Understanding Climate Change Adaptation

Lessons from Community-based Approaches

ISBN 978-185339-683-0

Jonathan Ensor and Rachel Berger

About the authors
Table of contents
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Poor people living in regions affected by fluctuating temperatures and rainfall, sea level rise, flooding and drought bear the brunt of climate change. These communities have no choice but to continue to use the resources at their disposal to adapt and survive. Yet in order to adapt people need to appreciate that potentially profound changes are in store and that future impacts are deeply uncertain.

Understanding Adaptation to Climate Change addresses these issues and provides responses to important questions for the international aid community as it seeks to address the impact of climate change. How can agencies assist local communities adapting to change? By what mechanisms can communities make the most of emerging information? Can effective community-based approaches be scaled up?

By combining eight case studies from South Asia, Africa and Latin America with an overall analytical framework the authors demonstrate that although communities’ adaptation strategies vary and depend upon local context, social networks play a pivotal role in accessing useful knowledge and resources. Through such networks, the key activities of reducing vulnerability, fostering resilience, and developing the capacity to experiment and learn are combined and communicated to other communities.

This book is essential reading for NGO practitioners, students, and government and NGO policy makers who wish to gain an understanding of what adaptation means in theory and practice.


"This important book demonstrates that people are in the frontline of climate change around the world but are not simply passive victims – community-based adaptation is where the action is. It shows how engaged scholarship can both describe and harness the power of communities to face the challenge of climate change for generations to come. The work is a thoughtful and brilliant application of theory and practice in this crucial development arena."
Neil Adger, Professor, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

"This book is a very timely attempt to analyse what adaptation actually looks like in practice and to set it in the context of climate change analysis and community dynamics."
Richard Ewbank, Climate Change Programme Coordinator, Christian Aid, UK

"This book provides some excellent early learning from a number of case examples from different developing countries and will help those trying to understand and carry out community-based adaptation to climate change."
Saleemul Huq, Senior Fellow, Climate Change, International Institute for Environment and Development

About the authors

Jonathan Ensor is a Researcher for Practical Action working on the relationship between climate change and international development.

Rachel Berger is climate change Policy Advisor with Practical Action.

Table of contents

1 Introduction: understanding community-based adaptation

2 Erosion and flooding in northern Bangladesh

3 Changing seasons and flash flooding in the foothills of the Nepal Himalaya

4 Desert and floodplain adaptation in Pakistan

5 Increasing paddy salinity in coastal Sri Lanka

6 Increasing drought in arid and semi-arid Kenya

7 Multiple pressures on pastoralism in semi-arid Niger

8 Declining water resources in Sudan’s Red Sea coastal belt

9 Extreme weather in the Peruvian high Andes

10 Conclusion: community-based adaptation in practice

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