working paper

Locally Led Climate Adaptation

What Is Needed to Accelerate Action and Support?

Stefanie Tye Isabella Suarez
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6. Types and Intervention Areas of Investments for Locally Led Adaptation

This section categorizes the types and intervention areas that featured most frequently in the literature review, where the few examples of locally led adaptation were found. Examples from the 22 locally led adaptation interventions identified in the review are included here to further illustrate what elements of locally led adaptation look like in practice.

The most frequently featured investments associated with strengthening local-level resilience found in the literature review were in the areas of community-based adaptation, community-driven development, and natural resource management. These are important to note as areas where the funding and capacity priorities have been directed thus far, which can inform the types of successful adaptation projects that can be scaled and highlight where gaps in investment may remain. Interventions to enhance the resilience of sector services like climate-resilient infrastructure, agriculture, energy systems, and water management were also examined. The authors found that community-level investments engaged local actors to varying degrees, with few being locally led, whereby local actors had decision-making power and leadership with other actors. Frequently, the evaluations included in the review referred to communities as beneficiaries with little to no information on if and how they were engaged and whether or how the interventions were locally led. Modalities for the disbursement of funds in a locally led manner included microfinancing, national budget allocations, new hybrid funding models, community-driven development, and social protection schemes.

6.1 Community-Based Adaptation and Community-Driven Development

Recognizing that local actors are often best able to identify local vulnerabilities and potential solutions, the authors looked into both CBA and CDD as common features in investments made at the community level. While there is widespread recognition of the principles of CBA and CDD, more concerted efforts should be made to ensure that local actors are empowered decision-makers or leaders of change, as opposed to recipients of interventions.

A locally led adaptation example arising from the literature is the Huairou Commission’s Community Resilience Fund, which uses a microfinancing modality to make funds available to disaster-prone communities, emphasizing the need to support women by positioning them as community leaders. In some cases, as in Nicaragua, this meant amplifying and scaling existing or semiorganized coalitions. Women were trained to map risks and vulnerabilities in their communities, and these maps were used to identify priorities and appropriate solutions (Rodriguez 2010).

Investments in risk-mapping supported women in sustainably working the land for crop improvement and identified gaps in activities like soil and water conservation practices to prevent erosion and runoff. To ensure that communities could be independent and resilient beyond the project, activities included setting up new income streams, as was the case in Nicaragua where the fund supported the Unión de Cooperativas de Mujeres Productoras Las Brumas, a women’s cooperative, in diversifying from coffee, which was becoming increasingly difficult to grow due to the changing climate. Widespread use of three agricultural methods—diversified plots, table gardens, and plant nurseries—reduced the women farmers’ economic risks from floods and drought in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and multiplied the average annual net earnings by six times between 2009 to 2014 (Huairou Commission 2016). With the Huairou Commission’s training, women from grassroots groups in Guatemala and Honduras were subsequently invited as expert practitioners to collaborate with government ministries and train other women (Rodriguez 2010).

6.2 Ecosystem-Based Adaptation

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) involves using biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change (Reid and Alam 2014). It is often integrated with CBA approaches and draws from improved learning from resource management disciplines, such as community-based natural resource management (CBNRM).1 As with CBA and CDD, the literature review found that greater efforts can be taken to create spaces for local actors’ decision-making and agency, and to voice local and Indigenous groups’ knowledge of ecosystems to inform adaptation solutions. Indeed, examples of strong locally led adaptation by Indigenous peoples was a gap in the materials consulted.

EbA is not being widely or consistently implemented, or sufficiently mainstreamed, especially given its potential to increase resilience for the most vulnerable populations whose livelihoods are tied to the ecosystem and/or are reliant on natural resources (Reid 2016). To some extent, this is due to a need for the evidence base for EbA to be strengthened with more robust quantitative evidence, but it is also due to a need to recognize long-existing local knowledge (Black et al. 2016; Reid 2016). However, when managed appropriately, it has the potential for social, economic, and environmental co-benefits and cost efficiencies, and an increase in local resilience and adaptive capacity (Reid 2016). The crosscutting nature of EbA requires the involvement of various partners (including, commonly, conservation NGOs) and government departments working with local communities (Kapos et al. 2019).

