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Community led responses to climate change: let’s start building from the local to the global
The AfricaAdapt Symposium opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the UNECA conference centre on March 9 2011. Leading from the opening session, the first panel of the event focused on ‘Community Led Responses – from local to global’. This interactive session followed well after the opening addresses, where the need to link international and national policies processes to local decision making on the ground was strongly emphasised.
Dr. Fatima Denton, who leads IDRC’s research on adaptation strategies in Africa, chaired this session. Fatima opened the discussion noting the value of community knowledge and how it should be used as a foundation for developing suitable and sustainable adaptation strategies that are resilient to climate shocks and stresses.
How can experiences captured from local community members in narrative form inform and influence policy makers? Barrack Okoba from the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute presented a project on just that.
Community level climate change impacts are generally not experienced in isolation from other challenges. Using participatory approaches, both male and female farmers were separately engaged in 5 districts across Kenya to elicit local perceptions of climate change including priorities for adaptations, and resources needed to adapt.
Using a scoring/ranking system, farmers could share their priorities for adaptation and fears and concerns. For example the need for irrigation and water infrastructure was considered a priority by both sexes. One fear noted, especially by men, was poverty and the lack of resources. Barrack emphasised that farm-centered, community-led responses must be complemented by policy support that address vulnerabilities.
Community based adaptation: empowering whom and influencing what?
Fiona Percy from Care International presented the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) for Africa on community based adaptation for local empowerment. This programme is being run in 4 countries - Niger, Kenya, Mozambique and Ghana - and aims to help sub Saharan Africans adapt to the impacts of climate change, and contribute to global learning and policy processes about adaptation.
Four emerging areas of learning were identified from the programme:
Pastoralists: surviving the brunt of climate change
Pastoralists who are completely reliant on natural resources are facing very hard challenges including water scarcity, irregular rainfall, deforestation and desertification. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim who is based at AFPAT, an association of M'bororo nomadic women in Chad, talked about Indigenous knowledge and climate change, with a focus on adaptation of nomadic pastoralists in Chad.
With the pastoralists moving to where the water is, the regional transboundary water resource of Lake Chad is a vital resource for agricultural production and livestock management for communities in the area. Lake Chad has seen a massive reduction in its size over the past 40 years, deeply affecting communities in Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger. Traditionally settled communities have also been displaced by the shrinking lake resource, which has led to a resource conflict between pastoralists and settled groups.
Hindou noted how these affected communities can be helped by reducing their miles of displacement (some pastoralists have had to move as far as 700km). Tools such as participatory maps and google maps are helping communities to locate natural resources in the area. These tools can be enhanced by integrating local/indigenous knowledge of the communities in the area, so that adaptive strategies can be further strengthened.
The value of local innovation in building community resilience
With up to 40 million pastoralists across the African region, each pastoralist has to be an innovator to some degree to adapt to climate variability. Yohannes GebreMichael, from Addis Ababa University, discussed how participatory climate change adaptation can be built on local innovation.
The complexity of science
One theme that came out strongly during the Q&A session was the problem of available and accessible climate change science knowledge for communities. One panelist asked the floor whether we, as development practitioners and researchers, know enough ourselves to make community decisions. How can scientific definitions be made more available in local languages? It was strongly emphasised that indigenous/local knowledge should not be left out of the equation. Indigenous knowledge can be validated by scientists, which in turn can enhance the science being used and decisions implemented on the ground.
Submitted by PatriciaCurmi on 16 March 2011 - 4:04pm.