Assessing Vulnerability of Low Income Fishermen

Check out more papers on Capital Policy Poverty

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Background

Because there is a dynamic process involved in people activities which turn people into secure or insecure condition of life, vulnerability concept becomes an approach which is more suitable to be implemented in analysing changes in a community rather than static concept of poverty. It will be an appropriate approach in helping people to secure their life in facing changes caused by both internal and external pressures.

In general, vulnerability concept involves three basic elements of interrelating factors in a community which are pressure, sensitivity and resilience. Pressures can be interpreted by external factors which threaten a community while sensitivity and resilience are determined by internal factors which are possessed by people. Moreover, vulnerability itself can be noticed will take place as a function of time in several stages starting from individual, household and community.

In assessing vulnerability which is very complex system, many approaches have been developed by experts in urban study. Moser (1998) suggested that vulnerability of people has a correlation with asset ownership and its management. Poor people with limited assets and weak capabilities in managing their assets tend to be more vulnerable. However, as a looking forward concept, vulnerability not only analyses poor people as the vulnerable one but also considers the probability of people to become poor as vulnerability.

Similarly, another concept which is done by Department for International Development (1999) linked up vulnerability context to asset ownership of people in sustainable livelihood strategies. Furthermore, being related to each other the assets comprise human capital, natural capital, financial capital, physical capital and social capital. In the vulnerability context, pressures which can be stress, trend or seasonality threaten people and cause a transformation either shorten or lengthen the access of people to one or more assets or capitals.

And poor people unfortunately again are considered as vulnerable because their access to capitals is influenced more easily by pressures. They do not have adequate capabilities to sustain their access to capitals. Changes in accessing one asset will inevitably cause transformation of access to other capitals.

While more general concept called DPSIR concept (Driver, Pressure, State, Impact and Response) described causal relationship between human activities and its surrounding or environment (Turner et. al., 2003). The concept identified two basic parts to the vulnerability problem and assessment: perturbation-stresses and the coupled socio-ecological system.

Using appropriate theory and being adapted to local context and issues, vulnerability assessment will be a powerful concept to investigate and measure factors which contribute to either increase or decrease vulnerability of a community. In addition, responses of people to cope certain pressures which threaten them can be an important data to determine vulnerability level of a community.

1.2 Problem statement

Since the sea is one of natural resources to be exploited for economic activities reason, coastal area becomes a crucial region needed to be developed. Port, tourism, factory, fishery and housing mostly dominate the land use in coastal area. Housing of people in the location has to deal with limited land.

In Rembang Regency, there is a phenomenon that people living around coastal areas tend to build their house directly facing to the sea in order to fulfil their needs of land for housing. Traditionally they plug in bamboo sticks along the coast for land reclamation. Neglecting the risk of tropical cyclone that occasionally breaks their house down, still there is a significant number of such housing. Flood and abrasion are common situations that should be faced by people in their daily life.

In addition, their existence is not allowed based on land suitability point of view. The housing conditions in general are not appropriate for living: bad sanitation, water supply problem, unorganized and high density. And the government seems to stand in undecided position where they do half-hearted policy in addressing illegal settlement along coastal areas.

Moreover social economic issues e.g. health, education; job and household reciprocity become other aspects that they have to deal with. Financial aspect also contributes a lot in their vulnerable life. Apparently, low income and poor management of their earnings are considered to be the reasons that they can be easily affected by changes in economic situation.

Hence, both internal and external factors make people to be considered as the vulnerable. And in order to analyse the vulnerability of targeted community, specific variables and indicators mainly in concerned should be determined. Labour, human capital, productive asset, household relation and social capital are important assets for poor people (World Bank, 1990 in Moser, 1999). Those factors might be crucial aspects for low income fishermen who live in informal housing along coastal areas in developing their housing which are interesting to be studied further.

Whilst external factors that should be considered in vulnerability assessment of targeted community are natural hazard, local government policy, private sector and urban development. The factors are believed will give direct contribution to the increased or reduced of vulnerability level.

Relating each other, environment, housing conditions and social economic characteristics lead the low income fishermen who live in informal housing along coastal areas into vulnerability which is needed to be analysed. Vulnerability assessment will be performed trying to find interrelationship between housing conditions and social economic characteristics and vulnerability of targeted community.

1.3 Research objective

The research has main objective to assess the vulnerability conditions of low income fishermen living in informal settlement along coastal areas of Rembang Regency. In achieving the main objective, several sub objectives guide the research steps:

  • To investigate pressures which threaten the existence of targeted community.
  • To document socio economic characteristic and housing condition of targeted community.
  • To identify strategies taken by targeted community in coping their vulnerability.
  • To determine vulnerability level of targeted community.

1.4 Research question

Basically the research is to investigate how demographic and housing conditions of fishermen living along the coast related to their vulnerability. So, questions to be answered of the research are:

  • What is the relationship between the socio-economic and housing characteristics of low income fishermen living in informal housing along coastal areas and their vulnerability conditions?
  • How do the low income fishermen who live in informal housing along coastal areas cope with the vulnerability?

1.5 Research scope

The research was conducted on July - August 2010. And the location of field work research is limited on location along coastal areas in Rembang Regency: Kelurahan Sukoharjo Many communities live mixed there, but the research focuses on studying targeted population: low income fishermen. However, another data related to the targeted community coming from their interaction with other community may bring the research to find data about other communities as well.

Chapter 2: Literature review

2.1 Vulnerability

According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (2003), vulnerability philologically derives its term from the Latin root vulnerare which means to wound. Meanwhile Kates (1985) described vulnerability in simple term as “the capacity to suffer harm and react adversely”.

However, Thywissen (2006) defined vulnerability with more than a simple one by suggested that vulnerability is constructed from a complex and interconnected notions and stages. Because of their characteristics somehow are intangible such as ability to cope vulnerability, social conditions and sensitivity and vary with field of study, location and time frame; it is hard to build a comprehensive conceptual framework of vulnerability. Important thing to do is to understand the main characteristics of vulnerability and then to derive them into rationally basic framework. So, the framework can be used flexibly in any appropriate scale and context.

Several definitions of vulnerability have been conducted by researchers in various field of study such as ecology, social, economy or even engineering depends on the particular context ranging from academic, human development policy, disaster management until on the field of computer. And the right definition which is chosen in analyzing research data will bring up the harmony between theory and local context.

