Published | 6th May 2014

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Integrating Community Based Adaptation into Local Government Planning: Joto Afrika

Governments across Africa are committed to ensure that adaptation to climate change
is included in relevant national policies and plans. They are developing and resourcing national adaptation plans, but there is growing recognition that all government plans – development, risk reduction and sector based – are affected by climate change impacts, particularly at the local level.

Adaptation is therefore not an issue to be addressed in isolation in specific programmes, but must be integrated into mainstream planning processes and development implementation. Development and sector plans and budgets need to be based on actions that will result in climate resilient development, whether or not finance specific to adaptation has been accessed. There is growing recognition of the need to focus on resilience over the long term in the face of increasingly frequent, uncertain and extreme weather and climate related events as well as changing development opportunities and challenges. Interconnections between local, national and global levels are increasingly complex and dynamic. Actions that are decided locally are informed by local conditions and are better able to respond to the locally felt impacts of climate change. While convinced of the need, many governments are facing challenges on how, practically, to integrate adaptation to climate change into local planning.

This Joto Afrika presents some initial successes in Ghana, Niger and Kenya. They stress the importance of accessing, understanding and responding flexibly to two key areas of information in order to succeed in achieving climate resilient development and resultant benefits on a continuous basis over the long term. Firstly, understanding the vulnerabilities, capacities and development priorities and aspirations of people and secondly, accessing and interpreting climate information from past trends and future forecasts into accessible and usable messages relevant to the local conditions. The articles are drawn from experiences of the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP), implemented by CARE International since 2010. ALP supports the practical development of approaches for community based adaptation, based on direct testing and experience with communities and also with government, civil society and other actors at local to national levels. A key lesson has been that adaptation is about decision making processes as much as technical interventions. To be adapted and climate resilient, interventions must be decided through an informed planning process together with the people whose lives are affected by climate change. Hence participatory planning processes at community and local government level are critical. Articles from Niger and Ghana show how such processes are being integrated and coordinated with the mainstream planning systems up to national level.

Seasonal weather varies from year to year while the long term impacts of climate change will occur ten years and more into the future. These are very different timescales from government planning and project cycles, which are challenged to find ways to respond. There is need for coordination, or better still, integration between development planning and early warning, disaster risk reduction systems and emergency response planning. An example is given from Niger – also showing the challenges to existing practices for a truly integrated and locally determined system which delivers resilient development.

Participatory scenario planning using seasonal forecasts in Kenya demonstrates how multi-stakeholder planning forums can add value and flexibility to local government plans. Beyond Africa, the 7th International conference on community based adaptation (CBA7) in 2013 demonstrated a strong demand for strengthening adaptive capacity as well as government transparency and accountability as criteria for success. Across all the articles, the common message emerging is a strong call for additional financial resources to be allocated to adaptation to be able to turn plans into action and thence into resilient futures for those most vulnerable to climate change.

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