31 - fact sheet


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Anticipating and reacting to climate change in southern Africa
Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts because of their exposure to extreme weather events and dependence on natural resources. Although communities in Africa may have a greater ability to adapt to changes in climate than widely appreciated, the region has more climate-sensitive economies than any other continent. Sub-national and national policy-makers need to understand how societies adapt in both anticipation and in reaction to change, and how to facilitate successful adaptations. Professor David Thomas, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Geography, and colleagues are using case studies of adaptation to current and recent historical change in southern Africa to develop a theory of how developing countries are able to adapt. The researchers will use climate data to identify study sites where communities have experienced recent major droughts and floods, and investigate responses to such disturbances using social data gained from questionnaires and social surveys. They will then interview communities in areas predicted to experience major climate-induced disruptions to agriculture and ecosystems during the twenty-first century. This will enable identification of formal and informal institutional factors that promote or constrain individual and household adaptation, such as moving stock to farms in undisturbed locations or changing cropping practices. The researchers will then extend their specific analyses to contribute to a general theory of adaptive capacity that has wider applicability elsewhere in southern Africa and other developing countries. The results will assist aid organisations, international programmes and local and regional governments in southern Africa to develop practical responses to climate change that reduce social differentiation and promote equity. They will also contribute to understandings of adaptation to floods and droughts in a resource-dependent context and assist the transfer of practical responses to the wider developing world. The results will also contribute to the Tyndall Centre's development of a theory of adaptive capacity and to a Tyndall project compiling national indicators of vulnerability to climate change.

A new Tyndall project will identify whether experience of adapting to current and recent historical climate variability and extremes can be drawn on to develop successful responses to anticipated climate change More information Contact the lead investigator of Project T2.31 (Adaptations to climate change amongst natural resource-dependant societies in the developing world: across the southern African climate gradient): Professor David Thomas Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK Phone: +44 (0) 114 222 7909; Fax: +44 (0) 114 279 7912 Email: d.s.thomas@shef.ac.uk Other researchers involved in this project are: Dr Chasca Twyman, Professor Ian Woodward and Dr Henny Osbahr, University of Sheffield Dr Neil Adger, Tyndall Centre and CSERGE, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia Dr Bruce Hewitson, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town Mr Antonio Hill, Oxfam International Project duration: October 2002 to March 2005 Useful web sites: The Tyndall Centre: www.tyndall.ac.uk University of Sheffield Department of Geography: www.shef.ac.uk/geography Adaptation project Website: www.shef.ac.uk/adaptive University of Cape Town Environmental and Geographical Sciences: www.egs.uct.ac.za PANRUSA (Poverty, policies and natural resource use in southern Africa): www.shef.ac.uk/panrusa UK Department of International Development: www.dfid.gov.uk

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