Impacts of Flood and Rainfall Variability on Agricultural Decision Making in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Authors: Natalie Regennitter*, University of Texas - Austin, Amelia Eisenhart, University of Texas - Austin, Kelley Crews, University of Texas - Austin, Thoralf Meyer, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Environmental Perception, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: Environmental perception, Botswana, Okavango Delta, livelihood, resilience
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: Download


This study examines how differential flood and rainfall variabilities affect agricultural decision making in three villages that occupy different topographic regions of the Okavango Delta: the Etshas in the western distal portion, Mababe in the eastern distal portion, and Seronga on the eastern edge of the panhandle. The Okavango systems are both defined and impacted by hydrologic variability, whether from local flooding (e.g., precipitation) or upstream flooding (waters from the Angolan highlands). These factors dictate the types of farming that can be practiced in each region based on household labor, a lack of irrigation, and limited livestock use. Livelihood practices primarily include dryland farming, which relies upon rainfall, and molapo farming, which relies on inundation from floodwaters. Interviews were coded based on responses to questions regarding perceived changes in current hydrological regimes, anticipated future changes in hydrological patterns, and past or potential future decisions related to agricultural livelihoods. Responses in each village area were supplemented by precipitation records of the Okavango Research Institute and remotely-sensed precipitation datasets. The results show that 90.2% of asked participants indicated that they perceived a change in water availability, but when asked about their expectation for future changes in rainfall, 20.4% overall reported that they expect the changes to continue in the future. More fully incorporating perceptions of environmental change in addition to forecasted changes themselves may improve land management and land allocation strategies throughout the Okavango Delta and similar areas.

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