Tangible solutions to help rural communities adapt to a changing climate

By Catherine Abiola Akinbami 

Ministry Officers Helping With Cassava Planting

The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly evident, and urgent action is needed to prevent the collapse of vital ecosystems and safeguard the livelihoods of communities around the world. During this time of rapid change and uncertainty, academic researchers are driving forward the fight against climate change by deepening our understanding of climate impacts and producing solutions to protect the vulnerable.

Dr Catherine Abiola Akinbami of Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria is one such researcher. Passionate about sustainable livelihoods and rural development, Catherine has been working with farming communities to assess the impacts of climate change on local livelihoods and take up adaptive practices in response.

“If the current trend of increasing greenhouse gas emissions is not urgently attended to, the effects of global warming will spiral out of control and bring more natural disasters, threaten food supplies and exacerbate poverty among indigenous populations,” Catherine says. “Combating climate change calls for new approaches to sustainable development that will take into account complex interactions between gender, economic, social and ecological systems. Such approaches must also combine adaptation and mitigation to effectively respond to climate change and build climate resilience.”

“As a researcher, l had the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to building climate resilience in Nigeria through my involvement in climate change mitigation and adaptation research and activities.”

Catherine was awarded an ACU Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) visiting Fellowship in 2015, which brought her to the University of Ibadan to conduct an in-depth research project titled the Assessment of Social Dimension of Climate Change on Nigeria Rural Women Livelihood Practices: Implications for Entrepreneurship Development. Her research shed light on the different vulnerabilities and developmental needs of rural women, which are critical nuances that policies often fail to adequately capture and address.

Following her impactful research, Catherine was also awarded two rounds of CIRCLE Research Uptake Funds – unique resources designed to help researchers translate science into practice and reach the community, industry and government stakeholders who will benefit from their research outcomes.  

“I conducted my first research uptake activities under the initiative titled Women, Climate Change and Entrepreneurship: Policy Discourse. This was to intimate policymakers about the effects of climate change in the rural areas, especially, the women and to partner with them in providing eco-friendly/entrepreneurship solutions. Since policy drives development, it is therefore necessary for climate change policy to be active and effective to adequately manage various climate change impacts,” notes Catherine. She successfully connected her research with policymaking by engaging local stakeholders from a range of government ministries in the course of her activities (pictured below).

Local researchers have a unique role to play in bridging the research-policy gap, and helping local communities build the capacity to anticipate and manage the types of climate-related challenges unique to their area. “There is a need for local researchers to be involved in aggressive adaptation work which will prepare Nigeria against potential harmful impacts of climate change. They should get involved in researches that will promote bioenergy and studies to generate varieties of crops that will be resilient and climate-friendly,” reflects Catherine. “Local researchers must themselves be resilient to build climate resilience."

Catherine delivered a second round of activities aimed to enhance the livelihood practices of rural dwellers, especially women, through a project named "Climatepreneurship”. It included various activities which helped to increase adaptive capacity and reduce poverty among the rural dwellers, with the aim of replicating it in other rural areas.

As shown in the pictures below, Catherine’s research uptake activities included the donation of a well for a good supply of water to reduce the effects of drought on people's livelihoods. The well was commissioned by the Hon. Commissioner of Ministry of Women Affairs in Oyo State, Nigeria. The Commissioner was represented by the Director of Women Affairs.

“In addition, various drought-resistant maize, hybrid oil palm seedlings and vitamin A-enhanced cassava stems were given to both men and women and planted in the rural areas. This was to enhance livelihoods and increase sources of revenue, thereby reducing poverty among them,” she adds. The pictures below show the process of planting the products, growth stages, and the resulting harvests.

“Men and women were also introduced to methods of using natural resources around them, as economic diversification options that are climate-friendly. This included basket weaving, the use of clay to mould pots and flower vases, and snailery instead of picking snails – which are not easy to find in the bushes due to hotter weather.”  

Catherine believes that pathways to climate resilience in Nigeria should include strategies, choices, and actions that will reduce climate change and its impacts on both urban and rural areas. Moving forward, local researchers like herself will continue to connect communities and policymakers with vital knowledge – and shape an inclusive roadmap towards climate resilience in Nigeria and beyond.

The CIRCLE Programme was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), led by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and delivered in partnership with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), Vitae UK and the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich.

The CIRCLE programme works to strengthen climate change research within sub-Saharan Africa through an innovative dual approach. The CIRCLE Visiting Fellowships Programme supported 97 outstanding African researchers to undertake research into local climate impacts, while the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme worked with 31 universities across 10 countries to improve institutional capacity to support and promote quality research.


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Theme: Global challenges