Examples from practice

India: Bottom-up vulnerability assessment

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The approach

The bottom-up climate change vulnerability assessment is part of a demonstration project on climate change adaptation in the districts of Malda and Murshidabad in West Bengal, India. The specific purpose of the pilot was to assess the vulnerability of agriculture-based livelihoods to shifting rainfall patterns, erratic rainfall and waterlogging conditions.

Scope and entry points

The vulnerability assessment was conducted at the outset of a demonstration project on climate change adaptation under the Indo-German project ‘Climate Change Adaptation in Rural Areas of India (CCA RAI)’. The vulnerability assessment was conducted in January 2012 in three villages. The key functions of the vulnerability assessment were to prioritize and focus climate change adaptation options, to identify criteria for the selection of participating farm households, and subsequently to select a number of farm households that would participate in the project.

How it works

A range of qualitative and quantitative tools and methods were combined for the climate change vulnerability assessment. The different methods and tools provided information on the different components of vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity) as defined by the IPCC (McCarthy, et al., 2001).

First, three-day-long Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) sessions were carried out in each project village. Subsequently, a socio-economic baseline survey was conducted among the villagers selected for the first phase of the project’s implementation.

Climate data analyses were performed to assess present climate conditions and past climatic trends in the project sites.

A regional and micro-level assessment of waterlogged areas in the identified villages was carried out. Topography and land uses in the villages and surrounding areas were assessed through the use of GIS and Remote Sensing tools, complemented by field trips, ground surveys and discussions with villagers.

The results of four sub-analyses provided information on the livelihood profiles of the three village communities; to what climatic stimuli these livelihoods are exposed; how the climatic stimuli impact the livelihood base; and what adaptive capacities the communities have to deal with the impacts. In turn, this allowed qualitatively determining the vulnerability of the village communities.

Specifics of Application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

Coordination of the vulnerability assessment was done by the implementing NGO DRCSC in Kolkata. Work on the different components of the vulnerability assessment was led by experts in the respective fields. Local NGOs were responsible for mobilizing villagers and facilitating the PRA sessions. Local stakeholders were involved through the PRA and for verifying specific data and information (e.g. land use, waterlogged areas).

The GIS-based regional and micro level assessment was conducted by two university researchers.

Climate data analysis was done by a DRCSC staff member. The complete vulnerability assessment was part of a demonstration project on climate change adaptation financed by the project CCA RAI.

  • Input

Time: In total, about four to five months were needed from inception to completion of the final vulnerability assessment report.

Data: Topographic and land use analyses of the project villages were based on the publicly available data sources. Climate data on district level for the years from 1961 to 2011 were obtained from the Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) upon request.

Personnel intensity: The personnel requirements of the assessment were moderate. Apart from five NGO representatives, two university researchers were involved in the assessment.

  • Output

The final output of the vulnerability assessment consisted of a vulnerability assessment report including:

– Geo-referenced maps of the project villages indicating areas vulnerable to waterlogging.

– Diagrams of climatic variables

– Diagrams of socio-economic baseline data

  • Capacity required and ease of use

Expertise for PRA, household surveys and climate data analysis can be provided relatively easy by NGOs working on climate change adaptation. GIS-based assessments, on the other hand, require special knowledge and must therefore be contracted to external consultants.

Conclusions for future Application

  • Outcome and added value

The integrated results of the vulnerability assessment were used to identify and adjust the most suitable adaptation options from a wide selection of options and to select the beneficiaries for the demonstration project’s first phase.

  • Cost-benefit ratio

The complete vulnerability assessment incurred costs of about € 4,400. More than 80 % of the total cost of the vulnerability assessment was spent on the GIS-based regional and micro-level waterlogging assessment.

Most of the required results were obtained through PRA exercises in the project villages. In this light, it remains doubtful whether the relatively high costs of the waterlogging assessment are justified.

  • Potential for replication

PRA tools can provide essential information on community’s vulnerability to climate change. Since PRA exercises can be carried out by skilled personnel, that is often available in NGOs, they provide a high potential for replication.

It cannot be expected that the required high expertise input for GIS-based assessments is present in organizations that implement climate change adaptation projects. Hence, these assessments incur additional costs for external consultants. Moreover, certain necessary data, e.g. high-resolution Digital Elevation Models, are often not available.


[Journal Article] Chambers, R., 1994. The Origins and Practice of Participatory Rural Appraisal. World Development, 22(7), pp. 953-969.

[Guide] Dazé, A., Ambrose, K. & Ehrhart, C., 2009. Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis – Handbook. 1st ed. s.l.:CARE International.

[Guide] GIZ, 2013. A Framework for Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments, New Delhi, India.: GIZ.

[Report] McCarthy, J. J. et al. eds., 2001. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

For further information please contact:

Ms Anna Kalisch Advisor, Project Climate Change Adaptation in Rural Areas of India (CCA RAI); Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Gmbh. E: Anna.Kalisch@giz.de

Burundi: National and Local Vulnerability Assessments

The approach

The German-Burundian Project on Climate Change Adaptation seeks to support the Burundian Government in implementing appropriate adaptation measures and in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into policies and strategies at all levels. The vulnerability assessment forms an integral part of the national adaptation plan (NAP) process in Burundi.

Scope and entry points

Located in the heart of Africa, Burundi is a small landlocked country that ranks amongst the poorest countries in the world. More than 46% of the population suffers from hunger and the outlook remains critical. Burundi is a mountainous country with a tropical humid climate. One of the most profound challenges for the country however remains the very high level of population growth, presently at around 2.4-3.1% per annum. For a country that has already an extremely high population density (average of 310 inhabitants per km², and up to 500 per km² in the most densely populated areas), this poses enormous stress on its remaining natural resources. Latest climate change scenarios indicate significant increases in annual mean rainfall and temperature, extended dry spells and occurrence of extreme weather events. These parameters will further increase soil erosion – already a major problem today due to unsustainable agricultural practices – and will consequently further increase Burundi’s level of vulnerability.

