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FEATURE: Reflections on the 9th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation

The 9th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation this year saw an increase in participation, greater engagement from the private sector and more south-south learning opportunities. CDKN Africa’s Claire Mathieson caught up with Dr Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, to discuss the positive outcomes of CBA9.

In its ninth year, the International Conference on Community-based Adaptation (CBA9) saw more than 400 participants from 90 countries gather in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss how adaptation can be measured, how communities and the private sector can better engage, and how developing countries can learn from each other.

Measuring adaptation

The current paradigm around gauging the effectiveness of each pound spent on adaptation is a top down, donor-driven demand that looks at value for money. This is “measured” through monitoring and evaluation. “Donors demand evidence that adaptation is happening because ‘we are paying for it’,” says conference director Dr Saleemul Huq. “Those receiving money have an obligation to show where it is being spent.”

But this method of measurement only considers the donor. Is there another way to measure adaptation from the bottom up?

Donors and communities have different perspectives on adaptation and would therefore have different means to measure its effectiveness. “We’ve found the communities do not focus on individual projects, but rather the overall effect of the often many projects taking place in the community. Where a donor would want to see how their money is having an effect, the community recognises overall changes,” says Saleem during the telephonic interview with CDKN. “They have their own views on what needs to be done and what impact has been witnessed, if any.”

One such example came from the group of Maasai at CBA9. The Nilotic ethnic group described how they measured adaptation through changes in culture and loss of life – none of which had to do with money. But that doesn’t mean adaptation isn’t taking place, says Saleem. Money is irrelevant to their concerns and value for money is therefore not an effective tool for the community to measure adaptation.

“In our debates during the conference it became clear that neither communities nor donors have exclusive rights on measuring adaptation. Donors have perspectives and it’s perfectly legitimate for them to ask on behalf of their taxpayers. Similarly, communities have a different perspective and it’s not just about answering to donors about what happened to their money. Each is equally important.”

Involving the private sector

While governments and NGOs have shown interest in the adaptation of vulnerable communities, the private sector has – up until now – not had much presence.

CBA9, however, provided an example of how the private sector could get involved in adaptation. “The private sector in Kenya is quite active. We had some very good discussions and the sector left the conference with a plan of action.” The Kenyan Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), an alliance of more than 100,000 direct and indirect members, has been active in the climate change arena having worked with the African Centre for Technology Studies on a stream of activities. These activities include the objective to work with government to increase the market for cassava –a crop that is much hardier than wheat or maize and is better adapted to difficult conditions. Saleem hopes that these activities where private sector acts on adaptation will “spill over into other countries as well”. “We should not ignore the private sector. Kenya has shown us how we can involve them effectively in adaptation.”

KEPSA has also produced a briefing note series with CDKN support to help the Kenyan private sector manage climate change risks and capitalise on opportunities.

South-south exchanges

The conference also presented an opportunity for south-south exchanges between countries – at both government and non-government levels. “We’ve been encouraged by the interaction between the governments of Bangladesh and Kenya. The decision for these countries to work together is not donor-driven or funded. There is just great interest in south-south learning.”

“We are hoping this will become a model for other countries – particularly those in Asia and Africa. This is a two-way learning process.”

Looking back and forward

The next conference will be held in Bangladesh under the theme “building resilience in urban communities”.

“We’ve been very rural before, but have never focused on urban areas. Next year we hope to engage urban communities and see greater representation from the private sector.”

2016 will also be a time of reflection. Saleem says it will be a time to look back at the work done in a critical way. “We’ll be asking people to reflect on field visits – the most memorable part of our conferences – and we’ll be asking those communities to reflect on what was gained from the interaction. There have been some great stories that we want to uncover,” he says. The links with the private sector and south-south learning opportunities are also key areas to develop further in future CBA exchanges.

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One response to “FEATURE: Reflections on the 9th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation”

  1. Dear Sir,

    I appreciate your website subject “Reflections on CBA9″ and intellectual word on ” Looking back and forward” regarding climate change adaptation and strategies. Also future theme ” building resilience in urban communities” for future conference in Bangladesh that I wish to attend.

    Wish you all the best for a successful upcoming conference in Bangladesh.


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