Practicing Vulnerability Assessments in the Field: Community-Level Adaptation to Disasters in Southern Bandung

Guest post from Martin Drenth

For a week I have participated in the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction training at the Institute of Technology Bandung. On Thursday 11 August we went on a field trip to the area of Dayeuhkolot and Baleenda in the south of Bandung.

This part of Bandung is most vulnerable in the face of flooding because in all of Bandung flooding is worst here and on top of that the area is inhabited by people from low social class with limited financial means. They generally live in this area because it is cheap, close to their work, and because they don’t have the money to move to a safer yet more expensive location.


Flooding in this area is a complex problem which happens more and more frequently. In 2016 the area has been flooded 4 times including a 2 months non-stop period. Flooding has a variety of causes which include geographical location (low lying area in a location where three large rivers converge); upstream land use changes (forest areas are burnt down and substituted by housing and farming without proper control from the government); trash (which is either thrown in the river or flows towards this area from other parts of Bandung); and sedimentation of the rivers.

The area experiences regular flooding with 80 to 300 cm inundation which forces nearly 6.000 families to evacuate. Based on interviews with the community, people in this area experience many negative effects of regular flooding of their neighborhood, such as health problems, lack of access to education and loss of livelihood because flooding prevents them from reaching their workplace.


People in this area generally feel they lack support from local government to deal with the direct effects from flooding as well as efforts to stop flooding from happening. Therefore the community tries to deal with their problems best they can. The field trip showed many examples of adaptation undertaken by the community.

No trash is collected in the area, to prevent this from being burned close to their houses, the head of the RT (neighborhood ward) has placed a trash incinerator outside the residential area and has arranged for trash to be collected for a voluntary fee of whatever the residents can spend. This should also prevent the dumping of trash in the river. To further stop this behavior, people are fined when they get caught dumping their trash. However, a change in mentality is still needed because many people go out at night to throw their trash in the river when no one is watching.

The people in the community do what they can to prevent damage to their houses. They do this by raising the foundation of their houses. Often they use the mud that was carried by the river (from upstream due to deforestation and land use change). Many others who have the means for a two story house move to the second floor and leave their first floor altogether. Less fortunate people regularly build a makeshift attic in their one-story house, which is dangerous when the water rises higher than anticipated and they cannot escape their house through the roof. When you look in their houses you can see that many people have plastic or metal furniture that can withstand water. It is also common that valuable items are stored high up and are not even taken down when the house is not flooded.


One of the residents that we interviewed had a special way of dealing with the specific characteristics of flooding in this area, namely with flood water filled with trash and mud sediments. He knows he cannot stop water from flooding his house but to make cleaning up more easy he build a stone wall of about 1,5 meters high around his house. In case of flooding he closes off the open spots in his wall with triplex. This keeps his house clean from mud and trash, as long as the water doesn’t flow over his wall.

The river used to have an early warning system which would set off an alarm when the water in the river would reach a critical level. Unfortunately, this machine ‘has disappeared’ and no one knows what happened to it. To still have an opportunity to save their valuable possessions and to evacuate, local residents have created their own early warning system: they have a network of friends and other people who care about their problems from other parts of Bandung who will let them know through Whatsapp or certain Facebook groups about heavy rainfall or flooding in their respective area. One respondent told us that he knows that heavy rain or flooding in a certain area of Bandung will automatically lead to flooding in his neighborhood 3 hours later. This gives him a little time to prepare for the flood. He also told us that the first thing he saves is his phone so at least he can still ensure communication.

Finally, the community does not only prepare for the negative consequences of flooding but also tries to reap the benefits of it. In this poor area with few economic opportunities, people collect trash from the river which they can recycle and sell. During the field trip, we could see some people wading through the river (which is shallow due to sedimentation) to look for useful trash. Others opt for a more relaxed approach by building a bench on top of the dam from which they fish for trash using nets attached to long sticks.

