Data (In), Conflict Fragility and Climate Knowledge in Somalia

Few countries in Africa -or anywhere around the world- are as vulnerable to climatic changes as Somalia.[1] Simultaneously, the Horn is also one of the most violent regions in the world where state legitimacy is fragile and conflict frequent- and Somalia itself has been mired for decades in a brutal war that has displaced millions of people, destroyed infrastructure and harvests. The conflict continues to heavily constrain the operations of many international organisations and climate responses, whether by the state or by ordinary citizens.

About the Project

 Asal in partnership with Columbia University Climate School have been funded through the Harvard Gem Incubation fund to support a better understanding of how one of the world’s poorest countries is adapting to worsening climate change amidst political turmoil and a history of distrust between populations and government, our research project focuses on the role of climate knowledge.

Outcomes

Currently, we study how state officials and various societal groups think about changing climatic conditions in Somalia and how they come to see some forms of data as authoritative and actionable, while perhaps downplaying other forms of knowledge. How both ordinary people and government officials articulate priorities for action -by themselves, by other Somalis or by external actors- in accordance with different understandings of what climate knowledge is, how it circulates in society and who the custodian of such knowledge is, is crucial for successful and inclusive adaptation.

This project is running throughout 2024 and will help centre the knowledge(s) of communities that have experienced the impacts of climate change through so-called “participatory action research approaches”.[2] In doing so, our work provides a platform for the affected communities to provide direct input on future research priorities, testing innovative methodologies, and incubating their concrete recommendations for climate action by a variety of actors, in government, local civil society, international organisations and elsewhere.

[1] https://www.wri.org/update/profiles-adaptation-somalia

[2] Keahey, Jennifer. "Sustainable development and participatory action research: a systematic review." Systemic Practice and Action Research 34, no. 3 (2021): 291-306.

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