Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn more about the Agency’s long-standing investments in biodiversity conservation and natural resources management. Some highlights:
A new generation of Cambodians is now living on forest land that has been officially recognized and titled to them. More confident in their present, they are working now to prevent deforestation and conserve the land for future generations.
The end of a typical day at the office for the Palawan NGO Network in the Philippines finds a desk of oily chainsaws piled to the ceiling. Find out more from USAID’s Scott Lampman about what it takes to curb illegal logging in this country’s vital forests.
Preserving natural resources is good for people, animals, plants and, sometimes, the bottom line. Ecotourism establishments in Jordan are helping their nearby communities prosper and allowing tourists a chance to see endangered creatures like the Arabian oryx, the Houbara Bustard and the Saker falcon.
Click on FrontLines‘ new podcast, which takes listeners on an adventure high above the treetops of a part of Ghana that is one of the world’s 22 critical biodiversity hot spots.
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This week, delegates from countries around the world continue to work at the UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw on a global agreement to take meaningful action on climate change. In the midst of the negotiations, I was pleased to represent USAID at a side event with other Obama Administration officials to describe how the United States is already taking action to combat climate change – through the steps outlined in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
The President’s Climate Action Plan (PDF) has three main pillars: to cut carbon pollution in the United States, to prepare the United States for impacts of climate change, and to lead international efforts to address global climate change. As part of this government-wide effort, USAID provides support to over 50 developing countries for climate change, working with them on tools and strategies that build resilience, as well as working with them to pursue sustainable economic growth, spur investment in clean energy, and reduce emissions from deforestation.
Panelists at UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw. From left to right: Andrew Steer, WRI; Kit Batten, USAID; Nancy Sutley, CEQ and Jonathan Pershing from DOE. Photo credit: Andrea Welsh, USAID
To maximize our impact, USAID is pursuing innovative financing strategies, partnering with the private sector, and utilizing science and technology. Earlier this year, Secretary Kerry announced that USAID will be able to leverage up to $100 million dollars worth of private sector investment in wind power, solar power, hydropower, and energy efficiency projects in India through USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). The U.S. Government is also a founding partner of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, which is a public private partnership with the goal of reducing tropical deforestation associated with global commodities like palm oil, paper and pulp, soy, and beef. We’re also working with NASA to provide satellite imagery and accessible weather and climate data to local officials in East Africa, Central America and the Hindu Kush/Himalaya region so communities can make more informed decisions.
We’re already seeing and measuring the impact of our efforts. In 2012 alone, USAID’s work in the forestry sector contributed to reducing more than 140 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to the carbon pollution generated by 39 coal-fired power plants, or the carbon pollution released by the consumption of over 15 billion gallons of gasoline. That’s billion with a ‘b.’
Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is making meaningful and measurable progress on climate change. USAID is proud to have a substantial role in this effort and is proud to represent the United States here with many of our country partners in Warsaw. We recognize that building resilience to climate change and pursuing sustainable low-emissions growth are essential parts of our development mission.
This year, USAID is proud to announce that we are initiating a new partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to work together to expand and enhance USAID’s efforts to address gender issues through programming and support to our partner governments.
A group of women in Kenya who supply maize for sale in local markets. Photo credit: Photo Credit: Fintrac Inc.
This support is critical as climate change will have a serious impact on the livelihoods of poor women in developing countries; the increasing frequency of droughts and stronger storms will affect agriculture and water resources, sectors in which women have an essential management role.
Speaking on a panel this morning, Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality emphasized that “globally, women are central to unlocking solutions to the climate change challenges we face.”
IUCN has found that women often lead the way in adapting to climate change impacts, and play a key role in mitigating climate change by optimizing energy efficiency, using low-footprint energy sources and techniques, and influencing a household’s and community’s consumption patterns. Women’s participation in decision making at higher levels has specifically benefited environmental policy, such that countries with a higher number of women in their parliaments are more likely to set aside protected land areas and ratify international environmental treaties. In fact, recent data (PDF) reveals that there is a causal relationship between environment and gender; when gender inequality is high, forest depletion, air pollution and other measures of environmental degradation are also high.
While women can be agents of change, their contributions are seldom fully harnessed. The result is a lost opportunity. This new partnership will be aimed at advancing women’s empowerment and gender quality to achieve greater strides in reducing emissions to mitigate climate change, building resilience to climate change impacts, and promoting better development in general.