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Moving from what to do to how to do it in DRR and CCA

August 10th, 2016

One of the major themes that has been emerging in these courses for the past two weeks is the challenges of how to do adaptation. Action is needed. We know, for example, pretty clearly why we need to begin preparing early. There is an adaptation “gap” that is emerging that could serve to slow development by an entire generation in some instances. The population growth among cities, not mega-cities per se but especially in the secondary cities, look to double in the next two decades. The services that such  populations of about 3 billion people will need that are not currently planned for, presents a tall order for any basic urban managers and other actors seeking to create livable spaces. The growing focus on cities has not diminished the importance of rural areas however. Those areas beyond the exponentially expanding urban and peri-urban cores have not become any less important, particularly with respect to agriculture and food security.

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What do we know about adaptation and resilience?

Beyond the why of adaptation, we also know the what about adaptation. Climate models and a great deal of research has talked about what to do with the prospects of different change scenarios of certain degrees. There are also numerous frameworks for conducting these analyses, such as the risk and vulnerability frameworks. In the early iterations of this course we thoroughly discuss the why and the what of adaptation. We look at change, and we explore different models and prospects that climate and development are likely to create. The more exciting part of the course however, has been the discussions about how to do adaptation.

We discuss these aspects in two different ways. The first relates to how to develop strategies. And we apply shared learning perspectives with participants under the premise that while climate is a global process, adaptation is always local. Therefore we have looked at how to justify program at multiple scales. Whether it is a regional analysis using global top-down modeling data, or a village level assessment of bottom-up in depth community interviews, the vulnerability framework presented in the workshop makes room for all participants to develop the approaches that will work for them. We look at direct and indirect impacts, exploring the specificity of exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity, overall vulnerability and resilience. The emphasis is on learning how to collect data from those sources that are available, and how to find information that helps stakeholders know what’s important and why. The emphasis is on process.

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The most effective part of the training has also been the action research aspects of arriving at a community to conduct transects to develop rapid vulnerability assessments, and conduct problem/objective trees to begin assigning key priorities for action. We see that this how has been an invaluable part of the experience for the instructors and the participants. Together we truly feel that we are learning from each other about important aspects of adaptation that are not as yet, well understood.

Tomorrow we are off to the most flood prone zones of Bandung city. This area has received notable attention in the past two years for the increasing incidence of flooding on these communities.

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Joint Workshop with ITB in Bandung: CCA and DRR Strategies

August 8th, 2016
Dr Djoko Suroso, director of the ITB Climate Change Center, kicked off the training this week talking about the urgency of adaptation in terms of policy formulation and action. The way adaptation has unfolded thus far in Indonesia has been through the entry point and lens of DRR. After the 2004 tsunami that wreaked havoc in the western part of Indonesia, disaster management emerged as a core pillar of governance. DRR has become a commonly understood concept in Indonesia and almost all regional and local governments have now developed BPBD (local disaster agency) offices within the past decade.
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Adaptation is important for the imperative to see a new normal. While most planning is historical, climate change compels us to think about development and disaster challenges in new ways.
Dr. Suroso shared with the multi-stakeholder group of participants from across Indonesia about their role in applying key adaptation concepts into action. Participants in this training hail from various intellectual backgrounds and widespread geographic locations in Indonesia. Civil servants, university faculty and students, and NGOs are all represented, and they are here from cities such as Yogyakarta, Kendari, Jakarta, Semarang, Blitar, Kendari, and Bandung; from here in West Java Province to as far away as Southeast Sulawesi.
Harlan Hale of USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance also welcomed the participants and formally opened the training. After providing the context and global importance of taking action in implementing climate adaptation, he also shared an experience from the Aceh reconstruction process. He talked about a road development project that restored a key thoroughfare among districts in Aceh province, and described that although reconstruction proceeded with the best technologies, that new rainfall regimes are creating challenges for post-disaster recovery and protecting local communities against shifting direct and indirect impacts as a result of climate change.
The workshop is underway and we’re looking forward to a productive week to share experiences and learn about the challenges in pushing forward the climate adaptation imperative. We are also looking forward to getting into the field to conduct applied vulnerability assessment at new locations that are featured as part of this workshop.

Gamalama Erupts and the National Symposium

In the late hours of August 2nd, after completing our final day of the workshop, the Volcano decided to erupt.

We awoke to plumes billowing out of a new vent that has opened up on Gamalama. The volcano often experiences this type of activity, and most recently had a similar eruption in December, 2015.

