Climate changes cause ever greater problems. People in the countryside in developing countries are especially vulnerable. With support from Sida, local communities in Kenya and elsewhere are preparing for the effects of the climate changes – and it is the residents themselves who decide how. The programme shows good results and is now being spread to several countries.
“We did a survey in our village and concluded that it is drought that is our worst climate-related problem.”
52-Year-old Sabina Nzuve lives in Kiima Kiu in the county Makueni, Kenya. She is involved in the village’s climate committee and tells about the fight against the increasingly drier climate. It is people like her and everyone else who lives in the countryside in the developing countries who are among the most vulnerable to climate changes, at the same time that they themselves are the ones who have the best knowledge of their communities’ needs and problems. This is precisely why the British organisation IIED with support from Sida is conducting a programme that is about starting funds that local communities can apply for money from to implement climate adaptation projects.
“A central idea in this programme is that the local population itself decides what climate adaptation measures shall be implemented,” explains Sara Gräslund who is a policy advisor for climate issues at Sida.
In Kenya, the programme is being implemented in five of the country’s 47 counties. The support goes through the local political structures that exist – but the greatest power is held by the residents of each local community, who appoint a climate committee that finds out which efforts for climate adaptation they want to do in the village. They then apply for funding from the climate fund at the local authorities. The majority of the applications are approved. Participating in the programme is also an education in democracy and participation for the residents. Fatuma Manera is a 35-year-old mother of four, but also the vice chief of the village Matagari in the county of Isiolo:
“Before we make decisions in the committee, everyone can say what they think. We have learned that it is everyone’s right to be heard. We plan for example which animals will be able to graze were and when, and when and by whom the sources of water may be used,” she says.
With more frequently recurring dry spells in Kenya, conflicts on access to grazing land, water and other resources have become more common. Thanks to IIED’s programme, many conflicts have been able to be mitigated in that contributions were made to the arbitration between groups, which were able to jointly set up rules for where, when and who has access to the resources. In Isiolo, many livestock breeders and farmers fell that the support in conflict management has been very valuable.
Taking advantage of rain and groundwater
Somewhat small measures are needed to provide major results. Sabina Nzuve in Makueni tells about how they fought the drought in her village:
“We built an embankment in the river that captures the water flowing by so that it formed a kind of reservoir. This way, we have access to water during the dry period too, which we can use for people and livestock. We have also built a pipe system from the reservoir that goes to the school. The children have gained access to water and they can now study better.”
The management of water resources is what most apply for support for. With basic investments to better take use rain and groundwater combined with administration systems that determine who can use what resources when, the water can last longer and grazing land can be protected from drought and the livestock can survive.
Linda Bystedt at Sida’s unit for Global economy and the environment is administering the support to IIED. After a visit in Isiolo, she explains that they estimate there that if it were not for these efforts 60-70 per cent of the livestock would have died due to the on-going drought. Instead, no animals had been reported to have died, but rather that they were deemed to be in good health and could provide calves and children with milk.
Another important effort in the programme has been making weather and climate forecasts more available to people through reports sent by radio and SMS.
“A group of women here followed the forecasts carefully, and concluded that it was better to grow mung beans instead of regular beans,” explains Freconah Kithikii in the village Migwani in Kitui.
“They had a giant harvest, while those who hadn’t listened to the climate forecast grew regular beans and they had a bad harvest.”
More women leaders
A large proportion of the members of the committees are women, and their participation has accelerated gender equality in the villages. But it has been a long road to get them to have the courage to participate, explains Mumina Gollo who is the gender equality manager in the programme:
“These women had very low self-esteem when we began, and weren’t accustomed to participating and expressing their views. We held courses where they got to practice their self-confidence.”
With the women’s participation, many climate adaptations have been done that benefit the households, and not just the care of the livestock, which is the men’s priority. Many say that the children’s health has improved when the access to clean water increased, and the women can devote less time to getting water.
“This has now spread, and led to more women getting leadership positions in the region. We have succeeded in achieving major attitude changes, and we show that women can participate in decision making at all levels,” says Mumina Gollo.
Information, knowledge and new values are spread when women who participate in the climate committees also participate in other contexts in the village, such as the church, where they inspire other women.
The climate funds are being spread to other countries
Through the climate funds, growing numbers of local communities are equipped for climate changes, and the reduced vulnerability also contributes to less poverty. To make the funds a lasting effort, even if there is a change in power for example, IIED has also influenced and contributed to legislation that a small part of the budget in the counties should go into the fund.
“There being legislation and an own input in the local funds shows strong local ownership and ensures the funds’ continued survival. In the long term, these funds can also contribute to preventing costs for humanitarian efforts during a drought,” says Linda Bystedt.
The structure that is built up around the climate funds is also valuable so that it will eventually be able to be used to apply for financing from international climate funds.
“So far the Green Climate Fund’s financing has been mostly targeted at a national level, or to middle-income countries. But thanks to this programme, there are now greater opportunities to finance climate adaptation at a local level, where it is needed the most,” says Sara Gräslund.
Besides in Kenya, the programme is also being implemented in Tanzania, Mali and Senegal. Thanks to the good results, there is now a desire to continue with similar support in more countries, where Uganda and a number of countries in Asia have shown an interest in cooperation.