In the field of urban studies, Chambers (1989) claimed that regards to vulnerability there are three major elements would involve in which relate to each other. First, vulnerability means exposure to pressures or external side. In other words, it is a condition where individual or household have no protection against pressures which are harmful or unpleasant.

Second, vulnerability relates to sensitivity in facing changes. This notion comes from internal side of exposed individual or household. The characteristics of vulnerability are determined by the internal condition of people who are being exposed by pressures. Simply can be said that the more sensitive people to changes the more vulnerable they are.

Third, another internal side of individual or household is resilience. It is expressed as the capability of the exposed one against changes. The relationship among three notions can be illustrated as causal interrelationship. The more resilient of people, the more robust they face changes, whilst vulnerable people identically relates to low endurance of people against changes.

Moreover, it can be noticed that vulnerability concept does not valid on a limited or particular group of people as stated by Cannon (1994) that vulnerability can take place in different level of well-being and determined by the characteristics of the exposed. The range of vulnerability also varied from field of natural, social and economy. The vulnerability itself is considered as caused by risk related to hazard.

The more comprehensive concept of vulnerability which is proposed by the researchers observes vulnerability as function of time, field of exposure and pressure. Vulnerability is not merely defined as present and past condition but also to what extent potential pressure will affect today condition.

As the vulnerability description which is stated before by Chambers (1989) the definition of vulnerability requires the identification of two notions of vulnerability: sensitivity and resilience (Blaikie and Brookfield, 1987; Bayliss-Smith, 1991 in Moser 1998). Furthermore, Moser (1998) suggested that internally sensitivity and resilience of people in facing changes of their environment determined by the assets and entitlements that individuals, households, or communities can mobilize and manage in coping adversity. And she developed vulnerability analysis based on people assets ownership and its management.A 

The poor people usually are considered as the most vulnerable but not all vulnerable are the poor people. Being a dynamic process in population rather than static concept, urban study defined vulnerability as insecurity of individuals, households or populations in facing the changes of both internal and external aspects.

Recently, vulnerability concept is considered to be a better concept rather than absolute poverty line concept. Chambers (1987) in Farrington et. al. (1999) simply illustrated the limitation of static measurement of poverty based on the view of poor people in determining the meaning of poverty for them as merely lack of income. Poverty in this stage is assessed by modelling the income versus consumption.

Obviously, vulnerability assessment can be a powerful tool to capture processes of change effectively than more static measures of poverty. While poverty only measures lack of income which results to people becoming poor, vulnerability offers dynamic analysis which is shown by assets ownership and its management to measure process of people can move in and out from insecure conditions. And also this considers strategies developed by the poor to cope with external factors which threaten them.

In short, from several theories which are drawn above, vulnerability can be seen as a general concept which can be applied in any field of research. In this research, low income fishermen who live in informal settlement along coastal areas are chosen to be a research object to examine the definitions of vulnerability as the community should deal with vulnerability: stressors coming from internal and external factors (either socially or physically), the sensitivity in facing stressors which affect changes of community and the resilience capability to guarantee life security by adapting with impact of changes.

Furthermore, in order to analyse vulnerability of targeted community, additional concepts are needed to bring the theories into a more practical instrument which is appropriate to be applied in the particular field. Next, concept of sustainable livelihood approach is chosen to embody theories of vulnerability into analytical framework of the research. Basically the approach tries to relate the definition of vulnerability applied on the condition of poor people with their livelihood capitals.

2.2 Sustainable livelihood approach

Sustainable livelihood approach is developed based on the understanding that there is a potential power laid on the poor to overcome their own problem by linking the condition of people related to their entitlement of livelihood assets. In fact the poor is a group of people which builds up more complex strategies to continue their life rather than other groups of people which have more opportunities to fulfil their needs in life.

As stated by Ashley (1999), sustainable livelihood approach has its origin from the way of thinking in reducing poverty, understanding how the poor people continue their life and view the crucial role of structural and institutional issues. Obviously based on the idea of sustainable livelihood approach, in terms of poverty alleviation, there is a shift of paradigm into development which emphasizes people as the centre of development.

The livelihood itself as stated by Chambers and Conway can be defined as capitals, abilities and actions which are required by people as a means of living (Carney et. al., 1999). Moreover DFID recognised there are five assets which fit into livelihood concept: human capital, natural capital, financial capital, physical capital and social capital. The livelihood does not deal with merely material or tangible resources but also abstract or intangible resources.

And related to the term of sustainability, Ashley (1999) suggested that at least sustainability should cover some following points. Firstly, sustainability means resilience of livelihood to face external pressures. Secondly, the livelihood will be called sustainable as it does not depend on another external support. Thirdly, in using the livelihood it keep the productivity of natural base resources up in the good condition. Lastly, the sustainability intends to not sacrifice other livelihoods.

Furthermore, Department for International Development (1999) has developed asset ownership of people related to sustainable livelihood strategies. They created a balance pentagon of capital shown in the picture below comprising human capital, natural capital, financial capital, physical capital and social capital.

The length of diagonal line of each capital represents the access of people to particular capital. Transformation of the pentagon shape indicates a sign how changes influence people in accessing their assets. And it can be noticed that every capital relates to each other indicated by one diagonal line which is transformed into shorter line will also make another lines become shorter. It is important to understand that the capitals have a dynamic interaction to each other.

In the vulnerability context, pressures which are divided into stress, trend or seasonality which threaten people can transform the pentagon shape indicating changes in access of people to the one or more assets. And based on sustainable livelihood approach, the resilience of people to changes is determined by their entitlement of assets and its management. Hence, vulnerable people are considered to be people who can be easily affected by pressures to have imbalance shape of capital pentagon.

Human capital is considered as capabilities of people in terms of education level, skill, health status or nutritional intake. Apparently this kind of capital determines the level of quality of life. But eventually this kind of capital will determine capacity of people to earn a living. For instance Van den Berg (2008) suggested that education level contributes a positive relationship with the people's lifetime income. The higher people have education background the more chances they have to get higher income. And people who master more than one skill to earn a living tend to have more options to face changes in terms of job opportunities rather than people who merely depend on one skill to work.

