Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Health in Colombia and Bolivia
Climate change is affecting the world's natural ecosystems, according to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In Latin America, researchers have observed substantial changes in precipitation, temperature, climate variability, and the number and severity of extreme events. This project aims to assess population vulnerability and climate change impacts on waterborne and water-related diseases in Bolivia and Colombia. It will use a participatory, multistakeholder, and transdisciplinary research approach in two Andean Region watersheds, the Lauca River Basin in Bolivia and the Cauca River Basin in Colombia, to develop ecosystem and human health policy adaptation strategies. These river basins are home to indigenous communities and large urban centres, such as Cali. Although on different development paths, communities in both regions are dealing with changes in water availability and quality due to climate change. This affects commercial and subsistence agriculture. It also has important health consequences as waterborne and water-related diseases, such as diarrhea and dengue, are on the rise. Researchers will use an interdisciplinary ecosystem approach to assess population vulnerability to climate change and its impacts on human health in these two watersheds, specifically to determine population vulnerability to waterborne and water-related diseases. They will apply a watershed approach to study social and ecological systems and their interactions. This approach examines systems at a territorial level, bridging the gap between local and national. It will help ensure that researchers consider the range of environmental services to benefit people and engage multiple levels of government and social actors. It will lead to a more effective assessment of vulnerability and adaptation issues. This work will contribute knowledge to the national climate change adaptation policy process in Bolivia and Colombia. Based on the results of the two multistakeholder action research studies, researchers will propose and test adaptation strategies to improve ecosystems and human health. They will work with decision-makers and key stakeholders, especially women and indigenous people. This capacity-building approach will increase the likelihood that solutions are sustainable over the long term. These solutions will translate scientific findings into actions that transcend the health sector, improving the quality and reach of community services. They may also offer support and insight to other regional climate change adaptation initiatives by providing a better understanding of climate change vulnerability in river basins along with improved institutional research capacities.