For its initial grantmaking, the CJRF will focus on three regions where climate change is already affecting landscapes and livelihoods: East Africa, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arctic. We have included locations in the "Global South" and a marginalized region of the "Global North" to explore the relevance of climate justice across cultures and contexts. Resilience-building activities already underway in these regions give a foundation for replication and scaling of CJRF's work and create the possibility of measuring our impact in the medium term (i.e. 3-5 years).  

east africa

As the Earth warms, much of East Africa is experiencing increased variability in precipitation. This variability includes: increasingly unreliable rainy seasons, an unusual frequency of severe droughts, and significant flooding associated with more frequent downpours. These climatic changes interface with a highly diverse landscape of cultures, livelihoods, and ecosystems in East Africa. Vulnerable communities are confronting a nexus of population growth, increasingly irregular rainfall, and a range of manifestations (both good and bad) of East Africa’s aspirations for prosperity.

Around 90% of Kenya’s land area, and over 50% of Tanzania’s, is arid or semi-arid. CJRF will focus the majority of its East Africa grantmaking in these “drylands,[1]” where climate justice issues are stark and where solutions developed will have relevance in neighboring countries. The drylands are typically areas with high poverty, rapidly growing populations, a diversity of indigenous groups, and poor infrastructure. In this context, CJRF strategic supports communities to achieve three inter-linked objectives:

  1. Decision-making That Responds to Local Priorities

    Grand visions for national development and large infrastructure projects are beginning to garner investment in East Africa. CJRF seeks to foster climate-resilient development and prevent lock-in of climate risk by helping to raise youth, indigenous, and women’s voices in: large-scale infrastructure development projects; local and national climate and development policy-making; and the creation and implementation of national climate finance systems.

  2. Climate-Resilient Land Management

    In East Africa’s drylands, land degradation typically results from overuse or misuse of agricultural and grazing lands, or from mining, deforestation, and other extractive processes. Land degradation undermines community resilience and compounds existing vulnerabilities to flood and drought.  Meanwhile, flood and drought themselves can compact and contaminate soil, exacerbate erosion, drain away nutrients, and undermine land productivity in several other ways. CJRF seeks to foster climate-resilient land management by communities in arid and semi-arid areas through movements to secure fair and effective community land tenure and community-driven movements to share and replicate climate-resilient land management practices.

  3. Jobs and Livelihoods That Fit the Future

    Climate change has the potential to undermine East Africa’s development, or at least contribute to unequal distribution of development benefits. Many people already live “on the margin” in the region’s drylands and depend for their income and subsistence on highly climate-sensitive land and water resources. In this context, development faces significant challenges to generate satisfying work and sustainable livelihoods for growing populations. Climate justice demands that efforts to build East Africa’s economies also build long-term resilience, including for those who tend to get left behind. This is especially important for the region’s large population of youth, who are disproportionately impacted by unemployment. To this end, CJRF’s work in East Africa supports entrepreneurship and enterprise development, as well as modernization and revitalization of pastoralism.

[1] We use this lay term here to refer to the more precisely defined “arid and semi-arid lands” (ASALs).

The bay of Bengal

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With long, low-lying coastal areas, dense populations, and high levels of poverty, the Bay of Bengal is one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable regions. The people in our specific areas of focus—the delta areas of Orissa, West Bengal, and Bangladesh—face cyclones, storm surge, flooding, heat waves, erratic rainfall, and sea level rise—all projected to become more frequent and intense. These challenges combine to produce extensive salinization of both soil and water, with serious implications for farming livelihoods, food security, and water access. Already, the situation is forcing many farmers in the region to leave their land; with one meter of sea level rise, tens of millions of people could become “climate migrants."[1] In this context, CJRF is supporting four adaptation objectives:

  1.  Sustaining Rural Development:

    Critical development needs in the Bay of Bengal’s changing climate include: access to freshwater, technologies for farming saline soil, and new sources of income and nutrition. We fund scalable community-driven solutions that benefit women, landless laborers and fisherfolk.

  2. Building Equitable Resilience Systems:

    As Bay of Bengal residents face more floods, storms, and short-term livelihood failures, they rely more and more on what we call “resilience systems” – the physical protection (embankments, mangroves, water infrastructure), social safety nets, and planning processes that help communities contend with calamity. We support advocacy and movement building to shape these systems and ensure they deliver for those most in need.

  3. Migration That Works for Families:

    Short-term and partial-household moves can help build resilience when migrants find good jobs and safe living situations. Money sent back home can help families regain more solid footing. Our grants explore emerging patterns of movement in the region, identify success factors, and address gender-related migration challenges and opportunities.

