Strengthening adaptive capacity to climate change: learning from practice, practionioner brief

Strengthening adaptive capacity to climate change: learning from practice, practionioner brief

Building adaptive capacity is increasingly understood as a critical piece in successful adaptation to climate change, and there has been much conceptual debate on what it consists of. Yet, there is still lack of clarity as to what it may look like in practice.

This practitioner brief synthesises the learning on adaptive capacity that has emerged from the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) for Africa, a multi-country programme designed to demonstrate, document and disseminate innovative approaches for community based adaptation (CBA). Because it was explicitly designed as a learning programme, ALP has adopted a range of learning approaches, with a focus on learning by doing, reflecting and co-generating new knowledge with others. After five years of  implementation, the programme is now in a position to synthesise and share learning on a range of aspects of CBA and related policy and practice.

Specifically, this brief explains in simple, practical terms how strengthening adaptive capacity is critical for effective adaptation. It does this by presenting how ALP has interpreted the Local Adaptive Capacity Framework developed by the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance, in its practical approaches to engaging communities and other actors in community-based adaptation. This brief draws on ALP’s work with vulnerable communities living in Niger and Northern Ghana, which are Sahelian climate change hotspots also affected by high levels of chronic poverty. It gives insights into the dynamic interplay between analysis and planning processes, information, resources and decisions required for strengthening adaptive capacity, which is a key condition for adaptation.
 
With recent attention on resilience, different types of critical capacities have been in discussion; for example, “absorptive”, “anticipatory” and “transformative” capacity. ALP’s work on adaptive capacity has been approaching these concepts in practical ways, exploring how vulnerable people can realise their own development, with adequate support, in the face of changing conditions. Through the lens of these experiences the brief aims to provide conceptual and practical knowledge for actors in adaptation, disaster risk reduction, development and humanitarian action, including NGOs, local government institutions, researchers, donors, sectoral ministries and policymakers across Africa.
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