Natural hazards and sustainable livelihoods

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Natural hazards and sustainable livelihoods exploring vulnerability and capacity in rural Bolivia
Oviatt, Kate Jean
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ix, 82 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Natural disasters -- Risk assessment -- Bolivia -- Tarija (Department) ( lcsh )
Sustainable living -- Bolivia -- Tarija (Department) ( lcsh )
Rural conditions -- Tarija (Bolivia : Department) ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 78-82).
General Note:
Department of Anthropology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kate Jean Oviatt.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
672326896 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L43 2010m O94 ( lcc )

Full Text
Kate Jean Oviatt
B.A., University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 2004
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Kate Jean Oviatt
has been approved
Deborah Thomas


Oviatt, Kate Jean (M.A., Anthropology)
Natural Hazards and Sustainable Livelihoods: Exploring Vulnerability and
Capacity in Rural Bolivia
Thesis directed by Associate Professor John Brett
Understanding what disaster risk looks like on the local level requires looking at
natural hazards in the context of livelihoods. Rural populations with livelihoods
based on agriculture are extremely vulnerable to the effects of natural hazards.
The aim of this research was to integrate natural hazards research with the
sustainable livelihoods frameworks to provide a more comprehensive
understanding of challenges facing rural populations. Working with rural
communities in Tarija, Bolivia, this research explored local experiences and
perceptions of natural hazards, and identified issues of vulnerability, those factors
that increase a populations exposure to disaster risk, and capacity, the strengths
and resources that increase a populations ability to withstand the effects of
disaster. Participants discussed their strategies for coping with natural hazard
events and the social, economic, and geographic factors that influenced and often
limited their ability to cope. Discussions revealed an intimate relationship
between hazardous events and livelihood security, and identified a number of
points of articulation between exposure to hazards and sustainable development.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
John Brett

I would like to sincerely thank my advisor, John Brett, for all his patience and
counsel throughout this project. I truly would not have made it through the muck
and mire of research if it had not been for him. I would also like to thank my
other committee members, Deb Thomas and Jean Scandlyn, for their help and
guidance. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your project and giving
me this opportunity. I would also like to thank PADEM for their willingness to
work with a young, naive gringa. Thank you to all the employees of the Uriondo
mayors office; I could not have survived Bolivia without you. To my husband;
thank you for all your patience and support throughout this long, tedious process.
Finally, thank you to the people of Uriondo. You were kind and welcoming.
Your strength in the face of adversity is inspiring.

1. INTRODUCTION..................................................1
Research Question..........................................3
Specific Aim 1: To Identify Local Hazards.............4
Specific Aim 2: To Identify What Risks are
Associated with Each Hazard...........................5
Specific Aim 3: To identify Local Strategies
for Coping With and Mitigating These Risks............6
2. BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE...................................7
Disaster Research..........................................7
Development and Disasters.................................13
Sustainable Development...................................18
Sustainable Livelihood Framework..........................20
Local Perspective and Knowledge...........................25
Research Area.............................................26
3. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..................................29
Data Collection...........................................29

Research Methods.............................................32
Semi-structured Interviews..............................32
Seasonal Calendar.......................................34
4. RESULTS...........................................................39
Livelihood Strategies........................................40
Vulnerability Context........................................42
Livelihood Assets and Vulnerability..........................50
Economic Vulnerability..................................51
Infrastructure Vulnerability............................55
Social Vulnerability....................................55
Natural Vulnerability...................................57
Livelihood Assets............................................58
Physical Assets.........................................59
Economic Assets.........................................63
Social Assets...........................................63
Transforming Structures and Processes........................65

Livelihood Outcomes
5. DISCUSSION....................................70

1 Sustainable Livelihoods Framework......................................21
2 Research Area..........................................................29
3 Maya Anti-granizo......................................................61

1 Research Activity...........................................................37
2 Hazards Reported by Participants............................................46
3 Hazards Considered the Worst by Participants................................46
4 Vulnerability Context.......................................................49
5 Most Important Things Post-disaster.........................................68

It is currently estimated that approximately 250,000 deaths occur annually
as a result of natural disasters (Inyang et al., 2003). An additional 200 million
people are affected each year through damage to homes, property, infrastructure,
and loss of livelihood (Twigg, 2004).
Although staggering, such facts fail to portray the differential experience
of disasters worldwide. While only 11% of people exposed to natural disasters
live in low human development countries, they account for over 50% of the total
recorded deaths (UNDP, 2004). In contrast, high human development countries
account for 15% of those exposed to disasters, but experience a mere 1.8% of the
deaths (UNDP, 2004). Such disparities reveal dimensions of social and economic
inequalities that result in natural disasters disproportionately affecting populations
in developing countries.
Addressing this inequity in disaster risk requires knowledge of not only
the hazards that affect populations, but also the social and economic factors that
create these disparate experiences of vulnerability. The roots of vulnerability can
be traced to social, political, and economic systems that create inequalities. The

consequence of this systemic inequity is that certain groups of people are more
susceptible to the effects of a natural hazard than others.
When understood in this context, issues of disaster risk and vulnerability
are concomitant with issues of development. Misguided development practices
can exacerbate or create areas of vulnerability through environmental degradation,
demographic changes, and livelihood insecurity. Conversely, development that
focuses on sustainability and livelihood security can create a more resilient
population, and contribute to the reduction of disaster vulnerability (Oviatt and
Brett, 2010). Central to this is the issue of livelihood security. Precarious
livelihoods increase disaster vulnerability, whereas livelihoods that are
sustainable and contextually appropriate enable populations to more effectively
cope with the effects of natural hazards.
Understanding how hazards, vulnerability, development and livelihood
security relate at the local level, and how they shape the experience of risk, is
essential for helping populations increase their ability to combat the effects of a
natural hazard. In an effort to understand what this looks like at the local level, I
traveled to Tarija, Bolivia in the summer of 2008.1 Bolivia was selected as the
research site because of the prevalence of natural hazards and its populations
high vulnerability; nearly 40% of Bolivias population lives in extreme poverty,
1 This work was part of a pilot project by Dr. Deb Thomas, Dr. John Brett, and Dr. Jean Scandlyn,
who aimed to explore the relationship between natural hazards, sustainable development, and
public health.

making it one of the poorest countries in Latin America (World Bank, 2008). The
primary purpose of my research was to establish a baseline understanding of the
local context of natural hazards.
To facilitate this work I collaborated with PADEM, a Swiss-based non-
governmental organization and with the mayors office in the municipality of
Uriondo. During the time of my research PADEM was working with
communities throughout Bolivia to understand what hazards they faced, and to
identify ways to lower their disaster risk. I worked with one of their field
coordinators, who helped me understand the area hazards, and who initiated my
partnership with the regions mayors office. My partnership with the mayors
office was instrumental in facilitating my research by introducing me to key
members of participating communities.
Research Question
To build an understanding of the context of natural hazards, a number of
factors had to be considered. First, disaster risk at the local level is an amalgam
of factors that increase disaster risk (vulnerability) and factors that decrease risk
(capacity). These two concepts were the foundation from which I developed my
research. However, because of the centrality of livelihoods in the lives of most
individuals, disaster risk can only be truly understood when situated in the context

of a populations livelihood activities. Thus, this research explores issues of
vulnerability and capacity in terms of their relationship to the livelihood assets
identified in the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (DFID, 1999). Such an
approach is important because livelihood activities define to a great extent the
context in which natural hazards are perceived and experienced. Furthermore,
understanding vulnerability and capacity in terms of livelihood assets is useful for
identifying areas in which vulnerability can be addressed.
The question that served as the frame for my research was: What are the
local perceptions of hazards and risk, and what knowledge, skills, and
resources are utilized at the local level to mitigate these risks?
Embedded within this are three specific aims: to identify local hazards,
identify the risks associated with each hazard, and identify local strategies for
coping with and mitigating these risks.
Specific Aim 1: To Identify Local Hazards
The first step to understanding local perceptions and action was to identify
what specific natural hazards the communities faced. What types of hazards
affect the community? When do they happen? How severe are they?
Understanding what hazards communities experienced was requisite for
understanding local vulnerability and capacity.

A critical component of this research was to understand the categorical
framework that rural Bolivians use to classify various events; how do they define
and classify the hazards they face? What do they define as a disaster? How do
they classify hazards in terms of severity and importance? Understanding the
classification framework used by people was necessary for understanding how
individuals and communities made decisions about natural hazards.
Specific Aim 2: To Identify What Risks are Associated with Each Hazard
This component of the research aimed to explore what people perceived
to be the risks of a natural hazard. What damages do hazards inflict upon the
community? What are the costs of that damage? Specifically, this aim addressed
the interaction between hazard, risk and livelihood vulnerability. Do hazards
increase livelihood vulnerability? How do they affect each of the five livelihood
assets? Understanding the effects of natural hazards on livelihood assets was
essential for understanding community vulnerability.

Specific Aim 3: To Identify Local Strategies for Coping With and
Mitigating These Risks
This final element of the research examined local capacity. What specific
actions do individuals and communities take to mitigate the effects of a natural
hazard? What kind of local knowledge and practice do they employ for this?
Additionally, how do livelihood assets increase the ability of people to cope with
natural hazards? Identifying local strategies and livelihood assets was essential
for developing an understanding of capacity.
Information from each of these aims was used to build an understanding of
the local context of disaster risk in terms of the sustainable livelihoods
framework. As this research shows, placing natural hazards in the context of
livelihood activities is essential. How natural hazards were perceived and
defined, and what vulnerability and capacity looked like at the local level all
center upon the type of livelihood strategies people pursue. Understanding this
relationship between natural hazards and livelihoods is essential for identifying
strategies for reducing vulnerability.