While plans are necessary to illuminate the pathway to a goal, they are not sufficient for attaining those goals. This new agreement with IUCN to implement the Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities (GECCO) project will provide USAID and our partner governments with support for our mutual goal of advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality through and for the benefit of climate change and development programs.
We have seen great progress in recent years, with growing attention to gender issues within the UNFCCC and within projects addressing these issues at the country level. However, there is much work still to be done, so we are excited about the opportunities this new partnership with IUCN brings.
More than 100 people packed into the U.S. Center at U.N. climate talks in Warsaw this week to hear experts from four continents describe their successes and challenges in advancing forest conservation under emerging global policy rules to curb climate change.
Forestry and development experts from the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia and Germany talked about their progress Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), in their own countries and in other forest nations, such as Brazil. USAID Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Education and Environment Eric Postel led the panel, and Trigg Talley, the Department of State’s lead U.S. negotiator at U.N. climate talks, kicked things off with some words about REDD+’s role in climate negotiations.
Victor Kabengele Wa Kadulu, National REDD+ Coordinator for the DRC answers audience questions at U.S. Center. Germany’s Christiane Ehringhaus looks on. Photo credit: USAID
REDD+ is a policy approach that emerged from U.N. climate talks. It would provide incentives for countries and communities who reduce deforestation and related carbon emissions.
Forests are natural storehouses for carbon, and their destruction contributes as much as a sixth of the emissions causing climate change. This means forest conservation protects the global climate – in addition to watersheds, biodiversity, and livelihoods for the more than 1 billion people who depend on forests.
In Warsaw, REDD+ experts described the successes and challenges they have faced protecting forests. Victor Kabengele Wa Kadulu, National REDD+ Coordinator for the DRC, talked about deforestation pressures that cross national borders. Ivan Dario Valencia Rodriguez, from Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, talked about protecting remote areas sparsely populated by indigenous peoples.
Alejandrino Sibucao, from Philippines’ Department of Environment, discussed advances in mapping national forests and deforestation rates. And Christiane Ehringhaus, from Germany’s KfW Development Bank, described her work with state-level efforts to curb deforestation in Brazil.
The United States has participated in climate talks since the early 1990s. Today, 195 nations participate, and – not surprisingly – sometimes progress toward a global treaty seems slow. But success stories coming from REDD+ can demonstrate just how much progress is happening on the ground.
Forest protection provides many benefits in addition to protecting the earth’s climate. Gathering evidence of successful approaches for mitigating climate change has increased interest in natural carbon storehouses like forests – and in the idea of providing incentives so that people will safeguard them. This has opened up new avenues of exploration and action for forest protection – and for sharing the benefits with communities who protect them.
Eric Postel is assistant administrator the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment
I’m here in Warsaw at the 19th so-called “Conference of the Parties” – basically every nation is represented plus all kinds of interested NGOs and private sector companies to work on global climate change issues. USAID participates robustly for three reasons.
First, we come to assist our Department of State colleagues in the negotiations. These COP meetings are very big. To accommodate everybody, COP19 is being held inside Poland’s national soccer stadium. On five levels. Every concourse is filled with temporarily-built meeting rooms, booths, press facilities, work stations, etc. Most skyboxes have been converted to offices.
The playing field has been covered over with enormous tents serving as temporary meeting halls for the plenary sessions. At any one time there are dozens of meetings negotiating different aspects of climate change initiatives. To cover them all, the State Department asks other U.S. Government climate change experts, including USAID experts, to join in the effort.
Second, we are here to learn more about how nations are facing climate change so that we are better able to fulfill our development mission. The COP represents a very efficient way of interacting with many other governments and members of civil society to learn about their successes, failures, concerns, and future plans. For example, a session on Fast Start Finance (FSF) was held today. Nine of the developed countries that collectively committed to providing $30 billion in public finance to developing countries for climate action between 2010 and 2012, including the United States, spoke about lessons learned during the period.
