Equipping Poor People for Climate Change: Local Institutions and Pro-Poor Adaptation for Rural Communities in Nepal

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Climate change is impacting the livelihoods and resources of local communities, and climate induced hazards have increased the vulnerability of communities in the rural hills of Nepal. There is limited knowledge and information available on how specific climate hazards are impacting livelihood resources, which livelihood options are most vulnerable, how climate change is impacting different groups in society, and how poor people in rural areas are responding to climate change. The role of local institutions is crucial in responding to climate change. The National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) framework has recognised local institutions such as community forest user groups (CFUG), irrigation groups and farmer groups as important agencies to implement local level adaptation activities. However, there are concerns that the institutions are not always able to achieve their progressive mandate and may not provide a viable ''safety net'' for poor people facing challenges from climate change. The research focuses on four key questions to examine: (i) impacts of climate change for rural communities; (ii) adaptation practices of local communities to the impacts of climate change; (iii) role and capacity of local institutions to enable poor people to adapt to climate change; and (iv) roles and functions of CFUGs to enable poor people to adapt to climate change in Nepal.The research has been carried out in the Lamjung district in the rural middle hills of Nepal. A mixed method approach was adopted based on pragmatism using an interpretivist perspective. Qualitative methods as a primary technique of data collection included: in-depth interviews; focus group discussions; and participant observation. A household level survey provided supporting quantitative data. Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS and the qualitative data was analysed through a thematic hierarchical approach using NViVO 10.The research found that climate change has differential impacts on people''s livelihoods in the research area, varying largely according to a household''s wellbeing status. This research finding is important in the context of climate change policy and institutional frameworks in Nepal which are silent on differential impacts of climate change, and thus lack any mechanism to identify the most vulnerable population. In relation to the research question related to adaptation practices of local communities to the impacts of climate change, the research found that adaptation practices being adopted differ according to household wellbeing, and are largely governed by access to education, information and resources within the community. The research also found that the autonomous, unplanned and reactive nature of adaptation practices being followed by rural communities can lead to mal-adaptation practices and contribute to further inequity and unequal power relations. In considering the research questions related to the role and capacity of local institutions to enable poor people to adapt to climate change, the research findings revealed that local institutions are led by a local social elite who use the institutional platform to gain and sustain their traditional power and feudal legacies by making rules in favour of themselves and by developing biased implementation strategies. As a result, local institutions were not found to be committed to reducing individual and household level risks and vulnerabilities of the most vulnerable. This finding challenges institutional theories and the common understanding of the roles and functions of local institutions in managing commons and promoting climate change adaptation. The findings indicate that there is a strong need to transform policies, provisions, structure, governance and mindset of local institutions and their leaders, to re-build trust with the poor, and to equip poor people to enable them in climate change adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Thwaites, Rik, Principal Supervisor
  • Race, Digby, Co-Supervisor
  • Alexander, Kim, Co-Supervisor
Award date04 Mar 2014
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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