Father Frederic D’Souza, Caritas India; Firmin Adjahossou; and Sr. Aine Hughes, Caritas South Africa
by Christine Campeau, Caritas delagate at the UN in Geneva
Within minutes of checking into my hotel for the Malawi Climate Change meeting, I was greeted by Sr. Aine Hughes from Caritas South Africa.
She then introduced me to Firmin Adjahossou, a member of the Caritas/SECAM Working Group. One of Mr. Adjahossou’s main responsibilities is to link African Church Leaders with the experts and leaders of local communities in order to develop strategies aimed at educating people about the impact of the climate change on their daily lives. Mr. Adjahossou noted that a major challenge of his work is that most people do not yet make the causal link between climate change and the negative effects they are experiencing in areas such as farming.
Sr. Hughes and Mr. Adjahossou stressed the need for clear messages that people can relate to. For example, Sr. Hughes often finds herself asking the elders “what changes are you experiencing?” rather than “how are you being affected by climate change?”
Mr. Adjahossou also highlighted the need of local government involvement in environmental protection. From his observations, he remarked that the forests remained intact on government managed lands, yet was often de-forested in cases where there is no government intervention.
The conversation then shifted to our recently released joint Caritas Internationalis & CISDE report entitled Reducing Vulnerability, Enhancing Resilience: The Importance of Adaptation Technologies for the post 2012 Climate Agreement. They commended the report for stressing the importance and the wealth of existing knowledge within the communities. Mr. Adjahossou made several references to indigenous practices such as farmers predicting rainfall according to the birdcalls and listening to the sounds of the lake and to refrain from fishing on a certain day of the week to allow it to replenish.
Adaptation technologies such as these draw on the traditional experience of our member organizations to illustrate the different ways in which vulnerable communities are coping with the impacts of climate change by using traditional knowledge.
With time, our group strengthened in numbers and expertise. If this enthusiasm is any indication of how the following meeting will progress, than I have no doubt that many useful insights will be shared over the next five days.