Addressing resource degradation to enhance climate change resilience

Full Solution
IUCN Radhika Murti

The Saloum Delta Biosphere Reserve in Senegal experiences a trend of plant resource degradation. The use of fuelwood, agricultural encroachment and land salinization are increasing people’s vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change (drought and floods). The IUCN Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities (EPIC) project, is using local knowledge to reforest areas, restore degraded lands and regulate natural resource use in the protected area.

Last update: 02 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Tsunami/tidal wave
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Infrastructure development
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
agricultural encroachment, climate change and natural resources degradation In the Delta, most people rely on farming, rearing, fishery, tourism or salt extraction as source of food and income. Drought, floods and erosion - increasing with climate change - are threatening these activities and leaving people vulnerable to further changes. Poverty and food insecurity are exacerbated by natural resources degradation due to agricultural encroachment, or soil salinization.
Scale of implementation
Temperate deciduous forest
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Access and benefit sharing
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Ecosystem services
Geodiversity and Geoconservation
Legal & policy frameworks
Indigenous people
Local actors
food security and gender mainstreaming
Nationalpark Delta du Saloum Parc, Senegal
West and Central Africa
Summary of the process
All building blocks are closely related to the solution of “using assisted natural regeneration (ANR) and endogenous techniques to enhance climate change resilience”. Indeed, 1) Endogenous techniques need to be identified though a participatory process (Building blocks #1); 2) Communities capacities should be developed in order to ensure correct use of techniques (Building blocks #2); 3) Monitoring and evaluation work is important to receive scientific evidence regarding successes or failures of these techniques (Building blocks #3); 4) Create tools to share information and knowledge learned in the process from local to national level is important for influencing policy and decision-makers (Building blocks #4); Help communities to diversify their livelihoods is key for being able to tackle an immediate problem they have to face (in our case the use of wood as fuel).
Building Blocks
Design of participatory steps for village engagement
Through community-based activities the importance of traditional knowledge for increasing people resilience to climate change is demonstrated. 6 villages were involved from the start of the project, and the villagers given the opportunity to share their views throughout the project’s implementation. This includes: (1) Organizing a Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment workshop for defining the main climate-related threats that the communities are facing (drought, floods, salt intrusion) as well as local techniques (anti-salt bund and Assisted Natural Regeneration - ANR) that can be implemented for responding to these challenges. (2) This forms the basis for defining the field activities in each village. (3) Village committees are created to coordinate the implementation and act as advisory boards. (4) Regular monitoring missions are undertaken to follow up on field work. (5) Annual meetings are organized in each village for assessing the results from activities and planning the next steps.
Enabling factors
-Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) workshop, for getting inputs from communities and defining adaptation strategies based on their knowledge -Attribution of concrete roles for getting the community involved in the implementation of field activities. -Creation of villages committees, to get ownership on the project while ensuring that field activities are implemented according to workplan -Regular meetings for sharing their feedback and advice about the project -Gender equity, with both men and women involved in the village committees and sharing tasks
Lesson learned
Active involvement of communities from the early stage of the project was well appreciated and led to a high level of ownership and an effective implementation of activities - Using traditional knowledge and practices from the country helped to reach higher (regional or national) level for making the case for ecosystem-based solutions for climate change - Local knowledge is accessible/available if appropriate tools are used to gather, unlock and distil them, such as VCA workshop - Involving external local stakeholders (local NGOs etc.) is key for supporting communities and maintaining group cohesion - Participatory approaches for restoring the protected area enhance the knowledge and adaptive capacities of rural communities, while ensuring the sustained provision of ecosystem goods and services
Capacity building of local stakeholders
EPIC activities are conducted in collaboration with stakeholders -from local to national level- to provide opportunities for capacity building in parallel to project implementation. Capacity building activities serve 2 purposes: 1) they allow the communities to be trained to use the local techniques again and 2) they help raise awareness and strengthen knowledge of partners and local governments on ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change more broadly. The creation of a capacity building plan for communities/stakeholders is key. It provides them with an effective, realistic and operational planning tool for trainings. The content of the training plan are evaluated and adjusted annually. The trainings undertaken so far include: 1) Training modules for villagers on (i) ANR, (ii) management of tree nurseries and (iii) salted land recovery techniques (in partnerships with scientists). After the trainings, practical sessions are organized to ensure that communities took ownership of these techniques. 2) Trainings for local governments (municipality and department levels) and stakeholders on ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction
Enabling factors
Early assessment of capacities and needs through regular discussions with communities and stakeholders, to ensure that the resources provided answer to their needs - Adapting the content of the training to the audience, inviting relevant speakers and using relevant examples for raising the attention of people - Planning for field visits to see the direct application of the techniques and to allow for a better understanding of the activities - Planning for follow up actions to ensure that the activities are implemented based on the agreement made during training
Lesson learned
