Cape Verdeans dream of greater environmental balance in ‘World Wide Views’

Written by Journalist Antonio Tavares bota@cvtelecom.cvTranslated by Melisa da Graça melisa.l.alves@gmail.com

The archipelago of Cape Verde replied without hesitation to the challenge of the ‘World Wide Views Alliance’. 111 Cape Verdeans joined other 9,900 citizens of the World to make their voices heard to global politicians on energy and climate. The persistent drought – derived from an arid climate – and the specter of hunger, which once devastated the population of Cape Verde, set the tone for island residents to align in the debate – just over 500,000 souls live in 9 of the 10 islands that form the archipelago. The first event of its kind on Cape Verde, local organizers wondered what would be the response of a population that has up until now never been consulted about the affairs of climate:

“Will we be able to fill the room?” Or, “Would it not be better to invite more experts?” – were the uncertainties pointed out at the preparatory meetings where the event organizers laid out the strategy to approach and motivate the population.

There was nothing to do. The instructions were strict. The consultation was aimed at simple ordinary citizens who coexist daily with energy and climate problems but who are not ordinarily engaged with the issues as scientists and policymakers see them. To the surprise of the organizers, more people signed up to participate than the event could hold.

CV1The fear of being left unanswered became the selection process distress, despite the organizers were empowered with the game rules to solve contingencies, since the ‘World Wide Views Alliance’ determined that only 100 citizens of each of the 100 countries could discuss and fill the questionnaires. One hundred and eleven anonymous people appeared for a global consultation on 6 June 2015. Logistics was set up and the Cape Verdean organizer team – the Association for the Environment Protection and Development (ADAD) and the University of Cape Verde (UniCV) – got to work.

DIFFICULTIES FACED BY CAPE VERDE

 “The first difficulty was due to the assigned material. It had to be translated to Portuguese and adapted to the Cape Verdean reality. Fortunately we were in constant contact with other Portuguese-speaking countries – Portugal and Brazil – who helped us to translate the documents and did a very interesting job “- said Johanna Bruet.

Coordinator in Cape Verde, Bruet explains that another difficulty was linked to the limited resources for assuring the diverse representation of Cape Verdeans at the event. Financial constraints made it difficult to include a full diversity of participants representing the discontinuous territory across the islands. Despite these challenges, organizers arranged a transportation network to bring recruited participants to the deliberation site.

“That was a great difficulty. However, with teamwork we did, here in Santiago, find people of all the other islands who live here and gathered them to represent their islands. It was also organized a transportation system to have a participation of people from all parts of Santiago island”- the coordinator said.

“A very interesting thing is that on June 6 the relative size of the countries participating in the event is not a factor in the number of citizen votes collected in each country. In all the countries 100 citizens are involved. So, regardless of the size of the country we have 100 people to vote. So our voice, that of Cape Verde, is as good as other countries like France or the United States. We are part of the final results as much as the other countries,” emphasized Johanna Bruet.

The final statistics make clear that Cape Verde joined 111 people including 58 men and 53 women driven by 20 facilitators in the National Assembly building, which is the center of political debate in Cape Verde. Participants included youth, adults, people with disabilities from a range of professions such as civil servants, social workers, fisherman, and some unemployed. They all wanted to express their opinion, to register their idea on the target issue without interference from people that dominate the subject.

“I found the model used very interesting. The debate is strong in every table and all participants are gathered around the themes. I want very productive results to come out from this debate to help the fight emissions and to reduction gases worldwide. Here in Cape Verde we have low carbon emissions, since we do not have many factories and cars are not as many as in other countries, but even so we must join hands with one another and work together for the same purpose which is to combat this scourge which affects the whole world “- said the participant Ana Moreno.

For the success of the consultation it was necessary that the two institutions – one NGO and one university – work together to overcome possible divisions that could arise if one assumed inadvertently the organizational leadership. Some meetings were organized between the two institutions seeing how each could contribute. No significant barriers emerged relative to the position of the organizing institutions to prevent a balanced discussion and Cape Verde successfully participated in the event.

Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Verde archipelago of volcanic origin, is 500 kilometers from the African coast and is made up of 10 islands (9 of them habited) – and five major islets. With regard to the trade winds, the archipelago is divided into two groups: Sotavento (leeward), where the capital is – the city of Praia, and Barlavento (winward). Both regions suffer from the marginality of theIntertropical Convergence Zone and consequently receive irregular rainfall. If the rains are abundant and well distributed farming is assured. Their lack or shortage leads to misery, crises and hunger.

DESERTIFICATION: THE PERMANENT CHALLENGE OF CAPE VERDEANS

The Portuguese discovered these islands in two expeditions, in 1460 and 1462. Since the islands’ settlement, the population – made up of African slaves and Europeans who crossed to originate the Cape Verdean – faced an environmental challenge: desertification. It was forced to adapt to the irregularity of rain and to the abandon of colonial policy – encouraging emigration – harmful to agriculture and the distribution of income.

