Social, Ecological and Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Climate Change in the Mediterranean

In the period 2011-2013 the EU funded SEARCH project implemented activities to increase social, agricultural and ecological resilience in the face of climate change and other drivers of change in Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. The lessons learned and experienced obtained have been brought together in a toolkit.

The innovative aspect of the project is threefold. Firstly it makes the concept of resilience more concrete by looking into its four components: diversity, infrastructure, self-organization and learning. Secondly it recognizes in all aspects that climate change is just one among many factors that especially cause stress on societies in least developed regions. Last but not least, the toolkit that was prepared in the frame of the project provides practical tools for using the theoretical concept ‘resilience’ to integrate climate change adaptation not only in national strategies but also in the strategies and plans at local and watershed levels. The toolkit  clearly demonstrates the flows of activities under each practical step for developing resilience and how the different steps are interlinked to deliver the overall integrated plan and its implementation.

The toolkit can support all those involved in the design of resilience initiatives in the sectors of Agriculture, Water and Natural Resource Management by providing step-by-step guidance. The toolkit is designed for the use in planning and dialogue within and between local, intermediate and national levels. However, elements of the toolkit are appropriate for use in stand-alone activities within a single municipality, district, governorate, or region.

The challenge

Climate change is affecting livelihoods of people all over the world but it are the economically and socially least developed groups of the society that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Therefore strengthening the resilience of vulnerable groups should be at the heart of policies and plans to address the impacts of climate change.

The essential quality of resilience is the capacity of societies and ecosystems to withstand shocks and rebuild when necessary. Poor people and less-developed countries require the capacity for transformation needed to move out of poverty towards prosperity that can be sustained under dynamic climate and global change processes. Resilience consistent with poverty reduction is thus the capacity to cope with shocks and stresses and to sustain transformations needed to reduce poverty under global change, including climate change.

 

There is a need to provide better climate change policy and planning in an integrated, transparent and participatory manner at different levels and to improve climate change governance for a well-functioning, healthy society at large. A key element in well targeted and effective climate adaptation planning is the representation of all relevant stakeholders, at horizontal and vertical levels, throughout the whole process of setting up and implementing adaptation strategies.

There is a gap between these ambitious ideas and realities on the ground. At the one hand there are national climate change adaptation policies, generally described in a theoretical way; there are also other sectoral policies for e.g. water, agriculture, forestry, fisheries. At the other hand there is the ground level where farmers and other rural people try to adapt to climate change and other changes that put stress on their livelihood. In between these levels much can be done to increase resilience of communities, provinces, governorates and watersheds. But tools to do so are in development and not well-established. The SEARCH project " Social, Ecological & Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Climate Change" obtained good practical examples on how to strengthen resilience through learning and piloting practices with the full participation of all the relevant stakeholders. These stakeholders  included policy makers, government practitioners, civil society, environmental groups, women, citizens in the five participating  countries. The experiences gained have resulted in a toolkit that allows the lessons learned to be replicated in other areas.

 

Overall objective:

 Increased social and ecological resilience in watershed ecosystems of the Mediterranean Region in the face of climate and other drivers of change. This is accomplished by working towards “developing and piloting a Resilience Framework for local action planning capacities and methodologies to increase climate resilience through joint learning, planning and testing by stakeholders in demonstration sites.

The SEARCH Resilience framework

The approach used in the project is based on the ‘Resilience Framework’. In the project, after extensive stakeholder consultation the following definition of resilience has been adopted: “A watershed  system’s capacity to absorb, manage, and adapt to social & health, agricultural, and ecological changes (or stressors) while still maintaining its essential structure, feedbacks, and functionality.”

The logic for choosing the watershed as the geographic unit for developing resilience adaptation plans is that it is important to limit clearly the zone of intervention. River (sub-)basins are very suitable for that, because water is essential for ecology and economy.

Figure 1: SEARCH Resilience Framework

The developed framework (see Figure 1) includes four main components, namely:

  • Diversity of the economy, livelihoods and nature. Diverse markets, industry or farming systems, for example, give people the alternatives they need to be adaptive. Biodiversity ensures the availability of ecosystem services needed to buffer climate impacts – such as storage of water in upper-watershed forests – and sustain life and productivity.
  • Sustainable infrastructure and technology. These refer to engineered and ‘natural infrastructure’, as well as adaptable and sustainable technologies for the reduction of vulnerability.This includes engineering (such as urban drainage or rainfall harvesting) as well as infrastructure management (for example, application of ‘environmental flows’ to allocate river flows within the limits of availability). ‘Infrastructure’ also includes natural infrastructure such as wetlands, floodplains and mangroves that store water, lower flood peaks or protect coastal communities.
  • Self-organization and Adaptive Governance. Self-organization is developed in practice through participatory governance and empowerment of people. Stakeholder involvement is crucial. The ‘rules of the game’ should be adaptive, i.e. changeable over time, according to changing needs of stakeholders. Self-organization and adaptive governance should be developed in the concerned Social Ecological System (SES). A SES consists of 'a bio-geo-physical' unit (the Watershed) and its associated social actors and institutions.
  • Learning. Ensuring that individuals and institutions can use new skills and technologies needed to adapt and make effective use of better climate information and adaptation strategies as they become available.

 

The SEARCH Partnership:

  • Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) in Egypt.
  • Coptic Evangelic Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in Egypt.
  • Arab Women Organization in Jordan
  • Badia Research and development Center in Jordan
  • Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Ramallah, Palestine
  • Palestine Hydrological Group (PHG) in Ramallah, Palestine
  • Society for the Protection on Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) in Lebanon.
  • MADA Association in Lebanon.
  • Abdelmalek Essaadi / Tetouan University in Morocco.
  • IUCN Regional Office for West Asia (IUCN ROWA) in Jordan.
  • IUCN Med in Malaga, Spain.
  • With support from
  • IUCN WANI in Switzerland.
  • Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) – Wageningen UR in Netherlands and Diversity –Associates DIV-A.