Ilaria Firmian Interview on Djibouti project PRAREV

Climate change is increasingly effecting agricultural and fishing communities in Djibouti. The Programme to Reduce Vulnerability to Climate Change and Poverty of Coastal Rural Communities (PRAREV), supported by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is working within the fishing industry of Djibouti, helping rural fisherman combat the effects of climate change, and adapt to a changing environment.

IFAD’s Ilaria Firmian recently returned from a work trip to Djibouti. She has worked for seven years in IFAD as an Environment and Climate Knowledge Officer and previously  as a Technical Adviser on Environment and Natural Resources Management, supporting the mainstreaming of environmental and social issues at policy, programme and project levels.

©IFAD/Ilaria Firmian
You've just returned from Djibouti, what was it you went there for?

I was there for the launch of the IFAD programme PRAREV providing support to the technical session on climate change, as the project has a large co-financing from ASAPIt's in fact a blending of loan and climate funds, which has been instrumental to really tackle the problems of the Country and therefore provide services to the clients. Many partners were involved including the Red Cross Climate Centre that facilitated the use of climate games . The games were a very useful tool to show how decision making in relation to climate change is quite a difficult task and how this pays out in the fisheries sector, which is the main focus of the project.

Were there any other agencies working with IFAD on this project?

This project has many partnerships. With WFP (World FoodProgramme)-to deliver ‘food for work’ for local communities engaged in the rehabilitation of mangroves. With the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Djiboutien (CERD) – which is a National Research Centre. Also with Direction de l’Aménagement du Territoire et de l’Environnement (DATE) within the Ministry of Environment. Finally we are also working with FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) - for the national fisheries plan.

What are the main problems people are facing, and how is IFAD combatting them?

There are a lot of climate change related problems in Djibouti, with drought issues being prevalent. There have been increases in storms and floods, yet drought is still the main problem. Drought affects the traditional Djibouti livelihood, pastoralism, which is becoming less viable as climate change worsens. The project looks at improving  and making fisheries more climate-resilient, which represents an alternative livelihood. Promoting this existing but relatively small and undeveloped sector is important as it is less susceptible to drought.
©IFAD/Ilaria Firmian

How did IFAD decide where needed its help the most?

During design, in order to target the most vulnerable areas, IFAD used the ''Coastal Hazard Wheel Methodology'' which identified large stretches of the coastline facing ecosystem disruption and others exposed to gradual inundation, salt water intrusion and erosion of the coast. Based on these results, the project is mainly taking actions to restore ecosystems e.g. coral reefs and mangrove areas. Mangroves are very important as they provide protection from storms and floods and, just like coral reefs,  they are also vital for fish stocks.

What sort of work is IFAD engaging in to combat these issues?

The project is working to build climate-resilient infrastructures and provide renewable energy equipment, ice plants, coolers/insulated containers etc. to the fishing communities.

PRAREV looks at the entire fisheries value chain; from the production (protection of ecosystems that are breeding grounds for fish) through to credit provision for boats and other equipment.- The project is also partnering and strengthening the capacity of existing micro finance in Djibouti (CPEC Caisse d’épargne et de crédit) to better serve the target group and help establish a national viable and sustainable microfinance system in the long term.

The project also plans to build  small infrastructure at harbours, this would include landing piers/jetties, cold rooms and market halls, which would help the fishermen with docking and transport of goods. Djibouti's main fish market is in Djibouti town but the project will also intervene in smaller villages along the coast, to improve local markets. The programme will also fund an ice factory and tricycles for fish distribution within the peri-urban areas to strengthen women retailers’ associations.

A project component is related to capacity building, both at the community and government level. The idea is that through this project IFAD will influence the national policies and strategies, basically forcing more attention to the potential of fisheries in terms of  adaptation to climate change and exploring other avenues of income generation.

Could you please tell us more about these other avenues?

Some alternative industries such as algae production will be piloted as well. There are species of indigenous algae that can be used for livestock feeding or cosmetics. With fisheries  not being a traditional sector in Djibouti, the fishing industry is still very under-developed. For instance, they are not used to drying and salting fish, a classical way of fish preservation. So there will be actions to see if there is a market for such things as salted fish.
What's next for the project in Djibouti?

The project is very interesting  but also very new to the country. It is just starting up and so the next step is just to take the design and make it work, taking into account new challenges such as the flow of refugees from Yemen that unfortunately, goes beyond the PRAREV's control and may negatively impact on the project performance.