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Cabo Verde Beats Back Climate Change Through South-South Cooperation

The UN agency facilitates experts from China who share their knowledge and skills with farmers in the West African nation through a collaborative process known as South-South cooperation.*

Cabo Verde consists of 10 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean, nine of which are inhabited.

Although the country’s name means “Green Cape” in Portuguese, it is not that green at this time of year. The brutal dry season just gets hotter until July, when the rainy season is supposed to begin.

Drought and pests

During this period, water becomes the most precious resource for farmers. When reserves from the last rainy season are depleted, they are forced to buy water, thus affecting their profits.

Climate change has also led to an increase in soil erosion while depleting soil fertility. Rising temperatures also have made Cabo Verde a favourable environment where new pests can thrive.

The fall armyworm has been wreaking havoc on maize crops ever since arriving in the country in 2017. Other pests include fruit flies, which mainly attack mango harvests, and tomato maggots, named after their favourite target.

Seeking assistance

Through FAO, Cabo Verde requested assistance in fighting these challenges, something which China could offer.

South-South cooperation refers to technical partnerships among developing countries in the Global South. Projects combine the technologies and experience of visiting countries with the needs and requests of host countries, transferring knowledge and skills through partnerships.

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In this case, China passed on to Cabo Verde what it learned in its own rural areas, which are very similar to those in the interior of Santiago, the largest island in the chain.

Farmers Willy and Nena work together in Santiago on land that was affected by drought and pests. They took part in a training on soil management and pest control offered by FAO as part of a project under the FAO-China South-South cooperation (SSC) programme.

“It was a great help to me,” Willy told the UN agency recently. “It’s the first time I’ve taken part in a training programme that talks about what we really need.”

Learning and growing

Willy previously did not pay much attention to soil, viewing it as just a basic input, but Yanhua Zeng, a horticulture and soil expert sent by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs soon changed that.

Willy learned to recognise a lack of nutrients in the land and now uses goat manure and crop residues to improve the quality of the soil.

Katya Neves, Assistant FAO Representative in charge of the programme in Cabo Verde, recalled Willy mentioning that he used to buy organic fertiliser.

“Now he has learned how to do it,” she said, “and the money that he will potentially save will support another part of his farm. So, he can, with the savings, invest in other things in his own farm.”

Since receiving the training, Willy has worked with other farmers, sharing his knowledge and what he learned from the experts, thus realising one of the objectives of the project: that the training transmitted to farmers is further disseminated by the farmers themselves.

*You can read the full FAO report here

Turning trash into treasure

Small island developing States (SIDS) like Cabo Verde face unique challenges in pursuing sustainable development, but their vibrant blue economies offer immense potential for growth and innovation. With the UN-supported SIMILI project, the nation is now turning trash into treasure in the coastal community of Salamansa.

The innovative initiative transforms discarded fishing nets into hand-crafted fabrics used to make bags and other items for sale, and any waste generated during production is minimised and recycled whenever possible.

Here’s how it works:

  • The SIMILI project leverages funding from the Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund and support from various UN agencies thanks to collaborative efforts mobilised by UN Resident Coordinator Patricia Portela de Souza
  • The goal is to create a closed-loop system where waste becomes a valuable resource, the environment is protected and the community benefits from new skills and economic opportunities
  • This groundbreaking, multisector approach addresses such critical areas for achieving the SDGs as the interlinked challenges of food systems and climate change, and involves multiple UN agencies
  • FAO and UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO): Provide technical expertise and guidance to young entrepreneurs and are jointly developing an integrated strategy to further strengthen local associations and individual entrepreneurs
  • UN Development Programme (UNDP): Launched the Blue Bonds initiative to establish a sustainable micro-credit mechanism for local micro-businesses, fostering financial inclusion and growth
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM): Bolstering the Cape Verdean diaspora national programme, including the innovative Diaspora Investor Space, to connect diaspora investors with local entrepreneurs and mobilise crucial funding

Learn more about the UN’s efforts in Cabo Verde here.

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