New study links risky behaviour to drought

New study links risky behaviour to drought

Fresh research has established a link between the debilitating drought and the overall increase in social conflict within Namibian households. The research also indicated that the drought will have far-reaching impacts on people, driving them to become involved in risky behaviour such as theft and transactional sex in exchange for food or cash.

These findings were published in a paper entitled ‘What Africa’s drought responses teach us about climate change hotspots’ by Gina Ziervogel from the University of Cape Town and Margaret Angula from the University of Namibia, based on research done in Namibia and Botswana.

The two researchers are collaborating in a major regional project, the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, which aims to redress the lack of information about the best ways to minimise vulnerability and develop adaptation responses. In addition it aims to produce future-focused and societally relevant knowledge of pathways to well-being that includes a mix of research and practitioner organisations, and groups with global reach to seek ways to reduce vulnerability and develop long-term climate adaptation responses.

According to the paper, the impact of drought has been felt acutely in southern Africa and research is already underway into what is working and not working to manage climate impacts in northern Namibia and eastern Botswana.

One of the initial steps was to undertake vulnerability and risk assessment workshops in northern Namibia’s Omusati Region and eastern Botswana’s Bobonong district.

In Namibia, a two-day workshop was conducted in March 2016 and brought together village leaders, non-governmental organisations and government officials. Groups mapped out how drought affects the biophysical system such as farming, water and natural resources and how this will further affect families’ lives, economic activities and broader political and institutional environments.

The indirect impacts of drought included reduced crop yields, which could cause loss of income and inadequate food supply in households, while the reduced availability of water to wildlife could also lead to wildlife losses and in turn affect the number of tourists and earnings from tourism.

Reduced milk and meat production leads to loss of income. Also, the paper says livestock mortality had an impact on cultural practices.

It says livestock deaths often lead to loss of status, prestige and participation in social networks. Livestock deaths limit the ability of people to participate in social and cultural events like wedding ceremonies.

“All of the above lead to lower household incomes which increases hunger. Malnutrition of schoolchildren leads to poor health and an increased number of school dropouts.”

According to the paper, limited household food availability can also increase participation in risky behaviour such as theft and transactional sex in exchange for food or cash.

In Namibia, there was a discussion about promoting food banks to address food insecurity at the community level. As part of this, each household is encouraged to contribute 20 litres of mahangu (millet) that is stored by the traditional authority and used in time of distress.

The report also indicated that the construction of a school in the region had been put on hold for two months during 2016 as there was not enough water for the building process.

“Examples like this show how education and other services can be impacted by drought directly.”
Irene Kunamwene, Southern Africa Researcher – ACDI, University of Cape Town – says any reduction in agricultural productivity fundamentally affects the well-being of farmers and their communities.

“It is unsurprising then that the severe droughts of recent years have caused people in this region to experience major food shortages, with many going hungry for days at a time.”

“With food security being such a stark daily issue for these farmers – and with a strong interest to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of themselves and their families – livelihood development and livelihood diversification is something at the forefront of people’s minds,” she notes in a separate paper.

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