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Climate change: enhancing adaptive capacity
March 2006
Michael Mortimore and Adam Manvell
Natural Resources Systems Programme (NRSP)

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges the Pass website as the source of this report: www.passlivelihoods.org.uk/default.asp?id=1


Summary

Climate change threatens to damage the eco-systems on which poor people depend, thereby impeding their livelihood strategies. Poor people’s adaptation to climate change is a major research theme for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). This Brief, based on a synthesis study of 105 projects completed under the Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy (RNRRS), proposes a new strategy for research on such adaptation that will both add value to the earlier research and evolve to address knowledge gaps and key questions. The strategy is based on five research themes. The first four focus on providing opportunities for poor people to strengthen their livelihoods through technologies, strategies and institutions in the natural resources sector, thereby improving their capacity to adapt to climate change. The fifth theme recognises the importance of non-farm options in diverse and resilient livelihoods. It is important to link climate change adaptation research with other activities within DFID, develop regional partnerships, and engage policy processes at all scales from local to global. A systems approach is advocated. Demand-led research that builds on peoples’ capabilities rather than further analysing their vulnerability should be at the centre of a new framework for studying and supporting the adaptation process.

Background

Climate change adds a new challenge to development efforts – that of enhancing the adaptive capacities of poor people. In many countries, increased short-term variability (in rainfall, for example) and/or long-term trends (such as rising sea levels) are damaging the ecosystems on which poor people depend, threatening their livelihoods.

Adaptation to climate change is a major theme in the newly configured research funding framework of the Central Research Department of DFID. This Brief is based on a synthesis study of 105 projects completed under the RNRRS, which ran from 1995 to 2006. The purpose of the RNRRS is to generate benefits for poor people by the application of new knowledge to natural resources systems. The present study aimed to extract new knowledge on poor peoples’ capacities to adapt to climate change and variability in order to formulate research questions and guide policy priorities within or outside DFID.

Little of the RNRRS work explicitly addressed climate change because the RNRRS was set up before the emergence of climate change adaptation as a policy priority. Nonetheless, since such adaptation depends to a great extent on how successfully environmental variability can be managed, RNRRS work has added to scientific understanding of some key parameters, and has developed a range of technologies, models, decision support tools and management options that can be applied to future research on adaptation to climate change.

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