One of the most worrying insights from UNFCCC 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) in November 2017 is that despite the efforts to date, the window to avoid large-scale climate change has closed. For many nations, this increases the importance of developing measures to assist communities to adapt to the effects of climate change as they unfold, rather than just trying to lower carbon emissions. Defying Climate Change, a 2018 report by Shailendra Yashwant for Climate Action Network South Asia and UNICEF INDIA introduces some of the most effective and innovative women and child-centric resilience-building projects being implemented across climate hotspots of India.
Starting this week, every week we are profiling the best practices from the report.
Community Managed Nutrition Gardens by UNICEF and Ramakrishna Mission
Climate change will not affect all equally. Flood and drought zones often overlap with areas of high poverty and low access to essential services such as water and sanitation. This means that children and families who are already disadvantaged by poverty — those with the fewest resources for coping — are likely to face some of the most immediate dangers of climate change. This can create a vicious cycle: a child living in poverty or deprived of adequate water and sanitation before a crisis will be more affected by a flood, drought or storm, less likely to recover quickly and at even greater risk in a subsequent crisis. While climate change poses universal threats, tackling it is also an imperative for equity. Unaddressed, climate change will harm the poorest and most vulnerable children first, hardest and longest.
The geographically isolated and largely inaccessible hilly forest area of Abujmarh in Chhattisgarh state is home to indigenous tribes including Gond, Muria, Abuj Maria and Halbaas communities settled in 233 far-flung hamlets spread across 4000 sq. km. In the last decade Abujmarh has also been affected by climate change. Intense periods of seasonal floods and long dry spells, have destroyed crops, forest produce and homestead farms resulting in further impoverishment of its people.
This is amongst the poorest parts of India, ravaged by decades long civil unrest and armed conflict that has made it difficult to deliver basic health and nutrition programmes to its furthest villages.
That any child should face diminished prospects of survival or decent health because of the circumstances of his or her birth is grossly unfair and a violation of that child’s rights. The challenges of reaching these children with essential services and protection are considerable, but so are the benefits to be gained.
In 2011, UNICEF started implementing the Abujmarh Health Outreach Project (A-HOPE) through a local NGO partner, Ramakrishna Mission Ashram (RKM). A-HOPE is a perfect example of successful collaboration between local government and apolitical non-governmental organizations to deliver basic services in conflict ridden areas. The A-Hope project focuses on the health and nutrition of tribal children. It identifies and treats children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), counsels mothers on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), practices and promotes Routine Immunization (RI). By removing demand and supply bottlenecks, it has strengthened service delivery and reached out to the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
To address cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) have been established by the government— where mothers bring their children for treatment. While the children are receiving care at the NRCs, the mothers don’t have much to do. UNICEF and partners introduced an additional innovation for the mothers who usually are waiting at the centre and began training them in cultivating Poshan bed aka Nutrition Gardens — to address community-based nutrition needs of children.
The nutrition gardens supplement the feeding programme in the Anganwadis. Promoting nutrition levels through the availability of green vegetables throughout the year has resulted in significant impact on indicators of food security, improvement of income and reduction of incidences of diseases associated with malnutrition.
Poshan bed or nutrition garden is regarded as one of the most effective approach to combat food insecurity and undernourishment by improving the availability of and access to food. The gardens also promote agricultural best practices wherein the water is put into earthen pots embedded in the garden bed which helps check loss of water due to evaporation and just enough water is provided at the root zone of the plants. The women are also trained in best practices around nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and even repair of hand pumps.
Over time, the women have started taking home the lessons learnt and creating their own Nutrition Gardens. They share their knowledge with fellow farmers and also support their communities in creating soak pits around hand pumps and improving the sanitation facilities.
Climate change is expected to affect all the components that influence food security: availability, access, stability and utilization. The overall availability of food is affected by changes in agricultural yields as well as changes in arable land. Changes in food production, together with other factors, could impact food prices, which would affect the ability of poor households to access food markets and could reduce dietary diversity.
Achieving substantial improvements in nutrition — a target within Sustainable Development Goal 2 — will be key to boosting child survival rates. Half of all deaths of children under age five are attributable to undernutrition, and large disparities exist in related indicators such as stunting. Nutrition gardens are a micro-solution to a humongous problem. Poshan bed nutrition gardens and similar variations of kitchen gardens being promoted by NGOs across the country are a low-cost way of ensuring healthy food and balanced nutrition and building resilience of the next generation.
Find out more about their work on www.unicef.in
You can download the full report at: Defying Climate Change: Putting Women and Children First.
Find out more about CANSA-UNICEF project.