Adaptive Capacity Framing for Household Vulnerability in a Dryland System

Authors: Andrea Gaughan*, University of Louisville, Jonathan Salerno, University of Colorado - Boulder, Lin Cassidy, Independent Consultant, Joel Hartter, University of Colorado - Boulder, Narcisa Pricope, University of North Carolina - Wilmington, Forrest Stevens, University of Louisville
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Africa
Keywords: Adaptive Capacity, Vulnerability, Livelihoods, Savannas, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Human agency and decision-making underlie adaptation and must be accounted for by vulnerability models. How vulnerability manifests may also vary depending on how components of adaptive capacity and sensitivity interact with each other within a given system. We begin from the understanding that variation in different forms of capital (e.g. financial, physical, social, human, and natural) available to households influences their ability to adapt to stressors. Such variation informs the explicit consideration of human agency and response capacity in quantifying household vulnerability. Recent advances support the assertion that agency and response capacity can improve existing vulnerability research, but difficulties persist in designing a generalizable model that allows for empirical application across different systems. Our work presents a framework to examine vulnerability, allowing us to operationalize the conceptual vulnerability model into a formal mathematical model in order to test hypotheses regarding linkages of system components. This paper focuses specifically on responses or response potential at the household level in a dryland system of Southern Africa, highlighting livelihood activities that result from adaptive decisions in the context of various environmental stressors. Our theoretical approach provides a set of hypotheses to quantitatively test how adaptive capacity either directly or as mediated through components of sensitivity, affects household vulnerability. We perform simulations and present on how sensitivity and adaptive capacity interact to affect vulnerability outcomes conditioned on our explicit assumptions about the system. We discuss model specification and outcomes with observations from the field.

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