Climate Cinema: The Sequel

Water was the theme of yesterday’s Climate Cinema  event where the Environment and Climate Division (ECD), in collaboration with the Think Forward Film Festival, screened three powerful films that highlighted the 800 million people worldwide who lack access to fresh water.  

In his opening remarks, Dr. Yarolsav Mysiak touched on the increasing incidence of natural disasters as a result of climate change, with a cumulative economic impact of about USD 300 billion each year. According to Mysiak, these phenomena are undoing years’ worth of development work, thus new investments by governments and international funds should strive to conduct robust risk analyses to avoid damages to economic infrastructure and productive systems.

The first film, God is Water, documented the daily struggles of the 500,000 rural Kenyans who rely on Lake Turkana, the world's largest desert lake, for the fresh water essential to their livelihoods. Over the past 30 years, higher temperatures and changing weather patterns have contributed to the lake’s reduced water volume. But now, a new hydropower plant being built upstream in neighbouring Ethiopia is exacerbating the situation for local farmers, pastoralists and fishers who live by the lake. Those who appeared in the film predicted widespread conflict between ethnic groups when the Gibe III dam is finished construction.

The second film, Water Changes, focused on a German-Namibian research project, CuveWaters, that provided a water harvesting and drip irrigation system to a community in rural Namibia. The arid environment traditionally limits small farmers to one planting season, however introducing a relatively simple and low-cost technology meant that farmers could suddenly grow crops year round for increased income generation. The film dealt with what Mysiak described as the water-energy nexus, that is, the logistical question of providing fresh water to communities where electricity is not readily available. The project resolved this issue by an ingenuous bicycle-powered pump, which directed water from a large reservoir through a network of tubes to the farmers’ vegetable fields.

The third film on the bill, One in a Million, was an emotionally gripping journey of one man, Duncan Goose, to locate a girl he had seen in a photograph queuing by a fresh water pump. The photograph inspired Goose to found the One Foundation, and donate all of the profits to water projects in Africa. Goose’s journey spanned more than a decade and took him through the expansive slums of Kibera, in Kenya, where sanitation is a major issue leading to cholera outbreaks and other diseases.

To wrap up the quadruple feature, Recipes for Change: Vietnam, an IFAD production illustrated the issue of salinity intrusion, which affects small farmers and aqua culturists in the Mekong Delta. As sea level rise leads to more saline water travelling up the Mekong river and its tributaries, this vast crop-producing region is grappling with losses of economically important rice crops as well as fresh water shrimp, prawns and other aqua culture products. In response to this challenge, IFAD launched the Adaptation in the Mekong Delta (AMD) project in 2014, which helps finance salinity monitoring systems and support for income diversification.

The films each approached the subject of water and its inextricable link to human development in different and interesting ways, and after the lunchtime session the audience was certainly left with a lot to think about. The next climate cinema event will be held on April 20th in the Executive Dining room, where the theme will be on adaptation in agriculture.