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A participatory method to enhance the collective ability to adapt to rapid glacier loss: the case of mountain communities in Tajikistan

Stefanie Christmann, Aden A. Aw-Hassan
Climatic change 2015 v.133 no.2 pp. 267-282
case studies, climate change, conflict management, crops, environmental enrichment, food production, geophysics, glaciers, growing season, immigration, irrigated farming, labor, learning, livestock, pastoralism, risk, villages, water harvesting, Tajikistan
The rapid loss of small glaciers worldwide might result in mountain villages changing from having plenty of water during the growing season, to facing a scarcity even in scenarios with adaptation. Climate-change effects might cause the need for significant changes in rural mountain economies that currently rely on irrigated agriculture, pastoralism and labor migration. Previous research mainly focuses on geophysical aspects and little is known about the local ability to understand climate-change indicators or local collective adaptive capacity. A 2010 participatory case study in the Zerafshan Range, Tajikistan, disclosed a local lack of awareness of climate change and its consequences. We present a social learning method based on scenarios and visualization. The process exposed a remarkable potential for comprehensive adaptation, including in water harvesting, choice of crops and livestock, environmental enhancement, skills and conflict management. We recommend the approach as a model to promote local collective adaptive capacity development. The case study revealed high risks of massive out-migration from mountain villages if adaptation starts too late: countries with a high proportion of mountain agriculture might see significant losses of agricultural area, a reduction in food production and an increase in conflicts in areas where immigration occurs.