Original Article

Sustainability Science

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 143-157

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Living without buffers—illustrating climate vulnerability in the Lake Victoria basin

  • Sara GabrielssonAffiliated withCentre for Sustainability Studies, Lund University (LUCSUS) Email author 
  • , Sara BrogaardAffiliated withCentre for Sustainability Studies, Lund University (LUCSUS)
  • , Anne JerneckAffiliated withCentre for Sustainability Studies, Lund University (LUCSUS)

Abstract

Exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity are essential, albeit theoretically vague, components of climate vulnerability. This has triggered debate surrounding how these factors can be translated into, and understood in, an empirical context subject to present and future harm. In this article, which draws on extensive fieldwork in the Lake Victoria Basin of Kenya and Tanzania, we illustrate how exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity play out in the context of climate vulnerability and discuss how they interact in situ. Using a mixed methods approach including survey data, rainfall data and a suite of participatory methods, such as focus groups and interactive mapping of seasonal calendars, we identify how climate-induced stressors affect smallholder farmers’ well-being and natural resources. Drawing on the seasonal calendar as a heuristic, and climate vulnerability terminology, we illustrate when, where and how these climate-induced stressors converge to constrain farmers’ livelihoods. Our analysis indicates that farmers in the basin face a highly uncertain future with discernible, but differentiated, adaptation deficits due to recurring, and potentially worsening, patterns of hardship.

Keywords

Climate vulnerability Exposure Sensitivity Differential adaptive capacity Smallholder farmers Lake Victoria Basin