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Contrary to popular belief, relatively little donor funding is being channelled towards climate change adaptation activities in Africa, according to researchers who conducted a study released this month (9 August) that examines foreign aid to Malawi.

Aid funding specific to climate change activities represented less than two per cent of the total donor aid to Malawi, according to what the researchers say is the first study to analyse specifically all climate aid to any single country.

Providing such data to disentangle climate-specific aid and map its application with geospatial tools can help compare the effectiveness of climate aid projects, as well as boost donor coordination, say the researchers.

The study analysed all aid to Malawi from September 2011 to May 2012, and was published by the Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) programme at the Strauss Center, University of Texas at Austin, United States.

"Despite all the media attention on climate vulnerability in Malawi and other African countries, there doesn't seem to be much aid going into climate change adaptation in the region," lead researcher, Catherine Weaver, told SciDev.Net.  

Developing countries receive nearly US$150 billion in aid annually for socio-economic development and poverty alleviation, but need US$100 billion more a year to address the threats of global climate change, according to a 2010 World Bank report.

The CCAPS researchers developed a new methodology to assess the relevance of aid project activities to climate change adaptation.

More than 700 development projects across Malawi were "climate coded", using the software Aid Management Platform, revealing that only 1-2 per cent of aid to Malawi is climate related.

Combining these results with data on areas vulnerable to climate change — previously recorded by the researchers using a geographic information system — enables a comparison of climate needs and a project's location, focus, climate change adaption activities, and their effectiveness.

"The new dataset opens the door for detailed comparative analysis of adaptation programmes and their effectiveness in targeting specific climate risks within a country," according to the researchers.

Ashley Moran, CCAPS programme manager, told SciDev.Net that the new Malawi Climate-coded and Geocoded Aid Dataset not only puts information on existing climate-related aid projects into the hands of stakeholders, but can also promote future donor coordination.

"Our aim is to provide these new data in a way that is as useful as possible to policymakers and researchers needing to ask very focused questions about aid investments and impacts," she said in a press release.

Chrispin Magombo, regional project coordinator at CARE International in Malawi, welcomed the initiative.

"The dataset can help us identify whether communities struggling because of climate change threats are getting the needed interventions," Magombo told SciDev.Net.

"African countries with smaller economies, like Malawi — such as Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — where livelihoods are threatened by climate change, will find similar datasets useful for planning and designing effective interventions," he added.

The dataset and the tracking system are freely available via the CCAPS website.