Adventure into climate finance flows and corruption study: A mid-term reflection on the CIRCLE fellowship

Olushola Fadairo,
CIRCLE Visiting Fellow (Cohort II) at University of Cape Town, South Africa
Home Institution: University of Ibadan, Nigeria

My nomination by my home institution to apply for the CIRCLE fellowship programme in July 2015 was greeted with mixed feelings. On the one hand, a feeling of excitement as it was going to be an additional opportunity for capacity development and further intellectual excursion beyond the shores of Nigeria barely two years after completion of a PhD programme. On the other hand, a feeling of awe arising from the challenge of having to develop a novel research proposal on climate change as the only focus and within a very short time in the face of a very busy schedule in my home institution. Fortunately, the dice was already cast and there was no going back, so I took up the challenge. In my retrospective reflection in search of a problem or gap around which I could build a research proposal, I quickly remembered some newspaper reports I had read in recent times which alleged corruption by some government officials in the management of climate funds. So, I thought it was important to investigate the extent to which effectiveness of climate change intervention projects is being affected by corruption. This led to my first working title on “Broaching Research on Corruption in Ecological Fund Management for Climate Change Mitigation” which I submitted to CIRCLE and was privileged to be offered the fellowship opportunity.

Rethinking the proposal

Shortly before the commencement of the fellowship in January 2016, I decided to undertake a brief reconnaissance on the subject of my CIRCLE research proposal. After much consideration, I realised the need to revise the proposal to be more specific and realistic. When I attended the CIRCLE induction workshop held in Kenya in February, 2016 I met John Morton who shared the same opinion. Following further review of relevant literature and consultation with my Supervisor (Richard Calland), Specialist advisor (Yacob Mulugetta) and home institution mentor (Janice Olawoye), I revised my research proposal and amended the title as “Exploring Research on Corruption in Climate Funds Management: The Case of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) Project in Nigeria”. The thrust of the study is premised on the experience in Africa with respect to climate finance flow which has so far not boded too well as the gap between funds approved and those disbursed in the region remains substantial, presumably because of challenges in meeting the required fiduciary and governance standards. So, a major research concern is that the fiduciary standards that have been set and will continue to be set will either be too high and unreasonably so, or else they cannot be met because countries are unable to show how they will combat corruption, which will have a detrimental effect on the flow of climate finance at a crucial time. In this vein, key questions that come to mind include: is the concern about corruption in climate change and, therefore, fiduciary standards, justified? The study therefore aims at providing answers to six objectives derived from this question using Cross River State (CRS), Nigeria where there is REDD+ presence as a test case.

What does forthcoming finding suggest?

While the field survey on households within forest dependent communities in the study area was still on-going as of the time of writing this article, the flip side data garnered from a key informant from the state forestry commission (Table 1) shows that only five out of eight governance measures that could help improve transparency in REDD+ processes were available locally; two of which were rated as just fairly functional while the functionality of the other two could not be ascertained. Does this trend say anything about the governance capacity of the implementing agency for REDD+ in the study area? It may be too hasty to draw conclusions on this now until all data are fully collected.

Table 1: Highlights of information from IDI with key informant from CRS forestry commission
Major engagements with research stakeholders so far

My first engagement with stakeholders apart from the CIRCLE induction workshop held in Kenya, was on March 2, 2016 when I did a self-introduction seminar at the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), University of Cape Town (my host institution). My presentation focused on my profile, past research experience and current CIRCLE research work. This was followed by my participation at the United Nations University Education for Sustainable Development in Africa (ESDA) – Next Generation Researchers (NGR) – National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) workshop on “Developing an Exploratory Research Programme on the Role of Youth Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development in Africa” from March 4-7, 2016, where I also did a presentation entitled “Blockades between entrepreneurship and development in Africa: My Perspectives”. Furthermore, on April 14, 2016, I presented my CIRCLE research work at the CIRCLE coordinators/Supervisors/UCT-Research Office/CVFs meeting held at the University of Cape Town Research Office. A more recent one was my participation at the International Conference on Climate Change held at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Nigeria from 18-20 May, 2016 where I delivered a review paper co-authored with my supervisor on the title “Corruption and the imbalance in climate finance flows in Sub Saharan Africa: Lessons for Social Researchers”. The review paper is now being revised for submission for publication in a suitable open access journal.

Gains versus Pains: How did I fare?

It is just about six months into my CIRCLE fellowship year and I am happy to note that the experience so far has been awesome, though not without some moments of disappointment. An instance I would describe as a low point for me in my experience so far was when I narrowly missed an opportunity to attend the 2016 Potsdam (Germany) Summer School on Dealing with Climate Change Impacts. It was a two week programme with partial sponsorship. It was with great regret that I read the mail sent to me from Potsdam by Angela Borowski who informed me of the jury committee’s recommendation to put my offer on the waiting list should anyone withdraw. Alas! it never happened. However, it is pertinent to state that while I have had more high points than low points, both conditions have really been essential learning processes for me.


I appreciate my fellow CVFs, Faridah and Portia for their companionship. Special thanks to my supervisor (Richard Calland), specialist advisor (Yacob Mulugetta) and mentor (Janice Olawoye) for their guidance. I gratefully acknowledge the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), African Academy of Sciences (AAS), UK Department for International Development and Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) for this memorable opportunity.


  1. Okay Dr. Fadairo! You are grabbing the bull by the horns! I hope that your findings will help all of us to contribute to reducing corruption in Climate finance flows. It is so unfortunate that some few people are doing so much to impede adaptation and mitigation by hijacking funds. Good job!


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