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4. Climate Change Adaptation EN

Climate change adaptation in informal settings:
understanding and reinforcing bottom-up initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean

Recent constructions on stilts in Cuba. Photo by Mamed Muffak.

Recent constructions on stilts in Cuba. Photo by Mamed Muffak.

For more detailed information, visit the project's website here


In Latin America and the Caribbean, adaptation to climate change and variability (CCV) is characterized by a double paradox. First, whereas informal settings in the region are typically highly vulnerable to water-related risks associated with CCV, they are also effective incubators of bottom-up, informally-driven mechanisms of adaptation. Second, these strategies are very often initiated and led by women, who constitute a particularly vulnerable group, but also play a crucial role in building the social fabric that make such adaptations possible. While extensive research exists on the causes of vulnerabilities and the conditions for resilience enhancement, empirical research, as well as on-the-ground implementation and validation, are needed to understand and support the specific role of informal strategies in disaster-risk reduction (DRR).

Objectives and approach

In response to this challenge, this project is centered on women-led adaptation strategies initiated within informal settings in response to the fragile relationships between human settlements and water. It explores how agents of change in informal settings in small/medium-sized cities in Latin America and the Caribbean implement adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance resilience, and how these strategies can be: scaled up to increase their impact; transferred between contexts to enhance innovation and learning; and integrated into policy to guarantee sustained change. In addition, the project examines how new relevant strategies can be fostered through improved governance conditions.


The project includes five plans: (A) a Knowledge Plan, to develop empirical evidence for effective DRR and achieve a two-way transfer between theory and practice; (B) a Partnership Plan, to create appropriate conditions for scaling-up and implementation; (C) a Micro-Projects Plan, to test and validate opportunities and challenges for effective change; (D) a Training Plan, to create the conditions for the long-term sustainability of local initiatives; and (E) a Dissemination Plan, to facilitate South-South sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience.

Expected results

Sustainable impact will be measured in terms of the transferability and replicability of project objectives, notably the impact of the project on the empowerment of local agents of change (especially women), the improvement of governance conditions, and the effective transformation of policy to better integrate bottom-up, informally-driven adaptation strategies.


This initiative is presented by a multi-disciplinary consortium between a Canadian research team, one NGO, and four universities in Colombia, Cuba, Chile and Haiti. It will develop implementation activities in Yumbo (Colombia), the Villa Clara littoral (Cuba), and Concepcion (Chile).

  • Gonzalo Lizarralde (U. de Montréal)
  • Danielle Labbé (U. de Montréal)
  • Adriana Lopez (U. del Valle)
  • Oswaldo Lopez (U. del Valle)
  • Christopher Bryant (U. de Montréal)
  • Lisa Bornstein (McGill University)
  • Hernan Ascui (U. del Bio-Bio)
  • Margarita Ines Restrepo C. (Antioquia Presente)
  • Holmes Paez (U. Javeriana)
  • Andres Olivera (U. las Villas Santa Clara)
  • Karine J. Bouchereau (U. État d’Haïti)
  • Roberto Burdilles A.
  • Isabelle Thomas (U. de Montréal)