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Results and Lessons from PRISE research and management meeting in Senegal

February 2015 : PRISE research and management meeting brought together for three days in Senegal, from 23 to 25 February 2015, the five organizations member of PRISE consortium and their country research partners to discuss around the burning issue of economic resilience to climate change in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). The meeting was an opportunity for PRISE consortium members to meet, to discuss the first results of reviews and studies and, finally, to define a common research agenda for the implementation phase of the project.

Stories of economic resilience in semi-arid lands of Senegal

The workshop opened with the diffusion of a documentary about stories of economic resilience of people in Senegal who are living climate change every day, and yet have managed to take advantage of opportunities offered by climate change.

Indeed, with an economy dominated by a few key sectors including agriculture, livestock and tourism, also the main provider of employment and income, Senegal is part of the 15 African countries most vulnerable to climate change. The picture of climate risks and changes that the country is facing is very worrying : decline in rainfall, increased temperature, increased salinization and coastal erosion, advanced of the sea, land degradation and reduction of arable land and grazing, reduction of water availability for irrigation, drinking and other productive activities, etc. Added to this is the marginalization of certain social strata (including women, youth and vulnerable groups) who, because of lack of an equitable access to resources and decision-making areas, bear more deeply the brunt of the effects of climate change.

Across the country, effects and impacts of climate change are felt by people in their daily lives, but also the economy. But, in many agro-ecological zones of the country, people have increasingly stopped to see in climate change only a threat and try to take advantage of the opportunities that climate change has to offer. The documentary, which is part of a series of preliminary footages of life stories and case studies which will guide long-term research agenda of PRISE project, wanted to explore the different strategies through which people living in arid and semi-arid lands of Senegal are facing impacts of climate change and manage to build their economic resilience.

Sharing of the first results and key lessons learned from countries situation assessment and the implementation of national stakeholder engagement platforms

After this introductory session, the floor was given to country research teams which had the opportunity to share the first results, lessons learned and key messages from countries situation assessment and national stakeholder engagement workshops.

This sharing exercise was very important because indeed, PRISE project rely on research and stakeholder engagement to strengthen the commitment of policy makers at the local and national government level, businesses and financial institutions, as well as at the level of civil society organizations for rapid, inclusive and resilient development to climate change. And It is through the strengthening of the understanding of all these groups of actors of threats and opportunities of climate change in semi-arid economies that PRISE project will achieve its objectives.

During this first session, six country situation assessments were presented by different PRISE country research teams. Each CSA covered on four key points :

- Presentation of the headline findings from the CSA
- Presentation of the key messages / priorities from the stakeholder engagement platforms
- Outline of the key opportunities for potential engagement

- Outline of the top 5 research priorities for each country.

The exercise thus saw a succession of presentations of the CSA of the six countries targeted by PRISE in Africa and Asia, namely Senegal, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Kenya, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Key lessons learned from that session, among others, include :

- In each country, present and future climate scenarios confirm a trend to an increase in the scope of the risks, effects and impacts of climate change on the living conditions of the population and key sectors of the economy in semi-arid lands toward 2030 ;

- Climate change affects very negatively the economy of countries, health and living conditions of people, as well as the availability of natural resources and market stability ; it is a major source of conflict, especially between breeders and farmers, but also of migration of populations ;

- There is a strong will of governments of the countries to make climate change a central issue of socio-economic development as witnessed by the various National Adaptation Plan, national programs against the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), etc. In practice, however, this will still take long to be translated into sustained political commitment and concrete and consistent actions. The share of the funding to the fight against climate change is still very low and is essentially constituted by external aid ;

- Climate change poses significant threats to economies in semi-arid lands, but also opportunities for markets and trade, for the emergence of new economic development niches (such as salt production in Senegal, hydropower in Tajikistan, green finance, etc.) that it is crucial to understand and document to be able to benefit from ;

- The use and promotion of local knowledge in the fight against climate change is also a common key point in all countries.

