Thursday, July 12, 2012

Climate scientists and African communities can learn from each other through mediated dialogue

Arame Tall in  African countries face a growing threat of hydro-meteorological disasters such as droughts, floods, pest infestations, water-related epidemics, storms and cyclones. Whether correlated with anthropogenic climate change, a result of increased human vulnerability or merely the outcome of better disaster reporting, the number of reported hydro-meteorological disasters in Africa has been rising since the mid-1990s. [

African policymakers can make informed decisions about climate-change adaptation if climate researchers can provide them with the relevant data, including an explanation of the uncertainties inherent in climate and weather forecasting. But such substantive dialogue between climate scientists who produce forecasts and warnings, decision makers in government planning agencies, and vulnerable communities will not happen in a vacuum.

Several barriers prevent available climate and weather information (forecasts) from filtering down to potential users. They include scientific jargon, inadequate dissemination channels to reach the most vulnerable people, and poorly formalised institutional frameworks at a national level.

In 2009, I began to work with the Red Cross/IFRC and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction to test a novel participatory approach to establish a substantive dialogue at the national level between climate forecasters and Red Cross disaster managers in Senegal. The Early Warning, Early Action workshop consisted of a three-day facilitated dialogue.

...At the heart of the workshop was the belief that the two communities had a tremendous amount to learn from each other, but had to come to that realisation by themselves so that they could develop a 'thirst' for additional interaction and sustained communication....

Picture of the painted table placed in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle, representing the Round Table of legendary King Arthur. Photo by Martin Kraft, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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