Main Issue

Least developed countries (LDCs) are the most vulnerable to climate change, yet the least able to adapt. In many cases, they lack the technical, financial and institutional capacity to identify the best ways to build resilience.

That’s why 194 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) decided to establish the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) in 2001. The fund, managed by the GEF, supports the world’s most vulnerable countries in their efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change.

The LDCF was designed to address the special needs of the Least Developed Countries under the UNFCCC. As part of its mandate, the LDCF helps countries prepare and implement National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs). NAPAs are country-driven strategies that identify the most immediate needs of LDCs to adapt to climate change. Target sectors include water; agriculture and food security; health; disaster risk management and prevention; infrastructure; and fragile ecosystems. The LDCF focuses on reducing the vulnerability of key sectors identified through the NAPA process, financing on-the-ground adaptation activities that provide concrete results in support of vulnerable communities.

What We Do

With around US$1.2 billion of voluntary contributions from donors, the LDCF holds the largest portfolio of adaptation projects in the Least Developed Countries. But the needs are growing. A 2009 study suggested at least US$2 billion was required to meet the immediate and urgent needs of LDCs. More recently, a report suggested that Bangladesh alone would need an initial injection of about US$2.4 billion for early warning systems, afforestation and other tactics to adapt to extreme weather; the country would need another US$50 million annually to maintain adaptation. 

LDCF projects cut across a variety of themes and geographies. 

  • In Malawi, projects are supporting practical community-level adaptation actions that improve resilience of the agriculture sector, while boosting community economic development. 
  • In Niger, land degradation, water scarcity and at-risk livestock pose a deadly threat to rural communities. The LDCF supports distribution of drought-resilient crop seeds, and locally appropriate water-harvesting techniques. 
  • In the small island state of Samoa, automated weather stations, crop suitability maps and other tools help increase food and water security. At the same time, they reduce damage from weather-related disasters.


By 2017, the Fund had financed the formulation of National Adaptation Programs of Action in 51 LDCs to help countries identify urgent and immediate adaptation needs.

Over $1.16 billion in grant financing approved for 250 projects in LDCs to (i) implement urgent adaptation measures laid out in NAPAs and (ii) support the formulation of National Adaptation Plans to help countries identify medium and long-term adaptation needs. leveraging more than US$4.8 billion in financing from partners.

The GEF in Action: Sao Tome and Principe

With the $6 million LDCF support approved in 2018, Sao Tome and Principe has joined the West Africa Coastal Area (WACA) Resilience Investment Program. Activities envisaged include “Safety at sea,” for fishermen to address major concerns of stronger and more unpredictable storm surges that have been observed in recent years, as well as intense squalls and dry fog at sea. Training of marine meteorologists on storm surge modeling will be supported, along with establishment of a marine meteorological station, or system of buoys, to improve monitoring and modeling. The LDCF support is also an example of mainstreaming resilience for systemic impacts: it complements the US$20 million GEF Trust Fund contribution to WACA, which was recognized at the 2017 One Planet Summit as an innovative initiative to support resilience.

Looking Ahead

The GEF-7 strategy emphasizes three objectives for the LDCF:  

  • Reduce vulnerability and increase resilience through innovation and technology transfer for climate change adaptation. 
  • Mainstream climate change adaptation and resilience for systemic impact. 
  • Foster enabling conditions for effective and integrated climate change adaptation. 

With GEF’s unique mandate across several multilateral environmental conventions, the LDCF  offers effective support that capitalizes on synergy and multiple benefits. For example, approximately 50 percent of LDCF implementation projects to date contributed to land degradation and biodiversity management.  Ninety-five percent of LDCF projects align to some extent with expanding synergies with other GEF focal areas.  While there is already a strong track record to support integrated solutions, there exists a significant potential to harness them more systematically and intentionally towards greater impact, which the LDCF will seek to address in GEF-7.