Insights from a transdisciplinal approach, essential for vulnerability assessment

insights-from-a-transdisciplinal-approach-essential-for-vulnerability-assessment

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – “Collaborative work is necessary in vulnerability assessment,” says Assistant Professor Maria Emilinda T. Mendoza of the College of Human Ecology of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

During the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) held on 27 August 2013, Prof. Mendoza presented the insights, lessons, and challenges in conducting a transdisciplinal assessment of climate change-related vulnerability in selected municipalities in the province of Laguna. Her study is part of a three-year, multi-country project titled “Building Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change in Southeast Asia” conducted by SEARCA and UPLB and funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.

Laguna was chosen as the study site for this project because it is among the top 10 most vulnerable provinces to climate change hazards in the Philippines. Though the provincial government and local government units (LGUs) have made progress in responding to climate change risks through the implementation of disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) programs, the province still experiences huge losses when hazards occur; hence, the need for a more comprehensive and transdisciplinal vulnerability assessment.

It was noted that the exposure of the province to typhoons and floods is still the primary cause of its vulnerability. However, Prof. Mendoza stated that human, social, and economic sensitivity to climate change hazards has major contributions to the province’s overall vulnerability. She cited the case of Barangay Pinagbayan in Victoria, which ranks 79th in terms of exposure but the highest in terms of sensitivity, making it the18th in overall vulnerability.

Her study revealed that the most vulnerable sectors in Laguna include the households with high incidence of poverty, the agricultural sector, the informal settlers, and the residents on or near lakeshores and rivers. She also noted that there are manifestations of overrepresentation of women when it comes to gendered division of labor during and after disasters, making women more vulnerable than men.

Prof. Mendoza highlighted the importance of a transdisciplinal approach that engages people beyond disciplines to acquire information and validate scientific contributions. She said that in a span of three years, the cross-cutting component in all the different studies they conducted is the participation of other actors such as the public and private sectors, civil society, and LGUs—a mark of a transdisciplinal approach.

At the end of her presentation, Prof. Mendoza emphasized that vulnerability is more than just exposure, stressing the importance of sensitivity and adaptive capacity. She also underscored the value of a transdisciplinal approach to the study of vulnerability because according to her, “complex issues must be dealt within an atmosphere of cooperation and openness to a variety of solutions.” (Mark Vincent P. Aranas)