Rural Livelihoods and Environmental Change in Uganda Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Call, Maia
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • Environmental changes, which include soil degradation, deforestation, and climate change, have long been posited as potential drivers of rural livelihood decisions in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, providing empirical evidence for these socio-environmental patterns has proven difficult due to a lack of spatially explicit longitudinal livelihoods data as well as appropriately fine-scale environmental data. To address this gap in the literature, this dissertation spatially links two waves of longitudinal household and plot survey data (collected in Uganda in 2003 and 2013) with a remotely sensed forest cover product and modeled climate data. These data provide a unique opportunity to quantitatively address three questions central to the topic of environmental change and rural livelihoods: 1) What is the relationship between perceived and measured soil fertility and soil degradation?; 2) How do environmental factors inform temporary and permanent migration decisions?; and 3) How do climate anomalies shape on-farm and non-farm smallholder livelihood strategies? Responding to the first question, the research suggests that both farmers’ perceptions and laboratory measures can contribute to a holistic portrait of soil fertility. Addressing the second question, it appears that climate factors, and in particular heat, eventually drive permanent migrations. Similarly, findings from the third analysis indicate that while smallholders are able to successfully cope with short term climate stress, long periods of heat are likely to result in declining agricultural productivity and reduced opportunities for income through livelihood diversification, despite increased on-farm labor. Overall, this dissertation illustrates that Ugandan smallholders have good awareness of their current soil fertility and have successful strategies to cope with typical short periods climate stress. However, many of the current shifts resulting from soil degradation and rapid climate change may be beyond the scope of past experience, and smallholders may lack the analytic tools to perceive and cope with these changes. Likewise, extended periods of heat stress, which were previously atypical, cannot be managed through conventionally employed on-farm agricultural strategies and off-farm livelihood diversification approaches, and will eventually press some smallholders to migrate. These findings can inform rural development policy and have important implications for rural smallholders during an era of global environmental change.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Jagger, Pamela
  • Gray, Clark
  • Richter, Daniel
  • Emch, Michael
  • Song, Conghe
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017

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