Adaptation and social vulnerability on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: Challenges and possibilities for sustainable climate change adaptation
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Global climate change has cast a spotlight on issues of social inequality and vulnerability. Poor and marginalized people are often the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, and generally the least responsible for causing climate change. International funding is therefore increasingly mobilized to support adaptation planning and projects in least developed countries. A paradox emerges where adaptation planning aims improve the adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable populations, but the most vulnerable populations are least capable of adapting. Sustainable adaptation must therefore challenge underlying causal structures of vulnerability: inequitable structures of social networks and entitlements to natural resources. This research describes the process of adaptation in Mweka Village on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. It asks how the adaptation process interacts with underlying causal structures of vulnerability, especially structures of social organization and networks within and across scales. It assesses whether sustainable adaptation is possible by assessing whether adaptation is capable of challenging casual structures of vulnerability to achieve equitable social outcomes. A mixed method approach is used, including participatory observation, stakeholder interviews, focus groups, village meetings, household surveys, and spatial analysis with Geographic Information Systems. Multiple methods and perspectives serve to triangulate data and expand the analysis of vulnerability. Preliminary qualitative research is used to refine the research questions and tailor the household survey to the local context. Quantitative analysis is used to analyze variance within adaptive capacity and access to social networks, and correlations between them. The determinants of adaptive capacity are modeled with logistic regression. Quantitative results are then interpreted with results from qualitative observations. The research discovers significant gaps between Tanzania's adaptation policy, and the extent of observed cross-scale flows of knowledge and resources and local social organization for adaptation. Significant correlation is found between adaptive capacity and access to social networks, both of which vary significantly by class and gender. Structural differences are even greater when the quality and functions of social networks are considered. Finally, the determinant factors of most adaptations are found to parallel underlying structural causes of vulnerability: both social and biophysical. Two exceptions that may represent sustainable adaptations emerged: one of these specifically targeted a vulnerable population and the other targeted a peripheral geographic area, reaching nearly every household within that area.