Mati Magadji reflects in Kolondialan village, central Mali, May 17, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Zoe Tabary
The anticipated end of a flagship UK-funded effort to strengthen people against disasters and climate extremes in 13 sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries has sparked worries over how the projects it backed will continue their work.
Four years after the £140-million ($180-million) Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme began, hard-won achievements are now at risk, said participants at a conference in Nairobi on lessons learned from BRACED.
After it ends in September, that learning will inform “the bigger picture” in which political decisions are made, said Vincent Gainey, a climate resilience advisor with the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Britain remains committed to strengthening resilience in vulnerable communities, he added, pointing to the prime minister’s commitment to lead on the issue at a climate summit hosted by the U.N. secretary-general this September.
In the future, DFID also aims to use the knowledge it has gained from BRACED more broadly, Gainey said.
“We feel we can actually achieve more by investing in resilience across all our programming rather than in a specific programme,” he said.
“Economic growth needs to be climate-resilient, so we’ll be working towards that,” he added.
But DFID’s approach could leave some of the 15 BRACED projects, involving more than 100 organisations, struggling for money come the autumn, aid workers said.
The U.S.-based Near East Foundation (NEF), for example, has prepared the ground for local authorities in Senegal and Mali to manage large sums of international climate finance that could filter down to them through central governments in the coming years.
Jen Abdella, who works for the NEF, broke into a spontaneous dance routine as she told Nairobi conference delegates Mali had submitted paperwork to receive funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with the help of her group.
“This responds to a need to put money where it matters, so that decisions about (climate) adaptation are being made where climate impacts are being felt,” said Abdella.
A year and a half of work went into assisting the Malian authorities to apply for direct access to the GCF, set up to channel billions of dollars to poor nations to tackle climate change.
But the funds typically take a long time to be committed, given the difficulties of meeting requirements that make up a process often criticised as “cumbersome”, Abdella said.
That has raised the risk that the institutions, capacities and processes developed to ensure funds trickle down smoothly to local governments could suffer from a lack of support between the end of BRACED and global funds arriving, she said.
And Ethiopian aid worker Assefa Hailu fears a just-started project there allowing herders to insure their cattle against the effects of climate change – such as the 2015-2016 drought that devastated livestock – will run short of external funding.
Herders currently depend on subsidies from BRACED to pay part of their insurance premiums, he said.
“Some of the activities will need our support, or the support of institutions like us, otherwise it will stop there,” said Hailu, who works for Mercy Corps on the “Market Approaches to Resilience” project. “Government has a limited capacity … to take up these products.”
BRACED was initially envisioned as a two-phase programme of up to 10 years, said David Howlett, head of policy at the Stockholm-based Global Resilience Partnership (GRP).
But it is not unusual for government funding for foreign aid projects like this to run dry after three to five years, he noted.
“Priorities change, personnel change on the donor side,” he said.
Bridging the funding gap will require thinking outside the box, BRACED participants said.
Diaspora groups could pitch in, for example, said Emmanuel Seck, a programme manager at Senegalese charity ENDA Energie.
Emilie Beauchamp, a researcher at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, said applying for funding that supports climate resilience indirectly – from health to food –could also open up opportunities.
The GRP’s Howlett said one important takeaway from BRACED was that embedding resilience into local planning is a way to avoid over-reliance on donors.
He gave the example of Wajir, a county in northeast Kenya of about 700,000 people, where the local government now accounts for resilience planning in its budget.
Of the county’s annual development budget, 2 percent goes into a special climate change fund that supports adaptation and resilience to climate change, said Ahmed Abdi, its director of environment, energy and natural resources.
“Don’t blame the donor - this is the system we’re in,” Howlett said. “We should be working to get rid of overseas development assistance - otherwise we perpetuate a system, which is dependency.”