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Understanding Household Connectivity and Resilience in Marginal Rural Communities through Social Network Analysis in the Village of Habu, Botswana

Lin Cassidy, Okavango Research Institute, University of Botswana
Grenville D. Barnes, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04963-170411

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Abstract

Adaptability is emerging as a key issue not only in the climate change debate but in the general area of sustainable development. In this context, we examine the link between household resilience and connectivity in a rural community in Botswana. We see resilience and vulnerability as the positive and negative dimensions of adaptability. Poor, marginal rural communities confronted with the vagaries of climate change, will need to become more resilient if they are to survive and thrive. We define resilience as the capacity of a social–ecological system to cope with shocks such as droughts or economic crises without changing its fundamental identity. We make use of three different indices of household resilience: livelihood diversity, wealth, and a comprehensive resilience index based on a combination of human, financial, physical, social, and natural capital. Then, we measure the social connectivity of households through a whole network approach in social network analysis, using two measures of network centrality (degree centrality and betweenness). We hypothesize that households with greater social connectivity have greater resilience, and analyze a community in rural Botswana to uncover how different households make use of social networks to deal with shocks such as human illness and death, crop damage, and livestock disease. We surveyed the entire community of Habu using a structured questionnaire that focused on livelihood strategies and social networks. We found that gender, age of household head, and household size were positively correlated with social connectivity. Our analysis indicates that those households that are more socially networked are likely to have a wider range of livelihood strategies, greater levels of other forms of social capital, and greater overall capital. Therefore, they are more resilient.

Key words

adaptive capacity; capital; household connectivity; household resilience; social networks
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087