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Wed 04 Nov 15:00: The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Conservation Related Talks and Seminars - Tue, 20/10/2020 - 17:02
The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds

Observations and idealized numerical simulations suggest that enhanced turbulent energy dissipation and mixing in the Southern Ocean are modulated by the transient eddy field through the generation and breaking of lee waves at rough topography. Lee waves have been shown to extract a significant amount of energy from the transient eddy field through the work done by lee wave drag against bottom flow. In this study, we investigate how lee waves affect the Southern Ocean circulation and its sensitivity to wind stress using an idealized, eddy-resolving model of the Southern Ocean and an energetically consistent lee wave drag and mixing parameterization.

Our results show that adding lee waves to the model increases the baroclinic volume transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and also have a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. The changes induced by lee wave drag can be explained by the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) balance, in which the EKE dissipation by lee wave drag is compensated by the enhanced EKE generation through baroclinic instability of the ACC . The lee-wave-driven mixing plays a minor role in modulating the ACC transport but makes a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. We also find that lee waves significantly alter the sensitivity of the baroclinic ACC transport and lower overturning circulation to wind stress. Our results show that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves are coupled through bottom stratification and bottom kinetic energy. The coupling leads to a nonlinear combination of the individual effects of drag and mixing. Our results suggest that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves should be parameterized simultaneously in global ocean models to properly represent the impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation.

The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Wed 04 Nov 15:00: The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Conservation-related talks - Tue, 20/10/2020 - 17:02
The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds

Observations and idealized numerical simulations suggest that enhanced turbulent energy dissipation and mixing in the Southern Ocean are modulated by the transient eddy field through the generation and breaking of lee waves at rough topography. Lee waves have been shown to extract a significant amount of energy from the transient eddy field through the work done by lee wave drag against bottom flow. In this study, we investigate how lee waves affect the Southern Ocean circulation and its sensitivity to wind stress using an idealized, eddy-resolving model of the Southern Ocean and an energetically consistent lee wave drag and mixing parameterization.

Our results show that adding lee waves to the model increases the baroclinic volume transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and also have a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. The changes induced by lee wave drag can be explained by the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) balance, in which the EKE dissipation by lee wave drag is compensated by the enhanced EKE generation through baroclinic instability of the ACC . The lee-wave-driven mixing plays a minor role in modulating the ACC transport but makes a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. We also find that lee waves significantly alter the sensitivity of the baroclinic ACC transport and lower overturning circulation to wind stress. Our results show that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves are coupled through bottom stratification and bottom kinetic energy. The coupling leads to a nonlinear combination of the individual effects of drag and mixing. Our results suggest that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves should be parameterized simultaneously in global ocean models to properly represent the impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation.

The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Wed 04 Nov 15:00: The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Conservation Talks - Tue, 20/10/2020 - 17:02
The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds

Observations and idealized numerical simulations suggest that enhanced turbulent energy dissipation and mixing in the Southern Ocean are modulated by the transient eddy field through the generation and breaking of lee waves at rough topography. Lee waves have been shown to extract a significant amount of energy from the transient eddy field through the work done by lee wave drag against bottom flow. In this study, we investigate how lee waves affect the Southern Ocean circulation and its sensitivity to wind stress using an idealized, eddy-resolving model of the Southern Ocean and an energetically consistent lee wave drag and mixing parameterization.

Our results show that adding lee waves to the model increases the baroclinic volume transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and also have a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. The changes induced by lee wave drag can be explained by the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) balance, in which the EKE dissipation by lee wave drag is compensated by the enhanced EKE generation through baroclinic instability of the ACC . The lee-wave-driven mixing plays a minor role in modulating the ACC transport but makes a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. We also find that lee waves significantly alter the sensitivity of the baroclinic ACC transport and lower overturning circulation to wind stress. Our results show that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves are coupled through bottom stratification and bottom kinetic energy. The coupling leads to a nonlinear combination of the individual effects of drag and mixing. Our results suggest that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves should be parameterized simultaneously in global ocean models to properly represent the impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation.

The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Wed 04 Nov 15:00: The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Conservation at Cambridge - Tue, 20/10/2020 - 17:02
The impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation and its response to winds

Observations and idealized numerical simulations suggest that enhanced turbulent energy dissipation and mixing in the Southern Ocean are modulated by the transient eddy field through the generation and breaking of lee waves at rough topography. Lee waves have been shown to extract a significant amount of energy from the transient eddy field through the work done by lee wave drag against bottom flow. In this study, we investigate how lee waves affect the Southern Ocean circulation and its sensitivity to wind stress using an idealized, eddy-resolving model of the Southern Ocean and an energetically consistent lee wave drag and mixing parameterization.

