Flaws identified in India, China, Kenya policy narratives on climate change

sea-level-risePartners in an international study, have identified flaws in policy narratives on climate change in the Indian, Chinese, Kenyan and global contexts, which they say limit resilience in the world’s dry regions.

According to a report released Friday, April 19,to confirm that assertion, partial narratives that underpin policymaking, prevent people in arid regions from fulfilling their potential to provide food and sustain resilient livelihoods in a changing climate.

To buttress their point, the partners also released a series of policy briefs as drylands experts from around the world met in Bonn, Germany for the second scientific conference of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the eleventh session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention from April 9 to April 19 2013.

The new research, coordinated by the International Institute for Environment and Development with funding from the Ford Foundation, will be presented at the 7th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Monday April 22 to April 25 2013l.

Commenting on some of the flaws identified, Ced Hesse of the International Institute for Environment and Development said: “Policymakers often dismiss the world’s drylands as fragile ecosystems where highly variable, unpredictable and scattered rainfall is seen as fundamental constraint to food production that compels local people to over-farm or over-graze their land, thereby exacerbating scarcity and degradation, further reducing productivity and inducing desertification, conflict and migration.”

“But this ignores both the dynamics of dryland ecosystems and how dryland communities have long learnt how to live with and harness this variability to support sustainable and productive economies, societies and ecosystems,” he added.

For his part, Saverio Krätli, author of one of the new briefing papers said: “Narratives that underpin global policymaking on agricultural development are necessary simplifications.” “However, such simplifications currently hide a fundamental alternative in the way of using unpredictably variable environments for food production: one in which people operate with variability rather than against it, adapt and turn variability into a valuable resource rather than resist and suffer it as a costly disturbance. We are learning this from pastoral systems developed to operate in highly variable environments. In times of globalised weather volatility this is no lesson to be missed,” he added.

In addition to the paper by Krätli, researchers in India, China and Kenya have published country-specific papers on “Rainfed agriculture: for an inclusive, sustainable and food secure India”, “Pastoralism: the custodian of China’s grasslands” and “Moving beyond the rhetoric: the challenge of reform in Kenya’s drylands.”

Commenting on India’s policy flaws, Srijit Mishra of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research said: “In India, the public policy response to address food and nutrition security has been to do more of the same. That is, to transfer to rainfed areas the input-intensive technological approaches of the Green Revolution. But these areas are home to diverse, highly integrated production systems that are better adaptable to climatic variability.”

To him, “A ‘one-size fits all’ policy response will not be viable,” adding, “Instead, we urgently need an alternative macro policy that focuses on location-specific, decentralised, integrated, and knowledge-centric approach that pro-actively exploits diversity and variability to sustain and enhance production.”

Speaking about the situation in China, Wenjun Li, a professor at Peking University said: “People have developed systems of pastoralism with highly mobile livestock as a strategy to cope with variable environmental resources and climatic conditions. However, policymakers have misunderstood this. As more stakeholders begin to recognise that climate change is an important issue, we have an opportunity to reframe mainstream policy narratives that influence pastoral development policies in arid regions.”

The fifth paper examines the way that media coverage of pastoralism contributes to false policy narratives. It is supported by a more detailed study – also published Friday – on the content of media articles in China, India and Kenya.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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