Lessons learned from Bolivia NCAP Project
Building Adaptive Capacity
- Implement a positive approach. A positive approach entails focusing mainly on the capacities rather than on the vulnerabilities and problems. The existing capacities can be part of the solutions to face the challenges. A positive approach can therefore contribute towards finding potentials and opportunities for development. In this sense, resilience can be considered a positive way of looking at vulnerability. To implement a positive approach, the process needs to be based on the stakeholders’ experiences and the current technical and institutional capacity to ensure sustainability in the capacity building process.
- Development from inside-out. Adaptation needs to go in harmony with the priorities of the communities, otherwise any technological solution proposed will not be sustainable. To achieve a continuous process of capacity building it is important to consider the following principles: 1) it is fundamental that the actors become the owners of the process and the process needs to develop in a way that the stakeholders perceive is the most appropriate regardless of if errors are committed; 2) the continuous involvement of stakeholders can increase the number of activities that can be conducted, therefore it is important to reach a consensus on the activities to be prioritized and the planning of activities.
- Snowball process. The continuous involvement of stakeholders in the process motivates the social transformation needed to create adaptive capacity. The adaptive capacity building is a learning process that involves learning by doing and reflection along the way.
The lessons learned on adaptive capacity building enrich the initial conceptual framework proposed for the project and allow for generating a more evolved and consistent framework. For instance, building adaptive capacity can help to understand that the concept of social capital can be enriched through the traditional activities and knowledge of the Aymara communities. Finally, building adaptive capacity is not only applicable for creating the capacity to cope with climate change effects, but also for reacting to other challenges and dilemmas, whether these are socio-economic, political or legal.
Production Systems Vulnerability and Adaptation
- Human actions exacerbate the impacts caused by climate change, increasing the vulnerability of natural and socio-economic systems. The impacts of climatic variability and change affect not only biodiversity, but also the sustainability of livelihoods. Livelihoods in the semi-arid mountainous regions are currently vulnerable and threatened by climate change effects directly and indirectly.
- Water access, agricultural production, food security and human health among others could be seriously affected if prevention measures are not implemented. Among the main prevention measures to reducing the impacts caused by climatic variability and change, the study identifies the protection and conservation of the natural ecosystems, their components and services.
- In particular, the study identifies water resources to be the central theme in developing an adaptation strategy to climate change effects in the study regions.
Human Health Vulnerability to Climate Change
- Vector transmissible diseases, parasitic diseases, as well as acute diarrheic diseases and acute respiratory infections are highly sensitive to climatic variability. Climate change is causing an increase in the incidence of these diseases, their expansion into new areas and the emergence of new diseases. This is affecting the population, in particular children below 5 years of age causing high mortality rates.
- The methodology used to evaluate vulnerability in the health sector at the local level including an assessment of the bio-climatic system allows a more systemic analysis of the climate change impacts on human health.
- The participatory approach and local development of adaptation strategies contributes towards a bottom-up process initiated by local communities and staff working in local health centers which will complement national strategies.
- The use of a participatory approach helps guarantee sustainability, as well as institutional and community acceptance.
- Traditional knowledge on climate estimation/prediction is maintained and commonly used in rural areas. This system is based on the systematic observation of indicators. However, predictions and indicators have become less reliable in the past decades and farmers claim this is attributable to the changing climate. As a result, farmers cannot plan agricultural activities as usual.
Recommendations for Public Policy and Institutional Capacity
- From a public policy perspective, the challenge is not only to build adaptation capacity, but also to recognize the existing or potential capacity of society to adapt. To do so, it is first important for state agencies and organizations to recognize the limitations of understanding reality with certainty and the implications this has for planning and management. Moreover, it is of great value to acknowledge a diversity of perspectives, knowledges and constructions of the world by the people who determine social reality. Finally, it is also essential to recognize the ability of the social and natural ecosystems to sense contingencies and react with innovative and adaptive strategies.
- Currently, in both study regions there is a lack of institutional coordination where organizations are conducting studies independently and information is not properly shared. In workshops that were held, stakeholders pointed out the importance of ensuring more effective and permanent relationships between the different institutions working in the study regions. By doing so, the participation and agreement process will be strengthened thereby improving the national and local capacity to cope with climate change effects.
