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Kathmandu to Cancun: reality and rhetoric

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Climate Change, Nepal
Photo of a woman in a rice paddy field
Some rice farmers missed the planting season. Picture: DFID

My name is Simon Lucas and I've been working on energy, agriculture, roads and forestry projects in poor countries for the last 20 years. I'm also a keen white water kayaker, so when I heard of a job in Nepal with DFID I leapt at it - who could want for more? A great job and the chance to explore some of the best adrenaline pumping rivers in the world in my spare time.

I currently lead the team responsible for the UK Government’s work on climate change in Nepal. As I look down at Cancun from the heights of Kathmandu, it seems like a different world.

Instead of high level negotiations, here DFID is working directly with the poorest people in Asia to help them adapt to the changes in climate that are already apparent, particularly in the hills and mountains.

The monsoon this year left Nepal wondering when the rains would start. Luckily in the end they did, but not before many rice farmers had missed the planting season. Small changes to the climate have a massive impact - particularly on the poorest farmers.

I talked to one farmer, Dasingh Karki from Baitadi District, who has had two rice crop failures in the past two years due to drought. Dasingh has even had to cut his peach and orange trees down, because new diseases have ruined his fruit crops. He now relies on the money his son sends back from working in the Middle East to survive.

Image: Snowfall has been reduced in Nepal recently
Snowfall has been reduced in Nepal recently. Picutre: DFID

That's why our team have made climate change work a priority – it's very clear from talking to farmers and community forestry members here that they know things are changing. We've already worked with 2,500 communities to see what they think; almost all groups have noticed changing weather patterns, new diseases and earlier flowering of plants. But until climate change is mentioned they haven't been able to work out why.

Surendra Hiarchan from the remote mountain district of Mustang has noticed many changes over the last six or seven years. The warmer springs and autumns have made it possible to grow more vegetables and maize, but have also brought new diseases and a lack of water in the spring. This is because the snowfall that usually provides irrigation water as the weather warms has almost disappeared over the past three years.

Image: Villagers try to rebuild a flooded road
Villagers try to rebuild a flooded road. Picture: DFID

Given the need to respond to these changes now, the UK decided not to wait for a global agreement. Instead we are helping community groups to develop and implement climate adaptation plans that protect water sources, build irrigation schemes, and train farmers on how to plant new drought and disease resistant crops. So far we've helped five million people take the first steps in becoming more resilient to a change climate.

But far more is needed. So we are working hard to deliver a new climate change and forestry programme next year - using the 'Fast Start' money committed by the UK at Copenhagen last year. These programmes will help another 2.5 million people directly, focusing in the West of Nepal where the Nepali Government (with DFID support) has identified the greatest need. This area is the poorest in Nepal - with over 80% of the population living on under $1.25 a day and people are very reliant on increasingly erratic rains to grow the food they need to survive.

So thinking about it, maybe Cancun is not so far away. The money that climate talks agree will help the poor here in Nepal and a bigger, better deal can help them more. After all it's the poor in countries like Nepal that have contributed least to climate change and yet they pay the highest price. So let's not pretend that this debate is all theory and rhetoric - it's about real peoples lives.

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  1. Comment by Abayneh Girma posted on

    I agree fully that climate change and the discussions on the responses are real and are about life and death to the poor in particular and even to all humanity in gendral. I admire the kind of work being done through the community forest programe in Nepal. Great job and vision.

    Keep up with the good work you are doing with the DFID support.


  2. Comment by Sammer posted on

    Going through your post above, I found that the forestry programme in Nepal has contributed a lot to cope with issues like poverty, climate change, good governance, propoor initiative, forest management, bio-diversity conservation, etc. But from July 2011, I heard that DFID diverting its funds in forestry and climate change through other donor and closing Forestry programme in Nepal rather continuing its learning and contribution as admired it at national and international level.


  3. Comment by Laxman Neupane posted on

    Numbers of unpredictable characteristics of climate change have severely beer triggering to the common people of Nepal, especially those are off grid from government services and goods. Voices and concerns and miseries of these segment of people never get place to any government papers and donors desk. Supply driven initiatives and inappropriate implementation modalities of these taxpayers money hardly fetch desired outcomes.