The Climate Action through Landscape Management (CALM) Program (2019–2024), financed by the World Bank and implemented by the government of Ethiopia, is one initiative that employs a participatory approach with strong locally led characteristics. Community members are brought together at the micro-watershed level to create local Watershed Teams to prepare and implement Watershed Management Plans (World Bank n.d.). These teams are made up of the local chairman, an official from local government, male and female representatives or leaders of each community representing different social groups, respected community members, religious leaders, youth representatives, and others (such as innovative farmers) proposed by the community (World Bank n.d.). These are decision-making, priority-setting positions that are also representative of the communities themselves, thus promoting social inclusion and local agency. The CALM Program is a model that seeks to bridge critical capacity gaps and support locally led adaptation in other ways by embedding local institutions in a broader institutional and policy framework and across sectors. This can enable the sustainable restoration of degraded landscapes, secure land tenure, and consolidate natural resource management gains for the long term via institutional reforms (World Bank 2019).

6.3 Resilient Community Infrastructure

With a few notable exceptions, the authors observed that the majority of the local-level infrastructure interventions found in the review featured local actors as beneficiaries, not as decision-makers. These investments often involve community-based organizations in partnership with local governments (ADB 2019). An impact evaluation of CDD programs shows that community involvement often made substantial contributions to improving the quantity and quality of small-scale infrastructure (ADB 2019).

Two projects stand out for their locally led elements. The first was a project led by the Women’s Union in Da Nang, Vietnam, which enabled local community grassroots groups to set their own investment incentives. This union developed and piloted incentives for investments in storm-resistant housing suitable for a low-income, typically female-led housing market. With the support of the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), the revolving credit and technical support upgraded 425 storm-resistant houses, all of which survived Typhoon Nari in 2013 (Archer et al. 2017).

The second is the Tajikistan Climate Resilience Financing Facility (CLIMADAPT) credit line, which has supported over 3,000 sub-projects since 2016, with approximately 58 percent of sub-loans being used for energy efficiency investments and 39 percent for water efficiency investments (CIF 2018). The credit line sought to make the Tajik private sector more resilient, offering loans to small businesses, farmers, and households through local financial institutions. Resilience-building technology and measures were vetted and listed by CLIMADAPT, but it was the communities and individuals themselves who decided on a specific adaptation measure based on whether the solution was responsive and appropriate for their needs and livelihoods. These investments save in the region of 50 gigawatt-hours per year of primary energy and 13 million cubic meters of water annually, and prevent soil erosion estimated to be around 695 tons per year (CIF 2018).

6.4 Social Protection Instruments and Systems

In the literature reviewed, the design and implementation of social protection agendas rarely featured locally led approaches. This is despite the fact that countries disproportionately affected by climate change are investing over $500 billion each year in social protection instruments and systems—in the form of conditional and unconditional cash transfers, public works programs, pensions, school feeding programs, and increased capacity of social protection systems to respond after disasters (Agrawal et al. 2019). When developing social protection agendas for adaptation, policymakers are not yet tackling the structural causes of climate vulnerability, inequality, and marginalization, or leveraging rights-based approaches—which include principles for participation and inclusion (Tenzing 2020).

One example of an intervention with locally led elements is the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation (HARITA) program by Oxfam and the Ethiopian government, which ran from 2009 to 2012 and sought to design an affordable weather-indexed insurance package for smallholder farmers facing drought. HARITA actively and collaboratively engaged locals in designing and implementing measures to prevent soil erosion and rainfall runoff and undertake small-scale irrigation works (Madajewicz et al. 2013). Until that point, drought insurance for the farmers living in deeper poverty had not been effective due to its high administrative costs and premiums. In HARITA’s conversations with farmers, the farmers themselves suggested an innovative alternative to paying for insurance with cash: farmer labor. This led to the development of an “insurance-for-work” program, which was paired with an existing government of Ethiopia “food-and-cash-for-work” program, thus expanding insurance access to many more farmers. In 2012, 93 percent of farmers paid with labor in the villages that offered this option; in 2016, insurance had been sold to 18,000 households, and has been linked to increased credit access (Madajewicz et al. 2013).

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