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Adaptation to climate change: municipal governments work hand in hand with indigenous populations

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How is the capacity strengthening process to address the climate crisis being accompanied with the municipalities and grassroots organisations?

(Article prepared in collaboration with La Mula)

The American Chaco region is located in the centre of the South American continent and is shared by Argentina (62.19% of the territory), Bolivia (11.61%), Paraguay (25.43%) and a small portion of Brazil (0.77%). It is the second most important forest area in Latin America. It has a considerable presence of indigenous peoples who share their territory with farmers and immigrants, which makes it a territory with a multiplicity of actors with great cultural and linguistic diversity, with uses and customs rooted in the natural environment as a source of resources for their subsistence. It is also one of the areas of the planet with the largest area of forest depredation, which makes it more vulnerable to climate change. This has an aggressive impact on the communities, by altering temperatures and rainfall. How is action being taken to counteract this situation?

During COP25 we spoke with Jorgelina Rolón, a local government specialist and member of the NGO Mingará of Paraguay, who is part of the team of the project Participatory Climate Action: Integrating the challenges of climate change in the Gran Chaco Americano in Argentina and Paraguay, which works with eight municipalities in Argentina and four in Paraguay. The purpose is to strengthen the rights and participation of indigenous peoples in actions to combat climate change hand in hand with local governments through a Climate Change Adaptation Plan. This project is part of the EUROCLIMA+ Programme, financed by the European Union.

“Climate change has brought social and environmental problems and, in that sense, the most affected are the indigenous or farming communities, which are the most vulnerable”, she says. “When we talk about risk management, they are the ones whose lives are affected the fastest. Their territories are vulnerable,” she added.

Jorgelina said that the project she is coordinating in Paraguay aims to strengthen grassroots organisations and government agencies, working on the components that as a minimum can ensure the resilience of indigenous peoples from sub-national and national governments.

She is part of the 'Participatory Climate Action' project team. She has experience in how to advocate with local governments to carry out the municipalities' adaptation and mitigation plans, how this applies to indigenous and farming communities, and how communities can participate in the preparation of community micro-plans.

“The most common recurring problems are linked to water and food sovereignty, in addition to health and education problems. There is a shortage of water and the drought is prolonged. There are also floods. All of this deteriorates the social capacity of the indigenous peoples, their capacity to adapt to the environments that occur with flooding and drought, and in this setting water management involves a constant search for systems that ensure its availability," she explained.

Therefore, the project aims to increase and enhance effective climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, and to empower Chaco populations in their climate change decision-making.

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The project’s expected results are to conserve healthy and functional ecosystems, the multifunctionality of forests and biodiversity, and to train community organisations in healthy environmental management.

And how they do this

Articulation with different actors makes it possible for all to contribute to achieving the availability of water in the communities. “For example, we look for new water management practices, such as ‘tajamares’ which are rainfall catchment systems on roofs, and we create water collection systems. This is what water management is all about. On the other hand, we do ongoing training to manage water and identify different adaptation measures for these two adverse issues,” said the interviewee.

This way, based on public policies, the participation of indigenous peoples is encouraged, from their territories, from their own lifestyles, from their own experiences. The direct beneficiaries are 21 organisations of indigenous, native and mestizo communities, while the indirect beneficiaries are the municipalities of the Gran Chaco Americano.

The project aims to contribute to environmentally sustainable and resilient development in the face of adverse climate events in this region, and to enable the improvement of living conditions. For this long-term objective to be met, it is necessary for the communities to increase their capacity for resilience in a large ecosystem with great socio-cultural diversity.

“We have the adaptation and mitigation plans of the Ministries of Environment and Sustainable Development (Mades) of Paraguay. Based on this national policy, we have adaptation plans for the municipalities, which are also linked to the community plans. What we do is constant reflection with the communities about managing different adaptation practices, which they have from their own experiences in the framework of their ancestral culture in a process of cultural transformation. There is ancestral knowledge linked to their territoriality”, she emphasised.

The specialist indicated that the indigenous peoples are the ones who reflect on the adaptation measures that are being applied and it is like seeing other experiences that exist. "This participatory environmental governance project allows the local government, the indigenous peoples, and the grassroots organisations to come together,” she added.

Articulation with local governments

The case of the local governments is of the utmost importance, since any plan for adaptation to climate change demands an articulated commitment from all actors in the region.

Cecilio López, Mayor of the Municipality Manuel Irala Fernández and President of the Association of Municipalities of the Central Chaco, said that four municipalities of the Central Chaco are involved in this project. Sixty per cent of the territories of these localities are inhabited by indigenous people.

López said that the indigenous population is the main focus of the adaptation plan. And the great challenge is to know the territory. “We need to know the territory to generate mitigation actions. The Central Chaco is strictly dedicated to agricultural production, which is one of the main points of emission,” he stressed. “As a municipality, we start from the knowledge and organisation of the territory to be able to propose a better strategy to fight climate change,” he added.

He knows that any plan to deal with climate change must consider the native populations, because of their experience with nature's adversities. “They are the ones whose livelihoods are most affected because they basically depend on nature. That's why it's important to involve them in all the plans we have. Especially at this stage of the socialisation of our climate change adaptation plan,” he stressed.

López, who was invited to COP25 by EUROCLIMA+, invites all local and regional governments to participate in climate change adaptation and mitigation plans hand in hand with indigenous peoples. And he believes that the case of the Paraguayan Chaco can be replicated in other regions of Latin America.

Read the original article here. 


EUROCLIMA+ is a programme financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Federal Government of Germany through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), as well as by the Governments of France and Spain, to promote environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient development in 18 Latin American countries, particularly for the benefit of the most vulnerable populations. The Programme is implemented under the synergistic work of seven agencies: the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the French Development Agency (AFD), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Expertise France (EF), the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policy (FIIAPP), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and UN Environment.

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