World Resource Institute

Role of Development Partners in Adaptation Planning

By Philip M. Gwage, Head, Data Processing and Applied Meteorology Division, Department of Meteorology, Government of Uganda

Question Three: How can development agencies help vulnerable countries adapt effectively? What are appropriate roles for development agencies in supporting national-level decision-making processes for a changing climate? Specifically, how can they promote planning and policies that are robust, durable and sufficiently flexible to respond to and prepare for the many challenges posed by climate change, including its uncertainties, long-term impacts and surprises?

Drawing from personal experience in Uganda, it is clear that while development partners do not directly participate in the development of National Development Plans or sectoral policies and plans, they are consulted. Their direct collaboration with civil society organizations provides an additional avenue to directly influence local and community level planning. Implementation of development activities by civil society organizations increases benefits per unit of investment by reducing bureaucracy and overhead. Additionally, when development partners work with civil society organizations operating at the grass roots level, they are able to encourage and promote the application of indigenous technologies and knowledge effective for climate adaptation.

1. Introduction

The latest climate science, backed by observed wide spread occurrence of extreme weather and climate events and associated impacts,is disturbing and awakening the international community. Climate change is a serious challenge and is undermining development efforts and increasing the burden on the poorest people, who are often hardest hit by weather catastrophes, desertification, and rising sea levels, but who have contributed the least to the problem of global warming. Assisting the most vulnerable countries and elements of societies is thus an increasing challenge and duty for the international community because adaptation to climate change requires significant resources in addition to what is already needed to achieve internationally agreed-on development objectives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The size of the support for adaptation is dependent on scale of impacts, area covered and vulnerability. The current floods in Pakistan and China clearly demonstrate the magnitude of the climate change problem.

Climate change will exacerbate existing economic, political and humanitarian stresses. It will compound existing water scarcity problems, increase the number of people suffering water stress, reduce access to safe drinking water and exacerbate food insecurity in many countries, particularly least developed countries. 

2. Adaptation defined

Adaptation is "adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities." There are two types of adaptation: reactive or autonomous and planned adaptation. Reactive or autonomous adaptation is immediate reaction to a disaster where time is limited to carry out detailed analysis and determine the best course of action. Planned adaptation is a response to predicted change in climate or climate scenario. It involves deliberate policy decisions by individuals, communities or public agencies to minimize vulnerability of persons, communities, ecosystem or sector(s) based on an awareness that conditions have changed or are about to change and that action is required to return to, maintain, or achieve a desired state. There is adequate time to carry out a detailed analysis of potential impacts and vulnerability assessment, as well as identify adaptation options and develop strategies to execute the planned adaptation. 

At national level adaptive capacity is the ability of a country to anticipate, plan and respond to impacts of climate change to minimize vulnerability of its infrastructure, ecosystems and natural resources. This can be extended to community level as the ability of a community, ecosystem, region or system to adjust to the impacts of adverse effects of climate change. Adjustments refer to changes in processes, practices or structures to moderate or offset potential damage, or to take advantage of opportunities associated with changes.  At community level, adaptation involves adjustments by individuals and collective behavior to reduce vulnerabilities to impacts of adverse effects of climate variability or climate change.  The characteristics of communities, ecosystem, countries and regions influence their ability to adapt to present and future climate change impacts. Adaptive capacity is closely related to economic, social, technological and institutional conditions that facilitate or constrain the development and deployment of adaptive measures. 

Agriculture, the main source of livelihoods for the majority of the world's farmers and basis for economies, particularly in developing countries, is rainfed and highly vulnerable to the impacts of adverse effects of climate change.  Agriculture also has the potential to significantly increase its contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction. Adaptation in the agriculture sector is therefore of utmost importance.

The rapid increase in the world population is not matched with increased food production, particularly among rural poor communities in developing countries.  The world food deficit is aggravated by increasing occurrence and frequency of extreme weather and climate events.  Increasing climate variability and climate change coupled with poor agricultural practices is frustrating food production efforts. There is growing acceptance that current policies and practices have failed to feed the world's most vulnerable people, adapt to changing environmental conditions and protect the ecosystems that sustain the world.

3. National Planning

The UN Climate Change Convention recognizes that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing country Parties.  The Convention also commits Parties to integrate adaptation into development planning. Many developing countries, if not all, have embedded poverty eradication in their national development plans. Some developing countries have developed poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) or poverty eradication action plans (PEAPs). These policies have guided or influenced development of sectoral policies and plans. For instance in Uganda the PEAP guided the formulation of sectoral policies and plans until the launching of the National Development Plan (NDP) in 2010.

