Building women’s resilience to climate shocks
Poor families in the Sahel Region increasingly endure the impacts of unpredictable rainfall. More severe and frequent floods and droughts kill livestock, threaten crops and erode household food security. Between 2013 and 2017, CARE addressed these challenges by providing three municipalities in northern Cameroon with the knowledge and tools they needed to develop their own adaptation strategies. The measures adopted are building resilience from the ground up, including early warning systems that prepare populations before hazards hit, new agricultural techniques that protect soil and plants, and women’s saving groups.
Adapting to climate change is about building people’s understanding of climate risks and the direct implications for their lives and livelihoods, empowering them to conceive and implement their own adaptation strategies. These may include initiatives to promote income diversification, trainings to use natural resources more efficiently, and measures to strengthen access to basic services.
Between 2013 and 2017, CARE analysed the exposure to climate shocks and stresses of three communes in northern Cameroon, mapping the existing vulnerabilities of individuals, households and villages, and together with them designing and implementing actions oriented towards long-term livelihood security. A particular focus to this end was on strengthening women's economic independence.
Despite growing security concerns in the Lake Chad Basin region, the results have not only been effective, but also mutually reinforcing:
- Three community-based early warning systems have been set up to provide accurate climate and weather information, enabling early alerts of changes in the local environment. 57 community volunteers have been trained to keep regular track of a range of indicators (such as water flows and rain levels), and raise alerts rapidly with any relevant local actors, who are in turn able to identify and coordinate priority actions to reduce the risk of death, injury, crop loss and property damage.
- Villagers and local authorities have designed and implemented a range of measures, following the application of community-based vulnerability assessment tools. These measures extend across a range of sectors, from agriculture, fishery and animal husbandry to food security, health and hygiene, since they all impact household livelihood strategies.
The communities are now better prepared to anticipate future crises and tackle chronic food shortages. They have learned how to diversify their income sources (through forage production or fruit and vegetable plant sales), and how to reduce soil degradation through modern agro-pastoral techniques. They are able to make informed choices regarding crop planting, food processing and storage, and are more aware of hygiene practices. The more vulnerable families have received direct support in the form of improved seeds that have increased their yields by 20%.
- Village savings and loan associations. Over 1,300 women (compared with 240 initially expected) and 70 men are now stable members of 68 newly created village savings and loan associations (VSLA). These associations strengthen their members’ economic autonomy and financial inclusion, giving them skills to succeed in saving as well as establishing new businesses. As at April 2017, the associations' cumulative savings totalled the equivalent of over $26,000.