Our colleagues at BPBD (the local disaster agency) were busy handing out safety masks, and BMKG (the meteorology and geology agency) were issuing alert levels. The BPBD briefed us about the requisite evacuation procedures and the different types of procedures they would follow under specific scenarios. They even had a plan to gather all boats to evacuate the entire city-island!

The haze and ash had redirected toward the city, the airport was shrouded in what looked like a light grayish snow. The airport closed. As the awareness levels had not reached warning levels, most public facilities still remained open, which means that the disaster symposium planned for August 3rd would still be taking place.

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Team prepared!

The University of Hawaii was asked to provide the opening address, alongside the Rector of Khairun University. The role of universities in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation was highlighted. Students from the university also presented a dance drama during the opening, a customary adaptation of traditional ceremonies from the island of Tidore.


Thereafter, Dr. Suprayoga Hadi discussed a national level perspective on disaster management. He highlighted the three “si”s Regulasi, Koordinasi, and Investasi (regulation, coordination, and investment). He described Indonesia’s unique position and experience in disaster management and highlighted the importance of universities to build networks and establish centers of excellence with a clear focus.

The mayor then took to the podium to discuss and described the important of incorporating DRR into local planning processes, which was highlighted in the local news

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Finally, the four groups from the workshop that had done vulnerability assessments also had the opportunity to present their rapid vulnerability assessments to this distinguished audience. They presented video and data collected from the workshop announcements and skillfully discussed frameworks for analyzing risks, and presenting solutions to the themes raised in the Symposium.


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A Preliminary Vulnerability Assessment of Kelurahan Bastiong Karance, Ternate

Guest Blog by Dr. Kem Lowry

 Kelurahan Bastiong Karance is a community in south Ternate nearby the terminal for the Tidore ferry.  It is comprised of 10 Rukun Tetangga [or wards] and covers an area of about 1.2 square km. Bastiong was chosen to be one of four communities on Terante and Tidore in which participants in a course on urban climate change adaptation could conduct a “vulnerability assessment” that would identify areas of the community exposed to climate change related threats, such as flooding, both now and in the foreseeable future. Another aim of the vulnerability assessment was to identify community “assets”, such as schools, health facilities, and critical infrastructure that because of their location and type of construction would be particularly sensitive to increases in the frequency or severity of floods and other climate-related threats. Finally, course participants hoped to be able to make a preliminary assessment of how “resilient” the community is in responding to the potential of increased frequency and severity of climate-related threats and how local resilience might be strengthened.

Identifying challenges and priorities in each RT

The formal part of the vulnerability assessment began with a July 30 morning meeting of course participants and some Khairun University students with RT leaders. The RT leaders described social, economic and environmental conditions in Bastiong. Regarding natural hazards, they identified intermittent flooding as a continuing problem afflicting some RT more than others depending on topography and the quality of local drainage. They attributed worsening flooding problems in Bastiong to the dumping of solid waste in drainage canals in the upper watershed.

Clogged drains that lead to regular inundations

After lunch, course participants walked through the community to observe community conditions and interview residents about socio-economic and hazard conditions. Their purpose was both to get a general sense of community conditions and, more specifically, to identify areas exposed to disaster risks, people and places that are particularly sensitive to disaster risks and the capacity of households, the community and government to adapt to disaster risks.

Bastiong is a densely-populated settlement [4,635 people per sq. km.] sub-divided into hundreds of little house lots and smaller settlements by local roads, drainage canals and ditches and small lanes, some of which are barely more than a meter in width.  Houses vary in the quality of building material, but many are built of concrete or bricks. A substantial number, particularly those closer to the ocean, have two levels, allowing residents to evacuate upward in the case of minor local flooding. Drainage canals contain plastic bottles, building materials and other solid waste as much as a meter deep in some parts of the community. The shoreline in the environs of the ferry terminal is heavily armored by concrete and stonewalls. A local road and an open strip several meters wide are located between the seawall and shorefront housing. Small open-air food stands located in the open space serve local workers and visitors. A number of new two-story houses and commercial buildings have been built or are under construction along the shore which suggests that residents perceive increased or more severe flooding or storm surges to be low risk events.


