C42 Case studies

C4.2.1 Adaptation capacity of the South American highlands' pre-Colombian communities (Chapter 13, Box 13.2)

The subsistence of indigenous civilisations in the Americas relied on the resources cropped under the prevailing climate conditions around their settlements. In the highlands of today's Latin America, one of the most critical limitations affecting development was, and currently is, the irregular distribution of water. This situation is the result of the particularities of the atmospheric processes and extremes, the rapid runoff in the deep valleys, and the changing soil conditions. The tropical Andes' snowmelt was, and still is, a reliable source of water. However, the streams run into the valleys within bounded water courses, bringing water only to certain locations. Moreover, valleys and foothills outside of the Cordillera Blanca glaciers and extent of the snow cover, as well as the Altiplano, receive little or no melt-water at all. Therefore, in large areas, human activities depended on seasonal rainfall. Consequently, the pre-Colombian communities developed different adaptive actions to satisfy their requirements. Today, the problem of achieving the necessary balance between water availability and demand is practically the same, although the scale might be different.

Under such limitations, from today's Mexico to northern Chile and Argentina, the pre-Colombian civilisations developed the necessary capacity to adapt to the local environmental conditions. Such capacity involved their ability to solve some hydraulic problems and foresee climate variations and seasonal rain periods. On the engineering side, their developments included rainwater cropping, filtration and storage; the construction of surface and underground irrigation channels, including devices to measure the quantity of water stored (Figure C4.1) (Treacy, 1994; Wright and Valencia Zegarra, 2000; Caran and Nelly, 2006). They also were able to interconnect river basins from the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds, in the Cumbe valley and in Cajamarca (Burger, 1992).

Other capacities were developed to foresee climate variations and seasonal rain periods, to organise their sowing schedules and to programme their yields (Orlove et al., 2000). These efforts enabled the subsistence of communities which, at the peak of the Inca civilisation, included some 10 million people in what is today Peru and Ecuador.

Their engineering capacities also enabled the rectification of river courses, as in the case of the Urubamba River, and the building of bridges, either hanging ones or with pillars cast in the river bed. They also used running water for leisure and worship purposes, as seen today in the 'Baño del Inca' (the spa of the Incas), fed from geothermal sources, and the ruins of a musical garden at Tampumacchay in the vicinity of Cusco (Cortazar, 1968). The priests of the Chavin culture used running water

Figure C4.1. Nasca (southern coast of Peru) system of water cropping for underground aqueducts and feeding the phreatic layers.

flowing within tubes bored into the structure of the temples in order to produce a sound like the roar of a jaguar; the jaguar being one of their deities (Burger, 1992). Water was also used to cut stone blocks for construction. As seen in Ollantaytambo, on the way to Machu Picchu, these stones were cut in regular geometric shapes by leaking water into cleverly made interstices and freezing it during the Altiplano night, reaching below zero temperatures. They also acquired the capacity to forecast climate variations, such as those from El Niño (Canziani and Mata, 2004), enabling the most convenient and opportune organisation of their foodstuff production. In short, they developed pioneering efforts to adapt to adverse local conditions and define sustainable development paths.

Today, under the vagaries of weather and climate, exacerbated by the increasing greenhouse effect and the rapid retreat of the glaciers (Carey, 2005; Bradley et al., 2006), it would be extremely useful to revisit and update such adaptation measures. Education and training of present community members on the knowledge and technical abilities of their ancestors would be the way forward. ECLAC's procedures for the management of sustainable development (Dourojeanni, 2000), when considering the need to manage the extreme climate conditions in the highlands, refer back to the pre-Colombian irrigation strategies.

C4.2.2 African indigenous knowledge systems (Chapter 9, Section 9.6.2)

The term 'indigenous knowledge' is used to describe the knowledge systems developed by a community as opposed to the scientific knowledge that is generally referred to as 'modern' knowledge (Ajibade, 2003). Indigenous knowledge is the basis for local-level decision-making in many rural communities. It has value not only for the culture in which it evolves, but also for scientists and planners striving to improve conditions in rural localities. Incorporating indigenous knowledge into climate-change policies can lead to the development of effective adaptation strategies that are cost-effective, participatory and sustainable (Robinson and Herbert, 2001).

C4.22.1 Indigenous knowledge in weather forecasting

Local communities and farmers in Africa have developed intricate systems of gathering, predicting, interpreting and decision-making in relation to weather. A study in Nigeria, for example, shows that farmers are able to use knowledge of weather systems such as rainfall, thunderstorms, windstorms, harmattan (a dry dusty wind that blows along the north-west coast of Africa) and sunshine to prepare for future weather (Ajibade and Shokemi, 2003). Indigenous methods of weather forecasting are known to complement farmers' planning activities in Nigeria. A similar study in Burkina Faso showed that farmers' forecasting knowledge encompasses shared and selective experiences. Elderly male farmers formulate hypotheses about seasonal rainfall by observing natural phenomena, while cultural and ritual specialists draw predictions from divination, visions or dreams (Roncoli et al., 2001). The most widely relied-upon indicators are the timing, intensity and duration of cold temperatures during the early part of the dry season (November to January). Other forecasting indicators include the timing of fruiting by certain local trees, the water level in streams and ponds, the nesting behaviour of small quaillike birds, and insect behaviour in rubbish heaps outside compound walls (Roncoli et al., 2001).

