Capitalizing on IDRC’s experiences in Climate Change Adaptation in Africa

By Guy Jobbins

On Thursday 26 May I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit IFAD for a knowledge sharing session jointly organized by NEN and ECD and present some findings from the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) program’s work in North Africa. Some fifteen people from different departments joined in the discussion.

The CCAA program is a joint initiative of Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the UK’s Department for International Development. The program’s goal is to strengthen the capacity of African countries to adapt to climate change in ways which benefit the most vulnerable members of society. To that end, since 2006 we have supported 46 participatory action research and capacity development projects in 33 African countries. Much of CCAA’s adaptation research has focused on agriculture and rural livelihoods, but there is also significant work on human health, urban adaptation, water and coastal zones. Our capacity building program has included support for the African Climate Change Fellowship Program, which currently has a call for applications open, and the knowledge sharing platform AfricaAdapt, which is a bilingual network focused on Africa.

The presentation started with a brief overview of seven CCAA projects in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Although they deal with a range of themes, fresh water is an entry point they all share in common. You can find links to the abstracts of all these projects at the CCAA website, and there are also profiles of three projects in Morocco which have worked on agriculture and rural livelihoods, the equitable sharing of increasingly scarce water resources, and adaptation in Morocco’s north-eastern coastal areas.

These projects have helped develop adaptations to specific climate impacts, such as erosion control measures, an early warning system for cutaneous leishmaniasis outbreaks, and designs for coastal defences. However, they have also worked on two other aspects of adaptation - increasing resilience to climate impacts, and strengthening adaptive capacity.

The communities these projects work with already face significant development challenges. A key aspect of their vulnerability to climate change is that they already experience poverty, have difficulties accessing markets and public services, cope with challenging environmental conditions such as water scarcity, and so on. An important part of dealing with climate change will be reducing the challenges that make people vulnerable, leaving them better prepared to cope with climate shocks and stresses. For example, the research team in Lake Nasser has helped increase income from agriculture and improve access to public health services, outcomes which have immediate benefits as well as increasing resilience to climate impacts.

In terms of adaptive capacity, the CCAA program has seen benefits of the participatory action research (PAR) approaches adopted by projects. As adaptation is a long term, iterative process, developing specific adaptations is in some ways less significant than strengthening the ability of different actors and organisations to identify, develop, select and implement their own adaptations into the future, and to develop learning, innovative institutions. CCAA projects in North Africa have enabled community institutions for farmer experimentation, upgraded the capacities of water users’ associations, and strengthened participatory processes for coastal planning, amongst other examples.

After the presentation we discussed the merits of different adaptation options in agriculture, options for scaling out and up lessons through NAPA processes, and the importance of developing economic analyses of investments in adaptation. We also discussed questions of improving the accessibility of climate information to farmers, with examples from CCAA projects across Africa. Another question led to a conversation about the tensions between the impacts of global processes such as climate change and market fluctuations and local capacities to anticipate and respond to them. This prompted further discussion about the need for decision makers to act despite the uncertainties of climate change, and the importance building learning institutions for innovation.

I greatly enjoyed the conversation and learning more about the work of IFAD in supporting climate change adaptation. One of the specific ideas that I took away with me was the potential for small scale renewable energy technologies in North Africa to support adaptation and resilience, whether by reducing costs of pumping water or through solar refrigeration of products.

Guy Jobbins
Senior Program Officer
Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Program
Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
International Development Research Centre