From India’s villages to Morocco’s talks


Source: Peter Caton / Tearfund

Ramesh Babu reflects on last week’s global climate talks. Ramesh is Programmes Director for EFICOR, a partner of Tearfund and an Indian development and humanitarian organisation working with five million people across the country.

All the way from India to Morocco for global climate talks, I think about my childhood growing up in a rural village and my work now with communities mostly dependent on agriculture to survive. I think of every farmer’s reliance on the seasons and climate and the tragedy of another bad year. When the crops dry up, it means more than poverty – homes are locked up and families forced to leave in search of work. Farmers are ending their lives in shocking numbers because they see no way to support their families and clear debts.

My hope for global action on climate change is that the action plans do not forget the farmers I grew up with and am now working with. I dream that they will actually end mass migration and trafficking and allow people to live at home in their thriving villages, to enjoy healthy diets and prevent the most devastating effects of climate change. But as I return home after two weeks of talks in Marrakech, very little progress has been made.

Clean energy and adaptation to the changing climate is expensive and rich countries don’t want to take responsibility for providing their share of the $100 billion needed each year after 2020. There is a huge funding gap and at the end of two weeks of discussions and negotiations, the prospect of new technologies in the Himalayas and Bundelkhand look remote.

In Marrakech, nearly 200 countries have gathered together to reaffirm their commitments, and so far 111 countries, including the UK, have taken the important step to ratify the Paris agreement.  These countries, including China, say that the political momentum is unstoppable.

But there has been no agreement on compensating the victims of climate change for the loss and damage to their homes and incomes. It’s a glaring omission and will mean that many of the development gains made by India over recent decades, with investment from international donors, could be wiped out.

India is battered by multiple disasters every year, with thousands of services, roads and homes damaged on an annual basis. People are forced from their homes with little support and no compensation for the loss and damage they have endured. Human trafficking increases during these times.

People are struggling to earn an income after their farm or business has been decimated by floods, drought or landslides. The Bundelkhand region was affected by a severe drought earlier this year, so bad that water had to transported by train and water bodies were guarded by security forces in case of conflict or theft.

But adaptation work can help transform communities. In Damoh district, for example, we provided a wage for local people to dig the an irrigation system of interlinking ponds, sharing water between farms and reducing waste true in their village. A shocking 80% of the village had migrated to other cities due to decades of drought but they came home to take part in the initiative.  Now after a good monsoon, they are able to cultivate rice for the first time in 13 years.

India is the world’s fourth worst offender for carbon emissions but we are also the world’s second most populous country. As the country develops at a rapid rate, we urgently need to find clean solutions for energy. Thirty per cent of the population does not yet have access to electricity, which stalls development, but also offers us a chance to roll out alternative solutions to fossil fuels. Most living in rural areas are forced to burn kerosene to provide light – bad for health and a source of greenhouse gas.

In Marrakech, I met pioneering companies and enterprises all eager to put their new designs and technologies to good use but there is no money to buy them and unless governments do much more to put their promises into action, these new opportunities could remain untapped.

It’s a long way to the suffering communities in India from the conference centre but India’s country plan and the global action plan must put the poorest communities at centre of this strategy. Without them, or local authorities and groups, all this talk is meaningless and will fail to solve the daily problems people face.

I leave Morocco inspired by what is possible but frustrated that more was not achieved. The agenda for the next climate talks in Bonn, Germany  in 2017 is urgent and growing. We need to agree clear targets to reduce emissions, and a way to monitor them. We need to scale up our ambitions further and match them with funding for the poorest, like rural communities in India, to adapt.


  1. Thank you for your inspiring blog. In relation to the tragedy of farmer suicides due to debt, I think it’s worth pointing out that these are often driven by the need/pressure to purchase expensive and energy-intensive inputs, that have mixed effects on yield (particularly during years with extreme weather).

    Focusing on agricultural systems that are biodiversity-based and community-controlled, via the science of agroecology and the principles of food sovereignty, enables farmers to break free from the input-debt spiral. And better still, farming sytems based on agrobiodiversity, natural inputs and soil fertility can sequester significant amounts of carbon, amongst a well-researched range of additional benefits.

    Keep up the good work!

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