19th “Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland. Photo credit: USAID
The good news is we all met our commitments: from Liechtenstein’s $700,000 to the United States’ $7.4 billion. The interesting part was to hear each country talk about lessons learned. I was struck by the parallels between climate assistance and “Aid for Trade” in WTO meetings I have attended. Aid for Trade discussions have evolved over the years, moving beyond inputs like dollars spent, and starting to grapple with outcomes, aid effectiveness, and private sector engagement. I can already see climate finance headed in the same direction.
These lessons will help us improve our programs at USAID. Today’s discussion gave me fresh insight into one of the challenges USAID is facing in continuing to develop good outcome measures for our adaptation work with developing countries. With workable adaption metrics, the global community could be in a position to shift the conversation from inputs to outcomes — a place we surely want to be.
Third, USAID staff come to climate talks to tell the rest of the world about the good results we are getting with the effective deployment of limited U.S. resources. Telling our story is important – so the rest of the world knows the U.S. is engaged in these issues as a good global citizen. For example, I will moderate a panel tomorrow that focuses on projects working to conserve the planet’s precious forests. A Colombian panelist will talk about a project, funded in part by USAID, working with 29 autonomous communities – Afro-Colombian Councils and Indigenous Reserves – to conserve more than 1 million hectares in the Colombian Pacific, one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world. Another effort we will discuss is the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) – a new public-private partnership committed to addressing the global drivers of deforestation by reducing tropical deforestation associated with commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp. TFA 2020 has already attracted six major new partners – the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, World Resources Institute, Conservation International, and IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative. These partners have joined the United States and the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of more than 400 companies with over $3 trillion in annual sales. TFA 2020 shows how far we have already come and where we are headed.
So, there are lots of reasons to be here representing the United States and lots to get done.
Energy and agriculture are closely linked: reliable access to affordable power is a key component to developing a country’s agriculture sector and giving agriculture-based businesses a chance to grow. That’s why Feed the Future is working in Liberia to reverse decades of devastating civil conflict and rebuild a sustainable energy infrastructure that can support better market opportunities for smallholder farmers and agricultural processors.
After fourteen years of war, all sectors of Liberia’s economy were heavily damaged. By the end of the conflict in 2003, Liberia was not producing a single kilowatt of electricity for the entire country, and even today, only about 10 percent of the capital city of Monrovia is on the public electric grid. Outlying rural communities depend on privately owned gasoline or diesel-driven generators for their electricity, which makes Liberia one of the most expensive and environmentally unfriendly electricity generation systems in the world.
To address this serious challenge to development, Feed the Future is working to expand the use of renewable energy to rural areas of Liberia where agriculture is concentrated. Since June 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s program to support Liberia’s energy sector and its flagship Feed the Future program in the country have been working with the Government of Liberia and local partners to establish a biomass energy center that can turn palm oil, palm nut and coconut shell byproducts, among other types of organic refuse, into an affordable and reliable supply of electricity. The pilot center is based at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Liberia’s first vocational and agricultural school.
Biofuels not only have the potential to displace carbon emissions from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, but they are also significantly more accessible to smallholder farmers in remote rural areas who are already growing the crops (like palm and coconut) whose byproducts can be converted into fuel through a process called gasifying. With the right infrastructure, organic biomass can supplement the use of fossil fuel to help bring costs down in the agriculture sector. The gasifiers have already allowed BWI to complement its other sources of energy with renewable energy.
This innovative technology shows promise for agricultural processors in particular who cannot regularly afford costly fossil fuel for generators to power processing equipment. As the model is increasingly adopted in Liberia, Feed the Future will promote private sector investment that can expand access to affordable and renewable energy for some of Liberia’s most vulnerable populations.
Through the USAID-supported High Mountain Partnership (HiMAP), Peru and Nepal are addressing the impacts and risks of rapidly melting glaciers in high mountain areas. The HiMAP brings scientists, governments officials, and local people together to share lessons learned on managing high-risk, high-impact floods caused by rapidly melting glaciers.
Learn more about USAID’s work in climate change and promotion of development based on climate-smart planning and clean technologies.
This blog is part of an interview blog series called “Behind the Scenes.” It includes interviews with USAID leaders, program implementers, Mission Directors, and development issue experts who help fulfill USAID’s mission. They are a casual behind-the-scenes look into USAID’s daily effort to deliver economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world — and the results we’ve seen.
When did you first become interested in climate research?