Some key lessons from the five work packages

PRISE research framework, in addition to the CSA, puts the focus on five work packages which are : (i) Climate Risk Management ; (ii) governance, institutions and finance ; (iii) market and value chains ; (iv) natural capital and (v) human capital.

PRISE consortium meeting served as a pretext for research teams insuring the leadership of work packages to share the initial results of their review, and thus be able to collect the suggestions and contributions from the other country research team for the improvement of their review.

We can retain among other key lessons :

- In general, there is a change in the perception of climate change by the actors. It is therefore important to have a conceptual innovation of climate change concepts to take into account all the current dynamics and drivers around the issue of climate change ;

- Human capital is strongly impacted by climate change. The most vulnerable sectors are health, nutrition, education, employment and living conditions. Countries targeted by PRISE project have almost the same coping mechanisms, which is an interesting opportunity for comparative research between countries and for up scaling of best practices ;

- Climate change directly and indirectly affects the governance systems of countries in arid and semi-arid lands : Directly, through the role of geography as a fundamental driver of the prosperity of states ; indirectly by changing the contextual environment in which political and economic institutions evolve ;

- There are many uncertainties about future climate changes in semi-arid areas, although we recognize through global climate scenarios a tendency to increased temperature and global warming in the coming years. This will result in an increase in the occurrence of extreme events and in the vulnerability of countries ;

- The private sector suffered the full brunt of impacts of climate change which affects the conditions of access to markets conditions, generates costs, impact on market stability and causes significant imbalances between supply and demand. Adaptation strategies of private sector to climate change are different and vary depending on company size (multinational, SME or micro-enterprise). Resilience to climate change also represents opportunities for business development that the private sector should be aware of and seize ;

- Many studies have shown that the arid and semi-arid lands are marginalized and less productive, and unfortunately, this type of work has always been used as statements to inform policies. This has resulted in a reduction in direct investment in arid and semi-arid lands compared to investments in wetlands. Which is a serious mistake because many growth opportunities also exist in arid and semi-arid lands and depend only on good natural resource management and policy to hatch ;

- The first results of thematic reviews have highlighted the gaps in research that need to be covered through further research.

A third session of exchange and discussion was also organized and dedicated to sharing of the first results of deep dives.

Prioritization and agreement on themes and research questions for the implementation phase

After two days of sharing and intense discussion on the first results of reviews (CSA, thematic reviews and deep dives), the third day of the workshop, more synthetic, was devoted to the prioritization and agreement on the themes and research questions for the implementation phase of the project.

Six critical research themes were identified :

- Migration ;

- Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Businesses, Economic Sectors and Markets ;

- Land policy and land governance ;

- Business and market Opportunities afford by CC and how adaptation/opportunities incentivised ;

- Policies and Institutions, including the political economy of reform ;

- Economic Development and Resilience of SALs though National and International Economic and Foreign Policy.

For each theme, three research questions were identified by country teams, who have pledged to work together in research and information sharing for the production of key findings and recommendations to be used by PRISE stakeholders, including policy makers.

Building economic resilience to climate change through research and stakeholder engagement

PRISE theory of change puts research and stakeholder engagement at the heart of the process of practices and political influence for climate-resilient development in arid and semi-arid lands.

Thus, the different members of PRISE consortium and their country research partners agreed at the end of the laborious three-day meeting on a set of key points necessary to the achievement of the objectives of the project. These include :

- Agree on the research methodology and understanding of key concepts and learn from existing initiatives ;

- Agree on the structure of a common research agenda for the coming years with as primary performance indicator, the sharing of the results of different deep dives and reviews during CARIAA scientific workshop in Istanbul in May 2015 ;

- Identify cross-cutting themes and research questions and define the roles of each institution in the conduct of the research ;

- Monitor the impacts of PRISE research on communities and on economic growth ;

- Rely on national stakeholders platforms to make climate change a key issue for policy development at national and regional level ;

In the near future, PRISE research agenda will be defined and platforms will officially start their activities in each country, thus constituting the two key mechanisms allowing both to strengthen the dialogue between researchers and policymakers and the provision key findings, evidence and indispensable tools to the resilience of economies in arid and semi-arid to climate change.