This study examines the effects of a climate event on livelihood assets of households in upland northern Laos, when the early onset of the rainy season as a result of climate change led to a failure to burn swidden systems. A Sustainable Livelihoods Framework is applied to estimate rural livelihood assets associated with differences in climate conditions, such as the 2010 normal climate and the 2011 climate event, and to compare household strategies in each climate condition. The findings indicate that natural capital had the highest index value in the 2010 normal climate, whereas human capital had the highest value in the 2011 climate event. Financial capital had the lowest index in both climate conditions. Residents at the research site were better off in terms of natural capital but worse off in terms of financial capital. This indicates that the government and other rural development agencies should not only manage natural resources; income-generation activities are also needed. We conclude that natural resources, as well as non-timber forest product (NTFP) gathering and off-farm activity, were the most important strategies for the entire research site under the normal climate condition. NTFP gathering and outside work are important in meeting subsistence needs and augmenting income levels in households when the rainy season begins early as a result of climate change. Outside employment was an additional strategy in households to achieve their livelihood goals, including food security and household income generation, under conditions of economic change and climate events.
2015 The Association of Japanese Geographers