Climate adaptation and development: Contradictions for human security in Gambella, Ethiopia
Global Environmental Change
It is clear that we need a climate adaptation policy agenda that is sensitive to the special political, social, and ecological circumstances of highly vulnerable regions, most of which are located in the African Sahel. While the existing literature on climate variability and climate change makes important theoretical contributions on development, vulnerability, and adaptation more broadly, with few exceptions it has not acknowledged that contradictions arise in addressing insecurities via the implementation of development, vulnerability reduction, and adaptation programs. An empirical assessment of how such contradictions are both driven by and negotiated in such programs is particularly useful if we are to design a more robust and grounded adaptation agenda. In this article, we focus on the paradigmatic case of Gambella in Ethiopia, a region that lies near the bottom of many development indices, but has also been the site for recent efforts to reduce climate vulnerability through village and agricultural modernization programs. Drawing on recent research in the region and on these programs, we demonstrate how the politics of development and adaptation lead to differential and contradictory impacts on four arenas of human security (a) elements of water security, (b) temporal aspects of water security and livelihoods security, (c) personal, state and community security, and (d) differentiated geographies economic security which privilege the national and international scale. The result of this complex political economy is that responses have served to increase rather than decrease tensions in the region.