‘Out of my box’: Reflections of an ASSAR Fellow

ASSAR Fellow Edmond Totin, scientist at ICRISAT-Mali, shares his excitement for new experiences and ways of thinking in the first year of the ASSAR (Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions) project. START is a partner in the project and the regional coordinator for the West Africa team.


edmond_1As a young scientist in the fields of rural sociology and climate change, I came across the ASSAR project, almost accidentally. I was working on the ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute in Semi-Arid Tropics) CCAFS (Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) Flagship 4 project that aims at capacity building of stakeholders and creating spaces for interaction and knowledge sharing to enact equitable food system policies. It happened that the leader of the CCAFS/FS4 is also part of ASSAR (Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions) project and he introduced me to the club! I can say today that was a good accident for me, a very good one!

I found many linkages between the CCAFS/FS4 and ASSAR project, which core research objective is to develop robust evidence on the factors that will enable sustained and widespread climate adaptation that improves the well-being of the most vulnerable in Semi-Arid Regions. I found that ASSAR can make life easier for the CCAFS team by providing irrefutable and strong evidences to convince policy-makers that we cannot deny the reality of climate change, and there is a need to take quick and effective actions. Clearly, ASSAR will offer arguments to make my job easier.

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Edmond (in green) working with ASSAR team members during project meeting in Bangalore, October 2014

Another linkage point between the two projects relates to the use of the ‘scenario visioning’ or the ‘transformative scenarios planning (TSP)’ to explore suitable adaptation options with the community, at the local levels. For me, the use of such a tool will give the opportunity to people, at the local scale, those who the most exposed to climate change manifestation, to be heard and participate in the planning and the design of climate vulnerability and adaptation policies.

One of the main critics of the policies is that they are often designed by actors sitting at a higher level, without sufficient concentration or any connection with the local community who is the most experiencing the climate change effects. Often, these policies are not applicable because they are out-of the reality that exists in the ground. The new fashion introduced by ASSAR will certainly help to bridge the gaps between the designed policy and the reality that people are dealing with, but also help to reduce the gaps between the scales.

As far as I am concerned, the ASSAR project will offer to me the opportunity the work ‘out-of my box’, interacting with researchers from different backgrounds and expertise. I will have the chance to learn from their experiences, and see how non-social scientists also see the world! I wish to have an enjoyable trip on the ASSAR train, for the coming four exciting years!