University of Sussex
Kita, Stern Mwakalimi.pdf (3.15 MB)

Adapting or maladapting? Climate change, climate variability, disasters and resettlement in Malawi

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posted on 2023-06-09, 09:39 authored by Stern Mwakalimi Kita
Governments and other players are promoting resettlement of people exposed to severe climatic shocks and stresses such as floods to reduce risks. This is common where other measures are deemed not feasible. Yet, evidence shows limited success in such schemes. This thesis presents findings of a study conducted in urban and rural Malawi to understand why some people resettle while other stay when exposed to the same hazards. The study used a mixed methods design where data collection, analysis and reporting combined both qualitative and quantitative methods. Presented through five manuscripts, the thesis finds that government’s constrained capacity in resettlement and general disaster risk management and adaptation processes, the threat posed by chiefs who are leading the resettlement process, inadequacy of land, lack of support to those resettling and the threat posed by drought are the key factors explaining why some people resettle while others stay. These challenges arise from poorly conceived mechanical adaptation solutions that fail to recognise the complexity of flood risk and human vulnerability to multiple hazards. While offering shor-term relief to floods, resettlement can conceal key drivers of vulnerability while also generating new forms of vulnerability. The study further questions the relevance of decentralising disaster risk governance in the face of resource capture and other weaknesses in the local government system. At the community level, the thesis reveals the multifaceted nature of chiefs who are frustrating the resettlement process, while also illicitly benefitting from humanitarian aid. Finally, it recommends broadening the definition of ‘trapped population’ in climate change to encompass wealthier households who are failing to move due to inadequacies of land. These findings call for serious reflection for developing countries, particularly on the need to consider the broader social, political, cultural and economic context in the design of adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies.


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University of Sussex

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