Combining Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches in Indus Ecoregion for Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods

Disaster preparedness is vital in dealing with the impacts of climate change on ecosystems like freshwater bodies and communities dependent on them. Freshwater lakes, such as the Keenjhar Lake in the Sindh province of Pakistan, provide fish, which is a major source of food and income for local communities. The impacts of climate change on freshwater ecosystem include increased frequency of floods, storms and changes in water temperature. These impacts have reduced the supply of fish in the water bodies and destroyed productive assets, thereby having detrimental impacts on the livelihoods of local fishermen.

The story of households engaged in livestock breeding is no different. Increased frequency of droughts and water-stressed conditions in the region has affected livestock productivity in areas like Thar and Chotiari. Natural disasters are responsible for increasing the incidence of vector borne diseases in animals and have resulted in loss of adapted animal genetic resources.

In order to mitigate these impacts, WWF-Pakistan, through generous support provided by CDKN and START, is carrying out a project titled, “Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Adaptation (CCA) in the Indus Ecoregion”.

The project is working towards closing the policy gaps relating DRR and CCA through supplying scientific evidence to planners and policy makers on productivity losses associated with disasters and climate change impacts in the livestock and fisheries sectors. The findings have also been used to inform key government departments and line agencies about priority actions that are needed to mitigate economic losses in these sectors and how to make them more resilient.

Bottom-up measures in the project include training target communities in aquaculture techniques and incorporating their recommendations in a proposed provincial level disaster risk management plan for both sectors. The trainings have enabled community members to make necessary adjustments in their livelihoods to deal with climate change impacts. Fishermen, who implemented the aquaculture methods, had not only become self-sufficient, but were also able to earn profits by selling augmented fish stock. Techniques such as cage farming and pen ponds taught in the workshops have helped ensure a consistent supply of fish, and also, engaged the female members of the community.

In comparison, those who had not adapted were more vulnerable to changes in the climate and politics of the area. At the policy level, we find that gaps in disaster risk reduction planning and management exist. Absence of concrete plans and policies allows local politics to take precedence, which makes the local communities more vulnerable.

Here is a short video showcasing how the project is reaching out to communities and planners in the Indus Ecoregion to help them sustain livelihoods in face of increasing natural disasters and climate impacts: