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ACCCA experiences: examples of risk communication strategies

Multiple Authors

The following are examples of strategies that pilot actions in the ACCCA project used to communicate risk to local communities and/or policy-makers.

Climate Change Adaptation from the Bottom Up: Collaboration Between Malian Communities and Scientific Organizations to Identify and Implement Responsive Water Management Actions

Climate risk: water scarcity, droughts

Adaptation decision: water management

The project explores the links between vulnerability and adaptation to the effects of climatic change in the basins of the Sankarani and Baoulà rivers. The main purpose of the project is to help the members of three pilot communities in southern Mali to identify and implement promising water management innovations that could improve household conditions by increasing resilience to climate change.

During a field visit conducted by the technical support team to the Mali pilot action in April 2008, a communication strategy was developed to translate scientific information into a format that is simple to understand and accessible to members of the project target communities (Diouna, Kiban, and Massabla). Several communication channels were explored. Finally, the project team decided to use audiovisuals, theatre and music as means to communicate climate risk to communities.

Folk Theatre in Massabla

The awareness raising musical involved collaboration between the students and director of the National College of Arts and the Hamala Labo SEP group, which has expertise in awareness raising activities using music and theatre. Both teams worked together to develop an awareness raising campaign using local language, music and dance. The communication strategy expressed the communities’ concerns, and raised awareness on the potential impacts of climate change in the region.

In addition to the musical, a video showing proposed adaptation options was developed, and presented to the communities and national policy makers to encourage discussion on trade-offs. Adaptation options included improvement of irrigation systems and access to drinking water, installation of solar pumps to provide access to potable water, and construction of a small dam on the Mono River. The communication materials of the project were prepared in the local and the national languages, and presented to the scientific advisors at Poznan, COP 14, in December 2008.


Policy Framework for Adaptation Strategies of the Mongolian Rangelands to Climate Change at Multiple Scales

Climate risk: drought, zud

Adaptation decision: land management practices for livestock grazing in arid and over-grazed landscapes vulnerable to climate change

The main purpose of this project is to increase the resilience of pastoral communities living in transitional ecosystem zones of Mongolia to cope with climate change and climate variability in order to reduce rangeland degradation and improve water security. Another important objective of the project is to improve communication between herdsmen, scientists, and policy makers.

The target groups were herders, local land and government officers, young scientists and students, officials from the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, the Ministry for Nature and Environment and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Six herders’ groups were selected. Two of them are in the buffer zone of the Hustai Nuruu National Park, four of them are along the transect: forest steppe, mountain steppe, steppe and desert steppe.

Risk communication activities in then Mongolia pilot action were divided into three stages: social learning and participatory research at community level (March-August 2007), climate change adaptation strategies development at the community level (September 2007 – March 2008), and climate change adaptation policy development at community, regional and country scales (April-December 2008).

Remote sensing derived information was largely used for climate risk communication throughout the project. Four participatory workshops to develop adaptation strategies at community level were conducted with participation of scientists (including national project advisers), herders and local government officials (sum governors, land officers and agricultural specialists) during a 9-days fieldtrip, from June to July 2007. The participatory workshops aimed at identifying adaptation options/strategies to increase the resilience of pastoral communities to climate change and land-use changes for particular sites. Social learning, scoring of adaptation options and scenario building methods were used. Al Gore’s movie ‘Inconvenient truth” was displayed in Mongolian language, and an overview on ecological and socio-economic issues for the particular communities was presented. At the workshops different adaptation strategies for each community were discussed.

Participatory Workshop

Participatory workshops and best adaptation practices were documented to show the results of actions taken by stakeholders to adapt to climate change. As a result, a 600 minutes long documentary was produced (filmed during field visits) on adaptive rangeland and water management practices such as fencing of vulnerable riparian ecosystems, wetlands and water sources, hay making, and setting up legal communities. The video was taken during the early growing season and summer periods to capture all critical periods of the year. Ecological and pastoral land use problems, and social learning activities such as participatory workshops at community level were also documented in the video. A 15-20 minutes summary video was then produced to present good rangeland and water management practices for the study sites at the sum level and national level workshops. In addition to the video, 300 brochures on ‘Adaptation Policy of Mongolian Dryland Rangelands to Climate Change’ were distributed to stakeholders during the national workshop.

