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Climate change and community empowerment

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IT is said about 3,3 to 3,6 billion people currently live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change – though vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions.

The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole, and the present state of many aspects of the climate system, are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, to be released this March 2023, provides an overview of the state of knowledge on the science of climate change.

Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. 

Evidence of observed changes in extremes, such as heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones and, in particular, their attribution to human influence has strengthened since the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.

Thus, the importance of education as a key factor in reducing global warming is undisputed and cannot be overemphasised.  

But how best can education help vulnerable communities in Africa, including Zimbabwe, deal with climate change and empower people to make their regions more resilient to rising global temperatures?

To find practical solutions to climate change and landscape governance issues, the Landscape Learning Journey project was established in collaboration by the Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Center and Network (HoA-REC&N) and the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), of Wageningen University and Research. 

During the project’s course, WCDI worked with facilitators and from six countries in the Horn of Africa.  

The participants travelled to each other’s countries to collectively learn and develop a framework for establishing landscape-specific approaches on climate change and landscape governance, turning analysis into action. 

The framework helped to structure thinking and identify priority areas for intervention.

Ilse Hennemann, advisor Environmental Governance and Climate Change at the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation and a colleague, Cora van Oosten, were responsible for the capacity building process during the journeys. 

According to Hennemann: “Our strength at WCDI is to put knowledge into action. In this project, we wanted to establish a real learning journey where travelling to each other’s landscapes and taking up critical knowledge, skills and attitude was directly brought into practice by the landscape facilitators. It’s extremely powerful to see how climate change is impacting various landscape functions and its people inhabitants. After analysis, we then jointly developed landscape action plans addressing climatic and non-climatic drivers of change.”

Environmental governance is the processes of decision-making involved in the control and management of the environment and natural resources. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) define environmental governance as the ‘multi-level interactions (that is local, national, international and global) among, but not limited to, three main actors (State, market and civil society) which interact with one another, whether in formal or informal ways; in formulating and implementing policies in response to environment-related demands and inputs from the society; bound by rules, procedures, processes and widely accepted behaviour; possessing characteristics of ‘good governance’ for the purpose of attaining environmentally-sustainable development’ (IUCN 2014).

Before the Landscape Learning Journey began, HoA-REC&N identified six areas with high vulnerability to climate change effects in Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.  

The focus of the Landscape Learning Journey was to take on a landscape perspective while addressing climate challenges. 

This meant looking beyond sectors or value chains and to take into account natural systems as well as social systems. 

Every six months, a ‘learning event’ was organised around a specific theme which took place in one of the six areas. Themes ranged from vulnerability assessments to stakeholder engagement strategies and the development of landscape business cases. 

In order to promote consistency and build on previous training, the same group of facilitators consisting of staff from community-based organisations and local universities participated in these events. 

This approach also looked beyond the regional differences.

Said Hennemann: “You’re looking at very diverse regions: different religions, ethnicities, nationalities and languages. 

In spite of the differences between those landscapes, we realised during the learning events how many of the challenges were actually quite similar.” 

A facilitator from Djibouti, participating in the Learning Journey, admitted: “My eyes were really opened to a broader understanding of a landscape and the role communities play. 

I now understand who the stakeholders are, what their interests are, and how I can better collaborate with them as a facilitator. 

Through the WCDI-training, I learned how to prioritise activities and communicate messages clearly, not just through the sharing of experiences but also by taking part in the process and learning from our landscapes.”

The framework also provided the foundation for a coherent narrative about the landscape. 

For example, what makes this landscape unique, what challenges does it face, who are the stakeholders and how do they co-shape the landscape? 

Which institutional change is needed to address climate change? 

The Landscape Learning Journey project also looked at the economic opportunities that can be derived from landscape functions. 

Many of the action plans developed during the learning journey project were implemented with some impressive results – like development of participatory land use management plans, construction of water storage systems, introduction of improved cooking stoves, youth employment in solar panel maintenance and organising awareness-raising campaigns. 

University curricula were developed as well as national and regional policies made more environment-sensitive. Their knowledge was also shared with their governments and even with IGAD, the Djibouti regional governance body, to use in creating more trans-boundary collaboration.

Such actions, and the resultant healthy land, can further provide positive and lasting contributions toward societal well-being and sustainability, such as food security, employment, disaster risk reduction, ecological benefits, and improved public health. 

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD’s) goal is to make land-based ecosystems and communities more resilient and better able to adapt to the effects of global heating. 

In November 2021, the AU Commission (AUC) chairperson appointed Zimbabwean Chido Cleopatra Mpemba for a two-year term as the AU Envoy for Youth. 

Mpemba, only the second person to assume the role that was created in 2018 ahead of International Youth Day on August 12 said: “Globally, everyone is affected by climate change; but in Africa, we are affected in a unique way. 

Take deforestation and the lack of access to water because of drought. 

There’s food insecurity because bad weather conditions affect agriculture. … because we’re the largest demographic in Africa, we must be at the forefront of discussions on climate change.” 

This must include education on climate change.

Good stewardship of the land is vital to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to help the global community stay on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets. 

The framework is also being used in other countries, such as in the Philippines, where they have tailored and translated the framework to fit their local context. 

What about Zimbabwe and the SADC community of Southern Africa?  

Dr Tony Monda BSc, DVM, DPVM, is currently conducting Veterinary epidemiology, and Agro-economic research in Zimbabwe. For views and comments, email:  mailto:tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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