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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

A vision for vulnerability assessment in the Rio Alto Cauca

Do you feel vulnerable to climate change?  What is it that makes you vulnerable?  If you ask that question to 100 people, you will get 100 different answers.  In fact, we did (see below video), and  from 6 people that we talked to we got 6 different answers.  Yet we have countless vulnerability assessments across the world which seem to categorically map vulnerability and identify the most vulnerable populations.  These often use pretty standard economic or physical measures of vulnerability, and apply them universally across incredibly diverse geographies.

We’re trying to do it a little differently in a project supported by CDKN for the Rio Alto Cauca in Colombia.  We’re developing a methodology for evaluating vulnerability in the agricultural sector that complies with a few principles.  First, it should be measurable.  The best intellectual definitions and indicators for vulnerability might be incredibly elegant and coherent, but they are often unmeasurable, at least unless you have a large wad of cash.  We need to be practical and pragmatic and develop a set of indicators that can be calculated from already existing data, or generated quite easily.  Second, they should reflect the different perspectives of the actors involved. The actors may be farmers, community organisations, governmental and non-governmental organisations and researchers.  We need indicator sets that capture the different perceptions of vulnerability and combine them.  And third, they should lead you to the next stage after the vulnerability assessment – identifying the entry points for reducing vulnerability through adaptation measures.


Our principles of vulnerability assessment:






After a long process of stakeholder engagement and workshops to define the conceptual approach to the assessment, the dimensions of vulnerability, and the individual indicators to be used, we’re just missing a couple more expert workshops.  Later this month we will have the economic-production workshop, and the modelling workshop will come in August.  Then we’ll be piloting our vulnerability assessment approach in the Rio Alto Cauca and hopefully we can answer those questions this blog started with.  Knowing that you are vulnerable is a great starting point to reducing that vulnerability.  Many people are unaware of the challenges climate change will pose to them.

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