How it works

The vulnerability assessment conducted in Burundi followed an 8-step approach outlined in GIZ’s Vulnerability Sourcebook. In addition to these steps, comprehensive and scientific modelling of climate change impacts for Burundi was conducted based on two scenarios: a more pessimistic view based on RCP 8.5 models and a moderate view based on RCP 4.5 models. The objective was to provide the Government of Burundi with reliable data and scenarios in order to be able to adapt to those. The vulnerability assessment was conducted for three timelines: status quo in 2014, 2030-2060 and 2070-2100.
One of the key challenges at the onset of the work was related to difficulties in gathering relevant data. Burundi being a postwar country, most government archives are in disorder and documents and information are patchy. In addition, data were often in the hands of individuals only (at government or project level). Another challenge was the lack of data at local level. Often aggregated data were only available at national and provincial level, making it difficult to develop clear messages for the community at smallest administration levels.
Accompanying the entire process, four national workshops were organized with all relevant stakeholders. These allowed participants (government and civil society) to better understand the process and to share their views and expertise on the subject. In addition, an expert group was created to advise and steer the process. Members of this expert group were chosen based on their expertise in order to facilitate data acquisition and to ensure ownership of the process. After the workshops the expert group was consulted to decide on open questions and to define further steps.

Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

Commissioned by the German-Burundian Climate Change Adaptation project in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water, Land and Urban Planning and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the vulnerability assessment at national level was conducted by an expert team from three different institutions, namely (1) adelphi, (2) EURAC research, and (3) the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). All results were regularly mirrored in an expert group comprising experts from various sectors and institutions from Burundi. Concerning the vulnerability assessments at local level, relevant stakeholders were the local administration as well as the inhabitants of the relevant zones.
Activities started in November 2013 and lasted for about 11 months. One determining factor for the lengthy process was the development of scientific models based on climate change scenarios for Burundi; another factor was the process to gather all relevant data and information necessary to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability assessment.

  • Input

As indicated above, the vulnerability assessment was conducted by three different institutions (adelphi, EURAC, PIK) in close collaboration with the GIZ Project on Climate Change Adaptation and its partners. Key for the process was the technical expert group and the regular exchange with a larger group of stakeholders in different workshops. Especially the creation of the expert group constituted of experts from various Burundian ministries and institutions with the purpose of mirroring and discussing results and next steps was pivotal to create ownership for both the process itself and its results. This approach however applies to the vulnerability assessment at national level only. The activities at local level in the identified intervention zones were carried out in close collaboration with local governmental and non-governmental actors as well as the local population in the respective zones. National and local data were gathered from various ministries, government institutions, projects and donors.

  • Output


Three highly visual outputs of the vulnerability assessment at national level were created in the form of vulnerability maps for the three factors erosion, drought and malaria prevalence.
Based on these maps and in close consultation with the expert group, highly vulnerable areas or so called “vulnerability hotspots” were identified to guide the identification of three pilot watersheds where the project will plan and implement adaptation measures for the protection of soil and water resources with the communes and communities. A list of criteria and indicators was established in order to reduce the initially long list of potential sites. In the three identified watersheds, local vulnerability assessments were then conducted with the objective to identify the challenges when it comes to climatic impacts on the soil and water resources and to identify jointly with the local population appropriate adaptation measures to be implemented by the project.

A number of publications summarize the findings:
1) Climate Change Report for Burundi (English and French)
2) Analyse intégrée de la Vulnérabilité au Burundi – Introduction et Analyse Intégrée de Vulnérabilité face au changement climatique au niveau national (French)
3) Analyse de Vulnérabilité au niveau local (French)
4) Méthodologie détaillée de l’Analyse de Vulnérabilité nationale (French)
5) National vulnerability maps for erosion, drought and malaria

  • Capacity required and ease of use

For the preparation of climate change scenarios, sound scientific expertise is required. Conducting a vulnerability assessment was done for the first time in Burundi, which is why little experience was available to build on. However, a number of resource persons were available, contributing to the success of this work and building their knowledge and capacities on vulnerability to climate change.

Conclusions for future application

  • Outcome and added value

The results of the vulnerability assessment form the basis for mainstreaming climate change adaptation into national and local policies, strategies and investment plans. While the German-Burundian Climate Change Adaptation project will be able to pilot adaptation measures in three little watersheds, other actors may use this experience and information for the identification of highly vulnerable zones that merit attention in the selection process of appropriate adaptation measures.

  • Potential for replication

The methodology used for the vulnerability assessment in Burundi is based on a standardized approach outlined in GIZ’s Vulnerability Sourcebook. This allows for the replication of this approach, which is of special importance when it comes to the monitoring and evaluation of results of adaptation measures. In future it is very likely that developing countries will be able to mobilize funds for conducting vulnerability assessments from different international climate finance mechanisms. This makes this approach highly interesting and valuable.


GIZ (2014). The Vulnerability Sourcebook – Concept and guidelines for standardized vulnerability assessments.

GIZ (2014). Analyse intégrée de la vulnérabilité au Burundi. Volume I: Introduction et Analyse Intégrée de Vulnérabilité face au changement climatique au niveau national, Burundi: GIZ.

GIZ (2014). Analyse intégrée de la Vulnérabilité au Burundi. Volume II: Analyse de Vulnérabilité au niveau local, Burundi: GIZ.

GIZ (2014). Analyse intégrée de la Vulnérabilité au Burundi. Volume III: Méthodologie détaillée de l’Analyse de Vulnérabilité nationale, Burundi: GIZ.

