Ecosystems degradation is occurring globally at an alarming rate, contributing to increasing disaster risk. As ecosystems degrade so do the multiple services they provide to sustain human life and well-being, including protection and building resilience against the impacts of natural hazards. With climate change expected to exacerbate disaster risk, there is global interest to better understand the value of ecosystems for hazard mitigation and livelihood protection.
The Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP) was conceived to develop an assessment tool that takes into account ecosystems and climate change factors in the analysis of disaster risk and vulnerability. Implemented in 2009, the project aims to assist national and local government decision makers in evaluating their development options effectively by recognizing the role of ecosystems in reducing risk and adapting to climate change impacts. It specifically targets Small Island Development States (SIDS) and other coastal areas that are highly vulnerable and exposed to tropical cyclones and related hazards (storm surges, landslides, flooding) and to accelerated sea level rise.
Piloted tested in the western coast of Jamaica in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica and the University of the West Indies, RiVAMP utilizes an evidence-based, scientific approach that is combined with a stakeholder consultation process. Pilot-testing of the assessment methodology comprised two segments. First, two-day consultation workshops were held at the national, parish and community levels in October and November 2009. Stakeholders from government, academe, civil society and two selected local communities participated in the workshops to discuss ecosystem services, drivers of ecosystem decline, as well as potential solutions to arrest degradation. Second, spatial and statistical analyses were carried out based on GIS mapping, satellite imagery and remote sensing as well as modelling of storm surge and sea-level rise impacts on Negril beaches.
In March 2010 following the completion of the pilot assessment process, UNEP together with the GoJ successfully launched the report entitled “Linking ecosystems to risk and vulnerability reduction: The case of Jamaica”, in Kingston and Negril. The Kingston event was featured in national news and radio networks. Follow-up activities are being discussed together with GoJ and UWI, including capacity-building for applying the RiVAMP methodology in other parts of Jamaica and in the Caribbean region.