Power relations and adaptive capacity : Exploring gender relations in climate change adaptation and coping within small-scale farming in western Kenya

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Abstract: Climate adaptation is an important and necessary response to global climate change.Numerous studies show that adaptive capacity is shaped by cultural and social determinants.Gender relations are an integral aspect of social relations in all societies, yet the literature onhow gender influences climate adaptation is limited. Women and men, with different roles,responsibilities and decision-making power have different possibilities to cope and adapt withclimate change, thus adopting a gendered approach to climate adaptation is essential toenhance our understanding of successful adaptation.The aim of the study is to explore how cultural attributes and power relations of genderinfluence adaptive capacity in relation to climate change among smallholder farmers inwestern Kenya. Furthermore this study contributes to resilience thinking by using the lens ofpost-structural feminist political ecology and the concept of gender contracts, whichhighlights the influence of power laden gender discourses and the construction andreconstruction of such contracts. The study is triangulated by the use of qualitative methodsand draws upon 12 semi-structured interviews, 4 focus group discussions and 4 expertinterviews.Gendered power relations were primarily a constraint to the adaptive capacity of women,restricting their possibilities to pursue a number of coping and adaptation strategies, which inturn affected the resilience of the household. Capacity building and farmer group formationpromoted by a Swedish NGO (ViAFP) resulted in altered power relations, renegotiated andreconstructed gender contracts which increased adaptive capacity and adaptation opportunitiesfor both men and women, although particularly for women because of their initial vulnerableposition. This study adds an understanding of the gendered dimensions of local climatechange adaptation and shows that adaptation cannot be understood separate from socialrelations. The policy implication is thus that enhancing local climate adaptation requiresconsideration of power relations and gender equality.

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