Rural Organizations and Adaptation to Climate Change and Variability in Rural Kenya

Washington-Ottombre, Camille, Pijanowski, Bryan


Publication by DPDF 2008 “Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change” Fellow Camille Washington-Ottombre

Numerous studies have shown that collective action affects the type and efficiency of short- and long-term adaptation to climate change. This empirical study contributes to the body of the literature on collective action and adaptive capacity by demonstrating how organizations frame responses to climate variability and change in rural Kenya by promoting local rural institutions. By analyzing interviews, role-playing games, and household surveys, we ask how local rural organizations shape coping strategies to climate variability and how they may structure future adaptations to climate change. We also investigate what types of households participate in those organizations and how their participation may impact their vulnerability to climate change and variability. Our analysis shows that in places rendered especially vulnerable to climate change by arid climatic conditions, the disengagement of governmental services, and a limited access to income-generating activities, local rural organizations increase livelihood security. Those organizations reduce local vulnerabilities and enhance collective action. In contrast to common diversification and livelihood security strategies which rely on the access to urban or peri-urban structures, local rural institutions and organizations allow for rural and grassroots sustainable adaptation strategies. In that respect, they constitute a resilient and mostly untapped resource for visibly strengthening livelihood security and adaptive capacities in rural Kenya.