Bringing climate research findings to African farmers

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Valuable research produced by Southern nations could help farmers adapt to climate change, but a conundrum is how to make useful findings accessible to rural communities. A project conducted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in partnership with the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), and supported by CDKN, sought to bridge this gap. Between 2008-2011 years, the team produced the regular briefing, Joto Afrika (Swahili for ‘Africa is feeling the heat’), a series of briefings and online resources reporting on climate change in sub-Saharan Africa. The briefs contained mainly African produced research with easy-to-understand findings.

The photo-audio story project was prompted by findings from an evaluation of Joto Afrika. In the evaluation survey, a range of specific examples of action were provided by readers, including the use of new technologies and approaches which had been adopted by community members as a result of a Joto Afrika case study or research article. Hence, these readers had gone beyond simply learning about climate change issues to practical application of that learning.

This process of learning-into-action demonstrates that communities are looking to both learn and engage with research findings. There are, however, obstacles to accessibility of research knowledge. Issues such as complex language and jargon limit the extent to which individuals can learn from research knowledge, reducing the potential of development research to lead to tangible improvements in peoples’ lives.

In response to this, explains Fatema Rajabali, Climate Change Convenor in IDS’s Knowledge Services, “we began to explore how photo-audio stories, a form of digital storytelling, could be used to help a wider range of communities better access climate change research.”