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Everyday vulnerabilities and “social dispositions” in the Malian Sahel, an indication for evaluating future adaptability to water crises?

Abstract

Since the 1970s, precipitation in the Sahel has decreased and become very irregular, leading to widespread drought, whilst the human need for water has rapidly increased. A new “dispositions”-based approach was adapted in order to analyse human interactions with environmental hazards and applied to the case of Hombori village in north-eastern Mali. This article explores how the population and political stakeholders perceive, live with and respond to the increasing scarcity of water. It also explores how their current vulnerability and ability to cope with variations in available water resources indicate future adaptability to climate shocks. On the one hand, this research shows how the population copes with variations in water resource availability: the population’s socio-spatial organisation explains the inhabitants’ exposure to this problem and some of the factors affecting vulnerability, the elderly and women being the hardest hit. The water issue is generally managed on a “day-to-day” basis and considered a big problem only in the dry season, thus lowering any incentive for self-protection. The main two variables that could explain this kind of risk management are the conflicting local governance and current social rules. On the other hand, the discussion of results, based on a conceptual model of social responses, explains why these current “social dispositions” to cope with and even address the water scarcity issue do not guarantee future adaptability to climate change.

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Acknowledgments

This work was performed within the framework of two projects: 1—the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses project (AMMA), funded by a number of agencies from France, the UK, the US and Africa, with a major financial contribution from the European Union Sixth Framework Research Programme (http://www.amma-eu.org/ ), and 2—The Elevage CLImat Société (ECLIS) project, funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

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Correspondence to Sylvia Becerra.

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Communicated by James D. Ford.

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Becerra, S., Saqalli, M., Gangneron, F. et al. Everyday vulnerabilities and “social dispositions” in the Malian Sahel, an indication for evaluating future adaptability to water crises?. Reg Environ Change 16, 1253–1265 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0845-7

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Keywords

  • Water crisis
  • Vulnerability
  • Social dispositions
  • Sahel rural areas
  • Mali