Green Mercy Corps?

Green quest in war-torn nation

Jim Jarvie, 47, Mercy Corps director of climate change and environment

IT’S not a country which has had its troubles to seek – a fact borne out by the blown-up tanks which have been left scattered across the dusty landscape of Afghanistan.

Amid the violence, bloodshed and turmoil which has racked this country, there is another casualty, one which is often overlooked but which experts say needs to be healed in order to give the nation and its citizens a brighter future – the environment.

Which is why Mercy Corps’ director of climate change and environment, Jim Jarvie, is visiting the country to see how its natural resources can be conserved and restored.

He says: “One of the indirect problems of the wars is environmental degradation which is horrendous. There’s not a lot of forest left after 30 years of civil war which has broken down enforcement of land use laws. And agriculture is a key part of Afghan life. We have been working with local people on planting new crops to stabilise river banks and return to environmentally friendly farming methods.”

Mercy Corps is also joining forces with Edinburgh University to look into wider climate change issues in countries like Afghanistan to try to find out what the impact has been.

Jim says: “We are looking water access in Afghanistan, desertification in Niger and rising sea levels in Indonesia. We want to get a baseline on what climate change is doing to these countries.”

During his two-week trip earlier this month Jim also witnessed the brutality of daily life – with conflict within families as well as warring factions.

He says: “There are a lot of people with missing limbs blown off by landmines. There is a lot of domestic violence too, a lot of people who are pretty desperate.”

Jim, whose family are based in North Berwick, began working for Mercy Corps after the Asian tsunami when he and wife Laurie Pierce, 50, were carrying out conservation and conflict management work for other organisations in Sri Lanka.

He says: “There were bodies on the beach and it was difficult work but it was good to be doing something. We had been at a place called Arugam Bay three days before it happened and we went back to help and started working with Mercy Corps Purchase skelaxin information .”

Later he worked on longer term projects becoming first director of programmes for Sri Lanka and then acting country director.

Jim’s current role, which he began in March last year, has also taken him to New Orleans to see how people are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Mercy Corps has been helping through work recycling parts of houses such as doors to use in the reconstruction of the area.

He says it was shocking to see how poorly the US was doing in helping victims.

He says: “It was as bad as the Third World.”

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Last updated: 27-Feb-07 14:16 GMT

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