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A guide on adaptation options for local decision-makers: guidance for decision making to cope with costal changes in west Africa

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I. Niang
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This guide on adaptation options is aimed at local decision-makers on the coastal regions of west Africa and takes the form of a series of fact sheets, each including methods of implementation, positive and negative case studies and estimated costs. It first reviews what is already known about climate change and coastal erosion, before describing the regions (Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde) and their respective challenges, the importance of adaptation and the responsibilities of local decision-makers. On this last point, the paper emphasises the need to master advanced adaptation techniques and develop awareness among communities (including through their involvement in monitoring).Three categories of options are presented.

Hard engineering: fact sheets cover seawalls, groins and beach revetment (structures laid parallel to the coast consisting of materials more resistant to waves than beach sand) as potential adaptation measures. Seawalls and groins are very expensive, with seawalls in particular having potentially heavy negative impacts in terms of increased erosion on adjoining beaches.
Softer engineering: this includes dune and mangrove restoration (highly cost-effective), as well as artificial beach nourishment. Dredging offshore deposits and adding them to a beach will offer some protection and additional benefits (i.e. recreation), but only for as long as it takes to erode.
Integrated resource management: four fact sheets cover the optimisation of land use, the role of marine protected areas, protecting marine ecosystems and water resource management. The first two in particular can have great benefits with minimal risk of negative impacts.

The guide concludes with a section on the importance of monitoring and assessing existing impacts when making decisions. It warns that hard-engineering solutions often come at a cost, since by their nature they inhibit natural processes. Soft-engineering solutions have smaller negative impacts at a cost-effective level (excluding the long-term costs associated with artificial beach nourishment), while the management options offer greater local participation.