Watchdog finds malpractice in Bangladesh climate finance

Tue, 15 Oct 2013

Author: Syful Islam

DHAKA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An international watchdog has uncovered malpractice in the management of Bangladesh’s climate change funding, finding that some groups paid 20 percent of their allocation as “commission” in order to be chosen for adaptation projects.

On Oct. 3, the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International (TIB) released a study on climate fund governance that revealed political influence, nepotism and corruption in the selection of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to carry out work on the ground.

It described how the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a state-owned ‘not-for-profit’ company that funds micro-credit programmes, had picked 63 NGOs to receive grants from the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF), set up to channel money budgeted by the government to help communities adapt to climate shifts.

From 2011 onwards, TIB investigated the selection process, funding and project progress for 55 NGOs out of the 63. Researchers were unable to trace 10 of the NGOs. They also discovered that the heads of 13 NGOs were involved in politics, and that nine projects were awarded as a result of political influence.

“It is alleged (to us) that some NGOs received projects through political influence, by paying commissions (20 percent of total project value), by engaging associate NGOs with connections with policy makers for implementing the project in partnership with the approved NGO, and by colluding with decision-makers and providing undue benefits, such as establishing a computer centre in the electoral constituency of the concerned official,” TIB researchers said.

Only 17 of the NGOs had prior experience of working directly on natural disasters, environment and climate change, according to the report. Presenting the research, assistant coordinator Mohua Rauf said most of the NGOs chosen were inexperienced, lacked the necessary infrastructure and had questionable credibility.

Funding allocations do not appear to be based on need, she added. Among the districts worst-affected by climate change, Khulna got only 6.5 percent of the total, while Satkhira received only 1.2 percent and Bagerhat nothing. But districts that are much less affected – Tangail, Gaibandha, Rajshahi and Nowabganj – were awarded a large number of projects.

Rauf said the PKSF, which manages the trust fund, did not monitor, inspect or review the progress of project implementation. This could be due to a lack of funding to carry out the work, as the body has not received any money from the BCCTF for that purpose, she added.

‘SOME DIFFICULTIES’

The PKSF hit back at the TIB investigation after it was reported in different media outlets.

“Initially, (the) government selected 131 NGOs from over 4,000 applications. Later on PKSF was entrusted with the NGO verification and finance. Finally, 63 NGOs were selected. During the procedure, PKSF investigated (the) existence of the NGOs, their capacity, previous activities/experience etc. Only those NGOs which fulfilled the above criteria were selected for funding,” it said in a statement.

TIB’s finding that 10 NGOs did not exist was incorrect, the PKSF added.

“According to the existing terms and conditions, selected NGOs are at liberty to engage partners for project implementation. Since climate change adaptation is a new concept, we found some NGOs are facing some difficulties in implementing the project,” it said.

The PKSF’s fund allocation and selection criteria “are very rigid and transparent”, it continued. “Strict rules are followed in the entire process. There is no scope for any unfair means or corrupt practice in PKSF activities,” it said.

TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told Thomson Reuters Foundation projects should be selected based on local need.

“Political influence, nepotism and other malpractices should not get consideration in project selection,” he said. “Projects should be undertaken in the areas where people are more affected and vulnerable to climate change impacts.”

In addition, project transparency and accountability has to be ensured during implementation, he said. If that doesn’t happen, international funds may stop flowing, he warned.

Up to June this year, developed nations made climate finance pledges of $594 million to Bangladesh, although much of the money has yet to be delivered. In addition, the South Asian nation has received $147 million out of $149 million promised by a group of wealthy states through the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF), a multi-donor fund administered by the World Bank.

“We get money from (the) national and international level for adaptation. If we can utilise it effectively, more funds will be channelled in the near future. If the malpractices are not eliminated, donors won’t show interest,” Iftekharuzzaman said.

‘IT’S A VERY EASY JOB’

Ruhul Matin, executive director of Sagarika Samaj Unnayan Sangstha (Sagarika Social Development Organisation), said he had submitted a project proposal for Tk 30 million ($386,400) to help 5,000 fishermen in the southeastern districts of Noakhali, Laxmipur and Feni.

“I was given Tk 3 million, and we are now supporting 500 fishermen,” he said. “We helped them elevate houses, provided some trees for forestation and lifejackets, and gave (them) some training for income-generation activities.”

