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Tropentag 2023, September 20 - 22, Berlin, Germany

"Competing pathways for equitable food systems transformation: trade-offs and synergies."

The human dimensions of climate-related security risks in rural settings: A social learning approach

Leonardo Medina Santa Cruz1, Michelle Chevelev-Bonatti1, Ignacio Madurga López2

1Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Sustainable Land Use in Developing Countries, Germany
2The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Brazil


The linkages between climate change, human security and conflict have been the subject of considerable debate over the past decade. Main critical voices on the climate security field frequently focus on the limits of structural approaches to understanding causal pathways between climate and conflict, sampling biases during data collection, a minimal focus on micro-level insecurity, and the disregard of power relations in bringing about structural sources of insecurity and vulnerability. The combination of these research gaps has led to decontextualized constructions of system dynamics, which often ignore local cultural realities and lived experiences of affected populations. As a result, there is a limited understanding of what effective policy and programmatic practices that address climate-related security risks entail. Strategies have so far prioritised technocratic solutions and top-down governance arrangements. This study draws from social learning theory to understand everyday experiences of agriculture-dependent communities affected by climate impacts under a diversity of security and conflict-related risks. It also intends to advise programmatic practices for conflict-sensitive climate action. The methodology is based on participatory appraisal methods to engage community voices in developing “climate security pathways” that better relate to people´s everyday experience of the compounding risks brought about by climate variability and human insecurity. Data was gathered through dialogue processes lasting four or five days across 13 locations in Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, Philippines and Guatemala, with over 300 participants distributed equally among women and men. Preliminary results suggest that climate security programming is unlikely to contribute to sustainable peacebuilding unless it conceptualises and targets the intermediary factors making up climate-insecurity feedback loops, as understood by populations affected by conflict. In this regard, interventions need to provide the space for people to define and question the institutionalised practices and values acting as either structural drivers of conflict or constraints to peace. Climate action needs to account for development models that challenge structural and intersectional sources of vulnerability, such as inequality, political exclusion, gender-based violence, and resource entitlements. Programmes also need to endorse positive ontologies of conflict as productive mechanisms for societal transformations towards justice.

Keywords: Climate security, conflict transformation, environmental peacebuilding, social learning

Contact Address: Leonardo Medina Santa Cruz, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Sustainable Land Use in Developing Countries, Müncheberg, Germany, e-mail: leonardo.medina.s@gmail.com

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