The impact of climatic hazards on social network structure: Insights from community support networks in Western Uganda

Produced as part of the Understanding green growth and climate-compatible development CCCEP research programme theme

Social support networks are considered important coping mechanisms in the literature, however not all households experience the same levels of inclusion in these networks. Understanding how support networks vary across climatic shocks is necessary to ensure that adaptation and development policies do not erode access to networks but few studies have investigated this phenomenon.

We contribute to filling this gap by exploring social networks in tow Ugandan communities during floods, droughts and non-climatic stresses. We use social network analysis (SNA) to examine the structures of different support networks, and the ties that exist between households. We find (1) support networks differ depending on the stress experiences; (2) networks are characterised by bridging social ties with little evidence of bonding social ties and (3) core households that provide support within the networks typically hold formal positions in village institutions, mediating access to both formal and informal support structures.

Using SNA to study social support networks under climatic hazards suggest social ties are not as dependent on bonding ties as existing literature suggests. Our findings have important implications for adaptation and development policies and programmes that seek to maintain and develop community support structures, particularly those dominated by informal ties.