From their observations and interviews, participants confirmed what they had learned from RT officials: flooding from drainage canals and occasional storm surges was a nuisance to some and a more serious economic and health threat to others. In addition to the direct economic costs of home repair and replacement of damaged property, some areas have pockets of individuals suffering from malaria perceived as associated with poorly drained areas of the community They were able to create a map of areas currently exposed to periodic flooding and a map of the area likely to be flooded in the event of sea-level rise of one meter.

Using maps to identify important features of the area

Participants were also able to create a map of critical community facilities, such as mosques and schools, some of which are located in flood-prone areas. Participants also made some preliminary assessments of the adaptive capacity of households, the community and government. They reported that some households were adapting to flooding by raising their houses on higher foundations. At the community level, they suggested that the traditional practice of community self-help [gotong royong] insures that households will help each other prepare for and recover from disaster events such as floods. Governmental adaptive activities have focused on strengthening the shoreline area and flood-proofing government buildings.


Based on their assessment participants recommended that programs be created to educate residents of the impacts of dumping waste in canals and to encourage more responsible waste management practices at the neighborhood and community level. They also recommended better spatial planning in the area to insure proper drainage and reduce building patterns that contribute to flooding.

The Bastiong team with RT leaders conducting a rapid vulnerability assessment





Sultan of Tidore: Legacy of Independence and Resistance

Guest blog by Dr. Feriyal Amal Aslam

I had an opportunity to join one of the field visits as part of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation training in North Maluku. I traveled with one of the teams to the historic island of Tidore, which is located just west of the larger, spiderlike island of Halmahera. We took a short speedboat ride from the main population center of the province in Ternate. It seemed as if we were traveling from one volcano to another. In Tidore we were greeted by two university leaders, of Khairun University and Nuku University of Tidore. We reached a village named Indonesiana, where Tidore teams started their field research. Interviews included ward leaders and other community members. Elders voiced their concerns over drainage issues, which they have seen change over time due to soil erosion and flooding in their vicinity.


After the initial interviews we were invited to meet with the Sultan of Tidore at his kedaton (palace). We were graciously invited to have lunch with the Sultan’s family member, the rector of University of Khairun first, which was followed by a special treat: a Durian party. This was some of the best durian I have ever tasted to date in Indonesia. After that we headed to the Sultan’s Kedaton.

Photo credits: Kepano Kekuewa

The Sultan does not live at the kedaton, it is more akin to the court where he conducts official business. On the right and left side of the stage/throne reserved for the Sultan, there were seats provided for his religious and governmental representatives. They were all dressed in long black robes and some with Royal turbans on their heads. Participants and other people sat opposite the stage as audience members opposite the stage.

The Sultan offered us delicious spiced coffee and equally delicious local sweets made with rice flour and palm sugar called Palinta. The Sultan then suggested we walk to the nearby Spanish Fort (Fernando Tores). The Fort provided an even better view of the sprawling archipelago. This fort was built roughly between 1606-1663. The fort seems to have been built as part of a strategic negotiation to maintain Tidore independence from the Dutch. Digging a little deeper I find that the island of Tidore played a key role between the fight between the Dutch and the Spaniards at this moment of history (Tidore: The Spanish fort on the island of Tidore 1606-1663).

View from the Spanish Fort

After the walk to the Spanish fort with the Sultan, he gave us a tour of his Kedaton. Here I found myself drawn to this picture of Sultan Nuku hanging near the Sultan’s work desk and his family tree.


I discovered that Sultan Nuku is an Indonesian national hero due to the 25 years of resistance that he put up against the Dutch. Returning from the palace we discussed the makam (grave) of the first Sultan of Tidore. Within walking distance from the Kedaton was the Royal graveyard with Nuku’s grave along with his family members. “Pahlawan” (national hero) was engraved upon the outer wall.

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I noticed that he died in his early 60’s and most probably as part of the the resistance against the Dutch. Unlike the Sultanate of Maluku to the South, that sided with the Dutch and and gained prominence and wealth, the Tidore Sultanate continued to resist, and maintained their independence from the Dutch by seeking support from other allies, like the Spanish. In 1781 as the Sultanate weakened, Prince Nuku departed for Papua and where he acted as a Sultan for the Papuan islands and received widespread support from the people there.

