STEP 3: Vulnerability Assessment

The vulnerability can be defined as “conditions determined by physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes which increase the susceptibility of an individual, a community, assets and/or systems to the impacts of hazards (United Nations General Assembly, 2016)”.

The vulnerability assessment uses the same categories as the ‘exposure assessment’ (see Step 2). The analysis is based on the selection of prioritized weather-related risks and the exposure assessment. It encompasses a variety of concepts and elements, with various international methods developed to include variant factors such as:

  • Physical dimensions − refer generally to the quality and strength of physical structures (and affected human beings). This includes buildings, productive assets (e.g. equipment, stock), and infrastructure relevant to the agricultural value chain (e.g. roads, dams, flood defences).
  • Economic dimensions − refer at the micro level to livelihood patterns of house¬holds at risk (e.g. source of income which may incur higher losses) and the private sector dependency, such as business interruption of SMEs (see Box 1, below). At the macro level, they refer to the vulnerability of an economic system and its capacity to absorb and deal with a specific damage or loss. Overall, impacts on all levels affect the gross domestic product, level of income/tax revenues, and general access to external finance, which is crucial after an event.

Box 1: Cost Calculation for Business Interruption Losses

The total cost per hectare is useful as a proxy for assessing business interruption losses, especially for fruit trees and permanent plantations affected by disasters. To quantify the importance of each crop for the agricultural sector, information on production value for all the crops needs to be collected. These average costs are not representative of subsistence farmers that use fewer inputs, and therefore have fewer production costs, or commercial farmers that use inputs intensively and obtain higher prices when selling their products on the export markets. Respective margins have to be added or deducted (World Bank/ADB/SPCCPS, 2013).

  • Environmental dimensions − refer to the disruption of livelihoods and other societal processes due to degradation of environmental services and function (e.g. the effect of deforestation causing higher ground temperatures, potentially resulting in drought). They further refer to the role of regulating ecosystems services for people exposed to disaster risks and climate change.
  • Institutional dimensions − refer to ‘systems’ and governance structures, including an enabling environment, and the capacity of (formal) institutions to manage risks and adapt to challenges (e.g. early warning systems). In addition, decision-making processes such as participation, responsiveness, transparency, and interactions between governmental and NGOs (especially those involved in DRM, CCA and sustainable agricultural development).
  • Social dimensions − refer to factors that make responding to a hazard event easier or more difficult such as initial well-being (e.g. nutritional status, health), livelihood and resilience (e.g. education, qualification, poverty and access to social-protection), self-protection (e.g. capability and awareness), social networks and institutions (e.g. farmers’ organizations). They also include discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity and age, and migration and displacement.

The analysis also includes assessing the spillover of weather-related impact on agricultural sectors e.g. flood damages on transport infrastructure that disrupts the supply of agricultural products in distant regions.

Guiding Questions and Tools

Guiding Questions

How vulnerable is the agricultural sector in terms of physical dimensions, economic dimensions, environmental dimensions, social dimensions and institutional dimensions?

What kind of data do you need − according to the priorities set under ‘exposure’?

Where is this data available? Are they of high quality? (see criteria under ‘hazard assessment’)

Are data openly available? What is the cost of obtaining the data?


General data from bureaux of statistics of national governments, government reports and others including academia and sector reports.

Specific data (bases):

Data-replacement costs

FAO: Online tool for reconstruction cost calculations of roads ($ per km)

Remote sensing techniques, GIS-based data, Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO) data.

Field visits and manual inspection of publicly available satellite imagery (e.g. Google Earth).

Information issued by academia (reports, publications, maps and forms), public databases, disaster reconnaissance reports and proprietary data.


GIZ (2014): The Vulnerability Sourcebook − Concept and guidelines for standardised vulnerability assessments

UN University − UNU (2013): Birkmann, Jörn (ed): Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards − Towards disaster resilient societies

World Bank (2016): Agricultural Sector Risk Assessment − Methodological Guidance for Practitioners. Agriculture Global Practice Discussion Paper 10

FAO (2015): The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security


World Bank/ADB/SPCCPS (2013): PCRAFI − Better Risk Information for Smarter Investments − Catastrophe risk assessment methodology

World Bank − GFDRR (2014): Understanding risks in an evolving world − Emerging Best Practices in Natural Disaster Risk Assessment

Global databases

FAO-GIEWS (Global Information and Early Warning System): combines information on weather hazards, crop production, prices and vegetation conditions and

Global Information Platform (GRIPWEB), supported by USAID: ‘Meta’ platform for integrating and sharing risk information, providing access to around 50 databases.

Semi-structured interviews with government officials, agricultural business associations and entrepreneurs, producers and civil society organizations (e.g. farmer associations), especially on social and institutional dimensions.

Expected Outputs When Using the Tools

  • Regular risk assessment of the agricultural sector provides important information to policy-makers for mainstreaming the respective DRM mechanisms into agricultural development policies and other climate change adaptation strategies.
  • Risk assessment enhances the knowledge on extreme weather risks, enabling the government to take preventive measures for protecting food security and creating incentives for investment.
  • The risk profiles of all agricultural actors can be used by the government to prioritize its support to specific vulnerable groups and set policy priorities.
  • The government could use information on the hazard, exposure and vulnerability assessment to support agricultural producers and SMEs to reduce agricultural losses by enhancing their resilience and reducing the cost of emergency credits for producers and SMEs.
  • Insurance-related outputs (see ‘Synergies: Insurance and Risk Assessment’).