Climate change is expected to shift seasonality in Tanzania, while smallholder farmers' livelihoods and the economy rely upon the success of rainfed agriculture. However, we should not a priori assume doomsday climate vulnerability scenarios of drought and devastation in the rural global South nor, on the other hand, that farmers will optimally employ local knowledge for effective adaptation. Drawing from qualitative fieldwork in two Tanzanian communities, I question these grand narratives of devastation and local adaptive capacity and introduce an approach that brings inequality to the center. Poorer nations are most vulnerable to climate change, but they are not homogenous and neither are the smallholder farmers living within them. I present evidence on the crucial context-specific dimensions of socio-ecological vulnerability for these smallholder farmers—1) water resources and access to them; 2) agricultural knowledge, including farmers' own knowledge and their interactions with sources like government-run agricultural extension and NGOs; and 3) existing drought-coping strategies—and the heterogeneity among farmers across these dimensions. Ultimately, this case demonstrates how climate change can reproduce existing inequalities within nations by drawing upon how farmers currently respond to drought as evidence. I present the difficult and somewhat bleak contexts within which the farmers are coping, but also illustrate the agency that farmers exhibit in response to these conditions and the adaptive capacity they possess. Finally, I call for more sub-national research on climate and inequality by sociologists and draw connections among within-nation inequality, climate change, and agricultural development initiatives.
Moving the Conversation on Climate Change and Inequality to the Local: Socio-ecological Vulnerability in Agricultural Tanzania
Amy S. Teller, MA Sociology, MS Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, PhD Student in Sociology, Brown University. Research interests: environmental sociology, agriculture, climate change, sociology of knowledge and science, global sociology, interdisciplinarity, gender.
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Amy S. Teller; Moving the Conversation on Climate Change and Inequality to the Local: Socio-ecological Vulnerability in Agricultural Tanzania. Sociology of Development 1 March 2016; 2 (1): 25–50. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2016.2.1.25
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