Interns blog!

A mandatory part of every MSc at the Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands) is to carry out a full-time internship. Coming from environmental policy (Francesca) and climate change studies (Marzia), we wanted our internship to focus on climate change impacts and how people perceive them. So, we started looking for internships and we came across the LICCI project (LASEG Research group).

After a Skype meeting with Viki, in September 2019 we joined the LICCI team for six months.  

At LICCI we carried out several tasks aimed to improve the project. For instance we helped the LICCI core team to revise the LICCI protocol, to test the LICCI app, as well as we facilitated the organization of two out of three LICCI workshops (in September and November 2019). Moreover, we were in charge of the dissemination part by taking care and updating the LICCI website. 

However, we also had our researches to focus on: Francesca investigated how climate change impacts wild edible plants and how it is locally perceived, while Marzia looked into water-related indicators of climate change, their perception in local communities and the struggles to access water in some areas of the world.

Considering these past months spent at LICCI, we have really positive feelings about this internship. Not only we learnt a lot about the contribution of local knowledge to climate change research, but also we understood how such a big project works, with all its parts, phases, challenges, and how the skillful LICCI researchers manage it all!

The LICCI’s inclusive and friendly environment encouraged us to be active members of the team and to boost our curiosity, so, if you are interested in doing an internship at LICCI, just go for it! 

Don’t you wish to do your internship in a friendly, dynamic and international environment?

Francesca & Marzia, interns at LICCI

Victoria Reyes-García receives an ERC Proof of Concept grant linked to the LICCI project

Victoria Reyes-García ICREA Research Professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is one of the 76 top researchers that will receive ERC Proof of Concept grants. This top-up funding is awarded to ERC grantees to explore the innovation potential of their scientific discoveries and bring the results of their frontier research closer to market or society. This final injection of €11.4 million pushes the total number of ERC Proof of Concept funded projects during 2019 to 200. With the additional money researchers can, for example, investigate business opportunities, establish intellectual property rights, conduct technical validation, or explore the social benefits of their frontier research findings.

The new grant will help the LICCI team, led by Victoria Reyes-García, to create an Indigenous Climate Change Impacts Observation Network (ICCION) oriented to bring Indigenous knowledge and perspectives to climate change policy fora.

The ERC project Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts (LICCI) explores the potential of Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) to contribute to climate research, but only tangentially addresses the marginalized position faced by Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLC) to bring their knowledge and perspectives to climate change research and policy fora. This new project will contribute to bring IPLC’s knowledge and perspectives to climate change policy fora 1) by engaging with IPLC on the co-design of a digital Indigenous Climate Change Impacts Observation Network (ICCION) and 2) by engaging with the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has the mandate to strengthen the role played by IPLC in addressing and responding to climate change.

The Proof of Concept grant amounts to a total of €150,000 for an 18-month period, which in this case will go towards the creation of an Indigenous Climate Change Impacts Observation Network.

ICCION is an innovative response to the IPCC call for more ground level data as it will expand the geographical and temporal coverage of data collection on local indicators of climate change impacts. Moreover, partnering with IPLC and international organizations constitutes an important social innovation, as these alliances might facilitate IPLC effective participation in climate change science-policy fora. Finally, ICCION innovates in developing technological solutions to address technical (i.e., low internet access) and social concerns (i.e., Indigenous data sovereignty) that are of particular relevance for IPLC, but which have often been neglected in other technological developments.

The long-term establishment of the observation network proposed here will contribute to give IPLC a more relevant voice in global climate policy fora, not only by informing climate change impact research, but also making it more socially acceptable.

Notes from the field: the chronicles of sensitivity to LICCI among rural farmers in Southwestern Nigeria

During October and December 2019, the LICCI partner Ayansina Ayanlade and colleagues – Isaac A. Oluwatimilehin and Godwin Atai – started to implement the LICCI protocol among rural farmers in the states of Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ogun and Kwara in Southwestern Nigeria. The team worked to identify the sensitivities of rural farmers to climate change impacts and the choice of adaptation strategies in farming communities. The selected settlements were crop and livestock farming communities for the past century – Oko, Otamokun, and Ilora in Oyo state, Akinlalu, Odemuyiwa and Erefe in Osun state, Ijare, Ibule Soro and Owena in Ondo state; Onibode, Kobape and Odeda in Ogun state; and Ogbondoroko, Shao and Omupo in Kwara state. The selection of the field sites is based on the AIMS research project based in the Department of Geography, Obafemi Awolowo University, although, the reports from two major states are presented here.

