Qualitative studies have demonstrated how entrenched forms of inequality, such as patronage, can enable elite capture of international resources and prevent benefits from reaching relatively vulnerable households within communities. This study contributes to the literature on power in adaptation and climate finance by quantitatively analyzing the distributional outcomes of a UN Adaptation Fund project in the Aloatra-Mangoro region of Madagascar.

The authors employ mixed-methods to examine how informal mechanisms of patronage influenced the distribution of project benefits. Using a multi-level model to analyze 599 household surveys, they compare the political connectivity of beneficiary and non-beneficiary households.

The authors find that households that participated had higher levels of political connectivity than those that did not. This finding is robust across three different measures of participation and is reinforced by qualitative findings from formal and informal interviews.

The authors conclude that rather than targeting the most vulnerable, the project likely disproportionately benefited households already better positioned to adapt and exacerbated inequality within targeted communities. By unpacking how household-level political power shaped access to benefits, this study advances discussion on rethinking approaches to power and inequality in internationally financed adaptation.