Vulnerability and adaptation

Vulnerability is strongly determined by poverty and marginalization. Mountain communities in the HKH generally suffer increased rates of poverty and are often marginalized from political influence and economic opportunities. Mountain communities are not homogenous, and vulnerability and adaptive capacity differ among various segments of the population.

Women, children, elderly, and marginalized social groups are particularly vulnerable. Supporting adaptation at the community level has to take into account these differential vulnerabilities and leverage existing adaptive capacity. Adaptation is not a new strategy for mountain people but it is not clear whether existing autonomous adaptation practices will be sufficient to withstand the magnitude of future change. Adaptation is highly context-specific and the impacts of climate variability compound with other environmental, socioeconomic, and demographic drivers. Additionally, fostering adaptation calls for a better understanding of existing autonomous adaptation strategies at the community level and identifying the conducive elements of policy frameworks and conditions to foster them. A major focus of this component therefore lies in the generation of actionable knowledge to inform policies in support of community adaptation.


Autonomous adaptation patterns and strategies at individual, household, community, and regional levels relating to the improvement of livelihoods, management of natural resources and reduction of risk are analysed, documented, and validated; linkages between autonomous adaptation and the current policy setup for planned adaptation are analysed and evidence-based knowledge is created and disseminated for establishing conducive policy frameworks.

Strategic orientations

Assessing the adaptive capacity of mountain communities and the policy frameworks conditioning adaptation at the community level; assessing the current and future vulnerability of existing and proposed livelihood systems; generating knowledge on key drivers that determine differential vulnerability and adaptive capacity and changes over time1; identifying relevant policy areas and barriers (access to information, policies, institutions, and knowledge); disseminating knowledge outreach at different scales and influencing policies through policy recommendations; fostering exchange between communities in the HKH; when necessary and appropriate, enhancing capacity of the operational partners and other project actors.


Assess vulnerability and capacity across the region to establish a baseline; review current and future national adaptation strategies and their relevance to community level; assess and validate current and promising adaptation practices at the community level through action research and pilots; conduct policy analysis and impact analysis of selected policy changes; disseminate information and policy relevant knowledge.


Synthesis studies on environmental and non-environmental drivers of vulnerability, key determinants of vulnerability, and adaptive capacity; identification of the most vulnerable communities and groups across the study area; characterization of barriers related to access to information, policies, institutions and knowledge; analysis of policy and framework conditions to support mountain communities’ adaptation; identification of promising adaptation strategies and practices after assessment and validation; operational partners and other partners as well as communities trained to foster adaptation to climate and socioeconomic changes.