Monday 23 May 2016

Reflections on the Adaptation Futures Conference

Dr Philip Antwi-Agyei, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana
Cohort 1 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

With realisation that mitigation alone might not be sufficient in tackling climate change; adaptation has dominated recent international political and academic discourse on climate change. Following the momentum of the historic Conference of Parties in Paris in December, 2015, over 1600 participants from more than 100 countries, gathered in the beautiful city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to share new scientific findings, products and services aimed at promoting the business case for climate change adaptation. Participants included academic researchers, innovators, practitioners and decision-makers both in the private and public sectors. Hosted by PROVIA (Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation) and funded by the European Union and the Government of the Netherlands, the theme of this conference was “adaptation futures 2016: practicesand solutions”.

Philip explaining CIRCLE’s business poster to a participant

The conference had 155 sessions, 7 high-level round tables and, of course, the highlight of it, the Adaptation Expo. There were seven key themes including food and rural livelihoods, cities and infrastructure, fresh water availability and access, ecosystems and ecosystem based adaptations, disaster risk reduction, the artic, and public health. Additionally, there were three 3 cross-cutting issues touching on risk assessment, adaptation planning and evaluation, institutions and governance, and investment and business. One of the key highlights of this conference was the address by Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who is the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. In her address, HRH Queen Maxima emphasized the need for the international community to provide all inclusive financial access to the most vulnerable in our communities. As the keynote speaker, Queen Maxima indicated that globally there are over 230 million people who are affected by climate change induced disasters. She opined that access to financial services by these people was critical for their survival.

Several cutting edge studies conducted across the globe were presented. I participated actively and made a presentation titled: “mapping the multiple stressors contributing to vulnerability across scales in the Savannah zone of Ghana”. In this presentation, I explored how the various climatic and non-climatic stressors vary and interact across three different spatial scales in dry land farming systems, typified by case studies from northern Ghana. This presentation outlined that smallholder households are confronted with multiple stressors, many of which are non-climatic in nature. To this end, the presentation highlighted the urgent and practical need to tackle both climatic and non-climatic stressors in a holistic approach in climate change adaptation policies. In addition to my academic presentation, I presented CIRCLE’s business poster at the Adaptation Expo. It is important to stress that CIRCLE’s business poster received considerable audience and participants were generally impressed by the overall objective of the programme, which is aimed at developing the capacity of early career researchers in climate change impacts on development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Philip (middle) explaining a point on academic poster to participants

For me, two key things made this conference a resounding success. First, the tool shed session, where practitioners including NGOs such as CARE International, Oxfam (UK) and other organisations such as the European Environment Agency, The World Bank, Stockholm Environment Institute etc., demonstrated practical tools for addressing various aspects of climate change vulnerability and adaptation. Indeed, many of the tools were quite innovative and attracted large audiences. Another fascinating feature of the Adaptation Futures Conference was the active participation by the business community (including insurers, accountants, bankers etc.), non-governmental organisations as well as policy makers. The participation of these stakeholders was a clear demonstration that the issue of climate change is not a problem only for academic researchers, but rather an all-encompassing issue that needs a holistic approach involving all stakeholders.  For instance, several sessions were devoted to the role of insurance and business models in reducing the impacts of climate change related risk on households, especially on poorer households. It is believed that businesses could help in developing appropriate business models in tackling climate change.

Philip (extreme left) with H.R.H. Princess Abze Djigma, Burkina Faso (in the middle) and other participants from Ghana

Additionally, this conference outlined some of the key challenges in adapting to climate change, the next steps and who should take the lead. In terms of challenges, a number of challenges were highlighted including the lack of communication on climate change, inadequate engagement amongst researchers and practitioners, as well as lack of appreciation of local knowledge, etc. Personally, one of the refreshing moments was meeting some of the key global leaders in adaptation literature that I have cited several times in my writing. Importantly, the Adaptation Futures Conference provided a good platform for forging new networks and renewing old friendships. Crucially, new thinking and ideas on adaptation to climate change emerged from this conference.

The next Adaptation Futures Conference takes place in Cape Town, South Africa in 2018 and it will be great to have a good representation of climate change adaptation researchers and practitioners from the Africa continent attending this conference. In doing this, the continent shall be demonstrating its commitments in contributing to finding lasting solutions to climate change, which is already posing a considerable threat to Africa’s poverty reduction, economic growth and social development efforts.

Finally, I wish to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to CIRCLE and the organisers of the Adaptation Futures Conference for providing the necessary support to enable me attend this important conference.

Dr Philip Antwi-Agyei is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Science at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana and recently completed a CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship at the University of Ghana.

Friday 13 May 2016

Catching up with the Geospatial Revolution

Br Dr Catherine V Nnamani, Ebonyi State University, Nigeria, and Sylvia Ankamah, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Ghana
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellows 
Dr Catherine V Nnamani and Sylvia Ankamah at the GIS and RS Training Course

The Induction Workshop in Kenya for CIRCLE Cohort 2 Fellows made us understand the importance of integrating and taking advantage of training programs at our Host Institutions. The experience gained from the reports presented by Cohort 1 Fellows spurred us on to attend a two week training course on Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS). The training was an eye opener on what a researcher can do, enjoy and achieve with GIS. It was amazing, enriching and has built our capacity.

