In the last few years, there has been an increased emphasis upon the application of science to humanitarian and development planning, decision-making and practice;...
Participatory, community-led disaster resilience programmes sound like the development gold-standard, but they’re not without their problems, explains Sophie Rigg from King’s College London.
In the wake of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals, and in the lead up to the Paris climate talks, approaches to global development and humanitarian response are in the limelight. This gives us an opportunity to take a step back and look at what really works and why. I wanted to share some of what I’ve learnt from my work on two BRACED projects (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters).
BRACED is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and takes a holistic approach, interweaving development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The two projects I work on aim to build the resilience of vulnerable communities in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso by:
Structural inequalities shape vulnerabilities and capacities and mean that men and women often have different livelihood practices and climate information needs. However, women – and other marginalised groups – are often underrepresented or quieter during community participatory empowerment exercises. This can result in gender-biased community resilience plans that mainly reflect the livelihood and climate information needs of dominant men and thus reinforce cycles of vulnerability.
— Successfully negotiating power relations relies on the skills and experience of the development practitioner. We have found that effective training and capacity building in facilitation and gender-sensitive programming is key, especially for those that work on the frontline.
Community-led participatory development is also contingent on the quality of the methodology. On the BRACED projects scientists, development practitioners and communication specialists have worked together to co-produce more sophisticated development programmes. Approaches seek to be ‘two-way’: building on the capacities and ideas already present within these communities and offering fresh perspectives and new ideas to the community.
The farmers that I spoke to in Africa said that they often did not believe the available scientific climate information, and that it was not understandable or useful.
So how do we encourage the local use of climate information?
The BRACED projects have found that for useful, relevant and timely climate information to inform decision-making at the village level, climate information services need to become ‘user-led’. This requires climate scientists and communicators, such as journalists, to go to the communities and listen to their needs and adapt their services accordingly. Furthermore to assure that climate information is actionable, it must be accompanied by agricultural or livestock information and practical suggestions for action.
Furthermore trust in scientific climate information can be supported by integrating local and traditional understandings of the weather and the climate into the forecasts that are produced and by working on how probability and uncertainty are communicated.