Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Exploring knowledge co-production processes for effective adaptation: Natural Justice shares insights at the 2nd Southern African Adaptation Colloquium

Mr Gerren De Wet at the 2nd Southern African Adaptation
Dr. Cath Traynor (Natural Justice) and Community Researcher Mr Gerren De Wet (Indigenous Nama youth) attended the recent 2nd Southern African Adaptation Colloquium recently in  Johannesburg, South Africa (which was hosted by GSRI, Wits University, ACDI and the Adaptation Network). A key theme of the conference was “knowledge co-production and learning”, and we presented a reflection co-authored with Dr Laura Foster (Indiana University, Bloomington) regards conducting formal Participatory Action Research (PAR) with indigenous communities. We started with provocations, asking questions such as “who gets to produce scholarly knowledge?” and “who gets to benefit from such knowledge?” Through applying a critical approach to our own research processes, our findings suggest that those who get to produce scholarly knowledge are those that first, meet the criteria of funders, and second those who adhere to the normative standards of human subject research approaches and research ethics processes. In an attempt to counter more extractive research processes, we as researchers have co-developed community-researcher contracts with communities, these aim to outline expectations regards how knowledge shared by community participants will be used and also to ensure protection of their indigenous knowledge. Through examining our own research processes and the formal research structures we work within, we hope to develop practices of knowledge production that are more responsive to hierarchies of power and inequality.

During the colloquium, presenters and the participants shared ideas and approaches regards how social learning values and methodologies could contribute towards and improve climate change adaptation, in a variety of situations from cities, to rural communities, to engage different sectors such as youth, and how better to ensure co-design in adaptation projects. Funding sources for adaptation were discussed and government representatives presented their perspectives of the UNFCCC COP21 Paris Agreement, and how South Africa is responding with its adaptation strategy, mainstreaming of adaptation, and the development of monitoring and evaluation for adaptation. Trends in transformative adaptation were also debated and the colloquium finished with a session on how South Africa can better prepare professionals and researchers for knowledge co-production processes in climate change. 

Natural Justice met with adaptation practitioners from the Environmental Monitoring Group and Indigo Development and Change to plan a Peer-to-Peer Learning Exchange between the Nama youth and the Nieuvoudtville community.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reclaiming the Nama Past to Adapt to the Future

Exploring national responsibility past & present through
diagrams and graphs
By Julia Röttinger, Intern with the Climate Change Program

On the 26th and 27th of August 2016 Dr Cath Traynor and intern Julia Röttinger held a workshop with the Kuboes Youth Group facilitated by Gerren De Wett who himself is a community and lives in Kuboes. It was the first time that Natural Justice worked with that specific youth group and therefore interesting to see how the young participants between 23 and 31 years would react.

Studies on climate change have indicated that vulnerable groups, which include Indigenous Peoples are likely to be negatively impacted, and groups such as the Nama People in Kuboes, Richtersveld are expected to suffer climate change impacts, with effect principally felt through water resource availability and food security. The workshop therefore introduced key issues related to climate change: namely climate science, climate justice, the role of indigenous knowledge and community rights issues.

On the first day some background information on Natural Justice’s work was given before moving on to the topic of climate change and climate justice. The young adults were asked to explain what they associate with climate change. It was interesting to see how the group engaged with the topic through participatory activities.  After the first session it was clear that the group had some knowledge on climate change which helped to introduce climate justice including the issues of responsibility and the moral obligation of more developed countries to act. Short videos and other activities raised awareness and caught the group’s interest which made it easier to connect to the last task. After discussing their own experience as active pastoralists of climate change impacts in the Richtersveld area, the participants went out to interview Kuboes’ elders in order to find out more about changes in the climate during the past 30-50 years.

Mapping international to local responses
to climate change
The second day started with a short icebreaker activity which was facilitated by one of the youth group members, Regina, and energized the group. It was obvious that everyone was more comfortable now and the young adults were open and keen to learn more about the topic. The next session started off with an introduction to climate change responses on all levels – from international to municipal –through this the group realised how much is being done in theory. Further, an activity illustrated that there are ways to engage on climate change and climate justice issues on all levels as well as to participate and use human and also indigenous rights in engagements. In the next part the interview outcomes were discussed and reflected. The members had a very interactive and participatory conversation and came to the conclusion that they would like to learn much more about their indigenous knowledge with regard to climate change from the elders in the Nama community.  Furthermore, the group prepared a “participation contract” for the Peer-to-Peer Learning Exchange with Small-Scale Rooibos Producers in Nieuwoudtville (Northern Cape) for the following weekend which the youth group members are definitely looking forward to.
Energizers from Forum Theater approaches
In summary, the objectives and expectations of the workshop, such as raising awareness of climate change and climate justice issues, examining impacts of climate change in the Richtersveld area as well as highlighting the value of Nama indigenous knowledge and its relevance to climate change adaptation were achieved. 

