Adaptation Fund Stories
Proactive Focus on Environment, Social and Gender Policies
By Mark Foss, Freelance Writer, Special Feature to Adaptation Fund
To ensure its projects have environmental and social principles built in, such as protecting human rights and marginalized groups, promoting gender equality and biodiversity conservation, the Adaptation Fund has taken proactive approaches by developing and approving environmental, social and gender policies over the last several years.
It started in 2013 with the adoption of its Environmental and Social Policy (ESP), and continued with the approval of its follow-on Gender Policy and Action Plan in 2016 that streamlined equal access to all Fund resources among women and men.
The environmental and social policy received international praise in 2016. “Safeguards protect against human rights abuses by ensuring that climate programs and policies supported reflect the concerns of those most affected. The Paris Agreement should follow (and where possible, improve upon) the examples set by other climate mechanisms that have adopted strong safeguards, such as the Adaptation Fund, ” said UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment John Knox in May 2016.
“When the Adaptation Fund approved the ESP, it was the first fund in the environment field that included respect and promotion of human rights among its safeguards,” says Marcia Levaggi, who managed the Fund between 2009 and 2016. “The Fund has often been mentioned as a pioneer for its human rights approach.”
Although the Fund was created to finance projects to developing countries that are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, these policies help strengthen that mission further.
“It’s not a given that adaptation projects will benefit vulnerable populations,” says Emmanuel Seck, a representative of the Adaptation Fund NGO Network, which follows and helps promote and strengthen Fund projects in several countries. “Imagine building a seawall to help adapt to climate change, but instead of protecting the fishing community it protects the hotels. That’s why we need to orient adaptation toward the vulnerable, and address issues like floods and salt infiltration. Civil society plays an important role to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable.”
Beginning in 2010, through the auspices of Germanwatch, the then-newly formed AF NGO Network began encouraging the Adaptation Fund to adopt policies and procedures to protect the most vulnerable communities. The Fund followed through on these recommendations, integrating environmental and social principles more explicitly into its operations in 2013. It revised this policy, known as ESP, in March 2016 with the incorporation of its follow-on gender policy.
The ESP ensures that projects and programs supported by the Fund promote positive environmental and social benefits, and mitigate or avoid adverse environmental and social risks and impacts. The ESP has 15 principles to manage risk that are put into practice during the process of accrediting implementing entities, as well as during review of project and programme proposals. Among them are preserving human rights, gender equality, natural habitats and vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, as well as avoiding waste and pollution.
Building on Traditional Knowledge in Ecuador
In addition to promoting human rights, gender equality and biodiversity conservation, the ESP also calls for projects supported by the Fund to avoid imposing any adverse impacts on marginalized and vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, refugees, and indigenous people and tribal groups. In Ecuador, the Fund is supporting the government and the World Food Programme (WFP) to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of communities in Pichincha Province and the Jubones River Watershed. The project, ‘Enhancing resilience of communities to the adverse effects of climate change on food security’ (known in Spanish by the acronym FORECCSA), was approved in 2011 and runs from 2012-18. It helps communities adapt to the adverse effects of climate change on food security.
“The key to raising awareness and understanding the risk of climate change, and the importance of adaptation, started with inclusive community processes,” says Carmen Galarza, the national programme officer for WFP.
“Integrating gender considerations into adaptation measures is key to achieving results and securing long-term sustainability. Sweden was instrumental in initiating the Adaptation Fund’s work in this area and we are happy that it has recently approved and begun implementation of its Gender Policy and Action Plan. This will ensure more systematic integration and follow-up of these crucial issues to the benefit of communities vulnerable to climate change.”
—Tove Goldmann, Sweden’s representative to the Adaptation Fund Board
Based on this approach, FORECCSA gave special attention to ancestral knowledge with a culturally and gender sensitive lens and focus on food security and nutrition. For example, it built cultural spaces to integrate traditional practices and promote inter-generational learning, with participation of women, youth and community elders. “In the Andean regions, home gardens or ‘chakras’ in the Quichuan language, are known as [natural] ‘drugstores’ in rural areas,” says Galarza. “These gardens have been a family tradition since prehistoric times. They are a small family plot from which vegetables and garnishes are taken each day to secure food security and nutrition for yearround consumption and sale. They provide food during lean pre-harvest periods and supply seed for potatoes and grains.”
The project is learning from this traditional knowledge. For example, FORECCSA supported establishment of home gardens to ensure families will have access to food even after the project ends in 2018. The gardens also offer a space for social interaction among the generations, promoting community cohesion. Other activities also drew on traditional knowledge, including use of organic fertilizers and planting of a species known as “water plants” that produce moisture.
