From July 16 to the 18, 2013, the GEF Small Grants Programme in Sri Lanka organized a Symposium on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change that brought together stakeholders from across the country to discuss the challenges and possible solutions to climate change adaption. Over 150 participants from all over the country, including community-based and civil society organizations, development agencies, researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and donors, came together to share their knowledge and experience in the field.
The workshop started with an opening statement by Ms. Razina Bilgrami, Country Director of UNDP, who stated that providing technical and capacity building assistance is key to the success of UNDP's efforts in the country and mentioned that in the 15 years of work of the GEF Small Grants Programme in Sri Lanka, the programme has worked with "300 partners, all local non-governmental organizations working in their own geographical area, and has played a key role in bringing the benefits of sustainable development to communities on the ground, and therefore has a wealth of experience to share."
As island nations across the globe become more vulnerable to severe weather and natural disasters, which have increased in frequency and strength, over the past several decades, the work on community-based adaptation has become fundamental. In particular, as such events have been harmful for promising economic sectors in developing island countries such as tourism, fishing, and agriculture. At the conference, Deputy Secretary of Treasury Dr. Batagoda emphasized the billions of dollars in economic damage Sri Lanka has suffered from unexpected storms that have damaged newly built infrastructure and from droughts which have crippled the production of hydroelectricity.
The representative for AusAID, Ms. Dulani Sirisena highlighted the importance on documenting and sharing the experiences coming from implementation of projects at the local level such as the work of SGP in Community Based Adaptation. She also highlighted the importance of learning and providing training and capacity development in a relatively new field such as Adaptation to climate change and the importance of regular monitoring and review.
The workshop offered training on ecological conservation and climate change risks, the climate change and disaster risk reduction, mainstreaming community based adaptation in to local planning, scaling up good practices, Integrated water resource management as a response for climate variability, cultivation of traditional crops under improved soil management practices as an adaptive strategy as well as hands on training on how to use the Vulnerability Risk Assessment-VRA and how to incorporate gender in adaptation projects. The workshop included the presentation of good practices coming from other SGP CBA projects in Cambodia and India. This knowledge exchange among countries is very important to foster replication and scaling up of good practices coming from SGP projects. SGP grantees in Sri Lanka, who have benefited from the SGP grants in community-based adaptation also presented the results of their projects and were able to share their experience with key stakeholders including the academia and high level government officials, in an effort to influence climate change policies with concrete experiences and good practices coming up from the ground.
During the workshop, the participants underscored the importance of flexibility when setting out time frames. In an adaptation project the community has to be able to respond to weather variability, requiring plans, activities and time frames to be duly adjusted. The participants also stressed the need to verify technical advice given by an agency especially on infrastructure development, several times before acting upon them, as technical instructions can differ between institutions. Another important issue discussed was the need to put in place a risk transfer scheme, acceptable to both farmers and insurance providers, as an essential element to protect crops against recurrent floods and other natural calamities.
The two day workshop was followed by a visit to two project sites. The Mekong-Asia Pacific Community Based Adaptation Project (MAP CBA) is funded by Australian Aid, implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and delivered by the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP).