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Assessing vulnerability of rural communities to climate change: A review of implications for forest-based livelihoods in South Africa

Chidiebere Ofoegbu (Forest Science Postgraduate Programme, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
Paxie Chirwa (Forest Science Postgraduate Programme, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
Joseph Francis (Institute for Rural Development, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South Africa)
Folaranmi Babalola (Department of Forest Resources Management, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria, and Forest Science Postgraduate Programme, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

ISSN: 1756-8692

Article publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to enhance the understanding of the impacts of climate change on rural communities in Africa, including people’s livelihoods, their adaptive capacity, coping practice and ability to engage in sustainable forest use and management of climate change adaptation.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper opted for a desktop review approach, using the forest-based rural communities of South Africa as a case study.

Findings

This review shows that climate variability and change are affecting rural people and their livelihoods negatively. Forest-based livelihoods are particularly vulnerable. Nevertheless, the people have developed coping mechanisms to cushion the effects of climate variability and change. However, the effectiveness and efficiency of these strategies are greatly constrained by factors that are related mostly to their socioeconomic characteristics (for example, skill level, educational status and health) and the functionalities of infrastructures and services in their communities.

Research limitations/implications

Given that the study focused on forest-based rural communities and livelihoods, the results may be limited in generalizability. This may have particular implications for other categories of rural communities and livelihoods in Africa and developing countries in other continents.

Practical implications

The study showed that opportunities for planning and implementing effective climate change adaptation at rural community level in South Africa are reliant on effective strategies to overcome the constraints identified by the study. The authors thus recommend that climate change adaptation initiatives in rural communities of Africa should focus on improving people’s socioeconomic conditions and the overall sustainable development of the community.

Originality/value

This paper fulfils an identified need to study how climate change affects rural forest-based communities and livelihoods.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the National Research Foundation of South Africa for funding this study through the innovation doctoral scholarship programme, Grant UID: 82942. The fund enabled the first author to undertake this research as part of his doctoral study.

Citation

Ofoegbu, C., Chirwa, P., Francis, J. and Babalola, F. (2017), "Assessing vulnerability of rural communities to climate change: A review of implications for forest-based livelihoods in South Africa", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 9 No. 03, pp. 374-386. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCCSM-04-2016-0044

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited