This policy brief, published by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Systemwide Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi), examines the range of strategies and institutions needed to help poor people mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Mitigation strategies for rural smallholders include reducing emissions through energy diversification — for example, by switching to solar-powered stoves — and sequestering carbon through afforestation or zero-till farming practices.

Adaptation strategies include community-based forecasting; changing planting dates, crop varieties or cropping patterns; water harvesting; and disaster management.

The institutions needed to facilitate these vary depending on the temporal and spatial scale of the action. For example, planting a new drought-resistant crop requires little institutional coordination in itself, although it does rely on institutions at a higher level to produce and distribute the new varieties.

Collective action institutions are essential to both mitigation and adaptation strategies at all levels, argue the authors. These community-level institutions are critical to building awareness, transferring technologies and promoting resource management among smallholders.

The ability to change fuel sources or plant a new crop relies on access to resources and local institutions that offer education and extension work. But even international schemes — such as carbon payments — will require local institutions to monitor compliance, as well as the international market mechanisms and national 'brokers' needed to match buyers and sellers of carbon credits.

Local institutions can also help communities cope with climate-related shocks such as drought or flood by disseminating information, monitoring weather and building local safety nets such as food reserves or seed banks.

Creating such institutions in a sustainable way requires a participatory approach, say the authors. Local people must be engaged in designing the rules and systems under which they will operate. In many cases, recognising or strengthening property and land tenure rights will be an important first step in enabling the poor to adopt mitigation or adaptation strategies.

Link to full policy brief from CAPRi [360kB]

This policy brief was written by Ruth Meinzen-Dick, CAPRi coordinator, Helen Markelova, research analyst at CAPRi, and Kelsey Moore, a consultant to CAPRi.

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