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Community based adaptation and
culture in theory and practice
Rachel Berger and Jonathan Ensor
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Summary
 Definitions
 Key concepts linking culture and
adaptation
 From theory to practice
 Implications for practice
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Practical Action – who are we?
 International NGO, founded 1965 by Fritz
Schumacher, author of ‘Small is Beautiful’
 UK HQ and 7 overseas offices
 Focus on reducing poverty through the
use of technology
 Engaging with communities in marginal
areas to develop responses to the
challenges of climate change
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Defining Community-based
adaptation
 A process focused on communities most
vulnerable to CC
 Looking at how CC affects their local
environment and their assets and
capacities
 Essentially an action research approach to
the impact of CC on livelihoods
(Huq and Reid, 2007)
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Defining culture
‘the sum total of the material and spiritual
activities and products of a given social
group...a coherent and self-contained
system of values and symbols ...[that]
provides individuals with the signposts
and meanings for behaviour’
Stavenhagen, 1998
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Culture and adaptation
– How does a shared culture alter or limit
the options for adaptation?
– How do individuals within communities
respond to the prospect of changes to
their lives?
– What lessons emerge for those working
to secure lives and livelihoods in the
face of climate change?
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Key concept 1: Culture and
change
‘Improving the well-being of a person can
normally only be done through his goals…
not to frustrate their realisation’
(Raz, 1988)
The importance of community and identity
changes … Responses to the prospect of
change varies depending on how and why
change emerges.
(Following Kymlicka, 1989)
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Key concept 2: Culture and choice
‘Engaging in the same activities will…have a
different significance in the life of the
individual depending on the social
practices and attitudes to such activities’
(Raz, 1988)
‘Freedom of choice is dependent on social
practices, cultural meanings and a shared
language… the context of individual choice
is the range of options passed down to us
by our culture’ (Kymlicka, 1995)
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
From theory to practice: 1
Building on local cultural norms
Turkana camp
Camel milking
Northern Kenya – pastoralists lives are built around
complex value systems that determine coping
strategies
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Adaptation that fits cultural values
Farming aloe instead of
collecting from the wild
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Young men of the warrior
age set
From theory to practice: 2
Local ownership/effecting change
from within
Camel herding – a sustainable
option for a desert region
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Irrigated farming now provides
patchy harvests and unreliable
returns
Looking for adaptation options
Tree planting improves soil,
and provide economic
benefits…
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
...such as fodder for livestock
From theory to practice: 3
Adaptation as part of culture
Bangladesh: River eroded communities have embraced
adaptability as art of their response to their harsh environment
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Adaptability in Bangladesh
Floating gardens– a new
technology for this region
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008
Tailoring provides an
alternative livelihood
Conclusion: Implications for
practice
 Changes that are perceived as a threat to
culture are likely to be resisted
 Successful adaptation
– fully involves communities in the process of
developing options, expanding the local
cultural ‘context of choice’
– identifies and builds on, rather than
challenges, important cultural markers
 A successful adaptation approach in one
location will not necessarily translate to a
different cultural context
Rachel Berger and Jon Ensor
8 February 2008