2. Materials and Methods
2.1. The Definition of Vulnerability
2.2. Factors Influencing Vulnerability
2.3. Approaches in Vulnerability Assessment in Regards to Drought
- System/Method: Systems that are impacted by drought is comprised of human–environment systems, population groups, economic sectors, geographical regions, or natural systems. Thus, during the onset of drought, certain populations such as farmers and their families are affected. Therefore, farmers’ income, location, and water resources are assessed when measuring vulnerability, because all these variables are affected to different degrees.
- Characteristics of system: In dealing with vulnerability from a societal perspective, the issue of values comes to the forefront. Examples of attributed values of concern include the subjectivity of human life and health, existence, income, cultural identity in a community, biodiversity, carbon sequestration potential and timber productivity in a forest ecosystem. Interestingly, the characteristics of farmers are influential during natural disasters. These characteristics are diverse and in most cases measurable. Vulnerability assessment in the context of drought should therefore consider farmers’ livelihood as along with resources.
- Hazard: UN  defines a “hazard” broadly as “a potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation”. This definition emphasizes the negative effects of natural hazards, however, most scholars in the field of climate change believe that drought as a natural hazard has both positive and negative effects. With regard to its positive effects, Zarafshani et al.  studied the application of the Theory of Conservation of Resources among drought affected farmers in Iran. They argued that farmers perceived drought either as a threat to resources or as an advantage and opportunity to gain more resources. In other words, the farmers managed to obtain more access to credit in order to deepen their wells or install pressurized irrigation systems.
- Temporal reference: Drought may occur at any point in time. In other words, temporal reference is not just calendric time; it also refers to the situation of the impacted system at the time of the impact. For example, whether farmers are ready or not, or whether they are mitigating the impact of drought.
2.3.1. Risk-Hazard Approach (RHA)
2.3.2. Political Economy Approach (PEA)
2.3.3. Biophysical Approach (BPA)
2.3.4. Integrated Assessment Approach (IAA)
2.4. Vulnerability Assessment
2.5. Vulnerability Assessment Models
3. Discussion and Conclusions
- Understanding the impact of drought and the main drivers of vulnerability. In other words, any conceptualization of vulnerability to climate change needs to consider exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of the vulnerable system. Exposure is the essence and extent to which a set of procedures encounters socio-economic or environmental stress. Sensitivity is the degree to which an individual or group (for example, farmers) is affected by exposure to stresses. The term adaptive capacity is used here as an equivalent to the ability of the system to respond to the exposures and the effects in order to adjust to and cope with the impacts of drought.
- Identifying and assessing drought vulnerability indicators and evaluating the weight of the indicators that contribute to drought risk and vulnerability. This step comprises of two phases: (1) identifying the vulnerability index; and (2) assessing the vulnerability of affected populations based on exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. In the context of drought, exposure may have two sides: (1) the characteristics of hazards, such as changes in the frequency, intensity, magnitude, duration, and the extent of drought. Thus, regions with increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall are identified as regions more exposed to drought; and (2) the socio-economic characteristics of affected populations such as government policies (rural institutions). Therefore, these characteristics may have both quantitative as well as qualitative components. Sensitivity in our study refers to places with a greater frequency of droughts (counts of the occurrences of drought in different parts of the region) and the negative impact on agriculture (i.e., yield is reduced). Thus, agriculture in drought prone areas is more sensitive in terms of yield reduction. For the purposes of the vulnerability classification, we have created two categories of indicators associated with sensitivity: crop sensitivity and livelihood sensitivity. We grouped the indicators representing the specific sensitivity of agricultural production to climate risk with the first category (i.e., type of crop planted in winter and summer cycles as a proxy for the differential sensitivity of distinct crops to climate stress, self-reporting of climate impacts and pest problems, reported crop losses in the season prior to the survey, and the farmer’s perception that the climate was changing). The second category referred to indicators of the sensitivity of the overall livelihood strategy and household income to the external shocks of diverse types (i.e., the percent of income from agricultural activities, the number of household members who had recently migrated, and perception of negative income change). According to our definition, adaptive capacity is a function of the resources of the rural household. Adaptive capacity allows farmers to counteract the sensitivity of farmers and thus reduce their vulnerability. We conceptualize adaptive capacities in terms of categories of assets, or capitals, such as human, social, physical, natural, and financial. In rural settings, human capital includes the farmers’ age, education, and degree of family labor. Social capital includes trust, membership in water user associations, and social networks. Farmers’ physical capital may include equipment, machinery, and infrastructural facilities. Natural capital may include land, water quantity and quality. Financial capital includes income, cost of production, and land ownership. Although farmers’ capital extends well beyond our list, we have only provided a short list of indicators when measuring capitals. The next step in assessing the vulnerability of affected populations is to attach the weights to the vulnerability indicators. For this step, multicriteria decision making (MCDM) techniques may be used to weigh the indicators. Agricultural experts and local farmers may assign weights to proposed indicators.
- Government response: The role of government support is repeatedly mentioned in the literature as an impediment to adaptation. This implies that governing equitable distribution and access to resources and the allocation of power by means of local institutions and arrangements will improve the adaptive capacity at the community level. In other words, any institutional interventions tend to empower the adaptive capacity of farmers and thus enhance community resilience. Thus, any government intervention would act as a mitigation plan and would feedback to future shocks.
Conflicts of Interest
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|RHA||The individual status during disaster is described to be more descriptive than explanatory. In other words, hardware dimension in vulnerability is emphasized.||Fussel ; Perkins ; Fussel ||Main focus on the field of engineering and technical terms on disasters.|
|PEA||The concept of vulnerability is characterized as “internal social vulnerability” or “cross scale social vulnerability” (software aspects). “Response capacity”, “coping capacity”, and “resilience” are the core features of vulnerability.||Wilhelmi and Wilhite ; Fussel ; Collinson ||Focuses on people and concerns with why and whom.|
|IAA||Mix method approaches, both internal and external dimensions of vulnerability are emphasized.||Deressa ; Fussel ; IPCC ; Cutter ||Biophysical and social determinant of vulnerability is the center of attention.|
|BPA||The semi-software dimension of vulnerability.||Deressa ||Social and biological dimension of vulnerability is the center of attention.|
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