What can you do about a vanishing nation?

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What can you do about a vanishing nation?

An IFAD documentary "The President's Dilemma," at film festival in Copenhagen

Copenhagen and Rome, December 11, 2009 - One country that scientists predict will have disappeared under rising sea levels within the next 30-50 years is the island state of Kiribati.

Anote Tong is President of a small nation – a group of 33 atoll islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, half-way between Australia and Hawaii. Tong is faced with a dilemma the likes of which most government leaders couldn't image. Scientists predict that within 30 to 50 years the nation he governs will have disappeared, covered over by rising seas resulting from global climate change.

"For some time I did not sleep because I didn't have a solution to a problem that there wasn't a solution to," says Tong. "What happens to us in the future? Do we disappear as a culture? So these are the issues that keep me awake."

The IFAD documentary explores the issues facing the President of Kiribati as climate change puts his nation's more than 100,000 residents at risk.

Screened on December 11 at the Development and Climate Days film festival in Copenhagen, "The President's Dilemma" takes a hard look at the impact that climate change is having on poor, low-lying island nations like Kiribati and what can be done to help ease the burden for those who are living on the front lines.

For the people of Kiribati – fishermen and small farmers – climate change is already a harsh reality.

They are seeing their lives inundated by tidal surges.  Precious freshwater sources are mixing with saltwater, contaminating the island soil and drinking water.  

Kiribati is only one example of what many in the world are facing. As the people of small island nations flee the water that threatens to engulf them, rural people in African countries are leaving their homes in a desperate quest for water.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2050 there will be 150 million environmental refugees.

On Kiribati, IFAD supports the development of an outer islands and an atolls research center to develop technologies to increase production of staple crops, like coconut, breadfruit and taro, which have sustained life for generations.

"The battle against climate change is not lost but there are immediate challenges that IFAD believes must be addressed in Kiribati," says Ron Hartman, IFAD's Country Program Manager. "IFAD is working with the government to support agriculture research as there needs to be extra resilience in all crop environments to survive in these harsh atoll environments."

Notes to editors

For interviews with IFAD Country Program Manager, Ron Hartman, on the story of Kiribati and for B-roll footage contact Katie Taft in Copenhagen

The film will be screened between 13.30-15.00 at the Development and Climate Days Annual Film Festival, Koncerthuset (The Concert House), a short distance from the Bella Centre.

Press release No.: IFAD/64/09

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$11 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering some 350 million people to break out of poverty. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN's food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).