A gendered approach to drought coping mechanisms: a case of the Lubombo Region, Swaziland
In the Lubombo region of Swaziland, one-third (300 000) of Swazis are living through the devastating impacts of drought on both their livelihoods and the environment they depend on. Drought, which has become recurrent, affects all sectors in the Lubombo region, ranging from water, agriculture, health, business and education; thus forcing people to develop coping mechanisms in order to reduce the impact. The purpose of this study was to determine and evaluate the gender-differentiated coping mechanisms of withstanding drought that are used by communities in the Lubombo region of Swaziland. The study also sought to establish the different roles that men and women play in developing mitigation and adaptation strategies to enhance their resilience against drought. The study is premised on the notion that during periods of drought, coping mechanisms employed by society are different based on gender and are related to cultural implications of the society. To explore the phenomenon of gendered approaches to drought coping mechanisms, a mixedmethods approach was employed. Under this umbrella, an exploratory sequential design was applied to the collection and analysis of data. Qualitative data was collected through semi structured, face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions. Qualitative data was analysed and presented thematically with verbatim quotes. Quantitative data was collected through a structured questionnaire with Likert-scale ranking. The study used two sampling techniques: initially stratified random sampling was used to give a representation of the population being sampled. This was followed by purposive sampling to specify characteristics of the population under investigation and thus locate individuals who match the characteristics. A total of 167 respondents participated in the study. The findings display no significant difference between gender and the experience of severe drought (X2 =1.243, df (3), p value 0.743). The strong gender gap was observed to display women as burdened with developing various coping mechanisms whereas men solely adapted through seeking employment. The coping mechanisms adopted by women include crop production, water management, foreign aid, sale of livestock and household functional change. Alternative to women, men’s coping mechanisms vastly depend on migration and seeking employment. The affiliations between men and women were observed as founded in cultural beliefs and practices. For example, women are seen as subordinates of men and carry the status of a minor. This perspective directly impacts on the lines of vulnerabilities during drought, declaring women as the target population for social aid such as food packages from foreign aid and strong social capital. Through this study, culture and vulnerability have been identified as risk factors contributing to the gross impact of drought forcing men and women to build and engage in mechanisms to alleviate the adversities experienced. The major recommendation of the study is that drought-prone communities need to build gender-sensitive coping mechanisms to withstand the adversities of drought.