3. Methodological Approaches

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 8th Aug 2012 | last updated 17th Aug 2012

Using stones to plot forest degradation over time. Photo by Tahia Devisscher (2011)

The analysis in this report seeks to understand the current vulnerability of the system to climate-related threats looking at past trends and coping strategies, as well as at the present conditions. This analysis serves as a basis to explore the future vulnerabilities of the system, which will be part of further research to be conducted in the site. In order to prevent issues that may arise from multiple meanings and interpretations of vulnerability, and in order to avoid using a specific assessment framework that locks the analysis in a particular way of thinking that does not necessarily capture all the conceptualizations of vulnerability, we analyse current vulnerability through the lenses of each one of the dimensions or key attributes described in the section above; namely: system, temporal reference, multiple threats, differential exposure, dynamic process, social networks, agency and collective action.

The analysis of vulnerability in this report focuses mainly on the social aspects of it, including the interplay between the social capital and nature. In this regard, the analysis understands vulnerability processes as rooted in the actions of human actors and the interactions with the nature base on which these actors depend. This analysis is complemented with another study that looks at the state of the ecosystems in the site (with particular focus on forests) and the local governance of forest resources (see Study of REDD+ Feasibility in the TNS Landscape).

A set of methods was used to elicit relevant information for the analysis. Table 1 below lists the methods used to generate information for each vulnerability dimension. The baseline assessment consisted of three stages: 1) a preparatory phase, 2) fieldwork, and 3) a feedback workshop.

Preparatory phase

Before conducting the fieldtrip we first started a preparatory process that involved literature review of documents and data relevant to the TNS landscape, as well as the development of survey questions and the liaison with key stakeholders in the project site. Our local partners, a network of local NGOS called ROSE, worked with us during the preparatory stage to identify key stakeholders and prepare the venue for training and capacity building on the methods we designed to use. Local authorities were also informed of our work and objectives. The first day in the project we visited all the relevant local authorities for a formal introduction.


The approach taken for knowledge elicitation during the fieldwork was participatory, involving in the process different social groups that reside in the sites of analysis. Working in collaboration with ROSE we gathered data, information and knowledge through focus group discussions, participatory observation, participatory mapping, interviews and surveys conducted in the sites. In the first instance, we conducted a two-day training on the participatory methods that involved village chiefs, representatives of the local NGOs and Forest Community Committees. This training helped us to test and refine the methods before their implementation in the sites. Once methods were tested and refined, they were implemented in four sites that represent the system of analysis. 

Each method used in the baseline assessment involved a different number of participants. The focus group discussions were conducted in the four sites and involved mixed groups of women, men, elderly and young participants. In some instances, we divided the participants in homogeneous groups of men and women in order to gain more balanced participation from both genders. Participants were generally selected by the village chiefs and local partners that supported the fieldtrip activities and were in most part representative of all the ethnic groups in the sites. In addition to focus group discussions where we applied a series of participatory exercises, surveys were conducted in 40 households per site over a total of 3 sites resulting in a sample of 120 households. Two surveys were applied (120 households each): one covering vulnerability perceptions and the other one focusing on REDD+ feasibility. In this analysis we only use the results of the former. Surveys were applied by a team of local supporters that were trained on the sampling technique and the survey questions before conducting the surveys in the 3 sites. 

Feedback workshop

After completing the fieldwork on all the four sites, we conducted a workshop to feed back to the participants the results obtained from the participatory research. This workshop served as a validation exercise and involved mainly village chiefs, local NGO representatives and key stakeholders from the sites engaged in the fieldwork. The workshop was structured in three parts:

  •  Presentation of the results and validation
  •  Introduction to concepts of climate change, adaptation and mitigation
  • Group work for the development of a common vision for local development and management of ecosystems based on current capacities and options to address potential disturbances from climate change and other threats

The group work was distributed in three groups, each of them working on one of the following topics:

  • Organisations and regulations to put in place in order to improve the enforcement of activities which take into consideration possible climate disturbances
  •  Strategies that are compatible with the sustainable management of forests and address possible climate disturbances
  • Capacities needed to improve the social structures that could enhance local development and activities around community forests