Community-based adaptation (CBA) is a common policy response in international development yet often encounters challenges with implementation and longevity. Using a human ecology and systems thinking framework and data from the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), implemented in Akar Akar village, Indonesia, this study explores the drivers of challenges affecting CBA. Results demonstrate that challenges affecting CBA are numerous, interconnected, and can derive from the disconnect between the world views of implementors and the politics, social structures, and historical processes influencing local activities. Challenges encountered in the CCAP project, for example, were found to derive from the implementors' emphasis on agency, self-organization, and responsibilization of women as a way to alleviate community poverty and improve adaptive capacity and its failure to comprehend the sociopolitical position of women in Akar Akar. With these findings in hand, this study advocates the use of systems thinking in future CBA research and intervention design.