Counting on uncertainty: the economic case for community based adaptation in North-East Kenya

Counting on uncertainty: the economic case for community based adaptation in North-East Kenya

Investing in community-based adaptation is sensible but socio-economic livelihoods should be respected

Climate change impacts are expected to significantly erode part of societies’ economic, social and environmental capitals; yet is investing in community-based adaptation economically efficient and effective – holding all else equal? To answer this question, two communities in north east Kenya were consulted to provide case studies for this paper, within a broader objective to investigate the case for investing in community-based adaptation.

The author finds investing in community-based adaptation is a wise investment: its environmental, social and economic benefits outweigh the costs in virtually all modeled scenarios. Consequently, a big part of climate-related socio-economic losses and costs can be avoided through investment in local interventions. Still, the study underlines that the regional scale infrastructural investment and the productive strategies should be designed in a manner that does not undermine the socio-economic livelihoods of communities.

Policy implications are as follows:

  • focus should be less about spurring one specific form of transformation and more about broadening potential directions, i.e. broadening the capacity of communities to respond to change, whatever form change takes
  • policy-makers should focus on both “hard” and “soft” adaptation interventions; spurring productive capacities is important, but knowledge, decision-making processes and empowerment are critical
  • it should be noted that economic diversification is not always a solution; interventions need to be thoroughly assessed, require dynamic planning and must be compatible with ecological characteristics
  • when it comes to strict interventions, stakeholders should take into account the numerous “double dividends” – provided that uncertainty is factored within the analysis and design of interventions
  • community-based adaptation benefits are likely to be enhanced by national level interventions: coordination between national and local level interventions can enhance community-based adaptation benefits
  • social cost benefit analysis is a particularly effective tool at valuing what matters to stakeholders, capturing avoided losses and placing external effects within a decision-making framework
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