Disaster Research
Throughout most of the 20th century the predominant view was that
disasters constituted a departure from normal social functioning (Wisner et al.,
2004). Disasters were solely a result of external natural events, and were simply
momentary interruptions from an ever-improving process of development (Twigg,
2004). This decidedly naturalist approach focused primarily on technological
fixes to reduce the effects of disasters.
During the latter part of the century a new paradigm emerged that began to
question the naturalness of disasters. They began to distinguish between natural
hazards and disasters, recognizing that the two events were not necessarily
synonymous. A natural hazard is a potential threat to humans and their welfare
(Twigg, 2004, emphasis added). In contrast, a disaster is [w]hat occurs when the
impact of a hazard on a section of society.. .overwhelms that societys ability to
cope (Twigg, 2004). This distinction acknowledges that the context in which a
hazard occurs significantly influences the experience of a disaster. Hazards must

be considered within this context, as it is this relationship, that of the hazardous
event and the external social, political, economic conditions, that determines if a
hazardous event will result in a disaster.
This new perspective explored how human systems made some groups
more prone to damage, loss and suffering from exposure to hazards (Wisner et
al., 2004). The term vulnerability is now widely used to express this variability.
Although there exist many definitions of vulnerability, I have chosen the UN
definition of the conditions determined by physical, social, economic and
environmental factors or processes, which increase the susceptibility of a
community to the impact of hazards (ISDR, 2004).
This definition clearly acknowledges the important role of natural
(physical) hazards in creating a disaster, but places significant emphasis on the
role of social factors in increasing its effects. Typical disadvantaged groups
include poor households, women, children, the elderly, the mentally and
physically disabled, and marginalized racial/ethnic groups (Twigg, 2004; Warner,
2007). Although such blanket labeling homogenizes the diversity of individuals
within these groups, as surely not all women are vulnerable, they help to ensure
that the variability of vulnerability is recognized, and that these groups are not
neglected during the planning processes. Unequal access to resources,
information, knowledge and political power are primary reasons why these groups
are more vulnerable than others (Wisner, 2002).

In the context of disasters, this vulnerability makes these groups more
susceptible to the effects of a hazard event. A classic example of this was the
1976 earthquake in Guatemala City. It killed 1,200 people and made 90,000
people homeless. This earthquake was commonly referred to as a class quake
because most of the victims were poor. They could only afford to live in the
slums located in the citys ravines, which were extremely vulnerable to the effects
of an earthquake (Twigg, 2004). Wealthier individuals lived in safer locations,
were able to afford to construct safer, more stable homes, and thus were not as
affected by the earthquake. This case is a clear example of how social and
economic conditions influence the experience of a disaster.
More subtly, vulnerability can manifest itself through seemingly benign
factors. In Bangladesh, for example, Muslim women are typically reluctant to
leave their homes, a factor that makes them more vulnerable in the event of a
flash flood. Similarly, the 1995 heat wave in Chicago killed hundreds of people,
with elderly women being especially susceptible. Factors that made elderly
women more vulnerable were that they lived on their own, had limited mobility,
could not afford air conditioning, and kept windows closed because of fear of
thievery (Wisner, 2002). As these examples show, vulnerability is an important,
albeit complex, issue vital for understanding the nature of disasters. However, the
identification of a group/individual as vulnerable should not be used
indiscriminately, and must be considered in the context of the hazard. The

homeless, for example, may be more vulnerable in the event of a flood or other
extreme weather events because of their general exposure. However, in the case
of an earthquake, the homeless could be less vulnerable because they may not be
as exposed to building collapses (Wisner, 2002).
The issue of vulnerability is crucial for understanding and protecting
populations from disasters. However, discourse that focuses solely on the
vulnerability of populations can be disempowering, and can fail to adequately
acknowledge the ingenuity and adeptness of the people facing the hazards.
Populations throughout the world have developed methods for protecting
themselves and their livelihoods from the effects of natural hazards. Unlike
vulnerability, which increases negative impacts of a hazard, this concept, referred
to as capacity, consists of all the strengths and resources available within a
community, society, or organization that can reduce risk (Birkmann, 2006).
Individuals, communities, and societies can draw on these various resources to
mitigate the effects of a hazard.
Like vulnerability, capacity manifests itself in many ways, depending on
the hazard and the social/economic/political context. Coping strategies vary
depending on the phase of the disaster. They may be preventative (before),
impact-minimizing (during), or post-event coping activities (after) (Few, 2003).
For example, in Bangladesh seasonal flooding is extremely common, and people
have adapted by building houses on stilts so that floodwaters can pass beneath the

house rather than through it (Twigg, 2004). This would be an example of impact-
minimizing strategies. This construction doesnt prevent floods, but ensures that
they will result in less damage to infrastructure. Preventative strategies may
include construction of a dam or reservoir to protect against drought. Post-event
strategies may include immigration to recoup economic losses from a hazardous
In addition to being sequentially variable, coping strategies come in a
variety of forms. Social coping strategies include social networks that provide
support, both before, during, and after a disaster. The sharing of food and labor,
for example, among members of a family or community can help can help people
recover from a disaster. Economic strategies that people may utilize may involve
taking out loans after a disaster or diversifying livelihood activities.
Technological strategies would include the construction of hazard appropriate
infrastructure, as described above. It would also include more subtle methods,
such as agricultural practices that preserve soil integrity or planting crops that are
less susceptible to the effects of a hazard (Few, 2003; Twigg, 2004).
Clearly, in order to adequately understand disasters and disaster risk it is
necessary to identify and address issues of vulnerability and capacity. To develop
effective means for reducing disaster risk, interventions must understand how
these variables manifest themselves at the local level and incorporate them into
their design. An example of this is the work done by Murwira et al. in Zimbabwe.

Working in an extremely drought-prone area of Zimbabwe, researchers used a
community-based disaster management approach, and worked in tandem with
community members to identify areas of vulnerability and capacity. Together
they were able to understand factors that increased disaster vulnerability and to
identify practices that increased the capacity of the community to cope with
droughts (Wisner, 2006). By working with the local community, Murwira and his
partners gained a thorough understanding of the local context, which enabled
them to devise solutions that were well suited to the local situation, and which
have been highly successful in decreasing overall disaster vulnerability. Their
work underscores the importance of understanding vulnerability and capacity in
mitigating disaster risk.
Addressing the root causes of disasters is significantly more difficult than
mere technological fixes and post-disaster humanitarian aid. Despite significant
advances in available technology and significant increases in aid (the amount of
aid has increased by a factor of five in recent decades), we have not seen a
decrease in the amount and severity of disasters (Dayton-Johnson, 2004).
Although important, these measures fail address the social, political, and
economic processes that create the condition of vulnerability, and which diminish
the capacity of people to cope with the effects of a natural hazard. Ultimately, to
truly lower disaster risk steps must be taken to address these systemic inequities,
and to empower people with the resources and knowledge necessary to cope.

This requires reevaluating existing development paradigms, which can exacerbate
vulnerability, and focus instead on implementing development practices which are
sustainable and equitable.
Development and Disasters
There is an intimate relationship between development and disasters.
Recalling the statistics quoted earlier that over 50% of the deaths from disasters
occur in low human development countries, whereas only 1.8% occur in high
human development countries, it is clear that there is a link between
development and disaster (UNDP, 2004). What is less clear is what that
relationship looks like and how it actually manifests in disparate experiences of
Disasters can have significant, devastating effects on development. A
single hazardous event can destroy years of development efforts; an earthquake
can destroy roads or buildings; flooding destroys cropland and infrastructure, etc.
Although this loss of infrastructure is the most obvious consequence of a disaster,
it is not the only one. The social ramifications of a disaster, such as death,
disablement, and migration, can significantly impact the economic and social
wellbeing on a local, regional, national, and global scale (UNDP 2004).

In contrast, the effect of development on disasters is less obvious, but
critical nonetheless. Development practices that are contextually inappropriate,
poorly planned, narrowly defined, and inadequately executed can exacerbate
vulnerability and increase the likelihood of a disaster (UW-DMC, 1997; UNDP,
2004). One way in which development can increase disaster vulnerability is by
failing to incorporate disaster planning into development strategies. Development
initiatives that do not consider the hazard risk of an area, and plan accordingly,
are being unrealistic; hazards are an inevitable part of life. For example, Cairo,
Egypt experienced an earthquake in 1992 that caused massive damage through
loss of life and damage to infrastructure. Over 500 people died, 4,000 were
injured, and 2,500 houses were destroyed (UW-DMC, 1997). In addition to
incorporating disaster planning into development plans, ensuring the
implementation of those practices is paramount. In China, for example, official
policy requires that buildings be constructed to earthquake standards; in reality
many buildings were not built to code. This turned into a disaster when, in 2008,
an earthquake hit Sichuan, China. Buildings not built to code, including schools,
were more prone to collapsing, resulting in many deaths (Oviatt and Brett, 2010).
If buildings had been constructed to earthquake standards during the development
process, the hazardous event would not have been prevented, but the effects
would surely have been less severe.

