Published | 17th July 2017

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Adaptation Planning with Communities: Learning from Practice in Embu County, Kenya

The Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) for Africa has been testing and refining approaches to community-based adaptation (CBA) with communities in the drylands in Ghana, Niger, Kenya and Mozambique, promoting the integration of these approaches into local and national government systems and programmes, and into those of other African countries.

Community Adaptation Action Planning or CAAP – a participatory planning process – has been at the heart of this learning. It provides a platform for facilitating community participation and empowerment, devising forward-looking and proactive strategies, and for forming more trusting relationships between actors whose collaboration is required for tackling climate change.

Earlier experiences from Ghana, Niger and Kenya resulted in the documentation of a step-by-step approach in Practitioner Brief 1: “Adaptation Planning with Communities”. This document presents a short summary of the latest learning on this practice, based on the application of CAAP in Kenya’s Embu County, in 2015 and 2016.

Key Messages:

The added value of adaptation planning with communities:

  1. Planning as an ‘eye opener’ Community Adaptation Action Planning is a framework for systematically identifying, prioritising and addressing key challenges facing the communities. It helps them become aware of and analyse the interdependent dynamics of poverty, vulnerability, climate change impacts. As such it has played the role of an eye opener for communities affected by climate change and local partners.
  2. Boosting agency and confidence: Community Adaptation Action Planning should serve as a starting point and structures for communities affected by climate change to identify and get organized to apply selected adaptation strategies. This helps foster proactive attitudes and collective action.
  3. Improving trust and relationships between government and communities affected by climate change: Community Adaptation Action Planning is a multi-stakeholder process increasing the visibility of challenges faced by local communities while at the same time increasing understanding of the role of different local government agencies in helping address them. This has been shown to improve relationships between government services, and between them and communities.
  4. Strengthening informed and anticipatory decision-making: The interplay between different elements and products of the Community Adaptation Action Planning process and related processes (such as Participatory Scenario Planning) strengthens people’s ability – in terms of both information access and skills – to make more forward-looking and anticipatory livelihood decisions. This results in a multiplier effect of incremental benefits whereby people, over time, learn to apply a number of autonomous and externally supported adaptation strategies flexibly, in response to changing circumstances and forecasts.

Tweaking the design of the community adaptation action planning process:

  1. Ensuring connections between different activities at different levels: Efforts to build adaptive capacity benefit from a strong interplay between different activities, whereby information, knowledge and people circulate between different processes and levels. For example, community-level adaptation planning ideally informs local government development planning and Participatory Scenario Planning. These processes, in turn, result in valuable information and adequate resources delivered to communities. The linkages between them help ensure learning, relevance, improved relationships, accountability, as well as participation and demand for services from the local population.
  2. Acting on differential vulnerability: The Community Adaptation Action Planning process and related processes entail various steps revealing how different social groups are affected by climatic and livelihood trends, and who is most vulnerable and why. However, these nuances often seem to disappear further down the line when the planning processes focus on identifying strategies. The process needs to be designed and facilitated in such a way that the realities and needs of the most vulnerable groups are reflected not just in initial analysis but, crucially, in the outcome. The chosen strategies need to be relevant and accessible to different population groups, in particular to very poor households.
  3. Creating the conditions for ongoing learning: Adaptation to a changing context, such as our environment in a changing climate, is a process of continued learning. Translated into practice, this means creating processes or spaces for reflection on what is working and what is not, and why. It also means creating conditions – both in programme design and within organizational ways of working – whereby people can respond to emerging learning with a change in tack, away from something that is not working or toward something that is picking up momentum.
  4. Implementing and gaining support for adaptation action plans: Effective, systematic implementation of adaptation action plans, requires;
  • Mobilizing external finance: Strategies that would bring the most substantial improvements, such as, in Embu’s case, dams and domestic water supply, often require significant external financial support.
  • Linkages with local development planning: The CAAP approach, in theory, foresees the integration of CAAPs into local government planning cycles which often proves complicated in practice. It is important to remember that influencing local government is not necessarily best achieved via formal processes but often by building strong, lasting relationships with individuals and institutions whose vision and goodwill are crucial for helping adaptation planning succeed.
  • Community capacity: People taking on responsibilities in representing, planning for and mobilising their communities often lack fund raising skills, leadership skills and time. Strong community leadership in particular is instrumental for community organization, self-reliance and empowerment – including women’s empowerment – but such leadership skills appear to be the exception from the norm. Adaptation planning therefore needs to be accompanied by, or integrated with, a strengthening of the required skillset.
  • Lifting barriers for women’s groups and youth: Inclusive and effective implementation of action plans requires ways of working and organizing which help lift the barriers to the participation of women and young people who, in many places, are under-represented in community leadership and local government.
  • Provisions for a sustained planning effort: As climate change adaptation is not a one-off exercise but an ongoing process, Community Adaptation Action Planning, too, requires continuity to deliver sustained successes. This can take different shapes depending on context, needs and funding.

Download the annexes with CVCA field guides, time tables, interview questions and examples from Embu here.

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