The social benefit of climate adaptation


In 2012, Laar Humanitarian and Development Programme (LHDP), supported by Oxfam Novib, constructed an embankment in the Badin District of Pakistan to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on the coastal communities living there. Three years after its construction, 3Keel was commissioned to quantify the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of the works.

Badin lies on the Lower Indus plain, in Sindh Province, Pakistan. Most of the people who live in the coastal part of the Badin District, are either farmers or fishers. Just a few years ago, both these livelihoods were on the verge of collapse.

The primary reason for this was that sea water was repeatedly entering the land, partly a result of sea level rise. This had fundamentally altered the coastal ecosystem, and with it, the basis of people’s livelihoods. Farmland had become saline, with the rice, cotton, sugarcane and other crops of previous years reduced to a single rice crop on the few hectares that could still be cultivated. Little fodder was available, and livestock ownership was reducing. The intrusion of seawater had also turned the shallow lakes and creeks that criss-cross the area brackish, reducing their productivity to the fishermen. Some villagers had moved to urban areas to look for work, or were migrating seasonally in search of day-labour.

The construction of the embankment, which is made out of earth and is just over two kilometres in length, has made profound changes to the landscape, and with it to the lives of more than 1,200 households who live near the coast (see infographic below). It has reduced some of the risks that climate change brings, and altered the hydrology of the area, causing the entire ecosystem to change. Over 3000 acres of farmland that was recently too saline to grow crops is now cultivated again. Fish, prawn and crabs are abundant in the lakes and creeks that are now filled with freshwater rather than brackish water, increasing the income of fishing households by an estimated US$2,100 each year. Fodder is easily available, and with it the number of livestock owned by each household has more than doubled, and the time spent by women procuring fodder decreased. Bulrush is abundant and used to repair homes and for sale. Because the land can be cultivated, its price has increased significantly. Beyond those material changes, men and women in the villages describe feelings of renewed hope for the future, and renewed self-confidence. Many women say that they are spending more, feel more able to care for the household, and are more involved in the community than they were before.

The SROI analysis, which was by the Indus Consortium for Humanitarian Environmental & Development Initiatives, found that the cost of building the embankment was US$ 130,000 at today’s prices, and for every dollar spent, an estimated US$ 131 of economic, social and environmental value has been created.

The further significance of the embankment, though, is in demonstrating how a large number of other communities in the lower Indus delta (and beyond) could be supported to adapt to climate change and come out of poverty that is entrenched by deteriorating environmental conditions.

Project lead

Steve Jennings

I am inspired with the professionalism, enthusiasm and analytical skills of the lead author and of-course this assignment provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to learn about Social Return on Investment

Javeria Afzal, Livelihoods, DRR and Climate Change Manager, Oxfam Novib, Pakistan