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Climate change is a global problem in the centre of sustainable development efforts. It has adverse effects on food production and community livelihoods. African countries are vulnerable to climate change due to their low adaptive capacity. Knowledge sharing is therefore a critical interface for influencing behavioral change and enhancing adaptive capacity among societies and communities because it promotes social learning. This article explores the role of knowledge sharing and institutional capacity building across dynamic local communities for climate change adaptation. It examines the relationships between climate-related vulnerabilities, adaptation practices, institutions, and external interventions to show the role and importance of local institutions and structures in climate change adaptation. The functional structures are influenced by and respond to environmental challenges. The Institutional structures become part of the mechanisms for translating the impact of future external interventions which facilitate adaptation to climate change. The article proposes an analytical framework for classifying adaptation practices based on institutional relationships to different forms of environmental risks. It examines past adaptation responses to climate change, their impacts on the livelihoods of the rural poor, and the role of institutions in facilitating external support for adaptation. The discussion uses evidence from three climate change adaptation application (CCAA) projects that were implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia and Zimbabwe. PAR approach was used to identify communities’ vulnerability and build their capacities based on the vulnerability analysis from baseline surveys’. The PAR projects worked with key stakeholders within the agricultural systems at all levels; and custodians of Indigenous Knowledge systems used in rainfall predications. It explains how institutional adaptation can be strengthened through participatory capacity building in action research. This enhances stakeholder buy in and ownership for effective knowledge sharing and the associated challenges and gaps which need to be addressed. The lessons learnt form basis used to make recommendations about the on how best communities could enhance their adaptive capacities using knowledge sharing and social learning.