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The role of capital in drought adaptation among rural communities in Eswatini

Karen M. Bailey, Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder
Robert A. McCleery, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
Grenville Barnes, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida


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People are increasingly affected by climate change. In response, some people adapt, but others may not. The aim of our research was to understand what factors influence successful adaptation to climate change in context. We surveyed rural small-scale farmers in Eswatini who had recently experienced a severe drought, and collected data on adaptive capacity, measured as household access to five types of capital: natural (access to and use of natural resources), social (integration within local social networks), financial (income and wealth), physical (access to assets and infrastructure), and human (education and employment). Our goals were to identify which type of capital was most important in driving adaptation and to identify the specific ways in which capital supported adaptation. We found that social capital and natural capital increased successful drought adaptation more than other types of capital. Primarily, social and natural capital increased access to other resources and opportunities that enabled adaptation. Our research highlights the complex pathways along which capital operates to support adaptation, and furthers our understanding of in-situ adaptation experiences.

Key words

climate change; drought; Eswatini; farming; natural capital; social capital

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087