Feature Story

Vulnerable farming communities get help adapting to climate change and building ecosystem resilience.

Since losing his wife, 61-year-old Senyenzi Esron from Nyabihu District near the Gishwati forest in western Rwanda has been struggling to educate his eight children.

But a project funded by the world’s largest financer of environmental projects in developing countries, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has allowed him to diversify into beekeeping, which has changed his life.

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”In the rainforest where I live, there has been little to celebrate in recent years. My home has grown smaller, my horizons likewise. My larder has grown emptier, and my neighbours more scarce. The noise of new things has smothered the birdsong, and I wonder if more change is coming? I am living in what they call the Anthropecene, the age of humans – and my future is in the balance.

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“When I first became involved with environmental programmes, they involved a small group of professionals implementing biodiversity conservation projects focussed mainly on Protected Areas. Over the last 8-9 years, I have seen this programme of action – which has been catalysed by the GEF and UNDP – expand enormously, away from a pure Protected Areas focus. As a result, the number of NGOs in Seychelles has mushroomed, a variety of CBOs have been formed, and many of these groups have established partnerships with the private sector – everyone started to get involved.

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“I was working hard on a poultry farm trying to make a living – it was a daily struggle to make enough money simply to put food on the table. I had begun noticing on my way to work, that a group of women were meeting every Tuesday, but I felt too shy to join them. One day, I worked up the courage and went with my smallest daughter, to see what these meetings were about. I didn’t know then that my life was about to change forever – when I heard what the women were talking about, I decided to quit my job at the farm and get involved in this new project.

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The world comes together on August 9 to celebrate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples to highlight the achievements and contributions that Indigenous Peoples make in the world, and their unique role as defenders of biodiversity and of our natural resources. 

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“Belarus used to be described as the ‘land of mires’ . My childhood was spent surrounded on all sides by mires (peatlands) and woods . As a young boy, I would go hunting with my father and older brother, and cranberry-picking with my mother and the women from the village . These formative years spent in the countryside determined my choice of path in life. After leaving school, I went to Minsk, where I enrolled at the biology faculty of the university. My first interest was in waterfowl and it was through this that I became interested in wetlands and peatlands

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Approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples live in more than 90 countries around the world. A significant fraction of the world’s priority areas — based on biodiversity and ecosystem importance — overlap with Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories and resources. Given the inextricable bond of Indigenous Peoples to the land, any loss of natural resources threatens their identity and impoverishes their communities. But Indigenous Peoples are not only victims of a deteriorating global environment: they are also a source of effective solutions.

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‘Sustainable Land Management in the Churia Range, Nepal’, a three-year medium-sized project of the Government of Nepal and WWF and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was successfully concluded on 31 May 2017. It effectively helped reduce the vulnerability of 6,000 local people, including more than 2,300 women, from land degradation and soil erosion issues in the Himalayan foothills.

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“I have had the personal and professional experience of travelling, with many different companions, on a remarkable journey through the landscapes of Cuba, as we work to conserve our ecosystems and support sustainable livelihoods. Working together, our Government, the GEF and UNDP have provided the roadmap, directions, equipment and funds to make this possible.

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“I have a degree in Applied Chemistry, but I did not know much about Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and their damaging nature until I started working on pesticide management in 2007 in Hubei Province. Through my job I learnt that improper dismantling and processing of e-waste releases organic pollutants that have a detrimental impact on human health and the environment. To give you an idea of the scale of the issue – it has been estimated that in 2015 alone, the number of e-waste items recycled in China amounted to 152.74 million pieces!

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