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Resilient or Vulnerable Livelihoods? Assessing Livelihood Dynamics and Trajectories in Rural Botswana

Susannah M Sallu, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
Chasca Twyman, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
Lindsay C Stringer, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds


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In this paper, we explore the resilience and vulnerability of livelihoods within two different social-ecological dryland contexts of Botswana over the last 30 years. We drew on primary field data sources, including oral histories, livelihood surveys, ecological surveys, as well as documented evidence of environmental, socioeconomic, and institutional dynamics to identify a broad range of activities that combine to create a range of different household livelihood outcomes. We used this information as a starting point to assess the ways in which livelihoods have changed over time, and evaluated whether they have become more resilient or more vulnerable, and considered the factors that have contributed to these outcomes. In the context of dynamic dryland social-ecological systems, we applied a livelihood trajectory approach to explore the shocks and stresses that affect livelihoods and to elucidate the characteristics of livelihood strategies that contribute to increased resilience or vulnerability. We used a vulnerability framework as a means of framing discussion about vulnerability and resilience and as a means of identifying broader insights. The research identified "accumulator", "diversifier", and "dependent" households and the ways in which they move between these categories. More resilient livelihood trajectories can be achieved if the important role of formal and informal institutions is recognized.

Key words

Botswana; livelihood strategies; livelihood trajectories; resilience; vulnerability

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087