Information on Climate Change Spreads in Eastern Africa’s Mountainous Areas

By Hanna Päivärinta – Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

A project conducted in Eastern Africa with financing from Finland has increased knowledge on climate change among both researchers and the local people. The climate change project, begun in 2011, receives 4.9 million euros in support from Finland. Its achievements to date were presented at a seminar held at the University of Helsinki at the end of September.

Kenyan children are also participating in the project through art.

The aim of the project on climate change is to promote food security and to find ways of adapting to climate change. The project is coordinated by the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, or ICIPE, in Nairobi. Research is carried out on the Taita Hills of Kenya, in the Mount Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania and in the Jimma Highland area of Ethiopia.

“It’s great that we can show farmers concrete means that are effective for instance in repelling pests. Information doesn’t remain known only by researchers; instead, we have much contact with people residing in the area,” said project coordinator Tino Johansson of ICIPE.

An important aspect of the project is to increase local farmers’ knowledge about climate change and to find ways to prepare for it. Training, exhibitions and meetings with researchers have been arranged for farmers.

Journalists spreading information on climate change play a key role, for which reason they have also received training starting from basic issues. In addition, tens of teachers have received information about the topic, and more than 2,000 students have been reached directly.

Local cooperation is pivotal

The research project also aims to assess the impact of climate change on ecosystem services, meaning for instance clean drinking water and agricultural production, organic pest control and recreational use of the area. The project has sought to create an economic value for these issues.

A questionnaire survey conducted in the area showed that variations in the amount of water and its quality are topics of concern to all of the farmers. Agriculture becomes more difficult when it isn’t possible to predict rainfall; showers can be severe and can weaken water quality.

How can an individual farmer prepare for the impacts of climate change?

“It is important that small farmers work together, for example through the establishment of water cooperatives. There will be enough water for everyone in the future if it is stored during the rains,” Dr. Reuben Kadigi of Sokoine University of Agriculture stated.

“The means for adapting to climate change are not the same for everyone; economic differences must be taken into account. The impacts of climate change are particularly expensive for the poor,” Dr. Kadigi said in Helsinki.

Research and training capacity is strengthened

The others implementing the Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa project, or CHIESA, which will continue until summer 2015, are the University of Helsinki, Sokoine University of Agriculture, and Dar es Salaam University in Tanzania, as well as the University of York, England.

In addition, more than 20 local research institutes and universities are participating in the project. A number of local undergraduate and graduate students are working in the project as part of the capacity building and training cooperation.

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