Beahrs ELP Blog

The Otter Watch Project

by M. Gopakumar (ELP 2001)

The foundation that I manage, The Nityata Foundation, works on landscapes and species that most foundations do not work on simply because there is no funding. Our flagship project in the last year has been The Otter Watch Initiative – a most challenging project if there ever was one.

Why otters? Because we are captivated by them! They are enigmatic, playful, and sociable and not much is known about them here in India. Otters, along with crocodiles, are the head of the riverine food chain – the tigers and leopards of the river, so to speak – and we hope that our effort to conserve them along the Cauvery River in Karnataka (South India) will end up enriching the river itself.

Otters are, like many animals, threatened by poaching, their skin being clandestinely exported to handbag manufacturers. A greater threat though is the conflict with fishermen, who see otters stealing their yearly-decreasing catch, and do not hesitate to kill them when they get caught in the nets themselves.

My small team of wildlife biologist + sociologist + economist (that’s me) and support staff are now working on economic tools that could help conserve the otter such as market mechanisms that will provide possible livelihoods to local stakeholders. Low-impact – emphasis on truly low-impact, possible solutions include: eco-tourism and appointing river wardens. The journey thus far has been fascinating – it began as a wildlife project and we now realise that saving the otter has little to do with the animal itself and far more to do with working on sustainable solutions that will conserve fish populations.

If we succeed in making some impact in this three year project, its replicability is exciting – all rivers in India are over exploited and many have otters. It could also add to the increasing body of work that supports market-based tools for conservation, valuing eco-system services and protection.

For further information about this project, email

Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management a Panacea to Flood Disaster in Africa

By Grace Adebo (ELP 2012)

Flooding in Africa in 2012 was unprecedented. According to UNOCHA (2012), over 1.5 million people were affected by floods in 13 countries from West and Central Africa with an estimated death record of 340 people. Niger, Chad, Senegal and Nigeria accounted for over 90 percent of the identified affected people struck by torrential rain. In Nigeria, virtually all parts of the country witnessed a flood disaster with 19 out of the 36 states being affected. According to NEMA, an estimated total of 173 Nigerians lost their lives and 134,381 persons were affected by the floods. Several farmlands were destroyed with thousands of grain reserve lost in the process. Over 500 communities in Niger State were affected and over 47 people were killed. Over 1,000 farm families were displaced while farm products worth billions of naira were also lost as a result. Areas that had never imagined would be flooded also recorded destructive incidents. Four Local Government Areas in Anambra State were virtually submerged by floods. Higher institutions in these areas were not left out as most were closed down after some of their students lost their books and household items while some campuses were used as refugee camps. Accessibility to some communities was made possible only by canoe/boat as most of the roads were completely submerged and had turned to deep streams. Many of the old, sick and injured were trapped in various affected communities, as they could not get to the refugee camps. Spaces in most camps were inadequate because of unhygienic and inappropriate conditions. It was also reported that snakes, crocodiles, and even hippopotamuses were carried along by the floods and scared most people from returning to their homes from the refugee camps, as they were unsure of what they would return to.

What are the major causes of flooding?

Monsoons, which sweep across West Africa between June and October, and Climate Change were the major causes of these floods. Torrential rains affected rivers and oceans within the region and caused ocean surges and rivers to flow beyond their banks. These natural disasters were also compounded by human activities and bad governance manifested in the form of environmental degradation; urbanization and poverty; blockage of water ways; migration of people to flood prone areas as a result of immense human pressure on flood plains; lack of physical and financial resources to cope with flood disasters; inexistence/improper implementation of flood mitigation plans in flood prone areas; neglect of rural areas from flood mitigation policies; weak social security and monitoring systems; and use of top up approach in policy formulation and implementations.

Suggested solutions

Thus far, the efforts made in some countries to solve flood challenges have not yielded any appreciable results because they have not been sustainable. Sustainability refers to the capacity to endure through renewal, maintenance and sustenance or nourishment, in contrast to durability, the capacity to endure through unchanging resistance to change.

On the global scale, principles of sustainability and environmental management involve management of oceans, fresh water systems, land and atmosphere. Alterations in proportions of land usage for agriculture, forest, grassland, pasture and urbanization could also affect global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles for urbanization. There is therefore a need for urgent environmental resource management with the goal to maintain and improve the state of an environment’s resources affected by human activities.

The high level of destruction of life and properties as a result of flooding could be abated if the following measures are taken into consideration:

  • Creation of awareness and public enlightenment on Climate Change, flooding, its causes, associated problems and subsequent effects.
  • Evolve practices for efficient resource usage and effective waste management practices.
  • Formulation and implementation of sustainable environmental resource management policies and practices.
  • Development of flood prevention, mitigation and response strategies specific to each State and Local Government Area.
  • Adoption of flood mitigation programmes into a national development framework.
  • Development of community based disaster management with active participation from communities and stakeholders.
  • Capacity building of citizenry in relation to flood management strategies.
  • Enact and implement laws on water ways management that stress punishment for defaulters.
  • Climate change issues to be treated as a top priority.

