Living with climate extremes
After the hottest month on record, reflections about a liveable future have arisen all around the world. Extreme heat impacts our health but also other facets of our everyday life. How are our lives being affected by extreme weather events and what can be done now to prevent the situation from getting worse?
In this edition, we draw your attention to two sectors that are greatly impacted by extreme heat – agriculture and the informal economy. You will meet Toto, an independent farmer in Thailand, and Armindo, from the Association of Informal Workers of Mozambique. They both share their concerns about the climate crisis, its consequences and the threat to their survival.
As usual, we close this issue with a selection of recommendations worth checking out!
The Livism Team
In Thailand, climate change is threatening farmers’ livelihoods
By Toto Sompong
Toto Sompong is a farmer and member of Youth Farm Network (Y-Farm) based in Korat, Thailand.
When I was young, the rice fields in August would be lush and green. Today, they are dry and parched.
Because of climate change and El Niño, we are experiencing extreme heat and little rainfall. This not only puts our crops in jeopardy, it also makes it much harder for us to work. Last April, the heat index reached as high as 49-50 degrees Celsius in several provinces. Despite the scorching heat, I still had to work out in the fields under the blazing sun.
The rising temperatures have further intensified my workload. I have had to extend the watering duration for my vegetables, with some days requiring watering three times – in the morning, at noon, and in the evening – unlike the usual once or twice a day.
My main crops for sale, including kale, bok choy, lettuce, and coriander, have been adversely affected. They are growing slowly and facing damage from pests. I am not the only one facing these challenges; nearly everyone in the market group I belong to is grappling with similar issues. Some are beginning to face water shortages for irrigation, while others are forced to suspend vegetable sales on certain days of the week. Undoubtedly, this is significantly impacting the income of everyone, especially me, who only recently started farming. It is not just the heat; the PM2.5 dust problem that often occurs during the transition from winter to summer exacerbates the hazardous conditions of outdoor work. On some days, I wake up to an atmosphere that is hazy and uncomfortable. While working, I experience nasal congestion and watery eyes.
I’ve talked to many fellow farmers about dealing with these various challenges. Many tend to believe there’s nothing much we can do but accept what’s happening. However, from what I’ve observed, everyone fights and is ready to learn to cope.
There are examples of resilience everywhere. I’ve seen people facing water shortages during hot days willing to reduce planting areas or switch to crops that require less water, such as corn, pumpkins, galangal and lemongrass. Some even set up makeshift sunshades for their crops.
When I think about the future of my life as a farmer, I envision more of these collaborative efforts. I want to teach agriculture to the elderly who are still strong and capable, helping them plant vegetables, make compost, water the plants, and engage in activities together. We would chat, laugh, cook meals using the harvested vegetables, and then sell the surplus to generate income.
I aspire to have a small vegetable plot dedicated to cultivating seeds that are adaptable to the changing climate conditions of my area. These seeds would serve as a resilient response to the climate variations.
The rising temperatures and the unpredictability of seasons have disrupted farmers’ ability to plan their cultivation as they did in the past. The arrival of the initial rains in the rainy season can no longer be reliably predicted. Farmers must now accept and adapt, learning to adjust themselves. Some of my fellow farmers are seeking ways to augment their income. They are exploring avenues like processing products, cultivating a variety of crops, and propagating tree seedlings. I sense that practising agriculture alone will be quite challenging. Having support from community members would make a significant difference and alleviate many concerns. As for me, I have chosen to temporarily yield, planning to return to farming again next year.
Spotlight on: Armindo Chembane
Armindo Chembane, 45 years old, born in Inhambane province, Mozambique. Graduated in trade unionism at the staff training school of the Organization of Workers of Mozambique – OTM-CS, specialist in hygiene and safety at work. National Executive Secretary of the Association of Informal Workers of Mozambique.
What is an informal economy – can you give us some examples of which sectors/areas are considered part of it in Mozambique?
The International Labour Organization defines informal work as all activities and economic units which, in law or in practice, are not covered or are insufficiently covered by formal provisions. In Mozambique, more than 80% of the active workforce is in the informal sector. This amounts to 13 million of the population engaged in the informal economy across the country, with 4 million in the agricultural sector in the northern and central regions. Women and young people engaged in trade are mostly concentrated in the south of the country.
