Institutional assessment of adaptation to climate change in the middle Kaiti watershed, Makueni county, Kenya


The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) conducted an assessment of institutional dimensions of adaptation to climate change in Makueni county, Kenya. A mixed-methods approach was used, including semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, multi-stakeholder workshops and participatory scoring techniques. The ILRI analysis included assessment at two levels: the overall institutional system operating in a particular landscape, and assessment of one or more particular governance mechanisms. The landscape level site for the research was identified primarily on a watershed basis but was also determined by the areas of operation of KAMUKIMA Community Forest Association (CFA) and Ngutwa Nduenguu Water Resource Users Association (WRUA).

Four main challenges for adaptation to climate change were identified in the study, which respondents consistently emphasized and prioritized. Three related to natural resources, were closely interconnected, and had some connection to watershed management and upstream-downstream interactions: availability of water, soil erosion and illegal resource use. It was determined that the CFA and the WRUA were critical governance mechanisms for these issues. They were each assessed according to five criteria: legitimacy, direction, performance, accountability, and fairness. The CFA was assessed as strongest on legitimacy and direction and weakest on accountability; the WRUA was assessed as strongest on legitimacy, direction and fairness and weakest on accountability.

Assessment of the overall institutional system relevant to this landscape and its main challenges for climate change adaptation similarly identified accountability as a critical challenge. Neither representatives within the local organizations (WRUA, CFA, buffer zone groups, etc.) nor community members at large sufficiently understand their rights or ways in which they could demand accountability from those in leadership positions.

Another challenge relates to institutional and organizational linkages. NGOs have been promoting collaboration among WRUAs and between WRUAs and CFAs, and the development of a joint management plan by KAMUKIMA and Ngutwa Nduenguu is an important step to provide synergies and complementarity. However, both organizations lack the necessary resources to implement best practices in responding to climate change and resource management. The required linkages to institutions that have resources, such as at county level, are very weak. There is a nominal recognition among officers in the county government of the need to work with the community-level organizations; however, no signs of such connections being institutionalized were observed. This disconnect is a critical weakness, because it is at county level where the capacity to mobilize physical and financial resources is relatively higher and where authority for land use planning lies. This study’s assessment is that many of the components for an effective institutional system for the middle Kaiti landscape are in place, with the potential to manage natural resources and deliver sustainable benefits to the community, ensure the integrity of the landscape, enable the community to adapt to changing climate and enhance food security. This is a case, perhaps, of the whole being less than the sum of the parts.


Ontiri, E.; Robinson, L.W. Institutional assessment of adaptation to climate change in the middle Kaiti watershed, Makueni county, Kenya. ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya (2014) vii + 33 pp. ISBN ISBN 92–9146–388–4

Published 1 January 2014