The other way in which development can increase vulnerability to
disasters is by altering/weakening both environmental and social systems. Rapid
urbanization, environmental degradation, rapid population growth, and new
production/consumption practices are all consequences of development that can
heighten vulnerability by influencing how environmental resources are used and
how people interact with their environment (Clarke, 1995; Pelling, 2003).
Environmental degradation is a particularly salient repercussion of prevailing
development practices. Traditional development models have thus far failed to
find a balance between socio-economic needs and environmental constraints, with
current economic models encourag[ing] consumption and production practices
that largely ignore environmental constraints (Birkmann, 2006; Oviatt and Brett,
Around the world, a growing share of the devastation triggered by
natural disasters stems from ecologically destructive practices
and from putting ourselves in harms way. Many ecosystems have
been frayed to the point where they are no longer resilient and able
to withstand natural disturbances, setting the stage for unnatural
disasters- those made more frequent or more severe due to human
actions. By degrading forests, engineering rivers, filling in
wetlands, and destabilizing the climate, we are unraveling the
strands of a complex ecological safety net
(Abramovitz cited in ISDR 2004:27).
Development practices that degrade environmental systems can increase
the likelihood of a hazardous event, and is often the factor that transforms the
hazard into a disaster (ISDR, 2004). For example, deforestation for either

construction or agriculture creates vulnerability by increasing the instability of the
land, making the area more prone to landslides (Twigg, 2004). This is an issue in
many Caribbean islands where large producers of bananas/export crops have
taken over the valley floors, where the soil is the most fertile. As a consequence,
subsistence farmers are forced to plant on steep slopes, denuding the land,
precipitating erosion, and increasing the chances of a landslide (UN ISDR, 2003).
Such processes start a cycle of poverty and vulnerability that continually
reinforces itself; issues of poverty force people to use marginal lands; marginal
land use increase their vulnerability, which in turn exacerbates their experience of
poverty. The number of impoverished people throughout the world depending on
marginal lands for their livelihoods is significant; 80% of the poor in Latin
America, 60% in Asia, and 50% in Africa (Clarke, 1995).
In addition to environmental degradation, traditional development
processes have consequences that alter the relationship of people to their
surroundings, and challenge their ability to cope with environmental stressors.
Population growth, rural to urban migration, and changes in livelihood strategies
increase the pressure on environmental resources, and creates a disconnect
between people and their environment. Displacement through rural to urban
migration and a shift from subsistence farming to an emphasis on crops for export
erodes traditional practices and introduces new hazards. Traditional knowledge
about how to cope with hazards is undermined or becomes obsolete, which

decreases the ability of local populations to cope with hazards, ultimately
increasing their vulnerability to disasters (Clarke, 1995; Wisner, 2002).
The 1984/85 famine of Sudan is a good example of how these different
variables of development coalesce to increase disaster vulnerability by weakening
traditional social and economic practices. Before the 1970s, Sudanese farmers
largely practiced subsistence farming, and employed techniques such as crop
rotation, migratory grazing, and leaving land fallow to protect and maintain soil
fertility. Beginning in the 1970s, industrial agricultural techniques were
introduced to boost the nations agricultural export economy. Industrial
agricultural requires more land per farm than traditional agricultural and is
focused on producing cash export crops rather than food for local consumption.
The expansion of industrial agricultural, coupled with increasing population
pressures, reduced the land available for subsistence farming, and displaced many
people from their land. The cumulative effect of this was an overall increase in
vulnerability: social networks were destroyed; traditional farming techniques and
coping mechanisms were abandoned, and those who still had land farmed it more
intensively to produce enough food to survive, leading to an increase in
deforestation and soil degradation. With the emphasis on cash crops, people
became more vulnerable to fluctuations in market prices and job availability.
Drought is a common hazard in the Sudan, but the introduction of industrial
agricultural reduced the effectiveness of traditional coping mechanisms and

resulted in an increase of vulnerability. When the drought began in the early
1980s, traditional methods of coping proved ineffective and nearly 25,000 people
perished (excerpt from Oviatt and Brett, 2010; UW-DMC 1997: 35).
Given the intimate relationship between disasters and development,
decreasing disaster risk clearly means addressing the issues associated with
current development processes, and incorporating disaster planning into
development strategies.
Sustainable Development
Sustainable development emerged in the 1980s as an alternative to
traditional development. With the realization that traditional development
approaches often left an increasing number of people poor and vulnerable, while
at the same time degrading the environment, sustainable development is an
attempt to reconcile the disconnect between the environmental, economic, and
social spheres (Brundtland Commission, 1987). Sustainable development is
defined as development that can meet the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Our
Common Future, 1987). Unlike traditional development approaches that often
favor economic concerns over social issues, and favor both of these over

environmental concerns, sustainable development attempts to balance all three to
ensure environmental and social wellbeing.
The aims of sustainable development are increasingly seen as
complementary to the goal of disaster risk reduction. Sustainable development
ensures a higher resilience of the...human sphere while, in parallel, it promotes a
more sustainable human-nature interaction by taking the limitations of the
regional and local environmental capacity into account (Birkmann, 2006). By
reducing environmental degradation, improving livelihood opportunities, and
improving the health and education of societies, sustainable development can
reduce vulnerability to disasters.
A primary way in which sustainable development can contribute to
disaster risk reduction is by promoting practices that respect environmental
processes. Sustainable use of natural resources will increase the resilience of
communities to disasters by reversing current trends of environmental
degradation (UN ISDR, 2003). A classic example of how sustainable practices
can reduce disaster vulnerability is the case of Hurricane Mitch. In 1998
Hurricane Mitch caused massive damage throughout Central America, with
Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala suffering the worse. Nearly 20,000 people
died, and over three million were affected. Countries also experienced massive
losses in agricultural production; Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua lost 50-
70% of their production (Dayton-Johnson, 2004). Interestingly, however, losses

between conventional farms and agroecological farmers varied significantly.
Conventional farms that practiced clear-cutting and depended on chemical
fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides suffered significantly more losses than
agroecologial farms which utilized more sustainable practices such as integrative
pest management and planting cover crops (Twigg, 2004; World Neighbors,
2001). These sustainable practices did not prevent the hazardous event, but by
maintaining the health of environmental systems they were instrumental in
reducing disaster losses.
Sustainable Livelihoods
Given the significance of sustainability in disaster risk reduction,
understanding how it relates to issues of vulnerability and capacity is important.
The sustainable livelihoods approach offers a framework from which to integrate
these different variables as part of an assessment of disaster risk at the local level.
It encompasses the triad concept of environmental, social, and economic concerns
of sustainable development, but places people and their livelihoods at the center.
It recognizes that the need for a secure livelihood is the chief purpose and priority
of people, and aims to make development projects contextually relevant (Carney,
2002; Twigg, 2004).

A livelihood is defined as the capabilities, assets (both material and
social), and activities required for a means of living, and is considered
sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and
maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future without
undermining the natural resource base (DFID, 1999). This approach identifies
five primary assets that people utilize to reduce their vulnerability and increase
livelihood security: human, social, physical, financial, and natural capital (DFID,
1999). These five assets correspond to the social, economic, and environmental
triad of sustainable development, and will serve as the foundation for
understanding vulnerability and capacity for this research.
Sustainable livelihoods framework
Key H Hunan Capital S Social Capital
N = Natural Capital P Physical Capital
F = Financial Capital
; Influence!
;& access;
More income
Improved food
More sustainable
use of NR base
Figure 1 Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (DFID, 1999)

The different variables of the sustainable livelihoods framework
incorporate many of the variables of concern when understanding disaster risk.
The vulnerability context is comprised of the three primary factors that impact
and challenge livelihoods, shocks, trends, and seasonality, which provide a way to
understand disaster vulnerability. Shocks include health shocks (epidemics),
economic shocks (economic recessions or depressions), and importantly for this
work, natural shocks (hazardous events). Trends consist of social, political, and
technological trends such as population growth, urbanization, political changes,
etc. Seasonality acknowledges how vulnerability changes throughout the year
due to changes in employment opportunities, production, prices, food availability,
and health (Twigg, 2004). These processes/events frame the context in which
livelihoods are pursued, and pose significant challenges to livelihood security.
The livelihood assets are seen as the strengths or capacities that people
draw upon to make and secure their livelihoods. Understanding what assets are
available and how people combine them is important for increasing livelihood
security. In terms of disaster risk, these livelihood assets can be used to frame the
capacity that people have to lower their vulnerability.
Human Capital: The skills, knowledge, ability to labor, and good health that
enable people to achieve their livelihood objectives.
Social Capital: The social networks, group membership, and relationships

upon which people can draw.
Physical Capital: The basic infrastructure needed to support a viable
livelihood, including affordable transportation, adequate shelter, clean
water supply, and adequate sanitation.
Financial Capital: The financial resources people can access, including cash,
livestock, income, pensions, and remittances.
Natural Capital: The natural resource base from which people derive their
livelihoods, and which provide basic environmental services such as water
and air purification, erosion protection, and hazard defense. (DFID, 1999)
Transforming structures and processes are institutions, organizations, and
policies that influence the context in which livelihoods are pursued. They consist
of the public and private sectors, such as government agencies, judicial bodies,
corporations, and civil society organizations, which determine access to capital
(economic, social, political), and influence what livelihoods are pursued (DFID,
1999). From the perspective of disaster risk, these are the institutional
factors/players that constitute the social, economic, and political factors that
create vulnerability. Peoples livelihood opportunities and their disaster
vulnerability are both determined to a great extent by these larger social, political,
and economic processes (Cannon et al., 2004).
Livelihood strategies are the ways in which people meet their livelihood

goals. The three primary livelihood strategies available to rural people are
agricultural intensification/extensification, livelihood diversification, and
migration (Scoones, 1998). Individuals can either intensify their agricultural
production (get more output per unit), put more land under cultivation
(extensification), earn income off the farm, or migrate for work (Scoones, 1998).
These strategies can be combined in any number of ways to meet the needs of
people. In terms of disasters, livelihood strategies can be utilized in a variety of
ways to help people cope with the effects of a disaster. For example, migration
for work is a common strategy helping people recoup their losses after a disaster.
However, livelihood strategies that are not sustainable and fall within traditional
development can increase vulnerability by weakening environmental systems, and
altering social systems.
The sustainable livelihoods framework also helps pull together the different
variables that contribute to disaster risk. By placing disaster risk in the context of
sustainable livelihoods, we can gain a greater understanding of how hazards
create vulnerability, and identify specific strengths that people have for combating

