Intersecting realities: Four approaches to making locally-led adaptation more inclusive

Intersecting realities: Four approaches to making locally-led adaptation more inclusive

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Date: 10th June 2024
Type: Feature
Country: Africa

“Intersectionality is not only about vulnerability. It is also about diversity. If we can celebrate diversity, we can begin creating intersecting resilience.”
- Bruce Chooma, Climate Just Communities (CJC) programme in Zambia

The impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the least prepared and most disadvantaged. Intersecting characteristics such as disability, gender, age, poverty and geographical location can create and reinforce power, privilege, disadvantage and discrimination. Yet, on the frontline of the climate crisis, local communities and marginalised groups often lead change and develop innovations and solutions to increase their resilience. Locally-led adaptation initiatives must recognise these intersectional power imbalances to be truly empowering. 

What does locally-led adaptation look like when intersectionality is intentionally considered part of an intervention? The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), the African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE), and the Climate Justice Communities (CJC) Programme in Zambia hosted a peer learning session to discuss this question at the Community-Based Adaptation conference (CBA18), which took place in Arusha, Tanzania in May. Here are the key takeaways from the discussion, built on four quotes from the session.

Group discussion during the CBA18 session
Group discussion during the CBA18 session, courtesy of CDKN
  1. Localisation is critical

“We need to understand the local context and complexity to design appropriate actions that reflect the will and the preferences of those who can easily be left out because they are socially excluded and to ensure adequate resource mobilisation.” 
- UnaMay Gordon, Senior Advisor, International Institute for Environment and Development

A nuanced understanding of different realities, contexts, and hierarchies is key to contributing to equality. Social constructs are diverse and dynamic—we must be aware of them, unpack them, and revisit them regularly. 

Inclusive locally-led adaptation should ensure local communities can speak for themselves and identify the capacities they want to strengthen instead of having intermediary organisations speak on their behalf. For example, ACTADE, through the Building Community Resilience through Strengthening the Agricultural Adaptation Knowledge Systems in Uganda (CRAKS) project, seeks to improve the adaptation and resilience of semi-arid and climate-vulnerable farming communities by using local, Indigenous and scientific knowledge on climate change. CRAKS conducted a gender and social inclusion assessment in the targeted regions to highlight overlapping identities and multiple disadvantages. 

With these intersectional challenges understood, CRAKS is reaching out to marginalised groups, offering spaces to discuss their unique challenges in knowledge creation, sharing and utilisation and to generate solutions. Since co-producing new knowledge is important in determining relevant climate change adaptation responses, one of the solutions involves identifying climate champions within marginalised groups who share relevant information using accessible communication channels, such as radio and group meetings, and translate it into local languages.

  1. Legislation is a key enabler 

“Social categorisation within communities and political systems can sometimes lead to overlapping and interdependent systems of disadvantages and inequalities brought about by political interests and social constructs such as patriarchy.” 
- Esperanza Karaho, CDKN

Legislation can enable us to be more intersectional in our approach. For instance, in Kenya the community climate change governance structures, the Ward Climate Change Planning Committees (WCCPCs), ensure inclusivity and equity in benefit sharing by considering the community members' unique experiences, risks, and resiliencies in prioritising and decision-making for locally-led climate actions.

A recent feasibility study in five counties conducted by CDKN highlights how county governments have anchored intersectional inclusion in climate change legislation to ensure the voices of all social groups in a community are considered in planning and implementing locally-led climate actions. The community members of the WCCPCs are representative of each of the communities’ social groups (e.g., women, men, youth, people with disabilities and faith-based organisations), the communities’ livelihoods and the geographies of each county. Members are publicly vetted by the social groups they represent, which builds trust among community members and with the government as the communities plan and make decisions about the issues that directly impact them, upholding the principle of subsidiarity.

  1. Livelihoods should be at the centre of any intersectionality planning

Intersectionality is not about the concepts you read in books, see on TV, or even hear in meetings like this. Addressing intersectionality takes time, the time to sit down and listen to people, women, government officials, and their realities.” 
Bruce Chooma, Disability Advisor -CJC Programme in Zambia

Projects should not dictate but rather convene, facilitate, and build people’s confidence and agency, especially when they directly impact livelihoods. Interventions should be co-created to allow communities to build resilience using appropriate sources of knowledge.

CRAKS, for instance, listened to and identified how intersecting issues such as disability, age, poverty and geographical location can exacerbate gender inequalities. One focus group discussion highlighted a youth group’s initiative to form a Village Savings and Loans Association. This was set up to help young farmers cope with climate change-related risks. However, it excluded young single mothers from the youth category because now that they are mothers, they are categorised as adults. Knowing this allows for relevant action to support those who are being left behind or out of opportunities. 

  1. Locally-led and innovative adaptation must be inclusive, including disability inclusive 

“We must be more intentional and consider the various forms of intersectionalities as we promote community-based adaptation. This involves identifying the different forms of discrimination among the vulnerable groups of people, e.g. women, youth, and elderly,  and what different forms of discrimination hinder their participation and utilisation of climate adaptation knowledge”.
- Viola Musiimenta, Director of Programmes, ACTADE

It is important to advocate for dignity, fairness, respect and equality, and to be deliberate in providing community-based support. An inclusive approach to climate adaptation requires intentionally listening to all social groups, especially marginalised ones. It also means that inclusive, locally-led approaches need to be flexible. 

The CJC Programme in Zambia has developed a Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) strategy where the inclusion requirements for women, young people and persons with disabilities reinforce how these marginalised groups are not homogeneous - individuals within groups have varying levels of vulnerability, aspirations and interests. The programme underwent a robust scoping phase, including direct consultations with persons with disabilities and their families. This has informed the development of their strategy, which seeks to recognise the multiple layers of discrimination and barriers faced by different groups of people. 

What happens from here?

This session began a conversation about locally-led adaptation and intersectionality. In September, the Step Change initiative will lead another peer learning session via webinar. Stay tuned!

Co-hosts at the CBA18 intersectionality session
Co-hosts of the CBA18 intersectionality session, courtesy of CDKN

More information:

  • Step Change: Accelerating Adaptation to Climate Change - Step Change is a five-year programme (2022-2027) jointly funded by the International Development Research Centre and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands that accelerates equitable and locally-led adaptation in the global South. The programme closes gaps between knowledge and action to support evidence-based adaptation.
  • Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) - CDKN is a partnership of Southern leaders, working to implement a global programme that drives climate-resilient action across public, civil society and private sectors in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It mobilises knowledge capacity and leadership through diverse knowledge co-production processes to improve the well-being and resilience of the most climate-affected people.
  • Climate Just Communities (CJC) Project - CJC is part of the flagship programme of the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund, which uses a people-centred, human rights-based approach to support locally-led community projects in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.
  • African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE) - ACTADE was established in 2000 as a technical discussion group for trade-related issues. Its purpose is to ensure domestic and Indigenous voices are heard in trade discussions that are dominated by international negotiations and actors. 

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