Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The urgency of adaptation: Combating climate change in Armenia

Serouj Aprahamian in Asbarez.com:  The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will meet in Yokohama, Japan, on March 25-29 to discuss its latest and most comprehensive report on climate change. ... A draft of the upcoming report has already been leaked and the conclusions are downright frightening. Increased temperatures are expected to cause major damage to all aspects of the world’s food system within the next 20 years and displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of the century. Unless urgent action is taken, the report states, millions of people will be left without food and enormous strain will be placed on global security.

Such consequences pose a particularly grave threat to a country like Armenia, with its mountainous terrain, scarcity of land, arid climate, and economic dependence on agriculture. In fact, the World Bank identified Armenia as one of the most high-risk countries in Europe and Central Asia to changing climate extremes.

Over the last 80 years, there has been a marked increase in the country’s temperature and a greater frequency of extreme weather phenomena, such as hailstorms, mudslides, and spring frosts. These changing conditions are already affecting the lives of hundreds of farmers throughout the country.

“Fifteen to twenty years ago, you could easily grow ripe raspberries here,” says Lusine Cherkezyan, a farmer and mother of four in the northeastern Armenian village of Hovk. “I would collect 250 kilos of raspberries from my plot in one day alone. But due to changes in the climate we started seeing locusts and irreparable damage occurring. It’s impossible for people to grow raspberries here anymore.”

Lusine was forced to switch to alternative, less lucrative crops such as cabbage, carrots, or beans. She has struggled to adapt to the changes and it has been tough. Like many others in her village, her husband is forced to work in Russia for several months at a time just to put food on the table.

...Hailstorms have been another major issue for growers in the country. Last May, farmers in the region of Armavir made headlines when they blocked a main highway leading to Yerevan and demanded compensation from the government after their crops were destroyed by hail. A half an hour storm alone is enough to wipe out an entire community’s harvest for the year....

Basalt cliffs in Garni Gorge, Armenia, shot by MEDIACRAT or WOWARMENIA, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. 

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