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Differential livelihood adaptation to socio-ecological change in coastal Bangladesh

Hoque, Sonia Ferdous (2016) Differential livelihood adaptation to socio-ecological change in coastal Bangladesh. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Socio-ecological changes, brought about by the rapid growth of the aquaculture industry and the increased occurrence of climatic shocks and stresses, have significantly affected the livelihood dynamics of coastal communities in Asia. Empirical studies, to date, have largely provided a snapshot of the impacts and responses to a particular disturbance at a single spatial scale at a given time, often assessing the characteristics that make certain populations more vulnerable than others. To ensure equitable and environmentally sustainable livelihoods in the future, it is essential to unpack the complex social and ecological dynamics that drive long-term changes in a system’s configurations and shape the adaptive capacities of actors within the system. This study, therefore, explores the drivers, differential livelihood adaptations and well-being outcomes of socio-ecological change in coastal Bangladesh, using poverty as central lens for differentiation. The study takes a socio-ecological systems approach, whereby insights from vulnerability, resilience, political ecology, livelihoods, adaptation, poverty and human well-being are integrated into an interdisciplinary conceptual framework. A mixed methods approach was used to collect empirical evidence from two communities, both of which underwent transformations in farming systems when maintenance of the status quo through incremental adaptation was no longer feasible. Findings show that in the absence of good governance, social power resulting from high wealth status and associated political ties can steer the direction of socio-ecological change to one that is desirable for a small group of powerful stakeholders and completely undesirable for others. Differences in wealth status lead to differences in adaptive capacity; however, changes in vulnerability contexts brought about by power dynamics further exacerbate these inequalities. While resource constraints can restrict a household’s livelihood adaptation options, its adaptation space can also become narrower through negative externalities arising from the activities of other households. This can push some households towards downward trajectories, locking them in a poverty trap. In contrast, good governance and wider participation in decision making, can shift the farming system to one that is desirable for the majority of stakeholders. The study emphasises that resilience building through transformational adaptation should account for the heterogeneous values, interests and needs of different households. This can translate into more equitable adaptive capacities and prevent the system from embarking on a maladaptive trajectory in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds) > Sustainability Research Institute (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.698268
Depositing User: Dr. Sonia Ferdous Hoque
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2016 10:54
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/15663

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