13.06.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Providing options to respond to climate change in West African coastal areas

© Régis L’HostisSternes Royales / Sterna Maxima, Sénégal

The coasts of Africa are threatened with increased human pressures which combined with existing natural phenomena such as erosion, will lead to flooding of low lying areas, the degradation of mangroves and salt intrusion in soils and water. Although coastal erosion and sedimentation have been a reality for centuries in the West African region, and are not solely a consequence of climate change due to entropic carbon emission, both processes are strongly influenced by changes in climatic conditions. In most coastal states of West Africa, the impact of predicted climate changes will bring new concerns for populations, but also for investors and policymakers.

The project ‘Adaptation to Climate Change, Responding to Coastline change in its human dimensions in West Africa through Integrated Coastal Area Management’ (ACCC) focuses on implementing measures to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities to the impacts of climate change on coastal resources. All five participating countries (Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal) are within the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem, thereby aligned across an important environmental transition which will be better identified and addressed by each of these countries if they understand features and processes in neighboring states.

Many experiences from coastal managers, scientists, engineers on the implementation of concrete adaptation techniques were documented through the first phase of the project (2008-2012). These served to develop a Guide on Adaptation Options in Coastal Areas for Local Decision-makers, which presents adaptation options to expand opportunities for decision makers. The victims of climate change can learn from their respective experiences. Once shared, these experiences will help other vulnerable groups under the same conditions to identify ways of action and avoid the inappropriate use of improvised strategies and options.

By presenting different techniques to adapt to the climate change identified in the African coastal zone on its Atlantic side, this guide aims to expand the intervention possibilities of stakeholders who, as they are too often torn between the many priorities they face, are making decisions in a hurry at the risk of opting for a solution the implementation of which can be a source of dire consequences for the future of the community. The guide also opens a perspective for the inclusion of environmental management as a whole, the coastal erosion issues being generally part of a set of environmental challenges that local decision-makers have to manage. Whether for building a seawall, creating a marine protected area or observing a period of ‘biological rest’, the guide on adaptation options in coastal areas includes practical experiences in the implementation of structure and non-structure options, and integrated management of natural resources, providing local decision-makers with relevant information.

This guide was presented during a seminar in Dakar, Senegal, on 12-13 June 2012. The aim of this seminar was to analyses the results of the ACCC project, identify ways to fill the gaps identified during its first phase, and agree on future action.  

Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Zones of West Africa (ACCC) is a project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by UNESCO and UNDP. The Regional Programme Management Unit (RPMU) was located in the BREDA/UNESCO office in Dakar, under the supervision of the executing partner, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC).

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