Friday, August 28, 2009
Nepal poor hard-hit by climate changes
Tending rice saplings
Oxfam has just released a report today looking at how climate changes in Nepal are having a big impact on millions of rural poor.
In the report, "Even the Himalayas Have Stopped Smiling: Climate Change, Poverty and Adaptation in Nepal", farmers said changing weather patterns had dramatically affected crop production, leaving them unable to properly feed themselves and getting into debt. Nepal is already one of the poorest countries in the world (31% of its 28 million population living below the poverty line). And more than 3 million are estimated to require food assistance because of a combination of natural disasters including last year's winter drought - one of the worst in Nepal's history.
Hear some of the voices of the villagers
I helped organise a media trip to the mid west - to Surkhet district. People told us that crop production was way down on previous years. Plus, they were having big problems with water shortages - which had helped to spread an outbreak of diarrhoea (more than 300 killed in the epidemic).
Spindly maize - not enough water
Among recent changes in weather patterns in Nepal are an increase in temperature extremes, more intense rainfall and increased unpredictability in weather patterns, including drier winters and delays in the summer monsoons. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers will also be felt well beyond Nepal's borders. Scientists warn that if the Himalayan glaciers disappear – with some predicting this could happen within 30 years – the impact would be felt by more than one billion people across Asia.
Some of the heaviest burdens have fallen on women who are on the frontline of climate change. They have to travel further distances to fetch water and take on the responsibility for feeding the family as men in many poor households migrate seasonally to seek work.
Men like Padam Bahadur Sunar travel to India for up to 8 months of the year to find casual work to feed the family
Poor and marginalised communities living here - in remote areas that often are several hours walk from the main roadheads - are the most vulnerable to weather shocks and the least able to protect themselves.
Oxfam says more work needs to be done in Nepal by the government and international organisations to create greater awareness about climate change and its likely impacts, to prioritise and institutionalise actions at national level; and help communities to play a greater role themselves in initiatives to reduce their vulnerability.
Nepal is extremely vulnerable to climate change; yet has one of the lowest emissions in the world – just 0.025% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Oxfam is calling on the world's richest countries, those most responsible for global emissions, to do more to help poor countries like Nepal better adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change when they meet to discuss a global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December – in 100 days from tomorrow