The role of community-based natural resource management in climate change adaptation in Ethiopia: Assessing participatory initiatives with pastoral communities
Hannah Reid, Lucy Faulkner, Axel Weiser, IIED Climate Change Working Paper no. 6, July 2013 | ISBN: 978-1-84369-944-6

This Climate Change Working Paper describes the methodology developed to assess the role of selected community-based/participatory initiatives undertaken by Save the Children with pastoral communities in the lowlands of Borana and Guji zones in Ethiopia in contributing to climate change adaptation. The paper also outlines the results and recommendations generated from applying this methodology at the study sites. Similar sites that also suffered from drought and had the same history of development and humanitarian interventions, but had no Save the Children interventions, were also visited for comparative purposes. Results show that much has been done at the Save the Children sites towards moving from conventional approaches to development (and adaptation to climate variability including disaster risk reduction) to ‘transformative development’ approaches that empower local people and support bottom-up, participatory, flexible decision-making and planning processes within a strong institutional context. Particular strengths include: responsiveness to the needs of the climate vulnerable poor through an inclusive community approach that respects pastoralist traditions, including benefit sharing mechanisms that reduce livelihood vulnerability and improve coping capacity; district government engagement that supports the revitalization and potential sustainability of upgraded traditional pastoralist rangeland management systems; improved community cohesion through the application of bottom-up participatory approaches leading to a shift in mindset from ‘individualism’ to ‘communal’ rangeland and natural resources use, and wider stakeholder solidity across a broader institutional landscape; utilization of participatory resource mapping and community action plans to support collective problem solving and consensus building, including a possible reduction in conflict situations and improvements in perceived system flexibility; community openness to test indigenous knowledge systems with external relevant information-bases supporting learning-by-doing approaches; two-way knowledge exchange on NRM processes, from local government to community, and community to local government; and, increased female inclusiveness in decision-making processes across scales, including the empowerment of women with perceived improvements in the ownership of and right to rangeland and natural resources, coupled with a shift in male mindset on the cultural role and value of women. In stark comparison, the site visited without Save the Children interventions showed that existing pastoralist livelihood systems were no longer producing effective results in light of local changing circumstances, with respondents unable to adapt with change. This suggests that the potential role that development actors, such as Save the Children, can play in the context of building adaptive capacity merits further attention amongst governments and policymakers. Likewise the role that sustainable natural resource management can play as an adaptation strategy, particularly for poor and vulnerable groups, merits further attention when compared to alternative infrastructure or technological adaptation solutions. Read the paper …