Lessons learned from Vietnam NCAP Project

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 13th Jan 2020

In recent decades Thua Thien Hue Province has experienced an increase in climate change-related events: significant increases in temperature, wet season rainfall, flooding and inundation have been noted. Consequently, incidences of drought, river bank and coastal erosion, and salinity intrusion have become more severe. Thanks to project activities supported by the NCAP, policy makers and communities in Thua Thien Hue have become more aware of the extent that climate change will have on all sectors of society and in particular on agricultural production and in coastal areas. In the course of the project, the following lessons have been learned.

Take advantage of local resources and existing knowledge

Optimal and creative use of all available local resources and consideration of all relevant past and ongoing studies and projects was a priority focus of this project. Within the extended project timeframe, IMHEN as the implementing party was able to produce a variety of outputs on a limited budget: a climate change impact assessment for water resources at river basin scale; downscaled climate change scenarios for a limited area; climate projections and hydrological modeling; participatory studies; local adaptive capacity assessments; and adaptation measure analysis at the provincial, district and town levels. All of the initial targets were reached to varying extents.

The above results were achieved in part thanks to the proper mobilization of local resources, including information and data, technical, financial and human capacity and collaboration with other projects, assessments and activities and the sharing of the results of such. This last point will be described further below.

Cooperate to reduce costs and avoid duplication of effort

Close collaboration with relevant development projects working in the same area or sector, or with similar objectives, should be encouraged to avoid the duplication of effort and to maximize the sharing of information, technical advice, reports, networks of contacts, and financial and human resources.

In the first phase of this project, two meetings were organized with representatives of different organizations and initiatives in Thua Thien Hue Province and especially in Phu Vang district (including IMOLA, ICZM, FAO, CECI, PVC, Kyoto University and ABD) where the participants shared information and experiences, contacts and networks. All the participants acknowledged the importance of such a dialogue and mechanism for collaboration. However, it was also recognized that most of the projects still have weak links with one another and have no budget allocations to support coordination. Moreover, there are many constraints limiting effective collaboration, such as the lack of a dedicated platform for cooperation and communication and the bureaucracy of some local institutions, among others.

In this regard, the establishment of a special unit for coordination of relevant activities with small but secure budget allocation, possibly independent from the local government, would be highly beneficial. At present, such an inter-agency coordination body does not exist, so it is recommended to encourage all donors and investors to allocate a certain amount of project budgets to a ‘collaborative funds' for this important and potentially very cost effective mechanism.

Use a combination of top-down and bottom-up participatory approaches

Local communities and the rural poor are often the most vulnerable sectors of society who will feel earliest and bear the full brunt of the negative impacts of climate change. As these groups are also among the intended project beneficiaries, they need to be involved in the process of adaptation at all stages, from initial project development to the monitoring and evaluation of the project outputs. Therefore, a bottom-up approach is essential in designing practical adaptive measures to match the specifics of the local context and in developing small-scale adaptation and other projects.

The bottom-up approach may not be entirely sufficient, however, for a more strategic project aimed at influencing policy-making and implementation. If this is the case, a combined approach would be the most effective.

Translate scientific study results into a language understandable by the end-users

One of the most difficult but important tasks in a project such as this is to reformulate scientific conclusions into a language and format that is easily understood by the different target groups: provincial leaders and policy makers, private and public sector managers, local authorities and local communities, and poor people.

Rural inhabitants and the urban poor may not speak the same language as technical experts and scientists, and often have little free time or interest in complicated scientific issues, so all project and study results should be simplified and presented in a locally coherent way.

Conversely, policy makers and national authorities require concrete and reliable evidence - figures, data and facts that should be related to or spark their interest (political, economic or other), with an emphasis on shorter term decisions and plans as abstract ideas or long term challenges do not always catch these stakeholders' attention.

The potential impacts of climate change over the long term are often ignored or misunderstood by local communities and state authorities. Some of these actors may also be already (intentionally or not) undertaking what could be considered as autonomous adaptation measures. The task of the experts and project teams is to raise awareness and understanding, which may lead to concrete positive actions.

Use indigenous knowledge and expert opinion wisely

Local people know much better than others their needs and fears, the location of areas most vulnerable to climate change and disasters and economic or livelihood opportunities in and around their communities, but they can often benefit from the technical support and objective view provided by outside experts.

Confusion regarding the concept of climate change, related information and relevant countermeasures - for example the difference between mitigation and adaptation - can be common place, so some clarification and capacity building is usually needed. During project implementation, many new ideas and findings may arise while working with local people or governmental bodies. It is often the case that project experts have not considered all aspects of a project, especially if prior consultations were not undertaken with local communities. So while managers may have a good idea of the overall project objectives, creative and innovative solutions may be provided by project stakeholders, ideas which could even change the implementation direction or intended outputs. In such a case, the purpose and overall objectives of the project can remain but a reorientation of certain specific objectives or outputs may be useful to better fit the practical reality.

Think globally, act locally

Regional, national and local adaptation to climate change should be linked to the global context in terms of knowledge and information availability, technology transfer and financial support from, and experience sharing with, the international community. Such cooperation can bring benefits and opportunities to local people, as is the case with the NCAP project for Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam.

However, adaptation to climate change needs to also begin with, and focus on, the everyday actions of individuals to encourage changes in awareness, attitudes and behavior. In order to help achieve this, near-term concrete targets to adapt to climate variability and disasters should be promoted and local development challenges may need to be addressed.

Strategic recommendations

Despite the emphasis given to achieving accelerated economic growth, the Government of Vietnam acknowledges that controlling and reducing the consequences of climate change and disasters are also key priorities. State and industry responses to climate change would have to be carried out systematically and be consistent with the policies and plans of various sectors and regions, in particular with the national economic development plan as well as that of a province such as Thua Thien Hue.

The results of this project should be used in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into the provincial socioeconomic development plan, as well as into the Thua Thien Hue ICZM action plan, which should be revised in 2009. A number of initial difficulties were encountered by the project team while trying to propose the integration of climate change adaptation considerations into policy-making mechanisms and administrative processes. Fortunately, with the increasing awareness of the Government of Vietnam regarding potential climate change impacts and risks and the ongoing process of preparation of the National Target Program to Respond to Climate Change (NTP), which is also led by the IMHEN and MONRE, the integration process will be implemented at the provincial level very soon.

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