Workshop on constructing a mountain-specific Livelihood Vulnerability Index


As a part of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP), a technical workshop was held at ICIMOD Headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal, 9–12 July, to follow up on the Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity Assessment (VACA) survey undertaken in four river basins of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region – the Upper Brahmaputra, the Mid Brahmaputra, the Koshi, and the Upper Indus.

Over three days, experts from HICAP and partner organizations, including the Koshi Victims’ Society, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, Aaranyak, and the National Development Research Institute, weighed the indicators, sub-dimensions, and main dimensions of a mountain-specific Livelihood Vulnerability Index. Broad-based consultations with partner organizations that assisted with the VACA survey design and helped conduct the survey ensured regional ownership as well as scientific soundness of the exercise. 

Senior ICIMOD Researcher Jean-Yves Gerlitz guided the group through the weighting process using two methods: vignette rating, a form of sub-conscious rating based on hypothetical cases; and expert rating, based on well-founded arguments. Discussions were also held to establish cut-off points that would determine if households are defined as vulnerable or not according to certain criteria.

The main focus of the workshop was on expanding the notion of livelihood vulnerability beyond the IPCC definition (which treats it as a function of adaptive capacity, sensitivity, and exposure) to include the mountain perspective of the HKH region and, more specifically, the river basins where the VACA survey was conducted. Hence, sub-dimensions such as health and sanitation, food security, water security, environmental stability, accessibility, and access to agricultural resources were rigorously discussed. 

The following outputs are envisaged to follow from VACA or/and additional field visits yet to be undertaken:

  • Methodological paper
  • Vulnerability mapping
  • VACA findings targeted at the community as well as policymakers (supplemented with maps, photos, and peoples’ stories)

Data from the VACA survey will also serve as a basis for developing basin-specific vulnerability indices and indicators as well as for undertaking a study in these river basins looking specifically at the extent to which the trend of migration and remittances has affected resilience and adaptation to climate change, thereby working as a risk mitigation strategy. 

The workshop also touched on how to engage local governments in policy dialogue interested in the methodology and VACA findings. It also looked at the capacity needs of partner organizations in terms of human resource development.

Mr Valdemar Holmgren, Lead of the Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity component of HICAP, concluded that the workshop was “a milestone for HICAP”, and that it was successful in outlining the way forward for the next couple of years.

Workshop on constructing a mountain-specific Livelihood Vulnerability Index