Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

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A Process-Oriented Sustainable Livelihoods Approach–A Tool For Increased Understanding of Vulnerability, Adaptation and Resilience

  • Per KnutssonAffiliated withHuman Ecology Section, Department for regional studies on the human condition, Göteborg University Email author 
  • , Madelene OstwaldAffiliated withEarth Sciences Centre, Physical Geography, Göteborg University

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The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) is often proposed to holistically capture vulnerability in assessments of livelihoods in aid and development programs. The full capacity of the approach has however only rarely been used in these assessments, lacking a clear account of processes of change and flexibility of assets, as well as the ability to quantify all capital assets of a livelihood system. The descriptions of livelihoods so far are in fact non-holistic. This paper attempts to use SLA in its full capacity through a quantification of the different capitals covered; natural, physical, economic, social and human. Further, the relationships between capitals are explored in a Chinese rural context of changing climate and land-use, and examples are given on how investments in one capital in reality can end up being accounted for in other capitals. The results indicate that through an analytical and process-oriented SLA, an effective tool for assessment of vulnerability can be developed. Such a tool would assist development organizations and policy-makers to target poverty traps and escape routes in the face of rapid and multiple changes.


adaptation assessment tool China rural small-scale farmers sustainable livelihoods approach vulnerability