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A long period in Canada, working on climate change adaptation in the developing world

(15 October 2018)

From mid 2016 until recently, I had the privilege to spend two years in Canada working for the International Development Research Centre. IDRC is a unique institute: it is part of the Canadian international development effort, focusing fully on the support to researchers in developing countries to do academic-level development research. I was invited to lead and further build up their global Climate Change program in three continents. The research we supported targeted the analysis of complex socio-environmental systems and the identifications of barriers to and opportunities for adaptation solutions. This covered various themes, ranging from integrated watershed management to adaptive city planning, from integrated climate smart agriculture to mitigating heat stress and from disaster risk reduction to adaptation finance. This was done all over Latin America and the Caribbean, South and South-East Asia and in West, East and Southern Africa. In total, our team of 20 managed a portfolio of almost 100M CA$ from Canadian, UK and Dutch ODA funding. In this period, I learned a lot about the global development challenges in relation to climate adaptation and I got a much better understanding of the African and South Asian context; areas that I had only visited marginally before. I am particularly proud that we managed to mobilize funds to relaunch the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), now fully managed by institutions from the global South. But most of all, I enjoyed to work with dozens of passionate researchers from all over the world and see how they developed top-class socioeconomic, policy and environmental research.

(here more on IDRC and here more on CDKN)

We published a new book on páramos, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change

(4 January 2016)

During 2014 and 2015, I collaborated with the project "Páramo Communities", lead by IUCN. I supported the organizations who implemented the project (Tropenbos, Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, Ecopar, Randi Randi and the Mountain Institute) to design a methodology for the participatory analysis of the vulnerability and capacities of páramo communities to adapt to a changing climate. I also collaborated during the data generation and processing. This study, executed in Colombia, Ecuador and Perú, was recently published and I had the privilege to edit the book. The digital version can be downloaded here aquí. It includes a presentation of the (potential) effect of climate change at the level of rural communities, the perceptions of these communities of the phenomenon, an assessment of their vulnerability and  capacities to adapt, both at individually and collectively. It also includes a brief policy and level context analysis. I hope you like it!

(here more about the "paramo communities" project)

Diversity and sustainable development in Southern Mexico

(6 October 2015)

In September of this year, I visited the Mixteca region in Southern Mexico (Oaxaca state). This is a fascinating region, not in the last place because it has ecosystems ranging from deserts to humid mountain forests. It so diverse that it is generally considered the most biodiverse region of Mexico. Apart from its biological diversity, it is one of the most culturally diverse regions of Mesoamerica. The Mixtec people have occupied this area since at least 1000 years (in coalition with the Zapotec in prehispanic times) and survived the Spanish conquest.. Nowadays, Mixtec still constitute the majority of population but in total, there are six ethnic groups. The Spanish contributed to the cultural diversity of the region, among others with monumental churches and monasteries from the Dominican order.

I was in the region to evaluate the UNEP-GEF-WWF project on mainstreaming ecosystem services in development programs in the Mixteca region. I could visit many parts of the Mixteca, see stunning landscapes and meet wonderful people undertaking a variety of innovative productive projects. Man and women cultivated succulent plants to sell as garden plants and to restore natural populations, they tap resin from (native) pine trees as non timber forest products, they plant trees for fuelwood, they apply traditional land rehabilitation techniques and restore degraded woodland. A really encouraging enthusiasm! I was particularly impressed with the local capacities, finding out how many people from local communities have managed to study at university and now support development of their former neighbors. But I was also sadly impressed by the remaining poverty leading to a continued massive emigration to the USA.