Professor Rosalind Cornforth, Dr Celia Petty and Dr Grady Walker from the University of Reading Walker Institute describe the chapter they contributed to the recently published book: ‘Climate Risk in Africa – Adaptation and Resilience’.
“The question we were seeking to answer,” Prof Cornforth explained, “was what information do local policymakers need now to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience?” She went on to observe: “climate research is often communicated at global or regional levels, whilst lessons from livelihood projects are often relevant at the national context only.”
The chapter focuses on the effectiveness of rural adaptation in the context of food security and agriculture in Uganda. It provides insight into a way forward using learning from the Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa (HyCRISTAL) rural pilot competed in 2019, funded by NERC and DFID (now FCDO).
On the arguments put forward Dr Walker expanded: “adaptation to climate change cannot simply be a scientific process directed toward preserving the economy. It must also be viewed through the lenses of society and history. If we understand marginalization as an outcome of inequitable power distributions, then there is a danger of this being expanded in the name of adaptations that are dependent upon elite knowledge and its custodianship by absent and remote decision makers.”
In the chapter the researchers critically explore the boundaries of ‘adaptation’ and ‘resilience’ as policy responses to climate change in poor rural communities through the interdisciplinary use of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including innovative visual methods and action research. They identify some of the limits to building adaptive communities and explore potential solutions for enabling informed decision-making for rural adaptation that are linked to investment in sustainable development. A key recommendation is the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches and the generation of a ‘knowledge ecosystem’ drawing together knowledge and insight from both the social and physical sciences, to develop realistic scenarios of potential climate change impacts on defined populations and guide policy decisions.
Describing how the development of scenarios integrated the long-term hydro-climate projections with local context-specific information, Dr Petty elucidated: “The research was originally designed by climate scientists who assumed that fishing would be the main source of income, and fish, the main source of protein for everyone living around Lake Victoria. However, in depth, quantitative household economy surveys revealed that livelihood systems are extremely diverse and fishing is only one of many income streams on which people depend. Understanding the constraints on climate adaptation and diversification requires multi-disciplinary teams working together from the research design stage to the interpretation of climate shocks and the development of climate change scenarios. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods have an equal role in this work.”
Multi-stakeholder engagement approach and mixed-method research design
Schematic showing the development of the multi-level networks under the HyCRISTAL rural pilot. Key: CCD Climate Change Department, COP Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC, EAC East African Community, LVBC Lake Victoria Basin Commission, MAAIF Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, MWE Ministry of Water and Environment, NAP National Adaptation Plan, NEMA National Environment Management Authority.
Summing up, Prof Cornforth observed: “the convergence of various strands of research and communication in the rural pilot—from local to national to regional—provides policymakers with the types of information they need. This promotes consideration of scenarios and the taking of actions based on a systems-based understanding derived from multiple and diverse sources of knowledge. This is continuing to enable policymakers across all levels to make better informed short and long-term decisions related to rural adaptation.”
You can download a pdf of the chapter here.
Contact the authors:
Prof Rosalind Cornforth firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Celia Petty email@example.com
Dr Grady Walker firstname.lastname@example.org