Measuring the livelihood vulnerability index of a dry region in Indonesia. A case study of three subsistence communities in West Timor

Date03 October 2016
Published date03 October 2016
AuthorYenny Tjoe
Subject MatterPublic policy & environmental management,Environmental technology & innovation
Measuring the livelihood
vulnerability index of a dry
region in Indonesia
A case study of three subsistence
communities in West Timor
Yenny Tjoe
International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University, Australia
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the study of sustainable rural livelihoods
by developing a model to measure vulnerability of subsistence communities in dryland regions
and identifying the major determinants that contribute to the livelihood vulnerability of these
Design/methodology/approach The author conducted a household survey across three
subsistence communities in West Timor (n¼627), from June to November 2013. Based on the guideline
of the OECD (2008), the author developed a series of indicators and constructed a composite index to
measure the vulnerability of dryland communities. The author adapted the livelihood vulnerability
index (LVI) measure from Hahn et al. (2009) but refined it by using Shannons entropy method in
deciding the weights of indicators and statistically tested the correlation between indicators using
Kendalls correlations.
Findings Six major determinants were identified: education (EDU), childrens participation in
agriculture (CPA), agricultural income (AI), subsistence food reserve (SUBSIST), social-cultural
participation (SCP) and access to water, health clinic and market (ACC). LVI in all communities shows
significant and strong relationships with SCP (0.594, po0.01), AI (0.545, po0.01) and CPA (0.434,
po0.01). This signifies that constraints to engage in social gatherings, market the harvest and
obtain additional labour input are currently the major contributor to the vulnerability in these
Research limitations/implications Shannons entropy is one of the methods for assisting in
making decision (ranking) objectively. The results may need to be tested further using other methods.
Practical implications Using objective weight provides additional information useful for
identifying and prioritising areas (sub-components) which require attention and appropriate solutions
to prevent households from further impoverishment and increased vulnerability.
Social implications Livelihood vulnerability of subsistence community in dry region is closely
related to local survival skills and customs. Differences in the level of vulnerability across communities
are due not only to geographical location and physical infrastructure, but also the leadership of local
customary leaders and village government in looking for ways to improve the livelihoods of
community members.
Originality/value This paper is based on part of the results of a PhD thesis supported and
approved by Griffith University. It has not been published before.
Keywords Sustainability, Drylands, Climate change, Rural, Livelihood diversification,
Subsistence community
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
In the era of global warming, communities in rural drylands are likely to be the most
vulnerable group (Fraser et al., 2011; Solomon et al., 2007). This is because most of these
communities live mainly at a basic subsistence level by performing subsistence
World Journal of Science,
Technology and Sustainable
Vol. 13 No. 4, 2016
pp. 250-274
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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farming combined with additional income from non-agricultural sources (Hunt, 1991;
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 2004). Assistance for these communities to
adapt to the effects of global warming and to sustain livelihoods is urgently needed.
This study attempts to contribute to the study of sustainable rural livelihoods.
Through a household survey across three subsistence communities in dryland regions
of West Timor (n¼627), we develop a model to measure livelihood vulnerability to
drought and identify the major determinants of vulnerability in dryland communities.
In the next section, this paper reviews literature on vulnerability of dryland
communities to climate change and the socio-economic determinants of vulnerability.
The study area and research method are described in the second section. The results
and discussions are presented, respectively, in the third and fourth sections. The last
section provides the conclusion of the paper.
1.1 Dryland communitiesvulnerability to climate change
In adapting to changes (environmental, climatic, policy and political changes), reso urce-
scarce communities generally choose to move to other resourceful communities to
marry, or stay temporary to earn money, as supplementary income to feed their family.
For example, the hardships resulting from to the drying river in the southern
Murray-Darling Basin in Australia caused the local communities to leave the region for
jobs and the number of students to decline as local schools could hardly retain teachers
(Golding and Angwin, 2009).
Dryland communities are found to confront not just drought, but also the impact of
marketisation of water, global financial crisis, declining commoditiesprices, an ageing
community and the declining interests of younger generation to continue family farm
business (Kiem and Austin, 2013). Two farming communities in regional Victoria of
Australia, Donald and Mildura, have actively taken initiatives to survive and sustain
the community, but these people find it difficult to apply support schemes due to the
declining number of skilled people in rural areas combined with limited finance and
technological resources (Kiem and Austin, 2013).
Other studies also found that in some cases, livelihood resources of rural
communities are altered by government policy processes rather than environmental
changes. Among others are the UK policy in agriculture to reserve national security
from 1915 to 1980 (Condliffe, 2008); the Integrated Rural Development Programme in
Columbia from 1976 to 1981 (Escobar, 1995); the pricing policy in Malawi from 1970s to
1980s (Barbier, 2000); the forestry decentralisation in Latin American countries (Larson
et al., 2007); and the decentralisation programme in Vietnam (Vien et al., 2005),
Cambodia (Ehrentraut, 2011) and Indonesia (Duncan, 2007). All these studies found
that these government policies have a negative effect on their resource-dependent
communities including subsistence farmers, herders, forest-dependent poor and
the ethnic minorities.
1.2 Socio-economic factors as determinant of vulnerability
In explaining vulnerability of a society, socio-economic factors play a more critical role
than the exposure to climatic shock itself (Fraser et al., 2011; Watts and Bohle, 1993;
Turner et al., 2003a, b; Ericksen, 2008). Freedom and capabilities to access a range of
resources can help develop adaptive capacity of communities to extreme environmental
changes (Sen, 1983, 2000). Collapse of social bonds (cooperative relationships) can lead
to resource decline and increasing vulnerability as conflict arises among competing
groups (McCay and Jentoft, 1998 cited in Li and Huntsinger, 2011).
Measuring the
LVI of a dry

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