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Livelihood vulnerability and adaptability of coastal communities to extreme drought and [...]

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Livelihood vulnerability and adaptability of coastal communities to extreme drought and salinity intrusion in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta.

New research article by Dr. Trần Đức Dũng, Senior Research Associate at Health and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (HAPRI) and Dr. Võ Tất Thắng, Director of HAPRI in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Vol. 57, No. 102183, April 2021.

Dung Duc Tran, Man Minh Dang, Bui Du Duong, William Sea, Thang Tat Vo. "Livelihood vulnerability and adaptability of coastal communities to extreme drought and salinity intrusion in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta", International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Volume 57 (2021), ISSN 2212-4209.

Keywords: Drought; Salinity; Sustainability; Vulnerable; Adaption; Mekong delta

Abstract: Many deltas worldwide have increasingly faced extreme drought and salinity intrusion, which have adversely affected millions of coastal inhabitants in terms of lives and property. The Vietnamese Mekong Delta (VMD) is considered one of the world's most vulnerable regions to drought and saline water intrusion, especially in the context of climate change. This study aims to assess livelihood vulnerability and adaptation of the coastal people of the VMD under the impacts of drought and saltwater intrusion. A multi-disciplinary approach was applied, including desktop literature reviews, field surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions with 120 farmers and 30 local officials in two representative hamlets of Soc Trang, a coastal province of the VMD. A vulnerability assessment tool in combination with a sustainable livelihood framework was used to evaluate livelihood vulnerability using the five capital resources to indicate the largest effects of drought and salinity intrusion on the migration of local young people to large cities for adaptation. Livelihood Vulnerability Indexes revealed higher vulnerability in terms of the five capitals of coastal communities living in Nam Chanh hamlet compared to Soc Leo. Results of interviews with officials indicated an optimized mechanism between social organizations and local communities before, at the time, and after being impacted by the drought and salinity intrusion. Our findings contribute evidence-based knowledge to decision-makers to enable coastal communities in the VMD and other deltas worldwide to effectively adapt to the impacts of drought and salinity intrusion.

Main points:

In Fig. 5a, our data analysis reveals that 42 of the 120 surveyed households (35%) migrated from Lich Hoi Thuong to large cities for new livelihoods. Households that had one-member migration accounted for 54.8% (23 households), two-member migration accounted for 33.3% (14 households), and three-member migration accounted for 4.8% (2 households). With 7.1% households that had over 4 members migrating, 1 household (2.3%) had four members migrating, and 2 households (4.8%) had five migrating members. Of the total of 42 households having migration, the proportion of male members accounts for 70%.

Fig. 5b shows the percentage of household member migration in the two hamlets. For Soc Leo, there were 17 households with migration (40% of total households having members migrating). For these migrations, 7 households had 1 migrant, and 9 households had 2 migrants, equivalent to 41.2% and 52.9% respectively. Only one household had 4 migrants, which accounted for 6%. For Nam Chanh, there were 25 households having migration of family members (60% of total households having members migrating), with 16 households with 1 migrant (64%), 5 households with 2 migrants (20%), 2 households with 3 migrants (8%) and 2 households with 2 members migrating (8%).

Our research findings present that farmers’ livelihoods in two coastal hamlets of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta (VMD) were vulnerable to the impacts of salinity intrusion and droughts in 2015–2016. LVI indexes indicate that Nam Chanh hamlet (LVI = 0.484, LVI-IPCC = - 0.027) has a higher vulnerability than Soc Leo (LVI = 0.446, LVI-IPCC = - 0.037). Still LVI-IPCC indexes show Nam Chanh is relatively less vulnerable than Soc Leo due to the higher adaptive capacity found in the former.

More attention should be paid to Human, Natural, and Financial resources in improving the capacity of people to cope with climate change and adaptation to saline intrusion and droughts. For the Human capital, the high fraction of households that regularly visits clinics and has low preparedness in training to cope with the salinity intrusion and droughts increased the vulnerability. For the Natural capital, the high proportion of households has used rainwater and river water resources for their agricultural production that put more attention to local authorities for protection. For the Financial resources, the high rate of households that borrowed money for their production presents a venerable status in both hamlets. We also found that adaptation options are highly appreciated by farmers in both Nam Chanh and Soc Leo.

Analysis of results of five capital resources based on the DFID framework indicated various impacted levels of salinity intrusion and droughts on the perspectives of vulnerability and adaptation.

Migration should be taken into account since 35% of interviewed households informed that their family members had to move to big cities during and after the salinity intrusion and drought. We also found a close relationship between saltwater intrusion and droughts and migration in terms of food security, health risk, and gender.

Regarding gender inclusiveness under the disaster impacts, our findings revealed that poor households probably had less opportunity to change their livelihoods when their land and crops were damaged.

Our study elaborated on the existing roles and coordination between governmental agencies and social organizations that directly and indirectly support coastal communities before, at the time, and afterwards being impacted by salinity intrusion and droughts.


This study has assessed the livelihood vulnerability and adaptability to drought and salinity intrusion of coastal communities in Soc Trang province of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. Based on the research findings and discussion, we conclude:

• Coastal inhabitants, especially farmers in Soc Trang province, are strongly affected by the impacts of salinity intrusion and drought. Their agricultural livelihoods are vulnerable to shocks and stresses caused by the changes. However, farmers are willing to cope with and adapt to the changes, and likely require the support from the

local government in the short term and long term.

• The coordination mechanism has been established and operated in the study area to help residents respond to the drought and salinity intrusion. However, this mechanism should be flexible and may be revised to suit the local living conditions and future changes if it is necessary. The roles of each organization in the coordination scheme

have been declared, but the authorities need to put these into practice regularly to be well-prepared for any situation. An incentive policy has been announced but it should be strictly implemented to motivate stakeholders in the coordination mechanism.

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