This article was originally published on the CFR website on September 17, 2015

Mandy Barnett, Director of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa’s National Implementing Entity under the Adaptation Fund, discusses how climate adaptation projects should form the base of a framework of investment and how NIEs can benefit their operating countries.

Climate predications for South Africa involve increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns, with increased risk of flood for local communities and big impacts for those reliant on agriculture and local production. According to Mandy Barnett, Director of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), there has been a lot of traction and interest around funding local level adaptation work. As a result of their role as South Africa’s Adaptation Fund-accredited National Implementing Entity (NIE), SANBI have learnt how to adapt to different types of climate finance. Mandy explains how a $300 million grant for an infrastructure project requires a certain kind of institution and a set of processes to manage it; however, such projects will never deliver the kind of local, context-specific benefits that the Adaptation Fund-funded projects, which are for projects of up to $10 million, are able to do. One of SANBI’s projects is a small grant-making facility that brings projects of around 100,000 dollar to local communities, which makes a huge difference to resilience on the ground.

To other NIEs, Mandy says “carve out the time for proper project development and recognise all the co-benefits that come when those processes are supported. Project development takes time. The analogy is one of a tree; the deeper the roots, the more sturdy the tree will be. We have spent a lot of time preparing the soil, planting the seeds and growing the roots. It has taken us ten months to develop the project and we hope that this will put it on really steady ground and embed it into the communities in which we want it to take hold.”

Through steering structures, it is possible to elevate the prominence of climate change adaptation so that the projects do not just come and go, but are a framework of investment that shows those in influential positions how climate adaptation finance can make a positive difference to vulnerable communities on the ground. Through the Adaptation Fund’s Direct Access modality, SANBI have been able to visit the project sites, meet with local communities, local actors, find project champions and build capacity. Mandy explains how NIEs understand their operating country and bring this credibility, local understanding and commitment to each project: “through Direct Access, we have been empowered to work in this very direct, tangible way to build partnerships that were not there before.”