The Community Adaptation Small Grants Facility

The project “Taking Adaptation to the Ground: A Small Grants Facility for Enabling Local-Level Responses to Climate Change in South Africa” (US$2,442,682) aimed to develop and implement a small grant finance mechanism within the context of climate finance. The goal was to deliver direct and tangible adaptation benefits, with the potential for scaling up and replicating this model. Led by SouthSouthNorth, the project was implemented in the Namakwa and Mopani Districts of the Northern Cape and Limpopo Provinces, respectively. Initiated in 2015, the project concluded in December 2021, successfully empowering local communities to respond effectively to the impacts of climate change.

The full project proposal was submitted to and approved by the Adaptation Fund for the Small Grants Facility project is available here, and the supporting annex document here.

Case studies

Twelve Small Grant Recipient projects were approved and completed, building adaptive capacity and delivering a range of tangible local benefits for 1,921 direct and 9,006 indirect beneficiaries.

The project also provided deep insight into the Enhanced Direct Access modality, including its benefits and challenges. This experience is detailed in nine Case Studies listed below.

Drawing directly on the experience of institutional role-players and especially the Small Grant Recipients themselves, these case studies aimed to document the project processes, capture the outcomes, and gather lessons learned towards the future scaling up and replication of small grant financing approaches, in South Africa and beyond.

Case Studies

Small Grants Facility project: An overview

Other resources

These case studies, along with extensive consultations with other grant makers, intermediaries, academic institutions, the private sector, project partners, and project beneficiaries, informed SANBI’s Blueprint for Enhanced Direct Access in South Africa.

The ‘Blueprint’ proposed the establishment of a ‘Locally Led Adaptation Grant Facility’ that supported interventions responding directly to the needs of marginalized communities and delivered tangible adaptation outcomes for those most impacted by climate change. The Grant Facility enabled the simultaneous management and governance of multiple investments, with anticipated efficiencies and economies of scale. It did so through the creation of differentiated modalities that responded to the nuanced nature of local vulnerabilities and enabled a range of adaptation responses at different scales and with diverse objectives.

The modalities were delivered through the existing systems of established grant makers in South Africa, capitalizing on their strengths and complementing existing investments while integrating climate change responses into their programs of work. A downstream goal of the Grant Facility was to find ways for other co-financiers to support the Facility and its functions. This included aggregating international and domestic financial resources in a single investment and making the case for increased public sector expenditure and alignment with municipal budgeting processes.

A Policy Brief entitled Improving Enhanced Direct Access to Climate Finance captured the high-level insights and recommendations that emanated from the project. Among other recommendations, these promoted the integration of indigenous knowledge and gender mainstreaming in project development, empowerment of sub-national government, sufficiently resourcing capacity building, and ensuring flexibility around grant sizes and risk management mechanisms.

Background to the project

When bad floods, droughts, or heatwaves strike a community, it is usually the most vulnerable who suffer the most and struggle to recover afterward. These communities need help to cope with these extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.

Responding to these events effectively could involve implementing climate-smart farming practices to ensure food security during droughts, installing stormwater systems in informal settlements to drain floodwaters quickly, or setting up early warning systems to alert people when a nearby river is about to overflow.

However, work like this requires substantial funding. Unfortunately, many marginalized communities struggle to secure this funding because they often face significant bureaucratic hurdles in accessing development money. It’s essential to streamline these processes and provide the necessary support to ensure that vulnerable populations can build resilience against climate change.

The Community Adaptation Small Grants Facility (SGF) project provided a way to assist communities in accessing this kind of funding. The SGF project was implemented in two pilot project areas, namely in Mopani District in Limpopo Province and Namakwa District in the Northern Cape. These areas were expected to become hotter, rainfall would be less predictable, and there may be heavier storm events. This would impact people’s health and well-being as these changes undermine agriculture, local livelihoods, and the built environment.

The SGF project released small grants so that communities could run projects that delivered tangible and sustainable benefits. As projects unfolded, communities were encouraged to share the lessons they learned so that their projects and the way the SGF project financed them could be rolled out on a larger scale around the country.

The Community Adaptation SGF project model allowed communities to get direct access to funding, which was something civil society had been requesting for a long time. Doing so was a way to empower a community because it allowed people to decide for themselves how to use the money, and it built up skills within the community so they would be better able to run their own adaptation-related projects at a local level.

The SGF project had a value of about R27 million (US$2.5 million).

Climate science behind the Community Adaptation Small Grants Facility

SANBI Small Grants Facility Mid-Term Evaluation Report.

The work of the NIE is informed by climate change projections that are derived from climate science studies.

These include the studies that were undertaken as part of the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios process and downscaled projections for the Mopani and Namakwa District municipalities that were developed by the African Climate and Development Initiative.

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