GIZ (2014). Climate Change Projections for Burundi. A Summary for Policy Makers, Burundi: GIZ

For further information please contact:

Juliane Wiesenhuetter, Projet “Adaptation au Changement Climatique pour la protection des ressources en Eau et Sol“ (ACCES), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, E-mail: juliane.wiesenhuetter@giz.de

Indonesia: Vulnerabilities of ecosystem-dependent communities

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The Method

Vulnerability Assessment by the World Wildlife Fund – Indonesia (WWF-VA) is a rapid method to identify adaptation options for ecosystem-dependent communities, which are vulnerable to climate variability and change. It was piloted in Malemba and Mensiau, two villages between the Sentarum Lake National Park (Taman Nasional Danau Sentarum) and Betung Kerihun National Park (Taman Nasional Betung Kerihun) of West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. The area is a migration corridor for orang-utans between the two national parks.

Scope and entry points

The assessment aims to identify options to increase community resilience to climate variability. The livelihoods of the target communities are very dependent on a normal and predictable climate, and they may expand their agricultural and hunting activities to the migration corridor to survive, putting orang-utans in danger. The method is designed to be applicable at village or local community level.

How it works

The method adapts the framework of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) for assessing the vulnerability of inter-linked societal-and-environmental systems (Locatelli et al. 2009). The steps of the process are illustrated in Figure 1.

The preparatory step includes (i) agreement on the focus and aim of the study, (ii) collection of preliminary information (geographical setting, environmental and ecosystem conditions, climate, livelihoods of the community) to understand the local context, and (iii) development of guiding questions for in-depth discussions with villagers and local community leaders. Local knowledge is used when published data or reports are not available. The guiding questions focus on three sets of criteria (i) vulnerability of ecosystem services to climate change and variability, (ii) vulnerability of the villagers to changes in ecosystem services, and (iii) adaptive capacity of the system as a whole.

The primary data collection includes field observation, interviews and in-depth discussions. The main sources of information are village and sub-village heads, informal community leaders, leaders of youth and women groups, and ordinary villagers. All findings are systematically organised along the three criteria as mentioned and used during the next step, the qualitative vulnerability analysis. The findings are qualitatively analysed with respect to the criteria, and scored using a score-card table (Santoso et al. 2011).

In a final step, there is development of adaptation options, which might reduce the vulnerability of the system. Vulnerability is defined in a broad way and includes non-climatic causes such as socio-economic factors.

Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

The main stakeholders for the vulnerability assessment outputs are the Local Development Planning Agency (BAPPEDA) and civil/social organisations. WWF leads and supports the initiative. Team members from the WWF-Indonesia main office and the local office in Kalimantan conducted the qualitative vulnerability analysis. Team members with strong local knowledge and experiences helped in validating the analysis. The results were presented in an open discussion forum organised by BAPPEDA.

  • Input

The method requires an expert in climate change adaptation, preferably with knowledge or experiences in vulnerability assessment. The main tasks of the expert include guidance for the team in scoping the problem, synthesising results, defining guiding questions, and supporting the collection of primary data. Due to the strong focus on knowledge and experiences of local communities, the need for scientific data is restricted mainly to preliminary information to understand the local context.

The method is inexpensive. Financial resources are needed mainly to cover field travel and expert fees. It takes about one month to conduct the study.

  • Output

The main output is a vulnerability assessment study, which also specifies proposed adaption options.

  • Capacity required and ease of use

As explained above, the less capacity is required in the field of high-level substantial/ academic knowledge, but more capacity is needed in terms of experience to conduct a participatory and outcome-oriented process at the local level. A pre-condition is governance capacity at the village level to digest the results and lead them to implementation. Local governments, in particular, need to gain ownership and support implementation. Local civil society organisations might also play a helpful role.

Conclusions for future application

  • Outcome and added value

The method is useful for understanding local vulnerabilities and developing options to reduce vulnerability. The impact of the method depends on how strongly the recommendations are being reflected in local decision-making.The method does not support vulnerability comparison or options prioritisation. These are the main drawbacks of the method.

  • Cost-benefit ratio

The strength of the method is that it offers a simple, rapid and low-cost vulnerability assessment process to identify appropriate adaptation options.

  • Potential for replication

The method was tested at the village or local community level where a link exists between climate-dependent ecosystem/ ecosystem services and the society. It can be easily transferred to other communities of this type. There needs to be further investigation of the potential to transfer this method to the regional or provincial level.


Reference persons for further information:

Verena Puspawardani, Climate & Energy Program WWF Indonesia, Graha Simatupang Tower 2 Unit C, Jalan Letjen TB Simatupang, Jakarta 12540. Tel.: +62 (021) 7829426. Email: VPuspawardani@wwf.or.id

Albert Tjiu, WWF Indonesia, Putussibau Office, Jalan Komodor Yos Sudarso 143, Putussibau, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Email: albertus@wwf.or.id

Further reading on this topic

Locatelli, B., Kanninen, M., Brockhaus, M., Colfer, C.J.P., Murdiyarso, D. and Santoso, H. (2009): Facing an Uncertain Future: how forests and people can adapt to climate change. CIFOR Publications.

Santoso H, Tjiu A, Muhammad A. (2011): Vulnerability of ecosystem dependent villagers to climate variability: a case study from two villages by the Sentarum Lake, Kalimantan. Paper presented in the Workshop on Tropical Wetland Ecosystems of Indonesia: Science Needs To Address Climate Change Adaptation And Mitigation, Sanur Beach Hotel, Bali, 11 –14 April 2011. Document available here (PDF)

Madagascar: Vulnerability Assessment in Boeny

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A vulnerability assessment was conducted in the Boeny region of northwestern Madagascar that brought together a desk study and local knowledge on the impacts of climate change. The purpose was to identify vulnerabilities of the major regional ecosystems (dry forests, mangroves, and lacustrine ecosystems) and the natural resource-dependent population to climate change and other risk factors, and to define possible adaptation measures that are to be integrated into local land use and forest management plans.