In addition to the production of brochures and video material, a synthesis paper describing the adaptation options at the community and administrative-territorial unit levels was prepared. Climate change adaptation options for cultural landscape restoration include the introduction of community based conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, the addition and protection of water sources for additional pastureland, the agreement between neighbouring sums for communal use of otor and reserve pastures, and the enlargement of administrative-territorial units, for instance, by combining several sums into one unit in order to restore cultural landscapes.


Promoting Integration of Adaptation Strategies into Developmental Policies

Climate risk: precipitation increase and shift in rainfall. Temperature increase (increase in dry spells).

Adaptation decision: water management, agricultural practices to ensure food security and income.

This project aims to develop and validate risk communication products to improve the understanding of all concerned stakeholders on scientific, social and policy issues governing climate change adaptation process at a district level in India. This project focuses on the Bundelkhand region of India and targets district level planning agencies, rural communities, and local research institutions. The development of the projects covers 3 main components:

  • Vulnerability assessment of the agricultural and water sectors to current and potential climate change in the region.
  • Development, test and validation of risk communication materials through a multidisciplinary stakeholder engagement process.
  • Identification, selection and implementation of pragmatic adaptation strategies through consultative methods.

Due to a general lack of information on the potential impacts of climate change at regional level, policy makers were not sure about the importance of the issue and what should be considered in their plans of action. To address this issue, risk communication materials were developed and validated and a campaign for collaboration among various stakeholders on the issue of climate change was launched as part of the pilot action in India

Village Meeting with Folk Music in Nautanki

First, brochures were produced communicating the impact of climate change in the area, what can be done, and how adaptation measures can make a difference. The brochures, developed in both English and Hindi, also described briefly the ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change’ elaborated by the Government of India. Brochures were explained and handed over in person to policy makers and scientist in the region. Village heads received brochures in Hindi to be distributed to villagers.

Second, a concept note was prepared, in addition to a set of PowerPoint (PPT) slides used to present research findings to decision makers at stakeholder consultations. The PPT presentation included pictorial slides with music that were used to depict the impacts of climate change in the region.

Third, a communication programme has been developed to create awareness among communities. It includes a village meeting to discuss climate risks, the possible solutions and the need to work together to cope with climate change. The programme unfolds as follows: At a community gathering, the programme starts with the unveiling of a poster that describes the problematic of climate change and possible adaptation options. The poster is unveiled by an important figure in the village. Folk music with lyrics pertaining to climate change intersperse the programme as entertainment. An interactive local theatre follows and presents the issues related to climate change in the region, the challenges and the need to work together. The chief narrator in the play involves the community audience in discussing solutions with experts and the village leaders.

Community Radio sent its reporters to community gatherings where the program described above was implemented. Reporters converted the public discussions on climate adaptation into radio programmes for broadcast.

A key lesson learned by the project team from implementing the above strategy is that it is possible to identify and communicate climate risks and adaptation options in a participatory manner. The team realized that the nautanki (folk play) had higher impact on the communities than the other two strategies used i.e. the poster and the meeting. Furthermore, the team’s capacity to conduct dialogues and communicate risks has been greatly enhanced.


Audiovisual Tools for Community-based Adaptation: Bridging the Malawi Red Cross and Meteorological Services

Climate risk: dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, riverine floods and flash floods

Adaptation decision: water management, agricultural practices to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods of rural communities.

The main objective of this project is to use audio-visual communications to contribute to community-based climate change adaptation in two ways: helping in the transfer of local adaptation experiences and knowledge between vulnerable communities, and contributing to bridge gaps between the scientific community and the community of practice.