His organisation is an implementation partner for PKSF-funded projects, whose progress is being closely monitored by PKSF officials, he added.

Selim Chowdhury, project coordinator for Samahar, an NGO that was allocated Tk 3 million to plant trees in the capital, said his organisation had previously carried out garbage management work in the city with the Dhaka City Corporation.

The TIB research team said this NGO had been selected for climate change funding because of political influence. Chowdhury denied this.

“It’s a very easy job – anyone, experienced or inexperienced, can do the work. We will plant trees on two sides of the roads in some areas of Dhaka,” he said.

NEED TO SHOW RIGOUR

Ainun Nishat, an environmentalist and vice chancellor of BRAC University in Dhaka, told Thomson Reuters Foundation the BCCTF is governed by a high-powered committee comprising several ministers, government secretaries and experts.

“But you can get nothing online about the NGO projects under the BCCTF, which does not reflect transparency and accountability,” said Nishat.

The PKSF is also helping select NGOs for the disbursement of 10 percent of the money in the donor-backed climate change resilience fund. In this case, information about the NGOs, selection criteria, project details and implementation progress are available online, Nishat added.

“No matter whether the funds come from donors or the government exchequer, transparency in the selection of NGOs and projects must be ensured,” he said.

Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, an NGO that works on sustainable development issues, said Bangladesh has attracted international sympathy for its vulnerability to climate change, as well as it efforts to tackle the problem.

“In the near future, there will be greater allocation from the global sources of funding. Bangladesh needs to demonstrate its capacity to absorb funds through technically sound projects which have a high degree of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“It is in our interest to build that capacity and rigour as soon as we can,” he added.

Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]

http://www.trust.org/item/20131015100349-6sbou/

Weeping sea : Documentary on climate change

Weeping sea 
 Duration: 21 minutes
 Language: Malayalam (Subtitled in English)
 Direction: K Rajendran
 Camera: K Rajendran, Rahul R Chandran, Muhammed Basheer
 Editing: Jayakrishnan

 

An investigation on
How does climate impact marine and fisheries sector?
How does it affect fishermen?

How does human intervention precipitate climate change impacts?

1. Depletion of Mussels.
Location: Elephant mussels hill, Thiruvanandhapuram.
Two varieties of mussels are found in Kerala;Brown mussels and green
mussels. This (September-December) is the season of mussels. Huge
depletion of mussels is being found this season. Depletion is being felt
during last 3 years. According to marine expert this is due to the climate
change.

2. Fishes disappearing

Location; Kovalam beach, Thiruvanandhapuram
Many varieties of fishes are disappearing in Kerala sea shore.. Kilimeen (Mesoprion) is the best example. According to Central Marine and Fisheries research institute, it is one of the best examples of climate change impact on fisheries. Kilimeen is known as the ideal fish for poor. Because of it’s less
cost and good taste. So it’s depletion is widely effected the poor who doesn’t have enough money to purchase fishes of high cost.

3 .How islanders are affected?

Location: Lakshadweep
How lonely islander is being affected? .Lakshadweep is the best example.
Three islands in Lakshadweep, Pitti(Fastest sinking Island) ,Kavarathi,
Agathy are telling their stories.
Here 3 climate change impacts;
A . Water level is rising marginally.
B. Depletion of fishes is being felt
C. Corals are vanishing.
4. Salty water
Location; Mavilakadavu village, Poovar

This is a new phenomenon in many of the villages in Kerala. Water in the well became alty although it is situating 5 or 6 Km away from sea. According to marine expert this is an excellent example of climate change.

5. Human intervention expedites climate change

Location: Puzhikara beach
Once, the beautiful beach Puzhikara, was known for the varieties of fishes. Now it has become a “beach of Eagles”. The beach has been turned as a dumping place of waste. Eco system in the seashore is being scuttled.6. Encroachments

Location; Vembanadu backwater, Alapuzha
This backwater is converted as a lake of Tourism and encroachment. All existing laws are being violated. Encroachments are being done by big corporates. Authorities act as mute spectators.

Kindly watch the filmPlease click here

Solar traffic signals help Pakistan tackle road jams

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 4 Sep 2013

A solar-powered traffic signal installed at the Aabpara intersection in Islamabad is helping manage traffic congestation. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Saleem Shaikh.

 

ISLAMABAD (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Business has picked up for Abdul Latif, and he credits to an eco-innovation in Pakistan’s capital: the solar-powered traffic signal.

