Newsletter Issue 20

Newsletter Issue 20
29 September 2011

Contributing to the Great Green Wall Initiative Africa

The Red Cross/Red Crescent is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year, and runs programmes in all Sahel belt countries. Since the beginning of 2011 the Netherlands Red Cross has been exploring whether it can contribute to a process that unites the vision of the African governments to enable a Great Green Wall with the necessity to scale up the many local programmes for food security and eco-restoration – based on the RC concerns for the vulnerable people in the Sahel, and the belief in the power of local action, building on the network of RC/RC volunteers. The catalyst for this endeavour is the invitation of the Dreamfund of the Netherlands Postcode Lottery to a limited number of civil society organisations to participate in a competition of innovative proposals. These proposals should address the challenges of our times and have a budget of EUR 5-17 million.

The Netherlands Red Cross has in the last 8 Months found 9 other NL based organizations with expertise in environmental, development, humanitarian, media,  music, photography and clean energy AND with a large network in the Sahel countries. They work together based on shared assumptions and a shared ‘Dream’. The shared assumptions are that local food security and eco-restoration initiatives in the Sahel countries can strongly benefit from a context like the Great Green Wall to come to the much needed sharing of experiences and scaling up of initiatives. And also the Great Green Wall vision will strongly benefit from the coordinated engagement of local initiatives. Long term commitment and active involvement of the people themselves is the main guarantee for the success and sustainability of the Great Green Wall. The shared Dream is that if the bottom-up and top-down approach of the Great Green Wall come together in an approach in which all feel confident, potential international donors and the general public will be confident as well and willing to support with the resources needed. Local people, their governments and the international community together can bring the Dream of the Great Green Wall to life. Download here the Great Green Wall brochure (English) and here in French.

For more information, please contact Madeleen Helmer (

Preparedness for Climate Change Programme successfully wrapped up!

The Climate Centre implemented the Preparedness for Climate Change, Phase 2 (PfCC2) project with 27 NSs, 5 IFRC zone offices and 8 regional IFRC offices, from  December 2009 until June 2011. The second phase of the Preparedness for Climate Change programme (PfCC2), is the direct successor of the first, which ran from 2006 to 2009 and helped nearly 40 Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies assess the implications of rising climate-risk and its consequences for their work. For most, it was the first time they had embarked on such an exercise.  We believe this is scaling up the efforts with more NSs and shows that the Red Cross/Red Crescent system mainstreamed the subject into policy and annual planning broadly.  A full reflection on the programme can be found in our new programme brochure. An independent evaluation was conducted, which can be downloaded here.

For more information please contact Fleur Monasso (

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre at CDKN ActionLab

The Climate Centre is very pleased to announce that a research proposal was submitted to CDKN (Climate & Development Knowledge Network), together with ISDR-Africa and START on ‘Forecast-based humanitarian decisions: designing tools and processes to link knowledge with action’. The proposal was received very favourably by the CDKN Action Lab Innovation Fund Panel of Reviewers and will be awarded. The project’s main idea is to develop an analytical framework for linking forecasts (Early Warning) with humanitarian decisions (Early Action), and to produce handbooks and guidelines with concrete ideas for bridging knowledge and action in different sectors and across spatial and temporal scales. It will then enable action-oriented, collaborative research to advance the mission of the three partners.

The work will lead to:

  1. Development of an analytical framework to link knowledge and action, combining the “forecast-based decisions” approach (Suarez & Tall 2010) with climate risk management responses (mobility, storage, diversification, pooling and market exchange) (Agrawal 2008)
  2. Refining and testing the framework with student-led fieldwork. Two workshops and guided fieldwork will involve advanced students from African and other universities in collaborative data collection and analysis, mapping out real-world decisions based on plausible forecasts given constraints and priorities.
  3. Application of the framework in participatory processes. Innovative activities will facilitate dialogue among stakeholders to implement forecast-based climate risk management
  4. Dissemination of outcomes through journal articles, handbooks for practitioners, guidelines for facilitators, and web-based platforms.
  5. M&E will include tracer studies to gauge the impact of stakeholders’ participatory experience and of nurturing the network of students.

