Posts Tagged ‘CBA’

What is Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change?

June 2, 2009

Addressing climate change: Mitigation and adaptation

In developed countries much of the climate change discourse has focused on mitigation. Primary concerns have revolved around how to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions down to appropriate levels in order to halt climate change.

However the earth’s climate is responsive to greenhouse gases that have built up over time, and there is a delay between the time of emission and the experience of the effects of climate change.

The effects of climate change caused by a build up of greenhouse gases over the last century are already being felt presently in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world, and even if we cut greenhouse gas levels to appropriate levels today, the effects of the emissions of the recent past will be felt for some time in the future. Climate change has started to happen.

We must therefore adapt to cope with these changes. In particular areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as coastal areas, dry and arid locations, and river and glacier effected areas must adapt their patterns of behaviour to become more resilient to increasing climate variability, prevalence of extreme weather events, flooding, droughts, spreading of salinity in water sources and the ground, changing patterns of endemic and epidemic diseases and other effects of climate change.

The most vulnerable parts of the world are also some of the poorest. Mega-delta regions such as parts of Bangladesh and India, small island states in the Pacific and elsewhere, the Sahel region and other dry parts of Africa, rural natural resource dependent people, and slum-dwellers are and will all be acutely affected by climate change.

Community-based adaptation

Past experience of developing country adaptation to climate variability and change shows that community knowledge of their specific phenomenal experiences, their particular vulnerabilities to them, and the resources at their disposal for making changes to increase resilience has often been central to successful adaptation.

For example, in southern Bangladesh floating gardens, or Bairas, have been devised to withstand increasingly frequent flooding and water-logging. Using water hyacinth (Baira), a local invasive weed, which floats in water, floating mats have been developed on which soil, manure and rotting baira can be spread and a number of crops can be cultivated. These mats simply ride out water-logging and flooding. They are easy to build using local resources and know-how, are recyclable and sustainable, and are ideally suited to the particular problem faced. Local knowledge is central to every part of the success of Bairas.

Community-based adaptation (CBA) makes explicit the worth of community knowledge and management in small scale adaptation to climate change in developing countries.

For other examples of CBA check out the mini film festival which took place at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali (COP13).

The role of ‘outside’ organisations

Just as a particular adaptation project varies considerably depending on the community it is intended to help, the risk it is addressing and so on, and just as the level of community-basis similarly varies widely, so does the role of ‘outside’ organizations such as higher-level government, NGOs and foreign and international institutions.

However, broadly, the role of ‘outside’ organizations is four fold. Firstly they often play a very important role in education of the risks of climate change. Scientific understanding of the expectations of climate change is almost exclusively formed in developed countries and is generally technical in nature. Where awareness of the threats of climate change is absent, as it often is in vulnerable areas, accessible and appropriate dissemination of understanding is essential. This education plays a crucial role in mobilizing community effort to address local vulnerability.

Secondly, ‘outside’ organizations have much better information about other adaptation projects elsewhere in the world that may provide guidance on a particular new project. Though CBA stresses the importance of local knowledge and highly-contextualized solutions, much insight can be gained from the understanding of the successes and failures of other projects around the world. A number of databases and knowledge exchange forums have been set up internationally for this purpose (e.g. Community Based Adaptation Exchange;

Thirdly, ‘outside’ organizations can provide technical expertise where it is deficient in the community. This can take the form of bringing an expert in to help, or to bring in a technical teacher to pass on expertise.

Finally, ‘outside’ organizations nearly always provide much needed funding.

For more information on CBA, see the International Institute for Environment and Development