Nepal’s Local Adaptation Plans for Action (LAPA): A Reflection

Lessons from LAPA can help understand how vulnerable families in a context of development deficit deal with extreme climate shocks.

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but its impacts are local, and the impacts become more widespread as the pace of change increases. In a country like Nepal, whose geographic, ecological and social diversities are high, impacts will be both widespread and varied, seriously stressing adaptive efforts.

What does adaptation to climate change mean generally and particularly in Nepal’s context? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines adaptation as “the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate.”

If we conceive adaptation as new ways of dealing with the impacts of climate change, a few important questions emerge: how would those living in a development deficit context without access to even basic services seek new ways? What impact would they adapt to droughts, floods, heat, diseases etc.?

For many years, adaptation remained poorly recognized in the discussions in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC). In 2001, UNFCCC established the least developed countries (LDC) work programme, which included preparing National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). The LDCs would receive support in preparing NAPAs to help them deal with the immediate impacts of climate change. Nepal began preparing its NAPA in 2009.

In one of the consultations on the preparation of NAPA, a call was made to localize NAPA for its more effective implementation. The idea of Local Adaptation Plans for Action (LAPA) was thus born.

Local Adaptation Plans for Action

The then Department for International Development (DFID) supported a team of experts to conceive and develop an approach to LAPA[1]. Its objective was ensuring that local communities are able to adapt to climate change impacts and, to the extent possible, use locally available resources. The approach proposed by the team was piloted in Ilam, Udaypur, Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu, Kaski, Dadeldhura, Pyuthan, Rukum, Achham, and Kalikot districts[2]. The learning was used in upgrading the approach.

In 2011, the GoN enunciated its first climate change policy to improve livelihoods by mitigating and adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change. It aimed to reduce climate change impact on the poor and climate vulnerable people by improving their adaptive capacity. The policy emphasized adoption of a low carbon emissions socio-economic development path and fulfilling the country’s commitments to national and international agreements on climate change. The policy also endorsed LAPA.

LAPA had seven steps to integrate climate adaptation. It would be linked to sectoral plans and programmes of then village development committees (VDCs), municipalities and district development committees (DDCs). The seven steps are a) climate change sensitization, b) climate vulnerability and adaptation assessment, c) prioritization of adaptation options, d) LAPA formulation, e) integration into planning processes, f) implementation, and g) progress assessment.

Nepal Climate Change Support Programme (NCCSP)

In 2013, the GoN’s Nepal Climate Change Support Programme (NCCSP) started implementation of 70 LAPAs in 14 selected districts of Mid and Far Western Development regions of the country. The programme was later extended to 100 VDCs/municipalities. The executing body of the NCCSP was the Ministry of Environment in coordination with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. DFID and European Union provided financial support to NCCSP while UNDP Nepal provided technical assistance. The DDCs and VDCs implemented the programme while non-governmental organizations, users’ groups and district-level agencies of the government implemented some activities. The programme also aimed to build the capacity of the DDCs and VDCs.

The projects included construction of irrigation, drinking water supply, drainage and micro-hydro facilities, including suspension and other types of bridges. Irrigation-related activities included canal construction and repair, solar pump, deep boring, shallow tube well, pump set drip irrigation, sprinkle irrigation, pipe irrigation, and treadle pumps[3].

Other LAPA activities involved development of agriculture, improvement of a variety of seeds and livestock breeds, organizing of training and orientations on integrated pest management, development of canals, ponds, drip irrigation schemes, kitchen gardening, forest conservation, and forest fire control. It distributed improved cooking stoves, solar lights, maintenance and support on micro hydropower and improved water mills. It also involved training support on afforestation and promotion of agro-forestry.

Irrigation canal in Dailekh District

For reducing climate-induced impacts, disaster preparedness training and emergency preparedness tools were provided and awareness raising programmes were conducted. Community-level infrastructure like wooden bridges, information centres, health posts, slope failure control works, river training works, storage houses, drinking water systems, and rainwater harvesting tanks were developed. They were expected to help deal with some of the adverse impacts of climate change, such as droughts.

Elevated hand pump in flood prone village of Bardiya District

The climate change sensitization programme involved building awareness at the local level by capturing the local climate specificity. NCCSP also conducted training and orientation activities on climate change adaptation and gender equality and social inclusion. Health and sanitation awareness-raising programmes were also conducted in the project areas. To a limited extent, LAPA aimed at bringing behavioural changes among the local people as an entry point to support climate adaptation and mitigation activities in the project areas.

Climate change sensitization via wall painting

Challenges and NCSSP-II

LAPA faced many challenges in delivering activities and reach the target population and help them fully take benefits. The rugged terrain, physiographic difficulty, scattered settlements, and harsh climatic conditions slowed progress. Lack of skilled human resources and use of locally available resources and technology affected quality of work. The programme could not establish proper market linkages and value chain for local produce.

Delegating of decisions from central to local level took time. Similarly, delay in the flow of finance allocated for implementation at the district level led to delays in execution in the mountain districts. An issue repeatedly raised during implementation was that LAPA focused on developmental work and that it did not distinguish between regular development and climate change adaptation. The programmes were further bedeviled by poor planning, procedural lapses, and poor operation and maintenance of completed projects.

