PLA 60: Community-based adaptation to climate change

This special edition of Participatory Learning and Action focuses on community-based adaptation to climate change (CBA).

Article, 01 December 2009
Participatory Learning and Action
A journal for newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.

PLA 60December 2009

Guest editors: Hannah Reid, Mozaharul Alam, Rachel Berger,  Terry Cannon, Saleemul Huq and Angela Milligan

Community-based adaptation (CBA) to climate change brings together those working in the fields of disaster risk reduction, community development, and climate change science. Good CBA is community-driven, empowering, and strengthens local capacity. 

This edition discusses how community-based approaches to climate change have emerged, and the similarities and differences between a community-based approach and other participatory development and disaster risk reduction approaches.

The articles highlight innovative participatory methods which are being developed to help communities analyse the causes and effects of climate change, integrate scientific and community knowledge about climate change, and plan adaptation measures.

Lessons and challenges are beginning to emerge, including how to integrate disaster risk reduction, livelihoods and climate change adaptation work, climate change knowledge gaps, issues around the type and quality of participation, and the need for policies and institutions that support CBA.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Content can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided the source is fully acknowledged. 

Follow the links below to download the whole issue or individual articles in pdf format.

Download the complete issue.

Also available in Arabic.



Community-based adaptation to climate change: an overview
Hannah Reid, Mozaharul Alam , Rachel Berger, Terry Cannon, Saleemul Huq and Angela Milligan

Glossary of climate change terminology

Part I: Reflections on participation processes and practice

Combining different knowledges: community-based climate change adaptation in small island developing states
Ilan Kelman, Jessica Mercer, and Jennifer J. West

Children's participation in community-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change
Thomas Tanner, Mercedes Garcia, Jimena Lazcano, Fatima Molina, Grace Molina, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Baltz Tribunalo, and Fran Seballos

Katalysis: helping Andean farmers adapt to climate change
Stephen Sherwood and Jeffery Bentley

Ethics and methods in research for community-based adaptation: reflections from rural Vanuatu
Olivia Warrick

Participatory rice variety selection in Sri Lanka
Rachel Berger, with Rohana Weregoda and Varuna Rathnabharathie

Lessons from a transboundary water governance project in West Africa
Sam Wong

Part II: Participatory tool-based case studies 

Participatory three-dimensional mapping for disaster risk reduction
Jean-Christophe Gaillard and Emmanuel A. Maceda

Amplifying children's voices on climate change: the role of participatory video
Tamara Plush

Farmers become filmmakers: climate change adaptation in Malawi
Fernanda Baumhardt, Ralph Lasage , Pablo Suarez , and Charles Chadza

Part III: Participatory tools 

Developing a climate change analysis: extract adapted from Christian Aid Adaptation Toolkit
Christian Aid

Rain calendars: a tool for understanding changing rainfall patterns and effects on livelihoods
Cynthia Awuor and Anne Hammill

Mental models: understanding the causes and consequences of climate change
Petra Tschakert and Regina Sagoe

Child-friendly participatory research tools
Fatima Molina, Grace Molina, Tom Tanner, and Fran Seballos

Participatory scenario development for translating impacts of climate change into adaptations
Livia Bizikova, Thea Dickinson, and László Pintér

Reflections on practical ethics for participatory community-based adaptation
- extracts from Elkanah Absalom et al ., and Giacomo Rambaldi et al.

Regular features

Tips for Trainers : Communications maps - a participatory tool to understand communications patterns and relationships
Sonal Zaveri

Tips for Trainers:  Rivers of life
Ziad Moussa

In Touch
The In Touch section of this issue contains a variety of resources for climate change adaptation, in addition to resources on other participatory themes.

Book reviews

RCPLA Network


Links to other CBA networks and websites 

Adaptation Learning Mechanism (ALM)
Shares guidance and tools for developing and implementing adaptation initiatives, including a list of materials available for immediate download or online browsing.

Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change – Data, Methods, and Synthesis Activity (AIACC)
Facilitates access to extensive data, software, and bibliographic resources related to climate impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability across multiple sectors.

Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies
Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies is an independent, non-profit, non-government, policy, research, and implementation institute working on sustainable development at local, national, regional, and global levels. BCAS addresses sustainable development through four interactive themes:environment and development; integration; good governance and people’s participation; poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods; and, economic growth and public-private partnership. Established in 1986, it has grown to become a leading institute in the non-government sector in Bangladesh and South Asia. Many of their publications are available as free downloads.

Capacity Strengthening of LDCs for Adaptation to Climate Change (CLACC)
This is a group of fellows and international experts working on adaptation to climate change for least developed countries. Their aim is to strengthen the capacity of organizations in poor countries and support their initiatives in sustainable development through the network of fellows in 15 countries in the South, 12 in Africa, and three in South Asia .

Climate Change and Agrobiodiversity Research
The Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research project on climate change is collecting information about initiatives on adaptation to climate change that are based on the use of agrobiodiversity. This tool intends to facilitate a learning dialogue between rural communities all over the world and build a knowledge base that can be used to increase recognition for the multitude of adaptation practices communities engage in. Compiling and synthesising these practices will allow them to be validated in a rigorous way and used in advocating stronger involvement for marginal groups in the climate change policy debate.

