A gender approach to understanding the differentiated impact of barriers to adaptation: responses to climate change in rural Ethiopia

A gender approach to understanding the differentiated impact of barriers to adaptation: responses to climate change in rural Ethiopia

While adaptation has received a fair amount of attention in the climate change debate, barriers to adaptation are the focus of a more specific, recent discussion. In this discussion, such barriers are generally treated as having a uniform, negative impact on all actors. However, this paper argues that the precise nature and impact of such barriers on different actors has so far been largely overlooked.

This study of two drought-prone communities in rural Ethiopia sets out to examine how female- and male-headed households adapt to climate change, particularly focusing on how a variety of barriers influence the choice of adaptation measures to varying extents.

To this purpose, the authors built a conceptual framework based on the Sustainable Livelihood Approach. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with male- and female-headed households, community leaders and local extension workers.

Findings suggest that gender-based differences in the choice of adaptation measures at the household level are driven by cultural, social, financial and institutional barriers. Barriers to adaptation—particularly when interacting—have a differentiated impact upon different actors. This outcome hints at the need for donors and policymakers to develop intervention strategies that are sensitive to this fact.

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