Climate change continues to be one of the greatest challenges facing our planet and humanity today, and local communities and small island developing states (SIDS) are at the front line of its impacts. Drought and rising temperatures, excessive precipitation and flooding, sea level rise and salt-water intrusion, coastal erosion, loss of agricultural crops, degradation of coral reefs due to bleaching, increased instances of pests and diseases, and unpredictable storms and weather events are just some of the challenges experienced by SIDS. These variations in climate not only affect the environment and resilience of natural ecosystems, but also have ripple effects on every sector of the economy and society including economic stability, agriculture and food security, water access and sanitation, health and well-being, education, tourism and livelihoods.
SIDS often experience acceleration or intensification of climate change impacts due to their small land areas, susceptibility to natural disasters, geographical isolation, limited natural resources and sensitive ecosystems. Many of these natural resources are often already facing other anthropogenic pressures such as overexploitation, over-harvesting, pollution, deforestation and degradation. In addition, many SIDS also struggle with fragile economies, emigration of active population, political instability, high import costs and heavy dependence on external aid. Many countries do not have enough resources to combat climate change impacts on their own, and further degradation of natural resources and ecosystems will increase poverty, hunger and economic and social inequalities. Thus, climate change can significantly limit progress towards achieving sustainable development.
With these challenges in mind, in 2009 the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) entered into a partnership with the Australian Overseas Aid Programme, now assimilated within the Australian’s Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). With funding from DFAT, the objective of the partnership is to improve the climate resilience of local communities in 42 countries, including 37 SIDS.
The goals of the programme are to:
• reduce the vulnerability and improve the adaptive capacity of local communities to the adverse impacts of climate change;
• provide countries with concrete ground level experience on local climate change adaptation; and
• provide clear policy lessons and mainstream community-based adaptation (CBA) within national processes, and scale up best practices.
To realize these objectives, CBA projects invest in capacity development and awareness-raising initiatives aimed at strengthening local communities’ resilience to climate change through sustainable nature-based solutions that optimize environmental, economic and social outcomes. The projects’ integrated approach to land, water, forest and coastal resource management also contributes to environmental benefits in other multi-focal areas.
CBA’s focus on social inclusion and cohesion ensures that all members of society have a voice, a role, and access to opportunities and services, irrespective of gender, age, ethnicity, or mental and physical abilities. This participatory approach throughout the project cycle allows capacity development in every component, including project proposal writing, development of action plans, financial management, and development of income-generating and/or alternative livelihoods. Through the vulnerability reduction assessment (VRA) process, communities can identify problems and measures, and design interventions that are specific to their community and adapted to their local culture and traditions. This results in an engaged, empowered and mobilized community. Indigenous and traditional knowledge is also combined with scientific practices to ensure that adaptation strategies are relevant and context-specific.
To bridge the gap between local, national and regional actors, various multi-level consultation meetings and dialogues are held throughout the project cycle. These engagements serve as a space for communities’ voices to be heard, their needs to be understood, and their challenges to be recognized and addressed by various decision makers. In addition, these processes enable community views and actions to be mainstreamed into development processes, and to inform global actions. The resulting increased awareness of all stakeholders reinforces the collective responsibility in tackling climate change, and identifies opportunities for shared action. These inclusive partnerships are established on a shared vision, that put people and nature at the centre. These synergies also serve as a line of communication for expanded support to scale up CBA interventions. The CBA Country Programme Strategy (CCPS) of each country is also aligned to its national and sub-national planning and adaptation priorities. Hence, the country programmes have the foundation to influence the policies and development programs at various levels.