Local Perspective and Knowledge
One of the foundations of the sustainable livelihood framework is its
emphasis on putting people at the center of development and understanding the
local context. The primary goal of this research is to identify local perspectives,
vulnerability, and capacity in terms of disaster risk. Understanding how people
perceive and define disasters is important for creating solutions to mitigate
disaster risk. If a project to lower disaster risk is not in line with the priorities and
perceptions of the people, its effectiveness will be limited. Furthermore,
understanding the local context is important as the way in which people apply
knowledge and action to mitigate risk is directed by their perceptions of the risks
they face (Twigg, 2004). Knowledge of how people perceive their role in
disasters is essential for understanding what actions they take (or do not take) to
either prevent or mitigate their risk. If people perceive disasters as acts of God,
they may be more inclined to feel that nothing can be done to prevent or lessen a
disaster (Twigg, 2004). An intervention aimed at decreasing risk will not be very
successful if participating communities dont feel there is much that they can do
to change their level of risk.
One of the primary aims of this research is to identify local strategies for
coping with disaster risk (capacity). For many people hazards have been
accommodated as part of daily life, and they have devised methods for protecting

themselves and their livelihoods (Twigg, 2004, UNISDRa, 2008). The concept of
capacity is closely related to what is referred to as indigenous knowledge (IK).
Although no definitive definition exists, IK can be conceptualized as the
complex arrays of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations that
guide human societies in their ... interactions with the natural milieu
(Nakashima et al., 2002). IK is extremely place-based. It is based in a
comprehensive understanding of the local environment and the practices that are
adapted to it. It includes technical knowledge, such as local building construction
methods, or ecological knowledge, such as knowledge of local food varieties or
locally appropriate agricultural methods and crops, etc. (Twigg, 2004; ICIMOD,
2007). The effectiveness of IK as a coping strategy has often been overlooked
and underappreciated. IK is an asset for local communities and can significantly
increase their capacity to reduce their disaster risk. Furthermore, basing disaster
risk reduction initiatives on indigenous knowledge can help encourage
participation, empower communities, and make such interventions more
successful (Twig, 2004; UNISDRa, 2008; UNISDRb, 2008).
Research Area
Bolivia is a developing country that suffers from many types of natural
hazards. Due to its tremendous geographic variation, Bolivia faces a variety of

hazards ranging from floods to persistent drought. With nearly 40% of the
population living in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less
than $1USD a day, Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America
(World Bank, 2008). This combination of exposure to natural hazards and
extreme economic vulnerability makes Bolivia an ideal site for exploring
vulnerability and capacity.
Research was conducted in communities in the municipality of Uriondo in
the department of Tarija, Bolivia. Like the rest of Bolivia, Uriondo suffers from
high rates of poverty; nearly 80% of the population is considered poor, and 50%
are considered to live in extreme poverty (Gobierno Municipal, 2007). These
communities were located within an area that was selected by PADEM, and was
part of their long-term project. These particular communities were chosen for
three primary reasons. First, they had suffered repeatedly from natural hazards.
Because of the frequent occurrence of natural hazards these communities were
considered high risk for a disaster. Secondly, they were located within a
department that is considered to be fairly stable politically. The often tumultuous
political situation of Bolivia can make it difficult for communities and NGOs to
work with local governments to make effective changes. The department of
Tarija was selected because it has maintained a relatively stable government,
which should make changes easier to implement. Lastly, these particular
communities were selected because of their request for help from PADEM.

These communities were interested in working with PADEM to decrease their
vulnerability to disasters.
The department of Tarija is situated on the southern end of Bolivia,
bordering Argentina. Participating communities were all located in the
municipality of Uriondo, and included La Choza, Chocloca, Colon Norte, Ancon
Chico, La Compania, and Pampa la Villa Chica.

Municipality of Urioudo
Figure 2 Research Area (Gobierno Municipal, 2007)

Data Collection
Data collection for this research was based on an approach called Rapid
Assessment Process (RAP) and was approved through the Human Subjects
Research Committee.2 RAP is defined as:
[intensive, team-based qualitative inquiry using triangulation,
iterative data analysis and additional data collection to quickly
develop a preliminary understanding of a situation from the
insiders perspective (Beebe, 2001).
RAP was originally selected as the research model because of its focus on
both team-based research and shortened timeframe, and its emphasis on
understanding the local perspective. It was initially believed that this research
was going to be performed as part of a research team with the PADEM field
coordinator. Although the PADEM field coordinator was an extremely helpful
partner in facilitating the research, he did not act as a partner during the data
collection process. Despite this move away from a team-based approach, RAP
2 HSRC Protocol 2008-161

remained an appropriate research model because of its focus both on multiple data
collection techniques and its emphasis on local perspective and collaboration.
As the name and definition indicate, the RAP approach is focused on
collecting as much information as possible within a short amount of time.
Utilizing multiple data collection techniques enabled me to collect a variety of
data within a short amount of time. This triangulation, increased the scope of data
collected, and allowed issues to be explored on multiple levels (Beebe, 2001;
Handwerker, 2001). Three primary research methods were employed: semi-
structured interviews, group interviews, and a creating seasonal calendars. These
methods were selected because their application was feasible and enabled the
researcher to gather sufficient data despite the challenges of conducting research
in rural Bolivia. Information from each of these methods was incorporated into
the others as a way to verify and strengthen the data. Exploration of the data from
multiple points served to increase the accuracy of understanding and to decrease
For effective research and meaningful data, it is important to understand
local categories and perspectives, and to understand what issues are relevant to
the community. This is best achieved by letting local participants identify the
variables of importance. This focus on local participation helps focus research on
what is relevant to the participants. Because the aim of this research was to

understand local perception of natural hazards, it was important to let participants
identify the variables of importance.
Research Methods
Semi-structured Interviews
Developing an understanding of the local context is essential to RAP.
Semi-structured interviews are an important method for gaining this
understanding. As Beebe clearly states, the goal is to get people to talk on a
subject and not just answer questions (Beebe, 2001). Semi-structured interviews
were conducive for this because, unlike completely structured interviews, they
allowed for a certain amount of flexibility. Interview questions were open-ended,
which enabled interviewees to freely elaborate upon their answers, and allowed
me to follow new leads at my discretion (Bernard, 2006). This approach enables
the researcher to understand and capture the points of view of other people
without predetermining those points of view through prior selection of
questionnaire categories (Patton, 2002). Structure, however, was maintained by
using an interview guide. This ensured that there was consistency among
interviews, allowed data from different interviews to be compared, and helped to
produce more focused data (Schensul et al., 1999).

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with at least four community
members in each of the participating communities. Interviews were designed to
address elements of perception, vulnerability, and capacity, and to identify the
relationship between livelihood strategies and hazard risk. Questions included:
What is a disaster?
Why do you think disasters happen?
What are the worst hazardous events you can remember?
How are crops and herds (other livelihood assets) affected by hazards?
o How do you protect them during a hazard?
What can you do to avoid a disaster?
How do people help each other during a disaster?
What practices do you know of that people use to lower the effects of a
After a disaster, what are your options?
What is the most important thing you need after a disaster?
In addition to individual interviews, group interviews were conducted in
Colon Norte, Chocloca, and La Choza. Group interviews are useful because as
participants interact and discuss issues, their communication gives rise
synergistically to insights and solutions that individual interviews cannot
produce (Patton, 2002). Group meetings addressed many of the same issues
discussed in individual interviews. This iterative approach served to confirm and
expand on information gleaned from the individual interviews.

Seasonal Calendar
An additional component of the group interviews was the making of a
seasonal calendar. Seasonality of both livelihood security and disaster
susceptibility contribute to the vulnerability of an individual and a community,
and is a central component for understanding the vulnerability context in the SLA
framework. Typically, certain disasters are more prone to occur during a specific
time of the year; identifying that time is important for understanding the cycle of
vulnerability. Livelihood security can also be affected by seasonality. Seasonal
changes in employment opportunities, of health, of food availability, etc. can
increase vulnerability (DFID, 2006). By creating a calendar, these cycles of
lesser and greater vulnerability become evident (Wisner, 2006; IFRC, 2007). A
seasonal calendar is also useful for encouraging participation (Venton and
Hansford, 2006).
Livelihood Cycle
During group meetings, community members created a calendar that
showed the cycle of economic and social vulnerability. Was there a time of year
in which food is more scarce? Was there a time of year when employment
opportunities decrease? What crops are produced during certain seasons?

Hazard Cycle
Community members also created a calendar that illustrated the cycle of
hazards. When do certain types of hazardous events occur? When are they the
Livelihood Vulnerability & Hazards
The information from these two areas was combined to compare the
cycles of livelihood vulnerability and disaster vulnerability. Understanding how
livelihood security and the disaster cycle correspond was extremely important for
understanding local vulnerability and capacity.
Selection of participating communities was based on recent hazard
experiences. Due to their remote location, access to and communication with
participating communities posed significant challenges for recruiting participants
and organizing the research. To overcome these challenges I employed a
combination of targeted and opportunistic sampling of participants. Because the
impacts of natural hazards are so ubiquitous and affect everyone I sought out a
heterogeneous sample and identified individuals who could represent community
diversity based on knowledge, livelihood experience, age, and gender (Ulin et ah,

2002). Working with individuals from the mayors office, we identified key
informants who would be both informative on the subject and who would
represent community diversity (Patton, 2002). Once I established a relationship
with these individuals I used a snowball or referral process asking them to
identify other community members that they thought I should speak with (Ulin et
al., 2002; Schensul, et al., 1999). These key community members were also
helpful in organizing group meetings in each community. They helped me
identify and contact other community members who would be interested in
participating, and organized meeting places.
Although such targeted sampling is ideal, the aforementioned challenges
of access and communication coupled with limited field time made this difficult.
It was often difficult to both contact community members in advance to organize
a meeting time and to organize travel to the communities. Given these
limitations, opportunistic sampling was employed as necessary and many
participants were selected based on access and availability. This approach
ensured that sufficient data were gathered despite the obstacles presented
throughout fieldwork.

