Developing sustainable livelihood options will help communities adapt to climate change

Agroforestry, Kenya, © Nature Kenya

By promoting agroforestry, environmentally-friendly farming and other sustainable livelihood options, BirdLife is safeguarding forest ecosystems around the world. This will not only benefit biodiversity, but will also help build local resilience to the increasing impacts of climate change. Three examples from the Philippines, Indonesia and Kenya are presented here.

Mount Siburan Important Bird Area (IBA) constitutes the largest remaining tract of forest on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. The forests are the focus of current efforts to conserve the Critically Endangered Mindoro Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba platenae and Black-hooded Coucal Centropus steerii, and the Endangered Mindoro Hornbill Penelopides mindorensis. The Haribon Foundation (BirdLife in the Philippines) has implemented a project to restore the remaining forests and build sustainable and diverse livelihood options. More variable rainfall and more frequent extreme weather events are projected to impact water resources and crop productivity (Cruz et al. 2007). The project goals are to restore denuded forests using native tree species, introduce environment-friendly agricultural practices to replace slash-and-burn cultivation, and to pilot sustainable livelihood options using non-timber forest products. It is hoped that these activities will help enhance the adaptive capacity of local communities to climate change. Already, through the partnership of Haribon and the Palbong community, logging activities have dropped by 50% in two years, and no new clearing of forest for agriculture and homesteads has been recorded.

In Indonesia, the largely agriculture-dependent communities of Mbeliling, western Flores, are highly vulnerable to crop failure. With higher temperatures and decreased precipitation predicted as a result of climate change, the frequency of such events is likely to increase. Through agroforestry and organic farming, Burung Indonesia (BirdLife in Indonesia) has worked with 27 villages around Mbeliling to improve the economic productivity and long-term viability of the local landscape. The soil is managed to avoid nutrient depletion and to increase organic matter, which makes it less prone to drought, flooding and water-logging. The project has helped reduce pressure on the local forests, including Mbeliling IBA, home to globally threatened endemic bird species such as Flores Hanging-parrot Loriculus flosculus and Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea.

Kenya’s Kikuyu Escarpment Forest IBA is home to a rich avifauna, characteristic of the country’s central highlands. It also provides water, fuelwood, herbal medicine and building materials for more than 200,000 local people. Recent extended dry periods are being linked to climate change. This has resulted in reduced crop yields, which in turn have driven some local people to undertake largely unsustainable activities, such as illegal timber harvesting, overgrazing and charcoal burning. To help address this, a BirdLife Local Conservation Group (the Kijabe Environment Volunteers, KENVO), in collaboration with Nature Kenya (BirdLife in Kenya) and the Kenya Forest Service, has raised community awareness of more diverse strategies for coping with periods of drought. Alternative livelihood options that are better adapted to the harsher climate are also being promoted, including agroforestry, crop diversification, ecotourism and bee-keeping. These activities replace the proportion of household income derived from the unsustainable use of the forest, help buffer the impacts of climate change, and reduce emissions from deforestation.

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Cruz, R.V., Harasawa, H., Lal, M., Wu, S., Anokhin, Y., Punsalmaa, B., Honda, Y., Jafari, M., Li, C. and Huu Ninh, N. (2007) Asia. Climate Change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Pp. 469–506 in M. L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden and C. E. Hanson, eds, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Compiled: 2009    Copyright: 2009   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2009) Developing sustainable livelihood options will help communities adapt to climate change. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023