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Dispatch: Coordination and cooperation in Kenya

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By Matthew Hamilton - Posted on 17 December 2012

For the past week, I’ve been helping to facilitate a workshop on the use of remote sensing for climate change adaptation in East Africa. The workshop is actually part of a NASA and USAID research fellowship program for university students from all over eastern and southern Africa, who are carrying out projects on climate change dimensions of food security, flood control and biodiversity conservation. We’ve been based at the headquarters of the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). Also based here is a program called SERVIR-Africa and together, the organization and the program have been leading a number of efforts to increase adaptive capacity in East Africa.

In speaking with representatives of RCMRD and SERVIR-Africa, I’ve been struck by the key role the organization and program plays in coordinating information resources—producing and disseminating maps and raw data, distributing early warning bulletins that reflect results from famine and flood prediction models, and regularly consulting national governments on disaster-related issues. The partnership also serves as a bridge between East African stakeholder organizations and some key organizations in the U.S. and Europe. Besides distributing satellite imagery data from a variety of sources around the world, the partnership has also established a network of researchers at universities, with whom it works to develop and implement forecasting models.

If RCMRD and SERVIR-Africa showcase the kinds of coordination efforts needed for climate change adaptation in East Africa, the Greenbelt Movement might likely be its counterpart in promoting cooperation as a strategy for adaptation. On Saturday, workshop participants got the opportunity to visit several Greenbelt work sites. This organization—founded by the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai—has developed exceptionally successful reforestation programs in which several community members (usually women) form tree nursery groups and oversee the planting, protection, and long-term management of tree groves. The Greenbelt Movement’s Peter Ndunda explained to us that tree planting is a key activity for these groups, but just as importantly they serve as a “space” where women can develop strong relationships. The investment required to grow a tree is substantial, and these tight-knit networks might be essential for resolving local disputes that threaten the viability of reforestation efforts.