Historically, the semiarid social-ecological systems of the dry Central American corridor have proven resilient to pressures. However, in the last century, these systems have experienced huge environmental and socioeconomic changes that have increased the vulnerability of local livelihoods to shocks. New approaches are needed to capture complex, uncertain, cross-scale and nonlinear relationships among drivers of change and vulnerability. Therefore, to tackle this challenge, we have applied a participatory and interdisciplinary methodological framework of vulnerability assessment to a case study in northern Nicaragua. We triangulated a range of information and data from participatory and scientific research to explore historical and current drivers of changes that affect the system's components and indicators of vulnerability, represented in a 3-dimensional space in terms of ecological resilience, the socioeconomic ability of individuals to adapt to change, and an institutional capacity to buffer and respond to crisis. A projection of climatic changes combined with a participatory scenario analysis helped, then, to heuristically analyze tendencies of vulnerability in the future and to explore what policy options might enhance the system's adaptive capacity to face new pressures. Our work primarily contributes to an empirical understanding of key factors that influence vulnerability and learning about local strategies to adapt to change in semiarid agropastoral systems in Central America. We also make a methodological contribution by testing the use of a multidimensional vulnerability framework as a way of stimulating discussion among researchers, local stakeholders, and policy makers. © 2011 by the author(s).
- Agropastoral system
- Conceptual model
- Dry tropical system
- Participatory scenario analysis
- Vulnerability assessment