on 28th June 2017

Climate Services and Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) Knowledge Exchange, Kenya & Ethiopia

In countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, where most communities depend on just short and shifting bi-modal rainfall seasons each year to sustain their livelihoods, knowing when it is going to rain, how much and in what pattern is critical for small-scale farmers and pastoralists. However, due to shifting seasons and increasingly unpredictable and erratic rains, vulnerable households unprepared for weather conditions that do occur, make decisions based on their understanding of general climate patterns for their localities. 

Climatic uncertainty is forcing farmers to adhere to conservative strategies sacrificing productivity, resilience and sustainability to reduce the risk of loss. Thanks to innovative platforms for weather and climate information services, like Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP), new ways of scenario-based planning that employ blended ‘indigenous’ and scientific climate information and monitoring and communicate the situation on the ground are becoming more important for informing community actions, local development plans and external support responses.

Since 2014, CARE Ethiopia (the PRIME project) has been supporting communities and local governments across three regional states (Oromia, Afar and Somali) to use participatory development approaches for promoting resilience in local Disaster Risk Management planning and informed livelihoods investment decision-making. From 2014-2016, through project intervention 94, 419 households have used PSP advisories in their decision making processes, and through project intervention 65, 6974 of the households have implemented risk-reducing practices to improve resilience to climate change. Given the differential access of rural women and men to early warning information and extension services, PRIME developed a dissemination plan for the advisories, using different platforms and channels of communication (such as dairy producer/marketing groups and women and girls forums), to reach as many women as possible, including women with low literacy, young girls and elderly women. In this way, the approach has led to improved and equitable access to actionable agro-meteorological advisories by pastoral women and men. The most frequently employed adaptation strategies included planned management of animals and mobility patterns, climate appropriate rangeland management, diversification of income sources increasingly towards climate-resilient activities, developing a culture of joint decision making with spouses, and capacity building in managing disasters.

Timely access to and communication of seasonal climate advisories from PSP has empowered communities to take advantage of opportunities that a changing climate presents, which is a key part of adaptation. But as the PRIME project approaches its closing time, scaling of user-based climate services through the institutionalization of the approach in government structures becomes a priority. At this point, the need to learn from the experience of CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) in Kenya becomes essential. Securing PSP as a sustainable climate service linked to other climate services is a major vehicle to promote risk-aware and scenario-based planning which will play an integral role in supporting the climate resilient green economy (CRGE) strategy of Ethiopia. CARE pioneered the PSP approach to seasonal climate information in 2011 in Garissa County, Kenya.

CARE hosted a PSP and climate knowledge exchange route, with 26 participants drawn from the Ethiopian Meteorological Agency, Regional Disaster Risk Management Commissions, Regional Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Management Bureaus, as well as staff from CARE Ethiopia and implementing partners participating in a 6-day learning route. The route covered PSP/climate knowledge exchange with ALP and visits to Kenyan Meteorological Department, Kenyan National Drought Management Authority, the Kenyan Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute, CCAFS, Embu county leaders, and Kamarandi community chiefs, farms and farming households.

For Ethiopian government participants of the PSP/climate knowledge exchange visit, the most outstanding lesson has been the level of engagement and leadership of government institutions (KMD, ASDSP and county leadership) and the kind of partnership and operational synergies created between government and NGO institutions in the successful implementation and scale-up/out of PSP in the 47 counties in Kenya. The visiting team realized that success of the approach and training of county actors, adaptation programmes, county level staff of Kenyan Meteorological Department (KMD) and the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) in the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (MoALF) led to widespread interest in 2013 and 2014. Since then, and together with KMD and ASDSP, the PSP approach has been institutionalized as a county level mechanism to support planning and service delivery decisions which have been implemented in all 47 counties in each of the MAM and SOND seasons to date. KMD and ADSP continue to be key institutions responsible for coordination and leading the implementation of the PSP approach at county level throughout Kenya together with a range of local government and INGO organizations. In 2017, initiatives aimed at making the case for sustainability and scaling of user based climate information services in the county and national systems have been started to secure PSP as a sustainable climate service linked to other climate services and playing an integral role in enhancing climate resilient development in Kenya.

Initiatives to foster adaptation will ultimately fail if they do not inform and empower individuals who remain confined in their adaptive behavior and have limited access to key resources. From the visits and meetings with the various actors, we realized the need to tailor climate information services and adaptation activities to the needs, schedules, cultural contexts and interests of vulnerable groups including women, resource-poor farmers and pastoralists; these groups are often marginalized because they are less resourced and their voices unheard in major decision-making processes affecting their lives.

Climate resilience requires locally determined actions that consider the interests and different vulnerabilities of the local community and ecosystem, and which has the flexibility to respond to the impacts of climate change as they change over time.  One additional lesson from the PSP exchange visit is the critical importance of building systemic capacity for ensuring government ownership and leadership of the process and facilitation of the needed enabling environment and support for local action. Central among the needed actions is the urgency to learn, perhaps even more importantly, the urgency to deepen existing, and create new, learning partnerships and mechanisms that engage a broader diversity of actors and sectors to participate in the co-creation of new knowledge to address local adaptation challenges.  With adaptive capacity and decision-making processes at the heart of a new approach to climate resilience, knowledge brokering becomes essential. Knowledge brokering supports and facilitates social and anticipatory learning processes, local knowledge creation, knowledge exchange between climate sciences, social sciences, local and indigenous knowledge and practical experience and builds the institutional relationships needed: This is the next phase in our efforts to pursue a climate resilient development pathway.

There is recognition that climate services are complex and complicated. This corroborates key learning from CARE’s PSP approach that for climate services to contribute to building resilience, processes that continually re-evaluate the context, anticipate future uncertainties and foster seemingly unlikely relationships, are essential. This is a clear call for listening to and respecting community voices and experiences, forging new alliances and strengthening existing partnerships, ensuring accountable governance systems, and promoting innovation in climate services.

Alebachew Adem, Regional Advisor for Sustainable Agriculture & Climate Resilience, CARE USA

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