8 December 2023 | Category: Uncategorised

Knowledge brokers for climate action

By Ingrid Gevers

Written by Margaret Angula (University of Namibia), Prince Ansah (University of Ghana), Nivedita Mani (Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group), Lucia Scodanibbio (SouthSouthNorth) and Ingrid Gevers (Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation)

As the climate challenges we face become ever more urgent, it is increasingly clear that we need to work together, in creative ways, to find the answers and solutions that can guide us towards a more climate-resilient future. Knowledge brokers can play multiple, critical roles in communicating tailored climate knowledge effectively, facilitating the coming together of diverse types of knowledge and stakeholders, and fostering innovative dialogues across these.

Who are knowledge brokers?

Knowledge brokers act as the link between producers and users of knowledge, so that relevant information may be disseminated, exchanged and used for changes in policy and practice.[1] To do this,  they undertake a wide range of activities and tasks. They may for example select, simplify and furnish information according to target audience and particular knowledge gaps. To reach busy government officers, for instance, they may produce brief notes on the knowledge to be disseminated, which are more effective than detailed reports that are often not read. Or when dealing with farmers, community members or other low literacy environments, a video format or a pictorial document may be produced to communicate the knowledge in more user-friendly ways.

Making knowledge more accessible and user-friendly

For farmers to take proactive actions and informed decisions to reduce losses owing to climatic impacts or induced disasters, local weather information is critical. The location-specific SMS-based agro-weather advisories produced by the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in India are an example of knowledge dissemination, serving as an early warning system. They describe the prevailing weather and suggest appropriate measures to minimise losses and optimise inputs, helping to alert local communities on the implications of the expected weather events on their farming choices.

In the field of agro-weather advice services, I consider myself a knowledge broker. Access to trustworthy information and data, as well as the capacity to share knowledge and experience, are essential elements in combating climate change. By using knowledge brokerage, I am able to advise farmers on when to prepare their land for farming, what kinds of crops to plant, when to use fertiliser and pesticides, and when to harvest their crops.” –  Theodrose Hailu, Ethiopia

In Ghana, to make information more accessible at the local level, knowledge brokers have used various channels to share research information with different audiences. These channels have included radio events for over 50 targeted communities, advisory centres for dry season irrigation farmers, a mobile application for practitioners/extension officers and listening groups to target women. Knowledge brokers ensured that all the channels were linked for better coordination of shared information. For instance, the resources shared on the mobile app, and the advisory centres are meant to build the capacity of practitioners, who then share the information with farmers through radio events.

“In terms of climate change communication and action, knowledge brokering is very relevant when working with dairy farmers as we’re able to bring the latest research around impacts and present it in a way that is relevant and applicable to their unique situation to help them manage climate risk. An example of knowledge brokering I’ve done is a podcast with a farmer around climate adaptation.” –  Zita Ritchie, Australia

Connecting diverse stakeholders and knowledge types

Knowledge brokers also promote the sharing or creation of new knowledge by helping different stakeholders collaborate and debate their experiences and perspectives, such as through dialogues between government officials, civil society members, indigenous farmers and researchers. Their tasks also include strengthening capacities through different engagement and interactive activities, which may include traditional workshops, games, the use of technology or learning by doing.

As knowledge brokers, we facilitated Business to Business online forums last year, creating a space of exchange between producers, cooperatives, labels and sellers. The topic was how to turn one’s business into an agri-biological business in Tunisia. It opened a space for discussion on Facebook (the most used media in Tunisia) between stakeholders that do not always have first hand info (the farmers) and the certification organisations, for example.” – Léonie Prely, Tunisia

In India, for example, GEAG has been engaged in creating a critical mass of knowledge from its field interventions that synergises traditional wisdom and scientific evidence on climate adaptation measures in peri-urban agriculture. This knowledge has been used for co-developing training materials (in collaboration with the National Institute for Disaster Management, Govt of India) for a range of government actors from national to city and community levels. The evidence has also been used for networking and developing advocacy materials (e.g. briefs, videos) to collaborate with strategic institutions that can help to mainstream peri-urban issues in policy.

In the Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi state of Nigeria, engagements and partnerships between researchers and diverse practitioner and community organisations helped to identify knowledge gaps at the local level, facilitate information exchange and encourage the use of innovative tools and approaches. Developing these strategies had to take into account diverse challenges. These included practitioners’ low level of literacy to convert information on climate issues, such as drought, to the local context for better understanding. They also faced the distrust of farmers due to the failure of previous engagements with researchers and government agencies. Read more about this example here.

Fostering innovation and challenging norms

In many cases, knowledge brokers go beyond merely linking knowledge producers and users, as they challenge power imbalances, cultural or institutional norms and create bridges between different sectors, values and knowledge types. In Namibia, the University of Namibia realised that centralised climate governance is hindering adaptation at sub-national and local level. A team of three passionate professionals (representing researchers) therefore collaborated with government implementers at the national, sub-national and local levels, as well as two NGOs to seek mainstream climate change at these multiple scales. As knowledge brokers, they used innovative ways to communicate climate change science and risks in order to create urgency for climate action, such as through a range of communication products that included animated videos and graphic harvests, which, where necessary, were also translated into local languages.

“As a knowledge broker, I make linkages with national and international information and knowledge institutions to provide farmers with the agricultural knowledge they require to improve the management of their land, biodiversity, and also to cope with climate change. This allows farmers to make better management strategies that will improve their long-term financial security.” – Abdulrahim A. Mohamed, Somalia

One-to-one meetings, workshops and networking dinners were used to strengthen stakeholder relationships and create awareness on the impacts of a 1.5°C and 2.0°C temperature rise and what this means for Namibia. They also increased knowledge and discussions around the climate change policy and international politics for sub-national level leaders and technocrats, gender-responsive climate change adaptation at community level as well as climate resilient development pathways for constituencies at the local level. In order to gain acceptance, a series of capacity building workshops were held with both political leaders and technocrats at all levels to discuss the how and by whom aspects of mainstreaming climate resilient development in a gender responsive way. Participatory vulnerability and risk assessments were also used to co-produce knowledge with Ministries and sub-national Regional Councils. Read more about this work here.

As can be seen from all of the above examples, facilitating climate action requires a range of strategies, approaches and tools. Knowledge brokers, working in partnership with a range of stakeholders, play a key role in this landscape.

This blog was written in the context of the Climate Action for Food Systems Transformation course run by the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (Wageningen University & Research). The Climate and Development Knowledge Network and WCDI have collaborated during the past three years to bring the voices of local knowledge brokers from the field into the course. They have shared their experiences about the lessons, challenges and approaches they have used to mainstream climate issues at multiple scales, from the community to national levels. As a result of these sessions, many course participants have realised that they too – without formally using the term – are knowledge brokers in their areas of work. Some of the examples above have been shared by course participants themselves, as part of their home assignments following the course session.

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By Ingrid Gevers

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