Our Struggle to Track Climate Change Aid to Africa

This photo of a man holding a palm of soil is for the Two Degrees Up project in Kenya, which looks at the impact of climate change on agriculture in Africa. The Climate Change and African Political Stability program aims to find out how much climate change aid has been funneled to Africa. Photo by: Neil Palmer / International Center for Tropical Agriculture / CC BY SA

Everyone wants good data. The question is, where to find it? Tracking aid has become increasingly important as donors and recipients grapple with the challenge of climate change funding.

The Climate Change and African Political Stability program at the University of Texas at Austin is tracking aid flows to Africa to find out just how much climate change aid has been funneled through official development assistance. We have partnered with AidData to track aid projects.

One of the main challenges we’ve faced is that apart from the OECD Creditor Reporting System and AidData, there is no central place to find comprehensive data on aid flows to Africa. Since the OECD-CRS is a voluntary reporting system, the information reported may be inaccurate or incomplete. Furthermore, the OECD-CRS only includes aid flows from OECD member countries, leaving out other donors and recipients. AidData is resolving this issue by including data from non-OECD donors.

We’ve contacted donors on an individual basis to get their project descriptions. Once we get them, we categorize projects using a coding system to determine whether it is related to climate change adaptation.

Unfortunately, many donor organizations do not have information readily available about particular projects. Some project descriptions only contain a title and the amount spent on the project.

When we interviewed experts at various aid agencies in Washington and New York, many said that understaffing was a big challenge for reporting aid. Many aid agency employees on the ground are overwhelmed with their duties and do not have the time to write detailed reports on every project. As U.S. aid organizations brace themselves for budget cuts, the issue of understaffing will likely get worse.

Another major obstacle to tracking aid is a lack of centralized reporting standards. Most donors report aid on a voluntary basis, so each organization develops its own standards for what information should be included in project documents. As a result, when we read project documents, we find it difficult to clearly assess the different climate change components of the project.

Given these challenges, we can only put forth our best effort in identifying how much aid goes to development projects in Africa and how much is related to climate change. Every step of the way, we learn more about the challenges of tracking aid and what needs to be done to streamline the process.

If you have any advice on how to track climate change aid to Africa, please contact us or leave a comment below.

Amy Knop-Narbutis and Emily Adams contributed to this report.

Read more of Full Disclosure: The aid transparency blog, written by aid workers for aid workers.

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