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Enhancing women's livelihoods at Grand-Sable in response to Climate Change effects

Submitted by Anna Lisa Jose 14th July 2015 19:57
plantation of vetiver by the women beneficiaries - climate adaptation.

Grand-Sable women plant vetiver in fields and mangroves to combat land degradation and coastal erosion

Introduction

Grand-Sable is located in the southeast coast of Mauritius, between a mountain range and the sea. Due to its location, homes along the coast are prone to shoreline erosion from tidal surges and sea-level rise, while those inland are dangerously affected by mud slides from cyclones and heavy rains. 

As a result of this erosion including climate change effects and any other changes to the landscape that left the shoreline more exposed to tides, the mean sea level has risen by 2.1 mm/year between 1998 and 2007. While the annual rainfall over the past century has decreased by 8% as compared to the 1950s, the frequency and intensification of extreme weather events (heavy rains, storms and cyclones) have increased. These have resulted to flash floods which, in turn, exacerbate already acute soil erosion and water-logging in some coastal areas and adding to the environmental pressures. These climate change-induced impacts threaten the existence of the Grand-Sable villagers and the ecosystems that they rely on. Women in the village, who rely on fishing for their household subsistence and income, spend their days struggling to sustain their livelihoods while maintaining their family’s welfare.

Long-term climate change projections for Mauritius and its outer islands will perturb the following important sectors:  i) coastal resources; ii) agriculture; iii) water resources; iv) fisheries; v) health and well-being; vi) land-use change and forestry; and vii) biodiversity. There will be a definite warming trend in the temperatures in the range of 0.5 to 1.0 ˚C and sea-levels will be rising at 3.2mm/year. Increasing temperatures and ocean acidification will continue to alter the marine ecosystem which, in turn, will modify the fish distribution, productivity of marine and freshwater species and may lead to extinction of species. Increasing sea-level rise and the coastal erosion from torrential rains will deteriorate the coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs, wetlands, and mangroves.

Adaptation Options

The key objective of this CBA project is to demonstrate new approaches and methods of sustainable land and coastal zone management. The project was prepared through a participatory process and is being implemented by the Grand-Sable Women Planters, Farmers and Entrepreneurs Association with support from the Mauritius Research Council and the University of Mauritius.  Building on the local knowledge, this project consists of adaptation strategies that complement another SIDS project, as well as provide alternative livelihood options. 

The key activities include (i) the plantation of vetiver which can effectively control erosion and has the secondary benefit of being a good material for craft making, (ii) cultivation of cassava and medicinal plants for which there is a growing market and (iii) sensitisation of the local community on mangrove plantations (developed in the other SIDS project) and their coastal protection benefits.

Outcomes and Impacts

Environmental Impact

The project is under implementation and aims to decrease the risk of landslides and erosion that threaten for both coastal residents and marine ecosystems. The environmental impact of the project will be measured by the number of hectares of land stabilised and the percentage reduction of land degradation through the plantation of vetiver in the fields and mangroves along the coast. It is expected that at least one hectare of land will be planted with vetiver by the end of December 2014 and that the annual erosion will be reduced to 0.75 ton/hectare.

Socio-Economic Impact

Twenty-five women have been trained on the cultivation of vetiver and seaweed and will soon be trained on the cultivation of medicinal plants. 300 community members of Grand-Sable, and the surrounding villages such as Petit-Sable, Deux Freres and Quatre Soeurs, as well as some 350 primary school children, will be trained by the end of the project on adaptation to climate change, mangrove plantation and its benefits. It is envisaged that the members of the Grand-Sable Women Planters’ Farmers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Association would be able to generate an income by selling (i) the seaweed-based products such as soap and jam as well as (ii) the mature vetiver and medicinal plants and cassava. This will help them to sustain their families’ livelihoods and to direct their own adaptation measures as climate risks increase.

Replication and Scaling Up

The project has established synergies and linkages at the national level and has obtained co-financing support from the Adaptation Fund (AF) through the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Hence, it is in a strong position to replicate its best practices and innovations in other coastal regions of the island of Mauritius.

Furthermore, the project and grantee have received accolades exposing their efforts to island-wide recognition. The Grand-Sable Women Planters’, Farmers’, and Entrepreneurs’ Association was the winner of the Island Bright Spot Award as part of the 2013 Global Island Partnership Solution Search. They were selected for their use of seaweeds and other plants for alternative and diversified livelihoods. In October 24, 2013, the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) panel announced the project as an excellent example of a “bright spot” that advances conservation and sustainable livelihoods in their island community. The project's innovative solutions on vetiver and seaweed cultivation to stop land degradation while using the leaves, roots and mature vetiver for soap, medicine and food provided economic opportunities and empowered the communities.  The project's participatory and social inclusion approaches were also noted for its great potential to be scaled up and replicated elsewhere to make lasting impacts. In summary, the project solutions tackled climate change and encouraged sustainable development using ecosystem-based adaptation. To celebrate this award, the Global Island Partnership funded a representative of the Grand-Sable Women Planters’ Farmers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Association to participate in events at the Third International Conference on Small Island Development States (UNSIDS 2014) to be held in Apia, Samoa on 28 August to 4 September 2014. The Global Island Partnership also showcased this project through events and activities during UNSIDS 2014 to encourage investment in scaling up and replicating their effective solutions.

On March 12, 2014, in the context of the 46th anniversary of the independence of Mauritius, Mrs. Geraldine Aristide (President of the NGO), received the President of the Republic’s Badge of Honour for long and meritorious service, including and rewarding her work in the project being implemented.  

Methods and Tools

The Vulnerability Reduction Assessment (VRA) forms a cornerstone of the CBA project’s monitoring and evaluation activities. It is designed to measure the changing vulnerabilities of communities to climate change, and to be comparable across vastly different projects, regions, and contexts, making it possible to determine if a given project is successful or unsuccessful. The VRA is complimented by the SGP Impact Assessment System, which measures global environmental benefits as well as livelihood and empowerment indicators. Together they provide a broad picture of the progress of the CBA project in achieving its goals of enhancing adaptive capacity, and improving the resilience of ecosystems providing global environmental benefits in the chosen focal areas. 

Social inclusion approaches of the project ensures that all community members have a role and a voice in the project regardlesss of age, gender, race, religion and physical/mental abilities. 

Lessons Learnt

There have been a lot of lessons for the practitioners, but the following points are considered critical during project implementation:

  1. Community-based organisations need strong leadership and teamwork in order to successfully implement projects of this scale.
  2. Difficulties stemming from weak communication amongst community members needs to be resolved quickly in order to avoid failure of the project.
  3. Technical inputs and training are also crucial to success and it is important that the communities have support from research institutions and dynamic trainers who understand the community needs and traditions.