Climate change is real. And The Watershed Project has joined a bilateral network of climate change institutions in the United States and Colombia. Outreach Program Manager Femke Oldham recently traveled to Colombia on a Climate Change Fellowship offered by Partners of the Americas through the U.S. Department of State.
One of 13 Fellows chosen this winter, Femke shared The Watershed Project’s strategies for engaging communities in watershed protection with numerous government and community groups. She also served as a guest lecturer at a technical training school on the island of San Andres.
During her fellowship, Femke worked at Providence Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes social and environmental sustainable development in the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve of the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. She primarily worked on a project to identify the current water management practices and the ‘culture of water’ in the context of global climate change among the owners of posadas nativas (native inns). The ‘culture of water’ is defined as the communal perspectives, attitudes, and practices regarding water use and management.
Community surveys show that many native islanders are quite successful in their water management strategies– specifically their use of rainwater harvesting. Widespread use of cisterns, both above and below ground, enable islanders to capture more than enough water to fuel their families and their business. Those people with large cisterns even have enough to share with their neighbors.
At the end of the fellowship, Femke worked with the Providence Foundation to convene a Water and Climate Forum for the owners of the native inns in order to initiate a discussion about how to transfer knowledge about rainwater harvesting from native island populations to local and national development agencies. This forum is the first step in a continuing relationship between The Watershed Project and the Providence Foundation to help communities both in the U.S. and Colombia address environmental challenges related to climate change.
Recent headlines from Colombia clearly show the need for increased understanding of climate change. Colombian President Santos declared recent heavy rains that negatively impacted the lives of more than 2.3 million people the worst natural disaster in the history of the country. Here in the United States, the population is just starting to come around to this global reality. A recent survey shows that 62% of Americans now believe that climate change is occurring, and 26% do not. The others are unsure.
We at The Watershed Project are excited to be part of the growing movement to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Through all of our programs, we aim to connect coastal communities to the vibrant and critical natural cycles around us– from the lapping tides of the Bay to belated spring showers.
Femke will be speaking about her experiences in an upcoming talk hosted by SPAWNERS on April 4th. Click here to view the event flyer.
Photo captions (from top): Colombian students at the Infotep; A unique rainwater cistern; Community leaders at the Water and Climate Forum.