Whether it's conducting workshops on rural development issues or creating mobile technologies to aid in adaptation to climate change, it's clear that innovation and cooperation are thriving in Africa.
A recent U.S. Center program moderated by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) climate change specialist John Furlow focused on how Africans are identifying local problems and finding solutions through two global programs, the Adaptation Partnership and Apps4Africa. These programs illustrate how the United States is working with partners to bring together practitioners, policy-makers, and African technology innovators to solve problems in the face of climate change.
A recent Adaptation Partnership workshop in West Africa was highlighted by Birama Diarra, Director of Research and Development at the National Bureau of Meteorology in Mali. Diarra believes his nation of 14.5 million people has directly benefitted from local workshops and climate services. For example, farmers received guidance on what crops to plant based on projected seasonal rainfall, as well as climate service bulletins in local languages through varied media. The benefit is tangible: Mali has seen a substantial increase in harvests -- between 25-30 percent in the south (Bankoumana), and 40-60 percent in the north (Banamba).
Issues identified at workshops like the one in Mali are put into action through Apps4Africa, which brings together members of civil society with mobile technology experts in brainstorming sessions. Apps4Africa seeks to provide African solutions to local climate change challenges.
The 2011 competition began in Western and Central Africa, with the winners announced at the U.S. Center event on December 7. Nigeria's Victor Ogo Ekwueme took the grand prize with the web-based application HospitalManager, which helps hospitals and health organizations prepare for disasters such as floods and storms. Competition concludes for Eastern Africa in December, and Southern African winners will be announced in April 2012. Three winners from each region receive cash prizes for suggesting innovative, practical mobile applications.
Marieme Jamme, who coordinated the competition for West and Central Africa, is very proud of the efforts made by Apps4Africa. “We are changing people's lives,” she said. “The winners will have their lives changed -- I know that, I've seen their eyes.”
For more on COP-17, please visit www.state.gov/cop17.