Scope and entry points

Madagascar’s unique biodiversity makes it one of the world’s ‘hotspots’ being increasingly exposed to the risk of climate change along with most of the island’s population, which is greatly dependent on natural resources. In this context, the German-Malagasy Environment Programme seeks to integrate adaptation measures derived from the vulnerability assessment into forest and protected area management plans as well as land use planning. The key function of this regional vulnerability assessment was to identify adaptation needs related to socio-economic and ecological vulnerabilities with the objective of improving the resilience of the local communities.

How it works

The assessment brought together local knowledge (field study) and scientific knowledge (desk study) regarding exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. In Madagascar, available data on climate change and adaptation mainly refer to the national level, as existing meteorological stations do not allow for monitoring of local temperatures or rainfall patterns. In order to draw an exhaustive picture of the degree of social and ecological vulnerability it was therefore necessary to integrate local perceptions into the analysis.

While the desk study concentrated on existing documents and data on historical, current and projected climate change, the field study enabled integration of local perceptions on climate change gathered in 12 local communities in the Boeny region. Three different instruments were used over the course of the consultation process for the field study. Firstly, three focus group discussions were conducted in each community, involving representatives from the local population, local authorities (the mayor, councillors and elders, etc.) and the main local income-generating activities (agriculture, fishery and stock breeding, etc.). Tools used to facilitate the focus group discussions included participatory mapping, seasonal calendars and compilation of historical profiles and vulnerability matrices.

Secondly, 15 individual interviews were conducted in each community to obtain quantitative data on local livelihoods and the impacts of climate change. Finally, one narrative interview was conducted in each community with a representative of the elder population to obtain information on historical events and past variations in climate conditions.

The results yielded by the field study and the desk study were presented at a regional workshop in which all relevant stakeholders (local communities, administration and civil society) participated. The main objective of the workshop was to identify adaptation measures, so working groups were organised around the three main sectors identified in the field study: forestry, fishery and agriculture. Each group discussed the following aspects over the two-day workshop:

The results are to be integrated into forest management plans, protected area management plans and land use planning.

Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

Commissioned by the German-Malagasy Environment Programme in collaboration with the regional direction of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF), the vulnerability assessment was conducted by two expert teams. While an association of consultants was in charge of the consultation processes in the 12 local communities, two university researchers conducted the desk study.

  • Input

Time: Starting with elaboration of the methodology for the field study in May 2013, the whole process took about four and a half months. The final report was submitted in September 2013.

Personnel: The vulnerability assessment required the collaboration of two university researchers for the desk study and preparation of the final document, two consultants in charge of designing and managing the field study, as well as nine field interviewers for the consultation process (focus groups and interviews) in 12 local communities.

Data: National and regional climate data and projections were obtained from the Directorate-General of Meteorology. Socio-economic data specific to the Boeny region that had been collected by the National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) were also used for the assessment.

Funds: The vulnerability assessment entailed personnel costs for the consultants and researchers in charge of the field and desk studies as well as costs for organising the regional workshop (about 50 participants). Including occasional transfers of one staff member to the Boeny region to supervise and mentor the local team, study costs amounted to about EUR 17,000.

  • Output

The final report of the vulnerability assessment includes:

– A synthesis of past climatic changes and future projections for Madagascar and the Boeny region
– An evaluation of the impacts of climate change and the adaptive capacity of ecosystems and the local population in Boeny
– A presentation of existing adaptation measures and the role of ecosystem services
– A list of appropriate adaptation measures per sector (forestry, agriculture, and fishery) aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the target groups.

  • Capacity required and ease of use

While the field study mostly requires skills in the field of participatory rural appraisals (focus group discussions and interviews), more specific expertise with regard to climate change and ecosystem services is needed for the desk study. However, resource persons in charge of the field study should have at least a basic knowledge of climate trends and ecosystems as well as analytical skills to ensure appropriate treatment of the collected data.

Conclusions for future application

  • Outcome and added value

The results of the vulnerability assessment are to be used to integrate the issue of climate change and appropriate adaptation measures into forest and protected area management plans as well as land use planning. While the German-Malagasy Environment Programme seeks to finance some of the adaptation measures, local stakeholders will be able to utilise their land use and management plans to attract further public or private funding for the implementation of climate adaptation activities.

  • Cost-benefit ratio

About 75% of the costs for the regional vulnerability assessment went to funding the staff in charge of the field and desk studies, including their transfers to and within the Boeny region as well as costs for accommodations and per diem payments. In view of the size of the region and the number of local communities involved in the assessment, the costs for the field study were reasonable. However, it is questionable whether two university researchers were necessary for the desk study.

The regional workshop accounted for about 26% of total costs of the vulnerability assessment. The mobilised funds did not exceed those used for other regional workshops, for example in the context of elaborating the National Adaptation Plan (NAP).

  • Potential for replication

The methodologies used for the desk study and the field study both offer high potential for replication. Apart from German development cooperation, a number of organisations (for example WWF, CARE, and Tearfund) have described the various consultation tools used in this vulnerability study in guidebooks available online. These can be easily studied and replicated by field study teams.

With regard to the desk study, the depth of analysis depends mostly on the availability of documents and data at the national and regional level.


CEDRA: Evaluation des risques et de l’adaptation au changement climatique et la dégradation de l’environnement, Tearfund, 2009.

Integrating adaptation measures into forest management, GIZ, 2014.

– Local vulnerability and adaptation assessment in rural communities. Guidelines for assessing local knowledge about adaptation to climate change in the process of municipality development planning (PCD) in the Far North of Cameroon, GIZ, 2013.

Manuel d’analyse de la vulnérabilité et de la capacité d’adaptation au Changement Climatique, CARE, 2009.

