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University of the Witwatersrand (2020)

Household vulnerabilities and responses to climatic and socio-economic stressors in Southern African dry forests and woodlands

Paumgarten, Fiona

Titre : Household vulnerabilities and responses to climatic and socio-economic stressors in Southern African dry forests and woodlands

Auteur : Paumgarten, Fiona

Université de soutenance : University of the Witwatersrand

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy, 2020

Résumé partiel
Rural households in the dry forests and woodlands of southern Africa face significant challenges to securing a sustainable livelihood. Climate change will likely exacerbate existing vulnerabilities in these dryland systems, particularly where households depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods and ecosystem services. In line with global goals to reduce and manage the risk of climate change, and to increase the likelihood of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, there is the need to enhance rural households’ adaptive capacity. Given the southern African region’s broader development challenges, including the existing funding and capacity constraints, adaptation interventions need to be effectively targeted. Although adaptation is described as a multi-dimensional and multi-scale process, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that national commitments are often undermined by limited understanding of local level responses. A review of the existing literature from across southern Africa indicates limited local-level assessments of the climate-related risk of rural households in the region. A better understanding of the local context, guided by scientific research and local knowledge, is therefore important, particularly to support the design and implementation of appropriate interventions. These adaptation interventions should be cognisant of the heterogeneity of rural communities, acknowledge households’ broader vulnerability context, recognise those groups most likely to be worst affected by climate change, and support households’ existing capacity to respond to stresses and shocks. With the aim of contributing towards an improved understanding of the local context, this thesis explores household vulnerabilities and responses to climatic and socio-economic stressors in southern African dry forests and woodlands. Focusing on two rural communities in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, and taking a livelihoods approach, the study explored various aspects related to the climate-related risk of rural households, local perceptions and experiences of climate change and variability, households’ broader vulnerability context (focusing on a range of stressors, including natural hazards), and their existing coping options (including the safety-net role of natural resources). With respect to the latter, it was assumed that households’ existing coping strategies (and their access to assets) are indicative of households’ adaptive capacity. For each of these aspects the influence of a number of factors, including location, various household characteristics, and households’ existing capital portfolio, was considered. Data were collected through a mixed-method approach, which included household surveys and a detailed Participatory Rural Appraisal. South Africa’s Limpopo Province, one of the country’s poorest provinces, comprises predominantly rural areas, many of which are located in underdeveloped, former homeland areas. Households in these areas continue to rely on climate-sensitive livelihoods and have low adaptive capacity given limited assets and poor access to economic development opportunities. We considered rural households in the villages of Bennde Mutale and Vondo.

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