Salma Hegga: Identifying adaptation strategies for semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia

February 18, 2015
Marissa Van Epp

Salma Hegga is a postdoctoral research fellow working with a consortium on Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR). ASSAR is one of four consortia that the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) is supporting to carry out research and policy engagement in climate change hot spots.

Following a master’s degree from the University of Dar Es Salam in geography and environmental management, Salma Hegga completed a PhD at the University of Southampton. There, her research focused on adaptation to extreme weather events, specifically household preparedness for flooding in East Africa. She looked at what motivates residents of flood-prone areas to prepare for floods, including social networks, government factors, risk perception, household characteristics, and livelihood diversification.

Sharing expertise in the consortium team

There is substantial overlap between Salma’s PhD research and her ASSAR research fellowship at the University of Cape Town. Together with teams from Southern, Western, and Eastern Africa, and India, she is working to assess vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in semi-arid regions. The research aims to identify adaptation strategies in these areas and determine which are the most effective. This research will also identify governance issues and relationships between stakeholders across scales (local, regional, and national) that affect adaptation. “It is interesting because, within a consortium, we all have different expertise,” says Salma, “working together in the same project, addressing the same issue, we are learning from each other.”

Learning across contexts in Africa and Asia

A man pointing at a chalk boardWorking in different regions presents another opportunity to learn from each other, she notes. At the annual ASSAR meeting in October 2014 she visited a number of Indian villages to see what was happening on the ground. She was impressed by what she saw—the villages were working together and sharing their knowledge on climate change adaptation. “One community even had a water plan budget. They advise each other on what crops to plant and how much groundwater will be available, based on data received from the meteorological centre,” she noted. The trip provided a unique opportunity to gather knowledge about local communities’ strategies that could be shared with communities back in Africa.

Salma hopes that the research she is contributing to will identify potential adaptation strategies that can be used by different groups, including marginalized communities. This knowledge can then be used to help inform decisions on where NGOs and donors should focus their efforts and funds. The problem, she says, is that “solutions are often left on paper. CARIAA’s focus on stakeholder engagement should increase the uptake of findings.”

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Marissa Van Epp is a writer based in New York City.

CARIAA is a joint initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development and Canada’s International Development Research Centre. The program runs until 2019.

Photo (right): Tali Hoffman

Learning about a community's approach to water budgeting during an ASSAR field visit in Maharashtra, India.