A Dalit woman, Saraswoti Pariyar, has adopted new climate-smart techniques that conserve water for irrigation and protect against extreme rains and pest infestations. With increased production, she has earned an extra $800 for her family and her son’s education. Nepal, Lachowk Village Development Community.

USAID Adaptation Work Helps Safeguard Development Gains and Pursue Priorities

By John Furlow, Amy Daniels

Climate impacts such as droughts, heat waves, floods, storms and sea level rise threaten lives, livelihoods and infrastructure. Since 2010, awareness about climate change and the need for countries to adapt has risen dramatically, as have USAID’s capabilities to help partner countries take action to anticipate, prepare and adapt to those changes.

To safeguard development gains and pursue economic and social development priorities in a climate-resilient way, USAID’s adaptation work focuses on three critical areas: supporting countries’ capacity to use climate information and tools to inform planning and decision-making; helping communities, countries and the private sector plan for climate change; and assisting countries in adaptation actions.

The adaptation work done over the past six years has taught the Agency many lessons that are helping to improve its approach and support its partner countries more effectively. Some key lessons for climate change adaptation in international development are:

  • Climate change is more effectively managed if it is viewed as a potential constraint on―or occasionally an opportunity for―economic activity and development.
  • Taking a systems view of adaptation and development challenges helps ensure that all impediments to success are being considered and addressed.
  • It is important to engage multiple stakeholders early in planning processes.
  • Countries with recurring crises, whether environmental or otherwise, find it challenging to take effective adaptation measures while coping with emergencies.
  • Climate information and related tools are only valuable if people use them, so understanding user needs is important.
  • For users to use a tool, they need to trust both the tool and the organization that provides it.

These lessons are also relevant to USAID’s implementing partners and other organizations, as they work to integrate considerations of climate risk and resilience into development.


The recently released USAID Climate Action Review: 2010-2016 highlights USAID’s most significant achievements in climate change adaptation including:

1. USAID has enabled both countries and individuals to access and apply climate information. USAID has helped 5.3 million people access and use climate data to reduce vulnerability to climate change, with tens of millions more benefitting. At a global level, USAID facilitated knowledge-sharing among climate agencies around the world by helping to launch the Climate Services Partnership. Through its development of SERVIR, USAID helps communicate weather and climate information to more than over 40 countries. In Jamaica, USAID supports and protects farmers’ livelihoods, by helping weather and agriculture extension services provide seasonal drought forecasts tailored to farmers’ needs. These forecasts helped farmers cut losses by 40 percent during record droughts in 2014.

Examples of related achievements in Mali, Vietnam, Malawi, Senegal and Kenya are detailed in the report.

2. USAID helped create laws and policies to assist communities, governments and the private sector plan prepare for climate change. USAID is helping countries undertake national and subnational adaptation plans and adopt policies to manage climate impacts. In Senegal, USAID helped launch the country’s national adaptation planning process and provided assistance with the implementation of coastal adaptation plans. To move from planning to action in improving access to climate finance, USAID helped countries identify funding sources in their own budgets, harness development assistance and international public funds, and tap domestic and global markets for private finance.

Examples of related achievements are detailed in the report.

3. Demonstrated adaptation actions that reduce vulnerability. In Bangladesh, SERVIR experts developed an early warning tool using satellite data to track river levels. Based on system projections, the government issued its earliest flood warning ever in 2014, which reduced impacts of heavy rainfall and glacial runoff.

Examples of related achievements in Dominica, Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana, Peru and Nepal are detailed in the report.

As weather and climate impacts undermine development gains, adaptation will become increasingly important for people and countries around the world. USAID is leveraging U.S. knowledge and resources to help countries meet their climate commitments and respond to the effects  of climate change.

The USAID Climate Action Review: 2010-2016 highlights the achievements of USAID and its partners since the launch of the US Global Climate Change Initiative in 2010. The report describes the evolution of USAID’s approaches, summarizes major achievements, distills lessons learned and shares examples from adaptation, clean energy, sustainable landscapes, and climate change integration activities in over 40 countries.

Strategic Objective
Weather, Resilience, Private Sector Engagement, Partnership, Coastal, Climate Policy, Adaptation

John Furlow

John Furlow is Senior Adaptation Advisor at USAID where he led the adaptation program in the climate change office from 2007-2015, including the development of USAID’s Climate-Resilient Development Framework.  He represents USAID in international climate negotiations and helped design and launch the National Adaptation Plans (NAP) Global Network. Previously John worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where he designed and managed projects examining the impacts of climate change on water quality and the built environment.

Amy Daniels

Amy led the creation of Climatelinks and provides on-going vision for its content, organization, scope, and functionality. Amy manages the Climatelinks team and is doggedly passionate about climate science translation, capacity building and effective decision-support for a climate-resilient future. She is interested in expanding the availability and reach of technical assistance through technology. Amy brings a decade of international development experience from Latin America and beyond. She also spent more than four years with U.S. Forest Service Research where she led a national, multiagency effort to systematize the integration of climate simulations into agency processes and decision-support tools.

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