Grassroots participation is needed to tackle climate issues


“The global climate crisis requires a society that can foster solutions to environmental problems and appreciate the domestication of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

This is the opinion of Dr Olga Laiza Kupika, natural resource conservation specialist, associate professor and chair of the department of wildlife ecology and conservation at Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe.

Kupika spoke to Academia News about her work as a climate change expert. She also shared her views on the Conference of Parties (COP27) and the Africa Climate Story Media Initiative (ACSMI).

UWN: What is your area of ​​expertise and what have you worked on in relation to climate change in Africa?

OKAY: Part of my work around climate change in Africa is training, advocacy, capacity building, collaborative research, community and stakeholder engagement; climate governance and climate communication.

My research interests are broad. They include climate change adaptation and mitigation, climate governance, climate justice, local ecological knowledge, ecosystem resilience, natural resource conservation and governance, community-based natural resource management, ecosystem services , biodiversity conservation, gender and sustainable livelihoods, community resilience, education for sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

My goal is to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, promote natural resource governance and community-based approaches to wildlife protection and management by implementing innovative natural resource management models and identifying best practices for co-creating a sustainable future for people, places and the planet. .

UWN: What are some of the challenges you have faced as a woman in the areas of climate change and what could be done to create more space for women researchers in these areas?

OKAY: As a woman in climate science, I had to overcome barriers to accessing climate research funding while trying to create a balance between my social and academic life. Vulnerable women and youth, especially those in rural communities, have limited knowledge and few dedicated platforms on how to access funding opportunities, capacity building and training to promote climate action. In addition, I had to deal with stereotypes rooted in cultural and religious beliefs.

Advocacy to promote gender-responsive climate policies is needed to facilitate actions that correct gender imbalances in the climate space.

This includes mainstreaming gender and climate issues into environment-related policies. As the need for more women in climate science fields increases, it is important to promote training and capacity building on climate justice and gender equity, as well as offer a quota (based on merit) funding for women in climate change research.

UWN: Based on your fieldwork, what are some of the pressing issues facing African communities, especially women, due to climate change and variability?

OKAY: A high proportion of indigenous women in drought and flood prone areas play a key role in meeting basic household needs such as nutritious food, water, shelter, health, quality education and preservation of cultural and natural heritage.

However, they have a limited opportunity to play a leading role in providing local development solutions in the fight against climate change due to various factors. First, access to education for girls is limited due to limited resources and lack of access to career guidance.

Indigenous women can play a leading role in climate action, but their voices are stifled due to cultural barriers. As such, there are few indigenous women climate experts in the region. In addition to this marginalization, there is limited access for women to participate in climate development activities in leadership and decision-making processes, particularly at local and national governance levels.

UWN: What role do you see universities and academics playing in domesticating the UN Sustainable Development Goals, primarily SDG 13 (climate change)?

OKAY: Universities act as centers of teaching, learning, research and innovation for climate action. Academics are part of the think tanks of any progressive society, so they are key to addressing the challenges of climate change.

Partnerships with stakeholders such as local communities, government, civil society and media professionals can help the work of universities and academics in tackling the climate crisis as they generate scientific evidence to inform decision making. decision on climate change issues. Universities generate ideas that lead to innovative solutions to promote resilient communities and ecosystems.

UWN: Given the great challenges facing Africa, how important is environmental knowledge for African communities, young people (students and graduates) and even decision-makers?

OKAY: Environmental literacy helps equip, train and produce an informed society that can participate in and contribute to climate change discussions in meaningful ways, based on local scientific evidence. This knowledge can also add value to climate policy discussions and negotiations by improving understanding of changes and trajectories regarding environmental issues, enabling the co-sharing, co-generation and co-development of ideas and networking from an enlightened perspective.

The global climate crisis requires a society capable of fostering solutions to environmental problems and appreciating the domestication of global sustainable development goals, as well as ensuring the sustainability of programs to address the climate crisis.

UWN: How to bridge the gap between climate researchers, policy makers and communities?

OKAY: As a region, we need to promote participatory approaches in research and community engagement to enable grassroots co-generation of ideas and co-design of solutions to the climate crisis. Universities must transform academic and technical information into simple language that can be understood and used by stakeholders and produce socio-cultural solutions that allow society to adopt innovative technologies.

Climate researchers, local communities and policy makers need to connect through partnerships and collaborations, especially through climate centers of excellence that bring together all actors in the crisis space climatic.

UWN: One of the crucial issues in the fight against climate change is climate finance. What can African researchers do to lobby government and key climate action partners to invest in climate research, education and innovation?

OKAY: Collaboration and partnership between academic and industrial actors allow the pooling of technical and financial resources to promote climate action. Stakeholders such as local and national governments as well as development partners should integrate climate crisis issues into their budget plans.

Academics should engage in problem-solving research and harness innovative ideas to produce goods and services that eventually generate funds for further research.

UWN: Africa has the opportunity to host the Conference of Parties (COP27) 2022 in Egypt this year. What are some of the critical issues you expect to see resolved?

OKAY: Discussions on adaptation to climate change, in particular climate-smart solutions to address food security and other challenges, must be prioritized, along with the issue of loss and damage from climate change. Africa suffers the most but contributes very little to global emissions.

The issue of climate finance and commitments needs to be addressed, including financing mechanisms to promote climate action. Mechanisms for compensating for losses suffered, covering losses and damages through technical and financial support are the key to achieving climate justice.

Discussions should also focus on achieving a just energy transition through climate legislation, technology and capacity building in clean and affordable energy while developing strategies to achieve the net zero goal. The conference is also expected to discuss digital technologies and solutions to promote early warning systems at the local level to minimize damages and losses from extreme events.

UWN: You were a speaker at the launch of the Africa Climate Story Media Initiative by the Pan-African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PAMACC). What were some of the key takeaways and how is the initiative relevant to the discourse on climate change in Africa?

OKAY: Africa is a vanguard and not a climate victim. ACSMI is a collaborative initiative of PAMACC and Africa on Air that took place in Nairobi from July 26-28, 2022. ACSMI aims to strengthen media debate and public discourse on Africa’s climate history before the UN climate summit COP27 in Egypt and beyond. The initiative works with different journalists to publish dozens of groundbreaking climate change stories from frontline communities in Africa.

The initiative encourages more conversations about the climate crisis and the climate emergency, amplifying local voices or narratives about the climate crisis, empowering local communities and all actors, especially vulnerable groups.

During the launch of the ASCMI, I had the opportunity to give a presentation on early warning systems with a key message on the need for media professionals to integrate indigenous knowledge systems when broadcasting and climate risk communication.

My speech also focused on the need to promote more research, investment, change in policy and practice, and the need to involve all stakeholders active in the field of hydrometeorology and capacity development. early warning based on risk.

Africa can leverage vast natural resources such as minerals and forests to provide sustainable solutions to the climate crisis while promoting sustainable food systems.

Teresa H. Sadler