Participatory planning for climate adaptation in the Mekong Region

psroi mekongFarmers in four areas of Vietnam and Lao PDR have been involved since February 2012 in evaluating climate change adaptation priorities and costs through the Participatory Social Return on Investment (PSROI) project for climate change adaptation planning and costing in the greater Mekong Basin.

Title: "Participatory Planning for Climate Adaptation in the Mekong Region"

Country: Vietnam and Lao PDR

Organizations: International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) through Sumernet

Theme: Climate Change Adaptation

Overview of activities: Prior to the project's implementation, the Participatory Social Return on Investment (PSROI) framework was first piloted in Kenya and Senegal in 2011. Researchers from the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) program, CIAT, and the University of Oxford developed this planning tool which integrates the participatory approach with economic analyses to localize climate change adaptation initiatives.


Community members were gathered to a three-day workshop to plan for climate change adaptation interventions through their vision of a desired future. This visioning process was critical in understanding local values and identities which provided measures of success and failure in building resilience, as the maintenance of system identity in times of shocks is what resilience is all about.

Challenges and barriers faced by the communities as well as their past adaptive responses and locally available assets and resources were then identified. Based on their long-term agricultural aspirations, a step-by-step process needed to achieve their goals and available local strengths needed in the plan were outlined.

Engagement did not end with the communities, but it also involved other stakeholders such as researchers, households in the villages of Long (Yen Bai province, Vietnam), Khoud Kae, and Lam Thane (both in Savannakhet province, Lao PDR), the research team, and local and national government leaders. Researchers were tapped to understand the costs and benefits of prioritized interventions together with the communities. The village households were interviewed to determine their perceptions of future costs and benefits if the interventions were to be conducted. The research team provided expertise in the evaluation of social, economic, and environmental benefits and costs of the priorities, including other related issues. Local and national government leaders were involved to link community assessments of priorities and impact with provincial, national, and international adaptation planning and costing.

Major outcomes: 

The PSROI method was successful in integrating theoretical and methodological frameworks and tools which provided an assessment of local agriculture adaptation priorities that empowers local communities. The project staff noted that it has "created a more inclusive adaptation planning process across two distinct yet connected countries, bringing to light the priorities of hundreds of community members and the potential impact of enacting locally devised solutions".

Several recommendations were identified for PSROI based on the field research results:

  • Using PSROI to compare outcomes for conducting multiple adaptation interventions simultaneously;
  • Assessing how, when, and how much integration of climate change data should occur in community discussions, especially in areas with high uncertainty;
  • Evaluating further the feasibility of scaling PSROI up and out, including developing criteria for how and when to do so effectively for policy decisions given the training and timing required for each study; and
  • Identifying what aspects of the PSROI framework are most useful for adaptation fund allocation planning and the stages of deveision making that is most effective for incorporation.

Contact: Caitlin Corner-Dolloff, CIAT Researcher and PSROI Project Leader -

For more information on this initiative, visit the CDKN website.

Photo credit: Caitlin Corner-Dolloff