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Current Vulnerability Mapping

This tool helps to establish the degree and range of impacts of different climate hazards on resources, livelihoods and social groups
Multiple Authors

The following description of this tool and details on how and why it is was applied exists as part of the ‘Adaptation Toolkit’ that was created collaboratively by SEI and ENDA.

Brief Description

In order to assess how climate change might impact certain livelihoods resources and social groups it is necessary to establish the level of exposure of these to relevant climate hazards that impact the area. This participatory exercise is conducted in stratified or mixed groups and helps understand current vulnerability by discussing how different climatic disturbances affect resources and social groups in the project site differently. Facilitation is needed to guide the exercises and also to encourage discussion and analysis of the results obtained. This activity may require an hour and a half to complete.

Specific Objectives

A vulnerability-exposure matrix can be used to gain a broad overview of which livelihoods/ resources/ social groups are most vulnerable to different types of climatic hazards and the degree to which livelihood activities are impacted by different climate hazards. This analysis focuses on current vulnerability and serves as a basis to explore future scenarios of vulnerability.

Expected Outcomes

  • Better understanding of current vulnerability in the site
  • Shared knowledge on differentiated vulnerability
  • Better understanding of the main climatic hazards affecting the site


Step 1: List exposure units in the case study

List the main resources, and social groups in the site on post-it notes (use outputs of tools 1 and 2). These will be exposure units and will be added as the rows of the matrix below.

Step 2: List the present climatic hazards (or opportunities) that affect exposure units

List the current climatic hazards in the case study using post-it notes. The identified climate hazards are filled in the columns of the matrix below. Be careful of separating the continuum of weather and climate into distinct hazards (e.g. episodes of drought over a year or more are separated from shorter dry spells during the year).

Step 3: Vulnerability Exposure Matrix

How vulnerable is each exposure unit to each climatic hazard (i.e. how significant is the impact of the climate hazard on the exposure unit)? By ranking hazards to their level of impact one is able to prioritise the key climate hazard(s) to address. By assessing how different groups and resources are affected by climate-related disturbances differently one is able to explore differentiated vulnerability and identify the most vulnerable. To assess the level of impact hazards may have on each exposure unit you can agree on different categories. For example, you could use a scale of 1-3, 3=high impact; 2=medium impact; 1=low impact, O= no impact, N/A= non-applicable

<em>Example of a table for vulnerability-exposure matrix</em>
Figure 12: Example of Vulnerability-Exposure matrix: Impacts of hazards on major livelihood resources (Lamin community- Greater Banjul, Gambia).

Step 4: Outcome of exposure and hazard

In most cases, the initial values provide a rough estimation. However, if the matrix is to be used analytically, it is necessary to:

  • Specify what are the consequences or outcomes of the identified vulnerabilities. How large is the area affected?
  • How many people or households are affected?
  • Are there particular socio-economic groups (e.g. women, the elderly) who are dependent on the most vulnerable resource?
  • How long is the unit exposed to a hazard and what are the implications?
  • What contribution does this livelihood make to the household wellbeing?

Most commonly, an analysis of the outcomes may refine the ranking given to hazards.

Step 5: Discussion

  • What does the matrix reveal about who is vulnerable?
  • What are the gaps in knowledge?
  • This exercise has focused on vulnerability to climate-related hazards, however there are many other factors influencing vulnerability. In your opinion is climate variability and change a major stress in your case study or are other stresses (political, social, economic, etc.) more important? But remember many of these stresses and impacts are actually inter-connected so don’t be too quick to exclude any from your planning.
  • When prioritising action, what happens when two livelihoods have the same score?
  • Can indicators of vulnerability be developed using the matrix? Would this be generic to the matrix or specific to key livelihoods and threats?

Resources/ Facilities

The facilities needed for this exercise are:

  • Flipcharts
  • Markers of different colours
  • Post-it notes
  • Notebooks to take notes of the discussions

Expected Output

The final products of this exercise are diagrams and tables drawn on flipcharts, as well as a synthesis of the discussions.

Related resources

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