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How we're prepping the world's poorest for climate change

©VSO/Allison Joyce

People in developing countries are bearing the brunt of global climate change, but VSO is supporting communities to become more resilient to changes in their natural environment.

We’ve all seen the images of arctic melt, deforestation and wildlife habitats being destroyed. Human activity is putting increasing pressure on the world’s resources.

Coupled with climate change, the planet faces an unprecedented challenge. 

One billion people around the world live on less than a dollar a day, often with little or no savings, so are especially vulnerable to shocks and stresses caused by environmental changes.

Climate-related disasters like droughts, flooding and typhoons can plunge entire communities into poverty, with developing countries the worst equipped financially to protect their citizens.

As climate change wreaks havoc on the natural environment, it's becoming a case of not if, but when.

When Cyclone Idai struck Southern Africa in March, VSO volunteers trained in disaster response were on the ground, ready to respond. Now, we look at how VSO is preparing communities elsewhere.

Using drone footage in Malawi

In three districts in Malawi, VSO volunteers are teaching communities how to take care of the environment.

So far, 52 hours of radio broadcasting has educated people on climate change and conservation, while drone flights have helped communities map the landscape below. Drones footage lets people see from a bird's eye view the hazards and risks faced by their community, and begin to do something about it. 

More than 1,000 energy efficient stoves have been distributed, which use 40% less firewood than conventional stoves.

Frank Mtengula, from one of the communities involved in this VSO project, said, “I used to cut down trees unnecessarily to produce charcoal. This contributed to soil erosion and bare land. Before, I had no awareness of the adverse effects my actions would cause.”

Image of Chaun Lan, 42, sitting down in fishing hut. ©VSO/Cesar Lopez Balan

Chaun Lan, 42, has lived on the Tonlé Sap Lake all her life, which has been plagued by illegal fishing and the effects of climate change.

Ecosystems on the brink in Cambodia

In Cambodia, climate change and illegal fishing pose a major threat to the livelihoods of communities living on the shores of Tonlé Sap in Cambodia - Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake.

Overfishing is pushing entire ecosystems to the brink of collapse and threatening the food security of Cambodia’s 16 million inhabitants.

Chaun Lan, 42, was born in a fishing community, and received training from VSO on running her own business.

“Before there used to be conservation areas but people have come and taken the resources. It has led to significant decline in our natural environment.”

“We are now able to conserve the different species of fish. I hope that as more community members become more aware they can participate in conserving resources and help develop our community.”

One hundred and seventy businesses have been set up following VSO training, reducing overfishing of the Tonlé Sap.

Surviving extreme weather conditions in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, a changing climate is bringing extreme flood conditions as well as cyclones that destroy crops. This makes farming increasingly difficult, contributing to migration to overcrowded slums in cities like Dhaka.

Abdul Latif, 59, standing in a field in Bangladesh ©VSO/Allison Joyce

Abdul Latif, 59, is now using less fertiliser on his crops to protect the land.

VSO’s Growing Together project has set up 45 youth groups, teaching farmers like Abdul Latif, from Kafikhal village in northwest Bangladesh, how to work in harmony with nature.

“Sometimes farmers are so focused on making a profit that they use too much fertiliser and pesticides, and in the process they destroy the land.

“We need to cultivate land in a good way – in a way that doesn’t harm people or the land.”

Seven thousand farmers have received training in new agricultural techniques, and 70% of farmers trained are now using the correct amount of pesticides and fertilisers.

What you can do

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Climate change will have a profound effect on the world we live in. However, thanks to VSO volunteers, communities are being empowered to adapt to a changing world, to find new sources of income and new ways to manage and protect their local environment.

You don't need to be a volunteer to make a difference, though. There are things we can all do, big and small, to help the environment. From walking to work to joining a climate change protest, it's up to us to take action.

Why not cut down on your plastic bag use and support the work we do by purchasing a tote bag from our online shop?

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