Essonne Departmental Council – Nioro-du-Sahel, Douentza and Diéma Cercles (Mali) – City of Wuhan (China) – municipalities of Aquin, Fond-des-Nègres and Saint-Louis-du-Sud (Haiti): adapting local responses to global climate issues (5 January 2016)

Essonne Departmental Council has for several years been at the forefront of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Local government bodies do indeed have a key role to play. Their close ties to communities and citizens mean they can create synergies between the public policies under their responsibility, mobilize local stakeholders and foster sustainable local development.

The then Essonne General Council adopted its first Agenda 21 in 2002, and then a first Climate Plan in 2010, the key focus of which, the CLIMATE project, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020.

Alongside this ambitious position in the fight against climate change, the Essonne Departmental Council has been involved in an innovative international action policy for several years, leading to the adoption of new guidelines in November2013. These new guidelines place the Departmental Council’s international action in a framework of three goals: addressing the challenges of Essonne’s local development; improving Essonne’s public policies and supporting its internationalization by developing educational projects for priority audiences to combat discrimination and promote gender equality; and sustainable, inclusive development.

The decentralised cooperation partnerships between the Essonne Departmental Council and the Cercle Councils (equivalent to France’s Departments) in Diéma,

Douentza and Nioro-du-Sahel (Mali), the city of Wuhan (China) and the municipalities of Aquin, Saint-Louis-du-Sud and Fond-des-Nègres (Haiti) and are in line with these new guidelines for the international action of the Departmental Council, in the framework of the actions set out below, contributing to the goals of all partners engaged in the fight against climate change.

We met Moussa Camara, President of the Council of the Nioro-du-Sahel Cercle, during the round table “Local governments commit to climate action,” held on 5 December as part of COP21 in Le Bourget.

Focus: food security and adaptation of agricultural practices to climate change through mutual support to Essonne farmers and Malian farmers in the Diéma, Douentza and Nioro-du-Sahel

The aim of this action is to create conditions for exchanges and sharing of experiences, both between public institutions (Essonne Departmental Council, Cercle Councils of Douentza, Diéma and Nioro-du-Sahel) and between agricultural sector stakeholders in the four communities. These conditions for the exchange and sharing of experiences are initially provided through comparison of the “peasant farming” call for projects of the Council of Douentza and the “Innovative Agriculture” call for projects of the Essonne Departmental Council, then through the launch of a joint Essonne, Douentza, Diéma and Nioro-du-Sahel call for projects on food sovereignty.

In the Douentza Council and in Essonne, then later in the Councils of Diéma and Nioro-du-Sahel, exchanges and then projects implemented need to foster the emergence on both sides of alternative solutions to fossil fuels and their derivative products, drawing on the principles of agro-ecology (ecological inputs, positive interactions between the various crops, short supply chains, etc.) to maintain local agriculture that is dynamic, innovative and respectful of soils, the climate and air quality, as well as water resources.

On 5 December 2015 in Le Bourget, Moussa Camara, the President of the Nioro-du-Sahel Cercle Council, answered our questions live from COP21, where the project had just been raised during the round table: “Local governments commit to climate action.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI): Could you briefly remind us of the goals of the project?

Moussa Camara: The project involves several pilot actions aimed at developing exchanges, the holding of common reflections, and the carrying out of studies and diagnostics so as to adapt local responses to global challenges on both sides. This approach should help develop expertise which can be capitalized on and transferred to other contexts and communities, or even foster exchanges between them through a forum for discussions and reflection.

Could you explain to us in a few words what the Nioro-du-Sahel Cercle Council will get out of this project?

Of various pilot actions carried out in partnership between the Essonne Department, Wuhan and the municipalities of Haiti, we will focus on our local issues of food security and the efficiency of water and sanitation services.

The efforts made on agriculture will help raise awareness, especially amongst the young, of the importance of maintaining a form of agriculture that respects the environment and is beneficial for the economy and local communities. It is important to identify and trial practices that address this double challenge.

That is why we are working with the Essonne Departmental Council to incorporate our “peasant farming” call for projects and enable the emergence of projects that will allow us to be more environmentally friendly in future.

How can this comprehensive partnership strategy be implemented in your Cercle ?

When we launched the idea, we were taken for madmen. Very few peasant farmers could believe that French sustainable agricultural practices could one day be exported to the Sahel, with our climates obviously being quite different and the crops harvest not, therefore, being in any way comparable.

Yet, through a method based on outreach and participation, we managed to convince our farmers that, on the contrary, transferring these practices could help maintain local agriculture that is dynamic, innovative and respectful of the soil, the climate and air quality, as well as water resources.

What are the next phases in your partnership?

The 2013-2015 three-year partnership is coming to an end. We have defined the structuring of the water and agriculture sectors as common development stakes for all four partners. Many things remain to be done in the coming years. Following on naturally from this partnership, we will continue our training, exchange and reflection actions to address the objectives we have set ourselves.

Illust: Moussa Camara, (...), 91.1 kb, 640x427
Moussa Camara, President of the Council of the Nioro-du-Sahel Cercle (the third person from the left) – the round table “Local governments commit to climate action” - 5 December as part of COP21 in Le Bourget. Photo : all rights reserved

This project is proposed by the Essonne Departmental Council.

In cooperation with: the city of Wuhan, the Cercle Councils of Diéma, Douentza and Nioro-du-Sahel, and the municipalities of Aquin, Fond-des-Nègres and Saint-Louis-du-Sud.

In partnership with: the association Haïti Futur, the municipalities of Breux-Jouy, Cerny, Saint-Chéron and Saint-Yon, the companies Biotope and ECIC, the Seine-Normandie water agency (AESN), and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.

This project was selected under the 2015 climate call for projects launched by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI), in partnership with the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (MEDDE) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Agri-food and Forestry (MAAF), as well as the Schneider Electric Foundation, under the auspices of the Fondation de France.

More information in the section on “external action of local governments” of France Diplomatie