Latif runs a shoe shop in Aabpara, a bustling main shopping area in an upscale sector of the heart of Islamabad.

The traffic signal at the Aabpara intersection used to regularly fall dark because of frequent and protracted power failures, causing massive traffic jams on the road that passes by his shop.

“The traffic jam had become a nuisance equally for shoppers and shop owners in the market. Customers would avoid coming to the market for fear that they would become entangled,” he said. “Business activities were suffering seriously.”

But the installation of solar-powered traffic signals has resolved the problem and business is now booming again, a happy Latif told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Traffic jams on Islamabad’s main arteries and at intersections have become routine in the power-starved capital, which sees regular power outages, particularly when energy demand is high. Outages can lead to traffic signals going dark for hours, leading to massive traffic snarls.

But in July, the city’s Capital Development Authority launched a pilot project to power traffic signals using solar panels. Solar-powered signals are now working at the Aabpara roundabout and at two other busy locations in the city.

Officials at the Authority’s engineering wing said that if the pilot project is effective, the solar-powered signals would be installed at more intersections or roundabouts where traffic jams are a serious problem when the signals go dark.

Navid Hassan Bokhari, director of solar energy affairs for the Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board, said board had put together a plan to install solar panels at 25 traffic signals in Islamabad.

WELCOME CHANGES

Frustrated traders, fed-up drivers and exhausted traffic wardens welcomed the changes.

“When traffic signals shut down during load-shedding hours, it is the wardens who have to handle vehicular traffic congestation for hours, said Bilal Raza, a 45-year-old traffic warden, standing beneath the solar-powered traffic signal at the Aabpara roundabout.

The solar-powered signals are “helping us manage traffic jams that are a nightmare for us,” he said.

Jacob Joseph, who runs a smartphone shop at the Jinnah Super market in another upscale residential and commercial sector, said he believed solar traffic signals could help manage business-destroying congestion at a range of shopping areas across the city.

Hit by worsening power crises, the country’s other provinces, such as Sindh and Punjab, also are mulling installing solar traffic signals and street lights.

Saeed Akhtar, chief engineer for Punjab province’s Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency told Thomson Reuters Foundation over the telephone from Lahore that contracts have been signed with three local firms for the conversion of traffic signals to solar power at five road intersections in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province.

The costs of installing solar panels will be paid for by private firms in return for small advertisements at the signals, noting which firm had backed the project, he said.

Akthar said his department is in touch with different potential corporate sponsors to fund installation and maintenance of solar panels at all 138 traffic signals.

If the plan works, it “will help address our aggravating traffic mess without becoming any financial burden on the government’s pocket,” he maintained.

Pakistan is grappled with one of the worst energy crises in its history, with around a 4,000-megawatt shortfall. Authorities hope that can be plugged by tapping into Pakistan’s huge solar energy potential.

Right now, Pakistan uses only 7 megawatts of solar power, out of its estimated potential of 2.9 million megawatts, Gholamreza Zahedi, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, told Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email interview.

He said that attracting local investments in small- and medium-size renewable energy plans and launching local manufacturing of basic components, with the help of European countries and China, which have more advanced renewable technology, could make a big difference in expanding Pakistan’s solar energy production.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Weblink: http://www.trust.org/item/20130903161523-avku9/

Pakistan’s Punjab builds model villages to withstand disasters

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 22 Aug 2013

A model village after construction in flood-prone Dera Ghazi Khan district, Punjab province, Pakistan. PHOTO/Punjab Disaster Management Authority

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ayesha Fatima, a 29-year-old widow with two small children, burst into tears of delight when she was handed the key and ownership papers for her new home, a two-room, single-storey, disaster-resilient brick building.

Her former home, a mud-brick house, was washed away by devastating floods in 2010, forcing the family to flee for their lives, abandoning everything they owned except two goats.

While living in a makeshift tent outside a nearby primary school, Fatima’s husband died of pneumonia and she was reduced to begging to survive, she told Thomson Reuters Foundation in muted tones.

The village where Fatima now lives – ‘Basti Hote Lashari’ in Taunsa town in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 405 km (250 miles) from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad – is one of 22 model villages built to replace homes washed away by the floods.

Constructed with private-sector funds and technical expertise, the houses are strong and designed to withstand earthquakes and extreme climate events, including floods, as part of a “climate-compatible development” initiative by the Punjab provincial government.

