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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

To make good decisions, Africa needs its own climate knowledge

By Sophie Mbugua
There seems to exist a great disconnect in the dissemination of information on climate change issues in Africa.
“A large mix of quality information is not tailored to the needs, issue and questions related to Africa,” says Bruce Hewitson, a climatologist at the University of Cape Town.
A woman counts Ethiopian birr notes.REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Geoff Barnard, chair of an international Climate Knowledge Brokers group and knowledge management adviser to the UK-backed Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), agrees.
 “Africa has rich experiences and knowledge but there are gaps in connecting it and making it accessible globally,” he says. This is a key contributing factor to why most of Africa’s climate services are being sourced outside the African continent.
To effectively design and implement climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, Africa’s communities, policy makers and organisations need to develop and strengthen their skills and abilities. This will require access to a wealth of information and knowledge.
“There’s need to build a community whom we can trust to guide the continent’s decision making and that community does not exist,” Hewitson notes.
A new global agreement to tackle climate change, agreed in Paris last December, emphasizes the need for country-driven capacities for climate action based on and responsive to national need. Climate knowledge brokers – people who sit between knowledge producers and knowledge users – can help filter and improve the quality of information available across disciplines and sectors.
Late last month, a group of potential African climate knowledge brokers gathered in Addis Ababa, organized by the UK-based Climate Knowledge Brokers group, to look at what information Africa needs and how the ability to produce and broker it might be developed. The meeting brought together 30 researchers, government representatives, climate change organisations, non-governmental organisations, media, civil society and consultants from 10 countries.
Brokers can bring together different players, such as policy makers and researchers, to provide a safe space where they can engage, participants said. Fiona Percy, coordinator of the adaptation learning programme for Africa at CARE International, says it is important to bring together different knowledge sources, from researchers to policy makers and local communities, to make informed decisions.
“Climate science is available in many African countries, though complicated. Many institutions do not know how to make it useful for decision-making processes” she notes.
Robi Redda, who leads CDKN’s work in Ethiopia, says he believes climate change knowledge brokers are essential to ensure that projects and programs being designed, implemented and funded are well-informed and built on the knowledge already in place.

Read the full story at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED). 
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