Addressing the livelihood factor in Lake Chad’s multidimensional crisis – Interview with Anja Stache, GIZ

The Lake Chad Basin is afflicted with a multidimensional crisis, which contributing factors range from deeply-entrenched regional hostilities to environmental degradation. The vulnerability of livelihood systems to changing climate patterns adds to the security pressures by exposing local populations to intimidation and recruitment by radical groups. Anja Stache, Programme Coordinator at GIZ, explains how the German development agency helps strengthen resilience by introducing climate-smart seeds.

Which factors contribute to the vulnerability of livelihood systems in the Lake Chad Basin?

In the past decades, rain has been very scarce and falling irregularly in the rainy season. Nonetheless, rain-fed agriculture continues to be the most important production system in the region, with local populations depending strongly on this agricultural production system for survival. The pressures around Lake Chad are numerous; however there can be no prospect of positive transformation while the local population can barely guarantee its subsistence. Therefore, addressing vulnerability in the Lake Chad Basin necessarily entails mitigating impacts to agricultural production and coming up with adaptation measures that build resilience for smallholder farmers in the long-term.

‘Adaptation’ is a trendy word in the climate change scenario. What is meant by adaptation in this specific context?

In the climate context, ‘adaptation’ means creating systems that can endure the effects of climate change when these can no longer be avoided. It does not substitute, but rather complements mitigation measures by adding a short- and medium-term outlook to addressing the impacts of climate change. In this specific case, we tested locally adapted seeds – “adapted” means that the seeds have a short maturing period. Mandated by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), we are working in a 50,000 km² transboundary pilot zone to help farmers adapt better to climate change in the Lake Chad Basin by introducing these locally adapted seeds. This means farmers will sow later than normal, when rain is falling or more likely to fall. With this, they are assured of their – in most regions “only” – harvest and can survive until the next rainy season.

Is there a long-term aspect to the project? In other words, can the concept provide ongoing support to smallholder farmers even after the project is terminated?

Presently there is a strong focus on the dissemination of this approach beyond the scope of the project. Farmers are being taught to explain how the system works to other farmers – this is named “Farmer Field Schools”. The focus of these schools lies on the self-production of seeds by farmers, so they can produce their own seeds independently. Furthermore, the dissemination approach transforms smallholder farmers from aid receivers to active contributors in their communities, adding an empowerment component to the approach.

The interview was conducted by Stella Schaller (adelphi) and edited by Raquel Munayer (adelphi).

Photo: Vegetable farmer in Chad | Credit: Carsten ten Brink/Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]