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Dealing with drought: The challenge of using water system technologies to break dryland poverty traps
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. Stockholm University, interfaculty units, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2008 (English)In: Global environmental change, ISSN 0959-3780 , Vol. 18, no 4, 607-616 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We explore strategies among farmers in semi-arid Tanzania to cope with drought, and investigate if access to a local supplemental irrigation system (the Ndiva system) can improve coping capacity. Results show high dependency on local ecosystem services when harvests fail, and indicate that farmers commonly exhaust asset holdings during droughts. Ndiva access did not have any direct effects on coping capacity, but seemed to have some indirect effects. Drawing on our findings we discuss the complexity of escaping persistent dryland poverty, and outline the circumstances under which small-scale water system technologies, such as Ndiva irrigation, may help.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 18, no 4, 607-616 p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-15605DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.07.006ISI: 000261989400008OAI: diva2:182125
Natural Resources Management, Department of Systems Ecology/Kraftan, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC), Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, SwedenAvailable from: 2008-12-06 Created: 2008-12-06 Last updated: 2009-04-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Traps and transformations: Exploring the potential of water system innovations in dryland sub-Saharan Africa
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Traps and transformations: Exploring the potential of water system innovations in dryland sub-Saharan Africa
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In semi-arid and dry sub-humid sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), high poverty levels and a heavy reliance on small-scale rainfed agriculture make rural livelihoods difficult. Upgrading current farming systems, in a way that safeguards productivity beyond field-scale, is urgent. This thesis builds on a case study of the Makanya catchment in Tanzania, and focuses on the potential of small-scale water system innovations (SWSIs), such as rainwater harvesting and conservation tillage, for increasing on-farm productivity while supporting multi-functional landscapes. The thesis consists of five papers that approach questions of alternative development trajectories for smallholder agro-ecosystems, and effects of SWSIs on key system variables, from varying perspectives. Paper I presents a conceptual model for interpreting multi-equilibrium dynamics in dryland agro-ecosystems, and analyzes Makanya's development over the past 50 years. Paper II investigates farmers' strategies to deal with drought and the impact of a local supplemental irrigation system on coping capacity. Paper III studies the effects of conservation tillage on yields and soil properties. Paper IV explores a set of future scenarios for the catchment. Paper V maps dryspell frequency and trends over time in a drylands-in-SSA perspective. The results show that smallholder farmers in agro-ecosystems such as Makanya depend on a wide array of on- and off-farm ecosystem services. The productivity of the surrounding landscape is especially important when crops fail. Furthermore, dryspells are a major constraint in these systems. In Makanya long dry-spells have become twice as common over the past 50 years, and frequently cause crop failures. This is a driver for land degradation, and maintains a climate-related poverty trap. SWSIs provide opportunities for dryland farmers to shift their agro-ecosystems to more productive trajectories through a number of mechanisms, including lowered crop failure frequency, altered on-farm water balances, and improved soil quality. Although this is promising, the task of transforming these systems is complex. For SWSIs to be effective, prerequisites are farming system solutions that integrate water- and nutrient management, and broad-based investments that focus on a much wider range of issues than only the water management technology. Moreover, given the uncertain future, investments in small-scale farming should be designed so that they benefit local communities across a range of pathways. Participatory scenario planning is useful both for identifying robust investment strategies and for navigating towards desirable development trajectories.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 2009. 58 p.
smallholder farming, water system innovations, agricultural droughts, multi-functional landscapes, development trajectories, uncertainty
National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-26833 (URN)978-91-7155-863-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-05-15, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-04-24 Created: 2009-04-15 Last updated: 2009-04-16Bibliographically approved

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