Tried and tested: Learning from farmers on adaptation to climate change

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Climate change adaptation is a relatively new field. However, there exists a wealth of largely overlooked experience that has been accrued over generations by small-scale farmers and pastoralists in poor countries as they cope with climatic extremes and increasing uncertainty – climate-change related or otherwise. IIED has 40 years’ experience of working with these producers; this Gatekeeper paper draws lessons from this wealth of knowledge in order to inform adaptation planning efforts at all levels. The paper underscores how measures to increase climate change resilience must view food, energy, water and waste management systems as interconnected and mutually dependent. This holistic approach must also be applied to economic analysis for adaptation planning. Similarly, it is vital to use traditional knowledge and management skills, which can further support adaptation planning. The authors make three specific policy recommendations for achieving this: 1. Tackle climate change within an integrated environmental and development framework: A more holistic approach would address climate change adaptation and mitigation simultaneously, and also ensure complementarities between agendas that focus on climate change and those that focus on mainstream development. Economic assessments should also be more complete, and include a wide array of costs and benefits. 2. Keep locally-led solutions and genuine community benefits central in international climate change agreements and scientific research. Policy makers must take into account traditional knowledge about seed varieties, livestock, crops and land management to enhance adaptive management capabilities. This requires a similarly large shift in high- level policy-making processes. 3. Challenge power imbalances to ensure local people and their organisations are heard in policy making: Most policy-making processes in poor countries are organised along sectoral lines and are not geared up for strengthening local organisations and federations, building on local knowledge or empowering local people. A shift to more joined-up cross- sectoral policy making and institutional support is required. Lessons also need to be fed up from local and national levels to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – for example communities should be involved in national policy processes such as the National Adaptation Programmes of Action.



Climate change, Climate change adaptation, Smallscale farmers, Climate change resilience