Climate-compatible development focuses on “triple win” strategies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience and promote development at the same time.

Parts of Punjab have been hit yet again by monsoon flooding in recent weeks, underlining the need for measures like these to protect people, property and crops from natural hazards.

When Fatima moved into her new home, in June 2011, her role as the family breadwinner was transformed by the gift of two buffalos.

“I earn Rs800 ($8) a day by selling nine litres of buffalo milk and this is enough to feed my two children,” she said happily, while milking one of the animals. “My children have also resumed going to school in the model village.”

Thousands of other poor families also lost their homes to the 2010 floods, the worst in Pakistan’s history, which tore through Fatima’s village early one morning after days of torrential rain.

She was woken by a huge uproar and the cries of villagers: “Wake up … wake up, people … Floodwater is coming!”

“When I came out of my room, the gushing floodwater was just minutes away from our home. Getting hold of my two children and two goats, I fled to the higher ground along with my 54-year-old husband. We left everything behind to the floods,” she explained.

The family spent 45 days in a school building on higher ground. When she returned, she could see only mud bricks strewn around where her home had stood.

PRIVATE-SECTOR INVOLVEMENT

Some 1.9 million houses were damaged or destroyed by the 2010 monsoon floods, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Around 2,000 people died and over 20 million were affected, more than one-tenth of the population, from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.

The World Bank calculated the economic damage at over $9 billion.

With financial support from the non-government and corporate sectors, the Punjab government has built 22 disaster-resilient showcase villages in seven of the severely affected districts, drawing on expertise from two private firms, National Engineering Services Pakistan and Associated Consulting Engineers.

The villages, costing nearly Rs1.35 billion, contain 1,885 single-storey homes, which have been handed over to people who lost their houses in the 2010 floods. The villages have schools, health centres and other community infrastructure, replacing what the floods destroyed.

“These will show how such villages can be better planned, built to higher standards and with improved community infrastructure and facilities. Other facilities are biogas plants, solar energy systems, livestock sheds, covered sewerage, brick-paved streets, parks, play areas, markets and community centres,” said Mujahid Sherdil, director-general of the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).

“The corporate sector played a pivotal part by extending support in both cash and in kind for the construction of disaster-resilient houses,” he added.

Sherdil told Thomson Reuters Foundation from his office in Lahore, the provincial capital, that public relief operations after disasters were often delayed by lack of funds, but that businesses could play a bigger role by immediately making financial contributions to meet aid needs under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

The private sector’s role in post-disaster reconstruction in 2010 showed it can help society cope with disasters, as well as providing resources, expertise and essential services for rebuilding afterwards, he said.

CLIMATE-RESILIENT CONSTRUCTION

Dina Khan, manager of climate-compatible development projects in Pakistan for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), told Thomson Reuters Foundation the Punjab PDMA had asked her organisation to help it incorporate climate resiliency into its post-disaster reconstruction efforts.

CDKN in turn uses management and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald to prepare guidelines on reconstruction in hazard-prone areas of the province, and to assess the climate compatibility of model villages being built.

Arif Hasan, an independent architect, said this kind of approach addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use fewer resources and put up buildings that can withstand weather-related disasters.

“There is an urgent need for implementation of such guidelines in highly disaster-prone Pakistan that will help the country adopt climate-resilient construction methods in disaster-prone areas,” he added.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CDKN’s Asia director based in Islamabad, said Pakistan has inadequate guidelines for disaster risk reduction in the construction sector.

It is hoped the climate-compatible development initiative will pave the way for the country to adopt an effective national policy, and give the rural poor and local decision-makers the knowledge they need to reduce the impact of future disasters, he said.

“The Punjab government asked CDKN to help ‘build back better’ after the devastating floods in 2010,” he said. “Not only is this a strategic project for Pakistan, it is also a test case for climate-compatible development that promises to offer lessons for the international community.”

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan

Weblinkhttp://www.trust.org/item/20130822095211-5o2mi/

Government budget cuts threaten Pakistan’s climate change efforts

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 11 Jul 2013 01:35 PM

The Leh Nullah river, which flows from Islamabad to Rawalpindi, is dangerously clogged with debris and garbage as the rainy season starts. Photo/Muhammad Javaid

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A sharp cut in government funds for Pakistan’s main climate change agency may mean little to thousands of people in homes perched along a flood-prone river in the city of Rawalpindi. But it could tip them into crisis during the monsoon season that has just begun.

