Environmental change is a very urgent matter that visibly affects the communities we work in. Within Dorcas interventions, actions are continuously taken to adjust to climate change, counter environmental degradation, minimize risk from disasters and even improve the (enabling) environment. Environmental change is one of five cross cutting themes at Dorcas. The theme ensures that the wider environmental and physical (man-made) context of interventions are not only taken into account but even improved as part of good stewardship.
Why it matters
Migration, the environment and the climate are closely connected. In the past decade, there has been growing political awareness of the issues around environment migration and an increasing acceptance that this is a global challenge. In 2018, the United Nations (UN) recognised climate change as a driver of migration for the first time – subsequently, finalising its first ever global compact for migration. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migrations (GCM) aims to provide a sound framework for taking action that addresses climate-driven migration. In our work, we want to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of the UN, more specifically Goal 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change) and 15 (Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems).
Our vision on environmental change
The natural and physical environment is –and will increasingly become – a key aspect of Dorcas’ interventions. Protecting it will unquestionably contribute to an enabling environment for communities to flourish. Our impact statement therefore is: Adaptation and mitigation against Climate Change contributing towards Resilient Livelihoods and a Safe and Peaceful environment.
“Climate change affects the poorest”, says Ester Mgina, the person responsible for the mainstreaming of the ‘Environmental Change’ cross-cutting theme at Dorcas. “We work in areas where vulnerable communities exist. We no longer just implement individual projects. We work on system change to respond to environmental conflicts and tackle issues structurally. Sustainability has many aspects. Structures support sustainability but sustainability can also be enhanced through increased resilience. We aim to build resilient livelihoods and communities.”
With Environmental Change as a crosscutting theme, Dorcas interventions aim to contribute towards Resilient Livelihoods and Safe and Peaceful environments. We mainly focus on three aspects of environmental change: climate change, environmental degradation and natural hazards. These generally concern community mobilization pathways and apply to personal empowerment, the household level and – with larger programmatic interventions other actors and/or advocacy in the enabling society pathway. In order to build resilient livelihoods, we must improve economic resilience and food security in households and ensure that basic services are accessible to all people. We must also put a protection system in place for victims and people at risk of harm.
Environmental change in three fields
As mentioned, Dorcas’ approach relates to three aspects of environmental change:
- Climate change adaptation e.g. through marketing of renewable energy and clean cooking.
- Environmental degradation adaptation e.g. through sustainable land and water resource management, sustainable waste management and recycling.
- Disaster risk reduction e.g. through early warning systems.
Dorcas focuses mainly – though not exclusively – on interventions that overlap these three components. For example, sustainable agricultural practices and conservation farming, rainwater harvesting, alternative livelihoods and reforestation. Although responses will often be directed at restoration and adaptation, developing alternative livelihoods should at times be the leading intervention.
Adapting to environmental change is nothing new to Dorcas. However, in the past we never specifically defined it as such. Dorcas at its core is committed to the environment. It is our role as good stewards within a Christian organisation. Raising awareness about climate change in communities and taking action now has become an essential part of our work. This is most clearly demonstrated in our projects on the African continent:
Farmer Field Schools
Farmers in Africa are confronted with the consequences of climate change on a daily basis. Flooding and drought make opportunities for sowing unpredictable. This, together with land pressure, grazing, and the cutting down of forests, continues to create uncertainty. Besides, farmers often have little knowledge of climate-smart farming practices and solutions. In Farmer Field Schools farmers learn new agricultural skills and techniques. They learn coping mechanisms in order to work with their land in a more sustainable way that help to preserve ecosystems, and, if necessary, restore them. The Farmer Field schools method is applied in a wider context whereby it combines food security and resilient livelihoods with entrepreneurship and access to markets. In our projects, we are working towards an ecosystems approach that combines forestry, fisheries, crops and livestock systems in order to respond to the impacts of climate change and contribute to its mitigation.
Sustainable water systems
Before the cyclone in Mozambique in 2019, Dorcas began training young people in manual drilling. With expensive water systems often unavailable, this technology offered small communities easy access to water with the help of these locals turned trained specialists. After the cyclone, many wells were needed, but drilling companies were unable to transport heavy equipment to the affected communities. Our pipes and drill set could go on a boat and reach those in need. This example shows that more simple and affordable solutions can build local resilience. Resilience builds communities and economies. This is why, for Dorcas, sustainability and resilient communities are always intertwined.
Wood fuel is the most common form of energy used for cooking and heating households in Tanzania. In poor rural communities, women rely heavily on traditional stoves – associated with a host of diseases. More people die because of this cooking method than because of AIDS. The burning also releases harmful emissions into the environment. Dorcas aims to address the country’s dependence on charcoal and firewood by enabling women to switch to clean, high-efficiency solar powered biomass cookers. We set up a number of micro collection centres where locals – turned entrepreneurs – manage the shredding and transport process. The biomass is then delivered to the manufacturer, who produces sustainably-sourced pellets and briquettes. In this way, clean cooking is now becoming an affordable and accessible option for women. The project, which is based on a social business model, helps to reduce deforestation and gas emissions and improve women’s health as well as decrease workload.
Dorcas provides relief to people affected by climate change and man-made disasters. Climate change often plays a role – whether directly, as a result of drought or floods or indirectly, due to conflict and/or limited resources – where there is high migration of people. Dorcas implements projects and programmes that aim to help people build a livelihood within their region.