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 is the only fund dedicated to supporting climate adaptation action in LDCs.

The LDCF was designed to address the special needs of the LDCs under the UNFCCC. As part of its mandate, the LDCF has helped countries prepare and implement National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs), and also supports the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process. The LDCF also supports the LDC work program under the UNFCCC.  

Adaptation priorities supported by the LDCF include agriculture and food security; natural resources management; disaster risk management and prevention; coastal zone management; climate information services; and infrastructure. The LDCF focuses on enhancing the resilience of key sectors and ecosystems, supporting nature-based solutions, and financing on-the-ground adaptation activities that provide concrete results in support of vulnerable communities.

What We Do

According to the Adaptation Gap Report 2020, adaptation cost is expected to be $140 - $300 billion annually in 2030. Further, the LDC 2050 Vision Report 2019 estimates that LDCs need around $40 billion annually between 2020 and 2030 to implement adaptation priorities in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). With around $1.6 billion of voluntary contributions from donors, the LDCF holds one of the largest portfolios of adaptation projects in the LDCs. As a dedicated climate fund to support LDCs, the LDCF works with partner agencies to strengthen capacities of national and local stakeholders, create enabling environment for piloting and scaling up adaptation solutions and address systemic barriers to catalyze large scale adaptation investments in LDCs.

LDCF projects cut across a variety of themes and geographies. 

  • In Nepal, farmer field schools were formed and operationalized and provided training to field school facilitators, who are now working to extend training on climate change adaptation to farmers. In areas at high risk of climate hazard, conservation agriculture technologies for minimum-till plantation of crops were introduced, along with stress-tolerant plant varieties and animal breeds.
  • In Senegal, the enabling environment has been strengthened for the implementation of appropriate adaptation measures based on ecosystem management. The local community has benefited from the diversified, climate-resilient livelihood options and climate resilient practices. 
  • In the small island state of Comoros, value chain opportunities for diversified livelihood options are being explored with the private sector  A market study on possible pharmaceutical opportunities using plant-based agents has been carried out, to be followed up by a model business plan targeting prospective private sector actors.

Since June 2020, the GEF partnership has been investigating opportunities and taking actions to ensure GEF investments in climate adaptation contribute to addressing the full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GEF secretariat also conducts a review of how each LDCF and SCCF project presented to Council has integrated and considered various aspects of COVID-19 on the design and eventual implementation.


By 2020, the Fund had financed the formulation of National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) in 51 countries to help identify urgent and immediate adaptation needs.

Approximately $1.6 billion in grant financing approved for 305 projects in LDCs to (i) implement urgent adaptation measures laid out in NAPAs; and (ii) support the formulation of NAPs to help countries identify medium and long-term adaptation needs.

These projects are directly benefitting 23 million people and strengthening capacities of 701 institutions at the regional, national, and sub-national levels.

The 2020 program evaluation of the LDCF conducted by the GEF Independent Evaluation Office found that its support continues to be highly relevant to COP guidance and decisions, the GEF adaptation programming strategy, and countries’ broader development policies, plans and programs. It also found that LDCF support has resulted in catalytic efforts through production of public goods and their demonstration, and built foundations for larger scale projects. The evaluation further found that a large portion of the LDCF’s work is inherently aligned with the Paris Agreement, and that the LDCF has enhanced domestic institutional capacities in recipient countries. Operational improvements introduced in GEF-7 have resulted in efficiency gains.

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 the 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 $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. 

Since the start of the GEF-7 phase, the LDCF has approved 51 new LDCF projects for close to $350 million in grant resources in 38 out of the 47 LDCs (figures as of January 2021).

The LDCF aims to serve all LDCs in the GEF-7 phase. In 2021, the GEF Secretariat is redoubling efforts to assist countries to access LDCF to address their urgent and immediate climate adaptation needs.

The GEF is also working closely with the GCF to develop a longer-term vision of complementarity, and exploring additional opportunities for joint adaptation initiatives. Such efforts builds on LDCF’s comparative advantages identified in the 2020 Program Evaluation of the LDCF, including the distinctive facet of sole dedication to LDCs, comparatively smooth approval and implementation, and openness to taking risks in LDCs and investing in innovation.