This fate in their environment shaped and facilitated in a certain way, the position of Cape Verdeans towards the environment, energy and climate change, now that climate change is on the agenda. One of the solutions to minimize internal problems (desertification and poverty) was emigration and the remittances provided to families left behind.

It is no coincidence that 40 years ago – at the proclamation of independence on July 5, 1975 – supporters of the young Republic doubted the viability of the emerging country, given the ”lunar” landscape of the archipelago, extreme poverty, lack of rain and financial provisions. Only Cape Verdeans believed that they could build a country in such circumstances based on an unprecedented sacrifice, stubbornness and seriousness in governance.

Cape Verdeans were born struggling to improve the environment of their harsh ‘habitat’ to build a well-being that seemed unreachable. This tenacity gives them a shield to address climate changes that are already happening. The poor and marginalized in the Cape Verdean society are the ones who suffer most with the consequences of climate change. The increased frequency and intensity of violent weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones, rising temperatures and changes in the rainy season or the average amount of annual rain have a profound impact on livelihoods and food security in the most disadvantaged populations.

ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE

 Cape Verdeans have always and will continue to experience extreme weather and challenging environmental conditions. They had to adapt to these events, first taking a national commitment to action in multiple areas of economic and social activity, and then with the international support and solidarity efforts (their longstanding traditional partners) to reach one ‘small ‘victory in its secular quest for development and overall well-being.

In short, it takes a joint effort between the people, government, and the natural surroundings to achieve environmental resilience. That means efforts to counter the imbalances resulting from industrialization, intensive agricultural development and use of chemical fertilizers, or whether it be the extreme conditions delivered by the fury of nature as drought or in the “spitting” of the volcano. This constant restlessness of Cape Verdeans about their adverse natural environment, led to this deep interest in being consulted as a part of the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy dialog.

Based on their long migratory experience, the concerns of Cape Verdeans are not confined to their insular world. They are aware of environmental problems that rage in other latitudes, not least the Sahel drought effects that they share with the other people of West Africa.

“New times require us to reflect and act under the new energy mix, making them compatible with the sustainability of the environment where we take energy, but also finding answers and solutions to do more with less. This is rooting habits and creating a culture of efficiency, of responsibility, of sharing and citizenship” – referred the Cape Verdean Minister of Environment, Housing and Territorial Planning, Antero Veiga, in the opening ceremony of the consultation. He added:

“I am convinced that it is in changing behavior, attitudes and oldest environmental practices that we can naturalize the direction of the paths to an Africa with a more energy efficient and more democratic Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and a Cape Verde with much more sustainability in terms of energy.”

THE CAPE VERDEAN DREAM

CV2Though the changes needed to achieve climate and energy stability around the world are daunting, Cape Verdean history reveals a story of hope and determination among the people. The reforestation of the archipelago in the early days of independence was made voluntarily in a general mobilization of students, leaders, public officials and private citizens, who did not haggle over efforts to cover Cape Verde with green. Campaigns against burning soil cover vegetation in the preparation of land for cultivation, cultivation even without the certainty of rain and started the construction of dams to catch rainwater, creating protected areas (Natural parks and Nature Reserves), development of family income support programs aim to decompress the action on the environment, and policies for renewable energy penetration on energy supply system are Cape Verdean dreams to reach the archipelago welfare.

RESULTS VERSUS CAPE VERDEAN REALITY

This Dream of Cape Verde turns out to be reflected in the responses in the World Wide Views citizen consultation, which embodied the concern of changing the present course to address the state of the environment worldwide. In fact, the first question of the survey, 91.89% of Cape Verdeans are very concerned about the impacts of climate change and 8.11 are concerned. A high level of concern for those who suffered in the skin for centuries difficulties due to the climate of their habitat.

For Cape Verdeans, measures to combat climate change is an opportunity to improve their quality of life, with 72.07% agreeing, while 23.42% consider that climate conditions are a threat to their quality of life.

The majority of respondents in Cape Verde (57.66%) believe that the focus of global efforts in the coming decades to the problem of climate change must center on binomial adaptation / mitigation.

18.92% think that the focus should be on adaptation and mitigation 14.41%.

The Cape Verdeans agree that the United Nations must be more incisive in the negotiations on climate change. Faced with the question whether the climate results taken out by the United Nations (UN) since 1992 they have done enough to act on climate change? The participants responded:

54.05% of Cape Verdeans responded negatively, 32.43% opted for positive response and 13.51% percent did not know or refused to answer.

Results in Cape Verde were conclusive and show that the population has great awareness when it comes to impact of climate changes and its impact on their quality and standard of living. Also they have shown their full support for measures in accordance with the directives of the government in opting for the introduction of clean energy, even in adapting their particular homes with renewable energy.

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