For most people who live in rural areas natural capital becomes an important asset as they usually depend very much on natural base resources such as water resources, sea, agricultural land, forest and so on. While in the context of urban areas, natural capital will be regarded to the access of people to have a good environmental condition for instance people's access for public area, green space or healthy air. And DFID (1999) also suggested not ignoring the role of natural capital in the urban context, since the scarcity of such capitals will place them as the valuable assets. Pollution of natural resources will affect the health conditions of urban people. Moreover in many cases the availability of small plot in the city can be used by poor people to practice small scale of urban farming.

Financial capital is represented by assets which relate to economic activities. Usually it relates to permanent job, regular income, access to financial institution, savings, credits. For poor people the most important strategy to live in terms of financial capital is savings. The ability of people to make savings will reduce the risk of financial changes (debts) which can occur in anytime. The savings will minimize mismatch faced by poor people between intermittent and irregular income or production they have and their consumptive pattern which is more steady or regular.

Physical capital in most poor people can be an important entry point which affects the existence of other capitals. Housing can be the most crucial physical capital that is owned by poor people as it has particular characteristics which shape the conditions of other capitals. For instance housing conditions of people will determine their health status which finally will influence their productivity to earn a living.

Social capital refers to social norms and values that valid among people in society and also relates to the interactions of people or network with institutions (community organizations, political party and government). This capital becomes important asset, as it determines the society to keep together and without this capital it is difficult to build people wellbeing (Grootaert, 1998). And he also suggested that without social capital, a building of society will collapse anytime.

In dealing with the livelihood concept, Moser (1998) proposed that the vulnerability is closely related to not only asset ownership but also its management. The poor people with limited assets and capabilities to manage the assets unfortunately become more vulnerable. Moreover World Bank (1990) in Moser (1999) has identified assets which are important for the poor people:

  • Labour, it is commonly identified as the most important asset of poor people.
  • Human capital and health status are assets which determine people's capacity to work, and skills and education and also determine the return to their labor.
  • Productive asset for poor urban households: the most important one is often housing.
  • Household relation, it regards to a mechanism for pooling income and sharing consumption.
  • Social capital, it is related to reciprocity within communities and between households based on trust deriving from social ties.

Furthermore, Moser (1996) drawn interrelationship between asset ownership and vulnerability as seen in the table below:

Type of asset

Indicator of Increasing Vulnerability

Indicator of decreasing vulnerability



Loss of permanent job,

Decline in secure wage employment,

Increase in short term, causal, minimum wage employment,

Acquisition of physical disability.

Increase in household members working, especially women

Increase in home based enterprise

Increase in job held by individual workers

Human Capital

Decline in access to or quality of social and economic infrastructure,

Decline in school attendance or increaseA  in the dropout rate,

Decrease in health clinic attendance.

Decline in health clinic attendance

Substitution of private for public services such as water pumps, private health and education



Increased perception of threat of eviction

Deterioration in housing stock

Household relations

Erosion of household as a social unit due to change in structure, marital breakdown or split households

Household extension that reduces the ratio of earners to non earners-especially the addition of “hidden (unwed or separated mothers)” female household head

Inability of women to balance multiple responsibilities and community participation

Older daughters undertaking childcare

Elderly lacking caregiver

Increase in domestic violence

Household extention that increases the ratio of earners toA  non-earners

Sharing of childcare, cooking and space

Reduction in domestic violence


Social Capital

Increasing public insecurity in public places

Decline in inter-household reciprocity

Erosion of community-level organization

Community-based solutions to crime

Inter-household reciprocity

Active community-based organization

The matrix shows that there is an up and down situation of vulnerability in different level of exposed stages which are individual, household and community. Having a low level of assets (labour, human capital, housing, household relation and social capital) to guarantee their livelihood strategies, the poor people are usually the most vulnerable group.

In addition, such condition is also caused by their limited capabilities to recover if any shock suddenly influences one or more of these assets or any stresses (trend or seasonality) which have continuous and long period exposure affect their assets. In other words, their ability to adapt to changed circumstances and adopt different livelihood strategies is limited. The condition is worsened as they don't have autonomy in deciding or influencing policies related to their assets ownership and its management to help them facing the changes.

Furthermore the table developed by Moser will be a useful guide used in the research to assess vulnerability level of the poor people. Vulnerability level will be assessed through several indicators which show how the poor people maintain and manage assets can reduce or increase their vulnerability.A 

Next, housing conditions will be described further since the phenomenon of illegal settlement is raised as the starting point to be studied in the research. And also another reason is based on the understanding that the characteristics of housing will define the conditions of other capitals. In general, for most urban people, a house is defined also in terms of several functional elements (Turner 1968 in Mtetwa 2003)

  • a house has to offer privacy for the household, protect them from the social pressures of the outside world, privacy in carrying out its daily basic functions like sleeping, preparations of food and economic activities;
  • Links the owner with places of employment, community facilities and social interactions;
  • Compliments the basic living needs of sanitation and roads; and
  • The purchase, ownership or construction of a house will constitute a family's major investment, thus helping the family establish its social identity and financial security (Turner 1968)

Cities in developing countries around the world have faced similar problems which are a high rate of urbanization and increasing poverty. The result is uncontrolled development of non-planned urban settlements, through illegal invasion of land and construction of shelter, where people live in poor housing and living conditions. These places through history have been named differently, and so even today. Common expressions are slums, shantytowns and squatter settlements, but the most appropriate concept is ‘informal settlement'.

Informal settlements can be described in several ways. UN Habitat Program proposes that informal settlements are defined as follows:

  • Residential areas where a group of housing units have been constructed on land to which the occupants have no legal claim, or which they occupy illegally;
  • Unplanned settlements and areas where housing is not in compliance with current planning and building regulations (unauthorized housing).

Unauthorized housing is further defined by the UN Habitat Program as housing where no land titles, leases or occupancy permits have been granted. Unauthorized can also mean that the settlement is not provided with enough services or built with permanent building materials. In general, houses are temporary, the settlements are unhealthy because of a deteriorating environment and there is a lack of basic services and infrastructure.

