VITAL Climate Collective: connecting demand for climate adaptation needs with supply of climate finance

IIED is building a platform with diverse public and private stakeholders to link communities with climate adaptation needs to investors looking for viable climate investments.

April 2024 - ongoing
Kevin Johnstone

Senior researcher, Shaping Sustainable Markets

Drylands: building climate resilience, productivity and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to act on the implications of climate change for equitable and climate resilient development in the drylands
Maasai men herding cattle

Maasai men with their cattle (Photo: Katiekk2, via iStock images)

The arid and semi-arid  landscape of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, including world-famous Serengeti and Maasai Mara, is one of the world’s most biodiverse. These dryland regions are characterised by natural unpredictability and climate variability over time and space.  

Communities have traditionally worked with and adapted to this variability to great success. They have supported climate-sensitive livelihoods through natural resource and land management strategies, simultaneously supporting biodiversity, wildlife conservation and carbon sequestration. Therefore, adapting to variability has protected a landscape that makes the region famous, while also supporting wildlife and human development alike.  

Yet these productive strategies have been undermined by mismatched policies and a history of failed, piecemeal interventions and investments that attempt to control, rather than work with, the inherent unpredictability of the drylands. 

This has resulted in communities bearing the financial, environmental and social residual risks. Overlapping forms of marginalisation (through gender, age, ethnicity, language, and so on) are amplifying these risks and deleterious impacts.  

Consequently, communities are far more exposed to threats from climate change and less able to manage rangelands with local knowledge. It also restricts their mobility, while further entrenching poverty and inequality – particularly for women and children.

What is IIED doing?

With partners, IIED is setting up a new climate collective designed to invest in the ability of communities to improve productive capacity, climate resilience, climate mitigation and individual wellbeing.

The VITAL (Valuing Variability for Transformation in Arid-Semi-Arid Landscapes) Climate Collective will be a whole-of-society platform: a diverse collection of public and private entities with a common purpose.

In the region there is limited information about how to address climate impacts and reduce emissions, and establish the value of such actions. At the same time, those in a position to supply capital to fund climate solutions have insufficient information on the commercial viability of investments as well as the social and environmental returns.

VITAL addresses this information gap by establishing an inclusive process for communities to articulate their needs, design plans and business cases,  and communicate to social impact and philanthropic investors about the viability of providing capital to work on adaptation, mitigation, conservation and natural resource management.

Business cases will document net revenues, available resources and value chains, existing enabling policy structures and services, context specific opportunities and constraints, and socio-cultural safeguard provisions – for example gender – as part of a broad risk management approach.  

The collective will then develop and test business cases – through different combinations and packages of support – to identify what might work best for the investments. We will also work with governments and businesses to understand what enabling policies and supporting services are needed to make the business cases viable and ultimately help communities thrive whilst servicing capital.

The refined business cases will be bundled into a risk-adjusted portfolio, built to appeal to social impact and philanthropic investors to help choose between multiple packages of investments. Combining a portfolio and seed capital approach incentivises investors with different types of risk profiles to invest, so maximising the supply of capital to meet demand for climate action.

This work will be covered by IIED’s robust monitoring, evaluation and learning systems. We will work with communities to identify metrics that make sense for them and their investments, while incorporating feedback mechanisms and adaptive learning elements into the process.  

We also hope to provide information to investors about viable business cases, allowing them to replicate and scale up the work in the region and elsewhere. 


The impact of this work will depend on the needs of communities, and the business cases they establish. Once established, the VITAL platform will work with communities to identify metrics linked to the business cases. 

 For example, we might use the following metrics: 

  • Mitigation: amount in million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions avoided or sequestered  
  • Investment: amount of investment opportunities generated 
  • Reach: investment in public goods across the 6m ha borderland region, benefiting over three million people 
  • Improved water access for over one million women, and the percentage reduction in livestock mortality 
  • The percentage improvement in rangeland biodiversity, and 
  • Number of examples of scaling potential generated across the East Africa region.  

Additional resources

Bundling agri-food systems innovations for women's resilience and empowerment - building the evidence base, Kevin Johnstone, Sam Barrett, May Thazin Aung, Ranjitha Puskur, Hom Gartaula, Eileen Nchanji, Prama Mukhopadyay, Everisto Mapedza, Cosmos Lutomia, Dessalegn Ketema (2023), IIED working paper

Can innovations in agri-food systems deliver gender equity and resilience?, Kevin Johnstone, May Thazin Aung, Sam Barrett (2023), IIED Briefing

The devolved climate finance mechanisms: principles, implementation and lessons from four semi-arid countries, DCF Alliance (2019)

Getting private investment in adaptation to work: Effective adaptation, value, and cash flows, Sam Barrett, Raghav S.K. Chaitanya (2023), ScienceDirect