For more information, please contact Pablo Suarez (

An online Climate Training Kit

Helping vulnerable people to adapt to changing climate conditions requires an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement faces. Together with and supported by the Canadian, Danish, Austrian and German Red Cross, the Climate Centre is developing a Climate Training Kit to support the integration of climate risks in the work of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent. The Kit consists of a number of modules which cover different topics within climate risk management, including health and care, disaster management, youth, policy dialogues, basic science and more. All the products in the Modules have been designed for interactive training sessions to help Red Cross/ Red Crescent staff to understand and address the impacts of climate change and to participate in the policy dialogue with governments and international agencies. The Climate Training Kit will be launched by the end of 2011.

For more information please contact Fleur Monasso (

South East Europe Forum on Climate Change Adaptation

Last January 2011, National Red Cross Societies from Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and the Serbian non-governmental organization (NGO) Centre for Monitoring and Evaluation (CME) started to implement the regional project SEE Forum on Climate Change Adaptation, with the support of the Austrian Red Cross.  The aim of this cross-border project is to strengthen Red Cross Societies and civil society organizations (CSOs) in EU accession countries in South East Europe (SEE), establish multi-sectoral networks in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and conduct climate risk assessments. In a regional SEE Forum on Climate Change Adaptation, newly founded CSO networks in Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia will present the results of their climate analysis to international, regional and national stakeholders. Partners in this project are the Institute for Economic Promotion of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The project is co-funded by the European Union and the project duration comprises 2 years. For more information about the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) project and the activities of the national CSO networks please visit our project website and/or contact Sonja Greiner (Austrian Red Cross, Programme Manager South East Europe),

New Climate and Health Specialist

The Climate Centre is pleased to announce that Gilma Mantilla, Senior Staff Associate at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), will provide technical support to the Climate Centre within the ongoing operational research program “Health risk management in a changing climate: A global approach to building local capacity”, which is being implemented in four countries on two continents (local implementation is carried out by National Red Cross societies and managed by IFRC Zone and country offices). Read more about the program here. This is an exciting opportunity to strengthen further cooperation between the Climate Centre and the IRI, and in particular, to be at the forefront of an emerging field in the world’s largest humanitarian organisation.

Gilma will also advice on how to integrate the use of climate information into Red Cross/Red Crescent health programming, guidance, tools and policies. Gilma is Senior Staff Associate at IRI where she works on tools and protocols for creation, integration and dissemination of knowledge and information related with climate and public health. Before joining the IRI, she was a Colombia’s Public Health Surveillance and Control Deputy Manager at the National Health Institute where she worked mainly to establish policies, plans, programs and projects in public health associated with the surveillance and control of infectious diseases; to redesign the National Infectious Diseases Surveillance System and to support operational research on issues like epidemics, outbreaks and disasters. This hands-on experience in a developing country government health department will also be a great asset to the effectiveness of the program, which has a strong focus on partnerships.  Dr Mantilla will be working on the project with Dr Madeleine Thomson, a recognized global leader on climate and health research. Dr Thomson is leading the IRI health portfolio and member of the IRI management. She will also be in charge of coordinating with other research staff that may be involved with the project (and thereafter in the continued linkages between the IFRC, individual Red Cross societies, and the scientific community on climate and health, both in the four countries of the project and globally).

For more information, please contact Gilma Mantilla at

New interns recruited to strengthen the Red Cross/Red Crescent work on climate risk management

On 28 May 2011, an Internship Orientation session was held for five Climate and Society MA students doing their internships with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, IRI and the IFRC. Guest speakers were Pablo Suarez, Christophe Loubry-Boulanger (New York Delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to the UN), Simon Mason of IRI and Internship and C&S alumni Amir Jina, Cynthia Thomson and Krista Jankowski.

An overview:
Soyee Chiu’s internship supports the Partners for Resilience (PfR) program in Indonesia.  PfR is an alliance composed of the Netherlands Red Cross, CARE, Cordaid, Wetlands International and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, which is working to develop and implement ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies. Soyee supports the alliance by working with the Center for Climate Risk and Opportunity Management (CCROM) to compare station rainfall data with reanalysis data, looking for predictability of monsoon onset date. She also spoke with local governments across the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) to gather information about their aid to farmers, especially during years of high crop failure.

