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Sara Gabrielsson

Sara Gabrielsson

Senior Lecturer

Sara Gabrielsson

Uncertain Futures : Adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the Lake Victoria Basin


  • Sara Gabrielsson

Summary, in English

The Lake Victoria basin (LVB) in East Africa can be considered a climate change hotspot because of its large rural population dependent on rain-fed farming. Drawing on extensive fieldwork (2007-2011) in rural communities along the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania, I explore adaptive capacities to climate variability and change and discuss how they interrelate in situ. Using multiple methods, tools and techniques, including survey and rainfall data, individual and group interviews, interactive mapping of seasonal calendars and a multi-stakeholder workshop, I locate the place-based effects and responses to a number of converging climate induced stressors on smallholder farmers’ wellbeing and natural resources. Research findings show that adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the LVB are complex, dynamic and characterized by high location-specificity, thereby signifying the value of using an integrative and place-based approach to understand climate vulnerability. Specifically, the study demonstrates how increased unpredictability in rainfall causes chronic livelihood stress illustrated by recurring and worsening periods of food insecurity, growing cash dependency and heavy disease burdens. The study also reveals that food and income buffers increase when and where farmers, particularly women farmers, collectively respond to climate induced stressors through deliberate strategies rooted in a culture of saving and planning. Nevertheless, the study concludes that smallholders in the LVB are facing a highly uncertain future with discernible, yet differentiated adaptation deficits, due to chronic livelihood stress driven by unequal access to fundamental adaptive capacities such as land, health, cash and collective networks.


  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

Publishing year





Lund Dissertations in Sustainability Science



Document type



Lund University Centre for Sustainability Science


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • adaptive capacities
  • climate vulnerability
  • collective action
  • Lake Victoria Basin
  • smallholder farmers
  • sustainable adaptation
  • sustainability science.




  • Anne Jerneck
  • Lennart Olsson


  • ISBN: 978-91-7473-310-5

Defence date

4 May 2012

Defence time


Defence place

Världen, Geocentrum 1, Sölvegatan 10, Lund


  • John Morton (Professor)