Dama Boru Godana couldn’t make it here to Copenhagen. But I sure wish the Ethiopian pastoralist could. Delegates negotiating a new global climate change treaty over the next two weeks would learn a lot from her, particularly as they decide how much assistance developed countries should invest in the world’s poorest communities to help them adapt to climate change.
I met 40-year-old Dama in the Borana zone of Southern Ethiopia in June.
“It is much warmer these days,” she told me. “Droughts are occurring more frequently, they are lasting longer and they are more severe compared to when I was young. Many of us have watched our cows die of starvation, and the dry season grazing areas are not so accessible anymore.”
A few years ago, Dama learned about a village saving & loans initiative taking place in a nearby village. She subsequently started one with 15 other women in her village. The results underscore what I’ve witnessed in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa: positively empowering women goes a long way in positively changing the lives of their families and communities.
These women pooled their financial resources, and using their traditional knowledge, they fattened two bulls and sold them for a $200 profit. With this money, they stocked up on cereals and sugars sold during the dry season when demand is higher. Then, with the help of CARE, they learned how to make hay, saving themselves from long treks to get food for their livestock during the lean season.
“Most pastoralist women depend on handouts from their husbands,” Dama said. “I formed this credit group so that we can work together, make some income and improve our lives.”
World leaders, did you hear her? You can alleviate this historic unfairness–the least responsible paying the greatest price–with a hand up, not a handout. Here in Copenhagen, you must agree on an increased and sustained investment, above and beyond what is currently labeled development assistance, something that can empower innovators such as Dama to appropriately adapt to climactic changes not of their making.
Looking at Dama that day, I saw adaptation past and present. Let’s hope, by the end of this fortnight, I can say I saw adaptation’s future, too.
-Cynthia Awuor, CARE’s climate change coordinator for East and Central Africa