EPIC Senegal case study: Strengthening local climate change adaptation strategies in West Africa

The Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities (EPIC) project aims to demonstrate how healthy ecosystems can help reduce hazard risks and improve livelihood resilience in six countries – Chile, Nepal, China, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Thailand. In one of the initial case studies in the Saloum Delta Biosphere Reserve in Senegal, local decision makers will learn of the effects of climate change on poor communities and poverty alleviation efforts. The new knowledge will then enable them to put in place strategies for rural development, disaster management, and the water and environment sectors by demonstrating the economic benefits of integrated ecosystem based adaptation strategies for reducing vulnerabilities of poor communities.

Saloum Delta Biosphere Reserve, Senegal Photo: EPIC Senegal

The proposed work by EPIC builds on recognized needs by IUCN and its partners across the region. In working closely with partners – from community leaders to policy makers – the case study seeks to demonstrate solid scientific principles and approaches while at the same time shaping and reinforcing a number of already ongoing and planned activities.

In the case of Senegal, the country faces significant difficulties coping with existing climatic variability and recurrent extreme weather events, which seriously affect poor people and disrupt growth and poverty reduction efforts.

The climate in the Saloum Delta Biosphere Reserve is similar to a Sudanese tropical climate, which is characterized by low rainfall. The majority of local people rely on agriculture, as well as livestock farming, fishing, tourism and salt extraction. Climate change is already affecting the region, resulting in warming temperatures, in addition to longer and more frequent droughts, floods, soil salinisation and erosion. Forest resources degradation, such as clearing, cutting wood and bushfires, is also increasing. An increased lack of vegetal resources is affecting livestock, while fisheries also suffer due to mangroves sanding and degradation. These factors, exacerbated by climate variability, result in escalating poverty. There is therefore an urgent need to set up governance mechanisms for using forest resources and fisheries in a sustainable way.

Local communities have developed strategies to cope with many of these changes, including regulating the exploitation of forest resources and fisheries, building anti-salt bunds to hamper inland salt intrusion and retain freshwater, and restoring and conserving forest resources. The EPIC case study will support these adaptation strategies in order to empower communities to cope with climate change and disasters.

EPIC activities will be conducted in collaboration with local stakeholders to provide cost effective opportunities for capacity building and convening dialogues in parallel to project implementation. EPIC will also produce advocacy material in the form of policy briefs. Facilitating government representation in strategic events, EPIC will engage at regional and global levels to ensure knowledge is transferred and policy makers become advocates and implementers of the key lessons learned from the case study.

For more information on the EPIC project, please go to https://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/ecosystem_management/disaster/solutions/ecosystems_protecting_infrastructure_and_communities/.

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