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Can community savings build resilience against climate extremes and climate-induced disasters? This project aims to do just that in Kenya



Global climate change is an incontrovertible challenge of our time that threatens to derail or even roll back the hard-earned development gains of the past decades and impede the progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Of worth note is that, climate change is not just happening in isolation, but is coinciding with and demonstrably, more pronounced in settings that are also affected by violent conflict, political instability, and economic strife. Interestingly, although communities and societies in general have long been adapting to climate changes, most of the adaptation and mitigation initiatives have typically been discrete and reactive, without addressing particular needs and concerns of vulnerable communities. The danger is that such initiatives have turned out to be costly, with far reaching negative unintended consequences of a “wait for humanitarian assistance” attitude. This underscores the need for a comprehensive and transformative climate change agenda that goes beyond mere mitigation and adaptation, to promote community-level resilience. CWS experience within the East Africa’s ASALs has demonstrated that community savings is a key resilience building measure in areas prone to climate shocks and stresses. It is hoped that such an initiative will provide local communities with better opportunities to benefit from informal and formal financial services while giving them the ability to Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape from the effects of climate-change related shocks and stresses in a manner that better protects their livelihoods, reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates sustainable development.

What actions do you propose?

The project will be based on the following inter-related climate smart components:

a)       Participatory climate change vulnerability assessments (CCVAs) will be conducted as, as an integral component that will inform the development of compelling, context specific valuable data that will better illustrate the types of climatic impacts relevant to the region in the present and the future. Key activities will include conducting of the project orientation workshops/meetings; Desk review of the existing literature including climate text mining and learning from already implemented community- savings schemes; Collection of primary data for baseline purposes including that provided by citizens through social media; household surveys, Focus Group Discussions (FGD); Formal and Informal interviews with key informants; scenario building; seasonal calendars, Geographic Information System (GIS)  GIS  and community resource mapping among other innovative participatory research methodologies. A wide range of information and communication tools will be used to disseminate the CCVAs findings to relevant stakeholders and to obtain their feedback.

b)       Community mobilization and capacity development for improved bottom-up approaches including advocacy, linking knowledge and social learning to act and organize collectively in saving for community resilience, that will allow communities to not only cope, but also support their efforts to become social actors and take command of their own development path while giving special consideration to gender issues and vulnerable groups such as women. Key activities will include: Conducting community awareness, sensitization and mobilization workshops to develop a common understanding of the impacts of climate change at the local level and the need for savings to enhance community resilience; Formation and strengthening of existing Community based groups comprising of 15 to 30 persons based on baseline findings and adaptation needs; facilitate the selection of key members of the group into group leadership positions   such as chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer; Conduct a systematic and intensive training exercise, to group leaders on record keeping; group dynamics, negotiation and conflict management as well as general group formation in addition to training on leadership development using community-based approaches such as intensive training of trainers (TOT); Development of the group constitution detailing roles and responsibilities of group members; Preparation of  community savings plans that enable members  to better anticipate, withstand, and recover from  climatic shocks and stresses; Organize and conduct exceptional networking events  and exposure visits  to facilitate  knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning on community savings-where members will be taken to other established and robust groups to help learn and understand practices, challenges, successes and group governance model from best performing groups; Group refresher trainings  after one year to identify the gaps/challenges and address the same in participatory manner.

