Regionalisation of global insights into dryland vulnerability: Better reflecting smallholders’ vulnerability in Northeast Brazil


Sietz, D.

Journal or Book Title: Global Environmental Change

Keywords: Dryland agriculture; Perturbation; Adaptation; Scale; Typology; Qualitative dynamic modelling

Volume/Issue: 25

Page Number(s): 173–185

Year Published: 2014


Global analyses of vulnerability reveal generic insights into the relation between socio-ecological
systems and the stress impacting upon them including climate and market variability. They thus
provide a valuable basis for better understanding and comparing the evolution of socio-ecological
systems from a broad perspective. However, even when reflecting sub-national differences, global
assessments necessarily aggregate regional variations in the underlying conditions of vulnerability.
Refinements are therefore necessary to better accommodate context-specific processes and hence
facilitate vulnerability reduction. This study presents a novel methodology to refining global insights
into vulnerability at a regional scale. It is based on a spatially explicit link between broad patterns of
vulnerability and modelled regional smallholder development. Its application in order to better
represent the drylands of Northeast Brazil reveals specific facets of smallholders’ vulnerability at the
municipio level, reflecting non-linear dynamics. The results show that smallholders’ vulnerability
was widely exacerbated in the most vulnerable areas. One key mechanism causing such a
vulnerability increase involved intensifying resource degradation and the related potential for
impoverishment as modelled at the regional scale. In addition, by subsequently re-orienting their
livelihoods towards off-farm activities, smallholders became more sensitive to fluctuations and
competition in the labour market. In contrast to these critical trends, living and environmental
conditions improved in only some areas, thus indicating a decrease in vulnerability. Altogether, in
differentiating the heterogeneity of resource management and smallholders’ livelihoods, the regional
refinement presented in this study indicates necessary adjustments to generic strategies for
vulnerability reduction gained at the global scale.

Open Access Publication:


Type of Publication: Journal Article

Location: Northeast Brazil, Dryland, South America