New England snow storms sparked my interest in weather at a young age. As an undergraduate, I attended the University of Massachusetts to study Meteorology. During my second year as an undergraduate, I became interested in how weather patterns behaved over the entire globe on longer timescales, climate time scales. I attended graduate school at the University of Massachusetts and worked on projects that linked Central Asia climate to the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. The regional atmospheric circulations of Central Asia, the Middle East and East Africa are intertwined, so those are now my regions of focus.
Can you talk a little bit about how UC Santa Barbara and FEWS NET work together to explain the broader concept of food security?
I can only speak to the climate side at UC Santa Barbara. At UC Santa Barbara, we’re interested in how rainfall has recently changed over East Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia and what climate features have forced those changes. We take the lessons that we’ve learned from the recent changes and we draw conclusions about how the climate will change in the future.
When you first began researching climatic weather patterns in the Western Pacific Ocean, did you have any idea that your work would help guide future international development decision making?
I’ve been researching the links between the tropical western Pacific Ocean and the global climate since about 2006, my first year of graduate school. Initially, graduate students, including me, are usually focused on learning or pleasing their advisor. In 2008, I met Chris Funk of the Climate Hazards Group at UCSB, and we collaborated on a paper that investigated the links between the Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures and East African climate and how those links influence food security. This was the first time I considered that my work might guide international development and decision making.
What was the motivation for writing about drying conditions in the East Africa Horn? What did you and your team seek to explain?
Our overarching goal is to understand how climate variability influences East Africa. This paper is a very brief review that links recent changes in East African climate (since the late 1990s) to an abrupt warming in west Pacific sea surface temperatures. The video below explains more.
What sorts of technology and techniques did you use in this study?
In the beginning of our study, we show how the climate from 1999 until recently has behaved in terms of East African rainfall and tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures. From this, we were able to show that (at least) superficially that East Africa rainfall and tropical Indo-west Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures could be related.
In the second part of our study, we use an atmospheric model forced by observed sea surface temperatures to confirm that west Pacific sea surface temperature changes were influencing East African rainfall. The study can be found here (Article 15).
What’s next for you and your team? How will you continue to work with FEWS NET to explain climate patterns and its effects on food security?
Our team will continue to investigate what factors influence climate variability over East Africa, the Middle East (specifically Yemen) and Central Asia. We focus on a wide variety of time scales, from individual seasons to multiple decades. We are most concerned with changes on decadal time scales because they are most important to long-term food and water security. However, our understanding of climate variability for individual seasons is also very important because it is this climate variability that primarily forces short-term droughts and famines (e.g. 2010/2011 over East Africa).
Interested in learning more about one of USAID’s programs or want to hear from one of USAID’s leaders? We want to know! Please provide your suggestions below.
AllAfrica reported on a newly-announced USAID partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund USA and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, which is aimed at supporting the proposed Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new hospital, scheduled to open in June 2015, will provide high-quality medical care to children regardless of their social or economic status.
A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled on Sep. 21, 2013 at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, DC. Photo credit: USAID
The Express Tribune featured a story about the fourth National Youth Peace Festival in Lahore, Pakistan, which is being supported in part by USAID. The organizers expects to see 500 young people from across Pakistan attend the festival, the theme of which is “One Nation, One Agenda; Democracy and Peace.” Politicians will attend the festival in hopes of engaging youth by taking up issues that are relevant to them.
Jamaica Observer reported USAID’s tool donation to 105 cocoa farmers in Jamaica as a part of a two-year project, which focuses on “protecting rural lives, livelihoods and ecosystems” in communities affected by climate change. The tools will be used by farmers to combat the negative effects of climate change on agriculture.
Vibe Ghana detailed USAID efforts to support the Western Regional Health Directorate in Ghana. USAID contributions to the health directorate include training, performance-based grants, and equipment that will be distributed throughout district hospitals and health care centers. Dr. Edward Bonko, Leader of the Focus Region Health Project of USAID, explained that the efforts would assist with “maternal, reproductive and child health, HIV/AIDS and malaria preventions and neonatal care” in the Western Region.
Pakistan’s The Nation reported on the visit of a group of U.S. government officials, including USAID Mission Director for Pakistan Gregory Gottleib, to the Jamshoro Thermal Power Station. The power plant will provide an additional 270 megawatts of power to the national grid. In addition to the Jamshoro power plant, USAID is working to rehabilitate thermal plants in Muzaffargarh and Guddu and a hydro-plant in Tarbela.