The main idea of the project was to involve villagers and Red Cross volunteers of the Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) in the production of a participatory video including local perspectives, language and approaches to communicate climate related risks in five villages of the study area. To do this, three main activities were undertaken: 1) training of local people in producing a film, 2) screening this film in other villages, and 3) evaluating the effect of the film (participants answered a questionnaire before and after the screening to distinguish what they learnt from the video; a group of villagers were also interviewed on camera). These activities were carried out in five rural villages in the district of Salima in Malawi: Mphunga, Kasache, Pemba, Mwanza and Maganga.

Farmer filmmakers

The project started with training on climate change and risks executed by MetMalawi’s senior meteorologist office, with participation of the MRCS disaster management officer and support from the RC / RC Climate Centre’s technical adviser. Then, selected individuals from MRCS headquarters and the pilot district received intense training to enable them support the design of audiovisual tools. In July 2008, adaptation strategies were selected during participatory processes at the community level and consultations with agriculture and disaster management experts from Red Cross, MetMalawi and other institutions. Mphunga villagers (later named the filmmaker farmers) were requested to identify what they had being doing differently as a result of their understanding of climate change after receiving the training. They came up with a list of six adaptation messages that were turned into a short film to go on a ‘screening tour’ around the four other villages. These villages were on average 40 km apart and their members had no contact with each other.

The six local adaptation strategies promoted through this initiative are:

1. Diversification of crops: Most farmers depend heavily on maize, which fails to produce good harvests when there is floods or droughts. By planting more land with rice, beans, cassava and other crops, farmers could ensure that some food would be produced even with relatively unusual rainfall patterns.

2. Irrigation farming: Agricultural practices in Mphunga are entirely dependent on rainfall. Yet in the neighbouring village of Kasache, simple technology allows for irrigation farming through treadle pumps, providing water to plants and increasing production.

3. Ducks versus chickens: When floods occur in the village chickens often drown, affecting local food security. Mphunga farmers were inspired by an idea from women in Bangladesh, which after experiencing more frequent flooding events decided to substitute chickens with ducks, which have the ability to float. Now Mphunga exports ducks to neighbouring communities.

4. Storm drains and elephant grass: During floods, running water causes erosion and other damages. With the development of drainage systems and cultivation of elephant grass the negative impacts can be reduced.

5. Storage of food: Mphunga farmers store their harvest in granaries. Flooded granaries result in the loss of most of the harvest affecting food security. Storing harvest in 50-kilogram bags would allow farmers raising them to higher ground to avoid damage in case of floods.

6. Flood Alert: Water can rise relatively rapidly, and catch households unprepared. The Red Cross supported the formation of local action teams where some community members are responsible for alerting the village when waters are rising by blowing a whistle.

These measures are simple and creative, and easy to understand through the video made by farmers, as well as easy to replicate in villages experiencing similar problems. (The complete film can be watched HERE).

Once the film was produced, the Red Cross organized screenings of the video in neighbouring communities. Groups of around 20 villagers gathered at the villages’ schools, which were turned into a ‘movie theatres”. These events followed local traditions, beginning with welcoming remarks and a group prayer. Before the screening, it was explained to the participants that the project had a very special mission: ‘to transmit messages specially put together for them by villagers like them’. After that pictures of the making of the film were showed as that helped to create an open environment. Afterwards, the film was screened.

To evaluate the method, questionnaires were distributed before showing the film. Participants had to answer 15 questions mainly about if and how they were experiencing climate change and how open/willing they were to adapt their livelihoods. After watching the film they had to answer a post-film questionnaire. With the questionnaires the knowledge before and after the screening was be compared. For a qualitative and more emotional capture of the impressions, four participants in each village were interviewed and filmed. The outcomes show that most of the adaptation messages were picked up by 80 to 90% of the audience-farmers. This demonstrates that a film produced by villagers using a participatory approach is an effective way of transmitting important messages on climate risk and supporting community-based climate change adaptation.


This material is largely based on the ACCCA project Synthesis Report

Authors: Tahia Devisscher (SEI Oxford), Fernanda Zermoglio (SEI Oxford), Jon Padgham (START International), Anna Taylor (SEI Oxford)

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