Planning for a climate crisis helped small Indonesian island fight Covid-19
In the remote villages of Lombok, a rugged Indonesian island east of Bali, resilience to global warming means figuring out how to maintain water and food supplies during longer droughts punctuated by extreme rainstorms, and s ” adapt to warming and rising seas that affect critical fisheries.
Islanders don’t rely on technology or engineering solutions in their preparations, at least for now. Instead, they have built a network of local leaders who know the environmental conditions and who can identify the strengths and weaknesses of their communities, down to the neighborhood level.
And this grassroots approach has proven to be doubly useful. Since March, it has enabled Lombok to meet the challenges of another crisis: the global coronavirus pandemic. Lombok has been better prepared than other island communities in the region, showing how climate resilience can help society cope with a wider range of challenges.
Successful resilience efforts in Lombok may contain lessons for a world in which more than 50 million people have been affected simultaneously by climatic disasters – floods, droughts, hurricanes – and by Covid-19. Grassroots preparedness and local leaders who know the local conditions are key to helping communities weather the combined disruption of a changing climate and a global pandemic, experts say.
“We know preparedness has prevented the spread of the pandemic, and this is the best indication of why resilience work is so important,” said Kate Schecter, president of World Neighbors, a community development organization. nonprofit that has guided resilience work in Lombok. “Although Jakarta and Bali are still hot spots, we have been able to allow our communities in Lombok to return to work, with all appropriate precautions. “
World Neighbors works in some of the world’s poorest communities – low carbon places that have not caused global warming but are the most vulnerable to its impacts, including sea level rise, drought and famine.
Lombok, just a little larger than Rhode Island, has a population of around 3 million and is dotted with a massive volcano, Mount Rinjani, which has a lake in the crater and another volcanic island in the lake. . World Neighbors regional director Edd Wright said his organization, with partial funding of YOU SAID, helped train a cadre of community volunteers across Indonesia in 125 villages in three districts with around half a million people.
“Our programs aim to build capacity so people are better prepared in the event of a disaster, ”said Wright. These local leaders are ready to mobilize and help themselves, their neighbors and their communities when needed, for example to establish, maintain and enforce protection of local water sources, has t -he adds.
“It takes a lot of time and effort,” Wright said. “It can be difficult to convince people, from communities to national decision-makers, of their value. But the reason they’re so important is simply that they save lives in times of disaster. Targeting the local level, he added, is of crucial importance because it is the community itself that is the first responder in the event of a disaster.
The work Wright and others did paid off when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Lombok in March 2020. Climate change preparedness has helped villages prepare and implement response measures quickly. emergencies that have limited the spread of the virus in the community, including the installation of hand washing facilities. stations and the distribution of masks.
Emergency teams also quickly stepped up contact tracing to identify who may have been traveling to a high-risk area, spraying disinfectant in public areas, and routine visits with people in quarantine to provide support during the process. ‘isolation. Emergency response teams also collected data on which households were most at risk of falling into poverty as a result of the pandemic and therefore would need assistance with basic food and non-food items.
Wright said the swift and decisive actions made people feel like they were taken over by their government, for example, with daily health and temperature checks of people in quarantine. As a result, they did not break isolation rules as often as residents of other villages without rescue teams.
“Our work has many names,” he said. “But I think the preparation sums it up well. And this lack of preparation has been the reason some countries have been so devastated by Covid. “
Resilience must be deeply embedded in key systems such as health care, food and water supply, and finance, said Schecter, of World Neighbors, who has worked on community development and resilience globally, including in Russia, Cambodia and Nepal. She added that it was much harder to think about these things after a disaster. “The communities we work in are isolated and the people there have to take care of each other,” she said.
An essential element is to create spaces where all voices are included, encouraged and amplified, she said. By working in some of the poorest villages in Nepal, with people who own no land, efforts to include women in community discussions came to fruition when they were able to bring their ideas for growing valuable edible mushrooms to fruition. which generated income for the community. .
“We focus on people who make money and have savings,” she said. “Small savings and loan groups can grow into larger cooperatives – groups of 20 to 30 people who lend to each other. We teach them basic financial literacy and they go out, start businesses and invest. And we try to make sure that small businesses last long after we leave. We integrate this into any type of assistance. “
Schecter said that if communities only solve part of the puzzle, they will not solve things for the future. Resilience must be built into all aspects of life. If you ignore one of the key pillars – food security, water, health, finance – the others can fall apart. “And the best way to understand that is to ask them to come together,” she said. “We say that in order for us to be able to work with you, we need you to have some social cohesion.”