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Climate Change stories: How CC affects the most vulnerable

Climate Change stories: How CC affects the most vulnerable

August 29, 2018 by Solidagro

The Climate Change Network for Community based Initiatives, Inc.( CCNCI ) in partnership with the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UPIHR) held Kwentuhang Klima (Climate Change Stories): A Summit on Climate Change Adaptation.

Attended by more than 150 individuals representing 44 organizations and institutions, the activity was the culmination of a series of forums initiated by CCNCI to hear stories from the most vulnerable sectors of society, such as the farmers, fisherfolk, women, children, and indigenous peoples, on the effects of climate change, adaptation and mitigation practices, and their calls for climate change actions. 

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest report projects an increase in the number of displaced over the course of this century. The risk of displacement intensifies when vulnerable populations experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, in both rural and urban areas, particularly in low-income countries. According to the IPCC, there is an emerging consensus that greater variability of climatic factors will have an increasing impact on the livelihoods and safety of the most vulnerable members of communities.”(1)

Farmers: Danilo Ramos, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (National Peasant Movement of the Philippines)

Danilo recalled his childhood years when farming in the Philippines was still free from chemical fertilizers. Traditionally managed ricefields then were teeming with fish, frogs, and insects which they could eat. "Life then was better". But everything changed when the Green Revolution was introduced in the country in the early 1970's. Green Revolution involved chemical farming to increase yields. Traditional seeds were replaced with high-yielding varieties. In a report, Greenpeace revealed that the use of chemical fertilizers is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes greatly to climate change.(2)

Climate change has aggravated the strong typhoons that regularly hit the Philippines and destroy vast tracts of agricultural lands. It has disproportionately affected poor and landless farmers who comprise the majority of farmers in the country. KMP has been organizing these farmers to fight for their right to land and food security. The organization is also active in opposing large-scale mining, land grabbing, and genetically modified organisms.

Danilo cited KMP’s “bungkalan” as an effective climate change adaptation and mitigation practice.  Bungkalan is a land occupation campaign to put up a collective farming through sustainable and traditional agricultural practices. It is also a campaign to call public attention to the government’s failure to address landlessness and implement genuine agrarian reform. Mutual aid and cooperation are practiced especially during times of calamities.

Fisherfolk: Bobby Roldan, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Namamalakaya ng Pilipinas (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines)

Bobby cited 2017 data that showed that the Philippines ranks 8th among top fish producing countries in the world, third largest producer of aquatic plants and has a total fish production of 4.35 MT contributing P228.93 billion to the national economy. Having the longest coastal line, 60 % of the population lives near the shores and many rely on fishing as a means of livelihood. 

Despite the richness and biodiversity of the country’s seas, fisherfolk are said to be the “poorest of the poor” and are the most vulnerable to disasters. The effects of climate change on fisherfolk communities are the following: rising sea levels resulting in flooding, severe storms and storm surges, destruction of fishing grounds and saltwater contamination of land crops leading to low yield. As a consequence, the fisherfolk suffer from lower incomes, worsening health, exposure to diseases, destruction of homes and property and forced evacuation.

Climate change has exacerbated the impoverished situation of small fisherfolk who are engaged in small-scale and traditional fishing methods. Besides, the fishing industry in the country is dominated by local and foreign big businesses which have no qualms in destroying fishing grounds and mangrove forests that serve as protection from storm surges.

PAMALAKAYA has been vigorously demanding the government to dismantle the monopoly of big businesses and stop all forms of exploitation of small fisherfolk through mobilizations. It also calls for a more stringent prohibition of destructive fishing practices and conversion of fishing grounds for commercial use and an earnest effort to establish a sustainable and environment-friendly fishing industry.

Children:  Teacher Lita Malundras, Daycare Teacher from Parent’s Alternative, Inc

Children are the most vulnerable during disasters,  said Teacher Lita, as she recounted her experience during typhoon Ondoy, one of the most devastating typhoons that hit the country in 2009. After Ondoy,  they formed Task Force Children of the Storm to be able to mobilize support, conduct a psychosocial intervention and provide immediate needs of children victims of disasters. 

