A framework to increase climate change resilience

SEARCH is a three year regional project working in five countries to develop and pilot a resilience framework for local action planning capacities and methodologies to increase climate change resilience through joint learning, planning and testing by stakeholders in demonstration sites.

Official title: Social, Ecological and Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Climate Change (SEARCH)

Toolkit demonstrating the flow of activities

In developing such a Climate Resilience Framework, SEARCH has actively empowered and built resilience of both local target groups in communities and watersheds and government staff at the Governorate/District as well as the National Level.

The innovative aspect of the project is threefold. Firstly it makes the concept of resilience more concrete by looking into its four components: diversity, infrastructure, self-organization and learning. Secondly it recognizes in all aspects that climate change is just one among many factors that especially cause stress on societies in least developed regions. Last but not least, a toolkit was prepared in the frame of the project that provides practical tools for using the theoretical concept ‘resilience’ to integrate climate change adaptation, not only in national strategies, but also in the strategies and plans at local and watershed levels.

The toolkit clearly demonstrates the flows of activities under each practical step for developing resilience and how the different steps are interlinked to deliver the overall integrated plan and its implementation.

The challenge

Climate change is affecting livelihoods of people all over the world, but it is the economically and socially least developed groups of the society that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Therefore strengthening the resilience of vulnerable groups should be at the heart of policies and plans to address the impacts of climate change.

The essential quality of resilience is the capacity of societies and ecosystems to withstand shocks and rebuild when necessary. Poor people and less-developed countries require the capacity for transformation needed to move out of poverty towards prosperity that can be sustained under dynamic climate and global change processes. Resilience consistent with poverty reduction is thus the capacity to cope with shocks and stresses and to sustain transformations needed to reduce poverty under global change, including climate change.

The SEARCH Resilience Framework

The approach used in the project is based on the ‘Resilience Framework’. In the project, after extensive stakeholder consultation the following definition of resilience has been adopted: 'A watershed system’s capacity to absorb, manage, and adapt to social & health, agricultural, and ecological changes (or stressors) while still maintaining its essential structure, feedbacks, and functionality.'

The logic for choosing the watershed as the geographic unit for developing resilience adaptation plans is that it is important to limit clearly the zone of intervention. River (sub)basins are very suitable for that, because water is essential for ecology and economy.

CDI in partnership with IUCN and a wide variety of partners in the Mediterranean area, developed a resilience framework and a toolkit aiming to increase resilience of the local poor in the face of climate change and other stressors. The framework for assessing and strengthening resilience includes four main components which all need to be tackled in a coordinated manner to increase the resilience of agro-ecological systems. These components are:

Diversity of the economy, livelihoods and nature. This entails the diversification of markets, industry or farming systems. For example, development of alternative income generating mechanisms adapted to changed climatological conditions. Landscape diversity is an important element of diversity as this ensures the availability of various ecosystem services needed to buffer climate impacts – such as storage of water in upper-watershed forests and wetlands, storing CO2 in forests and buffering temperatures.

Sustainable infrastructure and technology refers to engineered and natural infrastructure such as wetlands, floodplains and peatlands that store water, lower flood peaks or protect coastal communities, as well as adaptable and sustainable technologies to reduce vulnerability such as water harvesting facilities, constructed flood protection and low energy equipment.

Self-organisation and adaptive governance is key to strengthening resilience and is developed through stakeholder consultation and empowerment of people. Stakeholder involvement and accountability are crucial for effective governance.

Learning at different levels is needed to ensure that individuals and institutions can, and want to make effective use of better climate information adaptation/mitigation strategies as they become available.