In 2015, Makueni County became the first sub-national government in Africa to instate financial commitments on climate change into law. Located in south-east Kenya, Makueni County has been hit with many of the same climate challenges facing the entire country. By setting county-funded climate change action in motion, the county started on an unprecedented path to devolved, community-based adaptation. A flagship initiative intended to drive this process forward was the development of the county's environmental action plan (CEAP).
However, Makueni County’s CEAP initially suffered from low public engagement and poor climate mainstreaming, threatening its inclusivity and effectiveness.
With the recruitment of committed activists, civil society coordination and government cooperation, Southern Voices partner NCCK (The National Council of Churches of Kenya) overcame these obstacles to put Makueni County at the forefront of local climate adaptation.
Despite the county government’s planning problems, local communities were well-acquainted with climate challenges. The largely arid landscape starves farmland of water. As droughts have increased, crop failures have become more common, making tens of thousands of farmers reliant on food aid.
This has the compounding effect of increasing unemployment in one of the most impoverished parts of the country. In addition, Makueni County has a growing population, meaning more mouths to feed and higher water demands.
|Change through champions
To address these challenges and mobilise the county, NCCK began by mobilising climate ‘champions’ to communicate with farmers. In addition to the Joint Principles for Adaptation, champions were informed on the government's environmental plans. “We wanted to improve our information but also awareness”, explained NCCK programme coordinator, Joy Matanda. These champions were selected from activists involved in local environmental projects already well-integrated into many of the communities NCCK intended to contact.
The champions first action was to get out into the fields and consult farmers on their everyday challenges. Unsurprisingly, food security and water shortages came out on top.
In the short-term, they were able to introduce farmers to unique farming methods to deal with drought, such as Zai pit farming (see right for an example), which helped to promote confidence in the process NCCK were promoting. However, NCCK emphasise this was not a one-way consultation. Guided by the principles of the JPA, NCCK wanted to bring community voices into the action plan itself.
|Photos: S.Kilungu (CCAFS)|
“We made sure community members understood the new environmental plan”, explained Joy. By doing so, local communities were able to appreciate its significance to their lives and why they should communicate their priorities to the government. The goal was to get those most affected closer to the policy process. "We did this by encouraging locals to visit their village administrators", she elaborated. In addition, the champions were able to articulate the main challenges and priorities of farmers and local people to NCCK.
NCCK then cooperated with numerous local civil society organisations to a form a working group that could engage the county government. The working group met with the government several times to share their findings. "The communities got real ownership and involvement", explained Joy. Thus, over the course of much cooperation and consultation, the action plan developed with community priorities at the centre.
This will help Makueni County escape the cycle of drought and food shortages, spreading solutions to increase productivity and resilience of these communities.
The long-term goal of this inclusive approach makes the Makueni County government capable of managing its own climate change finances. UNEP is for example already working with the county to develop their own climate change fund.
This is part of a strategy to make the county's an 'implementing entity', as defined by the Green Climate Fund, which would allow for applications to international climate finance. Thus, Makueni County and NCCK have taken an important first step in inclusive sub-national adaptation both for the present and the future.