Beneficiaries: 21,000

In the center of The Gambia, people affected by falling incomes as a result of climate change are benefiting from the LoCAL mechanism that channels climate finance to communities for locally led adaptation.

The consequences of climate change in the Central River Region North and Central River Region South of The Gambia are stark. And as in so many areas, the most impacted are the poorest communities, with increased temperatures and erratic rainfall reducing agricultural and livestock production and hitting local people’s incomes. 

To address the impact of climate change and broader social needs, locally led action is taking place in 32 wards across The Gambia with the Jobs Skills and Finance for Women and Youth in The Gambia Program (JSF Program), which uses the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility (LoCAL) of climate finance delivery to finance adaptation projects that build community resilience.

Launched in Cambodia and Bhutan in 2011, and hosted by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), LoCAL is today a global climate finance mechanism. It has to date mobilized 125 million US dollars and is used in over 30 of the least developed countries and other developing countries to help subnational government authorities access the climate finance, capacity-building and technical support they need to help people respond and adapt to climate change. 

LoCAL’s approach is based on the idea that local action demands systemic change and sustained finance. This means empowering communities for locally led climate adaptation by driving finance to the local government level. In The Gambia, Performance Based Climate Resilience Grants that are central to the LoCAL mechanism of finance delivery, are channeled through the country's existing fiscal transfer systems. Local Area Councils and Ward Development Committees (WDCs) are responsible for identifying needs with inputs from community representatives, and for planning and implementing local development initiatives. Multi-Disciplinary Facilitation Teams ensure a collective approach to community development.

Consulting with local people and ensuring that their needs are heard and acted upon is at the heart of the mechanism, as it is they who ultimately drive the action on the ground. Local governments are in a unique position to identify local needs and are typically mandated to undertake investments that reduce the vulnerability of the poor to climate and other shocks. These include investments in land use and agriculture, water management, irrigation and drainage, environmental and natural resources management, and disaster risk management. They also have the legitimacy and convening power to coordinate, co-finance and interact with stakeholders.

The LoCAL Facility is designed to help subnational authorities overcome challenges, such as a lack of technical capacities, that they may have.

“The use of Local Area Councils and WDCs brings the government closer to the people and reduces the centralization of power in the central government,” states Sheriffo Secka, who is a Community Development Assistant in the village of Kudang, close to the River Gambia National Park. “It allows planning, budgeting in consolidation with the community’s local needs.”

In Kudang, the decision to invest in a banana plantation and irrigated gardening system, focusing on banana-growing, was only made following a number of consultations with members of the local community. Each village selects one male and one female representative to put their community’s case to the WDC, which is chaired by an elected ward councilor.

“Needs identified are ranked and the problem with the highest score in the rank is finally selected,” explains Sheriffo.

Photo Credit: LoCAL-UNCDF

Decisions take the findings of climate risk vulnerability assessments into account, which helps to prioritize activities and ensure the effective and inclusive participation of local people, particularly vulnerable groups.

Photo Credit: LoCAL-UNCDF

While the premise of the LoCAL intervention is that no two projects are identical, as no two villages’ needs are identical, the story of Hamidou Barry is typical of many beneficiaries. A resident of Kudang Ward in the Central River Region South area of The Gambia, Hamidou’s life was hit by the effects of climate change. The reduced access to water, periodic drought and soil erosion together led to a fall in agricultural incomes, which in turn meant that he was unable to save enough money to complete his education in electrical engineering.

Photo Credit: LoCAL-UNCDF

The launch of a LoCAL Cash for Work project in Hamidou’s ward now means he can look to the future with hope. The project will support the creation of vegetable and fruit gardens, principally bananas, irrigated by solar irrigation systems. Hamidou is among 50 community members (25 of which are men and 25 women) who will create the gardens, all of whom will receive a competitive daily wage, together with the profits from selling the fruits and vegetables once the gardens are productive.

“This process will ultimately help me save money for school,” said Hamidou. “It will also allow me to create a sustainable source of income because once the bananas grow properly, we as a community intend to sell them and export them to other regions.”

Hamidou’s support for LoCAL is echoed at a governmental level, with the engagement and buy-in of national and local government helping to ensure the program’s future sustainability.

“LoCAL works because it gets to the people,” said Lamin Dibba while Minister of the Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources in The Gambia earlier this year. “And the people themselves participate in the work that they do to ensure that they support climate resilience in their community and enhance the capacity of local people.”

Photo Credit: LoCAL-UNCDF