Erin Coughlin’s internship supports the IFRC Regional East Africa Office in Nairobi, Kenya.  Erin is developing an evidence base to enable people to identify pre-hazard interventions, and then to determine if the cost of acting is affordable and worth it.  Erin is conducting a cost-benefit analysis of disasters, humanitarian responses and risk reduction interventions. She works to package her analysis in a practical format for end-users.

Megan Fleming’s internship supports the new Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Resource Center in Barbados.  Megan is working on a climate change adaptation training package, developing decision support tools, and synthesizing knowledge and ideas for next steps generated in the region through the Preparedness for Climate Change Programme.

Kat Jensen’s internship is based at the IRI, where she is supporting the IFRC-IRI Partnership to Save Lives  through a global analysis of the relationship between IRI’s seasonal precipitation forecasts and the occurrence of heavy rainfall events.  The establishment of clear links between seasonal forecasts and the number of heavy rainfall events likely to occur at various forecast confidence levels, is intended to help support humanitarian decision-makers when considering various forecast thresholds for action and flood preparedness options.

Yufang Zhou’s internship supports the IFRC East Asia Regional Office in Beijing, China. Yufang is assisting with ongoing Disaster Risk Reduction projects at the provincial level, and helping to facilitate access, understanding, and appropriate disaster preparedness actions based on climate and weather information.
Go to our Young Scholars page for more info on our partnerships with interns.

Internships for COP-17

As of 1 October 2011 and in the lead up to COP-17 in Durban, Vanessa Lamers (joint MA degree Environmental Management and Public Health) and Sophia Conantonio (MA Public Health), from Yale University will be assisting the RC Climate Centre in monitoring COP-Durban processes in terms of humanitarian consequences of climate change. For more information, contact Pablo Suarez at

World Conference on Humanitarian Studies 3 June 2011

On 3 June 2011, the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies was  held at Tufts University on the Use of Seasonal Forecasts for Advanced Flood Preparedness in West Africa 2008.  It is well acknowledged and understood that climate change will have serious humanitarian implications for the world’s most vulnerable people. This will manifest not only in a greater frequency of large scale disasters, but also in more frequent small and medium scale disasters, increased risks to vector-borne diseases, food insecurity and conflict as a result of resource scarcity and population movements. In order to prepare for and respond to these risks, the humanitarian sector needs to innovate. These innovations need to take a number of forms, including more flexible humanitarian financing, a better integration of scientific knowledge into humanitarian practice, a more nuanced understanding of the impact of climate change on vulnerability, and better targeting to ensure that the negative impacts of a changing climate do not turn into full blown crises. At the Conference, Climate Centre staff participated in a panel drawing together the experience of actors within the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement to explore the humanitarian implications of climate change, and innovative practices employed by the Movement to address them. These included funding mechanisms which are demand driven and provide grant funding for National Societies to respond to small and medium scale crises and the integration of scientific prediction into preparedness and response. This session also included a simulation, in which audience played the part of humanitarian decision makers acting on climate forecasts in order to demonstrate the incentives and disincentives for early action. By the end of the session, those attending left not only with a better understanding of the humanitarian implications of climate change, but practical strategies to address them. Quick overview of panel topics:

  • Pablo Suarez and Patricia Fay, Integrating the science of climate change into humanitarian work: The Red Cross / Red Crescent experience
  • Ajay Madiwale, British Red Cross: Is the humanitarian financing system ready to respond to climate change?
  • Pablo Suarez and Janet Mendler de Suarez, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre:  A participatory game for experiential learning of humanitarian decision challenges in a changing climate
  • Lisette Braman, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre:  Early Warning, Early Action: The Experience of the IFRC West and Central Africa Zone Flood Preparedness and Response 2008

Case study Solomon Islands

This is the story of one Red Cross society’s effort to incorporate climate change into its regular work, and what it found on Pileni island – remote even by the standards of the Solomon Islands. In 2010 the Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) began working with the small – very small – community on Pileni  which is grappling with the impacts of climate change and the uncertain future they generate. Climate projections for the Pacific region as a whole indicate more extreme weather, warmer seas and rising sea-levels, and declining fisheries, on top of existing stress-factors like dwindling resources, population pressure and conflict. The SIRC, a contributor to the government’s national adaptation programme, recognised the threat of climate change and took part in the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre’s “Preparedness for Climate Change Programme” (PfCC) from 2007 to  2009. A capacity-building programme implemented in 64 National Societies globally, PfCC links them to climate stakeholders, improves understanding of the issue through workshops for staff and volunteers, and culminates in action plans to integrate climate into regular programming. Download here the brochure on this case study.

