How Rising Temperatures Threaten Livelihoods & How We Can Respond

“Despite Covid understandably taking the headlines, climate change has been getting worse over the past year as emissions continue to rise and the lives and livelihoods on the front line suffer…”

– Sonam P Wangdi of Bhutan, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group at COP26.

The Least Developed Countries Group at COP26 is calling for the countries with the biggest responsibility and capacity to lead efforts to keep global warming within the limits agreed by governments in Paris in 2015. Each increase in the global temperature means more lives and livelihoods at risk – it is imperative that the world acts now to ensure that we do not exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limit.

As the earth’s temperature increases and weather patterns change, there is a rise in dangerous and unpredictable climate events like droughts, wildfires, cyclones, floods, landslides, storms and similar. In areas with weak infrastructure and housing, as well as limited resources to spend on protection and rebuilding, these pose a huge threat to people’s lives. Homes and roads are destroyed, schools flooded and soil damaged – which means livelihoods lost.

The communities we work with are remote, marginalised and rural. They are heavily dependant on agriculture, so very vulnerable to changes in the climate. Our work enables them to mitigate the impacts of climate change on their lives by developing adaptable and resilient livelihoods.

One of our project participants in India, Pramila Mahato, was unable to meet her most basic needs or support her family, living on less than $1.90 a day. Her region of West Bengal was hit by Cyclone Amphan not long after national lockdown came into force in March 2020. These extreme climate events are becoming increasingly frequent and intense as the oceans warm. Cyclones bring in water both in the form of storm surges and rainfall, causing flooding, soil erosion and displacement.

Pramila said:

“During cyclone Amphan, the river embankments broke and saline water entered our village. I along with five other members in my family managed to cross the water and reached a primary school. I stayed there for four days and when we came back, we saw our Mud making house was completely washed away. At present with support from local Panchayat we made a temporary house using bamboo and plastic sheeting. This cyclone left us with nothing [sic].”

Even before Cyclone Amphan, Pramila and her family struggled to earn a stable income. She said:

“Usually every year we migrate to other districts during paddy cultivation & harvesting period for earning additional money as here we have no sufficient income source [sic].”

Since joining our partner project with NGO Digambarpur Angikar, Pramila has learnt to rear livestock and run her own business. She and the other women on this project have the skills and confidence rebuild and to support themselves and their families going forward. They are also able to reap nutritional benefits from their new venture, providing their families with milk from the animals.

“Now after attending goat rearing training I along with other poor women in our village have been economically self-sustain. At present I have seven goats and recently sold one for Rs 4500 [approx. £44] I will cultivate more goats in the coming month. Thanks to Tzedek Organization and Digambarpur Angikar for giving us this great opportunity – this learning open a new dimension for us and now we are earning here no need to migrate any more [sic].”

Going forward, Tzedek is doubling down on projects like these. Already environmentally friendly, our sustainable development work will incorporate climate resilience. It is essential that our partner communities can adapt their processes to the changing weather patterns, as well as bigger hits like cyclones. All of our projects in India will empower individuals and communities to adapt and diversify their livelihoods, protecting themselves from losing their income opportunities due to climate change or disasters.

In Northern Ghana, we will be working with farmers to set up farm schools that demonstrate effective and adaptable farming practices, including climate resilience. This will also group farmers, giving them access to government policies that are usually only available to larger scale farmers – enabling them to earn more from their work. Our partners have also identified Women’s Collectives that work in agro-processing, for example with shea butter or rice. Currently, their processes are vulnerable to shifting weather patterns and only provide a seasonal income. We will work with them to create long-term, consistent income opportunities that are also adaptable to the changing climate.

The United Nations calls for all people to have the knowledge and skills to engage in sustainable global development work. As well as working with our partner communities overseas, we are educating UK Jewish youth about global development and the climate emergency; mobilising the next generation of changemakers to contribute to balancing the scales of justice.