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Social Impact Monitoring and Vulnerability Assessment (SIMVA) 2018: Report on 2018 Baseline Survey of the Lower Mekong Mainstream and Floodplain Areas

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1.1 Background

SIMVA activities begun in 2004, and before this survey, four phases of study had been completed. Phase 1, 2004–2006, was an extensive literature review. Phase 2, 2008–2009, was a pilot survey to determine the validity of indicators and research tools. Phase 3, 2011–2012, was a baseline survey in the LMB corridor, which applied the methodology developed in Phase 2. Phase 4 focused on climate-related shocks and trends, and resilience and coping strategies. The SIMVA 2018 is Phase 5 of the process.

SIMVA 2018 aimed to create a panel dataset with SIMVA 2014 that allows to analyse changes in the major indicators between 2014 and 2018. In addition, panel data also have certain advantages: they allow a researcher to analyse several important economic questions that cannot be addressed using cross-sectional or time-series datasets. More importantly, the advantage of panel data derives from their theoretical ability to isolate the effects of specific actions, treatments, or more general policies.

As a general framework for the core SIMVA survey going forward, SIMVA 2018, omitted the special module on shocks and trends, which were the focus of SIMVA 2014. Instead, the 2018 survey included further questions on resilience and vulnerabilities, which are the central elements of SIMVA. SIMVA 2018 also created a framework for social vulnerability and resilience indicators in this pilot decentralized survey, which will be applied in future, more decentralized, SIMVA surveys.

SIMVA 2018 is designed as a regional study of rural villages and households (HHs) located within a 15-km buffer zone on each side of the Mekong mainstream and around major floodplains in Cambodia and in the Mekong Delta. The survey focuses on the resilience and vulnerabilities of villages and HHs in the LMB Corridor. Livelihood vulnerability is the balance between the sensitivity and resilience of livelihood systems. Highly vulnerable systems are characterized by low resilience and high sensitivity, while less vulnerable systems have low sensitivity with high resilience. Livelihood resilience allows a system to absorb and utilize (or even benefit from) change. In the context of climate change, vulnerability has been defined as “the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, the adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity” (IPCC, WG2, 2007, p. 6).

The objectives of SIMVA 2018 are as follows, as noted in the SIMVA 2018 Guidelines:

  • Provide regular information on the status and trends of the social conditions of the people in the corridor, linked to changes in the Basin’s aquatic ecosystems.

  • Provide data and information on social vulnerability (particularly food and livelihood vulnerability) linked to changes in water resources (agriculture, aquaculture, fish, OAAs/Ps) and people’s resilience in coping with these changes.

  • Establish social impact indicators that reflect current socio-economic conditions and the extent of people’s dependence on water resources.

  • Provide data for the MRC 2021–2030 cycle of basin development planning and monitoring processes.

The relationship between socio-economic conditions and people’s dependency on water resources determines their vulnerability to changes in the water resources. The long-term monitoring of SIMVA has the following objectives:

  • Identify any significant changes in people’s access to water resources.

  • Identify any significant changes in HH welfare and livelihoods.

  • Link these changes to their levels of vulnerability, including livelihood vulnerability.

  • Help measure potential social impacts of economic activities and possible projects in the Lower Basin region.