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Co-production manual shows how Lusaka identified that water is its ‘burning’ climate issue

When climate researchers wanted to draw up accessible scientific information to support Lusaka’s city officials, so they can better plan their development responses to include future possible changes in the region’s climate, they decided on a novel approach.

Instead of coming to the local government with a set agenda about what the researchers thought the city’s most pressing climate and development overlaps were, they sat with city officials first to ask municipal officials what they thought the most ‘burning issues’ might be.

The outcome of this process allowed researchers and local government to jointly zero in on water and sanitation as one the most pressing development concerns, which the researchers then used to inform a series of policy briefs that city officials could use for better decision-making and planning.

The policy briefs themselves were an important outcome of this joint effort of knowledge production.

However, the step-by-step process of working together to create this information is also valuable to understand, explains Alice McClure from the FRACTAL consortium of the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) programme. This process has been written up as a case study, which now features in a new knowledge co-production manual, published this month.

Part of the FRACTAL process has been to help produce policy-relevant scientific information that could help countries make better long-term plans, with climate change in mind.

While the end-goal of much of the FCFA work is to produce policy-relevant and user-friendly climate information, part of the process of compiling that information calls for collaborative work that helps bridge the gap between scientific researchers and academics in the field of climate change on one hand, and the policy makers and practitioners who use that information on the other.

The Co-production in African weather and climate services, published by FCFA and WISER (Weather and Climate Information Services in Africa), pulls together 18 case studies from work done through the FCFA programme. These featured examples draw out the lessons learned through these co-production processes from various weather and climate services projects done by FCFA and various partner organisations across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Lusaka case study documents how the FCFA team set up ‘learning labs’. These are workshop-type processes that allowed researchers to sit with municipal decision-makers, development teams, and civil society organisations working on the ground in Lusaka. They were able to pool their perspectives and knowledge through the workshop processes, collectively frame what the important issues are for the city, and what institutional arrangements might be necessary to operationalise appropriate responses.

“Zambia has a lot of policy documents at a national level, and even local level, which recognise the need for coordinated responses to different development issues, but the institutional mechanisms don’t exist yet for doing that,” explains McClure. “The learning labs allowed us to do some more thinking about this and created a platform for more coordinated thinking across government to manage responses.”

Lusaka already has many different projects that focus on improving different aspects of how the city functions, and these might already have a climate lens – such as water, or health or energy – but what was missing was the coordinated city-driven response.

The lessons learned from this collaborative process make the basis for the Lusaka case study in the co-production manual, which shows how these learning labs can be used at a community level to help ‘land’ climate issues.

“This manual is a neat set of examples that pulls together cases from across the southern Africa region about how different kinds of co-production knowledge-building processes play out,” says McClure. “It gives tangible examples of how we used these methods and tools within our African context, and is useful for those wanting to do similar processes here, and at similar levels.”

The manual is tailored for researchers, development workers and other stakeholders who want to contribute towards scientific knowledge generation that is relevant and significant in their context, she says.

The Co-production in African weather and climate service manual is available as a digital book or to download from the FCFA website.

The work reported on in this story is part of the Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL) research group within FCFA which aims to link city environments and climate scientists in order to support decision-makers to integrate this knowledge into climate-sensitive decisions at city-regional scale in sub-Saharan Africa.

This article was written by Leonie Joubert and is part of a series that highlights the co-production case studies from the FCFA research consortia.