Using a social learning configuration to increase Vietnamese smallholder farmers’ adaptive capacity to respond to climate change

LocEnvPaper

Link to the T&F site for the article

My former PhD-student Le Thi Hong Phuong now has a fourth paper from her dissertation which she only defended a few months ago, accepted in Local Environment a T&F journal on justice and sustainability (one of the oldest journals in this area!). Here is the abstract:
ABSTRACT

Social learning is crucial for local smallholder farmers in developing countries to improve their adaptive capacity and to adapt to the current and projected impacts of climate change. While it is widely acknowledged that social learning is a necessary condition for adaptation, few studies have systematically investigated under which conditions particular forms of social learning are most successful in improving adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable groups. This study aims to design, implement and evaluate a social learning configuration in a coastal community in Vietnam. We make use of various methods during four workshop-based interventions with local smallholder farmers: interviews with key farmers and commune leaders, farmer-to-farmer learning, participatory observations and focus group discussions. The methods for evaluation of social learning configuration include in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and structured survey interviews. Our findings show that the social learning configuration used in this study leads to an increased problem ownership, an enhanced knowledge-base with regard to climate change impacts and production adaptation options, improved ability to see connections and interdependencies and finally, strengthened relationships and social cohesion. The results suggest that increased social learning in the community leads to increase in adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers and improves both their economic and environmental sustainability. We discuss the key lessons for designing learning configurations that can successfully enhance adaptive capacity and smallholder farmers’ agency and responsiveness to the challenges posed by climate change impacts.

 

Advertisements

Meeting Malawi’s Minister of Environment & Climate Change Management

Earlier this month I had a fascinating week working with colleague Prof. Heila Lotz-Sisitka of Rhodes University (SA) and three SANPAD PhD-students in Malawi (Tich from Zimbabwe, Aristide from Mozambique and Dick from Malawi) on research issues related to the PhD work on Social Learning and Natural Resource Management (See my earlier Blog Post on (Re)Views of Social Learning). In the city of Zomba Prof. Sosten Chioto of Chancellor College took us to a brand new community radio station that has been set up to reach rural area’s in Southern Malawi on issues of climate change and food security. The radio station (104.1 FM ChanCo Community Radio) mixes music and information and is quickly becoming one of the more popular stations in the region. A big part of its success seems to be the fact that listeners, even in some of the remotest of area’s, respond to questions using their cell phones, either by calling in or by sending in text messages.

While at the station for a recording session we had the opportunity to speak with the Honorable Halima Daud, Malawi’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management who later that week would open the annual congress of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa in Lilongwe where I was asked to give a keynote on “Environmental Education and the Green Economy – opportunities and pitfalls”

Meeting Halima Daud

Ms. Daud made it clear that the addition of ‘Climate Change Management’ to her job title was crucial to emphasize the severe challenges climate change poses on food security issues in the country. Particularly the shifting of the rain patterns is affecting seeding and harvesting cycles and is extending the dry season while the current systems are not set up for harvesting the intensified rains that do fall periodically in the wet season. This is negatively affecting productivity which, near the lake area’s is increasing the pressure on fisheries (where stocks are under pressure and declining rapidly). The latter is an issue that Dick’s thesis “Organizing Multi-stakeholder social learning to foster sustainable fishing” is seeking to address.

Both the conversation with Ms. Daud and the presentations and discussions at the EEASA conference confirmed that we live in times of accelerating changes that require creative, routine braking responses, from the world of business, governance, science but, indeed, also from education.

As an introduction to this I am including the Introductory chapter to “Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change” (Wals & Corcoran, 2012) here: Introductory ChapterIntroduction – Wals & Corcoran, 2012

If you are interested in Food Security in relation to Sustainable Development you may want to have a look at the newly formed Centre for Sustainable development & Food Security at Wageningen University at:http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/CSDFS.htm

Wageningen Centre for Sustainable Development & Food Security on-line

Foodsecurity

Recently Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) launched the website for its new Centre for Sustainable Development & Food Security. This Centre seeks to link education, research and community-engagement in innovative ways to help achieve sufficient, healthy and enjoyable food for all now and in the future without compromising the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems. Food is considered an inter- and transdisciplinary theme that includes aspects of production, consumption, quality, safety, nutrition, waste, ethics, land-use, watermanagement, energy and culture, to name a few key essential vantage points that cannot just be studied or addressed in isolation. Below you find the basic information about the Centre from the new website:

Our mission

The Centre for Sustainable Development and Food Security (CSD&FS) seeks to accelerate sustainable global food security by facilitating and linking ground-breaking forms of research, education and societal engagement.

What do we do?

We initiate, connect and support innovative research, education and societal engagement in food-related challenges. We connect and strengthen networks and initiatives that work in the same vein as the centre but are presently operating in relative isolation, lacking synergy and mutual learning. We develop, support and share exemplary sustainable food security practices. We create an international platform for trans- interdisciplinary research on sustainable food security.

How do we do this?

By creating a space both virtual and real where people working on sustainable food security can be inspired, challenged and connected. By providing a window to sustainable food security for a range of stakeholders from outside and within Wageningen University & Research centre (Wageningen UR). By becoming a key innovation node in the international food security landscape by participating in and organizing networks and Centre’s of Excellence.

Our perspective

The Centre for Sustainable Development and Food Security:

  • considers food security broadly to include issues related to food production, availability, access, safety, nutrition, consumption, waste, equity, health and enjoyment;
  • promotes trans- and interdisciplinary perspectives to include social, ecological, economic, environmental and ethical aspects of food;
  • believes that a sustainable development perspective requires that different spatial (local to global) and temporal (past-present-future) scales need to be considered when seeking to address food security challenges;
  • finds that cutting edge approaches involving boundary crossing between sectors, disciplines, values and interests, requiring dialogue, interaction, reflection and the transformation of prevailing unsustainable practices are urgently needed.

The Centre for Sustainable Development & Food Security (CSD&FS) is hosted by  the WUR Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), with a mandate from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs and Wageningen UR’s Executive Board to accelerate sustainable global food security.