Recommendations for Subsistence Systems
- From an environmental and water security and management perspective, municipal authorities in cooperation with other social and economic actors need to invest in ensuring the sustainable and efficient use of water resources. In the Lake Titicaca region, it is important to increase the number of rain water reservoirs and to protect natural pastures. In the Vallegrande region, it is fundamental to protect water recharge zones (upstream areas of the micro-basins) and reforest these areas with native species. Also, measures to collect rain water and use it for irrigation need to be introduced.
- Concerning the development of new technologies, the National Institute for Agricultural Research can play a key role in the technological development in the study regions working in coordination with farmers, universities and the current foundation system. For the Lake Titicaca region, it is essential to work on technologies to improve the forage for dairy cattle, while for the Vallegrande region, the emphasis needs to be placed on reducing the over-exploitation of forests for firewood by providing alternative sources of energy.
- Also, it has been observed that Andean crop varieties that are more resistant to climatic variability can be introduced, improving productivity whilst contributing towards the conservation of soil and water resources. The successful results of cultivating these crops in demonstration plots should promote their broader use in the region.
- To achieve sustainable agricultural production and enhance food security it is fundamental to conserve the local biodiversity, incorporate sustainable production practices, and adopt a more ecological approach in the production systems.
With regards to the finance and insurance systems, the National Development Plan establishes the creation of an agricultural insurance that should work in accordance with the context of each study region. Agricultural insurance systems subsidized by the national government and international cooperation could be implemented as an adaptation measure.
Recommendations for Human Health
- Currently, national policies promoted by the health sector in Bolivia are isolated and do not consider other sectors. It is necessary to develop national integrated policies that incorporate sanitary strategies into the other sectors, in particular into the environment sector. This would be the first step in the assessment of climate change impacts on human health and the planning of national integrated policies for adaptation.
- Health has been incorporated as a main issue into the National Adaptation Plan and an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Sports has been signed to implement adaptation measures to climate change in the health sector.
- Climate change needs to be a cross-cutting issue within the National Health System (NHS). To incorporate climate change and build adaptive capacity in the NHS six adaptation measures have been proposed: 1) mainstreaming climate change in health policies and programs; 2) generating proactive management in the NHS; 3) promoting social participation; 4) implementing environmental prevention and protection; 5) developing bio-climatic vigilance systems; and 6) developing current and future scenarios for human health vulnerability at the national level.
- Moreover, staff working in the health centers that compose the NHS need training and better equipment to treat diseases that are sensitive to climatic variability. This is important in endemic areas, but also in other areas that have become highly vulnerable due to the spread of diseases and emergence of new ones caused by climate change.
- At the local level, health insurance such as the Universal Insurance for Mothers and Children and the Old Age Insurance cover the study regions. The Local Health Network also covers the area with health centers that provide primary and secondary attention and mainly cover maternal and child health. These organizations need to be trained in the effects of climate change on human health and possible risk prevention measures, as well as being strengthened to improve their treatment and research capacity.
- Given the high vulnerability of human health to climate change impacts in the study regions it is necessary to implement adaptation measures that consider the improvement of housing infrastructure, capacity strengthening and awareness raising.
- At the international level, the project contributed towards the discussions about climate change issues affecting human health at the Community of Andean Nations (CAN) and the Regional Health and Climate Change Plan of the Pan-American Health Organization. The experience and results obtained in building adaptive capacity at the local and national level in the health sector could serve as a basis to provide insight on methodologies to implement adaptation measures at local level in the international debates.
Recommendations for the Use of Traditional Knowledge
- Traditional knowledge to predict/estimate climate conditions and plan agricultural activities based on systematic observation of indicators needs to be re-valued and recognized as complementary to weather and climate assessment methodologies that currently exist. Moreover, traditional knowledge could contribute towards building adaptive capacity in the areas.
- Due to difficult conditions in rural areas, a large portion of the younger population has migrated to the cities. It is important to re-value and share traditional knowledge with the youth that stay in rural areas through education centers and universities so that traditional knowledge is not lost over time.
General Recommendations for the Project and Further Steps
- Standardize the applied methodologies.
- Establish a database to be used as a reference and baseline in the evaluation of the bio-climatic processes and adaptive capacity in the study regions.
- Establish bio-climatic monitoring systems in the study regions based on the suggested bio-indicators to determine the relationships between climatic variability and change, the population behavior of selected species, and disease incidences.
- Share the generated information using a web-based tool with the national and international research community and decision-makers.
- Promote discussion and analysis of climate adaptation and the results obtained in the studies in the pilot regions to support decision-making and planning.
- Expand the coverage of the study and involve more municipalities.