Using Life Histories to Understand Temporal Vulnerability to Climate Change in Highly Dynamic Contexts (December 2017)
Authors: Chandni Singh
Abstract: Climate change research has often been critiqued for focussing on abstract impacts far into the future that are not perceived and understood in the context of daily life. This case proposes the use of life history interviewing as a methodological approach to study how people perceive and negotiate multiple risks to their lives and livelihoods (one of which may be climate variability) in highly dynamic contexts such as dryland areas. The case examines vulnerability to climate change (among other risks) at household and intrahousehold levels to uncover how personal attributes such as caste, age, and gender, as well as contextual factors such as reduced natural resources and socio-political trajectories shape people’s daily lives, their livelihood choices, and aspirations for the future. Using research conducted in two districts in Southern India, I demonstrate how life histories can expand the existing methodological toolkit available to social scientists working on climate change vulnerability and contribute to understanding the temporality inherent in livelihood decisions, the often-intangible aspirations that motivate people’s choices, and how household responses are tapestries of negotiations made within their immediate and larger environment. Read more here
Can scenario planning catalyse transformational change? Evaluating a climate change policy case study in Mali (November 2017)
Authors: Edmond Totin, James R. Butler, Amadou Sidibé, Samuel Partey, Philip K. Thornton, Ramadjita Tabo
Abstract: The potential of participatory scenario processes to catalyse individual and collective transformation and policy change is emphasised in several theoretical reflections. Participatory scenario processes are believed to enhance participants’ systems understanding, learning, networking and subsequent changes in practices. However, limited empirical evidence is available to prove these assumptions. This study aimed to contribute to this knowledge gap. It evaluates whether these outcomes had resulted from the scenario planning exercise and the extent to which they can contribute to transformational processes. The research focused on a district level case study in rural Mali which examined food security and necessary policy changes in the context of climate change. The analyses of interviews with 26 participants carried out 12 months after the workshop suggested positive changes in learning and networking, but only limited influence on systems understanding. There was limited change in practice, but the reported changes occurred at the individual level, and no policy outcomes were evident. However, by building the adaptive capacity of participants, the scenario process had laid the foundation for ongoing collective action, and potential institutional and policy transformation. We conclude that to enhance the resilience of agricultural and food systems under climate change, participatory scenario processes require a broader range of cross-scale actors’ engagement to support transformational changes. Such process will both catalyse deeper learning and more effective link with national level policymaking process. In addition, individual scenario planning exercises are unlikely to generate sufficient learning and reflection, and instead they should form one component of more extensive and deliberate stakeholder engagement, learning and evaluation processes. Read it here
Using participatory modeling processes to identify sources of climate risk in West Africa (October 2017)
Authors: Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, Louie RiversIII, Arika Ligmann-Zielinska, Jing Du, Riva Denny, Sandra Marquart-Pyatt, Amadou Sidibé
Abstract: Participatory modeling has been widely recognized in recent years as a powerful tool for dealing with risk and uncertainty. By incorporating multiple perspectives into the structure of a model, we hypothesize that sources of risk can be identified and analyzed more comprehensively compared to traditional ‘expert-driven’ models. However, one of the weaknesses of a participatory modeling process is that it is typically not feasible to involve more than a few dozen people in model creation, and valuable perspectives on sources of risk may therefore be absent. We sought to address this weakness by conducting parallel participatory modeling processes in three countries in West Africa with similar climates and smallholder agricultural systems, but widely differing political and cultural contexts. Stakeholders involved in the agricultural sector in Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria participated in either a scenario planning process or a causal loop diagramming process, in which they were asked about drivers of agricultural productivity and food security, and sources of risk, including climate risk, between the present and mid-century (2035–2050). Participants in all three workshops identified both direct and indirect sources of climate risk, as they interact with other critical drivers of agricultural systems change, such as water availability, political investment in agriculture, and land availability. We conclude that participatory systems methods are a valuable addition to the suite of methodologies for analyzing climate risk and that scientists and policy-makers would do well to consider dynamic interactions between drivers of risk when assessing the resilience of agricultural systems to climate change.
