Learning from the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility

Publication Date
October 21, 2016

"With an explicit effort to address gender equality in the context of adaptation, the CCAF projects shifted the paradigm from focusing on women as vulnerable to directly empowering them as agents of change."

This publication provides an in-depth analysis and study of gender-responsive adaptation approaches being implemented and tested in 6 countries - Cambodia, Haiti, Cape Verde, Mali, Niger, and Sudan - under the Canada-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Climate Change Adaptation Facility (CCAF). The study may be of interest to adaptation practitioners and decision-makers at all levels (from community to global) who are designing new adaptation initiatives and/or developing new climate change-related policies. It provides a framework in which to examine concrete examples of gender-responsive approaches and how they can lead to greater adaptation impact. It also makes the argument for the need not only to develop integrated approaches to gender and climate change but to identify what inputs, resources, and partnerships are needed to pursue them effectively.

This paper has 4 sections. The first section presents a simplified conceptual framework for understanding adaptation strategies and practices in relation to the goals of gender equality and gender justice. In brief, the idea is that underlying gender dynamics of a community and household, including roles and responsibilities, gender-based differences in access to resources (e.g., land, water, finance), and gender power relations will directly shape vulnerability as well as opportunities for resilience. Issues of targeting, representation, sharing knowledge, and decision-making power are all central to the analysis. The general context within which communities and households evolve is influenced by social, cultural, and religious factors. Further, understanding the enabling (or dis-enabling) factors informed by policies, institutions, interventions, and research will also affect the potential approaches to adaptation. This framework will be used to analyse and extract insights on the different experiences under the CCAF.

Established in 2014, CCAF is founded on the belief that "[b]y shifting the focus from vulnerability to empowerment, adaptation responses have the potential to transform existing gender power imbalances and enhance both women's and men's adaptive capacities, while simultaneously strengthening gender equality and women's rights." CCAF aims to promote south-south cooperation and enhance the understanding of initiatives that address adaptation to climate change, especially the gender dimensions. Each national team has defined context-specific solutions based on local gender dynamics, institutions, and policies. Nonetheless, all 6 countries aim to enhance the adaptive capacity of both men and women through these common approaches: reaching out to women from resource-poor groups; securing livelihood options for both women and men; increasing the participation of women in village-level decision-making groups or committees; and minimising risk exposure for women and girls, especially during prolonged periods of drought, food, and water scarcity. A series of 6 critical areas form the background of the conceptual framework undergirding CCAF, and provide entry points for this research. A review of the literature around these 6 areas is also presented.

The second section outlines critical findings from the research study conducted in CCAF countries. Conducted from November 2015 to March 2016, this study included a desk-based review and interviews with key stakeholders in all 6 countries and field research in Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Niger, and Sudan. In each of these 4 countries, a few sites were selected for more in-depth interactions at the community level (focus group discussions (FGDs) with women and men, individual interviews, and field visits). Interviews were conducted with different actors involved in the CCAF project (UNDP project teams, regional or local project coordinators, representatives from implementing ministries, village authorities, etc.) and with gender and/or adaptation specialists at the national level. This section of the paper consists of 6 subsections, each focusing on one of the entry points identified in the conceptual framework. These include:

