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Challenges of communicating community-based adaptation strategies


AS climate increasingly rears its ugly head like what is currently obtaining in Southern Africa, local communities have to learn to adapt rather than putting all of their faith in failed government interventions or subsidies.

Development programmes currently under way in developing countries should mirror the aspect of adaptation within them. This is because development programmes that do not mainstream adaptation undermine resilience, thereby increasing vulnerabilities to climate change effects.

Any climate change national policy framework should clearly articulate national climate change adaptation policies and guidelines, so that development programmes clearly fit. Financial challenges are often the most common barriers to successful adaptation, at both local and national levels. Inherent in most developing nations is the aspect of forced relocation like our own Chingwizi catastrophe. In the absence of binding human rights principles and community-friendly adaptation strategies forced relocations are normally doomed to fail. That is always a recipe for a national disaster and a monumental embarrassment too, which in turn contribute to loss and damage of property, as well as human lives.

Any national adaptation projects are strengthened by the ongoing successes and failures registered in the communities’ field work. When the government and the development sector fail to reach out to each other, then communities may feel disempowered and neglected. As such, strong community-based adaptation programmes do not operate in the absence of clear communication frameworks. Communication enables the local level communities to have solid adaptation base in order to promote resilience.

While Zimbabwe’s revenue base is on an all-time low, coupled with NGO grants that are not adequate, the country is already a disaster before the real disaster falls upon it. Also, in the absence of clear funding strategies, incorporating the traditional knowledge of knowing becomes the way to go. Adaptation needs are felt largely by the grassroots, who always bear the brunt of climate change effects due to their ill-preparedness to tackle climate change impacts head on, as well as lack of knowledge and extreme poverty. Despite lack of adequate resources for adaptation projects, local communities still possess local skill for survival. In this regard, they are not always doomed as they only require guidance. But nobody seems ever ready to come forward until the situation becomes pretty bad.

climate change

When gender roles and functions are not properly utilised, then community concerns will always remain unchallenged. Local communities coping strategies are often for mitigation, therefore, external support is always needed to strengthen these short-term strategies. Policy and role confusion are sometimes the ever-present stumbling blocks, as a result they need to be avoided by both the government and the development practitioners. There should always be no doubts among communities about what they understand climate change to be. The local community levels have to be sufficiently oriented on this one.

The concept of natural resources management activities should be seen to be integrating nature conservation and climate change adaptation initiatives to promote community-based livelihoods. Food security programmes need to be seen addressing food insecurity gaps for sustainability purposes. The aim of the long term objectives for adaptation is to weaken the threat of climate change vulnerabilities. If development activities tend to focus on poverty reduction, then climate change vulnerability will continue to increase. Under these scenarios, communities have to be careful that development activities do not increase the vulnerability of people, while at the same time trying to manage them.

Successful enterprising stories of adaptation can be adopted and used for future planning purposes. When climate change is not mainstreamed into the national budget, there can be problems. That is why we always see many countries crying loudly when disasters strike, because there won’t be funds for intervention or emergency purposes. Even district development plans need to reflect local community priorities for promoting community-based adaptation, as well as linking the national priorities through the responsible and complementary line ministries.

Climate change should not be seen through the eyes of the environmental sector only as it requires a multi-sectorial approach for collective sustainable efforts. Ministries such as those of the Environment, Water and Climate are not the best funded ones by the government in any given country. Governments normally give a lot of prominence to ministries of defence, information and communication, as well as Finance and Home Affairs, as they forget that climate change is now one of the major security threat the world has ever seen.

Finally, it must be reiterated that climate protection and government relocation initiatives should reflect the sanctity of human rights. Therefore, it is necessary that governments establish their own internally-funded Green Climate Fund, as it is a human right to do so. This will not expose and undermine the human rights of its citizens.

●Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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