Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fighting climate change from the Uruguayan countryside

Inés Acosta in IPS: "We would get up and go to bed every day looking up at the sky, hoping for something to fall, but nothing happened, not even a drop fell," says María Inés Queiros, who makes artisanal cheese in the southern Uruguayan province of San José. "What we went through in those months was burned into our memory for life. It was a horrible situation," Queiros tells IPS.

Small-scale producers like her were hit hardest by the drought that devastated a large part of this South American country in the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. The social and economic consequences of the severe drought are still being felt, as well as fears of a repeat. Rural associations estimate that farmers lost 868 million dollars in that period.

…Agriculture, the engine of the Uruguayan economy, is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is causing greater weather variability and more extreme natural events like droughts and flooding, in a country otherwise free of catastrophes like hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The idea was to develop an adaptation strategy to strengthen the sectors most exposed to the effects of drought and flooding and help farmers remain in the countryside. Besides the "climate change response plan" that functions at a national level, a programme was designed to operate at a local level, with the aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and helping local areas adapt to climate change.

The programme, funded with 1.5 million dollars donated by various international bodies, is sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and covers the metropolitan region, which includes the semi-rural and rural areas around the capital, Montevideo, as well as the neighbouring provinces of Canelones and San José.

"This initiative, which will serve as a pilot plan, constitutes the first concrete regional-level experience of analysis and application of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures," Paul Moizo, head of the Agenda Metropolitana, through which the plan is implemented, explained to IPS…

Bella Unión Farm, in Artigas Department, Uruguay. Shot by Libertinus, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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