Climate adaptation mechanisms serve the rich

Climate & Natural resources,Knowledge brokering28 Feb 2011John Illukor

I am thrilled to be part of the NASAC-KNAW conference on Impacts and adaptation to climate change in relation to food security in Africa. The conference has clearly addressed mechanisms in which climate change impacts agricultural systems and has shown effects of climate change on water stress, aquaculture, crop farming and livestock and adaptation strategies. It has demonstrated the importance of inclusion pest, insects, and weed infestation effects which have been most often ignored in climate change modeling.

It has demonstrated the relevance of interdisciplinary research when dealing with climate change research yet as pointed by prof Tayo Fakiyesi, even the scientific community is polarized and crop scientist are busy breeding new crop varieties, entomologists are working on best ways of controlling pest and insects, engineers are busy developing water harvesting technologies and climatologist are busy developing new climate models with less interest in what other scientist in the different fields are doing.

One aspect that I see missing but keeps come up in this conference is the economics of climate change especially the new institutional economics issues. The relevance of this subject is in ensuring sustainable investment and interventions to minimize climate change effects and develop sustainable climate change adaptation and mitigation mechanisms which often require large scale economies for large scale adoption. In other wards as we invest in technology, how do we communicate or ensure that the technology meets the end users, how do we communicate to policy makers and make them own the new scientific knowledge especially in context of Africa where using prof WANDIGA words (Where governments come to power by force or rigged elections, and support is often narrow and built upon cronyism and patronage).

The government often neglects and manipulates rural farmers and do not meet their needs. Indeed, findings from Makerere University collaborative project with CIP on Participatory development and testing of strategies to reduce climate vulnerability of poor farm households in East Africa through innovations in potato and sweet potato technologies and enabling policies reveal that climate change adaptation mechanism often end up in hands of the rich and politically powerful individuals and poor are left out. Incentives to minimize corruption and elite capture like prosecution, apply only if you are in opposition.

In my view, answering the questions of how do we communicate or ensure that the technology meets the end users, how do we communicate to policy makers and make them own the new scientific knowledge is quiet challenging but possible. Challenging because there gap between policy makers and researchers. In Africa, academicians or researchers are not interested in politics and concentrate on journal publications. Secondly, although recent research tends to focus on community participation, interaction between the researcher and rural farmers is limited; as such rural farmers are less informed and cannot even know what to demand when faced with climate change effects even when technologies to address particular climate change effect exist. Also the period that it takes for this technology to rich the farmer is so long that by the time it reaches the farmer another technology has been developed.

What scientists need to do is to continue engaging policy makers at all levels. The decentralization system in Africa requires that research should target lower government levels and rural farmers with scientific knowledge so that communities are better positioned to demand for these technologies. There are many avenues of interacting with rural farmers for example in Uganda context local and national radios, local and national print media and say TV stations based on weekly programs.

Secondly, researchers should focus on collaborating with NGOs in testing some of these Scientifics works because the NGOs are critical third sector in ensuring adoption of these climate change mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. By doing these, the population will become informed, demand to use these technologies and force governments to be more responsible in context of climate change and food security. In fact analysts believe the recent wave of strikes in Tunisia is caused by climate change as prices of food rise rapidly.