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EcoAdapt Working Paper Series N°3: Generation of shared knowledge and joint learning on water governance and climate change adaptation


EcoAdapt ( is an ambitious, complex and demanding action-research project about water security in a context of climate change. The issues the project deals with are also complex and demanding. A central challenge is how to get the investigators, the project partner Model Forest local teams and the relevant local actors in the territorieson the same page. That is why joint knowledge development and shared learning from different sources and ways of knowing is of such strategic importance in EcoAdapt. Moreover, a viable and sustainable community based response to environmental and climaticchallenges requires a critical mass of motivated, informed and concerted local actors. To make good headway in this direction, an arduous but dynamic process has been set into motion resulting in a growing commitment and capacity building among the local actors in the three EcoAdapt territories. The project’s mini and synthesis workshops were building- and stepping-stones in a continuous path of joint learning and capacity development. In the former events the information captured in the base line study was discussed with the locals actors ,while in the second ones, the interest aroused was capitalized upon to form the change agents groups (an essential aspect of the EcoAdapt strategy) and to respond to the demand of more precise and accessible information, by means of a series of field learning activities. This had some promising outcomes such as contributing to a common interest and growing understanding of water as a central watershed ecosystem; widening of the horizon and view towards watershed and landscape management; strengthening of community drinking water systems with regards to its hardware and software (physical infrastructure, local management and governance); growing cooperation among urban and rural groups or between civil society and policy makers around water issues; creating a link between the legal framework and policy making and the processes on the ground. A spiral of learning took place. As people satisfy their curiosity and initial interest they want to know more and understand better, and they become even more investigative as the activity gets geared towards action and towards helping them achieve their needs and aspirations. Learning does not stop and is clearly evolving in the project with regards to aims, content and methods. This proves to be entirely in line with one of the working hypothesis of the project and also with constructivist theories such as meaningful learning. It has been fundamental and very instrumental to induce the formation of multi actor platforms of change agents in the three territories, through which the field learning activities are organized. These new instances are pivotal in the EcoAdapt learning and organization process by the local project partners: due to a broad representation of local groups and institutions, these platforms get grounded and obtain a growing legitimacy in the territory; they fill a real demand by tackling felt needs for local development around water issues and capitalizing human, institutional and financial opportunities and resources; information is spread and debated; trust and chemistry is built and a common language and vision developed; by lowering barriers between groups and institutions transaction costs are lowered and opportunities are taken advantage of to decrease operational costs and achieve higher effectiveness in ongoing or initial action around water issues and management. Hence it is also very cost effective in economic terms. Climate change adaptation is a variant of risk management to secure water, food and other means of living. Management of climate risks is a millenarian old need and practice, but recent climate change tendencies give it a whole new dimension. Traditional knowledge and practice is a good springboard to climate change adaptation, but new science based information and views must be inserted in what people already know, do and want to change (or conserve) to widen their horizon and action alternatives, and create in this way, a solid 5 base for a viable and shared climate change adaptation plan. In that perspective it is essential that the complex issue of climate change is made transparent, understandable and meaningful. This still remains a great challenge in tactical and didactical terms. The systematized experience so far teaches us that it may be necessary to deviate a bit from the project proposal (“description of work”, or DoW) in order to advance towards the project vision. So, in Climate Change Adaptation for Local Development (the project slogan) the relation between both aims is inter-active.Local development can be a starting point for advancing to climate change adaptation and ecological and social resilience. Close observation shows that the prime mover of action by the local actors has not been so much climate change adaptation but securing clean water in sufficient quality and quantity or satisfying other felt local needs and aspirations. And this is not just a matter of climate- but also of legal stress, and a lack of equity and legitimacy. Hence, the internal learning and systematization has fed also the adaptive project management. Looking backwards and reflecting on it, one gets more clarity on how to go forwards to reach the vision. But therefore it is also important to look out of the EcoAdapt box and combine internal reflection with relevant literature and other cases, in order to get more out of the empirical data and process.Hence, much emphasis was put in this working paper on a relevant literature review, whose results merged in a conceptual flow chart, with the philosophy and strategy of EcoAdapt. In chapter VI Analysis and Synthesis the link is made between this flowchart with the process and outcomes of the field learning activities described in much detail in chapter V. Many promising results were found as well as pending challenges which both are inputs for action and strategy in the next two years: momentum must be maintained, advances consolidated and a qualitative jump forward made. One of the lessons learned is the importance of combining tangibles and intangibles in water management to motivate participation of the local actors and enable their learning, organization and governance towards the desired change. It also shows the added value of EcoAdapt and how it gets the most out of its limited financial means. Learning outcomes must be converted into input for strategic development, scaling out and up, policy debate and policy incidence. There is clear evidence that this process has already begun. Distances between actors diminish; policy makers get more involved; people become more knowledgeable on legal and policy matters and want to influence them or make better use of them; joint practice and understanding of water issues go hand in hand; scales of intervention are combined. Scaling up is of strategic importance because community based environment management has a limited effect and does not make much sense if policy makers do not respond correspondingly. So, in order for intervention to be effective it must occur at different scales and be articulated. Both literature and the project practice confirm this need and possibility. It is also clearly foreseen in the project strategy expressed in the theory of change of the DoW. A next central priority will be to incorporate, intelligently and tactically, the planned scenarios and measures of climate change adaptation within the activities and processes already in march in the three sites and organized around perceived local needs and opportunities, while at the same time doing the inverse - insert the ongoing activities in a broader framework. A related central challenge in this perspective will be to stimulate in the coming years, a fruitful debate and clarity on water governance and conflict management in a context of growing water scarcity due to the effects of climate change and other stressors. A debate on ‘’hotter issues’’ is quite feasible as more trust, chemistry and cooperation is built around non conflictive issues during start up activities, like what is going on at the moment. 6 As the literature shows, in the history of humankind, water scarcity does not necessarily lead to conflict and often has been a base for cooperation, social organization and synergy, depending on the rules of the game and the governance institutions in place and functioning. This will become an increasingly important issue in light of viable and robust adaptation plans to be made in the three sites in the course of 2014-2015.
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hal-01104038 , version 1 (27-01-2015)



  • HAL Id : hal-01104038 , version 1


Kees Prins, Alejandra Cáu-Cattan, Nataly Azcarrúnz, Grégoire Leclerc. EcoAdapt Working Paper Series N°3: Generation of shared knowledge and joint learning on water governance and climate change adaptation. 2014. ⟨hal-01104038⟩


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