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Research Report

Assessing current social vulnerability to climate change: A participatory methodology

Anne Marie Tiani
Monica Coll Besa
Tahia Devisscher
Charlotte Pavageau
Ruth Butterfield
Sukaina Bharwani
Mekou Yousoufa Bele
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2015
Pages: 44
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. vii-vii)

    Climate variability and change constitute a huge threat for local people whose livelihoods mostly depend on climate-sensitive activities such as agriculture and exploitation of natural resources. However, to date, vulnerability assessment has been concentrated on dry regions, leaving forest people out. Decision-makers are not fully aware that forest and dependent communities are vulnerable to climate change. However, recent studies carried out by CIFOR in tropical forest areas around the world started to uncover that forests and people dependent on them are vulnerable; but the extent and scope/depth of this vulnerability has yet to be measured. Therefore, having local people share...

  2. (pp. 1-3)

    A vulnerability assessment is a systematic way of understanding who and what is being affected by climate change and in what way. There can be many different purposes for conducting a vulnerability assessment, including political and financial reasons that depend on its geographical focus and system for analysis. In the context of the Congo Basin, assessing current vulnerability can be considered against several purposes identified by different authors (Fussel and Klein 2006; Patt et al. 2009; Hinkel 2011). This assessment aims to explore the differential burden of vulnerability borne by the socially less advantaged; and to improve basic understanding of...

  3. (pp. 4-4)

    The assessment on the current vulnerability of local communities to changes in the climate was undertaken through the lenses of each dimension or key attributes that shape vulnerability (as defined in the previous section): system and exposure units, dynamic processes, multiple threats, differential exposure, and social capital and collective action. To conduct the assessment, it was necessary to use a set of participatory tools and methods.

    In order to understand what makes people vulnerable in a particular setting, one needs to look at a greater and more diverse set of influences such as social, cultural, economic, institutional, political and psychological...

  4. (pp. 5-9)

    The vulnerability assessment focused mainly on current vulnerability by analyzing past trends and coping strategies in the sites. The analysis centered mainly on the social aspects of vulnerability, understanding vulnerability as processes rooted in the actions of human actors and interactions with the natural resource base upon which they depend.

    The point of departure of the proposed conceptual framework for assessing current vulnerability is the understanding of the system of analysis, particularly the social aspects (actors, networks, institutions and governance structures) and how humans use and benefit from forests and other natural resources upon which they depend (Figure 1). The...

  5. (pp. 10-26)

    The participatory field exercises used to characterize each vulnerability dimension as described in this paper included: village profiles; resource mapping and land tenure; historical disturbance analysis; climate-related disturbance analysis; deforestation and forest degradation analysis; forest–people interaction analysis; flows analysis; seasonal calendar; product importance and revenue distribution analysis; trade system analysis; forest use and benefits analysis; disturbance impact analysis; social capital and collective action analysis (including social infrastructure and institutions, and social network mapping); and adaptive capacity analysis. Each field tool was modified to suit differing local conditions and specificities of the study sites.

    The following sections provide a short...

  6. (pp. 27-28)

    A participatory approach for vulnerability assessment has many benefits when implemented in collaboration with local partners and as the first step for a longer term process of capacity building and adaptation planning.

    The first advantage of this approach is its degree of flexibility. Activities considered in the methodology can be selected and adapted to the context and refined to best suit the local realities and fieldwork capacities. In the pilot studies, for example, activities were refined and modified to fit the specifics of each site and to account for the time, financial and human resources available for the fieldwork. It...