Farming communities in the Upper Ganga basin, nestled in Himalayan region, are finding it extremely difficult to face water-related shocks, which stand to profoundly impact their quality of life and livelihoods, due to climate change. Often, coping strategies (technological or institutional interventions), developed by planners, become counter-productive as they are not in cognizance with the end user community. This study presents a methodology to enable incorporation of community knowledge and expectations in planning by integrating participatory rural appraisal (PRA) with geographic information system, leading to better informed coping strategies. As part of this, we create thematic maps which: (i) capture information on a spatial scale (otherwise lost during PRA), (ii) facilitate community participation for further research and planning in their contexts, and, (iii) co-create knowledge to develop a shared understanding of water-related hazards at the village level. The proposed methodology is presented through three case study sites – two in plains (<500 masl) and one in middle (500–1,500 masl) elevation regions of Upper Ganga basin. We show how this way of approaching context analysis facilitates community involvement as well as co-creates a knowledge base which can facilitate researchers and government officials in mindful planning of interventions in the area.