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Rio+20 Unpredictable Rain - teacher's notes (by ActionAid)
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Rio+20 Unpredictable Rain - teacher's notes (by ActionAid)


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With Rio+20 (the UN conference on Sustainable Development) starting on June 20th 2012, ActionAid has put together teaching resources to help learners explore issues around sustainable …

With Rio+20 (the UN conference on Sustainable Development) starting on June 20th 2012, ActionAid has put together teaching resources to help learners explore issues around sustainable development.

These teacher's notes support the PowerPoint which considers the relationship between climate change, unpredictable rainfall patterns and global drought warnings. It includes case studies from the UK, The Gambia, Senegal and India.

Suggested for KS2 and KS3 Citizenship and Geography lessons.

Also available to download: PowerPoint.

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  • 1. Unpredictable Rain Teacher’s notesMan sat on a bench during a floodPHOTO: COBBING/GREENPEACE ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 1
  • 2. Slide 1/ Title pageUnpredictable Rain, June 2012Aims To understand that climate change is causing unpredictable rainfall patterns increasing the number ofglobal drought warnings. To compare rainfall patterns in UK, West Africa and Asia and explore the ways we cope with drought. To understand that the ways we adapt and the choices we have are linked to poverty. To help inform decisions about how we behave.Curriculum linksCitizenship KS22a. to research, discuss and debate topical issues, problems and events4b. to think about the lives of people living in other places and times, and people with different values and customsGeography KS23d. to explain why places are like they are4a. recognise and explain patterns made by individual physical and human features in the environment4b. recognise some physical and human processes and explain how these can cause changes in places andenvironments.5a. recognise how people can improve the environment or damage it, and how decisions about places andenvironments affect the future quality of peoples livesCitizenship KS32.3a. explore creative approaches to taking action on problems and issues to achieve intended purposes3e. actions that individuals, groups and organisations can take to influence decisions affecting communities andthe environmentGeography KS31.6a. understanding that the physical and human dimensions of theenvironment are interrelated and together influenceenvironmental change3h. interactions between people and their environments, including causes and consequences of these interactions,and how to plan for and manage their future impact4b. explore real and relevant contemporary contextsPHOTO: COBBING/GREENPEACESlide 2/ Rainfall in the UKHave you been affected by the heavy rain recently?We are used to ‘April showers’ but April 2012 has been the wettest since records began in 1910. TheUK has already seen 121.8 mm of rain so far, double the average amount for April, but this amount ofrainfall only makes up for the shortfall in March.However, the UK is technically in drought following below-average rainfall for 20 of the past 26 months.SOURCE: Met OfficePHOTO: COBBING/GREENPEACE ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 2
  • 3. Slide 3/ What is drought?Droughts are natural events that happen when a period of very low rainfall creates a shortage of waterfor people, the environment, agriculture, or industry. Some droughts are short and intense, for example ahot dry summer, while others are long and take some time to develop.The drought in the UK now stretches from Cornwall to Yorkshire, covering 40 counties. Thames Water,the biggest water company in the UK, is now running a campaign to use less water (see image on slide).SOURCESEnvironment Agency, a map of drought affected areas in the UK, Thames Water, 4/ Why is the UK in drought?Dry winters like the last two we had in the UK can have the biggest impact on water resources. We relyon winter rain to top up groundwater and refill reservoirs, while summer rain is needed for crops andplants and helps keep rivers flowing. Climate change is causing unpredictable rainfall patterns as lessrain falls in the winter and more rain falls in the summer.The recent rain in April has been good for farmers and gardeners. But as we move from spring tosummer, most of the rain that falls either evaporates as temperatures rise, is taken up by plants, or runsoff quickly if the soil is too dry, which causes flash floods. Unfortunately the rain won’t reach down farenough to top up groundwater, which is what is needed to make a difference to drought.The diagram above shows the rainfall and levels of water in the rivers, reservoirs and underground in thearea covered by Thames Water for March 2012: The ground across the Thames region was drier than average for the end of March. The majority of river flows remained below average for the time of year. The levels of groundwater generally remained below average for the time of year due to belowaverage rainfall and the ground being very dry.Drought around the worldOther parts of the world like the Sahel region in West Africa are also in drought because of the low levelsof rainfall in the region.In The Gambia, this has led to a shortage of water for crops and has meant that the price of food hasalso increased. Many people in The Gambia depend on the crops they grow both to feed themselves andto sell to make money (cash crops). So with over 70% crop failure in the country, this has had adevastating effect.SOURCE AND IMAGE: Thames Water, ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 3
