This article was originally published on the CFR website on September 5, 2019

Costa Rica, despite being a small country, is experiencing a wide range of climate risks and vulnerabilities. Some regions, for example, are facing an increase in the number of dry days and drought, whereas others are experiencing more intense rain and flood events. The US$10 million Adaptation Fund programme in Costa Rica aims to reduce vulnerability in critical sectors including agriculture, water resources and coastlines. Implemented by Fundecooperación para el Desarrollo Sostenible (Fundecooperación), the programme began in October 2015 and will last for 5 years, until 2020.

During the proposal preparation phase, Fundecooperación was awarded a readiness grant from the Adaptation Fund to cover scoping at both the national level and the local level, through consultation with communities to understand their conditions and priorities. This also helped in establishing a strong network of local organisations and building relationships that would be useful for the programme going forward. The readiness grant also covered a desktop climate vulnerability assessment based on studies that had already been done, which was then used to build a picture of the climate risks facing communities. Finally, the funding also helped to alleviate the challenge of translating all the documents from Spanish into English, for the Adaptation Fund, as translation can be very expensive. As Marianella Feoli, Executive Director of Fundecooperación, said, “it was really important to have [the readiness grant]”.

Once the programme was approved, another small readiness grant was provided to develop the relevant safeguards required by the Adaptation Fund.

The Costa Rica programme was very unique in its approach to developing the full programme proposal. Fundecooperación decided to make the process very participatory and bottom-up. After determining the focus and priorities of the programme as a whole, a call for proposals was sent out to local organisations to apply to implement aspects of the programme, by working with community groups and other local actors. Around 100 proposals were received and, of those, 40 projects were selected based on the strength of the proposals, the suitability of the activities, as well as the strength of the applicant organisation and its local networks. These projects are now being implemented by Fundecooperación, along with 80 other local, national and regional organisations at the executing entity level on the ground. Feoli notes, “we had identified what to do, but the local organisations shaped the how.”

Projects included one to help small agricultural producers adapt and build resilience to the negative impacts of climate change in Costa Rica such as droughts, higher temperatures and extreme rainfall.

The project is producing positive, concrete results in improving farmers’ livestock shelters, feeding methods and water management while also integrating artisanal farmers into the market value chain for their local products like milk and cheese. It is transforming and improving their livelihoods as they become climate-resilient producers. Watch the video and learn more about the project here.

This focus on collaboration plays a key role in how the Costa Rica programme operates. The readiness support from the Adaptation Fund was vital in allowing Fundecooperación time to identify other programmes that were already being implemented, and to consider opportunities for collaboration. For example, how they could integrate climate resilience into existing development projects that had not considered the current or future impacts of climate change. In addition to the readiness funding, Feoli also recognises the importance of the annual NIE workshops organised by the Adaptation Fund for collaboration and learning with other NIEs, which can inform programme design and implementation. She says through these forums, Fundecooperación and others (including SANBI in South Africa and PROFONANPE in Peru) have formed a community of practice, where they share tools and learning. Feoli has also received requests for specific information from other NIEs, which only happens “when there is trust and when you know people.”

Feoli’s one important recommendation to other NIEs is to “see your role as a facilitator, a synergy creator” who needs to remain open to understanding other initiatives and seeing how they can build on each other and relate to one another. She would even go as far to say (with a twinkle in her eye) that the results of Adaptation Fund programmes should be measured by the number of synergies the NIE creates with others. Even though collaboration is not considered to be core to most programmes, NIEs have a responsibility for mainstreaming adaptation into as many activities as possible.


Image credit: Luis Gamboa Hernández