Elaborating a people-centered approach to understanding sustainable livelihoods under climate and environmental change: Thang Binh District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam

Mabon, Leslie; Nguyen, Song Tung; Pham, Thi Tram; Tran, Thi Tuyet; Le, Hong Ngoc; Doan, Thi Thu Huong; Hoang, Thi Ngoc Ha; Mueller-Hirth, Natascha and Vertigans, Stephen (2021). Elaborating a people-centered approach to understanding sustainable livelihoods under climate and environmental change: Thang Binh District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Sustainability Science, 16(1) pp. 221–238.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-020-00861-3

Abstract

This paper explores the maintenance of livelihoods under climate, environmental, and economic development pressures, through the case of Thang Binh District in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Within widespread recognition of the need to link sustainable livelihoods approaches with climate change adaptation, there is growing awareness of the importance of people-centered approaches which keep the diverse experience, capabilities, and knowledges of the most vulnerable at the heart of sustainable livelihoods thinking. In response, this paper explores the conditions for changes in modes of livelihoods in a case study area where top-down strategies for sustainable livelihoods are met with residents’ diverse experiences of vulnerability, and where climate and environmental changes shape residents’ relations with the landscape. The research is undertaken via interviews with residents, farmers/fishers, and local government officials. Our study finds that whilst government-led initiatives for sustainable livelihoods are welcomed in the locality, inflexible policies can make it challenging for the most vulnerable people to access support. Moreover, residents see the capacity to live with and respond to extreme weather events as a critical component of maintaining a sustainable livelihood. Our findings reinforce international literature, showing that ‘the poor’ are not a homogenous category, and illustrate the importance of attention to the smallest levels of government who are tasked with putting sustainable livelihoods initiatives into practice in relation to people’s daily lives.

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