Vulnerability, Coping and Adaptation with the context of Climate Change and HIV/Aids in South Africa

This research project was designed to gain a more nuanced understanding of how multiple interacting shocks and risks, including climate variability and HIV/Aids, influence capital stocks, local livelihood choices, and consequently vulnerability and food security. This knowledge was used to inform and support community and municipal adaptation practices, development efforts and regional/national policies. The research took place in two sites in the Eastern Cape of South Africa; Both sites are situated in the communal areas of the Eastern Cape where livelihoods are typically mixed. The results revealed that people in both sites are vulnerable to a range of longer term stressors and short-term shocks, with HIV/Aids being a critical one in terms of its impacts on household assets and future adaptive capacity. Livelihoods were also shown to have changed over time with possible implications for future food security given the decline in arable production and future climate change. Women were in many ways found to be more vulnerable to more stressors than men, but at the same time they were more innovative and creative in terms of responding to risk. Another major component of the project which ran in parallel to the research was a “social learning process”. The project team worked with two elected groups in each community over four years in a facilitated process of knowledge exchange and sharing. This built capacity and agency amongst local people to help them develop and build on their responses to the various vulnerabilities they identified.

Climate Related Risk

Human Health (general), Increased variability of crop yields, Reduction in crop yields, Security, Invasion of non-native species, Changes in precipitation, Changes in temperature, Extreme precipitation, Extreme temperature, Extreme wind episodes, Change in water quality, Change in water quantity, Ecosystem services, Gender and youth

Form of Option

Behavioural, Ecosystem-based, Educational, Information

Country of Origin

South Africa


Households, Resource-dependent people (e.g. farmers, fishers, miners), Specific group in a society (e.g. women, Indigenous, slum-dwellers)


The option has been identified and implemented with indication that it will continue beyond the context of the project.

Institution / Legal Reach

Change in norms or ways of doing things, Change or implementation of a program