Multi-scale governance in agriculture systems: Interplay between national and local institutions around the production dimension of food security in Mali (September 2017)
Authors: Amadou Sidibé, Edmond Totin, Mary Thompson-Hall, Oumar T. Traoré, Pierre C. Sibiry Traoré, Laura Schmitt Olabisi
Abstract: Enforcement of rules and laws designed at the national level is still one of the dominant institutional mechanisms for effective multiscale governance in most countries. At times, such blanket regulations are not only unable to meet practical needs at local levels, but they may conflict with local institutional logics, thereby creating new challenges. This study looks at three institutional arrangements in the agriculture and food security sector in the district of Koutiala, Mali to analyse the institutional variety across scale and the underlying institutional logics. On one side, the Cooperative Law as well as the Seed Law both designed at national level to enable famers’ access to agriculture services and improved seeds have yielded mixed results with regard to anticipated outcomes. The cooperative law is believed to degrade the social cohesion and the mutual support on which vulnerable farmers rely when facing climatic and non-climatic risks whereas the new seed system is found onerous and unaffordable for farmers. On the other side, the local convention for the management of natural resources established as part of ongoing decentralised governance policy seems to resonate with local culture but challenged by other stakeholders. Through exploring these cases, this paper tests bricolage as an analytical framework for doing an institutional diagnostic. It aims at contributing to methodological and theoretical insights on the way sustainable institutions can be generated in conflicting institutional logics in the context of multi-scale governance.
Transformation, adaptation and development: relating concepts to practice (September 2017)
Authors: Roger Few, Daniel Morchain, Dian Spear, Adelina Mensah, Ramkumar Bendapudi
In this paper, a team of ASSAR researchers and practitioners examine the relevance of transformation for adaptation research and adaptation practice. They aim to shift conversations about transformation from being theoretical, abstract and aspirational, to being able to inform concrete action. To help researchers and practitioners understand if and how transformation might be occurring or be encouraged, they propose a set of questions that could be asked of an adaptation activity. By helping to split these activities into distinct categories, this process can provide clarity around the objectives of an adaptation response and the larger changes sought. This in turn can help to reduce the risk of negative impacts on vulnerable or marginalised people, and ensure that the societal and systemic implications of a specific transformation are better understood from the outset.
Gendered vulnerabilities to climate change: Insights from the semiarid regions of Africa and Asia (September 2017)
Authors: Nitya Rao, Elaine T. Lawson, Wapula N. Raditloaneng, Divya Solomon, Margaret N. Angula
Abstract: Emerging and on-going research indicates that vulnerabilities to impacts of climate change are gendered. Still, policy approaches aimed at strengthening local communities’ adaptive capacity largely fail to recognize the gendered nature of everyday realities and experiences. This paper interrogates some of the emerging evidence in selected semi-arid countries of Africa and Asia from a gender perspective, using water scarcity as an illustrative example. It emphasizes the importance of moving beyond the counting of numbers of men and women to unpacking relations of power, of inclusion and exclusion in decision-making, and challenging cultural beliefs that have denied equal opportunities and rights to differently positioned people, especially those at the bottom of economic and social hierarchies. Such an approach would make policy and practice more relevant to people’s differentiated needs and responses.
The utility of weather and climate information for adaptation decision-making: current uses and future prospects in Africa and India (May 2017)
Authors: Chandni Singh, Joseph Daron, Amir Bazaz, Gina Ziervogel, Dian Spear, Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Modathir Zaroug & Evans Kituyi
In their recent review article, Chandni Singh and her collaborators explored if, and how, farmers in the semi-arid regions of Africa and India use content provided by climate information services to guide their farming decisions. Based on their findings they argue that efforts to adapt to climate variability and climate change can be strengthened by considering how weather and climate information is used at different scales of time and place, by different people, and towards different outcomes. They developed a framework that captures this idea, and argue that the uptake of short-term weather advisories and seasonal forecasts have created a demand for climate information that can be leveraged to inform adaptation decision-making. Read more
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How do we assess vulnerability to climate change in India? A systematic review of literature (February 2017)
Authors: Chandni Singh, Tanvi Deshpande, Ritwika Basu
When trying to prioritise adaptation efforts, it is crucial to understand which people, places and systems are the most vulnerable to climate changes. This is particularly important in countries like India where multiple non-climatic risks already interact with socio-economic differences to make and keep people vulnerable. So how do we determine those most vulnerable to climate change? Many different vulnerability assessment tools have been designed for this purpose, but their effectiveness has not been interrogated. Through a review of key literature the authors set out to do this interrogation, asking these four questions for each assessment tool:
How is vulnerability conceptualised (vulnerability of who/what, vulnerability to what)?