The natural river – known as Leh Nullah – doubles as a drain, and is now contaminated with rubbish and sewage. It has burst its banks several times in the past, severely damaging houses. The last time this happened was in July 2001, when flooding cost 35 lives and swept away several slum areas.

The Leh Nullah winds 30 km east from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, down to low-lying Rawalpindi. It has six major tributaries, three originating in the foothills of Islamabad’s scenic Margallah Hills.

Amid economic woes and a fiscal squeeze, Ishaq Dar, the finance minister of Pakistan’s new government, announced in last month’s budget speech a massive cut of over 62 percent in annual spending for Pakistan’s government department charged with tackling climate change.

A few days earlier the country’s climate change ministry – which had only existed since April 2012 – was downgraded to a division. The Climate Change Division is part of the Federal Cabinet Secretariat which functions under the oversight of the prime minister.

The moves have drawn strong criticism from climate scientists, as well as local and international organisations working to boost the country’s resilience to climate impacts.
They warn that the spending cuts may be felt on the ground as early as this year’s monsoon season, which runs from July to September.

In Rawalpindi, the Leh Nullah brims over during monsoon, posing a risk to thousands of families in the settlements it snakes through. Weeks before, government authorities usually remove debris and garbage dumped in the channel so floodwater can flow through unimpeded.

But no such activity has happened this year, according to Joseph Jacob, a local fruit vendor who lives with his family on the drain’s right bank. “We are in a state of fear, and will be compelled to fend for ourselves during the forthcoming monsoon season,” he said.

Thousands of natural flood drains in urban areas are vulnerable to surging waters during the monsoon. But local newspapers report that most have not been cleared as the government has not provided the necessary financial support.

“We have written so many letters to the government for the release of funds and apprised them of the looming threats if the Leh Nullah is not cleared of debris before monsoon season. But such pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears, because there has been no response as yet,” said Saqib Zaffar, Rawalpindi’s district coordination officer.

‘CAR WITHOUT FUEL’

The finance minister has earmarked just 59 million Pakistani rupees (around $590,000) for the Climate Change Division for the 2013-14 financial year that began on July 1, compared with Rs135 million in 2012-13.

Nearly two thirds of this year’s spending is for four ongoing projects. Only two new initiatives – the development of an information system to manage water and sanitation and the establishment of a high-tech climate monitoring centre – were granted funds, according to budget documents.

Pakistan’s total outlay for the new financial year is Rs3.6 trillion, while it faces a fiscal deficit of Rs1.6 trillion.

As a part of government austerity measures, the finance minister announced a 30 percent cut in non-salary expenditures for all federal ministries and divisions.

The government also slashed the number of federal ministries from 40 to 28 last month, including converting the climate change ministry into a division.

Dar told parliament these “unavoidable” budgetary measures would save about 40 billion rupees.

“It is like you are given a car but there is no fuel to drive it,” said a senior official at the Climate Change Division who did not want to be named. “This will scuttle our mitigation and adaptation initiatives launched last year,” he added with disappointment.

The official told Thomson Reuters Foundation the division had requested a budget of around Rs100 million. The Planning Commission of Pakistan, which approves development programmes weeks before the new budget is unveiled, had principally agreed to it before the budget announcement on June 12, he added.

“But to our sheer surprise, no such (amount) was granted,” he said, adding that the commission had also dropped four new climate schemes relating to water, agriculture and renewable energy.

Jawaid Ali, a former director-general at the climate change agency, slammed the “abysmally low” budget allocation, saying it reflects how climate change mitigation and adaptation remain at the bottom of the new government’s priority list.

Even the division’s day-to-day functioning will be severely hampered, he said, not to mention its joint ventures with U.N. agencies.

INTERNATIONAL CASE UNDERMINED

Officials at the Climate Change Division who look after partnerships with international organisations fear the cut in spending could affect Pakistan’s efforts to highlight its climate change vulnerability at the global level.

Tauqeer Ali Sheikh, Asia director for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and head of LEAD Pakistan, an environment and development organisation, said Pakistan is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, but the meagre budget allocation reflects the government’s poor understanding of this.