“Hero’s Resting Place” – Sultan Nuku (his tombstone reads “Sultan Saidul Djehad Muhammad El Mabus Amiruddin Sjah, Kaitjil Paparangan, Jou Barankati”

 Tidore has had complex past, with waves of greatness and decline. Today Sultan Nuku’s story holds importance locally and the story of resistance is part of building the unified story of Indonesia.

Intrigued, I tried to dig deeper into the history of Tidore to find the unique position that this particular island has had in the war between the Dutch and the Spaniards. For more details read Leonard Andaya’s The world of Maluku: eastern Indonesia in the early modern period from the University of Hawaii Press

Another important piece of history here is the relative peace that was maintained in Tidore when the greater Maluku region was embroiled in a bitter religio-ethnic civil war. Amidst the sectarian conflict of 1999, Tidore was spared and the Sultan of Tidore played an important role in negotiating peace for the neighboring regions. For a history of the conflict in North Maluku see Christopher R. Duncan’s book Violence and Vengeance.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to join the field trip to understand potential disasters for small island communities. I was also fortunate to learn about the important historical role that Tidore played across the region. These factors say a lot about the important cultural relationships that continue to endure, and also help us to learn about identity, and in turn the resilience of local people in the face of all odds and extreme conflict. In meeting Sultan Husain Syah, learning of his ancestors, I learned that these social ties and lessons of history i.e. the legacy of sustained bravery and community continue to play an important role in building resilience.




Workshop Final Day: From Problems to Objectives for Strategies and Projects

Guest Blog by Dr. Dolores Foley

Tuesday, August 2nd

Today is the last day of our seven day workshop. The sessions today covered Climate Finance and Best Practices for Proposal Development.  Participants learned about the many opportunities that exist for developing and financing potential projects for climate adaptation.

One of the exercises today focused on groups working on creating a Problem Tree and turning it into an Objective Tree. The problem tree identifies the core problem and challenges groups to question initial formulations.The groups had very lively discussions with the instructors about the importance of involving relevant stakeholders in the process. Assigning risk reduction activities can take hours or weeks. Developing an Objective Tree involves the transformation of problem statements into a vision on how things would be if that problem was eliminated. These processes make it easier to create and select activities for implementation.


At the close of the day participants were given certificates for their participation and gathered for a final photo. The workshop was a great success. We were so impressed at how hard they worked for this seven day workshop. The presentations they made after two days of working in communities were truly outstanding. Many of  the participants told us how lucky they were to be chosen for the workshop.

We also visited with the Mayor Drs. H Burhan Abdurrahman of Ternate.  Ternate is the most populous island of the North Maluku region.  The Mayor asked to meet with us to pursue a greater relationship with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning .


The island is prone to many disasters including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, flooding, and coastal erosion. The island also has many planning and development issues.  It is very densely populated. The government unsuccessfully tried to encourage development elsewhere by moving the capital to Sofifi on the neighboring island of Halmahera. They built many government buildings that remain vacant as the main economic activity still remains on Ternate. Public workers and others still prefer to live and work on Ternate.

These various development and disaster concerns prompted the Mayor to request a meeting, and he is eager to pursue potential partnerships, joint research and more training opportunities. We found many public officials very positive about our visit and wanting more opportunities to work with the University of Hawaii.


Assessing Vulnerability in the village of Rum, Tidore Island

Guest blog by Dr. Keith Bettinger

This past Saturday we set out early from the island of Ternate to conduct a community vulnerability assessment in the village of Rum on the island of Ternate.  The team was really excited to actually apply the techniques we’d learned about during the preceding three days of the workshop.  The team had already studied a map of the area, along with top-down information, including statistical indicators for socio-economic and demographic aspects of the community, as well as the spatial plans for the island of Tidore.  Everyone was eager to get out into the field to collect data which would help us understand the real situation on the ground.

