Vertical integration for climate change adaptation in the water sector: lessons from decentralisation in Africa and India

Gina Ziervogel, Poshendra Satyal, Ritwika Basu, Adelina Mensah, Chandni Singh, Salma Hegga, Thelma Zulfawu Abu

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Vertical integration, which creates strategic linkages between national and sub-national levels, is being promoted as important for climate change adaptation. Decentralisation, which transfers authority and responsibility to lower levels of organisation, serves a similar purpose and has been in place for a number of decades. Based on four case studies in semi-arid regions in Africa and India, this paper argues that vertical integration for climate change adaptation should reflect on lessons from decentralisation related to governing natural resources, particularly in the water sector. The paper focuses on participation and flexibility, two central components of climate change adaptation, and considers how decentralisation has enhanced or undermined these. The findings suggest that vertical integration for adaptation will be strengthened if a number of lessons are considered, namely (i) actively seek equitable representation from marginal and diverse local groups drawing on both formal and informal participation structures, (ii) assess and address capacity deficits that undermine flexibility and adaptive responses, especially within lower levels of government, and (iii) use hybrid modes of governance that include government, intermediaries and diverse local actors through both formal and informal institutions to improve bottom-up engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2729–2743
Number of pages15
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number8
Early online date3 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Decentralisation
  • water governance
  • vertical integration
  • participation
  • flexibility
  • climate change adaptation

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