Around the world, climate change threatens to undermine progress towards development objectives and jeopardizes human well being. It is not just an environmental problem; climate change poses significant threats to food security, water availability, infrastructure integrity, good governance, and health. Whether an infrastructure investment in Pakistan, an agriculture project in Ethiopia, or a health program in Haiti, USAID recognizes that considering climate change ensures the sustainability and impact of its development investments.
Through climate risk management — a structured process to assess and address risks and identify opportunities — USAID can improve the impact and sustainability of its efforts, safeguarding billions of dollars in investments. In October 2015, USAID began considering climate risk in all new regional and country-level strategies. Missions that have done climate risk screening for their strategies are already producing national development plans that better address climate risk.
The USAID Mission in Zimbabwe was one of the first to go through USAID’s new climate risk management process. The Zimbabwe Mission does not presently have specific funding for USAID climate change programs, yet Zimbabwe faces serious climate challenges. The Mission saw the benefit of integrating climate risk management into its five-year plan describing USAID and other U.S. government assistance.
Including climate change in the regular steps of creating a new country strategy resulted in a stronger strategy for Zimbabwe. In the health sector, for example, the strategy now calls for enhanced surveillance to monitor malaria, as changing average temperatures may spread the prevalence of mosquitoes to new regions of the country.
Climate change is also included in the intermediate development result that calls for improved resilience to shocks, as the Mission’s work will be around developing and improving community infrastructure that supports resilience, such as small-scale irrigation, community-level small dams, and improved natural resources management.
Blessing Mutsaka, the Mission’s Environment Officer and Climate Integration Lead, led the initiative to integrate climate risk management into Zimbabwe’s new strategy. Mutsaka stresses the importance of making climate risk management an iterative process, noting that “it should be considered when you start thinking about the strategy. It should be integrated into the normal process.”
First, a team from Washington’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance and the Global Climate Change Office introduced the Climate Risk Management tool to the Mission and helped begin an initial climate risk screening. Based on that screening, the team developed a climate risk matrix for Zimbabwe, working across development sectors with the Mission’s technical teams.
Involving a wide array of people helped to socialize climate risk management at the Mission. It is crucial for all teams to be on board, in order to understand why managing climate risk is important and how it is integrated into the broader country strategy.
Mutsaka and his team ensured that the literature review included a specific section on climate change to examine climate trends, expected changes, high risk areas, and mitigation options. The Mission then conducted a consultative process with local experts and stakeholders from academia, civil society, and religious groups. This knowledge sharing process helped the Mission garner the best information and build evidence for the strategy. For example, a professor from the University of Zimbabwe presented on climate change and agriculture to Mission staff.
The bottom line is that climate change was integrated into Zimbabwe’s normal strategy development process. Mutsaka and team provided facilitators for strategy plenary sessions with questions related to climate risk. One of the question, for example, asked how climate change interplays with the sector or development objective in question in terms of the target population, operating environment, institutions, etc. This helped ensure that climate change would be considered when the plenary groups were drafting results frameworks.
The case of Zimbabwe illustrates that even in the absence of climate change-specific programming, climate risk management is helping missions improve planning to safeguard development against the impacts of climate change.
Beginning next month—October 2016—USAID will go one step further, requiring climate risk management at all levels of its program-specific plans and activities that are guided by the country strategy. Stay tuned for updates!
This blog was first published on Climatelinks on September 21, 2016 and is being re-posted to provide context and complement forthcoming new blogs on climate risk management.
 USAID country strategies are written in close collaboration with the host country government and citizens, civil society organizations, the private sector, multilateral organizations, other donors, the State Department, and other U.S. government agencies.
 Support for the missions predated the first version of the Climate Risk Screening tool. Now that the tool is being updated, it will be referred to as the Climate Risk Screening and Management Tool and will soon be available on Climatelinks.
Climatelinks is a global knowledge portal for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working at the intersection of climate change and international development. The portal curates and archives technical guidance and knowledge related to USAID’s work to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.