– Outil communautaire: Témoin du climat – Climate Witness, WWF-Programme du Pacifique Sud et adapté par WWF MWIOPO, 2009.

For further information please contact:

Paula Becker, Technical Advisor, Programme Germano-Malgache pour l’Environnement (PGM-E), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, E-mail: paula.becker@giz.de.

Philippines: Compendium of Climate Change Vulnerability and Impact Assessment Tools

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Recognizing the Philippines’ vulnerability to climate change, the Climate Change Commission (CCC), with support from GIZ, has prepared a compendium of climate change vulnerability and impact assessment tools which can be used by local government units in addressing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction concerns. It is envisioned that through this compendium, local governments will be able to integrate adaptation into their land use and development plans and implement them with high hopes that climate change impacts will not bring damaging effects to lives, properties, public infrastructure, economic gains and present and future investments.

Each Vulnerability and Impact Assessment Tool in the compendium is described according to the outline of the Method Briefs.

South Africa: Vulnerability assessment at District level

Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the Namakwa District Municipality (NDM) in the Northern Cape of South Africa

The method

A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is a method of assessing possible impacts of future climate change upon the people and the environment in a specific area. In this case the method was applied to the Namakwa District Municipality (NDM), which is located in the arid Northern Cape of South Africa. The vulnerability of the NDM’s biodiversity and ecology, its people and its institutions to climate change was assessed.

Scope and entry points

The ecological, socio-economic and institutional vulnerability indices produced through the assessment highlight areas where impacts may be the most severe and which are therefore important for decision making at the district level, e.g. for the setting of adaptation priorities in the NDM.

At higher levels, the Vulnerability Assessment also supports and is informed by the Northern Cape’s provincial climate change adaptation plan, and will also link to future Long Term Adaptation Scenarios currently being developed under the National Climate Change Response White Paper for South Africa.

How it works

The Vulnerability Assessment followed three data gathering steps:

  1. Projected climatic changes for the NDM were detailed (for temperature, rainfall, sea level, storm intensity, fog and CO2 concentration) based on existing data and downscaled statistical modelling for the area. Best and worst case scenarios were used as well as an intermediate scenario. The study used medium term data (for 2050), which is a compromise between the uncertainty of long term projections (2100) and the small changes estimated by shorter duration projections (e.g. 2020).
  2. The sensitivity of the NDM’s ecosystems and the Succulent Karoo biome to climate change was assessed through a review of existing studies. Impacts on the people of the area were also considered, with an emphasis on the existing challenges they are facing.
  3. The NDM’s ecological, socio-economic and institutional adaptive capacities were assessed through knowledge of the area, a desk study of current adaptation measures to climate change and other existing stresses, and through consultations with stakeholders and experts.

The aforementioned three steps produced data to estimate vulnerability indicators shown in table 1 on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 representing the lowest and 5 the highest vulnerability (for a detailed description of the indicators and their development see the full technical report under references).

For the NDM, the following results were obtained: an ecological vulnerability index of 3.85 (medium-high), a socio-economic vulnerability index of 3.8 (medium-high), and an institutional vulnerability index of 3.0 (medium), yielding an overall vulnerability index of 3.5 (medium-high). This figure allows for a comparison with other areas facing similar climate change impacts.

Based on information gathered in the assessment process, a map identifying priority areas for Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) was produced in consultation with the district officials and broader stakeholders to determine areas where EbA would be feasible and benefit the most vulnerable. EbA is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. The next stage is to make recommendations for priority actions and the allocation of resources.

Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

The Vulnerability Assessment was carried out by a partnership of organizations led by Conservation South Africa, an affiliate of Conservation International. The other project partners were the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and Conservation International. Each organization provided different expertise. Conservation South Africa has been working in the NDM for 13 years and holds local biodiversity, ecosystem and socio-economic knowledge; SANBI’s climate change scientists are experts in their field and have focused much of their research on the NDM; the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University provided expertise on spatial planning, mapping ecosystem resilience and EbA priority areas; and lastly Conservation International provided guidance in the Vulnerability Assessment method.

  • Input

The assessment took one year (part-time) to complete (including the production of communication materials). The method is resource intensive in that it requires climate models; yet if these models are available, the method is reasonably easy to use as long as there is support and leadership from the local community and municipality. In brief, the following resources were required:

  • A committed and supportive stakeholder group, including municipality and local community champions for the process
  • Services of climate scientists and a spatial planner/ GIS expert
  • Climate models for temperature and rainfall (obtained from SANBI’s Climate System Analysis Group and the National CSIR)
  • Good spatial data to inform climate sensitivity assessment e.g. landscape gradients, high biodiversity areas, poverty nodes, communal lands, settlements in wetlands or flood plains etc.
  • Current or historical data on climate related disasters – droughts, floods, storms, preferably with a spatial dimension (the district was also doing disaster risk reduction planning at the time)
  • Information on the state of the environment – threats, challenges, current land uses
  • Socio-economic baseline data that is fairly site specific (e.g. demographics, levels of education, poverty etc)
  • An understanding of local government structures, roles and responsibilities
  • A Project coordinator and support from CSA’s policy and communication teams, all part time on the project
  • Communications materials and workshop materials

There was substantial support from partners and local government for the assessment and we were able to access all the information that we needed. The large distance that stakeholders and scientists needed to travel to attend the workshops was a challenge.

  • Output

The vulnerability assessment provided a collection of climate change projection maps for temperature and rainfall in the NDM (based on existing climate models) as well as a qualitative report on sensitivity and adaptive capacity including the described vulnerability indices.

  • Capacity required and ease of use

The vulnerability assessment was based on a significant pool of climate change data and modelling that had been previously carried out for the area. The assessment was also based on expert opinion and peer-reviewed papers on the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of the NDM to projected climatic changes. If these scientific resources are available, as in this case, then a lot of the information for the vulnerability assessment can be relatively easily collated in a desk study. If the scientific data and information is not already available, then it needs to be collected by climate change scientists, requiring expertise, funds and time. The stage of gathering information and scoring parameters for the vulnerability indices needs to be carried out in close collaboration with the municipality and local stakeholders which can be a time-consuming process.

