Conceptualizing and operationalizing household vulnerability through environmental stressors and livelihood activities in the world’s largest transfrontier conservation area

Authors: Narcisa Pricope*, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Forrest Stevens, University of Louisville, Lin Cassidy, Independent consultant, Andrea Gaughan, University of Louisville, Joel Hartter, University of Colorado, Jonathan Salerno, University of Colorado
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Global Change, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: vulnerability framework, livelihoods, structural equation modeling, drylands, southern Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The uncertainty of long-term climate change poses a major challenge to millions of people, especially rural, agrarian livelihoods largely dependent on local resource and subsistence farming. In regions that experience a high degree of natural environmental variability, continually shifting adaptive approaches by local communities and households are necessary in order to reduce their heightening level of vulnerability. Vulnerability frameworks that can account for people’s exposure and sensitivity in the face of climate variability when contextualized by resource and land use, as well as social, political, economic and institutional structures can contribute to informing the ability of a given household to adapt. We present a vulnerability framework in the context of a complex socio-ecological system for a transboundary region of Southern Africa
aimed at guiding empirical measurements and applications at different scales. We define vulnerability as the predisposition of being adversely affected by variability and change of exposure (E), and mediated by sensitivity (S) and adaptive capacity (AC), which may work directly or indirectly on any given household. We measure these hidden, or latent, constructs through a set of measured indicators. The strength and directional pathways between vulnerability components and associated indicators are discussed to illustrate our ability to operationalize the different components of the model and identify potential levers within the system for future policy and management decisions. We present a set of simulations that highlight the applicability of the model to future policy and management decisions in smallholder communities heavily dependent of their resource base.

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