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The work of the Adaptation Consortium was started by the then Ministry of State for Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands (MDNKOAL) with support from International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and the Resource Advocacy Programme (RAP) in 2010. The aim of the project was to pilot planning approaches aimed at addressing climate change adaptation needs in Isiolo County. The project also sought to strengthen institutional capacity at county level for good governance with adaptive planning being recognised by the Ministry as vital for robust and resilient development in Kenya in the face of future climate change.

Following the call from MDNKOAL for support to local institutions for climate adaptation, a team from MDNKOAL, and IIED met with communities in Isiolo. Communities indicated a strong desire for more control over local development planning, to ensure that investments were suitable to dryland and pastoral contexts, and to better deal with extreme weather. Over the course of 2010, RAP was commissioned by IIED to carry out a series of community-consultations to assess how customary institutions for planning currently interface with government and other institutions

These activities culminated in a series of workshops with community and government participants in early 2011, to design the institutional structure of the devolved finance mechanism in keeping with the anticipated county government structure, and to agree the workplan for the Isiolo process. This led to financial support from Department for International Development (DfID) and Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (CORDAID), and the commencement of the process in five wards in Isiolo: Oldonyiro, Sericho, Merti, Garbatulla and Kinna. This initial process to verify political support from communities and government has been critical to the success of the approach.

The initial success in Isiolo led DfID to award a new £6.5million accountable grant (2013-2016) to the  Adaptation Consortium (under the leadership of the National Drought Management Authority, with technical support provided by IIED, Christian Aid, Kenya Meteorological Department and Met Office (UK) to continue support to support the process in Isiolo, and institutionalise similar adaptation finance mechanisms in four other Arid and Semi Arid counties in Kenya – Kitui, Makueni, Wajir and Garissa. Currently the Consortium is being funded by the DfID and the Swedish government.