Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change: Lessons from Kenya 

The 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA) was held in Nairobi in April 2015 under the theme “measuring and enhancing effective adaptation”.  This is a series of annual CBA conferences focusing on various pillars of climate change adaptation including finance and communication.  The conference provides a platform for practitioners in climate change adaptation such as civil society, youth, policy makers, researchers and development partners to explore challenges and opportunities and share knowledge and experiences. The Malawi delegation comprised of other members from civil society including CISONECC, government and development partners. The conference brought together 400 participants from 90 countries.  

Community based Adaptation to climate change is aimed at empowering communities to use their own knowledge, systems and capacities to adapt to climate change. Prior to the conference participants went on a three day field trip to the countryside of Nairobi to engage with communities that are practising climate change adaptation strategies. Communities in Kenya utilize climate change information to make decisions on Agricultural production and to adapt to climate change. This meant changes in their long time traditional ways of agricultural production and water management. Just as in Malawi communities in the eastern province of Makueni county, were depended on maize for food and for income. 

Climate systems in the region have changed and could not support efficient maize production, later on using the available varieties due to change in temperatures and erratic rainfall. The research institution KALRO (Kenya Agricultural and livestock research organization) assisted the communities in developing appropriate plant varieties for production and the generation and use of climate information. Weather data is translated by the researchers and various experts to develop an “advisory” that consist of seasonal predictions of rain fall patterns and provide options to farmers on which crops and varieties to plant, when and how. Besides the advisory, communities have taken up improved agricultural practices such as irrigation, mulching, terrace making, manure making, crop diversification and livestock production. 

Rain water harvesting is a common practice in the region with no formal water systems. Communities harvest rainwater through modern and traditional technologies. Water from rooftops never goes to waste in such communities. Harvested water is used for crop production, livestock feed production, domestic use and fish farming. The research institutions and extension system assists the communities in choosing and developing appropriate technologies. Nevertheless, not all community members have adopted have these technologies. 

Contrary to most livelihood programmes, communities in these initiatives selected their pathways for adaptation from the information and options that they were given by research. In addition, farmers made substantial investments in some technologies such as irrigation systems and their resources such as land. 

The 3 day conference included interactive sessions on gender, vulnerable groups, climate information systems, role of private sector, measuring adaptation, practicing ecosystem based adaptation and options for adaptation. CISONECC particularly under the Southern Voices on adaptation programme promoted the Joint principles on Adaptation to the 400 participants. The principles commonly known as JPA are a set of 7 principles that CSOs consider as a best practice for adaptation planning. They range from inclusive participation, adequate finance, effective institutions, gender and social issues, role of the communities, use of climate information and appropriate investments for climate change adaptation. Outcomes of the conference included releasing the Nairobi declaration on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change which highlights the significance of addressing the adaptation needs of the poor and most vulnerable groups in international agreements on sustainable development, finance and climate change. 

The declaration comes at a time when world leaders will be adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September and agree on a new Global Climate Change in December.