Advancing Sustainability during the Pandemic

In 2020, Global Communities and PCI, a Global Communities Partner, came together with a shared commitment to stand with communities currently facing the dramatic effects of a changing climate.

Climate change affects multiple dimensions of food security — food availability, food accessibility and food systems stability. The disruptions resulting from cyclical droughts and floods directly impact food production, changes in purchasing power, market flows and community health. Smallholder farmers and pastoralists in developing countries are especially vulnerable as their production systems often lack the resources to manage an effective response to climate threats. These agriculture-based livelihood systems, which are already vulnerable to food insecurity, face immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pest infestation and limited availability of seeds and planting materials adapted for new climate conditions.

PCI works to weave climate-smart and nutritionally targeted agriculture practices into projects that are designed to strengthen the resilience of rural farmers and help them cope with the threat of food insecurity, nutritional deficiencies and reductions in income.

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In 2020, with funding from Rick Steves' Europe Climate Smart Commitment, PCI supported the planting of 14,000 trees in the dry western highlands of Guatemala, covering a combined area of roughly 25 acres. Photo by Gesler Castillo/PCI Guatemala

The Feed the Future Ethiopia Resilience in Pastoral Areas project reaches pastoralist families and communities to promote viability and resiliency through market development and improved natural resource management. PCI, in collaboration with implementing partners GOAL and iDE, is addressing many of the root causes of vulnerability for pastoral families, working to build community resiliency to withstand and recover from climate and conflict-related shocks in some of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable pastoral regions.

Global Communities is working to address these same challenges in Zambia as part of a public-private partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Corteva Agriscience and John Deere. The Zambia Emerging Farmers Partnership works to support farmers and communities as they contribute to a resilient global food system. The project will support the planting of more than 50,000 hectares of crops using climate-adaptive seeds and other sustainable technologies.

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In the Dry Corridor of Honduras, an area particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, Global Communities implemented the Watershed Management and Conservation component of the Dry Corridor Alliance Program (ACS-USAID) in the departments of La Paz, Intibucá and Lempira. With funding from USAID and the Government of Honduras, under ACS-USAID, Global Communities worked with national government agencies, local and regional governments, communities and water organizations to reduce land degradation rates and reforest watersheds, providing sustainable access to water for consumption and irrigation that is vital to survival. As a result of this collaborative work, 106,000 hectares of land are now under improved management practices with local support; 310 local water management organizations have been strengthened; 40,000 families are benefiting from better water infrastructure; and 75 local forest protection groups have been trained and equipped for long-term forest conservation. In addition, 10 water quality laboratories and 45 hydroclimatic stations support evidence-based decision-making on water system administration, watershed management and governance.

Through these global programs, Global Communities and PCI continue to stand with front-line communities most affected by climate change. Based on lessons learned from this work, both organizations are active contributors to the effort to take climate action in the U.S., around the world and as an international development sector.

Among the first actions of the newly merged organization was to sign on to InterAction’s Climate Compact, which is a pledge by more than 80 NGOs “to urgently work to address climate change and recognition that the environment is central to achieving our missions to serve the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

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Photo by Global Communities Honduras

According to the terms of the Compact, by the end of 2022, Global Communities and PCI will endeavor to address climate change in four areas:

  • Education and Advocacy, by improving understanding of climate change, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity among our constituents, donors, vendors, corporate partners and staff, as well as working strategically to make adaptation to and mitigation of climate change priorities within relevant areas of influence locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Programs, by strengthening technical expertise to manage climate-aware, environmentally sustainable programs and by mainstreaming climate and environmental considerations into all stages of programs.
  • Internal Operations, by assessing categories and sources of greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and waste across locations worldwide, and taking action to reduce emissions and waste.
  • Learning, by understanding and finding consensus around new approaches, tools and processes in international development and humanitarian work to address climate change and environmental degradation.
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With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability action plans at U.S.-based offices and around the world underwent a major overhaul. Remote work and travel suspensions changed the tone and tenor of carbon consumption by global staff and opened the door to future digital-first operations.

Still, the combined organization connected virtually around the topic of climate change. On Earth Day, staff tuned in to an online presentation from Montgomery County, Maryland officials to learn about how Global Communities’ U.S. headquarters is a national leader in tackling the challenges of climate change.

Members of Global Communities’ Climate Smart Task Force collaborated with colleagues from the World Resources Institute and Americares to deliver an online training to the NGO community on Organizational Sustainability. Training topics included how to marshal support for organizational change, initiatives that organizations can implement to make their operations more sustainable and resources available to bolster a program of workplace sustainability.

As a unified organization, Global Communities seeks to place climate response at the center of its integrated sustainable development and humanitarian response programs, standing with communities most directly affected by climate change to support resilience, economic opportunity and food security for years to come.

Fast Facts

In 2020, with support from Rick Steves' Europe Climate Smart Commitment, PCI implemented a Climate Smart Communities program with rural families in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. A baseline study showed that to meet basic energy needs, local families use an average of 28 trees a year, deforesting over 250 meters of nearby forest. Clean, fuel-efficient cookstoves supplied through the program will cut this figure in half, conserve about 3,500 trees per year and save about 64 acres of forest over the average life of the stoves.

Story by Jackie Frank

Lead photo by Gesler Castillo/PCI Guatemala