Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Connecting development actors in Ethiopia: linking climate change, nutrition and gender

Over the past few days, ordinary people from around the globe have taken to the streets to show their concern at the lack of political will to deal with climate change. At today’s special UN summit in New York, the world will be watching how our leaders respond.

One of the issues likely to be on the agenda is food security. As demonstrated in the latest IPCC report, climate change is having an impact on already worrying levels of hunger and undernutrition in the world. This evidence has reinforced the importance of agriculture becoming more climate smart in order to: increase food security, adapt to build resilience, and reduce agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation).

This blog post examines IDS’ recent work in Ethiopia, touching upon how nutritionists, agriculturalists, gender, environmental and climate change professionals are starting to talk to one another and respond to the need for climate smart agriculture.

What the numbers tell us

Agriculture accounts for over 46 percent of Ethiopian GDP (2006), and is highly sensitive to seasonal variations in temperature and moisture. Worryingly, the World Bank has calculated that climate change may reduce Ethiopia’s GDP by up to 10 percent by 2045. In addition, the country has one of the highest rates of malnutrition globally. In 2011, 44 percent of children under five years old were stunted (meaning their height was far lower than the average for their age), which is 14 percent higher than the average for developing countries.

The Ethiopian government has exciting ambitions: to achieve middle-income status by 2025 in a carbon neutral way. The National Nutrition Plan and the Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy have outlined ways to meet this aspiration. However, when we discussed these plans with various actors in Ethiopia, it seemed that the ongoing work is still in siloes- people are working hard to support their national development but not linking up or learning from other sectors.

What has IDS been trying to do?

The Irish Aid funded project has given the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) team the opportunity to build a partnership with the Ethiopian Public Health Institution (EPHI), to bring together and connect some of the key actors; support them in building their capacity to share knowledge ;and examine the thematic links that can further build on their research. In

2012, we brought together people working across these three themes and asked: Who plays a role in sharing nutrition and climate change [adaptation] information in Ethiopia?

Figure 1: Ethiopian Map: A complex network in Ethiopia
We were able to explore what knowledge sharing techniques and tools could be used to enhance intersectoral sharing; and developed commitment statements of how participants were going to take a small action to integrate their implement their learning.

Taking individual action

It has been exciting (and challenging) to see these commitments grow over the year. Not all have become a reality; lack of time, institutional and collegial support, and changes in staff have all played a role, but some inspiring activities have also emerged. In August, participants were invited to share their success and highlight challenges, and exchange advice and learning.

For example, Nuriya Yusuf, Gender Directorate at EPHI, committed to conduct an institutional training programme on Gender, Nutrition and Climate Change for EPHI employees. She brought together over 50 employees, both men and women for free, face-to-face training on the impacts of nutritional issues on their family lives. With backing from senior management she plans to continue the project and has been invited to share her learning with other institutions.

Another participant, DFID Ethiopia Nutrition Advisor Berhanu Hailegiorgis, was keen to strengthen internal sharing of relevant cross-cutting knowledge between teams and advisors. Berhanu has now been invited to present on the interdisciplinary links at the next internal retreat to further drive understanding and momentum on this agenda for DFID in Ethiopia.

Lessons learned for the future

There was a general consensus that issues need to be better linked, but there are also a lot of research gaps. Some of these include:
  • What kind of adaptive capacities are needed for better nutrition for women and children?
  • Links between climate change, nutrition and gender across different institutions in Ethiopia and ideas on how can these areas be better integrated
  • Drought resistant mechanisms and nutrition
An informal coalition emerged from the workshop, which currently has members from across different sectors. The research gaps identified along with the opportunity to stay connected will provide new spaces and opportunities for engagement, learning and collaboration. This in itself is an important response and action which now needs to be complemented by politicians at the summit today.

By Fatema Rajabali