Otamokun and Ilora in Oyo state are predominantly smallholder farmers communities who cultivate both tuber and cereal crops such as cassava, maize, rice, millet, sorghum among several others. But, Ijare, and Owena in Ondo State are predominantly farmers largely involved in tree crops like cocoa, coffee, rubber, and palm production. The sites generally fall within tropical wet and dry climate of Koppen’s climate classification dominated by two seasons which are the rainy and dry seasons.

In each farming community, farmers were interviewed individually through Semi-Structured Interview (SSI) and collectively through Focus Group Discussion (FGD). The fieldwork at this stage aims to: (1) explore the history of the study site in relation to changes in the climate and activities of the local people such as agricultural activities; and (2) to assess their perception of climate change and how their farming/cropping activities have been threatened by climate change in recent years.

Farmers during FGD

During the SSI and FGD, the majority of farmers stated that they perceived changes in the climate system including “increase in the annual temperature and reduction in the amount of rainfall in both early and late growing seasons”. Generally, the elders among the rural farmers claimed that “there have been changes in the onset of the rainy season which is now delaying the planting time, and cropping seasons are now shortened as planting dates are no longer fixed because of changes associated with weather events”. What is obvious from the SSI and FGD is that the majority of farmers reported that

the climate now is by far different from what we used to have in the past. Climate change has resulted in changes in the biophysical environment, poor yielding of crops as a result of change associated with a reduction in rainfall, attack of pests and diseases. Some pests not known in back the years are now prominent, crops planted in the past are not as productive as they used to be, even cropping trees is no longer sustainable”.

Scientific papers report that income significantly determines climate change adaptation strategies and in this case, the majority of farmers live below the poverty level, with monthly incomes less than $ 100. Therefore, we have little understanding of what motivates rural households to adapt to climate change, and how to link smallholder farmers’ climate change adaptation decisions with their local knowledge about climate change. This will be the focus in the next stage of this research and more results will be presented soon. 

Last but not least: the LICCI training workshops are officially concluded

A new page of the LICCI project is about to start as we have concluded the third and the very last training workshop. In November, we hosted 17 partners at ICTA-UAB in Barcelona for one week of intense training workshop again to comprehend the LICCI protocol . It is another fruitful and constructive week in term of discussion and networking. The LICCI core team would like to thank all of the participants for this inspiring week. We look forward to hearing and sharing our partners’ fieldwork updates soon!

LICCI currently has 43 partners from across the world. These three workshops have served as bridges for both core team members and partners to build even stronger networks, and eventually will lead to many collaborations in various formats and sub-working groups in the making.

We would like to thank all of the partners again, without whom this adventure would not have been possible.

LICCI on air in Brazil

Updates from our partners! We are happy to see that the dissemination of the LICCI project is running well through the world. Here, our Brazilian team Julia Avila (partners) and André Braga Junqueira (core team members) have recently recorded a podcast with a local radio (RioMar) and the Mamiraua Institut where they speak about their current research in the LICCI project.

Assessing the crop diversity trends in relation with climate change based on local knowledge

Predictions based on agroclimatic models predict a dramatic decrease in the agricultural production at the global scale, thus affecting the livelihoods of millions of peoples. However, these models focus on the major crops and are too coarse to represent the diversity of crop landraces responses to climate change. Lead by Vanesse Labeyrie, partners in the LICCI research network are preparing to collect local level data that will provide first-hand information on how climate change is affecting crop diversity around the world and how farmers manage this diversity to adapt.

            Growing different crops and different varieties of the same crop (i.e., crop diversity) is fundamental for the livelihood of millions of small-farmers around the world, as it allows them both to have diversified diets and to smooth household food consumption in the face of uncertain ecological and socio-economic conditions. Given the importance of crop diversity for food security, its loss is a worldwide concern that has called the attention of scientists and policy makers alike. However, there is a gap in knowledge concerning on one hand the impact of climate change on this diversity, and on the other hand on how farmers are managing this diversity to adapt.

In their attempt to understand how the different crop are affected by climate change and how crop diversity mitigates its impact on agricultural production, scientists have used different analytical tools, such as crop simulation models, statistical analysis, or experiments in controlled conditions. While informative, this research does not provide a full picture of the dynamics of crop diversity in small-scale agriculture in relation to climate change, and underrepresents the key role of local knowledge and management practices. A real understanding of the relationship between climate change impacts and crop diversity trends requires the coordinated collection of climate variability and crop trends in small-scale farms around the world.

