‘To strengthen dry land agricultural systems, we must not focus on problems but on internal strengths and external opportunities.’ (CRS, ODI, ICRISAT 2002)
The evidence that human induced climate change will affect many parts of the developing world is scientifically accepted (IPCC 2001). Africa and Asia have been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as two of the major continents which will be most adversely affected. Much of the evidence for future impacts of climate change is based on global circulation model (GCM) results and more down-scaled regional climate models (RCMs) which generate future climate change scenarios and their potential impacts (IPCC 2001). However, human civilisation has been adapting to climatic conditions for a millennia. There is a great deal of knowledge and experience of coping with adverse climatic conditions, particularly in developing countries whose peoples and economies are more dependent on climate dependent activities. The Linking Climate Adaptation (LCA) case studies aim to collect examples of such experiences of coping with changing climatic conditions in three countries in Asia (China, India and Bangladesh) and three countries in Africa (Senegal, Kenya and Zimbabwe). The purpose was to seek lessons on how communities, institutions and countries were able to develop coping strategies to deal with the adverse climate conditions with a view to designing future adaptation strategies for dealing with human induced climate change.
The range of countries included large rapidly industrialising ones (such as China and India) as well as smaller, natural resource-based economies (such as Senegal, Kenya and Zimbabwe). The case studies represented a range of climate impacts and levels of responses ranging from small communities (in India, Zimbabwe and Kenya), regions (e.g. in China) to entire countries (e.g. Bangladesh). The main actors involved in undertaking adaptation also varied from local communities themselves (e.g. in Zimbabwe and India) to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (e.g. Kenya), to regional governments (e.g. China) to national governments (Bangladesh). The climate stimulus that caused the actions also varied from drought (Kenya, Zimbabwe) to winds (Senegal) to floods (Bangladesh) and temperature changes (China). While most of the perceived climate impacts were negative (e.g. droughts, winds and floods), one was perceived to be positive (temperature changes in northeast China). Impacts included extreme events, such as floods, slow onset events such as droughts (Bangladesh, India, Zimbabwe and Kenya), as well as long-term trends such as increased mean temperature (China) and wind and precipitation changes (Senegal).
Rather than starting with GCM/RCM-derived impacts, the LCA case studies sought to identify recent (i.e. in the last few years) climatic impacts, which had been observed and perceived to be of major significance by the communities themselves. The studies examined what actions had been taken by different actors to adapt to the perceived changed climatic conditions focusing on different types of communities within the country. The case studies then tried to examine the ways in which each set of actors developed their respective strategies and overcame barriers on the way. The role of institutions and of funding was also examined as a key variable (in order to draw lessons for designing future interventions at the institutional and funding level).
The six case studies are included in this IDS Bulletin. The editorial overview provides the conceptual and methodological aspects of the LCA Project, including the case studies, in more detail. The main lessons from the case studies are drawn out in this article.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 36.4 (2005) Linking Climate Adaptation and Development: A Synthesis of Six Case Studies from Asia and Africa