Resilience from people on the edge of global change

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Communities that strongly depend on natural resources, such as Madagascar's fishermen and Mongolia’s nomads, are vulnerable to climate and environmental changes. They are also among emerging cases of resilience from people on the edge of what’s livable as global change advances.

This image gallery shows two examples of resilient communities looking for solutions to these changes. Depsite their differences, the Uvurkhangai in the Gobi desert and the Velondriake in Southern Madagascar share similar challenges and vision.

Mongolia is facing a rapid increase in average temperatures, expected to exceed 2 degrees Celsius in the next 70 years. The frequency of extreme events — such as heavy summer rains or colder winters, known as dzuds — is growing. In the dzud events of 1999–2002 and 2009–10, the country lost 30 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, of the national herd of cattle, sheep, goats, camels and horses— livestock that serve as important sources of meat, wool and milk.

“After the disastrous winters of [the] early 2000s many herders formed communities for the management of pastures,” says Tunga Ulambayar, ecologist and director of Saruul Khuduu  Environmental a Research, Training and Consulting, an NGO based in Ulaanbatar. “It is an attempt to adapt to [the] occurring environmental changes. It allows them to better manage their pastures, pool labour, and slow down land degradation,” she explains.

In a 2015 study published in the journal World Development, Ulambayar found that these structured communities were crucial in reducing the herders’ vulnerability to dzuds.

Across the equator, Madagascar is facing similar challenges. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with over 75 per cent of all households living under the poverty threshold. Small-scale fisheries, an important source of income and subsistence, are over-exploited. This has led the government to set up a system of  marine reserves in the hope of safeguarding marine biodiversity and ensuring the seas remain productive.

Since the late 2000s, community-based farming of sea cucumber and seaweed has increased as result of research and development projects involving fishermen, private companies, NGOs and public institutions. "Thanks to our studies and fishers training, communities understood that they needed to look for alternatives to fishing", says Gildas Todinanahary, from the Institute of Fisheries and Marine Science at the University of Toliara. “We are now trying to introduce corals and sea horses cultivation.”

The Shared Horizons project has received funding support from the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme operated by the European Journalism Center.