Participatory adaptation planning and costing. Applications in agricultural adaptation in western Kenya

  • Abrar S. Chaudhury
  • Ariella Helfgott
  • Thomas F. Thornton
  • Chase Sova
Original Article


Adaptation to climate change is an important theme in the strategy and policy of institutions around the world. Billions of dollars are allocated every year, based on cost estimates of actions to cope with, or benefit from the impacts of climate change. Costing adaptation, however, is complex, involving multiple actors with differing values and a spectrum of possible adaptation strategies and pathways. Currently, expert driven, top-down approaches dominate adaptation costing in practice. These approaches are subject to misallocation, with global funds not always reaching vulnerable communities in most need. This paper introduces an analytical framework called Participatory Social Return on Investment (PSROI), which provides a structured framework for multi-stakeholder planning, selection and valuation of appropriate methods of adaptation. The broader economic, social and environmental impacts of these adaptation actions are explored and valued through a participatory process. PSROI is strength-based, building local capacity and generating stakeholder buy-in. The financial valuation generated provides an additional tool for examining and prioritizing adaptation actions based on their impact. Results from a pilot of the PSROI framework in a smallholder farming community in Western Kenya provide empirical evidence for the difference between expert driven desk-based and ground-based cost estimates that involve local communities. There was an approximate 70 % reduction in the valuation of an agroforestry intervention, selected by the local community, when compared between the desk-based valuation and that of the local community, using primary field data. This reduced expectation of the desk-based PSROI is justified by coherent explanations such as lack of knowledge about the intervention, misconception about the potential costs and benefits, and the risk-averse nature of the farmers. These and other important insights are fundamental for planning and decision-making, as well as appropriate targeting and delivery of funding for adaptation.


Adaptation Climate change Costing Cost benefit analysis Decision-making Multi-stakeholder Participatory planning Smallholder agriculture 



This paper would not have been possible without the project and financial support of CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). We would also like to thank Caitlin Cornor-Dolloff for her valuable insights in shaping the PSROI framework and Michael Kettlewell, Nora Steurer and Sally Kingsborough for their editorial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abrar S. Chaudhury
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ariella Helfgott
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Thomas F. Thornton
    • 1
  • Chase Sova
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Change InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)CopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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