Conclusions for future application

  • Outcome and added value

The vulnerability assessment provides an understanding and a comparable analysis of the NDM’s vulnerability to climate change. It is the foundation for making recommendations for priority actions and the allocation of resources to most effectively reduce vulnerability. The assessment is therefore essential in climate change adaptation decision-making at the local and district level, and also allows for measuring reduced vulnerability over time to see whether efforts by government and other stakeholders have been effective.

  • Cost-benefit ratio

The vulnerability assessment was a cost-effective method due to readily available information and connection to stakeholder workshops around disaster risk management which were already underway. However, if the climate change data had not been available, the project would have been significantly more expensive. It can be even more cost-effective where dedicated staff is already in place.

  • Potential for replication

The described vulnerability assessment method is applicable to a wide range of contexts, yet the vulnerability indicators may need to be modified if circumstances differ. The method does require a solid foundation of socio-economic and environmental information as well as climate data and scientific expertise. As more detailed information on the impacts of climate change is produced, such as the research programme of the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios[TL5] being developed for South Africa currently, the method will become easier to replicate. A crucial feature of the method is its involvement of local stakeholders and connection to political processes, both of which need to be ensured for successful replication.


The full Technical Report Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the Namakwa District Municipality is available online.

Please contact Amanda Bourne at a.bourne@conservation.org for more information.

Method references

Bartlett, R. S Freeman, J Cook, B Dongol, R Sherchan, M Shrestha, and P McCornick. 2011. Freshwater Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment: The Indrawati Sub-Basin, Nepal. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Report NI R 11-07.

R. Boquiren, G. Di Carlo, and M.C. Quibilan (Eds). 2010. Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of the Verde Island Passage, Philippines. Technical report. Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Davies, R.A.G., S.J.E. Midgley, and S Chesterman. One World Sustainable Investments. 2010. Risk and Vulnerability Mapping for Southern Africa: Status Quo (2008) and Future (2050). Draft Research Report for the Regional Climate Change Programme: Southern Africa, Department for International Development.

Larrea and G. Di Carlo (Eds). 2010. Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of the Galápagos Islands. WWF and Conservation International, USA.

Mohan, Divya, and Shirish Sinha. 2010. Vulnerability Assessment of People, Livelihoods, and Ecosystems in the Ganga Basin. Report, WWF-India

Other references that may be of interest are

Department of Social Development. 2009. Possible Effects and Impact of Climate Change on Human Settlements and Population Development in the Northern Cape. DSD, Development and Research, Population Development, Kimberley

Hoffman, M.T., Carrick, P.J., Gillson, L., west, A.G. 2009. Drought, climate chance and vegetation response in the succulent karoo, South Africa. South Africa Journal of Science 105:54-60.

Midgley, GF., and W Thuiller. 2007. ‘Potential vulnerability of Namaqualand plant diversity to anthropogenic climate change’ in Journal of Arid nvironments:doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2006.11.020

Rutherford, MC, GF Midgley, WJ Bond, LW Powrie, R Roberts & J Allsopp. 2000 ‘Plant biodiversity: vulnerability and adaptation assessment’ in G. Kiker Climate change impacts in southern Africa. Report to the National Climate Change Committee, Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism, Pretoria, forming part of the South African Country Study on Climate Change which contributed to South Africa’s Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC.

Author: Conservation South Africa

Date: March 2013

Tunisia: Environmental Cost-Benefit Analysis

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An environmental Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) was conducted within the context of a vulnerability assessment on ecosystems of cork forest and alfa fields, carried out in 2010/2011 in Tunisia. The environmental CBA assessed the economic value of the various goods and services (G&S) provided by these ecosystems, and estimated the potential loss of the economic value through the impact of climate change (CC).

Scope and entry points

The approach was designed to meet the immediate need for improving information on CC impacts from an economic risk perspective and to promote the best adaptation measures at the decision-making level within the Forestry Directorate General. The new national strategy for forest development, due to be drafted in 2013, will include CC adaptation and economic assessments of forest ecosystem G&S aiming at optimizing the ecosystems’ sustainability. The results of this ‘pilot’ application of an environmental CBA will be taken into account when revising the alfa field development plans and when identifying optimisation measures for the G&S of the cork forest (FFEM-DGF project: ‘Optimising the Production of Goods and Services by the Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems in the Context of Global changes’).

How it works

The ‘pilot’ implementation of this tool consisted of three steps. A fourth step should be devoted to assessing adaptation options, but was not executed within the context of the pilot.

 Step 1: Identification of goods & services

Part of the identification of the G&S is a classification of the identified ecosystem G&S that is based on the concept of total economic value (TEV, Merlo and Coitoru, 2005). The G&E were classified by type of service (production, ecological, social, i.e. supply / levy services, regulative services, cultural services, self-sustaining services), and the recipient, e.g. Tunisian state, user community, Tunisian society and international community.

 Step 2: Economic evaluation

For the economic evaluation various techniques were used depending on the type of value:

For the cork oak ecosystem, the main methods used were based on market prices, production function method, travel cost and protection cost method.

For alfa fields, evaluation techniques refer to the market price for alfa leaves, the international price for the quantity of fixed carbon, the substitution costs for fodder production, the changes in production of services linked to the erosion control, and the cost of protection measures for biodiversity conservation.

The TEV was estimated by aggregating the values of all goods and services.

Step 3: Assessment of the lost economic value

The economic values of the changes in G&S flows induced by CC were assessed in two steps:

  • Identification of physical impacts (negative and positive) of environmental changes on economic activities.
  • Economic evaluation of changes in production or consumption induced by CC, using the same methods as for step 2. Avoided damage and replacement cost methods were used for assessing the costs related to degradation.