    Mr Simom correctly pick up the hammers where to hit so that such efforts would meaningful to the needy commons. But if we could only consider either Cancum, Copenhagen, Kalapanthar or Rome, the hammering efforts remained no effective. Energy, Climate change and Livelihood Initiative are major elements that DFID would excel livelihood of drown trodden people of Nepal. But an absence of innovative implementation modalities, capacity of line functionaries and poor markets would be major elements which are key obstacles for sustaining growth and development. Before. integrated developments, production credit, small farmers development and so on initiatives were blankets in Nepal, but commons never enjoyed from these initiatives. we are witness here that every day hundreds young energetic and economically productive workforce have been board on for gulf countries with vision of securing and seeking livelihoods.

    There is still huge hope that sun rises in Nepal.

  4. Comment by Rajan Shrestha posted on

    Dear Simon,

    hi, this is rajan from Nepal. I am studying Rural Development at the moment.After I have had visited your blog and came to know something about the recent work you did for Nepalese people. I really appreciate it and the work you are doing.It's the matter of pride for me being as Nepali .Also I am very pleased to say that the UK is really helping to make difference to poor people in Nepal.
    Well, I wish you all the very best for people's of DFID Nepal that they could continue their work for Nepalese people.
    Bye the way, recently I have had visited DFID Nepal to get some current magazines of DFID to learn more and more the work that are being done by DFID Nepal. Nevertheless, Gunjana[ one of the staff of DFID] had helped me to those magazines , booklets and so on. Thankyou.

    God Bless everyone

  5. Comment by Surendra Bhandari posted on

    I would like thanks a lot for participation on a challenging mission i.e. poverty reduction of the rural poor area of the country. I am fully agree on your blog which isthe reality of the pro poor farmers. I got the same problems on low snowing and drought at Humla district of Nepal. Good luck for the achievements of your targets. Thanks.

    Surendra Bhandari
    University of Aberdeen

  6. Comment by raju posted on

    yes, the climate change is the main issue now in Nepal. due to its effect day by day many bad impressions has already started to seen, now its all ours responsibility to protect the real earth....

    Its all the power we need hand in hand to solve the problems that has occurred in Nepal or in world now

    Raju Subba,
    TU university
    Kathamndu, Nepal

  7. Comment by bibhor posted on

    quite an eye-opener. i thought only the snow was disappearing. pity that i am a nepali, i know too little. good job.

  8. Comment by hement posted on

    Dear sir you have done great thing on climate change whole your life so i know that you are nice and wit experience person which we Nepali got u so sir please make the happy faces of the poor of Nepal you know the detail of Nepal and the poverty nicely so sir we are so hopeful with you that from this project you will do some change to the Nepali people and their poverty and sir i know that you will do new thing for Nepali because you are genuine with vast experience person DFID is loving project of all Nepali people. bye sir

  9. Comment by Dagger Nomad posted on

    But climate change make higher water level, isn't it?

  10. Comment by Geriatric Legions posted on

    @Dagger Nomad - Not necessarily, it could cause a drop in some places. Climate change is something I am keeping a track on due to its possible effect on the elderly. Geriatric Legions aims to highlight some of these problems.

  11. Comment by Geriatric Legions posted on

    In Oxford we were discussing the topic and believe climate change will put a strain on the rivers in the UK. This will be driven largely by farmers using this resource for their crops.

  12. Comment by Ram Prasad Prasain posted on

    The blogged article has opened the eyes and minds of people on the climatic change, poverty, environmental crisis and socio-economic scenarios. Thanks for your epochal contribution for Nepal and Nepalis.

    Ram Prasad Prasain

  13. Comment by Lager Pyranha posted on

    Clearly Nepal must tap into water from Ladakh if the country is to have any future. International agencies must fund exploratory missions to that area to determine ways that Nepal can best exploit the situation.


  14. Comment by Phaindra posted on

    "The money that climate talks agree will help the poor here in Nepal and a bigger, better deal can help them more."

    A better deal is a contested issues to confront the global climate issues. If you could explain the what is the better deal based on your experience, people like me would be befitted.

    Phaindra Raj Pandey