14 January 2013

Gambia: Capacity Building Workshop On Climate Change Early Warning System for the Gamia

A two-day training workshop for TAC and MDFTs and media practitioners for Kanifing Municipality was recently conducted at the council's multi purpose centre in Kanifing. The event was organised by the Gambia Government/ (GOTG) facilitated by the department of Fisheries and Water Resources in collaboration with UNEP accessing funds from the UNFCCC least developed countries fund (LFC) managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which are meant to support the government of the Gambia to strengthen its early warning system.

In his speech Mr. Ousman Jarju, Project Director and UNFCCC focal Point, said although The Gambia contributes less than 0.01 per cent of global green house gas emissions, it is one of the most vulnerable Countries to the impact of climate change. "We have already experienced loss of land due to coastal erosion arising from increased sea level and alternating droughts and floods due to enhanced erratic behaviour of the rainy season", Said Mr. Ousman Jarju, Project Director.

Jarju opined that the Gambia is most vulnerable because we are faced with these and other climate change hazards but we also lack the means to adapt to climate change.

Mr. Jarju said The Gambia needs to reduce her vulnerability to climate change by strengthening her climate change adaptive capacity and readiness to face the challenges of this global threat. The enhanced capacities he said, can also support the country in achieving her strategic goals and sustainable development. He added that the most promising path to lead to the enhanced capacities and sustainable development is the process of mainstreaming climate change in the Gambia's development frameworks that include her national and sectoral policies and programmes. The first pillar of mainstreaming climate he said is change education, training and awareness. He said individuals, communities and governments must have knowledge and be aware of climate change for ease of mainstreaming it into policies, programmes and development processes. He maintained that Education including knowledge management plays an essential role in increasing the climate change adaptive capacity of individuals and nations by enabling them to make informed decisions.

Mr. Jarju further said The Government of The Gambia (GOTG) in collaboration with UNEP is accessing funds from the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The funds are meant to support the Government of The Gambia to strengthen its early warning system to enable the production and dissemination of warnings and advisories to the population, particularly the grassroots level communities who are the most vulnerable to climate change hazards. The project enhances the capacity of national institutions, particularly the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, and networks to observe, monitor and predict climate change events and risk factors; institutionalize more effective, efficient and targeted delivery of climate and climate change information including early warning products; and improve the timely preparedness and responses of various stakeholders to predict climate change risks and hazards.

This is a challenge, he posited; that the providers of early warning information are scientist's and technical experts whom he said have very limited knowledge about and little interaction with the most vulnerable communities that need the climate and climate change early warning information. He said the largest user community of climate and climate change warnings and information is highly illiterate. This serious gap in knowledge levels and networking between providers and users of climate and climate change early warning information must be bridged, he remarks.

He disclosed that a Baseline studies' conducted under this GOTG/GEF/UNEP early warning project has pointed to the most promising bridge -- extension and media services - between these two stakeholders of the early warning project. Extension agents he said, are close to the communities and can speak their language; that they have the expertise to translate technical language to the language understood by the communities. Media agents, particularly those found in community radios, he said are also close to the communities and can broadcast scientific and technical language to the language understood by the communities. Among the extension services he said are civil society organizations that are also versatile in language and communication skills.

However he said, all these agents may have some limitations in their understanding of climate change and how to communicate early warning information.

In order to address these limitations, the Project Director said that it has become necessary to conduct training workshops to build the capacity of the extension and media agents and the communities in the pilot administrative regions (NBR GBA and WCR). All the extension and media agents in the administrative regions are organized into the Multi-Disciplinary Facilitation Teams, Needs Assessment, Socio-economic study, communications study, etc

(MDFTs), thanks to the implementation of the Decentralization Policy at the regional level, he said the MDFTs are answerable to the Technical Advisory Committee (TACs) in the Regions; that within the available resources all the MDFT and TAC membership of the administrative will be trained and capacitated to deliver on climate and climate change early warning.

The main objective of the training of communities and the extensions and media agents, including civil society organizations he said is to enhance their knowledge and awareness on climate change, train them on the Gambia early warning system and its products and enable them serve as communication agents between the providers and users of the early warning products.

Specifically the objectives are:

1. Conduct capacity building and comprehensive training needs assessment for key institutions and stakeholders based on identified capacity needs;

2. Develop a training programme to meet these requirements;

3. Deliver the elements of the training programme;

4. Identify the most appropriate and effective channels of communication for the various users of early warning products during the training workshop and exercises;

5. From the results of the workshop, establish long-term mechanisms for subsequent dissemination of products using the most appropriate channels for specific end users.

6. Define the process and requirement for engaging and using the trained extension, civil society and media agents to raise awareness on climate change and its potential impacts on various facets of livelihoods and commercial activities in order to sensitize decision makers to mainstream it into various sector policies and development programmes

7. Discuss and agree on the institutionalization of effective dialogue between all stakeholders in The Gambia and especially in the engagement with the NMHS at all levels in climate change early warning for adaptation opportunities.

For his part, Bubu Pateh Jallow Chief Technical Adviser who presented on the topic 'overview of climate change science, inventory, mitigation, adaptation in the Gambia' also disclosed to participants that they would be used as communication agents in disseminating the information while assuring them that his office is ready to work with all those who have committed themselves to take up the challenges on climate change. He said the training is the beginning of series of activities to enable participants to effectively take up their responsibilities in climate change.

Mr. Bernard Gomez, National Project Coordinator also gave a presentation on the Gambia early warning system, challenges and opportunities.

The others presenters include Mr. Ismaila Senghore, GRTS Radio and head cross cutting task force among others.

The training was formerly opened by the Minister of Forestry and the Environment Hon Fatou Gaye.

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