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Research on climate adaptation and risk reduction

Climate change is affecting all countries but its impact is being felt most in poor countries and by poor people. We are investing in research that builds evidence on how poor people and countries can best adapt, reduce risk, and build their resilience to withstand future set-backs and disasters.

A fruit market in Dedza District, Malawi duing a deluge 2008

Investing in climate change research

The climate and weather system is a shared global resource that we all need to sustain life and livelihoods. But our planet is under pressure. Rising fossil fuel burning and land use changes have resulted in increased flow of gas emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result the types, frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events such as floods and droughts are rising, and expected to rise further.

While climate change is a global phenomenon, it is poor people and poor countries that are most vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources, including land and agriculture and because they have fewer resources to adapt.

We invest in research so we can better understand how to meet the challenges of climate change. This includes learning more about how climate change impacts on other development concerns, especially hunger and food security and understanding what technologies and innovation work best for local communities.

Ensuring climate change is factored into development

We support work at the international level to bring together knowledge and evidence to inform policy and practice.

Research by the International Institute for Environment and Development, supported by Irish Aid, has been influential in making sure that climate adaptation is considered as part of development.

They have also highlighted the need to understand and learn from the views and knowledge of local communities, especially poor farmers and pastoralists who have long coped with droughts, floods and variable rainfall.

Read the IIED Brief: Planning adaptation for food and farming (PDF, 292.4kb)

Supporting improved farming methods

New research shows that farmers are adapting their work practices in order to survive. The evidence shows that many smallholders are using improved seed varieties, intercropping and better livestock practices.

However, the research also found that high levels of food insecurity prevent many from making the changes needed to cope with a changing climate. The poorest farmers are those least able to adapt and be innovative. 

This research will help to inform policy and practice to ensure that efforts to change framing practices are done in isolation but need to be accompanied by other livelihood or social support for the poorest.

This research has been carried out by Consultative Group on Agricultural Research (through their programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) and is supported by Irish Aid and other donors.

While climate change is a global phenomenon, it is poor people and poor countries that are most vulnerable.

Adapting to climate change

Research carried out by Trócaire with funds from Irish Aid highlights the complexity of climate change adaptation strategies.

The four-country study shows that households are trying to spread risk by diversifying their livelihoods. Changing the crops they grow, supplementing income through casual labour and migration for work are just some examples.

The research points to the complexity of household level vulnerability and resilience, the trade offs as well as benefits of various support strategies and the need for greater coherence across policy responses.

Read Trócaire’s Climate Change Research Report 2012 (PDF, 4.0mb).

Supporting innovation in farming at local level

In Malawi, Irish Aid has supported Concern Universal to carry out community level research on innovation. The work on ‘Conservation Agriculture’ (a natural process to improve and protect soil and retain water) shows that the approach can improve crop yields and that women farmers are particularly good at taking on conservation agriculture leadership roles.

Read Concern Universal’s Conservation Agriculture Report (PDF, 1.23mb).

Investing in risk reduction research

Very poor people are particularly at risk from sudden shocks and unexpected events; even small changes such as a rise in the price of cereal or fuel, a family illness, or the loss of an animal, can be enough to tip poor households into destitution. 

Small shocks as well as big crises can render households even more vulnerable and at risk. We invest in research to better understand the vulnerability of poor people, what works most effectively to prevent and protect them from further hardship and what is most effective to build their resilience for the future.

Supporting social protection schemes

Recent research has shown that ‘social protection’ interventions, including cash transfers, can help to protect households from deprivation, prevent further shocks and promote some economic improvement.

Since 2005, we, along with other donors, have provided support to the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) set up by the Ethiopian Government as part of the strategy to address chronic food insecurity

Research on the cash transfer programme in Zambia, carried out by the Ministry of Community Development, and supported by us and other donors, showed that the transfer of small amounts of money, equivalent to €8 per month, can have a very beneficial impact for poor families.

Along with our partners in Zambia, we are committed to building on this evidence and have initiated a major three-year study on the impact of the Zambian child grant programme in three of the poorest districts in the country.

The project has just completed an initial baseline study. Anticipated results from the work are expected to show significant increases in the number of meals per day with increased spending on food, positive impacts on infant and child nutrition, and material welfare and school attendance of older children.

Preventing crises

Tufts University’s Feinstein Centre, with our support, is conducting work that shows the importance of helping families, communities and countries before a disaster happens so they are better prepared and better able to cope. 

This is not only more humane but it actually costs less. It is estimated that for every €1 spent on preventing crises, €7 will be saved that would otherwise have been needed for humanitarian response. 

Food secure, healthy and safe communities are better able to foresee a hazard, cope with it, resist it, and recover from its impact. 

This, and similar evidence, is changing the way that aid agencies and donors work. We have responded by putting a commitment to reducing hunger and building resilience at the centre of all our development efforts.

Read more about research

Learn more about how Irish Aid supports research