The overall objective of this 5-year project was to improve understanding of the vulnerability of rural agricultural and indigenous communities to shifts in climate variability and to the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events, and to engage governance institutions in Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia in enhancing their adaptive capacity to reduce rural community vulnerability. The VACEA project was a collaborative, comparative and interdisciplinary investigation. It addressed gaps in our knowledge of the consequences of global climate change for regional climate variability and extremes and for the associated vulnerabilities and adaptive strategies of rural communities. The project focused on rural populations that are highly vulnerable, either because they live on the social and economic margins of society or because the nature of their livelihoods makes them highly exposed and sensitive to climate variability and extremes. At local and regional scales the major climate hazards are extreme conditions rather than trends in the means. The analysis of current vulnerabilities in the context of projected shifts in climate variability and the frequency and intensity of extreme events produced important insights into future risks and opportunities, informing the adoption of more appropriate local practices and adjustments to governance policies. The project encompassed natural and social science and engineering and a conceptual model that links the different perspectives and disciplinary approaches and combines qualitative and quantitative methods, integrating various types of knowledge. In collaboration with our project partners, we achieved heightened inter-jurisdictional awareness and exchange of practices and tools for adapting to climate, including vulnerability and risk assessment, interventions that respect traditional knowledge, and communication to enhance public understanding of climate change adaptation strategies and their benefits. The project linked initiatives across sectors and disciplines, involved partnership and collaboration with various non-academic partners, enhanced collaboration among researchers from Canada and four Latin American countries, and worked with multi-stakeholder groups to strengthen their commitment to achieving adaptation to climate change.