By Christopher Cvitanovic
Climate change is a major threat to food security in Pacific Island countries, with declines in food production and increasing variability in food supplies already evident across the region. Such impacts have already led to observed adverse consequences for human health, safety and economic prosperity. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Pacific Island communities is one way to reduce vulnerability and is underpinned by the extent to which people can access, understand and use new knowledge to inform their decision-making processes. However, effective engagement of Pacific Island communities in climate adaption remains variable and is an ongoing and significant challenge. To address this issue, a recent study published in Climate Risk Management led by CMS researchers sought to identify the impediments to engaging Pacific Island communities in the adaptations needed to safeguard food security. They found that the main barriers include cultural differences between western science and cultural knowledge, a lack of trust among local communities and external scientists, inappropriate governance structures, and a lack of political and technical support. In doing so the research team also identified a range of practical strategies for engaging Pacific Island communities in adaptation science to enhance food security. Specifically, they find that overcoming the barriers to engagement requires a more concerted effort to build greater trust between scientists and the local community, which could be best achieved through the implementation of long-term, sustained, participatory research approaches (e.g., knowledge co-production) that engages key actors (i.e., influential and trusted community members or ‘gatekeepers’ such as church leaders) from the outset. They also identify the importance of community ‘gatekeepers’ for disseminating key scientific messages throughout their social networks in ways that increase the likelihood of the knowledge being accepted and used to harness and build adaptive capacity.
The full manuscript is published as Open Access and can be accessed here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212096316000048