Moreover, discounting helped to translate the values of year n (2050 in future) into their present value. The choice of the discount rate (2%) was based mainly on the long analysis period, the inflation of prices for G&E, depending on supply and demand and on the availability of competing services.

Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

The leading institution for the pilot was the Forestry Directorate General (DGF). The forest districts provided information and were involved in the field work. The CCC/GIZ project played a facilitating role in addition to financing the activity (developing the terms of reference, coaching the team of experts, periodic updates, and exchange workshops).

  • Input

Upstream, data input is necessary (provided by the DGF, forest districts, l’Institut National de Recherche en Génie Rural, Eaux et Forêts (INRGREF), and by other research institutes). Their availability and if possible their reliability should be checked. An interdisciplinary team of specialists was set up. An expert in forest economics was assigned the specific task of applying this method, in close coordination with the other members of the group who carried out the vulnerability biophysical analyses. The assessment of goods and services requires approximately 2 months but within the larger framework of vulnerability analysis (VA) would require 18 months.

  • Output

Data compilation in form of tables and diagrams on the nature, value of benefits and their distribution in terms of the G&S of both ecosystems. Visualisation of actual value of G&S losses due to CC based on scenarios, compared to those of goods and services with no CC impact in 2020 and in 2050.

  • Capacity required and ease of use

In Tunisia, the required expert profiles (environmental economist and technical specialists in erosion, water resources etc.) do exist, but must mainly be mobilised through consultancy and external technical assistance projects. The assessment of ecosystem G&S can ideally be carried out within the context of a VA, considering the diversity of the required data. The main constraint is the need for upstream data, which can only be produced within the framework of coherent and long-term research programmes. However, research work suffers from a chronic lack of budget and from deficits in terms of identifying and integrating research themes. This is compounded by inter-sectoral coordination difficulties.

Conclusions for future application

  • Outcome and added value

The new forest development strategy for 2013-2022 will integrate the consolidation of adaptation and mitigation measures and consider the economic value for ecosystem G&S with a view to leveraging and sustainably optimize these resources. In the short-run, the terms of reference for updating the land-use plans will be revised in order to take into consideration the production of market and non-market services (note: timber production is ranked in fourth position among forest goods in Tunisia), will be launched with GIZ support.

  • Cost-benefit ratio

The outcomes of these evaluations provide very strong arguments to help decision-makers commit themselves to supporting adaptation actions. However, in view of the extent of resources to be mobilised, the method can only be relevant to priority application cases.

  • Potential for replication

The choice of evaluation methods for G&S costs was made by prioritising the availability of information and the ease of applying this information in a timely fashion, also considering the replicability of the method. More complex evaluation methods, such as contingent valuation, were thus discarded.

The new forest development strategy for 2013-2022 will integrate the consolidation of adaptation and mitigation measures for CC and the consideration of the economic value for ecosystem G&S with a view to the leveraging and sustainable optimisation of these resources. This provides a favourable replication framework.

However, as such application is only possible within a larger and more complex vulnerability analysis context, its utilisation is limited by significant funds required for its implementation.

Account also needs to be taken of:

– Difficulties in obtaining the required data, which are sometimes available only within the framework of medium term and long-term research programmes.
– The necessity of developing the evaluation stage of adaptation alternatives; indeed, a cost-benefit analysis would enable the selection of the best (most efficient) alternative and the appropriate intervention period (immediate or delayed).
– The need for harmonising G&S evaluation methods, while prioritising methods that could be controlled in terms of time and in costs.



Study on the vulnerability of the cork forest to climate change. Ministry of Environment- GIZ – 2011 – Tunis.

Study on the vulnerability of the alfa ecosystem to climate change in the Governorate of Kasserine, Ministry of Environment- GIZ – 2011 – Tunis.

Economy of ecosystems and of cork forest biodiversity as well as of alfa fields (within the context of studies on cork forest vulnerability (ecosystem limits in Jendouba and Béja) and of alfa fields (Kasserine) – Hamed Daly – Ministry of Environment – GIZ – 2011.

Methodological guide for the approach to assessing ecosystem goods and services, Ministry of Environment- GIZ- 2012.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment- Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005.

Optimisation project for the production of goods and services by the Mediterranean forest ecosystems in the context of the global change (www.ffem.fr)

Economic assessment of Tunisian forest goods and services, summary note- Ministry of Agriculture- Direction Générale des Forêts – National forest programme facility – FAO July 2012

The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity for local and regional policy makers. TEEB, 2010. Earthscan, London.



Reference persons:

Hamed Daly, Researcher, INRAT (daly@gnet.tn)
Ghazi Gader, Expert Advisor, GIZ (ghazi.gader@giz.de)

Tunisia: Vulnerability Assessment of the Olive Plantation Ecosystem

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A Vulnerability Assessment (VA), previously applied in the olive oil sector in Tunisia was adapted to the analytical framework of ‘the archetype approach’ developed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The outcomes feed into the planning of olive cultivation within the agricultural development agency of Médenine, Tunisia.

Scope and entry points

This VA was a pilot within the framework of the ‘vulnerability analysis of the agricultural sector and water to climate change in the south of Tunisia’ which is supported by the project ‘Climate Impacts: Support Platform For Global And Regional Adaptation’ known as ci:grasp). This method supports concerned actors, regional authorities, regional agricultural development commissions (CRDA), agencies, research centres and agricultural development organisations (GDA), NGOs etc., with an appropriate methodological approach for a VA on one hand, and for the sustainable optimisation of development planning in view of CC on the other. The olive oil sector was chosen because of its socio-economic predominance at regional and national levels.