Sustainable environmental management is germane to livelihoods all over the world and African nations need to rise up to this challenge.

Climate Change and Water Resources in the Mediterranean Region: New Challenges for Agriculture

by Noureddin Driouech (ELP 2012) and Nicola Lamaddalena (CIHEAM-Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari – Italy)

The world’s water supply is being strained by climate change and the growing food, energy and sanitary needs of a fast-growing population. A recent United Nations study called for a radical reassessment of policies to manage competing claims. The Sixth Water Forum and the Rio +20 summit reaffirmed that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and highlighted water among the seven areas and critical issues that need to be prioritized.

Most Mediterranean countries, particularly the arid and semi-arid ones, are chronically water-stressed. Population growth, urbanization, development progress as well as climate change impacts will all continue to exacerbate that stress and result in enormous pressure on available water resources. It is also well recognized that a water crisis is, in many ways, a crisis of governance as it is a failure of institutions to manage water resources for the well-being of humans and ecosystems (Hamdy, 2012). In the Mediterranean basin, the effects of climate change on water resources are related both to an increase in evaporation volumes and a change in the water soil content. Reduced water flow in the Mediterranean region is a consequence of smaller inflow from melting snow and dependence on the rainfall regime.

At present, Mediterranean agricultural production covers almost 40 percent of arable land and since climate considerably affects the crop growing cycles, significant climate changes might unquestionably cause serious effects on the economic system in all those countries where agriculture is the primary sector. Although uncertainties in hydro-meteorological data do exist because of differences in data acquisition systems and difficulties in data surveying in some areas (i.e. mountain and ocean areas), it is important to make a thorough analysis of climate scenarios in the Mediterranean basin.

To understand how climate change influences crops, concerns on the increase in CO2 are inevitable. Climatic conditions determine the evaporative demand whereas the response to it depends on crop cover and the water status of the soil. Nevertheless, with future rainfall patterns being uncertain, the calculation of the future crop water requirements is uncertain as well. Also, the effects of climate change on coastal areas of the Mediterranean have to be carefully considered. The problem of coastal erosion caused by natural conditions and human activities has to be tackled. The sea level rise, for instance, will cause a six percent loss of land in Italy and the disappearance of half of present wetlands in Europe. Increased urbanization and deforestation make the coastal situation even worse. This is a critical matter for about 50-80 percent of European inhabitants of the Mediterranean that permanently live along the strip of 60 km from the coast.

A solution to the problem can be found through innovative integrated water resource management based on demand management and implemented through technical and non-technical interventions. There are many aspects to this approach including:

  • Users’ participation in management activities;
  • Monitoring of water bodies and better control;
  • Use of high efficiency irrigation methods;
  • Optimization of water consumption in view of optimizing water use productivity;
  • Use of adequately monitored unconventional waters; and
  • Adaptation of capacity building and implementation capacities of agricultural policies.

It is to be hoped that climate change and water issues will not be affected by the present economic-financial crisis with the result of countries withdrawing into nationalistic attitudes as this will result in a failure. Rather, it is important that all countries, including Mediterranean countries, open up, integrate and create increasing synergies based on common rules and objectives shared by all the countries to adequately address climate change and water issues.

For more information regarding climate change and water resources in the Mediterranean region contact CIHEAM-IAMB referent Nicola Lamaddalena at

Growing Food at Home – Adapting to Climate Change

by Kofo Adeleke (ELP 2006)

A low income urban community in Lagos, Nigeria has started to embrace urban horticulture by growing their own vegetables in pots and buckets. This is one of the activities which has stemmed from the Community Conservation and Development Initiatives (CCDI) ‘Mobilising Local Governments for Climate Action’ project, organised in collaboration with Heinrich Böll Stiftung. The main objective is to create awareness, build capacity and develop common participatory positions on climate change within local governments and their communities. Climate change will affect a number of economic sectors, including agriculture, and encouragement of horticultural activities in urban areas can be a strategy for future food security.

Fourteen households have for the past six months been involved in this climate change awareness and adaptation activity that encourages and highlights the opportunities in growing vegetables in homes where space is extremely limited. Both female and male participants, of different age ranges, planted pepper and okra in pots and buckets. Funds were made available for the purchase of seeds, topsoil and gardening pots and the activity was supported by the community head and local roadside horticulturalists whom were on hand to teach the participants how to plant the vegetable seeds in the pots.

An initial visual presentation was made for the participants who volunteered to show them how other communities around the world are able to grow vegetables and herbs in different types of urban environments where space is limited. CCDI has made a number of inspection visits to monitor the project and provide guidance to the participants and as momentum has grown, more volunteers have joined and started to add their own broken buckets for planting use.

For some of the children, it was the very first time they had seen okra and pepper plants.  A few of the vegetables in the pots were damaged and the main culprits were roaming chickens and inquisitive children; advice was then given on how to avoid this problem. The overall response has been very heartening and with further support and encouragement, the project has the potential to be scaled up considerably.

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