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« Field Guide: Participatory Mapping for Soil and Water Resources | Main | Participatory Community Needs Assessment »

Participatory Capacity & Vulnerability Assessments

How Can We Get Local Climate Knowledge from Our Community?
Community-based adaptation to climate change combines local climate knowledge and scientific climate knowledge in a way that will empower community members to take charge in an effective bottom-up campaign of adapting to climate change. Their project will be sustainable—as this bottom-up approach gives them project ownership.

Community Defined Need and Sustainability

This next step is to facilitate a workshop which will help in exchanging knowledge about the community's vulnerabilities and capacities. You will learn from them about their coping strategies within their livelihoods in the face of a changing climate. In the next step this local knowledge will give us an opening for sharing with them science based strategies that can be supportive of their local strategies. This is important; without the ability to compare scientific knowledge with similar local knowledge, it may be more difficult for community members to trust, accept, understand and adopt new ideas.

Schedule a workshop with the community for six hours. You can also do this workshop in two, three hour sessions.

Activity 1. Seasonal Calendar.
Time required: 1 1/2 hours.

This first activity in the workshop will be drawing a seasonal calendar in the form of a matrix. Draw a matrix on a sheet of newsprint—or several sheets taped together. On this calendar you’re trying to establish relationships between times of the year, seasonal events, and special events that happen in the community.
-the rainy season
-the dry season
-periods of drought
-extreme weather events
-important livelihood activities
-periods of hunger
-planting and harvesting
-annual festivals or ceremonies

Along the top row of the matrix write the initials for the 12 months of the year. It's helpful to create the matrix the day before the workshop. So that all workshop participants can engage in the activity you can make it very visual by drawing seasonal symbols—such as harvesting corn—so that non-readers will not be excluded.

Along the vertical column on the left you can begin writing down events as community members come up with them. Then, adjacent to the event you can make a mark in the appropriate months that the event occurs. One helpful technique is to have a preliminary piece of paper that you can quickly write down participants’ ideas. This will give participants the freedom to speak openly and quickly. After a good number of ideas have been voiced, take a moment to organize the key events since many will be related to each other or simply phrased in a different manner. When you're satisfied with the organization of the events you can transfer them to the blank calendar.

Once the calendar has been filled in with events and dates, introduce the following questions:
-Are the hazards concentrated in one time period or season?
-Are there time periods in the year which are the most difficult for community members and their assets?

-What are the community members’ current coping strategies for dealing with these difficult periods?
-Capacity building: Which of the difficult periods are they having trouble coping with due to a lack of strategies?

Activity 2. Hazard mapping.
Time required: 1 1/2 hours.

The second 1 ½ hour activity in the workshop will be drawing a participatory hazard map of the community. This exercise will be drawing a participatory hazard map of the community. Participatory mapping is an inclusive tool because all workshop participants can engage in the activity and it's very visual—non-readers will not be excluded.

Consider returning to the village the day before the workshop to tour the farm fields, forests, and water sources with one of the villagers. Take a few minutes to talk to people you meet in order to gain a greater understanding of the scale of the community and to get a better sense of some of the challenges they are facing.

Focus the exercise on drawing a community map on a sheet of newsprint—or several sheets taped together—in order to understand the spatial relationships between the different parts of the community. On this map you’re trying to establish relationships between major community components. How the village relates to the farm fields, hills, roads and where sources of water are.

When everybody at the workshop is satisfied that the basic map represents the community, farming areas and surrounding environmental resources, you can begin marking things on the map such as where individual's homes are and where their farm fields are. It's a good idea to locate buildings and farmer's plots using piece of colored paper that can be attached to the map with removable tape so they can be moved or adjusted. The paper cutouts are also useful because they can be completely removed if you want to get back to the basic map for a future workshop on a different issue.

When everyone is satisfied that the more detailed map is accurate, introduce the idea of hazards that the community suffers. These hazards could include extreme weather events, floods, heavy rainfall, drought and landslides.

Once the hazards have been indicated on the map introduce the following questions:
-Are the hazards concentrated in one area of the community?
-What negative impacts will the hazards have on community members and their assets and resources?
-Who in the community is the most at risk from the hazards?
-Are there safe places in the neighborhood where community members can shelter from the hazards?

-What are the community members’ current coping strategies for dealing with these difficult periods?
-Capacity building: Which of the difficult events are they having trouble coping with due to a lack of strategies?

Activity 3. Historical Timeline
Time required: 1 1/2 hours.

The Historical Timeline is one that is a very simple matrix with years in the left column and important events in the right column. You will be looking for insights into past hazards and events, and how they may have changed or intensified over time.

These could include hurricanes, droughts, epidemics, famines or floods. Hopefully, there will be village elders in the workshop that will allow us to get a long-term perspective from 20 or 25 years ago so that you and the villagers can see if these events are occurring more frequently. Other examples could include storms, erratic rainfall, a change in the timing of the growing seasons and water availability.

Next, when the group has completed the timeline, introduce the subject of climate change. Have they seen a change over time with climate change challenges? When did they start noticing the changes? Some examples:
-beginning 20 years ago rainfall began decreasing; by how much?
-beginning 20 years ago, the growing season changed; its shorter now—or it starts later.
-beginning 20 years ago, storms have increased; there is flooding now when there didn’t used to be flooding.
-beginning 20 years ago, we've had to walk progressively further to get water.

Please note the changes which they've seen. Briefly describe how they've changed and over what time frame. Does the community realize this is linked to climate change and realize that this may be ongoing?


-What are the community members’ current coping strategies for dealing with these difficult periods?
-Capacity building: Which of the difficult events are they having trouble coping with due to a lack of strategies?

Activity 4. Climate Hazard Impacts on Livelihoods
Time required: 1 1/2 hours.
This matrix is another very simple matrix with important livelihood resources and assets in the left column and important hazards in the top row. It's a good idea to prepare the blank matrix on newsprint in advance. Also, take a few minutes alone to list both the hazards and the livelihood assets and resources from the first three exercises. These can be used to start a discussion in order to begin filling in the matrix. Doing a quick preliminary matrix on a blank sheet of newsprint during this discussion is also a good idea—you can then just transfer the assets and hazards onto a clean, blank matrix.

Important resources may include:
-income generation from agriculture
-crop land
-irrigation canal system
-food reserves/food security
-environmental resources such as forests and water
Typical hazards may include:
-extreme weather events such as hurricanes or cyclones
-drought/heat waves
-unpredictable beginning and end to the rainy season
-erratic rainfall or more or less rainfall
-lack of water
-shortage of food at specific times of the year
-change in the timing of the growing season
-health issues/disease

Once the matrix has been filled in with what the community feels are the greatest hazards along the top row and the most important livelihood assets and resources along the left column, ask them to rank in terms of importance which hazards are having the greatest impact on which resources. There are two ways that you can do this. Much like with the Chapter 1 vote, you could give each participant 15 counting stones, lay the matrix on the floor and let them vote. Or, you can simply hold a discussion and let them rank the importance of hazard impact on resources and mark it on the matrix.
3 = greatest impact on the resource
2 = median impact on the resource
1 = low impact of the resource
0 = impact of the resource

Please note what hazards they are facing and prioritize them by which are the most challenging for them.
Please note which areas they feel the most vulnerable in and prioritize them.

At the end of this exercise you will have a matrix that prioritizes which hazards are causing the greatest risk and are making which livelihood assets and resources the most vulnerable. Discuss this prioritization with the participants for verification—and make sure no one has been left out who has a question.

Copyright © 2012, Tim Magee

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