The inadequacy of the operation and maintenance of infrastructure in developing-country cities has serious consequences for economic and social development. The ability of these cities to support productive public and private sector economic activity is severely hampered by substandard service delivery and deteriorating infrastructure caused by poor operations and maintenance. Inefficient maintenance wastes scarce financial resources and results in costly premature equipment replacement needs and even complete loss of assets. Poor maintenance can also have negative impacts on the environment and public health; and it is often the urban poor and women who are the most adversely affected. (Wyatt, 1999)

In order to have a better perception of the elements comprising environmental infrastructure utilities, the table below provides an overview of the most common types of assets, which are operated and maintained by local authorities in cities of developing countries.

Service sectors

Main types of physical facilities which require operation and maintenance

Basic infrastructure,

civil works,

underground utilities

Building structures

Vehicles, plant, mechanical and

electrical equipment


Building-site areas



Offices, stores,


Mechanical, electrical installations,

transport vehicles

Water supply



transmission and

distribution mains

Basins, treatment-plant

structures, water pumping



Pumps, deep wells, mechanical/

electrical installations in treatment

plants, valves, fire hydrants,

public faucets, house connections,

meters, laboratory equipment

Main drainage and

flood protection


Drains canals,

culverts, dikes,

retention basins

Pumping stations

Pumps, gates, control equipment

Sewerage systems,

low-cost sanitation

Pipes, access holes,

oxidation ponds

Basins, treatment-plant

structures, public

latrines, pumping


Pumps, mechanical electrical

installations in treatment plants,

vehicles for septic tank emptying, other

sanitation systems, laboratories


collection and


Dump sites

Stationary communal

storage units, transfer


Collection vehicles, handcarts,

containers, standardized dustbins,

equipment at dump sites, composting


Table of environment infrastructure services in developing-country cities. (Habitat, 1998)

To sum up this sub chapter, it can be concluded that sustainable livelihood approach has a bright future in helping to analyze the poor people in dealing with their vulnerability. Even though the approach is more complex, this can be a good tool to understand the process of people in being more vulnerable or less vulnerable and to discover the most important assets by which the vulnerability is influenced.

Intended to link this livelihood concept with other parties which also relate each other next sub chapter will present policies, institutions and processes, a part which has interrelationship with vulnerability conditions of people. On one way the policies, institutions and processes try to address the problems faced by poor people by reducing the vulnerability through actions to enhance the capitals. On the other way poor people also have opportunities to influence actions will be taken by institutions or “government” which give them benefit for their livelihood.

2.3 Policies, institutions and processes (PIP)

There is a shift of paradigm in poverty alleviation strategy from linear and top down approach into more dynamic and holistic process. Consequently the latter approach requires improvement of capabilities from policy analyst dealing with poverty reduction and the analysis should be more complex and involves multidimensional stakeholders (Dorward et. al. 2009).

In the sustainable livelihood approach, not only do the poor people depend on the assets entitlement but also environmental conditions influence the vulnerability of the poor. Rakodi (2002) described that there are two crucial notions which play crucial role in this complex circumstances. In this case the notions are regarded as external factors which determine the level of poor people's vulnerability in the vulnerability assessment.

The first is policies, institutional and processes (PIPs) which support the poor people to develop their livelihood strategies. The policy in the sustainable livelihood approach is meant to increase or decrease the function performed by the existing institutions and organizations or even to introduce and implement new institutions and organizations in the development process.

Hobley (2001) emphasized that PIPs play an important role in the sustainable livelihood approach as they can assure that the environment for livelihood assets is established. The meaning of ‘processes' in this stage is considered as change which takes place in the policies and institutions. Often found that there are changes of policies and institutions in the development process. For instance the shift from centralization to decentralization system which gives more attention for local government's responsibility in terms of political, fiscal and administrative function will lead to motivation, responsiveness, accountability, transparency, participation in the performance of local agencies that have the capacity to develop policies which offer better livelihood potentials and choices for people in the root grass level (Ellis 2000 in Hobley 2001).

Moreover, in this process it can be noticed that the poor people is not a passive player in the policy implementation. The approach points out that people's participation in decision making process will determine the achievement of policy formulation. In terms of development process, the understandings of people's need are important to be considered as the basis of decision making and policy formulation.

Holding power and authority, the government becomes important player in the development process. In the context of vulnerability assessment, external factor which is considered as the factor which can influence directly to other external factors is government policy. Rakodi (2002) identified the policies which come from different institutions are closely related to vulnerability conditions of poor people. Since the dimension of vulnerability is very complex, in many cases unfortunately government fail to develop appropriate policies to address poverty due to lack of ability to identify and analyse interrelated factors involved in vulnerability of poor people.

And the second is vulnerability context. The details will be discussed in the next part (sub chapter 2.4). Basically the vulnerability context revolves around pressures which threaten the livelihood assets of poor people and finally will lead them into vulnerable conditions.

2.4 Vulnerability context

There are three types of pressure which refer to threats or changes that influence the livelihood assets of poor people in terms of vulnerability context (DFID, 1999). They are divided based on their characteristics and each type of pressures will have different consequences for people's livelihood.

The first is shock, a pressure which is regarded to be more sudden and takes place in a short term period. But the effect of this pressure is not limited in the short term. This could be has a long term effect. As the shock is characterized as a sudden pressure, the poor people often do not have enough preparation to face it. For instance the death of one of family member should be a shock for household, especially if the death of the one who is the bread winner in the family. In other cases, the experience of poor people in the past to predict this kind of pressures will help them to reduce the risk of shock.

The second is trend. This type of pressures relates to long term event. The trends can occur in the local, national or even global level. Usually poor people will give more attention to trends which take place in local level. They do not follow the trends which are far from their daily life. But indeed it is important also to recognize the trends which occur in the broader level as they also give a big contribution in affecting people's livelihood. For instance the trends of national economic changes will lead into increasing prices for food that people consume.

And the last is seasonality. The seasonality will take place in a certain range of time period. As its characteristic is periodic, often found that people can develop their own method to predict the occurrences of such pressure. Hence they will have enough preparation to face such pressures in order to secure their livelihood. For instance local wisdom which is owned by people can predict the season changes in a year or even the method they develop is very sophisticated.

However in the vulnerability context it can be emphasized that pressure not always be viewed as a threat but also can be an opportunity. The introduction of appropriate technology can be an example to describe pressure as an opportunity. The using of appropriate technology can enhance the productivity of poor people.

Based on the discussion above the vulnerability context will give benefit to outline the most influential external factors affecting vulnerability condition of poor people. However in the meantime poor people also will develop unique mechanism to cope with particular pressures which is known as coping mechanism that will be discussed further in the next sub chapter.

