To build a more climate-resilient world we need to learn from the experiences of diverse countries – what has worked, what has not, and what should be tried in new locations. This is especially true for developing countries with limited means to adapt to changes in weather, water, and storm patterns.
Such “South-South” learning between and among developing countries is critically important to help low-lying, small island, and other vulnerable states enhance their climate resilience. All can benefit from the exchange of knowledge about approaches and technologies that have withstood tests from different local conditions in many geographies.
This was one of the priorities of a recent Global Environment Facility adaptation workshop in Dakar, Senegal, which brought together 16 French-speaking Least Developed Countries from across Africa, plus Haiti representing the French-speaking Caribbean. Participants shared their experiences with one another, and visited a project in Western Senegal where local communities are benefiting from support from the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), a source of climate adaptation funding specifically tailored for Least Developed Countries that is managed by the GEF.
Senegal was an ideal venue to host the regional adaptation workshop given its vulnerability to climate effects such as droughts, floods, sea level rise, and coastal erosion. At the same time, Senegal has made significant strides to bolster the resilience of its farmers and pastoralists. Despite its arid landscape and very limited irrigation, covering less than 2 percent of its harvested land, the West African country’s agricultural sector benefits from the dedication of small subsistence farmers. Another 23 percent of its population is engaged in livestock management, with a dependence on arable land.
Since the early 2000s, Senegal has helped to improve the fortunes of those engaged in its agricultural sector by employing the Farmer Field School Approach, which encourages knowledge sharing between farmers to inform the best methods of pest control. Using this method, farmers meet regularly to investigate which agricultural practices work best in their locations, and they participate in training modules on topics including soil fertility, seed production, product marketing, and gender empowerment.
During the GEF workshop’s field visit, participants witnessed the benefits brought by combining Farmer Field Schools with an emphasis on gender empowerment. They visited a women’s group in the village of Pandiénou, located in Senegal’s Thiès region. They were able to see the results of close collaboration between the GEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in support of community-led climate adaptation and resilience. This included results from a project funded by the LDCF which has used the Farmer Field School approach to mainstream ecosystem-based approaches.
During the visit in Pandiénou, local women shared how weekly Farmer Field Schools have taught them how to employ nature-based adaptation solutions. They demonstrated how they are using eco-friendly pesticides derived from the neem tree and organic fertilizers such as manure with peanut husks.
This led to vibrant discussions about the use of nature-based solutions and innovative agriculture practices in various locations around the world. The conversations demonstrated the immense value of community-based approaches to climate pressures, where experimentation with new ideas can improve decision-making. They also reflected the crucial role women play in communities around the world adapting to climate change. The project is also an example of how Farmer Field Schools empower women by fostering a sense of ownership and commitment in the adoption of sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture practices.
Another innovative feature of the LDCF project was the role played by Dimitra Listeners’ Clubs. These clubs serve as local platforms where women and youth meet to address challenges such as early marriage, domestic violence, and factors causing children to drop out of school. Beyond addressing social issues, the clubs contribute to climate change adaptation by gathering community support around solutions to issues such as water scarcity and soil erosion, including the building of stone barriers.
During the field trip, participants also learned about Senegal’s National Climate Resilience Fund, which was established by the LDCF project in collaboration with the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Jean Charles Faye, Executive Director of the National Fund for Agrosilvopastoral Development, briefed participants about the revolving fund. Operating with a five percent interest rate, it aims to provide needed financing to smallholder farmers for investments in adaptation solutions.
Participants learned how the fund also provides technical assistance to women farmers, and they heard about its success in attracting outside sources of investment. They also gained insights into the challenges faced during the fund’s initial establishment and measures taken to address them. This included the importance of enhanced transparency and accountability in selecting areas to target funding, as well as the advantages brought by creating technical committees comprising a wide range of stakeholders.
Learning from one another was a theme throughout the GEF’s regional adaptation workshop in Senegal, particularly the field visit. Participants from across Africa as well as the Caribbean underscored the importance of fostering community collaboration and empowering women to ensure that adaptation measures are effective and long lasting. Such knowledge sharing is a key component of the GEF’s support for developing countries, in line with the Global Goal on Adaptation outlined in the Paris Agreement. Opportunities for countries to learn from one another will be extremely important given the complexity and reach of climate impacts, and the need to identify and extend locally appropriate ways for all to adapt to a warming planet.