The assessment of the role of social assets in building climate change adaptation : implications for household food security and livelihoods.
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Rural livelihoods are diverse and dynamic, often aimed at managing risk, reducing vulnerability and enhancing food security. In South Africa, rural households pursue different livelihood strategies based on available capital. Household asset endowment consists of physical capital (land, equipment, cattle, etc.), human capital (years of schooling and work experience) and social capital (membership of associations). A household combines these capitals to engage in productive activities. However, climate change remains a threat worldwide. Hence, the household engages in several activities and strategies to earn a living. Climate change affects natural capitals, such as water and land, on which certain livelihoods depend directly. South Africa is predominantly vulnerable to climate change because of its high dependence on climate-sensitive economic sectors: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and mining. Agriculture is a core sector that ensures food security and provides households with food, employment and other components of livelihood. Smallholder farmers are highly affected by climate change. Thus, adaptation and coping strategies are essential for building resilience. This study seeks to assess the role of social capital, in climate change adaptation of smallholder farmers in Appelsbosch, to improve their food security and livelihoods. The study was conducted in Appelsbosch, under uMshwathi local municipality in Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Random sampling was used to select a sample of 135 active and long-term smallholder farmers. The participants were interviewed using questionnaires and through focus group discussions. The key informant interviews were held with group representatives and extension officers to gather the in-depth of social capital structure among the farmers and its uses to cope and adaptation strategies against climate change. A Chi-square test was used to analyse the relationships between social capital dimensions, adaptation and coping strategies against climate change. More relationships were tested between social capital and coping strategies used by smallholder farmers to cope with food insecurity. The chi-square test indicated that the relationship between the social group and food insecurity coping strategies employed by the farmer were statistically significant at the 5 % level. Furthermore, the Chi-square test revealed a significant relationship between the social capital and the strategies employed by the household, such as avoiding & limiting soil erosion and water harvesting strategies. Furthermore, there was a significant relationship at the 5% level between the social capital, crop choice and planting schedules. The study revealed that in Appelsbosch, social capital acts as a conduit for financial transfers and provides information about new skills. An effective system facilitates cooperation among farmers and the sharing of the costs and benefits of adaptation. Effective information dissemination is important. However, participation in these social groups is challenged by factors such as finances, lack of trust and poor leadership among farmers. The results showed that there are more respondents that are highly engaged in farmers’ groups only, compared to those engaged in farmer’s groups and burial societies or grocery stokvels simultaneously. Many explained that this behaviour is a result of members’ dependence on social grants or farm harvests, as their livelihood strategy. Thus, the insufficient monthly income restricts their participation in other kinds of social groups. Therefore, they focus on farming, to sustain their livelihood and food security.