JOURNAL OF PACIFIC STUDIES
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Adaptation(1)

Title: Holistic, participatory and strategic : a vulnerability and adaptation assessment for Pacific communities faced with climate change

Author: McNamara, Karen Elizabeth, Limalevu, Leone
Subject:  Adaptation
 Environmental change
Volume: Vol.35 no.3, 2015
Collation: p. 28-39

Abstract: Community-based climate change vulnerability and adaptation assessments are burgeoning, matched by an expanding body of literature on vulnerability, resilience, adaptive capacity and adaptation. However, too often, these assessments are subjective, rapid and merely consultative which can lead to a lack of community ownership over adaptation projects and potential failure. This has been particularly common in the so-called ‘frontline’ states where large donor funding has flowed to in the last decade or more. Despite extensive local knowledge of environmental change and strategies to respond to such, the Pacific region is often depicted as ‘most vulnerable’ to the impacts of climate change; however, a one-size-fits-all vulnerability and adaptation assessment is challenging to develop effectively. This article provides details of the development and use of a community-based vulnerability and adaptation assessment that has been applied in 15 countries and close to 40 communities throughout the Pacific region. The assessment is not a single prescribed method; it is an approach that can be adapted to diverse communities and places and ensure a shared and open dialogue between external parties and local communities. It involves a number of critical steps and utilises a variety of techniques to collect data including field observations, in-depth focus group discussions, field assessments and group workshops. Three overarching principles guide the assessment. These include the need to: holistically capture the numerous assets that communities utilise to sustain their livelihoods (as vulnerability can be influenced by a host of factors); guarantee community participation and an ongoing two-way dialogue and sharing of knowledge; and ensure that medium and long-term community plans and goals are developed to help safeguard the sustainability and longevity of these communities.

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