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Does social capital play a role in climate change adaptation among smallholder farmers for improving food security and livelihoods?

JM Thamaga-Chitja
N Tamako


The African continent is hampered by low adaptive capacity and is therefore vulnerable to climate change. This impact of climate change presents a significant challenge to regional agricultural development. Sub-Saharan Africa is faced with a range of climate risks, which include rapid and uncertain changes in rainfall and temperature patterns that threaten food production, and could lead to an increase in food prices and food insecurity. Several studies have assessed the impact of food insecurity in South Africa, more especially in the light of periodic droughts. South Africa is known as a food secure nation but food insecure at household level. Climate change is among the factors influencing food security status in rural households. South African smallholder farmers are no different since they also face the challenges of adapting to climate change and building resilience. Social capital can be a resource for building adaptation by farmers. This study explores the role of social capital in climate change adaptation for improving food security and livelihoods among smallholder farmers. The study was conducted in Appelsbosch, Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Random sampling was used to obtain a sample of 135 active and long-term smallholder farmers, who were interviewed using questionnaires and focus group discussions. Key informant interviews were held with group leaders and extension officers. Descriptive statistics was utilised in analysing the demographics of the respondents and the chi-square test was used to test the relationship between social capital dimensions and the adaptation strategies employed by farmers. It was found that social capital has a positive impact on the coping strategies used by households on food insecurity and adaptation strategies. Social capital can improve rural livelihoods, although the capital is not fully exploited by farmers. Farmers should be stimulated to expand their social groups to share farmer-to-farmer agricultural knowledge and increase participation and networks with the view of strengthening their adaptive capacity. Extension services and rural leaders can also play a role in strengthening such networks and influence policy on strengthening local and extension systems. 

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eISSN: 0378-5254