Academic Journal Articles

Browse this page to find current research on social and ecological issues in Africa with a focus on sustainability, climate change, adaptation, resilience, and conservation.

Trees inside and outside forests contribute to food security in Africa in the face of climate variability and change. They also provide environmental and social benefits as part of farming livelihoods. Varied ecological and socio-economic conditions have given rise to specific forms of agroforestry in different parts of Africa. Policies that institutionally segregate forest from agriculture miss opportunities for synergy at landscape scale.  More explicit inclusion of agroforestry and the integration of agriculture and forestry agendas in global initiatives on climate change adaptation and mitigation can increase their effectiveness. We identify research gaps and overarching research questions for the contributions in this special issue that may help shape current opinion in environmental sustainability.

GEC journal

This study examines the ways in which the adaptive capacity of households to climatic events varies within communities and is mediated by institutional and landscape changes. We present qualitative and quantitative data from two Maasai communities differentially exposed to the devastating drought of 2009 in Northern Tanzania. We show how rangeland fragmentation combined with the decoupling of institutions and landscapes are affecting pastoralists’ ability to cope with drought. Our data highlight that mobility remains a key coping mechanism for pastoralists to avoid cattle loss during a drought. However, mobility is now happening in new ways that require not only large amounts of money but new forms of knowledge and connections outside of customary reciprocity networks. Those least affected by the drought, in terms of cattle lost, were those with large herds who were able to sell some of their cattle and to pay for private access to pastures outside of Maasai areas. Drawing on an entitlements framework, we argue that the new coping mechanisms are not available to all, could be making some households more vulnerable to climate change, and reduce the adaptive capacity of the overall system as reciprocity networks and customary institutions are weakened. As such, we posit that adaptive capacity to climate change is uneven within and across communities, is scale-dependent, and is intimately tied to institutional and landscape changes.

Experts working on behalf of international development organisations need better tools to assist land managers in developing countries maintain their livelihoods, as climate change puts pressure on the ecosystem services that they depend upon. However, current understanding of livelihood vulnerability to climate change is based on a fractured and disparate set of theories and methods. This review therefore combines theoretical insights from sustainable livelihoods analysis with other analytical frameworks (including the ecosystem services framework, diffusion theory, social learning, adaptive management and transitions management) to assess the vulnerability of rural livelihoods to climate change. This integrated analytical framework helps diagnose vulnerability to climate change,whilst identifying and comparing adaptation options that could reduce vulnerability, following four broad steps: i) determine likely level of exposure to climate change, and how climate change might interact with existing stresses and other future drivers of change; ii) determine the sensitivity of stocks of capital assets and flows of ecosystem services to climate change; iii) identify factors influencing decisions to develop and/or adopt different adaptation strategies, based on innovation or the use/substitution of existing assets; and iv) identify and evaluate potential trade-offs between adaptation options. The paper concludes by identifying interdisciplinary research needs for assessing the vulnerability of livelihoods to climate change.

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