Our results show that adding lee waves to the model increases the baroclinic volume transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and also have a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. The changes induced by lee wave drag can be explained by the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) balance, in which the EKE dissipation by lee wave drag is compensated by the enhanced EKE generation through baroclinic instability of the ACC . The lee-wave-driven mixing plays a minor role in modulating the ACC transport but makes a significant impact on the lower overturning circulation and deep stratification. We also find that lee waves significantly alter the sensitivity of the baroclinic ACC transport and lower overturning circulation to wind stress. Our results show that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves are coupled through bottom stratification and bottom kinetic energy. The coupling leads to a nonlinear combination of the individual effects of drag and mixing. Our results suggest that the drag and mixing effects of lee waves should be parameterized simultaneously in global ocean models to properly represent the impact of lee waves on the Southern Ocean circulation.

The talk will be online. Contact the host to get Zoom details.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Grassroots insights into urban risk and resilience

Informal settlements face many risks, often rooted in poor-quality shelter, inadequate services, and unresponsive local governance. These challenges are usually tackled in sectoral silos without the voices or knowledge of the residents themselves. This IIED research project forges interdisciplinary pathways to resilience with communities in Dar es Salaam.

Low-income communities in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, typically use a range of formal and informal infrastructure and service providers, including for sanitation and solid waste management.

Fewer than 10% of city dwellers have access to piped sewerage, and the rest must rely largely upon pit latrines or septic tanks. On-site sanitation systems (including pit latrines) lack sewers and require regular emptying.

Climate change will likely aggravate the existing shortfalls in sanitation and solid waste management, making it essential to incorporate climate risks when designing interventions. The rising frequency or intensity of extreme weather events may result in damaged homes, deepening poverty and a range of health burdens in informal settlements.

What is IIED doing?

As part of this project, UK-based interdisciplinary researchers from IIED and UCL are working with the Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) and the Tanzania Urban Poor Federation (TUPF) to examine multiple risks in informal settlements, including secondary data-analysis and additional participatory action research in Dar es Salaam.

While focusing on inadequate sanitation and solid waste management, the team’s analysis will encourage intersectoral strategies and create a platform for inclusive, co-produced interventions with government actors to foster resilience to multiple risks.

It will promote local buy-in as well as broader replicability by using the partners’ existing networks, novel communications outputs, and South-South learning opportunities.

The project aims to:

  • Develop contextually-grounded analyses of risks, hazards, and resilience in informal settlements using participatory methods that complement existing data that…
  • Enhance understanding of multiple primary and secondary hazards and…
  • Foster interdisciplinary, holistic strategies to promote urban resilience.
The capacity for transformation

Our understanding of urban resilience encompasses the ability of a city not only to adjust to shocks and stresses, but to have the ability to ‘bounce forward’, as opposed to ‘bouncing back’. This provides space for social transformation, and to use deliberate responses to risks and hazards as opportunities to improve settlements, cities and living standards.

This project focuses on leveraging co-production partnerships through participatory action research in Tanzanian informal settlements. Further, there is capacity for transformation to be found across disciplines, as well as in the low-income communities who drive construction and upgrading in informal settlements.

The practical and strategic significance of informality lies in its ability to circumvent the norms of conventional urban planning and design, with potential to help develop inclusive solutions and partnerships.

Low-income urban communities have extensive experience of data collection, and grassroots data can deepen our understanding of hazards, risks and resilience. Residents’ detailed data collection can significantly enhance local capacities and negotiating power to influence local sub-ward, ward and city processes.

CCI and TUPF have previously mapped and profiled informal settlements (with support from team mambers) and undertaken household surveys to document local needs and plan upgrading strategies.

During this project, the partners will read across and synthesise the existing data, to develop a more holistic understanding of the interconnected nature of hazards and risks, and opportunities for responses that can promote more inclusive, resilient planning and access to services.

By amplifying residents’ insights into their settlements, participatory research can reveal often-overlooked risks and hazards such as the impacts of ‘everyday’ disasters linked to inadequate sanitation, solid waste management, or other shortfalls in services.

While local governments in the global South have a key role in promoting resilience, they can rarely gather sufficiently in-depth data on rapidly changing urban contexts, particularly in informal settlements.

This project will enhance the depth and range of information on risks and hazards available to Tanzanian local governments, while promoting the central role that low-income residents can play in developing strategies to enhance resilience and address multiple risks.

