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Implementing integrated grassroots ‘climate smart’ development programmes in rural communities

By Chloe Mcenery Beacham

Central to the livelihoods of the majority of communities in Uganda, agriculture is vital for employment, food, and income, and is the backbone of Uganda’s economy – a heavy dependence which puts millions at risk with increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather due to climate change making the agricultural sector highly vulnerable.

Losses caused by drought or disease, for instance, can have a devastating impact on whole communities, and feeding a growing population without further depleting reserves of soil or water is a huge challenge. Identifying practices best able to respond to the effects of climate change and increasing adaptive capacity to ensure food and income security, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and Climate Smart Village (CSV) approaches increase sustainability, productivity and resilience to help overcome climate adversity. Low-cost and achievable at large-scale through the integrated management of water, land and ecosystems, decoupling agriculture and energy generation and land degradation / deforestation, providing co-benefits for GHG mitigation by reducing, and sequestering, emissions, CSA / CSV projects are proving that change - for the better - is possible.

Key to unlocking facilitative finance is ensuring climate change is incorporated into development planning, and implemented within the context of wider international policies as well as the national policy context. Attending COP25 in Madrid, one of our partners in Uganda, Nasaasira Ambrose, from local NGO SICDO (Sheema Integrated Community Development Organization) said "Climate action and finance is a serious matter requiring a sound understanding of developing transformational projects by the ‘rulebook’, which many traditional development NGOs in the South lack to enable them to unleash the huge climate action potential of rural communities."

Working with five local development NGOs in Uganda, with financial assistance from BMZ to implement the climate development agenda under Germany’s Marshall Plan with Africa, priority areas including agriculture, rural development and food security assessed in the initial three-year pilot project are now being followed up and developed, centring around the theme of Climate Smart Villages (CSV). Taking a programmatic approach, building - from the bottom up - off the back of lessons learned from improved cooking stoves, solar lighting, and water and soil management systems, amongst others, appropriate village-based practices for scaling-up are being prioritised. In parallel, hands-on, practical guidance is being developed tailored to the needs of organizations working at the grassroots level in villages to train extensionists and facilitators working with and in rural communities, and to help with getting the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) implementation off the ground.

Also focusing on clean energy and energy efficiency, as well as taking development issues such as water and sanitation into account, good-practice climate action methodologies are being mainstreamed into development work through a powerful village-based approach. Engaging and working with farmers and villagers in rural communities on participatory planning, development, and implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation, and so learning, grassroots development action has proven to be a hugely effective approach, and is at the heart of partner activities in their work with communities - inclusiveness being key to engagement, and so success.

Striving for coherence and complementarity between climate smart activities and sustainable development and the achievement of the SDGs, the resilience embedded through sustainable practices is reducing the ecological footprint of rural communities, and so contributing to biodiversity conservation and avoidance of further land degradation as well. Indeed, the mainstreaming of climate change and action into rural and agricultural sectors is consolidating synergies between once differentiated imperatives and responsibilities, and driving a move away from conventional grant-based 'finance' and a charity mindset (and motive) towards a measurable, monitorable valuation of (and, ultimately, for) ecosystem services, and innovative and private sector finance for Nature-Based Solutions (NBS).

Looking forward, collaborative approaches and partnerships between the North and the South, with international support and expertise, and knowledge transfer - in both directions - when aiming at blending and new climate finance sources and related requirements, are going beyond traditional development aid funding cycles and approaches. But the integration of good-practice climate smart activities into the organizations and operations of the development agents themselves takes time. Aiming at transformational change over a decade or more requires lead times of several years and a phased approach – using an initial phase for preparing for the real upscaling, and building the foundations to do so. Results-based management and finance, including working as consortia with a view to covering larger areas and broadening sectoral scopes towards delivering greater climate action and development impacts, is both the challenge and the way forward.

After visiting local partner organizations again in October to discuss the design of the new programme, and facilitation of related workshops and training, Robert Tippmann, Director of Climatekos gGmbH, said "Working with experienced local development organizations on the ground, applying village development approaches and integrating them with good-practice and cutting-edge climate action strategies and measures should and must enable local actors to unleash the adaptation and mitigation potentials, upscaling a programmatic approach providing a strong foundation for accessing and leveraging the finance required.”

Climatekos gGmbH is an independent social enterprise in the field of environment and development focusing on international climate protection.

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