Adaptation to climate changes: measures within our reach

Since communities of the West Africa coastal area are not able to deal directly with the root causes of climate change, for which they are only slightly responsible, they have no choice but to develop adaptation capacities in the face of the expected impact. Key avenues for adaptation and mitigation can be explored from the existing literature and PRCM partners’ experiences.

• Risk perception is critical to understand what one needs to adapt to and how. This highlights the significance of education that should provide the individual necessary interpretative elements and, particularly, convince them that they have the possibility to influence their living environment and conditions, develop new approaches and demonstrate creativity abilities. An educated youth will be able to exert flexibility, as a necessary condition for adaptation in a changing world.

• Over the years, local communities have accumulated adaptation knowledge and traditions that are too valuable to be ignored in a planning exercise. A balanced gender participation is also decisive. These adaptation capacities depend on social organisation aptitudes (associations and networks) and external factors such as access to electricity, internet, information and technologies. Strengthening social capital within communities is also key to urging people to achieve mobility and creativity, i.e. diversify fishing modes, develop environmentally friendly aquaculture and become full-fledged stakeholders of ecotourism. The very institutions need to develop their adaptation capacities by enhancing their skills, transparency and flexibility.

• In order to better identify adaptation requirements in respect to changes underway, development initiatives should emanate from the local level to the extent possible. Indeed, the issue is how to contain trends that are impelled by external drives as is the case today for fisheries, tourism, extractive industries, energy, communication technologies and trade. Promoting indigenous development in the areas of (family and subsistence) agriculture, (artisanal) fishing and (eco)tourism will yield benefits at the local level if rooted in local communities’ own knowledge, which will enable these communities to better manage adaptation opportunities and needs.

• Central to the mitigation of climate change effects are ecosystem conservation and rehabilitation. Preserving the good health of critical habitats such as wetlands, mangroves or coral formations not only helps to protect the coastline but also provides a package of essential services, including carbon sequestration, nutrient recycling, depuration, fisheries, biodiversity and recreational activities.

• All these measures require revisiting development models (here and there) and call for financial resources. International cooperation is more needed than ever. It is even a must due to the fact that countries from the North bear the greatest responsibility for climate change. Climate justice is also a pressing need across the globe if consideration is given to such possible consequences as migrant flows (to the coastline or countries in the North) or the rise of fundamentalisms. PRCM partners are active on the ground through the following:

• Rehabilitation of the lower delta of the Senegal River via the Diawling National Park and the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve of the lower Delta of the Senegal River;

• Participatory approach to the protection of the landscape heritage of the Cabo Verde archipelago (the 7 wonders of Cabo Verde);

• “Climate: head in the air and feet on the ground” a climate change awareness-raising project based on a participatory aerial and ground photography process, implemented by en Haut! jointly with the youth of the Maio island, Nouakchott and Palmarin;

• Rehabilitation of nursery areas in the Joal-Fadiouth MPA through the protection of aquatic-grass bed and the creation of artificial reefs;

• Recovery of rice fields and rehabilitation of mangroves in the Rio Cacheu Mangrove Natural Park in the face of rising sea levels;

• Regional Environmental Education Programme (PREE) to turn West Africa youth into “coastal citizens”.