Table 1 Research Activity
Community Individual Interviews Group Interview (Participants) Calendar Exercise
Colon Norte 4 23 Yes
Ancon Chico 8 0 No
Pampa la Villa Chica 5 30~ No
La Choza 0 11 Yes
La Compafiia 4 0 No
Chocloca 5 8 Yes
Total 26 72
A total of twenty-six individual interviews and four group interviews were
completed during fieldwork. The total number of participants was ninety, as eight
participants did individual interviews and participated in a group interview
Individual interviews were conducted in the privacy of the homes or
property of the participants to ensure confidentiality. The group interviews in La
Choza and Chocloca were held in a community members home, while in Pampa
la Villa Chica and Colon Norte they were held in a communal space. Information
from both individual and group interviews was recorded through field notes and a
small digital recorder. In group meetings notes were recorded on large sheets of
paper taped to the wall to encourage discussion and participation.

Data Analysis
Data from individual and group interviews was analyzed using ATLAS.TI
v6, a qualitative data analysis program (Ulin et al., 2002). Audio recordings from
individual interviews were fully transcribed. The research data was analyzed
using a combination of deductive and inductive coding. Because the aim of the
research was to understand vulnerability and capacity in terms of livelihoods a
codebook was compiled prior to coding using concepts from the sustainable
livelihoods framework. A set of criteria was defined for each code prior to coding
to establish consistency (Schensul et al., 1999). This approach helped to ensure
that the various livelihood variables remained at the center of the research. In
addition, an open coding strategy was used for data that couldnt be easily
compartmentalized into the variables of the sustainable livelihood framework
(Esterberg, 2002). This ensured that all data was incorporated into the analysis
process. Throughout this process, data was analyzed for relationships among
hazards, vulnerability, capacity, livelihood assets, and livelihood outcomes.

The primary purpose of this research was to establish a baseline
understanding of the context of disaster risk among communities in the
municipality of Uriondo, Bolivia. The question driving the research was what are
the local perceptions of hazards and risk, and what knowledge, skills, and
resources are utilized at the local level to mitigate these risks? Within this were
three specific aims: to identify local hazards and local perceptions of hazards,
identify the risks associated with each hazard, and identify local strategies for
coping with and mitigating these risks. From the outset, this research was based
on a livelihoods perspective. Given the centrality of livelihood security in the
lives of people, issues of vulnerability and capacity were framed in terms of the
sustainable livelihoods framework. This information was used to understand the
dual nature of the relationships among hazards and livelihoods, to identify not
only how hazards affect and weaken livelihoods, but also how livelihood assets
are utilized to increase capacity.

Livelihood Strategies
Participating communities were all located in a rural area approximately
25 kilometers from the nearest city center, Tarija. This distance from an urban
center limited what livelihood options were available to people in these
To reduce their vulnerability residents of the area typically employed
multiple livelihood strategies. According to a study done by the municipal
government, 67% people are in agriculture or livestock, 27% are in service or
transport jobs, 3% work in industry and 3% in business (Gobierno Municipal,
2007). This project confirmed this, with agriculture and livestock being the most
discussed livelihood activities among all participants.
Most individuals I spoke with raised a variety of crops, some for
consumption, some to sell on the market. Although subtle, this combination of
growing food crops and export crops can help lower vulnerability. In areas where
non-food crops are grown for export, populations are vulnerable to fluctuations in
market value of their product. For example, when the international coffee
agreement ended in 1989, prices plummeted, and growers around the world were
left in a very precarious position; fields had been cleared for coffee plants, which
yielded little on the market and, being a permanent crop, took up the space
available for growing food crops (Kamola, 2005). By diversifying, growing both

food and export crops, the people of Uriondo buffer themselves against changes
in the market value of goods. In the case of devaluation of a product, they will
still have food crops to help them survive. Furthermore, in the case of a
hazardous event, even if crops are stunted and not suitable for the market, they
can still be a food source for families.
The most widely reported crops were grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, and
onions. This area of Bolivia is known for its wine production, and is considered
the Andalusia of Bolivia because of its Mediterranean climate. Vineyards, both
large and small, covered the landscape, and are a primary crop of many families.
In addition to agriculture, many families raised a variety of livestock
animals. Livestock was raised for personal consumption, work, or to sell on the
market. The most commonly reported animals were cows, sheep, goats, pigs,
chickens, and horses.
Residents of Chocloca and Pampa la Villa Chica were fortunate enough to
have a Centro de Acopio Lecheri'a, a milk storage and refrigeration location.
Access to these centers enabled these communities to incorporate milk and cheese
production into their livelihood strategies.
In addition to agricultural work and raising livestock, many men take jobs
as laborers. Men will often work for the larger vineyards in the area or will take
on short-term construction projects. Another common livelihood activity was
working in the transportation sector. The amount of traffic to and from Tarija,

was significant, as it was the primary place to buy and sell goods. Since there is
no formal public transportation system, and most people do not own a personal
vehicle, many men would convert their vehicle into a taxi.
When these local livelihood pursuits failed to yield sufficient returns,
migration for work was cited as being an additional strategy. Most migration was
seasonal, although people did report that occasionally some individuals did move
away permanently. Such migration was typically limited to a few months of
leave, approximately 6 months, during the winter months (March to August).
Due to Uriondos close proximity to the Argentinean border, approximately an
hour by bus, and the low cost to travel there, most people reported that Argentina
was the primary destination for most migratory work.
These livelihood strategies lay the foundation for how people experience
natural hazards. How people define a disaster, what hazards they perceive as
most important, what resources they need for lowering disaster risk, all relate to
the type of livelihood strategies they pursue. Livelihoods set the stage and define
what vulnerability and capacity look like in Uriondo.
Vulnerability Context
The vulnerability context in the sustainable livelihoods framework
consists of the different challenges that individuals and communities face, and is

defined by three main variables; shocks, trends, and seasonality. The combination
and severity of these variables significantly defines the context within which
livelihoods are pursued.
Although the sustainable livelihoods framework identifies many different
types of shocks (social, economic, natural, etc.), this research focuses specifically
on natural shocks (hazards). The hazards identified by the communities in
Uriondo were not the more cataclysmic events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes,
tornados, etc., that tend to make headlines. They were not hazards that
necessarily pose immediate threat to human well-being, but rather, were hazards
that diminish the solvency of the local livelihood strategies outlined above.
Although smaller in size, the cumulative effect of these everyday disasters can
be significant (Twigg, 2004).
The two most common hazards cited by participants were hailstorms and
frosts. As Table 2 shows, nearly all participants discussed these two events, while
other hazards were mentioned less frequently. These hazards were consistently
the first hazards to be mentioned by participants and were the most frequently
discussed. Other hazards that were also commonly cited were droughts and

floods. Landslides and strong winds were also mentioned, but with very low
Participants consistently reported that hailstorms and frosts were both the
worst and the most important of the hazards plaguing communities (see Table 3).
Reasons participants gave for identifying these as the worst hazards included both
their unpredictability and their ability to quickly destroy a large amount of crops.
La helado o el granizo es lo que mas le afectan. Porque despues
un cambio cuando hay falta de agua, si no llueve de arriba, una
riada con agua corriente lo salva. Pero cuando que vine una
helada, por ejemplo, que vino ahora los llevo casi noventa por
ciento... de la produccion. El granizo es lo mismo.
Frosts and hailstorms are what affect us most. This because when
there isnt much water, if it doesnt rain, then a flood will come
and save us. But when a frost comes, for example, like now, it
takes about ninety percent of the production. Hailstorms are the
-Participant 1, Ancon Chico
From this perspective, drought is perceived as a problem, but it is seen as
less of an issue because there is the possibility that it can be its effects can be
mitigated. With a hailstorm or frost, however, the effects are immediate and
Frosts and hailstorms were also perceived to be the most dangerous of all
the hazards due to the severe effects they have on crops. Most hazards werent
considered dangerous as they didnt immediately threaten human well-being

through death or injury. However, frosts and hailstorms were considered
dangerous in that they posed the greatest threat to livelihood stability by having
the potential to wipe out a significant amount of crops very quickly.
The hazards experienced were fairly consistent across communities,
although nearness to a dependable body of water did influence how participants
discussed both floods and droughts. The tables below provide a visual
representation of participants responses in each community, giving a sense for
hazard variability among communities.

