Globally, the area that is suffering desertification and land degradation is ever expanding. Unsustainable and often large-scale agricultural practices, including the copious use of pesticides and fertilisers, are a major driver of land degradation, aprocess that is further exacerbated by climate change, causing more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. This is very problematic not only for the hundreds of millions of people who directly depend on land and water for their livelihoods, but also for life on earth as a whole. It is clear that this process must be stopped and reversed, better sooner than later. But how to go about it?
Pernambuco, is in the extreme northeast of Brazil, is one of the country's poorest regions. One of the most important projects aimed at stimulating development in the state is the expansion of the deep-sea port of Suape, complete with an oil refinery and shipyards. The port covers an enormous area; at 13,500 hectares it is bigger than all the different sites of the port of Rotterdam together. Unfortunately, the port lies in the middle of an exceptional and vulnerable ecosystem of mangrove forests and Atlantic rainforest, which are under serious threat from the expansion. Furthermore, the livelihoods of the approximately 25,000 people living in the area are at risk. Most of these people are so called 'traditional communities' of artisanal fisher folk including a number of Quilombola communities whose inhabitants are descended from enslaved people who have lived in this lands for hundreds of years. The communities' fishing catch is visibly declining as a consequence of industrial pollution, the most serious case of which was the oil spill that badly affected the whole coast of Northeast Brazil at the end of last year.
In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil and protecting the sprouts from cattle and hazards.
Small grants funds offer an effective, alternative way to channel big money from large donors and funds to local groups and organisations that are striving for a sustainable and just society everywhere around the world.
Clive Chibule from Zambia won the Gender Just Climate Solutions Award at the climate conference in Katowice, Poland. His project "Community strategies for climate-resilient livelihoods" aims at training rural women on leadership and climate resilience. A very important project, as Zambia is already feeling the effects of climate change, and rural women are affected most.