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Climate adaptation, local institutions, and rural livelihoods: A comparative study of herder communities in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China

Publication Abstract

Wang, J., Daniel G. Brown, and A. Agrawal. 2013. "Climate adaptation, local institutions, and rural livelihoods: A comparative study of herder communities in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China." Global Environmental Change, 23(6): 1673-1683.

Climate variability has been evident on the Mongolian plateau in recent decades. Livelihood adaptation to climate variability is important for local sustainable development. This paper applies an analytical framework focused on adaptation, institutions, and livelihoods to study climate adaptation in the Mongolian grasslands. A household survey was designed and implemented in each of three broad vegetation types in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. The analytical results show that livelihood adaptation strategies of herders vary greatly across the border between Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China. Local institutions played important roles in shaping and facilitating livelihood adaptation strategies of herders. Mobility and communal pooling were the two key categories of adaptation strategies in Mongolia, and they were shaped and facilitated by local communal institutions. Storage, livelihood diversification, and market exchange were the three key categories of adaptation strategies in Inner Mongolia, and they were mainly shaped and facilitated by local government and market institutions. Local institutions enhanced but also at times undermined adaptive capacity of herder communities in the two countries, but in different ways. Sedentary grazing has increased livelihood vulnerability of herders to climate variability and change. With grazing sedentarization, the purchase and storage of forage has become an important strategy of herders to adapt to the highly variable climate. The multilevel statistical models of forage purchasing behaviors show that the strategies of livestock management, household financial capital, environmental (i.e., precipitation and vegetation growth) variability, and the status of pasture degradation were the major determinants of this adaptation strategy.

DOI:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.08.014 (Full Text)

Country of focus: China.

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