This report summarizes MENAdrought findings on the underlying drivers of drought vulnerability in Lebanon. It serves as a link between the impact assessment and the policy planning process.
The aim of the vulnerability studies was to determine who or what is at risk from drought, what causes this risk and the impact of how actors deal with this risk. This can inform drought management planning so that interventions target the underlying causes of vulnerability for the identified communities and systems.
The context of the problem
Lebanon is water-rich compared to other Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, which has historically caused government officials to give low priority to drought risk management. However, the intense droughts of 1998-2001, 2008, and 2013-2014 had wide-ranging socioeconomic impacts that increased official interest in droughts.
The frequency of droughts has increased in the Levant region over the last century (Kelley et al. 2015), and climate change has significantly increased the intensity of recent droughts in Lebanon (Bergaoui et al., 2015). Projections from climate models indicate that global warming is likely to result in a decrease in precipitation and snow cover in Lebanon, as well as a shortened snow season (Karmalkar et al., 2010; MoEW, 2010). Altered snow dynamics will affect hydrological responses in Lebanon’s major surface and groundwater basins (Fayad et al., 2017) and alter temporal patterns of water availability.
Increasing drought and water scarcity in the future are likely to deepen rural debt and structural socioeconomic challenges, as well as increase Lebanon’s food import dependency and foreign exchange reserve depletion.
Vulnerability to drought is a socio-ecological phenomenon. Drought risk management practitioners typically examine this dynamic interaction through a conceptual assessment of vulnerability, which may shift depending on the timescale assessed:
Short-term: vulnerability = potential impact – coping capacity
Long term: vulnerability = potential impact – adaptability
In this formulation, the potential impact consists of two components: exposure and sensitivity. Exposure refers to the presence of people, assets, ecosystems, etc. in drought-affected areas. Sensitivity refers to the climatological thresholds that trigger negative impacts. Coping capacity is the ability of communities, people, or systems to withstand drought without irreversible changes in state and function, while adaptability is the ability of systems, people, and communities to change form and function under new conditions.
We used participatory research methodologies for several vulnerability assessment approaches according to the typology developed in a recent review (King-Okumu 2019). There are two reasons for relying on participatory methods. First, the use of these methods can help build and facilitate social relationships and associations that drive increased application of knowledge in broader technical and policy processes. Second, due to the lack or inaccessibility of relevant datasets, we could not apply spatial and statistical approaches.
This research included several workshops with the Drought Technical Committee, an interdisciplinary team coordinated by the Department of Energy and Water (MOEW). It also included four focus group meetings and interviews with smallholder farmers in the Hermel area focused on examining the impact of drought on rural society, particularly food security, livelihoods and gender impacts.