By Bernadette Shalumbu, RiU Coordinator, Desert Research Foundation of Namibia/Oxfam GB
The need for and importance of raising awareness, building capacity and empowering stakeholders at local, regional and national levels and at the individual, institutional and systemic levels to ensure a collective and timely response to climate change is emphasised.” – Principle 4 of Namibia’s National Policy on Climate Change
The ASSAR project has successfully worked across various scales in Namibia. Given the differing capacity needs of stakeholders from the national to the local levels, ASSAR’s strategy of communication and capacity strengthening for impact has been adapted to suit these varying audiences. Through a range of activities, ASSAR has aimed to enhance the understanding of vulnerability and adaptation, and result in increased uptake of adaptation measures by stakeholders across these scales. Ultimately, the goal is also to reduce vulnerabilities, but for this to happen, people need to have the right information to make appropriate decisions. Principle 4 of Namibia’s National Policy on Climate Change – on awareness generation, education, training and capacity building – resonates with the work that ASSAR has been doing through its Research into Use (RiU) approach.
At the national level the project identified various windows of opportunity and formed strategic partnerships with key institutions and individuals who play a key role with regards to climate change. Working at this level was easy, as these stakeholders understand issues pertaining to climate change; they appreciated the contribution of the project to the National Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan; and lastly, there was a demand for evidence-based research and findings, which ASSAR was able to provide. The project was also represented on the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC) and as a result, we could report quarterly on project activities, share feedback on the research findings as well as solicit partnerships for project activities.
The ASSAR Namibia project also developed a series of newspaper articles with a science writer as another method of raising awareness among the general public on topics like the need for building capacity for local water governance, the culture of cattle and their vulnerability to drought, and the need for agency and alternative livelihoods. Writing pieces that were of interest to the papers and readers alike, as well as using terminology that was understandable, made these publications popular.
At the sub-national level, ASSAR achieved recognition by inviting regional stakeholders to activities such as the Vulnerability and Risk Assessment and the Transformative Scenario Planning workshops. The project also supported the Omusati Regional Council (ORC) to convene its Climate change conference, which provided a platform for various stakeholders to share evidence-based information and practices for accessing funding.
Locally, given community members’ need to better understand climate change and have the capacity to integrate adaptive responses into their changing lifestyles, the project trained the Constituency Development Committees (CDC) on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, and developed a radio series in the indigenous language. Again, the networking platform provided through the NCCC allowed for some key institutions to be lead facilitators on these activities. These platforms allowed for the people on the ground to air opinions on their understanding of the issues being discussed, in addition to sharing their valuable knowledge on how they have already been adapting to the impacts of climate change. These stakeholders appreciated accessing such information in a language that they understood, and that helped to improve local level knowledge of climate change adaptation.
In the past, efforts to communicate climate change were typically focussed on disseminating information rather than improving the understanding of adaptation challenges, raising awareness of adaptation pathways, encouraging dialogue or influencing behaviour change. Recently, however, there has been a shift towards a greater use of dialogue with stakeholders, and a stronger focus on knowledge co-generation. Through the ASSAR theory of change and the RiU approach, the project was able to bridge the gap that existed between research and uptake, for adaptation. Through these various activities, we hope to have cultivated a new culture in Namibia on how adaptation can be achieved.