National Planning Levers in Uganda

The NDP, covering the fiscal period 2010/11 to 2014/15, outlines Uganda's medium term strategic direction, development priorities and implementation strategies. The overall objective of the NDP is to stimulate, encourage and promote infrastructure development, including social infrastructure, as well as creating the conducive investment environment to facilitate active participation of the private sector in the social and economic development of Uganda. The theme of the NDP is "growth, employment and socio-economic transformation for prosperity." The thrust is to accelerate socio-economic transformation to achieve the National Vision: "œtransform Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years." The National Vision provides the overall strategic planning framework for the NDP. The National Vision and the NDP guides the development of sectoral policies and plans to achieve Uganda's overall development goal.

The NDP is the primary government national strategic plan, the anchor for government fiscal strategy, and lower level or sectoral plans. It will further guide decision-making and implementation of government programmes including the annual budget process, and the prioritization and direction of government actions. During the Plan period, the investment priorities will include: physical infrastructure development, mainly in energy, railway, waterways and air transport; human resources development in areas of education, skills, health, water and sanitation; facilitating availability of and access to critical production inputs especially in agriculture and industry; and promotion of science, technology and innovation.

The NDP, while focusing on removing physical barriers to sustain high rates of economic growth, does not lose sight of the necessary changes required to achieve gains in social development, as well as strategies to mitigate emerging challenges, including climate change. It is therefore a tool for prioritizing government interventions and mobilizing external resources.

4. Role of development partners: Uganda's experience

Economic growth is private sector driven with governments and development partners playing a facilitating role through the development of infrastructure, including legal policy reforms. In recognition of the importance of the roles played by development partners, the private sector, academia and civil society, the President of Uganda, at the launching of the NDP, invited them to joins hands with government to realize the National Vision.

In Uganda the development partners (DPs), comprising of bilateral, multilateral and UN agencies, have instituted the Development Partner Group (DPG) to coordinate and harmonize their efforts to support the government.  The chairmanship of the group rotates among them.  The DPG interfaces with sectoral groups by participating in sectoral meetings according to their specific area of support.   The DPs in Uganda organized a retreat in April 2010 to discuss coordination of climate change activities and agreed that existing institutions namely the Climate Change Unit (CCU) in the Ministry of Water and Environment, the sectoral working groups and DPG should continue to be used.

Development partners play an important role in the socio-economic development of many developing countries.  This may be through budgetary support, projects/programmes and technical assistance.  Some DPs are directly supporting  climate change related activities of civil society organizations in their area of responsibility.  Some have gone an extra yard by instituting mechanisms to stimulate private sector development, particularly micro enterprises, including micro finance to fund small scale enterprises. Increasingly DPs are playing an important role in supporting implementation of mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions (promoting sustainable development) and adaptation to adverse impacts of climate change. 

In Uganda, United Nations agencies, led by the World Food Programme, have developed the UN Joint Action Framework on Climate Change for Uganda.  The Framework focuses on disaster reduction and risk management, sectoral adaptation and planning, enhancing economic and social resilience, mitigation and enabling measures (capacity building, financing and technology).  Each of the UN agencies plays its role within its area of expertise.  Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and land use management are areas of special focus because of their dual roles (mitigation and adaptation). 

Bilateral DPs have also initiated climate change programmes, with adaptation and capacity building as integral components.  The most notable of these programmes is the Royal Danish Government Support, which established the Climate Change Unit (CCU) in the Ministry of Water and Environment as well as supporting implementation of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) and development of a climate change policy for Uganda.  The CCU coordinates Uganda's response to the climate change challenge and also liaises with other institutions outside Uganda, particularly UN agencies and intergovernmental institutions.  While the support to governments can be coordinated at national and local government levels it is more difficult and challenging to harmonize at community level. A coordination dialogue, including well established civil society organizations working at community level could provide one solution. 

 There are several activities that have been initiated by DPs with other organizations, particularly civil society organizations which are not known to the CCU.  Some DPs are also directly giving support to civil society organizations in their area of responsibility.  Some have gone an extra yard by instituting mechanisms to stimulate the development of private sector, particularly micro enterprises, including micro finance.

While the DPs do not directly participate in the development of NDPs or sectoral policies and plans, they are consulted.  Also their direct collaboration with civil society organization provides an additional avenue to directly influence local and community level planning.  Implementation of development activities by civil society organizations has an added advantage of reduced bureaucracy and overheads thus increasing benefits per unit of investment.  This is an important factor when considering minimizing the vulnerability of communities, natural resources and ecosystems. 

Development and adaptation decision making:

Access to power/electricity is a basic social and economic development need.  Power generation and its distribution is a pre-requisite for social and economic development in any country.  Yet power generation from fuels emits greenhouse gases, which cause climate change; in other words, the quest for development has fuelled global warming. 

Climate change is relatively new and therefore not well understood by either governments or development partners.  Climate change will impact negatively on infrastructure, including social infrastructure and natural resources, the basis for production and the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries, thus frustrating development efforts. DPs for quite a while have categorized climate change as an environment issue.  However, this thinking is now changing and several DPs are integrating climate change into their development portfolios.