            And this is precisely what Vanesse Labeyrie (GREEN Research Unit, CIRAD, Montpellier) is set to do in collaboration with a group of partners of the LICCI research network. In coordination with the LICCI Core Team, Vanesse has developed a protocol that allows her to track temporal trends in crop diversity in different rural societies practicing small-scale agriculture. By coupling data collected with this protocol with data collected in the framework of the LICCI project, Vanesse wants to analyze whether climate change is an important driver of crop diversity among small-farmers, and how they manage this diversity to adapt.

            During our three LICCI training events, Vanesse has already trained several partners interested in applying the protocol in their fieldsites. To expand the number of case studies, we have now established a collaboration with the project ASSET (AgrobiodiverSity for a food-Secure planET). The project ASSET, led by Delphine Renard (CEFE, Montpellier), aims at evaluating the potential of increased crop diversity to reduce climate risks to food production. ASSET combines ecological, agronomic and ethnoecological work at the global and local scales in France (on vineyards), in northern Morocco (on olive agroforests) and in Senegal (on cereal-leguminous cropping systems). LICCI and ASSET are combining forces to homogenize their data collection tools, to increase the empirical base to be used to answer together how climate change is impacting crop diversity among small farmers and how they manage this diversity to adapt to the climatic variability and change. Within this framework, the past 13th November, we conducted an additional training session on the crop diversity protocol for ASSET members, and adjusted it to be able to answer new research questions. 

If you are interested in joining or learning more about the Crop Diversity group in LICCI, please contact Vanesse Labeyrie (

Notes from the field: Tracking LICCIs in the Territorio Indígena Tsimane’

This past October, in the context of their participation in the III Jornadas de Etnobiologia en Bolivia and the continuous work on Etnoecología en Bolivia (financed by Fundació Autònoma Solidària); André, Petra, and Viki from the LICCI core team went on a field trip to the Territorio Indígena Tsimane’ (Dept. Beni, Bolivia). Tomas Huanca, Esther Conde, Isidoro Canchi and Elias Isa, members of our partner organization “Centro Boliviano de Desarrollo Socio Integral” (CBIDSI) also came along. Together, they worked in identifying changes perceived by the Timane´ in their territory. This was a particularly emotive trip as Viki, Tomas, and Esther have worked in the area for two decades and have also been witnesses of some of the changes mentioned by the Tsimane’.

The Tsimane’ were a society of hunter-gatherers who lived isolated from the market economy and the national society until recently. The opening of roads in the area in the 1970’s, and the consequent arrival of missionaries, traders, colonists farmers, cattle ranchers, and loggers changed Tsimane’ lifestyles in profound ways. The elaboration of a timeline of important events in the area highlighted how the Tsimane’ themselves perceived these processes. It was also useful to explore how these external pressures continue to threaten their territory nowadays, as the Tsimane’ reported the recent effects of new colonization waves and the opening of new logging roads.

In our conversations with the Tsimane’, we learned that they also perceive many changes in the climatic system with cascade effects on the biophysical and socioeconomic systems. For example, the Tsimane’ report an increase in temperature and a decrease in the amount of rainfall. According to them, these affect the amount of water in the river and the stream, as well as water temperature. Together this increases fish mortality. Hotter temperatures and decreased rains also affect the ripening of some cultural keystone species for the Tsimane’, such as the Väij (Bactris gasipaes) –which indicated the end of the rainy season and the start of the Tsimane’ seasonal calendar-, and the O’ba (Ceiba pentandra)– whose flowering indicated the best time for hunting-.

Through our interviews, we also noticed that the Tsimane’ have their own understanding of the complex relations and multiple drivers of change. For example, when asked to clarify causes of decrease in fish abundance in a focus group discussion, participants mentioned that there were many drivers for this change, including the adoption of new technologies (fishing nets), the increase in fish commercialization, together with the decrease in river water, the increase in river water temperature, and the lack of respect to cultural norms.

Despite 20 years of work with the Tsimane’, we still have a lot to learn from them, and we are excited to keep on collaborating with the Tsimane´ and CBIDSI during the LICCI project.

Me alegro mucho de haber participado en este estudio. Yo ya no se muchas cosas de mi propia cultura, y trabajando en este estudio he aprendido mucho. Me alegro de haber participado” (Isidoro Canchi, Indigenous researcher at CBIDSI).