CBA-X is a shared online resource designed to bring together and grow the CBA community. It provides a website for the exchange of up-to-date information about community-based adaptation, including news, events, case studies, tools, policy resources, and videos. Supported by CARE, OXFAM, ActionAid, TearFund, and WWF.

CRiSTAL (Community-based Risk Screening Tool – Adaptation & Livelihoods)
Screening tool for existing livelihoods projects which enables project planners and managers to (a) understand the links between local livelihoods and climate; (b) assess a project's impact on livelihood resources important for climate adaptation; and (c) devise adjustments to improve a project's impact on these key livelihood resources.

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET)
Provides information on food security (including weekly climate and precipitation forecasts) for West, East, and Southern Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, and Afghanistan .

GRAIN is a small international nonprofit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Their website contains a number of downloadable resources concerned with climate change, the global food system, and the potential role of smallholder farms and farming communities in mitigating the food and climate crises.

Global Environmental Change and Food Systems (GECAFS)
International, interdisciplinary research project focused on understanding the links between food security and global environmental change. The GECAFS goal is to determine strategies to cope with the impacts of global environmental change on food systems and to assess the environmental and socio-economic consequences of adaptive responses aimed at improving food security. It focuses specifically on Southern Africa, the Indo-Gangetic Plain in South Asia, and the Caribbean .

IDS Climate Change and Development Centre (See also:
Aims to drive forward collaborative research and policy analysis, building programmes, and delivering high quality knowledge services, teaching, and training. Research themes include climate change adaptation, low carbon development, international environmental law, development economics, social protection, sustainable livelihoods, and migration. IDS have developed the ORCHID (Opportunities and Risks for Climate Change and Disasters) adaptation tool for assessing development projects. IDS also runs the Climate and Disaster Governance platform, which aims to identify governance options which could help reduce climate and disaster risk to poor communities and keep development on track.

International Institute for Environment and Development's Climate Change Programme
Focuses on improving the understanding of climate change impacts for poor developing countries, including both policy makers and poor groups; improving the decision-making capacities of vulnerable developing countries to cope with impacts of climate change; improving the negotiating capacities of poor developing countries in the climate change negotiations through analysis of issues relevant to them; and improving the sustainable livelihoods opportunities of poor communities in developing countries in light of possible climate change impacts. Most publications free to download.

Indigenous Peoples’ Assessments of Climate Change
Indigenous peoples-led initiative, in partnership with IIED, the United Nations University , the Christensen Fund, and Novib-Oxfam. Particular focus on the impacts of climate change on food security, landscapes, and human well-being. This is a bottom-up process grounded in indigenous worldviews and knowledge systems. This multiregional project also seeks to inform policy and practice on responses to the food and climate crisis.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The IPCC website has download links for the 4th IPCC Assessment Report (2007), a comprehensive assessment of the physical science basis (Working Group 1), impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (Working Group 2), and mitigation of climate change (Working Group 3).

The Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change
Developed to help countries improve their understanding of climate change impacts and vulnerability and to increase their ability to make informed decisions on how to adapt successfully. In particular, the database on local coping strategies is intended to facilitate the transfer of long-standing coping strategies/mechanisms, knowledge, and experience from communities that have had to adapt to specific hazards or climatic conditions to communities that may just be starting to experience such conditions, as a result of climate change.

National Action Plans for Adaptation Database (NAPA)
Provides information on all aspects of NAPAs and NAPA development, including a useful risk assessment and adaptation resources page with links to adaptation resources and guidelines.

National Communications to the UNFCCC
Contains information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources, transfer of technology, and education, training, and public awareness.

Practical Action
Runs a technical enquiry service for grassroots development workers, community-based organisations, NGOs, and other agencies using appropriate technologies to implement sustainable development. Includes information on adaptation to climate change.

Participatory Learning and Action
Back issues of Participatory Learning and Action are free to download online and contain a range of articles on participatory processes and methods that are relevant to CBA practitioners.

A network of non-profit organizations working in the fields of climate change and social development, and seeking to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America by building Southern capacity and delivering community-based mitigation and adaptation projects.

UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles
Fifty-two country-level climate data summaries intended to address the climate change information gap for developing countries by making use of existing climate data to generate a series of country-level studies of climate observations. Each report contains a set of maps and diagrams demonstrating the observed and projected climates of that country as country average time series, as well as maps depicting changes on a 2.5° grid and summary tables of the data. A narrative summarises the data in the figures, placing it in the context of the country's general climate.

weADAPT – collaborating on climate adaptation
weADAPT is an expanding collaboration that offers a wealth of experience, data, tools, and guidance to develop sound strategies and action on climate adaptation. weADAPT provides support for adapting to climate change, both on its own and as part of broader development processes, by pooling expertise from a wide range of organisations that contribute to adaptation science, practice, and policy. weADAPT espouses a principle of openness, encouraging contributions from a range of expertise across different disciplines. It aims to enable expertise and experience in vulnerability science and development practice to be coupled with climate science and modelling to create innovative thinking and integrated methods to support adaptation. Lots of resources available from the website.

Many of these websites were taken from the resources section of Christian Aid’s Adaptation Toolkit: integrating adaptation to climate change into secure livelihoods, Module 2 . Many thanks to Christian Aid for their work in gathering this information together, and allowing us to reproduce it.