Although governmental, social, environmental and legal frameworks and programmes exist in developing countries, re-enforcement mechanisms are generally weak, resulting in policies which are decorating bookshelves and gathering dust.  While generally decision making is not an issue because of the desire of many developing country governments to minimize vulnerability of infrastructure, natural resources, ecosystems and communities, the means required for full and effective implementation of adaptation decisions at national, local government and community level is lacking. There are many competing needs at the time of making the resource allocation decision and also lack of technical and weak institutional capacity. For instance, in the case of reactive adaptation, how can a decision, once made, be quickly and effectively implemented to minimize causalities or losses?   Is the institutional framework, including mobilization and coordination, functional to meet the challenge?  More than often the institutional framework is either weak or non-existent. Institutional frameworks must be an integral part of national or regional adaptation plans.  Hard decisions to support institutional strengthening must be taken.  Such decisions can be equated to an insurance policy.  Therefore there is need for a medium to long-term strategy to invest in institutional development.  This is an area that has received very little attention if any and yet is critically important for implementing adaptation activities, particularly reactive adaptation.  No meaningful adaptation can also be implemented without a functional national early warning system.  Establishing and strengthening early warning system is therefore a necessity.

Climate change response requires the widest participation at all levels thus necessitating establishment of a coordinating institution at the national level.  In Uganda the CCU performs this role.  Such a coordinating institution must bring together public, academia, civil society to debate and contribute to adaptation plans.  Such a forum must also be open to DPs to enable them to understand government plans and programmes and to incorporate these into their own activities.

5. Innovative adaptation approaches: a role for development partners

Indigenous technologies, including food storage technologies, have played and will continue to play an important role in coping with disasters such as famine.  These technologies are generally localized and therefore their full potential has not been realized. 

DPs are increasingly playing a key role in capturing and disseminating indigenous technologies through implementation of development/adaptation activities at community level.  Local communities traditionally have very good knowledge of local climates and seasons.  Until recently, seasons were predictable and dependable, particularly the onset and cessation of rain seasons.  Droughts and delayed onset of rain seasons were infrequent.  However, with increasing climate variability and climate change the knowledge of local climate is less useful, hence the need to access weather and climate information.  Communities are now aware of the increased frequency of extreme weather and climate events and the unpredictable onset of rain seasons.  Coping with these changes is a great challenge to communities.

There are many least cost adaptation technologies which have not been widely exploited such as small scale drip irrigation, runoff water harvesting and organic agriculture.  Peasants in some communities have hung polythene bags filled with water on fruit trees to water them.  Some have extended road drainage channels to their fields and used the water thus harvested to water fruit trees or tomato trees.  The cost of such technologies is negligible and yet when widely applied they can have significant benefits. 

Organic agriculture (OA) is a holistic production management system that avoids use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, minimizes air, soil and water pollution and optimizes the health and productivity of interdependent communities of plants, animals and people. It enhances biodiversity, protects fragile soils, improves the nutritional quality of food, ensures high standards of animal welfare and provides increased employment in rural areas.  It also builds resilient farming systems and therefore is an adaptation technology.  When used it leads to improved food security, increased household income and therefore poverty reduction. 

Organic matter also enhances drainage in soils, significantly reducing the risks from water logging and surface flooding.  OA increases the ability of farming systems to continue functioning when faced with the adverse effects of climate change by increasing resilience within an agro-system. It has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers) and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through soil carbon sequestration thus increasing soil fertility and therefore increased agricultural productivity.  It further reduces fossil fuel energy use, cuts nutrient and pesticide pollution and stops potentially harmful pesticide residues entering the food chain.  OA also opens the window of opportunity for farming communities to benefit from the carbon market but much needs to be done in order to tap into this opportunity.  We need to climate proof our farms, infrastructure and our livelihoods, particularly the most vulnerable in order to minimize our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

Such high value initiatives would benefit greatly from increased DP support. There are several DPs already supporting the agricultural sector in Uganda with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) being the most prominent and best placed to champion implementation of OA.  FAO is also taking the lead in promoting REDD and land use management under the UN Joint Action Framework on Climate Change.  Capacity building should be an integral component of support to promote application of organic agriculture. 

6. Conclusion

The magnitude of impacts of climate change can be huge as evidence by the recent floods in Pakistan and the floods and landslides in China. Disasters of such magnitude are difficult for any single nation to contain.  Inevitably both human and property losses are high.  However, these losses can be significantly reduced or minimized if proper land and forest management practices are adopted and practiced.  For example, the 1983 Ugandan Bududa landslides could have been avoided if the affected peasant population had taken technical advice provided by the then Forestry Department but they were encouraged to dig their own graves unknowingly by local politicians seeking their votes.

DPs are encouraged to work with civil society organizations at the grass root level to encourage and promote application of indigenous technologies, including land management technologies. Land is where the struggle to adapt to climate change will be won or lost by the poorest of the poor.