Community-led adaptation: Myth or reality?

  • Author(s): M Zakir Hossain Khan
  • Date of the news : 12th July, 2017

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Climate change is an outcome of human civilisation and undoubtedly the antidote to climate change is the community, either victims or contributors to global warming.
Climate change poses threats to the sustainable development of LDCs and developing countries, with the marginalised and vulnerable people of society bearing the brunt of it as they depend on climate sensitive, natural resource based livelihoods.
However, smallholder farmers have much experience of adapting to their complex, diverse, and risk-prone environments.
Heat stress, lack of water at crucial times, pests and diseases are serious problems that climate change appears to be exacerbating.
Since the effects of climate change are diverse in nature across regions, localities, economic conditions, community knowledge based adaptation is the most cost-effective, resilient and forward looking approach in any adaptation effort. Bangladesh has proved how community based awareness programs can drastically reduce the loss of lives due to disasters like cyclone.
“[U]ntil recently, most adaptation efforts have been top-down, and little attention has been paid to communities’ experiences of climate change and their efforts to cope with their changing environments.” Now, the focus is shifting to “approaches to adaptation to climate change which are community-based and participatory, building on the priorities, knowledge, and capacities of local people.”

Community Based Adaptation (CBA) is a joint effort by different stakeholders, with a community focus. However, due to poor governance in major climate vulnerable LDCs, people are jeopardised with multiple vulnerabilities like limited voice, access or control in decision-making, and gender inequalities, accompanied by chronic poverty. Moreover, these communities’ lack of access to modern resources e.g. technology means that much of their knowledge is ignored or undermined. That’s why, CBA lacks real ownership of the community and not clearly focus on real demand-driven along with the full independence of the community is also not reflected. Most importantly, to ensure effective utilization of resources without any wastages the CBA concept should be evolved into Community Lead Adaptation (CLA). With that bleak reality in mind, Sustainable Development Goal 13 has specifically included climate change in the context of community engagement, and Goal 16 has emphasises inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels of climate change adaptation. Recognising the need for CLA the climate change related Paris Agreement has emphasised that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, fully transparent, participatory approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems. It should be based on and guided by the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate. However, the major challenge is that there is no legally binding obligation for the Parties to frame community lead adaptation. For effective CLA, the following key issues should be considered duly. Inclusive And Stringent Policy Regime The prime responsibilities of policy makers are to provide support to climate vulnerable communities through various measures, such as, analysing the community level climate vulnerabilities and risks, strengthening adaptive capacities, deciding on and adopting actions that are sustainable, climate resilient and responsive to local realities, climate information and changing risks, and so on. Making choices in an uncertain climate, multi- stakeholder, sector and level, anticipation of regular and new shocks requires thoughtful and joined up responses and working with communities’ knowledge and aspirations. In LDCs, the core focus should be given to ongoing efforts to prepare the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) from a community perspective rather than from a national or macro focus. Any adaptation related efforts or project design and monitoring implementation of the project by the beneficiary communities must be integrated with the NAP process. Particularly, in case of Bangladesh, climate funded project implementing agencies should internalise the CLA with its planning, monitoring and evaluation process. Meaningful Adaptive Capacity Adaptive capacity is the ability to constantly adjust livelihood and risk management strategies in response to new and changing circumstances (IPCC). When we are uncertain of the impact of climate change, adaptive capacity is an increasingly critical aspect of resilience. According to the Paris Agreement, “capacity-building should be country-driven, based on and responsive to national needs, and foster country ownership of Parties, in particular, for developing country Parties, including at the national, sub-national and local levels…and should be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting and gender-responsive.”

The local community should have the capacity to examine whether the CLA project is developed based on local risks and priorities, integrating both scientific and local/indigenous knowledge into its planning processes; whether the proposed action will ensure sustainable development or specific output that would ensure resilience. It has been found that in Indonesia, a participatory “learning by doing” approach helped to increase farmers’ knowledge of climate change. At present, there is a dearth of knowledge about the impact of climate change and local level vulnerabilities, among local community, local government institutions and local level officials of the implementing entities. There is also an absence of accountability to build capacity of the stakeholders, including local community. The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) should frame an immediate agreement on considering the CLA framework/strategy for sharing knowledge, replication of best practices, innovate the effective CLA models, mobilise resources and most importantly on community-led monitoring of implementation of CLA projects. Effective Vulnerability Assessment for Effective CLA Since vulnerability is a local phenomenon, the ultimate solution should come from the affected stakeholders. We must recognise that the Paris Agreement that has focused on engaging in adaptation planning processes and the implementation of actions, including the development or enhancement of relevant plans, policies and/or contributions, the assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability, with a view to formulating nationally determined prioritised actions. The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Bangladesh has already initiated a vulnerability risk assessment, however, this assessment should be local or area-specific, and participatory, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems. Finance for Community-led Adaptation (CLAF) Regarding adaptation finance at the local level either community or LGIs, it has been observed that in most cases, the usual focus of policy makers is on traditional channels, from top to bottom through multiple channels. But, it has been identified that direct financing of LGIs and generating funds/donations from local community is cost-effective and efficient. For instance, from the BCCTF not a single UP or Upazilla Parishad got direct funding. Moreover, the proposed Climate Fiscal Framework has sealed off the scope of direct funding to local community. In case of CLAF, LGI in collaboration with CBOs could play vital role to build capacity, integrated planning, pool resources to finance the CLA project/program and community monitoring. A real political will and commitment of policy makers are required for mainstreaming the CLA with the sustainable development process in each vulnerable country. The most important is that the vulnerable communities have shown that it is time to elevate from CBA to CLA and CLAF is not a myth, rather reality due to successful implementation of hundreds of cost-effective adaptation projects (from planning to implementation) across the world by the full ownership of the community.

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