UN helps rural women cope with climate change


File photo by Jeff K Mayers

Sargassum seaweed presents challenges for entrepreneurs in the fishing industry. Over the past five years, climate change has brought an influx of algae to the area.

During a webinar hosted by the UN Trinidad and Tobago on March 9, fisherwoman and former president of the Association of Women in Fisheries Bernadette Fonrose of Guayaguayare said that sargassum had severely affected her business.

Fonrose explained, “Usually at this time of year I have two freezers full of bonito. However, this year what’s in my freezer can only be described as an awful sight.”

She said that in the past year alone, 14 fishermen lost their nets due to the amount of sargassum in Guayaguayare’s main fishing grounds.

“Instead of catching fish, we catch sargassum.”

Ninety percent of her income was lost, she said, leaving her unable to pay her bills.

Due to the declining catch, she said, “Scarcity and fierce competition are forcing me to raise my prices.

“There are more seaweed days than fishing days.”

Fonrose said it also had to raise the price of smoked bonito last year, which led to complaints from its customers. This only allowed him to increase the price by 20% in some cases.

Although she tries to absorb the higher costs and keep raw material costs to a minimum, she hopes that more foreigners will be able to afford the price she wants to charge, because “there is no nothing in place agriculturally for the fishing community”.

Deputy Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sharifa Ali-Abdulah, said climate change is particularly affecting the Caribbean, as warmer temperatures lead to rising sea levels. , she said funding was available for the region from the Japanese government.

“Half of the inhabitants of the Caribbean live along the coasts,” she pointed out. “Climate change is also impacting land, through forest fires.”

She said UNDP had accessed funds to help countries address climate challenges by partnering with organizations like the European Union.

Regarding meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, Ali-Abdulah said, “There are markers that UNDP uses as performance indicators.”

Ali-Abdulah also said, “UNDP is delighted to establish the first plastic recycling center for women in Manzanilla,” and mentioned the female beekeepers of Brasso Seco as a similar group of rural women in need of insurance. agricultural.

UN Women Multicultural Office (MCO) Caribbean Representative Tonni Brodber said Caricom and UWI are conducting research on Sargassum disposal and reuse.

Regarding the losses caused by climate change, Brodber added: “The UN is working with governments to determine how we ensure understanding of the risks. Many women are unable to access or afford insurance to replace netting and other agricultural needs for their crops. . Often women are in service positions that cannot support casualty insurance.”

Mariam Aertker, head of the TT office at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said: “Climate change amplifies many challenges. UNHCR sees the gaps and tries to fill them.

UNHCR also works with a range of agencies to create funding, programs and support.

Aertker pointed to the waste of resources that refugees and migrants bring with them.

“Refugees and migrants bring resources that should be incorporated for resilience. They should be included in leadership and economic empowerment programs.”

Sasha Jattansingh, national and financial adviser in Antigua and Barbuda with the Commonwealth Secretariat, said it was important to integrate gender equality into climate action.

Jattansingh explained, “Finance is always the elephant in the room. Men and women can equally benefit from mitigation and adaptation funds. We cannot exclude aspects of a woman’s life while developing sound policies”.

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