Culture and Capacity : Drought and Gender Differentiated Vulnerability of Rural Poor in Nicaragua, 1970-2010

Abstract: This dissertation interprets gender-differentiated vulnerability to drought within a rural community located in the dry zone, la zona seca, of Nicaragua, a region that has been identified by the government and NGO sector as suffering from prolonged and, since the 1970s, more frequent droughts.  A combination of gender, capitals, and vulnerability demonstrates the value in using a multidimensional perspective to look at the socioeconomic and cultural contexts that form the capacity individuals have had to reduce their long-term vulnerability to drought in Nicaragua.  Due to the place-based characteristics of gender as well as vulnerability the analysis is mainly based on people’s stories about the history of their lives.  Based on these stories a local level picture is created of the households’ situation over time, how their work strategies and management of resources have varied, and how they perceived changes in capacity and vulnerability in relation to continuity and change in the climate.  The issue of adaptive capacity, which currently is less covered in research on gender and vulnerability and recognized in the literature as in need of more attention, and how it distinguishes itself from coping capacity in relation to vulnerability, is placed at the center of analysis.  In an additional analysis of how Nicaragua’s hazard management policies look upon the role and importance of interaction among societal levels and actors in reducing hazard vulnerability I show how the discourse has moved from emergency response to risk management with an increased emphasis on capacity building.  However, the recognition to differentiated vulnerability is lacking which risks hampering a successful vulnerability reduction.

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