“Because of official apathy, Pakistan is also losing its representation at international forums for highlighting its vulnerability to harsh weather patterns,” he said.

Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, a lead author of the National Climate Change Policy, said Pakistan may face international isolation if it does not take far-reaching measures to cope with climate stresses.

Azeem Khoso, deputy director for regional planning, echoed his concern. “If the country does not participate in international activities for want of funds, the global community will think Pakistan is not serious in coping with the vagaries of climate change and improving national resilience,” he cautioned.

Pervaiz Amir, a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that officials from India and Bangladesh effectively fought their case for receiving international funding at climate talks in Bonn this year. But there was no representative from Pakistan to argue the same – which he described as “unfortunate”.

Still experts say Pakistan can still improve its resilience to climate impacts even with a lower level of government spending.

Sheikh said Pakistan should continue to draft workable mitigation and adaptation plans across a range of social and economic sectors.

“Such plans can help win foreign funding for the country and substantiate its urgency and seriousness in tackling climate change – particularly in the water, agriculture, health and energy sectors,” he said.

“But all government ministries, divisions and departments have to work collaboratively with the Climate Change Division to achieve this,” he emphasised.

Saleem Shaikh is climate change and development reporter based in Islamabad.

Weblink: http://www.trust.org/item/20130711133533-z7p9x/

Cheap loans offer Indonesians alternatives to rice growing as rainfall decreases

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 10 Jul 2013 09:15 AM

Kaswati stands at her stall in Pagon village, Indonesia, holding a pouch of jackfruit snacks.TRF/Saleem Shaikh

 

PAGON, Indonesia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Falling yields forced rice farmer Shamsuddin Bin Rus to consider abandoning his land and moving to the city to find work as a labourer.

But his 41-year-old wife, Kaswati, came to the rescue by participating in a loan programme that enabled her to start her own small business selling jackfruit snacks.

Low rainfall in recent years has reduced the harvest from her husband’s 2.5-hectare (6-acre) paddy plot in Pagon village, in coastal Subang district some 130 km (80 miles) southeast of Jakarta. The 58-year-old rice farmer said he used to get more than five tonnes of rice per hectare, but now reaps less than four.

“How can we depend solely on farm income any longer when the rainy season is delayed by 25 to 30 days every year and ends 10 to 15 days earlier, and (it does) not rain as much as it used to?” Kaswati said.

“Every year, we do the same labour (and) sow the same amount of paddy seed on the land, but the crop productivity is no longer the same,” she said.

But the couple have not had to leave their home in search of work thanks to a scheme set up by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The project, which began in 1997 in several villages in Subang district, offers low-interest loans to people in farming communities to help diversify their incomes, so they can better survive economic losses from poor harvests amid changing weather patterns.

BOOMING BUSINESS

Kaswati borrowed 4 million Indonesian rupiah ($400) from the scheme at an interest rate of 1 percent in 1999. She also joined an economic self-help group that was part of the programme.

“Having received training about efficient use of the credit, I launched a small-scale jackfruit snacks stall in my village,” she said.

Over the years, her business has boomed. From monthly sales of 40,000 rupiah ($4) in 2000, she now earns 4 million rupiah ($400) per month, having expanded to markets in other villages in Subang and adjoining districts.

Bin Rus said that, without his wife’s earnings, the family would have fallen into poverty and debt. Now he no longer needs to borrow cash for seed from moneylenders, who charged high interest or forced him to sell his crops to them at below-market rates.

Ronald Hartman, IFAD’s programme manager in Indonesia, said the loan scheme has been scaled up to raise the living standards of the poorest rural families in 18 provinces.

Experience has shown that low-income farmers and fishermen are creditworthy and demonstrate economic initiative when mobilised into self-help groups, he added.

Group members have chosen from up to 200 types of business activities, ranging from livestock-raising to small-scale trade, food processing and handicrafts. Most are given training in financial planning and management, Hartman said.

IFAD reports that over the years the scheme has loaned a total of 113 billion rupiah ($11.4 million at current exchange rates) with a repayment rate of 86 percent. The incomes of participating families have risen by 41 to 54 percent.

RICE IMPORTS

Agriculture is still a major source of income in Indonesia, employing 57 percent of the labour force and accounting for two thirds of the country’s GDP. But changing climate and weather patterns have forced some to abandon farming, putting the livelihoods of whole communities at stake.