C4222 Indigenous knowledge in mitigation and adaptation

African communities and farmers have always coped with changing environments. They have the knowledge and practices to cope with adverse environments and shocks. The enhancement of indigenous capacity is a key to the empowerment of local communities and their effective participation in the development process (Leautier, 2004). People are better able to adopt new ideas when these can be seen in the context of existing practices. A study in Zimbabwe observed that farmers' willingness to use seasonal climate forecasts increased when the forecasts were presented in conjunction with and compared with the local indigenous climate forecasts (Patt and Gwata, 2002).

Local farmers in several parts of Africa have been known to conserve carbon in soils through the use of zero-tilling practices in cultivation, mulching, and other soil-management techniques (Dea and Scoones, 2003). Natural mulches moderate soil temperatures and extremes, suppress diseases and harmful pests, and conserve soil moisture. The widespread use of indigenous plant materials, such as agrochemicals to combat pests that normally attack food crops, has also been reported among small-scale farmers (Gana, 2003). It is likely that climate change will alter the ecology of disease vectors, and such indigenous practices of pest management would be useful adaptation strategies. Other indigenous strategies that are adopted by local farmers include: controlled bush clearing; using tall grasses such as Andropogon gayanus for fixing soil-surface nutrients washed away by runoff; erosion-control bunding to significantly reduce the effects of runoff; restoring lands by using green manure; constructing stone dykes; managing low-lying lands and protecting river banks (AGRHYMET, 2004).

Adaptation strategies that are applied by pastoralists in times of drought include the use of emergency fodder, culling of weak livestock for food, and multi-species composition of herds to survive climate extremes. During drought periods, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists change from cattle to sheep and goat husbandry, as the feed requirements of the latter are lower (Seo and Mendelsohn, 2006). The pastoralists' nomadic mobility reduces the pressure on low-capacity grazing areas through their cyclic movements from the dry northern areas to the wetter southern areas of the Sahel.

African women are particularly known to possess indigenous knowledge which helps to maintain household food security, particularly in times of drought and famine. They often rely on indigenous plants that are more tolerant to droughts and pests, providing a reserve for extended periods of economic hardship (Ramphele, 2004; Eriksen, 2005). In southern Sudan, for example, women are directly responsible for the selection of all sorghum seeds saved for planting each year. They preserve a spread of varieties of seeds that will ensure resistance to the range of conditions that may arise in any given growing season (Easton and Roland, 2000).

C4.2.3 Traditional knowledge for adaptation among Arctic peoples (Chapter 15, Section 15.6.1)

Among Arctic peoples, the selection pressures for the evolution of an effective knowledge base have been exceptionally strong, driven by the need to survive off highly variable natural resources in the remote, harsh Arctic environment. In response, they have developed a strong knowledge base concerning weather, snow and ice conditions as they relate to hunting and travel, and natural resource availability (Krupnik and Jolly, 2002). These systems of knowledge, belief and practice have been developed through experience and culturally transmitted among members and across generations (Huntington, 1998; Berkes, 1999). This Arctic indigenous knowledge offers detailed information that adds to conventional science and environmental observations, as well as to a holistic understanding of environment, natural resources and culture (Huntington et al., 2004). There is an increasing awareness of the value of Arctic indigenous knowledge and a growing collaborative effort to document it. In addition, this knowledge is an invaluable basis for developing adaptation and natural resource management strategies in response to environmental and other forms of change. Finally, local knowledge is essential for understanding the effects of climate change on indigenous communities (Riedlinger and Berkes, 2001; Krupnik and Jolly, 2002) and how, for example, some communities have absorbed change through flexibility in traditional hunting, fishing and gathering practices.

The generation and application of this knowledge is evidenced in the ability of Inuit hunters to navigate new travel and hunting routes despite decreasing ice stability and safety (e.g., Lafortune et al., 2004); in the ability of many indigenous groups to locate and hunt species such as geese and caribou that have shifted their migration times and routes and to begin to locate and hunt alternative species moving into the region (e.g., Krupnik and Jolly, 2002; Nickels et al., 2002; Huntington et al., 2005); the ability to detect safe sea ice and weather conditions in an environment with increasingly uncharacteristic weather (George et al., 2004); or the knowledge and skills required to hunt marine species in open water later in the year under different sea-ice conditions (Community of Arctic Bay, 2005).

Although Arctic peoples show great resilience and adaptability, some traditional responses to environmental change have already been compromised by recent socio-political changes. Their ability to cope with substantial climatic change in future, without a fundamental threat to their cultures and lifestyles, cannot be considered as unlimited. The generation and application of traditional knowledge requires active engagement with the environment, close social networks in communities, and respect for and recognition of the value of this form of knowledge and understanding. Current social, economic and cultural trends, in some communities and predominantly among younger generations, towards a more western lifestyle has the potential to erode the cycle of traditional knowledge generation and transfer, and hence its contribution to adaptive capacity.

C4.2.4 Adaptation to health impacts of climate change among indigenous populations (Chapter 8, Box 8.6)

A series of workshops organised by the national Inuit organisation in Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kantami, documented climate-related changes and impacts, and identified and developed potential adaptation measures for local response (Furgal et al., 2002a, b; Nickels et al., 2003). The strong engagement of Inuit community residents will facilitate the successful adoption of the adaptation measures identified, such as using netting and screens on windows and house entrances to prevent bites from mosquitoes and other insects that have become more prevalent.

Another example is a study of the links between malaria and agriculture that included participation and input from a farming community in Mwea division, Kenya (Mutero et al., 2004). The approach facilitated identification of opportunities for long-term malaria control in irrigated rice-growing areas through the integration of agro-ecosystem practices aimed at sustaining livestock systems within a broader strategy for rural development.

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