Women call for climate adaptation funds at U.S. climate summit

  • By Sebastien Malo
  • 19/09/2018

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Workers pick tea leaves at a plantation in Nandi Hills, in Kenya's highlands region west of capital Nairobi, November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Noor Khamis

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Developing-world grassroots organizers seeking to prepare their communities against floods, droughts and other freak weather events intensified by climate change called for the financing of women-led groups at a global climate summit in San Francisco last week.

The activists argued at the Global Climate Action Summit that donors must overcome their occasional reluctance to put funds directly into the hands of women’s groups, who often have become adept at effectively managing them.

A mere 11 percent of global funds destined to fight climate change flowed from 2003 to 2015 to the local level, according to an estimate by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, totaling some or $1.6 billion.

Constance Okollet, a farmer and chair of the Osukuru United Women Network in southeastern Uganda, said she had yet to crack the puzzle of how to draw foreign aid to complement her government’s financing of her non-profit’s activities.

The group trains rural women in the Tororo District to farm with a sharper entrepreneurial eye.

“The issue of financing stands at the top,” she told an audience while speaking on a panel jointly convened by Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) and Partners for Resilience, respectively UK- and Netherlands-funded assistance programs.

“The government brings in money to the grassroots people but it’s not enough,” she said.

But Kenyan activist Violet Shivutse, who chairs the Huairou Commission, a global network of grassroots women’s organizations, said spearheading a “community resilience fund” that had become self-sustainable since its founding in 2010 had shattered donors’ pre-conceptions.

“The belief of donors, the belief of governments and development partners and private (finance) is generally that grassroots women are not bankable,” she said. “So you cannot give money to grassroots women.”

The fund – sizeable because it pooled together the needs of women’s groups in more than twenty countries on five continents – has provided some 5,000 microgrants to women in poor, hazard-prone communities, according to its website.

Grantees are encouraged to map out sources of climate risk on which they gather data which they can then they share with local officials as they seek their assistance in beefing up their resilience to these vulnerabilities.

“We have been able to change the perception of donors,” said Shivutse.

But Fijian lawyer Makereta Waqavonovono, who works with the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, offered a stark reminder of the scale of the needs for those most at risk of climate change, such as islanders.

More than 100 of communities in her region faced being displaced as atolls sink under rising waters - an effect of global warming -, she said.

With two Pacific islands communities having been relocated in recent years, she said, the steep costs of uprooting an entire community were now known: from $600,000 to $1 million.

Roop Singh, a climate risk advisor at the Netherlands-based Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center who works for the BRACED program, summed up how to make do with moneys currently available.

“One of the things that we’re learning about building resilience is that it’s more than just investing in good development,” she said.

“It requires special attention to the strengthening the capacity of social systems, to anticipate, absorb and adapt climate shocks and stresses.”

Last week’s Global Climate Action Summit drew about 4,500 delegates from city and regional governments from around the world.

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