Last Saturday, cooperators the world over commemorated the International Cooperatives day under theme Cooperatives for Climate Action. This year’s celebrations were overshadowed by anxiety over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in many celebrations being held through online platforms.
In his message to cooperators to mark the day, the President International Cooperative Alliance – Africa, Japheth Magomere, said this year’s theme, adopted from Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 13, emphatically calls for “Climate Action”, heightening cooperatives’ shared responsibility to respond to the call of protecting the planet.
“We have all seen and witnessed what global warming has done to our mother Earth, with significant negative effects to human beings, animals and the plants. Sadly, as we move forward, the situation is becoming worse,” Magomere noted.
He said gradual heating of Earth does not just lead to destruction of habitats, but has severe consequences that will continue to impact the rising levels of pollution, the increasing number of infectious diseases and loss of wildlife as well as plants.
Magomere expressed fear that the global economic and social downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded with the effects of climate change, has exposed countries to the dire consequences of food insecurity.
In recent years, East Africa has experienced the devastating effects of climate change that, experts say, pose a threat to the region’s sustainable development. In particular, Uganda has been hit by drastic weather changes resulting in devastating floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in the Elgon area and Western districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo.
The rising water levels have also caused major lakes and rivers to burst their banks, causing mass displacement of people living on the shores, while prolonged droughts and a recent locust invasion in Northern Uganda have wrecked livelihoods.
A 2017 study by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on “The impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security” reveals that natural disasters significantly undermine agricultural production, food value chain and rural livelihoods.
The FAO study found that the global loss associated with climate-related disasters stands at an average of USD 250-300 billion per year. The study further reports that an average of 260 disasters was recorded in developing countries between 2005 – 2016, estimated to have taken 54,000 lives annually while affecting over 97 million people.
Coops to the rescue
Magomere believes that cooperatives can play a key role in combating climate change and mitigating its negative effects.
“Cooperatives are one of the most exciting and powerful vehicles through which our societies can confront such crises,” Magomere noted.
“We have long promoted inclusion and sustainable approaches to our social-economic development at all levels. This has seen cooperatives expanding their developmental efforts innovatively into areas like environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality as a way of adapting to climate change and strengthening resilience against its impacts,” he added.
Magomere reiterated the call by Dr. Ariel Guarco, the President of the global cooperatives apex body, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), asking cooperatives across the globe to contribute towards combating climate change to ensure that ‘human beings live in harmony with nature’.
“The defence of our planet goes hand in hand with our collective efforts. Cooperatives are called to lead the way to meet these immediate challenges. Tell the world that we can reverse the adverse effects of climate change if we build another economy together, based on cooperative values and principles,” Dr. Ariel Gaurco said.