Public-private partnerships in Senegal

Governments, businesses and local communities must work together to manage and reduce future disaster and climate risks. Public-private partnerships can work to reshape business, society and financial frameworks to implement tailor-made solutions for all industries and sectors, lead to decisions that are more risk-informed, help formulate adaptive strategies, and implement preventative actions to deliver measurable change in resilience-focused business practices.

Senegal: agricultural communities on the frontlines of climate disasters

Senegal is frequently affected by natural disasters, especially climate-related events such as floods, heatwaves and droughts. This can be devastating for the country’s significant agriculture and livestock sector, which represents approximately 17 per cent of the gross domestic product and employs 70 per cent of the population.

The National Agency of Civil Aviation and Meteorology (Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie; ANACIM) was tasked with developing an early warning system to enable communities to be more prepared for disasters and limit loss of life, agriculture and livelihoods, as well as safeguard against second-order effects such as disease.

Community knowledge and co-creation

The team at ANACIM put community co-creation at the centre of their project design. They ran several community consultations to determine the different strategies they already had in place, how the climate information they received could be improved and, most importantly, what channels would be most effective for disseminating it. These consultations gave the community an opportunity to provide feedback and directly contribute to the design of early warning systems and highlight gaps in ANACIM’s understanding of community needs.

The consultations presented ANACIM with a number of communication challenges, including reaching communities who did not have access to phones or SMS, were illiterate, or spoke one of the 17 dialects spoken in Senegal rather than French, the country’s official language.

Gender-responsive early warning systems

It was critical for ANACIM to understand the specific situation and information needs of women in the community. Women in Senegal are at particularly high risk since many are illiterate, and even fewer have access to mobile phones. For this reason, they identified female leaders within the community who could help engage other women and provide them with relevant weather information and advice.

ANACIM-Jokalante partnership

To address the communication challenges identified in the consultations, ANACIM partnered with Senegalese start-up Jokalente,* run by social entrepreneur Ndeye Amy Kebe. Jokalante means “to facilitate exchange and dialogue” in Wolof, one of the national languages of Senegal. With the aim of engaging hard-to-reach populations, Jokalante has developed innovative communications technology.

Combining feedback mechanisms, interactive voice response systems, voice services, SMS, social media and data-collection tools, the Jokalante platform communicates messages to people across 14 regions of Senegal in its six official national languages, as well as French and English.

“We produce the information, which we are good at, and the team at Jokalente are experts in new technologies who know how to send voice warnings and reach our end users. So for us, it was a perfect partnership.” – Ousmane Ndiaye [SA1] 

In addition to the SMS warnings that were already being disseminated, Jokalente developed a digital system able to transmit important weather information to local radio stations, which could then translate forecasts and alerts into the relevant languages.

For users who cannot read or write, the Jokalante interactive voice response system allows them to speak into the phone to request weather information, or report the weather conditions they are currently observing to ANACIM.

Human-centred early warning technology

Evaluation, monitoring and continuous learning are crucial elements of Jokalente’s process, which is carried out through further community consultations and quantitative surveys, ensuring that communities are constantly providing feedback on their experiences and the information they receive.

“Digital is not enough. There’s always the human that’s placed at the centre as well. There is a need for continuous learning and capacity-building of communities to use climate information services … We are a very oral, interactive society. So, the fact of talking to a machine, the platform, and leaving a message, was different and new.” – Ndeye Amy Kebe [SA2] 

In response to this attitude among potential users, Jokalente and ANACIM worked together to develop a behaviour change strategy that would support communities not only in understanding and getting comfortable with new technologies using the system to receive warnings more easily, but also to provide quality feedback that could prove useful later in this cycle of interactions between communities and ANACIM. When communities understand the impact of their own feedback as heard and used by ANACIM, they become more committed to engaging with the system.

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