map of rum

Our first stop was the administrative office of Rumbalibunga ward (kelurahan) to have a chat with the ward captain (lurah).  He provided us with some background about the socioeconomic conditions in the area.  Our group had prepared a number of questions for him, and we were impressed by his knowledge and understanding of the issues confronting the people in his area.  We learned from him that the most obvious climate-related challenge there is drought.  He described the recent drought, which had been more severe than normal.  The drought had killed approximately 50% of the clove trees in the area, which is the primary source of income for a large percentage of Rumbalibunga’s residents.  We learned that because of this, people that normally derive their income from the cultivation of cloves had to find ways to supplement their incomes temporarily.  Some people turn to the sea, catching fish to meet daily subsistence needs and selling any surplus in the market.  Others travel to the neighboring islands of Ternate and Halmahera to work as construction workers.  One of the participants noted that this pattern supports one of the general lessons we learned during the workshop: that people that a dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods and subsistence tend to be more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

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The ward captain also told us that his area was experiencing sea level rise, and that this increased the rate of coastal erosion.  Rumbaligunga is an interesting case because it hosts several important facilities, including the long range ferry terminal, the speedboat terminal that serves as a transit and commerce hub between Tidore and the more populated Ternate island, as well as the island’s power plant.  Thus critical infrastructure is concentrated in this area, and all of these facilities could potentially be impacted by sea level rise.  We also learned that there have been changes in the distribution and abundance of fish.  Based on discussions with community members, we learned that the average fish size is getting smaller, while fishermen have to travel farther to find fish.  This is occurring throughout Indonesia in many places.  We asked the ward captain why this was happening, and he told us that more research is needed.  He suggested several possible contributing factors, including overfishing, the construction of the long range ferry terminal, and environmental factors.  But without additional research, he was hesitant to jump to any definitive conclusions.  One of our team members pointed out that this is a very good application for a vulnerability assessment: to identify areas for further research.  Moreover, this kind of research could be conducted by an institution like Khairun University.  Research like this could support the design of interventions and projects that serve to reduce vulnerability in the area.


Our next step was the hamlet of Tobalo, which sits up on a ridge a few kilometers outside the main town.  Here our team conducted focused interviews with members of the community.  We learned first hand about the hazards that they are exposed to.  We also learned about some factors that make some people, places, and assets more sensitive to physical processes.  For example, our team decided that high dependence on income from cloves makes people more sensitive to exposure to drought.  Our conversations also yielded information about adaptive capacity.  We noticed that many of the households in Tobalo had installed their own concrete cisterns, into which they channeled rainwater from the roofs of their houses.  These cisterns were large enough to provide an average size family water for household needs for up to six months.  Thus we judged these households to be quite resilient to the impacts of drought.  At the same time, we noted that the community cistern was unused and in disrepair.  The community members informed us that this was due to the fact that no one is responsible for its maintenance.  Thus it seemed that this increases the sensitivity of those houses without cisterns.  We would have to do further research into the issue, but we hypothesized that it is possible that individual adaptation (construction of household cisterns) might undermine community-level adaptation and resilience, because those that own their own cisterns don’t have any incentive to help maintain the community cistern.  If this is true, it could result in an “adaptation gap” within the community.

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Another thing we noticed was a community water tower that was hooked up to an electric pump that drew water from a source down the ridge (a spring or a well; we did not find out which).  The water tower had been built a few years earlier by the provincial government.  However, shortly after the tower was constructed, the pump broke, and the tower had not been in use for more than a year.  Unfortunately, there is no budget in the provincial government to fix the pump.  So we reasoned that this would be a good place to start for increasing resilience in the community: to fix infrastructure that already existed but was no longer functioning, or was functioning at a suboptimal level.  It also shows that in planning for projects, you also have to consider the follow up maintenance to ensure the sustainability of the project, or else you risk wasting scarce public resources.

As we arrived back at the speedboat terminal, the sky opened up and a deluge descended upon the village of Rum.  We boarded the boat back to Ternate and had a slightly bumpy, but fun, trip back.  The next day our group gathered together to synthesize and analyze our data and prepare for a presentation. All in all, we all found the fieldwork to be an excellent opportunity to practice skills that can later be scaled up into more thorough vulnerability assessments.