ACDI/VOCA Strengthens Vulnerable Communities’ Capacity to Respond
Climate change is a major and urgent development challenge since the majority of those affected live in poor countries. Because the phenomenon has profound effects on agricultural development and food security and those effects are projected to worsen, ACDI/VOCA is committed to incorporating climate change adaptation and mitigation into our activities.
We promote the adoption of cogent and vigorous climate change strategies based on our over 45 years of experience working with beneficiaries, learning the underlying science, exploring and devising innovative technical approaches, forming relevant partnerships and building momentum for positive change.
Hard-won Gains for Vulnerable Communities Threatened
Climate change poses an obvious threat to smallholder farmers and those they feed. Such farmers already live on thin margins, and a billion people, mostly rural, already lack sufficient nutrition.
The threat is most dire in regions that already experience extreme climatic conditions and have a propensity to food insecurity. Farmers vulnerable to drought, floods and other natural disasters will struggle to maintain food production in the face of increasing temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns, violent swings between floods and droughts, and storms pronounced in strength and frequency.
Experts predict that the effects of climate change will cause developing countries to suffer a 10-25 percent decline in agricultural productivity by the 2080s. Besides causing food shortages, climate change threatens to reverse hard-won gains in the broader fight against poverty and disease by debilitating entire populations, damaging ecosystems, severely impacting water supplies and reducing sanitation. The Global Humanitarian Forum estimates that yearly economic losses in the developing world due to climate change already eclipse the total amount of annual aid.
We observe worsening conditions. Recently in Kenya, seasonal rains have come later than usual, forcing farmers to reseed, thus incurring further debt. Farmers lucky enough to time their planting with the changing rainfall patterns still experienced insufficient rains and reduced yields. In the Philippines, excessive rains and more-frequent storms have affected the timing and quality of cocoa yields.
Need for an Integrated, Localized, Gender-sensitive Approach
ACDI/VOCA applies an integrated approach to solving problems along the entire development continuum from smallholders to end markets. We recognize that climate change poses not only farming problems, but also economic and social ones. To be effective we must work with our beneficiaries and also within the broader community—throughout value chains and with partners, policymakers and other stakeholders—to ensure comprehensive local capacity to meet climate change’s challenges.
Women are often the primary users and stewards of natural resources from cropland to water to fuel to plants and herbs used as medicine. Yet, they are often left out of the decision making about how natural resources are shared. Since they tend to be disproportionately affected by the depletion of resources or by natural disasters, development approaches should ensure that women play a role in strategies and technologies that are introduced.
The greatest barriers to an effective response, besides the absence of reliable predictions for the pace and severity of climate change, are lack of awareness of solutions, inability to access and afford those solutions, and a lack of capacity and leadership to actualize them. To address this, we developed the Communities Engaged to Drive Adaptation Responses, or CEDAR, approach, which incorporates best practices from our community-driven development work. CEDAR engages community stakeholders in participatory activities that identify, prioritize and lead sustainable responses to climate change.
In addition, we promote education on climate change causes and effects as well as the identification of adaptation strategies. These strategies range from adopting new agricultural techniques and materials to ensuring that farmers have access to appropriate inputs or financial services that better enable them to cope with climate challenges.
Being Climate Smart: Reducing Vulnerability and Mitigating Exposure
Since 1963 ACDI/VOCA has built more-resilient farming communities by enhancing agricultural productivity, strengthening market linkages and improving access to credit. But today’s weather patterns call for climate-smart agriculture. Farmers should have access to “green” inputs, advanced irrigation techniques and modern seeds, including GMO varieties where appropriate and desired by local communities.
Our programs also work to limit exposure for communities. In the Horn of Africa we apply agroforestry techniques and introduce crop varieties suited to increasingly arid conditions. Throughout the world we work with communities to better manage water resources. In Mali, near the Sahara Desert, we helped 1,000 families settle on newly irrigated land in the Alatona Zone and farm diverse rice, shallot, potato and forage crops. In other projects we emphasize water and forest management, ecosystem restoration, conservation agriculture and integrated pest management to help cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
We also realize the need for agricultural flexibility and intercropping, since previously dependable crops may stop performing while others become more productive. In Tanzania, for example, we work with farmers to grow millet alongside maize as a hedge against low rainfall.
Studying Market Opportunities
As a nonprofit that means business, we are also aware of climate change-influenced market opportunities, since some markets might improve and some fail as costs of production and irrigation rise, or as varieties lose their competitive edge. In Jamaica, for example, client farmers report they must move to higher elevations to harvest high-quality coffee that once grew at lower elevations.
New financial mechanisms will be needed as new risks present themselves and new niche markets develop for climate-related enterprises. In Lebanon, ACDI/VOCA helped develop crop insurance to help farmers manage risk related to climate change, as well as disease and pest infestation and theft.
In addition to building the adaptive capacity of communities, we encourage greenhouse gas mitigation and conservation agriculture and train farmers in sustainable agricultural and land-use techniques.
ACDI/VOCA’s work in coffee and cocoa has resulted in millions of new trees planted and livelihoods that are more economically, environmentally, socially and culturally sustainable. In Liberia we have advanced the policy and practice of community-based forest management.
Pervading all our approaches is the use of behavior change communications, application of information and communications technologies and our signature strengths in organizing farmer-based organizations and building local capacity.
Pockets of Hope
While the challenges may seem overwhelming, our integrated approach yields success.
For example, in India we have helped develop a low-cost, environmentally friendly technology designed on the principle of direct evaporative cooling which has been integrated into commercial supply chains. Zero-energy cool chambers are used by exporters to cool produce for long-distance transportation, allowing sourcing from farmers in more remote rural areas. They require no power to operate, and are made of cheap and available materials such as bricks, sand, bamboo, etc. They also allow smallholder and marginal farmers to store a few days' harvest if markets are facing glut or prices are unfavorable.
We can point to many interventions like the one above, but challenges continue and the daunting scale of global climate change requires a bold, new paradigm. ACDI/VOCA is committed to climate-smart approaches to reduce this momentous threat to rural livelihoods.
For more, visit our cross-cutting theme page on "Climate Change Adapatation and Mitigation" and read "Climate Change: Practical Responses to a Real Challenge" (PDF, 106 KB) in ACDI/VOCA’s World Report.