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Vulnerability of Himalayan transhumant communities to climate change

Abstract

Climate change vulnerability depends on who you are, where you are and what you do. The indigenous communities who primarily depend on natural resources for subsistence livelihoods are among the first and most affected by climate change. Climate models have predicted pronounced warming in high altitude regions of the Himalayas. The transhumant communities of the Himalayas follow traditional lifestyles based on seasonal livestock rearing and subsistence agriculture. There is however, no information on how vulnerable transhumant communities are to climate change, and how vulnerability of transhumant herders differs across the mountainous areas of Nepal. Based on semi-structured interviews with transhumant herders and using the IPCC climate change vulnerability framework, this study assessed and compared the vulnerability of transhumant communities from three districts representing Eastern, Central and Western mountainous region of Nepal. The results showed that the livelihood vulnerability and the climate change vulnerability differ across sites; both of them having lowest index values in the Central region. The vulnerability dimensions viz. exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity are largely influenced by diversity in livelihood strategies, income sources and crops, and access to food, water and health facilities. The findings will inform the design of policies and programmes to reduce vulnerability and enhance adaptive capacity of indigenous communities in general and the transhumant communities of the Himalayas in particular.

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Correspondence to Suman Aryal.

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Aryal, S., Cockfield, G. & Maraseni, T.N. Vulnerability of Himalayan transhumant communities to climate change. Climatic Change 125, 193–208 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1157-5

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Keywords

  • Natural Disaster
  • Adaptive Capacity
  • Indigenous Community
  • Vulnerability Index
  • Napa