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ACCCA Experiences; Lessons learned in the field: thinking about the content for risk communication

Multiple Authors

‘Awareness was necessary before implementing any adaptive measures, as there was a general lack of information on climate risk in the community’, Nepal ACCCA Pilot Action.

Learned lessons from validating, testing and implementing climate risk communication tools and methods on the ground have helped us to recognize that the content of risk communication material needs to account for the use of:

  • Complex information that combines secondary and primary sources
  • Relevant terms (accounting for time scales, local perceptions and context)
  • Examples or analogies (familiar situations)
  • Local language and terminology
  • Illustrations (graphs, pictures, that help illustrate the intended massage)
  • Interactive processes (engaging the receivers/users of information)
  • User-friendly text (clear and easy to read)
  • Targeted messages (specific to a particular stakeholder group)

To develop a clear message that is relevant to the receivers it is necessary to collate and synthesize a large and complex set of information, often times combining secondary information (e.g. literature, on-line resources, databases, etc.) with primary information (e.g. interviews, consultations, surveys, etc.) to capture local views and terms.

The use of local language and terminology, illustrative graphs and examples (analogies) proved helpful in passing the general message across in clear terms that are understandable and relevant to the local stakeholders. Considering time scale is also important when communicating climate information, as long-term hazard scenarios often mismatch short-term planning frameworks that influence context-specific actions.

Examples and analogies used to communicate climate information in some ACCCA pilot actions:

  • Nepal, example used to communicate total rainfall decrease at group discussions: ‘Farmers used umbrellas or plastic as shelter during rice plantation, but now they do not have to use it, as rain during plantation has reduced in the last few years’.
  • Tanzania, example used to explain an observed trend: ‘The district used to be the major source of food and wood for other regional districts, now we depend on other districts for wood and cereals’.
  • Bangladesh, examples used to sensitise local communities on climate risks: ‘Local communities were sensitised with evidences of more frequent climate disasters in recent times compared to the past few decades’.
  • India, example to communicate climate change uncertainty to policy makers: ‘Some changes are sure to happen, but current science does not allow us to predict its exact magnitude. Some changes mean adverse impacts on agriculture production, reduction in rainfall and hence water availability. Hence, there is no harm in preparing ourselves for change; we can develop no-regret measures that will be beneficial anyway. Development is the need of this region and any measure that contributes to this process and can help increase adaptive capacity to climate change will benefit the community’.
  • Philippines, examples used to communicate climate variability in a magazine: Graphs of mean monthly records of total rainfall and temperature of the study area were shown to inform the stakeholders on the anomalous and unpredictable patterns of precipitation.
  • Mongolia, examples used to communicate resilience at workshops and community discussions: Concepts of resilience and pastoral systems development scenarios were introduced including critical slow variables and thresholds. Vulnerability indices were developed for the study area using simple mathematical models (including human population increase, livestock increase, drought and zud index, socio-economic vulnerability index of herder) and presented to the stakeholders.
  • Colombia (NCAP Project), analogies used to communicate possible impacts of sea level rise scenarios due to climate change: Two SLR levels are considered for the future scenarios: low and high. The high levels used for the 2019 scenario development are based on severe flooding scenarios that the study areas faced in the past. This was useful, because stakeholders could relate to past events to recognize the impacts of SLR and on this basis propose adaptation measures.

Some more tips. In general, quantitative approaches to communicate climate information and risk have demonstrated to be less effective for reaching local communities than narrative approaches that rely on examples to convey information and/or interactive strategies that engage communities in the process. Interactive approaches such as folk drama, film-making, dances and music using local instruments and language can serve to capture the attention of local stakeholders and generate more interest and better understanding. Having said so, concept notes, briefings, slides presentations, and brochures can serve to communicate clear and relevant messages to local- and national-level policy makers at workshops and/or formal events.

Advantages and disadvantages of some tools and methods to communicate risk

The following examples are tools and methods used by pilot actions in the ACCCA project to communicate climate risk to different stakeholders. While most of the strategies were effective in communicating risk, some of them were more cost-effective and complex than others, and some reached a wider audience than others.

Tools Country Scale of target audience Advantages Disadvantages
Brochures/ bulletins Mongolia, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Philippines, Nigeria, Mali Local and national stakeholders Easy dissemination Short text only with key messages Relevant only to literate
Poster India Local stakeholdetrs Easy dissemination and can reach a wide audience if distributed in strategic public spaces Interpretation requires additional interaction between providers and users of information
Magazine Philippines Local and national stakeholders Didactic, diverse, attractive to read Costly to publish, limited number of samples
Policy briefs Mongolia, Kenya National stakeholders Short, direct to the point and easy to read Challenge in simplifying message without losing meaning
Formal ppt presentations Mongolia, Mali National stakeholders Can be dynamic and interactive if it engages the audience in further discussion and reflection It can be impersonal and not inclusive, and generate indifference
Peer reviewed articles Kenya, Malawi, Philippines National and international stakeholders High credibility Time consuming. Proficient level of literacy and good understanding of the subject required
Role-play, drama and music Mali, India Local stakeholder Entertaining and can reach and engage a wide audience (including illiterate) Requires time and preparation to participate as both cast and audience
Group discussions Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines, Ghana, Tanzania Local stakeholders Inclusive, participatory Requires time and willingness to participate in the discussion
Training of trainers Ghana, Kenya Local stakeholders Inclusive, learning by doing (hands-on exercises), creates sense of empowerment and responsibility (commitment) Requires time. Difficult to select the leaders to be trained. Leaders need to have credibility and show commitment to continue with the process
Videos Malawi, Philippines, Mongolia, Kenya Local and national stakeholders Can reach a wide audience (including illiterate). Can engage stakeholders in the process (if participatory video-making) High production costs. Requires time and preparation. Technical expertise is needed. Need of electrical power for editing. Requires time for editing the raw material with participating villagers
TV and radio broadcasts Philippines, India, Mongolia, Ghana Local and national stakeholders Wide reach and entertaining Broad message can lose local relevance

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


This material is largely based on the ACCCA project Synthesis Report

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