Microgrants initiative targets local solutions for climate adaptation

This article is supported by the Adaptation Research Alliance.

[NAIROBI] Attempts by women in a Kenyan village to combat drought quickly ran into problems: they lacked money and know-how to construct a borehole and when they asked an NGO for help were thwarted by paperwork and bureaucratic procedures.

“The requirements for funding were too rigid. We could not even complete the paperwork, which was too technical,” says Peninah Awuor, the head of the village community group in Siaya County, about 400 miles west of the capital, Nairobi.

Their case illustrates the barriers many farmers face in seeking solutions to climate-related problems. But a financing initiative launched at the UN climate summit (COP27) in Egypt in November aims to break the blockage by supporting research-based, locally-led climate adaptation measures in the global South.

“Many of the existing policy frameworks to address global South woes including climate change don’t work because they were fashioned by people who are not in touch with the reality on the ground.”

Jeremiah Owiti, executive director, Centre for Independent Research, Kenya

The Grassroots Action Research Micro-Grants is the brainchild of the Adaptation Research Alliance (The ARA), a global coalition committed to scaling up the research for impact on climate adaptation.

“Funding for research conducted by organisations in the global South is still very low,” says Suzanne Carter, the ARA’s lead on partnerships and engagement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change., an NGO in the ARA coalition that supports national and regional responses to climate change through policy and knowledge interventions.

Research should be led by local people, not researchers flown from outside, she told SciDev.Net.

“Building capacity and skills may require that there are still roles for non-local researchers, but changing the power dynamic to a more southern-led model ensures that the local context is always kept foremost,” she added.

The initiative seeks to connect groups trying to help different communities adapt to global warming, says the ARA. By focusing on research that makes an impact, the programme hopes to generate evidence on adaptation solutions in collaboration with the people most affected by climate change, and with the urgency demanded by climate scientists.

Grants of £15,000 (US$182,000) will aim to address issues identified by local stakeholders, and identify and elevate knowledge gaps from the bottom up.

The result, it is hoped, will be a collaborative research process that explores appropriate responses.

‘Woefully short’

Improvement is needed in adaptation because current practice falls woefully short of what is required, in nature and extent, according to the latest United Nations Environment Programme Adaptation Gap report.

The report, “Too little, too slow”, says adaptation remains largely incremental, typically does not address future risks from climate change, and may reinforce existing vulnerabilities or introduce new risks—particularly for the most vulnerable—by inadequately involving stakeholders and not paying sufficient attention to local contexts and power dynamics.

International adaptation finance flows to developing countries are up to ten times below estimated needs, says the report, while estimated annual adaptation needs are projected to reach US$160-340 billion by 2030 and US$315-565 billion by 2050.

Some progress was achieved at the international meeting in Egypt, with additional contributions totalling more than US$230 million made to the Adaptation Fund, established in 2001 to finance adaptation programmes in developing countries.

Governments also agreed at the summit to develop a framework to advance the Global Goal on Adaptation, to increase climate resilience among the most vulnerable. The agreement will be completed at COP28 in 2023 and inform the first “global stocktake”, a two-year process for assessing the implementation of the Paris Agreement (the legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015).

Initiatives such as the ARA’s research micro-grants are seen as just a starting point in tackling a problem that needs addressing at every level. The grants are intended to help identify pressing issues facing communities and start the process of co-creating solutions.

“The value of these grants is small and is therefore only intended to kick-start the process,” says Carter. “The burning issue identified may need a much longer-term intervention to address.

“By bringing together all the relevant actors there’s a solid foundation to build from and apply for other grants, climate finance or development assistance as may be appropriate.”

Success stories

Bruce Currie-Alder, climate resilience programme lead at Canada’s International Development Research Centre, described the ARA model as “the next step in adaptation research, turning it towards implementation and connecting to the practical needs and demand for guidance, knowledge and inspiration on how to live well in a changing climate”.

He noted that there were many examples of success stories of radical collaboration following the so-called “research-for-impact principle” espoused by ARA. He cited as an example the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa (CARIAA), which involved over 450 participants across more than 40 organisations in 15 African countries.

“Within four years [IDRC] collectively contributed to more than 20 local or national plans and strategies, including insights on how people move away from coastal erosion to seizing opportunity for women agency,” he said.

Jeremiah Owiti, executive director of the Centre for Independent Research, a private research and policy think-tank based in Nairobi, welcomed ARA’s search for a bottom-up solution for climate vulnerabilities.

“It is this kind of bottom-up approach we in the public policy space have been agitating for many years,” Owiti, who is not involved in the ARA initiative, told SciDev.Net: “Many of the existing policy frameworks to address global South woes including climate change don’t work because they were fashioned by people who are not in touch with the reality on the ground.”

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.

This article is supported by the Adaptation Research Alliance. The ARA is a global coalition which supports action-oriented research to inform adaptation solutions and reduce risks from climate change.

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