Table 2 Hazards Reported by Participants
Hail Frost Flood Drought Other
Reported Hazards
Table 3 Hazards Considered the Worst by Participants
Hail Frost Flood Drought Other
Worst Hazards

Trends, as identified by the sustainable livelihoods framework, include
social, political, and technological conditions that affect the circumstance under
which livelihoods are pursued. Although there were undoubtedly many trends at
work, this research did not directly pursue information pertaining to them.
However, one trend did reveal itself during the course of research. Population
growth is an issue worldwide, and Uriondo is no exception. The approximate
population of the municipality was 12,000 in 2007, but is growing steadily, with
over 40% of the population being under the age of fifteen (Gobiemo Municipal,
2007). This growth in population is putting pressure on resources, specifically the
availability of land. One participant said that they would like to buy more land,
but complained that there is none available to purchase because it is all being
handed-down to the younger generation. This lack of land is cited as a cause for
migration for work. This same participant said that because they do not have
enough land, they must look elsewhere for work. Another participant said that he
and his family had spent many years in Argentina because they did not have
access to land. It was only after his father passed away and left him his land that
he and his family were able to return. Population growth as a source of
vulnerability is only going to intensify. The need to support a larger population

on the same amount of land will undoubtedly increase migration, prompt
agricultural intensification, and put more pressure on the natural resource base.
An important element of the sustainable livelihoods framework, and of
this research, was to identify the seasonal periods of vulnerability throughout the
year. During group meetings, participants created calendars that revealed cycles
of asset and hazard variability. These calendars were then merged to reveal times
when hazards overlapped with agricultural activities to create periods of increased
The calendars revealed that communities are vulnerable to some kind of
hazard for the majority of the year. As the table below shows, the only month that
no threat from hazards was reported, excluding drought, was April. Frosts are a
winter occurrence, and can happen anytime from May to September, with June
and July being the worst months. This was the time during which fieldwork was
conducted, and I can vouch for the frigid temperatures during these months. As
soon as the threat of frosts subsides, hailstorms become a potential hazard. As
expected, hailstorms coincide with the rainy season, which runs from October to
March. The worst hailstorms typically occur in the early spring months, October,
November, December, but can happen as late as February or March. Unlike frosts

and hailstorms, which only occur periodically throughout the year, drought is
constantly present. As expected, the worst months for drought are from May to
October, in the interim period between the rainy months. Participants report that
even during the rainy season they typically do not receive sufficient amounts of
rain. It is important to note that the only community to make a calendar of the
cycle of drought was Colon Norte. While other communities did discussed the
issue of drought, they did not consider it a primary hazard and did not make a
calendar for it. The landscape in Colon Norte is very hilly, without easy access to
water, causing most residents to suffer from lack of water. Because the
experience of drought is worse for Colon Norte, this calendar cannot be
considered to represent the experience of drought for all communities in the area.
Table 4 Vulnerability Calendar
May Jun Jul Auq Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr
Frost X W w X X
Hailstorm X X w w w X X X
Drought W w w w w w X X X X X X

Onion X X X X X X X X X
Alfalfa X X X X X X X X X X X X
Grapes X X X X X X X X X
Potato X X X X X X X X X
Corn X X X X X X
Tomato X X X X X X
The calendar begins in May to maintain continuity of the primary growing season
W represents when communities identified a hazard as being at its worst

The bottom portion of the table displays the growing season for staple
crops. As expected, the majority of crops are planted during the early spring
months, beginning in August/September. When the pattern of hazards is
compared with the growing cycles of important crops, we can identify periods
when crops, peoples primary economic asset, are most vulnerable. The columns
in grey represent the most vulnerable period for communities.
August and September were identified as a vulnerable period because this
is the beginning of the growing season for many crops. When crops are in their
nascent stages, they are particularly vulnerable, and the effects of a frost during
this time can cause significant damage. The height of the growing season,
October through December, was also identified as a vulnerable period because it
corresponds to the time when hailstorms are the worst. A severe hailstorm during
this time can jeopardize an entire harvest. It is also late enough in the growing
season that people are not able to replant and start again. If crops are damaged
early on in the growing season, it is sometimes possible to replant and make a
Livelihood Assets & Vulnerability
The hazards of the area pose significant challenges to the stability of the
communities livelihoods, and impact all of the livelihood assets in some way.

Through the erosion of these assets, communities experience an increase in
Economic Vulnerability
Although hazards impact all the livelihood assets in some way,
participants were most concerned about the effects they had on economic assets.
In terms of economic assets, hazards create vulnerability in two ways. The first is
by directly damaging assets, specifically crops and livestock. A single hazard can
destroy the assets of a community or individual overnight. Such an event can
leave people with few options for income generation, and challenge their ability
to meet their basic needs. The second way is more subtle. As will be discussed in
4.4, methods do exist that communities can access to help combat the effects of
hazards. However, the cost of these methods is considerable. Because of the
significant threat hazards pose to livelihood security, people are obliged to use the
limited economic assets that they do have to purchase these items in an attempt to
reduce their risk level. The economic capital required in this effort is significant;
it drains the economic capital they have available to them, and takes it away from
other necessities such as food, fertilizers, seeds, healthcare, and education.

Crop Vulnerability
With agriculture as the primary livelihood strategy of nearly all
households in participating communities, crop damage was the most widely
reported risk of the area hazards. Hailstorms and frosts can have immediate and
devastating effects on crops; a single event has the potential to decimate an entire
harvest. Two factors that participants identified as significantly influencing the
degree to which crops were damaged by a hailstorm or frost were hazard severity
and crop maturity.
The severity of the storm plays a significant role in determining the degree
of crop damage. Intuitively, the more severe the storm, be it hail or frost, the more
damage experienced. Frosts were reported to be the worst in the months of June
and July (see Table 4), the coldest months of the year. Hailstorms are the worst
between October and December.
Crop Maturity
The other major influencing factor is the stage of crop maturity. Crops are
more vulnerable to the effects hazards at different stages of their growth and
development. If a frost occurs when a crop is immature, the effects are much
greater than when a crop is more developed.

. el arbole estan casi en flor. Todo esta ya salido su florcita.
^Pero que pasa ahora? Si no helade, esto va a seguir su camino.
Pero si helade, otra vez chao.
. .the trees are almost in bloom. Everything is blooming. But
what happens now? If it doesnt freeze, they will continue down
their road. But if it freezes, say good-bye.
-Participant 5, Chocloca
The combination of these two factors determines the degree to which
crops suffer from the effects of a hazardous event. Depending on the combination
of these factors, the effects can range from mild to severe. A common effect is
stunted crop growth, both in the short-term and long-term. In the short-term, a
crop may survive a frost or a hailstorm, and still be viable, but it will not reach its
fullest potential. Crops will yield a harvest, but will be half the size of a healthy,
normal crop.
Helada, que nos dejo todo la papa esta chicito... para comer
practicamente, nada mas... consecuencia por la helada.
The frost made all of the potatoes small... theyre only good to
eat, nothing more... consequence of the frost.
- Participant 1, Ancon Chico
Although much better than losing an entire harvest, stunted growth has
significant ramifications on livelihood security. Stunted crops cannot be sold for
much, and are usually only good for personal consumption. Stunted growth is
also a long-term concern for certain crops. In the year(s) following a hazardous

event, a crop may produce, but will produce less than what its potential is. In the
case of grapes, depending on the extent of the damage, there is the possibility that
the plant will grow, but will produce only leaves, not fruit. The long-term
implications of crop damage have significant economic consequences, as crops
show a decrease in yield, thus increasing vulnerability long after the event takes
Livestock Vulnerability
In addition to affecting agricultural yields, hazards also have impacts on
livestock. The impact that a hazardous event has on livestock varies depending on
the type of hazard. Floods, although a relatively rare phenomenon in this area of
Bolivia, can have immediate, significant impacts on livestock. Animals of all
sizes, including cows, can be swept away if they are in the river valley when a
flood comes. In contrasting, hailstorms, frosts, and droughts typically do not
cause immediate damage to most livestock. In rare cases, a particularly severe
frost or hailstorm can cause death either because of the cold, or because of the
impact of a hailstone. Chickens, because of their small size, are most vulnerable
in these cases. However, in most cases, participants reported that livestock are
affected because hazards kill the vegetation that sustains them. Participants
frequently reported that hailstorms, frosts, and droughts would kill the animals
food, thus indirectly killing the animals.

Infrastructure Vulnerability
Damage to infrastructure appears to be a relatively rare occurrence. Not
surprisingly, hailstorms were the primary hazard that participants cited as causing
any damage. In the case of a particularly severe storm, participants reported that
roof tiles and power lines could be broken. The other hazards discussed by
communities, droughts and frosts, were not reported as causing any damage to
infrastructure. Although floods surely have the potential to damage infrastructure,
no participants in this study reported any damage.
Social Vulnerability
Understanding how risk varies among different social groups in a
community is of chief interest to those who do vulnerability analyses of
communities (Canon et al., 2004). This research did not delve into the intricacies
of social vulnerability, but did probe participants on how they viewed the
vulnerability of different groups. Most participants didnt feel there was any one
group of people who suffered disproportionately more than any other when a
hazard struck. Owing to the ubiquitous nature of frosts and hailstorms, the
primary hazards experienced, no specific area or group in a community was
reported as being more vulnerable than another. These hazards are only

minimally influenced by geographic variations, and participants reported that
everyone in a community was equally affected by these hazards. Furthermore,
because the primary livelihood strategy of most community members was
agriculture, most of the population shared a similar burden of vulnerability. In the
event of a hailstorm or frost, typically the entire community was affected, and
suffered together.
Toda la gente porque toda de agricultura.
All the people because everyone does agriculture.
-Participant 1, Chocloca
Nevertheless, when pressed, a number of participants did report that
people that had more were more affected by a hazard.
.. .la gente que tiene mas. Que no tienen nada, no afecta nada.
Que tenemos, mas afecta.
.. .the people that have more. Those who have nothing, it doesnt
affect at all. We that have, are more affected.
-Participant 5, Ancon Chico
Individuals or families that have more assets, such as land, crops,
livestock, etc., risk losing much more than a person with fewer assets. Although
unarguably true, this seems to indicate vulnerability on a micro-scale, rather than
vulnerability on a macro-scale. An individual with more land would likely have
more economic assets in the form of crops and livestock, and thus, as participants

reported, have the potential for much greater losses in the event of a frost or
hailstorm. However, because they have more assets initially, it is likely that they
have more assets to draw upon during a time of vulnerability, making them
comparatively more secure despite their greater initial loss. Furthermore, it is
likely that since larger landholders have more assets prior to a hazardous event,
that they can invest in items that help to lower the effects of a hazard. Although
participants reported that all community members are equally affected, there is a
strong probability that smaller landholders are more vulnerable to the effects of
hazards because they do not have access to as many assets, both pre and post
Natural Vulnerability
Access to natural resources can significantly influence disaster risk. The
primary natural resource that participants reported they lacked was access to a
reliable water source. Many participants in Colon Norte cited lack of water as
their main concern. However, even in communities that had irrigation canals,
participants reported that if they did not receive much rain, the irrigation canals
would not supply enough water for crops. Conversely, an overabundance of
water can also be a hazard. Participants who owned land touching a river
reported that flooding was a chief concern of theirs.

