Communities often know how to adapt to changes in the climate and extreme weather events but they lack access and control over the funds which could help them put these solutions into practice.
An unpredictable and changing climate is hitting the countries of West Africa hard – and it is often the poorest communities that bear the brunt.
Recognising this, wealthier countries are providing climate finance to support adaptation and mitigation measures for those most affected or at risk. National governments are also putting aside money specifically to address these issues.
Most of this funding – whether it comes from an international or national source – is held at a national level. Local and regional authorities within countries generally have very little control over how it is spent.
Do local people know best?
Rural communities in the Sahel have coped with a variable climate and extreme weather events for decades. Farmers and pastoralists, who have direct experience of the impacts of the climate on their own communities and livelihoods over many years, have developed ways of reacting and adapting to these events (PDF) and ensuring their own resilience.
What we're trying to do, through this project, is to give communities the capacity and tools to identify and prioritise resilience investments themselves.
– Bara Guèye (IED Afrique)
These solutions vary according to community and region and these very local solutions are difficult to grasp in detail from a national level. For local communities the problem is that they often lack the funding to put solutions into practice or to develop them at scale. What is needed is a way to bridge this divide.
Decentralised climate adaptation funds
One way of ensuring that local people have access to the funding, as well as a say in how the money is spent, is through local climate funds. Many countries, not just in the Sahel, have a local government system that allows for the decentralisation of governance and funding responsibilities.
In Mali and Senegal, as in other countries, the financial autonomy and the capacity of local government to manage funds needs to be strengthened, as does the capacity of local people to hold government and other bodies to account.
IIED is helping national and devolved governments set up decentralised climate adaptation funds in Kenya and Tanzania. These pilots are serving as the basis for new work in Senegal and Mali, with the Near East Foundation and IED Afrique (funded by the DFID initiative, BRACED).
At a planning meeting held in June 2015 in Bamako, Yacouba Dème from the Near East Foundation, working in Mali, and Bara Guèye from IED Afrique, working in Senegal, explained the aim of setting up these funds. You can watch their video interviews below.
How does this work in practice?
In both Mali and Senegal, the funds are being set up and managed by regional government authorities (the Mopti region in Mali and Kaffrine region in Senegal). Communities and local authorities are working together to develop eligibility criteria for deciding how to allocate these funds. These include provisions to ensure investments benefit both men and women.
Adaptation planning committees at commune level, made up of men and women of different ages and including local mayors, will be responsible for prioritising 70 per cent of the adaptation fund. They will use "resilience assessments" to identify which investments they collectively think would most help them to adapt and become more resilient to the changing climate.
The remaining funds will be used to fund investments at the Cercle and Département levels in Mali and Senegal respectively (20 per cent), and to fund the administration costs and ensure adequate due diligence (10 per cent).
The project will help the devolved government authorities in both countries to establish the systems and processes (institutional architecture) that will enable them draw down climate finance from the national climate fund, from the Green Climate Fund's National Implementing Entities or from other donors. By embedding the approach into the national planning systems, the project is intended to ensure the sustainability of community-driven adaptation.