Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Change: Employing the Livelihood Vulnerability Index in Bluefields, Jamaica



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The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine agricultural livelihood vulnerability to climate change in Bluefields, Westmoreland, Jamaica based on the Livelihoods Vulnerability Index (LVI). Additionally, this study sought to examine relationships between selected characteristics of adopter innovativeness and farmer vulnerability level. Random sampling was used to select participants (N=52). Personal interviews were conducted with farmers using an instrument consisting of LVI components representing livelihood strategies, natural and physical assets, socio-demographic profile, social networks, water issues, food issues, and natural disasters and climate variability. The instrument also contained questions related to selected characteristics of adopter innovativeness: years of farming experience, relative income, farm size, access to credit, contact with extension services, distance to market, and head of household age. LVI data were aggregated using an indexing approach to create scores for comparison across vulnerability components.

The study showed farmers in Bluefields have the greatest amount of vulnerability in the area of social networks and water issues. Low numbers of farmers owned their land, had contact with extension services, or used irrigation. Most farmers reported having problems with access to seeds and planting material, depended on their farms for food, and experienced frequent crop failure. Only one adopter innovativeness characteristic was significantly correlated to farmer vulnerability scores. A moderate negative association was observed between perceived relative income and farmer vulnerability.

Farmers in Bluefields are vulnerable to climate change. Development organizations and local change agents should target the areas of greatest vulnerability illuminated by this study. Vulnerability and its contributing factors (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity) should be reassessed with the LVI and other methods to monitor changes in Bluefields over time.