Last week IFAD and the Government of the Republic of The Gambia launched the Strengthening Climate Resilience of the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (better known as Chosso) and followed with an inception workshop that lasted two days and involved 120 participants. Chosso brings a grant of US$ 5 million from ASAP to complement and optimise the effectiveness the project baseline (known as Nema) in addressing climate-related threats to smallholder agriculture in the country.
Both Nema and Chosso have their roots in the needs and local knowledge of smallholders. During his opening speech, the IFAD Country Programme Manager ,Moses Abukari, thanked the individual farmers who inspired the design teams on the project names. The word Chosso refers to a traditional early warning system used to inform the community members when the quality of the river water is degraded. Nema refers to the prosperity that the project interventions intend to bring to rural communities in terms of increasing productivity and value addition of rice and vegetable cultivation.
IFAD’s inclusive, consultative and highly participatory approaches, as well as, its resource mobilisation efforts in the country were recognised and celebrated by the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Environment & Climate Change in their speeches. But what made the appreciation to IFAD’s work so tangible, more than ministerial speeches, was the dedication and the attention devoted to the workshop by all participants for the entire two days.
Chosso will support many different innovative activities, including: community water-harvesting techniques, community agro-forestry, and climate-proof infrastructure. It will also scale up best practices in mangrove restoration; community woodlots and smallholder climate information services, in order to improve the productivity of scarce agricultural lands through enhancement of watersheds. It was important during the workshop to go through detailed presentations on these different project aspects, in order to develop a full and common understanding of the project. This will in turn enable the team to plan meaningfully and realistically for effective implementation.
Climate games – an innovative learning approach – were also employed during the workshop and elicited high enthusiasm among participants. The games are a simulation of reality where players experience the daily anxiety faced by smallholder farmers in the face of increasing climate-related disasters. Using dice to signify climate threats, and beans to signify currency, participants have to decide what to invest their capital in - ‘normal’ development versus drought or flood protection - within a simulated three decades of farm seasons.
The unanimous feedback considered the games a simple yet effective way to help participants understand the impacts of climate change and the importance of making resilient investments. Many stakeholders also saw the possibility of cascading down the application of the game into local communities in the context of the project.
‘This would give women the opportunity to make contributions into the decision-making process’ wrote a participant on her feedback form.
IFAD is determined to pursue this road. Meanwhile Chosso is already moving forward in mainstreaming climate risk management at all levels.