The Dynamics of Rural Vulnerability to Global Change: The Case of southern Africa

  • Robin M. Leichenko
  • Karen L. O'Brien


Research on the agricultural impacts of global change frequently emphasizesthe physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change, yet globalchanges associated with the internationalization of economic activity mayalso have significant impacts on food systems. Together, climate change andglobalization are exposing farmers to new and unfamiliar conditions.Although some farmers may be in a position to take advantage of thesechanges, many more are facing increased vulnerability, particularly in thedeveloping world. This paper considers the dynamics of agriculturalvulnerability to global change through the example of southern Africa. Wedemonstrate that the combination of global and national economic changesis altering the context under which southern African farmers cope withclimate variability and adapt to long-term change. We find that farmers whoformerly had difficulty adapting to climatic variability may become lessvulnerable to drought-related food shortages as the result of tradeliberalization. At the same time, however, removal of national credit andsubsidies may constrain or limit adaptation strategies of other farmers,leaving them more vulnerable to climate variability and change.

agriculture climatic change economic globalization vulnerability 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin M. Leichenko
  • Karen L. O'Brien

There are no affiliations available

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