Estoy muy contento de este viaje. Yo no había visitado estas comunidades nunca antes; es mi primer viaje rio arriba. He aprendido cosas que no conocía antes. Los comunarios nos han dicho que hay muchos cambios, sobretodo por sequía. Como yo también soy del campo, me ha interesado aprender esto. Estoy muy contento de haber ido a este viaje” (Elias Isa, Indigenous researcher at CBIDSI).

Notes from the field: discussing with Twa hunter-gatherers in eastern DR Congo

During August and September 2019, LICCI partner Dr Cuni Sanchez and her colleagues Dr G. Imani and R. Batumike, started their research on climate change perceptions and adaptation by the Twa hunter-gatherers living around Kahuzi-Biega National Park. This park which covers lowland and montane forests, hosts several endangered iconic mammals such as Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and forest elephant (Loxodonta africana var. cyclotis). Unfortunately, it is listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger as a consequence of past armed conflict in the region and the current presence of armed militia (involved in illegal mining and hunting) within the park. Despite being less notorious, climate change is also affecting the park, especially its montane forests.

Montane forests are particularly sensitive to climatic changes: with raising temperatures, the altitude where clouds (or fog) form changes. Fog is an important source of water in montane forests: leaves and branches from trees, together with mosses, collect water droplets from fog. As the Twa pointed out: ‘before nearly every day was misty; but now you can only find mist during the rainy season, and not even every day of it’. Changes in rainfall patterns, hail storms and temperatures were also reported. They also highlighted a notorious reduction in the abundance of mushrooms, edible caterpillars, wild honey and crabs, which they related to both deforestation and climatic changes. These changes had a negative effect on their diet and health.

Combining the traditional ecological knowledge of the Twa with meteorological data of nearby stations and remote sensing analysis of deforestation, the team will reconstruct the changes taken place in the area, and how the Twa have deal with them. The team also interviewed Tembo farmers to get insights on how these farmers have deal with climatic and environmental changes. The Twa were very happy to see the researchers (and vice-versa), whom they knew from a past project on forest use and valuation. With no TV, radio, or mobile phones, and limited access to schools and hospitals, the researchers are both a source of news and good entertainment.

Dr Aida Cuni Sanchez (University of York in UK), Dr Gerard Imani and Rodrigue Batumike (Université Officielle de Bukabu in DRC).

Twa family (on average they have 10 children, but child mortality before 5 years old is high).
Twa man and his assets (note the small number of assets they have)

Notes from the field: ribeirinho life along the pulsing Juruá river

During September, the LICCI core team member André Junqueira went to the Juruá River, in western Brazilian Amazonia, to start the arrangements for his forthcoming fieldwork in the region. The Juruá, a tributary of the Amazon River, is a dynamic meandering river with its headwaters in the Andes, carrying a large amount of sediments that gets deposited every year in its wide floodplains. Along the Juruá inhabit different indigenous groups as well as the ribeirinhos, a diverse population that emerged from the contact between local indigenous people and migrants that came from Northeastern Brazil during the ‘rubber boom’ in the late 19th Century.

Fishing, agriculture and the extraction of forest resources form the base of their livelihoods, which have gradually become more diversified since rubber tapping ceased around the 1930s. With amplitudes that can reach 12m (i.e. the difference between the lowest and highest water level), the annual river flood pulse has a profound influence in the local social-ecological system, affecting cultivation cycles, availability of resources, level of accessibility, and many other socio-economic and biophysical elements.

In the last decades, however, local residents have reported changes in the flood pulse, in the rainfall seasonality and in other biophysical elements that have strongly affected their livelihoods. Combining the traditional ecological knowledge of local residents with hydrological, climatic and dendrochronological data (i.e., the analysis of tree rings), André will reconstruct the history of the changes that have taken place on the cycles of rainfall and river fluctuation during the last century, and understand how the ribeirinhos have been dealing with these changes.

During this first trip, André established contact with local organizations, leaders of the communities, and formalized a collaboration with the Instituto Juruá – a local institution that has a strong presence and an excellent trust relationship with the local communities. Instituto Juruá is presided by Dr. João Vitor Campos-Silva – also a LICCI partner -, who provided invaluable help and guided us through the many curves of the Juruá River. We are excited to keep on working in the region and we are grateful to Instituto Juruá and mainly to the ribeirinhos for such a warm welcome!