2.5 Coping mechanism

Strategies taken by people to face pressures or changes in their life called coping mechanism. In the context of sustainable livelihood approach, the coping mechanism is developed by poor people by secure their assets in terms of entitlement (quantity), the management (quality) and opportunities to construct other coping mechanism (diversification) to improve their well-being. Rakodi (2002) suggested that the view to identify strategies which are built by the poor will give more benefit rather than place them as a passive actor in development process.

There is a relationship between coping mechanism and the sustainability of livelihood. In the beginning, the sustainable livelihood approach has its nature from the poor people who live in rural areas who mostly depend on natural resources to earn a living. Thus Carney (1994) in Rakodi (2002) defined sustainable livelihood as the livelihood which can revert from pressures and also can improve ability along time while not sacrifice natural resources. Later on the concept is adapted in a broader sense where people are considered to have sustainable capitals as they can manage their capitals in a sustainable manner or in other words as stated by DFID (1999) that sustainability means where people can cope with pressures in a longer term.

Traditionally poor people in many cases are able to cope with the pressures to one or more capitals they have for only a short term but in a longer term they cannot. And to this point, they can be considered as not sustainable or in other words vulnerable. For instance, strategy which is taken by poor people to cope with pressures of the needs to have additional money is by utilizing their children to work and earn money. In short term, as they have additional income from their children, it helps the poor to overcome the pressures. But in a longer term, loosing opportunity of children to have proper education which is important for their next future life makes them vulnerable.

However Rakodi (1999) also emphasized that in alleviating poverty problems, sometimes coping mechanism in the livelihood approach is not valid in the sense of process of achieving people's well-being. He criticized the approach by stated that the poorest people who have very limited access to livelihood assets will trap into surviving the assets to live rather than securing them for improve the well-being. The situation is mainly caused by inability of the poorest to develop another coping strategy or limited capability to diversify coping strategy options. In other words coping mechanism in securing livelihood assets is an overoptimistic concept to break out the chain of poverty.

While Devereux (1999), distinguished between coping mechanism and adaptive strategy by dividing the category of people's actions in facing problems into “normal” and “abnormal” behaviour. For instance, it should be a “normal” behaviour of farmer to survive from hunger because of longer drought every year by finding another job instead of a farmer. But it would be a coping strategy, if they act not in a usual manner such as farmer also asked their children to work for more income as the income they earn is not adequate to live. The strategies which are chosen by people to cope with stress over time to time will create permanent mechanism or an adaptation. Davies (1996) in Alwang et. al. (2001) emphasized that people do a series of short term responses in a coping mechanism while adaptation strategies tend to be a permanent behaviour in people daily life.

In summary, the coping mechanism concept is an appropriate tool to understand that poor people can develop their own strategies to cope with vulnerabilities. However it is important to distinguish between survival strategies and coping strategies as this can determine the policies that should be formulated to enhance strategies which are in line with the coping mechanism developed by people.

2.6 Conceptual framework

The figure drawn below which is developed by DFID shows a framework analysing the relationship between livelihood assets in the vulnerability context and livelihood strategies to cope with changes.

The framework actually does not try to make a picture of realistic model which occur in people's life. But this framework is trying to give an understanding about complex circumstances around poor people who have to deal with poverty by recognizing the factors that dominantly influence the sustainability of their livelihood.

Furthermore stakeholders who are responsible to the poor people can recognize the most important notions which influence people's livelihood and develop appropriate livelihood strategies to address the problems by emphasizing particular part of the framework as the entry point. The goal of the livelihood strategies should be an achievement in terms of income, increased well-being, reduced vulnerability, food security and sustainable use of capitals.

Meanwhile Turner et. al (2003) conducted a conceptual framework in analyzing vulnerability related to socioeconomic conditions and environmental or ecological conditions which is shown in the picture below:

The framework recognizes the components and linkages of vulnerability in question vary by the scale of analysis which is done and the scale of the assessment may change the specific components but not the overall structure. It identifies two basic parts to the vulnerability problem and assessment: perturbation-stresses and the coupled socio-ecological system.

Another similar approach to analyse changes in a community is called DPSIR concept (Driver, Pressure, State, Impact and Response). The concept describes the causal relationship between human activities and its surrounding (environment). Actually it is a complex system in analyzing community changes but Pirrone et. al. (2003) was able to summarize the approach into five points as follow:

  • The Driving forces are processes and anthropogenic activities (production, consumption, recreation etc.) which are able to cause pressures;
  • The Pressures are the direct stresses, deriving from the anthropogenic system, and affecting the natural environment, i.e. pollutant release;
  • The State reflects the environmental conditions of natural systems (air, soil and water quality);
  • The Impact is the measure of the effects due to changes in the state of environmental system;
  • The Response is the evaluations of actions oriented to solve environmental problems in terms of management strategies.

Based on the two frameworks above which are more widely applicable in broad context, a simplified framework, which fits on specific context and level, is developed to analyse vulnerability of the targeted community. The analytical framework wraps up five aspects which are explained in the previous sub chapters: vulnerability definition, livelihood assets, policies, vulnerability context and coping mechanism.


The framework adopts conceptual framework for vulnerability analysis based on Sustainable Livelihood Approach, DPSIR approach (Driver, Pressure, State, Impact and Response) and the definition of vulnerability. Unlike the original framework, vulnerability assessment framework which is used in the research only grabs the local scale of the system. It means that the scope of framework is limited to social economic conditions and environment conditions of the targeted community.

Moreover instead of display the whole idea of sustainable livelihood approach, the framework used in the research emphasizes to assess vulnerability level of the targeted community through indicators which show the increasing or decreasing vulnerability. And the vulnerability indicators itself will be derived into the condition of affected livelihood of the community.

Therefore the framework is better to be a practical instrument as it is equipped with details of factors which are viewed as valid indicators fitting in the local situation of field work. Based on vulnerability concept from previous explanation, the assessment is measured by determining whether the vulnerability is increased or reduced. And factors which contribute to both increasing and reducing vulnerability are divided into external and internal factors. The main notions which are derived from the framework are stated below.

On one hand, social and economic conditions which stay inherent in the community are considered as internal factors. In this context social economic conditions are expressed by capitals which are owned by people. The capitals are derived from sustainable livelihood concept of DFID which are human capital, financial capital, physical capital and social capital.

