Understanding constraints to adaptation using a community-centred toolkit

Danielle C. Buffa, Katharine E.T. Thompson, Dana Reijerkerk, Stephanie Brittain, George Manahira, Roger Samba, Francois Lahiniriko, Clovis Jean Brenah Marius, Jean Yves Augustin, Justome Ricky Francois Tsitohery, Roi Magnefa Razafy, Harison Leonce, Tanambelo Rasolondrainy, Kristina Douglass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Worldwide, marginalized and low-income communities will disproportionately suffer climate change impacts while also retaining the least political power to mitigate their consequences. To adapt to environmental shocks, communities must balance intensifying natural resource consumption with the need to ensure the sustainability of ecosystem provisioning services. Thus, scientists have long been providing policy recommendations that seek to balance humanitarian needs with the best outcomes for the conservation of ecosystems and wildlife. However, many conservation and development practitioners from biological backgrounds receive minimal training in either social research methods or participatory project design. Without a clear understanding of the sociocultural factors shaping decision-making, their initiatives may fail to meet their goals, even when communities support proposed initiatives. This paper explores the underlying assumptions of a community's agency, or its ability to develop and enact preferred resilience-enhancing adaptations. We present a context-adaptable toolkit to assess community agency, identify barriers to adaptation, and survey perceptions of behaviour change around natural resource conservation and alternative food acquisition strategies. This tool draws on public health and ecology methods to facilitate conversations between community members, practitioners and scientists. We then provide insights from the toolkit's collaborative development and pilot testing with Vezo fishing communities in southwestern Madagascar. This article is part of the theme issue 'Climate change adaptation needs a science of culture'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220391
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1889
StatePublished - Nov 6 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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