The 'One Health' concept must prevail to allow us to prevent pandemics

Biodiversity News - Mon, 19/10/2020 - 14:54
To better anticipate and manage the emergence of new pandemics, a paradigm shift is needed to take into account the complex interactions between human health, animal health, the environment and the economy. Eric Muraille, Biologiste, Immunologiste. Maître de recherches au FNRS, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) Jacques Godfroid, Professor of Microbiology, University of Tromsø Licensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.

Fri 23 Oct 14:00: Is the Halley temperature record homogeneous?

Conservation Related Talks and Seminars - Mon, 19/10/2020 - 10:55
Is the Halley temperature record homogeneous?

Commencing in 1956, observations made at Halley Research Station provide one of the longest continuous series of near-surface temperature observations from the Antarctic continent. The record does not, however, come from a single location but is a composite of observations from a sequence of seven stations, all situated on the Brunt Ice Shelf, that range from around 10 km to 50 km distance from the ice shelf coast. Until recently it was generally assumed that temperature data from all of these stations could be combined into a single composite record with no adjustment. In this talk I will report on recent research that suggests that this assumption of homogeneity is incorrect. Application of an objective statistical change-point detection algorithm indicates that there is at least one sudden downward jump in temperature associated with relocation of the station, which is large enough to introduce a spurious cooling trend into the composite record. Analysis of observations from a network of automatic weather stations and data from a run of a high-resolution regional atmospheric model confirm the existence of mean temperature gradients across the ice shelf which are large enough to explain the jumps seen in the record. These temperature gradients are largely driven by the advection of maritime air masses across the cold surface of the ice shelf. I will discuss the implications of these findings for local and regional climate studies that make use of the Halley record and will consider whether it might be possible to create a homogenised record.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Fri 23 Oct 14:00: Is the Halley temperature record homogeneous?

Conservation at Cambridge - Mon, 19/10/2020 - 10:55
Is the Halley temperature record homogeneous?

Commencing in 1956, observations made at Halley Research Station provide one of the longest continuous series of near-surface temperature observations from the Antarctic continent. The record does not, however, come from a single location but is a composite of observations from a sequence of seven stations, all situated on the Brunt Ice Shelf, that range from around 10 km to 50 km distance from the ice shelf coast. Until recently it was generally assumed that temperature data from all of these stations could be combined into a single composite record with no adjustment. In this talk I will report on recent research that suggests that this assumption of homogeneity is incorrect. Application of an objective statistical change-point detection algorithm indicates that there is at least one sudden downward jump in temperature associated with relocation of the station, which is large enough to introduce a spurious cooling trend into the composite record. Analysis of observations from a network of automatic weather stations and data from a run of a high-resolution regional atmospheric model confirm the existence of mean temperature gradients across the ice shelf which are large enough to explain the jumps seen in the record. These temperature gradients are largely driven by the advection of maritime air masses across the cold surface of the ice shelf. I will discuss the implications of these findings for local and regional climate studies that make use of the Halley record and will consider whether it might be possible to create a homogenised record.

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With a mandate to govern New Zealand alone, Labour must now decide what it really stands for

Biodiversity News - Sun, 18/10/2020 - 02:02
In politics, what lifts you up can drag you down. To avoid that, Jacinda Ardern's Labour government will have to examine its political soul. David Hall, Senior Researcher in Politics, Auckland University of Technology Licensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.

African Cities Research Consortium

The African Cities Research Consortium brings together a range of international partners to explore and tackle the complexity around urban development in some of Africa’s biggest cities.

The African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) aims to generate evidence to tackle complex urbanisation problems in some of Africa’s fastest growing city areas through localised activity.

Led by professor Diana Mitlin, from the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester and also a principal researcher at IIED, the consortium brings together a number of international partners committed to catalysing change for urban communities.

These include the UK-based Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI); the African-based organisations ICLEI Africa, the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and Slum Dwellers International (SDI); as well as international groups such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).

The objective is to produce new knowledge that can catalyse integrated, sustainable and inclusive approaches to address development challenges faced in some of Africa’s biggest urban communities.

Mitlin said: “The long-term prospects for much of Africa will hinge on creating more sustainable, equitable and inclusive cities. The African Cities Research Consortium will enable us to tease out the complexities and highlight potential solutions to improve urban centres across the continent”.

A short 70-second video introducing the African Cities Research Consortium

The consortium builds on recent work that IIED’s Human Settlements research group has undertaken for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (previously DFID) on the Urban Crises Learning Fund and on shelter provision in East African cities.

What will IIED do?

