Resilient or vulnerable livelihoods? Assessing livelihood dynamics and trajectories in rural Botswana

Produced as part of the Adaptation to climate change and human development CCCEP research programme theme

Abstract of Working Paper 33

We explore the resilience and vulnerability of livelihoods within two different socio-ecological dryland contexts of Botswana over the last 30 years.

We draw on primary field data sources, including oral histories, livelihood surveys, ecological surveys, as well as documented evidence of environmental, socioeconomic and institutional dynamics, to identify a broad range of activities that combine to create a range of different household livelihood outcomes.

We use this information as a starting point to assess the ways in which livelihoods have changed over time, evaluating whether they have become more resilient or more vulnerable, and considering the factors that have contributed to these outcomes.

In the context of dynamic dryland social-ecological systems, we apply a livelihood trajectory approach to explore the shocks and stresses that affect livelihoods, and to elucidate the characteristics of livelihood strategies that contribute to increased resilience or vulnerability.

We use the vulnerability framework proposed by Fraser (2006) as a means of framing discussion about vulnerability and resilience and as a means of identifying broader insights.

The research identifies ‘accumulator’, ‘diversifier’ and ‘dependent’ households and the ways in which they move between these categories.

More resilient livelihood trajectories can be achieved if the important role of formal and informal institutions is recognised.