In a recent report, Madagascar was identified as one of the most at-risk countries in the world to climate change. The report, published by UK-based company Maplecroft, considers factors such as population concentration, development, natural resources, agricultural dependency and conflict when determining a country’s degree of vulnerability to climate change.
Although this is unfortunate news, it is not surprising. In south west Madagascar where Blue Ventures works with local fishing communities, climate change vulnerability is exceedingly apparent. Vulnerability to climate change impacts, such as altered rainfall patterns or extreme weather events like cyclones, is the combination of the degree of sensitivity to impacts and the ability to adapt.
The fishing villages of south west Madagascar exhibit both high sensitivity and inadequate ability to adaptation, with forecasts of reduced rainfall and freshwater availability, significant air temperature increases, and variability in sea temperature. These villages are highly dependent on a healthy marine ecosystem, harvesting octopus, fish, and other marine resources for both daily food consumption and income through trade. With virtually no other viable economic options in this arid region, communities are highly vulnerable to any impacts that would disrupt this critical ecosystem balance and reduce harvests. Furthermore, populations in these villages are quickly growing, with the majority of people under the age of 15 years. Not only does this population boom increase the number of people potentially exposed to extreme climate events, it also increases the number of people dependent on limited local marine and coastal resources. Importantly, these communities are some of the poorest in the world, most living in small reed houses on less than £1 a day. The combination of near complete economic dependence on local resources, rapidly growing populations, and lack of additional income for savings or housing improvements demonstrates vulnerability to climate change impacts within these communities.
It is these issues that Blue Ventures has been focusing on for nearly a decade, through integrated marine conservation and human wellbeing programs that also foster adaptive capacity. Marine conservation efforts to reduce destructive fishing and protect areas of healthy corals help ensure long-term sustainability of local fisheries; family planning services are provided so that families can decide when and how many children to have; temporary octopus closures and aquaculture activities bring supplemental money into communities; and providing educational scholarships contributes to long term adaptation by opening doors to new employment opportunities and a lifestyle not directly dependent on natural resources. Blue Ventures is currently working to quantify vulnerability in these communities and the ability of current programming to address it.
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