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< prev - next > Environment and adaptation to climate change ESRC_briefing_paper_1 (Printable PDF)
Promoting climate-resilient rural livelihoods through
adaptive social protection
Adaptive social protection (ASP) combines key elements of social protection (SP), disaster risk
reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CAA) approaches as a means to promote climate-
resilient rural livelihoods in policy and practice in developing countries.
Rural livelihoods in developing countries are coming
under increasing pressure due to climate change. To
date, little progress has been made on thinking about
how to protect the poorest and most vulnerable people
from its impacts. With large amounts of financial
assistance pledged for adaptation and social protection in
the most vulnerable developing countries in the coming
years, ASP (see Figure 1) offers a promising approach
through which to channel adaptation assistance to those
who need it the most.
In addition, it is becoming increasingly recognized
that SP initiatives, such as cash transfers and food-
for-work programmes, are as much at risk from climate
change as other development approaches. They are
unlikely to succeed in reducing poverty if they do not
consider the short- and long-term shocks associated
with climate change, such as increased frequency and
intensity of floods and droughts. ASP therefore aims
to address this concern by developing climate change-
resilient SP programmes.
households, carrying out beneficiary needs assessments,
and providing skills development training courses for
What further work on ASP is required?
Future work needs to strengthen the evidence base upon
which ASP is based, focusing on the practice of SP,
CCA and DRR on the ground. To this end, Institute of
Development Studies is currently completing a desk-
based review of approximately 150 agricultural projects
and programmes in south Asia and east Africa. This
evidence can form the basis of advocacy efforts on ASP
amongst decision-makers in developing countries and the
development community.
SP can increase resilience to disasters
or rebuild assets after a disaster
‘Adaptive social
How does ASP work?
ASP recognizes that the disciplines of SP, DRR and CAA
have their own strengths and weaknesses, and works to
maximize the advantages that each brings to poverty and
vulnerability reduction.
By combining SP approaches with DRR and CCA,
it is possible to look beyond simply protecting people
from transitory, shock-induced poverty, towards disaster
prevention and livelihood promotion to address the
structural constraints associated with poverty. For
example, Practical Action’s Mainstreaming Livelihood-
Centred Approaches to Disaster Management project (see
approaches_bangladesh) in Bangladesh utilizes asset
transfer SP mechanisms for the extreme poor, as well as
ensuring sufficient investment for asset appreciation and
disaster protection over the longer term. This addresses
some of the root causes of marginalization associated
with lack of viable livelihood options rather than simply
attempting to lift people out of poverty over the short
Similarly, considering CCA and DRR in the context
of SP creates strong incentives for developing longer-
term, risk reduction perspectives that increase climate
resilience. For example, the aim of the Improving
Capacity of Vulnerable Households project in Bangladesh
(managed by BCAS, CARE Bangladesh, RVCC, and
CIDA) is to increase the capacity of communities in
the Gopalganj district to adapt to the adverse effects
of climate change through diversification of livelihood
options. Activities involve identifying vulnerable
Disaster risk
SP can support
adaptive capacity
through building
assets, supporting
livelihoods, or
increasing the rights
of the vulnerable
Climate change
CCA is characterized by
tackling vulnerability to
changing distribution
of extreme climatic
Figure 1: Adaptive Social Protection
Alex Arnall, Tom Mitchell and Mark Davies
Institute of Development Studies
University of Sussex
Brighton, BN1 9RE. UK.
See also
Davies, M., Guenther, B., Leavy, J., Mitchell., T. and
Tanner, T. (2008) ‘Climate Change Adaptation, Disaster
Risk Reduction and Social Protection: Complementary
Roles in Agriculture and Rural Growth?’ IDS Working
Paper, Volume 2009, Number 320.