ASSAR showcased at the Africa Learning Forum on Adaptation 2017

20 Apr 2017 - 15:30

By Lucia Scodanibbio and Alemayehu Zewdie

How will the ASSAR project ensure impact and sustainability of its activities and findings? How are you building on what has already been done before, and not re-inventing the wheel? Can you tell us less about the “what” and more about the “how”? How should effective adaptation for the most marginalised be reached? How do we overcome barriers in the governance realm that prevent adaptation from becoming maladaptation? How do we bring about a transformation in our systems so that we can result in widespread and sustained adaptation?

These are just some of the questions that ASSAR’s project coordinator Lucia Scodanibbio and East Africa RiU coordinator Alemayehu Zewdie were faced with at the Africa Learning Forum on Adaptation (ALFA) conference that took place at the end of March 2017 in Saly, Senegal.

Organised by CARE, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, and ENDA – among others – the learning forum sought to foster momentum for learning and knowledge brokering around adaptation, to contribute to strengthening of capacities and better adaptation finance decisions, and as a consequence, to better adaptation actions. With participants hailing from 23 countries and from a range of governmental, non-governmental, academic and grassroots backgrounds, the forum provided ample space for the exchange of views, lessons learned, challenges and opportunities.

A market place was one of the forum’s highlights, in which different participants could present and share their work and achievements. In the case of ASSAR, the team used the opportunity to have a captive audience to test some of the high-level messages that we expect to have significant findings around by the end of the project. These include, for instance, evidence on the barriers and enablers that support or prevent widespread adaptation; a metric that helps to define “effective” adaptation and hints at the conditions required to get there; the use of transformative scenario planning as a way to think together about the future, to thus change it. After a brief, high-level presentation on these topics, market stall attendees were asked to challenge us with their doubts around the usefulness of these findings, to help us identify potential audiences that would benefit from such knowledge and to ask any clarification questions. The main take-home message, which the researchers need to keep in mind going forward, is around the need to focus on the “how”, as participants (and really, most of our audiences) need solutions!

“What I learned from ALFA 2017 is that, there are lots of activities and work done in Africa and there is also not lack of funds for climate change adaptation, the problem is to apply it for very specific purposes and bring some change at local level and policy making. Using the research findings to bring some change is a very big gap, which I observed during the workshop”, said Alemayehu reflecting upon the event.

It was clear that having multiple types of stakeholders attend the meeting and share their lessons, needs and challenges – particularly in organised sessions across different groupings, such as practitioners, researchers and those working in adaptation finance – was an incredibly useful activity that shed light on the fact that all the solutions are there, we just need to communicate and collaborate with each other. The role of the knowledge broker emerged as critical, to help bridge such communications gaps. In the case of ASSAR itself, our role is to ensure that our research findings reach users and are shared in time, to reduce duplication of work and waste of resources. ALFA has provided some hints regarding how knowledge brokers could help us in this quest, so that we fully take the opportunity for influencing, campaigning and advocacy purposes.

For Lucia, probably the most exciting part, was contributing a paragraph to the ALFA 2017 declaration, which encompassed so much of the discussions, debates and questions raised during the previous three days:

To better adapt, we need to move:

From a proliferation of initiatives, to coordinated action by government and civil society, enabled by development partners

            From working in parallel, individually, to partnerships where sharing is gaining

From viewing climate as a technological, scientific matter, to addressing power and governance issues so that the more marginalised are resilient

From reinventing the wheel, to learning from our collective experience and existing knowledge, including indigenous knowledge

From saying there are no resources or capacity, to using what is there effectively, wisely and equitably