As NCCSP-I was being implemented, Nepal’s 2015 constitution proposed a federated governance structure with seven provinces and 753 local entities (urban and rural municipalities)[4]. In line with this shift, the GoN, in 2019, formulated a new climate change policy with implications for LAPAs. This policy has made a provision that at least 80% of the total climate finance obtained through international mechanisms will be used for implementation of programmes at the local level and that administrative expenses will be reduced.

The LAPA approach has been revised to match the federal governance architecture, and the revised framework focuses on integrating LAPA into the municipalities’ planning and budgeting processes. The final evaluation of NCCSP-I suggested that the project should have a concrete out-scaling and up-scaling strategies for resilient practices and that LAPA should be made more suitable to partners’ priorities and build partnership with the private sector[5].


The NCSSP-I implementing LAPA did manage to reach communities in Nepal’s remote areas and provide them with basic services and some income-generating opportunities. The programme also provided them with skills and techniques to improve farming and develop micro enterprises with optimum use of locally available resources. By meeting some of the immediate basic services needs of the target communities, it helped to build local resilience necessary for adaptation to some extent. Yet, at its core, LAPA ended up more as a development intervention rather than as a climate change adaptation initiative. Its climate change elements were limited to risks such as improving climatic and disaster awareness.

The focus on development was inevitable. The majority of the target population lacked access to basic services such as drinking water, basic sanitation and basic health and were interested more in responding to impacts of short-term climate variability. They also lacked knowledge and had very little access to practical technology and resources. Their capacity to deal with even normal climate variability was low. Yet, LAPA was a useful starting point to examine the challenges of adaptation through the lens of a large budget (14.6 million GBP) for a five-year (2013–2017) regional programme.

Lessons from LAPA can help understand how vulnerable families in a context of development deficit deal with extreme climate shocks. The learning will also be helpful to accelerate scaling up implementation in Nepal’s 753 local governments to test, innovate, and scale up practices aimed at reducing climate change risks. More nuanced and in-depth lessons need to be drawn to inform policies aimed at addressing challenges faced by climate vulnerable communities.

LAPA is aimed at taking early local actions to address climate change risks which are embedded in social/economic system. Because both involve many uncertainties, learning remains key to re-crafting policies and ensure that implemented early local actions are not maladaptive[6]. There must be regular process to draw lessons and share them across geographies, disciplines and programmes. The insights can help identify gaps and address them subsequently. To make the process more effective, it is necessary to take the learning back to the community.


[1] According to GoN 2011. National Framework on Local Adaptation Plans for Action. Government of Nepal, Ministry of Environment, Singh Durbar, the team consisted of Ajaya Dixit, Basana Sapkota, Binod Chapagain, Biswo Nath Ulak, Deepak Rijal, Fawad Khan, Ganga Awasti, Jessica Ayers, Jibraj Pokhrel, Jony Mainaly, Kalyan Gauli, Krishna Joshi, Marcus Moench, Nanki Kaur, Naya Sharma, Sibongile Pradhan, Simon Anderson and Yogendra Man Bijuchhen. The government officials involved were Batu Krishna Uprety, Bed Prakash Lekhak, Binod Prakash Singh, Reshmi Raj Pandey, Sanjip Raj Pandey, Sujan Subedi, Tulasi Prasad Chaulagain and Vinod Gautam.

[2] The organizations were involved in providing support and in piloting were:  Livelihoods Resource Centre, HTSPE Ltd., International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Britain Nepal Medical Trust (BNMT), Institute for Social and Environmental Transition‐Nepal (ISET‐N), Local Initiative for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI‐BIRD), Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH), Resource Identification and Management Society Nepal (RIMS‐N), Rupantaran Nepal,  Rural Self‐Reliance Development Centre (RSDC). See GoN 2011. National Framework on Local Adaptation Plans for Action. Government of Nepal, Ministry of Environment, Singh Durbar.

[3] See The review of 101 LAPAs in 2016 has suggested “about 44% of the total budget is allocated for infrastructure development and 0.15% for capacity building. Only 0.45% is allocated for agriculture sector while water resource conservation and rainwater harvesting activities had an allocation of 4.3% of the total budget.”

[4] When NCSSP-I was designed and implemented, regions, districts and VDCs were the governing units in Nepal.

[5] Since 2019, with support from the UK Aid (a financial aid of ₤23 million), the Ministry of Forests and Environment is implementing NCCSP-2 in selected municipalities of Lumbini, Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces. With technical support provided by Mott McDonald NCCSP-2 is expected to achieve the following outcomes at the end of the project period in March 2023:

  1. Mainstream inclusive climate resilience in long-term development planning;
  2. Improved and transparent management of diverse sources of climate finance by municipalities;
  3. Vulnerable communities benefitted from effective service delivery that enables the adoption of diversified climate-resilient livelihoods activities

[6] For a detailed and comprehensive discussions on maladaptation, see E. Lisa F. Schipper October 23, 2020 Maladaptation: When Adaptation to Climate Change Goes Very Wrong

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