Building Climate Change Adaptation on Community ExperiencesBy:
Climate change adaptation is an urgent, yet insufficiently funded priority for poor communities who are already exposed to existing climatic and non-climatic stresses. Community-based adaptation (CBA) can utilise the opportunities and experiences provided by non-climate initiatives that have enabled these communities to deal with other stresses, and in so doing, have established capacity, institutions and models for communities to deal with a range of stresses with minimum outside support. In southern Africa, community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) has used an incentive-led approach to revolutionise conservation and development by devolving responsibility.
The rationale for promoting cross-learning between CBNRM and CBA is that adapting to climate change is a learning process that involves balancing current priorities and vulnerabilities with addressing the likely impacts of future and yet uncertain climatic trends. Long-term, sustainable adaptation is going to be based on locally-based approaches rather than top-down, externally driven interventions, which are mostly dictated by the flow of external resources. While external resources are key to facilitating communities to adapt to climate change, vulnerable communities cannot sit and solely depend on externally-driven approaches. To compound this, there are no universal and standard tried and tested models for adapting to the climates of the future. In most cases, communities need to build on their experiences in addressing existing climate variability and other livelihood and development stresses. Investments made in building capacity in these areas will generate large multiplier effects as communities transfer and adapt this knowledge and experience to climate change adaptation.
This paper analyses the linkages between community-based adaptation to climate change (CBA) and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) and identifies synergies that enable the two approaches to benefit from each other. Understanding such linkages will promote the transfer of knowledge between climate change adaptation and other fields. The linkages between CBNRM and CBA exist at the operational, institutional, policy and economic levels. While the linkages apply to all countries in all regions, this paper uses southern African experiences to illustrate the potential synergies between the two concepts. It however builds the arguments for such synergies from the conceptual underpinnings of CBA and CBNRM to their practical applications as far as experience with these concepts go. By focusing on community-based adaptation, we cover the majority of the most vulnerable people, and reinforce bottom-up adaptation rather than top-down interventions. It is based on a desktop review of literature on community-based natural resource management and community-based adaptation as well as several case studies, mostly from southern Africa. It is also based on consultations with key stakeholders in the region and other experts.
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Recommended Document Citation
Chishakwe, N., Murray, L., & Chambwera M. (2012). Building climate change adaptation on community experiences: Lessons from community-based natural resource management in southern Africa. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.