The project will initially focus on 13 selected African cities. This will allow practitioners and investigators to conduct intensive and inter-connected research that delivers real insight for local authorities, civil society and donors.

These cities are: Accra (Ghana), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bukavu (DRC), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Harare (Zimbabwe), Kampala (Uganda), Khartoum (Sudan), Lagos (Nigeria), Lilongwe (Malawi), Maiduguri (Nigeria), Mogadishu (Somalia), and Nairobi (Kenya).

The consortium will frame the research within the 'city as a system' approach. This aims to move beyond the sectoral silos of development research and interventions, and allows practitioners and researchers to treat and examine each city as a complex system itself.

The integration of this practice with a political and technical analysis, undertaken by key players on the ground, will enable the group to address large scale urban development challenges.

Putting informal food systems at the centre of sustainable diets

A new report from IIED and Hivos calls for a rethink about how sustainable diets can be achieved in low-income countries, with informal food systems central to that goal.

COVID-19 has highlighted the global food system’s inequalities, with the disease and the measures to contain it disproportionately affecting low-income communities.

The pandemic may trigger a wave of hunger and malnutrition, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is disrupting supply chains. There too, low-income populations are both affected as consumers by price increases and are at risk of losing their livelihoods in trading, processing and vending.

The vulnerability exposed by COVID-19 is reflected in this year’s World Food Day call to make food systems more resilient to volatility and climate change, so that they can "deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers”.

It follows the call by researchers and international organisations to improve our health through dietary change and to make food production systems less destructive of our natural environment.

The concept of sustainable healthy diets (PDF) captures the goals and ambitions of this transformation, but there are obstacles to its implementation in the largely informal food systems of lower-income countries.

Rethinking the meaning of sustainable diets

The toolbox for achieving sustainable diets has mainly been developed in the global North, and with middle class consumers in mind. In rich countries food systems are industrialised and formal, dominated by large-scale agriculture, processing and supermarkets.

A move to sustainable diets within these food systems requires changes to corporate and consumer behaviours. The ideal ‘planetary health diet’ should be low in meat and processed foods, and rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

But what do sustainable diets look like in low-income countries, where most food is produced in small farms, traded in informal networks and accessed via small stores, wet markets or street vendors?

Like much of the economy in developing countries, food systems are often organised informally: they depend on family labour, tend not to be based on contracts, and operate under the radar of government regulation and taxation.

The typical levers for promoting sustainable diets in the North – certification, voluntary guidelines and standards – may have little bearing for people in the global South. And the ideal diet mentioned above may be out of many people’s reach.

For those on low incomes, informal outlets – such as street vendors – are the main, if not only, source of affordable, nutritious and safe food. They are also a source of income for many, especially women and young people, who tend to be disproportionately excluded from the formal economy. 

It is time for international organisations to rethink sustainable diets in ways that are more relevant for people living in poverty.

Affordability and informality must be central to a revised approach to sustainable diets. If they remain a privilege of the wealthy, sustainable diets will have little impact on the health of either the planet or the majority of the world’s population.

Recognising the informal food economy as an ally of sustainable diets

Informal food systems get a bad rap. They are widely seen by their own governments and by donor governments as chaotic, unhygienic, inefficient and outdated.

Policymakers usually ignore or marginalise – if not outright criminalise – the informal economy. International donors tend to be more interested in high-value agricultural markets and seldom engage with actors in this space.

The response to COVID-19 has often been biased against informal markets. Wet markets were stigmatised early in the pandemic, lockdown measures have disproportionately affected informal vendors, and informal businesses have been excluded from rescue packages.

And yet informal food systems are working in the background, connecting farms with urban centres, often across vast distances, and doing the heavy lifting of feeding low-income consumers across the world. All of this despite, rather than thanks to, policy.

Informality is not going away any time soon. Even in the most optimistic scenarios, only a small fraction (PDF) of the population in Africa, Latin America and many parts of Asia would be able to access formal employment.

Rather than ignore or fight it, decision makers should recognise the contribution of informal food systems to sustainable diets and engage constructively with the sector to address its shortcomings and enhance its potential.

Supporting the informal food economy

Governments, donors and civil society organisations (CSOs) can take steps to support the informal food sector. The starting point should be to find common cause with those who make up the informal food economy, and understand their needs and priorities.

Well-intentioned supporters will have to work to gain the trust of informal actors, who may rightly perceive those seeking to help them as outsiders and on the ‘side’ of authorities.

