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FEATURE: Climate resilience in Nepal moves a step closer to reality

Nepal has just secured more than $50 million from the Climate Investment Funds to build resilience against climate change. The money will go towards the country’s Strategic Programme on Climate Resilience. This is a great opportunity, but one that raises big questions:

• How can such a programme facilitate management by communities rather than just promoting a top-down, blueprint approach?

• How can it deliver real local-level transformation instead of target-counting?

• How can limited resources be used most productively?

Designing the programme effectively is critical to Nepal because so much is at stake. Ram Chandra Khanal, a Freelance Consultant in the area of Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, takes a look at the programme and outlines its attempts to answer these questions.

Due to its geography, and the large proportion of its population who are dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as water and agriculture, Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. In a country ranked 139th on the UNDP human development index, some of the poorest communities in the region are already feeling the effects of global warming. There’s an urgent need for a large and secure source of finance to address climate impacts. The recent award from the Climate Investment Fund (CIF) to build climate resilience has the potential for a dramatic impact on the country’s development prospects.

The CIF selected Nepal along with nine countries around the world for the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR). Nepal’s Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience will receive US$ 40-50 million, as well US$ 36 million in concessional resources. Nepal will use these resources for five components, agreed after an in-depth participatory programme engaged a large number of people from government, civil society and the private sector at national, district and local levels.

The five components include: a) building the climate resilience of watersheds; b) building resilience to climate-related hazards; c) ensuring climate change risk management forms a key plank of economic development; d) building climate-resilient communities through private sector participation; and e) enhancing the climate resilience of endangered species.

At the end of the pilot stage, the project is expected to have improved access to water resources; strengthened Nepal’s resilience to respond to climate-induced disasters; safeguarded the country’s development programmes and policies from the effects of climate change; and enhanced food security through the promotion of climate-resilient agriculture.

The project recognises the potential uncertainty and dynamic process of climate change, and builds the capacity of the people involved to understand and manage climate risks.

Last, it’s hoped that the project will have helped Nepal’s vulnerable private infrastructure to better withstand climate change, and built up greater levels of knowledge and incentives to improve the climate resilience of critically endangered species. The project also highlights how gender has an effect on climate resilience: it will address constraints on the participation of women in decision-making around climate change responses.

Now the even harder job begins, of ensuring that the programme is undertaken in a truly participatory way, building capacity at the very grassroots. Given slow bureaucratic processes, the ‘sector’-driven mindset of some important stakeholders, and the lack of priority sometimes given to climate change by policy-makers, the involvement of diverse stakeholders in implementation will be a challenge for the government of Nepal during the pilot phase. The government will need to do some extra critical thinking while designing the full proposal and implementation plan.

Ram Chandra Khanal is the former Natural Resources Management Specialist / National consultant within the Ministry of Environment for the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (SPCR) in Nepal, and can be contacted at

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