Expert of the Week   for  13 - 19 Jul 2015

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Poshan Dahal


Tribhuvan University Expertise:  As a disaster researcher, I have extensive experience of studying distribution of vulnerability across individuals, households and communities.

I have a Master’s degree in Sociology from the Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. Besides teaching sociology, I have also offered consultancy services to various National and International organisations – including academic institution. Currently, I have also been working as a Consultant Researcher for Promoting Agriculture, Health and Alternative Livelihood (PAHAL) program being implemented with an aim of creating food secure and resilient communities in the western region of Nepal. I have also been involved in a number of research/assessment programs related to Disaster Risk Reduction program – with an especial focus on Flood Risk Reduction in Nepal. I have also carried out a-year-long ethnographic study in the western plain region of Nepal.

Livelihood, Flood and Vulnerability

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QQuestion by Mr Dusan ZUPKA

Dear Poshan,

Please describe the methodologies and the key steps involved, which you usually apply in assessing the vulnerability of communities living in flood prone areas, in a quantitative and qualitative manners

Many thanks and best regards,


Mr Dusan ZUPKA DRM Coordinator | University Geneva/International Graduate Institute

APosted on 17 Jul 2015

Hi Dusan!  

This is a good question! Because of my familiarity, I will be discussing about the qualitative methods: 

1. First need to Clarify some ‘W’s: 

Where: Selecting the ‘right’ site is important. We have to select a flood prone area in order to see the relationship between variables. It can be an area which just experienced a big flood or which is constantly being affected by flood through river cutting or inundation or sedimentation. Variables and relations between them become clearer in those areas. This will also give an opportunity to see which households are resilient and which are not. Selecting a site also depends on the research question you have. However, there are some widely accepted variables that have impact on vulnerability, such as caste/ethnicity, race, poverty, geography (this introduces a new set of variables that moderate vulnerability status of any community or households and this will involves proximity to river or the potential source of flood and elevation) and so on. To see who is vulnerable and who is not, you will need to select a diverse/heterogeneous community.  Consider that heterogeneity before selecting the field site. Vulnerability studies takes relatively longer time. Because who can cope with or adapt to the risk or can bounce back effectively can only be seen if observed for a reasonable length of time. So, the site should be feasible for long term study too. 

Who: We also need to be clear about the unit of analysis of our study. Vulnerability at what level – individual, household or community? However this is not a water-tight compartment  and your analysis can have/require all three levels of data. Besides vulnerability at household level, information level at community also tells more about the vulnerability of the community as a whole. Most of time, inter-community differences in - exposures to risks, mitigation approaches, ways of coping with disasters, social capital and access to resources have huge impact on the ‘total’ vulnerability of that community. Besides, the levels, we also need to be clear on who our respondents can be. Generally, in such studies, the respondents can be the local people, staffs of I/NGOs working in DRR, government functionaries and any other agencies or individuals that controls or have influence in  the capital flow within/to the community. 

How: how are you going to get the information? In qualitative research generally we do Key Informant Interview, Focused group Discussion, and sometimes we can also use other participatory tools. We can get rich information on coping strategies and mitigation through observation. Tool preparation is critical here and the questions we will be carrying will depend on the objectives of the research. However, it should comprise the variables that are considered to be influential in the distribution of vulnerability across different sections of society (and for this looking at past studies done in this field can be useful; so it would be good start literature review side by side). 

2.After you are done with this, you can prepare a tool and can go for a pretest (even if it is a check list, it would be good to do pretest, especially if you are hiring researchers who are not involved in the research from the beginning or are not involved in the tool preparation). You can check the coherence of the questions, their relevance to the study, redundancy, and most importantly its exhaustiveness and can check responses against the objectives and can make necessary changes in the tool/checklist. 

3.Now you can go for data collection and start translating or transcribing the data, if necessary. 

4.Analyzing qualitative data requires going through a cumbersome and careful process. We identify the major theme that appears in the data set and the start write-up. 

5.And, Write-up (however, documenting methodology, reviewing literature can start from the beginning of the research)! 

Thank You!


QQuestion by Mrs Sangita Gaur

1. How to asses the attitude of disaster management functionaries regarding disaster preparedness?

Mrs Sangita Gaur Research Scholar | Jamia Millia Islamia

APosted on 14 Jul 2015

Dear Mrs Sangita Gaur,

Thank you for your question! 

While designing a research to assess the attitude of government functionaries we need to consider a few things:

a. Qualitative vs. quantitative: Though you can quantify the indicators/variables of your study, you can elicit rich information using qualitative method.

b. Tools: As in any other research, tool preparation is a crucial part of this type of study. Preparing a exhaustive list of variables [attitude on what? effectiveness of the preparedness programs? attitude on locals' involvement in the programs? effectiveness of a particular program - such as awareness/EWS/river works? on role of I/NGOs in preparedness works? attitude on the role of government itself? etc] should be carefully done. 

C. Respondents: Obviously, respondent of your research are the national/regional officials who formulate policies and the local level officials who are responsible for allocating budget at local level, overseeing and/or implementing the preparedness programs in their area. Sometimes, just by asking the concerned official doesn't give the right picture. You can always find difference between what they say and what they actually do! To capture that, whenever possible, you may have to talk to the local people who have firsthand experience of dealing with these officials.   

Hope it helps!