c)       Initiation of self-sustaining community savings schemes for climate resilience. The schemes will be build on the traditional Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) concept, commonly known as Chamaa- Self managed savings groups that do not receive external funding and which provide members a safe place to save their money, access loans and obtain emergency insurance. At the end of a saving cycle—generally a year—the Community fund will be divided and each member receives his/her savings plus a share of the profit. The group usually schedules distribution of shares and profits during critical times such as the onset of drought season, when resources are scarce. Key activities will include: Carry out orientation sessions about the chamaa methodology; facilitate group members to set terms for savings and loans, including interest rates, repayment schedules and penalties for late payments or missed meetings; Review and identify promising opportunities and locations for investment in alternative sources of livelihoods; conduct entrepreneurial, financial and digital literacy training, whereby; leveraging on the mobile-based solutions – including enhanced access to mobile money-Mpesa, Mshwari and bank agents, groups will be encouraged to save regularly, borrow from their group’s fund to diversify their livelihoods, and repay loans with interest; Provision of community-based savings toolkits where the group’s funds are kept; Provide working capital  in form of seed grant to  boost their revolving funds; Initiate linkages/ networks with financial institutions (banks and insurance companies) to  develop customized community insurance products targeting pastoralists and crop famers that will help reduce the cost of asset losses and spur quicker post climatic shock recovery.

d)       Support community early warning mechanisms by equipping members of the savings group with the necessary climate information services and tools to monitor and mitigate against climate extremes and climate-induced disasters, and alert communities of the impeding danger. Key activities include:  setting up a flexible communication platform built on Frontline SMS and taps into the immense potential of the rising use of mobile phones and IT services, linking group members to the local meteorological department, where they will be able to not only make inquiries but also receive seasonal and short term forecast information in their local languages and dialects to update their farming calendars; Training and orientation of community members on reporting first-hand information, trialing the SMS system; development of climate Information Education Communication (IEC) materials that will be displayed at strategic public locations such as community halls, markets, and schools etc. to avoid distortion of information and for greater visibility of the  seasonal and short term forecast information. Formation of instant messaging groups such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp among peers to discuss seasonal and short term forecast information under parameters such as start and end of the rains, total seasonal rainfall amount, ideal period for planting, length of the growing season, which crops will succeed in the upcoming season, perfect time for crop harvesting and availability of market for both the farm produce and livestock.

e)       Strengthening ASALs communities’ ecosystems through community-led natural regeneration, deliberately focusing on setting up Bamboo tree out-grower schemes. The plant forms part of an “ecological infrastructure” that offers a win-win integrative approach to climate change by linking the twin concerns of livelihood enhancement, through the creation of sustainable bamboo community based enterprises and; environmental protection by increasing biodiversity through the massive restoration of unproductive, degraded ASALs and where soil erosion is a problem. Key activities include: Nomination of members from the savings groups to the Bamboo tree out-grower committee, who will undergo a series of technical training on setting up Bamboo nursery, demonstration plots; business planning, marketing; participatory monitoring and  evidence-based evaluation;  promotion of non-timber forest products (NTFP) micro-enterprises, especially honey through exhibitions. Special emphasis will be laid on Bamboo associated value chain – of generating carbon offsets under the Payment for ecosystem services (PES) programs (e.g. REDD+) by carrying out REDD+ awareness and capacity amongst the savings groups regarding the ecological and economic benefits of Bamboo tree cultivation through community-focused workshops; technical assistance in formulating project idea note (PIN); Project Design Document (PDD); Validation and Registration; Reporting and Verification; From the Bamboo revenue streams, establish a bamboo tree –outgrower trust fund that is sustainable and creditable in the long run.

f)         Establish and promote community working groups, networks, associations, and interest groups to create awareness and disseminate the new thinking of community savings for building resilience against climate extremes and climate-induced disasters among the different stakeholders including Governments representatives, academia, civil society private sector especially climate risk modeling experts; bankers and insurance companies. Key activities will include: Organize a community savings summit in form of high-level panels, workshops, roundtables and online forums to deepen critical thinking and facilitate a robust exchange of knowledge among stakeholders by highlighting innovative work and groundbreaking community savings initiatives which are building resilience against climate extremes and climate-induced disasters.

Who will take these actions?

