Evaluating successful livelihood ...
Copyright �� 1969 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance. Osbahr, H., C. Twyman, W. N. Adger, and D. S. G. Thomas. 2010. Evaluating successful livelihood adaptation to climate variability and change in southern Africa. Ecology and Society XX(YY): ZZ. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/volXX/issYY/artZZ/ Research Evaluating Successful Livelihood Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change in Southern Africa Henny Osbahr 1, Chasca Twyman 2, W. Neil Adger 3, and David S. G. Thomas 4 ABSTRACT. This paper examines the success of small-scale farming livelihoods in adapting to climate variability and change. We represent adaptation actions as choices within a response space that includes coping but also longer-term adaptation actions, and define success as those actions which promote system resilience, promote legitimate institutional change, and hence generate and sustain collective action. We explore data on social responses from four regions across South Africa and Mozambique facing a variety of climate risks. The analysis suggests that some collective adaptation actions enhance livelihood resilience to climate change and variability but others have negative spillover effects to other scales. Any assessment of successful adaptation is, however, constrained by the scale of analysis in terms of the temporal and spatial boundaries on the system being investigated. In addition, the diversity of mechanisms by which rural communities in southern Africa adapt to risks suggests that external interventions to assist adaptation will need to be sensitive to the location-specific nature of adaptation. Key Words: adaptation Africa climate change livelihoods resilience INTRODUCTION The resilience of social-ecological systems in the face of real but uncertain global climate change is critical if communities, particularly in the developing world, are to adapt to meet future challenges (Adger et al. 2003, Washington et al. 2004, Low 2005, Hulme et al. 2005, Cash et al. 2006, Walker et al. 2006, IPCC 2007, Toulmin 2009). Climate change adaptation and the building of adaptive capacity are promoted as essential for future sustainable and equitable development, particularly for places and livelihoods that are sensitive to climate variability and climate change. Adaptation to climate change has acquired importance on the international development agenda (Commission for Africa 2005, OECD 2006, Stern 2007, UNFCCC 2007). Adaptations to climate change are already occurring through government and private action. There is, however, a growing argument in the international debates on climate policy that adaptation is limited by the need for externally financed investments by governments and aid agencies in adaptation strategies and projects (Klein and M��hner 2009, Parry et al. 2009). In these circumstances it is important to build the evidence based on adaptations that are already occurring and to identify processes of successful adaptation that potentially promote synergy with other goals of sustainable development, whether they come about by individual action or are steered by external investments and government interventions (Robinson et al. 2006). In this paper we explore characteristics that make the process of adaptation effective by focusing on social resilience, the role of social networks, institutions, and innovation, within the context of global climate change. We build on what is known about how individuals and communities who are faced with risk manage their resources and livelihoods (Eakin 2000, Stirling 2003, Adger et al. 2009). Individuals, when faced with climatic or other risks, prioritize between elements of the production, consumption, and ecological systems in which they sit. Figure 1 represents a response space showing the links between risks, i.e., exposure, to rural livelihoods and the effects resulting from these risks, i.e., system sensitivity. The response space is the set of options open to actors trying to enact multiple livelihood 1University of Reading and Walker Institute for Climate System Research, 2University of Sheffield, 3Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, 4University of Oxford
Ecology and Society (): r http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/volXX/issYY/artZZ/ and development outcomes. Although our focus is response by rural communities to climate change, there are a suite of interrelated factors that trigger a need to adapt behavior and livelihoods. Only some of the potential pathways in the response space can be deemed successful in terms of well-being or other criteria. The response space includes coping strategies that are reactive, short-term actions to deal with day-to-day shocks, problems and opportunities, as well as adaptation responses that tend to be planned and often collective actions to manage change or increased intensity of events. Evidence suggests that processes of adaptation draw on natural, social, human, as well as financial capital (Lipton et al. 1996, Nel et al. 2001, Adger 2003, Ostrom et al. 2007), with actions limited by the scarcest of these assets. For example, a household may have local knowledge, labor, and natural resources but is unable to move from coping to adaptive processes because it is excluded from access to multi-institutional level networks that offer credit or information. Therefore, the process of adaptation involves issues of governance and legitimacy of actions across different scales. Currently, understandings of the nuanced role of institutions in helping adaptations to climate disturbances remain sketchy in the literature (Gunderson 2003, Tompkins and Adger 2004, Virtanen 2005, Boyd et al. 2008). Both informal and formal institutions are critical in terms of