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Impact Stories

LaunchPAD is the first phase of the Climate Model Evaluation Hub for Africa. The aim of LaunchPAD is to develop climate model evaluation tools focusing on processes which matter in African regions, which can be automated to run across models. These tools will substantially improve understanding of how climate models represent Africa.

This understanding is fundamental to support further improvement of models over Africa, and to inform the use of climate model data in adaptation planning. The project therefore addresses vital scientific and technical developments which are needed in order to improve the credibility of future climate information.

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Part of the co-production of climate information in AMMA-2050 included the development of an atlas containing information about projected future climate changes in West Africa, or climate metrics, that are relevant to supporting medium-term decision making. Such metrics included information on annual rainfall and the number of extreme precipitation days per year. In line with the capacity building aims of AMMA-2050, it was decided that the production of this atlas would be undertaken by African climate scientists who would be trained and supervised by UK-based climate scientists with more coding experience. The decision was made to combine production of the climate change atlases with a Python scientific language training course for African climate scientists involved in AMMA-2050.

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AMMA-2050 researchers have highlighted how engaging with the project has strengthened their ability to produce decision-relevant climate information not just in terms of technical capacities, but also in more effectively engaging with decision-makers to better appreciate their needs and develop more useful science. This engagement has also resulted in indirect benefits for some researchers, including career promotion.

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AMMA-2050 has developed methodologies for mapping inundation across Ouagadougou from intense storms, taking account of changes in land use and climate. Hydrological modelling allows exploration of how flows and inundated areas may change in the future at the city level in response to climate and land use change.

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Theatre forum, a participatory approach that supports public analysis and collective experimentation, was a powerful tool in the dialogue between scientists, people and policy makers as well as its ability to bring up cultural and socio-political issues which would otherwise stay on the sidelines. In an interdisciplinary and international project such as AMMA 2050, forum theatre proved to be a useful methodology to create common ground to communicate climate information in a meaningful way with a diverse range of actors, in a more equal setting.

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There was limited understanding of climate change or impacts by FONERWA (Rwanda’s climate and environment fund), no direct considerations for climate variability or change in the application process and few project proposals were appropriately considering climate information. Recognising this, the FCFA work in Rwanda centred on developing the capacity of the FONERWA project appraisal team to perform a rudimentary screening on all project proposals. This would include a stronger review of applications for climate risks and provide FONERWA with information they can share with project developers so that climate information is better understood and incorporated into project design and implementation.

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To promote the participation of experts from developing countries in the IPCC process, Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) hosted two e-learning courses to encourage Global South participants to contribute valuable review comments to the IPCC 6th Assessment Reports. The courses were delivered between June – August 2018 and October – December 2019, in parallel to the review periods of the First Order Draft of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land and First Order Draft of the Working Group II on climate change: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

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Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) have been working with Wikipedia to enhance the participation of editors from the Global South, encourage researchers in the climate and development sphere to start contributing to Wikipedia, and enhance the quality and quantity of climate information on this platform. As a follow-up from Africa’s first Wikipedia edit-a-thon on climate change in 2019, FCFA and CDKN organised Wiki4Climate (a week of online Wikipedia editing on climate change topics) from 24th of November to the 1st of December 2020.

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FCFA, together with the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and Wikimedia South Africa (WMZA), convened Africa’s first Wikipedia edit-a-thon on climate change in Cape Town, South Africa from 6-8 August 2019. The aim was to address the ‘Africa Gap’ on Wikipedia by increasing the contributions from African researchers on climate change information thereby making African climate information more accessible and representative of the climate research being done. It was also held to build the capacity of African researchers in contributing to Wikipedia.

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There is a need for better understanding of climate change, in particular over Africa as it is one of the most vulnerable continents. The media and journalists play an integral knowledge broker role in reporting on climate impacts and solutions and helping decision-makers and communities to better understand these. Impactful and locally relevant climate change stories can empower positive change and shift behaviour. However, climate change is a complex issue to communicate, with many journalists struggling to accurately report on it.

Recognising this, the Coordination, Capacity Development and Knowledge Exchange unit (CCKE) of FCFA have initiated a number of activities and opportunities for journalists.

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The African Climate Risks Conference (ACRC) not only provided a platform to share the latest research on Africa, but aimed to provide a platform which allowed stakeholders from across Africa (and beyond) to reflect on climate risks and solutions from an African perspective.

