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Crowd-sourcing research priorities for better delta futures – your chance to contribute

Andy Large - Director of Living Deltas
Bjoern Ole Sander - CGIAR Asian Mega-Deltas Initiative, IRRI

Monday 8th November 2021 marks Adaptation Loss and Damage Day, set up by the COP26 Presidency to “highlight the need to adapt and also step up action on loss and damage resulting from extreme weather and slow onset events.”

But what does this phrase mean in practice? How do we build meaningful capacity for inclusive resilience in the face of the urgent need for climate justice, more global south representation, and investment in policies and programmes that truly represent not just the climate change risks we face, but also the people at the forefront of those climate change hazards, risks and vulnerabilities?  

Asian Mega-Deltas are a crucial natural resource ecosystem for more than 170 million people, many depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, and they face the growing threat of climate change each year. The challenges of sea level rise and salinization, extreme weather events and increasingly devastating droughts, risk the lives and livelihoods of millions. 

In their work, the UKRI GCRF Living Deltas Hub (Living Deltas) and the CGIAR Asian Mega-Deltas Initiative (including IRRI, IWMI, WorldFish, CIAT-Bioversity and CIMMYT)  focus on locally led adaptation strategies co-created with delta communities.

At COP26 in Glasgow, both organisations delivered a session aimed at amplifying delta voices which traditionally are unheard in debates over future policy development, management, and governance of these extremely vulnerable and rapidly altering low-lying landscapes.

To be sustainable, adaptation strategies need to be locally centred, culturally sensitive and co-created with the communities most at risk.  Put simply, delta dwellers everywhere need to be given a meaningful voice in their futures.

Across the organisations involved and with the support of the International Centre for Climate Change Adaptation and Development (ICCCAD), we have developed a series of recommendations for research and development leaders to take into consideration when developing future programmes.

We intend to take this forward in forthcoming discussions with delta policymakers and governments as we strive for better and more sustainable delta futures.  For maximum impact and inclusivity, we wish the priority order for these ‘top ten’ recommendations to be ‘crowd-sourced’ from as wide a range of interested parties as possible – including the delta communities themselves, NGOs, CSOs, policymakers, and governments.

We will then take the agreed priority list forward in an ongoing process of knowledge exchange which puts locally led and co-created adaptation front and centre in the search and research for better delta futures. To join us and prioritise the order in terms of importance and/or relevance, click here.

  1. Long-term investments in research programmes and climate-smart and contextually appropriate technologies are needed to realise transformative social change with more inclusive solutions.
  2. Research should centre on co-producing and co-creating approaches that blend traditional and indigenous knowledge, delta dwellers’ practical knowledge and global scientific knowledge.
  3. Power asymmetries need to be considered if solutions are to address social inequalities including poverty, nutrition, and food insecurity. These include but are not limited to those between women and men further differentiated by class, caste, religion, and other social identities.
  4. All research and development should seek to ensure that community members are included in research from idea to analysis, while acknowledging the inherent power imbalance that exists between researchers and communities.
  5. The voices of youth should be central. It is crucial to understand what influences youth perceptions of viable livelihood options including entry barriers, and that young people are engaged meaningfully in decision-making processes and empowered as custodians of sustainable ecosystem management.
  6. Human-nature-based solutions need to be an integral part of all development programs in Asian Mega-Deltas to enhance resilience of livelihoods dependent on natural resources.
  7. Although a complex relationship, cultural heritage and livelihoods need to be considered to better understand location-specific impacts of human activities and environmental change.
  8. Co-creation of appropriately integrated technical and social solutions with diverse stakeholders are required to meet the challenges of the Asian Mega-Deltas
  9. Restoring landscapes is critical, both within and upstream of deltas to enable climate resilience and opportunities for food system innovation
  10. Transdisciplinary science, multi-actor dialogs and networks are key to moving from policy to practice, and coherent and mutually supportive links across all levels of governance are necessary to optimize landscape adaptation.

Living Deltas and CGIAR’s Asian Mega-Deltas Initiative commit to the implementation of these recommendations in current and future research programmes they are involved in.

To widen the reach of these recommendations and achieve greater impact, we plan to use Gobeshona Global 2 in February 2022 as a milestone by which we will agree to formally implement these recommendations. These will be crucial in informing future funding bids and involving additional stakeholders in co-developing them further.  We also commit to using COP27 in November 2022 as an opportunity to expand these recommendations beyond the Asian Mega-Deltas.