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Resilient Landscapes for Resilient Communities

Submitted by Michael Rastall 20th March 2013 16:27

A Beginning in Pemba from Community Forests International on Vimeo.

Context

Pemba is a small underdeveloped tropical island off the coast of Tanzania. As a small island, Pemba is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and severe weather events leading to storm surge, inundation, and severe erosion. Pembans are already experiencing negative human and economic impacts of a degraded natural environment and a changing climate, specifically deforestation and recent prolonged rainfall shortages. These impacts reflect the islanders’ dependence on rain-fed agriculture and biomass for household energy, and include; reduced water availability and soil fertility; crop damage and loss; reduced food security and nutrition; increased reliance on external resources; and rising unemployment. Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, will be further negatively impacted on Pemba by these climate change related stresses.

Barriers and Challenges

The rural target communities of Uwandani, Vitongoji, and Pujini, Pemba are located in a region of the island which is particularly vulnerable to climate change stresses, the eastern coral rag (a type of limestone) zone. The relatively poor soils in this region combined with unsustainable land use practices and a changing climate has resulted in a mostly degraded, deforested, and drought prone landscape. The islet target communities of Fundo and Kokota experience a similar landscape, with the added stresses of fresh water scarcity and isolation. Each of these communities is traditionally heavily dependent on natural resources and sustenance farming. Currently the citizens of these communities are experiencing an erosion of the ecological foundations of their livelihoods, which will continue as the effects of climate change intensify.

Working in remote islet communities poses significant logistical barriers. These barriers became especially apparent when implementing community-scale rainwater harvesting actions involving large infrastructure on Kokota Islet, Pemba. In this action, CFI constructed a 2000 sq. ft. school with a roof suitable for rainwater collection and a 250,000 litre tank for rainwater storage. As Kokota is a small island devoid of freshwater, it was necessary to transport all building materials including freshwater for mixing concrete by boat to the project site. The cost of privately contracting this transportation proved prohibitive at the outset.

CFI overcame this barrier by engaging Kokota community members directly in implementation and by mobilizing their existing livelihood resources. Kokota is a fishing community and its residents are well-equipped for transporting materials by sea. By coordinating the transportation and construction efforts with Kokta's residents, CFI was able to overcome acute logistical barriers and achieve project goals.

Methods and Tools

In order to support effective adaption and at the same time contribute to the mitigation of climate change, Community Forests International assists target communities to: 1) gain legal title to degraded government owned land; 2) implement diversified and resilient agricultural systems including agroforestry systems; 3) conduct community-based afforestation and reforestation; 4) employ a range of appropriate technology including rain water harvesting, charcoal substitutes, and alternative energy; 5) implement multi-strata kitchen gardens; and 6) diversify livelihood activities.

Key Messages

  • Communities can quickly transition from a position of relative vulnerability to one of adaptation and resilience when provided with training and technical support in appropriate technologies and associated livelihood opportunities.
  • Establishing, restoring and conserving resilient landscapes including climate-smart agricultural lands, natural forests and wetlands surrounding communities is essential to achieving resilience in light of climate change.
  • Providing land security and incentivizing adaptation through the establishment of adaptive livelihood opportunities is a key driver in grassroots climate change adaptation.