The value of indigenous knowledge in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in the African Sahel


Past global efforts at dealing with the problem of global warming concentrated on mitigation, with the aim of reducing and possibly stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere. With the slow progress in achieving this, adaptation was viewed as a viable option to reduce the vulnerability to the anticipated negative impacts of global warming. It is increasingly realized that mitigation and adaptation should not be pursued independent of each other but as complements. This has resulted in the recent calls for the integration of adaptation into mitigation strategies. However, integrating mitigation and adaptation into climate change concerns is not a completely new idea in the African Sahel. The region is characterized by severe and frequent droughts with records dating back into centuries. The local populations in this region, through their indigenous knowledge systems, have developed and implemented extensive mitigation and adaptation strategies that have enabled them reduce their vulnerability to past climate variability and change, which exceed those predicted by models of future climate change. However, this knowledge is rarely taken into consideration in the design and implementation of modern mitigation and adaptation strategies. This paper highlights some indigenous mitigation and adaptation strategies that have been practiced in the Sahel, and the benefits of integrating indigenous knowledge into formal climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Incorporating indigenous knowledge can add value to the development of sustainable climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies that are rich in local content, and planned in conjunction with local people.

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The authors acknowledge the support of AIACC in writing this paper. Anthony Nyong is currently supported by START as a Visiting Scientist at the Stockhom Environment Institute, Oxford.

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Correspondence to A. Nyong.

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Nyong, A., Adesina, F. & Osman Elasha, B. The value of indigenous knowledge in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in the African Sahel. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 12, 787–797 (2007).

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  • Adaptation
  • Africa
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Mitigation
  • Sahel
  • Sustainable development