Industrious ants, or lone leopards?

Learning how to use the CCAFS scenarios tool helps stakeholders envision how to arrive at a better future under a variety of possible circumstances. Photo: CCAFS/Flickr
(view original)

A detective solves a mystery by starting from the end result – the crime scene – and working backwards to determine the cause – the crime. The same logic, called backcasting, is also the key to climate change adaptation and development.

Joost Vervoort, scenarios officer for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and Katindi Sivi Njonjo Society for International Development in Kenya spoke to a group of CCAFS stakeholders as a prelude to the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The development of climate scenarios is a strategy that governments and community members can use not only to envision their future, but to “backcast” to identify the key steps necessary to arrive at the future. “We don’t just give them [community members] scenarios,” emphasized Vervoort, “we give them the tools to develop scenarios.”

Vervoort concludes that this distinction is crucial if the concept of scenario-building is to be taken up and used after CCAFS researchers exit the picture. Which is why, noted Njonjo, CCAFS uses a stakeholder-driven approach.The “industrious ants” are unified and proactive. “Lone leopards” are proactive as well, but more fragmented and individualistic.

In East Africa, for example, civil society and private sector actors conceptualize how they might arrive at a shared vision of the future given a variety of potential scenarios. The “industrious ant” scenario involves working with a cooperative, unified government that plans ahead for adaptation. The “herd of zebras” is unified, but reactive. "Lone leopards are proactive, but fragmented, while “sleeping lions” are completely individualistic and concerned with the status quo, making them the most difficult to work with. Stakeholders must come up with a way to achieve their future vision under any one of these possible scenarios.

The result of the scenarios process is a robust plan, one that could work under a variety of different circumstances. More importantly, it is understandable by everyone and thus easy to identify with and put into action. After all, enabling successful development in the face of climate change shouldn’t have to be detective work.

View Katindi Njonjo's presentation from the event:

Stay updated with happenings at the conference on the GCARD2 Social Reporting Platform

For more information on CCAFS scenarios work in East Asia, view the Report on Regional Scenarios Development for East Africa (PDF), and read related blog posts.


Caity Peterson is a visiting researcher based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia, working on CCAFS Theme 1: Adaptation to Progressive Climate Change. To get more updates, follow us on Facebook, and Twitter @Cgiarclimate.