Capacity building of local communities and partners is key for allowing them to implement, advocate and preserve good practices on a longer term. - The use of traditional practices coupled with capacity building on agricultural techniques and knowledge sharing has proven effective for enabling communities to develop and implement adaptation strategies effectively. - The trainings on ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation gave to all the stakeholders a better understanding of the approach used throughout the project
Documenting strategies and success evaluation
Any effective ecosystem-based strategies and implementation activities, need a strong documentation process and field monitoring activities in the field. Collating data from the field is key for 1) documenting the factors of success and failure of the techniques, and 2) for demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of ecosystem-based approaches. Such science-based evidences are necessary for making the case for nature based solutions to climate change adaptation. As part of EPIC, the following research activities have been undertaken so far: - Ecosystems and vegetation mapping and study of soil characteristics in the district of Djilor (in partnership with Cheikh Anta Diop University) - Development of training modules on ANR and other local adaptation techniques (in partnership with the National Forestry Research Centre and the Institute of Environmental Sciences) - Mapping of agricultural techniques for climate change adaptation and study of the impacts of disaster risk on local livelihood in the Foundiougne region (in partnership with a French school of engineers, ISTOM)
Enabling factors
As far as possible, research institutes should be identified and involved from the start of the project, so as to understand the big picture of the project and its objectives - Defining research objectives and scope of the study is important to make sure that the research will respond to key questions relevant to the project.
Lesson learned
- Creating partnership with schools and universities is a win-win situation: students can undertake their research and the project manager obtain scientific results and knowledge that are helpful for the implementation of the activities or for raising awareness on a specific topic. - Science based evidences and facts are key for reaching policy makers, as it allows them to get a clear picture of how the adaptation strategy works and what benefits it can provide. - Research partnerships don’t need to be necessarily designed in the short term, and can lead to longer term collaboration with universities and schools, where students (or PhDs) can be involved in future projects. - Results need to be accessible to all, for instance by summarizing them in a way that is easily understandable by external people
Creation of awareness raising and policy influencing tools
Multi-stakeholder Dialogue (MSD) platforms are created, comprised of government representatives, NGOs, civil society involved in the project. The platforms consist of management committees set up in each village and at provincial level, to monitor the project’s activities and inform its management. The committees provide support for the daily implementation of the activities as well as for strategic engagement with other institutions. Advocacy material for policy makers is also produced. The engagement at national, regional and global levels is crucial, to ensure that knowledge is transferred, and that policy makers become advocates/implementers of the key lessons learned from the project. Strategic engagements at national, regional and global levels included so far: - A national inception workshop of the project - A national forum with the Directorate of Civil protection on ecosystems-based risk management - Presentation of the project at regional forums and meetings (regional conservation forum, regional consultations for the WCDRR) - Showcasing the project in publications or case studies for global events (UNFCCC COP 21)
Enabling factors
-Early involvement and awareness of governments: local governments should take part in the project from its start, and national government representatives should been invited to its inception workshop. - Establishment of MSD platforms at multiple levels of implementation allows monitoring of activities and provides guidance for strategic policy outreach - The international role and presence of an organization like IUCN, allows for opportunities to showcase activities and advocate for nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation at various levels.
Lesson learned
- The creation of multi-stakeholders committees, in charge of monitoring and informing field activities, is key for actively involving partners and local governments in the implementation of the project. Their active engagement at every step of the project gives them ownership and encourages interactions between different sectors (research, civil society, environmental organizations, etc.) that usually don’t work together. - Working on policy influence at all levels (local to global) allows to effectively make the case for ecosystem-based solutions for climate change. -Showcasing local traditional knowledge for adaptation encourages government to implement similar actions at broader scales.
Facilitation of livelihood and economic diversification
Trees’ over-cutting for fuel consumption has been identified as the main driver of forest degradation in EPIC villages, which is exacerbating peoples’ vulnerability to climate change. Alternative solutions need to be found for being able to increase people’s resilience and livelihood. Through EPIC, ducks breeding has been initiated in the villages as alternative livelihood. By increasing people’s incomes, livelihood and economic diversification have been made possible; people are now able to buy gas instead of relying on firewood, which in turn reduces pressure on forests.
Enabling factors
- The development of alternative livelihoods should respond to people’s needs. - Prior to implementation a feasibility study is conducted with local partners. - For the overall process to success, it is necessary to pilot mini-project to see how the suggested new income sources are developing. - Knowledge exchanges with other villages and local stakeholders prior to any large implementation are important
Lesson learned
-The success of these activities is largely build on the empowerment and engagement of women, who may otherwise not be actively involved in the project’s activities - Livelihood diversification provides alternative incomes that may not be foreseen or expected by local population at the start of the project. It greatly encourages people to diversify their sources of income for increasing their resilience in the face of climate-related events. - The success of these alternative activities (like ducks breeding) is expected to encourage neighboring villages to undertake similar activities, which will contribute to an increased resilience of people in the area.

