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Strengthening threatened communities through adaptation: insights from coastal Mozambique

Jessica L. Blythe, University of Victoria
Grant Murray, Vancouver Island University
Mark Flaherty, University of Victoria

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06408-190206

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Abstract

Change is a defining characteristic of coastal social-ecological systems, yet the magnitude and speed of contemporary change is challenging the adaptive capacity of even the most robust coastal communities. In the context of multiple drivers of change, it has become increasingly important to identify how threatened communities adapt to livelihood stressors. We investigate how adaptation is negotiated in two coastal fishing communities by documenting livelihood stressors, household assets, adaptive strategies, and factors that facilitate or inhibit adaptation. Declining catch is the most common stressor being experienced in both communities, however, socioeconomic, e.g., disease or theft, and ecological, e.g., severe storms and drought, changes are also creating livelihood stress. We find that specialized fishers’ with higher investment in fishing gear and government support are adapting by intensifying their fishing efforts, whereas poorer fishers with more livelihood options are adapting through diversification. Adaptation is facilitated by fishers’ groups, occupational pride, and family networks. It is inhibited by limited assets, competition over declining resources, and pervasive poverty. Our data suggest that adaptation is a heterogeneous process that is influenced by multiple factors. Understanding the complexity of fishers’ responses to livelihood stressors is critical for fostering adaptive capacity in coastal communities, for strengthening fisheries management, and for improving the livelihoods of fishing dependent communities.

Key words

adaptation; Africa; diversification; intensification; livelihoods; small-scale fisheries
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087