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Adaptation in Africa

November 29th, 2011 – Adaptation in Africa, recent experiences and knowledge gaps

The following blog was written by Harry van der Linde, who is part of AWF's delegation at the United Nations 2011 Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. At the conference, Harry and other AWF staff members have been participating in discussions at the Adaptation Hub: a platform for 20+ conservation and development organizations to promote adaptation as a key issue within the larger conference discussions and negotiations. The Hub aims to achieve this through (i) daily lunchtime question and answer sessions, (ii) a specific adaptation hub area within the exhibition space, and (iii) a website: www.adaptationhub.net

The first Adaptation Hub brownbag question and answer session was facilitated by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and co-hosted with Resource Africa UK (RAUK). Given that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 17th Conference of Parties is being hosted in Durban, South Africa, AWF kicked things off by facilitating a discussion on Adaptation in Africa. Africa is not a major contributor to climate change, but it is one of the most vulnerable continents to the effects of these changes. This is due in part to a largely rural population, and a general lack of resources that would help communities to adapt.

Representatives from over 20 nonprofits gather at the first Adaptation Hub session to discuss and exchange ideas on adaptation to climate change. Photo courtesy of Max Thabiso Edkins and Resource Africa UK.

This brownbag session provided a forum for non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, researchers and practitioners, and government representatives to reflect on their recent experiences implementing adaptation measures in Africa. It also provided a great way for them to share their knowledge, and important lessons they had learned. A major focus was on the common disconnect between adaptation planning at the national level, and community knowledge and capacity at the local level.

AWF’s Kathleen Fitzgerald reflected on her experiences promoting climate change adaptation, and highlighted the need for strategic planning at the landscape level that could more fully assess the vulnerability of wildlife, habitats, and human livelihoods to projected climatic changes. This high level strategic planning would not only help with identifying key threats, but would also help with recognizing opportunities to address them. It is already being tested in pilot sites, but Kathleen wondered how could we scale this up?

Next, Astrid Westerlind Wigström of RAUK shared a number of lessons emerging from the organisation’s experience working at the community level. She emphasized the need to use communities’ experiences as a starting point for national and policy level discussions, and to build capacity where necessary.

AWF and RAUK facilitate the first Adaptation Hub question and answer session. Photo courtesy of Max Thabiso Edkins and Resource Africa UK.

Some of the poignant issues raised during the group discussion included the need to communicate uncertainty regarding climate change projections, and the reality of trade offs and compromises in climate change decision-making. Another key issue was the importance of recognising and building upon traditional adaptation strategies at the local level, and tackling the various constraints communities face, like access to natural resources, in their efforts to implement these strategies. Particular emphasis was given to the importance of clearly defining the key factors and questions currently constraining adaptation measures at the national, regional, and international level. The process of identifying these factors and questions is a key first step towards developing a framework for action on adaptation going forward. This process will help to guide the learning and planning of Adaptation Hub members while in Durban, and beyond.

AWF  is now getting ready to host its official side event on Meeting Climate Change Challenges in African Conservation and Livelihoods. At this event AWF’s President Helen Gichohi and Director of Land Conservation Kathleen Fitzgerald will share their experiences working with AWF to address climate change through a landscape level approach to conservation and mitigation. They will also share lessons learned from three specific pilot projects.

Meanwhile the AWF delegation is running an information booth in the Adaptation Hub area of the conference, and is welcoming many visitors wanting to exchange ideas and information.


Harry van der Linde
About the Author

Harry is AWF's Senior Director for Program Design and Knowledge Management. He has almost 20 years experience in integrated biodiversity conservation and natural resource management in developing countries.

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