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ALP: Adaptation Strategies Compendium

This compendium presents the range of different adaptation strategies supported by ALP in communities across the four countries where the programme is working.


The Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP) has sought to increase the capacity of vulnerable households in sub-Saharan Africa to adapt to climate variability and change. The four-country programme reaches vulnerable communities in northern Ghana, southern Niger, eastern Kenya and northern coastal Mozambique by using participatory initiatives aiming to pioneer and deepen practical understanding of Community Based Adaptation (CBA). ALP’s approach gives explicit focus on integrating gender equality and diversity into the process.

ALP uses a learning-by-doing approach in facilitating CBA in a growing number of vulnerable communities across a range of livelihood groups, agro- ecological zones and climates. The goal is to develop and document effective CBA approaches that result in practical community-generated adaptation decisions that will increase and sustain peoples’ resilience to climate change. The CBA approaches have the potential to be adopted and integrated into community, district, and county level development planning cycles and related sector programmes.

This compendium* presents the range of different adaptation strategies supported by ALP in communities across the four countries where the programme is working. For each strategy evidence and lessons are provided from successful implementation and impacts in reducing vulnerability and building adaptive capacity in different contexts in Africa. The material is relevant to practitioners, policy makers and local government officers in promoting the future adoption of CBA approaches and adaptation strategies that enable more sustainable adaptation.

*Download from right-hand column or via links provided under Further Resources.

ALP Areas covered in the compendium.
Table 1 form page 6 of the compendium: adaptation strategies by country. Each strategy is discussed in the report alongside its associated enabling factors, sustainable practices and future lessons.

Approach: Towards Greater Local Adaptive Capacity

The cornerstone of ALPs work has been taking an integrated, holistic approach to strengthening adaptive capacity at household and community-wide levels. For each of the strategies presented in this compendium – most, if not all, of the elements of the local adaptive capacity framework, developed by the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (figure 1, below) were covered during the initial community discussions, training and motivation stages. It is important to keep in mind that this framework underpins the approach that is described in each of the strategies in this compendium. Strengthening adaptive capacity at all levels ensures that plans and adaptation strategies are managed adaptively to remain relevant as the climate changes.

Selected Strategies

Since 2010 ALP has used the holistic approach to CBA planning described above to support communities across the four countries to build their climate resilience by testing various adaptation strategies appropriate to the different contexts and challenges faced. The strategies presented in this compendium are the ones that have been effective in reducing vulnerability and building adaptive capacity and therefore have the greatest potential to be adopted by communities in other places.

From page 6 of the compendium.

Key Messages

In addition to providing details of enabling factors, sustainable practices and future lessons for each strategy in each country, this compendium also offers some broader insights and common lessons about the opportunities and challenges of achieving resilience to climate change, and of the contribution of CBA (in brief – see the full report for more detailed discussion):

  • In today’s ‘information society’ the element of bringing in new information – or capturing local knowledge (in various formats) is perhaps one of the most ‘enabling’ from the perspective of isolated, or marginalised rural communities. However in many contexts illiteracy is a key barrier to adaptive capacity, particulary in very low-income households and for women. Community Monitors, who serve as conduits for information to the community (see page 22 of the compendium), are mostly literate and can support dissemination of information to non-literate people in the community. Radio and mobile phones also play an important role in sharing information with themost vulnerable.
  • ALP staff (and practitioners in general) in many ways also serve as ‘information brokers’ – especially on the rapidly evolving scene of climate information and knowledge. They facilitate links to new, or underused government services e.g. the Rural Enterprise Project in Ghana, that offers training and capacity building and provides access to credit. By brokering such links, ALP aims to ensure mainstream systems and services are strengthened and responsive to community needs. This in turn can enable CBA to create both sustainable adaptive capacity and livelihood resilience.
  • Resilient households, and by extension the larger community, can draw on assets such as natural resources, savings, livestock or remittances, in times of drought or other climate shocks. But extended droughts, such as the devastating ones in mid 1980s and the more recent events in 2005 and 2010-11 in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, exhaust or do permanent damage to such assets. Strategies that consciously build the assets of households and create opportunities to engage in new livelihood options are also more likely to endure beyond project-life, and ultimately spread to other communities.
  • Adaptation requires more than new knowledge and locally elaborated plans. It is about building the physical infrastructure, such as grain stores, weighing and seed handling equipment, and transport, combined with the skills of managing each season’s harvests better than before. It entails ‘capitalising’ on future market value rather than selling the surplus cheap when the prices are low – and balancing the food (what’s for dinner?) versus finance (pay school fees?) trade off to optimise these ‘liquid’ assets. There is nothing simple here, yet dozens of communities and thousands of households are getting better at such asset management.
  • Institution strengthening is of strategic importance in creating long-term adaptive capacity. All new Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) and their apex bodies are in effect new community institutions, with a constitution signed by each member, a formal system for self-governance, and increasingly with bank accounts. Registered Farmer Field Schools are new institutions that build farmers confidence, especially women’s. They encourage experimentation and innovation in a supportive way – and quicken the spread of new, drought and disease resilient crop varieties, as well as having other well-documented benefits. Well-governed, democratically managed institutions that are able to advocate for and exercise their members’ rights and entitlements are ultimately the most valuable assets a community can own.
  • The real value of the adaptation strategies is realised when they are implemented as a direct result of a conscious decision-making process where relevant information and knowledge is accessed and used to weigh up and select a range of options for a particular season or livelihood purpose. Given the highly localised and uncertain impacts of climate change, adaptation plans and strategies need to be reviewed on a regular basis and be flexible to respond to changing circumstances. With adaptive capacity, this can extend to anticipating possible seasonal and longer term futures and planning accordingly.
  • Women’s participation in adaptation strategies facilitated by ALP contributes to their empowerment as they earn their own income and are seen by their husbands to be contributing to household expenses. Testimonies from men and women point to increased openness on the part of men to women’s involvement in household and community decision-making. Enabling semi or non-literate women to play an active role in the planning process, and giving them decision-making powers, is not as simple as inviting them to the meetings. ALP overcame many obstacles through fostering a more equitable, women-supportive climate within all ALP initiatives, but it is not a given that traditional patriarchal African cultures will take this to heart when continuing with their own initiatives into the future.
  • A crucial insight coming from recent reports and impact assessments is that community groups that have been pursuing more than one strategy in parallel over two to three years, gain greater benefits as a ‘multiplying effect’ kicks in. This is illustrated in Figure 2, below.
Figure 2 page 39 of the compendium: the multiplying effect with two of more strategies operating together.

This ALP compendium was authored by Robert Wagner in collaboration with Nicola Ward and Fiona Percy.

It is based on the learning and valuable content provided by Romanus Gyang, Nuhu Sulemana, Harouna Hama, Sanoussi Ababale, Abdoulkadri Chayaya, Awaiss Yahaya, Silena Bila, Jeremias Marques, Margarida Simbine, Nic Dexter, Delphine Pinault, Emma Bowa, Stanley Mutuma and Pamela Kimkung. In addition to these inputs and the further reading list provided at the end of the compendium, the content of this publication is drawn from information and learning shared through the ALP annual reports and numerous unpublished studies from 2011 to 2014. The author and ALP would also like to thank all of the dedicated and inspiring CARE project staff and partners involved in the approaches outlined in this publication, as well as the many local people who shared their stories and experiences of working with the programme.

Suggested citation:

ALP (2015) The Adaptation Learning Programme Compendium. CARE International. Nairobi, Kenya.

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