Investigating the Influence of Climate Change, Conflict and Development Interventions on Livelihood Resilience in Pastoralist Societies: A Multiple Case Study of the Borana and Samburu
Chamberlain, Natasha Arlene
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
This thesis contains highly sensitive political information, which may put at risk both the participants and the researcher in the future.
East African pastoralist societies are characterised by their inherent adaptability to climatic variability, by way of their sophisticated resource management systems and social institutions which provide the knowledge and flexibility needed to respond effectively to risk and uncertainty. However, the impacts of future climate change, in addition to the myriad of social, political, economic and environmental pressures associated with integrating into an increasingly inter-connected globalised system, may be unprecedented in their scope and range, and are likely to undermine their ability to pursue successful livelihoods while putting at risk the things they value. Responses to these challenges need to be based on an accurate and evidence-based understanding of the complexity and synergistic nature of multiple stressors, in order to avoid narrow quick-fix solutions which may undermine resilience and human security in the longer term. This social science research has used a multi-methods approach to fulfil the following objectives: identify the range of stressors impacting livelihoods and wellbeing within the study areas; investigate the multi-directional associations between climate variability and conflict; and evaluate the influence of development interventions on the characteristics of social resilience. Fieldwork was undertaken in collaboration with two non-governmental organisations, with data derived from ethnographic observations and shadowing, participatory rural appraisal, focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and household livelihood surveys. Results find that communities within the study areas are faced with multiple and interacting pressures on their lives and livelihoods, and that while climate change impacts are likely to compound vulnerability and undermine human security, they cannot be isolated from the broader context, or from local priorities and lived realities. Violent conflict is identified as being more closely associated with periods of abundant rainfall than those of scarcity or resource competition, with climate-related hazards such as drought being more likely to result in reconciliation and cooperation. Conflict is driven primarily by the broader political economy within the region, along with land boundary disputes and the ethnically-based nature of governance and resource allocation. Pastoralist systems are found to inherently contain many of the characteristics of socio-ecological resilience, with development interventions having the potential to build on these strengths in order to simultaneously promote adaptive capacity and build peace. However, the narrow focus on specific risks by organisations within the study areas, without a broader integration of responses to multiple stressors, may lead to path dependency and maladaptation, and could act to undermine resilience in the longer term. This thesis contributes qualitative empirical evidence to the climate security debate, and demonstrates that peace and cooperation are more likely outcomes than violence in pastoralist regions during periods of climate-related stress. It also provides an analysis of the extent to which development interventions inherently support or constrain adaptive capacity and social resilience to climate change, conflict, and other livelihood pressures.
AXA Research Fund. Doctoral Fellowship for research on environmental risk.
PhD in Geography