Who does the vulnerability assessments?
How is vulnerability assessed (which methods, at what scale of time and place)?
How do these methods affect the assessment outcomes?
The findings raise important concerns about the ways that assessment tools are designed and implemented:
Assessment methods are affected by the disciplinary traditions, methodological approaches, and often-unstated motivations of those who design them.
Although most assessments acknowledge the importance of scale (of time and place) in determining vulnerability, very few actually integrate scale in their methods.
Such methodological myopia potentially overlooks how social differences, ecological shifts, and institutional dynamics construct and perpetuate vulnerability.
Most vulnerability assessments are performed in rural areas with relatively few performed in urban and peri-urban settlements. Yet it is in these transition areas that vulnerabilities can be heightened. Read more
Hydrogeological delineation of groundwater vulnerability to droughts in semi-arid areas of western Ahmednagar district (December 2016)
Authors: Renie Thomas, Vijayasekaran Duraisamy
Abstract: Groundwater, a renewable and finite natural resource, is a vital source of sustenance for humans and different ecosystems in the semi-arid regions. Rapid population growth in the last three decades has caused a rise in water demand which has inadvertently posed a stress on its availability. Occurrence of groundwater in the Deccan Volcanic Province is governed by the subsurface hydrogeological heterogeneity of basaltic lava flows and by the presence of geological structures like dykes, sills and fractures that influence spatial & vertical groundwater flow. The main objective of this paper is to map and assess areas that are naturally most susceptible to groundwater scarcity and at risk of depletion due to over extraction. The current study involves a field hydrogeological mapping that was integrated with remote sensing and GIS to delineate areas. This technique was based on using different thematic layers viz. lithology, slope, land-use and land cover, lineament, drainage, soil type, depth to groundwater and annual rainfall. Additionally, pumping tests were carried out to classify the study area into different hydrogeological typologies to help delineate communities that are most vulnerable to subsurface heterogeneity. This paper attempts to underline the groundwater scarcity zones based on different influencing thematic layers and provide a robust methodology to prioritize areas vulnerable to groundwater unavailability, by categorizing the study area into different vulnerable class types – extreme, high, moderate and low.
Adaptation to climate change or non-climatic stressors in semi-arid regions? Evidence of gender differentiation in three agrarian districts of Ghana (November 2016)
Authors: Abubakari Ahmed, Elaine T. Lawson, Adelina Mensah, Chris Gordon, Jon Padgham
Abstract: With the increasing impacts of climate change in Africa, a relationship between rainfall and yields in semi-arid Ghana has been observed. Drawing insights from three agrarian societies in the semi-arid region of Ghana using qualitative research methods, the study reports how people currently deal with climate variability as insight on how they will deal with climate change in the future. Read more
What if gender became an essential, standard element of Vulnerability Assessments? (November 2015)
Authors: Daniel Morchain, Giorgia Prati, Frances Kelsey & Lauren Ravon
Abstract: Vulnerability Assessments (VAs) can be useful tools for providing key insights for nongovernment organisations and other development actors, including governments. Not only can they provide an extensive, ‘landscape-wide’ understanding of vulnerability and its underlying causes in a specific context, but this understanding can be jointly owned by all participants. They can thus be used for designing risk reduction and resilience-building measures, programmes, or projects that affect specific groups within a community or the landscape. Beyond that, VAs can provide a platform that promotes interaction among otherwise disconnected stakeholders, as well as the evidence and argumentation for community groups to engage in advocacy with local and municipal/district authorities. This article draws on our combined experience as development practitioners, and considers what we have learnt about the importance of integrating gender issues into VAs. Read more here