Supporting transformative adaptation and building equitable resilience to drought for sustainable development

This project aims to understand how horticultural crop production in low and middle income countries can be resilient to drought, in a way that is equitable for actors involved in and affected by the horticulture industry.

Growing high-value horticultural crops for export has been shown to generate substantive positive socio-economic impacts for the producing regions, providing employment and incomes for large numbers of people, especially women, in the primary production, packing and distribution sectors.

Most export horticultural production in low and middle income countries is irrigated and is increasingly moving into more arid areas, using water drawn from rivers, dams and aquifers that would otherwise be supporting natural environmental flows, smallholder agriculture, urban development, and industry. When demand for water within a catchment exceeds the available supply, power dynamics mean that the impacts do not fall equally on all sectors. For example, the economic and political power vested in the commercial horticultural sector may secure priority over water supplies, and low-skilled workers in the horticultural sector may be laid off when production falls. The challenge faced by many LMICs has been how to support the expansion of the export horticultural sector to meet development objectives whilst increasing the resilience of poor and marginalised communities to drought and water-related risks, in the context of increasing climate variability.

Based on four case study catchments in South Africa and Kenya, this project asks, ‘how can the twin development objectives of a) increasing the resilience of poor and marginalised communities to drought and water related risks, and b) expanding commercial horticultural production in water-stressed catchments, be met in a socially and environmentally equitable manner?’