ACTION | Empowering Local NGOs: Bridging Capacity Gaps for Climate Change Action

Addressing Capacity Gaps and Needs of Local NGO Professionals in Rowmari, Kurigram to Address Climate Change

The precarious pace and impacts of climate change is making it tougher to build capacities of local communities and grassroot organizations who are at the frontlines. However, capacity building is a vital enabler of climate change adaptation. In Bangladesh, the importance of capacity building has been emphasized, and incorporated in the existing national policies and plans including the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP), and Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan (MCPP). Moreover, article 11 of the Paris Agreement and target 13.3 of SDG goal 13 also prioritize building the capacity of those with significant capacity constraints, especially marginalized communities highly exposed to climate change impacts ensuring communities possess the skills, knowledge, and resources to effectively tackle climate change challenges.

The local NGOs are often the primary drivers of change, addressing specific issues within their communities and play a vital role in facilitating local communities’ voices in climate action.

“Addressing this pressing fact, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) has devised a plan to build the capacity of NGO professionals through training on different aspects of climate change based on their needs”

Addressing this pressing fact, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) has devised a plan to build the capacity of NGO professionals through training on different aspects of climate change based on their needs. Furthermore, ICCCAD is building the capacity of government stakeholders, civil society organizations (CSOs), and academicians at the national and regional level on locally led adaptation (LLA) and loss and damage (L&D). This initiative falls under the project ‘Capacity Strengthening of Multi-Actors to Limit Climate Change Impacts and Enhance Resilience (CAP-RES)’ supported by the Embassy of Sweden.

The project has been implemented in Rowmari Upazila of Kurigram district, located in northwest Bangladesh. Initially a Capacity Needs Assessment (CNA) was conducted with NGO representatives in Rowmari who are currently working particularly on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change. This was done through Key Informant Interviews (KII) and Focus Group Discussions (FGD) with elder community representatives and local managers of the NGOs. The primary goal of these interviews was to determine their current climate change adaptation interventions in the area and identify the capacity gaps and needs required to address the impacts of climate change.

The current interventions of the majority of those NGOs consist of regularly organizing a variety of training sessions for different community stakeholders. For instance, the NGOs are providing training to farmers for climate-smart agriculture and livelihoods through the Upazila Agriculture Extension Officer; educating local government representatives and community leaders, such as ward, union, and upazila disaster management committees; developing skills of local youth volunteers on emergency response including first aid and search & rescue missions; and educating women, girls, and young people about social problems including drug addiction, early marriage, and dowries. Additionally, other NGOs are concentrating on developing disaster response strategies, including evacuating the most vulnerable to the shelters and providing emergency dry foods, drinking water, first aid, and essential non-food items such as hygiene kits.

In order to make the community aware and capacitated for adaptation, it is first and foremost to build the capacity of local NGO professionals who work as drivers of change and transmitters of knowledge. Unfortunately, there are insufficient capacity-building programs existing at the grassroots level. Even though NGOs are arranging a number of training sessions for their own employees, it is not so effective. The employees mostly receive training at the beginning of the projects and sometimes once a year in a few organizations. The employees who join midway of the projects usually do not get any training. One underlying factor of their capacity gaps is that most of the employees come from diverse educational backgrounds, where a very tiny number of employees belong to the disciplines relevant to environment, disaster management, and climate change. This hinders their basic knowledge on the fundamentals of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

For instance, through the interviews it was found that only one NGO got training that comprised components of the climate change process, impacts, and response mechanisms. In addition, another major gap found was inadequate training on how NGOs can align climate change adaptation knowledge with existing Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) interventions implemented on the ground. The variety of vulnerability and risk assessments training also excludes components of climate change.

“A significant capacity gap amongst the NGO representatives also included, lack of ability in developing a handsome proposal to access climate finance”

A significant capacity gap amongst the NGO representatives also included, lack of ability in developing a handsome proposal to access climate finance. One of the interviewees shared his recent experience of getting rejected by the government regulated Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) for a project due to the unclear context, poor organizational structure and formatting of the proposal.

In the case of addressing the capacity needs of NGO professionals, the interviewees stated the need for primary to advanced training on the fundamental aspects of climate change including its process, natural and anthropogenic causes, negative impacts, and adaptation strategies on different socio-economic conditions considering the various sectors (such as agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, livestock, water resources etc). Alongside this, the interviewees urged for an impactful training on proposal development and learning the process of successful submission to access national and international climate funds. It is crucial to integrate and emphasize climate change elements into current practices of vulnerability and risk assessment-as a primary need to promote the collective and synergized efforts of climate change and DRR.

Taking all these gaps and needs into consideration, the CAP-RES project intends to develop modules and provide training to the NGO professionals accordingly, with the aim to enhance the knowledge and skills on usage of adequate tools, equipment, and other resources to lead effective local adaptation efforts.

Authors: Habibur Rahman is working as a Research Officer at ICCCAD. His research interest lies in Climate Change Adaptation, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment, and Capacity Building.

Nafis Imtiaj Hossain is working as a Project Intern at ICCCAD. His research interest lies in Oceanography, Climate Science and Justice.

S M Saify Iqbal is working as Programme Coordinator at ICCCAD. His research interest lies in Climate Resilience and Climate-Induced Loss and Damage.