For millions of people in the developing world, climate change is already a daily reality, and Aidlink has seen first-hand its impact on the communities we work with in Kenya and Uganda.
With every passing day, more and more people are waking up to the dangers of climate change. Just 3 months ago the world’s leading scientists told us that we have 12 years to limit global warming, otherwise the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty will worsen for hundreds of millions of people across the planet.
But climate change is already a reality, and Aidlink has seen first-hand its impact on the communities we work with in Kenya and Uganda. From farmers in Uganda who can no longer predict when the rains will arrive, leading to poor harvests and reduced incomes, to nomadic pastoralist families in Kenya’s drylands whose traditional reliance on migration and the survival of their animals is threatened by the increasing frequency and severity of drought.
It was only at the start of last year that target communities in Turkana County, Northern Kenya received more than an hour’s rainfall for the first time in 3 years. The drought which proceeded that was described by some as ‘the worst humanitarian crisis in decades’ with 1-in-4 people registered as malnourished and almost half a million relying on emergency food supplies.
Because of climate change, droughts like this are becoming increasingly frequent in places like Turkana. Whereas once upon a time, drought would strike every 10-15 years, they now occur every 2-3 years, leaving pastoralist families unable to recover before the next shock. As a result, daily life is disrupted for thousands of people. It is children, especially girls, who suffer the most:
“When family livelihoods suffer, children become the risk management strategy – they may be increasingly absent from school or drop out altogether in order to do chores at home or earn an income. The increase in child labour results in an increased risk of sexual abuse as children are forced to work in isolated areas without supervision. The infrastructure to deal with the psycho-social effects of this is virtually non-existent. In the face of decreasing family assets, girls are particularly vulnerable. Families may be forced to send their daughters into early marriages, in order to have one less mouth to feed and to provide for the rest of the family through the dowry”
-Monitoring and Evaluation Report, the Girl Child Network –
There is a responsibility on all of us, as individuals, in companies and in government to take action to reduce our carbon footprint (and you can assess your own carbon footprint using the calculator below!)
Many of us have already made personal changes, from carrying “keep cups” to eating less meat, but what about Aidlink as an organisation? How can we reduce our footprint or limit the impact of our work on the environment?
In 2019, we will be travelling to Kenya and Uganda with 60 Irish secondary school students and teachers as part of our Immersion Programme. That’s 60 return flights to East Africa plus local travel, each adding approximately 2 tons of carbon to the atmosphere! Plus, each participant will drink 3 litres of water a day, going through a total of 3,600 plastic bottles!
For both logistical and health and safety reasons, there’s no way around these outputs. Flying is the only way to get from Ireland to East Africa and drinking bottled water is currently the most effective way to avoid the group getting sick!
But while there are environmental costs to the Immersion Programme, we believe in the benefits of young people from Ireland taking part in a programme of this nature. Students are afforded the opportunity to share and partake in the daily lives of their host community and attend school with their peers. By being exposed to a new culture, traditions and society, they gain valuable interpersonal skills and an understanding of inequality and the challenges faced by communities in the developing world. The Immersion Programme creates a space whereby the Irish students’ existing perceptions and attitudes may be challenged.
So while we believe in the value of the Immersion Programme, we are taking steps to offset its environmental impact and make it carbon neutral.
For every person who travels with Aidlink overseas on an Immersion Programme, we will plant 2 fruit trees in our host communities to offset the carbon emissions of return flights from Ireland and travel in Kenya/Uganda. Over a tree’s lifetime, one ton of CO2 will be removed from the atmosphere, and because we will be planting fruit trees, there is a much lower risk of it being cut down for firewood as they will be recognised as a valuable community source.
In Uganda, we’ll also be partnering with a local organisation, the Masaka Recycling Initiative, to ensure that all the plastic bottles we use are collected and recycled. The Masaka Recycling Initiative is a local NGO that employs over 100 people locally, many of whom are living with a disability.
In Kenya, the students will work with their peers in the host school to re-purpose and up-cycle the plastic bottles we use, constructing useful items that can be used around the school like rubbish disposal bins.
Aidlink is commitment to reducing our organisational impact on the climate and the environment. The above activities are part of a series of measures we are taking in line with our new Climate Pledge [LINK] and global efforts to tackle climate change through the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We hope that you will join us on this journey for a better world!