Weathering the Drought: Resilience strategies for local adaptation and decision-making under extreme risk and uncertainty

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Thursday, 6 February 2014: 11:45 AM
Room C107 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
R. J. Cornforth, NCAS Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom; and P. J. Lamb, E. Boyd, A. Tarhule, M. I. LeLe, and A. Brouder

The present food shortages in the Horn of Africa and the West African Sahel are affecting around 31 million people. Such continuing and future crises require that people in the region adapt to an increasing and potentially irreversible global sustainability challenge. Given this situation and that short-term weather and seasonal climate forecasting have limited skill for West Africa, the Rainwatch GIS project illustrates the value of near real-time monitoring and improved communication for the evolution of the highly contrasting 2011 (very dry) and 2012 (extremely wet) rainy seasons in the central West African nation of Niger. Coupling of Rainwatch with a boundary organization, AfClix (Africa Climate Exchange, see http://www.afclix.org/elgg/) is now extending its reach across the African Sahel, through integrating the expertise and actions of relevant institutions, agencies, and stakeholders to broker ground-based dialogue and promote resilience in the face of recurring crisis. As such, Rainwatch-AfClix is emerging as an important partnership for 1) identifying how climate science can play a consistent and substantive role in reducing people's vulnerabilities to weather-related hazards in Africa; and 2) following this through with action on the ground to promote resilience. The partnership has raised important research questions about how to better integrate climate science-policy to develop locally relevant adaptive capacity and build resilience which provided the core of a Perspective article that was published in the July 2013 issue of Nature Climate Change, titled "Building resilience to face recurring environment crisis in African Sahel”. The transdisciplinary effort involved the challenging “framing” of the real-time monitoring of the 2011-2012 Sahel drought-to-flooding sequence within the context of a contemporary social science paradigm. We showed that even in the absence of coherent national climate strategies, individuals with the appropriate tools, methodologies, and a boundary organization, such as AfClix, can link effectively across a range of disciplines, regions, and levels of humanitarian, development and policy decision-making to communicate effectively climate risk and uncertainty. Lessons learned suggest that at a bare minimum, institutions must establish practical innovations to anticipate impending crises. This includes long-term monitoring and timely communication of user-relevant information, access to relevant and reliable forecasts, and the ability of stakeholders to act on that information through effective strategic partnerships. Our focus in 2013 will continue to include Niger, but also will extend westward to Mali and Senegal with plans progressing to include some additional Sahelian nations. This affords vital opportunity to assess the robustness of the resilience framework developed under continuing conditions of extreme risk and uncertainty.