  4. Successful Permanent Relocation:

    Where sea level rise, storm surge, and erosion have already combined to make some places unlivable, some people are making permanent moves.  As time passes, more parts of the Bay of Bengal region likely will face similar circumstances. We support communities, families, and individuals to build assets and capabilities that can help them thrive in a new location if a move becomes necessary. This includes youth training, leadership development, and community-driven, rights-based planned relocation pilots.  

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In parts of this region, relocation may be inevitable in the long run. But adaptation and resilience-building can help families avoid forced migration and enable them to move on their own terms. Whether people stay or go, empowerment, security, dignity, and self-determination are the foundation of a more promising future.   

[1] Megan Darby. "What will become of Bangalesh's climate migrants?" Climate Home News. August 14, 2017.

The Arctic

Climate change is altering the Arctic faster than any other region. In our funding areas of Alaska, Canada and Greenland, profound impacts are well under way: melting tundra, shrinking sea ice, lack of snow, and rapid shifts in native mammal, fish, and plant populations. Indigenous peoples face identity, cultural and livelihood disruptions, since their language, traditional foods, and way of life all rely heavily on Arctic land and waters. For example, hunters and fishers now face risky travel across melting ice and tundra to pursue animals with new behaviors and migration patterns. Some coastal communities face forced relocations as the melting land erodes out from under them.  And, as the ice recedes, rapid industrial development puts additional pressure on local resources, with multinational corporations and other outsiders taking advantage of new shipping routes and previously inaccessible mineral, oil, and gas deposits. This brings more people, commercial activity, and an expanded cash economy that accelerates and compounds the far-reaching impacts of climate change in the region.

CJRF’s grantmaking supports Indigenous communities to adapt to this very complex context. We use a framework based on transformative change, which means fundamental change in the nature of a system[1]. The Arctic faces several climate-driven transformations in ecological systems, such as the likely loss of summer sea ice, and the shift of some tundra areas to forest. But positive social transformations are also possible: consider, for example, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, or the rapid movement out of poverty by many East Asian countries. We have established four regional objectives aimed at supporting Arctic Indigenous peoples to optimize their own societal transformation as the environment around them shifts:

1. Preparing for the Journey

Indigenous peoples in the Arctic have a track record of being highly resilient, having thrived for millennia in a harsh and dynamic climate. Now, outdated regulatory frameworks and the settled nature of formerly nomadic communities have created new barriers that prevent Arctic peoples from bringing their traditional resilience fully to bear on today’s challenges. Our first objective, therefore, is to support communities in having voice and control in the initial steps of change: defining problems, envisioning solutions, and tracking progress. Illustrative outcomes include:

  • Effective Indigenous engagement in climate-related decision process

  • Development of Indigenous-owned adaptation planning and monitoring tools

  • Powerful communication of climate justice problems and solutions (see Objective 4 below)


2.  Charting a Path

The road to transformation often has surprises and unexpected turns. A profound crisis may even offer an opportunity to initiate positive change. CJRF’s second objective seeks to support communities in developing flexibility, transparency, interconnectedness, and other strengths for navigating the unpredictable, in the context of two outcome areas:

  • Climate-forced Displacement: We support rights-based, community led approaches to relocation that safeguard life, livelihoods, community integrity, and self-determination.

  • Social Movement Infrastructure: We support strong Indigenous climate advocacy coalitions and structures to support exchange and peer learning among adapting communities.


3. Building on Strengths

Climate change comes at a time when vibrant Arctic Indigenous movements are getting people back on the land and renewing traditional language and culture. These social developments could build momentum as part of a resilient response to change, and have a lot to offer the process of transforming the current paradigm. With this in mind, CJRF supports initiatives that:

  • Maintain, update, and augment Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing

  • Adapt and sustain traditional livelihoods, resource stewardship, and wild food access


4. Engaging Audiences

A societal transformation is unlikely to take place one isolated village at a time.  Communities will need to collaborate and exchange lessons, and take part in decisions that cut across local, regional, national and international levels. This presents important challenges in a region where people are thinly dispersed across a huge landscape, far from national and international centers of power. In this context, strong, creative, and consistent communications become an essential ingredient for change. CJRF aims to empower Indigenous Arctic communities to engage audiences in their work by building communications capacity within the non-profit sector.  Example outcomes of work under this objective might include:

  • A cohort of young Indigenous leaders with strong communications skills and clear narratives around social justice approaches to adaptation and resilience

  • New, more effective climate resilience communications strategies, narratives, or tactics shared among advocacy networks and alliances

  • Improved communications systems for knowledge exchange among communities actively grappling with the impacts of climate change


 [1] A 2010 synthesis paper led by Arctic ecologist Terry Chapin called “Ecosystem Stewardship: Sustainability Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Planet,” highlights three phases of transformation that we are using to guide our work.