Adaptive strategies within a livelihoods ADAPTIVE Research Notes

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Adaptive strategies within a livelihoods ADAPTIVE Research Notes Powered By Docstoc
					            Adaptive strategies                                                                           No. 3a

            within a livelihoods
                 approach                                     ADAPTIVE Research Notes

Key points
•    Theories of adaptation to disturbance and            ADAPTIVE, Adaptation to climate change
     change draw from livelihoods approaches,                    in vulnerable environments.
     entitlement theory, social capital/institutions            A Tyndall Centre for Climate
     research and rights-based approaches                 Change research project at the University
•    The dynamics and diversity in household
                                                                      of Sheffield, UK.
     strategies is central to understanding livelihood
•    The sustainable rural livelihoods approach          This Research Note provides more detail on the key
     provides a useful framework for conceptualising     terminology, themes and theory on livelihoods
     the multi-dimensionality, feedbacks and             approaches as used by the ADAPTIVE project.
     substitution of resources between livelihood        ADAPTIVE is a collaborative research project funded
     components                                          by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
•    Institutional, social capital and network theory
     provide frameworks for reflecting on the
     differentiated processes in collective and          The dynamics and diversity of adaptive
     agency actions, within which social learning and    strategies to manage risk and uncertainty
     the formation of identity are experienced           Adaptive capacity or livelihood response to disturbance
•    The concept of ‘adaptation response space’          and change are concepts that draw on entitlement
     acknowledges the dynamic process in adaptive        theory, where the emphasis is placed on rights to
     strategies over time and space                      resources and mechanisms of access. Integrating this
                                                         with aspects of a political ecology approach, which
                                                         includes power and social relations to explain decision-
                                                         making, enables a theory that builds in the multi-
                                                         dimensional differences of society (based on economics,
                                                         gender, age and identity).
                                                         Thus, people do not simply draw on their assets but
                                                         possess sophisticated skills in managing them, coping
                                                         with adversity, adapting with flexibility and taking
                                                         advantage of new opportunities over different
                                                         timescales. The dynamics and diversity in their ability to
                                                         mediate, allows households to pursue different
                                                         livelihood adaptations to environmental variability and
                                                         shocks at different times. The central focus on the
                                                         dynamic strategies of the household lies at the heart of
                                                         the     now-influential  livelihoods    approaches      in
                                                         developmental research and practice.

