Preparing for the future? understanding the influence of development interventions on adaptive capacity at local level in Ethiopia

Research reports and studies
October 2011
Eva Ludi, Million Getnet, Kirsty Wilson, Kindie Tesfaye, Beneberu Shimelis, Simon Levine, Lindsey Jones

Recognising the complex relationship between climate and development, research conducted by the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (ACCRA) seeks to explore how development interventions impact on adaptive capacity at the local level in Ethiopia.

It does so using the Local Adaptive Capacity framework (LAC), depicting adaptive capacity as composed of five interrelated characteristics, namely: the assets base; knowledge and information; institutions and entitlement; innovation; and flexible forward-looking governance.

ACCRA’s research finds that although interventions by governments and development partners are impacting, and in some cases contributing positively to, the characteristics of adaptive capacity, they often fall short of their full potential to enhance the capacity of households and local communities to adapt by not appreciating and maximising their contributions across all five characteristics of adaptive capacity.

The LAC framework shows that the analysis of poverty and vulnerability and resulting development interventions typically focus on only one or two of the five dimensions, principally broadening the asset base and to a lesser extent institutional arrangements. This often ignores underlying institutional barriers that prevent some households from accessing those assets. Institutional barriers and power structures that increase the vulnerability of some households are insufficiently analysed and understood, and therefore interventions fail to contribute to improved livelihoods for some households; interventions are often carried out in isolation, different actors do not consult each other sufficiently, which leads to duplication and inefficiency, and different actors are not learning sufficiently from experiences of others.

The research concludes that, by using the LAC framework, more focused interventions could be developed that target both immediate development needs and longer-term adaptation requirements. Interventions can combine different approaches – disaster management, social protection and livelihoods promotion – all of which are necessary. This will only become more important given anticipated climatic and other changes.

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