integrating approaches: Sustainable livelihoods, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation
Disasters and climate change are increasingly influencing the attainment of development objectives. Poor people regularly face hazards and stresses which undermine their lives and production systems, and on occasions result in widespread disaster. Climate change is causing many hazards and stresses to increase in frequency and intensity. The unpredictability of future climate and weather patterns means that potential pathways out of poverty are less obvious. In December 2009, Practical Action hosted a seminar bringing together academics, practitioners and policy-makers to explore how thinking on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction can be integrated with sustainable livelihoods approaches for more effective and sustained poverty reduction. This briefing paper provides an overview of the theme of the seminar, followed by summaries of the presentations made there.
In the past, work on sustainable livelihoods, on disasters, and on climate change was addressed by different communities of practice with differing priorities and assumptions. Whilst varied entry points still exist, the synergies between these approaches are now being recognized. Sustainable livelihoods approaches take a holistic and people-centred approach to understanding and addressing the diverse factors that influence poverty and well-being. Livelihood projects tend to focus on increasing household access to assets, and thus to greater income-earning opportunities. This is often at the expense of addressing the hazard context, i.e. ensuring the safety and adaptability of people and their assets in hazard-prone environments. As climate change comes to the fore, the need for a more dynamic analysis of socioenvironmental systems is being recognized, and climate predictions are being incorporated into livelihoods analysis. Approaches to disasters have tended to focus on response, recovery and reconstruction – typically the domain of humanitarian agencies or divisions. Shifts towards disaster prevention and preparedness emphasized hazard-specific structural and organizational measures, such as emergency plans. More recently, however, the risk reduction agenda has recognized social and economic aspects of poverty as underlying causes of disaster risk, and that strengthening and protecting livelihoods is an important strategy for preventing disaster. Early work on climate change focused on trying to predict changes in climate and weather and project how these might impact on physical environments and economies. Action was directed towards climate change mitigation, i.e. reducing further greenhouse gas
emissions. However, more recently there has been a shift towards understanding the impacts of climate change on the poor, and the action needed to ensure they are able to adapt to those changes, which remain uncertain. Again, strengthening livelihoods is increasingly seen as a critical strategy for supporting adaptation. The seminar addressed three areas relating to integration of approaches: examples of practice on the ground; how integration is being scaled up into policy and wider institutional practice; and what frameworks have been developed to aid integration.
integrated approaches in practice
Three presentations, and a number of posters (see p. 12), illustrated experiences from the field. These demonstrated strong consensus that holistic, livelihoods thinking is relevant to understanding and addressing disaster and climate change impacts. Research by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Tearfund and Action Against Hunger (Naess et al., p. 13) applied a livelihoods approach to researching how herders and farmers in Mali and Ethiopia are coping with the impacts of climate change. Practical Action Nepal (Gurung, p. 4), working in areas prone to flooding and landslides, have strengthened livelihoods and income as an explicit approach to reducing disaster risk, alongside more traditional disaster prevention and preparedness activities. The Western Orissa Rural Livelihoods Project (Everett, p. 5) focused on different aspects of asset strengthening, but concluded that this approach also achieved vulnerability reduction and climate adaptation outcomes. The examples made it clear that livelihood diversification – increasing options as well as income – is central to helping households and communities to cope with hazards and adapt to climate change.
challenges of bottom up and top down
The challenge of strengthening integrated approaches in policy and practice was addressed from two angles: how to scale up project experience within government, and how to ensure that international policy commitments are translated into practice. The case from Nepal (op. cit.) recognized the challenge of disjointed policy and practice in government. This was tackled by building district government capacity to support integrated analysis and planning in communities, and incorporate the outcomes into district development plans. Oxley (p. 6) shared experience from grassroots monitoring of implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action – an internationally agreed policy on national support to disaster risk reduction. This multi-country civil society process has had many benefits in terms of improving downward accountability and opening spaces for dialogue between communities and policy makers. Similar methodologies could be applied to monitoring policy commitments to supporting climate adaptation.
outcomes. Through improved access to relevant information, technologies, skills and resources, they are able to modify livelihood strategies and respond to changing disaster risks. Twigg (p. 11) recognized that frameworks are useful tools but that learning processes are also important to ensure that they are adapted to local contexts. Experience developing a set of Characteristics of a Disaster Resilient Community produced lessons for more process-oriented approaches.
The papers and workshop discussions demonstrated strong agreement that integration of livelihoods, DRR and CCA approaches has much to offer. However, challenges still remain. Although scaling up of integrated thinking into national planning systems was touched upon, it remains a critical challenge. Frameworks and models of good practice now exist amongst NGOs and researchers. Building understanding, capacity and appropriate structures for adoption within government and other institutions is now a priority. A further challenge is how to deal with the gap in knowledge about the climate over the next 20 years. Whilst short-term weather forecasts and long-term climate predictions can be quite accurate, much uncertainty lies between. Scenario planning is of relevance when there is confidence about possible outcomes. However, more work is needed to better understand adaptive capacity, that is, the dynamic ability to adapt to sometimes unpredictable change. Finally, it was recognized during the seminar that most practitioners were still working with the expectation of reaching a climate agreement that would limit us to a rise in global temperatures of less than 2 degrees centigrade. If this is not achieved, and global temperatures rise to 4 degrees or more, with vastly increased risks to livelihoods and ecosystems, then the above approaches may not be sufficient to maintain well-being and more radical strategies will need to be considered.
