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Farmers’ livelihood adaptation to environmental change in an arid region: A case study of the Minqin Oasis, northwestern China

Chen, Jia, Yin, Sha, Gebhardt, Hans, Yang, Xinjun
Ecological indicators 2018 v.93 pp. 411-423
arid zones, assets, case studies, data collection, decision making, environmental indicators, farmers, global change, household surveys, interviews, issues and policy, livelihood, markets, oases, social networks, water shortages, China
Adaption to global environmental change is a focus of sustainability research. Farmers face multiple environmental and social pressures due to global environmental change. Effective livelihood changes must be taken to decrease asset losses and to adapt to current or future environmental challenges. However, there are few studies that systematically understand and assess farmers’ livelihood adaptation. We developed an integrated analytical framework for livelihood adaptation and explored the relationships between adaptive capacity, adaptation outcomes, and farmers’ adaptation strategies. We applied this framework to a case study of the Minqin Oasis in China and assessed the livelihood adaptation of farmers facing environmental change and water scarcity. Household surveys and semi-structured interviews were used for data collection. We found that (1) farmers’ livelihood adaptation choices were limited due to current government policies and their own resources and (2) livelihood adaptive capacity (such as land, water resources, and social networks) and policy reform (water resource fees, and cultivated land compression) had a key impact on farmers’ adaptation. The factors representing a poor livelihood strategy and adaptation outcomes of the farmer include the following: (1) a low level of livelihood awareness among farmers (such as passive farmers), (2) a lack of livelihood assets, (3) government focus on environmental recovery, and (4) a weakened role of the market. To improve the adaptation of farmers’ livelihoods to environmental change, these measures must balance the relationship between environmental restoration and farmers’ livelihoods, consider a variety of key forces, and guide farmers to adopt effective strategies. This study facilitates the development of livelihood adaptation analysis methods for global change studies. Case-based research results can be used to improve local decision-making and can provide an assessment reference method for farmer adaptation to regional and global environmental change.