Providing support with advocacy is a way in which donors and CSOs can advance the initiatives and agendas of informal food actors. Their needs are wide-ranging, from practical – improved water and sanitation in market stalls – to political. Donors and CSOs can also lend their credibility and privileged position to open opportunities for dialogue with decision makers.

And, when appropriate, they can offer direct support to finance activities, infrastructure improvements and capacity building.

Finally, data is an important element to challenge prevailing assumptions and misconceptions. If generated and interpreted in collaboration with informal actors, evidence can be a powerful tool to support advocacy and inform strategies for change.

With thanks to Bill Vorley, senior associate in IIED's Shaping Sustainable Markets research group, for his contribution to this blog.

Engaging citizens for socially just climate action

This project aims to understand community-led adaptation responses and citizen engagement mechanisms to strengthen locally led and socially just climate action and national level climate policy decision-making.

Responding to the interconnected challenges of poverty, inequality, nature degradation and climate change requires mechanisms that enable people to engage actively and freely as agents in policy and decision making.

Policies to promote low carbon growth and climate adaptation in both developed and developing countries have strong socio-economic impacts, which are unequally distributed due to a variety of social differences such as gender, age, ethnicity, income level, literacy and migratory status.

The challenge is for countries to build consensus around the policy reforms that are needed, garnering the support of those who may not understand climate change, or those who are concerned that they will unfairly be impacted by climate policies.

Climate-smart development considers action on climate change in an immediate and broad social justice context. 

It recognises the urgency of present needs – better jobs (including jobs in green sectors at a large scale), access to basic services, health, social protection programmes, institutions and policies that sustain livelihoods – while plotting an ambitious course to decarbonisation, sustainable management of ecosystems and overall resilience to long-term impacts in an inclusive way. 

This calls for concerted, urgent and major actions by governments in partnership with citizens, the private sector and civil society organisations. 

The meaningful engagement of citizens – most especially of marginalised and vulnerable groups – in climate-related decision making is critical to ensure that policies respect the rights of communities and contribute to gender equality and social justice.

And it is also essential to ensure that climate measures have adequate public support and deliver more effective results in reducing emissions and improving communities’ resilience to climate change by blending local, traditional and scientific knowledge.  

A challenge for effective, timely and sustained citizen engagement is that marginalised individuals and groups engage with unequal resources, capacities and social positions. These social inequalities make it difficult for such people to participate effectively in public decisions and undermine the public character of participation by reproducing the advantages of those who possess sufficient information and political capabilities.

What is IIED doing?

Supported by the World Bank, IIED and grassroots knowledge partners Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the Pastoralists Alliance for Resilience in Northern Rangelands (Paran Alliance) and Women Climate Centers International (WCCI) are undertaking research to document the ways in which social movements representing federations of the urban poor (SDI), women’s groups (WCCI) and pastoralists groups (Paran Alliance) have been able to engage in decision-making at different levels: from decisions related to self-organisation to decisions taken at higher institutional levels.

The ‘Engaging citizens for socially just climate action’ project aims to understand how citizen engagement participatory processes and locally led climate action can be improved and fed into national level climate policy decision-making.

We focus on social movements as initiatives for locally-led engagement and participation in policy discourses to understand the strategies used to make the public sphere more inclusive despite underlying social inequalities.

Given the impacts and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, the research also considers citizen engagement and action in response to the health crisis. In addition, given the rapid advance of digital technology, the project includes a focus on digital platforms for deliberation and engagement through virtual and other means. 

In a first phase, the IIED and partners aim to:

  • Assess participatory and deliberative processes currently in use by civil society networks and social movements to address climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    This includes SDI (with a national focus on Kenya and Malawi), WCCI (Kenya and Uganda) and the Paran Alliance (Kenya).
     
  • Identify digital tools used by grassroots networks to assess risks and provide access of local communities to risk information. 

    This component focuses on how technology can support social inclusion in decision-making and resilience strengthening.

    It also aims to capture the needs and priorities of communities being represented by the civil society organisation networks and articulate how digital technologies can respond to their needs and priorities.

Bringing attention to what works for women’s land rights

Coinciding with the International Day of Rural Women on 15 October, IIED launches a new series of blogs exploring core principles that can help to strengthen women’s land rights in the global South.

Rights to land are fundamental to the empowerment of many rural African women, whose livelihoods rely on their access to and control over land. However, the promotion of gender equitable land governance has been an open debate for many years in development circles.

Our new IIED blog series 'What works for women’s land rights' focuses on gender and land tenure, and aims to change the paradigm around what works and what doesn’t work to safeguard women’s land rights.

