THE terms, climate change adaptation and resilience are likely to suffer stillbirths considering how they have been overused out of context, especially in boardrooms, workshops, conferences and social media.
GUEST COLUMNIST :PETER MAKWANYA
These words are in danger of lacking practical relevance and losing value as there is not enough evidence on the ground to justify their usage.
This does not mean that people concerned with overseeing climate action strategies are not doing anything but they are sometimes interested in hearing themselves speak, splashing their overrated images and works on the social media yet climate change impacts are biting on the ground. By so doing, the contexts in which these events are unfolding have rarely been factored in.
It cannot be denied that a lot has been done in terms of climate change education and awareness in general but not in contexts where adaptation works are to take place. Of course talking is cheap and it is good for reaching out but stakeholders cannot talk forever hence action is required instead of being social media worriers with no practical relevance.
Social media should have its share, especially during these days of the coronavirus but whatever the case, resilience is not built on Facebook or Twitter but out there in various geographical locations where vulnerabilities are accelerating.
Of course, it is important to demonstrate to the sources of donor funds that at least something is being done but that is not enough as some important stakeholders continue to be left out and are given a raw deal in this important discourse.
Utilising contexts is instrumental in changing lives while incorporating disadvantaged communities on the ground so that together and collectively resilience is gradually built and realised. Participating in climate action strategies through the use of contexts is pivotal for the local communities to understand the type of data and information they need to make appropriate decisions concerning their livelihoods.
By exploring the context while engaging local users of information, at appropriate levels, stakeholders and even researchers and reporters can come up with information that is locally relevant and sound.
This is otherwise known as context specific knowledge and information designed to bring people together, enable them to identify locally relevant challenges, questions and strategies for problem solving and climate solutions. These climate solutions should be contextually relevant, understood and effective in line with the local people’s needs and worldview.
Contextualising adaptation issues enhances two-way communication strategies and transform the flow of information which is inclusive and sufficiently engaging.
Two-way communication has come as a relief in filling institutional, procedural and power relation gaps because climate change communication has been dominated by top-down delivery of information for a long time which is not proper. With two-way communication that is process-oriented and quite revealing on future climate scenarios and related events, it becomes sufficiently empowering and contextual.
The two-way communication process is a more dialogical and learning-oriented trusted model of practice, which uncovers the realities faced by the local communities on the ground. In this regard, the context of situation would seek to engage, influence the possibilities and opportunities that can be realised from climate change adaptation.
It is the knowledge and understanding of the context by the stakeholders involved which serve to shape appropriate communication strategies and tools to be used in the process as part of rebranding local communities.
These broad networks and strategies will be designed to inform local communities of climate change impacts according to their knowledge of specific local needs and necessities. Locally relevant needs are essential in characterising levels and meanings of vulnerabilities, what can possibly be done and how achievements can be realised for resilience building. In this regard, while conferences, workshops and social media networking are instrumental in building awareness and climate literacy, there is need to come down to basics and real world of geographical situations for locally relevant initiatives to build into national adaptation plans. These should appeal to local and target situations on the ground in order to build more resilient communities.
As the impacts of climate change vary according to local landscapes and planning choices, some areas are found to be prone to flooding, while others are drought sensitive, with some prone to violent and strong winds, cold or high temperatures, all requiring context specific interventions. This will lead to more geographical understanding of inherent climatic impacts and adaptation strategies based on the prevailing local conditions.
For these reasons, local communities will be empowered to make positive and relevant livelihood decisions. If local communities cannot make informed choices about their lives and only see livelihood options and transformations on social media, that is if they happen to access it, then there will be a very big problem and numerous challenges to overcome on their part.
Showcasing on social media networks while misrepresenting important stakeholders or leaving them out completely is tantamount to viewing these critical resilient issues from a narrow perspective, culminating in maladaptive strategies and missed lifetime opportunities.
Factoring the role of local communities in dealing with and identifying climate risks, barriers and communication roadblocks to climate change adaptations will collectively eliminate or seek to reduce the barriers in question.
These barriers are non-inclusive linguistic discourses, local attitudes, behaviours, selective listening, toxic political and power relations, including lack of gender equity. The overall aim would be to foster context specific risk reductions, improve quality of lives and effective community support. Local communities should be empowered to have long-term climate action plans aimed at protecting them and their resources in five, ten or more years to come.
This is the vision that context specific climate adaption and resilience building should seek to cultivate in local and vulnerable communities and other marginal environments. That is why climate injustices and ethical problems continue unabated because the current generations think it is about the future.
In this regard, engaging the local communities according to their geographical, socio-economic and cultural contexts would lead to the fulfilment of the visions for resilience and heritage.
While conferences, workshops and glossing on social media is part of the adaptation and resilience building process, dealing with the real people matters most.
At the end of the day, it is not an issue of fulfilment and just doing it for the sake of it but doing it appropriately and contextually in order to bring meaning to the lives of the vulnerable communities.