  • 4. Slide 5/ Who is most affected by drought in The Gambia?Case study: Jewo and her family from The Gambia.Jewo and her husband, both farmers, have three sons and two daughters. Jewo is also president of theMother’s Club at Mount Carmel Lower Basic School.Jewo says "I used to have a very good harvest of rice. The whole food stuff feeds my family from 8-10months before my husband and I start to buy food. This year, it is a completely different story. I spendany little money I have on food. I am unable to buy much because it is scarce and very expensive forpoor farmers. Sometimes I go without food to allow my children to eat."Around 45% of the population in The Gambia has been affected by food shortage caused by drought.Most of the rural farming communities have had little time to recover from the last crisis in 2010 so theirsavings and livestock herds remain affected. It is the elderly, women and children who are most affectedas almost 1 million children are malnourished.PHOTO: ACTIONAIDSlide 6/ What is the climate like in The Gambia?The Gambia only has three months of rainfall on average every year so the country is more vulnerable todrought if the season is not good enough.But as the dry season approaches, it’s likely that there will be a shortage of water in the worst hit areasand the lack of crop seed for the next planting season will make the situation even worse.Farmers like Jewo grow enough crops to eat, known as subsistence farming. She and her communityhave benefitted from the seed and cereal banking scheme supported by ActionAid which helps farmerswith seed when there is drought. But today, she and her neighbours are facing a severe setback due todrought which has resulted in the food crisis.PHOTO: ACTIONAIDSlide 7/ How are people coping with the shortage of food?In the Sahel region of Senegal, many people are having to eat less because of the food crisis. Womencook lunch late in the afternoon and this is eaten early in the evening to prevent people from eatingdinner. By merging lunch and dinner families are making food supplies last longer. A new meal knownas ‘Hirambeh’ has developed which means ‘lunch in dinner’.Many farmers are having to sell their livestock and farming tools. Young people are moving to the citiesto find work so they can send money back home for their families.PHOTO: SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/ACTIONAID ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 4
  • 5. Slide 8/ How are people coping with the shortage of food?Case study: Sira Sagna and Babily, both from SenegalIn the village of Bady, in Senegal, Sira Sagna now cooks bean and spate leaves that she mixes withsemolina to feed her family to make the food go further.850,000 people, that’s 10% of the population, don’t have enough to eat. Without the security of a goodharvest, people are finding other ways of making money to buy food. For example, women and childrengather mangos, which are then sold in the nearby markets. Men like Babily make traditional bamboochairs that are sold at the side of the road to cars and lorries travelling to and from the Mali border.PHOTO: SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/ACTIONAIDSlide 9/ How are people coping with the shortage of food?Case study: Sira Diabaté from SenegalSira Diabaté is 12 years old and also lives in Bady in Senegal. Here she’s making diampe, which is atraditional washing sponge that the village women make.Once a week women and girls in Sira’s village go to the woods to collect up to 150 wooden poles, eachone measuring roughly 3 metres. They balance the wooden poles on their heads and shoulders to carrythem back. The women use metal bars to pound the fibres in the wood against tree trunks. The womenthen twist the fibres into sponge-shaped balls.The diampe sponges are sent to market in the local towns and the capital Dakar, giving Sira and hermother money to provide food for their family of 24. Each ball is sold for around 5 Senegalese francs,which is less than £1.Since Sira was five, she’s been helping her mother make diampe during the weekends and schoolholidays. She says it’s hard and tiring work.Whilst making diampe is a traditional activity in the region, villagers are now more reliant on it to providethem with money for food. This is due to a lack of seasonal rain which has wiped out their harvest.PHOTO: SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/ACTIONAIDSlide 10/ What are the solutionsThis is the Nieri Ko river, in Wassadou village in Senegal, during the dry season. Most farming land inSenegal and the Gambia is wholly dependent on rain. Less agricultural land is irrigated, meaning land iswatered through pipes or ditches. This makes people, especially farmers more vulnerable to changes inthe climate.As climate change makes rain unpredictable in the long term, irrigation schemes need to be expanded.Communities also need support to grow crops all year round to reduce their dependence on rainfall forcrops, as well as their vulnerability to climate related crisis such as droughts.These are long term solutions which require investment for new equipment.However, in the short term, people are struggling for enough to eat.PHOTO: SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/ACTIONAID ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 5