Access to water has important implications for livelihood security. Given
that the primary livelihood activity in the area is agriculture, adequate water
supply is essential for crop and livestock viability. Drought creates vulnerability
by weakening economic assets and creating livelihood insecurity. Although many
participants who had access to irrigation canals said that the water supply wasnt
always sufficient, they still maintained a higher level of security than those
without any access to irrigation canals. When we consider migration a red-flag
for livelihood vulnerability, it is interesting to note that Colon Norte, the
community that was most affected by drought, was also the community that was
most concerned with migration for work. Individuals from communities that had
access to irrigation canals did not report drought as their primary concern, and
were not as concerned about the issue of migration.
Livelihood Assets
One of the central aims of this research was to identify strategies that
people employ to combat the effects of the hazards they encounter. Using the
sustainable livelihoods framework, capacity was framed in terms of livelihood
assets to understand how specific assets were utilized to reduce disaster risk.
Participants identified a variety of strategies they use to mitigate the risks

associated with each hazard. By combining the assets available to them,
communities can lessen the effects of a hazard, lower their vulnerability and,
ideally, keep their livelihoods intact. Although all five assets in the SLA
framework undoubtedly contribute to an individuals/communitys ability to cope,
discussions with participants revealed coping strategies related to physical, social,
and economic assets.
Physical Assets
Participants reported using a variety of physical assets to help mitigate the
effects of the hazards that affected them. Here, the term physical assets refers not
just to infrastructure, but includes physical items that are used to lower disaster
In terms of combating frosts, one of their primary hazards, participants
had a kind of shrug your shoulders response. Due to the unpredictable nature of
frosts, anticipating when/where one will occur is not feasible. The majority of
participants reported that there were no effective strategies for mitigating the
effects of a frost. Some participants did say that fire or smoke was sometimes
used to protect crops from the effects of a frost. One participant said that they

have burned clothing, shoes, etc. for a fire to keep fruit trees alive, a crop that is
both vulnerable and valuable. However, every person that mentioned fire as a
strategy, made a qualifying remark about how ineffective it is. A greenhouse, or
invernadero, was also mentioned as a possible solution by one participant, but
they admitted that they are expensive and not feasible.
The hazard that seems to inflict the most damage on communities is also
the one that people reported having the widest range of strategies to reduce risk.
Unfortunately, however these strategies are expensive, the consequence being that
not everyone has sufficient access to them to adequately protect their crops.
Maya anti-granizo were the most frequently cited strategy for reducing the
effects of a hailstorm. Maya refers to a fabric that is positioned over the
vineyards to protect the grape crop. This fabric helps to keep the hailstones from
damaging the crop. The most effective form of maya is to have it overhead
suspended on a framework, covering the entire field. However, this method is
expensive, requiring a great deal of fabric and supporting infrastructure, and is
typically only used by large vineyards. Most people simply drape the maya over
the plant. This method helps to reduce the impact of the hail, but is not nearly as
effective as the overhead maya.

Figure 3 Maya Anti-granizo (photo taken by author)
Another widely reported method was the use of bombas. A bomba, as the
name implies, is a type of bomb that emits a chemical that causes the storm to
dissipate. These bombas can be dispersed into the storm cloud via plane, canon,
or storm towers. Unlike maya, which are owned by individual landowners,
bombas are a community resource; communities would either pool their resources
together to purchase them or would go as a group and petition the alcaldi'a,
mayors office, for funding. Although bombas were widely reported to be an
effective strategy, they are expensive, so they can be difficult for communities to
acquire. Despite their expense, many participants considered them a necessity.

The third resource participants reported as a strategy for reducing risk
from hail was a radar system. A radar system enables communities to identify
and track storm systems. This would help them know when and where to use
bombas. Participants reported that the area had gone through the first phases of
installing a radar, but unfortunately, due to insufficient funds, the project was not
completed, and as of 2008, had not been fully implemented.
Discussion around coping strategies for flooding was limited as most
participants did not report it to be a primary concern. However, one participant
whose fields were located near the river, advocated feverishly for the construction
of defensives, defense walls. The added protection of these fortifications
decreases the risk of a flood by securing the bank and preventing floodwaters
from entering fields.
The primary piece of infrastructure useful for combating drought was
irrigation canals. Communities that did not have access to irrigation canals
responded that drought was major concern for them. Although irrigation canals
are successful in decreasing the experience of drought, they are a large-scale
infrastructure project requiring a great deal of capital and planning. The

communities without canals do not have the resources to construct canals
themselves, and must depend on the mayors office or other government entity to
supply the funding and start the project.
Economic Assets
Economic assets bolstered capacity to cope with hazards in two ways.
Most obviously, economic assets could be used to purchase the physical assets
discussed above thereby lowering disaster risk. The second type of economic
asset that can contribute to lower vulnerability is the utilization of loans. Many
participants revealed that an important strategy for coping after a loss was to take
out a loan. With the loss of their economic base (crops/livestock) these loans
gave them the capital necessary to buy fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, etc. to replace
lost assets and start again.
Social Assets
The ability of a community to come together can be a crucial factor for
lowering disaster vulnerability. In terms of hazards, this asset manifests itself in
two ways: community assistance and political advocacy.

In the semi-structured interviews participants were often asked how they
were able to help one another after a hazardous event. They often cited that help
was limited and that economic help was typically not possible. As discussed
earlier, the hazards facing these communities, specifically hailstorms, frost, and
drought, are not geographically isolated, and affect nearly everyone in a
community. Therefore, if one individual was affected by a hazard event its likely
that everyone else was as well. Although economic assistance was not typically
an option for neighbors, community members did ensure that everyone had
enough to survive.
Si alguien no tiene para comer, comen. No tiene/tiene, igual,
come. Pero cuando viene el helada, el granizo, no hay para nadie-
ni por pobre, ni por rico. Igual, no tenemos.
If someone doesnt have anything to eat, they eat. Regardless if
they dont have or have, they eat. But when a frost or hailstorm
comes, there isnt anything for anyone- not poor or rich. Equally,
we dont have anything.
-Participant 5, Ancon Chico
Beyond this, community members were able to assist each other in terms
of physical help. If there was a form of infrastructure damage, community
members would come together to help with the repairs.
In addition to community assistance, the ability of a community to come
together and advocate for help from their political representatives is an extremely
important asset for helping communities cope. Many participants reported

coming together as a community and asking the alcaldia, the mayors office, for
assistance. Because of the exorbitant price of some of the physical assets
necessary to lower hazard risk, such as maya, bombas, radar systems, and
irrigation canals, communities need the governments help in obtaining them.
Individuals who did not take part in the communitys effort to get government
help reported not having access to resources, specifically maya, because they did
not participate in the process. A communities ability to come together and
petition for assistance is crucial for helping them access resources and lower their
disaster risk.
Transforming Structures & Processes
Transforming Structures & Processes are the institutions, organizations,
and policies that shape livelihoods (DFID, 1999). In the context of natural
hazards in Uriondo, the most influential player outside of the communities was
the local government. Participants often referred to the alcaldia or mayors office
when discussing various aspects of their experience with natural hazards and
often expressed mixed feelings about the governments performance.
Through my discussions with participants it was clear that the alcaldia
does provide communities with support in terms of both disasters and livelihoods.
First, it provides pre-disaster support by helping communities access resources

needed to reduce risk to hazards. By getting maya out to people, by funding the
radar project and irrigation canal construction the government helps communities
ameliorate the risks of hazards. The government also provides post-disaster
support in the form of food, fertilizers/pesticides and seeds. This aid is intended
to act as a safety net in the case of a disaster and help people recover from their
Most participants viewed these efforts as insufficient. One participant
sums it up, no es la cantidad, pero la intenta es bueno. Its not enough, but the
intention is good (Participant 1, Ancon Chico). The local government does take
steps to help the people, but these attempts to help are considered inadequate
compared to the level of need.
Government officials themselves also expressed frustration regarding their
ability to help communities combat the effects of natural hazards. During a
workshop put on by PADEM, government officials said that one of the challenges
they face is that when there is a transition in government, there is not enough
continuity between the policies of the old administration and that of the new one.
This can make it difficult to implement and complete projects, thus inhibiting
their effectiveness.

Livelihood Outcomes
Livelihood outcomes are the culmination of the relationship between the
various livelihood factors; livelihood strategies, the vulnerability context,
livelihood assets, and transforming structures and processes. They are the actions
that people actually take within the context of these different variables to secure
their livelihood. In the event of a natural hazard there are two primary livelihood
outcomes. Participants cited that their only option after a hazardous event was to
either stay and replant, or to immigrate for work.
Volver a sembrar, or replant, was a typical response given when asked
what they did after a hazardous event. This roughly translates into return to
plant. Many participants said that they had no choice but to replant and start over
again. To help them in this effort, participants said they could use a variety of
things, including chemical fertilizers and pesticides (chemicos), seeds, food, and
loan money. Chemicos and seeds were considered the most important items, with
nearly half of participants reporting them as the most important thing after a
disaster as they are the basis for agricultural production and are very expensive
(see Table 5). Loans were considered important in that they were a means for
purchasing chemicos and seeds.

