Main content area

Does community resilience decrease social–ecological vulnerability? Adaptation pathways trade-off in the Bolivian Altiplano

Chelleri, Lorenzo, Minucci, Guido, Skrimizea, Eirini
Regional environmental change 2016 v.16 no.8 pp. 2229-2241
behavior change, climate change, crop production, environmental degradation, issues and policy, land use change, livestock, rural areas, subsistence farming, sustainable development, Bolivia
Worsening climate change impacts and environmental degradation are increasingly supporting policies and plans in framing a linear understanding of resilience building and vulnerability reduction. However, adaptations to different but interacting drivers of change are unclear in the mix of opportunities and threats related to increasing connections, emerging technologies, new patterns of dependency and possible lock-in effects. This paper discusses a more open-ended understanding of the relationship between resilience and vulnerability, highlighting emerging trade-offs among adaptive capacities and exposures to different (and new) threats as they relate to social–ecological sustainability. The transition of the Southern Bolivian Altiplano, from being a remote rural area of subsistence farming to a global leader in quinoa production and exportation, has been taken as a study case. Results from 18 workshops organised within different communities provide insights about a range of trade-offs between community resilience attributes and social–ecological vulnerability induced from land use changes, livestock strategies, communities’ behavioural change and institutions’ emerging policies. The main theoretical advances of the paper relate to the need for critically framing multiple threat exposures and adaptive capacity trade-offs, contributing to arguing the usually positive meaning of resilience, and taking into account “to whom or to what is positive which adaptation” and “which trade-off should be accepted, and why”. Framing adaptive pathways through these questions would serve as a tool for addressing sustainable development goals, while avoiding lock-ins or unsustainable path dependencies.