On the other hand, pressures which are faced by community coming from the outside are categorised into external factors. The factors are considered as environment conditions surrounding community which comprise natural hazard, government policy, private sector and urban development. The determination of factors which includes in external factors is developed from some resources which are literature, local policy document and field observation. Therefore, in this research external factors maybe changed in line with research process and findings obtained in the fieldwork.

Dealing with the vulnerability conditions, people develop coping strategies as an integral part of their livelihood by which the targeted community cope with their vulnerability. The strategies they develop are distinguished into several indicators based on the livelihood assets they own. An understanding about their coping strategy hopefully will be a useful stage to identify which strategies in certain capitals are the weakest point or the strongest one. Hence better strategies could be developed through analysing the mechanism.

Chapter 3: Research methodology

3.1 Research area

Based on conceptual framework which is developed, a place where represents all related factors in the framework is chosen: Dukuh Jarakan. It is part of Kelurahan Sukoharjo, Kecamatan Rembang, Kabupaten Rembang.

The site is coastal area which is located in around city center with a total area of 0,035 km2 and it is home of 263 households. Mostly people lives here work as a fisherman which is 168 households in number. The growing population from time to time causes increasing demand for land to build housing. The limited access to afford land for housing makes them occupy state land along coastal area (reservation area). Considered as informal settlement, poor fishermen experience many pressures dealing with their existence in the area.

3.2 Research type

The type of the research is explanatory which combines quantitative and qualitative analysis. The research is trying to find causative relationship between social economic and housing condition with the vulnerability of low income fishermen.

3.3 Research stages

Trying to answer the research questions which are stated in chapter one, the research is designed with mixed approach in analysing the primary and secondary data: quantitative and qualitative but the research tends to have more qualitative approach than quantitative. At some stages, the research data and analysis require some quantification. Steps below are planned to be done in collecting the data:

1. Primary data

  • Household survey.
  • Photographic record.
  • Community walks to conduct informal interviews with the low income fishermen and their families.
  • In-depth interviews with local government officials (Kelurahan, Kecamatan and Bappeda).

2. Secondary data collection of information related to the targeted community

  • Midterm Development Plan (RPJM) of Rembang Regency 2006 -2010
  • Spatial plan (RT RW) of Rembang Regency 2005 - 2014
  • Housing Plan (RP4D) of Rembang Regency 2014
  • Regional Budget of Rembang Regency 2009 -2010
  • Musrenbang Kecamatan Rembang documentation 2009 - 2010
  • Maps.
  • Particular Local Law or Regulations (Peraturan Daerah) of Rembang Regency.
  • Newspapers.

In conducting data collection, there are several strategies to achieve required primary data.

First is desktop study of statistical data to find general description of demographic condition of targeted population. Then using the demographic data, I will conduct selected sampling of households to explore more information related to their socio economic characteristics through household survey.

Second, to capture the real life situations which are occurred in community, I want to conduct informal interviews with low income fishermen and their families.

Finally, In-depth interviews with local government institutions (Kelurahan, Kecamatan and Public Works) will be conducted to get about policy and planning which have been taken and will be performed in the future related to the targeted community.

3.3 Sample

In this research, there are five parties from which the data are taken. First is 29 household of fishermen who are considered as vulnerable community. Second is community leader of Kelurahan Sukoharjo where the community live in. Third is owner of fish processing factory as a representative of private sectors. Fourth is leader of fishermen association, the organization which has a direct relationship with fishermen daily life. And the last is Head of Housing and Spatial Planning Division of Rembang Regency, the government officer, who is responsible to develop policy related to housing and spatial planning in Rembang Regency.

In general, flowchart below represents a set of research stages by which the research will be conducted.

3.5 Definition of variables and indicators

Overall Research Question

What is level of vulnerability of low income fishermen community?

