Published | 6th December 2012

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Community Based Adaptation: Experiences from Africa

Community Based Adaptation (CBA) is increasingly popular as an approachto support vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change. Impacts are already being felt by the pastoralist and farming communities in Ghana, Niger, Kenya and Mozambique, where the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) implemented by CARE International is working. Shorter and delayed rainfallseasons, droughts, unexpected floods, and more are challenging both theirtraditional mechanisms for maintaining resilient livelihoods in the face of external challenges and the effectiveness of development opportunities.

Since early 2010, ALP has been developing and testing participatory approaches to CBA in 40 communities with 11 local governments and 8 local NGOs across the 4 countries. CARE International’s CBA framework has provided the basic unifying concept for the work. Realising the importance of adaptive capacity as a pre-condition for effective and sustainable adaptation, ALP is also working with the ACCRA local adaptive capacity framework. ALP has experienced both successes and challenges in facilitating and empowering communities to plan and implement adaptation actions which respond to their priorities and capacities. New approaches have emerged, particularly in accessing and using climate information and enabling vulnerable communities to work with probability and uncertainty so as to gain improved capacity for risk management and anticipatory decision
making.

This Joto Afrika edition highlights a number of CBA models and their outcomes at community level as experienced by ALP with lessons for effective CBA:

  1. Participatory scenario planning enables multi-stakeholder access to and discussion of seasonal weather forecasts and produces scenarios and advisories for flexible adaptation planning.
  2. Farmer field schools are a popular mechanism for building adaptive capacity in relation to resilient farming systems, promoting environmental sustainability alongside more secure production and fostering farmer innovation.
  3. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Early Warning Systems (EWS) are essential responses where extreme and chronic climatic events threaten livelihood security. Community based DRR/EWS enable more localised information on vulnerability leading to decisions and actions better suited to the local context. Introducing rain gauges to build up local knowledge and data on rainfall empowers communities in Niger and Ghana for seasonal and longer term decision making on crop variety, planting and production choices.
    Community monitors or animators help to mobilise the community, record rainfall,
    monitor risk, ensure inclusion of women and the most vulnerable and support two way communication which allows vulnerable, non literate groups to gain adaptive capacity and contribute their knowledge to adaptation planning.
    • Community based adaptation plans owned and implemented by such communities are in place in Niger following facilitation of a participatory and gendered community planning process. Local authorities are ready to include these plans and integrate adaptation in their next development planning cycle.

For an effective adaptation response nationally, government policies and plans must support systems for locally responsive adaptation decision making, with access to useful climate information and budget allocations for development and DRR plans which demonstrate adaptation and promote adaptive capacity at the local level. Civil society climate change adaptation networks, informed by local experiences of climate change and the adaptation issues discussed in the global United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process make an important contribution to policy decisions.

Recognising that women are often the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, while also having unique capacities and knowledge, and that climate change is influencing gender dynamics at community level, CBA places a particular focus on inclusion of women and ensuring greater gender equality in adaptation decision making. Rural women’s voices on the meaning of resilience give useful food for thought for CBA practitioners.

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