British economist E.F. Schumacher borrowed the concept 'small is beautiful' from his teacher emphasizing on benefit of small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower communities more. The fight against climate change has seen twist and turns especially with scientist recently admitting that data they have been publishing might not have been accurate. There is no doubt, that this generation is experiencing effects of climate change with poor communities adversely affected.
But how are communities involved in fight against climate change? Do we still passive local communities as empty vehicles that need to be filled with gas to start? Communities are more aware of the effects of climate change and while political leaders are having cocktails in their fine suits negotiating 'deals', local communities are actually transforming their own lives, fighting poverty. Whilst climate change is a global phenomenon, its negative impacts are more severely felt by poor people. They are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes.
The recent drought in East Africa, which is already directly affecting 10 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, serves to remind us of severe effects of climate change: Livelihood destroyed, and families left to depend on hand outs.
Communities are the unsung heroes especially in fight against climate change. With women making up 80% of farmers in Africa, they are likely to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. However, they are also in the position to be effective agents of change in supporting both mitigation and adaptation activities. Local women in Kenya through Green Belt Movement are doing their 'small bit' to fight climate change. The GBM was established by the late Noble laureate, Wangari Maathai and it has a network of over 4,000 community groups in Kenya that plant trees and protect the environment. The local women not only plant trees, but they attend baraza (community meetings) and educate each other on sustainable agricultural techniques including growing indigenous food crops, harvesting rain water and stopping soil erosion. The story of women in Makoja village, Tanzania is nothing but inspiring. They record food requirements of their households weekly, monthly and yearly and this helps them in managing food security in their families. Through this, they get to know amount of seeds to plant and when to do the planting.
NESTA and The Observer compiled a list of '50 New Radicals' to celebrate communities and organizations that are doing their 'small roles' in working together to transform and change lives within communities. Childreach International (www.childreach.org.uk), a charity based in London that works with local communities was recognized for her specific role in working with communities in rural Moshi, Tanzania in 'Family Energy Project.' The project involves local families using an affordable renewable energy technology which includes: a solar stove, a biomass stove, a solar lighting system and a solar water purification system. The uniqueness of this project is that it involves local communities in Moshi and businesses in the UK. The UK businesses get to hear first hand stories of misery effects of climate change from local communites and they get the opportunity to directly support efforts of local communities through the 'Family Energy Project.' The project has already reached 2,000 people in rural Moshi, Tanzania and the plan is to involve 1,000,000 people by the next 3 years.
Local communities are engaged in more climate change related activities than what is reported. They are doing their 'small bits' to improve their lives and women are taking the driver's sit.