No Regrets: Adaptation Planning for Uncertainty

As discussed Wednesday on the Landscapes Blog, this week began with the observance of World Day to Combat Desertification and the announcement of the Land for Life Awards by the UNCCD. Water scarcity and drought of course have serious implications for agricultural production and the livelihoods of many of those who depend on the land for income. But the issue of uncertainty – the difficulty of predicting how weather patterns may vary or the impacts of variable or extreme weather events – oftentimes makes it difficult to take any action.

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), coauthored by researchers from CCAFS, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the universities of Oxford, Leeds, and Reading, takes this uncertainty and demonstrates approaches to adaptation planning in agriculture that specifically address it. More specifically, it explores the intersection of impact-based approaches (e.g. using predictive tools and modeling) and capacity-based approaches (e.g. first assessing existing capacities and vulnerabilities) in different approaches to adaptation planning. While capacity approaches are most compatible with stakeholder-driven processes and near-term adaptation, and impact approaches are increasingly important over the longer-term, both have utility at various time scales.

Four case studies illustrate these differences, but also demonstrate the importance of building the analytic side into stakeholder processes. Together a group of stakeholders – including representatives of regional economic bodies, academia, media, civil society, farmer organizations, and the private sector – developed a set of economic scenarios for East Africa to help inform decision makers in local, regional, and national planning around issues of food security, livelihoods, and environmental change (including climate change). Two global agricultural economic models quantified these conceptual scenarios, and then a series of workshops helped national policy advisers and non-state actors connect the dots, fostering a more integrated and systems-level perspective on development in East Africa.

At the end of the day, only time will tell about future climate. But the authors argue that for adaptation planning processes, the biggest task is bridging science and policy, and the success seems to come from doing so in a collaborative and participatory manner.

Read More:
Vermeulen SJ, AJ Challinor, PK Thornton, BM Campbell, N Eriyagama, JM Vervoot, J Kinyangi, A Jarvis, P Läderach, J Ramirez-Villegas, KJ Nicklin, E Hawkins, and DR Smith.  2013. Addressing Uncertainty in Adaptation Planning for AgriculturePNAS 110(21).

Vervoot, J. 2013. Shared  Action on Food and Environments in East Africa. Insights for Policy No.1. Oxford: Environmental Change Institute.

No excuses, no regrets: we can adapt agriculture to climate change now – CCAFS Blog

Photo credit: Anton Eitzinger (CIAT)
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2 Responses to No Regrets: Adaptation Planning for Uncertainty

  1. Pingback: No Regrets: Adaptation Planning for Uncertainty...

  2. tmgieseke says:

    Thanks- this sheds additional light on my shared governance work.