Grassroots climate adaptation efforts paying off

01 Mar 2010 13:54:00 GMT
Written by: Laurie Goering

Farmers in Kazakhstan are turning to winter irrigation to replace declining snowfalls, which are also shrinking glaciers like Manshuk Mametova in Kazakhstan's northern Tien Shan mountains. Photo: Reuters
Farmers in Kazakhstan are turning to winter irrigation to replace declining snowfalls, which are also shrinking glaciers like Manshuk Mametova in Kazakhstan’s northern Tien Shan mountains. Photo: Reuters


Building climate change adaptations that works will require focusing on community-based ideas, then starting small and scaling up what works. 

That’s been the thinking for some time, but early results from a community adaptation push backed by the U.N. Development Program and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) seem to bear it out. 

Through small grants of up to $50,000, the organizations are supporting community-proposed adaptation projects in 29 countries, ranging from efforts to improve watershed management in Bolivia to reducing coastal erosion in Samoa. 

“We’re not even halfway through the pilot phase and we’re already seeing extremely promising results. This is clearly shaping up to be one of the very best adaptation investments we can make, quickly delivering tangible improvements to human well-being,” said Delfin Ganapin, head of the GEF small grants effort that is being implemented through the UN Development Program. 

In a speech in Dar es Salaam last week, he called for support for an expansion of such grassroots efforts, saying the best way to prevent an erosion of the progress made in combating poverty worldwide was to “reach out directly to the most vulnerable and empower them to adapt and build resilience to climate impacts.” 

The world’s poorest and most vulnerable, who have the fewest resources available to adapt, are expected to be disproportionately hurt by the effects of climate change, including more intense storms, worsened flooding, drought and erosion, and an expansion in the ranges of various pests and diseases. 

Small island states, low-lying and heavily populated delta and coastal regions, and countries already prone to drought, erosion and problems like conflict and poor governance are expected to be worst hit, experts say. The new grant program works in many of those environments, from Nambia to Kazakhstan to the Mekong Delta. 

Charles Nyandiga, of the UN Development Programs’ environment and energy group, said the model the effort was using – communities identifying how they’d like to address a problem, and international bodies providing the funding and some expertise – was an efficient way of addressing problems, and one that helped build expertise on the ground and improve local capacity. 

“It’s a simple approach that works well because it is built around the obvious fact that each community has its own particular endowment of opportunities and challenges that must be taken into consideration,” Nyandiga said. 

“By definition this puts the people of each community and their civil society organizations at the centre of the effort, from design to implementation. It cannot work any other way,” he said.Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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