Understanding and Building on Traditional Knowledge to Help to Address Climate Change in West Africa
UNITAR, through the Capacity Development for Climate Change (C3D+) project, strengthens capacities of Non-Annex I countries and institutions to address climate change through nationally appropriate measures and planning strategies.
Cristina Rekakavas, C3D+ coordinator, writes about how C3D+ partner ENDA-Energie is helping countries to use traditional knowledge to address climate change.
25 July 2014, Geneva, Switzerland - Climate change is increasingly affecting the livelihoods of natural resource dependent people in many West African communities. Knowledge about the local environment and its stressors is crucial to inform the development of effective adaptation strategies. Local communities often have a pool of specific knowledge about their territory based on years of observations as well as tradition. This local knowledge can provide important insights to complement scientific data and facilitate the adaptation process. As part of the Climate Change Capacity Development (C3D+) project, the Senegalese NGO ENDA-Energie initiated a process to collect and organize examples of local good practices for adaptation to climate variability and change across West Africa. The objective of this work is to make these examples available to a broader audience of stakeholders including policy makers, planners, practitioners and local communities.
Key economic sectors such as agriculture, livestock, and water are particularly affected by the changing climate in West Africa. While trying to deal with climate change, local people benefit from the observations and knowledge they have of their own lands and from good practices transmitted from one generation to the next. This knowledge is endogenous and not widely spread. Therefore, it has been often overlooked in the development of more formal adaptation strategies. According to ENDA-Energie, taking local knowledge into account can significantly contribute to strengthening Africa’s capacity to address climate change. The review and use of traditional knowledge – ENDA-Energie claims – promotes greater engagement from local stakeholders and makes them central actors for the sustainable development of their communities. By documenting good practices they can be shared more widely for the benefit of other communities.
In order to promote and share traditional knowledge to support effective adaptation, ENDA-Energie started collecting and organizing local knowledge and best adaptation practices in West Africa. The documentation process was carried out in Benin, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali through a participatory approach, involving 30 villages and more than 360 people. Thirty-six documented good practices were developed and published online in an Indigenous Knowledge Bank (IKB) (http://h2sconsulting.wix.com/endaenergie#!informations/c20g3) made available to partners and stakeholders. Printed communication materials have also been prepared for distribution, especially for people without regular access to the internet. More than 500 people accessed relevant materials during meetings and events.
ENDA-Energie’s work has played an important role in raising awareness on traditional knowledge and its value for addressing climate related risk. Formal actors, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Meteorological Agency of Senegal were contacted during the collection and validation process. They subsequently took an interest in continuing and expanding this work and in taking traditional knowledge into consideration in climate change planning efforts. The Environmental Science Institute of the University of Dakar has also shown interest in becoming a partner during a future phase of ENDA-Energie’s work. This activity will focus on strengthening the linkages between science and indigenous knowledge. Currently, all practices are used in a number of countries where they have been documented. Local knowledge and science are already used jointly in many areas, for instance for anti-salt dykes and weather forecast.
1) In this project ENDA-Energie defines “Indigenous Knowledge” as “all knowledge that exists and develops in a community located in a specific geographical area. However, this definition excludes modern knowledge or knowledge acquired through external support structures” (Climate and development Indigenous Knowledge Bank - Concept Note (ENDA-Energie), p. 2).
2) Picture credits: How to fight in a sustainable way against adverse effects of climate change in West Africa: the case of local knowledge practices (ENDA-Energie, 2012). Available at: http://media.wix.com/ugd/125010_89e6375df6fb87d05ca40835dc846d2e.pdf
Climate and development Indigenous Knowledge Bank - Concept Note (ENDA-Energie)
How to fight in a sustainable way against adverse effects of climate change in West Africa: the case of local knowledge practices (ENDA-Energie, 2012)
Indigenous Knowledge Bank (ENDA-Energie)
Final Narrative Report – C3D+ project 2011-2013 (ENDA-Energie 2013)
The C3D+ Partnership supports research and training institutions in developing countries to identify, develop, test and apply new analytical tools and methods that can build the human and institutional capacities needed to deal with a future of increasing climatic uncertainty. It brings together six organizations located in developing countries and three global organizations from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific and the Caribbean to collectively form a knowledge and capacity development network. The project is coordinated by UNITAR with financial support provided by the European Commission and the Austrian Development Agency. Supplementary resources are provided by the Government of Switzerland to UNITAR for climate change capacity development activities.