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Dr CHUNG Jin-ho (정진호)

Political ecology, resilience thinking, climate change adaptation, community-based development, Horn of Africa, Ethiopia


Dr CHUNG Jin-ho

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Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street 


Politicised Communities: Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change in the Ethiopian Highlands

This thesis examines, through a study of UNDP’s Small Grants Programme (SGP), how two different communities in the Ethiopian highlands are responding to the need for adaptation to climate change. Its overall aim is to use this example to contribute a critical analysis to studies of Community-Based Adaptation (CBA). The thesis analyses the politicised narratives that emerged as the SGP was being implemented that sought to explain why the two communities had different capacities to adapt. It also sets out the ways community members came to narrate their own experiences of the SGP. In both field locations, CBA has been adopted as a strategy. However, the argument of the thesis, based on field experience, is that this approach will have limited long-term success because it is conceptually under-developed and in particular depoliticised. To address this weakness, the thesis produces a new theoretical framework for the analysis of CBA that combines political ecology and resilience thinking. The thesis is based on significant qualitative research involving 8 months of participant observation, 7 focus group discussions and 73 semi-structured interviews with community leaders, peasant farmers, government officials and SGP management personnel carried out between September 2013 and June 2014. The thesis demonstrates the heterogeneity of communities and the complexity this brings to implementing standard models of CBA in specific field sites. It treats CBA as a discourse by analysing the relationships of power, scale and knowledge thereby revealing their political nature. The thesis argues that the diversity of social structures and individual agents, means that evaluations of CBA projects need to be flexible, context-sensitive and power-conscious. Placing politics at the centre of CBA, the thesis analyses the concept of ‘community’ in development practice, moving between the developmental viewpoint and the lived experience of Ethiopian peasant farmers. CBA is shown to be serving a dual purpose: it makes the socio-ecological systems of the communities in question more resilient to climate change, but also reinforces the existing socio-political structures of the communities, reproducing current inequalities. Lastly, the significance of CBA is analysed from the farmers’ perspectives, showing how Ethiopian elites have historically deployed control over land to steer the behaviour of the Ethiopian peasantry. This has made the peasant communities in Ethiopia strongly hierarchical and internally divided in terms of rights and resources.


Primary Supervisor: Dr. Ben Page

Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Sam Randalls

Interests: Political ecology, resilience, climate change adaptation, community-based development, Horn of Africa, Ethiopia

Research Networks: Africa Research Students Network (AfNet)




2011 – 2017   PhD Human Geography, University College London

2007 – 2008   MSc Environment and Sustainable Development, University College London

1999 – 2007   BEng Environmental Engineering, Inha University, South Korea

Relevant Work Experience

2010 – 2011   Climate Change Project Officer, UNDP Small Grants Programme Ethiopia

2008 – 2010   Project Officer, Rift Valley Institute London


Grants Awarded

2015   Mead Travel Fund

2013   Gilchrist Educational Trust Grant

2005   Dean’s Scholarship

Invited Talks

2014   ‘Climate change adaptation in Ethiopia’, Hawassa University, Ethiopia


2015   ‘Land and cultural legacies of history: Climate change adaptation in Ethiopia’, 19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Warsaw, Poland

2015   ‘Political ecological approach to community-based adaptation (CBA)’, 9th CBA Annual Conference, Nairobi, Kenya

2015   ‘Gaps of resilience thinking: Community-based adaptation to climate change in the Ethiopian highlands’, American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference, Chicago, USA

2015   ‘Climate change adaptation in East Africa: Socio-political perspectives’, 3rd Annual Conference of Africa Research Student Network (AfNet), London, UK


Syed, Abu and Chung, J. (2017) Participatory monitoring and evaluation of community-based adaptation (CBA) projects, Enhancing Adaptation to Climate Change in Developing Countries Through Community-Based Adaptation: Think Globally and Act Locally, IIED, UK

Tesfaye, Z., Tigist, A., Chung, J. and Higgins, U. (2011) UNDP Small Grants Programme Ethiopia 5-Year Report (2006-2010), UNDP Small Grants Programme Ethiopia, Ethiopia