Successes and challenges
ICTs (Information and communications technologies) have proven instrumental in amplifying the dissemination of weather and climate information which farmers need in order to make informed decisions for agricultural planning. Feedback surveys from the Philippines and Zimbabwe show that when information is brought closer to people through mobile phones, they can use it to prepare for the future, therefore improving their livelihoods and resilience
Harnessing diverse expertise from technical bodies at national level, local government and communities (i.e indigenous knowledge) significantly improved the quality and effectiveness of the services provided to adapt agricultural methods and sustainably manage natural resources. Agro-met experts from Zimbabwe played a key role in supporting understanding and use of climate information by end-users through advisory messages.
Working hand in hand with national and local governments and other agencies provides opportunities for cross learning and stimulate ownership of good practices. In Ghana, District Assemblies co-delivered participatory Vulnerability and Risk Assessments (VRA) in all project districts, which are being used to develop disaster risk plans for the districts. VRAs were also implemented in Armenia, with the findings linking to implementation and policy successes.
Grounding advocacy agendas in evidence based on research and local realities has contributed to policy improvements for resilience and agricultural risk reduction. In Armenia, the new draft Strategy for Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development has integrated climate change considerations and promotes insurances to protect farmers.
Conducting pilot projects can lead to change at scale while minimising costs for delivery. With good practice and lessons learnt on how change can happen emerging from the Challenge Fund projects, the ground has been laid for advocacy to scale up the projects. This is what's happening in Zimbabwe, who is engaging with the Oxfam leadership team to scale up the work done under the fund using ACCRA's tools and methodologies
The programme teams - and, more importantly, the communities we work with - faced various challenges that are widespread in development projects, but with the added difficulties of managing the devastating effects of sudden shocks and climate change. Water scarcity, ongoing soil depletion in rural communities, increasing uncertainty of weather patterns were among the main drivers of vulnerability in the projects implemented under the fund, in addition to governance related issues described below.
The communities involved in the fund work also faced challenges when it came to governmental and educational support: access to credits and to local and international markets was limited; most farmers possessed old agricultural machinery and equipment and also lacked critical knowledge in new agricultural practices, cooperative and farming management as well as marketing (which would otherwise potentially enable them to be players in the market).
Some of these challenges were born out of historical and social-economical factors, but also because of the government's insufficient capacity to strategise, plan and coordinate appropriately, as was the case in Armenia. The Oxfam programme team there had to navigate within challenging circumstances to develop agriculture-based livelihood plans with small scale farmers that look at market access, but also address natural resource scarcity and climate change impacts. Oxfam's work has contributed to making this holistic approach to smallholder farmer
livelihood a top priority for the government and other key actors in Armenia.
Other challenges encountered were internal to our programming. In Ghana, for example, we realised that using evidence generated exclusively at the local level and from a limited number of sites (exclusively in Northern savannah agro-ecological zone in Ghana) was insufficient to effectively advocate and influence at national level. Assessing what evidence we need at project design stage both for creating impact at local level and for influencing at higher levels was a key lesson learned for the team.