OXFAMExchange, Spring 2012

When we listen, solutions follow

For many people on our planet, increasingly unpredictable weather is leading to life threatening problems. In West Africa, 18.4 million people are now at risk of a serious food crisis created in part by erratic weather. In East Africa, drought—in some places the worst in 60 years—helped trigger a crisis in the middle of last year that affected more than 13 million people. Together, that’s over 31 million people on one continent alone confronted with profound struggles, and that’s just in the past 12 months.

Such evidence of a global climate crisis can send development experts into a tailspin, as they search for answers. But solutions may not be as hard to find as we imagine.

We can start by listening.

Listening to local people and learning from the deep knowledge they have about their communities, natural resources, and history lies at the heart of smart development. It’s the first step in empowering people to make the systemic changes that will allow them to build their resilience and ensure a better future for themselves and their families.

For Maribel Cachique and a group of other young mothers working in the Peruvian Amazon (see page 8), a garden of ancestral crops thriving deep in the forest may hold one of the answers to their battle with climate change. Their garden and others like it grew out of conversations fellow Kichwa women had about their need for food security. Hearing their concerns, Oxfam helped launch the pilot project. And now, Cachique’s determination and advice to the other growers offers inspiration to us all: Bit by bit, she says, the Kichwa women are going to move forward.

Sometimes charting a new path is not about leading. Our job here at Oxfam, and yours, is to heed the advice of leaders like Cachique—and to follow.

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