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Adapting to climate change in the water sector

Working paper

Written by Eva Ludi

Working paper

Access to water resources plays a key role in poverty reduction and economic growth. Access relies on a number of factors including, the interplay between water resources, the technology used to access these resources, and changes in demand for water, as well as the socio-political contexts that determine equitable access. Climate change (CC) is likely to have an impact on all of the above dimensions. Water resources are considered as among those resources most vulnerable to the impacts of CC with different parts of the world experiencing increased water stress or flooding. CC is also likely to undermine poverty reduction efforts, which will broaden the socio-political gaps that play a key role in determining equity in access to available water resources.

A number of CC impacts manifest themselves at the local level, where communities have historically had the capacity to cope with weather-induced changes in water availability, except in extreme cases of prolonged drought or extensive flooding. However, under a CC scenario, the increased magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events and increased uncertainty in existing climate variability is likely to undermine existing coping capacity and increasing local vulnerability to CC induced impacts.

The present study is part of the Growth Long Term Action Research Studies (LARS) of the RiPPLE programme. In order to assess the effectiveness of planned adaptation interventions, an impact and an adaptation assessment was carried out. To assess local coping capacity, a conceptual framework that focuses on the ‘type and nature of adaptation’ was employed. To assess the effectiveness of planned adaptation interventions in enhancing and/or creating local coping capacity, an ‘‘adaptation decision matrix’ as used. 

Adaptation aims at reducing climate-induced vulnerability in systems. Vulnerability to CC is defined as a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Hence adaptation aims to reduce exposure to climatic hazards, and/or enhance the capacity of systems to cope with its impacts. Based on the type and nature of adaptation, this study aims to assess if adaptation interventions and local coping strategies ‘create, enhance and/or protect’ household and community level assets, and, if this in turn reduces exposure to CC induced impacts and/or enhances the capacity to cope with the impacts.

This study was carried out in an agricultural, agro-pastoral and pastoral site in the highland, midland and lowland areas of the Oromia and Somali regions, Ethiopia. Each site corresponds to a livelihood zone used in the WELS study – the Wheat, Barley and Potato (WBP) LZ in the highlands; the Sorghum, Maize and Chat (SMC) LZ in the midlands; and the Shinile Agro-Pastoral (SAP) LZ in the lowlands.

Adaptation interventions in the water sector can take the form of targeted supply and demand side interventions and can also include broader interventions, like safety net programmes. Four planned adaptation interventions were selected and their effectiveness in enhancing and/or creating local coping capacity was assessed:

  1.  small-scale irrigation schemes;

  2. rangeland management;

  3. Multiple Use Systems/Services (MUS); and

  4. social protection.

In Oromia, the study was carried out in Bukelcha Oromia kebele where MUS were assessed and in Chefe-aneni kebele where the PSNP was assessed. In Somali region, the study was carried out in Billa kebele where small scale irrigation was assessed and in Ayidora kebele, where an attempt was made to assess the role of rangeland management.

Nanki Kaur, Million Getnet, Beneberu Shimelis, Zegeye Tesfaye, Gebeyehu Syoum, Endale Atnafu