Among its results to date, the project has built or improved 23 reservoirs that have increased water storage capacity by nearly 121,000 cubic metres. It has improved 34 km of community irrigation channels and installed 500 irrigation systems. Some 3,000 families now have a permanent source of irrigation water to produce food all year round. And 15,000 people increased their knowledge in climate change, food security and gender equity. Early warning systems have also been improved. The project linked weather stations in Pichincha to the national meteorological service, and strengthened the network of such stations in the Jubones River Watershed. Climate warning systems now provide relevant information to help local and national planning.
The WFP had already integrated social, environmental and gender concerns into its project, and now also aligns with the Adaptation Fund’s new policy. “The 15 principles of the Fund’s Environmental and Social Policy help ensure that FORECCSA implemented activities that respect laws, people’s rights, gender equality, heritage, biodiversity and the environment,” says Galarza.
During the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Morocco in November 2016, Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment, Walter Garcia, praised the project for its innovation. “This initiative contributes to mitigating desertification and loss of biodiversity, as well as discussing alternatives to motivate smallholder farmers to use sustainable practices to adapt to climate change, addressing priority areas such as food security and gender equality as key aspects to combat hunger in the world,” he said.
“Safeguards protect against human rights abuses by ensuring that climate programs and policies supported reflect the concerns of those most affected…. The Paris Agreement should follow (and where possible, improve upon) the examples set by other climate mechanisms that have adopted strong safeguards, such as the Adaptation Fund.”
— John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment
Moving Gender from “Sensitive” to “Responsive”
For the Adaptation Fund, gender concerns go hand-in-hand with environmental and social policies. Principle 5 of the ESP, for example, is gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender equality is also considered at the review stage of project proposals and in the results framework performance report.
In the lead-up to the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Fund was working on its next step: integrating gender considerations into its policies and procedures. “We were happy to see the agreement recognized gender equality and women’s empowerment in the text,” says Young Hee Lee, the Fund’s operations analyst. “It confirmed we were on the right path, and opened a new chapter to our approach.”
In 2016, the Fund approved a Gender Policy and Action Plan that builds on the policies and plans of other climate funds. While plans of ESP and Principle 5 includes gender, Lee points out, it mostly relates to risk management. By having its own action plan, timeline and specific goals, the Fund took a more holistic approach, demonstrating its commitment to improving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“Integrating gender considerations into adaptation measures is key to achieving results and securing longterm sustainability,” says Tove Goldmann, Sweden’s representative to the Adaptation Fund Board. “Sweden was instrumental in initiating the Adaptation Fund’s work in this area and we are happy that it has recently approved and begun implementation of its Gender Policy and Action Plan. This will ensure more systematic integration and follow-up of these crucial issues to the benefit of communities vulnerable to climate change.”
Through readiness grants, the Fund is also helping national implementing entities (NIEs) build capacity to make the experiences of both women and men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs—a process known as ‘gender mainstreaming’.
“Our gender policy is still a work in progress,” says Lee. “Leading institutions are talking about gender innovation whereas the Fund, with its limited experience, is still trying to achieve mainstreaming. We’re moving our project template from ‘gender sensitive’ to ‘gender responsive’, which aims to address the roots of inequality.”
In Rwanda, for example, the Fund supported a project to reduce vulnerability to climate change in vulnerable communities in the northwest. It took a gender-sensitive approach by analyzing gender roles, power relations and distinguishing between the specific interests, needs and priorities of men and women. The Fund’s accredited NIE in Rwanda, the government’s Ministry of Natural Resources, is mainstreaming gender into all of its adaptation activities. The project is building a green village and prioritized households that are led by women, as well as made it a priority to hire local wives for an agricultural terracing project as a way of making extra income for their families. In all, 4,000 women are participating in adaptation planning and program activities within the project.
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) also took a gender-sensitive approach to its large project in the greater uMngeni catchment area. Women, for example, received social and economic benefits comparable to men. By the summer of 2017, for example, the project was benefiting 228 farmers in the Swayimane community of KwaZulu-Natal — 179 female and 49 male. “This is broadly representative of the agricultural landscape in rural South Africa where women generally are more involved in agriculture,” says Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, who coordinates the project’s agricultural component. “The men are usually involved in migratory labour, working in the cities or mines and sending remittances home (if at all). Women therefore have the responsibility of feeding the family and deciding on household diet, among other things.”
From a food security perspective, it’s vital to include women in farming as they contribute directly to improve household and nutrition security. But it’s also a question of human rights. “As a marginalised group in society, working with women and involving them in leadership positions (in co-ops) and improving their income earned from selling produce, contributes to empowering women in rural areas,” says Mabhaudhi.
As the Adaptation Fund continues on its path towards “gender innovation”, it is comparing notes with other agencies. A meeting with other climate funds in March 2017 was the first step towards identifying possible areas of collaboration in areas such as training models and gender indicators.
“Other institutions look at us positively when it comes to gender, and we are making progress by learning from the experiences of others and hope to become a leader in the field. We can highly contribute to sharing experiences of gender action because our NIEs are on the ground and already implementing these components into their work,” says Lee.