Frameworks and approaches are evolving to help guide staff, partners and policy makers towards more integrated practice, and there is also a need for learning processes to ensure they are effective. The Adaptive Social Protection framework described by Arnall et al. (p.7) brings together social protection, DRR and CCA approaches to ensure that asset transfers contribute to climate-resilient livelihoods. Ewbank (p. 8) articulates a set of steps developed by Christian Aid for incorporating climate change analysis into existing participatory vulnerability and capacity assessment, drawing on both climate science and local knowledge to inform risk assessment and develop future scenarios. Practical Action’s Vulnerability to Resilience approach (Pasteur, p. 9), rather than attempting to forecast an uncertain future, highlights building communities’ capacity to adapt to a wide range of potential climate
Katherine Pasteur Practical Action Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby CV23 9QZ, UK. Email: Katherine.Pasteur@practicalaction.org.uk
Practical Action, Bangladesh
Details of the seminar including powerpoints and sound recordings of presentations are available on the Practical Action website at http://practicalaction.org/ reducing-vulnerability/integrating-approaches-seminar Climbing above the flood level in Bangladesh
LOcaL cLimate adaPtatiOn in ethiOPia and maLi
Farmers and herders in African drylands are often considered as being on the front line of climate change. Collaborative research between Action Against Hunger (ACF), Tearfund, and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), in Ethiopia and Mali showed a considerable capacity of households to adapt to what they perceive as changing rainfall patterns, but also significant costs and barriers to their responses.
Preliminary findings from the study, due to be published in early 2010, illustrate some key areas for support to strengthen adaptive capacity.
Samuel Hauenstein Swan
changing risks and impacts
A perception of changing rainfall patterns features prominently in both country case studies. Over the past ten years, the rain has become increasingly unpredictable and erratic; the seasonal rains have started later and finished earlier. This is detrimental to people’s key assets, cattle and farmland, which are vulnerable to climate risks. Key trends that affect households’ ability to tackle climate risks include increasingly limited livelihood choices and reduced solidarity in times of stress. Recurrent drought has significantly reduced harvests and extended hunger gaps. Communities report an increasing sense of fatigue in the face of the changes they are experiencing. Even richer groups are experiencing increasing losses of key assets from multiple shocks, and an increasing feeling of insecurity.
Livestock herder in Djebock, Mali
challenges to adaptation
A number of adaptive strategies were observed in response to climate and other stressors, but many are associated with costs to households’ livelihoods. For example: • Reduced pasture quality means herders adapt by travelling farther and for longer periods with their animals. However, yield from livestock is still insufficient. Furthermore, conflict over grazing and water resources has increased between local people and those from different areas passing through. • Poorer households often use labour migration in times of need. However, this can reduce households’ abilities to look after their own farms, thus increasing their vulnerability to future shocks. • Formal and informal community and external institutions have traditionally provided support during drought. However, access to support from community institutions is, to a large extent, dependent on gender and wealth. Furthermore, as times have become tougher for all, external institutions are only partially able to fill the gaps in support that households need.
Increase the options of the poorest people to diversify their livelihoods, by improving their access to and sustainable use of assets such as agricultural inputs, natural resources and credit, particularly during critical hunger periods. Strengthen existing local institutions with financial and technical support so that they can boost household strategies (regardless of the wealth, gender or ethnic identity of household members) and fill gaps in institutional support. Integrate adaptation into national development policies, with a joined-up approach between agriculture, water, nutrition, the environment, climate change and disasters. Longer term programmes are needed in order to effectively build resilience to climatic and economic shocks.
Lars Otto Naess, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. Email: email@example.com. Morwenna Sullivan, Action Against Hunger. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jo Khinmaung, Tearfund. Email: Jo.Khinmaung@tearfund.org
Changing climates, changing lives: Adaptation strategies among pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in Ethiopia and Mali. By ACF International, IDS, TEARFUND, IER, A-Z CONSULT, ODES. In Press. http://tilz.tearfund.org/Research/ Food+and+Security+reports
The following areas of action could strengthen existing household adaptive capacity and community solidarity, in order to avoid strategies that further increase vulnerability.
diSaSter riSK reductiOn thrOugh LiveLihOOd imPrOvementS
Communities are vulnerable when they have limited livelihoods assets and options, and are frequently affected by hazards such as flood, drought, crop pests, livestock diseases, etc. Their vulnerability is further amplified when local or national policies and plans do not address their needs. Vulnerable communities can fall into disaster when even a small shock or hazard affects them.
Practical Action Nepal has been working with communities in Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts who frequently face drought, flood and wildlife hazards, being close to a national park. This project has taken a livelihoods approach to disaster risk reduction. It recognizes that unsustainable livelihoods, e.g. deforestation, cultivation of steep slopes, unmanaged grazing etc., can exacerbate hazards. In turn, hazards can undermine livelihoods through land erosion, destruction of crops, damage to infrastructure, and loss of life. Interventions have helped communities to strengthen their access to livelihood assets, and to diversify their livelihood options, which enables them to recover from hazards more quickly. For example, they have successfully accumulated assets, including cash through saving and credit schemes, which can be drawn on to cope in times of need.