The series is curated by IIED associate Philippine Sutz, in collaboration with partner organisations the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) and IED Afrique, and it will collect lessons from six years of IIED’s work on gender and land issues.

In the first instalment, 'Blog series probes principles: what works for women’s land rights?', Sutz describes how IIED has unpicked some core principles that could work in favour of women's control over land, regardless of context specific considerations in terms of governance and gender rights.

We have identified core principles we think can make a difference, independently from the context, the type of land tenure and the outcome. We argue that such principles should be at the forefront of any intervention aimed at strengthening women’s land rights – Philippine Sutz

Over the coming months, the blogs – featuring voices from across East and West Africa – will explore these principles in more detail.

Next in the series will be Ibrahima Dia, assistant associate at IED Afrique, who will examine the role of women’s groups in Senegal and analyse the pros and cons of women’s access to land through women’s economic groups.

And Isabella Nchimbi, programme officer at TAWLA, will argue that the use of local legislation, such as bylaws, is an effective way to ensure that gender-sensitive national laws are integrated at the local level, with examples from Tanzania. Other experts expected to contribute to the series include IED Afrique director Mamadou Fall and Mary Richard, head of programs at TAWLA.

Q&A: Using digital technology to engage citizens in climate action

Barry Smith reflects on the lessons from a recent 'digital dialogue' that put representatives from community organisations alongside tech developers and government officials for all to better understand how digital tools can respond to needs and priorities, the challenges involved, and the opportunities digital technology offers. 

Around 50 participants from the digital industry, government, community organisations, IIED and its partners joined a virtual dialogue recently to talk about how digital technology can be used to enhance the climate action led by social movements.

Here we talk to Barry Smith, a researcher in the climate change group in IIED, to find out more about the event.

Q: Can you give us a bit of background to the digital dialogue?

BS: The dialogue was part of a research project aiming to understand how communities are leading climate adaptation responses. As part of the project, we also wanted to know more about ways to engage citizens so that they can play a greater part in locally-led and socially-just climate action and inform climate policy decision making at national level. 

We’re keen to find out what drives people to get involved and take leadership but also, what stops them from doing this, even if in principle they want to. This dialogue was looking especially at the role digital technology can play in all that and what the barriers might be to technology achieving its full potential.

This dialogue – all done virtually of course – is just the start of a longer conversation. It was IIED in a classic convenor role, kicking off a process – it’s still very much early days for the work.

Q: Who took part in the dialogue?

BS: The event provided an opportunity to bring different groups of people into one place – people who wouldn’t normally be in the same meetings. We wanted them to have a candid exchange around their different needs and perspectives on the role of technology in enabling climate adaptation. 

We had tech developers from global companies and from tech hubs in Kenya; we had a speaker from the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), representing mobile phone networks around the world; we had a participant from Slum Dwellers International in Malawi, and others from Women’s Climate Centers International (WCCI),  the World Bank and from the Council of Governors in Kenya.

Q: What was the shape of the discussion?

BS: There were three presentations to open the dialogue. First from Dr Dominic Maringa, of the Pastoralist Alliance for Resilience and Adaptation in Northern Rangelands (Paran Alliance), and then Patrick Njoroge, of the Akiba Mashinani Trust, a member of Slum Dwellers International.

They presented on:

  • How they or their organisation uses or sometimes specifically chooses not to use digital tools when mobilising their communities to advocate and deliver climate change linked programmes. They shared the tools that they use to assess risks, collect, generate, analyse and communicate information as well as interact with government 
  • How digital technology could be better used to help the communities they work with, and
  • One key takeaway from the presentation for the technology developers in the room.

There was also a presentation from Matt Wilson from GSMA around the Digital Dividends report, summarising the range of technologies used by like-minded organisations elsewhere.

Nepalese farmer Sita Kumari uses mobile phone apps to enhance her yields and get access to markets and labour (Photo: C. De Bode/CGIAR, via FlickrCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Then the 50-or-so participants divided into groups and were tasked with defining what was needed and what the constraints were to technology uptake. We looked at what technology communities were using now and what would they like to use to help with building livelihoods; how digital tools could support climate action; how technology can help with engaging national and local government and non-state actors such as philanthropies.

In terms of constraints to uptake of technology, we saw that that in parts of some countries the private sector was too small to initiate and develop new technologies without external support and that mobile network penetration was minimal. In other places there were welcome enabling conditions such as economic incentives to set up new companies and plans for policy change.

Q: What did you particularly note from the conversation?

BS: There were some interesting issues that came out of the dialogue. Several people raised the issue of gendered access to climate information – there was a sense that women have less access to technology than men and we need to do something about it. We discussed literacy – not only reading and writing but also technological literacy – and how it might prevent uptake. And structurally it seemed there were very different levels of digitisation in different contexts.

