A man carries a basket of freshly harvested coffee beans in Colombia, where rainfall has become more erratic as the result of climate change. Photo: Modoc Stories / Getty Images.

In the Campoalegre River basin in Colombia, climate change is leading to more variability in rainfall. At the same time, pressure on water resources is increasing, along with the growing number of coffee farms, livestock producers, and tourists exploring the region’s coffee landscapes and national parks. The area now finds itself searching for ways to adapt to erratic rainfall and to meet rising demand.

New work by SEI in Colombia and in many different areas of the world is helping to improve efforts to adapt to climate change. Work by the SEI Climate Services Initiative is beginning to use a new, collaborative framework that emphasizes involving all stakeholders throughout every step of the process in planning for and adaptating to climate change.

SEI’s work  – now underway in Colombia, Indonesia, Namibia, Sweden and Zambia –  is testing new ways to foster wider and better use of climate science in policy-making. The ultimate goal is to improve responses to the global challenge of adapting to climate change.

Though integrating climate science into decision-making offers tremendous potential, climate services are often poorly designed and underused. Responding to this gap between science and policy, SEI is introducing and refining a new framework to guide the process.

As its name implies, the “Tandem” framework emphasizes collaboration. On a tandem bicycle, people with different skills, styles, and fitness levels need to overcome these differences to pedal in harmony to move forward to reach a given destination. The same philosophy underpins the tandem approach to climate services. Those designing climate services and providing scientific information work in tandem with users throughout the process. Scientists learn more about what users need. Users learn more about what climate science can tell them about changes affecting their region. This approach increases the likelihood of generating information and responses specifically tailored to the needs of end users. It also confronts the reality of making informed decisions about how to adapt to climate change: effective adaptation rarely takes place in isolation.

SEI researchers are exploring the tandem concept in case studies that involve many climate change adaptation needs in different contexts throughout the world:

  • Caldas and Risaralda, Colombia – Work in the Compoalegre River basin emphasizes screening adaptation options to manage water resources in the region. SEI’s work will include a focus on the role gender plays in considering water use, particularly as it relates to coffee production in a region where men largely make decisions regarding coffee production issues, while women make decisions for the home, and for the feeding and housing of the migrant coffee workforce.
  • Bali, Indonesia – Faced with changing weather patterns, some farmers who have traditionally grown rice are shifting to growing coffee and cacao. SEI’s work in the region offers them “farmer field schools” designed to help with adaptation issues. Researchers are also analyzing the role that indigenous knowledge can play in adapting to change.
  • Windhoek, Namibia, and Lusaka, Zambia – Urban cities are being buffeted by climate change, which is bringing more extreme weather, more prolonged periods of drought, and more intense periods of rain. At the same time, cities are experiencing rapid growth, with people flocking to informal settlements that lack basic services (running water, sewerage and garbage collection). Learning labs with the University of Namibia, the University of Lusaka, and local city councils are helping urban planners and a wide variety of city stakeholders to create plans that can help manage drought, flooding, and related human health issues.
  • Stockholm, Karlstad, and the West Coast of Sweden – Municipalities in Sweden are seeking ways to plan for and reduce the risk from climate change-related extreme weather disasters. SEI’s work with the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute is helping to develop risk-based decision support for adaptation to future natural hazards, such as heat waves (Stockholm) and torrential rains and floods (Karlstad), and insurance issues linked to coastal flooding (the West Coast).
Tania Santos, SEI Research Associate, presents information about the Climate Services Initiative project to the Climate Change Node, which is composed of institutions and organizations involved in climate change-related work in Colombia.

In Colombia, stakeholder workshops, beginning in April and continuing through July, will be conducted by SEI Latin America and two Colombian environmental agencies,  CORPOCALDAS (Corporacion Autonoma Regional de Caldas) and CARDER (Corporacion Autonoma Regional de Risaralda). The work will include many stakeholders, among them, the Campoalegre Watershed Management Committee, which includes representatives of municipalities, NGOs, universities, farmers, industries and indigenous groups.

These and other sessions will inform SEI research on adaptation issues, and will help to refine the tandem concept for wider use.