The website OpenEqualFree detailed a USAID effort to educate student gardeners in Liberia through the Advancing Youth Project—a partnership with Liberia’s Ministry of Education and community organizations that offers “alternative basic education services and entrepreneurship training for young people across Liberia.” The initiative will provide agricultural experts to train students to grow their own gardens and teach them the about agribusiness as a possible career choice.
The Hill featured a piece written by Representatives Albio Sires and Mario Diaz-Balart spotlighting USAID efforts to combat tuberculosis. The story, which describes legislation geared toward encouraging development of health care products in low-resource health systems, includes an overview of USAID’s contributions in the area of research and development in global health, saying, “As a leading funder of breakthrough products for global health, USAID is a key partner in later-stage research that ensures the development of safe and effective health tools.”
It was a bright morning as nearly 200 people gathered in Manatuto, Timor-Leste, to share ideas about how to conserve their community’s marine resources with a team from USAID’s Coral Triangle Support Partnership. Being lucky enough to attend, I saw firsthand how this meeting of the minds linked program staff from Conservation International — USAID’s implementing partner — with the perspectives of one coastal community.
Through the Coral Triangle Support Partnership, USAID is supporting Timor-Leste’s efforts to anticipate and adapt to climate change and natural disasters, especially in coastal communities. The Timorese government is creating protected areas, called “no-take zones,” where fishing is prohibited. The goal is for fish to grow to healthy sizes, improving the chances that the species will survive. This is important not only for Timor-Leste’s fisheries, but also global fisheries. The highest fish diversity on the planet is in Southeast Asia.
Ruy Pinto, a representative from the Coral Triangle Support Partnership, shows fisherman Feliz Fernandes how to use dive equipment during a community meeting in Manatuto. Photo credit: Cristovão Guterres, USAID/Timor-Leste
Community participation in and support for this process is crucial, because so many people depend on the marine environment for income. At the meeting in Manatuto, fishermen, community leaders, women and representatives from local government raised concerns about what would happen when the fishing areas closed. They needed to be sure they could support their families. Representatives from USAID and Conservation International explained that only certain areas identified for replenishment of fish stocks would be closed, and only for a period of three years, and that during this time other areas would remain open for fishing. By the end of the meeting, there was a mutual understanding that fishing could not happen in these protected areas in order to allow the fish to regain their numbers and remain plentiful for future generations, but that in the meantime, people could still catch fish in other areas to support their families.
Timor-Leste is home to a rich variety of marine life and sits within the Coral Triangle, one of the most important areas in the world for coral and marine biodiversity. Covering just two percent of the global ocean, the Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all coral species and 35 percent of the world’s coral reefs. In Manatuto, one of the country’s most biologically diverse areas, most people rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, some fishing practices damage the coral reefs and wildlife. Along with the growing effects of climate change, such practices place immense pressure on an already fragile environment.
By acknowledging community concerns and asking for their input, USAID and Conservation International are able to integrate local knowledge and customs into their work with the Timorese government. Discussions like this one strengthen community-government relationships and help establish community-based management systems that align with customary laws, called Tara Bandu, which guide people’s interactions with one another and with the environment. In the Tara Bandu process, communities set out guidelines for harvesting natural resources and the penalties for those who violate them.
“No-take zones” at Nino Koni Santana National Park in Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Cristovão Guterres, USAID/Timor-Leste
As a result, the Timorese government’s National Plan of Action has the support of the people who are central to successful marine management practices. The plan sets out how Timor-Leste government will work contribute to the regional goals of the Coral Triangle Initiative.
One Manatuto fisherman, Feliz Fernandes, shared his excitement with me. “This meeting was very important,” he said, “so that we could hear directly from the teams how to protect our marine resources, so that in the future we can still have new species that may be already gone around the world.” Thinking about the program team’s scuba demonstration, he went on to say that he hopes to someday have his own scuba equipment, “so I can directly go and see the development of our marine resources in the protected areas.”
As a citizen of Timor-Leste, I share Feliz’s outlook.With USAID’s support, I hope my country will continue exploring these ideas to help communities in coastal areas conserve essential natural resources.