The Catalysts of Change: From Local Forums to Shifts in DRR and CCA Policy

The Need
Communities living in fragile, climate sensitive and remote regions of India are feeling the most severe impacts of extreme events and weather-related stressors. Yet, they also have limited capacity to deal with these ‘new’ dimensions of disasters and climate change impacts.

Supported by the Start Network and CDKN, the overall ‘Catalysts of Change’ project attempted to look at the relationship between local multi-stakeholder forums and policy environment in post-disaster contexts. How can these groups serve as catalysts for change?

How we helped
The two primary locations chosen for this work were Barmer in Rajasthan (a hot desert) and Leh in Ladakh (a cold desert). Both had faced unprecedented and devastating flash floods in the recent past.

On-ground research was done across both areas to understand the impact of climate change and disasters. Through the period, multi-stakeholder meetings were also held at the district, state and sub-national levels, involving around 200 people.

Community radio pilot with adolescent girls
Aside from the core research, two pilot projects were also initiated. In Barmer, Rajasthan, adolescent girls stepped out into the community, many for the first time, to be trained and help develop content for short community radio programmes. The idea was to provide a platform for local communities to engage in debates on core issues around climate change. Working with local partner Unnati, the girls broke barriers in how and what was discussed. Twelve programmes were produced and aired on All India Radio’s station in the area.

Climate school pilot project
In Serthi, Ladakh at an altitude of 12,500 feet, an automatic weather station was set up with the local community. Working with local partner Rural Development and You (RDY), the idea was a type of climate school. The community could use the generated data to gather information on their microclimate and engage collectively to find local solutions to these problems.

Amplifying an invisible disaster
There were also unexpected additions to the project. As a result of our presence in Ladakh through this time, we came across a silent but devastating disaster in the winter of 2012-13 and were able to gain buy-in to include it as a third pilot. Thousands of goat and sheep had died in Changthang caused by unusually prolonged winter storms. The livestock are the only source of income for this nomadic community. The swift communication and advocacy push that was able to be mobilised through the multi-stakeholder meetings actually led to more visibility for this isolated nomadic group. It was a contributor to being given assistance by the government; and preparation being done before the next winter.

A massive cloudburst in Uttarakhand in June 2013 was the latest in a series of extreme weather events through the project period. It threw up several of the same issues that echoed throughout the research. So, in a lesson transferring initiative in December 2013, the Automatic Weather Station was transferred from Serthi to Bakunda, Chamoli in Uttarakhand.

Leaving a mark
Learnings from the programme were documented through papers, films and a book chapter; and were presented at an international conference in Germany. The film ‘Catalysts of Change – Ladakh’ won the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction’s best film in the Climate Change Adaptation category at AMCDRR 2016 award and the Asian Broadcasting Union award. Our intervention on Changthang won CDKN’s ‘Most creative communications on a shoestring budget’ award.

Learn more about this initiative:

Catalysts of Change