Vulnerability To Climate Change Anthropology Essay


Pastoralists have been the focus of much of the research on vulnerability to climate change. Why is this the case? How does climate change differentially affect pastoralists (provide an example from at least two regions)? What factors limit the ability of a community to respond to ecological changes? Using specific examples from the readings, provide examples of strategies that have helped to create resilience to the negative effects of climate change.

In the many semi-arid regions of the world, livestock owners depend on herd mobility to fully utilize their grazing resources. Land tenure in such geographies ranges from common to open access, even if the state has dominion over the land. A number of authors have cited that mobility and herders' ability to utilize a wide range of resources is vital in regions characterized by high spatial and temporal differences in rainfall. In East Africa, climate variability and desertification in concert with drought are among the most important stressors amongst pastoralists. Climate change, desertification and drought are products of unsustainable land management. They result in loss of agricultural efficiency, concentrated facility to maintain rural livelihoods and amplified threats of vulnerability to natural and human disasters. The mantra amongst governments has been that realigning developmental efforts and investment on management for vigorous fruitful land and improved security of tenure are essential in order to shelter the lives and occupations of millions of people worldwide and to sustain the range of products and services provided by the environment in the short and long term. Furthermore, the recent theoretical shifts from studying the vicissitudes of climate change solely in a climatic lexicon to employing the concept of vulnerability with reference to social and ecological impacts has given much impetus to works on pastoralists that focus on vulnerability to climate change (McLaughlin, P., T. Dietz, 2008).

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Paavola, in her article discussing the livelihoods, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change in Morogorom Tanzania, cites that agricultural households in the region have expanded cultivation, intensified agriculture, diversified livelihoods and migrated as a response to climate variability and other stressors. These strategies have been active in sustaining levels of consumption during periods of stress but they have also had undesirable environmental consequences such as soil erosion, deforestation and changes in water flows which can destabilize the use of past livelihood strategies for adapting to climate change in the future (Paavola, 2008). At the same time, income and other restrictions make it difficult for people to alter their livelihood strategies. Therefore increasing environmental stress could accentuate vulnerability to climate change in the future.

Paavola also adds that future vulnerability could be increased by soil erosion, provided that the most common tillage method in Tanzania is flat cultivation, which involves the preparation of a flat seedbed by turning the soil around with a hand hoe or a plough to bury vegetation residues or ashes. This method forces tillage erosion on steep slopes and water erosion during heavy rains. It also renders soil to compaction and increases runoff and reduces soil moisture. Loss of topsoil, which carries most of the nutrients and reduced soil moisture, can reduce soil fecundity significantly. Increased run-off also increases peak flows and flooding and reduces minimum flows and causes water scarcity during dry seasons. Soil erosion and flow changes also cause sedimentation of watercourses. Furthermore, deforestation can constrict the use of livelihood strategies based on farm and non-farming activities and the use of forests as safety nets. In the past, the most important reason for deforestation was the extension of cultivation. Currently charcoal and brick production cause deforestation because they make non-selective use of tree species and because their size has increased as the markets of major cities such as Dar es Salaam have become accessible (Paavola, 2008). Deforestation problem prompted the government to ban the harvesting and trade of all forest products, including charcoal, in January of 2006. Paavola adds, that deforestation is a problem for adapting to climate change for several reasons. Reduced forest cover will provide reduced water retention which contributes to increased runoff, flooding and soil erosion as well as to greater scarcity of water during dry seasons. The scarcity of water will impact rainfed and irrigated cultivation, livestock rearing and public water supply (Paavola, 2008).

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Paavola writes that when it comes to ecological vulnerability of the Marogoro region, there is no single solution which would enhance adaptive capacity in the region. A multitude complementary measures are needed, including effective governance of environmental resources such as soil, forests and water resources; promotion of increased market participation to kindle both agricultural intensification and diversification of livelihoods, and; social programs and spending on health, education and wellbeing to increase both physical and intangible human capital so that satisfying market participation is possible (Paavola, 2008). Paavola adds, technical solutions for effective management of environmental resources such as soils, forests and water resources do exist. Soil erosion can be evaded by conservation tillage and erosion control measures which can be attached with rain water harvesting and other solutions to deliver direct agricultural benefits. Pressure on the use of forest resources for charcoal production can be reduced by the promotion of efficient kilns and stoves and fuel switching and by reforms in forest tenure which give stronger incentives to forest management and tree farming. She concludes by arguing that promotion of market participation has to be coupled with public programs and spending on health, education and social welfare which help to maintain and augment human capital in both its physical and intangible manifestations. (Paavola, 2008). Summarily, vulnerability is best combated through such an integrated, multifarious strategy.

Kassahun, A., Anyman, H.A. and G.N. Smit, in discussion the impact of rangeland degradation on the pastoral production systems, livelihoods and perceptions of the Somali pastoralists in Eastern Ethiopia, argue that despite the climatic challenges faced by pastoralists of that region, they have developed different coping mechanisms, such as rangeland resource management systems, migration with their livestock in search of feed and water, diversification of livestock species, post-drought restocking strategies, early animal sales, borrowing or lending livestock, wood and charcoal making for income generation, engagement in daily labor, limited practices in irrigated cropping, which can cause conflicts for grazing and water sources, and finally dependence on food aid. Additionally, they have also reconceptualized their traditional planning and preference of live stockholding from large ruminants into small ruminants in an attempt to overcome the increased degradation of rangelands and exploit the gradual succession by bush encroachment through animal feeding behaviors. The three authors posit that their ability to transform their livelihood to better cope with ecological vulnerability implies that the pastoralists are not ignorant about their grazing resources, contrary to perceptions that users of communal land are lacking in knowledge of rangeland ecology. Despite the assiduous efforts by the Pastoralists, Kassahun et al, write that traditional coping mechanisms are failing and becoming less viable due to severe rangeland degradation, recurrent droughts and lack of politically motivated policy changes. Consequently, poverty is steadily increasing with the emergence of new poor ranks of pastoral households. One also has to recognize that the situation is complex because of the diversity of pastoralists who do not always share the same immediate and future interests. Aside from severe rangeland degradation and recurrent droughts, social, structural and political changes play a role for the failing of traditional coping mechanisms.