Table 5 Most Important Thing Post-Disaster
Migration for work was also a commonly cited livelihood outcome. Many
participants said that if they lost their crop to a hailstorm or frost, their only
choice was to work abroad to earn money. Concern regarding migration varied
among communities. Colon Norte, a community severely affected by drought,
reported being very concerned with the level of migration. In contrast, when
asked if migration was an important issue for the community, participants in
Chocloca responded that with land, water, agriculture, and a lecheria, there
wasnt a need to leave. Migration for work can be seen as a bellwether for
vulnerability. When livelihoods are secure, as they are in Chocloca, migration is

less often employed as part of a livelihood strategy. If, however, livelihoods are
made vulnerable, either through a hazardous event or other occurrence, migration
was reported by participants to be a primary recourse.
Although migration is a symptom of vulnerability it is also a form of
capacity; it helps people cope with the consequences of a disaster by giving them
an option to regain some of the economic capital they lost in the event. The
money they earn during this time helps them to purchase the fertilizers, pesticides,
seeds, etc. necessary to plant again when they return.
According to participants, it is primarily men and younger people who
migrate for work. Women reported that they have to stay home in order to take
care of the children. Many people didnt view leaving for work as worth it. They
said that people leave to work menial jobs for very little pay. Despite this, many
people reported that migration was a common strategy for them after a disaster,
and saw it as their only option to recoup losses.

This research underscores the original proposition that livelihoods need to
be at the center of any attempt to understand natural hazards. How participants
perceived and understood hazards was largely in terms of how their livelihoods
were affected. Furthermore, their ability to mitigate the risks of hazards is
intimately related to the livelihood assets available to them.
One of the most interesting things realized through this research was the
dual-nature of many of the livelihood assets. Many assets increased capacity
while simultaneously creating an area of vulnerability. My initial assumption was
that if something was a livelihood asset, it was part of a communitys capacity
and thus inherently lowered vulnerability. Interestingly though, many things that
could be considered assets, also confer some level of vulnerability. Examples of
this would include the use of loans, the dependence on chemical agricultural
inputs, and immigration for work.
Loans were identified by many participants as an important strategy for
helping them get back on their feet after a hazardous event. In this capacity loans
can be considered an economic asset, one which helps people maintain their
livelihood activities. Conversely, loans bring a person or family into debt thus

increasing economic vulnerability (Chambers, 2006). One participant reported
that the interest for the loans was exorbitant. Such financial options offer short-
term solutions, but can create long-term vulnerability through indebtedness.
Dependence on chemical agricultural inputs is another example of how an
asset can simultaneously create vulnerability. Many participants reported that
chemical fertilizers and pesticides were the most important thing they needed to
help them recover after a disaster. These items are certainly assets, as they are
extremely helpful in increasing agricultural yields. Participants reported that
without these chemicos nothing would grow. Fertilizers and pesticides help
farmers to increase production thus increasing economic capital which is
intimately related to decreasing vulnerability. However, this use of chemical
inputs can increase vulnerability by draining existing economic capital primarily
because of their expense but also because of the risk of contaminating the natural
environment, thus diminishing the natural capital available to communities
(Horrigan et al., 2002). Although nuanced, this dependency on chemical inputs
consumes economic resources that could be used for reducing hazard risk and can
also potentially harm the natural environment, degrading the very source of
peoples livelihoods.
Seasonal migration provides a much-needed alternative for income
generation but also creates significant areas of vulnerability. Migration was an
often-cited strategy for coping with hazards. It enables families to recoup losses

and gain enough economic capital to start again the following year. In this regard,
it is unarguably an asset; it gives them a livelihood option when few exist at
home. However, inherent in this strategy is some level of vulnerability. It places
the worker in a tenuous position as migrants are considered a vulnerable
population. The work they do is typically hard labor with little pay. One
participant reported that sometimes a person will be denied pay because the
employer will say they have no money. Their lack of social capital in their new
place also contributes to their vulnerability. Because of the transient nature of
their work they do not have the security of family, friends, and community that
locals have. Additionally, in the case of an emergency or disaster migrant
populations do not typically have the same access to government resources or
services. Fear, distrust, and racism can keep migrants from utilizing the same
resources available to local populations (MDC, 2010). At home, the burden of the
work increases. Women, who typically stay at home, have to take care of both the
children and the animals themselves. The division of the family unit undoubtedly
has some negative ramifications with fathers or mothers being absent for
prolonged periods of time. Peoples property is also at risk when they migrate.
Many participants reported that abandoned houses were vulnerable to being
broken into by thieves. To protect against this, people have to pay someone to
watch their house for them, incurring additional expense.

In each of these cases vulnerability is simultaneously reduced and
increased. Loans, chemicos, and migration are assets in that they help
individuals and communities survive and meet their livelihood needs thus
reducing vulnerability. However, they each have ramifications (potential or real)
that create vulnerability in other areas. In these examples, short-term interest and
security appear to outweigh possible long-term consequences. Loans increase
wealth in the short-term; chemicos increase this years harvest; migration offers
income now. Because these decisions may have other (negative) consequences
and create other areas of vulnerability they must be incorporated into any analysis
of disaster risk. Understanding this dual-nature of livelihood assets requires
abandoning linear, compartmentalized logic and using a systems framework.
Systems thinking looks at the complexity of the cause and effect relationship
(Kay, 2008). This will offer a more holistic understanding of the consequences of
these different livelihood decisions.
Furthermore, this underlies the importance of integrating development
efforts into research on hazards and focusing specifically on sustainability.
Developing livelihood activities that are sustainable and which are compatible
with environmental constraints and hazards, ideally diminish the need for such
short-term solutions.
Another surprising finding in this research was how few viable strategies
people reported having to mitigate the effects of the hazards they were faced with.

An underlying assumption I had going into this research was that local people
would have special knowledge of how to cope with local hazards. My assumption
was that because people had been living in this area for a while, they would have
developed specialized knowledge/strategies for ameliorating the effects of the
areas hazards. It was a naive, romantic view of indigenous knowledge that
failed to consider the political-economic forces at play.
It is likely that there had been effective, locally specific coping strategies
but changes in the socioeconomic context, such as a new globalized economy,
intensified agricultural practices, and population growth, often render such local
knowledge ineffective. Current economic/development models are based on
continuous growth and consumption, an approach that changes how resources are
used, and often results in the exploitation of environmental resources.
Furthermore, they create inequalities by changing how resources are controlled
and distributed (Oviatt and Brett, 2010; Scandlyn et al. 2010; Wolf, 1982). These
factors change social structures and processes, introduce new livelihood
strategies, and change the way resources are used. These changes create a feeling
of uncertainty; previous knowledge may no longer be contextually relevant
(Kuhlicke, 2007). Although indigenous knowledge may still be effective and
sustainable, in these new contexts, it is no longer applicable. New strategies must
be designed/implemented that address the challenges created by this new
livelihood context. As discussed, participants do have strategies that help them

reduce risk in the current situation, such as maya, bombas, irrigation canals, etc.
Unfortunately, these strategies do not ease vulnerability as effectively as they
could because they are financially unattainable for most people and are thus not
utilized to their full potential.
For successful mitigation of disaster risk, new coping strategies must be
designed that are financially feasible, locally relevant, but which also incorporate
the larger socioeconomic changes the area has experienced. By focusing on the
local context and sustainable practices, I believe there are some interesting
changes that could be made that have the potential to increase capacity at the local
One possible intervention that could potentially help mitigate the effects of
the area hazards is a focus on farming crops that are drought/frost resistant. Some
crops are more able to cope with the effects of these hazards, and can survive
despite their occurrence. By focusing on crops that are capable of surviving these
hazards, the chance of a disaster is significantly lessened. A particularly
interesting aspect of this would be an investigation into how to integrate native
crops into the livelihood strategies of local people. Planting native crops can
lower the chance of a disaster because they are adapted to cope with local
environmental pressures. They are genetically diverse, which results in a high
resistance to pests and pathogens, and other environmental stressors such as
drought and salinity. This genetic variability provides built-in insurance against

hazards (Cleveland et al, 1994). Although indigenous crops may produce lower
yields as compared to modern crops in optimal environments, they produce higher
yields in the marginal environments they were specifically adapted to. Hopi, blue
maize, for example, is a crop that is adapted to the dry-climate of the southwest,
and can thrive on less water than other varieties of corn (Cleveland et al, 1994).
By planting crops, both native and non-native, that are well-suited to the local
environment, livelihood security could be increased, and the potential of a disaster
Another interesting avenue of work would be to work on implementing
sustainable agricultural methods. Instead of relying on chemical inputs for crop
viability, sustainable agricultural methods focus environmental health and
diversity. Practices such as crop-rotation, multi-crop planting, and integrative
pest management are more sustainable ways through which agricultural
productivity can be retained but which are less dependent on outside resources
(Horrigan et al, 2002). Such an approach requires in-depth knowledge of crop
relationships and local soil and climatic conditions. Exploring how sustainable
agricultural practices could be integrated into the current agricultural practices
could help lower dependence on external inputs and lower vulnerability.

Reducing vulnerability to natural hazards is an incredibly complex
proposition. It isnt limited to preparing for a natural hazard; its about addressing
inequities in social, economic and political systems, and creating sustainable
livelihood strategies. Placing livelihoods at the center of research on natural
hazards is essential for developing an accurate understanding of context in which
natural hazards are experienced. The type of livelihood strategies an individual or
community pursues influences how hazards are perceived, how disasters are
defined, and how vulnerability can be addressed.
Although there is no clear route on how to lower disaster vulnerability for
the people of Uriondo, providing them with livelihood support is a fundamental
part. Strengthening livelihood assets through education, the encouragement of
political participation, and the integration of new livelihood strategies, such as
sustainable agriculture, have the potential to build capacity and empower people
to address issues of vulnerability.

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