The training was organized by Space Applications and the Environmental Science Laboratory at the African Centre of Excellence in Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. It is a World Bank Program/Flagship for collaborative research and development, and an innovation platform aimed at addressing Africa’s challenges relating to agriculture, environment, health, security, welfare, housing, disaster, transportation and industry using Satellite Spatial Data.

Dr Catherine V Nnamani and Sylvia Ankamah, CIRCLE Fellows digitalizing the RASTER and Vector features of Osogbo Map
Knowing where and why things are located on the surface of the earth, their distributions and the patterns they create, as well as their dynamics are vital for sustainability and conservation. GIS is pertinent to almost all human activity regarding space. In today’s globalized world, where climate variability and change is increasing, and where people seek to make everything easier, we need GIS to simplify spatial and temporal analysis. About 90% of our daily decisions hinge on the question ‘where’. GIS brings the world to our palms, enabling us to make informed decisions about spatial issues. It makes evident patterns in life, distributions and activities, thus helping in the location of phenomena and giving insight into the dynamics of such phenomena. It aids in understanding the relationship between the physical and human environment, making easier the expressions of such relationships in maps and visual forms using satellite spatial data. GIS could be applied in many different aspects of Human and Environmental issues (Fig. 1).

Fig 1: Application of GIS in different aspects of human and environmental issues.
The major aim of the training was to make environmental research easier, faster and timely by engaging individuals and companies whose activities have impacted, or have the potential to impact, the environment. The training was specifically focused on the basic concept of Geographic Information System, GIS Software’s, Primitive Spatial Analysis, Spatial Data Models and Map Design. Through the training our skills and capacity were enhanced in the following areas: 

  • How to manage and process environmental data from varied sources using raster/vector features, scripting, geoprocessing tools, cartography and projections.
  • We can now handle spatial analysis answering queries of accessibility, proximity and conservation using attribute features in AcrGIS
  • We can produce distributional maps of our study areas for our CIRCLE research.
  • Most importantly we want to share the good news that we were able to launch our first DRONE that captured spatial data on OAU, our Host Institution.

Our Joy knows no bound for participating in this training


Dr Catherine V Nnamani and Sylvia Ankamah are CIRCLE Visiting Fellows, currently hosted at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Engaging Community Stakeholders For Climate Change Research In The Niger Delta Region Of Nigeria: My Experience So Far

Dr. Omosivie Maduka, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow
Group photograph Paramount Ruler Mbodo-Aluu with CDC chairman and research team

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria as defined by the Nigerian government, occupies about 70,000 km² and makes up 7.5% of Nigeria's land mass. It comprises one of the nine oil-producing states in the country namely: Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Abia, Imo and Ondo. These states are home to about 31 million people spanning over 40 ethnic groups and 185 Local Government Areas (LGAs) who speak about 250 different dialects. Oil exploration in these states is the major source of foreign exchange for the country. Many communities in the Niger Delta have a negative reputation of being hostile to outsiders and are often tagged as volatile or unsafe.  This is often a source of apprehension for researchers working in the Niger Delta. I however found that proper engagement of community stakeholders using the recognized lines of authority is key to managing any issues in this regard.

During the induction training for the second cohort of Circle Visiting Fellows, the importance of early identification and engagement of various stakeholders, including study participants/respondents as a part of the process of planning for research uptake, was emphasized. I chose to put this knowledge to good use during my preliminary visits to potential study sites in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states in Nigeria, where I intend to evaluate the effects of gas flaring and climate change on health in six communities.

Visit to the Sapele LGA office of the HoD health and officials of the Delta State Primary Health care Board

I gained entry into each community through the Primary Health Care (PHC) structure. Accompanied by two research assistants, we paid visits to the officer in charge of health in each LGA headquarters (Medical officer of Health or Head of Department, Health). Through this office we were given access to the officers in charge of the PHCs of the selected communities. PHCs often have close working relationships with the leadership of the communities they serve. We were able to take advantage of this relationship in most of the communities as the PHC staff were happy to take us into the community and introduce us to the paramount ruler, Chairman of the community development committee (CDC) or community spokesman.

Picture with CDC  chairman of Ibada-Elume in Delta State

The reception from these leaders was very warm, we were offered the customary welcome drinks and ‘kola’ (traditional symbol of acceptance).  Our research objectives and methodology was well received and the required social license obtained in all communities.  The typical comment from the community leadership was that “it would be good to know how healthy our people are”. It was also interesting to note that many of the communities requested written feedback on the findings and recommendations from the research. This desire will prove beneficial to the plans to disseminate research findings among members of these communities.

Ibada Elume CDC chairman getting involved in data collection

Contrary to some concerns, none of these communities made any financial demands on us and no one was hostile to us. Rather, in most of these communities, we were given a guided tour of the community and allowed unhindered access to locations for water and air quality assessments. So far, we have conducted community entry activities, collected water samples to assess quality of drinking water and conducted air quality assessments in six communities namely: Mbodo- Aluu and Omuhiombia in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State, Ibada-Elume and Oton in Sapele LGA of Delta State, Sampou in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA and Nedugo in Yenagoa LGA in Bayelsa State. Each community has so far been visited twice with favourable responses. These experiences have served to reinforce my appreciation of community entry activities as key to profitable research activities and research uptake in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.