According to the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics, data gathered from 174 climate stations in major food-producing areas of the country indicate that rainfall is declining by nearly 250 mm per year. Indonesia receives on average 1,755 mm (69 inches) of precipitation annually.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of rice after China and India. But in the past five years, the country of 248 million people has also become the world’s seventh largest rice importer, requiring an annual average of over 1.1 million tonnes of imported rice to meet its domestic needs.

Zulkifli Zaini, a crop scientist with the International Rice Research Institute in Indonesia, said the Southeast Asian nation’s rice output has not declined, thanks to the cultivation of improved varieties. But the fact that it has remained static over the past five years is a cause for concern.

Rice accounts for half of per-capita food consumption, so meeting rising national demand has become a daunting challenge for the government.

Experts are pressing for climate adaptation programmes that will increase crop planting areas and boost crop intensity and productivity, alongside campaigns to lower the average consumption of rice.

“Improved land management practices that contribute to soil moisture retention and maintain the amount of nutrients in the soil at appropriate levels can strengthen resilience as well as enhance productivity,” said Ir Haryono, director general of the Indonesian Agency for Agriculture Research and Development.

He also stressed the importance of helping farming communities diversify their income sources to survive shocks from erratic weather patterns. Replication of IFAD’s loan programme in other provinces could help with this, Haryono added.

Kaswati, meanwhile, is making the most of her entrepreneurial success.

“Before I rolled out the business…I had no say in our family affairs and was completely dependent on my husband economically,” she said. Now her husband listens to her and values her decisions about family matters.

Saleem Shaikh is a climate change and development reporter based in Islamabad.

Weblink: http://www.trust.org/item/20130709182526-2zp8u/

Face of climate justice in Bangladesh

As Bangladesh is the most climate vulnerable country, most people from the disaster prone area is migrating from their place to capital city or any other big cities. They are deprived from all human rights. How can climate justice work for them and what is the way to distribute the climate fund to them in a transparent process is the main discussion topic of the conversation. The displaced people are mostly illiterate and they need to change their profession for surviving. Their social and economic status rapidly decrease which may impact on their physical and mental condition. These all are impact of climate change, which may solve by planning a community based adaptation processes. These processes need transparency and accountability from national to global stage for establishing climate justice for the victims. This is a discussion with Adv. M. Hafijul Islam Khan, An Environmental Lawyer in Bangladesh.

For listening click here 

Developing nations put climate change at heart of plans

DHAKA/ISLAMABAD: Representatives from governments in Africa and Asia have formed a network to support their efforts to factor climate change into their development plans.

The group developed its plans at the 7th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, which ended today in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Government Group Network on Climate Change Mainstreaming and Development includes members from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, The Gambia and Zanzibar – and will expand to include other countries.

The network exists to enable policymakers in countries at risk from climate change to share information and collaborate in ways that can strengthen their policies and plans by ensuring they consider how climate change could affect development.

The network has developed a framework for assessing and planning how to integrate climate into the business of national and sub-national planning professionals. The building blocks of the framework are political will, information and awareness, and resources for programmes and projects.

The CBA7 conference – organised by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies (BCAS) — brought together over 250 international practitioners, scientists, government and non-government policy and decision makers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the conference with a strong call for rich countries to help poorer ones to adapt, but also pointed out that developing nations were already leading the way in adaptation.

“This year’s event was especially important in bringing on board significant participation from governments, who now join the civil society based groups that have been mostly involved so far,” says Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in IIED’s climate change group. “This seventh annual meeting has demonstrated how far and fast the community of practice has grown over just a few short years.”

Conference delegates – and online participants who followed the conference over the internet –learnt about ways that people around the world are adapting to climate change in both rural and urban settings, and how governments can embed adaptation in all policy arenas.

“The conference was very useful both in terms of the things I learned that could be replicated at country level and through the interactive networking opportunities it created,” says Lamin Jobe from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in The Gambia. “It has inspired me to advocate for mainstreaming monitoring and evaluation into our climate change planning and implementation processes.”

“Bangladesh has reasserted itself as the adaptation capital of the world,” says Atiq Rahman, director of BCAS. “The issues of climate, development and vulnerability of the poor must be central to future decision making process. There must be assured, adequate and sustainable financial resources for the poorest of the world impacted by climate change induced extreme events.”

Next year’s conference will take place in Nepal and its theme will be ‘financing adaptation’.