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Participatory scenario planning in Kenya

This case study introduces and reflects on the use of Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) in Garissa, Kenya.
Participatory scenario planning

Participants at a PSP workshop, Garissa, Kenya. © ALP staff / CARE

In 2011, CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP) realised that climate information could be used effectively in planning for agro-pastoral activities, and that this would help reduce drought and climate-related losses. In the Garissa district of Kenya, ALP is using Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) workshops as an innovative and inclusive way of communicating seasonal climate information to communities and government departments.

Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) is a process for collective sharing and interpretation of climate forecasts. PSP is conducted as soon as a seasonal climate forecast is made available by meteorological services, meaning it occurs as many times in the year as there are rainy seasons in that particular area. In a workshop setting over one to two days, meteorologists, community members, local government departments and local NGOs share their knowledge – both local knowledge and scientific information – on climate forecasts. The participants discuss and appreciate the value of the two perspectives and collectively find ways to interpret the information into a form that is locally relevant and useful.

During the process, participants consider climatic probabilities (which are an expression of the uncertainty in the climate forecast); assess their likely hazards, risks, opportunities and impacts; and develop scenarios based on this assessment. Discussion of the potential implications of these scenarios on livelihoods leads to agreement on plans and contingencies that respond adequately to the levels of risk and uncertainty. PSP forms part of the adaptation planning process, linking community plans to local government responses and support, as well as to higher level plans.

Promotion of climate-resilient livelihoods strategies

As a result of the PSP workshops held in Garissa, communities have been able to make more informed choices about their livelihood activities. For example, a local farmer, after receiving advice at the PSP workshop, chose to plant green grams (also known as Mung beans) rather than maize (the most popular crop in the area), since it matures more quickly and does not need supplementary irrigation. This resulted in better yields for the farmer, which met his household’s food needs as well as generating income from sales of the surplus crop. The PSP workshop also provided some market price information, prompting the farmer to sell his harvest at the local market rather than from his homestead, as was his usual practice. He then sold his crop at almost double the price he would normally receive at his homestead.

Capacity development for local civil society and government institutions

PSP increases the adaptive capacity of all stakeholders. With a multi-stakeholder platform for dialogue, community members and service providers gain access to forecast information and are able to develop stronger institutional links and coordinated plans that are flexible in responding to the coming season’s weather scenarios. Dissemination of this information through local media channels and services makes it accessible to a wide audience.

PSP also enables district government departments to have better access to more localised seasonal climate information and to use it for collective planning. This has resulted in timely support for the communities, especially in terms of passing on information, providing extension services and giving early warning for flooding. In the past, services were limited to emergency measures and provision of relief programmes after extreme events.

Advocacy and social mobilisation to address the underlying causes of vulnerability

The Garissa Climate Change Working Group was first formed in 2011 as a taskforce, following the first PSP workshop hosted by ALP. The idea came from the government and civil society representatives at the workshop, in response to the issue of sustaining the multi-stakeholder planning and advisory process beyond the life of this project. Since its formation, services to the community – especially in terms of climate, livelihoods and market information, as well as extension services – have been provided in a more organised and complementary manner. In 2012, the taskforce agreed to include advocacy on climate change issues as part of its mandate and has since been invited to act as technical adviser on climate change to the Garissa and Fafi District Steering Groups.

Disaster risk reduction strategies to reduce the impact of hazards on vulnerable households

PSP events and information have inspired actors to learn more about climate information, pay attention to media communications and apply new knowledge to both livelihood and DRR activities. Flood warnings, which were previously not heard or ignored, are now taken seriously, and farmers have been able to minimise losses by harvesting early and protecting assets such as livestock and irrigation equipment. Farmers have taken advantage of receding floodwaters to plant extra crops and have better managed their risks, for example, by deciding in advance what is needed to ensure a harvest, whatever the weather, and to exploit the good seasons.

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