I recently came across a pioneering study of vulnerability in Kenya. Below are the extracts from the summary, with brief reflections based on more recent work (notably our review of the economics of climate change adaptation and low carbon growth). The earlier study integrated methods common in climate impact assessment (as the field was known in the 1980s) with concepts and techniques related to food entitlement, human ecology and household economics. The vulnerability assessment related specifically to climatic variability and household food security in six districts of Central and Eastern Kenya.
Research question 1. How does climatic variability affect household food security based on on-farm agricultural production?
During severe drought, there is little households are able to do to meet their food requirements from on-farm production. However, in moderate drought, average, and good years there is remarkable potential for agricultural improvements, sufficient to meet most household food requirements. This potential is constrained by availability of labor and capital.
Reflection: Still holds. Yet, there is often the naïve assumption in climate change vulnerability assessments that on-farm food security is the driving issue, as seen in some studies (the crop-climate model based studies by IFPRI and ILRI stand out, particularly when compared with the more complete work on sustainable livelihoods by the FAO, and many others). Vulnerability was well-established in the Kenya study as being located in socio-economic factors (see below) rather than the direct causal impacts of adverse climate events, yields and household production. The study adopted the sense of risk (perhaps anticipating Beck) and anticipation of a sequence of seasons.