Eriksen and Silva 2009: The vulnerability context

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Type of Document article (in journal)
Author S. Eriksen, J. Silva
Title The vulnerability context of a savanna area in Mozambique: household drought coping strategies and responses to economic change
Year 2009
Journal Environmental Science & Policy
Volume 12(1)
Pages 33-52
DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2008.10.007
Vulnerability System
Functional Social System Agriculture & Forestry
Groups Households
Vulnerability Driver
Hydrometeorological driver Drought
Governance driver policy or policy change
Scope of driver Explicit
Spatial scale of driver regional
Temporal scale of driver Continuous Stressor
Interaction between drivers No interaction
Reference Framework
Social scale of assessment Households
Geographical area Eastern Africa
Research area Matidzewo and Massavasse villages in Gaza Province in southern Mozambique
Economic group of research area Least developed countries
Temporal scale of assessment Long term
Operational Approach
Research design Case study
Data collection method Survey (questionnaire), Expert interview, Secondary data / official statistics
Main source of data Primary data
Data analysis method Multivariate statistics, Historical analysis / Policy analysis
Participatory approach Yes
Theoretical Approach
Definition of vulnerability Implicit
Scientific community Climate change


In this paper, we investigate the ways in which climate stressors and economic changes related to liberalisation alter the local vulnerability context. Household and key informant data from two villages in Mozambique are analysed. First, we explore how changes such as increased market integration, altered systems of agricultural support, land tenure change and privatisation of agro-industries may affect factors important for response capacity, including access to local natural resources, employment opportunities, and household labour and capital. Next, we investigate how people related to the market while coping with the 2002–2003 drought. The study reveals that there had been an increase in informal trade and casual employment opportunities; however, market relations were very unfavourable and as the drought intensified, smallholders were locked into activities that barely secured economic survival and which sometimes endangered long-term response capacity. Only a few large-scale farmers had the capital and skills necessary to negotiate a good market position in urban markets, thus securing future incomes. Inequality, social sustainability, vulnerability and natural resource use are all closely linked in the savannas. Hence, both climate change adaptation policies and sustainability measures need to target vulnerability context and the social and environmental stressors shaping it.

Definition of vulnerability

Vulnerability is defined implicitely only.

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