Climate change through the eyes of a 10 year old: For Lerma, from the Philippines, climate change is real and happening now. Read about the changes to her community and her hopes for a better future.
Tonga Trust is appealing for the international community’s understanding and support. They say climate change is here to stay and can no longer be ignored in small islands. “We may not contribute much to the problem but our island environment and people are definitely suffered from the negative impacts of climate change.” Sione Faka'osi, Executive Director, Tonga Community Development Trust
In the small island of Lifuka, Ha’apai, CWS partner Tonga Trust is working with government departments and local communities to build resilience towards climate change.
Coastal erosion has been a major concern for the coastal residents of Lifuka for the past 15 to 20 years. In early 2009, strong wave action dug deeper into coastal land on the leeward side of Lifuka island. It damaged many homes, uprooted coastal plants and vegetations and further disabled ecosystem service delivery, especially in the low lying areas. Climate change is also contributing to extreme changes in weather patterns – too warm in summer or cold in winter. Agricultural production and fisheries are depleting. On some other islands, ground water is becoming salinated and people can no longer use their wells.
Tonga Trust is replanting coastal forest and vegetation and working to better prepare communities when disaster strikes.
Methods of farming in Sri Lanka are based around the rains. But now weather patterns are changing and this is confusing the whole system. People used to time planting around the life cycle of insects but the widespread use of insecticide has disrupted those cycles.
Small farmers are already the victims of climate change. Rain is not reliable so it is becoming difficult to manage crop cycles. Monlar is helping communities understand the realities. Although they can’t change how other countries act, and really stop the problem, they are finding ways to adapt. These include: training local people in methods to make soil more capable of retaining water, and promoting techniques to preserve soil fertility and better manage available resources.
“Small farmers are best placed to understand climate change compared to many academics and policy makers because for them it has a practical impact on their lives. “
Sarath Fernando, Monlar
CWS partners report a changing climate in Tamil Nadu, South India.
"There are frequent unpredicted monsoons which affect the total livelihood resources of both the fishing and agricultural communities. The agricultural communities lose their crops due to unseasonal rainfall and the fishing communities are not able to go for fishing due to the changing sea climate. The formation of mist in the winter season is also very unusual in Tamil Nadu. Due to this the roads are not clear even up to 7.30 a.m and the people living on the pavements face extreme cold weather."
The increasing frequency of cyclones is another detrimental impact as Cyclone Nisha, which struck Tamil Nadu on 26 November 2008 shows.
"Cyclone Nisha brought very heavy rainfall, leading to widespread water logging and flooding.
The fisher people of various villages were evacuated to schools, temples and marriage halls. Though there were attempts by the District administration to address the essential needs of these people, many needs were left out and the vulnerable sections of the communities like children, women and the aged were not attended to properly.
As the sea was rough the fisher people did not go to the sea for more than one week. Many boats anchored at the shore were either washed away by the rough sea or damaged by dashing against each other due to the winds. At Kodiakarai area 20 Vallams (small sized boats) were washed away by the rough seas. At Vedharanyam 200 fibre boats were pulled into the sea. At Nagapattinam District more than 42 boats were washed into the sea.
Sixty-nine people lost their lives.
Sea water destroyed crops and contaminated fields. Houses leaked and villages were flooded. Water was often stagnant up to 120 cm deep. "
CWS partner SNEHA is training local groups to prepare for such disasters. Villages have nominated task force committees that train in warning, search and rescue, first aid, relief and shelter.
During the cyclone the local groups were able to evacuate people to elevated ground, provide rice for food, and then manage clean up including diverting stagnant water into canals to drain away and removing debris and trees.
Developers Foundation works in coastal fishing communities. Before we started advocating on climate change, we were already witnessing the changes – eg during high tides, salt water was getting into areas previously untouched by the sea. This sea water elevation had never happened before. At first we advocated only for environmental protection and against mangrove destruction but then climate change. We were witnessing the changes in the communities. It is one thing we really cannot escape.
At the village level we give information and education on climate change, which is open to local government officials, students, teachers and other members of the villages so they can work in unity with other organisations and groups. It’s a way to strengthen their commitment to addressing environment problems eg mangrove reforestation, advocacy, in a community. The students and teachers organised a clean-up drive. People have also done upland re-forestation – planted trees in the interior.
My name is Lerma. I am 10 years old and I will be entering Grade 4 this coming school year starting June. I have four other siblings, which makes us seven in the family. My father is a fisherman and my mother is a stay-at-home mom. We live in a small bamboo hut very close to the sea in an island called Tabon.
I know that climate change is now happening in our island. There was El Nino and now,
La Nina. During El Nino, the soil becomes dry and difficult for growing vegetables and rice. We get achy sunburn on our skin, and water pumps and wells dry up, and there are few fish for fishermen like my father to catch. Parents have to cross the island in order to buy water.
Nowadays, we are having more rainy days even in summertime. Many places in our village get flooded easily with just moderate rainfall. The water from the sea and flood waters are flowing into places that used to be dry before. I think that the land inside our island is getting smaller, eaten up by water from the sea and actually shrinking. We don’t wish for things to get any worse. That is why the children of Tabon are doing many things together with our parents to help stop climate change.
Waste management. We practice waste segregation and compost-making. Many homes are not burning their trash anymore. Instead, we make our own small landfills.
Fruit tree-planting. Each pupil in our school including me planted a fruit tree and vegetable seeds on the hill near our school.
Mangrove planting. When we see a mangrove seed we automatically plant it along the river bank. Mangroves are important because these provide dwellings, breeding area and sources of food for fishes and shells, and also serve as protection against floods and strong winds.
Community Clean-Up Drives. We, children, go with our parents and other neighbours to clean our coasts and inside our village. These have become regular village activities where our fathers and mothers, government people, and children like us help remove the trash.
I believe that there is still hope for all of us.”
* These Developers Foundation programmes are funded by CWS. Please donate to the CWS environment fund to support environmental actions.
“CEPAD is very concerned about climate change as now rains fall very heavily washing the soil away and causing landslides. The farming season traditionally runs from May to November but now the rains are falling very irregularly and the farmers hesitate to plant. With our agricultural programme, we train farmers to take care of soil and water sources because rivers and creeks are now drying out because of deforestation.” Damaris Albuquerque, CEPAD