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Title: Unequal adaptation : socially differentiated responses to environmental change and food insecurity among smallholder farmers
Author: Bailey, Meghan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 1026
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Achieving food security in a changing climate is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. For subsistence-oriented farming families who experience firsthand pressures on their food system - population growth, environmental degradation and climate change, to name only a few - adaptation has become an urgent necessity. The ability to 'adapt and benefit' through a suite of climate change adaptation interventions that build adaptive capacity is touted by many humanitarian and development institutions as integral to food security today. However, adapting and benefiting is often a far reach for many smallholder farming families, who more commonly manage multiple interdependent stressors through a mix of adaptive actions and negative coping strategies. The relative benefit of this mix of adaptive and coping strategies is socially differentiated, varying by location and both between and within households. This combination of strategies, or the variety of options to enact livelihood outcomes, is framed as a response space. This thesis explores the impact of social differentiation on the adaptive capacity of subsistence-oriented farming families experiencing food insecurity and environmental change. Using a case study of two villages in the Upper West region of Ghana, it investigates how adaptive capacity and response spaces differ based on points of social differentiation; the drivers that limit or exacerbate adaptive capacity and response spaces; and the implications of these responses for humanitarian, development, and government programmes that aim to support these populations. These questions are approached using mixed methods (embedded direct observation, the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index household and individual survey, participatory action research exercises, child growth and hospital admissions records, focus groups, and key informant interviews) and a unique conceptual framework which draws heavily from systems thinking, feminist research theory, Sen's capabilities approach and grounded theory. I followed context-specific local drivers to deeply examine the familial and cultural political lives of households to better understand the interdependent nature of empowerment within the household, the distribution of scarce food, control over livelihoods and income, the management of poverty-induced stress, and the risk these drivers pose to public health. Out of this research, a multi-level vulnerability landscape surfaced, characterized by a food system on the margins and unequal adaptation within the case study population. The research led to the following insights: farmers experience multiple disadvantages being located in the Upper West of Ghana as compared to southern regions, and are underserved by multiple governmental and NGO institutions; farmers in turn experience heterogeneous vulnerability and access to response spaces at the community level, which are deeply entrenched in social norms that favour adult male bodies, male spaces, and male-typical productive roles; and, at the same time, there are individuals and families that stand outside these trends and are able to adapt and benefit, which highlights the need for an intersectional approach when examining the household and sub-household context. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals include a pledge to ‘leave no one behind' in the pursuit to 'free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet'. Understanding the differing vulnerability of subsistence-oriented smallholder farming populations, as well as the ways their response spaces and adaptive capacity have been differently shaped, will be important for the program design and targeting strategies of interventions to achieve this goal. This thesis aims to contribute to this enormous task.
Supervisor: Malhi, Yadvinder S. ; Vervoort, Joost M. ; Helfgott, Ariella E. R. Sponsor: CCAFS
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human geography ; Developmental studies ; response spaces ; Ghana ; social differentiation ; food insecurity ; climate change adaptation ; smallholder farmer livelihoods