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The Climate Information for Resilient Tea Production (CI4Tea) project has developed a new methodology for producing site-specific climate change information. CI4Tea is co-producing climate information by iteratively engaging tea sector stakeholders in western Kenya to understand their climate information needs and incorporate their feedback for developing usable climate information.

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Lake Victoria is one source of the Nile and it provides major fisheries (which are important both to local livelihoods and the national economies), is a key transport route between three major countries of the East African community and the Lake outflow provides a major hydropower source. The lake is unusual in that it is the largest tropical lake in the world and is largely fed by on-lake rain (not rivers) and largely emptied through evaporation (not rivers). The evaporation and lake-land circulations mean the lake triggers rain over the lake at night, making it a unique coupled hydrological-meteorological system.

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HyCRISTAL aims to integrate hydro-climate science into policy decisions for climate resilient infrastructure in East Africa. Within East Africa, HyCRISTAL is working in Uganda to develop use of climate information in water resources planning. Specifically, the British Geological Survey (BGS) is working in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) to improve the use of climate information in catchment management planning.

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HyCRISTAL’s rural work, is developing pathways for new climate research to support the resilience of rural communities vulnerable to climate change in two pilot locations, Mukono in Uganda and Homa Bay in Kenya, that capture two different Lake Victoria Basin national governance and policy regimes.

It is providing a rich suite of data and methodological training to understand current livelihood patterns and factors limiting peoples’ ability to adapt their sources of livelihood and policy implications through learning platforms and policy engagement in partnership with HyCRISTAL’s advocacy and academic partners in Uganda and Kenya. These tools are building an evidence-based pathway to rural adaptation at the county and national level. As HyCRISTAL’s climate modelling projections become available, they will intersect with the data on adaptations and the growing knowledge of decision-making processes.

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Within the Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, there is recognition that climate change is important and will affect the delivery of water and sanitation services. Similarly technical and professional staff within city and utility departments, who are responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the physical systems that support this service delivery, are also already beginning to include climate considerations into their work, albeit at quite a simplistic level. HyCRISTAL’s work in Kisumu and Kampala therefore initially focused on trying to engage key people in the city to explore the situation with the current and likely future WASH system(s), considering it to be embedded within other city systems such as solid waste, drainage and infrastructure.

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City learning lab processes were introduced to ensure a sound method of co-production, integrating a range of stakeholders in the process of exploring climate information for decision-making at city level. Cities face many challenges and operate in complex systems. The learning lab approach allows partners from various backgrounds to explore challenges in more depth, looking for integrated ways to address them. 

The primary impact was to unpack the burning issues identified in each city. An important, secondary impact was the establishment of interpersonal connections, resulting from the iterative nature of the process. The approach can be an effective way to engage diverse stakeholders on tackling a shared problem by exploring different perspectives. It requires skilled facilitation, and ideally contributes to a deeper analysis of a specific problem and possible solutions, while developing new cross sectoral networks.

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This story illustrates the importance of transdisciplinary co-exploration. Decision-support methods and participatory exercises can facilitate the co-exploration of ‘burning issues’, decision-making processes and climate information needs. Decision-making can be complex and influenced by a range of stressors, including climate variability and change. Although climate impacts are felt, climate information is not currently incorporated into the decisions and actions of many city planners and policymakers – very few use the appropriate type, scale and format of climate information, and future climate projections are rarely consulted. Hence, scientists and researchers can overestimate planners and policymakers’ grasp of climate science, and underestimate the complexities of city decision-making. Using a range of decision support methods and activities, co-exploration in FRACTAL cities has built shared understanding and trusted relationships, informed city agendas and strengthened confidence and capacities of researchers and decision makers.

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The provision of climate information to support climate risk management activities typically focuses on the interface between climate science and decision makers or ‘users’. Meeting user needs requires tailoring available products so they are relevant to the user’s context.Underlying information production assumptions are considered the domain of experts. Yet experts each make choices about appropriate source data, models, methods, assumptions, framing of uncertainty, and interpretations of the evidence. The resultant, numerous climate information sources can sometimes contradict each other. There are concerns about the potential consequences of this characteristic of climate risk management. FRACTAL’s distillation framework is grounded in transdisciplinary engagement, acknowledging the subjective elements of climate information construction by taking a humble science stance, opening assumptions and decisions up for interrogation, including the trade-offs between reducing uncertainty and increasing the risk of error. 

