Seeds planted for cooperation between ASSAR and the SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment & Analysis Programme

27 Nov 2014 - 11:30

Written by Lucia Scodanibbio

What are the information needs for climate change adaptation policy and planning in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries? How do climate events such as floods, droughts and cyclones add to the level of vulnerability in different countries? How are local governments and communities engaged in sectoral climate change adaptation planning?

These are just some of the questions that governmental, practitioner, academic and donor agency stakeholders from Southern Africa grappled with during the Regional Conference on “Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis and Climate Change” that took place in Cape Town on the 13th and 14th of November. The conference, which aimed to bridge the gap between the Vulnerability Assessment Committees and stakeholders from the climate change arena, showcased a series of initiatives being implemented in the SADC region, including the ASSAR Project.

“We see great potential in exploring collaboration between ASSAR and SADC’s Regional Vulnerability Assessment & Analysis Programme”, said Jeremy Jackson, the programme’s Team Leader, upon hearing Dian Spear – ASSAR’s regional focal point for Southern Africa – present the project’s objectives, activities and expected impacts.

As the day went on several more opportunities for synergy and collaboration became evident, and the ways that ASSAR could help to address regional information and capacity needs became clearer. While participants spoke about access to climate data being limited, they also explained their need to have experts in place to analyse and interpret this climate information, and to translate it into understandable and user-friendly formats. Similarly, they emphasised their needs for quantitative information on the costs of climate change and adaptation responses, particularly as crisis situations become increasingly frequent and devastating.

For example, the challenges faced by Namibia during its drought in 2013 – which was classified as the worst to hit the country in three decades – have made it clear to decision-makers that climate change is a reality that must be faced, and that they need long-term preparedness solutions. “People learned a lesson in 2013 and faced big losses”, said Hellen Likando from the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management of Namibia’s Office of the Prime Minister. The Namibian government is now questioning what the costs of droughts will be to the economy each year, and how avoidable or minimised these costs could be if investments were made to increase resilience. Analyses that look at the costs and benefits of adaptation and coping mechanisms will yield the kind of information that can make a difference in the decisions made at a central level, Likando added.

While the Namibian government decides whether to invest in building new dams to cope with droughts, or calculates how many subsidies to give to pastoralists to sell their livestock before prices drop excessively or conditions become too dry, the opportunities for ASSAR to assist in such analyses – and contribute to the challenges being faced in the region – become endless. As one of the conclusions of this conference was to increase and cement collaboration between the Vulnerability Assessment Committees, climate change experts and SADC member states, ASSAR was given the green light to contribute its expertise, evidence and capacity-building mandate, to assist in the region in a meaningful, targeted manner.

Feeling re-energised from our participation in this conference, we were provided with one indication of how critically important stakeholder engagement is in these early phases of the ASSAR project.