By Ndivile Mokoena
What stood out for me, personally, at the recent Practical Adaptation for Vulnerable Communities Training Workshop hosted by the Adaptation Network was the variety of stakeholders from different sectors and backgrounds, and how as a diverse group we managed to work well together with harmony and respect. The workshop was attended by academics, researchers, policy makers, scientists, government officials, community organizations, FBOs, NGOs and civil society. The highlight for me here was everyone’s skill of listening to each other, and sharing different views in an accommodative and all-inclusive manner.
I learned much about climate science, and understood the scientific perspective maintained by many of the participants; however, I also shared how the high-level decisions made based only on science affect local communities who are faced with climate change impacts both directly and indirectly. This is because the outcomes of research influence policy making, which often ignores and undermines and does not account for local and vulnerable communities’ knowledge and experience – hence there is no effective change at a local level and policies often remain un-implementable. Hearing of the scientific perspective in that relaxed and open spirited environment instantly transformed how I used to perceive climate change scientists as being insensitive to human nature. I also enjoyed the fact that the researchers and scientists alluded the reality that in their work they tend not take the perspectives, knowledge and experiences of affected communities into sufficient consideration, particularly in policy making.
The activities that took place during the workshop were another highlight as they brought about innovative and creative ways of working with vulnerable communities, and even the importance of general communication in everyday life. I took some tips from these activities to share with my family in this age of technology, where we have become anti-social even at home, as we no longer seem to have time to share our experiences of the day – as everyone is forever on their tablets, computers and smart phones!
The exchange of knowledge and experience was extremely invaluable, and I have no doubt that each participant took something away from the workshop to use and apply in our everyday work of striving to bring about a sustainable change and development in our varied scope of work. Hopefully, this training workshop signifies that change starts from one small area of cross-learning between practitioners, and spreads out – even to the point of influencing government.
The training has empowered me as someone working with communities on climate change adaptation and mitigation, particularly with women and to take note of gender differentiation in working at a community level. I hope to be able to bring about transformative adaptation to local situations through the training offered at this workshop and the activities we engaged in.