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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Justice, Key COP17 Issues » Toolbox? Check. Education? In progress…

Toolbox? Check. Education? In progress…

By Emily Bowie ’14

A post for you with a little less of a depressing outlook… (Too discouraged to think about the negotiations right now).

ETHIOPIA - Increased drought in the Horn of Africa from climate change is causing mass food insecurity.


As I slide into week two, after a weekend of safari’s and a potential case of bronchitis, I am beginning to narrow my research topic and have landed on the question, what sector is adaptation in east Africa coming from? This includes both the sources of initiatives as well as the sources of funding. With a research question, I’ve had more pointed conversations with my interviewees and the information I am gathering is extremely interesting. I am finding that there are multitudes of sources for both areas. These sources cover bilateral and multilateral relationships between local communities, national governments, national non-governmental organizations, and international organizations, all in both the public and private sectors. As I speak to the leaders of some of these sources, however, I am finding that the answer to my question where do you see the most initiative coming from? has been almost unanimously “home.”

I talked to Negash Teklu, Executive Director of PHE-Ethiopia, yesterday and he emphasized that the reason local and national action is so important is because people already posses vast indigenous knowledge of adaptation. It is not necessary for people from other countries to come in and determine what east Africa needs to do to adapt, that toolbox already exists in the cultures and histories of the region. I have found that there are two important issues in mobilizing and utilizing this indigenous knowledge. Surprisingly, I have found that funding is not one of them. Many interviewees seem less interested in finding funding sources (which generally are coming from national and local sources) as they are in building capacity through finding and spreading base climate knowledge.

Now, I know I stated before that indigenous knowledge of adaptation already exists. But from both my talk with Negash yesterday and breakfast with Rajendra K. Pachauri the chair of the IPCC this morning, I have learned that there is a difference between possessing the knowledge to adapt and possessing the knowledge of what you are adapting to. East Africa does not have the same databases of climate information that the United States, Europe and other developed countries do. They are lacking crucial maps and historic climate pattern data. East Africa needs research done to deeper understand how climate change will affect the region. (Although, that it will affect the region in many ways is not disputable, it is the small regional details that need to be fleshed out). Many of the side events I attended last week discussed ways to broaden this understanding through bilateral relationships.

In my talks with Negash and Pachauri, I was informed that there is another step to adaptation that I did not fully realize before the COP; this step is the spread of information. This information constitutes two categories: the climate data described above and the sharing of adaptation methods.

Climate Data: For instance, PHE-Ethiopia has a group that is doing research on how much the people on the ground fully understand climate change and how it will affect them. Because yes, it will be helpful to build this base of climate change understanding, and yes, the indigenous people have the knowledge to adapt to these changes, but if the indigenous people do not understand what these changes are then they cannot begin to adapt.

Adaptation Methods: This category was highlighted at my lunch today with Bill Breed of USAID. Bill explained that the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) recently released a 2,600 page review of adaptation action around the world. He voiced the need for these projects and initiatives to be shared between communities and nations. This sharing could speed up the process of adaptation by reducing the time needed for repeated innovation.

Therefore, one of the most crucial steps for east African adaptation is the spread of climate and adaptation education. People need to understand how climate will affect them, and adaptation initiatives need to be shared among those in similar situations. Both of these activities can be done in all sectors of adaptation, however Pachauri highlighted that they need to be facilitated at a national and local level where an understanding of how to spread this information most efficiently is best understood and resources are easily accessible. International intervention is most necessary to help in the sharing of information about projects and methods. With this improved education east Africa can significantly increase the speed of its anticipatory climate adaptation, and based on the posts by my colleagues and the slow progress of the COP so far, this may become increasingly necessary.

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