Mental Models of Malian Elder Men’s Perceptions of Vulnerability to Climate-Induced Food Insecurity

Authors: Alexa Wood*, Texas A&M University
Topics: Food Systems, Climatology and Meteorology, Gender
Keywords: Food Insecurity, Climate Change, Gender, Decision-Making
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Countries in West Africa are at particular risk to the effects of climate change. Within Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa, myriad factors exacerbate subsistence farmers’ vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. Subsistence farming has become more burdensome in recent years, as changes in climate patterns is exacerbating household food insecurity. Within subsistence farming households, the eldest male is the primary decision-maker, and has a heavy influence on all aspects of the household domain. The decisions elder men navigate occur in a relational context, as they provide direction to less powerful members of the household. Reliance upon a sole decision-maker escalates household vulnerability to climate impacts (Turner, 2016). Concentrated decision-making capabilities restrict opportunities to mitigate the impacts of climate change and threatens household food systems.
Exploring how those who possess the most social power in a household can also support a better understanding of how power and decision-making responsibilities are transferred among other, less powerful, household members. This study builds upon Turner’s (2016) work and utilizes a series of mental models to describe how reliance upon Malian elder men’s perceptions and decisions impact households’ vulnerabilities to climate-driven food insecurity. Mental models are informed by a series of in-depth, open-ended interviews, and demonstrate how elder men’s perceptions of climate-linked vulnerabilities influence the actions of other household members. A deeper understanding of how gender and age influences perceptions of vulnerability is critical to developing climate change adaptation strategies that are just and appropriate.

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