Encouraging farmers to adapt? Then communicate it right

Making sure agriculture concepts make sense to local contexts and languages can be detrimental in getting farmers onboard with adapting and mitigating climate change. Photo: A. Yaqub/CIMMYT
(view original)
Dic 5, 2012



by Cecilia Schubert

As part of Meine van Noordwijk's quest to get people engaged in both adaptation and mitigation activities the word “mitigadaptation” came into play.

Get the Big Facts on links between adaptation and mitigation.

Created during a brainstorming session in Kenya, it didn’t take long before people soon realized that “miti” in Kiswahli also means trees. Need less to say, the word got good reviews when introduced, simply because it makes sense to people in Kenya. The word in one go implies that adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin. And important when building a sustainable landscape. More importantly, people could relate and envision the practices because of the chosen wording that is linked to the local language.

The concept was presented by Meine, from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), to an enthusiastic crowd that had come to join the roundtable discussion on Developing landscape approaches for adaptation at the Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day (ALL5) held in parallel to COP18 in Doha.


Even if this is just a play with words, the way we brand activities and practices within agriculture is actually important. And at times problematic. Especially when concepts are created in developed country institutions and don’t really mean a thing to smallholder farmers. Language, culture values, social differences, education levels, all could impact how well a new concept will be taken on board by farmers, and if practices will be scaled-up.

Keeping these factors in mind while charting research- and development plans – could make all the difference.

Read more: Why is it so hard to scale-up climate smart agriculture?

In order for farmers to be onboard they thus need to understand the agriculture jargon that is constantly evolving. They also won't be participating if adaptation mean risking their livelihoods. Therefore it is valuable to work with the local communities and listen to them about what types of practices and activities they want, and what needs they have. This was echoed by the audience members while talking about how peat lands in Indonesia are being restored with the help of local communities.

Read more: Farmers in East Africa are already adapting

Cecilia Schubert is a communications assistant at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Follow the latest developments from the UN climate talks in Doha on our blog, on twitter @cgiarclimate and #ALLForest