  1. Gendered approaches for strengthening food and nutritional security - An example given is that of collective plots in Sudan – called Jubraka in the local language – that are managed by groups typically made up of 10-12 women and 1 man. The Jubraka have greatly contributed to diversifying household food crops, particularly in the dry season. It is suggested that interventions on food security must be designed based on: gendered strategies; context-specific gender patterns underlying resource rights and responsibilities; diversification of livelihood options, especially for landless women-headed households; and existing women's social networks, which are often informal. Enabling factors for supporting women's roles in food provisioning include:
    • Facilitating acquisition of land and other productive assets (e.g., equipment, inputs) by women. Collective arrangements may be more productive, especially when individual land tenure for women is constrained by social norms and customary practices.
    • Investing in education, given that women/girls with higher levels of education are more likely to access markets and earn better incomes.
    • Removing barriers for access and management of finance for rural women.
    • Investing in time-saving technologies so that women of all age groups have more time to devote to productive activities.
  2. Gender relations around water access, use, and governance - In Cambodia, the project emphasised the formation of water-user groups to manage the new water resources. Provincial-level staff oversaw the formation of these groups at the village level to build their capacity and to ensure the effective participation of women. This approach increased local capacity for management and control over water resources and contributed to gender-responsive outcomes. CCAF finds that interventions should be designed to:
    • Build strong collaboration with public water resources departments, ensuring that designing and installing water infrastructure and facilities are based on gender-sensitive assessments.
    • Increase the capacity of local government representatives to ensure the effective participation and leadership of women in water management mechanisms.
    • Support communities in upholding principles of gender equity when establishing water-user groups.
    • Support local municipal authorities and communities to develop and maintain social mechanisms for gender-equitable distribution of water resources.
    • Ensure that partnerships with the private sector include a commitment to gender equality and women receive equal access to technical or management training, peer-to-peer learning, and other resources.
  3. Unpaid care work, time poverty, and strategies for reducing women's workload - CCAF work demonstrates that, as women reallocate time from domestic chores to productive roles (e.g., raising animals, growing crops, baking and selling bread), gender roles progressively change. This suggests that addressing gender imbalances around unpaid care work and time poverty in adaptation can lead to unexpected and subtle, yet tangible, transformation of women's and men's roles over time. CCAF finds that creating an enabling environment for reducing domestic workload can be done by:
    • Making use of bottom-up gender-sensitive participatory approaches to explore unequal gender patterns of care provisioning and implications on women's time, health, earning capacity, and ability to engage in the public sphere.
    • Collecting baseline data on how much time women, men, girls, and boys spend on household chores to explore options for reducing women's workloads, redistributing chores, and subsequently allocating budget for the provision of services or infrastructures that can reduce time spent on care activities by women and girls.
    • Encouraging continuous debating and questioning of gender rules and norms that adversely affect women and girls' time and opportunities. This includes openly discussing options for strengthening gender equity with both men and women in the community and project staff.
  4. Control over resources and revenues as a key element of women's empowerment - For example, in Haiti, separate CCAF-led FDGs with men and women (held separately) helped identified gender differences with regard to which tree varieties to reforest and where. This strategy helped enhance the long-term sustainability of the project activities. Enabling conditions for achieving more gender equity in control over resources include:
    • Understanding how existing gender relations keep women from controlling resources and identify ways to address them - e.g., examine which social norms affect gender biases.
    • Engaging and getting buy-in from local authorities to find solutions, especially for women's access to land.
    • Designing creative arrangements for increasing women's land ownership, such as supporting women's collectives or associations, which can be effective at overcoming barriers individual women face.
    • Investing in women's literacy and girls' education (including financial literacy) as a pre-condition to increasing women's control over household, project, or community finances.
  5. Participation, decision-making, and leadership, which ties in with political representation - For example, the CCAF project in Niger made specific efforts to ensure women were part of the design and implementation of project activities. It was recognised that several barriers were hindering women's participation in the project. The project introduced literacy classes, including financial literacy, for adult women. As a result, in 2015, women represented one-third of members in local management committees responsible for Commune agricultural input banks. In addition, according to CCAF, the literacy training was a contributing factor to further empowering these women to stand up for their rights.
  6. Approaches for reaching gender groups most at risk - Enabling conditions identified here include:
    • Good knowledge of the local situation, which includes: forces at play, people at risk, factors that make particular groups vulnerable to particular risks.
    • Bottom-up approaches, participatory methodologies and creative thinking.
    • Good analysis of community dynamics.
    • Involvement of multidisciplinary teams who can explore multiple dimensions of women's lives, including sexual practices in the context of poverty and seasonal vulnerabilities.
    • A concerted attempt to invest in non-traditional roles for women and to look beyond a strict sectoral focus (e.g., agriculture or water) in order to strengthen women's self-esteem and dignity.

Case studies from individual countries are coupled with analysis of trends across all 6 countries.

The third section explores institutional partnerships around gender and adaptation and achievements are discussed in the context of CCAF work, as well as challenges associated with the institutionalisation of gender equity in adaptation initiatives. Enabling factors for ensuring institutions promote gender-responsiveness in adaptation include: highly committed individuals backed by organisational support; the involvement of multiple stakeholders representing different disciplines and areas of interventions; capacity-building at the local level by empowering local actors and engaging them in work with local groups; the proper allocation of funds; research partnerships including both gender experts and sectoral experts who take a gender lens or use gender-dissagregated data; donor policies supporting gender-responsive adaptation; and technical support and access to tools and resources on gender-responsive adaptation strategies.

The fourth section presents a summary and conclusions providing lessons and recommendations for enabling gender-responsive adaptation in project cycles for future adaptation programmes. In short, CCAF notes that the CCAF projects have taken proactive approaches to ensure that their adaptation activities address underlying gender dynamics across the 6 countries. With an explicit effort to address gender equality in the context to adaptation, they shifted the paradigm from focusing on women as vulnerable to directly empowering them as agents of change. The global component of the CCAF also played an important role in sharing experience and approaches on how to integrate gender into adaptation processes. Raising awareness of gender-related approaches, south-south exchange on successful experiences, and existing guidance and tools was found to be beneficial to several countries. The global component's support in developing knowledge and communications products on successful gender-responsive strategies helped to emphasise and incentivise gender-responsive approaches. Along these lines, CCAF offers suggestions for future adaptation projects, pointing to the role of enabling factors such as gender analysis, participatory approaches, gender strategies and plans, the design and use of specific practices for empowering women (e.g., developing women's leadership capacities through training and capacity development), indicators and sex-disaggregated data, adequate use of gender expertise, and gender-responsive budgeting.

Click here for a 16-page summary report in PDF format.

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