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FRACTAL has experimented extensively with the use of Climate Risk Narratives (CRNs). These are stories told from the future of a changed climate and associated impacts. The CRNs were initially developed by climate scientists as plausible stories about the future climate of a city based on evidence from regional climate projections and observations. This introduced climate risk information into FRACTAL’s transdisciplinary activities. CRNs then proved useful during the project’s iterative co-production processes as a way to identify climate knowledge that is relevant to a specific city’s climate risks, their potential impacts and suggested societal responses. 

They are instrumental in supporting and generating engagements and research activities, outputs and outcomes. They are useful tools to integrate climate knowledge into resilience decision-making, to promote dialogue and to co-produce knowledge and improve the understanding of relevant city-region climate hazards and impacts.

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FRACTAL sought to deepen the engagement between scientific and city-regional decision makers. The project adopted an embedded researcher (ER) approach. ERs were recruited to liaise between scientists and decision-makers, dividing their time between universities and city government. Before the project, other engagements had tended to have a narrow focus and short-term consulting capacity. 

In order to make climate science relevant and useable an understanding of the application context is required. Conversely, to ensure the robustness of climate information an understanding of climate science is needed. Making these connections is difficult because scientists and decision makers operate in different networks with different priorities, coding schemes and temporalities for their work. ERs were able to span these boundaries, facilitating engagements and helping to generate and translate the evidence needed for real-world decision-making processes.

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Addressing the cross-cutting problems associated with climate variability and change in southern African cities requires significant action, investment and collaboration to connect often ‘siloed’ departments and organisations. Building strong relationships and networks of stakeholders within and across cities is essential for a coordinated approach. It inspires and supports stakeholders in the cities. 

Relationships and networks are strengthened by social learning, group reflections, knowledge sharing and co-production. This story highlights the role of social learning activities (e.g. city exchanges, collaborative research) in developing the relationships and networks needed to deal with the impacts of climate change in FRACTAL city-regions.

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The development and application of the concept of receptivity among stakeholders offers an alternative framing to that of seeking ‘entry points’ for climate information. Receptivity entails critically reflecting on one’s own knowledge and that offered by others (i.e. recognizing assumptions and framings). By creating an environment that fosters receptivity (e.g. the learning labs), FRACTAL enhanced opportunities to make less partial, narrow judgements and showed how the practices and actions of researchers and decision makers can be based on a broader view of the ‘system’ (e.g. the city-region). 

Receptivity to other frames of reference, knowledge and knowledge-making practices is in no way passive. It is a way of engaging with others that is open, considered and reflexive.

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Durban is a self-funded FRACTAL city. As a result, the city could tailor the approach to FRACTAL research according to their specific needs and align it to current activities and approaches. 

The aim for the embedded researcher (ER) was to look at ways to integrate climate information into biodiversity planning. To achieve this the ER worked with stakeholders from eThekwini’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD), academics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, researchers from FRACTAL, and other stakeholders. The ER found it was important to take time to understand the context, cultures and mandates of a group, and be adaptable with initiatives, programmes and approaches so that products could be tailored better and embedded effectively in the group’s processes and activities.

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In Windhoek, FRACTAL contributed to developing the City of Windhoek’s new climate change strategy: the Integrated Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (ICCSAP). FRACTAL implemented a city learning lab approach in Windhoek to support the development of the ICCSAP. This approach brought a range of stakeholders together, including academics, practitioners, NGOs and other organizations. 

During the labs, stakeholder groups unpacked climate-sensitive city issues and governance arrangements, deliberating the significance and implications of various climate scenarios. Other activities emerging from these labs included city exchange programs and transformational leadership training on climate change for decision-makers. The process enabled a different, inclusive approach to developing strategies, and resulted in real benefits for the city of Windhoek.

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The FRACTAL project introduced new approaches to understanding issues and solutions in Harare. These approaches strengthened relationships among stakeholders and decision makers, and increased receptivity to issues of climate variability and change, especially how this receptivity might intersect with development. The project partly helped initiate an ongoing conversation around receptivity issues between various city stakeholders and researchers. Prior to FRACTAL, few (if any) city-focused climate knowledge projects had been implemented, implying that this conversation had not yet started. Stakeholders reflected on broader decision-making processes through FRACTAL (e.g. development decisions). They have reported useful conversations between decision makers and academia and are now more willing to work with one another to co-define issues and solutions.

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