I noted that how to reach young women and men was key: technology can be a route to engage young people in climate action but the messaging has to be appropriate to engage them. In fact, for all ages, everyone said that we must communicate simply and clearly if we wanted to motivate people to get involved.

Systemic issues came up a lot in the discussion, such as those around connectivity and issues around trust that drive technology uptake. It can be the case, for example, that communities do not fully trust technology or a weather forecast from an official source such as the Meteorological Office and are more likely to rely on locally-generated knowledge.  

The issue of trust also extends to privacy and accountability issues – the way we capture and use people’s data and preserve anonymity online.

And we should be careful not to conceptualise digital tech as homogenous: the type of technology and the actors who need to use it will vary depending on the particular challenge that needs to be addressed and the nuances of context. People’s needs will be different, their level of digital access and literacy will be different; where they live, their gender and whether they are able-bodied or disabled, will all be relevant to how they interact with technology. 

So engaging with local communities to find out what will work best, is essential.

Q: So what happens next?

BS: Regulation was a big topic that came up. We need to talk about it more and discuss who is holding the power around digital technology and making policies that affect large numbers of people. Even when network connectivity is available, internet access is often prohibitively expensive for most people, a problem linked to regulatory challenges and a lack of incentives to subsidise access for people living in rural areas. 

Then there’s the notion of digital advocacy. Digital tools can enable social movements to mobilise more effectively by creating faster lines of communication and information sharing on immediate climate risks, but also upcoming opportunities for policy engagement. Exploring how social movements might adopt these tools sustainably and in an inclusive way is a must for future work.  

I’m glad to say that there was a strong appetite to have another of these digital dialogues, so watch this space for when that might be.

This research is supported by the World Bank Group and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

Blog series probes principles: what works for women’s land rights?

A new blog series featuring voices from East and West Africa will take a closer look at a set of principles we think strengthens women’s land rights. Here, IIED’s Philippine Sutz tells us what to expect.

Land is the backbone of livelihoods for most women and men in rural Africa. It is central to food production and income generation. For women, given their prominent role in food production, rights to access and control over land is crucial.

Over the past 15 years, pressures on land across sub-Saharan Africa have increased due to many factors including the development of commercial agriculture, climate change, urbanisation and population growth. Research (PDF) indicates that those pressures tend to affect women more severely as they have little control over the land that they traditionally use.

Twenty-five years on from the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PDF), “the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights” (UN Women), awareness of the importance of women’s land rights is higher than ever and global commitments to women’s land rights have never been stronger.

Targets under the fifth Sustainable Development Goal – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls – explicitly refer to women’s access and control over land, and global initiatives such as the Stand for Her Land campaign are on the rise. Yet, there is still no clear evidence or consensus on what strategies most effectively strengthen women’s land rights in practice.

For the past six years, IIED has been working to promote gender equitable land governance in sub-Saharan Africa. Together with our local partners, we have taken stock of the existing legal systems and practices in Senegal, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania; we have mapped existing initiatives and tested and developed new approaches to strengthen women’s voices and participation in local land governance processes.

In Tanzania, our partner the Tanzania Women Lawyers' Association (TAWLA) supported the adoption of gender-sensitive village by-laws to promote the participation of women in village institutions – across all villages in the Kisarawe District while in Senegal, IED Afrique supported the participation of women in local land commissions.

Complexities

‘What works for women’s land rights’ has been an open debate among researchers and practitioners for the past 20 years.

Organisations have advocated for individual (or joint) titles as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to strengthen women’s land rights on a global scale. While such tools can make a difference, we have learnt through our work that land governance and gender issues vary greatly in place and time: no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution exists.  

Our experience has also taught us that the ‘how’ often matters as much if not more than the ‘what’. This means that the process itself, for example if it is inclusive and participatory, is potentially more valuable than the outcome of that process – such as the issuance of a title or the creation of a committee. 

Core principles that strengthen women’s land rights

Through our work, we have identified core principles we think can make a difference, independently from the context, the type of land tenure and the outcome. We argue that such principles should be at the forefront of any intervention aimed at strengthening women’s land rights.