Programme on the effectiveness of participatory video when used in community-based adaptation

Since August 2009, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) has been running a fuel-saving stoves programme in Wage Worgaja, in northern Ethiopia. A group of female farmers was trained in the making of the stoves. With the support of the ERCS, they have been producing and selling the stoves in Wage Worgaja and neighbouring villages. Farmers in the region have largely acknowledged the benefits associated to the use of fuel-saving stoves. These benefits include the reduction in deforestation in the area, less exposure to smoke when cooking and therefore less likelihood to contract respiratory diseases, income generation, and higher hygiene standards among others.

In September 2010, the ERCS invited the Wage Worgaja community to be involved in a participatory video project. This project’s aim was to bring farmers together to collectively discuss the impact of the ERCS’s intervention in their community. During a three-day workshop, a group of farmers learned basic video-making techniques which allowed them to produce videos reflecting on three different programmes run by the ERCS in their community. One of these videos was the fuel-saving stoves participatory video. Farmers themselves decided on the content of the video and then recorded it. Luis Miguel Castro, a Colombian masters student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), was invited by the ERCS to participate in this project as part of his masters dissertation. Luis visited Wage Worgaja in January-February 2011. In collaboration between Luis and ERCS’s staff members Azemeraw Bekele and Mulat Andargie, and the supervision of Pablo Suarez and Gina Ziervogel, a fuel-saving stoves workshop that included the screening of the participatory video was designed. The workshop was replicated in five different villages (kebeles) in the Ebinat region. A questionnaire and an open group discussion at the end of each workshop allowed for an evaluation of the effectiveness of participatory video when used in community-based adaptation.

In addition to this, a focus group was held with the group of farmers who made the participatory video in September 2010. It became evident from this study that participatory video created a space for critical discussion about messages of adaptation to climate change among farmers who were involved in the video-making process. The process of making the video reinforced farmers’ understanding of the benefits of fuel-saving stoves. The study also found that screening the participatory video in the workshops increased both attendees’ understanding of the benefits of fuel-saving stoves and their willingness to shift from a traditional stove to a fuel-saving stove. This research provided the Red Cross with useful guidelines and recommendations for future participatory video projects. For more information, please contact Luis Castro at On you can watch this video and other participatory films that were made in Ebinat, Ethiopia.

World Disasters Report 2011

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have joined with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on the occasion of the launch of the World Disasters Report 2011, which addresses the problem of hunger and malnutrition, highlighting the impacts of climate change on agricultural production. The report identifies a lack of investment in agriculture, rising food prices, climate change and commodity market speculation as factors contributing to severe hunger and malnutrition. It notes that three million children die before the age of five due to under nutrition, with many more suffering from stunted growth due to a lack of food. The report presents approaches to support local farmers and small-scale agriculture, as well as the role of women in agriculture. Describing the role of climate change in affecting food market volatility, the report calls for adaptive measures to be taken.
Download the report here.

New Climate Centre team members

Julie Arrighi, Program officer
Julie is a regional program officer for East Africa, based in Kampala, Uganda. Her expertise lies in climate risk management, with an emphasis on early warning/early action mechanisms and natural resources management. She also spends half of her time supporting American Red Cross programs in Africa. Julie can be reached at

Arame Tall, Regional technical advisor
Arame, the Climate Centre’s technical adviser for West and Central Africa, is pursuing a PhD at Johns Hopkins University. She specializes in climate risk management, including raising awareness and building capacity among Red Cross National Societies and volunteers on the ground on the new scientific tools available to facilitate disaster management and climate change adaptation decision-making, including linkages to the scientific community. Arame can be reached at

Go to our staff page for more information.

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