How do extreme weather events affect the lives of informal workers and what are the consequences for society?
The climate crisis affects informal workers a lot. When we have extreme weather events like cyclones Idai and Kenneth, we lose everything. And there are no measures that are put in place to mitigate the consequences of this loss, it is every man for himself.
The heat is also one of the worst consequences of the climate crisis for informal workers, as it damages not only our willingness to work for hours on end, but also the quality of the produce that is sold, especially perishable food products such as fruits and vegetables. In this case, not only the workers suffer, but also the population that needs these products as sustenance. A less obvious but related consequence is the impact on the lives of women, who are most severely affected by the climate crisis. After getting married, many men migrate to South Africa looking for better jobs, and the women stay and need to provide for their children. Because they are usually responsible for feeding their families, they find themselves in vulnerable situations throughout the working day: leaving the house early in the morning and late at night in non-secure streets, standing outside all day under the sun, many times with their children.
What effective solutions can be adopted to combat the climate crisis?
Without education, there is no climate solution. It is essential to introduce this subject in schools and promote collective discussions and reflections about it, so people can start integrating the challenges that we are facing as well as the actions that would be necessary to adopt.
Another essential point is the presence of representatives of the informal economy at conferences and in environments where decisions about our future are made, like debates of elaboration or revision of some municipal laws and postures. Our association, for example, has applied to participate in the sixth municipal elections and is running in four municipal cities – Maputo, Matola, Marracuene and Beira. Being able to influence decision-makers and express our vision and the consequences we have faced with the climate crisis is a fundamental step for relevant changes to be made so that the livelihoods and quality of life of workers are protected.
In case you missed it
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High fashion has a high carbon problem – unboxing luxury’s dirty little secret.
The challenges faced by disadvantaged populations will get worse as the climate crisis worsens – for communities affected by climate change, the right to remain and the right to move are in doubt.
A Climate Clock in Kenya shows how much time is left before continued CO2 emissions push global temperatures to the extreme and beyond survivable limits.
On Mandela’s birthday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation reflects – What kind of action in the face of the worsening climate problem would Mandela have backed?
Can the representation of nature in art bring us closer to the reality of the environment and make us more sympathetic to its plight? Swasti Pachauri discusses it here.
Burning temperatures, raging fires, wild storms and torrential rain – check out some photos of July’s extreme weather.
With the environment crisis come economic difficulties and changing preferences – the Lambani women of Karnataka confront this reality as their generations-old art may be lost.
Achieving 30×30 – if biodiversity loss is to be stopped and reversed by 2030, we must assist local communities and Indigenous Peoples in fortifying and safeguarding their cultures and territories.
Recent research shows that climate change data could be simpler to understand if presented with art.
What we’re listening to
Writers, editors, and photographers all throughout the US South are rethinking how communities keep informed as the media environment changes and more news sources disappear. Listen to some writers and creators devoted to putting environmental knowledge in the hands of the public.
Conversations with activists, environmental organisations, Indigenous groups, artists, writers and others who have devoted their lives to making a difference.
What we’re attending
When? Wed, 23 August 2023, 16:30 – 19:30 CEST
An introductory session on the principles and practices of reproductive justice, through a radical intersectional lens.
When? Wed, 30 August 2023, 18:00 – 19:00 CEST
Talk about environmental destruction and racism, how those differ across regions, and the role of art in shaping a more equitable future.
What we’re reading
California is an agricultural powerhouse, producing over a third of the country’s vegetables and three-quarters of its fruits and nuts. This Modern Farmer feature series digs into how climate is impacting California’s producers through the lens of five of the state’s most iconic food products: dairy, citrus, salmon, wine grapes and almonds.
In this book, Lipsky masterfully traces the evolution of climate denial, exposing how it grew out of early efforts to build a network of untruth about products like aspirin and cigarettes.
These compelling poems by novelist and essayist Alain Mabanckou conjure nostalgia for an African childhood where the fauna, flora, sounds and smells evoke snapshots of a life forever gone.