  • 6. Slide 11/ Short-term solutionsActionAid The Gambia is distributing relief supplies as part of its response to the drought and food crisisin the country. Here, farmers receive supplies in Jareng village in the Central River Region. ActionAidare providing food supplies for over 3,000 people, helping with food and water for livestock andsupporting people with seeds and farm tools.In Senegal, ActionAid aims to reach 26,000 vulnerable people and provide food, water, seeds, and repairwater structures.PHOTO: ACTIONAIDSlide 12/ Rainfall in IndiaThere are many other countries, as well as Gambia and Senegal, where life depends on rainfall patterns.In India, the whole economy can be affected by the monsoon rains. The monsoon rains, which usuallyfall from June to August, make up 80% of the rainfall in India. Indian farmers depend on the rains to growcrops such as cotton and rice.This year, pre-monsoon rains have seen crops and houses damaged in parts of south India. 1st May2012 saw the highest level of pre-monsoon rainfall in Bangalore in one day. The last time Bangalore sawsuch heavy pre-monsoon rains was in 1909.Mari, who lives in Gudalur, south India, says “This year the April showers went on and on. The first day,we were delighted. There were huge hail stones, which is fairly normal. But last week, it was not just thenormal few. We had an unprecedented hail storm. Local farmers are devastated. The flowers have allfallen off the bitter gourd vines, mangoes have been knocked down by the hail stones, fruit treesdamaged, crops lost and tea badly damaged too.”More information: Meteorological Department, TOM PIETRASIK/ACTIONAIDSlide 14/ Climate changeChanges in the climate are causing unpredictable rainfall patterns across the world. In parts of Africaand Asia, where farmers depend on rainfall to water their crops, very low or high levels of rain can have adevastating impact on their lives. It is the poorest people who are most vulnerable to changes in theclimate.In the UK, farmers also need rainfall for crops, but have more choices, such as switching to other cropvarieties or planting crops closer to reservoirs or boreholes. Farmers are also aiming to reduce theamount of water they use in their homes and on their farms.More information: PETER MURIMI/ACTIONAID ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 6
  • 7. Slide 14/ What do we use water for?Water is a precious resource. We should always use it wisely because its not as abundant as you mightthink. Water shortages don’t just affect us - they can also seriously harm our environment. Our watercomes from rivers and the ground, so every drop we use has a direct effect on the environment.What do we use water for?[Click for each image to appear - watering the garden, drinking, cooking, and washing]Most of this water is used for washing and toilet flushing, but it also includes drinking, cooking, carwashing and watering the garden. We use almost 50% more water than 25 years ago, partly because ofpower showers and household appliances.Did you know that the average person in England and Wales uses 150 litres of water a day. By 2020, thedemand for water could increase by 800 million extra litres of water a day.SOURCE: Environment AgencyPHOTOS:DAVID ROSE/ACTIONAIDLIBA TAYLOR/ACTIONAIDGARY CALTON/ACTIONAIDAUBREY WADE/ACTIONAIDSlide 15/ How can we save water?Using water, especially hot water, uses energy and increases emissions of greenhouse gases whichcontributes to climate change. During a drought its even more important to make sure that water is notwasted. There is now a hosepipe ban in many parts of the UK.Using hot water in our homes contributes around 35 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. Theaverage family uses 500 litres of water a day, that’s equal to 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.So we can try to save water by not wasting it. For example:[Click for each image]• Use a water butt to store rain water and use it to water the garden.• Don’t waste water in the shower, on average a shower uses 10 litres of water a minute.• Avoid running the tap until the water runs cold every time you want a drink. Keep a jug of water in thefridge so you always have cool drinking water.• Dont leave the tap running while you brush your teeth or wash your hands. This can waste up to sixlitres of water per minute!Can you think of other ways to save water?SOURCE: Environment AgencyPHOTOS:KRISTIAN BUSS/ACTIONAIDTHAMES WATERACTIONAIDSOUTHERN WATER ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 7
  • 8. Slide 16/ What can we do?Saving energy at schoolRemember to keep powering down and help to reduce your school’s energy use. Go to to download the toolkit.FundraisingYou can also help support ActionAid in the Gambia and Senegal by donating or fundraising - here’ssome tips on what you can do:• High school musical: hold an x-factor style talent show.• Dress up (or down) for the day at school.• Countdown: organise a spelling and maths competition at school.• Book up: run a sponsored book read in school, or a book swap or sale.• Go online! Set up a page on our fundraising website where you can collectdonations, share ideas and upload photos.More information ACTIONAIDSlide 17/ Final slideFor further information visit ActionAid schools | June 2012 | 8