HomeOpinion & AnalysisIntegrating community-based adaptation concerns into govt policies need a listening ear

Integrating community-based adaptation concerns into govt policies need a listening ear

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By Peter Makwanya
LISTENING has always been a challenge for the majority of people and on the part of government. That is why listening is not always described only as a process, but a typical skill that needs mastering for a number of years. Listening is a community of practice which is difficult to accomplish, hence it has been taken for granted for quite some time by being over-assumed rather than practised. In so many situations, people as stakeholders and the government are found hearing each other than essentially listening to one another. That is why in practical terms community-based adaptation concerns have always failed due to lack of the will to listen.

When all things being equal and sufficiently adding up, it is always important to integrate community-based adaptation concerns into government policies for many important reasons and outcomes. To ensure that there is collaboration or enhanced working relationships between communities and the government. This also helps to ensure that communities are robust in delivering government policies for national building and climate adaptation pathways. This is important in delivering action-oriented climate resilient development outcomes. For climate adaptation actions to be a success, there should be a better interaction and appreciation of one another between communities and the government, at all levels.

Due to the fact climate change impacts are locally-based, national planning needs to be informed by community driven priorities. It is not a weakness on the part of the government that it listens to the people, while it is also not expecting too much that communities always reach out to the government. Integration is important for the efficient and transparent use of national resources because adaptation is key and a life-supporting system, that needs continuous growth and nurturing. Community-based adaptation should always start from the bottom, while going upwards that is if the ear on the above is receptive and considerate.

This means that community-based adaptation should be mainstreamed into government policies and planning. Community-based adaptation practices are local environmental concerns that need to be aligned to national climate policies for resilience building to be a success. In this regard, the methodologies and tools for integrating community-based adaptation concerns should be in line with communities’ underlying local needs and concerns.

In order to raise awareness about community vulnerability issues, communities should be at the heart of the national engagements. If local adaptation priorities are integrated into the national development planning processes, then outcomes like water and food security issues can be realised. When water and food security concerns are addressed then it means that health and well-being issues are addressed, roads are constructed and infrastructure in schools, clinics and hospitals are built, children can go to school while income-generating projects are being executed.

There are government institutions, social and cultural institutions including civil and developmental institutions that also require integration, to cross-pollinate ideas and strengthen the works of these institutions for national resilience building to take place. For these to have favourable outcomes, it means that communities need to be actively involved and participate rather than being continuously lectured. The only challenge becomes that of accountability when adaptation resources can be misused, diverted and fail to reach targeted beneficiaries and all resilience efforts would be null and void or as good as thrown into the dustbin. The other challenge is when we have the private sector that always wants to milk the communities without engaging in social corporate responsibility including sustainability reporting. The private sector like banks, manufacturing and processing companies should give back to communities because it is from these communities that their wealth was generated.

Barriers in terms of access to finance and other structural and institutional bottlenecks need to be deconstructed in order to make adaptation goals a reality. In the event that these financial co-benefits have been realised that there should be strong monitoring and evaluation in place because it is only in God that we always trust while human beings should always be checked.

On top of their assumed knowledge and understanding, communities also need working knowledge and training to execute the adaptation programmes successfully. Knowledge is key and instrumental in driving communities’ resilient building programmes. The main challenge that has witnessed climate adaptation issues as stumbling blocks is continuous attempts by knowledge brokers to teach and communicate climate science information to communities.

While that kind of knowledge and information is relevant, communities don’t need that information in complex and technical terms. It becomes scaring, fear inducing and instils panic and despondency among stakeholders.

Communicating climate discourses to the levels understood by laypersons has never been easy. Communicating climate change information, on adaptation, in the language understood by policymakers is vital. Risk reduction efforts can improve if the language used to communicate early warnings is understood by its target users as the main beneficiaries. User-friendly and people-centred language of climate change is intended to enhance climate change awareness including issues of resilience building.

Decolonising the language of communicating climate justice in the context of adaptation is key in order to make it inclusive. In its original state, the language is too complex, technical and ambiguous, thereby not communicating much to the laypersons, as it leaves the majority of stakeholders behind. Since adaption issues are inclusive, participatory and collaborative, everyone is an important stakeholder with an empowering voice.

Above all, evidence of political will is essential for scaling up community-based adaptation issues. While most adaptation programmes are project-based, there is need for following up to learn and take forward lessons for corrective measures. When this is not done, then adaptation programmes are sometimes abandoned, neglected and left as white elephants.

All in all, everything boils down to listening as an art and skill for active participation and taking the adaptation programme forward, build community resilience and strong institutions for sustainable development.

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

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