  • Women play an active role in decision making on land, both in local institutions and in the household. This means that women have a say in how community or family land is used or managed, such as whether to give it away or what crops to grow on it. 
  • Women (and men) are legally empowered. Often women (and men) have little information about their land rights in relation to national legal frameworks, and ways to exercise them most effectively. This leaves them unable to claim their rights before local or national institutions. There is a need for greater legal empowerment.
  • Women have the confidence to speak out and claim their rights. Even when women know their rights, socio-cultural constraints make it it difficult to claim them. Women must be supported so they have the confidence to claim their rights. 
  • Get men on board – when initiatives benefit all community members social cohesion is reinforced. Communities include both men and women members; men feeling left out from initiatives can lead to intra-community tensions. Moreover, we can forget that men are also facing land governance issues; it is important that initiatives strengthen land governance for everyone. 
  • Ensure local ownership. To ensure sustainability and legitimacy, initiatives need to be locally owned by community members including local and traditional authorities.
  • Strong, participatory local governance systems. Women’s land rights can’t  exist in a vacuum – they need to sit within robust participatory land governance systems. 
  • Women’s groups and their collective action can make a difference. Evidence shows that when women are part of a group or an association they tend to have more agency and power, facilitating their access to land. 

Over the next six months we – with our partners TAWLA and IED Afrique – will explore these principles in more detail through a series of blogs. The blogs will unpick these principles, including how they are implemented in specific contexts.

In the next blog in this series, Ibrahima Dia from IED Afrique will discuss the role played by women’s economic groups in Senegal, while Isabella Nchimbi from TAWLA will later examine how village by-laws in Tanzania can help ‘bring the law home’ and legally empower women. Stay tuned!

Call to international funders: address grassroots organisations’ priorities, not yours

As COVID-19 persists and spreads, urban poor organisations need funding that is flexible enough to meet the evolving needs of their communities.

This series of blogs focusing on the transition to a predominantly urban world began before COVID-19 took hold. The pandemic brings devastating current and future health and economic impacts, and demands our attention and commitment to work together to overcome it.

Here, Sheela Patel explains why saving groups supporting organisations of the urban poor need flexible funding to respond effectively to the many challenges emerging from the virus.

International agencies are failing to provide the support that organisations of the urban poor desperately need to fight COVID-19, and to cope with its devastating economic and social impacts. Few if any structure their support to match grassroots organisations’ needs for flexible funding.

So is international funding actually helping these grassroots organisations – including the thousands of savings groups that make up Slum Dwellers International – cope with COVID-19? Or to survive it? And to enhance and support the many roles these savings groups have in fighting the pandemic and reaching vulnerable groups?

You would think that savings groups would be perfect partners for international funders. They are organised, they can manage money, they are trusted, they have capacity, and they operate in the poorest urban communities.

When an international agency wants to help low-income communities in informal settlements, how do they decide on what will be funded, and by whom? It often takes weeks for the funding to arrive when what is needed is a rapid response. 

And does the international funding address the local community’s needs? Does it understand roles of grassroots organisations in responding to COVID-19? Are they asking these organisations what form of external support would work best for them?

The growing pressures on savings groups

In the last six months, women’s collectives within SDI are facing very local crises of their own. Their most precious savings and loans programmes have completely collapsed. And with that, all the revolving funds that they built through repayment of loans. Regenerating it without external support will be next to impossible. 

And as people move away from neighbourhoods, networks of the federations are beginning to collapse – some going to their rural kinship homes, others exploring other ways to earn.

Low-income residents with infectious or chronic diseases have difficulties accessing health care as hospitals and governments struggle to deal with the pandemic. Immunisation programmes are not reaching large sections of the population.

Women and girls are facing real hardship through so many changes. Many girls are not going to school, and experiencing an upswing in violence in households as deep depression and frustration take hold. Cases of rape and pregnancies in teenage girls are rising.

Most if not all cities in the global South are locked in their own crisis of how to pay sufficient attention to the challenges of the urban poor. Initially, money was available to help feed people. But reaching all those in need has become a continuous challenge, especially the most vulnerable households.

Flexibility to respond

So, what do the thousands of savings groups around the world need? The answer: flexible funds that enable these groups to respond quickly to their communities’ most pressing needs.

For some, this may be food; for others, medicine. Funds may be needed to help struggling community health facilities or to deploy safety patrols that help keep girls and women safe.

Without being able to anticipate what’s coming next, it’s hard for savings groups to write smart proposals requesting money for specific activities. What savings groups really need is to be able to focus on their own priorities, not those of international funders. 

Invasive species: why Britain can't eat its way out of its crayfish problem

Biodiversity News - Tue, 13/10/2020 - 16:25
We found that signal crayfish traps tend to catch larger males, letting the bulk of the population go free. Eleri G. Pritchard, PhD Candidate in Freshwater Ecology, UCL Licensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.