Are Climate Adaptation policies in Eastern Africa sufficient?

By Alexia Kioko and Melisa Ouya

19 Jul, 2023 Project Update 22


Eastern Africa continues to grapple with the effects of climate change disrupting agricultural systems, depleting water resources, threatening biodiversity, and exacerbating existing socio-economic disparities. Governments and international bodies have developed and implemented climate adaptation policies to tackle the impacts of climate change and aim to enhance disaster preparedness and promote sustainable land and water management practices.

The Down2Earth monthly seminar series ‘Can We Talk?’ has the objective of disseminating the output of projects like D2E and creating awareness and synergy among various ongoing projects at ICPAC. In these forums, we intend to provide a platform to create synergy, share ideas, brainstorm on issues, and foster collaborations as seen in the last two sessions. The third seminar centred around the theme ‘Are climate adaptation policies in Eastern Africa Sufficient?’ took place on 18th July 2023 and delved into the examination of gaps within climate adaptation policies.

An analysis of climate adaptation policies in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya by the project surfaces that policies can vary among countries and regions within Eastern Africa. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have been at the forefront of mitigation and adaptation and are instrumental in addressing issues related to food security and water management, which are vital considerations in the region. While these policies demonstrate linkages to other national policies, they face challenges of inadequate financing, which hampers the effective implementation of these policies. The slow and inadequate implementation of these policies poses a significant obstacle in undermining the potential positive impacts of the policies and impedes progress towards sustainable development and resilience in the face of climate change.

Across various countries, water policies have shown promising outcomes in promoting Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH) initiatives. These policies have been instrumental in improving access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities, and overall public health. However, a significant challenge arises in cases where these policies lack proper enforcement, alignment, and coordination. Without effective implementation and cooperation between different stakeholders, the intended positive impacts of these policies might not be fully realised. Food security policies play a crucial role in addressing the challenges posed by disasters in East Africa. A significant challenge faced by the region, particularly in countries like Somalia and Ethiopia, is the struggle to fully align and enforce water sector policies. This misalignment and lack of coordination hinder the effective implementation of climate adaptation measures, posing a risk to the region’s water resources and communities.

One crucial aspect often overlooked in climate adaptation policies is livestock issues. Countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, where a substantial portion (75%) of the landmass is arid and semi-arid, have a significant population dependent on livestock. Unfortunately, the existing policies tend to focus overwhelmingly on crops, neglecting the needs of pastoralists and their livestock. There is a need to address livestock issues and enhance resilience to climate change for these vulnerable communities.

This oversight is concerning as livestock farming is a vital source of sustenance and income for many communities in the region. Livestock are resilient to harsh environmental conditions, making them a critical asset in ASALs where crop cultivation might be challenging. A more balanced approach that incorporates livestock rearing into food security strategies would not only bolster the availability of food resources but also contribute to the overall stability and well-being of East African communities.

As it stands, there is a notable absence of effective policies and frameworks that address the essential need for cohesion between wildlife, human, and livestock management. The lack of comprehensive strategies to integrate wildlife conservation, human well-being, and livestock management not only undermines efforts to protect biodiversity and ecosystems but also leads to potential conflicts and challenges for communities living in proximity to wildlife areas. To ensure a sustainable and harmonious coexistence, governments, organizations, and stakeholders must prioritise the development of integrated policies that recognize the interdependence of these components.

Matters Arising

Proper documentation and bureaucracy in the transhumance protocol will significantly contribute to the effectiveness of climate adaptation policies in East Africa and offer a mechanism to identify trends and patterns related to climate-induced challenges, enabling policymakers to develop adaptive measures that address the specific needs and concerns of these communities. Through a well-structured system, timely assistance, and appropriate resources can be allocated to support pastoralists during extreme weather events or when faced with prolonged droughts, ultimately bolstering their resilience and safeguarding their traditional way of life amidst a changing climate.

Climate finance plays a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency of climate adaptation policies in East Africa in supporting climate resilience projects and initiatives. In East Africa, where vulnerable communities, ecosystems, and economies are at risk, a robust climate finance mechanism can provide the necessary financial backing to implement adaptation strategies, capacity-building efforts, technology transfer, and knowledge sharing, enabling local governments to develop and implement context-specific adaptation plans such as climate-resilient agriculture, water resource management, and disaster preparedness.

One area where climate policies have shown some success is the agricultural sector. The Comprehensive Agriculture Development Program of the African Union has been instrumental in countries like Ethiopia. The program encourages African countries to commit 10% of their annual budget to the agricultural sector, leading to the formulation and enforcement of policies. As a result, Ethiopia reported a 10% increase in productivity over the last five years, showcasing the positive impact of coordinated policy efforts.

Climate change is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires a coordinated effort from various stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sectors, local communities, and international organizations, by fostering collaboration, these diverse actors can pool their expertise, resources, and knowledge to develop integrated and comprehensive climate adaptation strategies and policies.


In conclusion, while progress has been made in implementing climate adaptation policies in Eastern Africa, there is still much work to be done. Governments and stakeholders must prioritize adequate financing, coherent and integrated policies, and collaborative efforts to achieve sustainable development and resilience in the face of climate change in the region. Only through such concerted actions can Eastern Africa be better prepared to tackle the challenges posed by climate change and safeguard its natural resources and communities for future generations

Based on the success of the seminar and the enthusiastic response from the audience, it has been agreed that the next seminar will be communicated soon.