She observed that children were traumatized upon witnessing death and destruction. They experienced recurrent nightmares and bedwetting due to anxiety. The sound of heavy rain caused panic attacks among them  Malnourished children are more vulnerable to diseases like leptospirosis, cough, colds, and pneumonia. She also noted the occurrence of chicken pox and measles during the typhoon season.   

In 2013, during one of their visits in typhoon Haiyan stricken areas, Children of the Storm found that many children, especially those who were orphaned by the typhoon, have become victims of human trafficking, prostitution, child pornography, and domestic slavery. Cases of child labor have gone up as more young family members need to work for food.

As adaptation strategy, PAI established programs for children disaster victims. They provide psychosocial processing, feeding and climate change education for children. They have noted the inadequacies of government response and lack of health programs for children to address the health effects of climate change.

Indigenous People: Pya Malayao, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubo sa Pilipinas ( Alliance of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations in the Philippines)

Pya Malayao said that indigenous peoples (IP) know nature best. They are bonded to their land. When disaster strikes, they can easily adapt. They know where to go to avoid landslides. They are fully aware of the characteristics of rivers, wildlife, and foliage. They can easily cope. But their close connection to nature is now being threatened by many factors, thus, they have become vulnerable. Besides, they are being driven out of their lands. The IPs are facing the following problems:

  • national oppression in the form of dams, mining projects
  • non-recognition of the right to ancestral lands forcing them to evacuate to give way to "development" that is not for them
  • non-recognition of the right to self-determination –government fields "fake indigenous people leaders" who pretend to favor the projects. Their systems of justice and defense of community are criminalized.
  • institutionalized discrimination – The media and educational institutions promote discrimination through misinformation. The lack of social services also worsens discrimination. Their culture is also being commercialized.
  • intensifying attacks and plunder under Duterte administration
  • effects of climate change – disasters and further land grabbing

These problems made it hard for them to respond to climate change and to rise above natural disasters. Above these, climate change is now being used as a reason to drive them away from their ancestral lands through the government’s National Greening Program wherein indigenous plants are replaced by cash crops. This becomes the government’s excuse for land grabbing.

 Adaptation and mitigation of the IP's involve organizing, collective actions, education and research on indigenous practices and transfer of knowledge to the next generations. Included in the collective action are protest activities against policies that exploit natural resources and IP's and movements to cultivate land for food ( bungkalan ). The IP's also espouse productive and self-sustaining communities through the setting up of IP schools, linkage and support building.

Workers: Daisy Arago of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights ( CTUHR )

Climate change is a cross-cutting issue and it definitely affects workers. The CTUHR conducted a research on CC and its effects on workers. The state policies have not been adapted to CC so that adverse incidents have occurred among workers like heat exhaustion, accidents among informal sectors engaged in construction, mining, street sweeping, overheating and heat strokes in factories. Cooling systems in factories are more for the protection of machinery rather than people. In addition to this, repressive policies like "no work no pay"  further add to the burden during times of disasters. Gender injustice is also a reality with women bearing a double burden- lower wages, more difficult work, usually takes charge of saving the family in emergency situations in the home during disasters, and have to contend with the loss of loved ones and caring for family survivors.

Typhoons are also used as a tactic to dissolve unions. In Mindanao, oil palm companies, where labor unions were fighting for their rights, closed their plantations when typhoons Pablo and Sendong hit the island. When the plantations reopened, the companies made sure that union members were not rehired.

There are also mitigation practices that fail to address the roots of climate change. One of these is the policy called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) which involves forest management projects. But there are reports that REDD projects have been displacing indigenous peoples and used to convert forests into oil palm and rubber plantations. 

Workers have been initiating education campaigns on climate change and its effects on the most vulnerable sectors in society. They are also joining forces with other sectors to organize and mobilize the people in demanding the government to provide real solutions to the problems caused by climate change.

(1) http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=354

(2) http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/ph/News/news-stories/chemical-fertilizer-use-linked/

Author: Andrew Aytin (Advocacy Staff Solidagro, Filipijnen)