To Focus on Adaptation or Not to Focus on Adaptation?

That question could define the next decade of development in Mozambique.

Photo by Andrea Romero (IFPRI)

In their paper Everyday Realities of Climate Change Adaptation in Mozambique, Luis Artur and Dorothea Holhorst paint a disheartening picture of the current issues facing the vulnerable people of Mozambique.  A “lack of coherent strategy and leadership” due to the conflicting interests of development agencies and climate change programs has greatly diminished the government’s ability to respond effectively when natural disasters strike.

Artur and Holhorst believe adaptation measures could make great strides in protecting vulnerable Mozambicans but see actors at every level preventing progress. “Rather than displaying a unified concern to prepare the country for increasing disasters, national level actors . . . politicize adaptation and make it subject to bureaucratic competition,” explains Holhorst. Throughout the paper, readers see how this division among leaders fractures the entire relief system, resulting in uninformed interventions that mishandle already fragile floodplain communities.

But while the paper successfully draws attention to the inadequacy of current adaptation interventions and the damage done by disjointed leadership, it ultimately fails to recognize the importance of development initiatives for a fledgling country post civil war. On the surface, climate change adaptation solutions are exciting and almost irresistible, but focus on adaptation can take away from important development initiatives during a nation’s delicate developmental stages.

“Mozambique won’t see, or at least be able to detect, climate-change induced natural disasters for many years,” says Gerald Nelson (Senior Research Fellow, Environment and Production Technology, IFPRI). “Right now [Mozambique] needs to focus on recovering from the aftermath of the civil war. Spending time on climate change adaptation really just distracts from doing sustainable development.”

This begs the question: How developed does a nation need to be before it can focus on adaptation?

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About josheard

Josh Heard is an actor in Washington, DC.
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