The remote municipalities of Western Nepal face acute climate risks and still have weak administrative and governance systems for tackling them. Taking on both challenges is at the heart of the Nepal Climate Change Support Programme (NCCSP).
Johan Bentinck, Mott MacDonald team leader, explains how Nepal’s locally-led approach to climate adaptation provides a fertile ground for understanding how to implement climate resilience projects from the bottom up.
Nepal’s decentralised government, guided by the national Local Action for Adaptation (LAPA) policy, is committed to putting more climate change resources into local hands, something that is still rare internationally.
Only a small proportion of international climate funds targeted at developing countries are directed at the local level – less than 10% between 2003 and 2016, according to research by the International Institute for Environment and Development. Nepal aims to increase that to 80%.
NCCSP was initiated in 2013 by the Government of Nepal and supported with funding from UK aid. Mott MacDonald is providing technical assistance in its second phase (2019-2023). This part of the programme has a strong focus on giving local communities greater influence over which climate projects are prioritised and how to implement them in ways that improve their lives.
It also aims to establish a local planning and governance system capable of delivering effective and high-quality climate adaptation projects with the support of communities.
Taking a locally-led approach poses huge challenges. If local governments scatter climate funding too widely then fragmentation and duplication adds costs and erodes long-term value. If planners prioritise investment in areas where people are more vocal or where there are strong vested interests then money may be not be optimised and marginalised groups excluded.
Evidence-based decision making
NCCSP2 puts evidence-based planning using hazard maps into practice to help prioritise and validate investments. Decisions on local interventions are now more focused on vulnerable areas and communities.
Nepal’s municipalities were newly created in 2017 after constitutional change and need significant support. One of the project aims is to establish strong systems for attracting and absorbing future climate change funding at local government level – with less need for external donor oversight.
NCCSP2 aims to mitigate climate change impact in four areas: risk to infrastructure; drinking and irrigation water; agricultural yield and livelihood. Interventions in these areas have proved to be particularly important during the COVID-19 crisis as many people lost their source of income.
One of Mott MacDonald’s roles is to ensure that local institutions take long-term climate risks into account within development plans, known as LAPAs. Another priority is to ensure that the livelihoods and resilience of the people are improved after the project is completed in a sustainable way, not just that new roads and irrigation channels have been built
A strong focus on the relevance of investments for climate change resilience, the legitimacy of expenditure and quality assurance of projects is needed from the start, not as an afterthought.
Nature-based solutions have a key role to play in protecting infrastructure and poor rural communities. Plans need to include projects to protect peoples’ sources of income, such as plants and trees, alongside infrastructure investment. Rising temperatures mean that almond and walnut trees can thrive at high altitudes, for example, offering protection from landslides and introducing new crops that help to diversify livelihoods.
Mott MacDonald is taking a similar approach to climate adaptation in other developing countries, such as the Blue Gold programme in Bangladesh and earlier work in Ethiopia, the Philippines and Uganda.
Watch this space
Mott MacDonald will publish the findings of a longitudinal study of NCCSP2 before the end of the year to assess any changes in the resilience of climate vulnerable communities to existing climate-related shocks and future climate change. It will review the impact of interventions made by the project since 2013 on a sample of vulnerable households.