How it works

Vulnerability schemes that exist in various places around the world have been identified as ‘vulnerability archetypes’ (archetype = model). As a reminder, ‘vulnerability’ refers to the extent a system is sensitive to – or unable to cope with – negative climate change impacts, including climate variability and extreme events. A ‘vulnerability archetype’ is therefore defined as a ‘representative model of the interactions between the environmental changes and human well-being’ (for instance the urbanisation of coastal strips or subsistence farming on marginal lands in developing countries). It does not describe a specific situation, but focuses on common properties of a multitude of cases covered by this type of ‘archetype’. The method allows studying the links between the factors in a given sector, influenced by multiple stress factors.

The complex stages have been partly simplified. Only stages 2 and 3 – which require greater clarification – are explained in more detail below.

Stage 2: Impact chain pre-analysis

This pre-analysis is summarised in the following diagram, with four main components: 1) Choice of exposure unit, identification of target group, stakeholders, and relevant climate stimuli, 2) Analysis of direct and indirect impacts, 3) Risk assessment, 4) Recommendations for adaptation options.

In order to facilitate the transfer of the method to other concerned actors, e.g. to agricultural specialists involved in development planning some steps were simplified. Simplifications covered the analysis tools and the types of impacts to be monitored. The adaptation measures (step 4) are recommendations based on experience, rather than the outcome of a rigorous identification that would have included the assessment of the potential impacts of such measures.

Stage 3: Archetype formalisation

In the next step the interrelations between the main components such as water resources, soil, farming practices, or political measures and the sector targeted by the VA are identified in order to analyse the systemic functioning of an archetype (systemic approach). The variables and parameters to be factored into inputs (particularly the climatic stimuli and biophysical and socioeconomic parameters) and output indicators (vulnerability indicators) are defined by specifying the possible relationships and combinations. The climate scenarios are included in the form of ‘stressors’ (parameters for implementing the climate shocks).

The choice for an analysis tools fell on a water balance model (BUDGET; public domain software www.iupware.be), and GIS tools for the spatial overlay and analysis of several layers (pedologic maps, soil fitness categories). Three scenarios were considered with and without CC by 2020 and 2050 and were applied to all possible topographic combinations (mountains, plains), soils (all soils), meteorological stations and precipitation stations in the region.

Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

The leading actors are the Institut des Régions Arides (IRA), the CRDA of Médenine and the CC/GIZ project. The method was implemented by a team composed of two specialists from IRA, who benefited from sharing experience with specialists from PIK, and other specialists in various fields (pedology, ecology, combat against desertification, plant production, water resources) involved on a regular basis. Special attention was given to the consultation and cooperation process with the actors from the regional agricultural development sphere.

  • Input

The approach requires specialists in climate and environmental modelling, in environmental and geographic information systems, specialists in appropriate fields related to the methodology and concept needs of the archetype. The initial lack of integration of the topic in the institutions as well as the lack of resources in research institutions make external funding necessary and call on consulting specialists. The most important input is the current ground data, of which some (e.g. meteorological data from certain stations) are expensive. The required maps need to be adjusted and updated. The pilot application lasted approximately 18 months, a period required not only to adapt the method but also to ensure the participative approach and the involvement of stakeholders. This aspect incurred additional costs, for instance the organisation of exchange workshops.

  • Output

The following products could be leveraged in the short term:

  • A geographic database for the ‘olive oil cultivation system’ archetype.
  • A land fitness map for olive cultivation in the Governorate of Médenine.
  • A land sensitivity to CC map for olive cultivation in the Governorate of Médenine.
  • Capacity required and ease of use

The implementation of the method, even if simplified, is demanding:

  • Human resources working interdisciplinary. People who master the method, which remains quite complex as it requires both a systemic and an analytical approach.
  • Setting up a partnership process with the actors and partners involved from the identification of the archetype in response to a priority and real concern of society until the stage of outcome validation.

Conclusions for future applications

  • Outcome and added value

The tools developed as part of the method include mapping databases, which can be customised by integrating CC scenarios. In addition, they can supply various thematic outputs that facilitate decision-making in ecosystem planning and agro system management.

The implementation of the pilot involved the training of CRDA specialists (representatives of various districts), in order to install the GIS system within the CRDA and carry out a communication activity with an NGO. At present, the specialists are using the outcomes to sensitise farmers who wish to expand their plantations, or to support farming improvements. The utilisation of the olive oil sector in planning guidance in the governorate of Médenine has not yet been put into practice; constraints linked to the regional planning process, which is currently being re-organised, must first be overcome.

  • Cost-benefit ratio

This can be considered satisfactory. Methods and tools are implemented at regional level and the outcomes obtained have attracted the interest of local as well as national actors, such as the IO, a specialised institute, which is focusing more attentively on the CCA issue within the framework of a cooperation between the IRA and the GIZ.

  • Potential for replication

Such methods contribute greatly and in a more detailed manner than at national level to improved effectiveness in developing adaptation measures. They are very useful in meeting the rationale requirements for project requests for adaptation to CC funds or to other funding sources, for which there is significant demand from development actors.

The ownership of the method by the ‘developers’ remains contingent on improving the methodology such as the development of an evaluation stage for adaptation alternatives, as well as the validation and extrapolation process of the tools/outcomes. Indeed the reproduction of this method by development actors could only take place once recognition and validation has been achieved at central level (for example the Ministry of Agriculture).



Analysis of olive plantation vulnerability to climate change in the Governorate of Médenine (GIZ publication – CC/GIZ project, Tunis) – 2012

Proceedings of the seminar on the adaptation of olive cultivation to climate change (MEDD – CC/GIZ project Tunis) – December 2012




Reference persons

Mongi Sghaier, Researcher, IRA Médenine (s.mongi@ira.rnrt.tn)
Mohamed Ouessar, Researcher, IRA Médenine (ouessar.mohamed@ira.rnrt.tn)