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mauritius: addressing climate change damage to island livelihoods

Mauritius is among Africa’s top nations in terms of GDP and living standards. However, on Rodrigues, a semi-autonomous island district 560 kilometres north-east of Mauritius Island, livelihoods and productivity have been deeply affected by climate change. As farmers’ and fishers’ ability to export their produce falls, poverty is on the rise.

 

mauritius climate change rodriguez islandThe goal of this project was to build awareness and capacity about the impacts of climate change on the vulnerable groups of Rodrigues Island.

what happened: Friends of the Earth Mauritius / MAUDESCO carried out an island-wide survey of fisher and farming communities and their families. This included consultative meetings with these target groups, as well as additional meetings to train those who carried out the survey. Four seminars were also organized with the target groups, plus an additional national seminar and workshop to share the survey findings. The latter one-day seminar/workshop was bolstered by the attendance of Aldrin Calixte of Friends of the Earth Haiti.

The FoE Mauritius surveys confirmed that the island is heavily impacted by climate change, farming and fishing in particular. Local people report less rainfall, with winters becoming colder and summers becoming hotter. Soil fertility is decreasing, and livestock growth and food crop production have been negatively affected. There is a noticeable loss of biodiversity, while formerly eradicated insects and parasites have returned, all combining to increase farmers’ poverty.

As for fishing, respondents report rougher seas which hamper fishing, cooler waters, and more energy and money expended on smaller catches. They complained that the sea is more polluted, and that the island’s major lagoon is virtually without fish, while some fish species have disappeared from the seas. They also note that the sea level is rising.

The four capacity-building, awareness-raising seminars were very well attended – by almost 300 participants, while the national seminar was attended by over 150 people representing the three impacted groups, the majority being women. 

what is changing: The project was to cover mitigation activities to some extent. Though no funds were clearly earmarked for this, the seminars / workshops stressed the importance of preserving the environment and preventing climate change through a sustainable lifestyle. Activities put forward included tree planting, especially multi-purpose tree varieties, and energy and water conservation. Aldrin’s presentation provided examples of how these steps are taken in Haiti. “The message we left was clear: by adopting very simple actions one can contribute directly to preserve the environment and prevent climate change – it is all a question of individual attitudes,” said Rajen Awotar of FoE Mauritius.

what we learned: Unlike on Mauritius, women play a frontline role in farming and fishing in Rodrigues. Due to climate change impacts, they learned that most of their activities are now concentrated on feeding their families, with very little margin for excess production to sell to the markets.

The national seminar provided participants with the golden opportunity to learn about Haiti through Aldrin Calixte, a country with many similarities to the Republic of Mauritius. Attendees expressed the need for an exchange program to share experiences between the two countries.

The national seminar made it clear that small-island states such as Rogdrigues, Mauritius and Haiti are particularly vulnerable to climate change. It also become clear that these effects have probably been felt for a fairly long period of time, but have only just recently been attributed to climate change.

Furthermore, they addressed the fact that these countries have no instruments, such as crop insurance, to cushion these impacts. The only policy for assistance to impacted communities was a very weak financial scheme in Mauritius and Rodrigues for fishers who face bad weather. Therefore they also discussed the Adaptation Fund set up in Bali, stressing the importance of representing the impacted groups in the Mauritius National Adaptation Fund likely to be set up under its provisions.

what next: It is evident that there is an urgent need to build the capacity, information, and awareness-raising levels of the impacted groups regarding project identification and formulation, to enable them access the Adaptation Fund. FoE Mauritius also stressed the fact that these groups should be part of the process and not outsiders, despite the distance from Mauritius.

with thanks to our funders: the sigrid rausing trust

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