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Driving adaptation with effective communication tools in Africa

Joachim Ezeji's picture

Part 2 of 2 -

As efforts to develop and diffuse adaptation mechanisms in Africa and elsewhere grow in momentum, one major constraint has been the failure to develop an effective communication strategy to drive the process. Effective communication as a sub-set of development needs to be developed in order to get the message down to the bottom of the pyramid where those most affected agglutinate. The concept of information in general, and of climate change adaptation information in particular, as a resource for effective adaptation and development, needs to be domesticated well beyond the current cozy confines of conference rooms and research hubs. (Photo by Curt Carnemark, World Bank)

In Guinea, rising sea levels linked to global warming is feared to likely result in stronger coastal currents, higher tides and sea encroachment of land. Guinea’s coastal region, home to West Africa’s largest and richest mangroves, would therefore bear the brunt of global climate change. The region’s entire economy is now under threat. It is feared that the main victims of all these climate variations would be people living near the coast. An estimate of 2 million people are likely to suffer income losses.

In an effort to limit the foreseeable damage, Guinea has launched a national plan of action for climate change adaptation (PANA-CC), which sets out priorities, among them measures for protecting coastal areas. It outlines vigorous action for saving the mangroves and reforesting the region, planting teak and cashew trees. Faced with rising water levels, communities are being advised in Guinea to build sea walls and plant trees along the coast in order to protect the rice fields that have taken the place of the mangroves.

Other recommendations include enforcing laws on coastal settlements and tackling pollution. For these adaptation measures to work, it is crucial that local people be provided with environmental education and prepared for possible catastrophes in the future. Efforts such as those in Guinea need to be supported and diffused into other countries in the region as quickly as is possibly.

As measures such as those in Guinea and elsewhere get developed, it becomes urgent to educate people including government officials on what mitigation is, and how it differs from adaptation. Local policy makers, planners and administrators need to recognize that information is indispensable to the adaptation process. This is apparent with due cognizance of the fact that in most parts of Africa, the essential information mechanisms and infrastructural facilities are not yet sufficiently developed to foster the generation, storage, preservation, retrieval, dissemination and utilization of information.

However, effective communication is seen as an essential tool for the establishment and maintenance of good social and working relationships and it enables people to exercise control over their environment. The purpose of communication is to bring about change of attitude, knowledge, skills and aspiration of the receivers. In Nigeria, various communication media are commonly used to transmit all sorts of information to people. Some of these include magazines, leaflets, newsletters, newspapers, pamphlets, radio, internet and television, among others.

Hence Rural Africa Water Development Project, a Nigerian NGO has mainstreamed effective communication into its many pro-poor programs. One lesson the NGO has proudly shared about this is the fact that beyond stirring awareness, this has the extra benefit of building ownership and a high sense of community participation in the projects.


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