EPIC is improving biological recovery in the Delta using local knowledge and practices. The “Assisted Natural Regeneration” technique has restored 130 ha of forest within the 6 villages in 2014 to improve soil quality. Moreover, up to 180 ha of land are being restored through a participatory process by construction of 59 anti-salt bunds with local materials. This will, on the one hand, eliminate the cause of salinity and, on the other, retain freshwater ultimately leading to improved soil fertility and increased yields up to about 40%. In 2014, around 100 stakeholders were trained on the “Assisted Natural Regeneration” and anti-salt bunds techniques as well as the establishment and maintenance of tree nurseries. Further impacts are expected in the future, as participatory approaches for restoring the PA enhance knowledge and adaptive capacities of rural communities. They also promote a diverse range of co-benefits, thus increasing the cost effectiveness of activities. In total, nearly 20,000 farmers, market gardeners, pastoralists and fishermen will be affected by the project activities, equal to almost 70% of the total population of the municipality of Djilor

6 villages, including farmers, market gardeners, pastoralists and fishermen, men and women, village committees and Djilor’s city council
A traditional technique of anti-salt bunds (called “Facine”) from Senegal “My name is Songdé DIOUF from the village of Péthie in the municipality of Djilor, department of Foundiougne. I am a farmer and well-digger, a job that I inherited from my father. I am one of the precursors of the practice of “facine” in my village that is facing both gullies due to heavy rains in the last years and the progress of salinization that destroys our fields by making them infertile. The “facine” is an endogenous technique traditionally used for fishing in estuaries to trap small fish that inhabit the “bolongs” (small tributary) or estuaries surrounding our village. These are small structures built from local materials made of branches and wild herbs. This local technique has several functions as it can reduce water erosion -so the gullies- and the progress of salinization and helps recharge groundwater. Following proven effective results, several other villages in the municipality of Djilor joined us to experiment this simple and most importantly cheap technique as compared to hydro-agricultural structures, especially anti-salt dams whose construction requires tens of millions CFA. In the short term, the development of this technique will allow us to reduce the progress of salinization and gullies while promoting reforestation of our agroforestry systems. Consequently, it will positively impact our yields and hence food security. Today, it looks like we are facing a new destiny due to climatic disturbances. Our ancestors who had migrated after the dispersion of the Empire Gabou to settle in this central area of Senegal had been attracted by the richness and abundance of natural resources. Now that these resources have declined, I think that we need to use our indigenous knowledge to preserve the foundation of our ancient culture.”
Connect with contributors
Other contributors
El Hadji Ballé Seye
Regional Parlementary programme. IUCN Senegal
Camille Buyck
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)