                                                         The livelihoods approach
    Research areas:
    1 Lehurutshe District (NorthWest/South Africa)       The livelihoods approach has been adopted as the
    2 Dzanani District (Limpopo/South Africa)            primary programming tool for many aid and development
    3 uThukela District (KwaZulu Natal/South Africa)     agencies in Southern Africa because it allows cross-
    4 Manjacaze District (Gaza/Mozambique)               scale linkages in decision-making.
The approach focused the debate on defining                   Institutional approaches to livelihood
sustainable livelihoods (see Research Note 1) and             adaptations
highlighting the multi-dimensionality, substitution of
                                                              Institutions are conceived as the rules and patterns of
resources between sectors and the impact of
                                                              behaviour that shape social interaction. Organisations
cumulative feedbacks within livelihoods. The
                                                              are defined as groups of individuals bound by a common
conceptual framework designed by the UK
                                                              goal. In their positive sense, both institutions and
Department for International Development is shown
                                                              organisations can facilitate collective action and enable
below, illustrating the interactions between the
                                                              individuals to transcend the limitations of acting in
vulnerability context, transforming structures and
                                                              isolation. Understanding the use of endowments,
processes and household assets (natural, human,
                                                              functioning and interaction of institutional and
financial, physical and social capital)
                                                              organisation mechanisms of natural resource-dependent
• Natural capital is the environmental resource stock         societies is therefore of paramount importance for
  to which household members have rights of access            adaptation.
• Financial capital is the resources (savings, credit,
                                                              Generic knowledge systems for successful collective
  remittances, market takings) available that
                                                              action include determinants such as small group size and
  provides different livelihood options, and includes
                                                              a homogeneity in the decision-making group, clearly
  flows as well as stocks
                                                              defined boundaries to the resource, supportive links to
• Human capital is the ability to pursue different
                                                              the external environment and agreement on the
  strategies dependent on skill, knowledge, ability to
                                                              distribution of benefits. Within such frameworks, it is
  provide labour and health
                                                              important to know if differential social capital explains
• Physical capital is the basic infrastructure that
                                                              success between groups (‘social capital’ reflects the
  enables the pursuit of a livelihood
                                                              relations within the community, i.e. a ‘collectively
• Social capital is the relations between people and
                                                              possessed resource’).
  includes networks, associational membership, trust
  and exchange ties                                           Social capital, ties and networks
                                                              Social capital is a contested concept, but one which
                                                              facilitates people in acting collectively using the set of
                                                              rules, obligations, norms, reciprocity and trust, flows of
                                                              information, economic transactions and networks (social
                                                              Social ties can be ‘bonded’ (informal or horizontal
                                                              networks as in kinship) or ‘bridged’ (vertical links
                                                              between community and external ties such as NGOs, the
                                                              state or urban areas). These ‘informal institutions’ have
                                                              to control access to resources (the exclusion problem),
                                                              and set rules among users to solve the potential
                                                              divergence between individual and collective rationality
                                                              (the subtractability problem).
                                                              It is important to consider the influence of such
                                                              institutional structures on adaptation decisions, as well
                                                              as the reasons for their emergence and evolution. Social
                                                              learning, responsive experimentation and adaptation are
                                                              made of collective activities such as discourse imitation,
                                                              and conflict resolution, reinforcing social hierarchies,
                                                              power and entitlement inequalities. Coping (often based
                                                              on bonding social capital) does not facilitate pro-active
                                                              adaptation and can restrict innovation.
  Sustainable rural livelihoods framework developed by DFID
It is critical to understand anomalies to such theory.      Conceptual frameworks on ‘adaptive response’, now being
Why in some situations do people prefer to work in          developed by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change
loose informal or personal networks instead of              Research, are also focused on the ‘adaptation response
collective projects? Why work in continuously               space’ (see Research Note 3).
changing constellations instead of more enduring
groups? It may be more important for households to
be involved in constellations of social networks (ties)
that cross the border of the local community, rather
than in local collective organisations.

Equitable adaptation and the role of
While social cohesion and connectedness are
important, informal institutions can make an unequal
impact. To understand such outcomes and facilitate
an equitable process of livelihood adaptation,
research needs to study the various agents and social
actors that play a role in specific situations. Agency
strength is related to the set of capacities possessed
by particular individuals, i.e. ‘private social capital’.
Agents that initiate ‘bridging social capital’ may be
critical where there is little effective formal
institutional influence. Evolutionary theories of
change and social learning provide questions on the
process of adaptation that involves changes to
routines. How do people learn and innovate in
response to stimuli, such as climate change? What is
different between formal and informal institutions in
facilitating or hindering proactive or reactive

Adaptation within the livelihoods context                       Top: social networks extend from rural areas into towns and
                                                            cities; Above: community-led activities such as building a place for
Interaction between institutional groups (social
                                                                      village meetings help to reinforce social capital
capital) and the capacity of individuals (agency) is
related to the level of adaptive capacity. Frameworks
for adaptive capacity in the developing world have          ADAPTIVE – funded by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change
been supplemented by analysis of discourse and              Research, UK and conducted by researchers at the University of
                                                            Sheffield, UK and the Tyndall Centre, in partnership with Oxfam GB,
ideology in livelihoods, seeking to define new ways of      and in collaboration with Potchefstroom University, the Department
collapsing the nature-society duality. In exploring the     of Agriculture and Nzuki Development Association in South Africa,
social and cognitive basis of the construction of           and Save the Children USA in Mozambique.
perceptions of climate change or drought, and in            The ADAPTIVE website is
examining the ‘storylines’ which define our       
understandings, discourse analysis demonstrates that        Tyndall Website is
the manifestation of people’s experience and adaptive
practice are often mediated by perceptions of               Staff can be contacted by email at
identity and the wider livelihood context. The central
question remains the same: how can we grasp the   
dynamics of the different institutional arrangements
in which households are involved without imposing           Fax: +44 114 279 7912

artificial categories?                                      ADAPTIVE Research Note 3a, January 2004