legitimacy, governance, diffusion, and the sustainability of actions. Informal institutions tend to consist of flexible, autonomous community networks whereas formal institutions have a more structured role, often but not exclusively, with a role for the state, e.g., agricultural extension services, local civic or church groups. Both individual and collective actions within these institutions can promote components of resilience, including buffering of livelihood disturbance or climate shocks, self-organization, and adaptive capacity. This paper explores the role of individual and collective responses within informal and formal institutions that can lead to successful livelihood adaptive processes to manage the effects of climate change and variability. We begin by discussing the normative issues of what constitutes success in the context of adaptation and our research design. We then address dimensions of social resilience based on data derived from four regions in rural southern Africa. First, we assess the ability of, and mechanisms used by, individuals and communities to cope with climate change shocks. In particular, we focus on informal institutions and social networks. Second, we assess those communities��� ability to facilitate adaptive capacity, self- organization, and learning by focusing on the role of agency and formal institutions. We are interested in identifying the important functions of existing institutions as a foundation for future climate change adaptation activities. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for understanding equity and system resilience at different scales, and their significance for future development and policy initiatives. WHAT IS SUCCESS? Rural livelihoods in developing countries have been characterized paradoxically as both precarious and as immensely robust (Ellis 1993). Part of this paradox is the observation that decision making by farmers and households can be either extremely risk averse, or in other cases, highly optimized in dealing with high environmental variability and other risks (Ellis 1993, Francis 2000). Within all response spaces (Fig. 1), individuals and communities clearly have different levels of autonomy to choose livelihood pathways. The degree to which decisions are autonomous in reality is constrained by the wider economy and political environment, as well as by antecedent decisions that partly lock people into particular livelihood pathways. Actions within the response space by communities are undertaken with various implicit and explicit objectives in mind, such as diversification, risk minimization, and capital accumulation (Binns and Nel 1999, Thomas et al. 2007). Adaptation is the adjustment of a system to moderate the effects of climate change to take advantage of new opportunities. In the context of rural livelihoods, how is success to be judged? Issues raised in the climate change literature are whether responses effective at reducing risk are legitimate actions in terms of other resource users both within and external to the community, and whether they use scarce resources efficiently (Adger et al. 2005a). Furthermore, although an adaptation may be effective for one community, it may undermine the ability of others to adapt through spatial spillovers and negative externalities. Increased diversion of surface water or extraction of groundwater for agriculture, for example, may
Ecology and Society (): r http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/volXX/issYY/artZZ/ Fig. 1. The conceptualized ���response space��� of adaptation. Note: risks include: climate (drought, flooding, seasonality, variability, intensity of event), environmental (level of water availability, rangeland quality, degradation, soil/vegetation quality) and socioeconomic (limited knowledge, infrastructure and technology, poor health or economy, changing types of governance, culture or politics, demography, poverty). be an effective action for one set of farmers, but may jeopardize the adaptations of downstream users. Meanwhile, coping responses may reduce risk at short or immediate timescales, yet cause an increase in exposure to long-term risk. Discussions on the success of adaptation parallel debates that seek to define the sustainability of resource use or policy intervention (Robinson et al. 2006), and thus there may be some limitations in the adaptation discourse to explain success. Insights into the resilience of social-ecological systems (Adger 2000, Gunderson and Holling 2001, Walker et al. 2004, Cumming et al. 2006, Kinzig et al. 2006, Lebel et al. 2006) suggest that many resource management practices lead to locked-in patterns of resource use that are detrimental to the ability to adapt to surprise and shock. This set of literature implicitly proposes that desirable normative goals should be the enhancement of resilience of social- ecological resource systems (Carpenter et al. 2001). This approach would allow for flexibility and perseverance of a system in a state that provides resources and services to users. Resilience and adaptation can be considered slightly different concepts, and in this emerging paradigm resilience can be defined as ���the magnitude of disturbance that can be tolerated before a social- ecological system moves to a different state controlled by a different set of processes��� (Carpenter et al. 2001, p. 765). A ���social-ecological system��� in this case encapsulates ecosystems and their human use by communities and institutions. Resilience can be assessed through functions that determine, in the context of specific configurations and disturbances, the ability of a system to a) absorb shocks and retain its basic function, b) self-organize, and c) innovate and learn in the face of disturbances. These elements have been hypothesized as all being