Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Small groups make a big difference

Scaria Meledam writes in Biodiversity and ecosystem maintenance are the keys to successful pro-poor adaptation strategies to climate change, says the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). International Small Group and Tree Planting Program (TIST) is the best example. Initiated in a small way by the Anglican Church in 1999 in Mpwapwa, Tanzania, TIST now supports 2800 small groups of subsistence farmers in Kenya, Uganda and India in tackling deforestation and climate change-related drought and famine. Over 2.3 million trees have been planted under the scheme.

From where do they get funds? From the sale of carbon offset credits (the international scheme under which firms polluting more that the limit fixed for them are forced to buy credits from those who pollute less) and farm products. Carbon offsets from tree planting are sold through eBay. Income from carbon offsets allows farmers to buy seeds, care for trees and buy necessities such as medication and pay school fees.

For every living tree a small cash stipend is deposited regularly in bank accounts opened by small community groups designated for this purpose.TIST strategies include small group development, conservation farming and sustainable agriculture, reforestation, agro-forestry and entrepreneurship involving the sale of carbon offsets and farm products. Activities also address health, education and nutrition.

Local subsistence farmers are involved in planning, implementation and information sharing. The aim is to empower and equip them to restore their natural environment, increase soil fertility, create jobs, strengthen local economic development in the local community, and move from famine to surplus.

Many of the best solutions to climate change, like TIST, provide multiple benefits for biodiversity, poverty alleviation, and adaptation and mitigation. But achieving all these objectives is often difficult because adaptation activities in one sector can compromise those in another. Decisions should, therefore, be based on good science and an understanding of these trade-offs. At the very least, climate change solutions should aim at avoiding damage to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and increase in inequity and poverty….

Gandhi planting a tree outside Kingsley Hall, East End, London, England, December 3, 1931. The tree has been destroyed in World War II and was replanted by Lady Attenborough in 1984

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