COP22 continues today in Marrakech, Morocco bringing together the governments of nearly 190 countries for the next two weeks. Global leaders will deliberate on the most cutting-edge action steps needed to achieve the priorities of The Paris Agreement on climate change. Of particular importance for COP22 according to its President, Salaheddine Mezouar, is the “opportunity to make the voices of the most vulnerable countries to climate change heard, in particular African countries and island states. It is urgent to act on these issues linked to stability and security.”

The significance of this work cannot be understated. Whether you believe it or not, climate change is happening now and we’re already seeing its effects.

Big Climate Changes for Senegalese Farmers

Workers of the Valley Onion Producers Association (APOV) in the village of Ngalenka, Senegal, work in their 30 hectare field, having learned through training by Counterpart International how to maximize their yield and increase the quality of their produce. Counterpart International supported APOV with a wide range of training, credit access and organizational development through the USDA Food for Progress II initiative.

Workers of the Valley Onion Producers Association (APOV) in the village of Ngalenka, Senegal, work in their 30 hectare field, trained in sustainable farming by Counterpart International

Senegal’s National Weather Bureau estimates that between 1950 and 2015, the average temperature of Senegal rose 2 degrees Celsius as rainfall averages have declined by 50 millimeters (nearly 2 inches). In a country where 77% of citizens are subsistence farmers and nearly 26% of children under five are malnourished, this lands a heavy blow.  As Thomas Friedman recently noted, Senegal has seen a tremendous increase in “climate refugees” as men increasingly are leaving their families in search of work and other opportunities outside of agriculture. This undoubtedly destabilizes the nation of Senegal and others in the region. That is why, in 2012, we acted.

Schools in Senegal participating in Counterpart International’s Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program are striving to combat food insecurity by applying sustainable agriculture practices in community farms. The farms supplement school feeding programs to ensure students have nutritious meals during the day. Working in partnership with parents, teachers, and faculty at nearly 70 schools in the Matam region, we train the parent teacher associations in farming techniques that protect the environment. In this way, we are able to provide food for the children and a future for families.

And while farmers in Senegal are learning to live without rain, climate change looks very different half a world away…

Rain & Trees to Save Coastal Communities

The Dominican Republic is listed in the Global Climate Risk Index as the eighth most affected country by climate change. Shore erosion has left coastal communities more vulnerable to the violent storm surges that come with hurricanes. Once protected by vast mangrove forests, it is the loss of those trees that we have found particularly troubling.

March 7, 2013, Manzanillo, Dominican Republic - Agrofrontera staff members carry out tests in the mangrove forests of the Mangroves of Estero Balsa Protected Area to analyze organic content. Counterpart supports Agrofrontera using a Frohring Foundation grant.

March 7, 2013, Manzanillo, Dominican Republic – Agrofrontera staff members carry out tests in the mangrove forests of the Mangroves of Estero Balsa Protected Area

Tall, medium and dwarf mangrove trees have some of the largest carbon stores in the Western Hemisphere. We know this, because in June of 2012, Counterpart International, Oregon State University, Watershed Professionals and our local partner, AgroFrontera, completed a significant study on the carbon stocks embedded in the soils of the mangrove forests of Montecristi, Dominican Republic.

Mangrove forests not only protect coastal communities from storm surges by preventing coastal erosion, they also address the global climate change crisis by reducing the amount of excess carbon in the atmosphere. Live forests are actively sucking in and storing away carbon dioxide. Rampant deforestation and conversion of mangrove forests both eliminates that future carbon storage potential and also accelerates climate change by releasing already-stored carbon back into the atmosphere. With deeper deposits of carbon than even scientists had anticipated, we now understand the critical role mangroves play for the Dominican Republic and the world.

Given our expertise, Counterpart International is now working in partnership with the Dominican National Council on Climate Change to draft their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action plan. Presently still in development, this plan will put into place policies and actions that are specific to the Dominican Republic, outlining their plan and commitment to an eco-friendlier future. In this way, we can secure the livelihoods, homes and futures for the millions of Dominicans who call the coast their home.

The Importance of COP22 – (The COP of Action)

Although there are many predictive models, the uncertainty of our environmental future necessitates action.

“The natural world is our biggest shared asset and the basis for a prosperous future.  How can we achieve any of our sustainable development goals – from eradicating poverty to empowering girls – without a healthy earth? COP22 must move quickly from climate commitments to climate actions.” – Joan Parker, Counterpart International President & CEO.

By thinking globally but acting locally, we have the opportunity to work hand in hand with men and women in their communities to create sustainable solutions that tackle the effects of climate change. Watching COP22 closely, we hope to see a platform of action, which nations, activists and individuals can use to springboard us into a climate resilient future. Last year, at COP21, the governments of 195 countries negotiated The Paris Agreement, a tremendous success in its own right. At Counterpart, we’re excited to see the action plans each country puts in place so that we can work with local communities to try and achieve them. It is on all of us to act on climate – to create a more secure, stable and sustainable world.

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