Inequality in the Effectiveness of Climate Change Adaptation – A Case Study of Strategic Local Adaptation in Nepal

Start date: 30 December, 2012 End date: 3 March, 2013 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A19243 Countries: Nepal Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Mette Marie Nielsen and Esben Boutrup Møller Total grant: 20,000 DKK


The need for adaptation to climate change impacts has led to an increased focus on strategic adaptation targeted at community level, which has become one of the new drivers for change within the developing sector. Although community-based adaptation approaches have become popular there is, however, a lack of empirical based research showing the effectiveness of such adaptation measures. Critiques have been raised that strategic adaptation interventions tends to give priority to technical-, skills- and asset based solutions. Thereby they do not adequately address the underlying societal structures, which makes it difficult for the most vulnerable groups to build the adaptive capacity needed in order to adapt.

Through a case study in two rural villages in Nepal, this study investigates the reasons why some households have difficulties in making use of the adaptation measures provided through strategic interventions while others, who are equally exposed, have used the same measures to effectively decrease their vulnerability.

By operationalization of a theoretical model which captures respectively the societal and the environmental aspects of vulnerability, and empirical findings based on 43 qualitative interviews, we can conclude that increased availability of tangible and intangible resources is vital for adaptation among the households. The availability of such resources does, however, not alone enable all households to adapt. The case study shows that even though all the investigated households wish to improve their farming, only some have created a higher absorbing capacity by introducing commercial scale vegetable production in a season where the lands traditionally used to be kept barren.

Information, knowledge and especially well-functioning relations are the main aspects, which divide those households that have adapted from those which have not. The reasons behind is that some households have not been able to build relations and seek farming related knowledge from those households, which have already adapted, or from training venues. The barriers are mainly due to ethnic marginalization and local inequality in power-sharing, which have not been targeted by the strategic interventions. We conclude that community-based adaptation strategies must give a higher priority to breaking down these barriers in order to support the social processes which make the most vulnerable groups capable of utilising tangible and intangible resources to adapt to climate change and improve their living conditions.