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Politicised communities: community-based adaptation to climate change in the Ethiopian highlands

Chung, J; (2017) Politicised communities: community-based adaptation to climate change in the Ethiopian highlands. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines, through a study of UNDP’s Small Grants Programme (SGP), how two different communities in the Ethiopian highlands are responding to the need for adaptation to climate change. Its overall aim is to use this example to contribute a critical analysis to studies of Community-Based Adaptation (CBA). The thesis analyses the politicised narratives that emerged as the SGP was being implemented that sought to explain why the two communities had different capacities to adapt. It also sets out the ways community members came to narrate their own experiences of the SGP. In both field locations, CBA has been adopted as a strategy. However, the argument of the thesis, based on field experience, is that this approach will have limited long-term success because it is conceptually under-developed and in particular depoliticised. To address this weakness, the thesis produces a new theoretical framework for the analysis of CBA that combines political ecology and resilience thinking. The thesis is based on significant qualitative research involving 8 months of participant observation, 7 focus group discussions and 73 semistructured interviews with community leaders, peasant farmers, government officials and SGP management personnel carried out between September 2013 and June 2014. The thesis demonstrates the heterogeneity of communities and the complexity this brings to implementing standard models of CBA in specific field sites. It treats CBA as a discourse by analysing the relationships of power, scale and knowledge thereby revealing their political nature. The thesis argues that the diversity of social structures and individual agents, means that evaluations of CBA projects need to be flexible, context-sensitive and powerconscious. Placing politics at the centre of CBA, the thesis analyses the concept of ‘community’ in development practice, moving between the developmental viewpoint and the lived experience of Ethiopian peasant farmers. CBA is shown to be serving a dual purpose: it makes the socio-ecological systems of the communities in question more resilient to climate change, but also reinforces the existing socio-political structures of the communities, reproducing current inequalities. Lastly, the significance of CBA is analysed from the farmers’ perspectives, showing how Ethiopian elites have historically deployed control over land to steer the behaviour of the Ethiopian peasantry. This has made the peasant communities in Ethiopia strongly hierarchical and internally divided in terms of rights and resources.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Politicised communities: community-based adaptation to climate change in the Ethiopian highlands
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1557295
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