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Tackling Extreme Poverty and Climate Change Together: Solutions from the Global South

Anu Kumar •  November 23, 2022 • 4 minute read

By Anu Kumar, Manager of Digital Communications | BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative

Urgent action is needed for the hundreds of millions of people living in poverty who are beginning to suffer the most from the effects of climate change. The current impacts of climate change on the lives of the most vulnerable people already caused displacement and reduced gains in poverty reduction. For this reason, it is critical that we approach climate change and extreme poverty together while prioritizing climate adaptation and building resilience. 

This was the topic of a panel discussion hosted by BRAC UPGI and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, moderated by Executive Director of J-PAL MENA, Alison Fahey. 

“This is a place where bold policy commitments are required,” said Fahey. “That will involve many stakeholders, which is challenging but possible especially when considering the policy and legislative frameworks that will support these programs coming to fruition.”

Faten Khamassi, Chief of Cabinet with the Ministry of Agriculture in Tunisia, said that we, as a global community, need to put forward new solutions and new development models rather than reusing the same solutions from the past in the current state of economic, financial, and climatic upheaval. 

Drawing on lessons learned from programs in Tunisia, Kenya, and Niger, Khamassi and other policymakers shared the following recommendations during the discussion:

1. Focusing on holistic and innovative approaches is necessary to combat both extreme poverty and the impacts felt by climate change.

Stefanie Bitengo, Assistant Director for Social Development and Program Director for M&E and MIS with the National Social Protection Secretariat in Kenya shared how Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Project (KSEIP) includes both health protection and nutrition sensitive programming because cash transfers alone are not enough to address poverty. There is also a focus on creating shock responsive social protection to build resilience among households. 

Approaches that have sequenced interventions and build resilience through livelihood options and training are able to provide better long-term outcomes to the most marginalized populations.

2. Coordination and integration between government ministries and other stakeholders is critical for effectively addressing the multidimensional nature of poverty and climate change while building resilience among target populations. 

Khamassi went on to discuss the IESS-Kairouan project which has adopted a Graduation pilot program within a larger livelihoods and natural resource management program. The Ministry of Agriculture is working with the Ministry of Social Affairs to offer social support to connect their livelihoods and training that is best adapted to climate change, specifically droughts in the Kairouan region. 

Coordination among key stakeholders also helps with tackling multiple issue areas at once. In the cited IESS-Kairouan example, coordination with different ministries and external partners allows the program to address women’s empowerment, extreme poverty, and climate change. 

3. Focusing on building resilience and growing capacity within the existing system through holistic programs is more cost-effective than responding to these shocks one by one.

Aghali Abdelkader, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Niger, shared that they have focused on innovations around social service mechanisms that have allowed their government to anticipate shocks, collect data, and carry out studies which then feed into plans to support the populations vulnerable to climate shocks. The work has focused on collecting data through polling and preparing plans before shocks and disasters. This supports resilience and improving economic conditions for vulnerable populations, such as retrofitting cash transfers before shocks hit.

There is a clear need and opportunity to address climate change and extreme poverty together, especially when there are populations living in extreme poverty in fragile, remote, drought- and flood-prone areas. More so, evidenced through examples from countries like Tunisia, Niger, and Kenya, these issues can be addressed together and not in siloes. 

The path forward based on current conditions faced by the Global South requires that climate adaptation with a focus on building resilience and poverty reduction be addressed and achieved together. 

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