A new culture of local action

Civic Action,Climate & Natural resources,Knowledge brokering28 Feb 2011Khalil Elahee

The only thing certain is that nothing is certain. Indeed, particularly with reference to Africa, not much is known about the impacts of climate change. There is some understanding that, however, extreme events will become more frequent. And of greater magnitude within a limited time than what can be expected from any ‘’old’’ climate variation cycles that mankind or the planet has known thus far.

The Conference found that adaptation to improve food security is not a myth. Traditional knowledge and conventional wisdom already provide interesting responses. However, evidence-based policy intervention is weak, very weak. How can that be improved?

It is probably not enough to expect policy-makers just to listen to scientists. Even when academia are well organized and operate in networks, there remains a missing link between knowledge and action.

To end decades of conflict between scientists and policy-makers – to quote one participant at the Conference – a new vision is needed. Out of ‘’a sense of values, experiences, individual reflections, and organisational wisdom’’. But vision is not everything.

It is also not just a matter of having a wish list of recommendations. Defining goals, objectives, resources and priorities does not ensure successful implementation either. Not even integrating a holistic, multidimensional and participative approach will be enough to save the day. All these are essential components, but we must, in addition, invent a new function.

There must be a new breed of what can be called ‘’project leaders’’. Such professionals can act more than an interface between knowledge and action. They will be responsible to make things happen. They do not have to be experts in all fields from social sciences to engineering through political sciences. A basic multidisciplinary training with focus on systemic implementation and monitoring is what is needed to forge such professionals.

In fact, such an orientation must find its place throughout our education system replacing the current linear and segmented partition of knowledge that starts right from primary school upwards. Above all, we must insert integrity back in a set of values we inculcate to your children. The outcome will be a new culture of local action. The new generation brought up on such a culture will successfully rise to the challenge of climate change. Or any other challenge for that matter.

Dr. Khalil Elahee, Faculty of Engineering at the University of Mauritius