by Katharine Vincent
Last week I was privileged to attend the 5th Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Science conference, which also served as the final workshop for DECCMA’s sister project within the CARIAA programme-Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE). Whilst DECCMA is investigating climate change and adaptation in deltas, the biophysical “hotspot” in which HI- AWARE focuses is glacier and snowpack-dependent river basins, which include the Indus, Upper Ganga, Gandaki and Teesta river basins in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The conference was split into 2 days – the first had the theme “gendered vulnerability”, and the second was a launch of HI-AWARE final products.
On the first day community members had been invited from the project pilot sites across the four countries. It was very inspiring to hear how the pilot adaptations are actively reducing people’s vulnerability to climate change: through climate-smart agriculture in Pakistan, eco-san toilets in India, and flood-resistant houses in Bangladesh. The gentleman from Bangladesh reported that, whilst he was with us, neighbours were sheltering in his home as the Teesta had flooded and his was one of the few houses that had not been submerged.
HI-AWARE’s findings on gendered vulnerability were presented from case studies upstream, midstream and downstream in each basin. New “genderscapes” are being produced, particularly as a result of migration. Whilst individual women may be empowered with new decision-making capacity when their husbands leave, the institutions have not caught up with these evolving gender norms and thus can still act to impede gender-equitable access to services and facilities. Building on our CARIAA-wide synthesis work on gender-related findings, I participated (alongside colleagues from PRISE and ASSAR) in a panel discussion highlighting results of our qualitative comparative analysis of 25 cases, and the predominant conditions that can support or dampen women’s agency.
On the second day, the HI-AWARE team launched 15 briefing papers describing key findings relating to the projected magnitude of climate change in mountains, heat stress, water availability (for agriculture and urban use), flooding and critical climate moments (in adaptation pathways). This was followed by presentations on their approach to research into use – or research impact – activities, knowledge management/communications, and M&E.
In addition to the content findings, one of my favourite parts of the conference was when HI-AWARE-supported postgraduate students (“fellows”) and early career researchers, communicators and practitioners talked about their journeys as part of the project, and how it has affected their career paths. The confidence and skills gained by these young men and women was obvious, and their enthusiasm and commitment inspiring. Almost all of them also spoke about their improved knowledge and understanding of gender and the importance of communicating research findings for impact. Both of these elements are things we have also prioritised in DECCMA and are, I believe, essential for transdisciplinary research that is effective in enabling socially-equitable adaptation to climate change.