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Lessons I took away from my first Adaptation Futures Conference




December 13, 2018


Adaptation Futures Conference, Cape Town, proves to be a valuable meeting place for dialogue on adaptation solutions


In June 2018 around 1300 scientists, practitioners, community members and policy makers from all over the world gathered in Cape Town for a dialogue on adaptation solutions. I was among this group, participating in my first Adaptation Futures conference.

The size and diversity of the conference was awe-inspiring, with an interesting programme and much learning to bear. I had a chance to participate in sessions that spanned many issues, from adaptation financing including eligibility and access; innovative projects that are reducing climate change impacts in poor countries; key adaptation programmes that are under implementation or soon to be implemented; and information portals that are information on climate change.

I was fascinated to learn from one Ugandan community member who had taken it upon himself to mobilize his fellow community members to embark on an initiative of “road water harvesting”. In this, rainwater is captured from impermeable road surfaces for use in agriculture, especially during dry spells. I have never come across this in Malawi, but it is definitely an initiative that we could try since parts of the country are drought-prone and much of the rain water falling in the country is transferred into the Zambezi River through Lake Malawi and the Shire River.

As well as learning from others, I had the opportunity to contribute to a special session on “using and evaluating participatory scenario tools for adaptation”. Here I shared findings from research I am conducting as part of UMFULA on “participatory scenario planning (PSP) for creating useful and useable weather and climate information”. The session focussed on how different types of participatory scenario frameworks have been applied and the positive results that are being produced from the tool.

I was amazed at how much investment has been put into adaptation research and yet the numbers of people vulnerable to climate change seems to remain high on aggregate. The key messages during the conference closing plenary session confirmed my concerns of limited application of the research, hence the call for researchers to effectively disseminate research results and practitioners to operationalise new research recommendations.

The learning on adaptation was not limited to the conference centre. Whilst staying in Cape Town, I experienced first-hand how South Africa was addressing serious water drought challenges. At that time the water restrictions were so severe that only hand sanitizers were used in the wash rooms in order to save water, and showers had buckets to capture water. It seemed only appropriate that during a conference on adaptation to climate change we had to experience what adaptation looks like.

This blog was written by Dorothy Tembo-Nhlema, UMFULA.