Linking climate change adaptation with early warning systems
In a country like Niger, where most communities depend on just one short rainfall season each year to sustain their livelihoods, knowing when it is going to rain and how much is critical for vulnerable households. But the seasons are changing and people are confused, they can no longer rely on their traditional sources of information to know what the weather is going to be like. New ways of monitoring and communicating the situation on the ground are becoming more important for informing community actions and external support responses.
Since the 1990’s CARE has supported a national community-based early warning system and emergency response, known locally in Niger as ‘SCAP/RU’ (Systèmes communautaires d’alerte précoce et de réponse aux urgencies). Starting from 2010, CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP) has also been working on adding to the SCAP/RU approach by linking it with community-based adaptation to climate change and with climate information systems in the Dakoro region of Niger.
The SCAP/RU is run for and by the beneficiary communities who are the most vulnerable and exposed to different hazards, and whose safety and wellbeing is affected. All parts of the community are involved and make their contribution to the operation of the system. Community monitors collect, analyse and validate data and propose adaptation solutions, which can support more resilient community development in the often-hostile environment.
“We now look to the horizon… You see what is coming, and you get ready”
Increasingly, women are running the different functions of the SCAP/RU. On a recent visit to Aman Bader community I met Dela Jari, who is in charge of the collection of climate information within the SCAP/RU system, including taking records from the community rain gauge whenever it rains. She told me that she likes the role a lot and that she performs it with pride as she feels she is being useful both to her own community as well as the town of Bader Goula. According to her, it is an honourable task, due to the fact that during the rainy season, the information related to this work helps people make decisions about when to sow the fields, thus limiting the loss of seeds by farmers.
The SCAP/RU system is helping communities to identify actions adapted to the socio-cultural realities and physical conditions of the area in which they live, so they can mitigate the effects of food insecurity and strengthen the capacity of producers in the face of food crises and other natural disasters, to take urgent and appropriate decisions at the local level.
The Dakoro region, is characterised by uncertainty and recurring crises – which is now common across the Sahel. In this context the SCAP/RU system makes an important contribution through providing information on a range of factors affecting food, livestock and livelihood security which households can use to make decisions for their farming activities and plan for managing anticipated risks.
Lessons learnt by ALP about the strengths and gaps of the SCAP/RU system, are captured in ALP’s latest Practitioner Brief. The brief, aimed at organisations implementing community-based early warning and action in Niger and elsewhere in Africa, provides greater clarity and insights on the importance of integrating a climate and community based perspective into early warning systems, key practical aspects, and an overview of the associated benefits and challenges. The brief is presented in a way that invites expansion and modification of the approach in other vulnerable contexts across Africa.
Sanoussi Ababale, ALP Niger Project Manager, CARE International