sustainable forest management is among the finalists’ innovative solutions to manage climate risks and at the same time generate multiple side benefits. In the Philippines, for instance, native species of mangroves planted in abandoned fishponds will restore aquatic biodiversity, increase coastal livelihoods and food, and in the long term restore the mangrove forest cover that will ultimately sequester carbon dioxide emissions by about 60 metric tons per hectare per year and lessen shoreline erosion and coastal degradation. Related innovations elsewhere are the Mapuche Forest Model of an indigenous community in Chile that aims to avoid deforestation, the conservation efforts of “grupos promotores” of Guatemala’s indigenous communities, and the sustainable forest management system that highlights the century-long intimate relationship with the forest of the Q’eqchi Maya of Southern Belize.

Some finalists will tap the media in their adaptation projects.  By playing out climate drama on the airwaves, small farmers in Nigeria will be transformed from mere receivers to participants and managers of climate information system.  The innovation prides itself of a two-way feedback system using solar-powered radios and Advancement through Interactive Radio (AIR) devices.  In the high-altitude communities of Bolivia, the innovation combines local and external information and communication technologies for sustainable risk reducing production, documentation of experiences, and implementation of early warning system disseminated by the local radio. In Peru, use of virtual environments improves communication of scientific information that enables future farmers of Altiplano to make informed decisions about their farming systems. And India’s innovation adopts contemporary technology such as community radio and internet-based rural VRCs to communicate critical issues like climate change adaptation among small women and youth in the rural communities

For Specific Problems, Novel Solutions

A number of projects offer novel solutions to specific problems.  They include: A “bell and bottle”  low-coast warning system for flood- and slide-prone communities, use of SMS technology to strengthen disaster preparedness, a floating power charger to provide light in the darkness of climate change, daphnia grazing to stem global warming-linked bacterial toxins in fish ponds, earth-roofed housing as a cheap and sustainable shelter addressing desertification, wave energy converter to mitigate ocean-wave damage and beach erosion, reducing risks for biodiversity conservation using adaptive fire management, innovative pilot scheme that matches seed to the needs of women farmers, portable solar/wind greenhouse to grow fodder for sustainable dairy farms, and the establishment of an artisanal industry that aims to slow glacial melting and save water. 

After Copenhagen, the next obvious stop for world leaders as they seek worthy solutions to climate adaptation is to tap into these “100 Ideas to Save the Planet.”

It can't happen too soon.


Submitted by tsegay on
Dear Leonardo, Great idea and great sysnthesis of the projects. Good luck in getting the ears of the world leaders and those who have $2 million and a passion to do something positive to help the poorest of the poor in climate change adaptation. selamat and regards, Tsegay

Submitted by Dennis Patron on
Hi Leo, You're ideas are great and sustainable and our world really needs it now. Good luck to this endeavor. Wish you success in all your projects. Dennis Patron

Submitted by Lyndel on
Hi Leo, Great work. 'this is the kind of projects that we need today. Wish you more success in your endeavors with our small communities.

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