Community based climate vulnerability

Understanding Community based climate Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity in the Eastern Himalayas

In 2010, ICIMOD conducted an extensive participatory exercise to assess the vulnerability and adaptive capacities of communities to change. The assessment, based on a Participatory Rural Appraisal approach, was conducted in 90 villages across 15 districts in Bhutan, India and Nepal. The assessment, using a PRA Toolkit developed by ICIMOD (to be published), explored community perceptions on climate variability, the impacts of such change on livelihood activities as well as community responses to such change. The study also included assessments on resource dependency and availability as well as an institutional mapping. The exercise was a fundamental step in understanding vulnerability and adaptive capacities of mountain communities and a prerequisite for designing action research initiatives which are presently being piloted under an IFAD funded Regional Grant, Enhancing Adaptation Capacity and Resilience of the poor to Climate and Socio-economic changes in the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

The findings from the PRA exercise indicate that communities do perceive a change in weather – communities across the study areas perceive a reduction in the duration of the rainy season as well as shorter snowfall, with a corresponding increase in dry spells. This reduction is more perceptible in the west (Uttarakhand, India and western Nepal) compared to the east (Bhutan, NE India). On an altitudinal gradient, the higher elevations experience longer dry spells compared to lower locations. In the eastern locations, communities perceive intermittent rainfall during the monsoons, marked with fairly long dry days in between rains, and heavy downpours during rainy days. The variability in precipitation and dryspells impact agriculture and have resulted in reduced yields, severely effecting household food and income security. Communities have responded to overcome these impacts, demonstrating both coping as well as adaptive responses. However, the findings also suggest the need for support from local government agencies to strengthen adaptive capacities of communities. A compilation of community perceptions Macchi et al (2011) brought out by ICIMOD is available online.

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