• Climate Change

Participatory Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Capacities in grassroot communities

Burkina Faso is a Sahelian landlocked country in the heart of West Africa with 13 regional territorial authorities, including the Regional council of Centre-Nord. Burkina Faso has faced climate disruptions in recent decades, of which the most recurrent manifestations are droughts and floods. In the region Centre-Nord the impacts derived from these changes in climate are: 

  • Continuous degradation of natural resources (soil, water, plants);
  • Decrease in crop and livestock production;
  • Irregularity and poor distribution of rainfall, as well as significant decrease in average annual precipitation;
  • Continued deterioration in community living conditions (famine, malnutrition, disease, loss of economic power, etc.);
  • Migration of population to more fertile areas;
  • Conflicts related to access to land and natural resources; and
  • Drastic decrease in river water volumes, or disappearance of certain water resources in the region.

As the population of the region lives mainly from agriculture, livestock and gold panning, climate change and its impacts pose significant threats to the local population, especially considering specific climate-related challenges in the region, which include: 

  • The population’s poor knowledge of the impacts of climate change;
  • Poor capacity of rural communities to reduce disaster risks and adapt to climate change;
  • Poor diversification of livelihoods;
  • Lack of resources for innovation in agriculture and livestock in order to develop practices adapted to climate change;
  • Low knowledge of citizens of the legislation;
  • Weak functioning of the system /effective prevention laws. 

The village of Nioko in Centre-Nord is one of the areas that have been severely affected by these hazards, which in turn severely affected the most vulnerable population, especially those who have lost all or part of their livelihoods. In response to this situation, development actors (NGOs) have joined public efforts to make their contributions to building community resilience. Thus, the Technical Alliance for Development Assistance (ATAD for is acronym in French) and its partners, notably OXFAM and Christian Aid, have been active in the Centre-Nord region since 2009. In 2014, the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK launched the BRACED project with Burkina Faso as one of the beneficiary countries. To respond to this call, ten international, local and public NGOs, with Christian Aid, as lead have organised themselves into a consortium. The objective of the BRACED project in Burkina Faso is to develop transformation solutions to climate variability and disasters by improving climate prediction, behaviour change and the sharing of expertise and resilience technology, with BRAPA (BRACED Participatory Approach) as a basis for intervention in the respective areas. 

Participatory Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Capacities – methodology

In the context of actions to combat natural disasters and humanitarian crises, participatory risk analysis appears to be a very important step. As such, the Participatory Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Capacities (VCA) is a participatory diagnostic and planning approach applied to vulnerability risk analysis and livelihood reduction. It is an investigative method to assess the risks faced by the population, its vulnerability to these risks, as well as the ability of the population to cope with and recover from disasters. In this regard, it analyses the context of risks and impacts on the different social groups, particularly women, through participatory tools, develops action plans for risk prevention and management, and develops financing schemes for actions contained in these plans (self-financing by the population and contribution of partners). 

The participation the of local population must be voluntary and conscious, meaning that there should be a process of control and approval of the approach and results by the population. The success of the operation requires good relations with local communities and a change in attitudes towards them, while the participatory approach is an active learning process (a mechanical approach to data collection – a process of knowledge production that places the community at its centre). The participatory approach should be flexible and innovative with the use of visualisation as a means of communication and capitalisation. In addition, it requires triangulation, meaning different sources of information to reach consensus conclusions. 

The VCA in Nioko village in the region Centre-Nord

Taking into account the high vulnerability of the Nioko village, it was chosen as one of the project areas for the conduction of the VCA. Therefore, during the month of April 2015 community discussions took place. Using a sustainable livelihood approach to assess the risks in the village different topics were addressed during the meeting:

  • The first step was the identification of the key events related to climate change in the past, including the impacts on the community and the associated adaptation strategy.
  • Then, a seasonal and daily calendar was developed, including the main activities of the population.
  • Third, risk classifications were conducted for each of the three risks identified: Droughts, epidemies and strong winds. In this process women and men were consulted in separate groups.  

Figure 1: Risk classification by women Figure 2: Risk classification by men

  • After this, a problem tree was created, together with a table including the causes and consequences associated with each of the three identified risks:
  • The next step included the vulnerability analysis (separately for each risk), including the
    • Risk element or target most affected by the risk
    • Degree of vulnerability
    • Nature of vulnerability
    • Consequences (of the problem tree)
    • Vulnerability measurement: What makes this group vulnerable?  
    • Analytical capacity: What capacities exist within those who are not classified as vulnerable? 
  • It followed a stakeholder analysis using the Venn diagram and a discussion on complaint mechanisms, experience with climate change, climate services and information source (e.g. radio). 
  • Last, the content of the action plan was developed:

Outcome of the VCA in Nioko:

The Nioko community is committed to the dynamics of resilience in the face of the shocks it has identified and analysed.  It relies on the commitment of the social strata that need the support of development partners and the support of technical services. It has the following defined indicators to measure its progress:

  • Increase in agricultural yield;
  • Availability of water in the slurry throughout the year;
  • Diversion of the water direction;
  • Producers have knowledge about the effects of climate change and work to adapt;
  • The poor and very poor have replenished or increased their livestock;
  • Increase in the income of women beneficiaries;
  • Improvement of the educational level of producers and resource persons in the village;
  • Tree density has increased in the village;
  • Existence of a functional village nursery;
  • Some harmful behaviour is less and less recorded in the village; and 
  • The population has access to weather information. 


More actions in this region