The vicious circle of drought

Women more vulnerable than men in times of drought

Photo: Lisa Segnestam

- Because of better access to different capitals such as natural, financial, social and human capital, men are more likely to have a greater capacity to choose and successfully implement coping and adapting strategies in times of drought than women are.
 
This is one of the key findings from a recent study conducted by centre researcher Lisa Segnestam.
 
In the article entitled “Division of capitals — what role does it play for gender-differentiated vulnerability to drought in Nicaragua?", Segnestam draws a critical picture of how women are caught in a vicious circle when it comes to reducing their vulnerability to drought: a lack of resources forces them to opt for short-term solutions to cope that will not lift them out of their vulnerability situation but rather leave them in the same or worse situation during the next drought.
 
A downward spiral
Segnestam´s study, which was published in the journal of Community Development, presents gender differentiated vulnerabilities to drought within a rural community in the dry zone of Nicaragua. The study demonstrates how men and women not only are affected differently by drought due to the gendered division of labor and assets, but they also use different strategies to cope with their exposure to drought.
 
Segnestam interviewed 24 men and women between the age of 35 and 80 years of age. Eight of the interviews were with male heads of households, eight with women in male-headed households, and eight with female heads of households. All 24 interviewees said the drought had affected their already poor households critically, however the female heads of households appeared to have the least capacity to cope with and adapt to drought.
 
In most cases, both men and women tried to increase their financial capital to cope with the challenges of drought. This strategy leaves women more vulnerable than men due to their relative lack of assets and decision-making power.
 
- Women are more affected by a downward spiral of events where a lack of natural, financial and human capital lead to a higher risk of food insecurity. In addition, the high dependence on help from others (remittances and informal loans) in the female-headed households can be translated into a higher vulnerability, she says.
 
Coping rather than adapting
Segnestam also found that most strategies were aimed at coping with the challenges of drought as opposed to adapting to the situation. This consequently increases the risk that the downward spiral of loss of assets will continue with the next serious drought, leaving particularly women in a vulnerable situation.
 
- For the gender-differentiated vulnerability to drought in Nicaragua to be reduced, a vicious circle needs to be terminated. A lack of resources forces the women to go for short-term coping rather than long-term adaptation strategies which leaves them in the same or even worse situation during the next drought, Segnestam says.

Source: Segnestam, Lisa (2009) 'Division of Capitals—What Role Does It Play for Gender-Differentiated Vulnerability to Drought in Nicaragua?', Community Development, 40:2: 154-176
DOI: 10.1080/15575330903001562

Reference

Citation

Segnestam, Lisa (2009) 'Division of Capitals—What Role Does It Play for Gender-Differentiated Vulnerability to Drought in Nicaragua?', Community Development, 40:2: 154-176
DOI: 10.1080/15575330903001562

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