Can Local Actions Contribute to Climate and Disaster Risk Management?

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ImageClimate change is real and likely to drive increasingly dramatic changes in our environment. While ecosystems and disease dispersion may be affected, some of the greatest impacts are anticipated due to increases of extreme climate events such as droughts, floods and storms. We are already seeing these changes but often do not connect them with our lives. The question arises, “should communities wait for our governments to plan, address, and find resources to respond to risks of climate change?" I believe not. Much can be done in small ways through local actions. Keeping this in mind, the Civil Society Fund in Sri Lanka is focusing on “Development and Climate Change – Building Community Resilience in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka”.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are interested in learning how adaptation initiatives can be promoted among their communities. It is not hard, to give the right messages to people who have worked on the land for their survival, which is the case of many living in the drier parts of Sri Lanka. These people fight regularly in the face of changes in the environment, have observed the changes in their lifetimes, developed various coping mechanisms and have traditional knowledge passed forward from generation to generation on locally suitable technologies and practices. All what is needed is to assist them to put these into perspective, provide them an understanding of consequences of climate change for their lives and livelihoods and reinstate and put into practice the already known knowledge base.

It is heartening to know that many efforts are being recognized. A few examples are given below to guide CSOs wanting to promote local actions to manage climate induced risks in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Practical Action created a video where a farmer in Ampara District, Mutubanda has been helped to adopt the cultivation of indigenous rice variety that requires only small quantity of water compared to hybrid varieties of rice, which are presently more popular but necessitate submersion in comparatively large amounts of water for extended periods of time. Experience among such farmers have identified that this is one of the solutions to face frequent drought conditions in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka boasts around 2,000 indigenous varieties of rice and many of them are known to be nutritious, diseases and pest resistant and have ability to withstand to extreme dry conditions.

ImageMaking small changes in your home garden can reduce green house gas emissions, save money and improve the adaptive capacity to climatic risks. Home gardens in Sri Lanka are highly developed and UNCCD recognizes them as the most outstanding in the Asia-Pacific Region. The rich mix of crops includes vegetables, fruits, timber, spices, and other agricultural plants using organic fertilizers that sometimes can be integrated with livestock and poultry. Such systems provide ecologically sound and economically viable forestry system, based on optimum utilization of land, reducing soil erosion, efficient recycling of wastes and assist in recharging ground water retention. Multiple cropping systems will have resilience to cope with changes such as frequent crop disease and pests, which are envisaged to become climate driven in the near future.

What if one does not have land for setting up a home garden? Planting using discarded bags, containers, etc. and raised garden beds is now commonly practiced in urban Sri Lanka. “Asirimath Gewatta” (wonderful home garden) telecast by a local station, Rupavahini on Sunday at 7.30 a.m. provides innovative tips to get most out of limited space.

Dry zone in Sri Lanka is also facing scarcity of water due to longer dry periods, as well as access to poor quality drinking water often owing to agrochemical contamination of ground water. Bioremediation practices demonstrated by Neosynthesis Research Center, where native trees can be planted in the vicinity of water sources such as drinking water wells helping the land to retain water in adequate quantities and significantly reducing the levels of chemical contaminations. Rainwater harvesting using various methods is widely practiced in Sri Lanka as a solution to water scarcity. It is also very important to create awareness on water management to ensure optimal use of scarce resources. Over 2500 years old practice of cascade irrigation system should guide us in our thinking of the importance of water management for long-term sustenance

According to Moench and Dixie, “Theory and observations are fine; translating them into practice and determining the degree to which they actually enable adaptation to climate variability, however requires action on the ground”.

So, let us guide our local communities to realize their potential because local actions no matter how simple they are can contribute to climate and disaster risk management.

Please apply for the CSF grant if you have a project in mind. Recipients will receive up to $9,000 to implement their projects.


Darshani De Silva

Environmental Specialist

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