Vulnerability and Climate Change Adaptation: Some Challenges for Policy Making
(Cali, 2013) How does learnings from climate change adaptation influence policy-making? Interesting, but challenging!
To unravel this dilemma Han van Dijk, Professor at the Rural Development Sociology Group in Wageningen University (also affiliated with the African Studies Center, Leiden) in the Netherlands, presented a recent research project at a scientific seminar of the Decision and Policy Analysis Group (DAPA), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT, Colombia).
The main objective of this collaborative research in partnership with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, according to Prof. van Dijk who is currently Visiting Scientist at CIAT (July-September 2013), is to bring macro/top down, model-based (natural science) and micro/bottom-up, case study based (social science) analysis together by studying patterns of vulnerability in drylands and population responses such as migration and soil and water conservation.
The geographical focus on the semi-arid West Africa is critical because in 1960s two-thirds of the population was in the semi-arid zone (Sahel) and one-third in on the coast. This is predicted to reverse by 2020 with two-thirds of the population in the coastal region. The semi-arid West Africa is politically unstable with low fiscal revenues and has an ethnically heterogenous population. Prof. van Dijk gave examples of political instability and weak infrastructure in Chad (with many civil wars since 1965) and Mali (with uprising of Tuareg). In coastal countries there is high level of immigration potentially leading to political instability as well (Cote d’Ivoire). The hotspots of soil and water conservation includes Norther Nigeria (Kano close settled zone), Burkina Faso (Central Plateau), Southern Niger (Zinder and Maradi region), and Souther Mali (Koutiala cotton zone).
What will happen with future climate change? He explained that there is risk of either (a) Desertification [with land degradation as result of population growth, over-exploitation and inadequate farming methods leading to environmental migration], OR (b) Regreening. For both trends there is inconclusive empirical evidence. There are areas in Burkina Faso and Niger where positive developments with Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) take place with growing population. In this context we need to explain better what are the mechanisms behind both.
The central concept is ‘vulnerability‘ – to climate change and climate variability. Few of the challenges posed were for example is it possible to link spatial-explicit migration data to a cluster of environmental variables, how to link up case studies of migration and soil and water conservation (at the level of actors and communities).
The most vulnerable areas are less relevant in terms of population, but politically more relevant. Examples: Mali, Chad, Darfur. What is the possible connection between resource constraints, political conflict and migration?
Socio-ecological niches for soil and water conservation are more constrained for adoption if population and water stress are low (Southern Mali) and less constrained for adoption is population density and water stresses are higher (Southern Niger).
Prof. van Dijk concluded that there is a need for spatially explicit mapping of population pressure related to water stress in order to link up with policy.