The project will be implemented by Church World Services (CWS); a faith-based organization transforming communities around the globe through just and sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement and disaster. Worth noting is that: a comprehensive and transformative ASALs climate change agenda call for the involvement of multiple stakeholders. CWS is already working with numerous partners such as community-based organizations (CBOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in putting bold ideas into action, helping vulnerable communities overcome adversity and become more resilient.  However, in pursuit of the project objectives and to facilitate transformational change, we may need to go beyond our usual partners and allies by engaging government agencies at county and national levels including the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources; the Ministry of Lands;  Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI); the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Kenya Forest Service who will offer technical advice on setting up Bamboo tree out-grower schemes and registration for the Payment for ecosystem services (PES) . In addition, CWS will set up links and work collaboratively on the different tasks of the project with private sector corporations, especially mobile money operators; banks, insurance companies in developing develop customized community insurance products; Universities, research institutions and climate risk modeling experts in carrying out the CCVAs; international environmental conservation agencies such as United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR); and World Agro-forestry Centre (ICRAF)  among many others who matter and  interested in infusing saving for community resilience thinking throughout ASAL development for enhanced resilience.

Where will these actions be taken?

The project will be piloted in 5 climate hit counties including: West Pokot, Turkana; Baringo, Kitui and Tana River before scaling up to the rest of the ASALs in the country. Like the rest of the Horn of Africa, poverty and dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources in these areas combine to create severe vulnerability. Kenya continues to experience frequent climatic shocks and stresses through rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns which  results in increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events: floods and storms; water stress; decline in agricultural productivity and food security; and further spread of water-related diseases; that tends to perpetuate and recycle generational poverty.

For instance, heavy drought episodes were experienced in 2001,2003,2006, 2009 and 2011 (Fitzgibbon, 2012); leading to hunger and starvation of an approximate 10 million of people after a poor harvest, crop failure and rising commodity prices (Kenya Red Cross 2009). Recently, the president declared the on-going drought, a national disaster that has affected at 2.7 million people. Drought is often followed by intensive rainfall, which often translates into high runoff in permanent and intermittent streams/rivers, resulting to seasonal floods like the El Niño floods of 1997/98.  this adversely affects the rain-fed subsistence farmers and pastoralists; thus leading to increased household food insecurity.

The estimated economic impact of the drought is slowing down of country’s economic growth by an average of 2.8 percent per year (GoK,2012).The Stockholm Environment Institute’s study further estimated that existing climate related shocks cost Kenya as much as US$0.5 Billion per year, equivalent to around 2 per cent of GDP. The climatic challenges further compounds other development challenges such as endemic conflicts, swelling population, land fragmentation, inadequate infrastructure and provision of social services; leading to further vulnerability.

What are other key benefits?

The establishment of community savings group  and setting up of  a bamboo tree –outgrower trust fund will ensure continuity of the results after the project.

The distinctive characteristic of working with groups will lead to enhanced community social capital; where community members gain more self-confidence and a greater feeling of solidarity in addressing climate change related challenges in a more unified and pro-active way.

The project embodies holistic, broad based and participatory approaches that will promote ownership and engender action by all, and for all; for now and for future generations that is in line with the sustainble development goals (SDGs). Moreover, the project has immense potential in the actualization of the desired aspirations and commitments contained in the numerous action plans, policies and programs at national and international levels such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, Africa Climate Business Plan and Kenya's National development blue print; vision 2030.


What are the proposal’s costs?

The economic cost of this proposal is amounting to $1,000,000 

Time line

The project will last for a  period of 5-15 years

Related proposals

There are no related proposals


UNEP, Collaborating for Resilience: Partnerships that build disaster-resilient communities and economies, 2015.

 Fitzgibbon, C. (2012) Economics of Resilience – Kenya Country Report,

Kenya Red Cross. 2009. Drought Appeal 2009—Alleviating Human Suffering. Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), District Steering Groups (DSGs), Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG). http://www.

See link for details on drought as a national disaster:

See link  for more details on village savings and loans associations:

See link for more details on Bamboo

See link for more details on REDD+ :

See link for more details on CWS: