Adaptations to climate change, drought and desertification: local insights to enhance policy in southern Africa

Lindsay C. Stringer, Michael Charles Dyer, Mark Reed, Andrew J. Dougill, Chasca Twyman, David Mkwambisi

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

217 Citations (Scopus)


The impacts of climate change, drought and desertification are closely interlinked, and most acutely experienced by populations whose livelihoods depend principally on natural resources. Given the increases in extreme weather events projected to affect the Southern Africa region, it is essential to assess how household and community-level adaptations have been helped or hindered by institutional structures and national policy instruments. In particular, there is a need to reflect on efforts related to the United Nations' environmental conventions to ensure that policies support the maintenance of local adaptations and help retain the resilience of socio-economic and environmental systems. This paper examines three interlinked drivers of adaptation: climate change, desertification and drought, assessing the extent to which international and national policy supports local adaptive strategies in three countries in southern Africa. We show that while common ground exists between desertification and climate change adaptations at the policy level, they are insufficiently mainstreamed within broader development approaches. Similarly, there are some overlaps between policy-driven and autonomous local adaptations, but the mutually supportive links between them are poorly developed. Further efforts to integrate local adaptation strategies within policy could increase local resilience to environmental change, while also contributing to wider development goals. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-765
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • adaptation
  • policy
  • climate change
  • desertification
  • drought
  • Southern Africa
  • land degradation
  • environmental-change
  • adaptive capacity
  • Malawi
  • vulnerability
  • Kalahari
  • risk
  • livelihoods
  • Swaziland
  • variability


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