Original Research

A gendered approach to drought-coping mechanisms: A case of the Lubombo region, Eswatini

Samukelisiwe Myeni, Gideon J. Wentink
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 17, No 1 | a744 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v17i1.744 | © 2021 Samukelisiwe Myeni, Gideon J. Wentink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 August 2019 | Published: 15 March 2021

About the author(s)

Samukelisiwe Myeni, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Gideon J. Wentink, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


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Abstract

During periods of drought, coping mechanisms employed by society differ based on gender, and are related to socio-cultural implications. This study is premised on the gendered approach to drought-coping mechanisms by focusing on the manner in which communities undergoing drought adapt to the adversities experienced and thus employ gender-sensitive coping mechanisms. Socio-cultural implications emphasise and dictate the different gendered behaviour patterns within society. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine and evaluate gender-differentiated coping mechanisms of withstanding drought used by communities in the Lubombo region of Eswatini. The exploration of this phenomenon utilised a mixed-methods approach to collecting data. This universal approach involved adopting both qualitative and quantitative techniques of gathering information to help in an in-depth analysis of the situation in the Lubombo region. Under the umbrella of mixed methodology, an exploratory sequential approach was used to collect data. The purpose was to allow findings from a qualitative phase to be developed and tested for wider application and validation using a quantitative approach. The collection tools used under the qualitative enquiry included semi-structured interviews, face-to-face interviews and a focus group. The information gathered was subsequently presented in a thematic manner to draw attention on the dynamics within coping mechanisms. Two sampling techniques were used: initial stratified random sampling (representing the population being sampled) followed by purposive sampling to specify population characteristics and thus locating individuals who match the characteristics. There were 179 respondents in the study, of which 83 respondents were part of the focus group discussions and the remaining 80 respondents engaged in self-completion survey questions. The gender spectrum of the respondents was uneven during the focus groups with 39 females and 44 males. However, during the self-completion survey questions, an even number of 40 males and 40 females participated. The gender gap observed displayed women as burdened with developing various coping mechanisms, whereas men solely adapted through seeking employment. Women’s coping mechanisms included crop production, water management, foreign aid, sale of livestock and household functional change. In contrast, men’s coping mechanisms involved migration and seeking employment. The disparities between men and women were observed as founded in cultural beliefs and practices as women tool a domestic role whilst men were tasked to be providers. 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 were identified as risk factors contributing to the impact of drought forcing men and women to build and engage in mechanisms to alleviate the adversities experienced. The major recommendation of this study is that drought-prone communities need to build gender-sensitive and gender-neutral coping mechanisms to withstand the adversities of drought.

Keywords

coping mechanisms; disaster risk management; drought; Eswatini; vulnerability.

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