Adaptation to already discernible climate changes, particularly an increase in extreme events, is an urgent task for all nations. This article argues that adaptation is an urgent priority, especially for the developing world, to build a resilient society. For poor nations, poverty alleviation is the main policy driver, although changes in livelihood strategies are driven by a range of factors. Using a case study, direct and indirect adaptation is examined with reference to the specific livelihoods of the Chagga people on Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Evidence suggests that coping strategies to maintain livelihood systems can work against long-term adaptation to climate change, unless there is linkage to poverty alleviation. Linking climate change adaptation to project development through notions of additionality does not carry sufficient leverage to simultaneously address poverty alleviation and climate change. It is suggested that, rather than micro-economic project management, a broader macro-economic frame be established. A rights-based approach is argued as a vital driver for informing financial, institutional, political and technological policies and instruments.