Scaling up into policy
To achieve this kind of change at scale, government and other agencies need to take a similar integrated approach to development and disaster management. Practical Action has built the capacity of local government and partner NGOs to work with communities to analyse and address vulnerability. Community plans are now incorporated into District Development Plans in Chitwan and Nawalparasi.
Livelihoods approach to disaster risk reduction
Two key strategies are pursued in order to reduce vulnerability to disaster:
minimizing the adverse impacts of hazards on assets and resources through prevention, protection and preparedness; and ensuring effective recovery through strengthening and diversifying livelihood strategies.
Communities in these districts are already starting to feel the impacts of climate change in the form of more frequent and unpredictable hazards. Therefore, the above strategies to support disaster risk reduction are ever more important. Furthermore, strengthening access to livelihoods assets is proving to be critical to ensuring households and communities are able to adapt to changes in weather patterns. In addition to these strategies, work by Practical Action has led to the conclusion that access to new types of information will also be critical: not only information about climate change and its potential impacts, but also new skills and technologies which will help communities to maintain production under an unpredictable environment.
After carrying out a participatory vulnerability analysis, community members are now able to understand the hazards and take steps to protect their lives and livelihood assets. This is achieved through improved forest management which reduces hazards such as flooding and landslides. Gabions and bunds have been constructed which protect land from erosion when flooding does still occur. Early warning systems, response plans and emergency shelters have been established to ensure that lives (human and animal) can be protected.
Gehendra Gurung Practical Action Nepal Pandol Marga, Lazimpat P O Box 15135 Kathmandu, Nepal. Email: email@example.com
Practical Action, Nepal
For further information about this work and related publications, please visit http://practicalaction.org/ nepal/region_nepal_disaster_climate
Using gabions to construct dykes for flood protection at Kolhuwa, Nepal
Learning frOm a LiveLihOOdS PrOject
The Western Orissa Rural Livelihoods Project (WORLP) was designed to alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability in four of the most disadvantaged districts in Orissa, India. Using a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach the project demonstrates important development impacts which are found also to enhance climate change resilience and adaptation.
WORLP, a partnership between the Government of Orissa and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), started in 2000 and is still on-going. It has had a substantial impact on poverty, with a 30 per cent reduction in the number of poor households recorded in the project districts. Approximately 15,000 households or 72,000 people have moved above the poverty line. Much of this success can be attributed to enhanced levels of financial, human, natural and social livelihood assets. Five successful strategies of the project can be highlighted.
Project strategies and impacts
1. Empower the poor. Participatory approaches were used to engage with poor and very poor people, to empower and inform them. This created an enabling environment for them to make informed choices for their long-term well being. 2. Build human capacity. Substantial technical support to increase skills in both farm and non-farm activities helped people to strengthen and diversify livelihoods. Crop yields increased significantly, often 50–100 per cent. Lean season food deficit days and stress migration have significantly reduced. 3. Build institutions for the poor. Over 5,000 selfhelp groups with over 65,000 members were supported. The increased number and strength of SHGs increased social cohesion, reduced people’s vulnerability, and increased the opportunity for collective action in case of climate-related shocks. 4. Provide access to resources. Ensuring appropriate entitlements to land and water resources enabled poor and very poor people to benefit from opportunities and invest in their future. 5. Manage natural resources. Community water harvesting technologies enabled better water management, reduced fluctuations in, and raised, the groundwater table and improved hydrological conditions. This in turn enabled the expansion of aquaculture and agriculture. The gross land area cropped increased by around 16 per cent, with cropping intensity up by 10 per cent. The self help group ‘Maa kamalini’ is for widows are better able to cope with anticipated hazards and adapt to a changing environment. Improved command over resources increases the strategies available to prepare for climatic change, such as soil and water conservation or investment in resistant agriculture. Diversifying incomes increases resilience to climate shocks through ensuring alternative sources of food and income when the main source fails. SHGs increase the opportunity for collective action to address the impacts of climate change. The project is also now incorporating new initiatives to help build adaptive capacity to climate change, principally through Climate Change Schools, based upon the successful model of Farmer Field Schools. In conclusion, there is much that can be learned from the field of poverty alleviation about reducing vulnerability to climate change and enhancing capacity to adapt.
Bryony Everett, Natural Resources International, Park House, Bradbourne Lane, Aylesford, Kent, UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
reducing vulnerability to climate change
Climate change risks in Western Orissa are considered substantial, with increasing variability of rainfall, extended dry spells and droughts, and flash floods during the rainy season. Whilst WORLP was not designed with any climate change adaptation objectives, all the interventions described above helped reduce vulnerability, by ensuring that poor and very poor people
Impact Assessment of Western Orissa Rural Livelihoods Project, by Sambodhi and Winrock International, 2008, available, along with many other publications of potential interest, on the WORLP website: www.worlp.com .
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