Sub-research question




1. Internal Factors

Human Capital

1. Education Level

2. Health Condition

Drop-out rate

Household survey

1. What is your education level?

2. Why are you dropout?

3. Do you have special skill to work?

4. How do you master your skill?


Household survey

1. How many times do you usually go to health center?

2. Why do you go there?

3. What do you do to solve your health problem?

Financial Capital

1. Labor

2. Financial Service Organizations

3. Productive Assets

Employment rate

Unemployment rate

Household survey

1. Do you have your own boat?

2. How many times do you go fishing in a month?

3. How is the fishing cycle in a year?

4. What do you do when you do not go fishing?

Secure wage employment

Household survey

1. How much money can you earn every time you go fishing?

2. Are there any family members who work also?

Number of single female household

Household survey

1. How long do you experience as single female household?

2. What do you do to fulfil your family basic needs?

Income reduction

Household survey

1. Is there any decline in the fishing production?

2. Averagely, how many is the decline?

3. What do you do to cover this situation?

NumberA  of people having no permanent job

Household survey

1. Do you have your own boat?

2. How many times do you go fishing in a month?

3. How is the fishing cycle in a year?

4. What do you do when you do not go fishing?

Number of financial service organizations

Household survey

1. Do you have financial security?

2. Do you have bank debt?

3. What is your financial service organization?

Number of household having inability to use housing as productive asset

Household survey

1. Do you also work at home?

2. What kind of business is it?

3. Does it contribute a lot for your family?

Physical Capital

1. Housing conditions

2. Infrastructure provision

Number of people having no right over land status

Household survey

1. How long have you been settle here?

2. Is it land rent or ownership?

3. What is your area of land for housing?

4. How do you get your land?

5. Do you have another land?

6. Do you pay your land tax?

Increasing perception about threat of eviction

Household survey

1. Do you live permanently here?

2. Did you have an experience of eviction?

3. What did you do with such experience?

4. Why do you live here?

5. Do you know policy which is taken by government related to your existence?

6. What do you think about it?

7. Do you hear any plan from company to run their business around here?

8. What do you think about the plan relate to their land need and your land?

9. How do you respond with the plan?

10. Do you plan to move into other place?

Number of unhealthy garbage disposal

Household survey

1. How do you usually dispose your household garbage?

2. What do you think about this habit?

InsufficientA  number of bedroom, kitchen and toilet

Household survey

1. Can you explain your room arrangement in your house?

2. How do you deal with limitation with insufficient number of rooms?

Number of non-permanent housing

Household survey

1. Have you ever improved your housing condition?

2. How many times is it?

3. Why did you decide to improve it?

4. Can you tell me your previous housing condition?

Number of public infrastructures

Field Observation

1. Water supply

2. Sanitation

3. Education (Clinics)

4. Health (Schools)

5. Land Accessibility (Road)

6. Flood protection

7. Solid waste disposal

8. Communication

Social Capital

1. Community network

2. Inter-household reciprocity

3. Community based organization

Existence of social norm which is valid in community

Household survey

1. Is there any custom to help each other if there are any difficulties faced by fishermen?

2. How strong is the relationship among fishermen?

Number of community based organization

Household survey

1. Is there any community based organizations?

2. Do you actively involved in?

3. What kind of activities they do?

4. Do they have network with government institution?

2. External Factors?

Natural Hazard

Number of natural hazard occurrence

Household survey

1. Is there any natural hazard destroy your house?

2. How often does it happen?

Damage level caused by hazard

Household survey

1. Can you tell me about the damage caused by natural hazard?

2. How do you repair your house? By yourself, government help, neighbour help or other.

3. What do you do to prevent the damage caused by natural hazard?

Government Policy

1. Informal housing policy

2. Social economic policy

Planning document related to informal housing of targeted community

Desk study

1. Midterm Development Plan (RPJM of Rembang Regency 2006 -2010)

2. Spatial plan (RT RW of Rembang Regency 2005 - 2014)

3. Housing Plan (RP4D of Rembang Regency 2014)

4. Regional Budget of Rembang Regency 2009 -2010

5. Musrenbang Kecamatan Rembang documentation 2009 - 2010

Informal housing policy and its implementation

In-depth Interview with Bappeda and Kelurahan

1. Is there any policy related to informal housing?

2. What are policies which already been done by government?

3. How is the process of implementation of such policy?

4. How is respond from community?

5. What is obstacle or problem which is faced by government in implementing such policy?

6. What is effort to solve the problems?

7. What are policies which are planned to do for next to deal with informal housing?

8. Do you think that the plan is suitable?

9. Why do you think like that?

Planning document related to social economic condition of targeted community

Desk study

1. Midterm Development Plan (RPJM of Rembang Regency 2006 -2010)

2. Regional Budget of Rembang Regency 2009 -2010

3. Musrenbang Kecamatan Rembang documentation 2009 - 2010

Social economic policy and its implementation

In-depth Interview withA  Kelurahan

1. Is there any policy related to social economic condition of low income fishermen?

2. What are policies which already been done by government?

3. How is the process of implementation of such policy?

4. How is respond from community?

5. What is obstacle or problem which is faced by government in implementing such policy?

6. What is effort to solve the problems?

7. Do you think that the policy which already been done is appropriate to deal with informal housing problem?

8. What are policies which are planned to do for next to deal with social economic condition of low income fishermen?

9. Do you think that the plan is suitable?

10. Why do you think like that?

Private Sector Expansion

Increasing needs of land for business expansion

In-depth Interview with fish processing and salt businessmen

1. What kind of business do you run?

2. How long do you run this business?

3. Do you have a plan to expand your factory?

4. Do you think that the need for land in coastal areas is increasing?

5. What do you think about land occupied by fishermen illegally?

6. Do you interesting in that land for business expansion?

7. What is your effort to realize your plan?

Urban Development

Spatial plan and development related to region surrounding coastal areas

Desk study

1. Midterm Development Plan (RPJM of Rembang Regency 2006 -2010)

2. Regional Budget of Rembang Regency 2009 -2010

3. Musrenbang Kecamatan Rembang documentation 2009 - 2010

Urban development plan and its implementation

In-depth Interview with Kelurahan

1. What do you think about the existence of informal housing in term of urban development?

2. What is the plan for developing this area?

3. What is respond from community about the development of the area?

4. Was there any conflicts between low income fishermen and government related to urban development which already done?

5. What is the effort to deal with such condition?

Chapter 4: Research results and analysis

4.1 Internal Factors

4.1.1 Human capital

  1. Education
    1. Low level of education shown by 76% of samples is only graduated from elementary school.
    2. The reason that forces them to have low education is economic reason.
    3. There is a changing perception about education that their children should have better education to make them easily find another job.
    4. Only 10% of samples who has another skill to make them more robust to face uncertain fishing products
  2. Morbidity
    1. Access to health centre is reachable, however socially they feel do not have right to go there.
    2. They used to have traditional medicine and non-recipe medicine to cure illness
  3. Awareness to healthy life
    1. There is a custom to dispose domestic waste to the sea.
    2. There is no toilet room in house.
    3. Almost no attention with bad sanitation condition.

4.1.2 Financial capital

  1. Number of permanent job 31% of sample is self-employed. In this case they have their own boat for fishing. And 69% of sample depends on another person to earn a living since they work as labor to help people who have boat.
  2. Secure wage employment Compare with minimum regional salary of Rembang Regency 2010 which is Rp.702.000,oo/month, there are no exact income can be calculated in a month. Here is the range of their daily income:
    1. Rp. 10.000,oo - Rp. 25.000,oo : 45%.
    2. Rp. 25.000,oo - Rp. 50.000,oo : 31%.
    3. More than Rp. 50.000,oo : 24%.
  3. Income reduction For last 2 years people experienced declining in fish production. Since there is no more peak season, the income decreased up to 60% than usual.
  4. Number of financial services Type of financial services followed by sample:
    1. Loan, mostly they use it for consumptive reason: 5 households.
    2. Saving, only 3 persons from sample practice this service.
    3. Arisan, the most popular financial service among sample: 14 households.
    4. Pawning, 5 households pawn their asset to fulfil daily needs.
    5. 10 households out of 29 do not follow any financial services.