The Quiver Tree (a long-lived giant tree Aloe)
is shifting its distribution towards the poles in response to climate change

Friday, August 12, 2016

Roads to Justice: the impacts of road construction in northern Kenya

“The control man has secured over nature has far outrun his control over himself.”
Ernest Jones,The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, 1953

In East Africa, Kenya is considered a new frontier for business and development – hence the term “engine” of the region (David 2015). Since the country adopted its Vision 2030 strategy, emphasis has been placed on trade, industrial expansion and infrastructure development, with the aim of not only providing a stable economic environment but also transforming and solidifying the country as a middle-income economy (Kenya’s Vision 2030). To realize this goal, there has been consistent budget allocation and foreign investment into the country’s infrastructure development and growth, which has transitioned Kenya into the current explosive era of infrastructure expansion (Laurance 2016). The recent budget allocation, including external financing, gives a total of Kshs 117.6 billion - approximately USD 1.17 billion (Budget statement Fiscal year 2016/ 2017). But it is the transport routes, particularly roads, which have been identified as critical to maintain and expand this new frontier (Kenya’s Vision 2030 MTP2 2013-2017). The A2 Road Project, designed to bitumenize the 505km stretch of unpaved road from Merrile River, in central Kenya, to the Kenyan-Ethiopia border town of Moyale, fits well into this narrative.

It is hoped that by October 2016, the road construction will open the country’s undeveloped northern region to much yearned economic development (Marsabit CIDP 2013-2017). A region marginalised socially, economically and politically with the aide of colonial policies, some of which have continued well after independence. Pastoralism continues to be the the most productive and prominent livelihood in the region with livestock (cows, goats, and camels) being kept through a well regulated traditional system of grazing (CIDP 2013-2017). Since water is scarce, the community has designated water points, albeit limited, in different areas that are able to support both residents and their livestock (CIDP 2013-2017). Given the precarious nature of the environment and the importance of pastoralism, it is only sensical that any development project should strengthen these livelihood mechanisms. Therefore, we must be cognizant of the benefits and potential negative impacts that roads, such as the one in Northern Kenya ,may bring (Laurance 2015).

Fortunately, Kenyan law is not oblivous to the potential impacts such a development project can have on people and their environments. Kenya’s Constitution inscribes a fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment for all people, and for the benefit of future generations. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), the framework environmental law of Kenya, empowers citizens to participate in environmental processes as well as minimising and mitigating environmental damage. EMCA also stipulates that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), a participatory process of assessing potential environmental impacts of projects (Clayton &Sadler 2004), must occur prior to the commencement of projects. If approved, the EIA results in the issuance of an environmental license, which sets out numerous conditions to mitigate social and environmental impacts (Section 63 EMCA; excerpts from Kohli & Menon 2009).
Consistent with national law, an EIA study on the road was conducted and a report filed with Kenya’s chief environmental regulator, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in 2009 (A2 Road EIA 2009). In 2011, an environmental license to conduct the project under certain conditions was issued to the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), the project’s proponent (EIA/ 447). KeNHA then contracted two China-based companies (China Wu Yi and Jiangxi Zhongmei Engineering Construction Limited) and one based in Turkey (Gulsan Holding) to carry out the construction.

Five years on and the road construction almost complete, we are able to assess the roads constructions compliance with Kenya’s laws, including the environmental license. Community monitoring to investigate the project site, including interviews with affected communities, has highlighted numerous instances of non-compliance of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP), environmental license and national law.

Culverts and bridges have been poorly designed or constructed leaving surrounding areas and homes prone to floods resulting in the loss of human life and livestock. In other areas, constructed bridges have blocked community dams that were a collecting point downhill hence limiting accessibility of water for livestock and domestic use in these areas. Excavated materials have been disposed alongside the road blocking access routes for animals and residents to water points and grazing fields.

The excavation for the road has also resulted in unregulated clearing of vegetation, damaged existing livestock water pans and exposed borrow pits – the latter two resulting in human and livestock death and injury as reported by the people living in the area. Plastic bags used for construction have either not been disposed of or only partially burnt – a concern for pastoralists who believe livestock have died as a result of consuming this litter. Community water dams have been polluted and water tables disrupted leaving the community with insufficient water supplies, or no water all together, forcing them to walk long distances to access other water points. There has been direct physical displacement and dispossession without adequate compensation and a failure to adequately address dust storms from quarry sites.

All of these impacts are considered within the EIA study, environmental management plan, environmental license or national laws and, hence, should have been adequately dealt with. So, why is it that these impacts have occurred? Some of the reasons that must be explored relate to: the limited amount of monitoring that occurs during projects; vaguely drafted environmental license conditions, which are difficult to implement and monitor like ‘all waste water is disposed as per the standards set out in then Water Quality Regulation’ (Condition 3.1; Kohli and Menon 2009); and poor and ineffective response from relevant government agencies. Further, a disempowered citizenry, who don’t know the law nor mechanism to access systems of justice, are unable to exert the necessary pressure to hold the relevant government bodies and project actors accountable.

We have much work to do to improve the implementation of our laws but it is unwise to apportion blame to one group, given the real challenges that exist with funding and capacity of government agencies. As a starting point, we all must inherently accept that the rule of law, as a fundamental pillar of a democratic society, is completely fused to our plans for development because the law is not there to deprive us of a prosperous nation but to protect and enliven that which we, as Kenyan’s, hold dear.

Rose Birgen is a legal researcher with Natural Justice's Extractives, Infrastructure and Industry Program.