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Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in Kenya: Lessons from Makueni and Wajir Counties

Intensifying climate change impacts, such as more frequent, prolonged droughts, threaten to unravel the progress that Kenya has made advancing its sustainable development agenda and to stymie future gains. Like many policymakers around the world, Kenyan officials recognize that mainstreaming adaptation into their development plans and policies across all sectors can improve the resilience of development outcomes, maximize the efficiency of limited resources and help decision-makers avoid maladaptive investments. At the national level, Kenya has made considerable progress in building resilience through its National Adaptation Plan, and the government is now supporting local efforts to mainstream adaptation into County Integrated Development Plans (CIPDs) by establishing County Climate Change Funds (CCCFs). These innovative institutions provide the financial and technical assistance that county officials need to propose, prioritize and implement climate resilience actions.

Analyzing progress made mainstreaming adaptation into five counties’ CIPDs, this working paper identifies two local governments that have emerged as early leaders: Makueni and Wajir. It examines the challenges that all counties have faced, highlights factors that have enabled Makueni and Wajir to overcome these barriers faster than the others and recommends strategies that can support efforts to integrate resilience into CIPDs across Kenya’s 47 counties. More specifically, it assesses the extent to which the CCCFs have accelerated both planning and implementation of mainstreamed adaptation actions as well as evaluates preliminary indications that the newly created projects are beginning to build resilience. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mainstreaming, this paper underscores the important role that access to finance, robust stakeholder engagement and capacity building can play in advancing the implementation of climate-resilient, sustainable development initiatives around the world.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

Mainstreaming adaptation—which entails integrating climate risks and actions into development planning across sectors and from the national to the local level—is essential for making development more resilient to climate change. However, it is challenging for many reasons, including a lack of information on climate risks and limited capacity to integrate climate information into development planning.

This paper examines the process of mainstreaming climate risks into county-level development plans in Kenya through two case studies. It highlights the enabling factors and challenges that two counties—Makueni and Wajir—have encountered in mainstreaming climate risks based on interviews with Kenya’s Council of Governors and county governments and an analysis of county plans.

Comparisons between counties show that Makueni and Wajir have made strong progress on mainstreaming climate change adaptation by establishing County Climate Change Funds, which have enabled adaptation planners to incorporate climate information and prioritize adaptation measures in their County Integrated Development Plans.

The experiences of Makueni and Wajir Counties illustrate the challenges of integrating adaptation into planning, which can be addressed by expanding learning and strengthening institutional memory among county- and ward-level planners on how to apply climate information to planning processes, improve fund management and enhance guidance on selecting and implementing appropriate adaptation measures.


Kenya is highly vulnerable to climate change, and intensifying climate change impacts pose mounting challenges to the progress the country has made toward achieving its development goals. National and local governments in Kenya have recognized that mainstreaming adaptation into development plans and policies across sectors is essential for better management of the increasing risks from climate change and for building resilience—as have governments around the world. Mainstreaming adaptation into development plans and policies can improve the resilience of development outcomes, contribute to a more efficient use of resources and help avoid investments that unintentionally lead to maladaptation (Mogelgaard et al. 2018).

Kenya is making progress on building resilience through its National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and by engaging its Council of Governors and county governments in the process of establishing County Climate Change Funds (CCCFs) and mainstreaming climate information (e.g., data on risks, hazards, vulnerabilities and adaptation actions) into County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs). However, decision-makers there, as in other locations, are finding it challenging to move from planning to implementation. Some Kenyan counties are progressing rapidly toward this goal, while others are lagging.

This paper compares progress across five counties to identify how two of them, Makueni and Wajir, have been able to mainstream adaptation more quickly than the others. It also explores the challenges these counties have encountered and what can be done to address them. It looks at the effectiveness of CCCFs in accelerating mainstreaming of adaptation into planning and the extent to which climate information has been integrated into CIDPs. It also discusses preliminary indications that newly implemented adaptation projects are beginning to build resilience.


  • County governments, the Council of Governors and national government agencies can apply the lessons learned from this research as they work to improve how climate risks are mainstreamed into development plans and speed up implementation of adaptation actions.
  • County governments can engage with local universities and extension officers who can offer training to new government staff unfamiliar with climate change. This will help improve retention of climate change knowledge at the county and ward levels.
  • County governments can manage funds with due diligence so that disruptions in funding do not hinder adaptation activities from being implemented.
  • The Council of Governors can share lessons learned and good practices from Wajir and Makueni with environment and development planners across counties and wards so that they can incorporate this information in their planning. One way would be by modifying the existing virtual knowledge-sharing platform to make it more accessible at the ward level. National-level agencies such as the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources could support this effort.
  • Kenyan government representatives could share the experiences of Makueni and Wajir Counties with other countries that are facing mainstreaming challenges. Lessons from Kenya could spark ideas for other countries on how best to mainstream climate risks so that development can be climate resilient.

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