4.1.3 Physical capital

  1. Number of people having right over land status Almost all of sample got their land by reclaiming coastal line. They do not register land to government.
  2. Awareness about land status Because they feel that they made the land, they have right to settle there. And so many people live in coastal line do reclamation since for a long time ago (started since 1980's)
  3. Housing Conditions
    1. 72% of sample's housing plot is less than 100 m2, and the rest is between 100 - 200 m2.
    2. 25 household live in non-permanent and semi-permanent housing.
  4. Number of public infrastructures
    1. There is no direct support from government in providing electrical and clean water supply.
    2. Health and education infrastructures can be found around the community (2 clinics, 1 hospital, 4 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools and 3 senior high schools)
    3. Sanitation system is limited and the existing one is not maintained well.
    4. It is very easy to access the main road (only about 300m from Pantura line the main road)

4.1.4 Social capital

  1. Existence of social norm
    1. Compare to non-fishermen community, sample tends to have social care to their surroundings. It is caused by their feeling that they are in the same boat. Inter-household reciprocity can be seen in daily life: working together to park a boat, death ceremony, annual cultural ritual, help for someone who got sick, gift exchange, religion ceremony and a unique system of lending and borrowing money among them.
    2. Religion has melted in their daily life, although religion was just introduced to them intensively only since the 1990's.
    3. Community has their own agreement to manage land (reclamation land) ownership: size of housing plot and who will own the land.
  2. Number of community based organizations Organization which closes to their daily activity is fishermen cooperation (Koperasi Nelayan Saroyo Mino) and fishermen association.
  3. Community Participation in organizations No access to influence decision of policy making in Koperasi Nelayan Saroyo Mino.

4.1.5 Coping mechanism Human capital

There is a changing perception about education for their children in the future. They think that education is important to find more promising job for a better life.

In term of caring the health conditions, people used to take traditional medicine to cure illness. There is a belief in the community that the sea is source of medicine which will solve every illness they suffer. Financial capital

There is a custom to help neighbour difficulties especially in term of financial problem. Not only is a custom about to lend money without interest but also the custom allows people to lend a certain amount of raw materials for instance sand, stone and wood to build a house to their neighbours. Physical capital

To cope with natural hazards which hit their houses, people physically strengthen their buildings. Common strategies which are done by people are higher foundation to prevent flood and abrasion, strengthen house by using brick wall and concrete and modify root cover

4.2 External factors

4.2.1 Natural hazard

There are several number of natural hazard which should be faced by people especially fishermen who live along coastal areas. In the research area, Dukuh Jarakan, low income fishermen have to survive with natural hazard occurrences which occur either periodically or seasonally. Types of natural hazards which hit the housing existence of targeted community are flood caused by tidal wave, tropical cyclone and abrasion.

In 2009, three houses were completely broken down by hard tropical cyclone. While in the common cases the cyclone usually caused damage on almost all of housetops it struck. And abrasion which happens resulted to broken walls.

4.2.2 Government policy

Informal Housing Policy related to informal housing in Dukuh Jarakan:

  • Local law of Rembang Regency No. 8 of 2007 regulates that 100 m from coastal line (measured at highest tidal level) is free from land utilization.
  • Policy which is formulated to solve informal housing issue is looked incidentally and does not have a clear objective: renewal at 2008 (PLP and P2KP) and restoration at 2006 but failed (mangrove planting program).
  • Break water project to prevent abrasion. However, fishermen do not agree with the policy because it will limit them to expand land for their next generation. In addition, the break water will influence their boat parking.
  • Related to break water project, tourism sector policy is directed to expand the existing tourism spot which is located near fishermen settlement.
  • There is a campaign or dissemination for implementing law that arranges coastal area is conservation area through sub district and village level government.
  • Some industries were built on conservation area in Dukuh Jarakan formally is illegal but their existence is needed for compelling economy of people surrounding industry (in a special case someone or company should have permit from Regent to utilize the area).

Social Economy Policy:

  • Fishermen cooperation (Koperasi Saroyo Mino) policy related to improve fishermen economy: fishing tool and fuel provision, life insurance, scholarship and giving money in famine season.
  • Fishing tools aid program from Dinas Kelautan dan Perikanan only once at 2008 that is 400 fishing tools. Fishermen criticized the program as useless project because the aid did not cover all of fishermen and even they did not feel helped by the program.

Development programs which are done to deal with housing in coastal areas:

  • Break water to protect settlement from abrasion danger.
  • Restructuring Urban Housing Program (Program Penataan Lingkungan Perkotaan).
  • Urban poverty alleviation program (Program Pengentasan Kemiskinan Perkotaan).
  • There is no special program to solve problem related illegal housing in Dukuh Jarakan.

4.2.3 Urban development

Number of fishermen is decreasing from time to time. Since it is difficult to depend on sea products, based on registration book of fishermen members 14 and 23 persons in 2009 and 2010 leave their job. They work as street vendor (hawker) and labor in construction, factory or sea port.

In many cases people from other areas (not fishermen) buy their land. During 2010, seven fishermen sold their house.

The development of sea port which is located about 1 km from fishermen settlement influence the increasing number of modern and big fish vessel. The situation creates unbalanced competition between traditional fishermen and big fish vessels.

Declining in income of fishermen is caused by overfishing and environmental degradation around Rembang waters. Limited capacity of small boats used by fishermen cannot take them go further into wider areas.

4.2.4 Private sector

Industry which dominates this area is fish processing industry. There are 2 big fish processing industries and 11 home industries located near the settlement and in the settlement.

It is cheaper to locate industry near sea to make them easily throw the waste away.

There is a disservice practice between industry owner and fishermen. As fishermen need money, then the owner lends fishermen some money but with an agreement that fishermen should sell their fish to the owner. And the agreement makes fishermen have no power to bargain the fish price offered by the owner which is sometimes considered lower than market price.

Tourism sector which is run by private sector in this area is not significant. There are only 3 villa located near the community.

There is a potential chance to involve fishermen in tourism sector. Some rich people ask traditional fishermen to accompany them doing their fishing hobbies. But only few fishermen have special knowledge to know precisely a good place for fishing in the sea where most fish would be located.

Did you like this example?

Cite this page

Assessing vulnerability of low income fishermen. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved April 19, 2024 , from

Save time with Studydriver!

Get in touch with our top writers for a non-plagiarized essays written to satisfy your needs

Get custom essay

Stuck on ideas? Struggling with a concept?

A professional writer will make a clear, mistake-free paper for you!

Get help with your assignment
Leave your email and we will send a sample to you.
Stop wasting your time searching for samples!
You can find a skilled professional who can write any paper for you.
Get unique paper

I'm Amy :)

I can help you save hours on your homework. Let's start by finding a writer.

Find Writer